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Old 08-01-2006, 03:06 PM   #1
machievelli
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SW: Return From Exile

Knights of The Old Republic

Return from Exile

It is a time of chaos and danger to the Republic. Bloodied by the Mandalorian Wars, decimated by the Jedi Civil War, the Jedi order reels back in disarray. Where once thousands stood, now barely a hundred remain. The Sith still pressure the Republic, and with no Jedi to restrain them, ruin awaits.

But there is still a chance...

Dreams and nightmares

Marai

It was so peaceful.

I think everyone has flying dreams. At least everyone I have ever asked. Floating, weightless, swooping like a bird across the landscape. That is what I was doing. I could see the city of Coruscant below me. The building of the necessary buildings to hold all of the politicians and citizens had reached the point that the only bare spaces were the oceans.

I saw a massive pyramid, and suddenly I was diving for it. I cringed back mentally. No I will not go back there!

Unable to stop myself, I landed on the walk before the doors. But they stood open, wind whipping through the corridor. Stunned I stepped inside. It was as deserted as a tomb.

I fled. I ripped away the corner of the dream, diving through.

I found myself walking down a corridor. No, It was a ship, so the proper term is passageway. I was in my Consega Lines uniform, with the two stripes of a lieutenant, and the brassard of Security. I came to the captain’s cabin, and knocked. When he called I entered.

He wasn’t alone. Two men were with him. I pegged them immediately as Intelligence of some kind. With my checkered past I can still spot the type. Captain Loran looked up from his desk as I approached.

“Are you Marai Devos?” One of them asked me. I looked him over. He had the look of a field Security operative. Someone who thinks he can handle anything. I merely looked at him. He hated me for some reason.

His partner was smaller, more slender, and much easier going. He drew out a flat pad, and flipped it open. Naval Intelligence. “Please answer the question.”

“Yes, I am Marai Devos.”

The bigger man jumped back into the conversation with both feet. “You will come with us now.”

He reached out, and grabbed my arm.

Bad idea.

I foot swept him, the free arm slamming into his chest as I rode him down to the deck. He tried to do a break fall to weaken the impact, but the hand slammed his back down hard enough that he was gasping as I stood away from him.

“No one touches me.” I said calmly. His partner was still standing there. Now he had a small surprised smile on his face. I knew what he was thinking. Here I was, a woman perhaps 1.6 meters tall, weighing about 55 kilos, with strawberry blonde hair, and I had taken his buddy down without even a sweat.

“Devos, we have been ordered to take you to Telos immediately.” The smaller man said.

“Did the orders say to manhandle me?”

He shook his head, grinning. “That is why I let you put him on the floor.” Then the smile wiped away, and I saw the cold interior. “But we do have orders to restrain you if necessary. Will it be?”

Politeness with a steel hand in the velvet glove. I looked to the Captain. He had seen the trick before. I was Chief of Security, Head of Casino Security, and the one of three plain clothes female security officers aboard the Liner Vespa Sunrise. I am very good at my job.

“The Republic Navy ordered it. I don’t know why, Marai.” He looked down at the desk, his hands were clenched tight enough to see white around the pressing fingers. “The company had to agree.”

“I understand, sir.” I looked then at the smaller officer. “I am at your service, sir.”

“We have time for you to pack, but not a lot. We’ll pick up anything else you need there.”

As he spoke the edge of the room tore away, and a pair of glowing red eyes could be seen. I turned toward the threat-

Awaken.


I flinched. Then my eyes opened. I was in a liquid, looking into a partially lit room. For a moment I panicked, then I recognized it as a Kolto tank. A mask was firmly pressed against my face, and my body floated. No wonder I was dreaming of flying.

Any school child knows about how a Kolto tank works. A liter of Kolto mixed into 300 liters of isotonic saline solution, heated to skin temperature, and the body is immersed. It would debride and help in the healing of all wounds. I was glad for the mask. When necessary, such as in lung injuries, they put you in the tank without it. I remember Salan Woor back on Zagosta. A lung full of poison gas. We needed three men in the tank with him, because to heal the wound, the Kolto has to be brought into direct contact with the injury. If you think that means we have to almost drown you, you’re right.

Of course the fluid is hyperoxygenated so you won’t drown. You spend the first nine months of your life breathing the fluid in your mother’s womb without dying. But tell that to your reflexes. You think you’re going to drown until you find out you‘re still alive.

I looked but no one moved outside. That was odd. There should at least be something monitoring the system and my heart must have spiked through the roof. I looked. Four other tanks, all with men and woman in them. There were signs of burns on some of them. But I felt...

I had to get out of here. I found the internal release. Back about thirty years ago, a man had been allergic to Kolto. It’s rare. Try one in 70,000 rare. The merest contact with Kolto even in a medicinal bath could cause anaphylactic shock.

He was unconscious when he came in, and the med tech was new. Didn’t both to do a test swab. If he had the guy would have lived. Instead he had him stuck in the tank. He’d come awake screaming, and in the four minutes it took to get him out of the tank, he was dead.

Since then they put in the emergency internal release, or Dead Man Switch. If the patient felt they had to get out in an emergency, they merely hit it. Of course if you played silly buggers and did it for fun, you wouldn’t after the price came up. That tank cost the user 100 credits a day. When that is an average family’s weekly earnings, you had best expect your significant other whomever they are to rip a strip off you.

I didn’t have a significant other, lover, mother or father. They could bill me.

The pumps began siphoning, and the fluid poured down into the holding tank. There it would be sectioned and filtered off, the Kolto that was still active going into one tank. all dead tissue including inactive Kolto would go through the incinerator, and the remaining saline solution would sterilized, and returned to the reservoirs for later reuse.

I could hear the shrill alarm of a ruptured tank, but no one came running. I was still confused as the clearplast cylinder dropped into the deck, and I fell flat on my face. Who was running this mess? If you have people in the tank you never leave them completely unattended. Even if you had a case of constipation that needed blasting you never ignore that alarm.

But nothing. No one came in zipping their pants, no doctors complaining that you should have let them decide if you were well. Every sense I had was set for alarms and I had just gotten out of the tank!

But I was drained. Kolto may heal you but it uses the body’s resources to do it. I felt like I had run a marathon then gone ten rounds with a professional Martial Artist. I couldn’t move.

Finally I could feel my arms and legs. I staggered to my feet, looking around. I estimates it had been at least five minutes from the time I awoke in the tank to now, yet still no medical staff. I hoped the guy stuck in the fresher had brought a crowbar and a good book. It was the same ubiquitous design you see the galaxy over. I could be on any planet in any system.

There was a door before me but first I looked at the other patients. None of them were moving, and none of them were breathing. I felt a chill that had nothing to do with being in underwear and soaking wet. I went to the door, and it opened with a touch. There were three doors. The one to the right was marked MORGUE. I walked past it to the door on my left. A standard medical monitoring system. I walked to the console. The words EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN flashed on the screen. I touched a control. ENTER COMMAND. On the corner I saw a name PERAGUS MEDICAL FACILITY.

Peragus... I had heard the name somewhere, but for the life of me couldn’t remember. There are tens of thousands of planets, and you can’t remember them all. But this one was important for some reason.

I looked at the screen and the list of options. I tapped medical logs. There were three. Each a standard day apart. I touched the oldest. A hologram appeared in mid air. It was a woman a little taller than I am with cafe au lait skin and tight curly hair.

“...Still examining the survivor from the damaged freighter. The security officer told me it was named Ebon Hawk. The survivor was placed in the Kolto tank.

She bit her lip. “The ship is reported to have been damaged, and carbon scoring suggests that they were in a battle. But I have not heard from the Security officer if we know who was shooting at them. He couldn’t get much from the navi-computer. I am surprised they were able to get here at all, and so is Admin and Security. Only a fool tries to come here without the asteroid drift charts, and the Com officer told me no one called in for them.

“The only other person aboard was an old woman. No life signs. The body is in the morgue. When the next ship arrives from Telos we will send it to them. This is only a treatment facility after all. There were two droids aboard, a utility astromech and a protocol droid. Somehow the T3 was able to get the ship up and running again. Both were sent down to maintenance while security goes through the ship’s cargo. We’re prepared to...” The recording suddenly ended, like she had been called away.

Again a name I thought I knew. Ebon Hawk. That was... That was a ship reported as a smuggler. I touched the next record.

“...Could be a Jedi, but we won’t know for sure until we get a transmission back from the Republic. The com between here and the core is spotty because of the asteroids. If the survivor is a Jedi, that would explain the rapid recovery rate.

“But I am more concerned that a Jedi here might cause other problems. Some of the miners have been causing trouble since she arrived, especially Coorta. He has already st...” The record faded into static, then snapped back into view. “...Another accident today. There was a detonation in the ventilation system main access. If the lockdown hadn’t worked, the base would have been flooded with fuel and one spark would have sent us home at light speed.

“Four wounded, one dead. I got them into the tanks, and they are recovering. One of them kept saying a mining droid caused it but he was so incoherent we didn’t get much more...” It faded into static again.

Jedi. I wasn’t a Jedi... At least not any more. Maybe they had meant the dead woman but it’s like the joke ‘let me know when he gets better‘. Turn to other person. ‘He’s dead’.

Besides, my connections to the force had been severed. I shouldn’t heal like one. Part of me wanted to believe it was true. To think that the last ten years had been a nightmare I would wake up from.

Part of me told the other part to shut up. I tapped the last record.

“...Miners about the Jedi. A number of smaller injuries caused by droids. They tell me they are acting oddly, and not even doing memory wipes has helped.

“There was another detonation, this one in a fuel vent they were servicing. The droids that were there were deactivated and sent to maintenance. I have been treating burns all day.... That cuts us down to half shifts, and with the problems they are having with the droids, we may not be able to make the Telos shipment this month. Those people need it desperately, but what can we do? Still not word from the Republic, and Telos hasn’t replied to our requests for additional maintenance personnel.

“At least we’re still up and running. The blast didn’t cause a lock-” Her voice was interrupted by a siren and a voice.

“Fuel detonation in the mining tunnels. Emergency lockdown commencing. All personnel report to quarters and prepare for emergency venting procedures.” The voice was calm, feminine, and implacable.

“Wait! Admin, respond! If the ventilation system is malfunctioning we’ll die! Admin, damn it answer me!” She stared at something. Probably the same screen I was at. Then she turned, waving. Evacuate the medical bay, do it now!

“But-” a man’s voice from off viewer.

“We’ll just have to hope they will live in the tanks. Move!” The holo died.

I stared at the screen for a long time. As a Security officer the series of accidents seemed almost... planned. The fact that the miners seemed to think I was still a Jedi didn’t help. Why was my presence a danger?

And what about the bodies in the tanks? Why were they dead? For that matter, why was I alive? The air system for the Kolto tanks was a separate system. Something in the air might be making the patient sick, and to make sure this didn’t affect the recovery the system piped in purified air. So a gas leak wouldn’t kill them. It had to be something else.

Just to make sure, I touched the Patient status icon. All but one read deceased. Number three showed recovered; released. That must be me. I walked back in, and yep, my tank had been number 3.

I returned to the console, and I touched the patient treatment icon.

Patient three had been being treated for some kind of poison. Since they had not known what was used, they had been doing a full spectrum antidote regimen. The other four, as the report by the medical officer had said, were being treated for serious plasma burns. There was a last notation that chilled me.

LAST TREATMENT REQUEST RESULTED IN TERMINATION OF LIFE FUNCTIONS. PATIENT 3 REDUCED TO MINIMAL LIFE SIGNS.

With a shaking finger, I input the last treatment request.

ALL TANKS INJECT 40MG IRDANRIZINE.

Irdanrizine is a sedative. fast acting. What you might use in a police situation if you can use a tranquilizer dart. five milligrams would put a Hutt on his butt out like a light in something like seven seconds.

Nothing living needed 40 milligrams. Hell, a human died in less than a minute if you gave him three. If I had been cold before it was arctic conditions now. Someone had murdered those men and women. Someone who didn’t know or care what was needed to do the job. I don’t know why I was still alive, but someone here was a maniac.

I checked the facility, and gathered what I could. Med pacs, some chemicals that could be used to make more if I needed to and had the time. They could also be used to make explosives.

I stepped out, but the door into the complex was jammed. I needed something to open it. Wait, some of the miners had died. Maybe...

I went back to the console. Every bed was full. One woman caught my eye. She was in robes of some kind. I shook my head. Too many memories. I unsealed the door, and went across into the morgue.

Suddenly all of the memories were back. Walking the line of the dead at Zagosta, my first battle when I was in command. Looking into faces that just that morning had watched me. Some had been eager. Others resigned. Now they were all slack with death. I did not want to go into that room. Didn’t want to walk another line of dead people.

But maybe someone there had a tool of some kind. There was nothing in the storage lockers.

I walked up to the woman first. She was frail, tired, and even without a mark on her she was dead. There was nothing on her that I could use. I found that by concentrating on just what I needed to find, I could do this. Each body got an impersonal once over. One of the bodies had a plasma torch. Maybe it...

There was a sound. The old woman was stretching as if everyone went to bed in a morgue. Then she sat up, and the hood she wore turned toward me.


'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; 08-01-2006 at 03:10 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-01-2006, 07:20 PM   #2
machievelli
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Pain and Remembrance

Marai

It was like watching a revenant climbing out of it’s grave. I was frozen staring at her. She adjusted her hood. Of her face all I could see was her mouth and the braids of her white hair. She looked back at me. If she had said boo I think I would have screamed. “Have you found what you seek amongst the dead?” She asked. The voice was dry, raspy. As if she didn’t talk very often. But I head heard that voice somewhere before...

“It was your voice I heard in the Kolto tank.” I blurted out. Great work miss oh so efficient Security officer.

“Yes.” She seemed amused, as if my thoughts were a book she were reading. “I had hoped as much. I slept too long, and found I could not awaken without... outside stimulus.”

I had almost expected her to say ‘blood’. “Slept too long? I thought you were dead! So did the Medical staff according to the records.”

“Close to death. Closer than I would like to contemplate.” She admitted. “You have the smell of someone fresh from the Kolto tank. How do you feel?”

Actually I felt pretty good. Exercise will do that for me, and jumping to conclusions seemed to be my new hobby. “The Kolto tank drained me. Who are you?”

“I am Kreia, and I am your rescuer. As you are mine in turn. Tell me... What is the last thing you recall?”

I thought about it. “I was aboard a Republic Frigate, the Harbinger. Two Naval Intelligence men were escorting me to... Telos I think. We were in the second day of the voyage. The nicer of the two had wanted to talk, and he’d asked for drinks. A protocol droid delivered them. I remember talking, finishing...” No I did not remember ‘finishing’ the drink. I do remember drinking some of it. “No, I drank some of it, then everything was spinning. I remember red eyes, being carried.” I looked at her. Whatever was going on had begun not here, but on Harbinger! “What happened?”

“Your ship was attacked. You were the only survivor. A result of your Jedi training no doubt.”

Not this again! I knew my face went cold. I am no longer a member of the Jedi order.”

She looked at me, and I could sense puzzlement. “Your stance, your walk, even the way you speak shouts Jedi.” Her head cocked. “But your pace is slower than your wont, as if you carry a heavy burden.”

I looked away. “The Jedi and I had... differences.” Yeah right, my mind chided. You couldn’t explain it to them because they hadn’t been there. It was like trying to explain to the blind how the sun worked, or explaining the way the force felt to someone completely insensitive to it.

She seemed to sense that internal struggle again. “So it would seem.” She shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “Keep your past to yourself if you will. Let us focus on the now.”

I was relieved. I waved toward the walls around us. “Where is this place?”

She gave me a look as if I was really an idiot. “It was I that was asleep and adrift from what was happening. You were the one that was awake. Perhaps looking about will tell us what we both wish to know. If nothing else perhaps you can find our ship so we can leave.”

“Leave?” There was a nervousness in her last words. As if she desperately wanted to get away, but at the same didn’t want me to know it. “Why do we need to leave?”

She harrumphed. “We were attacked aboard a frigate, one of the most powerful ships the Republic possesses. What makes you think that they cannot track us down? Unless this is a military base with the defenses they would have, they can come and destroy us at their leisure. Without weapons without information, and most important without transport, we shall easily be run to ground.”

It made sense. “But what of the people here? Someone must still be alive!”

“Then by all means look for them as well.” She looked at me, and again I sensed amusement. “Might I suggest you extend that search to some clothing? If only to make a proper first impression.”

I smiled at her. Then the smile was wiped away. The patients in the Kolto tanks were killed, no murdered, by a massive overdose of sedatives. Any idea how that happened?”

She flinched. “You have the manner of a Constable or Security officer. You can think of a dozen reasons why someone would have done so. My question is why you were exempted.”

“I was not. I was just lucky enough to survive.”

“Lucky.” She said the word as if she had never heard it before. “Is it not true that the Jedi do not believe in either luck or coincidence? Consider your past training. A Jedi healing trance would have brushed aside the chemicals, or converted them to something less dangerous. A very useful skill when negotiating.

“First, is it not possible you were not the target? In fact, have you considered that whomever administered the sedatives did so at a distance? They did not know which tank their target was in, only how many were occupied. So they gave each tank an equal dose.”

I had not considered that, and having someone cold blooded enough to kill five people instead of the one they wanted was worrisome. Her face had not changed however. “What are you thinking?”

“If you were the target, and the enemy knew you were once a Jedi, perhaps the sedative was supposed to keep you compliant while their work was done. However whomever did this obviously places little or no value on anyone else’s life in the regard.”

“You seem to know a lot about what the Jedi can and can’t do.”

“As do you. Perhaps once we have shaken the dust of this place from our shoes we can discuss it over a glass of something mildly alcoholic. As for now, we have other concerns. An enemy coming for us, and another enemy right here.” She tapped her foot on the ground for emphasis.

“Are you going to be all right?”

“I had no intention of accompanying you. I have yet to regain my strength. I will leave the grunt work to you.”

I wanted to slap her, but instead I smiled. She reminded me of a lot of the older masters. Too crotchety to die, too mean to live quietly. “I’ll be back.”

“You do that.” She slid smoothly into a meditation seat, and I was alone. I walked back into the hallway, facing that damned broken door. I lifted the plasma torch, but I couldn’t bring myself to bring it down. To free myself from my prison.

*****

Malchior V was the last major battle of the Mandalorian Wars. It was where my will finally broke. I had been through four years of it, and Malchior V had been where Revan intended to smash the last main fleet the Mandalorians had. She had discussed it with her war council. Malak, Vitoris, Sanso, and I.

We had been the best of the best. Our ranks had been harrowed as had the men we led. Of the 1500 knights that had answered Revan’s call, only 400 still lived, less than 200 were still whole. Of the 2nd Regiment Corellian Marines that I had led from the beginning, less than a Sergeant’s guard remained of the men I had led onto Zagosta that first time. That’s 20 men for the uninitiated out of the 1500 they had been. Oh I led 1500 again, but only those 20 still held my entire heart, Lose 1400 people you considered friends and confidants, and you learn pretty damned quick to hold them all at arm’s length They must be precious to you. Their deaths must cause you to bleed. But you cannot let their deaths tear you apart.

The plan was simple. We had captured the Malchior system, and emplaced gravity well generators in every asteroid we could find. Then we had tractored them into position so that the entire outer system could be locked like a massive cage. Revan and I were to command those in the center. 30 Ships. Enough to give a good fight, but not enough to cost us the war if her plan failed. The rest, 120 more would wait until the gravitational flux was detected. They would be only minutes away when they came, but even as little as fifteen minutes would kill a lot of us.

Malak Vitoris Sanso and Karath would command equal portions, 30 ships each. They would come in from the four axis assured to put them between the Mandalorians and home. They would be forced to fight the fleet behind them to get home.

Revan touched her mask delicately. “This depends on all of us to succeed.”

“We understand.” Malak sat there so calm, so self assured. He was like a Circassian Razor beast. An animal that didn’t know the meaning of retreat or restraint. Malak would charge in and if necessary die. He was the bludgeon.

Vitoris smiled. “It is not like you have not laid this plan out again and again, Revan.” He was short, squat. A toad in human form with the heart of a lion and the soul of a poet. He had a flowing style of leadership that slid across an enemy formation like water. And like water, he would find gaps to flow through. His ships were all carriers, and he would lead those snubs into battle.

Sanso shrugged. She was always somber, quiet. She kept her own counsel, and the men of her ships spoke of her suddenly appearing when things were about to get hot. As if attracted to the flames. She was the sniper. The one that would stay as far from the enemy as her guns and missiles allowed, pounding them until they broke.

I was the scrapper. I liked getting in close and using teeth, feet, head, anything to punish my enemy. I would be the bear trap, the one that would bite down and hold until our friends or arrived or we died. No one had ever seen me run from a fight, and I would not at this time either. “Bring ‘em on!” I wanted to shout, but I spoke softly.

Revan? She was the conductor of this hellish orchestra. Always so cool. Less than three months into our intervention in the war the Mandalorians caught on. They had marked Revan as a worthy opponent, and had set up a trap to test that. It was later called the battle of Hontaru.

I remembered the battle of Hontaru. Commanding the Marines of the flagship as we took fire. She stood on the deck calmly giving orders even as we were pounded by a dozen enemy vessels. But she got us close enough that our shuttles were able to board the enemy. We took three Mandalorians ships from the inside that day. Our ship had been scrapped after the battle, so badly damaged that not even a major shipyard could correct it. They had just planted the charges, and we’d watched while she disappeared in a fireball. It wasn’t until later that we discovered that they had purposely targeted her ship. From that point on, every ship in a squadron with her present had repeaters. She would give an order, and an instant later, every ship transmitted that order as if she were aboard.

She was so adroit at spotting weaknesses in us, in the enemy, in herself.

“Then let us be to it.

*****

I would love to say the enemy fell with no loss to us, but it wasn’t even remotely true. Thirty ships facing four times their number. It was two dying men crawling each other to thumb wrestle as they died.

The array of gravitational dumps guaranteed our ships would be close enough to the enemy that they couldn’t miss. I commanded the left flank, and when the enemy was locked in tight, and Malak’s forces had just jumped in to be caught by our own gravitational array, I struck. The shuttles from the Frigate Viridian speared forward even as she collapsed into a fireball. I was in armor, impatient to be at blows. The men under my command in that command shuttle were the survivors of my first full command. They had earned their places.

We smashed into and through the hull of the Mandalorian Frigate Barakash, flagship of the third flotilla. If we could take her, the entire left flank would be in disarray. We plunged into her passageways.

Fighting up close like that is maddening if you want to record it. All you really see is the space in front of your eyes, where you can look flicking your eyes left and right. You are no longer commanding, you are fighting for your life and dragging your men like entrails behind you.

I had cut my way to the deck just aft of the bridge, and signalled. Ramos ran forward, slapping a charge against the bridge hatch. An instant later he was dead as intruder systems blew him into bite sized chunks. I reached out with the force, ripping the guns from their mounts, then I touched the charge with just a finger of force. It exploded, shattering the hatch like an egg shell. Men poured past me as I walked forward. Then I froze.

I knew the Mandalorian people. Hell I had lived among them for three years when we were still trying to negotiate with them during that expansion of the decade before. I should have not been surprised by what I saw.

There were three children against the wall. A young Mandalorian cannot prove himself worthy to breed unless they had faced an enemy and prevailed. They had been picked up by that explosive charge and slammed into the wall with brutal force. I walked over, kneeling beside them. One was perhaps 11. A young boy who if he had been born anywhere else would have been out playing with his friends. Now he never would. Another was a girl of about the same age. I could suddenly see her with pig tails and a cute little dress giggling with her friends.

The last was twelve or thirteen. Unlike his friends, he was still horribly alive. I could hear the wheeze of his breathing, feel the life in his brain died as bone shredded it. See in his eyes the knowledge that even if he survived, he would be little more than a vegetable in a chair. Unable to feed or wipe himself.

I don’t remember what happened after that. I awoke in the sickbay of the Tik Harvest Moon our flagship. Revan was watching me with that damn mask she wore. If it had been just we Jedi she would have taken it off, I knew. But it helped convince men twice her age that she knew exactly what she was doing.

“Marai. How do you feel?”

“I’m.” I paused. I knew as any Jedi would have how much time had elapsed. I suddenly realized that fifteen hour had past without me being part of it. “What happened?” I felt my body. No injuries, no wounds. What had become of my life for fifteen hours? “Tell me Revan, what happened?”

She looked at me for a long time. Then she turned to the bustling medical staff. “Stabilize any patients you must and get out.”

“General-”

“That was not a request.”

They cleared the room, and finally she sighed, removing that mask. She sat on the edge of my bed, looking at me.

“Marai, I think you need to go home.”

“What? But I am fine! I’ll be back on my feet ready for duty tomorrow.”

“Will you.” She watched me. “What happened ten hours ago?”

“I...” I looked at her. “I don’t remember.”

“When they brought you into the medical bay six hours ago, they told the medical staff that you were rocking the body of a twelve year old boy, and singing him a lullaby. That was after you broke his neck. They tried to move you, but you wouldn’t let go of the body for seven hours. Then as if nothing had occurred, you lay him down, said ‘Now rest until I return’ to him, then stood and asked for reports. You boarded another ship, your marines covering you every step of the way because you were ignoring everything around you. After they had captured that one, your second in command asked you to come her to see some of your own wounded.

“When you got here, you went straight to that bed, lay down, and didn’t get up until a few minutes ago.”

“I-” I still didn’t see it. I pictured picking up that boy. Snapping his neck wasn’t a brutality, it had been mercy. But I couldn’t put him down.

“I am ordering you home. Go back to Coruscant. Get well.” She stood, putting the mask back on. “If this war goes on much longer, I will need your good right arm again soon.”

*****

I had gone home. But meditation no longer reached into my soul as it should. I had been haunted in my dreams by that boy. Seeing his face slack with terror, feeling his life ebb away in my hands.

They had tried. They had mind healers try to work with me to bring it out and excise the puss of that horrible mental infection. But I resisted. “Were you out there?" I asked them. If they were older, I asked them if they had faced Exar Kun in that war. If they had not, I told them to go away. None of them had been through that hell, and until they had been, I didn’t want platitudes, I didn’t want to hear that the boy was now living within the force.

I. Didn’t. Want. Their. Damn. Pity.

I had been exiled because of it. I could have stayed. Given up my lightsaber, gone into the Conservation Corps the Jedi also run supporting the Ithorians. But I had given up too much of myself, or my soul to be satisfied. I had gotten aboard a ship, not even caring where it took me.

I ended up on Corellia with no money. I had never considered that the order supplies every need to it’s members. Not your wants, your needs. I had never missed a meal, or been without clean clothes except when I was on the battlefield. I never ate if my men had not already eaten, or slept if they had not already rested, or wore clean clothes if they were not supplied with every need first. For the first time in my life I was hungry, thirsty, dirty, and tired but not sharing it with others. It was a humbling experience.

I cleaned up, and went job hunting. What powers I had faded with time, I felt them slipping away, and part of me grieved, and part of me didn’t give a damn.

After a few menial jobs I had been approached by Consega Lines. I had proven to be highly efficient as a courier and bodyguard, and they were commissioning a new ship. a luxury liner/casino ship. They wanted me as a plain clothes security guard. A few years later I was Chief of Security.

It was there that I had found part of myself. A party had brought a Mandalorian Mercenary as a body guard. We had been off duty together in the lounge, and he spoke of the war from their point of view. I didn’t tell him that I had been a Jedi, but somewhere in there, around the third bottle of tihaar when I had broken down and told him what had happened.

I would have thought that he would hate me, that he would berate me as a coward. What I had not expected was this man twice my size built like a mountain would pull me into a hug and let me cry against his chest.

“Luminous beings we are.” He said.

“That is a Jedi saying.” I snapped, wanting to push away.

“The Jedi are right sometimes.” He said. “Our history is replete with them either guiding our steps or chastising us.” He leaned away from me. “They knew they faced death when they boarded that ship. Their captain no doubt thought too well of himself, because when the Young are among us, we protect them as best we can. They died. But they would not have chosen to be anywhere else.”

“But I set off the charge!”

“Why should we condemn you for that? Would you have given away the victory if you had known they were there?” He shook his head. “The Mandalorians would have enshrined their names as great warriors if we had won. Since the end of that war Revan had refused us the right to gather honor, and if she dies, we lose that chance forever.”

I found myself comforting him the rest of the night. How you may ask? And I tell you none of your damned business. But I felt that sore break open, and felt clean for the first time in years.

*****

I shrugged, and the plasma torch cut neatly across the locking face. I was back where I belonged. On the offensive.


'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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Old 08-02-2006, 08:37 AM   #3
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Another amazing start Mach =) cant wait to see more!
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Old 08-02-2006, 05:17 PM   #4
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Peragus

Marai

I crouched as the door opened. There were a couple of bodies. I picked up a vibrosword from one man’s hands, and checked them. They had been hit with laser fire and crushing impacts, as if someone had taken a bat and beaten them to death. The walls were rock, carved out into the rooms and compartments, then sealed. It was obviously a moon or asteroid base. It had that ’add on as needed’ feel to it. There was an odd tangy smell in the air that made me nervous. One of the doors was magnetically sealed. The other opened into a connecting hall. The door opened and there were droids in the next room. I hesitated. After all, while there were supposed to be droid problems, that didn’t mean-

Yes it did. They spun, and I dived under the laser blasts. I had learned during the practice before the war and the war itself that the best way to fight droids is to put them in line if possible, where one has to shoot through the others. It limits your adversaries. and at the same time, if it does try to shoot anyway, it kills it’s partner.

They tried to kill me, and I dismantled them. They weren’t very efficient.

After another brief fight, I reached what appeared to be another access way. It was marked as an emergency exit, but when I reached the door, it was closed.

Suddenly, like a whisper I heard a voice.

This is the exit you need...But it is sealed...Strange...In my vision it was open...

I spun. I was alone. That voice sounded like... “Kreia?” If it was her, there was no reply. I tried the door. Again it had been magnetically sealed from some where else. That was odd. An emergency exit has to be easy to open by definition. When you’re running for your life you really don’t need to call someone and have them open the door. I shrugged, moving on.

I came to a room that had a familiar feel. After a few years of security work, every security office feels the same. I walked over to the command desk, keying the system. No it didn’t open the emergency exit.

I checked the logs.

“...This thing on? Oh. This is Security Chief Brenner to all hands. Listen up, and I do mean you Coorta! I am going to say this once, if I have to say it again, the idiot I speak to will be on the next ship back top Telos with his contract shoved down his throat!

“The next time one of you Juma heads tries to smuggle a blaster or military grade explosive charges onto my base, I will throw you out an airlock and you can float home. You knew they were forbidden when you came and it doesn’t mean ‘anyone but me’.”

“He rubbed his face. Like a parent dealing with a bunch of six graders. “Why? Because you’re supposed to be hear mining Peragian fuel. YOu mine it by heating it until it’s a gas, and then pipe it out. But at higher temperatures it is explosive. I thought all of you wastoids knew that! It was some idiot like you that blew the hell out of Peragus II fifteen years ago! That’s why we’re mining the asteroid fields instead. So get it though your thick skulls that it is our lives you’re risking.

“So if I find anything more powerful than a sonic mining charge or mining laser in anyone’s hands, lockers or on an invoice, I’ll burn you and your contract. Security out.”

So we were on Peragus II? No, he’d said asteroid mining. We were on a base.

Suddenly I remembered where I had heard the name before. I had seen an ad for the company that was mining there. It was back when I was still wandering a lot. The pay was exorbitant, but the dangers matched it. For a six month contract you were paid enough to live for two or three years. A year contract was enough to relax for maybe 5. But it is dangerous. Under Republic law a mining company had to list statistics on injuries and deaths. There was a 20% chance that you wouldn’t leave whole, and a ten percent chance you’d leave in a box. Insurance companies won’t even allow you a policy if you work in Peragian mining.

The company did carry it’s own insurance. But if the death wasn’t an accident, you get nothing. The policy was interesting reading. Nothing mining related that killed you was accepted except for falls, cave ins getting crushed by a cargo droid when moving supplies and explosive decompression. Improperly set charges didn’t count as accidental. Even then they capped at 5,000 credits. Enough to keep a family going for maybe a year.

Of course I was smart enough to read the fine print. Six month straight shifts, payment at the end of contract period. Fines could be levied by the company for infractions, and a serious one got the contract terminated with no remuneration. After six months looking at the same faces every day you had to let off steam, and there was nowhere to do it on the base. Miners tend to blow money like air out of a ruptured airlock when they finally hit civilization again and the owners ran several cantinas in the systems close to any mining facility. Every cent you blew getting wasted to forget about Peragus would flow right back into their coffers.

I went through the accident reports. Only the last one caught my interest. “...According to a miner the series of sonic charges blew prematurely. He said he was sure a droid had set off the charges, just like the last time. Three men dead, two wounded. The dead were grouped together so close we’ll need DNA tests to figure out who was who. The droid was reduced to scrap metal. We can’t even find a piece of it’s memory core large enough to examine.

“I don’t know what’s going on here! Ever since that damned Jedi showed up it’s gone from bad to worse! It’s not the fights or Coorta and his gang. It’s like... It’s like since she arrived something is actively trying to kill us all. If I can’t get to the bottom of this, we’ll be floating space dust before the next freighter arrives.”

I felt for him. I’d been in the same position when I took over as Head of Security on the ship. Everything that goes wrong is your fault, and you get little credit.

But I agreed with him. It wasn’t accidents. Somehow I knew it was sabotage. I saw a record for Droid Maintenance.

“I don’t want to hear that you’re working on the problem, I want answers!” Brenner roared.

“Sir, I have never seen anything like this before. It’s like their behavioral core programming is undergoing binary decay, but that doesn’t happen without an obvious cause, and I can’t find one.” The Maintenance man sounded young. Probably hired on because it was a chance to be his own boss.

“Oh, so I’m only imagining it all.” Brenner’s voice dripped with sarcasm. So the next time some droid tries to link the ventilation system into the fuel lines I can sit back, close my eyes, and smell the flowers, right?

“I need answers, and I need them now! What will happen if they suddenly decide to mine the crew instead of fuel?”

“Sir their ethical programming will-”

“Don’t tell me about ethical programming! Harso down on Level 2 said the damn droid seemed to be aiming at him!”

“Sir, these are mining droids, not combat models. The lasers can cut a man up but they won’t blow holes in him. They don’t have the hardware or even the connections for targeting sensors or enough memory to hold the software for it if they were installed. As they are they can’t seriously hurt us unless they catch someone from ambush or gang up and surround them.”

“Are you blind as well as stupid? Look at the people in Med bay! They have been sabotaging us ever since command told the miners that we weren’t selling the Jedi to the Exchange-”

I paused it. Selling me to the Exchange? Of course the Company couldn’t allow it. A Republic contract requires that the company obey the Republic’s laws, and to sell someone implies slavery, which is illegal.

But why was I of all people worth an Exchange Bounty? Sure they were an organized crime syndicate, but why me? A few years ago they had a massive reshuffle of the power base. They had gutted themselves in a war of their own. Some say the boss of Telos someone named Davik Kang had caused it, but the rumors were vague. They had almost disappeared from the scene. But now they were back and even nastier. I resumed the recording.

“-All right, you’re new, but here’s the drill. I want a full scale check done of all programming done on those droids. Line by line if necessary. I want to know how they have been sabotaged and why. Someone is trying to reduce the odds so they can get the Jedi off the station. Find out who it is, and I’ll have them in lockdown ten minutes later.

“In the meantime I am ordering the security guards to load up on sonic and ion charges. If you had the equipment I see about having you run me off some sonic projectors as well. If they come after us we’ll need more than mining lasers to disable them!”

I leaned back, looking to my right. The Security chief was laying there, with a surprised look on his face and a neat hole drilled into his head. Whatever they did, it had been too little too late. There was another file, and I keyed it up.

“Security log. Someone tried to lock me out of the administration system. I installed an emergency override switch on the console at the communications center in case it happens again. I tied it into the magnetic seal of the holding room door, and if the computer detects any active droids on this level, the holding cell seal will not operate.

“I keep coming back to Coorta and his gang, but none of them are good enough programmers to pull this off, but I am not taking any chances. Not sitting in the middle of the minefield of an asteroid belt. The added bonus is that when I put him in the cells he can’t use the droids to rescue him.”

So he had still been planning. The late Security Chief Brenner had been nothing if not persistent. I keyed the final entry.

“I have finally traced the computer access that has been sending out spurious messages. I am going to gather my-” An alarm went off. Then a voice cut in.

“Fuel detonation in the mining tunnels. Emergency lockdown commencing. All personnel report to quarters and prepare for emergency venting procedures.” The same damn ubiquitous computer I had heard in Med bay.

“Wait a damn minute!” He screamed. “I would have felt the damn explosion! Security officers, belay that last order! Meet me in the office, and gear up! Something is about to happen!”

I could hear him fumbling around, then a door opening. “Grab some-”

There was the blast of laser fire, then silence.

I stood up, and knelt beside him. “You deserved better, Chief Brenner. I’ll take it from here.”

I walked to the door, and suddenly...

Have you ever felt electricity dance on your skin. Not painful, just, disturbing? I felt that, but it wasn’t on my skin it was in my head. Again I heard that ghostly whisper.

Take care... There is much energy beyond the door...yet nothing lives there...

“Kreia?”

She sounded surprised. You can hear me?.. Better...Reach out... Use not your pallid sight but that within that can see so much more...

I closed my eyes, and suddenly it was there. Three groupings of energy discharges. Constellations of power flickering as the various star-like symbols spoke to each other.

Ah so you can see them... Droids are not alive... but you can feel the energy flow from their systems... Motivators... optical sensors... temperature... everything a man might have but made of metal and only mimicking us...

I opened my eyes, keyed the door, and stepped through. The droids turned, their weapon arms coming up, and I ran, leaping up and over one, landing in the middle crouching, pause as they spun, weapons tracking, and when I felt the systems lock to fire, I leaped again.

Lasers fired, and one of them squealed as the other two sliced it open. I landed behind one of the undamaged ones, and the vibroblade sliced delicately, severing the power core. I bounced up, dodging a laser blast as if I knew it was there, my sword cutting down and the last one collapsed. I went to the damaged one, chopping into the power core, and it went silent.

I was staggering. Something was happening and I wasn’t sure what. I knew what it felt like... But that was impossible!

Ah, you feel it...Faint... just a whisper...But it is there...

“I feel like I’ve come out of sedation.” I had collapsed automatically into a meditation seat. "It can’t be!”

But it is...It hasn’t been so long that you would have forgotten...It is the Force...

“But it feels... different. Like it’s far away.” I struggled against it. Like a baby trying to stay within the mother. The world was pain and suffering and the Force was like that if you didn’t know it.

Do not fight it...coax it...listen to it...Let it return to you...

I knew that if I let go it would enfold me again. That it would nurture me, surround me, be a part of me again. But then I would be something that should not exist. They had stripped me of my abilities a decade ago. I couldn’t just pick it up as if it were a pair of pants I had left laying a decade ago!

Come...You know the path...You walked it years ago...I will guide you in these first stumbling steps...You will need these abilities yet again if you are to survive the coming trials.

I opened my eyes, and it was like I had never seen before. The world had colors I had not seen in years. Textures that I had not touched since then. The smell in the air was automatically defined by my memory as traces of Peragian fuel, and while I didn’t know what it was exactly, I knew that it was at a level that was irritating, but not dangerous.

It was like being born again.

I rose to my feet, and I knew without looking where the administration center was. There were five droids there, but I could point to exactly where they were.

I opened the door, and reached out toward the droid that was close enough to be a danger. I shorted out it’s memory core, and it collapsed. I wanted to scream in elation. I did it to the next, then the next. A droid tried to come up behind me and I did a graceful pirouette, my sword sheering into the carapace, shattering it.

Finally there were none left. I walked over to the holding cell. Why they had cells hear instead of the security office was simple. As I mentioned earlier, a base like this one started with the admin center and worked outward like an earthworm digging it’s way through the soil. The tunnel became corridors, and as it expanded more, you added other necessary offices. Barracks, Security, Medical, what have you. But you didn’t bother to move things like holding cells. Too wasteful.

The field was up, and I looked around. On the far side of the room there was a series of panels. Probably monitoring stations and communications. I walked over to them. Two were down, but one was still active. No matter. The system was cross-linked so the Administration officer could talk with his wife, check the loading, check the fuel flow, and monitor unloading of supplies in the hanger bay all from one location.

It was locked down, but I felt beneath the edge of the counter, and found the switch. I flipped it, and accessed the system.

First I checked for other droids. There were two up in the fuel monitor tunnel. I ran up there, dispatched them and returned. I looked at the cells from the camera monitor. A young man was in one of them, sitting against the wall. Maybe he had some answers.

I deactivated the holding cell field, walking back to it.

Again that touch of thought...

Beyond this door, someone still lives...Be careful...His thoughts are difficult to read....

I must have hesitated, because the next thought was amused.

Fear not...He may prove useful to us...

Peragus

Atton Rand

There isn’t anything as boring as being locked up. I don’t care how bored you may think you are. Try being locked in a cell with nothing to do but watch the shimmering of the field.

I had stopped shouting for the security guards about five or six hours ago. It was irritating that they hadn’t responded. But about the time I stopped, it became unnerving. I rubbed my arms as if were cold. Something had gone seriously wrong. I just knew it.

There was a hum, and the main security field went down freeing the door. It opened. I opened my mouth to shout at whoever it was. As big as Brenner was, I was willing to rip a strip off him.

But it wasn’t a guard. It was this cute little thing about a meter six tall, with blonde hair pulled back in a bun, wide green eyes...

And not a lot on.

I suddenly wanted to thank the gods, the force, hell anyone that made women that looked like that!

She looked at me, and suddenly she smiled. I knew she could almost read my thoughts, and I discovered that my mouth was still open. I shut it with a click.

When in doubt, attack. “Unless the miner’s dress code has changed, you aren’t working here.”

“And how did you miss all the fun?” She asked. I caught a glint in her eyes. She had done this before. Oh I don’t mean running around in little or nothing. I meant asking questions and expecting answers.

Maybe she was a guard, but hey, if Brenner had trotted her in first, I would have told them everything I knew about everything in the Universe. I would have...

Slow down Atton I thought. If she’s security, you are so screwed. If she’s not, maybe we can get out of here.

“And what did you to do end up in there?”

Long story. Short answer is I was carrying something I shouldn’t have been. There’s some weird regulations here, and I got caught in them.”

She nodded. “And where is here?”

I looked at her. She didn’t know where she was? “You mean this isn’t on your list of tour spots? I’m shocked. This little slice of heaven is the Peragus mining facility. Suppliers of the only shipping grade fuel in this neck of the Galaxy. Peragian fuel isn’t top quality mind. Too many impurities in the matrix. Plays havoc with a ship’s engines, but it gets the job done, and keeps engine maintenance in work. Great stuff as long as you don’t mind toxic crap in your atmospheres and having most of the miners get blown into bite sized chunks mining it.”

She cocked her head. “I heard that on the Security Chief’s log. That it is volatile at high temperatures.”

“Yep. That’s what caused the asteroid belt we’re in right now. As long as someone isn’t stupid, firing a blaster, or a proton torpedo or using main engines too close to a fuel bearing rock, it’s perfectly safe. But they thought that way back before the Peragus mining disaster. That took out a chunk of Peragus II.”

“Peragus II?”

“Hey how did you miss it? How many planets have you seen that look like a halo fruit someone had taken a bite out of? The damn fools were minting money with the fuel, and decided to put in a core tap. Someone didn’t worry enough about safety, and when the did a core tap for a power generator, they cut right through a pocket of gas.” I put out my hand as two fists. “Gas meet magma.” I brought them together.

“The blast blew the entire facility, the town they had started around it, and a good chunk of the planet into space. Something like 20,000 dead in a second. The debris created this asteroid field, and since it’s safer to mine frozen gas, they don’t go down to the surface any more. Of course nothing lived down there afterward.

“That’s why they don’t allow blasters. One stray shot when some miner is flying on Juma juice could send us all to hell in a heartbeat.”

“I will make a note of it.” She slid that fine rump onto the desk, sitting across from me, watching me with that same damn smile. Maybe I needed to spend some time with women, not running around the galaxy like a neutron in a fission pile. “The facility appears deserted. Any idea what happened?”

“You mean before or after the Jedi showed up. Before is a short story, and after even shorter. I was with a crew delivering crystals for the mining laser. You do know that a mining laser uses ruby rods?” She nodded. “Well I was carrying the manifest down to admin when an alarm goes off. You know how it is; you hear an alarm, and if you know what it means, you do what you’re supposed to do. If you don’t, you stay where you are until someone tells you.

Next thing I know Chief Brenner and three of his bigger goons were there screaming at me. I’d had a bad day, and I lost it. I called him a few names, he called me a few. I punched him, and...” I motioned to the cell.

“Then I hear this Jedi shows up, and you know what that means. Where you have one Jedi, soon you have the entire weight of the Republic climbing up your ion engine exhaust. We kinda like not having them here to bug us on the Rim.

“But the story gets better. There was a bounty put on live Jedi out of Nar Shaddaa. She’s unconscious and if they move fast, they can make a fortune. Some of the miners get it into those ferro-crete things they use as skulls that they can sell her off to the Exchange.

“Brenner maybe a lot of things, but greedy isn’t one of them. His men refused to let them make the call, and the Admin officer agreed. That put both sides at each other’s throats. The Security officers are at the miners, the miners are beating guards. You can see what a happy mix she made just by existing.

“So I spend all of this time locked up in there. Then there’s this big explosion, and nothing but silence. I’m sitting here, thinking about how I need a bit of diversion, and like the answer to a maiden’s prayer, you show up.”

The smile had disappeared during that spiel, but I hadn’t noticed. The eyes were cool, almost cold. “A bounty on live Jedi.” She repeated. “Out of Nar Shaddaa. Why?”

“I have no idea. All I know is the Exchange put out the word. More than you’ll make here on a five year contract if they’re alive. Nothing if their dead. I don’t know. Maybe some bigwig wants to get even with them. Maybe as rare as Jedi are, they want to start a zoo. Not many left.”

“There were almost ten thousand just ten years ago! How could there not be many left?”

I shrugged. “Those that didn’t bite it in the Jedi Civil War either threw away their lightsabers, or just turned them off and hid them. There hasn’t been a Jedi Council for almost three years now.”

“The Jedi Civil war.” She said as if she had never heard the term. “I stopped keeping serious track after Malchior V.”

“Boy have you been out of touch. Revan and her merry band of Maniacs charged off to save us. Then there was quiet, then suddenly they were back, this time attacking us. The Jedi were split. Some thought Revan had the right idea, others thought not. They fought it out, and we normal people got caught in the crossfire. Something like 90 percent of the Jedi died.” I looked at her face. She was shocked. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I’ve been... out of touch.”

I looked at her. “Wait a minute. You’re the Jedi.”

She looked at me, and the sad smile tugged at my heart. Cool your jets. She’s a Jedi and they can be pure poison. Not to mention celibate!

“The last I had heard was Revan destroyed something called the Star Forge.” She said.

“Yeah. After getting it running and giving the Sith thousands of ships and droids to fight for them.”

“But she was redeemed.” I could hear a slight not of pleading in her voice.

“Big deal. From what heard she and that war council of hers were bad news until they died. She was pretty quick at wiping out anyone that got on her bad side.”

“War council.”

“Yep the Bitch and her four hell hounds. Malak Vitoris Sanso and Devo. The four riders of everyone else’s doom.”

“They died?”

“Well their sure about three of them. Sanso was killed at Malchior V. Vitoris fought Malak and Revan according to records and was killed on Korriban. Malak tried to wax Revan but she survived and was supposed to have been instrumental in taking out Malak and the Star Forge. Not a lot known about that from all accounts. Still classified as secret even if it was five years ago.

“Devo? No one knows for sure. She went missing after Malchior V.” I shrugged. “Maybe she’s the one running the Sith now. Better I never find out. A dark Jedi is bad enough, but those female ones are so nasty that it’s better that you space yourself and save the pain for someone else. Uh, no offense meant.”

“None taken.” She looked even sadder now. “Just a few more questions if you don’t mind-”

“Hey, it’s not like being interrogated by a half naked woman isn’t one of my favorite fantasies, but...” It suddenly struck me.

No one around. The Jedi running loose. “The miners can’t all be gone!”

“All I have run into have been droids. And bodies.”

“Then we’re deep in the recycling run off and have to get out of here!” I stepped forward until I could fee the restriction field like electricity on my skin. “Let me out of here and I can help you. Really! I’ve gotten out of more trouble that you can imagine. You might say it’s a specialty of mine.”

“Tell me what your plan is and we can go from there.”

“Fine. This is a mining colony, not a military facility. That means we have a chance. Shut down the field, and I can reroute the systems to give us access to the landing bay. From there it’s a hop skip and jump to the hanger, and we can jump on the first ship we come to, and beat it out of here faster than you can say Ithorian Neck Brace.”

She looked at me. Then she stood up. “I trust you. If we can work together, we can get out of here.”

“Great.”

“Since we’ll be working together, how about a name?”

“Oh, sorry. Rand, Atton Rand. And you?”

She shut off the security field, and took my outstretched hand. “Marai.” Her grin grew feral. “Marai Devo.”


'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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Old 08-03-2006, 03:10 PM   #5
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Peragus

Marai

I wished I had a holovid system right then. The look on his face when I gave my name was priceless.

“Uh, now we had better... You know...Get to the command console.”

“Right.” I walked to the door. then looked back. He was staring and not at my face. “Down boy.” I purred. “We have work to do.”

“Oh...Right.” He walked up until he was beside me, and we went to the com console. He slid into the chair as if he had been using it all day. “The system is set for automatic hail. You probably heard it on the way in. No one in his right mind tries to approach without notifying us. They need the drift charts.”

“The what?”

“Asteroid drift charts.” He waved toward the clearsteel panels. In the distance I could see hundreds, thousands of drifting asteroids. “It hasn’t been long enough for the asteroids to form a ring. Everything is in constant motion, and the main sensor array is designed to spot, analyze the drift, and report it constantly. Anything larger than a human body is too dangerous to approach if it’s got a pocket of gas. If you aren’t on maneuvering thrusters coming in, you might heat one up and set it off.

“Plus there are some pretty big puppies out there. Ones that would plow right through a Frigate and out the other side. So any ship approaching hears the hail. They send an acknowledgement and the system automatically updates the drift chart so they can maneuver.” He bent over the console.

“Thing is, the system is too user friendly. If you bounce a signal off an asteroid, it comes back as a ship approaching, and it sends... All right, I’m in. Now all we have to do is cancel the emergency lockdown, unlock the turbolift and...Crap.”

“What’s wrong?”

The system is severed from the main hub access. It wasn’t part of the accident either. Once it was set for remote access, someone cut it off with a laser.”

“Sabotage.”

“That’s my guess. Cutting access without blowing the console, that is definitely enemy action.”

“Is there anything we can do from here?”

“What? All we have in communications.”

“Can we contact the miners? They headed for the dormitory.”

“Let me see, we have what fifty a hundred miners over there that think of you as their next meal ticket. What is wrong with this picture?” He shook his head. “I think polite conversation is not going to do the job.”

I nodded. “Maybe there is someone else running around alive.”

He slid back, waving at the console be my guest. If you can find anyone who doesn’t want to kill us, who can help, let me know.”

I took the seat. I contacted the dorm first, but there was silence from there. The system said we were connected. I shifted, and checked the hanger bay. “This is the com center. Do you hear me?”

There was a sound. A whirring with whistling and clicks. After ten years of hearing it I knew that noise, and what it meant.

“Identify yourself.” I ordered. There was a long series of sounds. “All right T3. Do a full diagnostic and report.”

“You understand that?”

“A misspent youth.” I commented. Droid speak is just like any language. You just have to learn how to pay attention.

The answer came back. “Fine. Here’s the situation. We’re stuck on the administration level. All turbo lifts are locked down. Can you unlock them?” A long series of whistling and click with even a foghorn grunt in there. “All right then. Can you find us another way off the admin deck?”

The series was longer, convoluted, and for a droid almost obscene. I sighed. “T3, if you don’t do this, we will be trapped.” There was a resigned whistle.

“All right. Feed back all information to this console so we can keep track of your progress.” Another weary whistle.

We watched. The little droid went into the hanger control center. System damaged. It needed part to repair the console, and it didn’t have them. It went down into the mine and fuel center itself. There were droids trying to stop it, but it was a heroic little thing. It got the part and loaded up on hardware as it did. By the time it chugged it’s way back up the ramp it was the meanest little toaster on the planet.

Fix the console. Still no joy. The system had been rerouted to a fuel center console, and every connection severed. It went to the access door to the fuel center, fighting it’s way through everything. Damn, I was going to buy this little guy an oil bath! And I would polish his metal butt personally!

It reached the console, entered the code. I saw the emergency tunnel access to the mine flash open. Then suddenly, nothing.

At the same time up until that last point Atton had to talk. “So, how long have you been a Jedi? Must be tough. No family or husband...”

“As for no family I was a foundling. Some woman with more hormones than sense had me and dumped me at a med center in Cornet on Corellia. I spent three years in an orphanage before the Jedi found me.” I turned, and something in my gaze told him to shut up. “Any more questions?”

“Uh, no-”

The console bleeped, and I read the actions of our brave little assistant.

“T3.” I called. No response.

“Hey, the little cargo container came through.” Atton was glad for another subject of conversation. “If he got the turbolifts cleared.-”

“He didn’t.” I looked up at him. He had been babbling and obviously not paying attention. “The turbolifts were locked down manually. All he could do was unlock the emergency access tunnel to the mining tunnels.”

“Wait!” He waved his hands as if the world would stop and let him talk. “When I heard that explosion it must have been down there. There’s nothing but superheated rock and steam left down there!”

“Probably.” I stood up.

“And collapsed tunnels! Only an idiot would go down there right...” He saw the look on my face and shut up.

“Atton, unless you want to sit here and wait until we find out what our saboteur wants, someone has to go through that tunnel to another area of the base. Idiot or not, I guess I am it.”

“You’re out of your tiny little mind! Either you’re crazy or stupid or-or both!”

“And what else is new for one of the ‘riders of everyone else’s doom‘?” I asked.

His mouth snapped shut, and somewhere in that pile of jelly a spine emerged. “Then I’ll just have to make sure you live long enough to finish this damn argument!” He sat at the console, keyed some information in, and a com link dropped from a slot. “I’ll monitor your progress from up here. Be careful. As far as I can tell the only thing moving down there is droids. The com link will let me access any systems you happen to pass, and I can use them to track any dangers ahead. If it gets too bad, run back here.”

He looked at me, and suddenly blushed. “Not that I care what happens to you, but if you die down there I have to take that same walk.”

“Yeah, I can see your butt spreading across the chair.” I chided. I touched his shoulder, then gripped it firmly. “See you soon.”

I ran back down the hall toward med bay. I reached the tunnel, then something niggled at my mind. I ran on, back to med bay. Kreia was in a meditation seat, and I didn’t bother her. I went to the medical computer. When it came up to treatment, I was able to trace the order for the lethal drugs to console 34-103. It wasn’t on the admin deck. But if I used that console, I’d know it immediately.

Then I ran back to the emergency access, and rode the lift down. I stepped out in the mine entrance. There was a burr of static.

“Can you read me?” Atton’s voice sounded like he was halfway across the galaxy.

“Barely. There’s a lot of static down here.”

“There’s a lot of interference up here too. Probably caused by the explosion. Peragian fuel tends to leave microwave residue. Give me a moment. All right, reading from scanners. There looks like there is a clear route to the fuel depot if the tunnel in between haven‘t collapsed. a lot of the sensors are down.

“At the entry into the mine itself there should be an emergency equipment crate. Mainly it’s so that miners can get tools and things they should have brought down but forgot. That is ten meters ahead through the next door. Watch yourself. I am getting a lot of droid ID signatures down there. I’m going to check the main tunnel maps.”

“Do that. I‘ll be careful down here. If anything approaches, let me know.” I opened the door, and it was right where he had said. I opened the crate and went through the contents. I found a miner’s uniform and suddenly wondered who forgets his clothes on the way into a mine?

The seat and chest were too tight and the shoulders hung down like a demented stylist had made it. But it was warm and Atton wouldn’t be looking at me like that again...

Let me get this straight before we go any further. I was celibate for over 20 years. When I was exiled I... slipped. Humans seem to spend a lot of time thinking about sex, having sex, and having all sorts of angst about sex. One reason they are leery around us was the fact that we didn’t think about it or talk about it or-

-erase and correct. We did think and talk about it. Some of our late night bull sessions once we noticed the... differences in our fellow apprentices were down and dirty, even when it was all women... Especially when it was all women.

But part of our training was that focusing on one person other than ourselves means you lose focus on whatever mission you are on, or distracts you. A lot of the elders and Masters seem to think that sex would drag us all into the dark side of the force like a tractor beam.

Well I tried it. It was fun, and an interesting way to pass an afternoon or evening, but beyond that so what? It’s not like I had ever expected to exercise the option to have children. Can you honestly see a Jedi charging into a confrontation with a baby snug in it’s carrier on her hip?

And I found from my own observations that it isn’t the actual act that bothers the Masters. It is the emotions that go with it. Possessiveness, lust, jealousy. If they could have guaranteed that none of us would ever feel such things, we could have had all the ‘fun’ we wanted. Since some may have such problems, it had been decreed millennia ago that none of us can have the fun.

But as I said, why bother? I have met and bedded too many men that thought a kiss was a lifetime commitment. What do you think they feel about sex? I finally slipped back into celibacy not because I thought it was better, but merely to avoid the emotional entanglements.

But some men could start my sexual motor running just by existing.

Maybe this scoundrel Atton Rand was one of them? None of your business!

“All right, I have the entire tunnel system up. Did you find the supplies?”

“Yes. Someone might have forgotten their uniform. I found one here.”

“Damn!” I smiled. As much as he had complained about my ‘half naked interrogation, had he liked the view? “Uh, I mean good! Good to hear it. Don’t want you running around half naked. It’s distracting...I mean, the droids might...”

“Take a deep breath, calm down. If we had the time I’d suggest a nice long, ice cold shower.” I replied levelly.

“There should be a survey sensor there, and a safety harness. The miners wear them when they’re looking for new pockets of gas so they can stake a claim.”

I looked at the headset, sliding it on. On the small screen before my right eye I could see a series of markers. Some of them were red and pulsed. The harness went over the outside, and I tightened the straps. There were plates of some kind of armor.

“Got them.”

“The sensor detects not only pockets of gas, but also other miner claims, usually in green. Sonic charges register as red. The harness has acheonic plate armor that softens the impact of a sonic charge, but if you’re too close, it will still hurt or kill you.”

I picked up the last item. It looked like... “Atton, why is there a shield generator in here?”

“Mining shield. Part of the problem is someone might plant a charge to blow a new pocket open, and you have a sonic blast to deal with. Some idiots aren’t careful with their lasers either. It minimizes the damage when that happens.

“They’re not like the military jobs. They aren’t as efficient or as long lasting. It will minimize the damage if a droid decides to take a pot shot at you, but if you’re ambushed by a battalion of droids, it will give you a few seconds to come up with a plan beyond dying.”

“Good. Anything else?”

“Remember when I said ‘Battalion’ of Droids? From the readings I am getting, it looks like there that many down there with you. The good thing is their sensors register heat primarily. There is enough heated dust in the air that maybe you can sneak by them.”

“And if I can’t?”

“Get in close. These things aren’t combat models, so they don’t have the hardwired targeting systems. They can shoot you, but it’s like being shot at by a moisture farmer militia on their monthly practice rotation.

“But there has got to be a central control system down there. I think... Yes!” He gave me directions.

“Understood. Watch my back.”

“Will do”

*****

Moisture farmer militia.

That phrase had brought a lot of memories back.

When the Jedi arrived to assist we found out just how badly the Republic Military is run. First, there is no central organized military. Every planet had it’s own navy and army, standardization was a joke, and the command structure was so hopelessly overloaded with idiots punching their tickets for a high command that nothing can be done without force. Not the Force, I mean like using a hammer to pound it into some kind of shape.

A third of the fleet was sitting in various bases doing nothing because they were short on crews, or officers. Not that we didn’t have enough trained men, it was just say Kuati ships sat there because there weren’t enough Kuati to man them. That kind of thing.

Me, I’m a ground pounder at heart. I feel more comfortable facing an enemy at blade length than I do with blowing some anonymous figure half a kilometer away. Revan Malak and the others descended on the high command like the wrath of the gods while I looked at the Marine and Army situation.

It was as bad if not worse. Everyone was fighting in cohesive units of one planet, and one planet alone. When a unit was rotated out of combat it was supposed to be brought back up to strength, given time to reorganize, and sent back out. However if there is a kink in the pipeline, such as the personnel officer being an idiot, or some man with a General’s stars deciding he needed a unit and he remembered say the 101st Kuati Legion, he’d grab it and throw it into the mix. Never mind that the Regiment he wanted was now an under-strength Battalion with a third of it’s remaining personnel in hospital. That meant the idiot had sent in 400 men to do a job that you needed 1500 for.

The fault here is too many of these ‘generals’ had never fought a real battle. They had practiced in the simulators, where the ‘men’ are electronic figments that fight and die at your command like a chess board. Do you cry when you’re pawn get slaughtered? When they went into battle, they were moving pieces. Not real men getting killed, never hearing the screams of the dying and the moans of the wounded. The piece is destroyed, you thow it in the box and move another one.

Never mind that 1500 real men with real families, ideal and hopes had just been obliterated. The piece is gone, forget about it.

An ancient sage back when men still fought close enough to touch said it best. ‘You must love your army. But for it to fulfill it’s purpose, you must be willing to watch it bleed, die, and be destroyed’.

On the navy side it was even worse. Naval battles are almost always fought at one remove. The ships are what your are targetting, and a lot of times, they are just symbols on your tactical sensor board. A dot goes out, and you ignore the fact that a thousand men or more have just died. When your own ship gets hit, suddenly you see what it really is.

Back right before the war of Exar Kun, they had designed naval combat simulators that simulated everything. When your ship fired you felt the missiles going out. When your ship got hit, there was real damage that you saw. If the bridge got hit you had explosive decompression effects, people getting sucked out of the hole, the whole nine yards.

They stopped using them. Too frightening.

Go figure.

So I began reorganizing the forces. I was fighting three wars without even counting the Mandalorians. I had to fight with personnel. Sergeant X didn’t have all the brownie points he needs to make 1st sergeant. The fact that he was commanding the equivalent of a company, which should have had a Captain in charge was incidental to their equation. I had to fight with the different military formations. Men from the Coruscanti 1st Regiment, which was at that time barely a battalion could not be folded into the Corellian third Regiment which desperately needed that battalion to fill out their Table of Organization because the Corellians and the Coruscanti did things differently, and it would cause ‘problems’.

Heaven forbid that I would do what had to be done next, which is putting members of other races in the mix too!

I refused to countenance any argument. I beat on heads, screamed into view screens, and got my way by throwing a tantrum too large for the galaxy to hold. We were going on the offensive if I had to tie every man and woman in army uniform together with sticky tape and flex glue.

We spent the first month doing just that.

I found that some of the problems were real, but just because a problem exists, doesn’t mean you ignore it. The Aqualish had supplied the better part of a battalion of troops, but their training was... substandard. Having been a race that though a pointed stick was a good idea when they had been contacted, a little elan was expected, but they assumed that the only order they needed was ‘charge!’.

I dealt with this in my own way...

*****

Fifty Aqualish, half of one company were approaching where I hid in ambush with the other fifty. I nodded, and the ‘men’ with me opened fire. We were using training weapons, so while there was the noise of a lot of blasters cycling, the flashes of light simulating the blaster fire would set off sensors in uniforms below rather than kill anyone. If they hit, the uniform would stiffen, and the man would drop to the ground. What you are supposed to do is dive for cover, assess the situation, then attack, rolling up the enemy using fire and maneuver.

As I said, that is what you are supposed to do.

There are three types in a battle like this. The ones that dive for cover before they are hit, the ones that freeze for a fatal second or two, and the ones that charge screaming at the enemy.

I gave it five seconds. Then I tapped the siren, and everyone froze.

Droids rolled down. At each place where a man was, they placed a targeting sensor.

All one hundred of them now took positions up on that ridge line. “All right, one magazine, lock and load!“ I ordered. Each man picked up a Corellian designed blaster. I signalled the droids, and suddenly we could see the men, not just a fifty, but a hundred advancing.

“Fire!”

A hundred men poured fire into the battle field. Down below, the targeting sensors modified the scene.

But what the men shooting saw was different depending on what the man had done. If he dived for cover, and it was something that would soak up blaster fire the target was just something the size of their head. If it was down, but not behind some cover, it was head and shoulders. If it was one of the frozen ones (And the droids had recorded who had frozen if only for a second) it was a man sized target. The charging idiots got targets half again normal size.

Once the last round had gone downrange, the holograms froze. Every hit had been indexed by a red splotch. I stood up, and motioned for them to follow me. I pointed at a figure crouched behind a rock face. “Cover is important in battle. Notice that this man is not injured, even with almost a thousand rounds fired.” I walked to another. This one had ducked behind a bush. The first bolt had blown the bush into splinters. Half a dozen more showed as red marks on the chest and head. “If it doesn’t stop enemy fire, it isn’t cover.”

I walked over to a figure that was normal sized. A rash of hits had ripped off both legs, an arm and the head. “If you want to be a target, fine, you’ll get your chance. But targets stay on the battle field for graves registration to pick up and cart home. Your families get a nice letter that doesn’t end with ‘you were too damn stupid to duck.”

I had saved one of the berserkers for last. The system had automatically stopped them after the first hit, and this guy had gotten maybe three paces before he died. But a bigger target means more fire gets aimed at you. I looked at the target for a long time, then turned to the Aqualish. They were acting like a bunch of naughty children. I almost expected toes digging in the dirt. “If you want to be a hero, be one. But do it in someone else’s unit.

“You are not the 1st Aqualish ‘death dealers’ any more. You’re second battalion, 2nd Regiment, Corellian Marines. You will fight the way I tell you to or so help me by all the gods I’ll have you assigned to moisture farmer militia that needs target practice. As a target. Is that clear?”

There were no further serious problems.


The mine

Marai

I opened the door to the mine itself. As it was above, the tunnels had been shored up. I knew that any equipment they needed to install, they would have just pored out bigger holes for it.

“I’m picking up a lot of sonic mines laid ahead.”

“Why so many?”

“A lot of miners are lazy. Some of the regular droids have probably been reassigned as excavators. That means they put a larger carrying rack on them, and program them to place charges. Not supposed to be done, but there you go. what probably happened was whoever programmed them to go rogue had them mining access tunnels.”

I slipped past the droids where I could, fought them if I had to. I finally reach a section of tunnel that glowed red hot. “Atton, read the tunnel head.” I looked up at the markings painted on the rock. “Section Sigma Green Three Oh.”

“Don’t have a reading from that specific area. But the sensors on both ends read very high. Probably the explosion superheated the rock. The sensors are... fifty meter apart.”

“Any ideas?”

“That mining shield. If you run like hell, it should last long enough to get you through.”

“From your mouth to the gods’ ears.” I said. “Talk to you again in a moment.” I punched on the shield, feeling a temperature drop against my skin, and the crawling electricity of the field itself. I sprinted forward. A few seconds later just as it died I found myself in another tunnel complex. The air almost felt icy after the last run.

“I’m through.” Ahead of me was a large room with huge pumps surging. Peragian fuel was being sucked up from the tunnels inside electromagnetic fields. In the center was a control console, and I ran to it.

Yes. This controlled those safety fields. I check the listing, and found that it was an all or nothing option, I dropped them all, or none. I checked the map, and would have to run forward around one of the pump assemblies. I could drop it and have it up in about fifteen seconds.

I started to give the command, when I noticed that there was a security camera log for mining claim 12-34. I checked. That was a section that was at present disused. I tapped it.

On the screen, I could see three miners.

“What is it Coorta?” One of the men asked wearily. “We’re supposed to be sinking fuel siphons into 32-18 right this minute.”

Coorta looked like a brawler. Not too bright a one too from my estimation. “Forget the siphons, boys, we’ve hit pay dirt. Did you hear about the survivor they took off that freighter?” They looked at him blankly. “Kallio on Shift 2 said he recognized her from Malchior V.”

The third man shrugged. “Big deal. If she was at Malchior V she was a survivor. Maybe Mandalorian. So what?”

“No you morons. Kallio was with the 2nd Corellian Marines before they court martialed him. He said she was the General who commanded the 2nd.” He glared at their uncomprehending faces. “A Jedi.”

The first guy looked panicked. “A Jedi! We can’t let her walk around here! She’ll spot our operations and then we’re out of here with nothing to show for it!”

“Wait!” The second guy was thinking a little better. “I thought the Jedi blew themselves away during the Jedi Civil War! There aren’t any Jedi anymore.”

“Guess someone knew when to duck.” Coorta snarled. “But it isn’t all bad me lads. I contacted Nar Shaddaa. The bounty is still open. All we need to do is contact the Exchange.”

“The Exchange? You want to sell her to the Exchange? Have you been chewing the spice you were supposed to be selling?” Asked the panicked one.

“That Jedi is our ticket off this rock and into a life of leisure.” Coorta pressed. “That bounty will set us all up for life.”

“The officers won’t let it happen.” The calm one said. “They’ll put her in protective custody if necessary.”

“So we have to improvise-”

The recording ended. Odd, there was mention of which camera had recorded the conversation. I tapped the control dropping the safety field.

I ducked, and the laser that would have cut my spine slashed into the console. It fried as I turned, drawing the mining laser I had picked up. One shot blew the weapons mount off the droid, the next two shattered the carapace as the motivator I hit exploded. Alarms went off.

“Marai, what did you do?” Atton screamed.

“What now?” I screamed back.

“The safety fields went down, and if they’re not up in thirty seconds, it’s going to blow down there!”

“I can’t put it back up. The control console took a hit.”

“All right, all right. Run like hell to the fuel depot door. It’s only about fifty a hundred meters ahead. I’m locking down the emergency access tunnel and the direct turbo lift to admin. That should keep this area safe. Now run!”

I ran. Behind me I could hear metal sheering, alarms wailing. Ahead of me I found the lift, leaped in and slammed the control. It shout upward and deep below me I could hear a rumbling that went on and on. The door opened, and I leaped out. The door slammed closed an instant later bowed as if a giant had slammed it with a hammer. Smoke puffed out through the joints.

I lay there, gasping. Then I looked up. Ahead of me about five meters was a horribly burned body of a man

“Atton.” I called. No reply. I called again, just static. Maybe the comlink was damaged, or blocked by this last explosion. Maybe... No. I would not assume he was dead.

I stood, brushing myself off. Why do people do that? You just went through hell, your clothes are probably rags or filthy, but you brush them with your hands as if that makes it all better.

I felt a presence, and turned, the sword coming up. I could feel the constellation of a droid’s system on the other side of that wall. It moved forward, turning it’s red photoreceptors toward me.

“Greeting: It is a pleasure to see you alive, Master. Assuming that it is you and my photoreceptors are not out of alignment again. How may I be of assistance?”


'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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Old 08-04-2006, 07:18 AM   #6
The_Catto
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Great work, i enjoyed it immensely.

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Old 08-04-2006, 10:08 AM   #7
machievelli
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Fuel Depot

Marai

“Master? How do you know me?”

The droid stepped forward. I recognized it as an HK series 50. Systech had made a lot of them, and we’d used their Series 46 and 47s in combat because they were so easy to modify. By beefing up the armor and installing targeting hardware with larger power buses they were dangerous opponents.

But the HK50s were new. Not made for combat. Systech had sold them as protocol droids. I for one remember seeing them rampage in battle. If one came up behind me, I didn’t expect him to be carrying canapes.

“Answer: I am a survivor of the Harbinger as are you, Master. With the unexpected termination of previous master and his crew, you are the only life form that I can call master until I am reassigned.”

“Who was your master?”

“Why anyone in the Harbinger crew of course, Master. However I was supposed to obey the Captain above all. However like yourself I was merely a passenger enroute to Telos. When we arrived I was supposed to be assigned to the Telosian Security Forces and turn my efforts to terminating hostilities.”

Terminating hostilities. The way the older HKs dealt with that was terminating the hostiles. “What happened aboard the Harbinger”

“Irritated answer: Oh master it is a long and rather dull story. Not terribly relevant to our present circumstance. I am sure you do not wish a drawn out repetition of which droids I had to communicate with or which officer wanted what food served.”

Alarms were going off in my head. A standard protocol droid is a motor mouth. It isn’t getting them to talk that is the problem, it’s getting them to shut up. This one was so laconic I could see it not speaking for hours, even days. That with the fact that it was an HK model did not make me feel any happier.

“Stay here. I am going to check out this section.”

“Amazement: Master, I must protest. I am the droid, and my life is not worth yours. Why not rest after your harrowing trials, and I will investigate.”

“No. Stay here. That’s an order.”

“Weary resignation: I will comply.”

I walked out of the room, and once i was out of sight, I shivered. The last thing I remembered aboard Harbinger had been glowing red eyes and being carried. A human-formed droid can carry a person easily. Maybe I was jumping at shadows, but the idea that this thing had been aboard Harbinger sent chills up and down my spine.

The next room was a workshop, and I saw that the droid maintenance officer had been meticulous and almost anal retentive in his care for his tools and charges. One thing I found that was odd was a sonic imprint sensor. If he had not been a maintenance tech or a locksmith, I would have thought that maybe he was a thief. A sonic sensor can record, splice, and replay voice communications. It’s great for breaking voice printed locks because if the person makes the standard newbie mistake and uses something common, it can be captured and the person with the sensor can bypass the lock. There was a data pad, and I read it. He had been intending to upgrade the droids to act on voice commands. A good idea, because from what I saw, they really needed it. No more droid control keypads, just tell it, and it does it. And if something goes wrong, the droid can tell you what went wrong.

I went to the door into the complex, and opened it. I heard the rattle of advancing droids, and destroyed them. There was a force field between the main fuel section and the droid maintenance section. I had no clue where it had been activated from, so I couldn’t bypass it. At the other end was a door, and as I approached I saw some other droids. There were newer, human-form droids. Still they still didn’t have the systems for combat.

I found the maintenance office and logged in. The one thing I immediately noticed was that it was this console that had sent that murderous medical order. So the man that had tried to kill me was dead.

No wait. It didn’t have to be a man. A console can be accessed by a droid. Either with an access arm, or by using the keyboard like a human form might. All I knew for use was they had used this console. I found a series of logs.

A hologram flashed into view, and I recognized the dead man from the next room. He was younger than I had thought. If he was twenty I would eat the console without salt.

“What did Wansir do when he was in charge? These droids were ten years out of date when they were sent here. They need upgrades so badly it’s almost less expensive to buy new ones! I did push that through at least. The Mark 7s began to arrive a week after I did.

“Finished the sonic imprint sensor prototype for the mining droids. That will allow me to adjust their programming every time the mining specifications changed without having to call the lot of them in and doing it manually. I know it’s just sticking in a code spike, but try doing it two hundred times a day, then having to do it again a week later.

“Haven’t installed or built more yet. I wanted to try recording and playing back simple voice commands first.”

There was a log labeled Ebon Hawk Droids. I hit it.

“Finished my examination of the droids from the Ebon Hawk. One was an F3 model, but it’s so badly damaged all they can do it rip it apart for spares. Since we don’t have any F3s here, we’ll have to send it to Telos.

“The T3 seems to have shut itself down. I think it might have voice recognitions software or something. Nothing we say will get it activate, and if you simply switch it on it looks around, then shuts itself off again.

“That damn protocol droid has made up for both of them, though. It spent over an hour asking me about the station, personnel, systems. Everything it would have to know to do it’s job efficiently. I finally just plugged it into the mainframe, and five minutes later it had it all.

“But you know how droids are. If they don’t feel useful the damn things sulk. I found out it could speak the languages of our droids, especially their behavioral cores, and I have been using it here to assist in repairs. It has a delicate touch too. I may be out of a job if Admin finds out.

“Having some problems with the droids. Mainly it looks like someone might have eased the safety restriction yet again. I think if we all die because some idiot wanted to cut corners with safety they’d still say it was my fault.”

Another log.

“I have been speaking to the protocol droid about the survivor. He tells me she’s a Jedi... But I thought all the Jedi got killed during the Jedi Civil War. He told me that she is the only Jedi he has verified in years, and was a veteran of the Mandalorian Wars.

“That brings back memories of mom telling me to be good or the Mandalorians would get me.” He chuckled. “But if she is a veteran of the Mandalorian wars, maybe she know where Revan went to?

Another log.

“Too busy to make regular log entries as much as Admin wants to gripe about it. Between the Jedi arriving, Coorta and his men pushing to sell her off to the Exchange and accidents that have suddenly started to happen, I’ve been wishing mom had twins.

“Coorta tried to get me on board. Seems the Exchange has offered the largest bounty ever offer in the Galaxy for a live Jedi. All you have to do is get them to Nar Shaddaa alive.

“The man is an idiot. First, we’re under contract to the Republic for the Telos Reclamation project. I for one do not want to spend the next two decades in jail because I violated the Anti slavery laws! Besides. I think of that face when she was brought out of the ship. She may maybe almost old enough to be my mother, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t attractive. To think of that face under some mob boss' thumb.” He shivered.

“The protocol droid overhead the conversation and expressed concern. I told him not to worry. Between the officers and Security, Coorta will find himself sucking vacuum if he pushes it.”

Another log.

“I don’t know who was more surprised than I was. The maintenance droids in the hanger bay had begun repairing the ship. In fact they had almost been done before anyone really noticed. After all, how often do you watch a droid to make sure it’s doing what it is supposed to?

“But the dock officer came up screaming because the repairs are coming from his stores and budget, and he wanted to know who authorized the repairs. We checked, but there is no record that anyone gave the orders.

“I installed a voiceprint ID on the droid control console, and notified Admin and security as required. If anyone tries to give the droids orders without going through this console, we’ll know immediately. Security has set a tap that will automatically record the voice of whoever does, and Brenner is thinking about building a clearsteel box and suspending them outside for the duration of the sentence.”

Another log.

“This is the third maintenance check I have done in two days and I still can’t find the problem. Security was up my rear demanding that I do something, but the problem has me stumped.

“These are not combat units, they're miners. Sure they can use a laser on a man instead of a gas pocket, but they don’t have the targeting software a combat unit would have. Even if they did they can’t hit the broadside of a barn except at close range.

“I wonder... Maybe someone staged the first problems with them just to have them brought into maintenance to be checked? Sure they could have put a virus in the diagnostic software, made the droids consider us a pocket of mobile gas to mine. But I went through the diagnostic software line by line, and didn’t find anything. Besides, if someone had done that without upgrading their targeting software it would have frozen them in their tracks.

“The more I say it can’t be, maybe Security is right. We might have a saboteur on the station.”

I looked at the screen for a long time. Everything bad that had happened had begun when I arrived. It was all linked to me, and for the life of me I didn’t know why. I tried to access the com system, but the console had been surgically altered as had the one in admin. I checked the cameras, and found a turbolift access for admin, the fueling outflow tube, with what looked like a droid sitting forlorn, and an airlock! I called up the schematics of the station, and there was an access way from where I was to the dormitories. If anyone was still alive, they were trapped there.

I went to the airlock, but it refused to open. I cursed, and I saw a light come on the keypad. VOICE PRINT ID IN USE. ACCESS DENIED.

Crap. The one that had made that voice print was in the other room dead. I couldn’t very well...

I pulled out the voice print sensor. As I had mentioned, they are a common tool among thieves, because if the person made a mistake and used common phrases...

I walked back into the room where the HK still stood. “I saw a droid in the fuel outflow line-”

“Query: How is it possible that a droid would be dumped down there? It is possible that it ran afoul of one of the malfunctioning droids on the station as was rendered inoperable. It is too bad there is no way to reach it from here, Master. If there were, you could determine what had occurred.”

I sighed. “I am trying to reach the hanger bay.”

“Pitying answer: That is too bad, Master. The hanger bays are sealed with containment fields, and the only three people that might know the access codes are the Administration officer, the Docking bay officer, and the Security chief. According to what I have been able to ascertain, they are all either in the dormitory, or are known dead.”

“I tried to contact the dormitory from the Administration center, but there was no reply.”

“Tragic Apology: Perhaps that is for the best, master. After all, if there had been further accidents in that section of the station I would have had the satisfaction to record their last moments of fear and terror.”

I looked at it calmly. “Is there another way to reach the dormitory from inside the station?”

“Thoughtful consideration: The entry way from the turbolift from the base itself has been sealed, and cannot be opened from here. Theory: However if someone were to open the airlock and transit across the asteroid surface, they could reach the outer airlock. But that route is dangerous, and I would not wish to see you injured. However the point is moot. The Maintenance officer sealed the airlock in the belief that the miners might attempt to attack him here. He did so with a voice print ID.”

“Where can I find the code he used?”

“Informative answer: Oh I have the code, but it would be of little use to you, Master. In the last few days the Maintenance officer became almost paranoid. He voice printed the airlock and droid control panel. However he suffered the same fate as the others.

“Informative answer: If you wish you may try the code yourself, master. It is ‘Maintenance control: Voiceprint access: R1B5’. However without his own voice to operate it, the code is, as I have already informed you, useless.”

“Maybe he is still alive.” I knew very well where he was, but acting stupid can be very useful. Already I had the words that needed to be said.

“Answer: The corporeal remains of the maintenance officer lie on the floor to your left, master. I was present when he was attacked, and he was far too incoherent from pain to have any meaningful communications. I recorded his dying screams in the event that I could deliver them to any next of kin.”

“You recorded his last screams?”

“Recitation: Of course I did. In a battle all information is recorded for later recovery. His last words were-” Sudden I heard the man, talking frantically. “Locking down systems. Wait. Five droids, burning through the outer door...forcing their way into the bay...please someone! They...Oh no, they’re through! Aiee! My leg! They’ve burned through my leg! Stop please stop-”

“End recitation.” I snapped.

“Apology: Sorry Master. The record goes on for one minute twenty seconds as the droids seared every exposed bit of flesh. It varied in harmonics and decibel levels from frenzied screams to gibbering, inarticulate attempts begging to spare his life, and references to his parents, whom he hoped might render assistance-”

“Stop.” I stepped closer. “You can duplicate his voice. Why can’t you speak the access code?”

“Strenuous objection: Master to commit such an act would be a violation of the ethical codes all droids are believed to have hardwired into them. I am afraid to state that I am unable to violate my own programming.”

“Then stick with your programming. I am going up and see if I can find another way.”

“Satisfaction: Keeping you safe is my primary objective.”

I turned, walking back to the maintenance control console. I pulled out the sonic sensor unit, and checked it. I had some of the words.

I knew where I could get the rest.

*****

Atton started to stand, but I waved him back to his seat. I went first to the security office. I captured some of the words there as well, but not all of them. I gained the rest by checking the maintenance logs that the Administrator kept in his office. I saw what the dead man had meant. Every day, a report. Not twice a day, not once every other day. Report on desk or the Administrator called down and gave him hell.

I informed Atton of what had occurred. He looked as if he wanted to make me stay there, but I was the one those men had died for, and I had to find out what else had gone on. If one of them was still alive it’s my soul that would bear the burden.

*****

I went back to maintenance, and tried the spliced tape. The door hissed open, and I ran in. There was a space suit in a locker, and I pulled it on.

“Query:” Came through the speaker in the airlock. “What are you doing master?”

“Just going for a walk.” I hit the cycle button as I spoke. Once the air was sucked out of the airlock nothing smaller than a ship would open it from the inside. The outer door opened, and I stepped out onto the catwalk.


Dormitory

Marai

I always liked EVAs. Flitting through space like a sentient planet, sliding along the flank of a ship- I ducked a piece a rock the size of my head which richocheted off the decking behind me, off the force fields that kept people from falling off, then back into space. Maybe I should concentrate on what I was doing. I started a long slow lope along the ramp, up to the main catwalk.

“Marai? I just picked up your com link again. The entire maintenance section is blank. Maybe the explosion. But... This can’t be right. It reads like you’re outside!”

I was at the view panels of the admin deck, and I could see him at the com console.

“That’s because I am, you twit.” I waved at him. “I had to check the Dormitories and this is the only clear path.”

“Mother of-” He began working at the console. “Strange. All of the emergency vents have opened. There hot Peragian fuel being vented in your path.”

I knew why. But I didn’t tell him. “Can you shut it down?”

“Remember, nothing but communications? I can’t stop it.” There was a long pause. “It’s like someone is trying to stop you.”

“Someone is. I’ll be back with you in a few-”

“What now?” He interrupted.

“Atton...”

“We just got hailed by a ship approaching us. I’ve got a bad feeling about this...”

I turned. You usually don’t see a ship up close from the outside, unless you work in a shipyard. It was like watching a shark slowly swim by, wondering if you’re edible or not.

It stretched back... back... 500 meters of the most modern Frigate the Republic possessed. My heart leaped for joy, then the joy turned to ashes. In letters three meters tall along her flank was her name.

Harbinger.

Part of me knew I was being rescued. But the Jedi senses I thought I had lost was telling me to run like hell while I had the chance. It might be a Republic ship. But those in control were no friends of mine.

I ran forward. I passed through a gas flume, and the suit diagnostics wailed. The suit had been holed. I only had seconds!

I dived into the airlock at the dormitory, slamming the door and hitting the cycle. A good thing someone paranoid hadn’t jammed the inner door open. Some paranoid fool had done just that to the outer door back at maintenance.

Oh wait, that was me wasn’t it? But you’re not paranoid if they’re out to get you.

The inner door opened, and I stripped out of the suit. Hopefully there was a way back into the base from here. I didn’t have the half an hour I would need to find the leak and fix the suit.

Nothing but dead bodies and more droids. I found the mess hall, and there was a turbolift there. But I hadn’t checked the dormitories yet.

I ended the lockdown, and opened the main door. But something told me to check the internal monitor camera first. The dorms were full of a smoky gas I knew was probably toxic. I vented it into space, then sealed the ventilation system, filling the rooms from emergency stores. Then I walked back into horror.

They were dead. They were all dead. I found logs. The Admin officer, the docking officer. They had been trying to survive right up until the very end. Coorta had not been in the dormitories according to the one security officer that had lived to reach this point.

They had been discussing trying to contact me when suddenly the vents began to spray poison into the rooms. The med tech had commented that the ventilation system had been compromised. Here was proof.

I stormed off the dormitory section, and to the turbolift. When the damn thing wouldn’t open, I shorted out the console. If that happened, the computer read it as an emergency, and the turbolift automatically opened.

Kreia was standing outside the door when I stepped out.


Peragus

Kreia

When a Jedi chooses her path, the training changes. Sentinels are trained to be listeners, to discern every nuance, see through every subterfuge. They seek for that which others wish hidden, and they find it.

A Consular learns more about social interactions. How to judge the best way to convince someone of the validity of another path. They are the negotiators who try to end any conflict before it can begin.

But when all else fails, there is the Jedi Guardian.

The Guardian is the warrior of the Jedi. Not that the others cannot fight and defend themselves. The Guardians are merely the one trained exhaustively to fight in whatever manner they deem fit. They are pit-wolves trained to track hunt and kill the enemy, but that is balanced by a strong sense of justice and what is right. A Jedi will go through all the hells man has ever imagined if doing so would save a life. A Jedi Guardian would hunt an enemy through all those hells if there were the minutest chance that he would escape. They save more lives by eliminating such enemies than most people might imagine.

But I must give you the idea that a Guardian is some kind of monster. They are not. It is just that some people are people only in outward appearance. They are monsters within, and the worlds are better for their leaving us.

She was no longer the prickly unsure woman I had met mere hours ago. The woman that stormed toward me was the epitome of Jedi Guardian Wrath. She knew who her enemy was, or so she thought. She would deal with him before we went on if I did not stop here.

“I have felt a disturbance in the force. Our enemy is here. we must leave at once.”

“Enemy.” I could tell from the roil of emotions that she was being polite more from habit that any real desire to be polite.

“The one that almost destroyed the Ebon Hawk in my attempt to rescue you. He is here, and if we do not flee this instant he will not let us fly without blood being shed.”

“Who follows us.” Her gaze was sharp. “You know who it is-”

“It would take too long to explain! We must get to the docking bay before the ship opens it’s locks, or we are doomed! If we cannot board the Ebon Hawk, we must find somewhere to hide aboard that ship that just arrived.”

She nodded sharply. She picked up another sword from a body, and flipped it toward me. “We have to get one more person, and we’re out of here.”

“Who?”

“A friend.”

*****
We reached the Admin center, a young man with flyaway black hair saw her, then looked at me. “What Do Jedi have their own special way of breeding? You leave and now there’s two?”

“We don’t have time.” She pulled a blaster out of a punch on her side. “You’ll need this.”

He looked out the view panels, then at us. “So I’m guessing a Republic frigate is not what you guys expected?”

“I hope your talent for understatement is offset by your skill with a blaster or our brief acquaintance will be even more so.” I snarled.

“I’m good with a blaster. I can even put on my clothes by myself, Your Majesty.” He snapped back. “Besides, they may not be your friends, but that ship is the only way off this rock I have seen so far. Good thing we have a straight run aboard-”

He stopped. A droid was walking toward us. Flanking it were four maintenance remotes. I could detect overpowered systems aboard them. They were not going to just float there, they had been primed to attack us. The droid stopped, shaking it’s head.

“Mild threat: Master perhaps I did not enunciate my suggestions clearly when we spoke. I suggested you shut down, stay put, and await our rescue.”

Marai stepped forward. I felt a rush a combined joy and fury. This is who she wished to kill, and she had worried that he might escape. “Tell me HK. Why did you have to murder every person on this station?”

“Correction: First there are two people with you, so I did not murder 'every' person. Second, murder is defined as the unlawful taking of a life. When the miners became a threat to my mission, I had to terminate their hostile actions in the most efficient manner. If anything I am guilty of self defense.”

“Spare me your hypocritical tripe! You programmed the droids to attack the miners, and when the Maintenance officer put a voiceprint ID on the system you imitated his voice to continue.

“You murdered everyone and I want to know why!”

“Indignant denial: Master the miners were intending to sell you to the Exchange. I was protecting your life.”

“So you did what, program the droids to think that humans were something to mine for gas?”

“Delight: Yes Master. So good of you have figured it out.”

“The Maintenance head figured it out. Only he did too late.”

“Since the other crew would have tried to resist if the reason for the deaths of the miners was known, a flawlessly arranged set of explosions was all I needed to herd them all into the dormitories where as painlessly as possible I could end their lives. One of the miners in the Kolto tanks was a conspirator but I was not informed which tank held him, or you. Therefore I used the expedient of administering a dose of sedatives I knew would not kill you but would be lethal to them.

“However my calculations were incorrect on how long you would sleep. Easily corrected once I have put you back into the tank.”

“Why?” She demanded. “What made my worth enough alive that you were willing to kill what, a hundred people?”

“Correction: One hundred and seventeen. It is beyond the scope of my programming to determine the reason a client sets the restrictions they do. Suffice to say that you were a difficult and amusing quarry. I searched for quite a time.

“You wandered the galaxy for quite a time. Almost randomly. As if you knew there would be those on your trail. Was it someone like me you feared? Or perhaps the Jedi you betrayed?”

She leaped forward. I leaped at the remote on the left, the young man targeted the one on the far right, and we worked inward.

But the time we were ready to help her, Marai was standing over the destroyed droid. She reached down, ripping out it’s vocabulator.

“I betrayed no one.” She turned, and her eyes stopped at me, then went to the man. “Let’s go.”


'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; 08-04-2006 at 10:13 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-04-2006, 10:50 AM   #8
The_Catto
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Another great chapter Mach, waiting to read more.

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Old 08-04-2006, 05:05 PM   #9
machievelli
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Harbinger

Marai

As we charged onto Harbinger I expect a watch officer. Maybe the two Intelligence officers. I wouldn’t have been surprised by the Master at Arms and a couple of his beefy boys, or even a Marine Strike team.

What I got was eerie silence. Every system was running, but...

Kreia put it into words. “There is something wrong...I sense no one aboard.”

She was right. I reached out with that newly rediscovered Jedi sense, and there was only death aboard.

“Everyone had been slain. But there is no sign of battle damage. No carbon scoring, or blaster fire. Whatever killed these men did is swiftly, and silently.”

“Then what are we doing here?” Atton blurted out. “It’s safer on the station!” He looked at both of us with helpless fury. “Jedi? You two couldn’t ‘Jedi sense’ your way into a cantina!”

“Calm down Atton.” I said soothingly. “We need a plan not recriminations.”

“If the assassin machine was correct, we cannot reach the hanger bay. Be silent, I must think.”

“I have the way.” I said. “When the ship docked, a pipe came out at the stern too. The system would have automatically tried to load fuel.”

Kreia looked at me. “The fuel pipe leads back into the fuel depot...”

“And there has to be access from that pipe to part of the station we need to get to...”

“Hold on!” Atton was almost screaming. “You want to run down a pipe full of hot fuel? Tell me you’re joking!”

“The system would need someone to tell it to begin pumping, Atton.” I soothed. “The pipe should be empty.”

“Hey I don’t want to rain on everyone’s thought parade here, but even if we can get through that pipe what about the drift charts? Without them we’ll blow ourselves to hell or be smashed!”

I looked at him. “How did this ship dock here then?”

“Oh of course they have transmitted a copy.”

“Is that a problem from where we are standing?”

“Damnit!” He paused, thoughtful. “Come to think of it, no. All we have to do is find the bridge of this puppy, and download them onto a pad.”

“Good.” I pointed languidly. “That way.”

I led the way. We reached the bridge, stepping over the bodies. No one had been cut or shot that I could see. Everyone had been killed swiftly and efficiently with some blunt weapon, or fist strikes. Atton hurried to the navi-computer, grumbling as he rerouted around damage. Then he slapped his hands down. “Yes, I’m in. Downloading the drift charts-”

“Are their log entries?” I asked?”

“Do we have the time?” He asked sarcastically.

“No.” I handed him a pad. “Download everything from the past week, visual instead of holo. The Republic needs to know that one of their ships has gone rogue.”

He shrugged, downloading them. I pocketed the pad, and we ran. We picked up anything useful on the way. I found a briefing room, and again, downloaded everything from the week previous.

As I was coming out, I turned, my blade punching into a shadow in the corner. A man appeared, clutching at my hand as he fell. Others came literally from the woodwork. There were three more, and we dealt with them swiftly. Hopefully we had done so before the could contact anyone else. Only speed would keep us alive.

We ran down, and as we started through the crew’s quarters, I stopped, staring at a door.

“We do not have time for sightseeing.” Kreia growled at me.

“This was my room.”

“Your room?” Atton asked.

“I was on Harbinger before I ended up on Peragus.” I told him.

Kreia sighed. “We do not have time for lollygagging. Gather what you must, but hurry!”

I dreaded it, but my hand had already touched the lock plate. The door hissed open.

Except for the dead body laying on the floor it looked the same. The quiet smiling Intelligence man was dead. His head had been spun completely around. The HK had done that, I am sure. I walked past him, opening the footlocker.

Mementos, our past that we carry in physical form. That is what I found. One thing struck me as odd, piercing the heart I hadn’t been sure I even had.

My robes. Why had I kept my Jedi robes? I pulled them out with a trembling hand, and found myself crying. Over 20 years of my life had been spent earning them, a third of my life denied them. Why had I held on to such pain?

I wiped my eyes with them, stuffing them in a bag. As I did a pad fell out of them. I lifted it, keying the screen.

MARAI DEVOS; DUE TO PROBLEMS WITH YOUR IMMUNIZATION RECORD IT IS REQUESTED AND REQUIRED THAT YOU GO TO SICKBAY TO GET BOOSTER IMMUNIZATIONS;

THIS WILL NOT TAKE LONG. MERELY INSERT PAD AND INJECTIONS WILL BE GIVEN AUTOMATICALLY.

MEDICAL OFFICER.

I remembered it. I had found the pad in my room the same day I had come aboard. The one thing I have always loathed is medical officers and their preemptory commands. The wording ‘requested and required’ had struck me as odd because it is the wording usually used for an officer taking command of a unit or ship.

Besides I didn’t give a damn how out of date their records were. If you travel on a liner like I did for almost two years getting boosters is automatic. I hadn’t gone to med bay because I knew my shots record was up to date.

I stuck it in my pocket.

I stepped out into the passageway, and we continued. We reached a passageway with three door to choose from. One led into medical, the other two at the ends of the hall had been magnetically sealed door, Sighing, I went into medical. There was a console, and out of curiosity, I inserted the pad, asking for a patient report

PATIENT; MARAI DEVOS.

TREATMENT SCHEDULED; 1

TREATMENT GIVEN: NONE

MEDICAL NOTE: SUBJECT HAS SHOWN SEVERE ALLERGIC REACTION TO IRIDIAN PLAGUE VACCINE. IF AFFECTED, PROPER PROCEDURE IS TO PLACE IN KOLTO TANK

Wait a minute. The only thing I was allergic to was Sharidian Beets!

I checked the medicine to be delivered. The same 40mg of irdanrizine the damn droid had used on Peragus. One tank had been earmarked for me, and with dawning suspiscion, I checked the tank settings. It had been set to monitor my condition and one thing it was monitoring was the level of irdanrizine It would maintain at not less than 22 milligrams until the system shut down. He couldn’t do the same thing on Peragus. A tank has to be set for whoever is going in, and while you can administer meds, you have to reset the treatment manually and that meant dumping the tank and starting over. Without the Doctor’s keypad he had to hope that what he had done would be sufficient on Peragus.

I checked, and the doctor also had logs. I downloaded them and we moved on.

We found the access hatch to engineering, and went through. The hatch directly ahead lead to the ion engines, and we ran that way.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” Atton whispered.

“What do you mean?” I asked. Something was wrong, and I could feel it, but how did he?

“Can’t you feel it?” He asked. Something is going wrong fast and if we don’t move we’re dead!”

“But how do you-”

“Listen, you don’t survive on the Rim without knowing when it falls in the pot! I can feel when it’s going to hell, and the fact that I’m still alive proves I’m right more often than not.”

I looked at that face, then nodded. “We will be careful, but we have to hurry. Unless you want to just lock yourself in another cell.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. When it comes to staying alive I’ve learned to trust this feeling.”


I had just opened it and stepped through when I felt a wave of such cold that I found I had spun, sword at guard, and stared back.

Someone had stepped through behind us, and was standing there, looking around as if he were blind. His body was a mass of scars, as if he had been disassembled, put back together, then taken apart again because the one doing it had been unsatisfied. One eye was a milky orb, the other brown.

Kreia stepped forward, hand on my arm. “You are not ready to face this. He is steeped in evil, and blinded to everything but power now. But he cannot kill what he cannot see. Both of you flee while you can.” She stepped through the door, shutting it.

I tried the lock, but it wouldn’t open. Atton caught my arm. “Hey this is your plan, come on!”

Harbinger

Kreia

I held the sword at guard. Kielan approached. I slid silently to the right, circling into one of the offshoot passageways.

He stopped, looking around as if his eyes still worked. “I feel you, my old Master. Feel you in the only way I can now.” He looked puzzled. “But it is faint...Weak.”

“Your senses betray you Kielan. As you betrayed me.”

“I am no longer Kielan. I am Darth Sion now. After all that is happened, you still live.” There was a touch of exasperated admiration in his voice. “You are like an insect. So hard to kill.”

“For one so limited as you, perhaps.” I moved to my left. He turned to face where my voice had been. “To have fallen so far, yet have learned nothing from that fall. That is your failing, my apprentice.”

“The failing is yours, my master. I no longer have your mental fingers riffling through my brain. No longer hear your whispers in my skull. No longer do I learn teachings that weaken and degrade us.

“Yet as wise as you think yourself, you did exactly what I had anticipated. You ran in search of Jedi. They are all dead you old fool!” He roared. Then his voice dropped to a whisper. “And the one broken Jedi you have found will not stop the darkness that will enfold the Galaxy in night forever.”

“Perhaps.” I admitted. We shall see.” I moved back to where I had first stood. He had turned, giving me his back. I raised the sword-

Harbinger

Atton

We ran into the engine control room, and found the main ion engine controls. The panel had been damaged, but I rewired it. I checked, and the entry into the engine space itself was closed. If they hadn’t been, of course, we were already dead.

Ion engine release pulses of energy as they strip the ions out of the fuel. Something like 99.44% gets shunted down the coils for thrust. But it’s that pesky .66% or so that is dangerous. The electromagnetic pulse of fuel going from gas to explosion to ions sends bursts of radiation that will fry your brain. Oh not quickly, but still seeing men in med bays that can’t remember to even feed themselves because they got a ten minute dose will make you swear never to do what we were about to do.

I opened the access tunnel into the engine space. We ran down the passageway to the final door. I looked at Marai. “Last chance. If the fuel is pumping, we’ll be deep fried and served up on a bed of rice.”

“We’re out of options. unless you want to go back that way.”

“Past sleeps with vibroblades? Do I look stupid? No- don‘t answer that.” I keyed the access to the fuel tank. We climbed down the ladder, headed toward the fueling access tunnel.

Suddenly Marai choked back a shriek of pain, clutching her left wrist.

“What’s wrong?” She just held her wrist, gasping as if in agony. I grabbed her arm. “Damnit we have to move! Don‘t flake on me now!”

“My hand.” She gasped. “It feels like it was dipped in raw plasma!”

“You look fine.” I didn’t know what was happening, but the clock was ticking and radiation was sleeting. “Unless you want to have someone changing your diapers for the rest of your life I’d say move!”

She shook her head, and we stumbled on. A few moments later she was all right.

The tube was big enough to stand in, and thankfully, empty. We ran down it. There was an access panel ahead, and I could see something waiting for us. My blaster was coming up as she caught my hand. “No, wait.”

She walked forward, kneeling beside what looked like a T3 unit. She reached in, felt around, and there was a click. It’s flat cylinder head spun, and he bleeped at her.

“Yes I know about the maniac protocol droid. We’ve already dealt with him. How are you?”

It bleeped and burbled for a moment. “When we have time I owe you an oil bath and some maintenance. Don’t blame yourself. If it wasn’t for you we’d still be on the Admin level.” She touched her lips with a finger, then transferred the kiss to the droid’s top. “Our hero.”

Suddenly I felt a surge of jealously. Hadn’t I done a lot to keep us alive? But she gives a damn pile of circuits a kiss and not me! “I really hate to break up the romantic love scene, but can we get a move on?”

She looked at me, and the twinkle in her eye let me know loud and clear that she had sensed my jealousy, which caused me to blush.

The droid opened the door, and we found that the HK still had minions. But as I had told her, and she seemed to automatically know, they couldn’t hit a fast moving target, and none of us was moving slow. We waxed their butts. We reached the console, but it refused to open. The droid rolled down to a fuel line from the tanks, and opened the door. It bleeped an clicked.

“Clever.” She murmured.

“What?”

“The droids planted seismic charges surrounded with small amounts of fuel by the emergency sensors. It detected a fuel leak, and sealed the way out.” She motioned toward a shimmering force field above us. “If someone figured it out, and tried to move the fuel, it would set off the mines and blow real holes in the tank there.” Again she motioned. There was another bleeping tirade, and she turned to the console. Above us the field died. “That got it, T3. Move your round little end, we’re leaving.”

What about my tight little end? I wanted to ask.

We fought our way into the upper halls, and finally we reached the hanger control room. I ran across, but the door didn’t open. “The door’s magnetically sealed!” I wailed.

The droid began it’s little song again.

“The console?” She looked around. Once you’ve reinserted the control conduit you can open it? What are you waiting for? Another kiss?”

There was a bleeping, and she laughed. “All right you tease.” She transferred another kiss. The little hunk of bolts took off like he was jet propelled.

“How can you understand that noise?”

She looked at me askance. “How can you understand the noise I make?”

“But you’re talking.”

“So is he. It’s really easy.” She looked at me again. “If you actually listen. Let’s just say that I spent a lot of time around droids during the war. It helps to learn a language instead of waiting for a translator.”

“What did he say?”

“HK hadn’t been sure he could repair the control conduit for the door if he cut it up, so he removed it and dumped it in the line with our little friend. Once it is back-” The door opened. She waved theatrically. “We can get out of here.”

We went through the access tunnels, and I wanted to kiss that beautiful ship! It was old, tired, and looked like it had seen better days, but it was our ticket out of here.

We ran aboard, and I immediately went to the cockpit. The engines were cold. Not surprising, but I know way to jump start a ship. But it wouldn’t move. “What now?” I wailed. The droid came over, stuck it’s access arm into the slot. then it’s head turned to her.

“Say ‘Asperatin?” She asked.

The panel lit, and I almost shrieked. “We’re in!”

“Of course we are. Our brave little friend told me what to code word was.”

I didn’t say anything. I was just going to find a hyper spanner and do some modification on the little tin can when I got the chance. I was warming the engines when I saw movement.

There were about fifty Sith troopers in armor out there. The com system was up, and I could hear them. “Surrender or die.”

“What do we do-” She was already at the gunnery controls. If she was going to use a turret she should have gone down the access way aft. Then she hit a button, the ramp hissing up.

Intruder systems! A gun dropped out of s chin nacelle, and she took control before the damn thing could blow holes in the walls and the tanks beyond. I had never seen such a surgical use of a system in my life! The team fired back, but it would take time they didn’t have to kill us, and she killed all of them before they made the time.

The engine light came on, and I was in control. I lifted on thrusters and spun to face the force field covering the door.

“We have to wait for Kreia!”

“We aren’t waiting for anyone!”

“No need.” We both looked back. Kreia was standing there, clutching the empty sleeve of her left arm.

“We had best go before they send more troops.”

Marai dropped back into the gunner’s seat, and targeted the frame of the entry way. Blaster fire ripped into it, and suddenly the field was down. We shot out, right under the two ships-

Two? I looked at the scanners. There was Harbinger, floating free of the station another ship was nestled against it, and I recognized a Sith designed attack Corvette. So that is where the men had come from!

“We had better get a move on!” Marai shouted.

We ran. A blaster bolt seared past the cockpit, and I flinched. “If they hit one of the asteroids-”

“Why?” Kreia asked.

“Some of these asteroids have pockets of Peragian fuel. If they hit one it goes up, maybe the field, maybe the entire damn planet goes up with it. And us!”

“Can we jump to light speed?”

“Inside an asteroid field? Sure. If you don’t mind arriving in chunks over the next decade.”

“Then get us clear.”

Behind us, Harbinger had turned ponderously, and was in pursuit. Her guns were blasting. Behind her, the Attack Corvette had gotten undocked, and was turning to follow as well.

“You do understand that clear of the field also means a clear field of fire?”

“You can set off such a blast yourself, can you not?” Kreia asked.

“Blow up a planet? Destroy the entire economy of the sector?” I dodged an asteroid, spilling them both. “Tell me you’re joking!”

“It is either that or die.” Kreia shrugged. “Take your choice.”

The choice wasn’t mine to make. The Attack corvette launched a spread of missiles. Maybe they thought their targeting systems were good enough, maybe they thought they could blow any of them that targeted an asteroid instead.

We’ll never know.

One of the missiles was dinged by a small asteroid, maybe something the size of a pea. In an instant it speared into a rock the size of a small ship. One that had a gas pocket. The rock exploded, bowing superheated shards into the rocks around it. I could see the corvette blown on it’s side, slamming into the massive rock that held the station, then it was plummeting toward the open core of Peragus II like a missile.

The field was blowing around them, and if I didn’t hurry-

I slammed the throttle to the stops.

There was a lot of legs on that little ship, and she leaped forward as if she was a bantha that had been hit in the butt with a shock stick. Behind us it was a fireworks display worthy of the gods themselves. The shards of heated rock hit more, which set off more explosions, which set off more explosions. It was a diorama of a nuclear explosion happening not in microseconds, but in seconds. We reached the end of the field as the explosions blew across Harbinger, and I hit the jump seconds before we would have joined them in death.

Ebon Hawk

Marai

The tunnel of hyperspace looked like a sheet of cylindrical colored glass revolving ahead of us. You don’t really travel faster than light, that‘s a misconception. It’s just that in Hyperspace light speed is a lot higher than it is in our normal universe, and every threshold has a different speed limit.

We were silent for a long time. Atton checked the controls, then turned around looking at us. “All right, we’ve just destroyed an entire planet more efficiently than the Sith ever did. Mind telling me why? Between killer tin cans and men that like to sleep with active vibroblades, not to mention acting as a target drone for both the Sith and the Republic, I was safer in my cell!”

“The Republic Frigate was the Harbinger. The Sith seized it enroute to Telos. We should have proof enough of that in the records our companion decided to make.”

“She was bound for Telos?”

“Yes. To deliver an important cargo. Something they could not let the Sith have. Something the Sith were willing to destroy an entire planet to possess.” She looked at me for a long moment. “They were here to capture you.”

“Why am I so important?”

“That I can only conjecture upon. But I know that your presence is desperately needed on Telos. A lot of roads led to Telos in this sector. As does ours.”

“Of course they do.” Atton snarled. “It’s the only system in the Navi computer I can access.”

“How did you know that I would be aboard the Harbinger?” I asked.

She shrugged. “As the assassin machine said, you were difficult to find. But coincidence was on our side. We had found that you were aboard, and I knew the Sith could not be far behind.

“We intercepted the Harbinger just moments before the same Sith ship we just saw arrived. She was drifting in space, silent. It was a simple matter to board, find where the Droid had concealed you, and escape. However we did not know that the Sith had already been aboard. As we made the jump to light speed they were able to damage the ship and kill my companions. We fell out of hyper space accidentally at Peragus.”

I shook my head. “That was a very convenient series of coincidence and accident.”

“True. However as anyone trained in the force should know, coincidence is a misnomer. It was the force that led us to you, rescued you, and delivered you to Peragus.”

“But you can’t just fall out of hyper space!” I protested. Once your in it, you have to wait until the generators bring you out of it! We should be drifting there lost even now!”

T3 whistled. Kreia rounded on him. “Be silent! We are having a conversation here!”

Unperturbed, the little droid gave another series of bleeps and clicks.

“Kreia, he was joining the conversation, not interrupting it. He said he and the droid they found aboard repaired the hyper drive and brought us out there.”

“Yeah, right.” Atton snapped. “Next he’ll take credit for the entire rescue!”
He walked over, glaring at the droid. “All right mister tin man, you fixed the ship did you? Fine, fix something else!”

The droid whistled, turning on it’s wheels. The last sound was like a raspberry, and I chuckled.

“Oh yeah?” Atton yelled. “Come back here and say that you toaster oven!”

I struggled to talk and laugh at the same time. “It seems you do understand a little. Most people learn the curse words first.” My mood shifted. “But Kreia, that doesn’t explain why I am so important. What is it about me that makes me worth the lives of over a hundred people on the station and almost a thousand aboard Harbinger?”

She stood, holding her arm. “Because you are the last of the Jedi, young one. Once you are dead or among them, they have won this war and the Galaxy is doomed.”

“But I am not a Jedi!” I shouted. “They threw me out! Took away my powers!”

“Exile or not, powers you now again possess or not, they believe you to be a Jedi in all the glory that suggests and that is all that matters.”

“But the last of the Jedi.” I almost whispered it. “That can’t be true! There must be others!”

She looked at me, and I could feel the pitying glance. “When you marched off to face the Mandalorians a third of their number went with you and barely a tithe returned. The Jedi Civil War harrowed those that remained. Jedi left the order to flock to Revan, and Jedi hunted Jedi like ravenous beasts. Many fell to their brothers, and those that did not either joined Revan or died. Oh I am sure there are some few left. Perhaps a hundred. But what of it?”

“But the Academies! Dantooine, Corellia, the main Temple on Coruscant!”

“The academy on Dantooine is a smoke crater now, home only to the ghosts of those that had once walked it’s halls. Corellia was closed not long after you went to war because too many of them followed in your path, and the rest were killed in battles across the Rim. The temple...” She hugged herself. “The Main Temple lies vacant, peopled only by memories. The thousand fountains now lay silent and dry in memoriam of those that had once been there.

“Those few that might remain blame Revan, Blame Malak, Blame you for that devastation. If you had listened, the temples would still stand. The Jedi would not have been decimated by that war, or in the War Revan began that followed.“

“But there are some still alive. We have to warn them! Even if they kill me for daring to live!”

“What of those pallid remnants?” She asked sarcastically. “They are Jedi in name alone now. Those that had not fought, or joined Revan and Malak, are the cowards too obsessed with their own live to care if the galaxy stops spinning. Even if they believed, they cannot help you, and you cannot help them.”

“Then it’s all on me.” I whispered. I felt darkness around me. Always before when I had been a Jedi, there had been others that could give me a chance to sleep, to rest. Revan herself had sent me home rather than let me self destruct. Now I had no support. But from within I felt my fury at people callous enough to kill over a thousand to try to get to me. I would face them On my feet, on the stumps of my legs, biting them when they cut away my arms. Damnit someone would pay! “So I have to do it alone. How do I stop them?”

I don’t know who was more surprised. I only heard a gasp of dismay from Atton. Kreia looked at me again, and this time I knew she thought me mad. “That...” She paused, struggling to phrase her reply. “That is not an easy question or solution. This threat is greater than you can possibly imagine. I do not believe that any one person can confront it with a chance of survival, let along success.”

“That isn’t the point. We can run and hide, or We can fight. We are going to fight. Period.”

“Look, enough of this ‘we’ already.” Atton put in.

We ignored him. Kreia shook her head. “We cannot hope to triumph against them alone. You will need weapons, allies... And a teacher to bring you back to what you have forgotten. Even with all of that in the end it may not be enough.”

“We have no choice. Die on our feet, or live on our knees. I was never very good at kneeling.”

“Hey, maybe we should discuss this...” We both turned to glare at him. He held up his hands, backing away. “All right, I’ll just... You know...Fly the ship.”

Kreia turned back to me, then sighed. “You fought through the Mandalorian Wars and it cost you everything you were. Are you willing to sacrifice not only all of that again, but everything you might be?”

“There is no choice. I must fight, or I have already given up everything already.”

“You are not listening! You keep repeating the same tired argument over and over!” She turned away. “This is not like any field of battle you have ever seen or even imagined you fool. You came so close to losing yourself in the last war. If you set yourself on this path there will be no turning back again. You will reach the point where you have nothing left to give, and the battle will demand of you still! Or worse yet, you will reach the end of that battle and want more. You will become worse than Revan worse than Malak. You will become an engine of destruction!”

“I turned away from war once, Kreia. I can do it again.”

“Like so many of your fallen brothers, you hear but do not listen!” She turned. “But we have talked enough, and my wounds pain me. If you have further questions, I will be in the crew quarters. There we can speak more without prying ears.”

“Hey don’t stop you long boring self-serving rants on my account!” Atton shouted. I was just worried that you’d put me to sleep!”

She stopped, looking back at us. “We will also not have to listen to the prattle of fools and imbeciles.”

Atton returned to the console. I hugged myself. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, couldn’t Kreia see that? As much as I had given, as much as I had lost, I had run away from only one battle, and that was when I faced the Jedi Council. Even if it meant my own death, I could not shirk this. The dead of Peragus, of Harbinger, all those that had died because of what Revan and Malak had unleashed would never let me rest again.

After a long time, Atton clicked his tongue. “Look, it’s not like a give a damn about her any anything... But maybe you should help her? Med pacs need two hands most of the time. Like when you open them.”

I shook my head. He had a heart, but didn’t want anyone to know it. “Sure. Anything to be useful.”

Ebon Hawk

Kreia

My hand felt like it had been dipped in acid still. I know it lay aboard Harbinger still, but I could feel every finger clenching. There was a whisper in the force, and Marai stood there.

“Have you come for more answers you will not hear? What little I had you have already heard, and refused to accept.”

She held up the emergency medical kit. “I cam to help.”

“This is a physical thing.” I snapped. “It will fade with time, and be forgotten. It was a necessary loss and some lessons are taught best with pain.”

She knelt, pulling my arm to her. Wordlessly she injected some anesthetic, and began to clean the wound delicately. “I wish I could have helped. If I had to do this again, I would have stood beside you.”

“Save your pity for one that needs it. I was here to save you, not the other way around.”

She sighed, bandaging the stump. “Kreia, if we are going to travel and work together, then we really need to work on being ‘together’.”

I do not need your pity, your condescension or your lectures. If anyone needs training and guidance, it is you.”

“The pain.” She said. “I felt it when your hand was cut off.” She looked at me. “What if it had been more intense?”

I sighed. “I do not know. I fear the consequences for you would have been more extreme.”

“It felt like my hand had been dipped in raw plasma then in carbonite. What could possibly be more extreme?”

“Pray that you never find out. The pain at my death might be as bad, though it will end much quicker.”

“End quicker. Do you mean I might die from it?”

“Possibly. I fear this bond may work both ways. It is not something I would willingly test. Do me the decency not to try and find out.”

“But it would be distracting in a battle.” She mused. To feel all of your pains and you feeling mine.”

In battle you are more focused as I would be. Our minds would be better prepared for injury and loss. I think we will not have a repeat of this.”

“I have felt the link between master and Apprentice. This is like nothing I have ever heard of before. I have never even seen a reference to it in the Jedi archives.”

“I must confess I have never heard of such a link either. It’s very nature eludes me, and it is rooted very deep. It seems that the Force flows readily between us. Like an alternating current in electricity if you will. When one of us manipulates it, especially working with those abilities that affect our own bodies, it causes a reaction within the other, making their own power resonate with it.

“A new and powerful technique indeed, though as we have noticed, it is not without it’s drawbacks.”

She put away the kit, kneeling beside me. “What happened?”

“What do you remember of the Mandalorian Wars?”

“We fought, took back our planets, besieged the enemy in their home worlds. After Malchior V Revan and the others went on and confronted them in the Mandalore system themselves. She defeated Mandalore in personal combat, stripped them of their honor and weapons, and was supposed to come home.

“But the Council had punished all of you for even going into that war.”

“I know.” She whispered. “Every one of us was demoted one rank. Those in command were punished further For daring to go against the Council’s will I became a mere Apprentice again. I was no longer a Padawan Teacher, not even a learner.”

“Yes. The Council wanted the time to assess what was happening even as the Rim burned. You put out the fire, and that was your reward.”

“But afterward? All I heard were rumors after that.”

“Revan and Malak returned, but it was as if all the pity had been burned from them. They became like the Mandalorians, despising weakness in any they face. In the end the Mandalorians had won. They had forged a weapon of those Jedi. Forged them into a dagger that thrust into the Republic.”

“But we only had a few left by then? Couldn’t the Jedi stop them?”

“You knew Revan. What is the first rule of strength?”

“If you need it, find it.”

“And she did. She found an ancient artifact, something that had been unused since before there was even a Republic. When she needed more soldiers, she gained them by embracing the Sith and becoming their leader.”

She shook her head in horror. “How could she do that? The woman I knew-”

“The woman you knew was as scarred and torn by that war as you had been. What would you have been if she had not sent you home? At the head of an armada of ships made by this Star Forge, manned by the Sith, she began to lay the Rim to waste.

“The Republic reeled back. The same fools that had been in charge when you led them outward had returned to favor. The factories that should have been replacing their losses had been shut down for lack of funds, and unlike the Republic, Revan had but to snap her fingers and have a hundred more. The Sith with Revan in command were unbeatable.

“So they ambushed Revan. They captured her, unleashing an even worse horror, for without Revan, Malak was a beast without a leash.”

“What happened to Malak?”

“Desperate to end the carnage, the Council used the woman that had once been Revan as a weapon. Her mind was now not that of the Revan you knew, but a lowly soldier whose memories had been pressed into place. She regained her Jedi abilities, as you have done, and went out to find the Star Forge yet again, but this time for the Jedi. She faced and defeated Malak, destroyed the Star Forge, and gave the galaxy a respite.

“Without Malak to lead them the Sith fell upon themselves. They have been busy destroying themselves for the last five years.” I held my arm. “But no longer.”

“But what of Revan?”

“No one knows, least of all I. She returned to the Council to report, then left the Republic. Why she left and where she went was a secret maybe only she knew. Perhaps the Council did, but our own troubles would have stopped us from discovering it.”

“So after saving the Republic, she was sent away?”

“Saving the Republic?” I echoed. “Maybe from one point of view that is what she did. That war still resonates in the wound that were inflicted, and bleed still. We shall see if the Republic has the strength of will to survive.”

“Then every breath I take, every fight I face will give them time to recover.”

I shook my head. How could she be so blind? “A culture and it’s teachings are defined by the conflict they have within their lives. Fighting to stand gives you the ability to balance. Learning the sword teaches you discipline and control. You find yourself in that struggle, or you find yourself lacking.

“25,000 years the Republic has existed, and in that time there have been few chances to test and teach it what was necessary. No one wanted a military because of the fear that it might control the people, so there was none. Trade is the lifeblood of the Republic, but restrictions on trade slow the pulse of that blood, so there were none. Planets want a central government, but gods forbid it have any power, so the Senate is a bunch of whining sycophants bought with more types of coin, not all of it money, than I would dare to name.

“For too long, the Republic has been a bloated sleeping beast. For untold millennia it has been unchallenged, or the challenge was so small that it would be crushed as the beast rolled over in it’s sleep. But now that beast is wounded, bleeding to death, gasping for breath.

“The Jedi were the keepers, but instead of leading it, they chose to guide it instead. Instead of controlling it and exercising it, they stood back like doting parents that spoiled the child rotten. Now that beast, that child does not had the Jedi any more to cozen it and keep it safe. How long do you think the Republic will last?”

“Can we do anything?” She asked appalled.

“Thanks to the Star Forge, the Sith Armada seemed endless. Even with the defeat of Malak, the destruction of that creation of hell they still have the ships they captured, the ones given to them by the fallen Jedi. Their resources look infinite, but the Republic’s resources are not.

“Think you. How many fleets of our own did you see shattered on that offensive Revan led? Add to them the fleets, the planets, the people lost trying to stop Revan on her return!

“Over 20 planets were laid waste. Billions if not a trillion or more dead or dispossessed. Even with all of it’s strength, it is a burden even the Republic can not bear forever. Now comes this new threat. It does not ride the light road in thousand of ships, millions of troops. No it comes quietly, like a deadly gas seeping in through a tiny crack in the wall. It drives not at the strength of a faltering Republic. It seeks just one thing, and that thing is you.”

“Why me?” What makes me more important than the entire Republic?”

“The Republic has never been important. It is merely the stage where our drama is being played. No, the Republic is merely the theater around the Actor that was and is the Jedi Order. Just as the skills, the training, the knowledge imparted is but the shell of the Jedi within.

“Forget your visions of what war is. It is not mighty fleets or brave armies marching out. They are but the crude material of the universe set in an obstacle course that our will drives us to face. The true seat of war lies within. It is the hopes, the angers, the pleasures and sorrows all of us face, the belief of every living thing locked in mortal combat with all around it. It is our darkest fears and desires, our most glowing ideals and beliefs. That is where the struggle is, and where it will be fought.

“You are that battlefield. If you fall, the Republic will fade away and be no more. Without a whisper, without even noticing, and no one will lay a stone of remembrance for it. The darkness to come will merely be the soil falling into the grave.”

She stared at me, then her breath wuffed out like a reverse gasp. “I think I need to think on this.”

“Before you get too deeply into thinking, I would check on that fool in the cockpit. I expect any second to find he’s flown us into a sun. I know he said that the only destination he could find was Telos, but I would not put it past him to go somewhere anywhere else if he can.”

She smiled. “I don’t think he is a fool, Kreia. But he does have a weird taste in the force.”

I waved the hand I still had, dismissing him. “He is a fool and an imbecile. His path leads down in a spiral that has no end. I trust him as far as a human can throw this very ship, and you should follow my lead in this. He thinks of his own pocket and skin first, and his ‘allies’ will rue the day he was born if they are lucky. Now go.”


'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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Old 08-05-2006, 10:46 AM   #10
Jae Onasi
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I'm enjoying the beginning of all this. Nice characterization of Atton--'tight little end' indeed.
Every time I hear 'Devo', all I can think about is a band wearing red flowerpots on their heads and sporting those ridiculously thin sunglasses.


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Old 08-05-2006, 01:04 PM   #11
machievelli
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I noticed that when my spell checker kept dinging it and I couldn't figure out why. Her name is Devos


'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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Old 08-05-2006, 11:16 PM   #12
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Ebon Hawk

Atton

Marai was thoughtful when she came forward again. Honestly I think Kreia did it just to make her feel bad. “How were you babes doing back there?” I asked lightly.

“Babes?” She walked forward, sitting silently in the co pilot’s seat. “I checked her arm bandaged it, and we talked some more.”

“So the fem fatale feels more comfortable without testosterone in the air?”

She gave me a funny look. “It’s just I think you bug her. Maybe it’s your devil take the hindmost attitude.”

“Hey she want to run ahead, I don’t mind watching.”

“I think she’s had a hard life.”

“If you say so.”

“Are we on course?”

“If she’s worried that I might get lost, why not check the Navi-computer yourself?”

She stood, walking back to the console. I hated to think I’d spent the entire conversation talking about the other woman aboard, so I felt a need to run my mouth. “So what type of Jedi were you?”

“What do you mean?” She asked coolly.

“I heard you’re all either sentinels, guardians, or consular.”

“I was a Guardian.“

“Oh! One of the big guns! What kind of saber did you carry? Single, a pair or one of those double ended types?”

“I carried a saber staff.” She looked at me askance. “That is the correct term for it.”

“So Guardian. I know that a lot of guardians got into the saber staff right before the war ended. More slaughter for the slash, or something. I know your basic Guardian has a blue blade, but a lot of you get into off the wall colors. What was yours?”

“Is there a point to this conversation?” She snapped.

“Hey, just curious.”

“Fine.” She walked over, standing over me like a titan. I could almost see the fury in her eyes, but I knew it wasn‘t that. She was angry because she felt so damn much pain, and didn‘t have an outlet until I opened my damn mouth. “Those who carry a saber staff have to learn a lot of fine motor control the others do not. It isn’t like a single, where you can whip it through a series of cuts in your sleep, or like a pair where both arms move independently, but power strokes are done with both blades simultaneously. Both arms have to move in a precise and clear rhythm and just breathing the wrong way when you’re learning can hurt. Believe me, I know. You learn to use your entire body fighting with a saber staff. The all of seventy-five of us, about one half of a percent that used the saber staff during the Mandalorian wars were in the forefront because of the need for rapid punching of holes in the Mandalorian defenses. There, all you ever need to know about why someone chooses a weapon in one neat wrapped with a bow package.” She went back to the console.

For a long time, we sat there in a very uncomfortable silence.

“White.”

“What?”

“You asked about my blade crystal. It was a milky white stone I found on Onderon. The blade was a greyish white like liquid silver.”

“Oh. Hey, I’m sorry.”

“Why?” She looked at me, and I could see the pure misery in her face. “Because I left that life ten years ago and you rammed my face into it? Reminded me of what I had that was torn away from me?”

“Because I usually try to think of someone else’s feeling, and for once my mouth ran ahead of my brain.”

“For once.” Her tone said ‘yeah, right’. “I’m going to see what this tub has in the way of food. Can I bring you anything?”

“Anything but E- Rats.”

She came back a moment later. “There’s some food in the cooler, but nothing that can be eaten raw. So it’s either wait about twenty minutes for me to whip up a stew, or E-rats.”

“If that’s my choice, I would rather wait for the good stuff.”

“Anything to be useful.”

“Hey, Marai, maybe...”

“Maybe what?” She asked softly.

“Maybe when they see you’ve gotten your abilities back, and how you’re handling it, maybe they will let you back in.”

“I don’t know if there is anything to go back too, now.” She said in a whisper.

Ebon Hawk

Marai

Babe? Fem fatale? ‘She want to run ahead, I don’t mind watching’? I sighed. Let’s face it. Atton was a raging hormone running amuck. I was wondering if I get wolf whistles by dressing up T3 at this rate.

And he was a motor mouth that didn’t know when to shut up. I shouldn’t have let his questions get to me. Every one knew or thought they knew about Jedi. When you don’t understand, you make thing up. The Saber staff had been common before the war of Exar Kun almost fifty years ago. But Kun had been a master, and he’d used it specifically. A lot of his men had followed him, and that meant that for a long time there was a ban on using it. I had used that light saber last almost a decade ago. Showed my contempt for the council and gave it up in one last shot.

I pulled out some Cassis bird, and vegetables, and began chopping. My original Master had been of the mind that the best way to let the mind work on a problem was to cook. Keep the hands busy, feed the body, let the mind do what it had to do. He was good enough that he could have been a chef in a capitol restaurant. It spoke of all the problems he had faced.

We had been on Onderon as I had told Atton. What I had not said was the stone had been delivered as if by the gods into my hands.

My original master was a Consular. He had always hoped that I would follow his path, learn the arts of persuasion, to talk because as he said, ‘talk talk is always better than war.’

But I was almost born to be a Guardian. I had mastered the first stances Te-rehal-Vor, (which is the unarmed form based on the Echani Sword dance, and called ‘the dance of death by hand’) before I was ten. When I told a Senator to his face that his head was so full of helium that only the lead in his butt kept him from floating away when I was eleven it pretty much sealed my fate, though he still hoped I would grow up.

Onderon was not yet a member of the Republic, and we had to negotiate a new treaty for some resources, and I was thirteen and feeling put upon.

Something had been left in the air car, and my master had told me to go fetch it and I said something like ‘What, you expect rocks to fall from the sky?’ as I left. I fetched the case, had taken about ten steps, then something blew me off my feet.

I rolled then bounced up and spun expecting an attacker, and saw that our air car had been blown in half. Guards poured out, assuming an assassination attempt.

Four hours later, a man had come toward my master, holding a rock the size of his fist.

“A meteor. A damn meteor!” He told us.

My master looked at the stone for a long time, then turned and dropped the hot stone into my hand. “You asked for it, you got it.”

We were on the way home in our Judiciary ship when I discovered the stone’s secret. I was examining it. It looked like a geode, but those are caused by massive pressure over time. I tapped it with a sensor hammer to test the readings and it shattered like glass. Inside were two matched crystals of exactly the same weight and shape. One was milky white, the other as clear as quartz. I showed them to my master, and he felt them in his hands. “What do you feel?”

I rubbed them closing my eyes. “It feels like they are running electricity through them!”

“They are lightsaber crystals. But like none I have ever seen.” He replied.

“Can I... Can I use one in my lightsaber?”

“Why not?” He asked.

“But I thought my lightsaber had to be blue!”

“Nothing is forever little one.” He replied.

*****
I poured the minced vegetables into the water. Only a fool got mad and cooked, as my master used to say.

You were so right. I wanted to tell him now. I thought the order would go on as it had for millennia yet here I stand being told I am the last. I thought my being part of the order would be forever, and they cast me out. I thought that stone would be the only one I would ever need, and it still sits in a lightsaber I threw away, and is probably shattered dust by now.

I paused, about to ram the paring knife into the cutting board. I thought friendship was forever. But the same woman I gave the twin crystal to was the one that condemned me before the council and voted to cast me out.

I set the knife down before I really did ram it through the cutting board.

One thing that bothered me was why did everyone think I had been hiding? Sure I had wandered, never really paying attention to where or why. But for the last two years or so Consega had known exactly where I was.

But wait. Did anyone in the crew really know me? I was a stolid presence at staff meetings. I was the ‘Chief’ to my men and women. I was “Chief Of Security’ to the many constabulary and Security forces I had dealt with turning over thieves, and bailing out the more stupid crewmen. All taxes I might have owed were taken out by the company and automatically paid. Consega even had their own group of tax accountants when it came filing time. The ship didn’t have to return to Corellia more than once or twice a year.

Instead of letting the thoughts keep up, I pulled out the pad and began to go through the logs we had gotten from Harbinger.

They had been diverted from their orders to the Onderon Sector to stop at Casini station. Two days later, three passengers had been brought on board. The captain had not liked that. He was in command of one of the most powerful units the Republic had, and they had made him a cruise ship! Then he had reported a distress signal, but the ship had an ID he had never seen before. He’d bucked it up to command.

Command was very interested, though the bridge log hadn’t said why. They had gone to the ship’s rescue. There had been two ships when they arrived. The freighter we were in, and a Sith Attack Corvette. If you think it was the one that got destroyed at Peragus, award yourself a gold star. But except for one survivor, everyone aboard had been dead, frozen at their stations.

I checked the briefing room logs. As I had thought, the Captain gave vent to his feelings there. He had questioned why his passenger, ‘the woman’ was so damn important. When he’d tried to avoid the order to assist Admiral Onasi had told him to render all aid with all speed. Onasi had sounded... Eager for news of it.

Onasi. I remembered the name. Carth Onasi. He had only been a brand spanking new Commander when I met him. A head and a half taller than I am, seven or eight years older and full of himself. To make Admiral in ten years spoke of a lot of losses in the upper echelons.

The medical records showed the most. The doctor had reported extensively on the injuries of the one survivor they had found. She described the madman we had seen in the Harbinger passageway, and said that it looked like every bone in his body had been broken repeatedly. She worried because she was feeling like people were watching her, and considered what no one else had. That the Sith had slipped infiltrators aboard.

On that last day almost four days ago now, all hell had broken loose. The security team she had called arrived, and in seconds were all dead. The man had awakened in his tank, and blew it apart. Then he leaped down, and the record ended.

I took a bowl to Kreia, who was meditating and she ignored it. I took another to Atton who fell on it like he hadn’t eaten in days. Come to think of it, he hadn’t. Can’t say it said a lot about the quality of my cooking. One who didn’t eat, and another one who probably wished he’d eaten the E-rats. I went back to the mess deck. One of the doors off the common room was still closed, and I opened it cautiously. I fell backwards, clawing for my sword, but the droid that had alarmed me was just standing there.

It took me a moment to relax. It wasn’t an HK 50 model. No, they had changed the flexor armatures in the arms after the model 47. So it must be an old HK47 model.

I felt saddened. A veteran of my own war, I thought. Left in a compartment silent to rust. I dug through what he had brought aboard. Then I popped the service hatch. It was missing some major parts, and one of them was the vocabulator. The fitting were different, but after some rewiring, I inserted it and anchored itself in place.

“There you go, HK.” I patted him on the plastron. “If I can, you’ll be up on your feet in no time.”

I felt so good from the satisfaction that I went and found T3. I brought a bottle or oil, emery cloth and a polishing rag, and he almost purred as I polished his head cylinder. He sounded sad when I left.

Telos: Citadel Station

Marai.

Citadel station was huge. It spread like a massive square umbrella and would have covered almost a quarter of the planet on the main continent if it had not been suspended above it 30,000 kilometers in geosynchronous orbit. It wasn’t the biggest station ever built, but it has the record for being the fastest constructed. Telos had been the opening blow in the Jedi Civil War. Admiral Saul Karath and Malak had devastated the planet almost nine years ago. The people had tried to work on salvage what they could, but the second winter had been brutal. The filth tossed into the air had come down in acid rains that killed over 90% of the vegetation, and they had finally given up and fled.

Five years ago when the Civil war ended the Republic had sent in a fleet of fabrication ships, and started the station, completing it the year before. Even before they had laid the groundwork for the construction they had called in the premier ecologists of the Republic to be in control of the reclamation project. The Ithorians loved nature. They worshipped it as if it were a god, and to some of them it was. They brought plants and animals from every corner of the galaxy, and carefully started rebuilding what had taken nature a billion years. If anyone could repair the destructions, I would have bet on them.

But there had been problems almost from the start.

We skimmed along the path to the station, riding the guide beam. We were supposed to land at bay 72, but right before we got there, we were diverted to Bay 94. As we came in, I knew why. Bay 94 was the Telos Security Force landing bay.

The woman that talked us in was polite, sincere, and as cold as ice. We were ordered to wait until our ‘party arrived, and when it was a Security Commander and a dozen men, I wasn’t surprised.

We came down the ramp to face him.

“Grenn. TSF.” He said. “You’re the ones that just came in from Peragus?”

“Yes.” I replied.

“We would like you to come with us.”

“Wait a minute. What is this?” Atton asked sharply.

“We received a message from a fuel freighter that the entire planet of Peragus II and the asteroid field was destroyed. We want to find out why. I am in charge of the investigation.”

I raised a hand to forestall Atton. “Are we accused of something?”

“Not yet. However TSF regulations requires that we hold you in custody until a determination is made. A TSF Courier has already left for the system to undertake an on the scene investigation.”

“Custody?”

He sighed. “We are preparing quarters, but until they’re ready-”

“Don’t tell me you’re putting us in the cells!” Atton almost roared.

“Just for a few hours.” Grenn said in what he hoped was a soothing manner. He didn’t do soothing that well. “I will have to ask you to surrender your equipment and weapons.”

“Of course.” I pulled the sheath of my sword free, holding it out.

“Wait.” Atton glared. “Are we going to get it back?”

“If you are cleared by the investigation-”

“You mean when.” I interrupted. I pulled out the data pad. Handing it to him.

“What’s this?” He asked.

“Logs from the Harbinger. She was in the system firing on us when the incident occurred.”

“You were running from A Republic Frigate?” By the look on his face, he was already planning to throw the key away.

“A frigate taken by the Sith, and used to attack us.” I corrected.

“Yeah, Right.”

*****

The cells were silent except for the buzzing on the interdiction fields. Kreia had merely gone into a meditation seat, and after a moment, I had joined her. The miner’s uniform I had been wearing had been replaced by a prison issue tunic. It fit better if you didn’t mind slate gray with a small explosive charge that would go off and eviscerate me if I got too far from the control sensor. I was the only one that had suffered this indignity. Of course, my clothing had been the property of the mining company. Atton had gone into the fetal position, the only one that you can maintain if you try to lay down.

Kreia cocked her head. “Someone is coming.” We had been informed that someone would be sent to take us to our new quarters, so that was not a surprise. But I felt my muscles tense. Whoever was coming did not have our interests at heart.

He was a tall wiry man in TSF uniform. He walked in carrying a pad in his hand, reading it as he walled. He closed the door, then set the pad down. He leaned against the control console, and smiled.

“So. This is the last of the Jedi.” He said through that smile. “I must admit to some disappointment. I thought you would be more sport.”

“What makes you think I am in a sporting mood?” I asked.

“The exchange has offered a lot of money for you. Enough that I will be retiring. But instead of a thrilling hunt, I find you locked up like a beast ready for slaughter.”

“The Exchange, eh?” Atton was on his feet. “They must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they hired you.”

“They recognize my skills.”

“What, blubbering until the guy goes with you to stop you from crying?”
The bounty hunter looked at Atton and I could see the hatred in his eyes. “I don’t need to kill you, but you are making the prospect attractive.”

“You two bit bounty hunters couldn’t beat a slug in a fair fight. I’d hire a Mandalorian in a heartbeat instead of your kind of filth.”

“A Mandalorian.” The voice dripped with scorn. “You precious Mandalorian would have tried a frontal assault and gotten himself killed within the first ten meters.” He stood stalking over to snarl back at Atton. “A Mandalorian wouldn’t have had the brains or the ability to slice the computer system and have his ID picture and DNA profile inserted as a guard.”

Sure. So now you hotwire the cells and fry us in an ‘accident‘, right?”

The man tapped his chin. “You know, I hadn’t thought of that. The other two of you are not worth a contract, but hey, I’ll do you for free. Just an extra added bonus.”

“Let’s finish this.” I snapped. Atton didn’t realize that he had goaded the man into a killing frenzy. If he didn’t shut up, he was going to die.

But Atton didn’t know the meaning of the word moderation. “You want to fight you pissant? Let me out, and we’ll see just how much of a man you are!”

“Enough of this.” He pulled out a sonic stunner. “Jedi, you know this will penetrate the cell field. I would you suggest you step out nice and quiet, and extend you hands or-” He aimed it at Kreia. “I will fry your little girlfriend by inches first.”

The field came down. I stepped out. Atton was throwing himself against the field, bouncing like a demented rubber ball. The hunter pulled a set of restraints off his belt, throwing them at my feet. As I knelt to pick them up, I caught Kreia’s eye. She nodded.

The gun flipped sideways as she shoved it with the force, and in the instant he was diverted from me, I leaped forward. My hand came up, brushing his throat, and he staggered back, choking.

I stood up and away from him as his heels drummed on the floor. The door opened, and the guard walking in beheld the tableau.

“Man down!” He drew, centering the blaster on me. “Freeze!”

Grenn and half a dozen more poured in. One had the tabard of a medic.

“All right, ‘Jedi’. Step back into your force cage, or we’ll be checking your ID in the Morgue.”

The medic leaned back. “He’d dead, sir.”

“That’s murder right off the bat!”

“Sir?” One of the guards was looking at the dead man. “Who is that? I’ve never seen him before?”

“What?” Grenn looked confused.

The medic pulled the ID bracelet off the corpse running it through his scanner. “It says Batu Rem.” He looked at the corpse, then at his commander. “Sir, I am willing to swear under oath that isn’t Rem.”

“Of course it isn’t! Rem is on leave! He must have put on Rem’s ID bracelet by mistake...” Even as he said it, he must have thought how stupid the comment had been. ID’s, especially Constabulary ID’s are DNA coded. There is no way someone could pick up and use it even accidentally.

“And brought the wrong blaster too.” One of the guards was kneeling on the other side of the body. “This is a Systech Model 18. We’re issued Blastech 90s.”

“So what’s the difference?” Grenn could see where it was going.

“Sir, you couldn’t afford a Systech 18. They’re hand made specialty weapons. They cost more than I make in a year. Whoever this is, he sure as hell doesn’t belong here. This is a bounty hunter’s weapon.”

“Finally!” Atton shouted. “Your security has more holes that a Kaliti nest!”

Grenn turned a nice shade of purple. “So I go back into my cell until the next bounty hunter shows up?” I asked sweetly.

He glared at me. If he had his way he would have sent us on a ballistic course right into the atmosphere of the planet 30,000 kilometers below. “We’ve arrange quarters in Residential module 082. You will be escorted there, and guards will be stationed outside the door. You are technically under house arrest until our investigation is complete.” He turned to another guard. “You, me and four men, take them there. Contact Lieutenant Yima and have him get here right now. I want to know who this is and how he got past our security.”

We walked through the halls as if with an honor guard. Of course doing it in what was obviously prison garb didn’t help. There was two bedrooms, and a sitting room.

“Meals will be brought. If you have any visitors they will be cleared through me before they are allowed to come here. Other than that, I suggest you relax and enjoy the hospitality.”

“When you show some, we will.” Atton snapped. Grenn glared at him. He turned to go. “Hey lieutenant, considering the efficiency of your men, why not leave us a blaster?” Grenn gave him a pitying look and left.

“This is not good. we have got to get out of here.” Atton said.

I cupped my hand beside my ear. “We can discuss that when we’re cleared.”

“I hate to do it, but I must agree with our volatile companion.” Kreia interrupted. “We must not stay here too long. But something has made sure we would be here, and that intrigues me. I must meditate. If you two wish to argue, do it silently.” She went into one of the rooms, and closed the door. Atton looked at me, and I know he wanted to rant, but my look told him to belt up. He went into the other room and slammed the door.

I sighed, looking around the common room. I dropped into as meditation seat.

Request and threats

Marai

I felt rather than heard the chime. I was up, walking toward the communications panel as it rang again. I tapped the annunciator. It was from Soko Linu. A face flashed on the screen, with a badge. She was a TSF officer, probably assigned to our door. I touched the accept key. “Hello?”

”Excuse me, you have a visitor. An Ithorian named Moza. He represents the Ithorian combine in charge of the Restoration project. He has asked to speak with you on urgent business, and Captain Grenn has approved the visit if you wish it.”

“Give me a moment. Is it possible to get some tea?”

“Of course. I will have some sent up.”

The door into the bedroom opened and Kreia came in. “We are expecting a visitor.”

“Keen Jedi senses?” I asked.

“Good human ears and a speaker set too loud.” She harrumphed.

“You know if you spent five minutes not complaining, I’d probably fall over dead from a heart attack.” Atton came out of his room.

“Don’t tempt me to find out.”

The door opened, and the Ithorian came in. Right behind him was a motorized tray, and a droid. It bleeped and whistled at me.

“Did you check for needle spine?” It bleeped an affirmative. “Good If we die it will be something really esoteric.” It replied with something that sounded like a chuckle.

“Thank you for granting me some of your time.” The Ithorians sound like the woodwind section of an orchestra. They have four throats and use all of them when talking. Their language was highly complex, and only those with a rare skill can reproduce it with any clarity. However he surprised me by speaking basic with a bagpipe intonation. “I have come at the behest of Chodo Habat, our leader on this station.”

“What do you wish to speak with me about?” I asked.

“Are you familiar with our purpose on this station?”

“The restoration project? I have heard of it, but I cannot say I know much about it beyond that.”

“The ecosystem was almost destroyed in the Sith attack. It is not something that can be repaired overnight. It is the work of a millennia or more for a planet to heal itself, and the people cannot wait. We have labored to do so with as little impact on the native ecosystem that has survived.” I nodded. Humans had always been too short sighted when we tried our hand at ecosystem manipulation. They had imported a vine that grows on Corellia to Sandial three centuries ago to help in curbing soil erosion caused by over harvesting of the Diamond wood tree there. Unfortunately nothing on Sandial ate the vine, it was incredibly invasive and grew rapidly. The forests were almost choked to death before someone had acted. Instead of merely burning out what they had planted, they had imported an herbivore that fed on the vine, only to discover that not only would nothing on the planet eat the animals, but they bred like rats, loved the taste of Diamond wood bark, and their feces was lethal to the local vegetation.

Diamond wood was extinct outside of botanical gardens now. It had taken the Ithorians less than a decade to eliminate the problem.

“We have worked hard, but now there is a problem we cannot combat. Have you heard of Czerka Corporation?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Eight and a half years ago, Czerka took control of some of the shipping to the system. They have wormed their way into the government and within less than a year, they were the only major transport company licensed. They have been pressing for seven years now to have the contract that we were originally awarded revoked so they could be given them in our stead.

“Their efforts in this regard have greatly hampered our efforts.”

“How so?”

“Areas we had reseeded and repopulated with wildlife have been transferred from our control to Czerka’s on the grounds that these areas are completed. This is not the case, of course, but they use compelling arguments to the local government. The areas immediately begin to deteriorate because we cannot monitor or repair damage while it is under their purview. A mission they refuse because we will hamper their efforts. Some have gone from reseeded to devastated in less than three weeks.

We have reported this to the planetary government, but they refuse to listen to us. If they continue their wasteful manner, all of the work of years will be undone in a season.”

“Why are they doing that?” I asked.

“I wonder myself why a human company that has specialized in shipping and weapons for 500 years suddenly wants to get into planetary reconstruction. It has never been a lucrative market. Our herds do this for the stipend we get and to ease our own pain at seeing such destruction.

“Perhaps it is that they wish unrestricted access to the planet. There are a number of sites where strip mining would give them high returns.”

“How are they able to wrest areas from your control?”

“Primarily it is a legal loophole.” He admitted. “In the last election over 80% of the politicians who were elected campaigned using funds Czerka supplied. The same government definition decided on for restored land was the equivalent of the covering of a landfill. As we both know such a covering is not assured for a decade or more after the sod has been laid down. But they are accepting grass planted less than a year ago as complete. As I have said, they had done everything but buy the local government officials and when we refuse to concede they are not above strong arm tactics and sabotage. Our ships have been damaged in their hangers, or blown up while enroute to the planet. Our supplies are contaminated with pests that we would never have even considered introducing. Our people have been injured and killed.”

He looked confused and sad. “We are a peaceful people. The idea of war itself is anathema to us. We cannot face such actions. We are a passive people who only wish to restore the natural beauty of the planet.”

I was moved by his words. He had laid it all out, but at the same time there was no demands, only a plea for help. “How can I help?”

“Chodo Habat, is our leader but among our people, only a priest and healer can lead in such an endeavor as healing a planet. He sensed something when your ship arrived in the system. A disturbance, and echo if you will, in the Force. He felt that if he offered to heal you, it would help our efforts to heal the planet below.”

“Heal me.” I replied.

“I am unsure what he meant by this. I am no priest, not even an acolyte. He told me to tell you this directly. ‘Tell the young one within the Force that I felt her pain as if it were my own. I feel the way in which this pain was inflicted, and by the grace of nature perhaps I can heal the wounds inflicted so long ago’.”

“Perhaps this shaman of yours should concentrate on the planet below and his own people if he wishes to ease pain.” Kreia purred dangerously.

“Forgive me. I may have misunderstood what Chodo was saying, and translating from our language to yours is tiring. However if this offer of mutual assistance has an appeal to you, he will be glad to receive you at our compound in Residential module 082 East.”

“I will consider this, and let him know when I am free to move around.”

“This pleases me. I will inform Chodo, and hope to speak with you again.”

He left.

Kreia grumbled, “Now perhaps we can get some sleep-” The com panel bleeped again. “The next person that interrupts me will suffer my wrath!”

I walked over to the com panel. A droid looked back at me. “Greeting human. I am B4D4, administrative assistant for the Citadel Station Branch of Czerka Corporation. I am at this moment trying to connect you with the Regional Chief Executive Officer, Jana Lorso. Please hold.”

Interesting. The Ithorians have to go through the local chief of police. But Czerka gets to call right in.

A woman with tattoos running in a cornet around her forehead looked up, and gave ma a brilliant smile as fake as a cubic zirconium. “Hello! As my assistant has told you, I am Jana Lorso.”

“Yes. May I ask the nature of your communication with me?”

“I am reliably informed that the Ithorians intend to contact you. Doubtless they will try their overweening attempts to gains assistance in fighting the windmills they have created. No doubt with implied guilt and veiled threats.”

“Oh?” My eyebrow cocked.

Lorso nodded sadly. “Yes, they do play the downtrodden victim so well, don’t you think? Everything is an evil plot to stop them, and they need someone to ‘rescue’ them. They were no doubt emboldened by the rumors going about the station that you are a Jedi knight.”

“Rumors?” Everything she had accused the Ithorians had done were already in her comments so far.

She looked surprised. “Oh I am sure you have heard them all! That you are Jedi in hiding, that you are wanted by the exchange, but have challenged them to do anything about you. That other organizations both good and ill even now are heading here to gather you in. But your standing with the Jedi is incidental to why I have called you.”

Really. Lets see, you said ‘we know you’re a Jedi. The Exchange is looking for you here, and if you don’t run or agree, the weight of the galaxy will fall on you. Just knuckle under, get under the Corporate wing, and we’ll protect you. Oh, and don’t try to run. We handle all shipping out of here and all of our passenger berths will be booked, so sorry for the inconvenience‘.

“Go on.”

“What I do believe is you a person of respectable demeanor, and we can always use such people as employees. Someone aiding me in helping the Telosians regain their home, not a bunch of mystical tree huggers who are unable to accept reality.

“I am not asking you to help. I am asking that you accept a contract with the Corporation as an advisor on military affairs. I see from what we have discovered, your background in in infantry tactics. Our contracts are very lucrative, and a wise woman can make her fortune here.”

“How are the Ithorians ignoring reality?”

“Their methods to be blunt are haphazard and confused. Meandering like a river. They started on the region of the planet that used to grow their grain crops, leaving more important work unfinished! Sure they cleaned the oceans and have built catch basins to purify the runoff, but really, what about urban sectors? What about resort facilities? what about forty million tons of Redrocite near the south pole that could fund the restoration into the next decade, untouched because it would mean strip mining?

“They have already spent billions and at the rate they are going, a decade from now there will be nothing but a few dozen meadows and forests and a weather control station the size of a small continent.”

“I understand your view point, and I will consider your offer.”

“Very well, I will be anxiously awaiting your answer.”

I keyed off. “If it is all the same to you two, I am going to take a shower before you go off sulking again.” I walked past them into the fresher.

Citadel Station

Atton

I waited until I heard running water. “Explain something to me.”

“If it is not too complex. I have neither the years remaining nor the desire to indulge your curiosity.”

“She served during the Mandalorian wars. Most of the people I know that fought in it are mean old bastards that you’ll have to hammer into the ground when they die. Or they’re the kind that flinch at a violent word, and would stand there and let you beat them. Why is she so... confused? Oh she’s capable enough in a fight, but the wrong word makes you think she’s going to bawl her eyes out. That isn‘t like any Jedi I ever saw.”

“Yes. There are those that fell apart rather than go on. There are those that drew strength from the fray as they should. But on top of that loss in the war she lost the Force.”

“Why is that so big a deal?”

She sighed. “Just this once I will explain and we will not speak of it again. Having the Force is like being able to see when those around you are blind. It guides your actions, supports them as your bones support your flesh in standing upright.

“Yet less us continue that analogy after years of having those bones, or seeing with your eyes, picture suddenly being blinded, or having the bones removed. You go from being an upright person to suddenly being a lump of undifferentiated flesh.

“They depend on the force the way you depend on your bones. More than bones because every human has bones, but every human does not have the Force. They depend on it so much, that having it taken or torn away from them is as catastrophic as the physical infirmity I have described. When it is taken away they are crippled in ways you cannot even hope to imagine.

“Picture yourself with all of the knowledge of how to operate your hand snipped from your memory. Picture trying to learn all over again how to pick up a fork, how to hold a cup, how to cradle a child. Everything you have learned to do in your years which now comes automatically has to now be done by consciously thinking about what you intend to do.”

I stared at her. I remembered a man from a station I had been on a decade or so ago. He’d taken a nasty blow to the head, and had lost the connections between the mental dictionary we create in life, and the motions of his mouth to use those words. Catastrophic aphasia they called it. I pictured the frustration and anger I saw on his face just trying to do something as simple as ask for a drink in a Cantina. “I guess we that do not have the force don’t understand how important it is to the Jedi.”

“Do not be surprised. In this instance you are without a doubt more efficient than a Jedi.”

“Me?” I laughed.

“Yes you. You have not spent half your life learning to sense and control the force. When an emergency occurs, you do not think of what you can do with the force, instead you think of what your muscles, your memories, your mind can accomplish. She has had to learn a new way in the last ten years, and still she does not wear that loss well. Having the force return to her life has made it all the more disturbing.”

“But to just rip it away like that! The Jedi abhor execution, but that seems a bit extreme to me.”

“It is not done that way as much as you might think. A Jedi can no more rip the force free from another living being than you can fly unassisted. They use a series of mind disciplines known only to the Masters that attunes the mind of the person so that they cannot feel the force any more. Like a physician smoothing synthflesh into a wound to fill the void until healing can begin. The person walks in able to use the force, and walks out knowing they had that ability, but also knowing they no longer have it.”

“But... How did she regain it?”

“I do not know. Perhaps it is the fact that she ran away from the war. Perhaps she had already severed herself from it and they just touched the spots they knew. Conflict is the natural way of life, and isolation, refusal to fight is a weakness she had taken to heart, and it weakens her even now. She not only walked away from war, but had done everything she can to forget it for a decade. Add that to the equation and the last piece clicks into place.

“But come. We do her a disservice by speaking behind her back.”

The door opened, and Marai walked out, toweling her hair. “Hey, I’m not sleepy. The bed’s yours.”

She looked at me for a long time, then nodded, and went to bed.

I looked at the floor. As dog tired as I was I had made the bed I didn’t have to sleep in, and would now lie in it. I took off my jacket, bunched it into a pillow, and went to sleep.


'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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Old 08-07-2006, 01:14 PM   #13
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Exoneration, Problems, and going on

Marai

It took the TSF almost four days to clear us. When you consider 20 odd hours to Peragus, and the same back, it meant they spent a day and a half trying to lay the blame on us.

When Lieutenant Grenn came in, he looked like they had taken his favorite toy away.

“Our forensic team was able to determine that another ship was in the system. Debris from that ship verifies that the Republic Frigate Harbinger had been there, but the ship had departed before their arrival. Sensor record from the mining station, or rather what was left of it verified that Harbinger and another unidentified ship were the only ones that fired weapons there. Further those records verified that the miners and staff had died previously to an unverified enemy's actions before you, Marai Devos left your Kolto tank.” He stopped reading. He had hoped we were guilty, and it showed on his face. “Therefore you are released from house arrest. However the Republic is sending a ship to undertake their own investigation, and you are required to remain on the station until they have completed it.”

“How long will I have to stay?” I asked.

The Frigate Sojourn is enroute, and should be here within the week. Not more than a week to ten days. The Republic has agreed to foot the bill so the rooms will remain yours until they are done.”

“What about the ship?” Atton asked. “Is the Ebon Hawk still impounded?”

He sighed. “The ship’s I&D is completed. All you have to do is come to my office and complete the paperwork. The ship has already been ordered to docking bay 72.”

“And my droid?” I asked.

“Your droid is still aboard the ship. It will be aboard when your ship in transferred. The rest of your gear is in our impound locker, and will be returned when you come in for the paperwork.”

“Thank you.” He grunted, and left. We had moved from uncaught criminals to civilian.

The door closed. “What now? We need to find a way off the station. Whether it’s the Ebon Hawk or some other ship. Where do we head?” He considered. “How about Nar Shaddaa? If you’ve got people hunting you it’s a good place to hide.”

I grinned. “Experience or story?”

“Hey, everyone needs some quiet time without someone putting blaster rounds through them.” He protested.

Kreia had been silent, and I looked at her. “What do you think, Kreia?”

“It is difficult to say. I think we are on this station for a reason but we may have spent too much time here already. Even if Harbinger was destroyed at Peragus, which I doubt, other Sith are no doubt on the way.

“Still I had been told that some Jedi might still be on Telos. Jedi who might restore your capabilities, or sever the link between us.”

“Well?” Atton looked at me.

I considered. “Whether we stay on Telos, or go, a ship is necessary. Let’s go get our ship back.”

*****

Citadel station wastes no energy on things like atmosphere over it’s entire surface. Every module is separated by vacuum, and accessible only by shuttle pods that flit back and forth between them By checking the information kiosk, I discovered that the main TSF armory/office was in module 081, which also housed the shops and cantinas for a third of the station.

It made sense when you thought about it. If someone was going to do something stupid like get drunk and start a fight, that sector was most likely so why not put the local lock up and major police presence there?

We had passes for a day’s travel. The problem was, all the money we had was what we might have picked scavenging in the mines on our escape. If they hadn’t been paying for room and meals, we would have already been on the streets hungry.

We got off at the access station. The map showed that we would have to pass one of the larger cantinas to get to the offices. Since they had not returned the miner’s uniform, I was still in my prison garb, and was drawing odd looks from passerby. I was willing to bet a lot of calls had been made about the ‘escaped prisoner’.

We were walking by the Cantina when it happened. A Sullustan slammed into the wall ahead with brutal force. A pair of mercenaries in full gear sauntered out of the Cantina after him. The smallest topped me by almost 40 centimeters.

“Please.” The Sullustan begged. “I do not want trouble. It was an accident, I swear!”

“It didn’t look like an accident to me. Or to my friend. It looked like maybe you wanted me to look stupid.”

“That is not so. I did not mean to disturb your drinking. Allow me to leave and I will trouble you no longer.”

“Hear that Slim?” The shorter Mercenary said. “Not even an apology. I would be angry if it was me.”

“Oh I am angry.” The larger one said almost softly. “I’m just thinking of where to hit him first.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” I snapped. The very idea that these two would beat a defenseless being smaller than I was! I saw the TSF guard at the corner. He looked toward us, and decided there was somewhere else he should be. No help there.

The smaller one looked at me, dismissing me in the same look. “Not that it is any of your business but this little creature elbowed his way to the bar and made my friend spill my drink.”

“That is not what happened.”

“Shut up you little rat.”

“I would rather listen to his side of this story.” I told them. They actually looked surprised. As if my standing up to them was unique.

“Pushing and shoving yes, but it was them doing it. Then they so bravely dragged me out here.” The Sullustan replied. “Look at them! Do you think any of my race would be stupid enough to force a confrontation with one let alone both of them? I know what they want. To send me bleeding and injured home. My spirit broken.”

I had to admit his point. The average Sullustan is only one 4 one five meters tall. Shorter than I was! To face off against two men one of them almost twice his size wasn’t bravery, it was insanity!

I must have taken too long thinking, because the large of the two stepped forward, trying to tower over me. Big deal. I was told a small man had all sorts of more interesting targets to hit. “This doesn’t concern you, chum. Just walk away or we might have to convince you.”

I looked up, and he should have been warned by my smile. It is not how big they are My old teacher in Te-rehal-Vor had taught us that first day. It is their willingness to be hurt. For with what I teach you here, hurting anyone that does not under stand the way is all they will get from it.

I automatically fell into the third stance, the one most effective against a larger opponent. He saw it, and grinned. “Look here. We got a wannabe Jedi!”

I didn’t correct him. Te-rehal-Vor is a martial art the Jedi use, but it is not wholly ours. The very first Echani to ever become a Jedi had brought it. She had used it to teach herself to fight with a sword even though she was blind. But had discovered that it worked as well with bare hands as it did with a blade. The Echani had learned it in return from us, and there had been a friendly rivalry between us to expand the art for over 20,000 years. When a Jedi Master went to speak to the Echani masters, he would have to walk the school as it is called. Face all of the disciples of the master he wanted to speak to, and if he defeated them, was allowed that honor. The Grand Master of the Echani in our art would do the same occasionally. I was blessed with having been there the last time such a master had walked our school, and bore the bruises proudly.

“I don’t want to hurt you. But if that is the only option, then let us begin.”

“Then you should have walked away.” The big man said. “Shall I tell her what happens to Jedi when they mess with us?”

“Nah. Just beat her and we’ll find something else more fun to discuss.”

The big guy reached out, and the instant he was close enough to touch, I struck. Strike, I felt his arm break inside the armor, then I hit him with what is called Fikhataar. The heart strike. It was meant to plunge the fingers through the chest and rip out the heart. Against an armored opponent, it was meant to pass all of the energy through the armor into their body.

I admit I hadn’t done this is a long time. The last time I did I had used the force to aid my blow, and since I had found it again, I was worried that I might actually rip out his heart. So I pulled the punch.

He gasped, and fell to his knees, clutching his chest. He coughed, and blood came up.

“Slim?”

“It feels like she broke all of my ribs!” He gasped in agony.

I turned, my hand catching the other man’s armor in front, my foot slamming into his knee. The armor should have protected him, but Te-rehal-Vor assumed the enemy would be in armor. My blow neatly hit him, and I felt the knee snap as it bent 90 degrees from the way it should. He fell to his unwounded knee screaming.

“You will not pick on the small and weak when I walk these decks.” I said to the smaller one. “Is that clear?” He nodded shocked. “Is it?” I demanded of his friend. He nodded unable to talk. I had inflicted what is called a flailed chest on him. Every rib had been broken loose from the sternum. It usually happens in air car accidents. Just breathing would be hurting right now.

“So I think both of you should go and see a med tech. Maybe pain is a teacher as my master always said.” I stepped back. treating them with contempt was more painful than the wounds I had inflicted. They helped each other to their feet, and staggered away.

The Sulustan stared at me with wonder in his face. “How may I ever repay you?”

“By going home, and staying away from them.” I said softly. “Go before any friends they have might decide to show up.”

“If only staying away was easy! Czerka hires mercenaries as their security force, and there are more of them than the TSF can face. There are sections of the station that are patroled by them instead of the TSF. It is sad that the Republic does nothing about it. If the Jedi were still here...” He said the last plaintively. As if the Jedi would make everything right again.

I watched him scurry off.

*****

Any good feelings I had from rescuing the innocent vanished moments after we reached the TSF offices. Instead of a human the desk was manned by a protocol droid. I asked about my ship, and the day went downhill like a meteor hitting an atmosphere.

I rubbed my head. “So someone transferred our ship not to docking bay 72, but to Telos?”

“That is correct.” It replied levelly. Maybe the calm voice was supposed to calm me, but it wasn’t working. “You impound my ship and then you let someone steal it?”

“I knew it!” Atton raged. “That damn T3 is probably joy riding through hyper space right now!”

“On the contrary that could not have occurred.” The droid replied. “While the droid you speak of is not accounted for, there are numerous systems, both civilian and military that survey the space around Telos at all times. There is no record of a ship named the Ebon Hawk departing the system. It is more likely that the ship has been relocated to Telos as I first reported.”

“Wait a minute! Telos has acid rains and every area except for where the reclamation is going on is supposed to uninhabitable!”

“Not uninhabitable. merely inhospitable.” The droid replied. “The quarters on Module 082 will remain yours until this investigation is completed.”

“Oh great.” Atton snarled. “They have to investigate to see what happened at Peragus, then the Republic has to investigate it too. Then they have to investigate how a bounty hunter slipped through their oh so efficient security and now they have to investigate who stole our ship!” He threw up his hands. “What next? They investigate why they have so damn many investigations?”

“What about our gear?” I asked.

“Except for the miner’s uniform you had appropriated, it is in locker B21 in the impound locker. Since you had clothing already, there is no reason for us to return it to you.”

It was good that Atton was there to vent, or I would have been screaming. All I had to wear was my Jedi robes, and I didn’t want to wear them. They brought back too many memories. We collected the gear, and I spent a long time looking at them. Yes they were mine. Yes I had been a Jedi. But I did not feel worthy of wearing them and proclaiming to the Galaxy my shame. It was as if I had been a military officer cashiered for cowardice having only an old uniform to wear in public.

But there was nothing else to wear. The droid and the impound clerk assumed I didn’t want to look like a convict, and expected me to return that uniform as well. Finally I put them on. It felt so comfortable familiar and wrong at the same time. I felt the loop that would have held my saber staff. I felt naked without it.

Atton took one look at me, and his eyes bugged out. Maybe he was finally realizing that he was actually flirting with one of those vanished Jedi.

“What now?” He finally asked.

I sighed. “Even with the Republic paying for our room and meals unless we intend to stay in those rooms we will need money. To buy passage to the planet, or out of the system.” I shook my head. “I think we need to speak with Chodo Habat.”

Ithorians

Marai

It was different walking in a Jedi robe compared in that prison uniform. People looked at me and froze. They stepped out of the way, or bustled away from us whispering to each other. Occasionally I saw a look of hope or yearning. We went back to Residential 082, and the information kiosk directed us to the Ithorian enclave.

They had taken an entire housing section, and converted it to their own use. The door opened, and a greeter saw us. I could detect a subtle movement of a hand. If he had felt we were a danger the TSF would already be on the way. I didn’t think it was much of a deterrent. They’d probably have to do another investigation.

He gave that foghorn organ harmonic they called language, and I bowed. “I have been asked to attend upon Chodo Habat.”

The being spoke again, and a door behind him opened. There were a lot of Ithorians. They tend to be very communal, with a much closer personal space than a human would consider comfortable. I estimate there were about seventy Ithorians living in a space that would have been cramped for maybe 30 humans. Their rooms were buried in vegetation, and there was a smell of growing in the air. I breathed in appreciatively. They watched us, and I could feel the nervousness. Ithorians are vegetarian herd creatures. Having meat eating pack animals like humans walking through even peacefully made them nervous.

Oddly Chodo was younger than I was. By looking at the rim of the eye you can see the markings of the young, and he still had traces of it which are only lost when they reach their thirtieth year.

“Ah, it gladdens my hearts that you have come to us, Marai Devos. I am Chodo Habat. Leader of our people on this world. I am sorry that our meeting must be because of our problems, but I had nowhere to turn before I sensed your arrival in this system.”

“You are a priest of the Green Path?” I asked.

He was pleased that I had recognized the symbol on his robes. “Yes. As our customs require, all that travel far from our homes must be led by a priest. We of the Green Path are adepts of the force as you well know.”

I did indeed. Over 60 percent of the Conservation corps the Jedi had formed all those millennia had always been Ithorians. They have a larger percentage of their population sensitive to it than any race in the Galaxy, but they are so benign that less than a tenth of a percent, one 20th of the human populations, ever aspired to the Jedi order.

Instead they became those that caused deserts to bloom, that took the devastated lands and made them whole again as they wish to do here.

“I suspected that you might be one of the remaining Jedi and hoped that you could aid us. But I also felt that you were in need of healing.”

“He mentioned this to me.” I said. “But I still do not understand.”

“The echo I felt upon your arrival was tainted, marred by an unbearable pain. It was a pain not of the body, but of the sprit itself. Never have I felt such from a single living being.

“I sensed that your link to the force had been severed, but never have I felt such as this in my life! It is as if someone had dug into your soul with tools to wrest it from you, and the hollow place within the woman that now stands before me echoes with all that you might have attained.”

“I once felt the force. It was taken as you say, but now, for some reason, I feel it returning to me.”

“If the Jedi had done this, they would have been more careful, willing to expend effort so that you were not harmed. Sure that the force could not return. If you would let me examine you, perhaps I can help you heal yourself.”

“Your speech is pretty but the Ithorians do not give away anything. Especially those of the Green Path. You are bold to speak of healing even one person if you cannot do the same for the planet below us.” Kreia glared at him.

He looked at her. “Understand, Marai Devos, it pains us to see any being in pain. Yet your companion is correct. We must focus on the planet Telos, and our problems with Czerka.”

“I have been apprised of some of those problems by Moza.”

“There is much he does not know. Our first task is to begin the reconstruction again.”

“Begin again? Cast aside almost four years of work?”

“It would not be our first choice,. However our problems have been many. When we first began, the Republic supplied a droid AI with the capability to oversee intelligence to assure that our efforts were recorded and balanced to assure we did no damage. Yet less than four months after Czerka began to operate here, the droid... disappeared.”

“How could it disappear? Was it stolen?”

“I cannot say for certain. It was in the Telos Governmental offices. One day they came to work and it was gone.” He considered. “It is possible that the task merely overloaded it, and it wandered off. Ecosystems such as this one are highly complex, and the patterns of intervention necessary are doubly so. However some among my herd believe that it was stolen. Such a droid intelligence could easily maintain a station twice the size of this one, and therefore is very valuable. Others believe that it was destroyed or taken by Czerka in their attempts to control the restoration. Why and how this happened is irrelevant.

“Unfortunately, the Republic is unable to supply another. We had spent our own money to purchase a lesser machine which can handle such affairs on a daily and perhaps weekly basis. But we fear that something will happen to this one as well. We would be unable to replace it if that occurs. It is due to arrive in the morning, and while the TSF has supplied an escort, I would ask you to bolster that team and assure that it arrives here.”

I looked at him. “Where must I go?”

“There are other problems.” He said softly. “It is not only Czerka we are dealing with. The Exchange is helping them.”

“The Exchange.”

“Yes.” He stopped. “They have the bounty upon living Jedi, as you no doubt know. Jana Lorso has agreed to give them... concessions if they stay their hand against you on this station during this time. Concessions worth more than the bounty offered.”

“I have heard it is quite a sum.” He mentioned a figure, and I blinked. Coorta had been right. You could retire and still give your children a tidy sum when you died. “But what is worth more than that?”

“Think of all the vices people have, human. Think of one organization being given permission to exercise that franchise. Czerka owns enough of the government that a century from now when the planet is still a wasteland doing it their way, the Exchange will still be allowed to rape it as well.”

The thought infuriated me. The planet below was homeland of over a billion and a half people. People wanting to go home, wishing it would be reclaimed, yet if Czerka had it’s way, the generation now waiting would be dead and gone before anything substantative was done. All out of greed. I felt a hand on my arm, and looked at Kreia. I could feel her eyes, knew she would suggest I let this burden pass to another.

But once I had been a Jedi. I had put my life on the line for people with less to lose than these. By all the gods if I had regained the capabilities that had made me Jedi before, I was not going to step aside even if my death ended the order itself. I would earn the title again even if only to have it written as my epitaph.

“They will not use just force.” I said. “They will use the law if they can, keeping their mercenaries and the Exchange as a last resort.”

“You have judged the situation very well. Czerka has already petitioned a judge to have the droid seized.”

“On what grounds?”

“The ship carrying the droid was damaged by a proton mine when it arrived at Deresai. We had to unload it, and reload it upon a hired courier.”

I understood immediately. Deresai was a shipment point for a lot of illegal drugs and equipment. Since it was not a member of the Republic, the Jedi had never been able to come in and clean out that nest of villainy. Ships were allowed to use their facilities for repairs or fueling, even to deliver cargos. But Under Republic law, all cargos from the planet had to be searched and quarantined. Merely picking up any cargo there made the cargo suspect automatically.

“Where was the droid kept while you were waiting, and where was the courier based?”

“The ship held position away from the docks until the courier arrived. It was a Corellian diplomatic courier, and when asked, agreed to carry the droid from there.”

“Do you have records of all this?”

“The report that the ship had been damaged and the actions of the captain were sent immediately. When the courier arrived, and had agreed, that information was sent as well. Both in sealed encyrpted packets under Corellian diplomatic seal. Copies are also aboard the courier for inspection.”

I grinned. “Don’t you know a friendly judge?”

“There are honest men still in the government.”

“Then here is what I want you to do.” I gave him the basis of the plan, and he agreed. In fact I was surprised it had not already occurred to him.”

“It will be done. The ship will arrive tomorrow morning at 0800 hours on pad 4 in module 126.”

“Good. I have something I have to do before it arrives.” He looked a question at me. “I must find the leader of the Exchange here on the station. Perhaps I can talk them out of this bounty.”

“The leader of the Exchange on the station is a Quarren named Loppack Slusk. However he has refused every request we have made for a meeting.”

“Then where can I call him?”

“He does not deal directly with anyone. His assistant Luxa. She spends a great deal of time at the Cantina in Module 044. She is the one you must convince.”

“Then I will speak to her.”

“Here.” Chodo motioned, and Moza handed him three slim bracelets. “These are linked to our accounts. If you are helping us, we would be honored if you allow us to pay for your needs.”

*****

Moza

The woman walked out with her friends. I clutched myself near my third stomach. Chodo looked at me. “Did you feel it this time, Moza?”

“Yes, leader.” I gasped. “Such pain and suffering. I have never felt such agony within one being before.”

“I know.” He said softly. “The last time I felt such was when I stepped upon Telos when we came to acknowledge contract. This woman holds more pain and suffering than an entire planet should hold.”

“But how does she bear it? A normal being should fall and die just from a tithe of such pain.”

“Humans, especially those who become Jedi are much stronger than they look. She bore this pain before she was stripped of the force, and she bears it now because she will not accept the only alternative, which is to die. Perhaps by helping her heal, the way can be shown for Telos. We must concentrate on that.”

The Exchange

Marai

As we headed for module 44, Kreia was a sullen weight behind me. I turned to face her. “Kreia?”

“I do not like this alliance you have formed. The Ithorians and especially Chodo Habat has his own agenda. An agenda that has us as mere employees to fulfill his dreams.”

“Can it not be said we have our own agenda as well?”

“If keeping you alive and finding a way to have you trained to your potential is an agenda, then yes we do.” She growled.

“But I sensed no duplicity in him. He means us no harm.”

“This from a woman that last week felt nothing of the force. Set aside your feelings. We do not need extra entanglements at this moment. You are too important to the fate of the galaxy to tie yourself to one sad little planet.”

“You might be right, Kreia. But unless we intend to steal a ship, we are stuck here. Unlike Czerka, he is not asking us to stand aside and let the crime be committed.”

“True.” She admitted, though I could tell she wanted to disagree. “Perhaps he can discover what has happened to the ship. Or can help us get off this station.”

The Cantina on Module 044 was a more upscale establishment than the ones on Module 081. The music was soft and light. The lighting just dim enough to give privacy. There were privacy booths, but they were not for Twi-lek women to give furtive lap dances, but for quiet conversation. Of course that didn’t mean you could not enjoy that very service. Just that no one would chuckle behind their hand at it.

“Which one do you think this Luxa is in?” Atton asked.
I chuckled. “Tell me Atton, who else would have Gamorreans watching over them?” I nodded toward a booth at the far end. Three Gamorreans stood there.

We walked over to them, waving away the attempt by a waiter to seat us. I stopped facing the largest. It is always easy to figure out who is in charge among the Gamorreans. If there is a female, it is her. If they are all male as in this case, then it is the largest one. “What you want?” He grunted.

“I am here to see Luxa.”

His eyes flicked to the curtain. “She is... indisposed. If you will wait at a table-”

“No.” I stood there, crossing my arms. “I will wait right here.”

He shrugged. We refused drinks. I wasn’t going to touch anything that didn’t come out of a tap or I didn’t cook for myself until we were well shut of this place.

About twenty minutes later, a young woman stepped out, straightening her clothes. She saw us, blushed furiously, then hurried away. The leader of the bodyguards stuck his head in, then leaned back out. “She will see you. But only you.”

I nodded, stepping between them, and went through the curtain. Luxa was almost 30 centimeters taller than I was, and her body was shaped like someone had taken an hourglass and put an hour and thirty minutes worth of sand in it. She was lush with heavy breasts, and a sated expression.

“Oh I wish he had told me you were so...tasty.” She purred. “I would have skipped my lunch date.”

“I am here to see about speaking with Loppak Slusk.”

“Oh I have no doubt.” She purred. “Please, sit.” She motioned toward the space beside her. I slid into the booth, and her arm draped around my neck. “And why would you in your cute little Jedi robes wish to speak with Slusk?”

“The Exchange seems to think I am still a Jedi, and I am sick unto death with having to deal with your men. I wish to see if there is a way I can be left in peace.”

“Nothing would be easier?” She said, her hand playing idly with my hair. “When we have one of the...unfortunates people think are Jedi captured, we do a Midichlorian count, and if they do not have a high enough one, we merely send them on their way.”

I wondered how they would do that. Midichlorians are symbiotic microbes that feed on the force. The average human say has a count of between 50 and 200. The higher the count, the greater the possibility that the person can direct the force. The average Jedi in comparison has between four and eleven thousand.

But what would happen if my blood was tested? I am sure I would be at the same level as before, around 6500. The fact that I was unable to use all of the capability that implied would be hard to explain.

“May I speak frankly?”

“Please do.” Her hand caught at my bun. “May I?” I nodded, and she began releasing my hair.

“I was a Jedi long ago. But I was banished from the order. They removed my ability to use the force. I would have a high Midichlorian count, but it would be worthless if they are after a real Jedi.”

She had released the hair, which now fell in a sheet of reddish yellow to my waist. She caught handfuls of it, pulling them to her face, and breathed in. “So sweet.” She whispered. “I understand what you must be facing then. Our client would be upset because they did not get what they wanted, and you would be inconvenienced.” She reached out, touching my chin, and turning me to face her. She kissed me delicately on the lips.

“I cannot have such a lovely morsel inconvenienced. Especially when I might wish to sip on these lips again, now can I?”

She leaned away from me, picking up a pad. She punched in some information, then caught the data chip, holding it out to me. “Module 721, the Bumani warehouse. Just hand this to the secretary and she will direct you.”

“Thank you.”

She caught my arm. “Is that the way you thank someone for saving your life?” She pulled me into her arms, and kissed me for real.

I had never felt this before, or at least never with a woman. Unlike a man, the kiss was not harsh or forceful. Oh it was forceful and I still blush at the thought of it. But a woman can be demanding in such things, and it is so much...softer than a man if you understand what I mean.

She pulled back, and both of us were breathing heavily. “Afterward perhaps we can spend some quality time together?”

“If my time permits.” I answered. She nodded, smiling a sweet smile, and let me go.

“Are you all right?” Atton asked. I nodded. “What did she do in there?” I signalled for silence. We left the cantina, catching the shuttle pod to module 721. “Well?”

“I would rather not talk about it, Atton.”

“Did she...” He was trying to think of a polite way to say it.

“If you are asking did she seduce our friend, the answer is, she tried.” Kreia snapped bluntly. “But what concern of your is it?”

We passed the rest of the trip in uncomfortable silence.


'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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Old 08-08-2006, 03:26 PM   #14
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Confrontation

Atton

I had never been so embarrassed or... conflicted in my life. She was almost ten years older than me, and had Jedi powers that scared me witless. But she was also a vulnerable attractive woman, and I wanted to shove everyone aside and hold her when she was in pain. I had seen that girl that had left the booth when we arrived. She had the same look you would have expected if she had been raped or at least forced. I had immediately pegged this Luxa as a woman that didn’t have a use for men except for muscle to protect her. When Marai came out her hair down, a look like a trapped animal in her eyes I wanted to push through those guards and beat the woman bloody!

But I couldn’t. Unless you’re willing to kill them Gamorreans are hard to just push aside. And I’m willing to bet the number 2 of the Exchange here wouldn’t just let me hit her.

I kept watching her as the shuttle pod flew along. Her hair was still down, and I suddenly pictured it spread across a pillow, her face thoughtful as she looked up at me. I banished the picture blushing. Damnit!

Module 721 was warehouses. One of them was marked as Bumani as she had told us when we stepped out of the pod, and she went to the door.

Their was an office beyond it, and a young woman sat there behind the desk. The bar on the desk read Vula Trask. She was on the com with someone, and waved at us to wait. When she was done, she turned, giving us a 300 watt professional smile. “May I help you?”

Marai passed over a data chip. Vula inserted it in the desk slot, looking at the screen. I saw the change in her eyes. Furtive, nervous. Of course it didn’t show in her voice. She started to reach for a stud, and Marai trapped the hand against the desk with cruising force.

“I think we had best talk about what that chip said.”

“Please, don’t kill me.” Vula whispered. “I’m only doing my job.”

“The excuse ‘I was only obeying orders’ bears no weight on the scales of justice. Now tell me, what will happen when you push that stud?”

“The guards in the next room will stun you.” She whispered. “after that, I don’t know.”

“More rather you don’t want to know.” I snapped. I could see from her haunted look that she might not know for sure, but she had a good idea.

“If you leave, I will not kill you. Come back in a few hours. When it is safe.” Marai suggested.

Vula stood and fled. Marai took out a concussion grenade, setting the fuse idly.

“What do you want to do?”

She smiled, taping the stud. “Why open the door of course.” As it slid open she threw the grenade at the floor about a meter inside the next room, ducking.

The flash bang went off on impact, and she was through the door among a group of Gamorrean guards. Her sword spun like an old fashioned propeller and before I had even drawn my weapon, she was surrounded by the dead. She charged across to the opposite door, and we followed.

It opened, and there were half a dozen more. A Quarren was standing beside another door farther in, and he shook his head. “Never send Gamorreans to do a man’s job. He turned to the man in armor beside him. “Benok, I want them alive, but if they are dead, I will not complain too much.” He stepped through the door at his back, which closed.

“This can go easy or hard, woman. Take your choice.”

Marai smiled, then leaped forward, diving under the arms of a Rodian. She kicked him in the chest, and he went down, blood spraying from his nostrils. I took out a couple with my blaster, turning to help, but the others were already dead.

Marai went to the door, tried the keypad, then closed her eyes. “Atton, find an ion grenade among these idiots.” She ordered. I searched the bodies. Benok had a real nice blaster, and I slid it into my jacket. I started to toss the grenade to her, but she shook her head. She was still facing the door, eyes still closed. Then she stepped back. “Two meters in. Impact fuse it.” she told me.

Before I could ask what she meant, she reached out, and the doors peeled back like foil. I saw the droids and threw. It landed more like two and a half meters in, but the electromagnetic pulse fried the droids. Marai waved, and they flew across the room and fell in a heap.

Loppack stood behind his desk. “You handled yourself pretty good. We can use such people.”

“I am not here to be used, Slusk.” She snarled. “I came to ask you to leave me alone, and you set your pack of hounds on me.”

“What do you want? Money? I can give you more than you can spend in your lifetime.”

“Money means nothing to me. In a perfect world I would kick your rancid flesh from the station forever. Spare me!” She waved a hand. “I am sure you will promise me anything and would give me nothing once my blade is not at your throat.”

I heard something, and turned staring. Luxa and her entourage was standing there, looking at the carnage we had made. I could see a look of satisfaction on her face. “You know, woman, if Slusk were dead, I would be in charge. I can promise-”

“What?” Kreia asked softly. “We can read your black heart. You will promise her freedom, and once you have slaked your lusts she would be shipped to Nar Shaddaa.”

Luxa sighed, shaking her head with a smile. “Goto would be happy to give me anything in return for her. I am sure he could find a woman with hair like that for me to use as I see fit.

“A pity you refuse to leave her the illusion of freedom.”

I turned away from Slusk, and my weapon blew the first Gamorrean apart. The second went down as Kreia leaped past Marai into the room with Slusk. I heard a high pitched scream as Marai slapped the ‘Negotiator’ from Luxa’s hand. The woman screamed ‘Wait!” But Marai’s back stroke buried the blade in her chest.

Kreia was standing over the desk, wiping her own blade off. Marai walked in, looking at the room. “What now?” Kreia asked.

Marai looked at the desk. “Atton, slice into his system.”

“Are you mad?” I asked.

“I am sure the TSF would love to have all the information we can get. It’s not like the Exchange is going to kiss and make up after this.”

“There is that.” I shoved the body aside. I began key in. “On second thought, Maybe Nar Shaddaa isn’t a good idea.”

“You’re just catching on?” Marai asked.

“Hey if this Goto wants you as bad as these guys thought, I don’t think it would be wise to try to hide in his own backyard. The Exchange has been having troubles lately, but that has just made them more mean.”

“Troubles?”

“Yeah. Some guy stole a lot of cash from them when he decided to leave a few years ago. Something Kang I think his name was. A lot of bosses were angry, crossed the wrong lines, went to the wrong planets, and about one or two thousand dead later, they finally stopped accusing each other of stealing it.” I paused. “Retina locked.” I picked up Slusk’s head, held it in front of the scanner, and dropped it again. “All right we’re in.” I looked at it. Everything the Exchange had been doing in two dozen systems. Places, dates times, money transferred. Just a tenth of this would make Grenn’s career.

It took two pads to download all of Slusk’s files. Marai suggested I access Luxa’s, going back out of the room. Hers were not only retina encoded, but pore and DNA as well. Marai dragged in the body, and I used the cooling flesh to get what she wanted. There couldn’t be enough to make it worth it...

I took it back. Luxa had handled the transfer of money and other enticements to a dozen different political figures not only here but in the senate. Grenn was looking at being the high muckety muck in the TSF when this hit his hot little hands. In fact I could see a lot of promotions in the Republic Judiciary when they were done.

We left the mess for someone else to clean up. Of course all we had done was decapitate them here. Someone else would step in, probably before the end of the shift, and they’d be back in business like nothing happened. The files we now had would do a lot more damage than a dozen bodies ever would.

We caught a shuttle pod to another section, had a meal at a kiosk we chose at random, and then caught another to module 082. Marai was flipping one of the data pads in her hand absently.

“What are you thinking?” I asked her.

“Have you thought of what might be in the Czerka Corporation’s files that might be just as interesting?”

Delivery and Retrieval

Marai

Before going home, we stopped at the Ithorian compound. The idea of raiding Czerka’s sealed files had been considered, but the system was closed. It wasn’t linked to anything outside their office. To slice it someone would have to go into the offices, past their security, and take them directly off the mainframe.

There was an employee of Czerka that might help, according to Chodo. Corrun Falt had been the man in charge when Czerka had first come to the station, but had been replaced almost immediately by Jana Lorso. He had been working on controlling everything but the reclamation project, which would have been more than enough for most corporations. But Lorso had pushed for more and more. If you’ve seen the Czerka Corporation ads you’d think they were all sweet innocent people that went out of their way to help people. Falt seemed to believe it, or wanted it to be true, at least.

We were able to contact him, and he told us that only two people had access, Lorso herself and B4D4, her administrative assistant droid. But due to the push to control more and more of the surface of Telos, there was a way past this. They had hired an outside contractor, a Duros named Opo Chano to do their maintenance on B4. He gave us his address and an introduction.

Chano was glad to help if he could. But he owed a lot of money to the Exchange. Credits passed hands, and an hour later he walked into the Czerka main offices, and came out with the droid. We took it to the Ithorian compound where their techs would reprogram it while we slept.

*****

The next morning we had breakfast, picked up what we needed from the Ithorians, and made our way to Module 126. We had to move not only openly but forcefully because we wanted Czerka to be watching us when the droid walked in to get the data.

I met the TSF escort at the module 081 annex. There was only one man.
We rode across toward module 126. He was young, terrified, and happy to have us with him.

When we got out, I let him lead. After all, this was his party. A pair of Czerka men stood in our way.

“So you decided to accept their offer instead of ours.” He said coldly directly to me. I looked at him. “Do you really think a group of tree hugging freaks can do a better job that we can?”

I stepped around the TSF trooper. “When someone worries more about the bottom line than the job, I always know they will fail.” I told him. “Now get out of our way.”

He smirked. “Oh I don’t think so.” He held up a paper. “This is a court order issued by Judge Rombold of the Superior court ordering that the droid you are coming to collect be placed in storage until proof has been offered that it is not being used in a known smuggling operation.”

“Funny.” I took the paper and handed him one of my own. “This is a court order by Judge Santi of the Telosian Supreme Court ordering that this-” I waved his shot- “be held in abeyance until such time as something beyond mere accusation can prove your contention.”

He glared at me. There was no such proof and he knew it. If we had filed after they had taken the droid, it would have been impossible to get it back. Czerka would now have to supply all of their proofs to the Supreme Court before any action could be taken. While the superior court had a backlog of several months, the Supreme Court had one of almost a decade. He bowed acknowledging that we had beaten him at this point and stalked away.

The droid was standing with an Ithorian beside the Corellian Courier. I had started across the deck toward them when something I sensed caused me to act. I ducked, reached out and slammed the droid on his back, and spun toward a man on the catwalk above. “Atton!”

He drew, aimed, and shot the man before he got ten paces. I motioned, and he climbed up the catwalk as I went to help the droid back to his feet. The Ithorian was still standing there, stunned.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes.” He finally said. “I am just... stunned by the violence. Such is not normal in our society.”

“I would say welcome to the real world, but I don’t think you would appreciate it.”

He gave me a hurt look. “Can we complete this business? I wish to be among my own kind again.”

Atton climbed down, and wordlessly handed me the weapon. It was a Czerka model 9, their cheap end hand weapon. But it had been modified with a bell chamber electromagnetic signature nullifier, and an IR modulation.. The bell chamber would make it completely silent. The electromagnetic nullifier meant you could carry it through a weapons detector and it read as a lump of metal. The modulation meant that the plasma bolt would be tuned to the infrared spectrum, so it would not be detectable to the human eye. You could walk through a crowded room set it a centimeter from someone’s back, fire, and be out before the man had even fallen over. It was an assassin’s weapon. Grenn would love this.

We delivered the droid without incident.

Czerka

Marai

We had hit a gold mine in the Czerka office. I know it’s only used for some jewelry and circuitry now, but it used to be valuable.

Czerka, like every corporation, kept voluminous records. Every centi-cred had to be accounted for so the accountants were happy. That meant that everything they had spent buying politicians, judges, bureaucrats and police was there in glaring relief. Unfortunately, the ten main people had not committed a lot of crimes under Telosian law. It isn’t a crime to donate to a politician. But the politicians had violated the law by taking so much to stay bought.

A number of the lower and middle echelon Czerka people had however. They had run their own little schemes, and as long as the Corporate headquarters had a black bottom line, they didn’t care. Weapons had been shipped in labeled as machine parts, reworked until they were more efficient albeit illegal, and sold through outlets from here to Nar Shaddaa. They had tried several times to get reclamation areas below that had Bachani plants turned over to them, and for a moment I had thought I knew why.

Bachani grows on a planet called Sanhedra. It thrives in what a human would call a toxic waste dump. The planet had heavy metals in the air soil and water, and would have killed an unprotected man in hours. But life that should have died flourished if within a few meters of these plants.

Somehow, the bachani plant took in that toxic waste, and produced clean oxygen, something like ten to fifteen times what was normal for plants on other worlds. By cycling the water of Telos through the bachani they had cleaned the ocean of normal contaminants within the first three years. Planting them in the catch basins for the rivers had kept the oceans clean. With a free hand and a few thousand bachani they could clean the planet in a decade.

Atton was the one that disabused me. bachani has another use, if you’re willing to take the risk. By soaking the leaves in a chemical bath, you released the alkaloids from the inner plant fibers. This was dangerous, and killed about fifty to a hundred people a year when they didn’t take care. The slurry when fractioned off made a spice nicknamed Star-rider. The waste was so toxic not even bachani could clean it up. It was an hallucinogenic, and highly addictive. Worse was that it could be administered without anyone knowing, being odorless and colorless. Someone had taken over the government of Wallmeri with it about a century ago. Most places had a death sentence on it’s manufacture. Those that didn’t had prison sentences measured in decades. The planet had been cordoned off, and only the Ithorians had the clout to get past that blockade.

I went myself to deliver all of the data we had gathered. Lt Grenn snarled when I came in, but he read the files slowly, first the Exchange records, then Czerkas.

“Let me get this straight.” He finally said, glaring at me. “You’ve treated this station as your own hunting preserve and killed by my estimate twenty people. If that wasn’t enough you have broken into not one but two secure data bases, and stolen files from them.” He spun around, and his voice was a roar. “Have you anything to say?”

I shook my head.

He laughed, the first real emotion I had seen on that face. “Well done. I don’t know or care if you’re a Jedi, but you did work worthy of one of them. Not get out of here. You just dumped a decade of work on my desk, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it.”

I felt almost buoyant as I walked back toward the shuttle module. Chodo would find a way to get us down to Telos, or I’d know the reason why.

I stopped at a kiosk that sold clothes, buying another set of clothing. I would take off these robes, and if I every earned the right, I would wear them again.

An information kiosk nearby flashed at me, and I looked at it curiously. I knew the com system could track someone down, but it had been a long time since I was worth even speaking to. I keyed in the com. The Ithorians? I tapped the accept key.

“Marai Devos! Help!” It was Moza, and he used their herd cry for danger, which rattles the clearsteel of the tunnel. I tapped the shut off, then hit the one for our room.

“We out of here?” Atton asked.

“Ithorian compound, bring everything!” I shouted, then I keyed off, and was running.

Ithorians

Atton

I knew she was supposed to be a soldier, knew she had experience, but I had never been on the receiving end of such an order before. It wasn’t will you, or do this. It was do it right the flaming hell now! I had grabbed my gun, shouted for Kreia, and was double timing down the module walk before I even considered what had happened.

The doors to the Ithorian compound had been sealed, and I was about to try to slice the lock when Marai came running from the other end, her new robes flying. She waved me away, set her feet, reached out with both hands, then jerked them as if she were pulling something. The door bowed outward, then at the second convulsive jerk ripped away, slamming into the wall behind her. People screamed and dived for cover including me.

Not Marai. She had her sword out, and leaped through the door in a smooth curve, nothing but the shriek of her battle cry outside with us.

I found my feet, and was less than a second behind Kreia. There had been four mercenaries in the next room. They were armored, armed with both swords and guns, and for all the good it had done them, might as well have been naked. Marai had gone through them like a food processor, and hadn’t even slowed down.

I ran past the table where the doorman had sat. He lay dead. The next room was a mixed bag of dead. Half a dozen Ithorians shot down as they had tried to flee. There had been maybe seven men in here with five or six droids. I arrived as Marai caught the last droid with the force, and picked it up, squeezing. It rained down in parts.

She cut to the left, opposite of the way we had gone before. There was a door marked with Ithorian runic scrip that said vivarium. A mercenary turned, and I recognized him from the Cantina. He didn’t even have time to speak before he went down cut almost in half. Beyond him was the larger man. He flung down his blaster, screaming ‘Please” But Marai punched him the same way she had done it before, but this time I saw his back explode outward.

As he sagged, Marai glared at him. “I don’t give a man his life a second time.” She snarled.

Moza was in a corner, and I don’t know what shocked him more, the enemy that had invaded his home, or the monster he called ally.

“Where is Chodo.” She snapped. He pointed with a quivering hand, and Marai was past me like a heat seeking missile. I backpedaled, changed direction, and followed.

We headed for Chodo’s office. Three Mercenaries were outside the door, and one of them had attached a charge to it. Marai was among them like a bomb. I shot one she had flung aside, and drew down on the other but he hit the wall as if he‘d been fired from a cannon.

She had the last held a foot off the ground. “You have five seconds to tell me who sent you.”

He sneered, and she slammed him into the wall. She pulled the sticky pad on the charge off the door, and laid it on the chest of the mercenary, pulling the detonator from his hand. She flipped a switch, the anti-tamper device, so that only a professional could remove it. Then she snapped her leg down, breaking both knees.

She held the detonator where he could see it. “Five.”

“I can’t!” He screamed.

“Four.”

“Damnit, my career would be over!”

“Three.”

“They’ll kill me!”

“I will blow you to hell in two seconds.”

He stared at her.

“One.”

Her thumb started to move.

“Czerka! Lorso said it wouldn’t matter if the Ithorian priest was dead! If we killed him it would take months for another to be chosen!”

She stared at the blubbering man. “Atton. Call Lt Grenn. I think we have our proof.”

The TSF security men came to take the man away after they had removed his armor rather than disarming the bomb.

Once that was done, we keyed the door for access.

Chodo answered it, and I was struck by the preternatural calm of the being. If we had arrived seconds later he would be dead. That did not seem to have bothered him.

Marai told him what had happened, and his head bowed.

“I wish we had been able to reach out in peace to them instead.”

“Some people don’t give you that choice.” Marai replied softly. “There are those that must make everything a confrontation and battle.”

“Yes. I do not know how to repay you, Marai Devos.”

“We need transport to Telos.”

He looked at her, than at us. “You do know that it is illegal for anyone not directly connected with the reclamation efforts to go to the planet’s surface? Artifacts from the devastated areas are very valuable to the more ghoulish collectors.”

“My ship is there. I must have it or be trapped here on the sufferance of others.”

“I understand. Our own shuttle is at your disposal.” He looked at Kreia and I. But before you go, I would like a word with you in private.”

Marai nodded sharply, and pushed us out.

Marai

I closed the door, and faced him calmly.

“Years ago I walked upon the horribly damaged surface of Telos for the first time. It was not a pleasant walk. I felt the agony of an entire planet ripped apart by war. When I spoke to you before, I mentioned your pain. That you bear pain greater than any I had ever felt in a single being, in anything except for the planet below us. If I had time, I could work upon you as we must with a planet such as the one below, but we do not have that time.”

“I understand. If it is too much, I will merely go.”

“It is not too much, merely that what I can do may not be enough. I may injure you so that you lose what little measure of the force you can feel now. Would you risk it all for that?”

I sighed, closing my eyes. For the first time in years, I felt alive again. I had a purpose, perhaps a destiny again. Did i really want to return to a half existence? “Do what you can. I accept the consequences.”

He motioned, and lay his hand on my stomach just over the solar plexus. “This will be painful. But if I am to do this, I must do it quickly."

Painful was an understatement. I felt as if he’d rammed his hand through my body, grabbed my spine and was trying to rip it from my back. I bit back a scream, my hands dropping to his, but instead of pulling it away, I kept him from removing it.

The suddenly the pain just vanished. I had not noticed in all those years what I had been feeling. It was like waking up one morning and discovering that you had been carrying a ton of weight on your shoulders that wasn’t there any more.

He helped me back to my feet. “Perhaps I have done enough. Only time will tell.”

I walked out. We made our way to the landing bay, and climbed into the shuttle.

“Ithorian design. I may have a few problems with this.” Atton said. But his fingers flashed along the console like a concert violinist. We lifted smoothly, dropping through one of the gaps between modules. Kreia sat against the wall, sulking. She seemed to feel that only she could teach me anything about the force. Maybe she might even be right. But to have someone tell you over and over that you were too weak top walk your own path either ruins your self esteem, or ticks you off, and she was beginning to seriously endanger my calm.

Right before we hit atmosphere I felt it. Chodo had spoken of pain, but only someone in tune with the force could feel this, and none that could would wish to. It was having your entire family die. Not in one screaming lump, but over a period of days as you watch. I could feel the pain of the things that still ived there, the pain of the planet’s own Force and felt it swirling, trying to find an outlet for that pain. No wonder the Ithorians tried to stay away except when they absolutely had to touch the surface.

Atton pointed. Czerka base ahead. I’ll find-” He jerked the controls, and I slammed into the bulkhead. “Hold on!”

Something slammed into the side of the ship, and air screamed in. I could see the carbon scoring, watched ground and sky change places in a bewildering pattern, then I saw the ground coming up and we hit.


'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; 08-08-2006 at 03:29 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-09-2006, 08:24 AM   #15
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Another great chapter Mach. i like the story more then the game =)

The only thing i miss is the way you play out some fight seens and just skip over others.. i under stand that you cant write them all, but I can dream cant I
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Old 08-09-2006, 03:48 PM   #16
machievelli
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain128
Another great chapter Mach. i like the story more then the game =)

The only thing i miss is the way you play out some fight seens and just skip over others.. i under stand that you cant write them all, but I can dream cant I

A lot of the fights are just what they used to call Random Encounters in D&D. If you have ever played that game, you can see how dragging it would be even for the DM to have to wax lyrical about every hack and slash.

Puls there is no middle ground in most RPGs. Either you can alk or you can fight. Not a lot of options. In life there would be a few more. Not including walking away.

If you just want hack and slash, I am definitely not the Game Master you want to deal with. I make the players work for it.


'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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Old 08-09-2006, 04:08 PM   #17
machievelli
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Interlude

“What do you mean she’s not on the station Grenn roared.

The Security officer on the other end of the com line wilted. “We went to her rooms as instructed, but Marai Devos was not there. Their equipment was gone, so I believed they might have tried to gain passage. But except for a few shuttles from Czerka and the Ithorians, nothing has left the station.”

“Well find here!” Grenn looked at his monitor, the blinking light of a call on hold. He tapped it.

The Republic naval technician on the other end looked up. “Admiral Onasi wants to speak with you.”

“Sure.” Grenn said sadly. Why not?

Onasi was young for his rank- barely forty eight, but unlike Saul Karath, the Senate and the fighting admirals of the fleet had gone to bat for him. Hero of the Mandalorian wars, hero of the Jedi Civil war, the man that had led the assault that had smashed the Star Forge for all time, no bench warming sycophant was going to relegate him to a desk job.

“Well! Good to see some things don’t change on Telos.” The words were welcoming, but both felt the sadness in them. Grenn had lived less than a mile from Onasi’s old home. He had been a sergeant then, watched the bravest man he knew bawl like a baby as he held his dead wife. He had changed then, gotten colder, more willing to risk himself in ending the Jedi Civil war. During that attack on the Star Forge, he had changed, becoming more as he had been before. He smiled more readily, and was more willing to listen to reason.

“Good to see you again Carth.”

“Sojourn will be there in...” He looked off screen. “Fifteen minutes.”

“I have some bad news for you, sir. The ship you were so interested in is gone. The woman that was aboard it is not the one you thought she was. It was Marai Devos. My records say she was a Jedi, but except for reference a decade or more old, I have nothing about her.”

“Not to worry, Grenn. I came personally to tell her that the Republic has adopted a hands off approach to her exile.”

“Exile?” Grenn stared at him in shock. “That little slip of a woman is the ‘Exile’?”

“None other. And I would suggest you not consider her a little slip of a girl either. She has five medals of commendation from the Mandalorian was, including the Parliamentary Medal of Honor for Malchior V.” His finger brushed his own award.

“Then you won’t be surprised what she did here.” Grenn sat down leaning back. He was going to enjoy this.

Telos

Marai

I swam back to consciousness. Someone was holding my body up, dabbing my face with a rag. I opened my eyes. It couldn’t be. “Bao Dur?”

He ducked his head shyly. “Best take it easy for a few ticks, General. You’ve had a busy morning.”

“It can’t be.”

“Why not?” He asked. The last time I had seen him was before Malchior V. I had threatened to gut a doctor that wanted to amputate his arm. The Zabrak refuse such surgery unless the limbs stay in their possession for proper burial, and the doctor didn’t understand that taking the arm without asking his permission would have driven him into a depression he would have died in.

They had not saved the arm, but I had been there when he consigned the limb to a sun’s corona, and knew that he accepted the loss as something that had happened. I had never heard him raise his voice in the years I had known him back then. A survivor of the devastation of Iridorn, he had given himself into Republic service. He was the best mechanic I had ever seen, and worth his weight in light saber crystals.

I tried to stand, and he caught me before I could hit the ground. I had bruises where I didn’t even know I had places.

“Easy there, General. You’ve already survived one major crash today. Let’s not go for two.” He looked behind me, and I turned my head carefully. The shuttle saw smoking, flame licking from the opened door. I tried to push him away, but he turned me until I saw Kreia and Atton. Atton was holding his head as if he was afraid it would fall off. “Besides I owe you one, General.”

“General.” I replied. I wasn’t tracking that well yet.

“Some damage, maybe some memory loss. It’s normal for head injuries.” He said. “Pity you’re not a droid. One quick adjustment, and all the memories are right there again.”

He looked at the sky, and I felt a crushing weight of loneliness. Zabrak are social people. To be here alone must have been finely strained agony. “But droids have it better. All you need to do is hit a button and every memory that might be a harm to them is just gone and can’t be brought back.”

“No.” I shook my head and wonder of wonders, it didn’t hit the ground. “I just haven’t been called General in a very long time.”

“I try not to remember the war myself.” He agreed. I was able to walk, and he guided me to the others. “Lucky for you guys I was out on some personal business. I saw you come down, and thought maybe you just needed some repairs. But that shuttle is fried and diced. Not much even for salvage.”

Atton Shook his head, then looked around. “Just like the last time I was on Telos.”

“You make a habit of crashing?” Bao Dur asked.

“No. I was playing Pazaak and someone decided that I had cheated.”

“Did you?”

Atton didn’t answer.

“Perhaps the next time we can find a competent pilot.” Kreia said.

“You’re welcome. And for your information little miss ‘I am so much better than anyone’ If i hadn’t been a good pilot we would have hit the shield wall at the base, or one of these cliffs. We could be a bug on the windshield instead.”

“Yes.” Kreia replied dryly. “Trapped on a toxic planet without transport and a hostile enemy force over the hill. Our situation is so much more pleasant.”

“Could you two keep it down to a dull roar?” I snapped peevishly. “What the hell hit us?”

“I saw the field as we were coming in. I could have sworn I saw an AD tower there, but it wasn’t until they started shooting that I was sure.”

I was finally thinking clearly. “Why would a research and reclamation station need an Air Defense tower?”

“They wouldn’t. But the layout was familiar. I’ve seen pirate bases with the same layout.”

“Then we will have to ask them. Then find our ship.”

“You mean, that wasn’t your ship?” Bao Dur gestured toward the smoking wreckage.

“We borrowed it. Someone flew our ship down here a few days ago and the highly efficient TSF not only lost it, but couldn’t find it on the planet.” Atton snapped.

“Not surprising. Rad levels are still high in a lot of places. Every little station has it’s own shields running on broadcast solar power from Citadel Station. Can’t pick up a ship with all of that energy above them.

“But if we can sneak into the station, I can probably use their computer to access the Citadel Station main frame. I know a few things about shield harmonics.”

“Sneak in?”

He looked at me. “Czerka doesn’t have a lot of ecologists on the payroll. I’m an independent contractor. When some guy name Rebowis ordered a bunch of people down here to tramp around looking for salvage, a lot of those contractors left. Me? I contacted the Ithorians, and reapplied as a mechanic. I have been giving them information for the last year and a half about what Czerka has been doing.”

“What have they been doing?” Atton asked.

“Salvage. A lot of cities were bombed into slag, but some were hit with neutron bombs. Everything still standing, but nothing alive. When the base was placed originally, they didn’t have the broadcast system up. But it sits right over a major Telosian military base. The people that manned it were dead, but the power system warmed up like a dream. They have shipped about fifty to a hundred tons of high class Telosian designed weapons and equipment every day.”

I nodded. The Telosians had been on the rim, and didn’t want to pay what a Core side weapons manufacturer wanted. So they had developed their own. The Telosians had edged the major weapons dealers out in three sectors by selling equipment that was efficient, simple to operate, and above all, cheaper. They had been a target for a reason back when the Jedi Civil War began. Smashing Telos’ industry had opened five sectors to invasion.

Bao Dur turned, and his head cocked. “We had best get moving.” I stood carefully, and ducked as I saw a sensor droid float past. “Don’t worry. I took care of that.” He tapped a pack of equipment that had been gerrymandered into a device. “The droids go by body heat and movement. When I’m on one of my little excursions, I use this. They think we are a small family pack of Cannocks.”

“Cannock?” Atton looked stunned. “I only thought they lived on Dxun!”

“They are native yes.” Bao Dur replied. “But they are also resistant to radiation, breed slowly, and feed on carrion.” He looked away. “There was a lot of that.”

“How did they get here so fast?” I asked.

“They didn’t. These guys aren’t after you. They’re after me.”

I looked at him. “They found out what you’ve been doing.” He nodded.

“Then we had best figure a quiet way into the base.

*****

We skirted the sensor envelope of the guards, and moved down toward the shoreline. I paused, feeling the breeze on my face. It felt...

“Do you feel it?” Kreia asked me softly.

“Yes. Like a different breeze, blowing on my skin.”

“It is the force you feel. The lives of millions of microbes in the oceans.”

“But it feels so...faint.”

“That is because what ever has been done for you by the Ithorian priest has not fully settled. To me it is the roar of a crowd.”

We passed down the shoreline, and into the valley near it where the Czerka base was. We bypassed minefields, circled around battle droids on patrol, and finally reached the valley. The settlement below us was a cluster of temporary buildings on poured ceramacrete. Guards paced between the buildings.

“I don’t see a quiet way in.” Atton said after a moment.

“Then you should watch and learn.” I said.

*****

The guards came around the building, and stopped. Bao Dur was laying on the ground, crawling slowly toward the buildings. “Help me.” He whispered.

“Ah, the little spy found out the big bad world is dangerous.” The captain sneered. He walked over, grabbing Bao Dur up.

The Zabrak snapped his head forward, breaking the man’s nose. As he shouted, the other two started forward. That was when I dropped between them. I struck left and right, and they folded up like a house of cards.

“I see why you said watch.” Atton said, coming out to tie one of them up. “I couldn’t have done that.”

“How many more?” I asked Bao Dur.

“Three roving patrols, then we just need to take out the guards stationed at the AD tower and the pad.”

We took out the rest of the guards, then simply walked up with Kreia and I in the lead with our hands up to the stationed guards. I reset the AD tower to standby, and Bao Dur inserted a feedback loop which meant the system would immediately do a diagnostic if it was ordered to fire. We reached the pad, and he sliced into the system.

“We have a shuttle inbound right now. Just a few more... Got it. Someone has set up a small shield generator on the north polar cliffs. Nothing there but an old seismic monitoring station and a water reclamation facility.”

He signalled us to hide, and Atton, dressed in a mercenary’s armor took his position. The shuttle landed, and we convinced the crew to get off. We left them sitting in their underwear.

Interlude: Pursuers.

The small shuttle dropped onto the pad, and the Czerka supervisor stood, waving. He ran to the door, then froze.

A droid stepped down. It carried a blaster rifle, and was definitely not here as a tourist.

“Angry Query: The Female Marai Devos was located here twenty-five minutes ago. Where is she now?”

“Uh, she must have been one of the people that stole our shuttle.”

“Exasperated reply: “Then we will pursue them.”

“Suggestion:” The man turned as another droid came to the door. “Units 41, 90, and 85 are in that area at this moment.”

“Agreement: Notify the units.”

It turned back, and walked back aboard the ship.

“Hey wait!” The droid turned.

“Query: are you addressing this unit?”

“Are you just going to leave us here?”

The droid dealt with the problem. It left the men there, but they were in no condition to complain.

*****

If units 41, 90, and 85 had been living beings, they probably would have complained about the blizzard they flew into. They might have complained when their ship iced up and crashed. But they were HK 50 series droids. Except for acknowledging that their efficiency had been reduced by 4% by the temperature, they merely deployed to wait. There was a noise, and unit 85 detected the magnetic field of an approaching lift and drive engine. It deployed the infantry anti-air missile it carried, tracked, then fired.

The shuttle staggered in mid air, then came down sliding along the ice shelf, shedding parts like a toy. It came to rest less than a hundred meters from them.

“Irritated Query: Did you think of the 400 kilometer walk we now have because you destroyed the only operation vessel?” Unit 41 asked.

Embarrassed reply: No. I merely assumed I would do less damage than that.”

Ice field

Marai

I shook my head, standing. There was no sound of movement. I staggered forward. Bao Dur had been wrapped around the console. Atton had hit his head, but except for a bad cut seemed all right, albeit unconscious. Kreia had been thrown into the seat before her, and knocked out.

“I would love the idea of actually landing instead of crashing on this planet.” I snarled. The blizzard cleared for a moment, and I was running for the access hatch before my mind had told me why.

Three HK50s, coming toward us. I opened it, leaping down to face them.

“Irritated declaration: There you are. It has been extremely difficult to track you down, Jedi.”

Another added. “But now that you have been found, we can proceed to facilitating communications.”

“Unnecessary Addendum:” The third said. “And put an end to our hostilities.”

“You could have just made an appointment, you know.” I snapped back.

“Surprised exclamation: Was that humor? My programming is not designed to discern it.” The third one said.

“Unnecessary irritated Clarification:” The second one added. “It was not our intent to damage your vessel so severely. It will require either a long term of sub zero conditions while we await another transport, or several days of moving through these inhospitable conditions.”

“Eager threat: However we were curious why you came to this remote location. Perhaps when we have a chance to equip you with torture devices you can tell us to pass that time?”

I drew, throwing an ion grenade to land at the feet of the one farthest from me. Then I charged. I reached out with the force, and one of the droids was spun around. It had already triggered it’s blaster, and the stun beam hit the one beside it, causing some shorting. I cut, sheering into it’s head, then dived as another stunner beam, went over my head. I rolled, coming up at full extension, my blade punching into the second one at the power junction box. It shorted out for real this time. I pulled a frag grenade, turned and threw it at the last droid.

That was when the stun beam hammered me into darkness.

Interlude: Rescue

Like ghosts four figures in arctic gear walked up to the scene of the battle. Their eyes moved dispassionately over the scattered remains of three droids. A groan from a snow bank brought one of them over to a form half buried in the whipping snow. Hands turned the figure over, and the woman’s eyes opened. For a moment she stared up into the face, then in perfect Echani she said, “We are in your hands.” Then she was unconscious.

The figures stood, looking down at her. Then one of them motioned. They picked her up, carrying her to her ship. They checked the others, then as one ran a heater to keep them from freezing, they were carried one by one away.

Fifteen minutes later, the empty shuttle began to freeze.

Telos Academy

Marai

Snap: The grenade flew from my hand at the HK. It was turning, weapon coming up, still a bit jangled from the ion blast. But it was still tracking. The grenade landed at it’s feet, and as the stun blast hit me, I saw it explode, parts of droid falling like metal snow.
Snap: A face surrounded and occluded by cloth and furs. I could see the eyes, a blue so cold it was almost white, eyebrows that looked like they had been etched on in white paint. As I fell back into the abyss, I was astonished to discover that in the force there was nothing there. If I went by what the Force told me was alone, looking up into the face of what; a Goddess that claimed the terminally stupid?
“We are in your hands.” I whispered. Why I said it in Echani instead of Basic I have no idea.


*****

I was warm. For a moment I was terrified. We had crashed in a blizzard, the shuttle had been badly damaged enough that none of the systems had been operating. Feeling warm in that frigid clime is not a sign that you are safe. It is a sign you are dying.

I snapped upright. The first thing I noticed was the blinding pain in my head. Stun beams hurt. Your entire nervous system was just shorted like a cheap droid, and it complains.

A lot.

Then I noticed that while my front was still warm, my back was icy cold. I mewled in pain, eyes opening in slits. White furs covered me. When I had sat up some instinct had held my covering to me, hence the warm front. But my back was exposed to the air, and it was bloody cold still. I lay back, and again I was toasty warm. Above me was ceramacrete. The walls that I could see by turning my head slowly were also ceramacrete. There was a door, and it opened, a young woman walking in. Her clothes were tight fitting covering every bare inch except for her face, with a hood that concealed her hair. She held a glass of water in her hand. A pill of some kind in the other.

“For the headache.” Her voice was soft. If they had wanted me dead, they could have just left me in the cold. I took the pill, washing it down.

“Thank you for saving us.”

“After the offer of surrender given as it should, what else could we do?” She asked.

We are in your hands. The ritual phrase used by a soldier surrendering, or someone who is rescued from death among the Echani. You surrender all options to your captor/rescuer’s whim. I heard the slight inflection. She was Echani.

“I thank you for your gentle pains.” I told her in Echani. Her eyes didn’t widen, she didn’t smile, she didn’t frown. I might as well have been talking to a mannequin.

“Our master has stated that she will see you when you are well enough.”

“I am well. What of my companions?”

“They are safe.”

“Where are they?” She merely looked at me. “Even a prisoner has that much right. Am I prisoner or guest?”

“That is...undecided.” She considered. “The man with the prosthetic arm is in our medical bay in a Kolto tank. He struck rather hard. The others are in the main irrigation room to the north side of the compound. The particle emitters that used to be part of the irrigation system make excellent force cages.”

I could feel her eyes on me. She wanted me to react, expected me to react. “So my friends are imprisoned?”

“They were held in cages for their own safety, Exile. Until Master Atris could determine your intent. She felt you might have them sacrifice themselves in a diversion.” She said softly.

“I saw no need for a diversion, nor do I see one now.”

“Your companions would have not lasted long if you had. The Zabrak is known to us, and would have been easily defeated. The woman is just an old woman. The other one, however... He showed some skill at Echani martial arts.”

That surprised me. Atton was a young man with the slouching style of standing and walking a lot of the young do. “Atton knows Te-rehal-Vor?” I asked.

“Oh he masks it well. But when we did not give him an answer, he dropped into the fifth stance.”

I considered. The fifth stance was best with multiple opponents. Turning the enemy strikes into smooth counters or blocks before picking who you would hurt first. “What answer did you refuse him?”

“Your whereabouts. We told him our Master wished to speak with you first, and he did not take it well.”

“But where would he have learned Te-rehal-Vor?”

“It has not been a closed art, Exile.” She replied tartly. “The Republic teaches it to their special operations officers. It is well known in what is called special forces as well.”

“I will have to ask him when I have the chance. Where are my clothes?”

“Your clothing is in the storage canister beside you bed, along with your weapons.” Again that pregnant pause.

I stood, opening it. I picked up the vibroblade, the grenades, the gun I had hung on my hip in case I felt I needed it. Behind me I could feel her tensing. I set them on the bed, and drew out the robes, then returned the weapons to the box.

“May I ask a question?” She asked.

“Go ahead.”

“Why do you wear a Matukai robe? Have you foresworn the honor of the Jedi?”

I slipped the robes on, looking at myself. I had not considered why I had chosen them from the shop. The primary difference between a Matukai warrior’s robes and a Jedi’s was color and cut. “I did not feel worthy of the honor of a Jedi’s garb.” I said.

She led me through the building. It had not been built for comfort or human occupation. It was a working space with every piece of equipment still ready to operate. Only a touch of a hand would be needed to start it all again.

Another woman stood there. She like the one beside me had white hair and wore the same clothes. In fact they were twins. A moment later I upped that number. Two others stood before a door, and were twins to those that followed behind me.

But no. They weren’t twins of flesh. I could see minute difference in them. One perhaps a centimeter taller than her fellows, one about the same shorter. But each had the white hair and ice gray eyes of the Rekavali clan of Echana.

The door opened, and I looked into a council room. I walked in, and as the door closed, I noticed that none of them had followed.

Kreia

I have spent decades pretending to be nothing more than a mouse scurrying across the floor. Noticed, but not considered a threat. Yet the feel of minds closed so tightly to the force as these women was alarming. To teach tme such mental discipline would free them from the fear of a mental attack, something the Sith had developed to a high art. Even the friendly persuasion which could draw the force to it was something they would never feel.

But there are trade offs in everything. To close your mind down so harshly as a first step would either stop or stultify even the most force sensitive.

“Is there a reason that hanging around you two seems to get me put in jail, again?”

“Silence.” I tried to hear her thoughts. It was like a drug after so long. But instead all I could hear was the scurrying haste of the thoughts in the cage beside me. He shut up as a pair of the women that inhabited the place came in guiding a hover stretcher. They lay Bao Dur in the cage beside us, and turned it on.

“Hey Metal arm!” Atton shouted. I’d had quite enough of him. I reached out, and he staggered against the cage, bouncing to fall to his knees. “What are you... Stop!”

It was like an onion. On the surface was random thoughts, self loathing, lust after Marai, and surprisingly, some such feeling toward me as well. But that was but the first skin. I peeled it open, and below another, just as chaotic, just as self absorbed. Another, then another. It took time, more than I would like to consider, but suddenly I could feel...

“Please.” He was piteous. “Don’t tell her...”

“Why ever not?” I asked gently. “If she is Jedi, she will forgive. If she is not, it won’t matter. Will it, murderer?”

“Please...”

“Don’t worry. I will keep your dirty little secret. But there is a price for my forbearance. You will serve the one who travels with us to the best of your ability. As long as you do, I shall stay my voice.”

“But...”

“No, there will be no discussion or duplicity. If you fail me in this, you do not know the punishment I can inflict upon you. You do not wish to know. If it were just your death I wished I would merely shout it out when one of Atris’ handmaidens were nearby. She would see you die by inches.”

“How did such a manipulative bitch get so close to her?” He was still fighting me. I pressed, and he fell on his face mewling in pain.

“Like any good Djarik player, I choose my gambits and my pieces well.”

“But she isn’t a Queen on your board, you bitch.” He struggled back to his knees. “And I am no pawn!”

“No. Yo are merely the pilot. And as long as you do what needs to be done, I will stay my hand.” I released him, and he staggered to his feet.

“Handmaidens? What is this place?”

“It has the feel of a Jedi Academy. Yet there is only a single Jedi in residence. There are others, but they are...Oh Atris...Such a ploy worthy of the Sith themselves.”

“What are you...” I reached out and he collapsed like a puppet with it’s strings cut. I had found the mind I sought, and was within it as the doors closed.

“Silence.” I whispered to him. “There are things happening that will shape the future.”

Marai

I walked up the steps, looking at it. A council room as I had thought, right down to the stele in it‘s center. But I had never heard of an Academy on Telos.

I walked over, hands clasped behind my back, and look at the Stele. The four pillars of the order were etched there, as was done in all such rooms. Truth, Honor, Loyalty, Justice -

I reached out. A hole had been punched in the stele in the face of justice. It looked like a lightsaber had been plunged into the rock. I touched it. No. It was not a wound caused by a lightsaber. It had been crafted so-

- I stood before the High Council of Coruscant. They had not listened, because to listen would have been to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, they had been wrong four years before. Wrong in their demotion of an entire generation of Guardians, wrong in their condemnation of those that had led them to it, that their intransigence might have caused all of those deaths I remembered so well.
They had refused to listen, and because that was their way of dealing with it, I refused to answer. My best friend in the world led that charge of denial and retribution. If they were right, then I was wholly wrong. They had demanded my lightsaber and in the one bit of resistance I felt I plunged it into the stone, dividing the word justice into the words Truth and Seek.
“When you have healed the stone, and healed your hearts, then I will speak.” I rasped out, then I stood there as they reached in and removed all of my connections to the force as if it were a garden in need of weeding.
I left that day.-


“I did not expect so see you again after you left us.”

I turned to face the speaker. Atris was as pretty as I remembered. Ten years had brought out the cheekbones and made the angry flashing eyes almost glow. “Atris.”

“I thought you had taken the exiles path wandering the galaxy alone and bereft. Yet you are here now.”

She so wanted me to be angry. Any anger I had from then was cold ashes, and I would not rekindle them. “I would like to know why my companions have been locked up like criminals.”

“You’re companions.” I had tripped her up. She had come with a complete prepared speech and scenario. I was not saying my lines and like any actor, she was thrown off. “They were detained for their safety as you were informed already. “I find it unusual that you would travel in close company with any one. Two and a half years as Chief of Security for a company on a ship. Being alone even as a figurehead fits you so much better.” She had found her place in the script again. “Why are you here?”

“Some unscrupulous person stole my ship.”

She smiled. Now i was back on the right page. “Your ship. The Ebon Hawk belongs to the monsters that butchered an entire planet and put Telos and twenty others worlds in mortal danger. Are you admitting that?”

“I did not destroy Peragus.”

“Spare me! What was it, an accident? Did you throw a lit cigarette into the minefield of asteroids?” She barked a laugh. “You have not changed. Still acting before thinking, putting your own vision of what must be before the Galaxy, before your friends, before the Jedi themselves!”

I looked at her. “Atris, we were friends for almost ten years. You know I would not have done this-”

“I did not know you from the time you marched off with Revan. When you spat on everything the Jedi believe in to feed you own lust for combat. Do you know what you have done? Twenty worlds rested on Telos and Peragus is the linchpin of them all! You have condemned not a few billions but almost a Trillion people to being outcasts from their own destroyed worlds!”

“I did this. Why don‘t you explain what I have done.” I said flatly. All right, she was an old friend and except for your own family no one knows better what to touch to get you angry.

“When the Civil War ended, no one wanted to judge the cost of repairing what had been smashed. Over twenty worlds have been devastated, stripped or poisoned by that war. The Jedi and our supporters have tried to convince the Senate that we must heal this damage. Must give those people a place to live again. Among them are worlds destroyed by you-”

“No worlds were destroyed by forces under my command.” I snapped.

“But Revan and Malak did devastate worlds. When they came against us they destroyed more. Our supporters have pointed out that twelve of them are in the outer Rim, beyond Mandalore and outside of the Republic. That offering and helping to rebuild those worlds would bring other worlds into the Republic. The Cathar especially look on. Their world has lain devastated since the first days of Mandalorian Wars now over twenty-five years ago.

“We were able to get the Republic to fund one planet as an experiment to see if it could be done. But Telos is that one planet, and you in your blind stupidity have destroyed their primary fuel source! Without the fuel to keep the reactors and thrusters operational Citadel Station will fall, and no one will agree to spend the gross revenues of a full year on 19 other failures! If ruin you must spread, could you have not merely done it to yourself and not more innocents?”

“You have my ship. Did you bother to check the sensor logs?” I snapped. My anger was a ball of heat I would not release.

“Why bother? We know that the TSF is investigating your actions-”

“Was, Atris. Was. We did not fire our weapons, and avoided everything large than a human head in our escape from Peragus. If you must blame someone, blame the Sith!”

The shout threw her off stride. “The Sith? What have the Sith to do with this?”

“The Sith took the Frigate Harbinger, came to Peragus station, and fired on my ship when we tried to escape. It was they, not I that are to blame.”

She shook her head. “You speak truth. I can feel the injuries you sustained, taste the Sith upon them. But why would they go to Peragus of all places? It is not like there is anything there of real value to them!”

“I was there. I was aboard Harbinger when they took that vessel. Only pure luck and a Droid trying to collect the bounty saved me then.”

“You.” Now her voice was flat. “If they had wanted a target they would have been after me, as many a bounty hunter would be with that bounty you speak of. But the Sith are blind to everything but their own wants, and that has always been their weakness.” She considered. “Perhaps they only allowed you to run because you would run to me. Give them something they wanted.”

“If I had known you were on Telos, I would have made a blind jump instead. There is at least one Sith Lord remaining. I have seen him, and he is like nothing I have ever heard of those monsters.”

“No matter. Even the greatest of the Sith would have no chance against a Jedi Master in her full glory.”

She was blind. I could have given her half a hundred names of Jedi Masters that had fallen facing the Sith. Just because she was so sanctimonious and pure would not save her. She needed help.

“Let us discuss what must be done. There are others who must still be alive. Let me help you find them.”

“You turned your back on the order, on the Council. On me? Why should I believe you would wish to help us now? The Jedi are not a pair of pants you leave in your closet because they are out of style only to be dusted off when style brings them back around. The commitment is stronger than you can possibly imagine! Or perhaps you are now afraid and wish us to protect you?”

“I know how deep that commitment is, Atris. I felt it for the order from my first memories. I felt it for the Republic I served and protected. I felt it for a friendless girl I offered it to, and thought it had been returned.” I felt that pain again. “As much as I wish the last ten years had never happened, you need help, and I am offering it.”

She looked at me. I could feel the echo of that pain. Like a new convert to a religion, she had embraced the entire message of what the Council had thought when she was elevated to the Council. She had lashed out at Revan and the others through me because I was standing before them. It was I, the one true friend she had in the Galaxy she had cast aside and stripped of the Force. She may have regretted it, but it had not stopped her from wielding the blade.

“Perhaps you can help, but not here. With the Sith returned, the reason for the Council’s dissolution is no more. There are those that can help us in this struggle, and I would ask you to seek them out.

“Take your ship. Seek them out, and ask them to return. Not to Telos, but to Dantooine. Once that is done we can call the Council back to session, and find a way to fix what has been done.”

“I will do this.”

I didn’t hear a word of command, but three of the young women came from behind me. “We shall remove her now, Master.” The girl turned. She was the only one that had her own face of them. Sharper, more predatory. She motioned, the same fluid motion they all had. “Please.”

I walked out.

Handmaiden

The exile was not what I expected. You always hear someone say ‘I thought you were taller’ to someone they had only heard about. I knew she was shorter than I, almost twice my age, and had once been a Jedi as our Master was.

I had not expected the soul deep weariness that weighed on her soul. The pain in her eyes that spoke of suffering. The strength of will to stand before Atris as an opponent, and not go for a weapon or scream at her. Strength she should not have had.

I saw Master Atris’ face. She had such a look of pain and longing on her face that I wanted to hold her until it passed. She looked at me. “Yes?”

“Mistress, the Exile. You have spoken of her often. I have never seen anyone have this effect on you. Was she important to you once?”

“The young all have their heroes, my child. When you see them fall, see them fail, a part of you dies inside. We had a choice to make fifteen years ago. She chose one way, I went another. The day she stood before us in judgment I stood and faced her. She was... was so right. She would not tell us why she was right, or explain to any of us. I could feel that moral certitude flowing from her like the force, and I
questioned my own motives. Questioned even the Council’s wisdom.

“But I have had ten years of trying to clean up the mess she and the others caused. Ten years of looking on devastation she caused, or aided in the cause. I will not throw away a decade of my work and assume that she might be right now.” She looked at me, and her face softened in a smile. “I am tired, my pet. I must rest and meditate.”

“I will inform the others that you must be left alone for a time, Mistress.”


'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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Old 08-10-2006, 07:52 AM   #18
Rain128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
A lot of the fights are just what they used to call Random Encounters in D&D. If you have ever played that game, you can see how dragging it would be even for the DM to have to wax lyrical about every hack and slash.

Puls there is no middle ground in most RPGs. Either you can alk or you can fight. Not a lot of options. In life there would be a few more. Not including walking away.

If you just want hack and slash, I am definitely not the Game Master you want to deal with. I make the players work for it.

Dont get me wrong, my favorite parts of the game are the guile and talking your way in and out of things... im not a true hacker n slasher... that gets boring after a while...

i just love how you have your fight seens written, it just sparkes the imagination (well atleast mine )

If they made a game that played the jedi would actualy handle situations... no one would buy it =) to much talking not enugh action

Last edited by Rain128; 08-10-2006 at 08:08 AM.
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Old 08-10-2006, 12:51 PM   #19
machievelli
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain128

If they made a game that played the jedi would actualy handle situations... no one would buy it =) to much talking not enugh action
Actually the way I write is the way I belive such a game would play. Are you saying my style is not interesting enough to keep a 12 year old to college level kid coming back for more?


'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
machievelli is offline   you may: quote & reply,
Old 08-11-2006, 07:05 PM   #20
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Looks very good Mach! I've read the first chapter and I can't wait to read the rest. Unfortunately I'm a bit short of time this weekend but I'm printing it to read in the plane on Monday (my boss is sending me for a tea with Santa - litterally...well almost...I'm going to the Artic )
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Old 08-12-2006, 12:15 PM   #21
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Marai

I stood there in the main chamber of the pumping station remembering. I had been 16 when Atris and I first met. She had worked into the advanced Te-rehal-Vor class. She had done it by working harder than anyone else, something no one granted her.

Have you met someone that is a natural victim in one way or another? Atris was eighteen years old, studying to be a Consular, unwilling to admit that anyone was better than she at anything. The advanced class was almost all Guardians by that time. She had as far as anyone had ever ascertained, no sense of humor. She was the butt of every joke, and she always had the bewildered look of someone that never got the joke. The only class where she was not made fun of was Te-rehal-Vor.

They had begun winnowing us into our specialties when I was 11 and only my master’s insistence that I could be a Consular had held me back from joining them for two full years. I had hit the ground running in training, and the only thing another Guardian would never be my better at was Te-rehal-Vor . I had worn a Teacher’s sash in it since I was 13, and was the acknowledged Padawan teacher of the class. There was our master who still assured that I did not push the newer students too hard. But all he really had to do was watch me.

When she entered the class, there were those that wanted to tease her. To ask her if she had practiced Mak-Chi-Tai, which they claimed meant proper breathing but merely was the noise a woman made in the throes of passion in Gutter Corellian. I caught them at it the first week, and having a dozen men half again my height kneeling, grunting like a woman in the throes of orgasm stopped that.

She flourished because I spent more time with her. A class lasted two standard hours, but I would always spend time making sure she did an extra hour. Not as punishment, but merely to get her up to the standards of the rest of the class.

I didn’t know how much I had grown fond of her until the Grandmaster of the Corellian Academy visited us one day. I watched him walking the house, going through the class like a reaped mowing the grain. By the time he came to the Teacher’s line he had sent three of my students to hospital by not restraining himself. Atris held an arm we later discovered was dislocated.

Three of the five of our student teachers joined them. I was so coldly furious that I almost did not give him a proper bow. We fought, and at one point he turned and used a Shuto-Shir kick. I felt his foot hit my chest, and blacked out.

I heard nothing, just the blood pumping in my ears, the sound of shouting in the distance. Then a soft voice.

“Marai. It is all right, Marai. The enemy is no more. Please Marai, the battle is won, and you can rest.”

The voice was soft, insistent. The sound of a person speaking to their aging beast, trying to calm it down. Suddenly I knew it, knew whose voice it was. Atris?”

“Yes, Marai. It is I."
"Atris?" Part of me did not want to believe it. My muscles were spasming to strike at someone, but I could not see who or why.
"The battle is done. The enemy is no more. You hurt your friends now. Rest.”

I awoke in hospital the next morning. I had gone into what is called Kashin-Dra. The shadow warrior. It is rare among those who practice our art. The mind must be so tightly focused on nothing but winning that even being knocked unconscious will stop them. Only death was a sure way to stay them. They are the stark warriors of Echani legend and one had stalked our training hall that day.

But the legend also said that only one thing beyond the death of everything around them would cool that fury. That was the voice of their beloved. It was a standard part of Echani bedtime stories of the monster that terrorizes the village until the brave girl discovers that it is the male shadow warrior, and her love returns him to humanity.

It wasn’t until that evening that I knew all of what had happened. The visiting master had struck me and I fell, but I had rolled back to my feet. He had assumed I was not injured, even though a Shuto-Shir kick like that would have broken several ribs. He had come in again, and they say I flowed like water around his attacks. Every move they said was liquid death, for I pressed ever to the attack. He had extended himself, deriding our master for failing to stop me. I had taken serious blows, and still kept coming. I had three broken ribs, two broken fingers, and my left arm had been dislocated, but still I fought in an eerie silence.

Finally he understood the danger. He had cried enough, but I was not to be stopped. The injury he had done to me was nothing to what I did to him before they tried to peel me off of him. He would spend the next week in a bed not far away.

Peeling me off however merely gave me more targets. Five of my fellow students had been thrown around like chaff. I had turned to attack the crowd that was frozen in fear when Atris had leaped up.

Speaking as if gentling a frighten riding animal, she had somehow caught my attention in my mindless darkness. She had stopped me, made me stand still, then when she had said rest, I had fallen.

Of course she had known what to do. She was Echani. Kashin-Dra were the stuff of bedtime stories on her world. When I returned to class, no one even thought of teasing her. They weren’t sure if we were lovers or not.

We stayed firmly away from the subject. She was astonished that my mind had used her as a way to return me to normal, and I was terrified that they would assume that I was using my position as teacher in such a manner.

The Grand master from Corellia was retired. He had always pushed his students too hard, and this was the final straw. I had a friend that I knew could stop me in the worst possible mood.

Or so I thought.

Interlude: Dreams within the Nightmare

Visas

I extended my thoughts, feeling along the patterns of the force like a web weaver looking for a meal.

Most humans would say they saw the threads, but my people would not have been among them. 15 millennia of living on a world where everything is dark would do that. After all that time, our people had lost the use of our eyes. We still had them, but we never used them.

We were peaceful in the darkness of our home. There was danger, but it was slight. We raised our web weavers, using their bodies for our food, their threads for our clothing.

Then there were the wonder stones. Crystals off worlders called them. They would warm at the touch, some would warm enough that we could use them to cook our food. Others would warm until they were like another body beneath the covers at night. It was the stones that had made us branch out from our caves into the darkness beyond. Most of those that had wandered before had died because they could not find a warm body to curl up beside when they slept.

Humans had come. According to them we were human as well, but we considered them dreams, and sometimes nightmares. Dreams when they came peacefully to trade food and warm clothing for our stones. Nightmares when they felt they had the right to take if we would not trade.

Then the dreams had all been nightmares. I was seven when it came. The ones others called the Sith. Nightmares of human flesh that took and took, and never gave anything back.

We were helpless against them. In all our history we had not had a words for war, for genocide, or slaughter. In our time the worst we had ever had would have been described as a Cantina brawl with the casualties you might expect from one.

The Sith taught us what the words meant. We had tried as we always had to flee. To go deeper into our caves, to hide until they went away. But they did not go away. We would have surrendered if we had known what that word meant, but all surrender would do is assure that the Sith had a freer reign then they had before.

They brutalized our women, slaking their lusts until the bodies would grow cold, for when you hurt most of us, we merely faded into our own minds, and died. They tried to force our men to work, but the bite of the lash, the sting of the stun rod would do the same to our men.

Of the millions there once were, there was only me now. I had been told that more than once by my master.

He said there was only one reason I still lived. Because when they brutalized me I did not merely fade and die. I fought back, weakly, inefficiently, but I resisted. It amused him. He had tried to find ways to make me fade. He had placed blades in my hands, directed my touch, my feeling for other people for I would have been a healer if I had grown to maturity.

Instead I turned that art at his direction. I have lost count of those tied to tables, bound in chains that I have patiently taken down to their basic elements while they still lived and screamed. I remember going to bed for weeks on end with the blood of those I had injured on my hands, my body. I had to stop caring or go mad. I am still not sure which happened first.

When I turned from child to women, suddenly I was of less interest to him. No longer was I to be tormented, now I would torment others at his command.

When that bored him, he then took a blade, and taught me to fight. He did it in the easiest manner imaginable. He could use what he called the force to give me unbearable agony. If I did not fight, he would punish me, make me writhe on the ground with agony beyond exquisite.

I learned the blade, the staff, then the lightsaber. I learned to use the force as he did, though I refused to merely harm someone because he wished it. As I would fall down in pain, I would hold that one bit of resistance to my heart. That I would not use the force to slay and maim.

He complained that only animals yammered and barked and made noises. The pure beings used no sound, they used only their minds. He taught me to feel his emotions, see his thoughts. To know his will and his whim from the subtle clues of those processes. Yet I could not speak mind to mind. He was always a bit frustrated by the ‘yapping’ I had to do.

But my will had been broken in every other thing. He would pit me against men, against women, armed and told that all they had to do was kill ‘the blind girl’ and they would be free. I lost count of how many died at my hands, beneath my blades. I had been told that if I listened to any entreaty, to any words at all from them, I would be punished for a week. It had taken only a dozen for me to believe it.

He had told me that they would try to kill me, and if they succeeded because of my own failure, he would shed no tears over it. But if I tried to let them kill me I would have my arms and legs ripped off and I would live like a vegetable unable to feed or clean myself as long as they could sustain me. He drew me into one of his torture chambers where someone that had failed another that abjectly lived now in his thirtieth year. Then he had tormented me not for a week, but for a month

When he was assured that he could touch my mind wherever I was in the Galaxy, he began to send me out. A silent assassin that needed no light, no spark of detection beyond the force.

All I wanted was peace. Not the peace of my long dead family and people. Not the peace that humans seem to think can be won by merely holding each other in open arms. I wanted the peace of the earth, the soil filling every crevice, of the weight of soil above my body. To know that my nightmare of a life was finally over.

He denied me this. He knew it was the one wish I still had under his tutelage, but he held it out to me like a sweet just outside of a child’s reach. When I had done all he wanted me to do, he would grant me that boon. I murdered, tortured, injured, hoping that one more would be the last, that finally he would reach out, touch my mind, and shut me off.

For the last month or so he had been worried about something. He had spoken an actual word to me when that worry came.

Search.

I had felt the webs of the force, and had done it every day for several hours. There had been a quiver about that long ago, something so slight that I had not even been sure that it had been real. But today it was the full fledged shiver of an insect caught in the web of the force. An insect that I would be sent to find, and to kill.

There. My mental fingers ran along the web, finding places where it was interconnected, running down them.

Yes. She, for it was a woman, was there. I could feel the cool color of her hair, the darker somber colors of her clothing. The deep angry darkness of her past. The emptiness of spirit. That which my master had in abundance, yet did not allow in any others.

I stood, smoothing my scarlet dress. I had known it was a dark cloth but he had been to one to tell me it was scarlet, and that it was a dark shade of red. Color had meant nothing to us. My life had taught me that the lighter the color, the less it sustained in heat when light shined upon it. My master seemed to feel that black was too good for me. One day he had decreed that I would wear reds, and nothing darker or lighter. I had patiently packed away all of the other colors, and from that day on, I was his Red Hand.

We were on a ship. I knew this because unlike a station, a ship moves more rapidly. My master stood beside the cold brilliance of the clearsteel panels that lead from the warmth of the ship to the icy waste beyond. If I had possessed the will I would have shattered that panel, allowed myself to finally feed the chill I desired more than anything. I could feel his amusement.

“I felt it too, My lord. A disturbance in the force.”

He questioned my abilities. Was I really that weak?

“It was such a gentle thing at first, my lord. As if it were an echo kilometers away. Yet as I felt it now, I wonder if it had always been there, and only now is it loud enough for my senses to hear.

“The sound of it built so slowly, so gently, but now it echoes even above the strains of the Galaxy’s own song.”

I felt something I had never felt before from him.

“Do you think it is a threat-”

I felt his force hand close, choking me. Whatever it was it terrified him! As much as I wanted to die, this was not what he would give me. Torment had no purpose.

“You... are the darkness that eats all life.” I gasped.

He released me, and I collapsed abjectly to my knees.

“All that lives is there for your touch, for the death you bring, and the power you gain from that death. All life is yours... My life is yours. Please, grant me what you have given so many others. Let me die I beg you.” The mantra he had made me speak ever since he discovered that I considered death my only salvation.

I felt negation. I had not yet earned my rest. He sent what he wished, and I remained kneeling. “As you bid master. I will track down this disturbance, find it, and bring it to you.

He allowed me to stand.

“I will leave at once my lord.”

Preparation and questions

Hand Maiden

I found her in the room she had been given. Her face was intent as she checked each weapon with the eye of a professional. The vibroblade sword was reduced to parts as she checked each, then reassembled.

Her movements were smooth but her emotions were not. While her hands did the necessary cleaning, her mind was a roil of pain. She had given this up so long ago, and it had been thrust back upon her like an old addiction. She didn’t want to do this ever again, but here she was preparing for yet another war.

“Is there something I can help you with?” She asked.

“Atris said that you betrayed the Jedi by going to war when it had been forbidden to you. That you turned against your masters, their teachings, and eventually against yourselves.”

“If only it were that simple.” She replied softly. Her hands moved, and the blaster pistol was suddenly in pieces on the bed. “I went to war because people were suffering and dying. I felt then that if I stood aside, I would be as guilty of those deaths as those that inflicted it. If I could have found a way to end it without a fight, I for one would have done so. It would have made it easier to sleep at night.”

“That is not all she says. She says that you know nothing of loyalty except to your animal instincts, and she told us that is what caused you to fall to the dark side.”

“I do not walk the dark path.” Her answer was as soft as before. But I could detect sadness there.

“Atris says that you fell to the dark side when you gave into your lust for blood during the Mandalorian Wars. Once you had tasted of it, you could never get your fill.”

“Yet I spent the last ten years wandering. Working as a body guard, as a security officer. Even a miner. With all the wars there are in the galaxy on any given day, that is poor fare. It also doesn’t explain how I walked away from the wars before the Mandalorian war was even over.”

“She says that when Revan returned as the dark lord you had fallen so far that you could no longer feel the force.”

She looked at me. Her eyes held pain, but they were calm. “I did not march with Revan, or march to fight her out of my own choice. I had been sent home to heal, and the Jedi Council healed me by stripping away all that I had been able to do. They would not have wanted me, and I would not go back to war on the word of any one person again.”

“So you say it was a matter of choice. That if you had still been considered a Jedi, you would have fought against your friends?”

“My duty as a Jedi would have demanded it.”

“Then why have you not told Atris of this? Perhaps she would listen to your own expressed feelings.”

“Do you have one of the others that you feel is a special friend? Someone that you would trust with your life and secrets?”

“I have no secrets from my sisters.”

“Think of when you were young. Was there one you missed terribly because they were your best friend in the world?”

“That was so long ago, but I think i understand what you speak of.”

“I thought Atris was such a friend. When I went to war, part of me was glad she did not. I could not have borne her death as so many others died. It would have shattered my heart.

“Yet when I returned home, it was that friend that stood before the Council and demanded that I surrender everything I had become as a Jedi to salve her own conscience. If the one I considered my best friend in the world would do this then, what makes you think ten years has made her see my side of it now?” She holstered the blaster, and slid on her weapons belt, tying off the holster and sheath of the vibroblade sword. “Is that all she has to say about me?”

“I believe that is the extent of her expressed feelings about you. They vary some, but they all build upon the same foundation.” My head cocked. “Why are you suddenly amused?”

“The Echani view. Gods it had been years since I have heard it said in just that manner.”

“But nothing I have experienced in my life proves the teachings of my home world are wrong. Many you meet seem to be unable to feel what their own heart or mind says. The words will not come, and they cannot force themselves to try.”

“Then what does that say about her heart?” She sheathed the blade. Now she turned her full attention on me.

“Without having seen you in battle together, I cannot say.”

“I know. Battle is the purest expression of heart and mind reduced to the flow of movement.” She quoted. “But I will not fight her. If I win she will use it to prove that I have fallen. If I lose she will do the same. There are battles that cannot be won, so they need not be fought.”

“Then her expressed feeling must stand.”

“As you will. Now, may I ask a question?” I nodded. “Why is it that of all her handmaidens, you are the only one with your own face?”

“I honor the face of my mother. It is not something we talk about much.”

“I am sorry.”

“Whatever for? You were merely remarking on a visual representation as would anyone that noticed an anomaly. That is wise in most cases.

“May I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead.”

“What does the force feel like?”

She looked at me for a long moment. “It is hard to explain.”

Please. If you can put it into words, I wish to know.” I cursed the pleading note in my own voice.

She smiled gently. “There is a way I described it before you were born. I will not tell you of that one, but I want you to picture it. Think of hearing a heartbeat as close as your mother’s heart when you were a child. But it is the heartbeat of everything that lives, the planets they live upon, the stars that warm them and the pause in the beat is the deathly cold of interstellar space.

“It is like an ocean current that flows with you, around you, and through you. It is the warmth of the sun upon your face, but the light is so soft that no one risks his eyes by gazing for hours into it. And best of all, it is the feeling of a pet that loves you because you exist, and will do anything for you. But at the same time, it is a master that will guide your actions from cradle to grave, and only the truly dark fight against it.”

Then she looked away, then back. Unshed tears glistened in those eyes. “Now picture it all taken away. You cannot hear the flow of life anymore. Everything from the greatest star in the galaxy to the person you are holding is silent. The ocean is a flat surface without movement, without depth, without feeling of temperature. The sun is gone, and everything is black emptiness. The pet has been taken away, and you cannot have another, the guiding strength that told you go here and do this has left you.” She wiped her eyes. But still there was no anger.

“This your Master helped others to do to me. If I were petty I would have railed at them and condemned them to my dying day. But they did what they felt was right, what needed to be done. What is my life and dreams to their wisdom? After doing that when I thought her my friend, what makes you think Atris will now embrace me as the sister I once was?”

I pictured her imagery. She had a way with words. If she had not been exiled, I could see her as a teacher surrounded by the fledgling Jedi, guiding their steps into maturity.

“Why did you not merely use the image you used so long before?”

“Because that one was a friend, a confidant. A woman I followed into hell, and where I fell to the side and was condemned, she fell in truth. Another Echani I knew very well.”

“Revan”

“Yes.” She picked up her bag, and left the room.


Memories

Marai

I was eight. I had found that I had one skill unique among the Jedi, and I liked to show it off when I got the chance. I could make a ball of the force. It had been what got me noticed in the first place. The ball was as solid as a rubber ball, and I could throw it across the room, bounce it off wall, and when I was irritated with someone, even bounce it off their heads.

No one had ever been able to touch it though. Somebody would ask ’how do you do that?”

I would give them that smile every kid knows. The smarmy ’I can do it and you can’t’ of those so pleased with themselves. Then I would make a ball, and pass it to them. But if they touched it it vanished like a soap bubble.

I had done something wrong, what specifically I don’t remember now. I had been disruptive in the comparative languages class, and had been told to sit in the garden and meditate.

I was suddenly brought from my meditation by a gentle footstep. It was a little girl with bright auburn hair, and skin the color of milk. She was watching me, and had been creeping forward as if she could sneak up on me.

“Hello.” I said. I tried to put the ’oh I am so calm’ tone in my voice Master Verasa always used. But I knew I sounded peeved.

“You’re a Jedi, aren’t you.” She said. There was wonder in her voice. For a moment I was tempted to look and see if there was a zoo sign saying JEDI: APPRENTICE: IMMATURE FEMALE: DO NOT FEED.

“Yes, I am an apprentice.”

She looked as if she’d found the wonder of the day. “What’s it like?”

“What is what like?”

“The Force. My father talks of it, but he says ’only those that can touch it can explain it.’.”

“Your father?”

“Oh!” She covered her face, a dainty pudgy hand covering her mouth. “I forgot to introduce myself.” She snapped erect, then bowed, eyes on my face, hands tight to her side, bending only until her face was even with mine. “I am Revan Chandar Bai Echani. My father is Borashi Chandar Bai Echani, Prefect of Echana.”

“Marai Devos.” I returned her bow. “Orphan of Cornet.”

“Why are you at this academy instead of on Corellia?” She asked.

“It is the rules. They will not send you to an Academy near where you had lived, on the chance that people you might have met would disturb the teachings.”

“Ah.” She nodded. “So if I became a Jedi they would not send me to the Academy on Echana.”

“Correct.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Of course you may.”

“What does it feel like? Touching the force?”

I sighed. I made a ball, a green sphere the size of a racket ball. “Try for yourself.”

She reached out, and with a delicate touch, picked it up. She stared at it in amazement, I stared at her. No one, not even a master had been able to pick it up before.

“Can we use it to play hand ball?” She asked.

“I stood. “Let’s find out.”

Five minutes later, the Prefect of Echana and Master Verasa of the Council came out to berate their misguided children. They watched us playing, giggling and shrieking as we bounced an immaterial ball against the wall, disrupting yet another class.

She was to be given to the Jedi Academy the next year. Unfortunately we were already too friendly, so instead of coming to Coruscant as a number of Jedi trainees from Echana did, they sent her instead to Dantooine.


'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; 08-12-2006 at 02:26 PM. Reason: rewrite
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Old 08-12-2006, 02:28 PM   #22
machievelli
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All right, third time's the charm:

I didn't know unti today that you got either the Handmaiden or disciple, depending on the sex og your character. I happened to like the Handmaiden better (After all I have a thing for the Echani, what can I say?)

Ao after rewriting section 23 once already, I've had to do it again. To anyone that read this between about 9 Am and when this was posted, I edited and rewrote the last segmen, so please read it again before commenting.

And when you do, maybe someone can explain how I did the rewrite, posted it, then poste this, but it's ahead of it in the queue.


'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; 08-13-2006 at 04:38 AM. Reason: rewrite
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Old 08-12-2006, 07:23 PM   #23
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Gathering Force

Marai

I found them stuck in force cages like animals or criminals. I understood why Atris had taken the precaution, but it didn’t mean that I liked it.

Kreia merely stood from her meditation seat. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“That depends. What do you think I was supposed to find?”

“There are echoes from you past here. Echoes that must be resolved before you go on, or they will resonate into your future. This woman who resides here... She meant a great deal to you once. She also dealt you the worst pain one can do to another.”

“Her name is Atris. She was a member of the council that exiled me. I thought she was my best friend in the world. Perhaps I was wrong.”

“A Jedi Master. Yet she has no students.”

“What?”

“These women that surround her, like planets about their sun. They are cut off from the force. Taught to seal their minds like radioactive material inside a protective box. Trained to resist all tricks of the mind. This training blinds them to the force. If they were sensitive to the force at all, they would not know how to touch it now.”

“How did you know that? Have you been trying to reach their minds as you do with me?”

She gave me a cold look. “Invade the mind of another? That is not something done carelessly, unless you do not care about the outcome. Even if there is something of great value to take from it.”

“We should go and discuss this later.”

“Very well.”

Atton moaned, rolling over in his sleep.

“What happened to Atton? He looks like they knocked him out.”

“Oh nothing of the kind. It seems he was tired from our journey and is catching up on his sleep.”

I found the controls, and released them. Bao Dur nodded to me like he'd just been waiting.

“How do you feel?” I asked him.

“I think next time Atton is flying, I will be buckled in. Does he actually land a ship rather than crash it?”

“Hey, I was being shot at! Both times!”

Bao Dur gave him a look and I chuckled. “He does have his better days.”

The Zabrak looked about. “It looks like the old pumping station. We hadn’t reactivated it because the Ithorians needed weather resistant plants to be able to purify the water.” He looked at me. Bachani does well in temperate and tropical climates, but not so well in deserts or artic conditions.”

“We have things we must gather. Atton, you and Bao Dur prep the ship. I want to find T3.”

It didn’t take long. We found the little droid attached to the mainframe. He had been wired in like a patient in an ICU unit.

“T3! What have they done to you?” He bleeped and burbled at me. I waved my hand. “I know you couldn’t have stopped them. I’m just glad you’re all right.”

He gave a long series of chirps, and I looked at him sharply. She downloaded your entire memory core? Why?” His answer was long and convoluted. “All right, we’ll see what she accessed when were safe and in space. Can you get to the ship?”

He gave me a raspberry, then rolled away.

The ship looked good. I almost ran aboard to get back to that womb I had found. I settled into the rear quarters. I wanted so much to be alone with my thoughts. Ten years of pain had been rammed down my throat in the last few minutes, and I wanted to release some of it.

I felt the ship lift, felt it leave the atmosphere. I didn’t care where we were going. There was a cough, and I opened my eyes. Atton stood at the door. “We need to know where to go, and T3 keeps blithering.”

“Blithering is a description, not an actual noise.” I sat up, sighing. “I will be there in a moment.”

They were all standing in the mess hall when I arrived. T3 immediately began bleeping and clicking at me. I stopped dead at what he said. “You’re joking! No one would have been that stupid!”

“What is he going on about?” Kreia demanded.

“Atris downloaded his memory core. All of it. But when they hooked him up, no one thought that he might do the same.”

“What, he jacked their entire mainframe?” Atton asked. “There isn’t room!”

“Not all of it, just things he thought I might be interested in.” I sat down. Bao Dur handed me a cup of tea, and I almost threw it away when I tasted it. Echani fire tea. One of my favorites. But that meant that it reminded me of Revan, of Atris, of the war, and for some reason, the Handmaiden. I stopped myself, and sipped it. “There is a recording of the council meeting when I was exiled.” I looked at the droid. I wanted to tell him to delete the entire file, but some part of me wanted to relive it, wanted the pain over and done.

“Play it, T3.”

The holovid lit the room as it came up. The council chamber looked as I had remembered, but unbidden, I felt my own memories merging with it.

The day was icy. A cold front had rolled through the section of the city was, and I had welcomed it. I was still wounded in spirit. Malchior V was almost a year in my past, but still I grieved.

It didn’t help that I had just gotten a call from Revan. “We need you, Marai. Come to these coordinates.“ I recognized it as Melodoro, a small colony on the rim of what had once been the Mandalorian Occupation Zone.

“I can’t.” I looked away from the screen. That mask of her brought back too many bad memories, and I wanted to curl up and die in my room.

“We can fix the problem.” Revan told me gently. “We can save the Republic from those that are trying to destroy it from within.”

“And who will fix me afterward?” I asked her. “I have given too much of my soul to the Republic, to the Mandalorian wars. When we reached Malchior V you know what happened. I can’t do it again. If I do, I won’t be coming back, dead or alive.”

She looked at me. “Then our paths divide here.”

“Sobeit.”

She screened off.

An hour later, I was called before the Council. Only five members sat there. Atris Kavar and Vash I knew. Zez-Kai Ell and Vrook I had met in passing. I knew immediately that something was wrong.


The voices brought me back, but still I was in that memory fugue.

“Do you know why you have been called before the council?” Zez-Kai Ell asked.

I looked like death warmed over. I hadn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since my return, but I straightened. This was not a discussion or another debriefing.

“I expect the Council will tell me. unless it is another debriefing about Malchior V.”

Kavar looked at me. He had been one of the leaders when we went. It was his hands that had helped mold the ground forces with mine. Yet he was not looking at me like an old comrade. He was looking at something he had hoped never to see.

“As Revan summoned you, so you are now summoned by this Council. You have come full circle from the day you left. Now Revan calls you again.”

“I was asked to join her. But I refused.”

“So instead you sit here as she forces Melodoro to surrender. As Malak and Saul Karath lay waste to Telos even as we speak.”

“What?”

I had looked at them as if suddenly they all spoke Twi-leki or Hutt. What do they mean Revan is attacking our own worlds?
“What would you have me do?” I did not feel healed, but I knew that if we now faced our own kind, we would have to send every Jedi into battle. Even a half dead reject such as myself.

“You can begin by telling us what her battle plan is.”

I looked at Atris. I had heard that demanding tone before, but never had it directed at me.

“I know of no such plan.”

“You are called one of her riders, are you not?”

I wanted to tell them, wanted them to understand. I was a last wounded of the war that had just ended, not an author of a new one.

“I was told no plans. As I told her if war there is, she can go alone. I will have no part of it.”

They could feel I spoke the truth not only in my knowledge, but my own spirit as well. Yet I could feel that they didn’t believe, or perhaps merely wanted to disbelieve.

“Why did you and the others defy us? The Jedi have been Guardians of the peace since the founding of the Republic. The first call to war undermined everything we wished to do, and this new one is an abomination!” Zez-Kai Ell said.

“Is Revan your master now?” Atris snarled. “Or is it the horror that you wrought at Malchior V that guides your steps now?”

That hurt the worst. If Vrook or Zez-Kai Ell had said it, even if Kavar whom I also considered friend had said it, I would not have been cut as deep.

“None of you were at Malchior V.” [i]I said levelly through the tide of fury that I had felt.[i] “Kavar fought at Dxun, but even he does not understand.”
I looked at those faces.

“When the Jedi fought Exar Kun only three of you were alive. But you Zez-Kai Ell taught the children of the Chandar Monastery on Echana. You Vash were a spokesman for the Council on Boradis. You Vrook were teaching meditation on Dantooine. Except for Kavar none of you know what we faced when we went. If we had known perhaps we would have run screaming from it as well. But you taught us to defend the Republic. You taught us that our lives mean nothing if we preserve the people we protect.

“By all the Gods and the Force itself, you look at what war had wrought, what warriors are supposed to do and are even more appalled that I who went through the hell in person! We fought because we thought it was right. There was little or defiance in that when we had millennia of examples to follow. Examples you ignored.”

I had been furious, but my tone had never raised above a level tone even as I heaped that abuse on their heads. The mind healers could not help me, because none of them would have been able to bear the agonies that were an every day occurrence in the field. The Council wanted a scapegoat, and I was obviously it.

Zez-Kai Ell looked at me sadly. He didn’t understand, and until he did I would be something to be pitied, but not listened to.


“You will not listen. You refuse to hear this Council. With your own words and deed you have shut us out, and done the same for the very Galaxy and Republic you seemed to cherish before.”

They looked at each other. Then Vash looked at me. Another one with pity in her eyes. I was sick unto death of pity.

“The Council decrees that you are to be exiled. There was dissent, for we could have ordered that you be imprisoned as well.” Her eyes strayed to Atris. You my friend wanted me in a force cage?

“The Council will take your lightsaber now. Give it to us.” Vrook ordered.

They had demanded my lightsaber and in the one bit of resistance I felt I plunged it into the stone, dividing the word justice into the words Truth and Seek. In the old Coruscanti language it is said ‘unless you are willing to see the truth, seeking it does not matter.

“When you have healed the stone, and healed your hearts, then I will speak.” I rasped out,

Then I stood there as they reached in and removed all of my connections to the force as if it were a garden in need of weeding.

But then it suddenly changed for me. As I walked from the chamber, the Masters seemed lost in thought.

“Much defiance in her.” Kavar broke that silence.

“You were correct, Kavar. When she was here, I felt it. It was as if we judged an echo or a shadow, even though she stood there before us.” Zez-Kai Ell mused.

“But what of the others? The ones that still serve Revan? Vash asked. “Not even the Great Sith war harrowed our ranks as thoroughly as this conflict! The Jedi may be destroyed by Revan. The Mandalorian bent shaped and destroyed a generation of our Guardians. Now we have reports that most that have gone to join Revan this time are not only Sentinels, but Consulars, even masters! If we do not discover why the Jedi will vanish into the mist of history.”

“That does not matter to her.” Atris pointed accusingly at the closed door. “We did not lose a Jedi this day. You all felt it. She was lost to herself long before this Council met. The only thing that has kept her from taking Revan’s traitorous path is her own weakness.”

Zez-Kai Ell shook his head. “She was right it that some of our teachings guided them to this path.”

“Of all of us only Kavar and Vrook knew Revan. None of us were her teacher!”

“We are here to take responsibility, Atris.” Vash said. “Not to assign blame.”

Before Atris could speak Kavar said, “The choice of one is the choice of us all, Atris. Those that taught Revan and Marai intended no harm. And those who now war on us or lay banished had other teachers after us.”

“Yet they all stem from the same seed. It was she that taught them all!” She looked at them. Still, even after being admonished, she was trying to assign blame. “Her teachings violated the Jedi Code and everyone who was her student had fallen to the dark side. Just as she did.” Again she pointed at the door.

Vash looked at her questioning. “It was not the Dark side I felt when she stood here. You others felt it as did I, and only you scream of the Dark side, Atris. I felt an emptiness, as if there were nothing beneath her skin. She is not the woman I met those years ago.”

“I disagree.” Atris bit out. “Whatever that wound is, it was dealt by the dark side and devoured everything good and true within her. We should not let her depart. She will join Revan soon enough. Or become worse.” She stared at the door, and for a moment I could see the pain in her eyes. “I would move again that we imprison her. Or...”

Or what?” Zez-Kai Ell stood. “Be mindful of your feelings, Atris. This is not Revan or Malak who stood before us today. to suggest not only imprisonment but even worse is not what she deserves.”

“Yet.” Kavar sighed. He seemed the most distressed by the discussion. “Though it may be force upon us in time. We let her go, Atris, because under our own code, she had done nothing to deserve worse. But if you think she is now plotting because we could not imprison her, think again. She is inside a prison she has made herself. Forged during the Mandalorian Wars, freely entered, and locked from within after Malchior V. We must first remove her from that cage she has built so well before we can understand what else needs to be done.”

“If there were any justice in circumstance, Malchior V would have been her grave.” Atris snarled back. “You saw it in her stance, in her walk. She is already dead and hasn’t the decency to lay down and be buried.”

“It is not death.” Zez-Kai Ell returned to his seat, crumpling back. “Many battles remain for her if what we have all seen is true. To us the future is a shifting sand bar of possibilities, but she seems to cut toward it like a blade.”

“We should have told her.” Vash almost whispered. “A Jedi needs and deserves to know.”

“No good would have come of it, even if you are correct.” Vrook demurred. “We must deal first with Revan. Better not to fight on two fronts if we do not have to.”

“Perhaps in some years we can find her and call her to this Council again.” Kavar said in a pleading tone. “We can explain to her what has happened, and if it is possible, find a way to heal her.” He looked from face to face, but there was no give in them from the slightly worried look of Zez-Kai Ell to the adamant piety of Atris. “Even then, we must let her go where her path takes her.”

“But she may never learn the truth without our telling her.” She also looked from face to face. “She may never learn the truth of why we cast her out.”

“Then that is the future she and we must accept.” Vrook snarled. “Now-”

The holovid cleared. Then suddenly it flashed back. The Council room sat silent. Atris entered, going to the pillar. Her hand touched the stone of it, and I could see tears in her eyes. She lifted the lightsaber I had left, holding it as if it were a child. Then she left the room.

“Those Jedi surely do love their secrets.” Atton commented.

I stared at empty space. I felt an emptiness, as if there were nothing beneath her skin. Vash had said. devoured everything good and true within her. Atris had said.

“They knew.” I whispered. “They knew what Chodo spoke of, they knew what had happened, and they did nothing!” I flung the cup across the room to shatter. I stormed out of the room keying my door to refuse any access.

Bao Dur

It sounded like someone had closed a herd of Nerf in a china shop. Atton would have gone to the door immediately, but I stopped him.

“Give her time.” I said softly.

“How much time?” He asked. I think part of it was he was attracted physically to her. He wanted to go in and hold her, and right now she didn’t need comforting. She need to vent that anger and sorrow. All we would have done is get in the line of fire.

“Hey, the Galaxy has been here for 10 billion years. We can give her a little of that.”

He looked at me as if I had grown another head, or my horns had disappeared as he looked at me. Then he spun around and stormed off to the cockpit. Kreia had already left.

As the Universe measures time it wasn’t even a second. As people do, it was a little more than two hours. She was composed, looked tired, and red eyed from crying, but the General I remembered so well was back. She came into the mess hall, taking her seat again.

“T3, was there anything more?” She asked softly. Atton came running back, and I think only the minatory look in her eye stopped him from snatching her up into a hug. Kreia appeared from the shadows near the port side berthing tube.

The droid whistled and clicked. I could understand him pretty well.

“Atris knows where some of the Jedi are.” She translated for the others. “Display.”

A holographic representation flashed. Under each face was a name, and last known location.

VROOK: DANTOOINE

ZEZ-KAI ELL: NAR SHADDAA

VASH: KORRIBAN

KAVAR: ONDERON

ATRIS: TELOS

She looked at the last picture for a long time. “All of them were the masters that exiled me.” She said.

“A strange coincidence.” I commented.

“No coincidence.” Kreia disagreed. “Something greater than our friend’s problems is at work here. Things are a little too convenient for it to be anything but a trap. And we must walk into it before we can judge it.”

“We have no choice.” She looked at Kreia. “Without them the Sith will win this war. We need them even if we have to snatch them from the jaws of Hell.”

“How dare you!” We all turned. There, in all her fury, was one of the handmaidens. She stalked forward. “Those are Master Atris’ records. How dare you steal them!”

Marai stood slowly. “Atton, pour our guest some tea.”

She looked at Marai as if Marai had just suggested a circle dance in the nude. “Tea?”

“Yes. Echani fire tea to be precise.” She turned, facing T3. T3, except for the files we have seen, delete all information gotten from the Academy data bank.” The droid bleeped and whistled. “Yes, all.”

He hummed, then bleeped.

“If you would check?” Marai motioned toward the droid, sitting back down.

Warily the girl walked forward, kneeling. She checked the read out screen, then sagged. “He has done as you told him.”

“All we have seen was my stand before the council, and the location of them.”

“I know. I was standing back there.” Her hand moved toward the corridor back to the cargo holds.

“Yes, I saw you.” The girl looked at Marai. “Now, do what do we owe the honor of this meeting?”

“I...” She looked embarrassed. “I hoped that you could one day teach me how to touch the force as you do.”

“Yet another stray.” Kreia turned. “When you have figured out where to put the bed for your newest pet, let me know.”

“I need only a place to lay down.” She was starting the get smaller with every sentence.”

“Find, we have deck plates and cargo netting back in the hold. Settle in.”

“Atton.” Marai looked at me coldly. Then at the girl. “There is room enough in the berthing space on the port side.”

“No.” She stood tall, and her look promised me pain if I opened my mouth again. “The cargo hold is more than adequate to my needs.”

“Then take your tea with you.” The girl picked up the cup, and walked away.

“Well, where do we go now?” Atton asked.

“Onderon.” She said, returning to her room.

*****

We walked soft around her that first day. But I finally had to ask. “General, why don’t you carry a lightsaber any more?”

She gave me one of those ‘are you really that dense?’ looks. “It was taken from me.”

“That isn’t your lightsaber now, General. That was the weapon of someone that fought alongside Revan. You aren’t that person anymore.” I hesitated. If it was such a sensitive subject, she might lash out again. “You could build another one.”

“I could.” She looked at me, and there was warning in her eyes. “You think I’m too afraid to do it.” She accused.

“Never thought it for a minute. But whatever reason you have for not building another one, I think it’s about time you put it behind you. I knew you through all of the war, General. A lightsaber is part of you the same way my hand is.” I lifted the prosthesis. It might not be the same, but without it, you’re not complete.”

She sighed. “All right, enough yammering.” She said, but she gave me a small smile. “Do we have the parts we need?”

“Well we need a power cell emitter matrix lens and focusing crystal as you know. I can construct all of them with the proper materials except for the crystal. Those parts except for the crystal are all pretty much standard equipment and easy to buy. But a Jedi once told me that a lightsaber is built by someone with a specific purpose in mind, and fits the wearer as they were when they built it.”

“Since when do you listen to Jedi?” She joked.

“Well you know how it is. People talk around you, and think maybe you aren’t listening. You’d be surprised what you learn if you just listen.”

She shook her head. “I’ll try to find the parts.”

“When you do, let me look them over first.” I told her. “Wouldn’t want to have it fall apart because some crap got used.”

“Yes, daddy.”

Marai

I finally decided that I need a shower. I went to the port side fresher because the guys were using the starboard side. I was finally clean for once, and was trying to dry my hair as I walked back to my room to change.

A pint size missile hit me around knee level, and I spun in midair, landing on my hands and knees. Something thundered past me, and I stood, storming after.

T3 had backed into a corner, and was squealing a long series of complaints at Bao Dur who stood a few meters away, his hands out in a placatory manner.

“All I’m saying is it’s been a long time since you’ve had a memory wipe, that’s all! Most droids react irrationally when that happens, and I was going to do it before it gets worse!”

T3 replied vehemently.

“I know that but I’m done fixing all the major stuff around here so i might as well take a look at you too.”

Again a droid diatribe.

“What was that? Insults? That’s exactly what i was talking about. That is not normal droid behavior.”

T3 gave a strangled bleep, and Bao Dur said, “What do you mean I’m disturbing...” He turned as he was speaking, then suddenly covered his eyes.

“What is going on here?” I demanded.

“General, before the conversation goes any further, you dropped your towel.”

I gaped at him, and my eyes went down. Yup. The towel was back in the passageway. I looked back up. “Wait right here.” I ordered levelly. I retrieved the towel, wrapped it back into position, then came back.

Bao Dur lowered his hand just far enough to see that I was covered, then motioned toward the droid. He was blushing so badly I thought he had a skin condition. Before he could speak, T3 transferred his ire to me.

“I am not pushing you around, T3.” Bao Dur said in that tone parents get talking to recalcitrant children. “I just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to upgrade your functionality.”

“That sounds like a good idea, T3.”

He gave me that Et tu? look.

“But he doesn’t touch your memory core until I say so.”

T3 gave another sadder bleep, then rolled forward. Bao Dur knelt. “Let’s get the panels off.”

I left to wash again, dress, and gather my dignity. When I returned, Bao Dur was polishing some contacts. “You wouldn’t guess it from the outside but you’ve been through a lot, my little friend. Without a lot of maintenance.”

T3 gave that noise that meant ‘don’t get me started’.

“There you go.” Bao Dur closed the last access panel. “Until we can find a shop, that’s all I can do for you aboard ship. If anything pops loose, let me know and I’ll fix it in a jiffy.” T3 swiveled his head, and bleeped and clicked. “I’m joking.” Bao Dur said. I smiled, rubbing my hand on T3’s head, winked at Bao Dur, and walked out.

“General?”

“Yes?”

“I didn’t know humans had that many variations in skin tone.”

I blushed.

The girl was sparring by herself in the cargo hold, and I watched her for a moment. She paused, holding a punch.

“I have never seen that variation before.” I said.

“It is the same as the Te-rehal-Vor taught to any Echani child. But my clan developed their own variations.”

“Would it not be better to have a sparring partner?”

She shrugged. “I do not know if any aboard are capable.”

I stepped in, stripping off my tunic. Then I removed the pantaloons. Standing just in my underwear, I bowed, then took the third stance. “Try me.”

She stripped off her own robes. I was astonished by how sheer her underwear was. She looked down at the clothing, then up. “The quilted pattern retains body heat in the cold.”

“Ah.”

She returned my bow and took her own version of the third stance. You stand with one hand even with your waist, hand flat toward your opponent. The other cocked back as if to throw a punch even with your shoulder. Her forward hand was a little farther out to the side, the back lower, even with her breasts.

We moved together, and the bout began. She was ten years younger than I and moved like greased lightning. Her blows were sharp, clean, and surprising. I was snatched up, and as she threw me, I caught her shoulder, flipping myself down to land feet first, then threw her. She stood, shaking her head. Then came at me again.

Afterward I was just glad that Atton had been busy forward. The sight of two nubile half nude women in gymnastic vigor would have sent him screaming toward the freshers.

She stepped back, bowing, and I returned it.

“For someone who has never fought with the style I was taught, you catch on well.”

“Thank you. Battle is the way to learn and grow.”

“Yes.” She looked at me. “May I ask you a question?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you learn Shar-ma****?”

“Battle knowledge?” I translated aloud. “I have never heard of it before.

“It is the art practiced by the greatest of our generals. To feel where a fight is going not only as it is happening, but long before. To know hours, days, even weeks before the conflict. It is said the most advanced can foresee what will occur in battle even at the start of a war.

“Only Revan has ever shown this skill in true battle in a century of more. Even as she attacked our home world, we respected her.”

I was chilled. I hadn’t known that Revan had attacked her home world when she was a Sith! “How badly damaged was the planet?”

“It was not. She shattered our fleets, then merely went away. She left only a warning. That she would do it again if we dared to enter the conflict against her.”

“There are times I wish I knew how to do that.”

Her head cocked. “What do you mean?”

“To go into a fight knowing how it will turn out.”

“But you are already doing it.”

I looked at her amazed. “Teach me.”

“If you do not know how or what you are doing, it can be dangerous.”

“I understand that.” I bowed. “You are my teacher, guide me.”

She bowed back. “Do not strike, only block. However, you may point your finger to tell me where such a riposte would go.“ Now her blows rained faster, harder. I realized that she had been holding back.

Yet I found the speed to match her. Then suddenly it was as if she had telegraphed every move. My finger pointed, and I blocked as I did. Again, then again.

After a strenuous hour, she stopped. “I would have thought that it was your connection to the force that guided you. But that cannot be true. I would have felt it.”

“It would not be fair to use them in sparring.” I replied.

“I think there is little I can teach you beyond that. Now you fight like the Echani do. In the future.”

I wiped my face. “Do you have a name?”

“I am merely Last Handmaiden.” She replied.

“Last?”

“Atris foresaw when she would die. When I was chosen, she decreed there would be no more.”

I looked at her. I felt a chill knowing my friend would die. “But you had a name before.”

“But when I was sworn to her service, I gave it up. It is not important. My title speaks of my duty and honor.”

“But what of value of yourself?”

“Keeping to our oaths, doing what our master might bid. That is the duty of a handmaiden. It is the backbone of our people that we never break an oath.”

“But what does that say about me?”

She considered. “There are times that an oath would bind in such a way that honor cannot be served. That is why we do not give our oaths lightly. If the reason you stepped away from your oath as Jedi, and went to war was for personal gain or honor, it would be forsworn. However if you had not lied to me, it was the duty to the people that over rode that oath.”

“Do you think I foreswore myself?”

“It is between you and your conscience.” She hesitated. “I did not mean to sound as if I were making a judgment on your actions.”

“I asked. Thank you.” I took yet another shower, then went forward.

The cockpit was quiet. Atton was lounged in the pilot seat, his feet on a nearby panel. I automatically checked to see that he had disconnected the systems on it. After all, accidents do happen. I went to the navi-computer. We were less than an hour out.

“I don’t know what it is.” Atton said, surprising me. “But you look... different.”

“It’s called a bath, Atton.”

“Not that.” He blushed as much as Bao Dur had. I wondered for a moment what would have happened if he had gotten the full show. “It’s hard to explain. Like watching that holo-vid cleaned out something bad. It’s good to see.”

“I can’t explain it either.” I admitted. “With the Exchange putting out a bounty, murder and mayhem in our wake, I feel more at peace and alive than I have in years.”

“It shows. It’s kind of inspiring to be honest. The others have probably already commented on it. I just wanted to put my word in with theirs.”

“Thank you.” Bao Dur hadn’t commented, Kreia wouldn't have bothered. I felt, I don’t know, touched by his kindness? “Could you answer a question for me?”

“If I can.”

“Where did you get Echani hand to hand combat training?”

“Huh?” I could tell there was something he wasn’t telling me.

“When you woke up in the Telos Academy. One of the Handmaidens recognized you stance.”

Oh, that. Don’t tell anyone but you wouldn’t believe the fights to avoid if someone thinks you know that kind of stuff. It isn’t as sure as carrying a lightsaber. But then again, I don’t see it helping you that much.”

He was lying. I didn’t know why but he was.

“All right.” I turned to the navi-computer again. “We’re almost there. I’ll let the others know.

Onderon

Atton

I cursed reflex. You do something long enough, it becomes second nature. You senses say ‘defend’ and you automatically do what your reflexes tell you to do. But she’d let it slide, and I’d try to make sure she didn’t bring it up again. They had just gathered as we dropped out of hyper space.

The orbit and approaches to a planet are almost always empty. After all, a ten megaton freighter is three clicks long, but when you remember that a hyper space entry lane starts at two planetary diameters, 28,000 kilometers, that freighter is a speck of light.

But not today. Onderon looked like Coruscant on the worst possible day with ships backed out so far that we almost rear ended one on arrival. I think there were probably three or four hundred of them. On my scope I picked up a large area of blips that were tagged with the orange of Onderoni military. I felt a chill. Not orange, flaming orange. The color of armed ships with active weapons and targeting systems.

Kreia leaned forward. “Something is wrong here. There is disquiet on the planet, but here in orbit, that disquiet is painted with anger and fear.”

“If the planet is under blockade that might explain it.” I added. “But those aren’t foreign ships. They’re Onderoni. So the military is blocking access to their own planet. That means other problems.” The com panel bleeped. “Well maybe they’ll tell us what’s going on.” I keyed the panel. “Secure channel?”

Before I could speak a cold clipped voice came across. “Ebon Hawk, this is Colonel Tobin. Stand down all defenses and prepare to be boarded.”

“What? Colonel, if our being here is a problem, we’ll just go.”

“You will not. do not know what your business is here, Ebon Hawk, but I have my orders.”

“Holy Sunspots!” I shouted. Four fighters had detached from the military front, and were racing toward us. “We can’t hyper until the system is set. Hang on!”

I slipped us on our back and dived down and corckscrewed away. I felt the ship jolt as fire smacked into our shields. “Mayday! Mayday! This is the freighter Ebon Hawk! We are facing an unprovoked attack by four Onderoni fighters. I repeat, under unprovoked attack by four Onderoni fighters!” I spun the ship on her axis as two fighters cut close. “Someone man the turrets-”

“Belay that order.” Marai snapped. Again with the ‘I will be obeyed‘. “Someone wants to use us as an excuse. Which moon is closest?”

“Like I know the system that well!” I shouted.

“Just pick the closest!”

“We’ll have to go through the herd.” I spun and ahead of us were dozens of ships trying to peel out of our way. “Someone tell them!”

Marai, turned, touching the com panel on her side. “All ships on Onderon approach. We are under attack by Onderoni fighters. We have not, I repeat, have not manned any weapons. All ships along our flight path, please, if you cannot move, let us know!”

I dodged as if we were back at Peragus. We’d reached the center when a ship named Republic Corona signalled that their maneuvering thrusters were acting up. I dived below her, and the bolts that missed us slammed into that ship.

Republic Corona must have either had a very nervous captain, or maybe he hadn’t reset the weapons to safety as regs required. A couple of pop gun laser cannon fired back, and the fighters spun up to rip into her.

We flew through the debris from the hits as the fighters again latched onto us, but we were far enough ahead that I was sure we’d make it now.

“Damage report!” Marai snapped.

“We’ve taken some hits, but nothing lethal. I’m shutting down all auxiliary systems until we can make repairs.”

“Bao Dur, what about the battle?” She asked.

“Not much of one if you think about it. Those fighters took fire from four merchants by my count. Now they’re screaming for everyone to stop shooting.” He had the com link in his ear.

“That won’t mean much to us.” I snarled. “We’re about as far out in the Rim as you can get and still be in the Republic, but someone is gunning for this ship by name.” I smoothed out our descent. “Let me find a clearing near one of those settlement...”

“Those aren’t settlement.” Kreia said from behind me. They are craters.”

“From what?”

“Either bombardment or crash sites.” Kreia said grimly. “This is Dxun. The place that saw the launching of the invasion of the Republic by the Mandalorians on their central front. Where the Republic began their war to beat them back after the Jedi joined the conflict. Any settlements you see will be military installations, and some of them might still be alive even today.”

I dropped us down near one crater lake. “It doesn't look much like a battleground.”

Kreia was looking out the ports. “Much is buried here still. Much that should remain buried.”

Marai looked white, but her voice was business like. “How soon can we lift off?”

“Maybe three four days. Unless you can hitch a ride to Onderon, we’ll be sitting here until then.”

“Then we have time to explore.” Kreia stood up.

“Explore!” I turned around. “This is Dxun, not Coruscant! This place is dangerous without a war going on!”

“And there are regions of Coruscant the wise do not pass through.”

“All right, sure. But there are things that would eat a human being whole here, and others that will take you down a thirty gram bite at a time. More than half of the animals here are either predators, poisonous, or just so plain mean they’d kill you just because you exist, and you want to walk and smell the flowers?”

“Of course not.” Bao Dur said. He was pale too, but his sense of humor was still working. “The Kanthis flower’s shoot paralyzing poison darts.” He stood and walked out.

“Nevertheless.” Kreia looked at me. “We should investigate our surrounding. I would suggest that outpost ten kilometers to the south.”
“Sure, fine. Go for a bloody stroll. But watch out. We probably weren’t the only ship forced down by that ruckus upstairs.”

Marai nodded, and left, Kreia leaned forward, her voice dropping to a cold whisper. “I have a feeling the repairs will be completed after our business here is done. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yeah.” I turned back to the panel, then spun around again. “But what’s so damned important about this place?”

“As I said, when the Jedi counter attack began, this is where the first blow fell. Marai led some of the ground troops that fought here, and there are memories that must be exorcised.”

“She did?” I thought of that face. She had been pale, but she had moved out as if it was just a walk in the park. “Why didn’t she say anything?”
She gave me that ice cold look again. “Is every battle you’ve fought subject to public review?”

I shut up.


'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; 08-13-2006 at 04:34 AM. Reason: rewrite
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Old 08-14-2006, 02:23 AM   #24
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Dxun

Handmaiden

I changed into the light clothing my teacher suggested. As a weapon I bore my ritual brand. I expected conflict, to face off against nature at it’s worst.

What I did not expect was to step from the metal of the ship into a blinding array of lights. It was a bewildering array of light that slammed into my perceptions. It moved only a little, as a tree swayed in a gentle breeze as slowly as slug sliding on a leaf as swiftly as the thought of a pack of animal not far from us. It screamed in pain in death and joy in living. Growled in hunger soaked in the sun like a mass of sunbathers on a beach. It was too much and at the same time, not enough.

Something touched my shoulder, and a voice said, “Breathe.” Even as I spun around. Somehow I had fallen to my knees, and before me was yet another vision of wonder. I knew it was Marai, yet at the same time it was less than and more than her. Rivers of sliver flowed along her muscles as if she were merely channels for mercury. Light danced on her skin, some from her own body, but a lot of it sunlight soaking into a single cell of her being. I drew a ragged breath, and at the same time felt the glow soak into me as free floating Midichlorians entered my lungs.

“Oh Echana. Oh lady of steel you see this all the time?” I asked her.

“Yes.” She knelt beside me, and I could even see the color of her amusement. “You get used to it. Would you like to go back in the ship-”

“No!” I pulled back. “Please, just a little time.”

She moved away wordlessly. I looked at Bao Dur standing there. He was mainly light as she was but at the same time there was darkness, sadness there. Both had been here. I knew from her records, but the soul deep pain he felt was from seeing a nightmare, and revisiting it.

I found that by concentrating on not seeing all of the wonder, my vision faded back to normal. It was all there, just thinking about it would bring it back to crystal purity.

When I signalled my readiness we moved out. I found myself relegated to the center position. Both of them had fought here before, they knew the dangers, whereas I needed to learn them. Marai led, moving as softly and silently as a wraith. Behind me was the gentle rustle of Bao Dur who had learned without Jedi senses to move quietly in a world where noise could mean death. In comparison, I felt as if I were wearing led boots and strings of bells.

Marai stopped us, and pointed. “Kanthis flowers.” She said. Ahead of us was a field of flowers standing knee high, moving gently in the wind. Wait. They were moving against the wind. Turning to face us with the open bell of the deep flowers. Marai lifted a stone, and flipped it at shoulder height into the field.

There was a popping hiss, and spines ricocheted from the tumbling stone. Marai reached forward carefully and slowly, and lifted one in her gloved hand.

“The sap is a neurotoxin. It paralyzes you, then the roots dig up into your flesh.” She motioned, and I saw root points questing where the rock had landed. “You die, but not quickly or cleanly.”

We moved around the field.

There was life everywhere, and a lot of it bit, clawed stung or choked. We avoided the wildlife because Marai was in a hurry, and I didn’t know if I could bring myself to strike one of these beautiful beings with death.

We followed a path upward. Ahead was the scattered bones of a body, only armor a rusted weapon and a data pad remained. Marai picked up the pad, looking at it.

“Desrotai, 3rd Coruscanti Marines.” She said. Then she knelt, laying a hand on the back plate of his armor. “Rest you now in peace.” She took the pad, slipping it into a pouch. She saw my look, and smiled sadly. “Dxun is graveyard to almost 200,000. Mandalorian, Republic, all returned to the force in a three week period. I found myself here.” She looked around. “I started to lose myself here as well.”

We moved on, and after a while, she waved for us to stop. Bao Dur dropped into a crouch automatically when she signalled, and I had started to copy the reaction. Marai knelt near a thicket of vines, looking into them. Then she stood, pulling out a grenade. She flipped it into the overhang, dropping as the plasma grenade exploded, the flames searing the vines into dry sticks. It finally died, and she broke through the cordon, and returned with a helmet.

“Mandalorians.” She handed the helmet to Bao Dur.

“So?”

“Dead less than three days.”

Marai

Our caution became even more important. The Mandalorian issue armor and uniforms can automatically fade into any background almost as good as being invisible. But the dead man had obviously not considered that a plant used to detecting heat and motion would still see him. The Harpooner vine had thrown a javelin sized thorn right through his entire body, and dragged him in.

There was a scream in the air ahead of us. Nothing living made that noise. It was a ship passing low and fast.

“Marai, can you hear me?” I signalled for the others to stop. The Handmaiden had learned from watching us.

“Go ahead, Atton.”

“That battle is still going on up there. I just picked up another contact headed down here. I’ve powered down any system that can be read at a distance, and all we have are these short range com links now. I think that ship landed close by. Or maybe it’s all the way on the other side of the moon.”

“I would say about a kilometer ahead.” I told him. “We heard it coming in.”

“Then hope they aren’t Onderoni. I don’t think I can handle much more of their idea of a friendly welcome.”

“Understood.” I raised my hand, making the patrol sign for spread out and advance. Then I remembered that the Handmaiden hadn’t served with us. I looked back, but she had figured it out.

There was a burst of steam ahead, and loud cursing in of all things, Duros.

I paused at the edge of a new clearing. I could see the moist dirt still adhering to the roots of a tree that had been rammed over. The ship was a little smaller than ours, and half a dozen Duros were gathered in a clump arguing. Not the smartest thing to do on Dxun. I could see furtive movement.

“Stay here.” I whispered. I moved toward that movement, but not close enough to become a target. Once I had assured myself of what was there, I moved back.

“Bounty hunters?” Bao Dur asked.

“Yes.”

“How do you know?” The Handmaiden asked.

“They’re armed to the teeth sensor equipped city boys.” I replied. “They’re arguing whether they should change into something that will protect them and have been discussing at length what to do with the money.

“We can add to their problems or leave them to them.”

“How so General?” Bao Dur cocked his head. “Boma beasts?

“Yes.” And I pointed at the ship. “And they crashed right in their path to their water source.” I lifted a sonic grenade and flipped it into the air. “And you know how much Boma beasts hate noise...”

“No need.” The Handmaiden made a fluid pointing gesture. One of the Duros had moved closer to that side. Whether he saw a movement, or maybe detected a scent, he drew down on the foliage.

“General, have you considered that we are also in their way?”

I looked around. “Sith-spit!” We hurried to the side as the idiot let off a long rippling burst into the shrubs.

We used to joke in the 2nd Corellian Marines that you don’t shoot a Boma, it just makes them mad. Anything smaller than a heavy blaster just cooks sections of their skin.

There was a trumpeting roar, and three dozen Boma charged as if given the order. We dived for cover as the clearing was rent by screams, roars, and more blaster fire. They passed through and over the Duros as if they weren’t there, stampeding toward the ship. I suddenly did a math equation

three dozen animals averaging 300 kilos each for a grand total of just under 11 tons-

-versus a half kiloton ship made up of a lot of bolted together parts-

-equals...

They hit the ship like three dozen half ton hammers. The oleo struts on the landing gear protested for maybe three seconds, then the ship settled toward us as they sheared off. The hull was made of sterner stuff, and while they could batter it, they did not damage it beyond one of them slamming the sensor dish off and flattening it.

After a while, they started to settle down. Then they began to wander aimlessly past us toward the pool I had felt a few hundred meters away.

We climbed down and examined the records. The leader had been Dezanti Zhug, of the Zhug family. The Handmaiden told us that they were a family of Duros that had been banished from their home world, and made money as Bounty Hunters on Nar Shaddaa.

We collected their IDs so that we could eventually notify their next of kin, and moved on.

Bao Dur had moved to point, and he motioned for us to stop. Then he motioned for us to join him.

The outpost lay in the valley below us. He handed me his electro-binoculars. I looked through them, then lowered them slowly.

The Mandalorians were back.

Bao Dur

I remember the battle of Dxun as if it were yesterday. We had spent six months of training before the Jedi were willing to begin. Even then they had to push. Admiral Quintain Lord Quintain after Kostigan’s Drift was trying to throw not grains, but buckets full of sand into the gears. It was his command that would lead the assault and he wanted it to be perfect, every soldier in line, every weapon polished, every ‘I’ dotted, and ‘T’ crossed.

I was one of only about 20 Zabrak from Iridorn assigned to the assault force.
Assault force. Yeah, right. I had ended up assigned to te headquarter motor pool because Lord Quintain wanted all of his personal vehicles in perfect condition.

There’s an old story about a warrior like the Admiral. He would stand and hold his ground until he was satisfied, but he was never satisfied. The few battle the Admiral had led so far had been like Kostigan’s Drift, bar brawls with several thousand men on each side. He had won a couple, but the cost was always steep.

The closest I would be to the battle is with maybe the fifth wave, after everything was secure enough for the Admiral to risk his lily white behind. That is when all of those bright and shiny vehicles would arrive.

I had stepped out for a breath of air as the last of an interminable line of staff meetings broke up. I recognized only two, a tall man with brown hair someone had said was Padawan Kavar, and the robed and masked form of Revan. They were walking down the ramp to their speeders.

“That man could not lead a dying animal to a watering hole.” Revan was snarling. She always sounded like an angry Kastan Cat to me. She could fight rings around Quintain and just about every admiral here from what I had been told. Her work in a simulator as flag officer had been clean and crisp, and the enemy ended up beaten with light casualties.

“I know that Revan, but we are here to help them-”

“Help them what?” a blonde woman a head and a half short than them asked. “Kill a lot of our men for no purpose?”

They all stopped, and the shorter woman glared up at the others. “It will be me and mine on the ground in that ‘sweeping arc’ the idiot wants on the ground. Infantry tactics do not translate to fleet action.”

“We must-” Kavar began.

“Must nothing! I know that they will follow where I lead, but I am not going to let a Chair borne, High Family Moron kill my men to give him another victory like Kostigan’s Drift!”

Revan sighed. “She is right, Kavar. The man thinks of infantry as ships. Unless she has a free hand, we will lose the entire assault force to no purpose.”

Kavar nodded sharply. “We will get fleet to put someone else in charge of the ground assault.” They came down, and the small woman mounted her speeder bike. She hit the ignition, and the engine smoked. She dived off as it burst into flames.

I grabbed the extinguisher, and sprayed the gas over the smoking engine. She stood there, glaring at the machine. “Bad enough we have morons in command, but we have thumb fingered wrench benders doing the maintenance!” She looked at the landspeeder where her friends were already seated. “Go on. “I’ll be there if I have to walk.”

The speeder took off. I knelt, touching the engine with one hand. “There’s your problem.” I took out my hydro spanner. “They set the fuel injection too high.”

“They did?” She knelt beside me.

“Yep. The problem is, these Aratech 490s need tweaking straight from the factory. The droids on the assembly line tend to torque down the injectors, and that means you get fuel dumped into the system when you start them unless you choke them just right.”

She watched me as if she intended to memorize every motion. Later I found she had.

I reset the injectors to the correct measure, then reached up and thumbed the ignition. The engine came to life. It sounded bad, but I listened. “Fuel varnishing. It’ll clear in about five clicks, or sooner if you floor it.”

“You’re pretty handy.”

“So they tell me.” I wiped my hand, then put it out. Bao Dur, clan Zika.”

“Marai Devos, Jedi.” She shook it. “Want a job?”

I laughed. “If it’s away from this shiny prison, yes.”

Three days later, over the protest of the entire staff motor pool, I was assigned to the Corellian 2nd Marine Regiment. It wasn’t spit and polish, but it was a lot of work, and I was promoted so I was able to tell those ‘wrench benders’ how to do it right.

If you’ve looked at the Galaxy map, you know that on the Southern or left flank of the Mandalorian Salient, they had advanced as far as Balmora Carida and Arkania. That was where Quintain wanted to hit them. But the Jedi wanted to hit instead at Onderon. The larger of the planet’s two moons was the command and control center of the entire left flank, and by taking it, they would cut off the forces advanced from there. It also left an opening to take Tanab and cut off almost 3 million Mandalorian troops.

Being assigned to the headquarters motor pool of the 2nd was better than the command headquarters. The officers tended to talk more, and you could pick up a lot. Marai Devos had trained these men to an old Jedi sword’s edge, and she could have charged a Hurricane, and they would have cheered and followed.

But she wasn’t part of the command structure. The Commander, Colonel Neelis was a warrior of Quintain’s stripe. More worried about spit and polish than how well the weapons worked. The four men that were his staff officers couldn’t have organized an orgy.

I started calling her General after Neelis complained that ‘Since Jedi seem to think they rank ahead of the rest of the human race, maybe we should call you General!’.

I wasn’t the only one.

*****

The fleet came out into a dream come true. Feints by Karath, Malak and Dodonna had drawn away the fleets protecting the twin planets of Onderon and Dxun. The dozen or so Mandalorian picket ships were blown to hell, and we closed on the twin worlds. Quintain was broadcasting his surrender demands as the ship prepared to start a bombardment if necessary.

The commanding Officer, First Blade Cassus Fett however threw a wrench into the works.

*****

“I know what ‘Blade to blade means, Revan.” Marai was shouting at her vid screen. I was delivering a maintenance report to the staff supply officer and got a chance to hear it. “It means Fett doesn’t want to come out and fight like a man, and Quintain doesn’t know what he’s doing to his own damn troops!”

“I understand that.” Revan replied levelly. “But Quintain has agreed because of his sense of honor-”

“He thinks honor is a word in the dictionary between Honky-tonk and Honorarium!” She roared. Then she sighed. “It means Revan, that we have to take our troops and fight the Mandalorian Garrison on Dxun with exactly the same number of troops. No more.

“By my estimate there are 135,000 troops there. That means we send in the 4th and 11th Corps, our best men. But damn it, the first rule of infantry tactics is that the defender has a 2 to 1 advantage against the attacker in regular terrain, increasing to six to one in emplacements and every mother‘s son of them are in bunkers redoubts and bloody fortresses! That means instead of sending the minimum of 700,000 troops we need, we’re sending less than 200,000 men into a meat grinder.

“How the hell do you expect me to maintain an army this idiot is busy destroying to make himself look good in the history books!”

“Then it can’t be done?”

“Oh it can be done!” Marai shouted. “But the reunion will be ten or fifteen of them sitting around afterward because all the rest of us will be dead!” She switched off, then threw the vid unit through the wall. She stalked out into the silent room.

“Want me to fix that, General?” I asked.

She glared at me. “Bao Dur, do one thing for me.”

“Anything you want, General.”

“When I have earned that rank, call me by it. But until then zip it!”

*****

The briefing was small. I was there because the motor pool had to land not with the fifth wave, but the second. As the Motor pool chief, I had to be there so I knew where we were setting up. We had the commanding officers of the Assault force, the two Corps, the commanding officers of the six divisions, and of the 18 Regiments that were landing. Along with them were commanders of the shuttles and assault ships.

Everyone was nervous.

“Attention!” Someone shouted, and everyone snapped to their feet. A stream of Jedi came down the aisle in a formation four wide and 20 deep. Eighty of them, men and women of almost as many planets, about thirty of their number of alien races. They split to take the front two rows, and one of them mounted the dais.

“Be seated.” General Ondine said. She signalled the briefing officer and our nightmare began The Fourth Corps would land to the south near the main shield complex and disable it so that the 11th could drop in north of them. Once on the ground they would link up, then sweep west through the densest concentration of enemy forces.

There was fifteen kilometers between the drop zones, and all they had to do to kill us all was keep us from linking up. The briefer tapped that section

“This section will be taken by the Jedi, and two regiments, the 2nd Corellian Marines, and the 14th Alderaani Scouts.”

“Them and what angels?” A voice snapped. One of the pilots stood. “The heaviest concentration of AD is right there, and they’ll chop my guys into lunch meat! I will not lead them into an abattoir on their words! They want to play hero, let them fly the damn shuttles!”

One of the Jedi stood. “You are?”

“Lieutenant Carth Onasi. Telosian contingent.”

She walked up. I wasn’t surprised that it was Marai. “Ten of my people will be flying shuttles, Lieutenant.” She replied. As for you, you will fly into that abattoir. And I will be in your crew compartment with the 2nd Marines when they land. So I expect a bumpy trip.”

She walked back to her seat.

*****

Ten percent losses on the landing, 75% on the first wave alone. It took three weeks of fighting until it was finally over. 64,000 dead, 20,000 wounded, 5,000 missing. I had ended up not at landing area Baker, but at LZ Connor, named after the pilot of a crashing shuttle that had dug a runway for us with his death. I fought alongside the 2nd and the 14th as they were whittled away by enemy fire, blades, and the damn planet itself.

We captured the command center, and that was when our friend Admiral Quintain decided to show up.

The men of the 2nd and 14th were intermingled. We had fought too long and hard side by side to think of ourselves as anything but brothers. Of the 3,000 men that had landed, less than a thousand remained. A lot of them weren’t here. The hospital ship had landed and loaded everyone that would live into kolto tanks, so less than a hundred of us were still there. Of the Jedi that had landed less than fifteen were still alive.

We had found a stash of Fett’s favorite tihaar and were passing the bottles around. Fett wouldn’t need it. He’d eaten his sidearm when we surrounded his headquarters.

Quintain’s squadron of speeders came racing in, bright metal work glistening to stop in the quad. He stepped down, probably expecting an ovation from his ‘brave warriors‘. That was what that REMF that had shown up an hour earlier had been saying, but we’d stripped him to his skivvies and tied him up, stuffing him in the trunk of his staff speeder.

What he got was a hundred men doing what any smart infantryman not under fire would automatically do. We were eating, drinking, and about fifty of us were sleeping.

Quintain stepped own, and I could see the disapproval in his eyes. He motioned to one of his officers, a natty lieutenant in starched dress uniform.

“Who’s in charge here?” He demanded.

One of the figures that had been asleep stretched, and sat up. Marai was filthy and she was in her underwear waiting for supply to catch up with us. “That would be me.” She said, standing.

“Name, Rank!” The lieutenant snapped.

“Devos, Marai. Padawan.” She put her hands on her hips. “Now my question, lieutenant, is who the hell are you to bother my men.”

“How dare you-”

She made one of those ten meter force leaps, landing in front of him, a third his side, but quite willing to rip his head off.

“How dare you!” She roared back. She stormed past him toward Quintain. “Lord Quintain, with all due respect, you have no balls.”

“Who-”

“You brought a thousand ships, a million and a half infantrymen and you still have no balls. You sent in 120,000 men into this mess, and maybe we have 30,000 that are still alive.

“All because you had to do the ‘honorable’ thing without thinking.” She stopped less than a meter from him. “So have your victory parade somewhere else, take your holos, and bask in you glory, and leave us out of it! You have enough men that are not only alive but clean well fed and need something to do while the real soldiers were fighting!”

Quintain pulled out his notebook. “What units are these?”

“This is what’s left of the 2nd Marines and 14th Scouts.” She said, then she reached up, and caught his collar. “And if I hear one word of complaint from any rear echelon puke about my men I will take every one of your staff officers, and shove them so far up your butt that you’ll need a tractor beam to go to the bathroom. Do I make myself clear, Admiral sir?”

They sped away.

“Atta girl, General!” Someone shouted.

She turned, and looked around. “Where the hell is the tihaar?”

“Right here, General.” I held out the bottle.

*****
I was suddenly fifteen years back in time, and was raising my rifle to sight on one of the men down there when I felt a hand gently push my rifle aside. “They wouldn’t like that.” Marai whispered. She hooked a thumb. Behind us were four Mandalorians.


'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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Old 08-14-2006, 05:27 AM   #25
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Although I dislike bumping threads, I have to say that you've done a truly excellent job on this. Normally fan fiction isn't my cup of tea, but you've definitely changed my mind! I will have to look into KotOR fan fiction further.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:40 AM   #26
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if you like this one Devon, look up his Kotor I story and his early republic novels, very good reads...


I would link them but i have no idea how =(
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Old 08-15-2006, 02:08 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain128
if you like this one Devon, look up his Kotor I story and his early republic novels, very good reads...


I would link them but i have no idea how =(

Thank you rain. And no, I will not raise your allowance


'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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Old 08-15-2006, 02:30 PM   #28
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Marai

I could almost read Bao Dur’s mind as we looked down. I looked up, turning, and across from him, I saw the Handmaiden mirror my movements.

If you have ever seen a predator in his natural environment, you will know what we saw. For a moment, it was merely the jungle behind us. But some of the more innocuous animals make noises, and they had fallen silent. Then the trunk and bark of a tree ten meters away moved separately. I had an instant to recognize the Mandalorian armor.

“Handmaiden?”

“I see them too.” She replied in a level voice. If they were had their helmet sensors up, they could hear are heartbeat easily at this distance. She spoke as if she knew they could hear us. “But they are not preparing to attack.”

I looked at them. Bao Dur was humming, and I recognized a song that had been popular in the 2nd Marines back then. It should have been played as a ’sprightly air’ but he was humming it like a dirge.

His blaster rifle came up, and I gently pulled it aside. He looked at me
confused. We were in the war zone, the enemy was right there. Why was I stopping him? “They wouldn’t like that.” I whispered.

He rolled slowly, looking back at the men. I could feel his tension like the string of a bow.

I stood, facing them silently. The Mandalorians aren’t much for personal in your face bluster. Either do it or go away. We stood there face to face at that distance, waiting for the other to say something. Bao Dur knew it from experience, the Handmaiden from our example. We were pillars of stone, we were trees talking a mile a minute at their pace, of a word perhaps every hour.

Someone sneezed, and one of the helmets turned. I could almost hear the lecture that man would get. “Impressive.” He said. “Most visitors take one look at our neighbors and runs screaming to safety.”

I nodded. “They can be a bit, persistent. May I ask why you have occupied this moon again?”

“We are not occupying. We have settled.” One of the others spoke. The helmet of their leader turned yet again, and I didn’t have to hear the soft voiced ripping that loud mouth was getting.

The leader turned his head back to look at us. “The People of Onderon don’t seem to like this vacation spot. So we have moved back in peacefully.” He motioned, and all of them came out. “Will you do the courtesy of explaining how you ended up on this garden spot?”

“Our ship was damaged in the disagreement above. We landed here to make repairs.”

“That would be faster than trying to convince the General to let you land.” The leader touched his ear where the connection for his helmet com link was. “We have been ordered to escort you to our encampment. Our leader wishes to speak with you.”

We marched with them down a well used path. I noticed furtive looks by the Handmaiden and Bao Dur. In a jungle a path is also a target. I noticed a sensor module, and relaxed a bit. If the foe were a human enemy, they would have been worthless. But as long as you didn’t put them down where a Cannock could eat them, they were perfect as detectors.

We came into the valley, and the forest just ended at the edge of the greensward. I looked around. The lawn for lack of a better name looked neatly clipped, as if with owner’s pride. But it is also called the dead zone. It is a cleared area where every movement is in the open. Crossing it without the Mandalorian camouflage or ghillie suits would be like crawling across a green table cloth.

The outer enfilading redoubts had been professionally sealed. Not to remove them, merely to save them for more space and later growth. Left alone, the jungle would have already reduced them to piles of rubble. The gate was open, and I could see the dusting of mines ahead of us. Command detonated, so we could walk through safely.

It was like walking into a remote village on the Mandalore home worlds. There were fifty or perhaps sixty men of fighting age, meaning older than fifteen. Half as many women, all with the lean lithe look of warriors themselves.

And children. Not the screaming and laughing hordes you would expect at a park of a day off, but a couple of dozen playing. But even play was in training for war.

We passed a group of men, the youngest maybe 20, the oldest a grizzled sergeant half again my age. They were cleaning weapons, inspecting armor, the boring maintenance duties you either did, or died in the field. Second place in battle was your grave. Another area had been cleared, and a pair of Mandalorians charged together like bulls. Beside it a circle where two women circled, swords at the ready.

There was a ramp downward, and we walked down it. The room was cluttered with equipment. It was an old command post bunker. About a third of the equipment was running. A man not in the colored armor worn by the juniors, but the satin sheen of bare metal was working at a computer. He growled, then slammed a fist against the side of the machine. He turned, as if he’d expected us to be right there, pointing at one of the silent men with us.

“If you can’t stick to patrol discipline, you can stay inside the perimeter Davrel. Now go to Zuka, tell him my systems are starting to go bug nuts again.”

Chu!” The figure double timed away.

“Leave us.” He said to the patrol leader. They trooped out.

“I am the Mandalore of Mandalore. Welcome to our settlement.”

“A title I thought dead at Revan’s hand.” I said.

“Five years ago Revan gave unto me the helm and title.” He replied. “She would have gone to Mandalore itself, publicly freed us from exile. But that was not to be.

“What are you doing invading the Republic again?” Bao Dur growled. I touched his arm and he moved back.

“The question does have merit.” I said. A superior gently chiding a subordinate.

“The People of Onderon use their moon for two things, tombs and a hunting preserve. If they knew we were here they would be upset. However this,” he waved toward the people beyond. “Is obviously not an invasion force. We came here to regroup before our return home.” He stood, waving at the moon at large. “From here were commanded half of the forces that attacked the Republic. Now, it is just a rest stop upon the way.”

“But why chose Dxun as you ‘rest stop‘?” I asked.

“If you think the Republic’s politics are bloody, you have yet to see ours.” He laughed. Something about that voice... “The Mando-a have an affinity for such places. In the jungle there are two forms of life. Those that feed, and those fed upon. No where better to hone the edge for us. Those who fought us here should have considered that.”

“I led one of the assaults here.” I answered softly. “We were overruled.”

“By Quintain. Whatever happened to that D’kut?

“He was promoted to planning, but got back into battle at Malachor V. He died there.”


“It would have been better for you if he had died in bed before the war began. We are here in secret because I felt the Onderoni would hold a grudge if they knew of our presence. The politics down there are... unsettled of late.”

“I am trying to get down to Onderon.” I told him. “I have business there.”

“So it is transport you seek?”

“They seem to hold a grudge against my ship.”

“I have a small shuttle capable of running their blockade. We make supply runs every few weeks. If you can wait three days, I will be glad to take you down. Until then, be welcome, and warm at our fire.”

“May good company transcend our differences.” I replied. He looked at me.

“You know our social forms.”

Suddenly it hit me. “Wait. Before you became Mandalore, was your name Ordo? Canderous Ordo?”

He looked at me for a long time, then he reached up and took off the helmet. Canderous Ordo, who had held me like a child almost eight years ago looked back. “You have grown thin, my little friend.”

“And you have not changed at all.” I said. “You’re what, 73 now?”

“71. Have you gotten over what plagued you all those years ago?”

“Most of it.”

“I have ordered that until we are a people once more, the rite of First battle will not be practiced. In deference to... an old friend.” He picked up his helmet again. “My quartermaster Kex will see to your needs if you have any. I would suggest having a care in the jungle beyond. With the battle going on above, we have pulled in our patrols, and the native wildlife will have moved back in.” He put the helmet on again.

“Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do.”

Encampment

Handmaiden

We walked from the bunker. Ahead of us was a training circle. Men lunged, watching the two men that fought in full armor in the center. If I had been a Mandalorian I would have slapped them both. Their style was sloppy and their movements jerky.

The sergeant at the edge looked toward us. “This is not a zoo.”

“The one on the left holds his hand too high on striking.” Marai commented.

“And what does a puling Republic weakling know of that?”

Marai looked at him. “I am Marai Devos. I commanded part of the assault on this moon, and if I remember correctly, took this very fortress from the 4th Order.”

They all looked at her. The sergeant stood with a fluid movement. “They were good men.”

“The best you had here. Cassus Fett left them to die.”

He motioned, almost as if asking her if she wanted to dance. “Would you participate? Or will you merely watch and criticize?”

She looked at the men. The smallest was a full two meters tall, the largest a meter taller than she.

“I have never practiced in your way.”

“The rules are simple. No tools, no weapons unless they are agreed to before hand. If you are Jedi no Jedi tricks. Simple.”

She nodded, moving forward.

“Who will face her?” He asked. A forest of hands rose. He considered them, then pointed. “Davrel.”

The man stood.

“Since you are new to our ways, you may fight a recruit. No weapons. Hands and feet only.”

She nodded.

He pointed at a box etched into the dirt to one side. “Until told to begin, stand there.”

They squared off three and a half meters apart. “We have a match. Stations!” The warrior bowed. Marai returned it.

Cha!” at the shout the man leaped into a run. Marai merely took a pace forward, and as he reached arm’s length, she ducked, catching him around the waist, and flipping him up and over her. The man bounded back to his feet. Marai had move so that they had almost traded places. She had her hands on her hips, considering him.

“Never assume an enemy is weak because they are small.” She said. “A warrior’s muscles slacken when he smiles.”

The man moved forward, this time in a glide. There was a flurry of blows and blocks. Then suddenly the man was in the air again. He landed on his stomach and she landed in the center of his back, left hand pinning his shoulder, right hand raised as if to strike.

Pa-cha!” She looked at the sergeant. Then moved up and away.

“The match goes to Devos. But she is only facing a recruit. a mere boy.”

The young man she had bested stood. I could see his fury in his stance.

Marai stepped from the circle. “I hope to try another.”

“In a few moments. Now, critiques?”

Every warrior spoke of what they had seen wrong. Almost all was directed at Davrel, and his fury was growing. The only real negative directed as Marai was that she wasn’t aggressive enough.

“Who would stand in the circle against her this time?” He ignored Davrel’s raised hand. Kex.”

The man Mandalore had called the quartermaster was one of the shortest of them, but he was also as broad as his Mandalore. “Training blades.”

Marai was directed to a stand, and chose a blade. They had the weight and feel of a Mandalorian war blade, as I well knew. The Mandalore have as much love of the fight as we Echani do.

Again they stood in their positions, and at the command, they went to engarde. For a long moment, there was stillness. Then the Mandalorian moved forward in a fast shuffle. Marai moved to the right, blade held out in her hand to the side. Then she seemed to decide, her left coming over to hold it as well.

Kex swung, shouting, and she parried him. There was a series of cuts too fast for the uninitiated to follow, then Kex leaped back, a stain of black on his armor. “Pa-cha!

Marai lowered her blade, then brought it back, checking it for damage before returning it to the rack. The sergeant gave her a grunt of approval. “I must call my ship. Perhaps later.”

We walked away, and Marai took out her com link. “Atton?”

“Marai! Been worried. The orbital fighting has died down. That idiot Tobin opened a Mynock’s nest up there. They finally had to order it stopped from Onderon.”

“How about the ship?”

“Still working. I’ll have to take some systems offline including sensors and communications, so you won’t be able to talk to us for a while. I know, you’re crushed.” I could picture his smile. “Will bring the com systems up at dark, and again at dawn.”

“Understood. Out.”

*****

The sun set, and the glorious moon that was Onderon rose. The two bodies are in actually sister planets, both almost exactly the same size. Formed in one of those freak instances that planets sometimes go through. If they had been one mass, it would have been a gas giant. If they were farther apart, they would be separate worlds in different orbits. Instead they orbited each other in a dance 4 billion years old. sometimes coming so close that their atmospheres merged.

The Mandalorians were a quiet people. I know they aren’t that way all the time. They will enjoy a party as much as you or I. But we were a dampening influence. You don’t show the face of pleasure or weakness to someone that might be your enemy later in life. The Echani know this.

Marai sat beside me, in the quiet corner we occupied. Bao Dur was sullen, and I knew he was on the edge of fury. Too much had happened to him during the Mandalorian wars for him to be willing to relax around what used to be his enemies.

He knew he was being childish, and tried to lighten the mood. “You know General, you look like you were standing to close to the power generators.”

“What do you mean?” She sipped from a bottle of tihaar. I had tasted it, and all I can say is it must be an acquired taste I had no interest in acquiring.

“You’re almost glowing.”

“It is the force.” She replied. “Those who draw it into themselves sometimes manifest it visually to the those sensitive to the force.”

“That explains it.”

“What do you think of the situation now on Telos?”

“Bad.” He said. “With Peragus destroyed, they will be without power before too long. It’s worse because Czerka has their hook into it.”

“Because of what they are doing.”

He nodded staring at the fire. “The Republic government doesn’t seem able to rein them in. If they would just let the Ithorians do what has to be done first, it could work out. But as long as they try to think of the Corporate bottom line, Telos will remain dead.”

“Perhaps what we did before leaving Citadel station will help.” She told him of the files they had handed over to the local government. Of Lieutenant Grenn laughing in delight at ten years of hard prosecutions.

Bao Dur sighed, shaking his head. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The night wore on, and Bao Dur finally rolled over and went to sleep. But I couldn’t bring myself to lie down, and Marai was deep in thought. I touched her on the shoulder. “You asked about my face.“

“I understand it is something I need not know.“

“No, this I feel I must tell you. I said that I honor the face of my mother. What I did not say was all of the Handmaidens are sisters in flesh as well. Including me.”

“But you honor your mother’s face.” She replied contemplating it. “Then your mother was not theirs.”

“Yes that is correct. I feel that I may trust you with this, so I will speak of it, if you wish to hear.” She nodded. I sighed. “Though I share the blood of my father with them I was born of another. My father was Yusanis Rekavali Bai Echani.”

“The General?” She looked at me with newfound respect. “I fought along side him in half a dozen campaigns. There was none better.”

“Yusanis was one of the greatest Generals my world ever produced. When he left for that war, it was not lust for battle. His choice was for... a different reason.

“My father had met my mother a few years before. They found in each other a mate of body, movement and soul. When the war began, she went to fight. She felt it was her duty for other reasons. When she did, he went for the joy of being beside her, fighting the same enemies, their movement of blade and heart in the same rhythm.”

“If your face is any indication, she was a very beautiful woman.”

I looked away to hide my blush. “I never saw her face in truth. I was sent by my father to live with his family on Echana when I was still an infant. She never returned from that war. She died in the battle when Malachor V was shattered. Her body was never recovered.

“My father returned with his joy of battle washed away in his tears. He entered politics, where one’s battles are fought with words instead of blades and guns. But I am told that the man that went to war, and the one I remember from when I was a child was different from the one that returned. He had an emptiness. As if his heart had been ripped beating from his chest, and still he lived.”

She poked the fire. “What happened after that?”

“He led the final defense of one of Echana’s moon bases when Revan came against us. Even offered a chance for honorable surrender, he called upon his men to charge and they died to the last man. Revan herself assured that his body was returned for proper burial.” I looked away. I could feel the tears in my eyes, and refused to show them to her.

“The problem is our society. The bonds and oaths are everything. A person that forswears an oath is never considered trustworthy again. But one that breaks a bond... That one is damned. My father went to wore to be with the woman he loved. But she was not the one he had bonded with eight years before. My father violated his bond to be with another, and I am the result of that. Both lives ruined. Mine to be lived in shame to show forever what happens when a bond is broken.”

I took a ragged breath. This was harder than I thought. “Among the Echani, there is a saying. What your parents have done is carried in your blood in potential. But what does that make me? My parents in their own ways were two stark warriors. They were both honorable people that died for what they believed in. Yet they both broke their oaths. He to his bond mate. They were both foresworn, so I must have that potential too. I have spent my entire life proving that I am a warrior, yet living down what they had done. That I am true to my oaths.

“When my sisters swore oaths to Atris, I was with them and swore the same oath. That I would never betray her trust. That I would die before betraying them.”

“You do what you must, as do we all.” She said quietly. “I swore an oath to the Order, and it was they that said I had broken it. Did I?” She shrugged. “I do not want to believe that I did but what if they were right? Am I now an abomination? Some thing they should hunt down and slay?”

I shook my head angrily. “I told you this for a reason. But before I go on, I ask that you never tell anyone of what has been said, or what must be said next.”

“An oath easily given.” She replied. “What you speak of to me is no one else’s business.”

I took another ragged breath. “When my father returned for the final time after the Mandalorian Wars, he moved as you do now. It was as if a vital part of him had been ripped away.

“He would not speak of what happened at Malachor. It was as if he wished to deny it and the only way to do so was never to speak of it. When I look upon you, I see the same thing, and in hearing of your suffering I see but a glimmer of what is my answer. The answer to a question that has dogged my heels throughout my life.

“I cannot believe that you are the monster that Atris paints you as. I believe that like my father, you let your heart lead you into the slaughter, and both of you returned wounded. To look upon you, I feel the spirit of my father yet again.”

“I appreciate that.” She looked at me. “That you were willing to trust me enough to speak of it.”

I waved it away, embarrassed. “Your words, both expressed, and in the duel with me speak the same, something I could never understand with Atris. I can understand your reason for not fighting her when you came to Telos, but it does not explain why she did not fight you. If you were what she said, only your death could have cleaned the stain of your honor from your name. I found that I can trust you, and I wished to explain how important that was to me.”

“I know all of the others companions wonder why I am here. They may have their own explanations, but you deserve to know that it is not simple duty that made me hide aboard your ship. I wanted, no needed to be here with you. I had found part of my soul in you, touched by the words you gave to a callow young girl asking why the sky is blue.

“I have sworn an oath to Atris that I will not train as a Jedi, but my oath said nothing of learning to fight.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Atris sees the entire Jedi order as flawed. Like an element in the matrix of a sword blade which makes it beautiful but weak. Something so fundamental that it cannot be corrected, merely torn down and started over.”

“So you and your sisters...”

“We were to shield ourselves against the force until the day she sees the last of the Jedi fall. Only then were we to be released from the oaths, Only then could we learn from the only Jedi remaining.”

She looked at me calmly. “You have tested me in your way, seen me fight against the Mandalorian, what do you think of me?”

“That is why we speak now. I watched your stance and your movements when you came to our Academy. I saw the differences between what they were before you spoke with Atris and what they were after. There are echoes as I said of my father. But there is something more. A strength of will like none I have ever seen. A resilience that transcends the flesh.

“Among my people a duel is not just training. It is the closest two children can come to the bonds of later life. It is the closest the unmarried can ever come to the joys of matrimony. For those bonded to others, it is the only permissible way to show their inner selves.

I have learned so much from you, and yet I know there is still more that you can teach me. Every moment, every instant teaches me.”

“As you teach me.” She said with a chuckle. “A good teacher also learns from her students.”

“I must refuse to accept Atris’ characterization of you. She said that you stared into the heart of war, and that sight drove you mad. That is why you were cut off from the force long before the Council stripped you. But I see that you made a choice, and live with the consequences of it. As my father did. As my mother did.

“I cannot be taught the ways of the Jedi by you. My oath forbids it. But in any other way, please, teach me. You have become more important to me than any person I have ever met.

“I want to be your shield arm, to share the joys and pain of battle as long as there are enemies to face. You are Shaki-Sheniri, War leader. You are one that it is an honor to serve, a pleasure to support, and worthy of the deaths of those that follow in your footsteps.”

“No, I am just-”

“Do not tell me what I can see. Your stance, your manner, your way. All shouts to the Echani spirit. Please.” I dropped to one knee, looking at the ground. “Take my oath as your servant. Let me be by your side. Please.”

“I cannot take an oath of servitude.” I look up stricken. “I have no servant, no serfs, no slave. I may lead, but I am no one’s master. But swear to me that by our blood, by our blades, by our lives, we shall be sisters not of flesh but of battle. until battle is done, or we die, together. Swear that oath and I will answer it. Together. Not one above and one below. Or one ahead and one behind. But side by side.”

I wanted to carol with joy! It was the oldest oath known to the Echani, the oath sworn by Echana herself to our planet when our people first came. “You honor me.” I whispered. Then in that same whisper, I repeated the oath, and she took my hands, and repeated them to me.

By our blood.

By our blades.

By our lives.

Sisters not of flesh but of battle.

Until battle is done.

Or we die.

Together.

Trap

Visas

It was so easy. To those with sight, night is the time to sleep. To rest.

To one such as me, it was time to hunt.

I had stood, hidden by both foliage and the force from the eyes of the two within the ship. When the sun set, they moved, but slower, then slower still. Finally I knew they slept. I walked to the hatch that led into one of the secret compartments, Bridged the security system, and attached the lock breaker. It hummed, then the hatch hissed open. It was made to be silent. A customs officer could be sitting at the table in the mess hall, and not hear it. A man standing by the ramp would not hear it. To me it was a tocsin screaming in the night.

I climbed into the compartment, and closed the hatch. Then I reached up. My master had the plans of this ship. It had been a smuggling vessel longer than I had been alive, and the compartments were secret only if they did not know the Ebon Hawk by name.

I opened the inner hatch. Two of them. One slept behind me about five meters, the other five meters ahead. I stalked silently along the passageway, and stood over the man. He rolled in his sleep, and for a moment I thought he would awaken. I took the mister and sprayed him in the face. His eyes opened, and he was trying to stand and attack when it took affect. He fell, and I caught him, laying him back down. I dealt with the woman, and went into the mess hall. I set the misting bottle on the table along with the hypo sprays of antidote. I had no grudge against either of them, and my master had not ordered their deaths, so they were perfectly safe. from me.

This was where I would die, and I found that the most soothing feeling I’d had since my planet and people died. My master was worried about this woman. He would never admit it, for to admit weakness would spell his doom.

But he had needed me to find her for him. He needed his blind girl to seek out this menace, for he could not see her as I could with no eyes.

I moved the man into the same berthing area as the woman, then I knelt on the soft tiles over the cold steel of the deck. She would be my master if we fought, this I knew. She would fight me, and I would give my all to defeat her. But in my heart I knew she would defeat me. She would kill me, and free me from this slavery called life.

So all I had to do was wait.

Trap closes

Marai

I found myself watching the battle circle, idly playing with the com link. Atton was overdue for his call. I was worried, but not overly so.

Maybe he had forgotten to activate the com system again. Maybe.. Maybe he had set it to receive. “Marai to Ebon Hawk.” I called. No reply.

I repeated it. On the third, there was a click. The voice was female, a sloe eyed voice that spoke of soft pillows, and warmth in her arms. I was moving even before I heard the words. “They are here, Exile. But they cannot come to you. You must come for them. Soon. Before I do what I must.” I felt a cold presence there, and thought of Kreia, of Atton in her hands.

The Handmaiden saw me, and ran to my side. We stalked through the camp, and grown Mandalorian warriors moved aside. I told Bao Dur to wait, to find something to repair if need. The guard captain saw us, and there was a guide before we got to the gate. Our channel had not been encrypted, and Mandalore had ordered it. There was a path shorter than we had tread the day before. we could be back to our ship in three hours instead of seven.

We moved through the jungle. Death surrounded by the givers of death, and all of us moving through the womb of death that is a jungle. There were no large animals in our path, and only that saved them from slaughter, for nothing would slow or stay us.

It felt like forever, but less than three hours later, I could look through the foliage at the bow of the ship. I knelt, scanning it. The interrupter plates were up, so the turrets were not active. No hum of the main guns activated. She might have been a model in a diorama for all the life I saw.

Then the ramp came down. They knew we were here.

“Stay here.” I ordered the Mandalorians. I stepped from the brush, and waited. There was no purr of motor, not spinning of turrets. The chin gun was still in it’s housing. I felt the Handmaiden move up behind me.

We stalked forward, up the ramp into the ship. I signalled, and she moved through the mess hall into the port berthing area. She came back as I looked at the mist bottle and the vials of antidote. she signaled. Two of ours. Looked asleep. Drugged.

I pointed at the bottle, and her eyes widened. Together we moved to the starboard berth. we came down the passageway, until we could look into the compartment.

She knelt there, meditating. There was a wrap around hood that covered her head from the bridge of her nose over the opalescent black of her waist length hair. Her bee stung lips were full, inviting. She turned her head, and I could tell that she was watching me even through that thick cloth. Then she came to her feet. I motioned for the Handmaiden to wait, and stepped forward.

“At last.” The woman whispered. That same voice that would put a man in mind of the gentler things two people can do. Then a beam of scarlet red light sprang from her hand. “Come give me what I need.” She said louder.

Then she attacked. I blocked frantically. There was no though of defense in her style. It was pure attack, and even if you struck around her blade of fiery light, it would by only by putting your life in peril.

I suddenly felt another presence, and I found myself trying to find it in the room as if it were a real person. The woman’s attack faltered, and I struck out.

Revan had tried for years to teach me the Fybylka cut, the fly cutter in the Echani tongue. It is an insult to you enemy. A cut so light that it only broke the skin, leaving a mark to see because you are not worthy of dying quickly.

The second blade blocked her cut for a split second, even as the first sheared through the lightsaber behind the focusing lens.

She stopped as if she didn’t believe it, then she grunted as I kicked her into the wall.

She collapsed bonelessly, and I stood over her. “As I foresaw. My weapon shattered, my life in your hands.” She came to her knees with some effort, then linked her hands behind her back, kneeling forward until her head was bare centimeters from the deck. “The end of my life as I has wished for so long. He wanted your life, but it is a good trade to give my life for yours.”

I backed away. “I am not going to kill you.”

She looked up, and I could hear the plea in her voice. “But you must! My death is ordained on this day, and better at your hands even in sorrow than at his less gentle touch.”

“I will not kill a helpless opponent.”

Now it was no longer a plea. She was begging abjectly. “But you are superior as I felt. I am nothing before you and death is what I deserve. By the grace and mercy of all the gods, end this for me. I beg you.”

Then I felt her master’s displeasure. She shrieked like a damned soul, clutching at her throat.

I threw aside the sword, catching her hands. I could feel the black evil stench of something, and reached out as my hand boiled with light.

“If you want her come in person!” I shrieked. The evil faltered, then suddenly we were in the room alone. The young woman was draped like a corpse across my knees.

*****

Atton took one look at her when he woke, then gently lifted the hood just an inch. For some reason, I got the image of a young boy flush with puberty trying to look up a girl’s skirt.

“All right, that explains it. She’s a Miraluka. I’d only heard about them. I didn’t even think there were any left in the Galaxy.”

“What is a Miraluka?” I asked.

“Pretty secret race. Human or at least close enough to breed. Their race was born on a planet called Katharr. The sun is so brutal there that the entire race moved underground long before the Republic even existed. They live in cave, and the last four generations have been born completely without eyes or optic nerves. Some of them became Jedi when they were still common. They can do what someone called shadow see. They see the world without light and without eyes somehow.

They are all pretty tough too, if this one is any indication. It must be hard as hell to kill one.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well we have bruises in the chest and back from your kick, but those are just the most recent injuries. Both arms and legs have been broken at least once each. Slashes every where on her and some big ones on the abdomen that looks like she went three rounds with a food processor.”

“I have never even heard of them. How rare are they?”

“Since their planet died? They are an endangered species.”

“Their planet died?”

“Yeah. Katharr is about half way between Dantooine and Onderon along the mid rim. One week it’s a thriving society of a billion and a half. A week later a ship comes in, and every Miraluka and animal native to the planet was dead.”

An entire planet’s people dead. I shivered. “Maybe she know what happened.”

“She should, after all it was her people.” Atton looked down at her, and there was something. Pity warred with suspicion. “Maybe they saw it through the force somehow, but she was the only one who fled it.”

“You said that before. ‘Shadow seeing’ you called it. How could they see through with force?”

“From what I heard, they claim to see on a higher plane than normal humans. They are said to be able to see all of the force around them, and beyond them. Makes me nervous.”

“I doubt it would be the same as an X-ray machine, Atton. Besides, it’s not like others haven’t seen your equipment before.” He looked at me, then blushed. “Is she going to be all right?”

“If these scars are any indication, anything that didn’t gut her is survivable.”

“Let me know if her condition changes. I have to return to the Mandalore encampment.” I looked at that face. She should have been happy,. surrounded by family and children, loved by someone. Instead, she was almost as scarred as that maniac aboard Harbinger. “I will not let anyone harm you again.” I whispered.

The Handmaiden stood in the passageway. She is a threat to us.”

“What would you have me do? Kill her out of hand?” I asked.

“No. Not even that we interrogate her. But her fighting style is Sith. She was trained by the enemy of all that wish to live free.”

“Sister of battle, I fight to protect the weak and helpless. Enemy or not what does it say of me that I would strike her down when she is unarmed or unconscious?”

She shook her head. “It is understandable that you would give mercy, but we cannot give her too much. Her movements should be restricted. She should not walk free unescorted.”

I looked at her, then called Atton. It only took a few minutes to rig up a portable shield generator and seal the door. “See, I can learn.”

“Slowly.” I looked at her but she gave me such a sweet and innocent look that I wanted to spank her. Then she dropped her eye in a slow wink. “But before we go perhaps you would be ready for the second tier?”

We went back to the cargo bay. She stripped, but this time down to bare flesh. The average person is embarrassed in most societies by casual nudity. She stood as if clothes were merely for comfort in colder temperatures. “You are allowed a weapon. sword, dagger, stun baton. Would you have one?”

I shook my head. I stripped down as well, and we faced each other. She flowed toward me, and we fought. She had been holding back the first time, I could feel it, I would not have been able to match her if she had come at me in this way before.

Somewhere I found the speed to keep up with her. Again I was anticipating her moves, and reacting to them, but this time it was as if I were a split second off. Not far enough to land any blows, but enough that she was able to change her attack even as I reacted to it.

I found myself laying on the deck, and she stood there looking at me. “You are doing well, and your pick up my style with ease. However you are still telegraphing your parries. This you must learn to avoid. The ocean does not ask where the stone is as it crashes on the shore. It merely flows around it when it encounters it.” She began to get dressed again.

“Why is it so important to you that I learn this style?” I asked.

“As I said when we spoke of Atris, truth is in the battle. You have taught me the truth of your own soul. Now I must teach you the truth of mine.”


'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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Old 08-16-2006, 08:47 AM   #29
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:50 AM   #30
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I've been reading the first three Chapters Mach and they're great. I like the short humour in and the description in the Fic. I'm looking foward to reading the rest.
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Old 08-16-2006, 05:59 PM   #31
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Marai

Refreshed, I took a shower before we left. I went to see Kreia. She was meditating, and I didn’t want to disturb her. I turned and she spoke without turning. “Not a wise choice.”

“What?”

“Befriending the Seer.”

“The Miraluka? Why do you call her the Seer?”

“Her species does not see with the eyes they do not have. They see in a way that can only be explained by a strong attachment to the force. It is a rare gift that has been squandered on her people. It is how she found you when no one else could.” She turned, and I could feel her disquiet. “The Sith come at you in battle. And your reply? You disarm her, bind her wounds, heal her body. Why?”

“She was helpless. Unable to strike at me. Begging for death.” I looked away. “Damn it Kreia if I murder the helpless how am I different from the Sith?”

“I do not think your thoughts are clear on this, so I will try yet again to explain. She was trained by the Sith, steeped in their ways. If you allow her to travel with us you give our enemies a clear view of what they wish to know with little effort. She is an apprentice of a Sith Lord, and know you that the only way to become a Sith lord is to murder your teacher. I do not wish to see you die for that stupidity. She may be blind, but she had ties to darkness. Other masters to command her. She is a threat to you, to us all. Do not underestimate her. Or her previous loyalties.”

“Perhaps her ability to see within the force will help us gain allies.”

“Perhaps. But I remain unconvinced.”

“Atton said that her colony was devastated. That all of her people in this sector of the galaxy have been wiped out.”

“Did he. And what do you make of that?”

“It seems odd that a world of force sensitive people would fall so easily to any threat.”

“Unless that threat came at them unawares. What do your instincts tell you?”
I considered. “That it had to be of the force, but not visible to the force.” I said.

“An interesting view. Before you go one with this quest you have taken upon yourself, how many more lost sheep shall be boarding our ship?”

“As many as we need to win.”

“Then you had best prepare for an army. For every time I open my eyes, your followers have multiplied like Gizka. An army following their leader into oblivion.”

“They came because I asked.”

“You are blind to it. They do not follow Marai Devos, the woman that spoke to them. They follow the war leader as the Handmaiden called you. They see the strength of will, the purpose, and cling to it like drowning men on a plank.”

“They are my friends, not my followers.”

“Do not try to soften what is happening by using a gentler term. Do friends not follow the one who appeals most? When they form a social hierarchy, is that one not elevated to their head? It goes beyond that. They obey without question if it is you that speaks.” I must have looked confused, because she gave a dry chuckle. “You may be blind to it, but I see it. I hear with their ears, see with their eyes, and know their thoughts when they speak away from you. When another makes the decision, there is debate in their minds before they will do it. However a word from you and they agree within their minds, even if their words sound as protest.

“The Handmaiden accepted with little question when you spoke of healing the Seer. She was trained to see ones such as the Seer, to kill them automatically. Yet instead she gave a token protest, and even that died when you did not agree.”

I looked at her askance. “It bothers you. That they obey me.”

“Every group needs a leader. I know many things, but the one thing I know I am not is a leader. I am too arrogant, to willing to speak my mind. When I speak my voice is heard, but ignored. My passion lights nothing in others. They obey you because you are their leader. But perhaps something else sways them.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you been so blind you also did not notice the changes in them all?”

“Changes?”

“Whether it is discussion or battle, they echo you. When you struggle with your feeling, they struggle. When you give into them, they freely surrender. If you would ask them if they were loyal, they would be shocked that you even had to. Their loyalty to you, and the duties you order is as if hardwired on the motherboards of their mind.

“Watch them carefully. See their patterns of thought, and how they can be bent to your will. Influence is a weapon, and you will need all of them before we reach the end of this journey.”

“I will not treat my friends as puppets. They are living beings, not tools.”

“I care not for you definitions. Make use of what you are forging here. It was the Way Revan gained loyalty.”

I wanted to throw my hands up in disgust. What was different now from when I had been a General in the war? I turned to go, and she spoke again.

“Arren Kae.”

“Excuse me?”

“You have been wondering what woman would be so perfect that she could drag an Echani General from his oath. Her name was Arren Kae. A Jedi master.”

“A Jedi is her mother?”

“Yes. She loved the man with a fire that could only be quenched in his arms. A crime to the Jedi that spanned ten years. When she became pregnant, she hid it. She gave the child to Yusanis and only then did she admit her failing, and she was punished for it. They exiled her as they did you. When the Mandalorian wars began, she joined the Republic’s army to atone.”

“How do you know that?” I asked in a whisper. “She only spoke to me of it last night, and I swore never to reveal it.”

“And you have not. I have my...sources. Revan welcomed her. One trained in war and once a Jedi.” She considered, then looked at me. “The force flows readily in the force sensitive. Their children are the ones chosen to be Jedi, since the Jedi foreswear family and children of their own. But if a woman that is Jedi bears or fathers a child, it is like a perfect crossbreed in a flower. The new seed is greater than the sum of it’s parts.”

“But why do we not merely-” I stopped at her sardonic laugh.

“Do you think the Jedi had not considered it before child? Before the Republic was founded, two of their number did just that. If the child had been better raised, perhaps it would not have ended so badly. The results were so horrible that the Jedi Council of that time banned it to all their numbers. They do not dare to take the chance that it could ever happen again.

“Have you never wondered why the Jedi take a child from the family that loves him and immerses him in the Jedi order?”

“To avoid countervailing interests.”

“The standard answer you learned when you were first a member of the order. No my dear girl, it is because there is nothing so meddlesome as a parent that does not understand what their child is going through. Add to that what would happen if that child were of a Jedi, or two Jedi. Trying to speed the process, or change it because you do not think the teacher worthy or competent. That is what happened back in the mists of time, and the Jedi refused to ever let it happen again. A child of those that are force sensitive can be hidden. A child of two Jedi can no more be hidden than the sun above these worlds can be completely occluded.”

She looked at me. “Know this. If you offer to teach her the ways of the Jedi, you will be asking her to be foresworn to Atris. It is best that the bloodline be allowed to die along with Telos.”

“But does she know who her mother was?”

“I neither know nor care.”

“Doesn’t she deserve to know? When we set foot on this planet she felt the force. She was terrified by it!”

“It will pass if no one lends a hand to teach her. As for her birthright, who would give this gift to her? I do not have such arrogant presumption. Revealing such things would have profound consequences. That is all i will say on the matter.”

“Why do you think I want to teach her?”

“Until you are taught, it would not matter. Yet if you persist in this endeavor, having her beside you, gaining her trust, making her your sister of battle, whether you wish to or not you will be training her until the time when the choice will be taken away from you. She will grow in the force until she takes that decision away from you. So take my word of caution.

“Spend time with her as you must but recognize that you loyalty should not remain with those you call friends. It should be spent on the galaxy and yourself.”

“If I am only loyal to myself, what does the galaxy have to do with it? To me this ship, those we have gathered are the galaxy. I must be loyal to them or I cannot be loyal to any.”

“So you will take this precious coin and squander it.” She seemed to consider. “She spars with you. Have you never wondered what it means to the Echani if you spar with her through the rituals and you won completely and utterly? That perhaps to defeat her so utterly will cause her to surrender to you?”

“No.”

“Few are the thoughts you can hide from me. Such passions are not strength. They are the hidden rust upon a blade that causes it to shatter.”

“I have never thought of that.”

“So perhaps I am mistaken. But before you go. A gift. Close your eyes. Meditate with me.”

I knelt, and went into a mediation seat. I closed my eyes.

“Now feel the ship around you.”

I reached out. For a moment, I stayed firmly and stubbornly in my head. But then I suddenly felt it. A presence a hundred tons in mass squatting on the ground. I could feel the wind blowing along the hull. I reached out, and part of me was suddenly in the cockpit. I could feel the controls as if they were the nerves in my arms and legs. I knew without thinking about it that like my limbs I could touch them and make them work as if I were the ship.

“Excellent. Now feel within it. Listen to the cargo hold.”

I shifted perspective as if I had lifted my foot to see if there was a splinter in it. The Handmaiden was stripped down, and I watched her fluid grace, entranced.

Atton walked into the bay, and she spun. He dropped into a defensive stance, and only now could I see the effortless flow of his movement. What she and her sisters had seen.

The Handmaiden relaxed out of her stance. “When are you going to tell her?”

“Tell who what?”

“When are you going to stop lying to Marai?” She snapped bluntly. "Few know the Echani styles, and even fewer take them from reflex.”

“I just fake it.”

“She might believe you, but I know better.”

You do.” He relaxed. “And how much of the galaxy did you get to see freezing your cargo hold of in Ice Station Jedi? I knew more about the galaxy before I stopped wearing diapers!” He walked past her, and went to the storage bay. “Next time I come in here, I’m carrying a blaster.”

He retrieved some tools and parts. “Oh yeah, I’ve been watching you and our little exi-Jedi friend. Seeing you spar in here. Do you really want to reveal so much of what you know to her?”

“Speak plainly if you can.”

“Know this woman. Do not make her life any worse than it already is.”

“And what would you know of it?”

“Maybe I’m telling the truth. Maybe I just fake my way along through life scaring those who know enough to recognize an Echani stance. But if I am not, consider that maybe I know more than the first tier. Maybe I know enough of the etiquette rituals to know what you’re doing with her.”

The Handmaiden tensed.

“So keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Fool.” She snarled.

“Schutta.” He hissed back.

“Interesting is it not?” Kreia purred. Now extend it to the little machine.”

I reached out, and there T3 was. I could feel something wrong, and with a skill I did not know I had, I found the problem. “He has a stuck motivator-”

“Leave it for another time. Now go to the engine he is working on.”

I reached back, and again, the feeling that something was wrong. “The tuners are out of alignment.”

“Now, the final step. Feel for our blind friend.”

Suddenly I was there. She was laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She was in a trance not unlike the one I was in. I could hear the even one breath in two minutes of the trained Jedi.

“Now beneath the breath, listen closer...”

I suddenly heard her voice, but her lips were not moving. “...As I walk among the ashes of Katarr, I told myself over and over to feel no fear. It was only afterward that I knew that fear would cause mine...”

My eyes snapped open. “I heard her speaking.”

“You heard the surface thoughts, nothing more. But many with this skill never reach this point in their training.”

“But how could I do that?”

“The question is, will such passive listening do more than add a bit of color to the universe around you? What deeper secrets are there in store? Would you perhaps wish to know their secret thoughts hidden deep within?”

She motioned. “You may be young, but I am tired and need to rest. Go.”

Handmaiden

My sister of battle was lost in thought as we returned to the Mandalorian encampment. She watched me furtively, and it puzzled and frightened me. Had I offended her?

Just before the checkpoint, a Mandalorian stepped from the shadows. He bore a rifle, and I knew instantly that he did want to kill us.

Marai stopped. “What would you have of me, Davrel?” She asked.

“I seek to reclaim the honor you stole from me, Jedi.”

“I stole no honor, Davrel.” She replied. “If honor could be gained in the training battle circle Cassus Fett would be Mandalore now.”

If anything would infuriate him I knew somehow that would. He grew still, the silence before the eve of battle. “I would have you know that Cassus Fett was my grandfather. You stole from him the honor of his life, and stole his life here. It is fitting that I regain it by killing you.”

“Why?” She seemed honestly puzzled. “Because i took what he did not have? Cassus Fett was a bully lucky enough to be born Mandalorian so no one would see it as such. He destroyed the home world of the Cathar rather than face them in honest combat. He was lucky enough to face a fool of equal stripe, and the dead of that lay around us even now. Surely your father told this to you.”

“No. My father died here with him. They fell to your unnatural skills.”

“Cassus Fett died by his own hand. This I swear.”

“Because he had nothing left when your forces defeated him! Rather than be blamed for the greatest defeat until then in our history, he killed himself!”

“The Jedi have been around for 25 millennia. No one else had considered it a dishonor to die facing us.”

“But you took more than that from my people!” He raved. “Revan took our honor, and gave us nothing back! There are no grand wars to fight any more, no honor to be won! Sure our Mandalore had spoken of returning us to our honor and place, but what place is that? Preeminent warriors? Or mere lap dogs to your kind!” He looked at me. “Stay out of this, woman. She faces a true Mandalorian warrior in battle for the last time!“ He raised the weapon.

Marai moved. He fired, and she moved aside, the bolt passing bare centimeters from her flesh. She had drawn no weapon. He tried to follow her, but it was as if he tried to target a thought. She spun, sweeping his legs, and caught his body so she rode him to the ground. She slapped the weapon aside, then ripped off his helmet. Her hand arched back into a killing blow, then stopped.

“Know this, young Mandalorian. Before the week is out, you will have your fill of battle, and you can regain the honor you think you lost. But if that is not enough, come against me as your own rite demand, and face me there, rather than as an assassin in the darkness.” She flung his weapon into the brush, and stalked past him.


'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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Old 08-16-2006, 06:39 PM   #32
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I like your account of the Exile's story much better than I do the game's. All of your character's are good, but your portrayal of Kreia is awesome. So much better than canon. Good work! Looking forward to more!


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Old 08-16-2006, 07:18 PM   #33
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I like your account of the Exile's story much better than I do the game's. All of your character's are good, but your portrayal of Kreia is awesome. So much better than canon. Good work! Looking forward to more!

So why haven't you commented on it earlier? No allowance increase you you.


'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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Old 08-16-2006, 07:52 PM   #34
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Allowance? *scratches head to try and jar the rust from the memory gears* The last 'allowance' I received (other than a tax related one) wouldn't even be enough for me to make a local call from a pay phone today. (Although, at the time, I thought it to be a fortune!) Apologies though for not commenting earlier. I suppose I should comment more often. And I will in future


Veni, Vidi, Velcro. (I came, I saw, I stuck around)
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Old 08-16-2006, 11:13 PM   #35
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So why haven't you commented on it earlier? No allowance increase you you.
Cause it's kind of intimidating at first to critique the critic. Some people haven't figured out yet that you don't bite.
Nibble maybe, but not bite....

Female Jedi don't usually father children, by the way.

Nice job on the chapters. I like the discussion between Exile and Kreia here--it's deeper, though she can be just as cryptic as usual. The Mandalorian culture is nicely detailed, too.


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Old 08-17-2006, 02:20 AM   #36
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Allowance? *scratches head to try and jar the rust from the memory gears* The last 'allowance' I received (other than a tax related one) wouldn't even be enough for me to make a local call from a pay phone today. (Although, at the time, I thought it to be a fortune!) Apologies though for not commenting earlier. I suppose I should comment more often. And I will in future
My dear girl, if I were twenty years younger, I would spank you for the presumption.


'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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Old 08-17-2006, 02:52 AM   #37
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Cause it's kind of intimidating at first to critique the critic. Some people haven't figured out yet that you don't bite.
Nibble maybe, but not bite....

Female Jedi don't usually father children, by the way.

Nice job on the chapters. I like the discussion between Exile and Kreia here--it's deeper, though she can be just as cryptic as usual. The Mandalorian culture is nicely detailed, too.

All right, for all of you who have actually read my work, all four or five of you, I always accept constructive criticism. If it's crap, say so, but be willing to give me chapter and verse as to why it's crap. If it's good, say so. My egi needs just as much stroking as the next prepubescent author.

As for fathering a child, I know women don't father children, and perhaps I mis-worded it. I meant to suggest mother or father.

As for the Mandalorians, I am sick and tired of the 'enemy' being what Gene Roddenberry called 'the Mongol horde in space ships'. A society exists for a reason, and the Mandalorians (Or Mando-a in Canon) deserve that much respect. When I created my version of the Echani, it was for the same reason. I had never read or learned anything about TSL when I wrote my KOTOR fiction, and I didn;t even know the Echani were human, humainoid, whatever. I gave them the same respect I gave the Mandalorians.


'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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Old 08-17-2006, 05:21 AM   #38
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Great stuff Mach. As usual you are on top of the writing game. I love how much depth you have given the characters. This is way way better than the game.


Some other really awesome Fanfics: Hidden shades of grey By JasraLantill, The Adventures of Jolee Bindo By Jae Onasi[/size]
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Old 08-17-2006, 04:51 PM   #39
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Handmaiden

My sister of battle was lost in thought as we returned to the Mandalorian encampment. She watched me furtively, and it puzzled and frightened me. Had I offended her?

Just before the checkpoint, a Mandalorian stepped from the shadows. He bore a rifle, and I knew instantly that he did want to kill us.

Marai stopped. “What would you have of me, Davrel?” She asked.

“I seek to reclaim the honor you stole from me, Jedi.”

“I stole no honor, Davrel.” She replied. “If honor could be gained in the training battle circle Cassus Fett would be Mandalore now.”

If anything would infuriate him I knew somehow that would. He grew still, the silence before the eve of battle. “I would have you know that Cassus Fett was my grandfather. You stole from him the honor of his life, and stole his life here. It is fitting that I regain it by killing you.”

“Why?” She seemed honestly puzzled. “Because i took what he did not have? Cassus Fett was a bully lucky enough to be born Mandalorian so no one would see it as such. He destroyed the home world of the Cathar rather than face them in honest combat. He was lucky enough to face a fool of equal stripe, and the dead of that lay around us even now. Surely your father told this to you.”

“No. My father died here with him. They fell to your unnatural skills.”

“Cassus Fett died by his own hand. This I swear.”

“Because he had nothing left when your forces defeated him! Rather than be blamed for the greatest defeat until then in our history, he killed himself!”

“The Jedi have been around for 25 millennia. No one esle had considered it a dishonor to die facing us.”

“But you took more than that from my people!” He raved. “Revan took our honor, and gave us nothing back! There are no grand wars to fight any more, no honor to be won! Sure our Mandalore had spoken of returning us to our honor and place, but what place is that? Preeminent warriors? Or mere lap dogs to your kind!” He looked at me. “Stay out of this, woman. She faces a true Mandalorian warrior in battle for the last time!“ He raised the weapon.

Marai moved. He fired, and she moved aside, the bolt passing bare centimeters from her flesh. She had drawn no weapon. He tried to follow her, but it was as if he tried to target a thought. She spun, sweeping his legs, and caught his body so she rode him to the ground. She slapped the weapon aside, then ripped off his helmet. Her hand arched back into a killing blow, then stopped.

“Know this, young Mandalorian. Before the week is out, you will have your fill of battle, and you can regain the honor you think you lost. But if that is not enough, come against me as your own rites demand, and face me there, rather than as an assassin in the darkness.” She flung his weapon into the brush, and stalked past him.

Confusion

Marai

I saw Bai Dur working with Zuka. As I approached, I heard him saying. “I just got tired of dropping my hydro-spanner, so I had it cut off.”

“A bit drastic.” Zuka replied levelly.

“He’s talking about his arm, isn’t he?” I asked. They looked at me, and both looked like a pair of children that had been discussing sex when an adult arrived. I looked at Bao Dur. “Do you honestly think he would care, my friend?”

Bao Dur flushed, and looked away. I looked at Zuka. “The battle of Corrigan's float. The commander of the Mandalorian defense sent Basilisks against us.”

“Wait a minute!” He protested. “Basilisk’s are great on an assault landing, but on the defense they are worthless!”

“I know that. Do you know the weakness of the Mark IIIs?”

“Sure. The heat exchanger is open, and it’s big enough that you can put a weapon’s barrel down it.” Zuka replied automatically.

“But if you don’t have a weapon?” I prompted.

He considered. “Well you could stick your hand up far enough to use a grenade...” He stopped, suddenly looking at Bao Dur with new found respect.

“That’s right. Bao Dur, to save a hundred men arme an ion grenade, and stuffed his hand up the heat exchanger of the droid. He was trying to pull his hand out when the grenade went off.”

That respect bloomed into admiration. He looked at Bao Dur, then threw his arms around the Zabrak. “Brother!” He cried.

“General...” Bao Dur began.

“The Mandalorians treasure bravery in an enemy. Especially in an enemy.” I replied. “Treasure it.” I walked past him, the Handmaiden pacing me like an aide de camp.

“You seek to cause them to respect us.” She said.

“Like the Echani, the Mandalorians respect bravery, especially the reckless kind that comes when you have no options.” I replied. “They will treat him as a brother, because they would expect no less from their weakest.”

She nodded.

We moved through the camp, and the change from when we had been here before was astonishing. We were a fixture, as proper within those walls as the turrets and minefield that protected them. Thye children acted as if we were Mandalorian. A shy little boy of seven came over, handing me a flower. It was a Kanthis, but had the neurotoxin spines expertly plucked. He nodded to me, then ran away to hide behind his mother‘s skirts.

“If only they had seen this side of them.” I sighed.

“The gentler side of the enemy?” The Handmaiden asked. “Yes. The Echani teach that every enemy is somash, or soft, and Grathiar, or hard, but only on the face they show, like a coin.” She looked around and her face softened. “As much as I have heard of the brutality of the Mandalorians, I wish those who spoke to me could see this.”

We found our way to the battle circle. The sergeant nodded as if we’d only left a moment before. Then he turned to me.

“Tagren has asked that you face him if you wish.”

I nodded, stepping forward. Tagren was a bit taller than I was, but seemed to make up for it by being twice as wide. The sergeant stepped forward.

“Tagren, what would you have?”

“Just foot and hand. The way of the true warrior.” He snarled.

“Agreed.” I began to strip off my armor.

“Wait, Jedi, he will face you with armor.”

I looked at him, then at the Handmaiden. “I will not need it.”

The sergeant threw up his hands. “All right. Tagren?”

“If she wants to throw away the advantage, I will not stop her.”

I faced off against him, ready.

“Cha!” The sergeant cried.

I suddenly knew what he would do. A foot sweep, then a hammer strike as I lay there... I lifted up, and his foot strike went beneath me. I punched into his arm as he turned, and he fell forward. I landed on his back, hand raised for a strike. “Pa-cha!” The sergeant cried.

Unlike the discussion with Davrel, this was more in depth. Tagren had made an assumption, and that assumption had put him in peril. I had shown un Mandalorian restraint (The one that said that earned approbation. After all I was not Mandalorian) and showed finesse in my dealing with him.

As the sun set, we settled down. This time there was music. The woman not old enough to be warriors served us, and we dined on Boma beast and Zakkegg, a predator much feared.

One of the recruits spoke to the Handmaiden, then came over to me. “I wish to prove myself against her, but she refuses.”

I motioned her over. “Speak.”

“It is not a fair contest.” She said to me. “He moves like a Telosian Zantak. Slow and stolid. His defense is weak, and I could beat him easily.”

“Then why have you refused?”

“Will it not bother the Mandalorians if I defeat him without even breaking a sweat?” She asked.

“If he is that stupid, they would rather it came out in training than in battle.” I replied. “If you feel it too onerous-”

She sighed. She stood, facing against the man in the circle. I saw what she meant. He was a stolid mass that would take punishment, and that was his only saving grace.

“Borathis. He’s the best of my recruits.” The sergeant passed me the flask. “Hasn’t lost yet.”

I wondered about that. I could have beaten him with my eyes
blindfolded, and the Handmaiden would give him his head. “How has he won?”

“He slaps them down like an AD tower against shuttles.” The
sergeant said.

The Handmaiden faced him, bowed, and they moved. After training not only as a Jedi but an opponent of the woman there, I could tell she would beat him without effort. Yet he was their best...

The moved together, and she went for a throw. Suddenly she spasmed as both hands touched her, and I leaped to my feet.

*****

Handmaiden

He was a beast too stupid to lie down and die, but I had been given permission. I stripped to my underclothes. Like Tagren this one made comments, but they were merely wind. I faced him, and judged him as I readied myself. He would try to grapple. If I was that stupid he would use his superior weight to bear me to the ground, where weight meant more than skill.

We moved toward each other. He struck at me, and I blocked the blow. As I did, I felt a bolt of lightning run through me.

Faithless! A stun baton in his gauntlet!

I fell and felt no more.

****

Marai.

I leaped to my feet. “He’s cheated!” I shouted.

The Handmaiden fell, then it was as if an unseen hand lifted her to her feet. Borathis looked at her, then struck with the same left gauntlet.

The Handmaiden caught his hand, her own hands placed to avoid a segment of his own glove, and she kicked him in the elbow. I gasped as the full fury of a Jedi lashed out at that joint. His armor separated, and for a moment, my mind was relieved. But then I considered.

She threw away not his armor but the entire lower arm!

“Cheat!” The sergeant cried.

“Tell Borathis!” I screamed.

She stood there, then moved forward. Her fist hit Borathis in the chest, and his lungs and bones exploded from his back. Then she paused. She stood there, as if confused. Then her hand plucked at her clothing.

Frantically I ripped at my own. “Help me!” I screamed.

*****

Handmaiden

I fell and I felt no more.

No, that is not true.

I was in a darkness shot red with anger fury and hate. I saw my enemy and struck at him. He struck back, and I knew his betrayal. I caught his hand above and below the weapon he should have not had, then I struck at his elbow.

The energy I put into the strike would have punched into a ship’s hull. I felt and recorded the destruction of his arm. But he was still a danger. I punched into him, and I felt every erg of energy I possessed translated into that punch.

He fell, and part of my mind recorded him falling dead.

But still it was not enough. I prepared for the final tier of the order, my clothing shorn away. I was myself as the goddess had sent me into the world, and with only that would I confront my enemy.

There were many to face, but one called to me like a Siren. She stood there, facing me as the Goddess would wish. Yet she was hesitant.

“Do not make me do this.” She said. I recognized her voice.

“Marai?” I asked. Suddenly like a missile I found my target. I leaped toward her. “Marai!”

*****

Marai

She stood over the dead man, her face intent. Her body glowed with the ambient light. And much more. To my eyes I could see the force like a tempest behind her. She spun, and her eyes fixed on me.

“Do not make me do this.” I whispered.

“Marai?” She asked the question as if it would answer every ill. Then she focused on me, and I could see another beneath that gaze. I knew somehow that Atris was looking at me. She leaped toward me. “Marai!”

*****
Handmaiden

I struck, but she was not there. I felt for her, used every sense I had, yet she was illusive, a shadow. I struck at her, strived to slay her. But she was mist, she was not there.

It was like fighting an ocean wave. She was there, but every blow struck water, and flowed into nothingness.

Yet still she was there! Then I felt her behind me. I felt her arm across my neck, in the simplest of strangle holds. Yet my efforts to defeat her were in vain.

I felt my breath catch as I struggle to breath, yet I could not stop her. I fell into nothingness.

*****

Marai

Never had I seen such speed. She was a Jedi faced with her enemy and nothing would gainsay her. I strove not to kill, but to contain. She would kill us all if I let her and by being the target of it all, I saved untold lives.

I found myself behind her and instinctively I went for a sanguinary strangle. I would not cut her wind, but the blood that powered her.

She tried to break the hold, but I moved to block her. It was fighting the wind of a hurricane knowing that a single misstep was my doom.

She turned, my body on her back, trying to find her enemy, then she collapsed.

“Oath less!” The sergeant shouted.

“Check his gauntlet!” I screamed back. The sergeant looked at me stunned, then picked up the loose arm. At first, he was the adult accused of cheating by a child. Then his eyes sharpened, and he pulled the stun bracelet from the gauntlet. “That cheating D'kut!” He looked at me. “I owe your friend an apology.”

“You owe us privacy.” I snapped.

They moved away from us. I looked down at the slack face. “Come back to me, my sister.” I whispered.

Betrayal

Handmaiden

Come back to me, my sister. The voice said. I wanted to resist, but it was as if a hook had dropped in pellucid waters, caught in my flesh, and dragged me to the light. I found myself laying on my back, looking up into Marai’s face. She had a worried look, as if I were an unexploded bomb.

“Are you back in spirit?” She asked.

I suddenly felt the bite of the stun baton, clutching my wrist. “Betrayer!” I gasped. “He cheated!”

I know.” She whispered. “We all know.”

I sagged against her, flesh against flesh. Only then did I notice that we were both naked.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Borathis has been their best recruit in the battle circle. He had concealed a stun bracelet in his gauntlet. You grabbed his arm...”

A bolt of lightning run through me.

Then you attacked him, and I recognized Kashin-Dra...”

Kashin-Dra. The shadow warrior. The last refuge of the Echani in battle to those willing to pay the price..

“You killed him then began to strip...”

I prepared for the final tier of the order, my clothing shorn away. I was myself as the goddess had sent me into the world, and with only that would I confront my enemy.

I matched you, then tried to stop you...”

She stood there, facing me as the Goddess would wish.

“But when I spoke you attacked. I did what I had to do so you would not be hurt.”

It was like fighting an ocean wave. She was there, but every blow struck water, and flowed into nothingness.

She stared down at me. “What do you know of your mother?” She asked softly.

“What of her? I told you that I knew little of her as a child. Only a face that leaned over me... Brushed her lips against my cheek, and was gone forever.”

“She was Jedi. Her name was Arren Kae.”

“Again this is what I already knew.” I chided her.

“She was strong in the force.”

“As was my father.”

“As her child, as their child, it means you could have been, will be strong in the force as well.”

“Yes, I know. It was always there, a wave of power below my perception until you came to the Academy. That I was different. That I could touch such power. I think I always knew it.”

I stared up at her. My eyes kept going in and out of focus, but she was in preternatural focus. “What oath is more important?” I asked softly. “The oath made as a child to your father or the one made in the bloom of womanhood?”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“Because I felt the call of my mother’s blood all these years. Even as I followed Atris, I felt the call of that blood. Of an oath given as a child.”

“You make no sense.”

“When I was young, before my mother had died, I wanted something. A bauble on my father’s desk. He was not there to get it for me, and I found myself reach for it, and it came to my hand. He was home then, and found me playing with it. He sat me on his knee, enfolded me in those great arms, holding me, and said, ‘swear my child. Swear to me that if one day you feel the call of your mother’s blood, that you will not deny it’.” I looked up at her, and my hand touched her face so gently that she did not even notice the touch. “Ever since her loss at Malachor V, I have felt incomplete. A hollow shell of a person, desperate to be healed.

“But this wound felt comfort when I met you. It felt drained as we fought in sparring. Perhaps this wound will be healed.”

Aboard Ebon Hawk, Kreia looked up, listening with Marai’s ears. “So it ends.”

“I want you to teach me in the ways of the force. I want to be a Jedi knight, like my mother.”

“I cannot help you break your oath to Atris.” Marai said. “I will not have you foresworn for my sake. I will not make you follow your father.”

“Listen to me. The oath to my father is stronger than the oath to Atris. She demanded that I refuse to do what my Father demanded. I wish to obey my father. Her oath was that I not train to be a Jedi. Not that I that I am forbidden to train in the use of the force.”

She was silent, head down, hair falling across her face. During or fight her hair had come unbound. I was astonished by it’s length. “I cannot train you as a Jedi. I am not worthy of that trust. But if teaching you can help you control the force within you, stop you from striking out as you did moments ago, I must. I will train you in the ways of the force for that reason.”

“That is all I wish of you, my teacher, my master. I want to feel the world as my mother did. I want to feel for someone what my mother felt. To feel that power in may hands, running through my veins as it did for her. To hear and see and feel what she did when she fought the Mandalorians until she was no more in death at Malachor V.”

“Then know this. You have the makings of a Jedi. And as unworthy as I am, I must guide you upon that path.”

“I will not fail your trust, Marai. I will live in honor of your teachings as I live in honor of my mother’s face.”

“So I hold us both to that trust.” She whispered, then kissed me delicately on the cheek.

Aboard Ebon Hawk, Kreia sighed. “Betrayal.”

*****

Atris

I had followed the wandering child of my group from a distance. I had never told her, told them that I could do so.

I saw her in anger in a circle of battle, facing a Mandalorian warrior in that horrible mockery they called training. I felt the sting of an electrical charge, and suddenly she was no more.

I recognized it. After all I had felt in in Marai, known that I could call her from it. Her thoughts were a red rage of fury and death. I felt a man die, and still it was unsatisfied. Then I saw her. She stood there, facing me as the Goddess would wish us clothed. Yet she was hesitant. She did not know the name of her opponent, and that is necessary for the spell of anger to be broken “Do not make me do this.” She said.

This was my chance. She was an abomination, and I directed that fury at her.

Yet I failed. It was like fighting an ocean wave. She was there, but every blow struck water, and flowed into nothingness. Then there was blackness.

She came back to consciousness, and she was resigned. She had used the last tier in that fight, and both she and Marai had known it. The tier of surrender and superiority. The winner was master in every way.

I had not worried up until then. Nothing the girl had said was something Marai would not have discovered by mere ratiocination.

But then she had spoken, foresworn herself, and done it with a cheap ploy. Her father had asked the opposite of her as a child and that outweighed her oaths to me!

“Betrayer!” I screamed.

One of the Handmaidens came running. “Mistress-”

She had betrayed us! You sister, the faithless strumpet has betrayed us, betrayed me!”

I stood towering in my rage. “Once she was sister of your flesh, but no more! Foresworn I name her!”

“Mistress-”

“We thought that she merely traveled with the Outcast one from pity, but that was a lie on her part! She seeks the powers that a Jedi would possess, and in so doing she condemns herself, and perhaps us!”

The woman was hesitant. Her oaths demanded her acceptance, but this was a sister of flesh. “Mistress, perhaps you are mistaken. Our family does not take oaths lightly-”

“Is that so.” I spoke with an angry hiss. “As important an oath as a life bond to your mother? As important as your oath to me? Will you deny that oath whelp?”

“No my mistress. You are the last of the Jedi, and it is your will that will se them ascendant again.” The words were a mantra, a litany to keep an angry god at bay. “But how has she fallen?”

“It is the corruption of the Exile permeating her being. She will try to teach the faithless one but as she is flawed, so shall the faithless one be flawed. Gather your sisters. Prepare to depart. We will wait until it is needful, but we will be ready to move in a moment.”


Marai

There is the custom among both the Mandalore and the Echani of waiting with the fallen. You know the dead no longer care. They have joined with the Force, gone on to their reward what have you. But to you, the one left behind, there is this friend you knew and loved that now lay upon a battlefield so frightfully alone.

For your own sake, for the memory of them, you stayed, keeping the predators and scavengers from them through the night. My own memory flew to a battle. Zagosta: People who do not go to war picture the troops as soulless automatons marching into battle. The media helps with this by portraying battles as sweeps of color racing across a map like bloody slashes, not as the series of inchworm like movements of real armies trying to move, keep themselves supplied, and fight at the same time.

When there is a pause in the fighting, the pundits worry of failure, that the army isn’t good enough, and will be destroyed merely because they do not charge on. We had stopped advancing into the mountains, more because we were tired than anything else. We had half of the valley, and the Mandalorians that had been defending still held the other half of the long flat swale. Someone fired, and I moved along the lines to find out why. A heavy blaster rifleman was firing at a figure, and I slapped the weapon up.

“Sir, it’s a flipping Mandalorian!” He screamed at him.

“Do they shoot our stretcher bearers or medics?” I hissed at him angrily.

“Of course not.” He was offended.

“The Mandalorians believe that a friend should sit with the fallen if it is possible. You are murdering someone who mourns you bastard.” I flipped on my com link. “Max 2nd Marine units. do not, repeat, do not fire on any Mandalorian who does not cross the dead line. If you do, you answer to me.”

The next day we returned to our bloody work of killing. But that night, the enemy knew someone on our side understood.


The Mandalorians understood. A quiet recruit brought me a blanket, and I sat with my friend through the night.

As the sun rose, Bao Dur came up, handing me a cup of tea.

“The ship called. Your new friend is awake, and wishes to speak with you.”

“Tell them we will be there as soon as we can.” I brushed the sleeping face still looking up from my lap. “I have things I must attend to.”

About an hour later, I felt the Handmaiden’s mind stir. I felt a rush of the force as her warrior mind instinctively searched her surrounding. Only when she was sure that it was safe did her eyes open.

“Master-”

“No. I am no master. I am still Marai, your sister of battle.” I brushed her hair from her eyes. “I must go to the ship. You will stay and meditate here until I return.”

“What have I done to offend you?” She asked bereft.

“Nothing my sweet. But you must learn to focus the new skills you will gain. If you cannot meditate, practice, work out. If the company does not offend you, practice with the Mandalorians.

“But I must interrogate the woman, and I would feel better if you were here safe.”

“Safe? Why must I be safe?”

“The most dangerous time for those who use the force is when they are new to it. She would be a destabilizing influence on you.” I leaned forward, hugging her. “I do this to protect my sister from a battle she is not ready yet to fight.”

She nodded.

We dressed, and I went to find Bao Dur. He had been working on the telemetry computer, and he grunted with satisfaction when the system purred into life.

“I’ll be with you in a moment, General.”

“Bao Dur, that was a long time ago. My titles are no more.”

“I know that General. But there are times when it’s hard to get my head out of the past.” He slid the panel back on, standing.

“Can’t you concentrate on what has happened since?”

“If I had a home and a place to call my own, I think it might do that. But what can I say about the last ten odd years? I bummed around as a starship mechanic until I started feeling uncomfortable again. Then I’d move on to somewhere new. I couldn’t seem to find anywhere I felt comfortable.”

“I know the feeling. When I left the order I felt comfortable no where.”

“You would. It was just that the one thing I fought the war for was something I didn’t get out of it. Peace. I figured as long as I kept moving I wouldn’t have to think about it.”

“I know the feeling well.”

“After about a year, I suddenly wanted to do something constructive. I became interested in helping people not have to fight. I studied shield technology, and planetary defense shields. The ones they had during the war waste too much energy and bleed off to easily. But the credits were always tight after the war. why spend money building a newer more efficient system when the system put in by your great grandfather still works? There was more money in rebuilding than anyone is ever willing to spend on making sure it can’t happen again.

I talked with the Ithorians, and they asked me to design the system they’re using on Telos. Not just the standard nothing gets in or out shields of a ship, but something that was flexible, could go around corners, or cut across a hydroelectric dam from the flat side up the glacis without buckling. Shields they could move like furniture.”

He looked out over the jungle. “Telos was beautiful One of the most beautiful planets I had ever seen. It deserved better than to be thrown away after the Sith smashed it flat.” He went still.

“Then Czerka came. Oh they talked a good game. Good enough that they were able to hire me away from the Ithorians. But it was all a game to them. A slot machine where you pull the lever, and it’s rigged to pay off when they wanted it to. Before Lorso came it wasn’t too bad. Falt was a good guy, even if he had to do some things to pad the bottom line. But Lorso went hog wild.

“I was under contract, have you seen their contracts?” I shook my head. He chuckled. “Fifty pages of boilerplate that a lawyer would love to take to bed for late night reading. But you can say it all in three sentences. ‘You agreed to do the job. We can decide to change that job whenever we damn well please but you still have to do it. If you don’t like it, get a new life, because you’ve already given your old one to us’.

“They wanted me to start interfering with the force fields around other areas. The main continent is a hodgepodge of cleared section controlled by Czerka, others controlled by the Ithorians, and wasteland. But the areas were laid out by the Ithorians originally, and Czerka couldn’t adjust them, at least not legally. But there was so much that Czerka wanted to get to that was just out of reach.”

“Forty million tons of Redrocite near the south pole and all of those old military bases and cities to salvage.”

“Got it in one, General. The ore they want to get to is fifteen kilometers from their base under a glacier fifty kilometers in length, but it’s in an Ithorian controlled region. So they wanted me to create a corridor that would run that distance, linking them. Lorso had already put in orders for the mining machinery. That glacier would be melted away, and the ore ripped out before anyone was the wiser.

“But I refused. I got sent off to the camp where you met me, and one of the security guard planted Ryll spice in my gear. Got me arrested. But they forgot who I was.”

He opened a panel on his arm, and I saw a glowing energy matrix. “You spend enough time working with shield technology, and you find cute little things that don’t have a lot of utility unless you’re a thief. This little gizmo reads the shield harmonic, and by adjusting it here, it neutralizes that frequency. The shield just goes away long enough for me to walk through it.

“So I sorta went back to war again. This time the enemy wore Czerka uniforms. I was sabotaging their equipment, but never their shields. The planet wasn’t my enemy.”

“You against the corporation.” I murmured. “Pretty steep odds.”

“Oh I didn’t expect to win. Just slow them down a bit.” He looked at me, then asked gently. “I hate talking about the war, but can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why did you go to war?”

I shrugged. “The Mandalorians had to be stopped, and the Republic military didn’t seem capable.”

“From you lips to the Maker’s ear. I was wondering what the Republic was doing as the Mandalorians gobbled up the rim. Were they so blind that they didn’t care?”

“It was a selective blindness.” I said. “Like Lorso and Czerka back on Telos. We are supposed to ignore what they do because it isn’t our planet they are ruining or our money they are stealing. The senate was just that blind. The Mandalorians weren‘t attacking us, they were attacking those people too stupid to join the Republic before. We were too big for them to digest, so we were safe.”

“Yeah.“ He replied softly. Like Iridonia.”

“Bao Dur-”

“Oh I know that isn’t what you thought. You’re just repeating what they said. May people had colonies both inside and outside Republic space, and they were among the first to fall. But when it was my own home...”

“I know. I’d like to think most of the Jedi that went did so because they could not allow other people to be hurt if we could stop it.”

“I didn’t join to protect anyone. I did it out of hate and revenge. I wanted to kill every Mandalorian. I wanted to choke the life from them as they had to my home, and if I had to strangle the last one in his crib I would have done it. Before the Jedi came into the war there weren’t a lot of victories, but every Mandalorian death was something to celebrate. You know what I mean.”

“I do, but not from direct experience.” I shook my head. “The Jedi are taught that if kill you must, do it cleanly. Don’t glory in it, or cheer. Think of it as surgery where you must spill blood, but you are doing it with the intent to heal the person.”

“I couldn’t do that.” He whispered. “I couldn’t separate the hate from the deed. It was almost as if this... This thing within me came out of it’s cage, and nothing would satisfy it but blood.

“Then suddenly the war was over. Revan fought and killed Mandalore face to face, and stripped them of their arms. But I found I couldn’t just turn it off. I hated the Mandalorians.

“But I came to realize that it wasn’t the Mandalorians I hated. It was myself. I see the callow young man I had been unwilling to swat an insect turned into a ravening monster that gloried in the kill. I hated the Mandalorians for what they had made me do. For letting the monster out of the box, and now I don’t know how to put it back.”

“That isn’t how you are.” He looked at me. “What do you think of Zuka?”

“Well he doesn’t really have the training to be a tech. He’s picked it up, and is getting good, but he still hesitates when he tries to fix things. Worries too much they’ll take any fumbles out of his pay.”

“And Kex?”

“He’s no better or worse than any supply sergeant I have ever met. But he never passes out crap and calls it gold. If it doesn’t work he works on it until it does. In fact they told me there’s an old cache nearby with some construction and repair droids. If they could get it open, they would have this place up and running in no time.”

“And what have you been doing?”

He looked at me strangely. “I’ve been helping out where I can. I’d go bug nuts sitting on my butt while work needs to be done.”

“Now think of what you just said. Did the thought that these people were Mandalorian have anything to do with them?”

“No...” He looked out the door at the men out there. “All I thought was Zuka needs training, and Kex needs help.”

So you are growing out of this.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “You have a beast, but if it is not in the cage now, it is at least placid enough to let them survive with you there.”

He sat there lost in thought. “Well I have work to do. Did you need something?”

“No, Bao Dur. You stay here and help. I have to go to the ship. I will be back in a while.”

“Bring me some tea while you’re there. This Mandalorian stuff is like getting jumpstarted.”

“Sure.” I gave him a lazy grin. “Echani fire tea?”

“Maker no! I have to sleep sometime.”

I made my way to the gate. The Mandalorian Guard captain grunted, then called for a couple of recruits to guide me to the ship. More to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid than anything else. While we waited, he cracked his knuckles.

“I don’t like it.” He said. I looked at him. After a moment, he saw my look and shrugged. “We had to pull in our patrols because of that stupid battle overhead. We couldn’t take the chance with the Onderon military running by with full scanners, so we couldn’t even have the satisfaction of cleaning out the larger predators. They’d detect weapons fire.”

“But you should be able to move around now. The battle is over.”

“Mandalore’s orders. We had three ships coming down on our sensor grid. But where they landed we don’t know.”

“Well there is mine, and the Duros. Any idea what the other one was?”

“It read as a freighter. but no transponder code.” He shrugged again. “Until your friend showed up sensor grid usually meant using the mark one eyeball.”

“So they could have landed a fleet and they wouldn’t have been noticed.”

“Yeah, but who? The Onderoni use this place for two things, a place to catch animals they sell, and a burial ground for their kings.”

“They bury their kings here?”

“Considering a lot of them through their history, I’d want to bury them somewhere they can’t get away from readily.”

“You’re almost speaking as if they’ll rise from the dead.”

If you study Onderoni history some of them just might.” He looked around. “One thing we were able to pick up before the system went down was signals on the surface. Old equipment of ours and yours detecting sweeps by someone. But when we go looking, we don’t find anything.

“But it doesn’t repeat in any sector we can reach. It’s like someone looking for a Search and Rescue beacon that transmits only intermittently.”

“Where?”

“When the system was fully up I’d have said everywhere on the bloody moon.”

The guides arrived, and we set out.


'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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Old 08-18-2006, 12:31 AM   #40
Char Ell
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Why did you decide to skip all of the underground military base on the Telos surface?
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #17
She has five medals of commendation from the Mandalorian was, including the Parliamentary Medal of Honor for Malchior V.
I've noticed the spelling you use for the final planet in TSL is consistent. The game spells it Malachor V. Unless you've decided to change this planet's name in your story. But you did spell it the same way as the game does in post #28 and further on in the story so I guess you're going with Malachor V?
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #17
“Irritated Query: Did you think of the 400 kilometer walk we now have because you destroyed the only operation vessel?” Unit 41 asked.

Embarrassed reply: No. I merely assumed I would do less damage than that.”
I loved this exchange between the HK-50 droids. One assassin droid annoyed with another.

I liked the additional background you provided between Bao-Dur and Marai, how she wouldn't let the doctors amputate Bao-Dur's arm without his permission because she knew that Bao-Dur would be devastated at the loss of his limb in that manner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by post #23
They were all standing in the mess hall when I arrived.
Does this mean in the central area of the Ebon Hawk? I'm sure you're compensating for the fact that Ebon Hawk, as depicted in the game, doesn't have a place to eat. I'm just trying to visualize what part of Ebon Hawk this part of the story occurred in.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #23
T3 gave a strangled bleep, and Bao Dur said, “What do you mean I’m disturbing...” He turned as he was speaking, then suddenly covered his eyes.

“What is going on here?” I demanded.

“General, before the conversation goes any further, you dropped your towel.”
A nice add to the story. I enjoy these little tangents because they add a touch of "normal life" to the epic.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #23
Afterward I was just glad that Atton had been busy forward. The sight of two nubile half nude women in gymnastic vigor would have sent him screaming toward the freshers.
So true!
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #24
three dozen animals averaging 300 kilos each for a grand total of just under 11 tons-

-versus a half kiloton ship made up of a lot of bolted together parts-
I'm not sure I understand the units of measure in this section. Does 1 ton = 1,000 kilos? I'm just used to 1 ton = 2,000 lbs. or just over 900 kilograms.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #24
“He thinks honor is a word in the dictionary between Honky-tonk and Honorarium!” She roared.
Loved this sentence!
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #28
My father went to wore to be with the woman he loved. But she was not the one he had bonded with eight years before. My father violated his bond to be with another, and I am the result of that. Both lives ruined. Mine to be lived in shame to show forever what happens when a bond is broken.”
So in this story Yusanis was originally married to an Echani woman, the mother of the Handmaiden's elder sisters, but left her for Arren Kae, Brianna's mother?
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #28
“Pretty secret race. Human or at least close enough to breed. Their race was born on a planet called Katharr.
I believe the home planet of the Miraluka is Katarr. No h necessary.
Quote:
Originally Posted by zezkaiel.dlg
At the last Jedi conclave on the Miraluka world of Katarr, the entire planet was wiped out. An entire race, destroyed... because the Jedi chose to gather there.
Another great story in progress, machievelli! I look forward to reading more. Your story leaves no doubt about your love for the Echani and Mandalorians. And I'm pleasantly surprised that this story seems to be getting more attention than your original KotOR story did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jae Onasi
Every time I hear 'Devo', all I can think about is a band wearing red flowerpots on their heads and sporting those ridiculously thin sunglasses.
Dang! Now I've got that song in my head.
"now whip it
into shape
shape it up
get straight
go forward
move ahead
try to detect it
it's not too late
to whip it
whip it good!"
*** whip crack sounds ***


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