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Old 09-17-2005, 12:57 AM   #1
machievelli
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(fic) KOTOR excerpts

Author's note. Exerpts of a full length novel that will be submitted soon.


Knights of the Old Republic:
Genesis of a Jedi
Archivist’s Notes:
Little is known of the past of Padawan Danika Wordweaver. As a Jedi Consular, she spent most of her life travelling and the Sith war kept her constantly on the move. Her life before the Sith war is only a brief Republic service record before she joined the order.
What was found out before her disappearance and possible death are fragmentary, and the records of this volume came not from those Republic files, or her own words to others, but rather from the two droids that accompanied her during the Sith war, T3M4, and HK47.
Danika was reticent about her past in person, and it wasn’t until she had left on her last mission for the council that what is now known of her early life came to light.
She had left the droids mentioned above on Coruscant. Perhaps she felt through the force that it was soon to be her time to join it as all of us do when we pass on. She and the Crew of the Ebon Hawk vanished into the depths of space on that mission. Their fate still a mystery five years later. Yet when I spoke to the droids just last year, they suddenly answered my questions. To quote HK47, it was now time to ‘tell this tale’.
As the most recent of the archivists of the Jedi Academy, it fell to me to record for posterity what that luminary accomplished during those hectic years.
What you will read below is a compilation of many people’s views of what happened during that time. Danika herself, while reticent with people, was eloquent in speaking of her past when it was recorded by her droids.
Padawans Bastila Jolee Bindo Juhani and Padawan learner Sasha Ot Sulem of the order, all of whom disappeared with her on that last mission each left personal records.
Carth Onasi, Canderous Ordo Mission Vao Zaalbar and others had already recorded much of what happened during that first fateful mission. I am especially indebted to the late Komad Fortuna, first advisor to the Wookiee of planet Kashyyyk, and Speaker-elect Shasha of Manaan. They gave me information that has never appeared in the records and which truth to be told, would have embarrassed Danika if it were known earlier.
Note: The record of what occurred aboard Leviathan came to us when Leviathan was captured not long before the war ended. No changes have been made in that record. Events from aboard the Star Forge came via survivors’ recollections, and the use of Soochir by the members of Ebon Hawk‘s crew.
Jolan Lasko, Archivist.



A patriot is a person that has found a cause worth fighting for, worth living for, worth dying for, and worth killing for;
The same can be said for the Fanatic.
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Old 09-17-2005, 01:46 PM   #2
machievelli
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Memories
I have never understood why the place I came from should be important to those that speak to me. I spent a decade of my life smoothing any accent from my voice, but still everyone asks where I come from as if it delineates who and what I am. Really! Human kind lives of over 7,000 planets, and with the non-human members of the republic, there are over a hundred thousand planets that people can live on.
I think people wonder where you are from so that they can fit you into a neat cubbyhole when dealing with you as a Jedi. They want to know in the hope that with this information, they can predict your actions by what is the norm for your home world.
Yet one of the very first things a Jedi learns is how to set aside her past and what her parents taught her in those brief years before they join the order. That is part of the reason the order usually chooses children between five and eight standard years old for training. Old enough that they can understand speech, yet young enough to have few preconceptions, and almost no prejudices.
In my case as you know, where I was born and where I remember being born are two different things. I have wrestled with that since the Sith War, and finally came to a decision.
I am no longer who I was, so my memories are all I have. I will die true to them.
Very well. Since I will be long dead when this record is released. I will tell you HK47. I was born on Deralia, a world still known for it‘s beautiful beaches, soft gentle rains.
But as the force has both a light and a dark side, so does my home planet. Where I came from on the Equatorial belt, it’s known for the varied homicidal wildlife, and the hunters that come from throughout the galaxy to hunt them.
Deralia was settled only because someone was greedy. The Tokara Company survey ship that discovered the planet was supposed to do a survey of the entire planet. Instead they surveyed the Northern Hemisphere, saw the lush islands of what is called the Cerulean Sea, and immediately thought of all the resorts that could be built there.
I have looked at the Republic Colonial Office specifications. One year is to be devoted to cataloguing all of the life forms present on every landmass above a specific size, and verify that they are not overly dangerous. But five hundred years ago, someone on the ship, or perhaps from the Company itself greased a few palms and registered the planet five months after it‘s discovery. They sold the planet to the Chartered Deralia Company, which opened colonization on the only major continent at the same time that Tokara began construction of the hotels my home-world is best known for.
I also checked the Jedi Archives concerning the now defunct Tokara Company. This wasn’t the first or the last planet they had ‘forgotten’ to check. Their headquarters on Coruscant closed abruptly when someone crashed a cargo ship full of Magnesite on it, blowing it and five square kilometers of the planet to dust.
Obviously an unsatisfied settler.
The colonists that came were the usual crowd, the disgruntled, those wanting more elbowroom, the ones hoping that this would be better than where they were from. There were 150,000 in that first wave.
By the end of the first planetary year (425 standard days) 5,000 remained on the main continent. Most died, for nature has no pity, and a human being is frightfully fragile. About 20,000 had taken one look at what they were facing, and wanted no part of it. Those that fled make up the servant class at all of those luxury hotels.
The others stayed. They learned the best way to kill a Thorm, a predator the size of a medium bulk transport. How to keep the herbivore called a Wambor from stepping on your home. A useful skill when dealing with something that Thorm prides hunt.
How to gather Katkin eggs without ending up in the food chain. How to gather the seeds and pollen of the Julot, which has the local nickname of the Harpoon tree.
They thrived by being faster and meaner than any species on the planet. A child isn’t even allowed out of the Kraal until she can identify every known danger, and can shoot well. Considering the possible dangers, I discovered that what I learned as a child was more useful in combat than what I learned in Boot Camp later. We’re known for being self reliant, and innovative. My mother died before I even knew her. She is just a large face holding me in my memory. Father remarried when I was six.
It wasn’t all danger. I remember riding Tirlat, running in the fields of Tuza grain, climbing the Jumja trees to pick a fresh melon. We also raised a few head of Kora, a local herbivore that isn’t too large, only five times human size. We also raised Bezek vines that were one of our two primary ways of earning hard credits.
Bezek is classified as a Grade 2 hazardous plant because the pollen is addictive, and causes anything with a sense of smell to charge blindly in to get a better sniff. The flowers have poisonous needles, which close on anything that enters them. The animals are sucked into the now closing flower, their fluids drained and the husks are expelled to become fertilizer.
There are only three animals that can safely get near a Bezek vine when in flower. The Goothi bird, which fertilizes the seeds, the Wambor, which eats the vine, and is too big to get stung, and man. But only a fool walks outside when the flowers are in bloom without a breather mask.
The nectar is sold to perfumers, who make some of the most sensuous perfumes known to the galaxy. The fruit is pressed for wine considered an aphrodisiac.
But we’re best known for the hunting and the guides that take you to your prey. There are over fifty predators ten herbivores, and sixty varieties of aquatic wildlife classed as Galactic grade game, meaning that when you hunt them, the odds are even as to who gets taken as a trophy even with body armor and military grade heavy weapons.
I think that is why the Jedi didn’t discover me earlier. Jedi don’t hunt, and view killing as something that sometimes must be done, but not something to do on vacations. They rarely came to our planet as judged because our local laws are draconian when it comes to crime. We have few if any civil violations because we are taught from birth to be bluntly honest. This may sound odd but survival depends on telling the truth and cooperation. A lie cannot protect you against nature, only a friend can. A man known for being self-serving, or lying doesn’t get help when he needs it. There is no colder way to die than to call for help when in need, and not get it.
By the age of ten, I was going out on hunts my father led. First as a bearer, then to help with children that some brought with them. Finally as a guide myself.
Most of the children were stuck-up prigs who looked down on me because I didn’t know their planets, music, actors, etcetera. They had inflated views of their own importance because they did know these things. There were times when I could have been a bit slipshod, and someone would have ended up dead. But even with my irritation with them, I never allowed them to come to harm. They survived to go home, either with the trophy their parent had taken, or, sometimes, with the coffin that held that person’s remains.
Some however gave me a deep yearning to go to their home-worlds, to see sunrise on Correl, to watch the waves of Chanderal smash into the cliffs at a speed unrivaled by any flying machine. My father always laughed at that. He hadn’t even been as far as our capitol city of Morla.
I was thirteen when I picked up an unusual hobby. The Echani Sword dance.
An Echani prefect had come along with his children, Bortu and Kalendra. Bortu was three years my senior, Kalendra was 14, a year older than I. They spent a month on the planet hunting, and I was hired to be their companion.
One evening ritual I was entranced by was when they practiced with ritual brands and swords held in both hands. I had learned the use of the Panga, the local bush knife; I had even learned the practical use of one as a weapon. But the way I had learned to use a blade was as dull as a dark room in comparison. It was like comparing dancing and just shuffling your feet.
Bortu was a master with his twin blades, placed in the same sheath, they were drawn, a stud pressed, and there were two separate composite blades. When he practiced, he used a pole with the bark still on it as his target. He would stand before it, then would leap into movement, the blades whipping from all directions, taking strips from the bark without touching the wood beneath.
But Kalendra was magic in comparison. She carried a ritual brand, folded into a single sheath, as were their twin swords. But when drawn, and the stud pressed, it snapped out, making a twin bladed staff. When seen side by side, Bortu’s movements could be seen by me to be mechanical. Kalendra danced as if the blade and the target were partners.
I have heard since I left my home that the Echani know nothing of war, that they are dilettantes, their fighters too hard to handle, their energy weapons underpowered, their ships too lightly armored, their swords too difficult to master.
To all their detractors, I say this; their warships are faster and more maneuverable than any in the galaxy. Almost fighters writ huge. Their fighters are like juvenile Tirga needing only a gentle hand to guide them to wonders few craft can achieve. Their energy weapons are light, but the Echani have always believed that a weapon is a needle, not a fire hose. A calm cool shot can kill any enemy with an Echani blaster, and can pick a target small enough that it looks like a miracle.
War was not a bloody bludgeoning struggle to the Echani; it was a game where those who knew the rules won. Pilots are trained to maneuver as violently as possible in simulators, and only those that can do so consistently go on to a real fighter craft. Their ground troops learned to shoot the target, not the landscape.
And the blade...
The blade is taught to all, but only those who know their own bodies can attain true mastery. They call blade fighting the ‘dance of death’.
After watching them for a few days, I asked to try my hand at them. Bortu refused, laughing. He had been practicing since he was six, and still didn’t feel he had mastered the twin blades. He didn’t expect someone almost twice that age to even scratch the surface.
But that evening, Kalendra drew me outside where no one would watch. “Dance with me.” She whispered.
“Dance?” I felt uncomfortable. Dancing was something the old people did, and it was linked to passage rites. She must have seen my thoughts because she laughed a light tingly sound that caused my blood to race a bit.
“If you wish to learn the dance of death, I must see you move. Stand as I stand, move exactly as I do, and I will judge whether you can learn.”
She took a stance with one foot advanced, hands even with her waist, and I matched it. “When I move a hand, you must move the opposite. She pushed her right hand forward. I measured the same distance with my left. “Excellent. Once you have the hands down, we shall add the feet. Now begin.”
She moved, and I matched her, slowly shifting first one hand then the other out and in, up and down. “Now two hands.” She moved one up and out, the other in and down.
She stopped, picking up two Bezek stakes about as tall as we were. Again she began moving, my motions matching. Now I saw the ends of the staffs as blades, my motions intercepting hers. She began moving her feet, stepping right and left in a circle with me at the center. But when I also moved, we became moths circling a central flame.
She began speeding up, and I kept up with her as long as I could. I missed a block, and she tapped my shoulder. She stopped, stepping back, and dropped the staff on the pile.
I was crushed. I had failed. But the next evening she was back. She had trimmed two staffs down, and tarred the ends. “The worst part of learning to sword dance is learning to keep your body out of the way. Every time you see tar on you, picture a limb being cut off.”
Bortu had decided that he wanted to actually hunt, so he spent most of his time out with the others. That left Kalendra and I alone. During the next weeks we were inseparable. During the day we hiked the nearby hills, where the hunting had cleared the major wildlife, thus limiting our dangers. In the afternoons when it was hot we would go to the soaking pool below the house, and lay back against the bank where it had been tiled, just relaxing in the cool liquid.
In the evenings we practiced the sword dance. I despaired of ever becoming as good as she already was, but she’d hug me laughing, and told me that practice was all she had that I had not.
The time flew by so fast that I suddenly realized one day that her father was due to leave in less than a week. I waited until father and the hunters had left, and took her hand.
“Do you want to see what I do for fun when there are no hunters? Something I have never shown another visitor to this planet?” I whispered. She nodded eagerly. We picked up our side arms and pangas, and I led her through the woods to the Grove.
A few kilometers from the house, there was a clearing large enough to land cargo ships in. No one knows why the trees never grew back. Small herbivores kept the small plants and grasses down until it looked like a manicured lawn, and now it was home to the Tirlat herd. I led her to the edge, touched her lips to make sure she would be quiet, and pointed.
At first glance a tirlat is funny. The average adult is about twice the size of a land speeder, with a barrel shaped body wide at the front so that it’s mouth can seine in pollen and smaller flying prey, and pointed at the back end. Their stomach acid burns so hot that they have hydrogen left from their diet, and this is stored in the bladders that lay all around their body. They drift along sometimes with the wind, but when they want to move, they have ribbon wings along the sides. They are an anomaly on the planet, totally inoffensive, and nothing on the planet eats them while they are alive. They look like a stiff breeze would kill them, though we have hurricanes that level the forests and I have yet to see a tirlat die of anything but old age.
To ride a tirlat, you have to imitate a Jollo cat, an arboreal predator the size of a human being. A primate, it climbs as fast as a human walks, and runs down branches, dropping on it’s prey from above. Not that a hunting Jollo cat would be able to hurt a tirlat. The cat would find that the rubbery skin of even a juvenile was too thick to be penetrated by her claws. The skin was also slick. All a baby tirlat has to do to escape a Jollo cat is fly.
I set my climbing belt for 10 percent gravity, motioned for Kalendra to do likewise, and leapt straight up at the lowest branch five meters above my head. I swarmed up on top, and caught her hand as she followed. We ran along the wide branch to where we were above the manicured land, and I pointed behind us at the tirlat I called Spooky. He got that name because his wings are almost translucent, and he looked like a ghost tirlat compared to the younger ones. Spooky I was told was older than the human settlement on the continent. He was slowly sculling toward us, his wings barely rippling.
I crouched down, uncoiling my climbing line. “When he flies under we drop down.” I waved the line, “This goes under his chin, and you sit down or lay down fast.” We waited impatiently as he sculled closer. Then he was below us, moving by. I gripped her hand, and as his body began moving below us I said, “Now!” And we dropped together. I flung the line in a practiced motion, making the weighted end spin down and around the neck. I caught the loose end as I dropped down to sit with my legs in front of the wings. “Sit down!” I shouted. Kalendra dropped down behind me, her legs straddling me, her arms around my waist.
It was good she had done so, because the ribbons stiffened into blades, and Spooky tried to escape. The wings came up then down in a powerful thump, and we shot forward. It wasn’t fast, even a child’s speeder bike is faster, but along with the slick skin, it would have thrown us backward off the body.
I held the line with both hands, and she held onto me. “It’s like a swoop bike!” She shouted. I had never even seen a swoop bike before, so I had nothing to compare it to. Then she gave the trilling wail of the Echani war cry. Spooky reacted to this with another thumping sweep of his wings.
We shouted in joy, then first she, then I, then together, we gave another cry, urging the gentle animal to fly even faster. As we flew I showed her how to guide him. Pull on one side, and he would move the opposite direction. Thump his barrel with your feet, and he would climb, though not very high. Lean forward, and he would head down until his belly ruffled the longer grass.
Kalendra leaned into me, her hands pressed against the front of my body, her head turned to lie against my back. “Let’s just let it fly for a while. I don’t know what I might do if I get more excited.” She whispered. We flew along in silence. As our movement and noise died, Spooky went back to rippling his wings. There was silence and peace. There is nothing like it in the galaxy.
Finally I guided him back to the glade. “We have to get off now.”
“Must we?”
“He will get sick if we ride him all day. We can come back later in the week.” I explained.
“How do we dismount?”
When I say now, tuck and roll backwards.” I felt her head nodding against my back. I released the line I held on the left, pulling it up to coil it again. “Ready,” I gave one last war cry. “Now!”
As before he snapped his wings straight out, and pounded the air. But without the line, we rolled backwards like a stone down a hill. Two rolls and suddenly we fell toward the ground. Kalendra landed sprawled, and I frantically stiffened my arms so that I landed above her without smashing down on her.
We giggled, looking at each other in the sheer enjoyment of the moment. Then the laughter died as we just drank in each other. Her hand rose, and touched my cheek, a feather touch. I leaned into the hand. She leaned upward, and her lips brushed mine. Her eyes held a sadness I didn’t understand.
“If only we had met last year.” She whispered. Then she was pushing me aside so she could stand.
The walk home was silent. Her mood had gone from happy to depressed like a light flicking off, and I didn’t know why. She wouldn‘t answer my questions. That evening, we practiced, but I was able to get past her guard easily. She wasn’t concentrating.
Instead of going in the house as was usual, she led me to the pool, stripped off her clothes, and slid into the water. I followed her, and when I was seated, she curled up in my lap. We were sitting in reverse of when we had ridden me at the back with my arms around her. She leaned into me, and I held my friend. I felt her jerk, and she turned, burying her face against my chest as she cried. I didn’t know what I had done to make her so sad. I asked but she merely shook her head, and held on to me as if I was a lifeline to sanity. “Hold me like you would never let me go.” She husked, and we sat there for an hour until finally we had to go in.
The last week was both sublime pleasure and sheer torture for both of us. We didn’t want to be parted, but being together was painful for some reason I didn’t understand. She was constantly touching my hand, my face. Hugging me just when she was in the mood to hold me. Sometimes when the mood struck us, we would hold each other, our lips brushing each other’s faces. I had never known such contentment. We rode the tirlat twice more, and every night after practice, we spent an hour in the pool cuddled.
Finally her father was done with his hunting, and the next day they were going to leave. That night, she drew me outside. I thought we were going to practice, but instead she went to the pool and slid into the water. I followed her, and she cuddled against me again. “I don’t want to go.” She said, her head against my chest. “I want to stay in this pool, in your arms forever.”
“I don’t want you to go either.” I whispered into her hair. “If only you could stay here.”
“But I can’t.” She sighed. “I must go. But will you promise me something?”
“Anything.”
“Promise you won’t forget me.”
“Never.”
She kissed me one last time. The next morning they left, and I spent three days crying. My parents watched me during those days with what I took to be amusement. Later I understood that they knew what I was going through, and their amusement was only the feeling every person has seeing children grow up.
My only real pleasure after she left was the dance.
It wasn’t until years later, after I had left my home world that I finally had access to a library computer. When I looked up the Echani, I discovered that their mating rituals are deeply ingrained into their society. A boy can live to adulthood unencumbered, but a girl must be bonded at age thirteen. Nothing can break that life-bond except for death. Nothing is allowed to. When a child is bonded, she leaves her home, and lives with her bond-mate’s family until marriage. Their romantic fiction all hinges on people that break their bond to be with another, and the horrible events that ensue.
I discovered that Bortu had not been her brother, he had been her fiance-bond-mate. The man I had thought was her father was actually his.
There is however a self-bond. When the child loves another, or loves an ideal itself. Those Echani that become Jedi claim this. A self-bond has no boundaries, and is considered just as valid as a life-bond.
When someone mentions that an acquaintance is Echani there is a lot of nudging and winking going on. It is assumed because they have no strictures on marriage, that the Echani are lustful beings.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. An Echani wise man once said ‘if you lust after a woman today, you are madly in love with the clothes she decided to wear’. They believe not in following sexual desire, but love. To an Echani, sex is no more the be all of love than hair color is the end all of a woman. Love in their eyes is caring about another person so much that their well being is all you worry about. Making sure they never want is more important than your own needs. This extends in family, where children receive what they need whether it be a hug or a spanking. It extends in society by allowing love to flow freely between all.
“If only we had met last year.” She had said. She had meant it too. Under their laws, she could have claimed a self-bond to me. She would have left her home and become my what, wife? Lover? Significant Other? The fact that we were of the same sex would not have mattered to her people. Bio-geneticists are able to blend the DNA of any pair of the same species. They could have taken one of our eggs, fertilized it with the DNA of the other, even adjusted it so that we could have male children. We could have borne such children naturally for the Echani feel that all aspects of life both pleasurable and painful are meant to be experienced.
When I’m sad, I can picture us sitting in that same pool, with our children splashing around us, content in all things. But it didn’t happen. If she had bonded with me, I wouldn’t have become a Jedi. I would not be here now. How much would my life have changed if that had happened?

Not much of what happened in the Galaxy really affected us there. Our fleet was a pair of old Moravian Kontor class gunboats over a century old. Resorts and hunting preserves aren’t strategic targets. We knew that the Mandalorian war was happening, but except for a dip in business, we didn’t really feel the affects of it. When I had just turned twenty-one, the Sith war began. Again we were not really affected.
In my twenty-third year, my life changed. A Republic officer came to Deralia on a recruiting drive. Along with others he scoured the resorts looking for likely young people. But this one decided to check out the homesteads of the continent as well. It was pure luck. I hadn’t found any of the local boys that interested me, and sexual frustration can cause you to make abrupt decisions.
It was the first time someone had actually come to our Kraal that wasn‘t a neighbor or a hunter. When he arrived, I was sword dancing.
Of course I didn’t have a proper Echani ritual brand. They are hand made for the user, and while you can use someone else’s it is slightly uncomfortable. But once I had felt comfortable with the idea of an actual blade instead of a tarred stick, I had taken two pangas a section of conduit large enough to slide over the handles, and made a double bladed sword.
When I danced, I was in my own world. Nothing mattered except for the sweep of the blade, the placement of the feet, the click of the blade hitting the pole. I was almost as good now as Kalendra had been when she began teaching me, and I could feel her standing back and watching me with that gentle smile.
I stopped, and began to dismount the panga blades. That was when I heard a gentle clapping sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the man in a uniform I didn’t know.
“Well danced youngling. You’re not a local?”
“Yes I am.” I replied.
“Then where did you learn the Echani Sword dance?”
“From a hunter’s daughter.”
“Ah. May I speak with you?”
My brow rose at that. What might he have to say?
“I have already spoken with your father, as the law requires.” I nodded. Except for hunters who didn’t seem to care much about any local law the Republic representatives had always been punctilious about obeying them. Of course the first person that abused the trust of his guides and their families could easily find their rifle unloaded when something charged them.
Obviously he was either unmarried, or from a world that accepted concubines, slavery, or polygamy. To speak with me without permission could have caused an... Accident.
“I am recruiting for the Kolari Sector defense forces.”
“For?”
“The majority of the fleet has gone over to the Sith. Soldiers are desperately needed to preserve the Republic-” I raised my hand.
I finished dismantling my weapon, then turned to go up on the verandah. My father was sitting with a hunter and some beaters, talking about the hunt they planned that day. He saw me coming, and raised his hand for silence.
“You spoke with him?” He asked. I nodded. “You going?” I shrugged, then nodded again. His eyes were sad, and he hugged me, something he rarely did. “You be careful. Hear?”
“Like a Bojuum hunt, father.”
He smiled. “Tell your mother.” He turned to resume his seat and conversation. That was as much of a goodbye as I expected from him. I walked into the house. Mother had a hunting pack already packed, sitting on the kitchen table. She was staring at it as if she was going to cry.
I touched it with my fingers. “Am I that easy to predict?”
To anyone who knows you?” She stood, and with a soft painful cry she hugged me. “Be careful.”
“I will.”
“Come home.” She finished, then she turned and fled the room.
I carried my pack, tossed it in his speeder, then leaned against it until he decided to leave.
The one thing that has bothered me since that time is that I never did go home again. I had promised my stepmother that I would but I never have
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Old 09-19-2005, 05:03 PM   #3
machievelli
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War

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

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

-Then something slammed into my chest like the hammer of the gods. I could feel something being slipped over my mouth, a voice shouting, “Oh no, damn you lived this long, you’re going to breathe!’
“Hypox on maximum!”
“Hit her again with the Cardio-stim!”
I felt like I had grabbed a high-tension wire, I flopped like a landed saber-trout.
“Wait. Doctor, I have a pulse!”
“Oh god, she’s alive. How long was she anoxic?”
There was a long pause. I wasn’t even interested in the answer. “Seven minutes.” The person whispered.
“Neuro-stim?”
“At seven.”
“Jack it two higher!”
“That won’t help!’
“Tell her!”
I felt the bolt again. This time I could see it, a shot of blue electrical energy that danced around my eyes.
“Her body is alive, but there’s nothing left upstairs.” The first voice, the doctor whispered.
Seven minutes? Of course he was right. I was brain dead, just the ears sending data to a computer that had been severed from the world. As much as I wanted to cry, I knew it wouldn’t help. Dead is dead. They might keep my body alive, but only because organs were needed for surgery. I just wanted them to leave me alone. Let me get on with dying.
“How is she?” A woman’s voice, a soft alto I had never heard before. Cold and imperious.
“She was anoxic for seven minutes. She isn’t going to come back, General.”
“That is not acceptable.”
“I don’t care if it is acceptable to you or not!” He snapped. “This woman has more guts than everyone on this damn ship, and I don’t like to have to say it, but she’s gone.”
Maybe if I opened my eyes, I could at least see who was arguing. Maybe they would leave me in peace if I did. But my lids weighed tons. They kept arguing, screaming at each other like fishwives. Just shut up!
“What?” The woman sounded astonished.
“Gen-”
“Hush!” She demanded.
You want him to shut up, but you won’t listen to me? I thought.
“She’s there. Somehow, she is still there.” I felt something, and after a moment, knew it was a hand on my cheek. Then that voice, so much more tender than before spoke in my ear. “I won’t let them turn it off, girl. I owe you too much.” I felt the hand move to my forehead. “Sleep and get well.”
I felt as if the ship had hit me, driving me into the bed
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Old 09-20-2005, 09:17 PM   #4
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Endar Spire
When I woke up, two days had passed. The med-techs had stuck me in the Bacta tanks, and my body was repaired. I knew I was still aboard Ashtree Corona. That labored sound in the air circulation system sounded exactly the same.
The first tech to see me had almost shrieked in surprise. The doctor came in motioning for me not to move. “Just a few tests. What is your name?“
Name. Everything has a name. Everyone has a name. That’s how you know they’re talking to you and not someone else. “Danika?” I asked
“No, full name.”
I pondered. “Danika Wordweaver.”
“Home planet?”
“Deralia.”
He nodded. “You might have some problems remembering. You were under a long time, and hypox can’t repair neural damage. Don‘t worry about it.”
I wanted to tell him that not remembering would bother anyone, and telling you not to worry about it was stupid, but merely nodded.
Every doctor or med I saw for the next few hours was looking at me in awe. I was treated like a visiting Senator, anything I wanted I could have with a word.
I hated it. While everything was healed, I had trouble breathing, especially when I walked. I had been one of those that set the pace in our morning runs. Right then a newborn baby still crawling would have beaten me.
And I dreamed. Usually my dreams were normal. But these dreams linked together. When I slept, I was where the last dream had left off. They started with Kalendra and I walking home hand in hand. Again, that had never happened. Worst yet, I knew somehow that this wasn’t Kalendra I was with.
You must know the feeling. You are out among a crowd, and a face catches your eye. They look like someone you used to know perhaps someone you loved, or knew well. But when you’re closer, they don’t really look alike. The face isn’t even really close when you think about it. The voice is not right. This woman was brunette like Kalendra, a bit shorter than I like her, soft voice with an accent like my brief love.
It wasn’t her, but for some reason she acted the same at a lot of points. It bothered me more when she didn’t follow the script my memory handed out.
The first night in the pool she had stripped off her robe, but wore a bathing suit. Kalendra and I had been so comfortable together that a suit was superfluous. Yet ’Kalendra’ in my dream was nervous. As she had lain back in my arms the real Kalendra had cried. Yet this one just lay against me with shoulder tense. It took her a long time to really relax.
Did I tell the psyche-techs? Are you out of your mind? Once I was fit again, I would return to a ground unit. Away from what I took to be a gradual madness. But if they thought I was failing to track upstairs, all I would get would be a room with padded walls. No thank you very much.
Padawan Loras came to see me on the second day. She always reminded me of the women that came to hunter meetings with their husbands. A demented bird flying from task to task. That little bit of normality actually made me feel even better.
How are you feeling?”
“Like I died and no one told me.” I grumped. I was back to walking normally, but still didn’t have the wind to run.
“You did, twice.” She replied matter of factly. “You ran out of air, and your heart stopped as they were reeling you in. Then again in the airlock. The doctor was sure you wouldn’t come back to full mental capability.
“If it weren’t for Bastila, you would have been shipped out with the crippled yesterday. But she said you were still cognizant.”
I felt a chill of terror. To wake up in a Republic hospital, everyone sure my mind was gone. Or worse, living there to a ripe old age as a drooling moron or a resource to havest. “How did she know?”
“We’re not quite sure, actually. Well you have two more days of convalescing to do. Does it matter to you where?”
“Why.”
“Five of the damaged ships are well enough repaired to return to shipyards. A mobile repair ship has arrived to begin repairing the others. The others are splitting up to try to locate the Leviathan. At Bastila’s request, you’re being transferred to Endar Spire.”
I considered the option. Did it matter? Not really. “When?”
“As soon as your gear is packed.”
She was as good as her word. Less than an hour later, I walked across the gangway onto the Endar Spire.
With all of the ships that were damaged or destroyed, every ship was crowded. I was assigned a room I shared with a junior officer. I never met him because he was on Beta-shift, and I was assigned to Delta. We shared the bed, each sleeping when the other was working. In my case, work was sleeping, eating, and going to the gym to work out for the next four days.
My dreams continued. This was the first time in my life I had ever had sequential dreams, though others I had spoken to had mentioned them happening. But I am sure no one had ever lived through such rich and vivid dreams. Kalendra and I practiced with ritual brands, though hers seemed to glow as if it were a light saber. We spent as much time together as we had in real live, running through the fields, walking hand in hand. Hugging as if to chase a chill away. But there were those odd places where dream did not fit reality. Climbing Jumja trees to drop ripe fruit into her hands, something that had not happened because while Jumja would be ripe at this very moment at home, they had been two months away when Kalendra and I spent those halcyon days together.
As it had been in real life, our entire world was each other. There were times when I would be bothered, and when that happened, she would sense it, taking my face in her hands, and kissing my cheek yet again. That kiss would draw me back into the dream.
On the fourth day, I was in the wide wading pool of home, leaned into the tile backing. We had practiced until we were both tired, and it felt good to lay in the water.
“May I join you?” I opened my eyes, and Kalendra was there. She dropped her robe. For a moment, there was a struggle in her eyes, then the suit she had worn joined it. She slid into the liquid, and moved into her favorite spot on my lap. My arms encircled her, and she snuggled with a soft cry of satisfaction.
“I wish we could stay here forever.” I whispered.
“You know we cannot.” She admonished. “There is much we must do.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but part of me knew exactly what she meant. “I know.” I felt saddened. The dreams had become the most exciting part of my recent life. They would have to end.
Then I tensed. Like the time I had reached for my boots and stopped because somehow I had felt the presence of the hook spider in one of them. Something bad was going to happen.
She had sensed it too. We slid apart, unconsciously taking positions of defense. Ahead of me was a nebula I had never seen, and a golden sun. From that sun plunged a Jollo cat. The largest and most ferocious one I had ever seen. I reached for my pistol, but I had forgotten it somehow. Then the cat plunged between us. I could hear Kalendra scream, and a massive paw slammed me down-
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Old 09-21-2005, 09:30 PM   #5
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Endar Spire
I felt the first blast, and was rolling to fall out of bed. I landed on all fours, then shook my head. I was in my quarters on the Endar Spire. Beyond the Armorplast of the windows I could see the turbolaser blasts slamming into our shields felt the crump of others as they smashed hull plating instead.
Instinct is a wonderful thing. I had been assigned a footlocker, and scrabbled across the floor to it. My palm opened the lock, and I had just grabbed the familiar grip of a blaster rifle when the hatch popped open.
I spun in place, the skeleton stock against my shoulder, cheek welded to it, eye looking down the sight. I didn’t recognize the man, but I did recognize the uniform. Republic Navy. I lifted the gun away from target, and he relaxed.
“Danika? I’m Ensign Trask Ulgo. We share these quarters. We work different shifts, which is why we haven’t met.”
After those sentences I had him pegged as a willing little clown. Most new minted officers are like that.
“The Endar Spire is under attack by a Sith battle fleet. We have to get to the bridge to protect Bastila.” I had to count that as stupid observation number 2. I figured he was so newly minted that he thought the crew needed a pep talk, even if he only had one crewperson, and even if we were under attack. I was busy putting on my gear, but he ran off at the mouth anyway.
“One of our primary duties is to guarantee her survival in the event of an enemy attack. You swore an oath just like everyone else on this mission. Now it’s time to make good on that oath!”
Where was that power coupling? I dug for it as he continued to run off at the mouth.
“I’ve heard all about your reputation. Elite combat training, tops in you class. It’s no wonder you were handpicked for this mission. Word is, the officers haven’t seen a recruit with your potential in twenty years. But all that potential doesn‘t mean a thing if you can‘t deliver when it counts!”
I had a disparaging thought; was there a class at the officer’s academy on how to write one of these speeches? When I had taken over 2nd squad aboard Ashtree Corona, my entire speech was ‘Dylan is gone, I’m in charge. Let’s do it.’
More to the point, who was he calling a recruit?
“We’re-” I held up a hand to silence him. I pointed at the blaster still on his hip. “You know how to use that thing?” The sword didn’t sit right between my shoulder blades, and I shifted it.
I actually broke through the prepared speech. “Yeah.”
“Then follow me, and if I don’t kill it, you do.”
“I’m an officer and I‘m in charge-”
“How many actual boarding actions you been on, butter-bar?” I asked.
“Uh, two.”
“I’ve lost count. You decide where we’re going, then get the hell out of my way so we can get there alive.” I went to the hatch, but it didn’t open.
“All the compartments are on lockdown. But don’t worry I have the codes.”
I hissed, motioning with the rifle toward the hatch. He slipped past me and punched in a series I immediately memorized. If we got separated, or he bought a charge, I would be able to go on.
The hatch opened. I spun to cover it, but only an astromech droid was in sight. I double-timed down the passageway, and tapped the code I had gotten into it. This one opened into another passageway. Directly ahead, a lone Republic soldier was firing off to my left. I shifted and saw two people in Sith battle armor there.
“These must the advance guard of their boarding party. For the Republic!’ Trask leaped out and opened fire.
Really, did any soldier that had seen action say things like that? I charged out with my own muttered battle cry. “Not this crap again!” The two there went down under our fire. My com clicked, and I paused.
“This is Carth Onasi. The Sith are threatening our positions. We can’t hold out for long against their firepower. All hands to the bridge!”
“That’s Carth! He’s one of the Republic’s best pilots. He’s seen more combat than the rest of the crew combined. If he says things are bad, you’d better believe it. We have to get to the bridge to help defend Bastila.”
I dropped, and went through the pouches on the dead Republican. I found a frag grenade and another magazine. “What are you doing?” He almost screamed.
“These weapons don’t run on words, Ensign.” I slid the grenade in the tube on the front of my outfit, just where it belonged in the first one. As he went up the passageway, I followed. I had caught a glimpse of his insignia before he turned.
What was a medic Psyche specialist doing leading a boarding action?
The next short time was madness as it always is in battle. Panels exploded as energy bled into the electrical system, and the lighting flickered then stabilized at a different level. The enemy were in burnished black and gold, visible only at a distance before our fire took them down. Everywhere were bodies. Our own crewmen, Sith. A number of hatches headed aft were fused. Anyone back there was trapped with no escape, and we didn’t have time to save them. Along the way I madly collected grenades, a long sword and a suit of combat armor.
We reached deck four dead aft of the bridge. There was a door leading into the bridge, through an adjacent passageway. But it was locked. I motioned, and Trask moved up. He fiddled, cursing, then the door opened. We looked into an anteroom a hell.
Two people were facing off. One was a Dark Jedi in armor. The other- My heart leaped in pain. Padawan Loras faced off against him, her face set in grim determination. The chubby ever-cheerful woman I had known for months was gone. Instead she was a warrior goddess, and the man facing her was being pushed back by her attack. He was taller broader more muscular yet even I knew he never stood a chance. She spun, blade flashing past him, and he fell in pieces. She barely had enough time to recognize his death when a panel behind her exploded, shredding her.
We charged toward her, just as a pair of Sith came around the corner. I tucked and rolled, coming up on my knees, my rifle already aiming. His first shot went over my head. Mine punched through his faceplate and through the back of his head. Directly ahead of us was the secondary bridge access. But the door refused to budge. I motioned, and we ran down the passageway to the main bridge entrance.
“If it’s that close-” He began. I drew the long sword, and motioned for him to do the same. The hatch slammed up and I was cutting at the Sith I didn’t even see. He screamed, and I was past attacking his partner as Trask charged him as well. He went down, and Trask and I looked around frantically. Nothing lived on the bridge but us.
He went to a panel, and brought up a screen. “All of the portside pods are either damaged or away. That leaves starboard.” He pointed off to our right. I ran around the corner, and the hatch opened. We stepped through, and the hatch beyond started to open. Beyond it...
A dark Jedi
I know Jedi are supposed to be able to detect each other and their enemy by feeling the force, though no one had ever explained it to me. At that moment, I understood because I could almost feel the black evil miasma in that figure.
He stood there, grinning as if he were a child that had surprised us with a clever trick.
Trask pushed me toward the hatch leading to the starboard escape deck. “Run I’ll hold him as long as I can!” Before I understood what he was doing, he leaped through, and his blaster exploded into the control panel on that side. The hatch slammed shut, trapping him with the dark Jedi.
I pounded on the hatch, screaming. I wanted him there so I could slap him and scream in his face. I was the soldier, it was my job to fight and die saving the others. Not some jumped up med student with a gold bar and delusions of grandeur! At least I could make sure his sacrifice was worth something. I opened the hatch leading to the starboard escape deck.
The passageways were empty no-
“This is Carth Onasi to Republican crewman in the Starboard Escape deck; I am tracking your position through the Endar Spire‘s life support system.
“Bastila’s escape pod is away. According to the sensors, you’re the last survivor I can see. I can’t wait for you much longer. You have to get to the escape pods!”
“Right.” I whispered.
I came around a corner, and my rifle was tracking before I even knew why. The Sith armored trooper saw me, but he was a lifetime too late. I ran past his body, checking my map. Turn left, fifteen meters, a door- I looked up, skidding to a stop as I thumbed the rifle to auto fire. The two troopers there had heard me and were turning, but the ‘room broom’ as we called a blaster on auto fire tumbled them both over.
I came up to the next hatch, and heard a click in my communicator. “Be careful, after the next room, you’ve got a whole squad of Sith troopers on the other side of the hatch. You need to find some way to thin out their numbers.”
My lungs were burning. Before my injury I could have done the entire course at a full run, but right now, I was staggering. “Any... suggestions?”
There was a moment, and I thought he had just said to hell with it. Then he came back. “How good are you with computers and droids?”
“Computers, not so good.” I admitted. “But I can change circuit boards with the best of them.”
“Then you could reprogram the damaged assault droid in that room. If not you could use the computer panel and use the ship’s internal security net against them.”
I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see it. “It’s done.” I said. I opened the hatch, and there where he said it would be was the droid.
I ran up to it, and popped the self diagnostic. As it came up I began to frantically reroute systems. Finally it hummed to life, lifting its rifle. I stood aside. It marched past me in that stiff-legged way all legged droids use when walking, and I followed as it opened the next hatch. The droid paused, and I felt the crackle of its shields as it turned, and began firing. There was screaming from inside.
I popped behind it, and took down a trooper by the other hatch. Beside him was a man in the red armor of an elite trooper, and he went down next. By the time I turned to the other three they were already down. The droid hummed, then turned, walking past me toward the remainder of the ship. “Give ‘em hell.” I said, then ran past it. By the hand of the officer I saw a vibroblade and picked it up. Better than the Corotosis weave long sword I had. I hit the control and the hatch popped open.
Carth Onasi was tall, dark, and about ten years older than I was. He shut down the computer, and waved. “You made it just in time. There’s only one escape pod left. Come on! We can hide out on the planet below.”
“But-”
“Bastila’s away, and there’s no reason for us to stick around and let the Sith blow holes in us.” I must have still hesitated because his face hardened. “Come on! There’s time for questions later!”
I shrugged and moved past him. The pod lay open, and I had a sudden feeling that I was looking at my grave. Then I leaped in.
Carth was on my heels, hitting the release as he did.
Neither of us was strapped in, and the jolt of launching slammed us into the bulkhead. I could see the planet, a steel blue ball coming toward us, then something slammed into the hull of the pod. Probably, I figured out later, bleed off from a near miss. It was strong enough to pick me up and slam me into the bulkhead again. That was the last thing I remembered.
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Old 09-25-2005, 02:08 PM   #6
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Taris

She looked sort of like Kalendra. Tall, dark haired, brown eyes, but Kalendra had never had such a cold and efficient look about her. The woman held a lightsaber, yellow beam clashing with the red of her opponent. Like Padawan Loras the last time I saw her alive, this woman was master of this battle, an outside observer could see it in her movements, the reactions of her opponent. He would lose; it was just a matter of when. She stood for a moment, and I knew she was using another power, and at the same time taunting him with the ease in which she did so.

I felt as if I’d rolled down a mountain without a suit to protect me. I sat up, and my head pounded even harder.

“Good to see you up instead of thrashing around in your sleep.” I looked toward the voice. A man, wait- Carth Onasi from the ship. He handed me a mug and I sipped the tea gratefully. We were in a room, and I scanned it as I drank. Once it was probably nice. A comfortable place to live. Now it was run down, as if the owner no longer cared. There was a workbench off to one side. I took the plate of sandwiches he handed me, and began to stuff my face. I was ravenous.

“You must have had one hell of a nightmare. I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up.” I finished the sandwich in my hand, grabbed another, and motioned for him to continue.

“I’m Carth. One of the Republic solders from the Endar Spire.” He watched my face. “I was with you in the escape pod. Do you remember?”

I nodded. “I had a strange dream.” I kept seeing it in my head. Almost like the dreams I had of Kalendra and I that weren’t real. “Like a,” I searched for a way to explain it better. “A vision or something.”

He shrugged. “Well, you’ve been slipping in and out of consciousness for a couple of days now, so I imagine you’re pretty confused about things. Try not to worry. We’re safe.” He looked grim. “At least for the moment.”

He waved at the surroundings. “We’re in an abandoned apartment on the planet Taris. You were banged up pretty bad when our pod crashed, but luckily I wasn’t seriously hurt. I was able to drag you away from our crash site in all the confusion, and I stumbled onto this place. By the time the Sith arrived on the scene, we were long gone.”

I thought of waking up in Sith hands, and I felt my blood run cold. “I guess I owe you my life.” I looked up at him. “Thanks.”

He brushed it off with a tinge of embarrassment. “You don’t have to thank me. I’ve never abandoned anyone on a mission, and I’m not about to start now. Besides, I’m going to need your help.”

I must have looked quizzical, because he waved toward the door. “Taris is under Sith control. Their fleet is orbiting the planet, they’ve declared martial law and they’ve imposed a planet wide quarantine. But I’ve seen worse spots.”

That didn’t make sense. The fleet should be out pounding ours, not sitting overhead. Why was it still here?

“I saw in your service records that you understand a remarkable number of alien languages. That’s pretty rare in a raw recruit, but it should come in handy while we’re stranded on a foreign world.”

I felt a surge of irritation. After all the battles I had seen, some desk jockey still had me down as a raw recruit? The more I heard, the more I wanted to see these service records of mine for myself. At least the constant pep talks I was getting from everyone made sense now. They all thought I was green.

Carth hadn’t noticed that second of inattention. “There’s no way the Republic will be able to get anyone through the Sith blockade to help us. If we’re going to find Bastila and get off this planet, we can’t rely on anybody but ourselves.”

I hadn‘t answered, and he began to look worried again. Or maybe he was wondering how far and fast the ‘green kid‘ would run? “Bastila. She’s the one from the Endar Spire, right?”

That statement reassured him. “That smack on the head did more damage than I thought. Bastila’s a Jedi. She was with the strike team that killed Darth Revan, Malak’s Sith master.

“Bastila in the key to the whole Republic war effort. The Sith must have found out she was on the Endar Spire and set an ambush for us in this system.

“A lot of the pods were caught by the Sith, or destroyed. But I believe Bastila was on one of the escape pods that crashed here on Taris. For the sake of the Republic war effort, we have to try and find her.”

What he said made sense in that context. The Sith would have lifted the blockade if Bastila was captured or known to be dead. There was no need to stop a few scattered Republic grunts. Martial law and controlling access from the ground would do that.

I rubbed my head. I still ached, and my mind was running in circles at hyper drive. I firmly told myself that a headache would have to wait. That not knowing what to do could stand in line with it. Action always made me focus.

“Any idea where we should start looking?”

He nodded, glad that I was tracking again. “While you were out of it I did some scouting around. There are reports of a couple escape pods crashing into the Undercity. That is probably a good place to start. But the Undercity is supposed to be a dangerous place. We don’t want to go in there unprepared. It won’t do Bastila any good if we go and get ourselves killed.”

“I don’t think we’d like it much either.” He stifled a laugh at that. “The sooner we start looking for Bastila, the sooner we find her. Let’s go.”

“Good idea. We can use this abandoned apartment as our base. Most of the shops look to be open still, and we can probably pick up some equipment and supplies here on the upper level. Just remember to keep a low profile.” He looked grim. “I’ve heard some grim stories about the Dark Jedi interrogation techniques. They say the force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away your memories and destroy your very identity.”

I had heard the same thing, seen people we rescued after the fact. But the chill of his words went even deeper. Like I had suddenly stepped through an airlock into deep space without a suit.

Again he didn’t notice. First he brought up his computer map, and laid out the problem. It sounded simple, but the problem was literally global.

Taris was a really beautiful place way back when. They had just found half a dozen warp corridors leading from there to the rim about four and a half centuries ago. Entrepreneurs had spent a lot of money building a showcase city. The City of Taris covered just about the entire main continent. High-speed trams linked everywhere to everywhere else. But those plans had taken bizarre twists as time went on. Instead of razing sections of the city to rebuild them, they had merely built up from there like a coral reef. When the boom had collapsed fifty years ago, it had hit the planet hard. While still a tourist destination, it wasn’t much more since then. The people had become rigidly stratified in their outlook, and the rich on top had dealt with those below them on the social ladder by shoving them down into the lower city. Worse yet, there had been a brief revolution, and the survivors of that had been shoved even farther, down into the depths. That was called the Undercity.

If you expected bright lights, enjoyment, and reasonable food, the upper city was where you lived. But below that? I would have said chaos reigned, but no one did. The lower city was a war zone divided up by the gangs. Travelling anywhere unless you used a tram was dangerous. Few if any places down there were even on the system anymore.

The Undercity was worse. About a Century ago, someone had come up with the idea of using it as a place to banish criminals. The only way open to that level close to us led from an area fought over by two of the larger gangs. It was only open for access when sewers broke down or yet another unfortunate was banished. The technicians went under armed guard even in the best of times.

Taris was a pearl, with layers of beauty, and inside the filth that began it all.

I asked questions, and began to see some respect in his eyes. We knew where the access to the Lowercity was closest to our destination, and had a rough idea of where the pods had crashed. We could pick up our search there.

“-But I figure if we don’t do anything stupid we should be okay. I mean, after all, they’re looking for Bastila, not a couple of grunts like us.”

I stood, checking my gear. We were going to start getting overloaded soon, but I wasn’t worried yet. The vibroblade I had picked up from the Sith squad leader intrigued me. I checked the pommel and saw that it disassembled. Most don’t, they’re sealed factory units. I walked over to the workbench, and using the tools, opened the grip. Ah, the vibration cell was an older model. I went through the detritus I had picked up in the mad scramble from the ship, and found a newer model.

I could feel Carth standing behind me. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“The older vibration cells were permanently set. The vibratory level was constant. That’s all well and good if you’re cutting solids, metal, wood, flesh. You just have different cutting rates for different things.” I shrugged. “But the newer ones are adjustable. You can set them for the specific material, and they cut more smoothly. The next best thing to a lightsaber in close combat. Great for boarding actions, because you can dial it to whatever you’re cutting.”

I finished connecting it, then switched the blade on. The newer units also ran at a pitch that didn’t jar the teeth, something that had always bothered me. That narrow blade would slice through metal or flesh as if it were butter. With the new vibration cell, it would cut through either at the same rate as long as I preset it first. I shut it down, holstering it.

He was grinning at me. For an older man he was quite handsome when he smiled. “I stand corrected. Whatever you are, you’re not a raw recruit.” His voice changed. “All right, soldier! Let’s move out!”




Apartments

There is an old military maxim that says, ‘If it can go wrong, it will’. We ran smack into it as we exited the apartment. The problem with the apartments in the South city where we were was that when aliens had come to Taris, they had created their own slums, and we were in one of them.

A man in Sith uniform flanked by a pair of battle droids was harassing a pair of Duros. He obviously felt he had the upper hand. “Okay you alien scum! Everyone against the wall, this is a raid!”

I could tell from the expressions on the alien faces that this wasn’t new. “There was a patrol here just yesterday, and they found nothing. Why do you Sith keep bothering us?” One of the Duros complained.

The Sith merely drew his sidearm, and shot the protester. “That is how we Sith deal with smart mouthed aliens! Now up against the wall before I lose my temper again!”

I had imagined what a battle droid might think when it was told to attack. I am sure what I went through next was probably as close as a flesh and blood entity could get. I was totally focused on the man as he holstered his weapon. I was measuring the distance to him, and my hand had already found the hilt of the vibroblade. It felt right somehow to have a blade instead of a gun. Something deep inside of me snarled. I had always hated bullies.

He sneered at the aliens, then turned slightly. When he did, he saw Carth. He didn’t flinch. I give him that much. His eyes moved farther, and he saw me. “Humans hiding out with aliens? They’re Republic fugitives! Attack!”

I was moving even before he had shouted the command. The blade hummed as he drew his sidearm. If he had not holstered it, he might have had a chance. I sliced upward, and the blaster along with half his arm went with it. He screamed. I was too close for the droid’s targeting sensors to separate me from him, and I used it, cutting to my left shattering the torso of that droid. I could hear blaster fire, and as I spun back to my first victim, he was staring at the wreckage Carth had made of the other droid. He saw my blade come up, and screamed ‘Please-” before I cut down, killing him.

We were frozen in the tableau for a moment. I was getting a handle on my fury. I wanted to chop the dead man into fish bait. But I knew it was just my anger talking. That scream for mercy really irritated me. Most bullies I had dealt with were the kind that would laugh at your pleas, but expect you to honor theirs. I touched the stud, and the sword hummed to silence. The Duros stared at me with a mixture of terror and awe on his face. “Are you all right?”

The Duros nodded kneeling by his friend. Nothing would have saved his life at this point. “Poor Ixgil. He should never have talked back to that Sith. Thankfully, you were here to step in and help us, human This isn’t the first time the Sith have come in here to cause trouble for us. Hopefully it will be the last.”

I stared at him with amazement. We had a pair of bodies rapidly making a mess and he had hope still? “Won’t someone come searching for this patrol?”

He shrugged fatalistically. “Don’t worry about the bodies. I will move them so that if looks like they were killed elsewhere. That should throw the Sith off the track. With any luck they won’t be bothering us again for a while.”
I knelt, taking the equipment off the dead Sith. More grenades. I slotted them.

“Where did you learn that?” Carth asked.

“What, the sword? At home.”

“No. How to roll your victim afterward.”

I chuckled. “A pilot usually doesn’t see much close range combat. When you’re a grunt, you learn the fine art of conservation. A dead man doesn’t need weapons. You can use them. So he gives you what you need to complete the mission.” I nodded toward the blaster he still held. “For an old man, you’re pretty good with that thing.”

“Years of practice.” He smiled sadly. “Besides, if they’re close enough to hit me with a sword, I’m not doing my job.”

I shrugged at that. If they were close enough to hit me with a sword and I was still alive, I had been doing my job. I pocketed the few credits the dead man had, and hefted his rifle.

“How many rifles do you need?” He asked plaintively.

“I can carry it until we sell it. After all,” I pulled out my Republic ID card. “We try to run one of these through a sales kiosk, and we’ll have Sith all over us.”

He shrugged, grinning sheepishly. “All right, I forgot.”

We walked down the hall. A Twi-lek was watching as we approached, and he spoke. “Well I don’t see too many of your kind around here. Most of the residents of these rundown old apartments are illegal aliens. I’m Larrim, by the way.” I instantly pegged him as a salesman. When it comes to a glad-handing salesman, the only thing worse than Twi-leks are humans and Hutt. He proved me right when he looked around as if he expected the constable to be standing right there.

“I know it’s really none of my business, but you look like someone who might need to purchase one of those new energy shields. They’re the latest thing, you know. Very high tech.”

“I know about energy shields.” I said. They were good against blasters, but they didn’t affect a sword blade, and an ion disruptor takes them down like a creditor at your bank account. Not to mention that they were charged for a set number of uses, and without a ship with a maintenance section, they were just dead weight when they ran out. The concept wasn’t new, the Arkanians had first made them over a century ago. The Sith had introduced the newer lighter versions a couple of years ago, and everyone who had the tech was making their own versions.

“Oh, then you might be interested to know that I have one for sale. It isn’t cheap, but it may be the difference between life and death.” He motioned toward a section of the wall where he’d set up a display. “You want to see what I have in stock? I know my kiosk isn’t much to look at, but my prices are reasonable, and the merchandise is sound.”

I looked at what he had. Recorders, music cubes, a few specialty spices for other aliens species. “I don’t see much really,”

He grinned, showing the pointed teeth of an adult Twi-lek. “No problem, just step up and have a peek.” He reached down, and lifted. The entire upper deck was just for cover. Below it he had a rack of weapons, grenades separated in fruit bins, and the wedge shape of an energy shield generator.

I hefted it out, and checked the meter. Down to one use left. “How much?”

“One hundred and fifty credits.”

I shook my head. “There isn’t anything I need right now, but perhaps you’re in the mood to buy?”

We haggled, something the Twi-lek love to do. When I was done I had sold the two blaster rifles I had picked up, one of the blaster pistols, all of the adrenal supplements, and I walked away with about five hundred credits. We ended the session with both complaining that they had been ripped off, which meant we were if not pleased, we were at least satisfied that we had gotten the better of the deal.

“Now we can buy supplies if we need them.” I said, slipping the plastic coins into my belt pouch. I remembered the map, and began striding down the hall. The building was circular, at least on this level. The aliens that lived in the rooms ignored us. It was better that way for both them and us.
I stopped at the door into the street. “Won’t we look out of place with all this hardware?”

Carth grinned. “Girl, you’re going to fit right in.”

Last edited by machievelli; 04-01-2006 at 11:43 PM. Reason: adding story between this and where I left off above
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Old 09-27-2005, 03:13 PM   #7
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Upper City: South

I saw what he meant when we stepped outside. Among the normal citizens were a lot of people dressed in space suits, combat gear, and attitudes.

The sky was cloudy; in fact the streets were cloudy. The building on Taris reach up in some areas almost four kilometers. Only the streets are required to be below 3500. That isn’t hubris, its simple survival. Above 3500 meters the air pressure on the average planet is too low to support un-adapted human life. As it was, someone who had spent their life at sea level would have been gasping up here.

“I said blockade and I meant it. Maybe fifty, sixty ships were caught on the ground or in orbit. Anything that could land was landed and have guards posted on them. Those that couldn’t land because of their mass were allowed caretaker crews, but locked down with explosive linked to their drive systems and battle droids to make sure no one tries to disconnect them.” He pointed at a shuttle taking off. “The only surface to space shuttles allowed have Sith crews. You can go up to your ship, but you can’t stay there. Besides, there’s at least two of the Interdictor class cruisers in orbit, and a dozen smaller ships. Anything that tries to take off or break orbit gets blown to atoms.

“But ships sitting in dock mean crews on the street. Let’s just say the Oligarchs aren’t happy with that.” He motioned to the side. The pod we had crashed in was right there, and I winced at the damage. I didn’t know it had been that close. Droids were circling it, dismantling the pod for any usable scrap.

I mentally brought up the map of the section of the city we were in. It was called, with fine attention to names, merely South City. We were on one of the main promenades, where the local citizens liked to walk along and show their finery. The tube station to North City, where the entrance to the Lower city originated was at the opposite end about 200 meters away. I located the important places we might need to go as we walked toward the tube station. There was a weapons shop directly across the promenade, with a cantina down another smaller promenade. At the other end of it past the shops and air-car pads were a medical facility, and the tube station.

“I think we should reconnoiter before we load up on ordinance.” I said. I had a blaster rifle, the vibroblade, and about a half-dozen grenades. We were set for anything but a major fight, but if we ran into that, things were already in the crapper.

“Agreed.” We strolled. We weren’t horrible nasty Republic troops. We were neutrals just stuck here. The local citizens glared at or ignored us. Sith troops in armor stalked the promenade, avoided by pretty much everyone. There were a few aliens, but they scurried from place to place as if terrified. Seeing a Tarisian spit at one, I understood their worry.

We had reached the tube station when it happened. An old man was walking furtively toward the station when two people suddenly stopped him, shoving him toward one of the edges of the promenade. By his dress I figured he was a lower to middle level merchant.

“Davik says you missed your last payment.” The human of the pair said.

“Davik doesn’t like you missing payments.” The Aqualish with him added.

The man looked from one face to the other, then fumbled at his belt pouch. “Here, I’ve got fifty credits. That should buy me some time, right?”

The human shook his head. “Sorry, you’re all out of time. Now it’s all or nothing.”

“Davik can’t have people not paying their debts.” The Aqualish said helpfully.

“But I don’t have that much! How can I give you credits I don’t have?” The merchant whined.

“That’s too bad. Davik already gave us instructions. He wants to make an example of you.” He caught the man by the arm; his associate took the other. They started toward the edge of the promenade. The Aqualish reached out, and touched a pad that had been connected to the safety field. It hissed, and wind pummeled us.

The merchant realized that time was one thing he didn‘t have. “No, help! Somebody help! They’re going to kill me!”

The few people walking by ignored him. As it had in the apartment complex, my mind focused tightly. I started forward. Carth caught my arm, but I shrugged him off. I drew the vibroblade keeping it turned off tight against my leg as I walked straight toward them.

The human noticed my approach, and was actually happy for the audience. “Hold on a second. Looks like we got a witness here!”

“Davik doesn’t like witnesses.” The Aqualish just had to say something.

“Leave this man alone or you’ll deal with me.” I said softly.

The tough looked happy. The man he was about to kill hadn‘t been enough entertainment for him. “Guess we’ll just have to teach you to mind your own business.”

He started to grab my arm, and choked as I rammed the vibroblade into his stomach and cut upward. The blade hissed from him, and I spun, chopping into the chest of the second tough before he even knew a fight had started. I flicked the blood that had adhered aside, then shut off the cell, and slowly sheathed the blade.

The merchant just stood there staring at me. He looked down at the corpses and realized that he was going to live at least a little longer. “Thank you! I owe you my life! Those bounty hunters were going to take me away and kill me! My wife warned me not to take a loan from Davik. Now I can’t pay him back. It’s not good to owe a crime lord money. He’ll just keep sending bounty hunters after me until I’m dead.”

I understood how he felt, but his effusive thanks was starting to wear. “Maybe I can help you.”

He shook his head sadly. “You already helped me by saving my life from them. I don’t have the money to hire you to protect me. If I did, I would have already paid Davik off. So unless you have a spare hundred credits to give me so I can pay off Davik, there’s nothing else you can do.” At the last, his tone was ironic. 100 credits is a weeks pay for most people.

I reached into my pouch. We didn‘t have a lot, but I pictured this man trying to whine his way through a blaster bolt. I pulled enough coins to cover what he asked for, and dropped them into his hand. “Here, take them.”

He stared at the money as if he thought it would vanish. Then he looked at me now not only with awe, but astonishment. “You’re giving me a hundred credits? Just like that? I don’t know what to say! Thank you, Thank you!”

Carth shook his head. “You’re giving him a hundred credits? Generous.” I could tell his tone was sarcastic, but he’d probably never been on the ragged edge of poverty before.

The merchant was running off at the mouth. “Now I can pay off Davik. You’ve saved my life! I had better take this to him right away!”

“One word of advice.” I said. “Your wife sounds like a smart woman. Next time I’d listen to her.” He nodded, and hurried off.

“What about these guys?” He motioned toward the bodies. I flipped over the Aqualish, and went through his pouch, and then I caught his legs, and flipped him over the edge into space. Carth stared at me as I did the same with the human.

“What guys?” I asked resetting the safety field. I looked past him. A pair of Sith were walking toward us. “Now unless you want to explain to the occupiers how all this blood ended up on the ground, I suggest we decide to get a check up.” I hooked a thumb toward the medical center across the way.

As we walked, I held out my hand. “No good deed goes un-rewarded.” The money I had taken off the two was exactly 100 credits.

The medical treatment center was small. After all with modern medicine you don’t need massive structures for something as simple as a clinic. There was a man near the door, but he snarled, pointing us toward the rear. A tall bald man was working on a child. I admired his skill. A two-year-old is sometimes the worse patient. In pain, probably barely old enough to talk. This child just watched him with trusting eyes as the med tech sprayed the burns on his arms.

“Now what have I told you about this?” He asked. “You can’t scratch these, it will cause scars. You don’t want scars do you?” The child stared wide-eyed, and shook his head. “Then I won’t have to use the bad spray.” He turned, checking a scanner, and turned back to the boy’s arm.

“What zit doo?” The child asked.

“The bad spray?” The child nodded. The med looked around, saw my attention, and winked slowly with one impassive eye. “Well if you use it on boys, they turn into girls if they scratch. But it‘s worse for girls. They turn into little boys!”

“Oooh!” Behind the child his mother shook her head in exasperation, but she was smiling.

“Look for a back door if we need it.” I whispered. Carth nodded, and moved toward the back of the open room.

Finished with his patient, the med tech turned to me. “I see from your appearance that you are an out-worlder. Still you are welcome here. I’ll not have it said that Zelka Forn refused to help somebody just because they’re not a citizen of Taris. Do you require medical treatment? I can treat almost any injury or ailment right here, except for the Rakghoul disease.”

Carth walked up behind him. “Actually, I have a question.” He said. He was furious about something, but I didn’t know what. Forn looked confused, but followed him to a personnel door in the larger door at the back. Carth opened it.

“What are you doing! Don’t go in there! That is for medical personnel only!” Carth grabbed the protesting man and shoved him into the back. I followed into horror.

Bacta tanks dozens of them. Horribly mangled people occupied five. I stared, then approached one of the tanks. I had seen the man before. Suddenly the face clicked in my mind. “I recognize him.” I looked at another face. I recognized all of them. “They’re Republic soldiers!”

“You recognize them?” Forn looked from my face to Carth’s “But how! Unless... you’re friends of the Republic?”

I touched the clearplast of the tank. “We are friends of the Republic. You can trust us.”

Forn sighed. “I guess... I guess I had better tell you what’s going on. I only hope the Sith don’t find out what I’ve done.” He sat in a chair, rubbing his face with his hands, staring sadly at the occupied tanks. “Since the space battle overhead, people have been secretly bringing in these Republic soldiers who crash-landed on this planet. I had to take them in, what other choice did I have?

“Their injuries are terrible. Even with everything I can do most won’t survive. But at least they are hidden from the Sith and I can make their last days more comfortable.”

I looked at this man, and saw the inherent bravery of his act. The Sith wouldn’t care that his act was strictly humanitarian. They would see someone that had hidden possibly valuable interrogation assets from them. If he was lucky, all they would do is kill him.

Carth was embarrassed by his original suspicions. “Well for what you have done you have my thanks. It’s good to know that at least some of these men ended up in compassionate hands.”

Forn looked sad. “I shudder to think what the Sith would do if they discovered these soldiers here. But since their initial questioning, they haven’t returned. So it may be that my fears are unfounded.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” I asked softly.

Forn shook his head with a sad smile. “I am afraid there is nothing more anyone can do for them. If you’ll excuse me, I should return to the front in case someone comes in needing treatment.”

I leaned my head against one of the tanks. The woman inside it had been one of the nurses. The last time I saw her I had screamed at her to let me just exercise, and she had left with a pained expression. “I’m sorry for what I said.” I whispered to her. “Sorry for everything I might have done.”

Carth

The more I watched her, the less made sense. I had read Danika’s service record because she was brought aboard the Endar Spire at the last minute. Anyone considered that important by a Jedi tweaks the interest. She was from a frontier world, 24 years old, and according to her records, she had just finished boot camp.

Fine.

But she was just too good at what she did. The vibroblade didn’t set off the alarms in my head. After all a lot of the new kids make pretty good jackleg mechanics. The fact that she checked her weapons easily didn’t either. You’d expect a new boot to pay attention to those kind of details.

But when we had confronted the Sith patrol in the apartments, it started to make less sense. She reacted even before the attack order was given.

How many new boots remember that a droid’s targeting sensors will hitch if you put a friendly in the line of fire? If there had been only the two droids, they would have both opened fire, because a droid is programmed that way. But there’s an implant they give flesh and blood people if you’re working consistently with droids. It labels you as friendly and that limits friendly fire incidents. If an enemy and a friendly living being are in close proximity, the droid will have to find someplace to shoot that won’t injure the friendly. So she first disarmed him literally, and then took out the droids while they were still in that programming loop. I have seen veterans that don’t consider that when they’re in a close in melee.

Then it was her take charge attitude. Most boots will follow orders from on high slavishly, as if afraid that they will be punished. She argued! Her arguments were well reasoned and took in to account the tactical situation. That was the sign of a veteran.

Now I watched her leaning into the tank. I recognized the nurse, but wasn’t sure why she bothered Danika so much. She was suddenly that little girl the records said she was. There were two people in there, and I wasn’t sure which was which.

We stepped back into the med center, and she walked toward the tech. I followed mainly to find out what she was planning next.

Forn was working on another patient.

“Could I ask you some questions?” She asked.

Forn nodded intent on debriding a nasty rip in a man‘s arm.

“Tell me about the Rakghoul disease.”

Even as he worked, Forn talked. If he didn’t live on Taris, I could see him in charge of a teaching medical center. “The terrible affliction has plagued Taris for many generations now. It is spread by what are called Rakghouls. They are horrible monsters that live in the Undercity below Taris’ great skyscrapers.

“Prolonged exposure to the Undercity breeds the disease and those infected will eventually mutate into Rakghouls themselves, becoming mindless beasts that feed on the flesh of others.”

She nodded. “Is there no cure?”

“There is no known cure or antidote for the disease, though the Republic base here had a research wing dedicated to it. The scientists that were working at the base were supposed to be close to a cure, but before they could release it, the Sith arrived.

“The Sith overran the base, and now refuse anyone access to the research wing, or any laboratory inside. If there is or was a cure, the Sith are keeping it to themselves. Their patrols have been hit rather heavily in the Undercity, and any serum they have is for those patrols.”

Forn nodded to the patient who left, and looked to Danika. “If I could just get my hands on a sample of that serum, the Rakghoul disease could be wiped from the face of Taris forever. Though I don’t see that happening.”

Danika considered, and I could almost see her mind running at top speed. “Maybe we could find a way to get my hands on that serum for you.”

“I don’t see how. The only samples would be in the base, or with the patrols. Getting it from the base would be suicide. There are a lot of guards there.

“I suppose a patrol in the Undercity might have sample, if they haven’t already been attacked and used it. Getting it from a Sith patrol would cause repercussions I hate to even think about. I’m sure they wouldn’t just hand it over if asked politely.”

She thanked him absently, then moved to the door. She motioned me over, and we looked across the promenade. The Sith patrol had left; only a cleaning droid remained.

“I think we will need more weapons.” She commented softly. “Weapons shop first, if that is all right.”

` I shrugged. So far she hadn’t put a foot wrong.

“Psst.” I looked at the assistant that had ignored us when we first entered. I didn’t like the look of him. “You there. Wait a minute.” He moved over close enough to whisper. “I need to talk to you about that Rakghoul serum. I’ve got an offer you might want to hear.”

Danika looked at him. I could see that she had already decided that we’d get it if we could. “An offer? What are you talking about?”

“Zelka isn’t the only one who wants to get his hands on that serum. Davik Kang will pay you ten times what Zelka can if you get the cure for him first.”

Davik, that was the crime lord. I tensed. I hated people that put money before humanity. Danika’s face was impassive. I didn’t know what she was thinking. “Why do you care who gets the serum first?”

“Look, Zelka can’t afford to pay me much. If you get the serum for him, I don’t get anything extra out of it. But if you sold the serum to Davik, I’d be able to get a finder’s fee for directing you to him.”

Danika nodded at that, and my heart sank. “Why does Davik want the cure so badly?” As if I didn’t already know.

“Davik’s interested in anything that can turn a profit.” The assistant admitted. “He could make a fortune selling the serum to anyone infected with the disease. Not like Zelka, who’ll practically give it away.”

Danika’s head cocked. “I think I’d rather give it to Zelka. He’ll use it to help people.”

The man waved his hands in a negative motion. “Helping people is all well and good. But you have to help yourself first, right? I’m telling you Davik will pay big credits for the cure. More than Zelka could.”

“And then only the rich would be able to buy the cure.” I rasped. She wasn’t falling for the guy’s patter. “Just let the poor suffer. Right.”

Danika looked back toward the med tech who was already busy treating another patient. “What if I told Zelka you’re really working for Davik?”

“I’ll just deny it. Who’s he going to believe, me, or some down on their luck space bum? Besides,” He hooked a thumb toward the back room. “What do you think the Sith would pay me for that secret?” He ignored the cold look that ran over Danika’s face. “Now be smart about this. You’ll get a better deal with Davik, and other people won’t get hurt. Understood?”

She nodded, and walked out. I had known her long enough to read the anger in her walk. People ahead of her, even a couple of Sith troopers stepped aside as she stormed down the promenade.

The sign at the weapons shop read ‘Equipment Emporium: Kebla Yurt Prop.’

Danika walked in like she owned the place. Yurt was a short intense black woman. She saw us and immediately headed over. “Hello there, haven’t seen you in my shop before. Allow me to introduce myself, Kebla Yurt, welcome to the Equipment Emporium. You looking to buy some supplies? My shop is the largest in all of Upper Taris. Best selection on the planet. Whatever you need, I got.” She grimaced. “Well, mostly.”

“Mostly?” I asked. “What do you mean by that?”

She waved at the prints on her walls. Sleek fighters, swoop bikes modified for combat, a Heulin heavy Particle blaster that would shred a ship’s hull. “The Sith confiscated all of my heavy weapons. And they impounded my snubs and bikes. But I still have a real nice selection of lighter weapons if you‘re interested.”

Danika hadn’t even been listening to the spiel. Instead she stood at a clearplast case, running her hand over it. Inside was an Echani ritual Brand. To the Echani the sword is part of their religion, learning to use it the same as anyone else learning to pray. Even the youngest Echani learned how to use a blade.

I’d seen the Echani in combat, and the ones you feared most were those bearing a ritual brand. They were what the Echani called ‘married to the blade‘. I had yet so see anyone who wasn’t Echani use one, though a number of societies had made double swords.

Kebla’s finely honed sales instincts had noticed the interest. “You like that?”

“Where did you get it?” Danika asked.

“About a month ago, an Echani Merc down on his luck asked me to buy it, and promised to come back for it.” She grimaced again. “But he tried to make money fast by entering the Dueling circuit. He reached the top, and instead of cashing in his chips, he tried for the big score. Bendak Starkiller.” She shrugged. “He only accepts death matches. The Echani wasn’t good enough.” She sensed a possible sale. “I have the equipment to adjust the length.” She looked Danika over. “Though I don’t know if we’ll need it.”

She opened the case. Two meters of blade and grip were passed to Danika. She motioned Yurt away, then began to move them as if she’d been born with them in her hands. Yurt whistled appreciatively. “If nothing else, I have got to get a cube of you sword dancing.”

“I’ll take it.”

“Just so you know, all prices are final. No bargaining. I run a high-class establishment and even the used equipment is brought up to factory specs before I put them out. This isn’t a Hutt or Twi-lek establishment.”

She named a price, and Danika paid it. She folded the blades with a flick of the wrist, and slid them into the sheath that Yurt supplied.

She was becoming more of an enigma. In fact, she was starting to remind me of Morgana, my late wife.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-01-2006 at 11:54 PM. Reason: insertin interim data
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Old 09-29-2005, 05:24 PM   #8
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UpperCity

Danika

As we walked toward the tram station, I could see Carth was bothered by something. “Carth?” He looked up, then flushed as if he were embarrassed. “Since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, why not tell me about yourself.”

“Me? Well I’m a star pilot. I’ve been in uniform for a long time. I’ve seen more than my share of warfare. I fought through half of the Mandalorian campaigns.”

I nodded. The Mandalorian was had begun not long after the Exar Kun War. The Republic had been staggering after that war, and the Mandalorians, who had been one of our enemies during them sensed that we were weak.

The Mandalorians aren’t an alien race, they are humans. About five centuries before the formation of the Republic they had fled Coruscant to settle on several frontier planets to found a nation based on strength and honor. The planets they had chosen were all either harsh environments, or high gravity, and if possible, both. They had rejected half of the medical technology of that time, practicing a ruthless eugenics program on themselves using both genetic manipulation and simple breeding programs. Children judged too weak to survive were euthanized, their schools were boot camp for children. An adult couldn’t get married if there was a serious genetic defect, unless they were already proven in battle. They had been in the forefront of the war against Exar Kun, and they had blooded their troops well.

But not long after that war ended, they began minor conquests along the borders of the Republic. There were a lot of systems that went their own way rather than be members of the Republic, and these soon fell. Then they had struck at our frontiers.

Like always, the Republic moved slowly into war. It lasted 12 years with an death toll that was still staggering to contemplate, and it wasn’t until the Jedi had gotten into it that the tide had turned. Unfortunately, the Jedi that had led that crushing assault were the ones in charge of the present Sith fleet.

“It sounds terrible.”

“It was.” He agreed. Then his face grew gaunt. ”But with all that I’ve never experienced anything like the slaughter these Sith animals have unleashed. Not even the Mandalorians at their most desperate were this senseless.

“My home world was one of the first to fall to Malak’s fleets. The Sith bombed them into submission and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do to stop them.”

I could understand the confusion. A fleet you’re sure is friendly arrives then suddenly unleashes hell. Captains surprised by the attack being swept away before they could resist. That anyone had resisted at all would have been surprising at first. But his tone left so much unsaid. “Somehow, I think you feel it is your fault.”

He looked at me as if I had dug a blade into an infected wound. “It shouldn’t be my fault! I did everything I could, I followed my orders, did my duty. That shouldn’t mean I failed them.” He looked even more depressed. “I didn’t.” He repeated.

“You mean your people.”

“Yes! No.” He sighed. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, I’m sorry. I’m not making much sense am I?

“I know you probably mean well, but It’ not often that I discuss my feelings. At all actually. I’m more used to taking action, keeping my mind focused on the problem in front of me. So let’s do that. If you have any more questions, save them for later.”

I nodded, and started walking again.



North City

It was a forty-minute ride from the South City to the North City. We debarked, and I checked my map. We were on another promenade. The tram station at one end of it, a droid shop and the elevator to our destination at the other. Past the elevator was the base, now occupied by the Sith. There were more Sith here, and we threaded our way through the people walking along with an aplomb we didn’t feel. I saw the guard, and motioned for Carth to let me go ahead of him.

The elevator was guarded, and the Sith waved me to a stop as I approached. “This elevator is off limits. Only Sith patrols and those with the proper authorization are allowed in the lower city.”

I staggered a little, as if I had been drinking. “But I heard there’s a really lively cantina down there! I wanted to check it out!”

He shook his head. His tone, while still firm, was a bit exasperated. “It’s obvious from the way you’re dressed that you aren’t Sith. So unless you have authorization papers, I suggest you do your drinking up here. Move along.”

I shrugged, and staggered back the way I had come.

“You’re pretty good at that. Sure you haven’t been slipping hooch while I wasn’t looking?” Carth was trying to lighten the mood.

“Remnants of a misspent youth.” I replied. I told him what the Sith guard had said.

“He doesn’t seem too bright, that means he’ll follow orders to the letter. We’re going to need some kind of disguise to get past him.”

I pointed across the way to a cafe. As we started toward it, I paused. A trio of armored Sith had just marched past us, bound for the apartment complex at the other end of the promenade. “You know, I said conversationally. “We won’t need papers if we have uniforms. I jerked my chin toward the trio.

“What do you have in mind?” He asked softly.

I grinned manically. “Trust me.”

“Famous last words.” He whispered.

We followed at a safe distance. They walked into the apartment complex, and we followed. The apartments looked slightly better than the ones we were hiding in, and I didn’t see an alien. I heard the clatter of armor from my right, and followed it. At the third door on that side, a Sith stood outside, glaring at anyone who came close. I looked around as the last of the denizens had disappeared, and moved toward him.

He saw our approach, and waved at us. “Just keep moving, nothing to see here.”

From inside I heard an angry voice. “Where did you hide those Sith uniforms you stole? Did you sell them to the Tarisian underground? Start talking. I want answers!” To one side a Sith officer in red armor was shoving an Aqualish against the wall.

The Aqualish whined. “I’m just a passerby trapped here by your blockade. I don’t know anything about an underground. Or any uniforms.”

“Uniforms? What are they talking about?” I asked Carth.

“You’re a little too curious for you own good, civilian. Move along before you get your nose chopped off.”

Carth leaned toward me, and whispered. “I know all about Sith interrogations, this is going to get bad very fast.”

The Sith inside slammed the alien into the wall. “I am sick and tired of your lies, you alien scum! Your ugly mug is all over our security sensor logs from the base. Start talking or I am going to splatter what little brains you have all over the wall!”

“Uh oh. The Commander is starting to lose his temper. It took me an hour to get the blood off my armor the last time.” The guard commented to himself.

“Maybe the alien is telling the truth.” I said.

“Listen, truth, lie, it doesn’t matter to him. Just stay out of this if you value your health.”

“I won’t just let you kill a defenseless prisoner!” I blurted out. I wasn’t talking softly when I did. The Commander spun.

“What was that I heard? You won’t ‘let’ us kill him? How could you stop us?” He looked at the guard. “I think it’s time you taught these nosy civilians a lesson. No one interferes with the Sith!”

I drew, and the blades of my new weapon snapped out. Before the guard even knew what I was doing, I cut across his neck at the join between the breastplate and the helmet. He was down and I was running at full speed toward the Sith commander. He started to go for his blaster, then changed his mind and went for his sword instead. But I was there before he could draw.

Instead of cutting him I leaped, punching all of my weight into his chest with my leg. As he went backwards, I used the rebound energy, spinning in air to land facing the third Sith trooper. He skidded, trying to stop, but my blade punched through his breastplate. I spun, but the Sith commander was going down as the Aqualish slammed both meaty fists into his head.

“Thank you human.” He said. “The Sith would have killed me. Of that I am certain. I don’t know who you are, but I can tell you are no friend to the Sith. Among my people, there is a saying; ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend‘. Like you, I hate the Sith and what they bring to this world. That is why I stole those uniforms to give to the Hidden Beks.”

“What are you talking about?”

“In the lower city, there are some that will not bow down to that.” He motioned toward the Sith bodies. “Swoop gang like the Hidden Beks are gathering resources so that one day they can strike back.”

I had to laugh. He wasn’t innocent!

“If you wish to strike more blows against the Sith, you must journey to the Lowercity. There you can contact Gadon Thek, the leader of the Hidden Beks.”

“What are they planning?”

“If you wish the answer to that question, you will have to ask Gadon Thek. My only dealings with him have been through gang members with access to the UpperCity.”

“Do you still have some uniforms we can get?”

“No. There are ways to send non-living things into the Lowercity without being noticed.” He motioned toward a panel on the wall. Of course. The trash receptacles. They fed into the compactors and recyclers far below. “However, you have access to uniforms right here.” He motioned toward the bodies.

“Then you had best get out of here.”

“I agree. The Sith now know my face. I must go into hiding.”

I nodded. Carth had dragged the body from the hall, and we got to work. There was only one clean suit. The others were bloody, or in the case of the commander, leaking brain tissue. I looked at it, then passed it to him.

“Why do I have to be the Sith?” He asked plaintively.

“Because I don’t have a size three hat size and size twenty neck like this guy.” I said.

He grumbled, but slid into the armor with my help. It wasn’t a good fit, but as long as he didn’t move his head sharply or start dancing, it should work.

“What about you?” He asked.

I giggled, holding his arm possessively. “Why I found this absolutely adorable guard that promised to take me to the cantina in return for some fun afterward!”

He shook his head. “I’m getting too old for this crap.”

We strolled down the promenade, and the disguise couldn’t have been better. The Sith pretty much ignored us. And since I was with a Sith, the citizens ignored us. We walked down to the elevator station, and the guard there just shook his head. “Another ‘patrol’ heading into the Lowercity, eh? I’ve heard it’s pretty rough down there. I would be careful if I were you. There’s a big gang war heating up. Those maniacs are even taking pot shots at us! It’s too bad we don’t have the manpower to go down and clean that mess up.” He tapped the control, and the elevator opened.

“I’d suggest you not bring your friend back up this way. There are apartments down there where you can have your fun.”

Carth mumbled, and moved with me attached like a limpet on his arm. The door closed, and I moved away.

“And we had such a nice romance going.” He grumped.

“Sorry. Maybe next time.”


Lowercity

The elevator opened onto a hallway. I brought up the map. “Hidden Beks.” I murmured.

“What?” Carth asked.

“That’s one of the gangs who control this area. The Black Vulkars and the Hidden Beks.”

“So if all else fails, we ask them for help?”

“If all else fails.” I agreed.

There was a running noise, and I drew. A Togarian wearing a black bandanna with the Vulkar logo on it ran past. I moved toward the edge of the hallway. There were three wearing the Black Vulkar Logo facing two wearing green bandannas with just the upper head and nose of a Bek. Another Bek came running up. Here unlike the Upper city, ethnic diversity was accepted. There were three Togarian. Standing against them was a Rodian an Aqualish and a human.

It looked like the start of any fight you might have see. Guys trying to prove they’re tougher than the ones they face. Most of the time, of course, the fight never gets past the name calling or shoving stage. As I watched, one of the Vulkars reached behind his back, and pulled out a white rod. I felt my blood freeze at that. A stun baton. Usually used for riot control or prisons, a stun baton would jolt a man right through his armor. At the normal settings it can knock you down or blast you into unconsciousness.

As he swung it, I heard a whine that drove nails into my ears. He’d overloaded the damn thing! The charge was lethal to anything smaller than a building!

He struck before the Rodian facing him could react. If the little green guy had been equipped with hair, it would have stood out in every direction as the power of a high-tension cable blasted apart his heart. The Togarian facing the Aqualish Bek engaged with a sword, and the stun baton wielding Vulkar came in from the side, punching it into the Bek’s chest. The Aqualish gasped, and went down.

The human desperately defended himself, but the Vulkar facing him cut down, killing him.

“Crap.” One of the survivors said, seeing us. “We don’t want the Sith down here too!” They spread out to come at us.

“Take the left!” I shouted, drawing. I charged the one with the baton. Either of the others could cut me, and my armor would stop a lot of the damage. But that baton could kill us even through the armor. The left hand Togarian went down in a welter of blood, and I was there swinging. I caught the Togarian in the arm, and he grabbed for it as my back-swing opened up his stomach. I spun, and he died with my blade in his chest and a blaster bolt in the head at almost the same instant.

There was a scream from down the hall, and we turned. Two more Togarian were there in front of a door, with the Vulkar bandannas.

I palmed a gas grenade. I don’t like them because you can’t guarantee that someone will be affected or how quickly. But the gas does cut down vision, and all I needed was a few seconds.

I over-handed the grenade at one, charging toward him. Behind me I could hear Carth charging after me.

I was there as the cloud dissipated, and cut into the guy before he recognized the danger. He went down, and Carth took out his partner a moment later.

I gasped, looking at them. Then I ransacked their gear. “Carth, I think you had better get out of that armor. They don’t seem to like Sith that much.”

“I think you might be right.”

“Then I need a command decision.”


Carth

Considering our entire relationship seemed to be me running in to keep her alive, that was rich. “A command decision.”

“We can try to avoid the Vulkars, but from what I’ve seen, they’re almost insane. We can’t guarantee the mission will succeed if we have to watch our step every second.”

“Agreed.”

“Then I suggest we move the Vulkars from our ‘maybe avoid’ column to our ‘better dead than live’ one.”

I considered her suggestion. We had heard about both gangs, and at least the Beks weren’t blasting everything that moved. “Let’s table that until we see what happens when I’m out of this.” We tried the door they had guarded, obviously the way into their base, but the security was too good.

We decided to see if the apartment complex across from the elevator would give us a place to stash the armor. We went through the rooms one by one. Unfortunately, the Vulkars had laid claim to these as well. Only one room gave us an option. The room had of all things a footlocker with a manual lock. Those are antiques. There was a gas mine set on it, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Danika merely smiled, and tossed a piece of trash on it. We evacuated the room until the gas dissipated, then went to the locker.

“You’re-” I started to tell her to give it up as a bad job, but she knelt in front of the box. She seemed to concentrate on the box as if her mind alone would open it. Then she punched in a code, waited, punched in another code, then another. The box hissed open.

“Who is Elam Mattic?” She asked softly touching a faded card on the lid.

“Mattic? There was a ground force commander named Mattic at the start of the Mandalore War. He retired right after it. Why?”

“This box once belonged to Elam Mattic.” She looked at the room. It was barely livable. She dipped her hands in and pulled out a set of Republic armor. “I think a change of clothes is in order.”

As I changed she went through the rest of the contents. As I was sealing the breastplate on the armor I heard an “Oh, my.” I turned to see what was wrong. She drew out a set of Echani fiber armor. “I’m going to change. It’s better than this.” She touched the armor she wore.

“Go ahead.”

“Well,” she waved her hand. “Turn around.”

“Hey, you didn’t turn around when I was changing.”

“But I was busy inventorying what was in this box.”

I harrumphed, but moved to the door. Actually I wanted to think. She’s good with weapons, that might be natural talent, but that box...

Damn it the thing had a Hollywell 7400 lock. I had seen them before, hell I have used them before. Without the proper code, you can‘t open them without cutting or ripping them apart. Hollywell guaranteed the value of the contents of a sealed box. The only people good enough to get through their encryption were either techs for the company-

-Or professional thieves.

“Done.” She looked good in the armor. Echani armor is made to snug itself against the flesh of the wearer and is made of reactive cloth, over small trauma plates. It moved with the wearer, and stopped almost all impact damage yet was light enough to fold it tight enough to fit in a pack. We put the Sith armor in the box, and she locked it.

Back on the walk, we were undecided which way to go. We started down the hall. Like the upper level, we were far above the ground, about a kilometer I estimated. But nothing else was the same. The hall reeked of urine and trash littered the place. Panels sparked, and the light was haphazard.

We came around a bend, and saw a Rodian standing beside a door marked Jayvar’s Cantina. Beyond him, a human stood guard on another door. She wore a Bek bandanna. When we passed by, I could feel her eyes on me, but it wasn’t outright hostility. It was the professional paranoia of a sentry on important duty.

A bit farther we saw more Vulkars. We warily backed up out of sight. “I suggest we get a drink and consider this.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Back to the cantina.” I ordered. Danika nodded. She was watching carefully.

I didn’t think we had enough ammo for this adventure.


Danika

Describing any cantina is like describing a sunset. They are all the same and all different at the same time. The lights are always low, the music a little too loud, and always the scent of bodies too close together.

Here at least the mix was more like the Republic. Aliens and humans drinking. Maybe not together, or as if they liked one another, but not barred because of race.

We had just entered when a human came from the rear. He was locked on a pair of Rodians, and I stopped Carth. “Bounty Hunter.”

He nodded, eyes hard. Because of the lack of sufficient law enforcement and massive backlogs in the Republic courts, they allowed bounty hunters. Some were just trying to catch or kill criminals, others saw it as a way to hurt people legally.

I pegged this guy as the second.

One of the Rodians looked around then shouted “Hey little human, why you spend time watching us instead of drinking?”

His friend punched him in the arm. “Watch mouth, Luugo! That Calo Nord!”

Nord stopped about ten meters away. “There’s a bounty on your slimy little heads. I’ve come to collect.”

“Over our dead bodies!” Luugo shouted going for his weapon.

It wasn’t a shoot out. It was an execution. Nord drew a pair of matched blasters even as the ones he wasn’t hunting dived for cover. Four neat precise shots took the Rodians down.

“That’s the plan.” He commented to their bodies. He took their ID plates, and tossed a credit chip toward the bartender. “For the mess.” He said.

We moved toward the bar, and got drinks. I wasn’t sure what to have, I had never been much of a drinker, but they had several teas and I ordered one.

“As I see it, the Vulkars are just trying to kill anyone who isn‘t a Vulkar. That means we may have to contact the Beks.” Carth grunted. “And how do we contact the Beks? Will they be any help?”

Before I could answer, I heard a Rodian comment. “Little girl should not be in bar. This no place for little girl. If little girl smart, she runs away home.”

I leaned out. Two Rodians with Black Vulkar bandannas were facing a young Twi-lek girl with a Bek bandanna. In deference to her head tentacles or Lekku, she wore it around her waist like a sash.

“Who you calling little, Chuba face?” She answered in Basic. That surprised me, most aliens tend to speak their own language almost as if to highlight their difference.

“Little girl need lessons in manners!” The Rodian said, cracking his knuckles.

She held up a hand as if asking for time. “Just a sec boys. Zaalbar, a little help here? I need you to rip some legs off some insects.”

There was a growling behind me. My mind translated the noise as, “Mission, I’m busy. They just brought my food!”

“Quit complaining, you can finish eating later. Besides, you need the exercise, so get over here.”

I turned, and saw one of the biggest wookiee I had ever seen. He towered over the bar, and walked toward the confrontation like a landslide. The Rodians took one look, and the one who had been pushing the confrontation stepped back, hands up in a placatory manner. “We want no trouble with wookiee! Our problem with you, little girl!”

“You got a problem with me, then you got a problem with big Z. So unless you want to take on my furry friend, I suggest you greenies hop on out of here.”

The Rodians backed down. I pointed toward her. “Maybe she can help.” I stood, walking toward her. She turned, ready to fight, but calmed down when she saw that I wasn’t wearing gang colors. She smiled brightly.

“I don’t recognize you, and I know just about everyone in the Lowercity. You must be new down here. That makes big Z and me your official welcoming committee!”

I had to laugh. She was a girl just on the edge of maturity, and the child she had been shown through. “You speak Basic!” I commented.

She waved it off. “That’s not so strange. Most aliens can speak Basic, they just prefer their own languages. But I grew up here on Taris, so I just got used to speaking the native language, you know?”

“You showed a lot of guts standing up to those Vulkars, kid. You got a name?” Carth said.

My name’s Mission Vao,” She bowed theatrically, and this big wookiee is my best friend Zaalbar.” She turned, but Zaalbar had obviously decided that food was important. He was holding his plate with one hand, and shoveling with the other. Mission shook her head, then smiled at us again. “I’d offer to give you a tour, but the streets down here aren’t what you would really call safe right now. But if there’s anything else I can help with?”

“How did a Wookiee and a Twi-lek end up as best friends?”

“We just kind of fell in together. It ain’t easy on your own down here in the Lowercity. People always look for a way to push you around if you let them.”

“So we noticed.” Carth commented dryly. “Still you’re an odd pair.”

Mission reached out, and ruffled Zaalbar’s fur. He had a long-suffering look I had seen on large dangerous pets before, usually when they have to deal with children. Something about him looked odd. He had a harness like any furry alien who disdains clothes, but something was missing. “When I met Zaalbar, it seemed a good match. I knew we could look out for each other. With my street smarts and his muscles, we make a great team.”

“Perhaps you can tell me more about the Lowercity.” I steered the conversation.

She brightened up if that was possible. “Well you came to the right person! If you want info on Lower Taris, Davik, the swoop gangs, I even have some juicy stuff on Calo Nord!”

“Tell me about Davik.”

“Davik’s part of the local crime syndicate. With connections, so I have heard, to the Exchange. But everyone knows that. If it’s illegal, or profitable, he has his hand in somehow. But what I did hear was that right before the Blockade came down, he took possession of a JT 4100 ship for his smuggling operations. The Ebon Hawk.”

“A JT 4100!” Carth looked very interested. “Any idea where he keeps it?”

“If the rumor is true, and he does have a ship, it’s locked down at his estates. Anything like that would have been confiscated if the Sith knew about it. But no one goes in there, unless they’re with the Exchange, or working for Davik.”

“Tell me about this gang war.”

“In this area there are only two gangs you have to worry about. The Hidden Beks, and the Black Vulkar. Sometimes we hang out at the Bek’s base. Gadon Thek their leader. He’s a good guy. Lost his sight a few years ago in a swoop bike accident. But even blind he’s one hell of a leader.

“Not like that traitor Brejik! Before he took over the Vulkars, he was Gadon’s right hand man. Gadon considered that worthless space slug like his adopted son!”

“Why did Brejik leave?”

“When Gadon was blinded, everyone thought Gadon would step down. Brejik was the favorite for taking over. But Gadon didn’t think Brejik was ready for the responsibility. Brejik lost it about three, four years ago. He joined the Vulkars, fought his way to the top, and since then he’s been waging a war to wipe the Beks and Gadon off the planet.

“If anyone is to blame for this gang war it’s Brejik. It’s his orders that have the Vulkars out there shooting at anyone and everyone. The UpperCity couldn’t care less, and we’re caught in the middle. It’s like the entire gang has gone insane.”

“And Calo Nord?”

“Calo Nord is one of the most famous bounty hunters in the galaxy. He’s killed more people than the Iridian plague! Last week he blew away three Vulkars just because they tried to talk to him!

“He hangs around Zax’s bounty office, but he’s not looking for work there. The local government set a cap on bounties, and that wouldn’t be enough to interest him.

“I figure he’s been hired by Davik. The last dozen or so he’s killed were on Davik’s bad side. But if Davik hired him, it had to be for a big job somewhere else. I figure the instant the blockade goes down, Nord is going to be out of here fast.”

I looked at Carth. He shrugged. “Maybe we’ll talk to you again, Mission.”

“Leaving? Yeah, this dive is boring. No action at all. Hey, Zaalbar, let’s go.”

Zaalbar looked at his plate. “Mission, I haven’t finished eating!”

“Can’t you think about anything but your stomach for five minutes! Come on, we’ll see if there’s anything good at the Bek’s base before we go slumming.”

Zaalbar upended the plate into his maw, set it on the bar, and followed her out.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-02-2006 at 04:49 PM. Reason: additional data
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Old 10-02-2005, 01:20 PM   #9
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Carth

A JT 4100! They were made at the Protopri yards on Colrami. A military design, they had been designed for customs patrols and armed diplomatic courier work. Fast enough to catch anything smaller than a fighter or outrun a larger ship. Armed well enough to fight anything that could catch them. Some had slipped into the civilian sector, and they made excellent smugglers for the same reason they made good pirate chasers. But we would still have to get past the guns of the fleet.

I looked at Danika. She had handled that interview like a pro, and the more I thought about it, the more it added onto that what the hell list. Every minute something else made me wonder.

“Can we talk, Carth?”

“About?”

“We didn’t finish the discussion earlier.”

“All right, I’m all ears, beautiful.”

She looked at me coolly. “Considering the chain of command on this mission, isn’t that inappropriate?”

I was covering fast. “Is there something you would rather I call you?”

“I have a name.” She replied gently.

“Don’t get yourself in a twist about it, gorgeous. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“There you go again!”

“Oh for crying out-- Look, maybe you’ll feel better if you called me something. Go ahead. Come on. I can take it.”

“This is ridiculous.” She flushed, and I could tell she was having trouble keeping her temper.

“What? Afraid you’ll hurt my feelings? Come on, you’ll feel better. Do it, I can handle it.”

“I would rather go back to my original questions.”

Man she kept her temper locked down like the codes for a Bethe cycle concussion missile. I had rarely seen anyone as young as her with so much self-control. However I was feeling puckish. “So, all business today? Fine. Are these questions really necessary?”

She shook her head. “I just want to understand my teammate better.”

“Well if it’s an interrogation you wanted, why didn’t you say so? I promise not to scream too loudly.”

She wiped her face. “This is not an interrogation. I never said that.” She said with a long-suffering tone.

“No you didn’t.” I admitted. “I was just joking. But you do seem to be full of questions. It’s refreshing to be honest. But let me ask a few first. I’ve been going over the battle on the Endar Spire over and over ever since we crashed. Some things just don’t add up for me.

“Maybe you could tell me what happened. From your own perspective.”

She shrugged. “I wasn’t in any position to understand much of what was going on really.”

“Neither was I to tell the truth.” I admitted. “I was only aboard as an advisor for the most part. When the battle started it happened so fast that I don’t think anyone really knows what went on. We lost a good ship and some damn fine people. And for what? On the hope that Jedi mind tricks could help us. Not that Bastila had a lot of time to react. We didn’t chose that battle either. It was forced on us.” I suddenly realized I was giving her all sorts of outs from my line of questioning. “I’m just surprised that there were any survivors at all to tell you the truth.” I finished lamely. “But it’s more than a little surprising that you were there, isn’t it? What is your position with the Republic military?”

“I’m just a soldier, a grunt as you said. What’s surprising about that?”

“A recruit grunt with what looks like years of experience. That knows how to foul up the targeting systems of a droid long enough to take them out. That bounces off walls and the occasional person like a heavy worlder in zero-gee or a Jedi. That interrogates kids-” I waved after Mission, “-like a pro. That can pop a Hollywell security box like it’s unlocked, and I don’t know anyone that can do that. More than that, you were a last minute addition to the crew, and you’re a survivor when a lot of good people didn’t stand a chance.”

“What’s so odd that I was a last minute addition?”

“You were the only one. Not to mention that Bastila’s party ordered you transferred and held up our departure for you.”

She looked at me in amazement. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“The Jedi asked for a lot of things after they came aboard. Hell, from what I saw they took over the entire ship. From Bastila to that ensign Ulgo-”

“Trask Ulgo?” She asked in a whisper.

“Yeah. Psych tech, given an ensign’s bar and told to handle a special case.”

“Trask was with me until we reached the bridge. He faced a dark Jedi. That was the last I saw of him.”

“Well considering your connection with the Jedi, whether you know it or not, your presence on that ship, and right now on this planet is a little too convenient.” I hissed. “I’m probably wrong. This may be only smoke, I know. But I learned a long time ago to take nothing at face value. One thing I hate is surprises.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just that I always expect the unexpected. It makes life easier.”
She shook her head, rubbing her temples. “Are you always this paranoid?”

“Look, it has nothing to do with you personally. I don’t trust anyone, and no, I am not going to discuss my reasons. So let’s keep our minds on the important things.”

“This is important.”

“All right! Damn you are the most persistent woman, the most persistent person I have ever met. But right now I think we need to get moving.”

Beks

Danika

My mind was whirling like a sink drain. Trask was assigned to a ‘special’ case. What had been happening aboard the ship? The lockbox had surprised me as well. I had just answered the questions the box’s cybernetic lock asked. How I had known what answers they were I can’t explain. They... just felt right.

It wasn’t far to the Bek’s base. The lookout watched us approach, ready, but not automatically in attack mode. I stopped. “I’d like to see Gadon Thek please.”

“Hey! You can’t just walk in here!” She looked at us with suspicion. “How do I know you’re not a Vulkar spy sent to kill Gadon?”

“We came down from the Uppercity. I need Gadon’s help, and a friend of the Beks up there told me to speak with him.”

“Lots of people want to see Gadon. Lots more say their friends of the Beks too. Gadon has always been a man of the people, beloved by the common folk. But the days of the Bek’s open door policy are gone. Between those Vulkar and this damn Sith invasion, we have too many enemies right now.”

“Maybe I can be an ally against those enemies.” I said. I could feel Carth tense up. If we allied ourselves with the Bek, the Vulkar automatically became our enemy. But I could see no alternative.

She looked us over. “Maybe. We can use all the help we can get, and you don't act like Sith, and I’ve never seen a Vulkar without his colors.” She shrugged. “And it’s not like the two of you could do much to him here. He’s in the base, surrounded by his faithful, and Zaedra is watching his back. If you tried anything, you’d be dead in seconds.” She keyed in a command. The door opened.

“So you’re going to let us in?”

“Sure, why not? But be on your best behavior. The Beks are watching every move.”

I understood her calm at letting us in the instant we stepped in through the inner door. There were a dozen Beks in sight, and as we entered, each surreptitiously picked up a weapon. Oh we might have been able to get past them to kill Gadon. But getting out would have been a nightmare.

I asked a Bek, and he motioned toward a desk against the wall. There, a black man sat, a wire running from the console to a socket in his head behind his left ear. A Twi-lek woman hovered over him protectively.

We walked toward them, and the woman looked up to notice us. Her eyes burned with helpless fury, and what I took to be love. She looked at Gadon, then back at us before moving across to stop us. “Hold it right there. Who are you and what is your business here?”

“I came to see Gadon Thek.”

“What is your business with Gadon? Why are you bothering him-”

“Peace, Zaedra. Nobody is going to try anything here in our base. It would be a suicide mission.”

“You’re too trusting, Gadon. Brejik and the Vulkars want you dead. Anyone we don’t know is a potential threat and I am the one in charge of keeping you alive!” He voice had a pleading tone in it.

“So what would you have me do? See no one? Order the Beks to kill anyone not in colors as the Vulkars are? Even if I must die, I will never let it come to that while I live. Now stand aside, and let them pass.”

Zaedra winced. I could see that love in her eyes. She glared at us, threatening dire retaliation as she stepped aside. “As you wish, Gadon.” She glared at me. “You can speak with him, but if you make any sudden moves, you’ll be vaporized before you can say ‘Vulkar Spy’!”

He reached up, plucking the insert from the skull socket. Then he stood. His eyes were unfocused, but his face was firm. He picked up an implant module, and set it in the socket with a click. Then he turned, and I could tell he was actually looking at us with that implant.

“You have to forgive Zaedra. Ever since the Vulkars started this insane war, she had taken her duties as my right hand a little too over-zealously. The Sith invasion hasn’t helped. She seems to forget that I can take care of myself.” He looked at both of us. “You came for my help. Talk to me.”

“I need information on those Republic escape pods that crashed into the Undercity.”

“The escape pods? I have heard that the Sith have been asking around about them in the Uppercity. For some strange reason, they haven’t asked down here.“ He showed a feral grin. “Or at least no one that has asked has gone back up. Sending patrols into the Undercity as well, the fools.”

“They might be spies for the Sith!” Zaedra cried triumphantly.

“Calm down Zaedra. If the Sith thought we had anything useful in here we would be facing a strike force, not two people. No, I think these out-worlders have their own agenda.”

“We’re not working with the Sith.” I looked at Carth. He nodded. “My name is Danika Wordweaver. Sergeant, Republic military.”

“Ah, so we are still part of the Republic. How, refreshing.” He leaned into the desk, crossing his arms. “I can tell you everything I know and it won’t harm my people in the slightest. But it will cause problems for the Vulkars and that is okay in my book.

“The Vulkars stripped those pods of everything of value within an hour of their landing. Before the Sith even located them. It’s too bad we didn’t get there first, considering what my spies told me. There was a survivor; a Republican officer named Bastila.”

“Bastila! She’s alive?” Carth blurted out. Gadon looked at him.

“Yes she is. If she were in our hands, it wouldn’t be so bad. But the Vulkars have her. We would have asked her to carry a plea for reforms, but the Vulkars sell anyone they can catch to the Exchange and onto the Intergalactic slave market.”

“Bastila is to be a slave?” I looked at Carth. At that moment I blessed the blockade. “Where is she?”

“Usually the Vulkar would sell her off to Davik or another off world connection. But a Republic officer is no ordinary catch.”

“That could work to our advantage.” Carth said. Unspoken was the idea that they didn’t know yet what they had. The Sith would have deeded the planet over to the Vulkars if they knew.

“She’s too valuable for Brejik to leave her at the base here on the Lowercity. Too much chance that his people would have their fun and damage the merchandise.” He grimaced in distaste. “No, he’s got her hidden away somewhere safe until the big swoop race. You’ll never find her. We haven’t.”

“There must be some way to help her!”

“There is, but you’re not going to like it. Your friend has become a pawn in Brejik’s plan to take over the Lowercity. He’s put her up as the Vulkar’s share in the annual Swoop gang race. By putting up such a valuable prize, he’s hoping to win the loyalty of the smaller gangs. If enough of them join him, he’ll have the manpower to finally destroy us.”

“So how do you propose we rescue her?” Carth snapped. “We can’t fight every gang in the Lowercity! Hell, the Sith would have their hands full with that mission!”

“The only hope you have is for us, the Beks, to win the season opener of the races. If you help, we can win this. We have much to gain, and even more to lose.”

“What do you need from us then, Gadon?” I asked.

“I can sponsor one of you as a racer, that will get you onto the Race concourse. The race is for Lowercity gangs only, and no one else is allowed down there, though we split a tidy profit from the entertainment circuits. You can protect your friend, and if the Beks win, your friend is free.

“But first you have to do something for me. One of my mechanics developed a souped up accelerator for a swoop bike. A bike with that accelerator can beat anything ever made. But a traitor took off yesterday, and took the prototype with him. We don’t have time to build another. They plan to use it to guarantee that they win.”

I had a sinking feeling. “Where is it?”

“Inside the Vulkar base here on the Lower boulevard.”

“How am I supposed to get in there?” I asked plaintively. We didn’t have heavy weapons, and no place to get them.

“I admit it won’t be easy. The doors on this level are locked from the inside, with no way to open them without someone letting you in. But there is a back way and I know someone that might be able to lead you to it. One of our own. A girl named Mission Vao.”

“Mission?“ Zaedra was appalled. “Gadon you can’t be serious! She’s just a kid! How is she supposed to help them with this?”

“Mission has explored every back alley of the Lowercity. Plus she knows the Undercity and the sewers better than the city planners who built it. The Vulkars have a way in down there. That was how they beat us to the escape pods. If anyone knows where that back door is, it’s Mission.”

I nodded. “Where can I find her?”

“She and her Wookiee friend left out of here to head down there a short while ago. I just wish I knew how she got past the Sith guards on the elevator.”

“We got past the Uppercity guards without a problem.”

“How?”

“We have a set of their armor.”

“The Uppercity guards will let you down in uniform, but the guards down here have locked it down tighter. You need authorization papers from the Sith command. The only people going down are Sith patrols, or Bounty Hunters. But no one gets past the guard without papers.

“Now it just so happens that a Sith patrol ram into a bit of mischief recently.” He opened his pocket, and pulled out a sheaf of documents. “The poor souls didn’t need these anymore. I can’t give them to you, but I can trade them. You said you had a set of Sith armor. I want it.”

“What do you need uniforms for?”

“I like to be prepared. Eventually the Sith are going to grow bored up there, and decide to come down here. When they do, a disguise will give us an advantage in some of those skirmishes.”

“All right. The west apartment complex. There’s an old-fashioned manual input security lock-box.” I wrote down the code I had discovered. “Input that, and the suit is yours.”

He handed it to Zaedra, who sent someone. A few minutes later, they came back lugging the suit. Gadon handed me the papers. “I’ll be back.” I promised.

The Beks got us close enough to the elevator that we could see it.
Far ahead I could see a gate with a Sith guard standing behind half a dozen blaster turrets. He’d take down everyone on the street if those opened fire. I stiffened my back, and strode down the boulevard like I owned it. The guard looked up, accepting the papers I showed him.

“Best be on your guard. We’ve lost quite a few patrols down there. Be especially careful of the Undercity dwellers. Filthy beasts. There are also Rakghouls. If you need, check with a patrol, and they can give you some of the serum against the disease if there is any left.”

I nodded, stuffing the papers back in my pocket, and entered the elevator. Carth loosened up his hands. “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” He replied. I pushed the button and we sank into the depths.


Undercity

I had thought the Lowercity was bad, but this was squalor. The stench hit us first, garbage old enough to vote, and perpetual twilight. Here there was finally dirt, over a kilometer below the Lowercity.

A pair of young men faced off against us. All that kept them facing us was sheer bravado. “This is our elevator! No one uses our elevator unless they pay the toll!”

“I don’t believe this. Even the beggars are trying to shake us down.” Carth commented.

“Five credits! It costs five credits to use our elevator!” The other boy screeched.”

I pulled out a five credit token, and flipped it to the closer one. He snatched it as if it were life itself. Considering the conditions around us, it might very well have been.

“Credits!” He held the coin so his partner saw it. “We have credits! Food, a blanket...” He was crying.

“Come on. If someone else sees it, they’ll take it away.”

“Go away!” A young girl cried. She walked over facing the boys. I figured she might be fourteen, but judging the conditions she could have been an emaciated eighteen. The boys scurried off. She approached us diffidently, like a kicked puppy. “I’m sorry about them. Those two give the entire village a bad name. We’re not all like that.” She added defensively.

“I’m sure you’re all fine upstanding citizens.” Carth replied. The girl bristled at the sarcasm. “It’s just too bad your welcoming committee gives such a bad first impression.”

“Carth.” I growled. “My name is Danika. What’s your name?”

My tone brought her back to her earlier mood, though she looked at Carth as if he would hit her. “My name is Shaleena. You’re from the up world aren’t you?” She looked excited. “I was born here, I’ve never been there. Is it as beautiful as I’m told?”

I considered the Lowercity which I had considered bad. Even that would have been better than this. “It’s nothing special.”
“Not to you I suppose. But you’re probably used to its beauty by now.” She looked up as if at heaven. “I see it in my dreams sometimes. The city, the sky, the stars... It all sounds so wonderful.” She smiled sadly.

“Gendar, the leader of our village, tells me I should spend more time trying to make life better here than dreaming of what I cannot have. Maybe he is right. You probably think I am foolish, but when I was little, Rukil told us stories of what it was like up there, and ever since then I have dreamed of going.”

“Rukil?”

“He’s the oldest man in the village. The children call him Rukil wrinkle-skin. But he’s the kindest man I have ever met. He told us such stories! I still listen when he speaks of the Promised land. I know they’re just stories, legends, but, sometimes it makes all of this seem less dark somehow.”

“The promised land?”

“She shook her head sharply. “Nothing important. They’re just stories to make the young children smile. That’s all they are. But Rukil believes it really exists. Sometimes I can almost believe in it myself.” Her hand fluttered at the filth around her. “But then I open my eyes and see the truth. The ugly truth of life.”

She sighed again. “I guess we have to make the best of what life has given us. If you really want to know more about the promised land, ask Rukil.”
“Where would he be?”
“Somewhere near the center of the village.” She waved vaguely at a cluster of tents. “He’s too old to wander far. After all, he’s over a hundred years old.”

“Could you answer some more questions?”

“Sure. But Rukil or Gendar could answer them better.”

“Have others been down here?”

Yes, a lot more than usual. We even had soldiers down here. Big mean men in shiny armor. Gang members, people dressed like you.”

“What about the village? How did this happen?”

“I was born here to start with. My parents were Outcasts. They were banished for some crime before I was born, They never really talked about it. Everyone here is an Outcast, or the descendants of one. It’s tough down here, but we survive. I think it’s easier for the children because they never knew anything different.

“Some of the people have given into the misery, become harsh or angry. But most of us are good people regardless of what they might have done.”

I looked at the pain around me, and I wanted to drag them aboard the elevator, blast the way through the gangs, through the Sith, and take them to the Uppercity. To show Shaleena the stars for the first time. Then the enormity of the task beat down on me. I could do so little for them. “We will be back. I need to speak with Gendar.”

“Oh, okay.” She looked sad. We had been the bright spot in a black mass of existence. “Well if you want to talk, you can always find me near here.“

I vowed if anything could be done for these people, I would do it.

Rukil was ancient. I felt like I was in the presence of one of the forest giants of my home. He looked at me with rheumy eyes, then his eyes widened. “You are from the world above! Yet, you are different from those others. Is this the time of destiny then? Is this a portent of our salvation? Or is it yet another false sign to mislead us from the true path?”

I knelt facing him. Carth leaned forward. “Be careful, this one might be as dangerous as he is crazy.”

But Rukil ignored him. “Speak to me upworlder. Tell me what fate you unleash for us now, salvation or damnation! Speak!”

“What do you mean, old man?”

“A question.” He breathed. “You are confused, bewildered, perplexed. Not that odd I suppose. After all these years my mind wanders farther than my body ever did. Perhaps some things I can make clearer. I am Rukil. Rukil wrinkle skin the children call me when they don’t think I can hear. I am the oldest of the Outcasts that still live.”

“I am Danika Wordweaver, Rukil. What do you want of me?”

“Once I was honored for my wisdom, but times have been hard. Many fell away from the true faith, only the children listen to me now. Once I had an apprentice. But she is also gone now.”

“What happened to her?”

“I sent her into the wasteland to find... To find something of great importance to me. I cannot tell you unless you prove to be the messenger I seek. Will you help an old man? Seek my Apprentice Malya. Whatever she found might be enough. I beg you, do this for me.”

“We have to enter that wasteland as well. If I find any sign of her, I will tell you.”

“Finding her may be difficult. She could be anywhere under the hulking city.” He waved toward the sky. “But if you find her, then I will know that you are the guide to- to what we seek. Only then can I tell you what I know.”

“I will do what I can.” I promised.

“I wish you good fortune, upworlder. Our fates are in your hands.”

I took his hand, and squeezed it gently. I walked away, and Carth caught my arm. “What are you doing, promising the moon?”

I rounded on him. “Look around you Carth!” I waved at the surroundings. “What have they to look forward to but misery? Only the hope that the promised land Rukil spoke of is real. You have never been in their shoes, Carth. You lived on a better planet, under a better government with food they couldn’t even imagine! You had something to look forward to. Why do you think I gave that starveling child money? Money means nothing to me! I had to help them, even that much. If we had time I would have given Shaleena stories to rival Rukil’s, and all of them true! If I didn’t try to help them I might as well walk through the camp with my blaster firing!” I motioned toward a line of blaster marks against a wall, at a woman laying with what were obviously close misses burned into her flesh. “As if that would help! Others have already done that!”

I spun away from him. I was striking out at the wrong people. The leaders of the planet in their aeries had done this. If they had been standing there I would have shot the lot of them.

Gendar was easy to spot. A dozen people were trying to move a lump of plascrete the size of a speeder using only hand tools. One man was in there, pushing twice as hard as anyone else, cajoling, chivvying, and pushing the others into greater efforts. I looked at the walls for the first time. They had been built using stones just like the one they were moving. All moved by hand.

He finally stopped pushing, looking at us. Then he strode over. “Greetings, upworlders. We rarely see your kind down here. I am surprised that so many have been visiting us recently. At least you spent time with Rukil, which is more than any others have.” He motioned toward the old man’s tent.

“No offense, but I can understand why you’re not on the tour list here.” Carth said.

Gendar snorted. “Why have you come to this sunless hell? Is there something you need from my village or me? Your kindness to Rukil begs for reparation.”

“Why do you people live down here?”

“We are the Outcasts, shunned by the upper world and banished here for our crimes. Long before I was born we banded together to build our walls, to have some sense of security in this hell. I am the leader, as my father and grandfather were. Many have been here for generations, our children tainted with whatever crime their ancestors committed.

“There is no return for us, even the youngest. But we survive the filth, the roving gangs who don’t want to live with order. The slavers, and the Rakghoul by protecting each other.”

“What a horrible way to live!”

“Life can be hard.” Gendar admitted. “Some have grown bitter and uncaring. This is especially true among those newly among us, cast down for yet another crime. Those that also hurt others are banished again from our walls. But we live on what we have. Perhaps one day we will have all we need.” He barked a laugh. “Now I’m starting to sound like old Rukil.”

I sighed. “May I ask you some questions?”

“Ask. I can only answer for the Undercity, but what knowledge I have of that is yours.”

“I am looking for a Twi-lek named Mission Vao.”

“I know this Twi-lek, though I have never spoken with her. She and her Wookiee friend have passed through here many times bound for the sewers. They have brought things they have found for sale to Igear, our only merchant, and brought food and things of value for our people before. They are friends.”

“How do we get into the sewers from here?”

“There are two entrances. One is 200 meters to the southwest of the gate. The other is a hundred meters or more to the northeast. But I warn you, the sewers are a dangerous place. Rakghouls, slavers, even the Sith military that has come down recently.”

“Slavers?”

Gendar waved around him. “Can you think of a better place? The upper world would charge them for setting up their operation. A number of my people would put on a slave collar willingly in return for a promise of even one full meal a day.” He sighed. “Is there anything else?”

I shook my head silently.

“Then I must be back to my duties. Take care upworlders. Come back to our village if there is anything you need.”

“Even here there is hope.” I whispered. I had seen the gate on our trip around the village, and I walked toward it.

A woman ran past us, and was shrieking near the gate. I drew and charged toward where she was. “Hurry Hendar, Hurry! I can hear it coming!” She screamed.

The guard was staring out, and shook his head. “He’s not going to make it, Hester. He’s doomed. Blast it! I told him he was a fool to go so far alone.”

“He will make it. Hurry Hendar!”

A crowd was gathering and pressed us into the gate. A man was frantically running toward us. His only weapon was a quarterstaff of metal. He staggered to a stop less than ten meters from the gate. “Open the gate! Quickly, there isn’t much time!”

Behind him a gray skinned abomination loped toward the helpless man.

The guard was caught in a dilemma “I can’t open the gate. The Rakghouls are too close.”

“They’ll kill him if you don’t open the gate!’ Hester screamed.

“They’ll kill us all if I do!”

No, you can’t just let him die! It isn’t fair!’ She turned, and her eyes caught mine. “Please, make him open the gate, my husband will die if he doesn’t!”

I shoved through. “Open the gate!”

“Are you mad!”

“Close it after I have passed!”

He stared at me then grabbed the controls The structure lifted, from the thudding sound I heard they must have used steam power! I scuttled under the gate, hearing it huff to a stop then start back down again.

Hendar stared back toward me, and beyond him I saw a nightmare charging forward. Closer the skin looked as if the entire surface was a single blister. A maw with razor sharp teeth opened, and it leaped.

I spun, feeling the body fall in pieces behind me. Another came and another. I could hear a blaster firing over my head, and saw Hendar slam the staff down hard enough to bend it on the last of them.

“Are we clear?” I demanded.

“There aren’t any more!” I looked up, and waved at Carth.

The gate huffed back into the air, and we hurried inside. Hester clutched her man as if she would never let him go again. “Thank you.” She whispered.

I could hear Carth scrambling down the face of the wall, and motioned toward the gate. “We have to go now.”

The gate guard stared at me like he‘d never seen the like before. “No upworlder has ever risked their life for one of us. What kind of people birthed you?”

I shook my head. “I couldn’t just let him die. Open the gate. And one thing.”

“Yes?”

“No discussion about opening it when we come back, all right?”

He blushed, and turned back toward the controls.

The gate rose, and we stepped out into that hell.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-02-2006 at 05:08 PM. Reason: see ones above
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Old 10-05-2005, 10:45 AM   #10
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Wasteland

Looking at them, you wouldn’t have believed they were the footings of buildings. Massive pillars thrust into the earth, and above all spread the treelike structure of the City. I was amazed that any light reached here at all.

“Smoke.” Carth pointed toward the southeast. I nodded. We walked that direction. I stopped waving for Carth to stop also.

The noise I had heard came again, panting, whimpering. Suddenly a figure came into view. It was Mission. Her clothes were filthy, her eyes wide in fear. She stopped, then must have recognized us. She staggered toward us.

“You have to help me, please! No one else will, the Beks can’t help me. But he’s my friend!” She staggered to a stop. “You’ll help me won’t you?”

I caught her. “Whoa, slow down, Mission. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Zaalbar! He’s in trouble, big trouble! We have to help him! If we don’t they’ll sell him into slavery!”

“Calm down Mission. Slow down, take a deep breath, and start from the beginning.”

“Me, Me and Zaalbar were just wandering around down here in the Undercity. You know, looking for stuff, kind of exploring. We do it all the time.”

“I guess with a Wookiee at you side most things leave you alone.” Carth commented.

“Only this time they were waiting for us. Gamorrean slave-takers. We didn’t even have a chance to really run. Big Z threw himself at them, and roared for me to run.

“I took off, thinking he was right behind me, but he wasn’t. There were too many of them, he couldn’t get away. They’ll hold him for the next slaver that arrives, I know it!”

“Do you know where they took him?” I demanded.

“They have a section of the sewers they’ve blocked off with mines. The stink probably reminds them of home. That’s where they’ve probably taken him.”

“Stay here, we’ll go rescue him.”

“No way! I’m the reason he’s in trouble, and I’m not abandoning him again! I’m going with you!”

“Gadon told me you might know of a back door into the Black Vulkar’s base. After I’ve helped you, I want to ask you about getting in.”

“Help me and I’ll dive into hell for you!” She said. “Once Big Z is safe I can show you a way right into their cantina!”

I shrugged. I drew the blaster I carried. “Can you use this?”

She took it. “Yeah, just point and pull the trigger, right?”

I shook my head. I started to take it back, and she stopped me. “See that rock on the pile over there? The top one?” I looked. It was fist sized, about twenty meters away. She aimed, and fired, the rock shattering. “I may be a kid, but I do know guns.” She looked sad. “I learned a long time ago.”

“Then I won’t have to teach you.” I waved at the area around us. “Where is the fastest way down into the sewers?”

She pointed to the north. We sprinted that way.

Rakghouls wandered in small packs along our path, we avoided them as much as possible. I noticed that every pack seemed to cluster near small scrub bushes. “What is that?” I asked Mission.

“Some kind of plant.” She replied with thoughtless innocence. “It grows only down here. The villagers tell me it’s just a weed, and isn’t edible.”

A pack wandered by us, carrying parts of what had been a man. They dumped them near the bush, then began to feed. Oddly enough, each of them gently rubbed their hands on the flowers, then on each other. Then they wandered mindlessly to other stands of the brush, repeating the rubbing gesture.

A short while later, we passed one of the plants without rakghouls. I cut a branch off it, and stuck it in my pouch.

“There!” Mission ran toward a heavy grating. She caught it and it screeched upward, showing a ladder downward. “That’s the way in from here.”
“From here?” I asked.

“Of course.” She waved toward the distant camp. “You don’t think I wandered past a guard do you?” She motioned downward. “There’s another way in down there. That’s the way we always went.”

I waved her to silence. Near the grate, a body lay, curiously peaceful. A woman, her torso shredded by rakghouls, eyes staring at the distant sky. Her pack lay near by and I opened it. A journal lay atop some supplies, and I opened it. “Poor Malya.” I whispered. The apprentice had been here trying to get into the sewers when her fate had come. I opened it to the last pages delicately.

‘There is no sign of either Orol or Marosi here in the wasteland. Rukil knew they were searching for the path to the promised land, but he didn’t know where they might have looked for it. I believe they went into the sewer. I laughed at the thought when it came to me. A promised paradise at the end of a sewer line!

‘I must go down there to find out. The entrance is only a few meters away.’

I slipped the book into my pack, then stood. “Lead on, Mission.”


Sewers

The ladder led about a hundred meters straight down. The grate walkway was wide enough for a vehicle. Mission told me that there were half a dozen other ways down, and the sewer workers used small wheeled vehicles in the newer sections. This section however was much older, and while it was wide enough for the vehicles, none of the entryways that now existed would allow them.

We came to a door, and stopped. A mine had been laid there, and Mission walked up gently and disarmed then put the mine in her pack. “This is how I make some eating money.” She said. “The villagers can use these in the areas where the walls are getting bad.”

I won’t go over the entire hell of that journey. Rakghouls wandered the halls, and bodies lay where they had been killed. Some had been gnawed to the bone, blasters or blades had killed others. It was an egalitarian mixture. Outcasts, Sith troopers, gang members of the Bek and Vulkar, the occasional sewer worker. One body dead less than a day intrigued me. The man had been an outcast, a collar still encircled his neck, and his hands were locked in it in death, as if he had been clawing it off.

“Slave collar.” Carth identified it. “When you try to run they hit you with an electrical charge. They also have a proximity setting. The farther you run, the higher the charge.”

I hissed in anger.

We opened a door, and I started forward. Carth and Mission followed behind, eyes on the area as we paced on.

“Carth, you’re a star-pilot for the Republic?”

“Uh huh.”

“You’ve been all over the Galaxy, I bet.”

“I’ve seen a few planets, yeah.”

“So how does Taris rate compared to other worlds you’ve seen?”

“To be honest, Mission Taris would rate pretty low. The prejudice, the rich living high and well while everyone else is crushed below them. It’s not a pretty picture.”

“But it was better before the Sith arrived...” She sighed. “All right, it was still pretty bad. Maybe Taris is pretty bad.”

“Trust me on this, Mission, There are much better worlds. Then again, there are a lot that are as bad if not worse. This is not the kind of place a kid should grow up in, even with a Wookiee to watch her back.”

“Hey, I watch out for Big Z too, ya-know. He‘s my friend, not my baby-sitter!” She turned to watch her section again. “Geez, ask a simple question and get a lecture. I don’t need this crap.”

“Don’t you snap at me missy! You want a lecture? Here’s one for you. Only bratty children fly off the handle because of a simple statement!”

They were starting to shout, and I spun, hissing in a whisper. “Settle down, both of you!”

Mission however was on a roll. “I don’t have to take this crap from you, Carth! You ain’t my father, though you’re old enough to be his father! So keep your lectures in that withered old head of yours.”

The next hour passed in dead frigid silence.

We stopped, and Mission waved at the door ahead of us. “From here the Gamorreans have sealed their own area. The pen they installed last time was right down the way about thirty meters on the right.” I nodded, and keyed the door. I walked in, and there, right in front of the door she had mentioned was a Gamorrean.

You’ve seen them before, two meters or more tall, heavily built, the Gamorreans have just one use as far as Galactic society is concerned. That is in the role of bodyguard, soldier, bouncer, or slave taker. Anything simple where brutality is the norm. They are brutal creatures that hadn’t even developed a meager technology beyond crude hand weapons before the Republic found their world.

This was a male, what is called a boar. Somewhere nearby there would be a sow. If they operate in groups, a Sow is required just to stop the internecine feuding. She guides them in what must be done, and does all the negotiating.

The boar snuffled, and spread his arms wide and rushed toward me. His axe, a massive weapon almost a meter long just at the blade still hung on his belt. Obviously he hadn’t seen Carth and Mission. He thought he just had a new prize for the pen.

I cut upward, and his eyes widened in shock even as he fell. Another cut slashed his throat, and his death scream came out as a whistling sound.

There was another door on the left before the door Mission had earmarked as their pen, and I opened it. A mine lay there on the grating, and beyond it a badly decomposed body.

After Mission had disarmed and picked up this mine, I checked the body. It had been an outcast, and had been dead from my estimate for almost eighty years. I pulled a grimy journal from the pack. “Marosi.” I breathed. “One of the people Malya was looking for.” In his hand was yet another journal. I looked past him at the door that was there. The lock was an antique, at least a century out of date. “Mission.” I pointed at the door.

She went over, working on it. “Haven’t seen one this old before. I’ve been everywhere down here, and never even seen this door.” She hummed as she worked, then with a groan, the door opened. It led into darkness. Mission was still crouched, and she pointed at the ground. “Now that is surprising.”

I knelt beside her, looking at the track that led off into darkness. “What is it?”

“You know the mass trans system they have up in the Uppercity? This looks like a spur line. But why would they have built one down here?”

I shook my head. “Most cities are just built on top of themselves, Mission. Maybe it led to another section of the city.”

“No way.” She pointed down the tunnel. “That way only goes to the sea. As far down as this section is, and the slope of the tunnel suggests that it comes out under the ocean.” She tapped a button, yelping as the door slammed closed. Then they opened on an tram car.

We left the mystery for someone else to explore, and after closing the door, we went back into the hall. We were just at the door when I heard a roar of pain and anger from within.

“Big Z!” Mission screamed, and she ran up, punching the door code in frantic haste. I brushed her aside, and spun to face a Sow Gamorrean. There isn’t much to tell them apart to someone who isn’t a zenologist. But I knew it was a she from the box she held in her hand, a device that had been given to them. A male would have smashed it into uselessness by now. She grunted, and reached for me. I heard a blaster behind me, either Carth or Mission joining the fray.

I chopped into her, and she tried to block the blow with her arm. The box sizzled, and if anything Zaalbar’s screams grew even more frantic.

Another, a male came at me, and I killed him. Two other had been in the room, but both were dead. One had a neat hole in his forehead, and I glanced at Mission. But she was running across the room toward another door. This had a manual lock, and she worked at it frantically. The door hissed open, and we saw Zaalbar curled up, clutching at the collar around his neck.

“They must have been punishing him for something!” Mission cried, running to her friend. “Find the control box!”

I looked at the box that the Sow still held, but it fell apart as I tried to pry it free. “It’s damaged! I can’t shut it off!”

Mission screamed wordlessly, trying to find the lock to pick it. “I don’t have anything that will work!” She shouted. “Zaalbar, hang in there!”

I looked at him, knowing there was nothing we could do. Except... “Carth, Mission, hold him!”

“What?”

“Sit him up and grab his head! Pull it down on his chest!”

They tried, but Zaalbar was in a world of his own pain. He flailed, sending Mission flying like a twig.

I drew the vibroblade, and set it for it’s finest setting. “Zaalbar.” I called. “You have to sit still for this to work!”

He ignored me.

Then from the depths of my mind, I found something to use. I roared at him in his own language and he froze, then leaned forward into Carth.

“What are you-”
I swing the vibroblade, trusting in my skill at something I had heard of, practiced, but had never actually done.

It’s called Fybylka, or the ‘fly cut’ among the Echani. A cut that is supposed to cut just the upper layers of the flesh, yet not deep enough to cripple. It isn’t meant to kill you enemy or even to wound him seriously. It is meant to shame him. To leave a mark that others laugh at.

It got its name because of the way it is practiced. You practice on smaller and smaller targets until finally you can cut one fly out a swarm without touching another.

There was no resistance. Anything lighter than body armor would be cut by that blade, and it was over before anyone even knew what I planned.

There was a flash of a burned out power pack, and Zaalbar threw the collar from him. I suddenly felt cold.

When I had first seen him, something hadn’t looked right. Now, staring at that horrible collar, I knew what had been missing.

Every Wookiee I had ever seen had a collar just like it!

They had been slaves.

Zaalbar rolled over. Mission came back, wincing, and hugged his neck. Those massive arms closed in a curiously gentle embrace, the claws retracted so they wouldn’t injure her. “Where is the wookiee?” He gasped out.

“What wookiee?”

“The one who shouted ‘sit still you fool‘ in Shyriiwook? My own language?”

Carth pointed wordlessly at me. Zaalbar just stared in astonishment.

I reached back into whatever well I had dragged those words, and added, in the same language, “Have the children of Bacca grown deaf?”

He grinned at that. Then suddenly grew solemn. “You have saved me from a death in life of slavery. You did this without being asked. There is only one way I can repay such a debt. I will swear a life debt to you.”

“Zaalbar, are you serious?” Mission was stunned. “You know how important that is!”

“Mission, I must.” He grunted.

“A life debt? What is that?” I asked

Zaalbar looked at me as if he was surprised. “You speak my language but don’t know what a life debt is?”

“I don’t know where I learned your language, Zaalbar. I honestly don’t know what a life debt is.”

“Most would not.” He glared at the bodies of the Gamorreans. “They are like most of your kind. They see our great physical strength. The cunning use of our claws, and see just workers or guards. Since we do not feel comfortable among your kind we cannot be hired, so they must take us as slaves.

“When they captured me, I could see no end to my misery, I would have forced them to kill me rather than submit. A lot of my people do.”

“A life debt is like the most solemn vow a Wookiee can give.” Mission burst in. “It means that wherever you go, even into death, he has to follow you.”

“In the presence of you all, I Zaalbar, son of Freyyr, son of Shoorii, swear to follow you through life, through pain, through suffering, through death itself if need be.” He knelt, reaching out as if a child asking for a parent to comfort him. “My oath will endure. Like the Kash vines that entrap, and the Wroshyr that root our world.”

Instinctively, I took the hand. “Zaalbar, son of Freyyr, son of Shoorii, I accept this burden. I swear in return never to put you in danger that I myself do not face.”

He stood. “Somewhere you learned of this. Whatever your memory of it is. You answered well.”

I shrugged helplessly. Then I looked at him. The Gamorreans had treated him roughly, and he bore wounds still. “Right now you need medical care, and we can’t stop. Mission, you said there was a way up from here?”

“Yeah“. She pointed down the hall outside. “Down there about a hundred meters. Can you climb Big Z?”

“I can do what I must, Mission.”

We walked down the hall, Mission and Carth helping him along. They reached a section of paneling, and Mission popped it out in a practiced manner. “I’m going with him up until he reaches the Lowercity. But I made a promise, and I will be back.”



Carth

I had watched in amazement as Danika had charged four Gamorreans as if they were nothing. I was even more astonished that she spoke the Wookiee language. The people I knew that could were few enough to count on one hand with fingers left over.

Now she was trusting that little squirt to come back. I almost screamed at her. We didn’t have time for this!

Danika leaned into the wall, seemingly lost in patient thought. But once the sound faded from the others, she suddenly spoke. “We need to talk.”

“Sounds fair. I don’t like having to hope Mission is going to come back-”

“We wait for her.” It was an order, and I bristled. “That isn’t what I meant. “I mean this problem you seem to have with me.”

I sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t understand where I was coming from. Let me try to explain. Even with the mystery of your life before I met you, I still respect you. When it comes to fighting, even negotiating you’re one of the most skilled women I have ever met. You’ve saved not only my butt but a lot of people on this mud ball right down to rescuing that guy Hendar. I’m lucky to have you here helping me.

“That said, there is no way I’m going to stop watching you, and being wary. I’m just not built that way, period.”

“Not built that way? You sound like a droid in a feedback loop.”

Maybe so. But I have been betrayed by people I trusted before. Let’s just say that is never happening again.”

“What, you want an oath on it? A guarantee?”

“I don’t know that you’ll betray me. But even an oath would mean nothing. There are no guarantees, from you, from me, from anyone. But you don’t have to take it personally.”

“I wonder how anyone can live trusting no one.”

“I live just fine thank you so very much.”

She looked at me, and I could see the pain in her eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?

“Why! Why is it so damned important whether I trust you or not? Why do you even care?”

“I do care.” She whispered.

“We don’t have time for this.” I cocked my head, I could hear someone climbing back down the tube. “Let’s just drop it for now, Okay? We have a mission.” As I said that, Mission popped out of the tube, and replaced the panel. “And we have a Mission among us.” I tried to lighten the mood. Danika still looked worried, and Mission glared at me. “All right, I’ll shut up.” I groused.


Mission
That Nerf-herder tried to make a joke, but I wasn’t having any of it.

I had wanted to stay up there with Zaalbar, he had been pretty banged up. But when he heard of my promise to that woman he had told me he’d never speak to me again if I didn’t follow through.

“Since Zaalbar swore a life debt, that means you’re stuck with me too. I almost lost him once, and I’m not letting him go anywhere without me along.”
“Glad to have you aboard, Mission.” The woman said.

“Well I owe you one back door into the Vulkar’s base. Don’t worry I know the best way in, because no one in their right mind would use it.” I started off down the tunnel at a jog.

“Why not?” The woman was in armor, and it had to be heavy, but she moved like it didn’t weigh anything.

“Because there’s a Rancor nest in that section of the tunnels.”

“A rancor? Who in the hell shipped a Rancor here?” She asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Where do they come from anyway?”

“No one knows, and except for idiots that buy the damn things, no one cares.” Carth growled. “Thanks to them you find them in a lot of places.”

“Well this one is huge. It eats anything it can get it’s claws into, and most people are smart enough to stay away from it.”

“Unlike us.” Danika commented.

“Hey, a rancor may be big, but it’s as dumb as a Vulkar. We can get by it, no problem.”

I found the path, and opened the door. A force field lit the hall with a hellish light. “That’s the way.” I said, moving to the console of a computer. “It’s coded, but a Black Vulkar had a little too much to drink a week or so ago, and I sorta went through his pockets. Gadon was happy, and sent someone to check it out, but they haven’t come back.” I keyed in, and the force-filed died. “Let’s roll.”

“That was pretty good, Mission.” Carth said. “Better than anyone I’ve seen.”

I felt like crap. Now he was trying to make nice, but I was still mad.

“Can we talk Carth?”

His face went from animated to cold. The guy must have been hell at a Pazaak table. “Is it going to a civil discussion? Or am I in for another tantrum?”

“Tantrum! Why you Nerf-herding slime beast, I’m trying to apologize!” I shook my head. “It’s just, I’ve been treated like a kid all my life! I’m just sick of it.”

Carth sighed, and he shook his head. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry for what I said too. I’ve been on edge lately.” He snorted. “Not surprising. But I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.”

“It’s about time you two made up.” Danika said. Carth looked at her, and there was something between them there.

“Mission, no matter what I said, you’re not on a free ride here. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have found this place, gotten by the force field or known about the rancor. We needed you.”

“You mean that, don’t you?” I felt my heart lift. “No one ever told me they needed me. Not even Zaalbar. He might think it, but he’s not much for talking as you might have noticed.”

“Ah, you know how it is. Sometimes you just need a few words of encouragement. Kids are like that.”

“Kids! Why you...” I sputtered down as I saw his grin. “Oh you old geezer!”

We chuckled together. Danika led off. It was more of the same tunnels, except the Vulkars had tagged these. We came to a ramp, and down at the bottom I saw an arm laying on the grate. Danika ignored it, pausing to open the door. She froze, then waved for us to step up.

The rancor was big all right. Bigger than it had been the last time I saw it. Problem was, it was standing right by the door that led into the Vulkar base. I almost asked why, but the door opened, and someone was shoved through it. I think it was one of the merchants I knew from the Lowercity.

Whoever he was, he’d just become dinner. The rancor snatched him up, and stuffed him into its mouth. The scream died as the teeth slammed down, then it sucked the rest of him in.

Danika looked at this impassively. “Let me guess, that is the way we have to go, right?”

I nodded wordlessly. She shrugged, then went back to the arm that lay there. She took a pad from the hand, and scanned it. “Do you know a Hala Thrombo?”

“Sure, he’s like the best Scout the Beks have!” She held up the arm wordlessly. I looked at it, reality dawning. “Oh.”

“Carth see if there’s a canister of some kind around here. The pad made mention of some kind of scent marker.”

We looked but there was nothing nearby. “You know, Hala used to stick things up his sleeve, like knives. She looked in the sleeve, pulling out a small glass vial.

She nibbled her lip, then reached up to a slotted section of her vest. A grenade popped into her hand, and she folded the hand of the severed arm over it with the vial jammed behind it. She squeezed, and a rank stench filled the hall. Then she ran out and whistled sharply. The rancor spun, lumbering toward her. She held her stance, then threw the arm grenade and all. The rancor snatched it out of the air, stuffing it in it’s mouth.

The Rancor had just swallowed when there was a muffled boom, and smoke shot out of its mouth. It clawed at its neck, then staggered. Dropping to one knee, it whimpered, and for a moment I felt sorry for it. Then I looked at the pile of skeletons out there, and the pity died. With a final gasp, it collapsed and died.

Danika moved toward the door, then motioned for us to get ready.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-03-2006 at 01:40 AM. Reason: updating and continuing story...
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Old 10-06-2005, 10:48 AM   #11
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Danika

I centered myself. The stink of the Rancor was there hot and heavy. I could still smell that lure. They had just thrown someone to their death and part of me was furious. Suddenly I felt puckish. Instead of opening it, I reached out and tapped on the door. Not the slam of a rancor hoping it will fall, but a hesitant knock. Nothing happened, and I was going to knock again when it opened. A Vulkar stood there, staring at me in amazement.

He fell as I cut into him with my ritual brand, and I was moving past him before he hit the ground. Another Vulkar was standing at the other end of the hall, and his stunned expression was still there as he pawed at his holster. I cut him down, then looked back. Carth and Mission were right behind me. Mission held up a flat plastic plate. “Lookie here! Isn’t that one of those energy shields?”

“Yes it is.” I attached it to her forearm. “Don’t use it unless you have to.” The other body had one as well, and I gave to Carth. He shook his head, and handed it back. “I’m not the one that seems to charge into everything.”

I shrugged, attached it to my wrist, and opened the elevator. I stepped into a hall, and spun. A droid was walking down the hall, head turning to watch for any movement. I leaped into a charge, and as it turned, brought the brand down, cutting into the carapace. The droid squealed, and fell.

“Hey.” Carth walked over to me then tapped me on the head as if he were trying to make a recalcitrant droid operate correctly. “Remember the shield? Why do you think I gave it back to you?”

I shook my head, crossed the hall, and opened another door. A Vulkar looked up when I entered, amazed. Being unarmed we tied him up. A girl with a slave collar occupied the next room. She squeaked as I motioned for silence. “Please, don’t kill me! I’m just a slave. I don’t know anything.”

I shushed her again. “Mission?”

She moved around behind the girl. “Local slave collar knock-off. This one I can handle.” Mission said.

“I need some answers if you have them.” I said, sitting the girl down as Mission worked.

“I don’t know a lot.” She admitted.

“There’s another prisoner. A woman named Bastila.”

“That must be that Republic officer. Brejik had her taken to a safe location. I don’t know where.”

“The Vulkars stole a prototype swoop accelerator. Where is that?”

“I don’t know. There’s a lower level accessible by the other elevator. I’m told there’s a garage down there. I’m only allowed up here.” She shook her head. “You’d best get your friend out fast. The swoop race is tomorrow, and they’ll move her to the Race concourse. If she ends up with the Vulkars after that she’ll be lucky if they just sell her. A lot of the Vulkars are mad because Brejik won’t let them play with her, like they do me.” I looked at the scars and bruises she displayed on arms and legs.
“Got it.” Mission unsnapped the collar, and the girl pulled it away, staring at it in shock.

“Can you get out of here?”

“Not if the Vulkars are still in the main room.” She pointed out the door. “But if they aren’t I can outrun anything I have to just to get free.”

“Wait here.” I said. The door opened into another hall. I sprinted down it, thumbing the shield as I did. A Vulkar was coming out of the hall to my left and I cut him down before he even knew I was there. I signaled to Carth, and he sent the girl toward me. She grasped my hand without a word, and ran out the door into the Lowercity.

There were a couple more droids, but we dispatched them efficiently. Mission ran to a console, and hummed wordlessly. “There’s a lot of guards over there.” She motioned toward our left. “Looks like a barracks to me.” She keyed in a sequence, then grinned. “There were guards I should say. I just blew the lot of them with an access panel.” She handed me a pad. “I opened all the security doors except for that one.” She tapped the map. “We need a key card for it. I also shut down all of the blaster turrets they have in the elevator room.”

I started toward the barracks she had earmarked, and a Twi-lek suddenly appeared ahead of me. He took one look, and fell to his knees. “Please!”

I approached him. “Do you know him?” I asked Mission.

“I recognize him, though I don’t know the name. One of the old Vulkars.”

“As if the new are better.” He snarled in Twi-lek.

“What do you mean?” I asked him in his own language.

“Brejik thinks being insane will earn him respect. Anyone like me that tries to talk him out of it gets stuck in the lower ranks. I used to be one of the top men in the gang. Now I’m just a flunky who’s supposed to stare at the monitor.”

I bit my lip. Could I trust him?

“I’d say it’s about time for you to take a break at the cantina.” I suggested. He stared at me in hope, then ran toward the Lowercity entrance.

“You trust the wrong people, you can end up dead.” Carth said.

“Trust no one, and you end up alone.” I snapped back. There was a Sith belt on the table, and I found an injector filled with a clear serum. The pad beside it identified it as a sample of the rakghoul serum. From the reading, there were six doses. I pocketed it, and motioned toward the barracks.

The panel had blasted free inside, and everyone lay dead. We ransacked the bodies, and I found the key card we needed.

The door opened smoothly, and I gulped at the turrets that faced us. Not as heavy as the one’s at the entrance to the Undercity, only three of them. But enough to put all of us on slabs if we hadn’t been careful.

The elevator took us up, and onto the garage level. A few bikes sat there, opened up as if they were being worked on. We moved past them into another hall. Two mines were laid, and Mission took them both down, putting them in her pack. “Hey these are collector’s items! Mines from inside the Black Vulkar base!”

I shook my head. Carth smothered a laugh. A Vulkar saw me, and shouted. I charged him, hearing shots as Mission and Carth took out the others. A door opened, and a pair of Twi-lek stared at us.

“What do we have here?” The male asked. He looked at the woman, and spoke in Twi-leki. “Fools that were hired to steal Brejik’s new toy.”

“Can I kill them now, Kandon?” She asked in the same language.

I stood, keeping my face impassive. “You could at least speak something I understand.”

Kandon looked at me. “So the little human fool doesn’t even speak Twi-leki.” He mused. “That makes it easier.” Then he spoke in Basic. “So you’ve come to steal Brejik’s swoop engine?”

Mission shouted “He stole it from the Beks, you space slug!”

Kandon looked at her pityingly. “It doesn’t matter who made it, or who it belongs to. We have it now, and it will remain here.” He looked Carth and I over. “You’re obviously not Beks, you don’t look stupid enough. Since you’re not a member of that pathetic old man’s gang, I can do business with you.”

“You’re right, I am not a Bek.” I said.

“Then you must be a mercenary down on her luck. Luck I can change with a word.” He looked at my face, thinking perhaps that I was considering his offer. “Gadon is old news. He is blind in more ways than one. Brejik is a visionary. He has plans. Once the swoop gangs are his, the Uppercity is next on his agenda. The Sith won’t be here forever. He has something they want. He has this woman Bastila.”

“So he’s going to trade her for what? Title to the planet?”

“That is simplistic, but accurate. The Sith are offering a reward of four thousand credits up above even now. If he doesn’t succeed, he can still finance the war with that much money.”

I shook my head. “Not interested.”

“Can I kill them now, Kandon?” The female asked again.

“I think so, my pet.”

“Think again.” I said in Twi-leki. As they had spoken, I had thumbed out an ion grenade. I flicked it to their feet even as I charged forward.

Designed to disrupt shields or droids, I felt the shockwave hit me, ripping down my shield. The woman drew a sword, and I cut her down, spinning to block an attack by Kandon. I kicked him in the chest, feeling ribs give, and cut him down as he tried to breath.

“Remind me never to play Pazaak with you.” Mission said.

“Can’t stand the game. Life has risks enough without gambling.” I walked past the bodies to a safe in the wall. The accelerator was a lump the size of my fists. I slid it into Mission’s pack.

“Where are you going?” Carth asked as I headed back the way we came instead of the Lowercity entrance.

I held up the rakghoul serum. “With this Zelka Forn can make enough to stop the rakghoul disease. Besides, I promised to return the journal from Malya.”

He shook his head, and followed.

Undercity

We came out at the same place we entered the sewers. I waved for the others to wait. There was the tramping of feet, and a Sith patrol hove into view. “You there! Civilian! What are you doing down there?” The patrol leader asked.

Silently I handed him my papers. “You must be one of those trackers the Commander sent down here. They should have given you an armed escort. It’s nasty down here. We’ve already lost patrols to the rakghouls. So many attacks they aren’t sure we’ll have enough serum at this stage. We’ve also lost them to attacks by those damnable swoop gangs. I think we should just stay in the upper city where we still have control.”

“And the commander values your input.” I said coldly.

His facemask was silvered, but his tone was defensive. “Hey, I’m down here doing my duty, all right? You tell the Commander that! I don’t want to star in a court martial and firing squad.”

“Then you do your duty, and so shall I.”

“Yeah. Big words from a contract killer.” He sneered. He motioned and the patrol marched off.

“You worried the guy.” Mission said.

“A little unease helps people think the right thoughts.” I commented.

We moved toward the village. A man came from my right, and I turned smoothly. He wasn’t a danger except to himself.

“Don’t come any closer! I’m not afraid to use this!” He waved the blaster rifle, and I had the urge to duck.

“Calm down kid.” Someone behind him said. I recognized this man as a Mandalorian. He was in his sixties, and still a tough customer. He carried a Mandalorian heavy blaster. With anyone smaller than a Wookiee I would have considered it a weapon that needed a tripod but he handled it easily. “We’ve already lost enough people to the rakghouls. I’m not losing any more in a senseless firefight.” He grabbed the weapon, and stuffed it back in the other man’s holster. He turned back to us as the remnants of his party joined him. Two more, one with a gash across his throat that had almost killed him.

The Mandalorian looked us over. “From the look of it you’re on the same mission as we are.”

“Really.” I replied.

“Chill down, no need to develop any agro between us. Your probably here to check out the crashed escape pods. Well my advice is to turn around, and go home.

“There’s nothing left. One of those damn swoop gangs got to it before anyone else. Nothing but rakghouls and those pathetic Outcasts.”

“Canderous, I hear something. Maybe it’s a rakghoul.” One of his men said. The wounded one squealed, and turned. Behind them half a dozen figures were loping toward us.

“We got company!” Canderous shouted. “Lock and load!”

I ducked around the big man and met the first rakghoul as it approached. There was the whine of blasters, the heavy thump of Canderous’ weapon, then silence. The wounded man was down.

Canderous walked over, and knelt beside the body. “You were an idiot, Bakker, but at least you drew them off us. Good work.” He looked at me. “If you want to try for yourself, just keep on that way. I’m getting my people out of here. I told Davik his men weren’t trained for this, but he didn’t want to listen. Now we’ve got six dead.” He looked at the others, too afraid to even move. “It’s not like I could carry any salvage we found by myself.” He turned back to his men. “What do you want? Engraved invitations? March!”

The gate opened at my shout, and I walked into the village. A couple of people were idling nearby, and I could almost feel the greed they felt for our weapons. But a single glare from Carth sent them packing.

I heard a wail of pain and terror, and looked to the side. Another gate was set there, with a woman standing outside. She shook her head, and walked to the fire she maintained. Something drew me and I walked over to look through the same gate.

Several people were walking aimlessly around in there. They were shivering from fear more than any illness I could see. I started to open it, and the woman leaped up, shouting. “Wait Upworlder! Only a fool would go in there right now!” I lowered my hand, looking at her. “Those are our own people infected with the Rakghoul disease. If they survive it as humans, we let them out, if they do not...” She waved a hand helplessly.

A gong rang, and a few men wandered toward us. They were armed with spears and bows. “This is when I chose for them.” The healer said bitterly. “Three are on the edge of the change, and two others could be there by morning.” Her face was heartbroken. For a healer to chose the moment of a patient’s death!

I fingered my pouch, and drew out the injector of serum. If I could get this to Zelka Forn, I would save thousands, perhaps millions in time.

But they weren’t here.

“We took this out of the sewer. A Sith injector with rakghoul serum.”

Her eyes widened, and she reached out, taking the device from me. It was made for an emergency injection, and all that was need was to slap it against a leg. She fingered it delicately, then handed it back. “You offer is kind, but too late for them.

“You’re just going to let them die?”

“Only a fool would enter that cage right now! If they change while you are in there, you have seconds before the bloodlust!”

I stared at her coldly, and marched to the gate. She caught up with me, trying to hold me back. “Please, listen!” I stopped and her hands dropped. “I see you are a fool, albeit a brave one. Hurry once inside. If one has already begun the change, you might not have those seconds!”

I keyed the door and stepped inside. There were five people in the cage, all in their own world of misery. I walked up to each, and the injector hissed. As I came up to the last, She spun, growling. Her skin had grayed with the disease, and pustules had formed across her face. She gave a howl, and leaped at me.

I fell backwards, my feet pushing into her stomach, and threw her over me. I rolled up, dropping the injector, and drew. She charged back, and I thrust through her chest. Her hands touched the shaft as if she didn’t believe it, then she looked at me with a glimmer understanding in her eyes. “Thank you.” She whispered, falling back dead.

As I walked toward the door one of the first I had injected was staggering toward me. I went on guard, but she fell to her knees. “The drug you gave me. I can feel it burning the disease away!” She looked at me with wonder. “Thank you!”

The crowd standing outside the cage was silent as I stepped back out. The healer came to me, tears in her eyes. I patted her on the shoulder. The crowd broke leaving me a path to walk out. Hands reached out tentatively, touching my arm or shoulder. A man held his child up as if it were a parade.

Rukil was seated by his fire, eating a bowl of stew. My stomach roiled at the thoughts of what they had to use as ingredients. He saw me and stopped chewing, his mouth open in astonishment. “You have returned Upworlder. Did you find my apprentice?”

Silently I drew out the notebook. “Malya died before she could reach the sewers.”

He looked destroyed by that simple statement. “It was as I feared. She has joined the lines of those that have searched for the way to the Promised Land.” He looked at me. “But even her death now gives me hope. For you went out of your way to find her, and out of your way to tell me.” He caught my hand. “You are the one foretold. You are to be the beacon that guides our path to the Promised Land!”

“I don’t even know what is it let alone where!” I growled in exasperation.

“Listen then, guiding spirit. Above us is the city of Taris, so great that it covers the entire continent! There is no land to grow food on; every morsel comes from the sea. Kelp, fish, even plankton feed the people above.

“But man is foolish. They dumped their sewage and waste into that ocean. A century ago, the rising levels of pollution caused a great famine. The mighty in their towers quaked, because the city is so vast, the population is only a day from starvation at the best of times. “In their terror, the rich hoarded, and the poor starved. Men ate men to live.”

“From what I have seen of Taris, things haven’t changed that much.” Carth said. “Just now the people of the Uppercity are almost as bad off as the poor were then.”

Rukil nodded. “But the poor rose up in their masses, and civil war engulfed the world. Millions died. Whole sections of the city were laid waste as people fought just for the food that would go into their mouths!
“The rich were victorious in the end. Thousands were captured, but the jails could not hold them all, and people were sickened by the death toll. The leaders then decided to remove the problem by banishing those survivors to the Undercity.” He waved at the few remaining people. “And that practice continues to this day. Many brave people were cast out, among them my grandfather Orol and my father Marosi. Along with them went their families to the youngest child.”

“Not surprising.” Mission snorted. “Those nobles would stuff their own mothers down here if it meant more for them.”

“But not long after our exile, a man came. He was not banished, was not sent, but fled to us. He spoke with my grandfather and father, telling them a secret so great that his very life would have been forfeit if he had told it up above. He had been the head of a project on a distant island. A wiser man among the rich had funded a settlement using wiser and more efficient ways of producing food. There were few people, and droids had been built to work the fields and tend the vines. Contact had been lost during the war, and the wise rich man had died telling no one. The wise man had assured that the settlement would be unnoticeable, so it had survived untouched.

“But it’s existence was discovered. The rich had merely seen it as more for them to take. They took the project head and tortured him to reveal the way to this Eden, but they had failed. After terrible tortures, the project head had escaped and come down here. He had given my grandfather information, but the rakghoul disease was rampant then, and the walls did not yet exist. He was killed in an attack, leaving them with hope, a few clues, and nothing else.

“They began searching the Undercity for the way, for the man had sworn it was in this area before his death. Gendar’s grandfather started the construction of the walls that now surround us, calling for all to forget about the visions of a madman, and try to live as best we can.

“One day Orol did not return, and my father despaired, but he taught me all he knew, and soon went to follow. That was eighty years ago.”

“Sounds like a myth to me.” Carth said apologetically. “Something to give people hope to balance the despair.”

Rukil bowed his head. “That may be true. But I gathered clues. My legs were badly broken when I was still young and they never set correctly. ” He waved toward Mission. “I had to make do with apprentices, children willing to risk their lives to try to find the journals of my family. My journal has clues, but theirs had much more. With them, I could find the way. So I sent them into the darkness, and they didn’t return. Malya was the last. I know Shaleena would have been willing if she were not so sickly. Soon I shall die, and the journals of those lost will never be recovered.”

I reached into my pack and drew out the notebooks. He stared at me as I set them in his withered hands.

He opened one to the back, then flipped a dozen pages forward. He read avidly, then set it down and picked up the other, repeating the process. “The answer! An tram leading to a passage. A way that no one had even imagined! But how can we find it?”

“We already did.” Mission said. She tapped one book. “We found this ledger right outside the door.”

Rukil looked around. Gendar, I must get this to Gendar.”

I looked around. Gendar was a distance away. “Carth, help me carry him.”

I found I didn’t need his assistance. Rukil was old and frail, and weighed not much more than a child. I held him in my arms, and we walked across the encampment.

Gendar grunted at our approach, but as Rukil showed him what the books said, Mission showed him the map of the Sewers, he became excited. “It will take us weeks, even months to get there! But it is a better place than this. You.” He pointed at Carth. “Find Shaleena, tell her to get the council together. You.” He pointed at Mission. “Bring Kudra the healer. You.” He pointed at me. “Get Igear and bring him. We must see what we have to start with.” He looked at Rukil. “You have saved us, old man.” He said gently. “As many times as I have called you fool, as many times as father and grandfather did, you have saved us anyway.” He patted the old man, and ran off.

I went to roust the merchant Igear from his tent. He grumbled at being woken up, but when I told him why, his complaints faded.

We returned to the tent, where Rukil still sat with his eyes closed. I bent down and touched him gently. He had a curiously satisfied expression on his face.

“I don’t know why this is so important, Gendar.” A large man growled as they came back. “If Rukil is telling tales again, I’ll kill him.”

“Too late for that.” I answered. They looked at the body with dismay. “He gave his life to keep the story alive. His grandfather his father his apprentices, gave their lives to find the way to this promised land, and you complain about your sleep?” I glared at them. “What good was their sacrifice if the going may be too hard on you? Stay here for all I care, rot in this hell with no way out. Or take the one offered!”

The man dug his toe into the ground in embarrassment. He was larger than the Mandalorian Canderous, but at the moment, he was a child being lectured by his mother.

“She’s right. If a good life is too much for your sleep to bear, then go.” Gendar said.

He grumbled, but didn’t leave. I lifted Rukil’s corpse.

“Where are you going with him?” Someone asked.

“Gather wood.”


Carth

The villagers built a pyre, and Danika held the dead man until they had completed it. She laid him gently on it, then lit the bonfire. Everyone stood silent as the flames leaped up, then went back to their tasks. Danika merely stood and watched until it was embers.

She turned, and Igear came running up. “My stock weighs too much, but there’s a lot of things in it we need. This however, is too much extra, and no one can use them anyway.” He thrust the bundle into her hands, and ran back to his duty.

It was a set of Echani battle armor. She held it lovingly, then drew Mission aside. They took over an unoccupied tent, then stepped back out. Danika wore the battle armor, looking very comfortable. Mission wore the light fiber armor, and while she would get used to it, she looked uncomfortable.

Danika led us across the encampment to where Gendar sat. Men and women taking notes surrounded him. The Outcasts were balancing what they needed against what they had.

“I’m still worried about Rakghouls.” One said. “According to these records Orol made, there are supposed to be a number of areas where they congregate.”

“If you can give me a few hours, I can correct that.” Danika said. They looked at her skeptically.

“She is the one that cured our own sick.” Kudra said. “Went into the cage to administer it as well.”

“There is not enough left to inoculate you all. But I know a man in the Uppercity that wants this serum not for himself, but for everyone who has the disease.” Danika said. “I will make it my price for giving it to him. What I need is an accurate count of how many doses he must give.”

The count came to 73. Danika led us to the elevator, and we rode back up to the Lowercity. Mission was sent to check on Zaalbar, and I went on with Danika.

We walked across the Uppercity, and reached the clinic. Zelka Forn looked up as if he had never left. Danika walked up to him. “I have a sample of the rakghoul serum for you. But I want something in return.”

He looked wary. “Go on.”

“The people of the Undercity need it more desperately than any, but they can’t pay even the little you would ask. I want you to make up enough for the entire village, 73 souls. I want it given to them. Not paid for.”

Forn almost cried. “And I thought you wanted money!’ He leaped up, hugging Danika. She looked surprised and uncomfortable. “I promise on my own soul that I will deliver it personally.” He took the sample. “It will take half an hour to set up the system, but then I will have enough for just them in less than four hours! I’ll send it with Gurney-”

“Maybe you should chose someone else.” I said.

“Gurney wanted us to give it to him. Davik wants the serum first.” Danika added.

“Davik!” Forn almost spat. “I’ll fire that worthless-”

Danika reached up, touching her finger to his lips. “If it weren’t for those you tend,” she nodded toward the lab, “I would have told you earlier. He might not get the money from Davik, but he would probably be satisfied with what the Sith would pay.”

He sighed. “You’re right. Well, I have contacts with the Hidden Beks, they can get the serum down there. They owe me.”

I smiled. “Doesn’t everyone have the Beks on their side?” Forn returned the smile.

“I have little I can pay you-”

I named my price, Zelka.” Danika said. “You met it. I am satisfied with my reward.” She paused, then took out the sprig of the plant she had collected. “While you’re at it, check this out. The rakghouls we saw down below were attracted to this plant for some reason.” She turned, walking out.

Gurney came after. “You could have had it all, woman!”

Danika turned, and I could feel the fury emanating from her. Then suddenly it was gone. She looked at him calmly. How did she do it? How did a mere girl in her twenties learn or master such control? Take her emotions and lock them away like this? “I was rewarded. In ways you wouldn’t begin to understand. Oh, and the injured back there.” She stepped closer, and suddenly had Gurney by the throat. “If the Sith come here to get them, I will assume you told them. If that happens, you will beg to die before I’m done. Is that clear?”

Gurney gurgled, nodding frantically. She threw him aside, and walked out.

We walked toward the North city again. “Carth, I want to continue our discussion.”

“What, you can’t stop arguing with me?”

She caught my arm, spinning me to face her. “Why can’t you trust me?”

“Why does it matter? Why not just let it be? I don’t trust easily. Leave it at that.”

“I can’t leave it at that Carth.” She snapped. “I’m fighting this entire planet and I have mister ‘I can’t trust so leave it at that’ at my back? Why don’t I feel comfortable with that?”

“Damn it, I see I’m not going to get any rest until I spill it, right? You want to know why I don’t trust anyone? All right. Five years ago, the Mandalorian war was almost over, Revan and Malak were heroes! I was proud to have served under them.

“Then they changed. They attacked the Republic with the very fleets they had led. Nobody knew what to think especially not me!” I was caught in those memories, reliving all of that. “Our heroes had become our mortal foe, Jedi had become Sith. If you can’t even trust the Jedi to live up to their ideals, who can you trust?”

“What do I have to do with Revan and Malak?” She asked.

“That’s not what I mean. It’s...” I sighed. “Not all of those that went over to the Sith were Jedi. The Jedi that betrayed that trust, that became Sith deserve to die for what they have done. But the officers and men that joined them the ones who turned their backs on the Republic are worse. They can’t blame the ‘Dark side’ of the Force.” I used my fingers to make quotes. “They did it for the glory, or the bloodlust or whatever reason their minds created to rationalize it. They deserve no mercy.”

“You say that with such... hatred.”

I shrugged. My outburst had surprised even me. “I know. I should apologize to you. I’ve become accustomed to expecting the worst from people and you got caught in the blast radius. Just leave it for a while, okay?”

She nodded sharply and we continued walking.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-04-2006 at 12:37 PM. Reason: adding additional on above work
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Old 10-07-2005, 10:59 AM   #12
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Beks

Danika

We threaded our way back to the Hidden Bek base. Everyone was there to greet us, and Gadon held up the swoop engine accelerator to a roaring cheer. He handed it to an Ithorian who immediately hurried off to install it.

“I was beginning to worry. My mechanics need time to install the accelerator, and the race is tomorrow morning.”

I had lost track of time, and was deathly tired. “I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain, Gadon. All you have to do is your own part.”

“I’m a man of my word. I’ve already registered you as a Bek rider. And I’ve just decided that I’m going one better. Since you have to ride, I’m going to assign the bike with the prototype accelerator to you!”

“Gadon are you serious? We need our best ride on that bike in order to win!“ Zaedra cried. But her words rang false.

“Why are you doing this, Gadon? The truth, please.”

“Put that way, how can I refuse? The accelerator has never been tested, and we won’t have time now. The designer,” he waved after the Ithorian “tells me there is a chance it will explode if it overheats. I can’t ask one of my people to risk his life on a chance like that.

“If you can complete the course without getting killed, you win, and Bastila is free. If you fail?” He shrugged. “Bastila still goes free if one of our other riders wins.”

I shook my head, smiling slightly. “Sounds like you win either way.”

“You don’t rise to command a swoop gang without knowing all the angles.” He agreed.

“Danika-” Carth started to speak, but I held up my hand. I had already risked my life to save her once. “I agree.”

“You and your friend can stay here tonight. They’re going to work through the night to install the accelerator, so unfortunately, you won’t have time to practice. But I have good instincts. You have the lean look of a Swoop racer to me. Just relax, and we’ll take you to the track in the morning.”

I nodded, and wandered off. There was a cantina, and after getting something to eat and drink, I left. The noise and music was grating. I heard a voice in another room, and wandered toward it. Zaalbar was leaning against a box, and Mission was hovering like a persistent fly. “Big Z we have got to do something about your breath. I didn't want to say anything before but it’s worse than usual, which is hard to believe. In fact it has been pretty rancid since we rescued you from those Gamorreans. What did they feed you buddy?”

He sighed. “They didn’t Mission. I wasn’t a guest, I was a prisoner. As long as I lived to be sold, they didn’t seem to care.”

“That must have been horrible! I know how frustrated you get when you don’t have your eight square meals a day. I’m surprised you didn’t faint from hunger.”

He knew she was joking, but wasn’t in the mood to return the favor. “I did take a chunk out of one of them, but it tasted bad so I spat it out.”

“Ewww! No wonder your breath smells so bad! Considering the way Gamorreans smell, I don’t want to even imagine what they taste like! I’ll just have to get a toothbrush to clean those choppers of yours.”

He caught her arm when she started to stand. “Wookiees don’t brush their teeth, Mission. It just is not done. What other humiliations do you have in store for me? A comb?”

“Okay! Relax! Sheesh, try to make a helpful suggestion. I’d just suggest the next time you stay away from something smart enough to lock you in a cage.” She looked at her friend and I saw a devilish glint in her eyes. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re starting to look a little scruffy.”

“Scruffy!” He was indignant. “What are you suggesting! A bath?”

“No.” She waved her hands in negation. “I remember how well that went over the last time. But your fur is getting tangles, and the gray is starting to show through.”

“You’re making this up! I groom every day! My fur is NOT tangled, and I am not going gray!”

“Hey it’s not like it’s something I can’t fix! You know, a little trim, a splash of coloring, and you’ll be the best looking Wookiee on the planet! Maybe a nice suit of-”

“You do not trim a Wookiee! You do not color a Wookiee's fur. And you most certainly do not dress a Wookiee!”

“I know but you’ll start a trend! Designers will want to make just the right stuff to show off your fur-”

“Enough!”

“I think he looks fine.” They looked to me. “Zaalbar, how are you?”

“Tired, and there is still pain.” He said. “But a doctor in the Uppercity doesn’t care that I am a Wookiee.”

“Zelka Forn.”

“Yes. He put me in a Bacta tank for an hour or so, and I’m fine now.”

“Good. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

“Yes. Maybe I should go down to the garage. Roomba is a good mechanic, and I know he designed that accelerator, but I think I know a way to tweak it a little more.”

“Don’t tweak it too much. I’m riding it.”

“Then my debt assures that I make sure it will work well.”

I waved to him, and found a place to lie down. The hum of the place gently put me to sleep.

She struck down the dark Jedi, and behind her I could see four or five others. All carried lightsabers, blue green violet and her own yellow made a rainbow of death. My vision turned to another figure. This one was robed, hooded, and wore a garish mask.

“You cannot win, Revan.” The woman said. Her opponent, undaunted by the odds, drew a lightsaber, the deep ruby red lighting the figure.

From here I could see beyond Revan. Leviathan was there, and suddenly all of her starboard batteries opened fire. The ship rocked, and a blast of energy speared through Revan.

Then suddenly I was laying down. The woman staggered forward on her hands and knees, staring at me for some reason.


I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every time I went back to sleep, the dream continued. The Jedi carrying Revan’s limp form, running frantically to an escape pod. Through the clearsteel I watched Behemoth erupt into fire, then explode. Shrapnel struck the pod, and one of the Jedi screamed that it would not punch out. No beacon, no way to discover where they were. The woman of my dreams calmed the others, then settled into a meditation seat. She closed her eyes.

Time passed. Then she heard something. She looked upward, and my view followed. A figure was outside the clearsteel in an EVA suit. The faceplate was silvered. The woman moved over, laying her hand against the plastic as if she could reach through and touch the figure outside-


I jerked awake as a hand touched my arm. Carth looked at me with worry on his face. Silently he handed me a cup of tea, and I drank it eagerly.

“What time is it?”

“Right before dawn. The Beks are moving the bikes out right now.”

I yawned and walked out into the riot of movement. Bikes, each marked in bright colors with the Bek’s insignia were being lifted with antigravity units and pushed through a door in the wall. Gadon was standing back. Obviously he had been through this often enough.

“He looked at me as I came up. “Here comes the philanthropist!”

“What?”

“We shipped a load of rakghoul antidote down to the Undercity thanks to you. It interrupted our schedule.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He huffed. “If the Uppercity nobles had their way, all of my people would have been down there with them ages ago.” He smiled. “We help them when we can, but there usually isn’t much extra in our margin.”

“Hey Gadon, she coming?” A Bek shouted.

“You had better go. You can be disqualified if you show up late.”


Swoop Race Track

Swoop racing began long ago among the outlaw gangs. It was first started to keep the gangs from internecine war. The first bikes had been mere frameworks with rudimentary controls, engines and of all things, wheels. In cities the courses were usually sections of sewer pipes and culverts with ceramacrete walls which meant that if you missed a turn you slammed in. Without deflectors, that was lethal

But times changed. Small antigravs were developed. Grav plates to boost acceleration. Deflectors as well. Finally it reached where it was today. A course with grav plates and obstacles spread in a random fashion.

To no one’s surprise it caught on as a spectator sport. People are not so far from the blood sports of our ancestors. Entertainment networks vied to televise the races, and soon everyone who could watched enthralled. It was still a dangerous sport. Death wasn’t common but bad accidents were.

On the shuttle to the concourse, I watched the brief history a local entertainment network was running. I knew Gadon Thek had been blinded. What I hadn’t known was he had been injured afterward when the antigravs and deflectors had both failed catastrophically just as he reached the finish line. He had won his race, but it had been his last. His time of 30.91 seconds was still a local record.

The Concourse was above the track, and only racers officials and mechanics were allowed onto it. Even then maybe fifty people were there. Most were racers, an average of two from each of the major gangs, one each from the smaller. Twelve mechanics worked on their bikes in areas separated not only by tapes but also by glaring mechanics that watched to make sure there was no sabotage. It was rumored that Gadon’s accident had been sabotage, and these days we all knew who was blamed.

The Vulkars had four bikes with riders and mechanics. Brejik was pointed out to me. A tall slim young man, he glared toward the Bek’s enclosure

Roomba was working on a bike when I walked into the Bek‘s enclosure. He looked up, nodded, then made one last check before closing the hood over the engine compartment. “So you’re the one that is going to try out my baby. “ He said. “Don’t worry. Your friend Zaalbar and I were working on the accelerator for hours. Stability shouldn’t be a problem, I hope.” He walked over, and touched hands with me. “I’m told you’ve never done this before. You want me to run over the basics for you?” I nodded. He walked me over beside the bike, pulling up the windscreen so I got a good look. I would have to crouch, leaned forward, and hold two handles that controlled the maneuvering vanes. “All right, first thing to remember is try not to crash into any debris. The course is littered with obstacles. All swoops have dynamic deflector systems, so getting killed is not a problem with such minor impacts. But anything you run into is going to slow down your run.

“There are grav plates, and before your first run you won’t know where they are. If you hit one it will give you a jolt of speed, so hit them when you see them. But don’t go whipping across the track if you can avoid it. You lose speed making radical turns and you might put yourself out of position for the next series, understand?

“The accelerator makes the engine run a little hot so you have to watch your engine temperature gauge.” He pointed at a gauge on the panel. If it starts running hot you’ll hear a warning buzzer. Just change gears when you hear it, or when the needle reaches here,“ He touched a section of the bar graph, “and you’ll do fine.”

I took a deep shuddering breath. I had never done anything like this before, and was suddenly terrified. “All right, let’s start.”

“Hold your jets.” He said. “There is more you need to know. Racers go out on the track alone. They’ve started paired races in some places, even full races with everyone out at the same time in some places, but we’re traditionalists here. The times are tallied as they come up, and when the day is over, the best time wins.

“Normally a rider can do as many heats as he wants, but this engine might burn out. If it does, the bike is going to imitate a meteor and blow up. I think we can get four, maybe five runs out of it. So make your runs count. Gadon is depending on you. We’re all depending on you. If the Vulkars win, Brejik expects to get a lot of recruits out of this. If they win, the Beks are history.“

“I won’t let you down.“

He grunted. “It sounds like you’re are ready as you’re going to be. Go talk to the coordinator and get checked in. He’ll give you the time to beat and your number in the queue. I’ll check the bike after every run, and make any tweaks or adjustments it needs in between.“ He touched my hand again. The innate honesty of his race made him add. “Don’t worry. The accelerator probably won’t explode.”

The coordinator was a hassled Duros. He nodded to me, and signaled one of the Vulkars to go to the track. Then he turned to me. “You’re here to race, right? Now let me see. You’re riding for the Beks. I hope they do better than the last few races. I kinda like Gadon.” He nodded. “All right, you’re in. Ready for a heat?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, seven minutes. He looked up. “New time to beat is 38.43 seconds. A good time, but not the best I have seen. Have fun and try not to get yourself killed.”

“Killed?”

“Yes. We lost one racer today already. You know how you can adjust altitude?” He pulled back as if using reins to stop an animal. “Well one of the Twi-leks did that and hit the upper structure right between two pylons. Dynamic deflector systems can’t make your bike a meter shorter you know.”

I didn’t know and the conversation was bothering me. I walked back to the Bek enclosure, and slipped into a jumpsuit. Roomba nodded that he would watch my gear. I don’t know why, considering the friction recently, but everyone was as well armed as their muscles could handle. As I passed the Vulkars I had seen a cage with a woman standing there limply. There was a neural restraint collar around her neck, yet another legacy of slavers the Galaxy over. I walked toward her, and the Vulkar guarding the cage stepped between us. “No one talks to the prize.“ He growled.

“I wasn’t going to talk, just inspecting her.”

He growled again, but motioned me forward. I walked over, then stopped stunned. In my dreams since before I had arrived on the Endar Spire, I had seen who my mind took to be Kalendra. Then since I had been here on Taris, I had seen a Jedi fighting to defeat Revan.

This was that woman in the flesh. Bastila had been in my dreams!

“Danika Wordweaver. Report to the track.” I shook myself, and walked to the coordinator. He signaled me through a door, and I went down to the track. The bike was already there, and I climbed aboard. I flipped a switch, and the bike lifted into the air, floating a meter off the ground. Ahead of me was a series of lights, and I slowed my breathing, watching them The red light lit, then a few seconds later, the amber. My grip tightened, and my finger hooked over the trigger of the accelerator.

Green. I pulled the trigger, and the swoop bike smoothly accelerated. As it did, I saw the temperature gauge climb almost immediately into the red. A grav plate was coming up, and I shifted course as I loosened the trigger, setting it for the next gear. Then I passed the plate. There was a thump, and suddenly I grinned. It was like riding a Tirlat!

I looked along the course, and hit every grave plate I could. Each time, it slammed me forward faster. I saw immediately what the problem was with the accelerator. It needed the governor adjusted to set the gear ratio a bit lower.

I finished the race, and a time flashed on my helmet. I stared at it in shock. 38.01

Beks mobbed me as I climbed out of the racer. The bike was hoisted up, and loaded on a tram to take it to the start line.

Roomba bounced in glee. “Your first time and you beat the set time! They are going to tell stories about this race forever!” He froze. “Damn.”

“What? I looked up. The new time was 37.94.

“One of the Vulkars, Redros, beat your time.” He bent to the bike, opening the hood. I told him what I had thought, and he nodded, tinkering with it. After a time, he closed the hood. “Done.” I nodded, and headed back to the coordinator.

He looked at me. “For someone who has never done this, that was a respectable time.”

“My swoop is ready. What is the time to beat?” I asked.

He looked down, then up at the score board which I had ignored. “The Vulkars have set a time few could beat. Thirty even.”

I gulped. Gadon had set the previous course record at 30.91 at his accident. I couldn’t beat that time let alone the new one!

“You can forfeit, if you want.”

“No!” I almost shouted. “I have to race.”

“Then do you want to put yourself in the queue?”

“Yes.”

“All right. Eight minutes.”

I nodded and walked back to the Bek enclosure. Roomba merely huffed when he saw the time.

I sat there stunned until they called my name. There had been eight heats since I had noticed the new score, and no one had come even close. In fact the fatalities were now two, with three badly injured.

I went down to the track. The swoop was a Tirlat. How to use that? I remembered when Kalendra, the real Kalendra had ridden that first time.

I watched the lights, my brain running at hyper speed. The light counted down, and as the green flashed, I kissed, then released the accelerator. It punched me forward, but I took off in a deceptively slow glide. I angled to hit the first plate, then to the left sharply to catch the second.

I wasn’t swoop riding, I was tirlat riding.

The far right plate kicked me, and I moved the controls delicately, catching middle, then right, then right, then middle, and was honking over sharply to hit the series on the left and center.

The race was over too fast for me to even understand it. Beks grabbed me and held me aloft, shrieking in delight. I was confused until I saw the scoreboard.

28 even.

I went back to the concourse, but it was a foregone conclusion that I was the winner. That didn’t stop the Vulkars and others from trying. Most of the scores after mine didn’t even threaten beat the time set by Redros.

Finally they decided to call it a day. The next score after mine was 29.70, also by Redros. The coordinator called the racers together. “With a new track record of 28 seconds even, I give you the winner, Danika Wordweaver!”

I waved at them as I stood there. I had never done this before, and hoped to never have to do it again. But I had won.

“Through your skill, you have made yourself the premier swoop racer of the last two decades. Now to present the victory prizes, I give you Brejik, leader of the Black Vulkars.”

Brejik stepped forward. His face was working, and there was a tic under his left eye. He had seen all of his plans collapse because of me, and I was glad I was back in armor with my ritual brand. “Hear me!” He shouted. “Before I present this so-called champion with her prize, there is something that must be said. This rider cheated!”

There was a cry of dismay from the crowd. The coordinator merely looked on. “And how did she cheat?”

“The Beks brought a newly designed accelerator to the field without reporting it, and allowing others to examine it! I hereby withdraw the prize put forward by the Vulkars in protest!”

The coordinator looked at him. It’s usually hard to tell what a Duros is thinking, but this one was obviously disgusted. “The accelerator design was brought to the race committee three weeks before you stole it, Brejik. If your racer had used it to win, you would have argued against disqualification, as would any team that raced. As for the prize, you cannot withdraw it merely because you lost. It goes against our sacred traditions!”

“Your traditions mean nothing to me!” Brejik roared back. “I am the wave of the future, not some fool locked on the past! If I want to withdraw this woman, to kill her, or sell her on the slave market, I will do what I please!”

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” A voice I had heard before said. Bastila looked up, and her smile was cold.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

Her smile grew feral. “You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” She reached out, and the Vulkar that had been guarding her was slammed back hard enough to crack his skull. The collar fell from her neck as she moved her hand, and the door flung open. Then she bent to pick up the sword from the fallen Vulkar.

“Vulkars, to me!” Brejik shrieked. “Kill the woman, kill the racer. Kill them all!”

I drew, and killed the Vulkar that ran at me, then the melee became general.


Bastila Shan

I had freed myself after much work, but I was not yet safe. The problem I had to face was manifold. The gang had surprised me, and captured me after only a brief struggle. Someone had put the neural disruptor collar on me, and dragged me away.

Picture sitting in a chair, looking out a window in front of you, but your will is paralyzed. You cannot move only watch as life passes by. Thought of action is shunted aside before it reaches your muscles. You still breath eat and excrete because you don’t need to think about that, but you can‘t even complain about the quality of the food.

It had taken me a day to discover exactly how the damnable collar worked, then another to work my way around it. Only a Jedi could have done so. We work on so many levels in comparison to regular people that no one but the Sith had ever bothered to develop such a collar for us.

But once I was physically free, I would have yet another problem. I was being held in a pit, and only let out for feeding and cleaning. Someone had assumed I was important because even with the collar there were never fewer than five when I was removed, and usually more. I could have dispatched them, true, but I would still have been trapped in a building somewhere on Taris, with many more people between freedom and me.

I was a prize in a swoop race, that much I had learned. Then this morning they had been agitated. Someone had broken into their main base, and razed it. They mounted a guard worthy of a senator to assure this same enemy did not take me.

Ah, the swoop race then was my best chance. While I might still be wearing the collar, once the race was done, they would have to transport me again. That was when I would free myself, when the number of guards was scant, and the space enclosed. I didn’t know where I would be going, but I was sure I would find a way off the planet before Darth Malak found me.

But something had gone wrong. Brejik, that stupid little man had screamed that he would withdraw me. I was not going back to that hell!

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” I said. The look of shock and dismay on his face was priceless.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

“You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” I reached out using the force, caught the guard nearest to me, and savagely used that unseen grip to pull him toward me. I overdid it a bit. I used what I might have to shove a landspeeder away from me. The Vulkar slammed back into the cage, and collapsed dead. The door was child’s play, and I took the weapon from my first victim.

I immediately saw a problem. As a Jedi I had never handled a sword with a material blade before. It pulled forward in a disconcerting manner, and when I swung it, the swing went on for quite a distance. I would be little help.

Instead, I blocked frantically, and watched the woman that had won the race. She was an auburn haired mercenary from Echana, if her arms and armor were any indication. She waded into them, and I could see the edge of her mouth in a grin as she did. The spectators were running frantically, the Beks had charged in, and chaos was total. She was almost certainly one of those they say are wedded to the blade. In the midst of that swirl of steel, she danced the dance of death, and was its master. No one I had ever seen moved with such fluid and lethal grace. I despaired for the order for I felt the power of the force in her every move. What would she have been if we had found her first?
Brejik shoved his way through the press, his eyes lit by insanity. Any grasp he had on reality had been sundered, and now all he wanted was revenge.

“You’re mine!” He screamed, raising his sword.

Suddenly he stiffened, and looked at the blade that had transfixed him like a museum specimen. “Mine.” He whispered, then he jerked forward. The woman rider was behind him, kicking the body forward as she pulled the blade free. She looked up, then walked toward me.

I was stunned. It wasn’t possible! She couldn’t be here, fighting with such efficiency! Yet there she was.

I reacted poorly, I will admit. I lied through my teeth. I pointed at Brejik, and his henchmen now dead in windrows around us. Along with the Vulkar and five or six members of other gangs that had joined the fray on his side. But they had paid for that foolishness with their lives. “Maybe the Vulkars will think twice about trying to keep a Jedi prisoner! And as for you, if you think I am willingly going to be a prize in this farce-” I stopped, artfully pretending that I had just recognized her. “Wait, you were on the Endar Spire! Yes, I’m sure of it! How did a Republic soldier find herself racing for a common swoop gang?”

She shrugged, and smiled that damnable smile I remembered so well. “It is a long story.” Only the voice was different. Softer, more hesitant. As if she was embarrassed.

“Well we don’t have time for it right now. We have to get out of here before the Sith arrive to sort out this mess. Is there somewhere safe where we can go?”

Before she could answer, a Bek came running down the concourse. “The Sith were monitoring the swoop race! We have to get out of here now!”

“We have a safe place to go. I was going to take you there after I saved you from Brejik.” She said calmly.

“Saved me? Is that what you think happened? Is that why you entered this ridiculous race? Well as a rescue operation, this is one of the worse managed I have ever seen! In case you hadn’t noticed I had already freed myself. In fact all things considered, I think it would be fair to say that I saved you! Brejik and his gang would have left you for dead if I hadn‘t been here!”

She colored, and bit back a retort. “I think we can discuss this later. Carth is waiting for us.”

“Carth Onasi! I withdraw part of my complaint then. If Carth sent you, he must have had a better plan than something you created!” She merely shook her head. The Beks were ready to leave, and since she had ridden for them, they brought us with them.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-04-2006 at 01:01 PM. Reason: Addition of new work
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Old 10-10-2005, 02:33 PM   #13
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Carth

It was panic time by the time Danika and Bastila returned. We had been watching the race until the fight broke out, then the Bek in charge of the video feed told us that the Sith were coming down into the Lowercity in force.

Gadon had decided to take his people into the Undercity for a while to hide out. Mission had showed them the way through the now empty Vulkar base, and The essentials of Gadon’s organization had already been sent on. Danika told him of the promised land, and Gadon had been intrigued, but I didn’t know what to expect out of it. Mission and Zaalbar stayed with us, and Mission led us through a warren of trash chutes and sewer lines until we were back in the Uppercity near our apartment. We went there.

“Bastila! It’s good to see you safe! Now we just need to find a way off this rock.”

“You mean you don’t even have an escape route planned? What have you been doing in all this time?”

“Trying to find and rescue you.” Danika said. I could tell she was furious, and I was just glad it wasn’t aimed at me this time.

“I see.” Bastila commented with all the prim disapproval you would have expected from a teacher in grade school. “Well now that I have been ‘freed’, I can start assuring that this operation is run properly.”

“Now wait a minute, Bastila!” I snarled. “I know you’re new at combat, but a good leader doesn't berate her troops just because things aren’t as far along as you might like. Don’t let your ego get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish, or let it drive you to take charge when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing!”

She looked as if her wallet had bitten her. “That hardly strikes me as an appropriate way to address your commanding officer, Carth. I am a member of the Jedi order, and this has been my mission, just remember that! My battle meditation has helped the Republic in several battles, and it will serve us here as well!”
“Your abilities might win battles, but it doesn’t make you a competent leader! A good leader listens to those below them that have seen more combat than you ever will! Or those that specialize in this form of mayhem!” I waved at Danika.

“Will you both just settle down?” Danika had crossed her arms, and was glaring at us in turn. “This is not helping matters.”

“Yes. You are right, of course.” Bastila looked to me. “I apologize Carth. You are quite correct that this is your area of expertise, not mine. What do you suggest we do?”

I sighed. I wanted to hit her, but it wouldn’t have helped. “First thing, we can’t get hung up on who is in charge. I’m a pilot, you have skills only the Jedi have, and Danika can cut her way through any problem. Not to mention that Mission is hell on wheels with a computer, and Zaalbar can fix anything we need fixed. This is a team, Bastila, not some group of raw recruits.“

“Well said, Carth. I stand corrected.” She cast a glance at Danika, then back at me. “I know there are people itching to escape this planet. Perhaps we can check the Cantinas and see what we might find.”

“Sure. That’s as good an idea as any.” Danika murmured I looked at her worried. She had always been the most gung ho of the crew, and this sudden change bothered me. She looked at Bastila, and flushed.

Bastila sensed it. “Is something wrong? You seem troubled by my appearance.”

“Something weird happened before I went to the swoop track. A vision of some kind.”

“A vision? A vision of what, pray?” Something about her tone didn’t ring true.

“Of you. You were with five others.” She closed her eyes. “All Jedi. You faced a Dark Jedi. Revan I think.”

“This is strange. Usually such visions are signs of force sensitivity.”

“What does that mean?”

“I really can’t explain it. Unless you can feel the force, and understand the terms, it is like telling a blind man about a rainbow. After all, one vision-”

“It isn’t just one vision.” Danika bit out. “I had them since the battle of Zanebra. Before I boarded the Endar Spire. Here as well.”

“It seems you might have some small connection with the force. It isn’t uncommon really. When we first met your own small skills must have fed off mine. It is possible that in the excitement of the aftermath of battles, your own skills allowed you to glimpse parts of my own life.”

“As someone I remembered from childhood?” Danika pressed. “Weeks of memories as clear as that window that never happened in truth?”

“I do not fully understand the Force. No one except the Jedi masters do. Once we have escaped, I will take you to them, and you can discover what is happening. However we have more on our plates than I would like to consider. Can we get back to the matter at hand?”

“Right,” Danika pushed herself up. “Mission, Zaalbar, stay here in the complex. We don’t want any incidents we can avoid.” She looked at Bastila, then at me. “Are you two coming? Or am I going to do all the work, and you two are going to kibitz from safety?” She flipped something toward Bastila, who caught it instinctively. It was a twin bladed lightsaber. “Yours I believe.”

She stormed out before I could answer. Bastila followed, and so did I.

A Twi-lek had stopped Danika outside the door, and was in a conversation with her. Danika signaled for privacy, then when the Twi-lek departed motioned us forward. “Remember Canderous?”

“The Mandalorian from the Wasteland? Yeah.”

“Full name Canderous Ordo. He wants to see me. It seems my swoop bike racing fame intrigues him.”

“We really-” Bastila began.

“The Upper level Cantina here in South City is where he wants to meet.” She looked at Bastila coolly. “You did say we should check out the cantinas.” She led the way to Larrim, and bought two long hooded traveling robes. “Here.” She thrust one at Bastila. “Your face is a little too well known here.” She slid into the other one pulling the hood up.


Cantina

Danika

I was furious. Someone had messed with my mind after Bastila’s rescue, and I didn’t know how or why. Her reaction, brushing it off as if it were unimportant bothered me even more. If someone was using the Force, and it wasn’t her, who could it be?

Carth wasn’t helping. I could see that his mistrust extended far beyond me, and while I felt slightly better about that, the arguments could soon destroy us. I was used to working with a smoothly running team as a soldier. Impediments are dealt with or transferred out at my level or lower, before they could become a danger to others. But here I was technically the low man on the pole.

I could feel their eyes on me as we walked on. The way they had been circling like a pair of female Thorm in a nesting dispute I expected a fight, and as we walked I could overhear it.

“I was wondering Bastila, how were the Vulkars able to capture you after the crash? Were you unconscious?”

“No, I was conscious. But my force powers had been exhausted in the battle for the Endar Spire. If I hadn’t been using them up until the moment I crashed you may never have gotten off the ship alive.” Her voice was low and angry.

“Fair enough.” Carth’s tone was light, but I could sense him closing for the kill. “But I’ve seen you Jedi in action before. How did those thugs get past you’re lightsaber?” Her answer was too low for me to hear, but Carth repeated it as if it were the punch line of a bad joke. “You lost it? How do you lose a lightsaber?”

“I couldn’t find it after the crash. I was looking for it when the Vulkars surprised me.”

“Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You lost your lightsaber and were looking for it, and they surprised you?” He laughed. “I mean, isn't that a violation of the Jedi rules or something?” He laughed, and I was actually glad to hear it. He had been too grim before.

However this wasn’t helping. “Leave it be Carth.” I said over my shoulder.

Bastila however was defensive. “This is no laughing matter, Carth! My lightsaber must have come free of my belt, fallen under a seat or something. The Vulkars must have found it among the wreckage.”

“Hey, don’t get mad! I just think it’s funny that the hope of the Republic, the great and legendary Bastila would lose her lightsaber and be caught by a group of thugs! When you write this up for the history books, I would suggest you leave that part out.”

“I do not consider myself worthy of a legend, Carth. However you are right, there is no need for the Jedi council to know every nuance.”

A figure was moving toward me and I recognized Zelka. He was exuberant, and ran up, catching me by the shoulders. “You found it!”

“Found what?” I asked.

“The cause of the rakghoul plague!” He said. “The plant you brought to my lab. It’s a specimen of the Koodro bush! According to the medical records the initial victims of the plague were people who had severe allergic reactions to the pollen!”

“What?” Bastila came forward. He looked at her, but beyond answering her question to me, he ignored her.

“When Taris was settled there was a small primate that was called a Bookri. They tended to get into everything and were noxious in their habits, and finally the government mounted an extermination operation. They’ve been extinct for about two hundred years. But the Bookri pollinated the Koodro! The plant evolved sufficiently for its pollen to cause the rakghoul disease at first, and being bitten passed it to those not allergic to it! It was nature trying to circumvent an obstacle we created!” He hugged me. “Now all we need to do is find a small animal that isn’t noxious to act as a pollinator instead!”

“Then I leave it to you.” I said.

“But you deserve credit! I want to report it to the City governor, get you a medal!”

“No.” I shook my head. “I did what had to be done, Zelka, that’s all. You live here, you’ve dealt with the plague all your life. You take the credit.”

He just stared after me as we walked on.

I could feel Bastila’s eyes on me, and I glanced back. I signaled her forward, and motioned for Carth to hang back and give us room.

“What’s on your mind, Bastila.”

“That incident made me curious. I wanted to know more about what you and Carth have been up to before we joined forces.”

“We were looking for you.”

“Yes, I realize that. But it was more than a simple search. From what that man said, you also found the cause of a massive plague. Besides, I doubt someone had put up flashing signs with the words ‘This way to the Jedi’ on them.” I chuckled visualizing it. “On top of which you avoided detection by the Sith, discovered my predicament, convinced a swoop gang to sponsor you in the race, won it, and then killed the Vulkar leader in a manner and circumstance that ended the war below. That is quite a resume for just a couple of days.”

“I had a lot of help. Carth, Mission, Zaalbar.”

“Your modesty does you credit, but your answer does not. While everyone you have mentioned did their part, from what I have seen you were the catalyst that caused the changes needed. When you were chosen to join this mission I don’t think any of us expected this much from you. A Jedi could have succeeded of course. “ She said it deprecatingly. “But she would have had to draw heavily on the force to succeed as you have.”

“I think the Jedi underestimate we poor folk that don’t have your abilities.” I commented dryly.

“Perhaps.” She admitted. “But not all those able to use the force are within the order.”

“The Sith.”

“Well of course the Sith! But there are those that were never found when they were younger. The ones that show exceptional gifts. Gamblers who are always lucky, racers and pilots who don’t fly as much as become part of their vehicle. Entertainers who can sway an audience with just their voice. These are what we call Force-sensitive.

“It is obvious to me that you were working through the Force, or the Force chose you because of your own innate abilities. There is no other answer possible. However I do not know what to make of it. Perhaps if you weren’t... I should say, if you were still a child, the Jedi might have offered to train you. But as it is...”

“Can you speak plainly? Of is that against some Jedi rule?”

She flushed. “I have overstepped my authority and upset you as well. Such matters are best left to the Council. For now, let us say that you are gifted. Hopefully between your gifts, my Jedi powers, and the skills of your compatriots, we can win the day.”


Carth

They stopped talking as we reached the Cantina entrance. A Sith stood outside, and even with his visor, I could feel his glare. He didn’t recognize either Danika or Bastila but that wasn‘t surprising, there are a lot of aliens with body modesty taboos. That was good because we weren’t home free yet.

This was an upscale place, what you would expect in Upper Taris. Soft mood lighting, music that didn’t grate on the ears. Not that I liked the music. I was, well, too sweet and sickly. The small sign denying droids and aliens was even tastefully done.

The doorman didn’t want to let us in, but the mention of Canderous moved him out of the way. Danika moved through the crowd, then stopped at a table. Seated there was Canderous.

I respect Mandalorian warriors, and felt it was an honor to have defeated them, but I have never liked them. There are exactly three classes of citizen among the Mandalorians. Leader, warrior, and everyone else. I had seen the carnage they had dealt on worlds, and it came because the people they were fighting had never grasped that. A Leader can give an order, and if it is not obeyed, the one who receives it can be killed without compunction. Only those gifted in the arts of war or science ever reach that pinnacle. Warriors can give an order, and again it must be obeyed. Failure to do so again means your death. But some of the people they conquered resisted. Some very well, the Cathar race comes to mind. In those cases the ones who fought them were honored. One man on Ruthenia killed 29 Mandalorian warriors before he was caught. They executed him, but then buried him in their own graveyard with a Mandalorian marker with his kills listed. In fact none in the graveyard had been as well honored.

What they could not abide was incompetent or passive resistance. Resistance was dealt with harshly. Not with casual brutality, for nothing the Mandalorians do is ever casual. But with swift and violent retribution. As much as we used propaganda highlighting their brutality, the Mandalorians had fought a clean war by their lights. Almost perfectly clean by our own. Of the fifty or so ’atrocities’ that we screamed at only about six or seven were true. Our record wasn’t that clean.

Those we captured during the Mandalorian Wars were confused by our reactions. The servant had been given an order and questioned it! The people had seen what happened to those who resisted, but they continued to resist! It wasn’t until Revan and Malak with the Jedi that had followed them that things changed. The Mandalorians had been soundly beaten, but Revan had dealt with them as a Mandalorian would. They had respected her for that.

Canderous motioned toward the seats, and we sat. He waved, and drinks arrived. Danika sipped her tea, and watched him.

“I saw your runs in the swoop race. Very impressive for a first time rider. I was even more impressed by what was shown of the fight before transmission was cut. You seem like someone who gets results regardless. I can use someone like you.”

“If I want to be used, perhaps.”

“Fair enough. I work for Davik Kang and the Exchange. The hours aren’t great, but they offered a fortune for my services, and we Mandalorian Mercenaries are in high demand. But lately, the work has become boring and pointless. He’s been using me as if I was a common thug.”

I nodded. Mandalorians don’t mind scut work, but disrespecting them can be deadly.

“But until this blockade is lifted, I can’t get off this rock. So I decided that when my chance came, I would get out of here, and you’re the key.”

Danika nodded. “And how you expect to do this?”

“I've got a plan to get out of here through the blockade but I need someone I’m sure can do their part to help.”

“Careful.” I said. “Mercs aren’t known for their consciences. He might be baiting a trap, or setting you up for a fall.”

Canderous looked at me, measuring me in an instant. “I’m talking with her, not you.” Then he turned back to Danika. “I saw you win the swoop race, and I figured, anyone crazy enough to take the chances you did might be willing to do something even crazier, but with a bigger payoff. Something like breaking into the Sith Military base.” He watched us, but his eyes were locked on Danika’s face, judging her reaction.

“You have my attention.” She said.

He relaxed incrementally. “What I need is for someone to get the Sith launch codes from the base. Without them the fleet above will blow any ship trying to leave the atmosphere away. With them...”

“Why should I help you? If I had those codes I could take them, steal a ship and be out of here myself.” Danika replied.

“I’ve seen the ships here. The really good ones have been confiscated by the Sith. But there’s a ship they don’t know about. I can get us out of here on the Ebon Hawk.”

“A JT 4100. Big deal.” I commented.

“A JT 4100 with the Mod 4 upgrades, and Mark 19s installed.” Canderous corrected.

I was shocked and excited at that. The Mod 4 upgrades made it faster with heavier armor and shields. The Mark 19s were blaster cannon used on the newer corvettes! They could punch out even an Interdictor class cruiser if you were very lucky and very close. He grinned evilly at the look on my face. “Good enough for you, flyboy?”

“And how are you going to manage stealing Davik’s ship right under his nose?” Danika pressed.

“Not so fast, kid. Bring me the codes, and I will tell you the rest of it.”

“How am I supposed to get into the Base?” She asked. “The door obviously has encryption to stop me. Not to mention whatever guards are inside.”

“Haven’t been paying attention to the news, have you? The Sith Governor launched a major operation to find Bastila when she was seen at the track.” He glanced at the woman, then back to Danika. “Something like a thousand more came down from the fleet and the guard units in the base were drawn down to minimum to do it. As it is, they’re finding it more difficult than they imagined. All of the bike gangs have buried the hatchet right in the nearest Sith head. They’ve retreated into the Undercity and are tearing them up with ambushes and lightning raids by armed bikes. If fifty men come out of there alive, I’ll be surprised. As for the encryptions, I have just what you need. Davik wants the codes too, and he commissioned a droid from the shop across from the elevator in North City. Janice Nall is a Twi-lek, but she’s a wizard with custom droid design and manufacture. Just tell her I sent you and pay for the droid.”

“Won’t Davik be upset when the droid doesn’t go to him?”

“Why? Who do you think he put in charge of the commission?” He motioned toward himself. “Davik commissioned it, but I was the one who talked to Janice. He won’t care who picks it up as long as the launch codes come his way. But I’m known to the Upper city, and if I hit the base, the Sith will send an army down to take out Davik’s estates. Or blow it from orbit. I need you.”

“I sense no deception from him, which is surprising.” Bastila mused. “This may be exactly what we need.”

“Are you in?” Danika nodded. “Then meet me at Jayvar’s Cantina down in the Lowercity when you have the codes.” He tossed a coin on the table, and left.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-07-2006 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 10-10-2005, 05:40 PM   #14
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your one of the best writers on here were can i read the whole novel machievelli

can you check and review my storys(A SHORT CLONE WARS TALE and KOTOR:return of the sith)id be grateful a good writer reading my work
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Old 10-10-2005, 06:56 PM   #15
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John I will look at your work as long as you understand that I am an honest critic. If I find things that are wrong, I will tell you, but I won't just flame you just because you did something i thought was improper.

As for the novel, i am caught between the rock and a hard place of 'we don't look at anything unless an agent submits it' (Editors) and 'but you have never sold a book, so why should we spend .37 on you asking Ms Shapiro?' (The agents)
If Del Rey likes it enough to publish, I will gladly notify you guys. As for the seven or eight that have actually read it, thank you for your time and patience.

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Old 03-26-2006, 05:59 PM   #16
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sigh.
eight months, and an average of 60 people have looked at this per month.

The news so far:

I still haven't found an agent. Just two months ago Dark Horse (I think) decided to release a KOTOR comic book series which means I have lost the race. Would anyone be iterested in viewing this in it's entirety?


'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
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Old 03-26-2006, 09:56 PM   #17
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I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?

Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
I still haven't found an agent. Just two months ago Dark Horse (I think) decided to release a KOTOR comic book series which means I have lost the race.
IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.

What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that? I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.


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Old 03-27-2006, 09:57 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hai Wan
I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?)
No, though about 250 pages is. I have 145 pages (Most of it never posted) on the Doctor's superobscura website.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hai Wan
IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.
Good. Maybe I still have a chance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hai Wan
What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that?
I had already asked Sue Rostoni of Lucasarts Marketing, and she said send it on. However that was nine months ago, and without an agent, I cannot submit it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hai Wan
I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.
I have been irritated by the fact that except for Leia, I have yet to read a book where the main character is a female Jedi. I know that isn't authoritative, I have only got 10 out of 50 odd so far. Yet that would make all of the main character in the three of the games I have, Jedi outcast, Jedi Academy, and KOTOR I ALL MEN.

Having been a student of history since I could read, I have discovered that a hell of a lot of the heroes of prehistory ARE women.

For a society (The Republic) that is supposed to be based on capability and merit, doesn't that show a serious bias?

Regardless, I wish people like Spielberg and George Lucas would remember when THEY were the unknowns and give someone a real chance.


'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?

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Old 04-01-2006, 12:07 AM   #19
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So where should I go to read the entire story, kotorfanmedia or SuperObscura?
Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
I have been irritated by the fact that except for Leia, I have yet to read a book where the main character is a female Jedi. I know that isn't authoritative, I have only got 10 out of 50 odd so far. Yet that would make all of the main character in the three of the games I have, Jedi outcast, Jedi Academy, and KOTOR I ALL MEN.

Having been a student of history since I could read, I have discovered that a hell of a lot of the heroes of prehistory ARE women.

For a society (The Republic) that is supposed to be based on capability and merit, doesn't that show a serious bias?

Regardless, I wish people like Spielberg and George Lucas would remember when THEY were the unknowns and give someone a real chance.
I have to agree that the SW movies tend toward men in leading roles more than women. As far as the games you refer to, IIRC only Jedi Outcast is restricted to male only. You can play as a female in the other two. An interesting trend to note how Dark Forces and DF2: JK are based on a male character but the more recently published KotOR and JA allow the player to choose the PC's gender.

I'm the type of guy that calls it like I see it although I try to do so as tactfully as I can. IMHO the problem I see with your book's publishing potential is that LucasArts Entertainment Company may very well not want to publish a story that locks Revan into a gender, male or female. I know you said Sue Rostoni told you to go ahead and send your story in but IMO it's such a cop out for her to say that because she knows of all the hoops you would have to jump thru before you can even submit your story for consideration. Yes, Spielberg and Lucas had to get their start in the business too but Lucas didn't get very enthusiastic buy-in from his movie studio for his original SW material. Even George Lucas admits that he has become the very thing that he disliked when he started in the movie business. This reminds me of a recent TV commercial I've seen a few times that goes something like:

CEO behind desk: I want to stick it to the man!
CEO's lackey: But sir, you are the man. So wouldn't you be sticking it to yourself?
CEO: {pausing before thoughtfully saying} Maybe...
Love that commercial!

You want Lucas Inc. (meaning whichever Lucas company handles book publishing) to publish your story that is largely based on a SW video game that was purposely designed to allow players to choose their character's gender and LS/DS alignment.
Lucas Inc.: "Oh so sorry! We let you play Revan as DSM but we decided that Revan is LSF for 'canon's' sake."
Or whatever combination of DSF, DSM, LSF, LSM you want.
I simply ask you to consider how much controversy SW "canon" already creates and why LEC would want to add any more fuel to the fire by publishing a book that changes a story from one with multiple potential endings to a single ending.
Think of how many KotOR fans would be upset and send hate mail to LEC that the published story didn't match the way they played the game?


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Old 04-01-2006, 08:52 AM   #20
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My only question is how long did you spend thinking on the story before writing it?
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Old 04-01-2006, 10:20 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cutmeister
So where should I go to read the entire story, kotorfanmedia or SuperObscura?
Since super obscura has the stroy from the start, I would go there. Not that I don't like this place, it's just that at either kotorfanmedia Iwould have to delete everything I have already posted just to put it in chronological order, and would have to do the same here.

Quote:
You want Lucas Inc. (meaning whichever Lucas company handles book publishing) to publish your story that is largely based on a SW video game that was purposely designed to allow players to choose their character's gender and LS/DS alignment.
Lucas Inc.: "Oh so sorry! We let you play Revan as DSM but we decided that Revan is LSF for 'canon's' sake."
Or whatever combination of DSF, DSM, LSF, LSM you want.
I simply ask you to consider how much controversy SW "canon" already creates and why LEC would want to add any more fuel to the fire by publishing a book that changes a story from one with multiple potential endings to a single ending.
Think of how many KotOR fans would be upset and send hate mail to LEC that the published story didn't match the way they played the game?
Actually in the New essential chronology, they have done exactly that already with Jaden Korr. There is however no mention of Gender for Revan.


'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...
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KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
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Old 04-01-2006, 10:26 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Jester
My only question is how long did you spend thinking on the story before writing it?

It was one that flowed smoothly from the moment I considered it. That is a rarity. Ask any writer on this site. Try less than a week from when the idea hit me to the first word on paper.


'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
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Old 04-01-2006, 10:34 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cutmeister
I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?

IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.

What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that? I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.
Actually, I just looked. If I start at Dantooine and delte from there, uploading the chapters in between, I can do it.

So starting monday, it will be here. I will post 3 chapters at a time, but will not post more until I get comments along the way. So in a way I will be getting paid for it in the currency a writer really treasures.


'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?

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What we die for...
Acceptance
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Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
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Old 04-01-2006, 11:32 AM   #24
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Then by all means post away, sir! I think you know by now that I don't have any issues with providing my thoughts in the context of what I hope is considered constructive criticism. Truthfully though I see this as your version of how the KotOR story unfolds with added detail. I expect my comments will be mostly of the liked it, didn't like it variety peppered with any observations of passages that IMO deviate from the established game story.
Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
Actually in the New essential chronology, they have done exactly that already with Jaden Korr. There is however no mention of Gender for Revan.
I don't have a copy of Star Wars The New Essential Chronology to refer to. What involvement did Lucas Inc. have in its publication? I'm curious as to how the author can definitively state that Jaden Korr is male if there is no other source material for the character besides the game. But really I'm not a hard core canon guy. I've seen all the movies (of course ), read the Thrawn trilogy, played DFII: JK, JO, JA, KotOR, and KotOR: TSL and that pretty much covers all the sources of my SW universe knowledge. I plan on reading some more SW books like the movie novelisations and some others Prime recommended but haven't gotten around to purchasing them yet.


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Old 04-01-2006, 05:59 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cutmeister
Then by all means post away, sir! I think you know by now that I don't have any issues with providing my thoughts in the context of what I hope is considered constructive criticism. Truthfully though I see this as your version of how the KotOR story unfolds with added detail. I expect my comments will be mostly of the liked it, didn't like it variety peppered with any observations of passages that IMO deviate from the established game story.
I don't have a copy of Star Wars The New Essential Chronology to refer to. What involvement did Lucas Inc. have in its publication? I'm curious as to how the author can definitively state that Jaden Korr is male if there is no other source material for the character besides the game. But really I'm not a hard core canon guy. I've seen all the movies (of course ), read the Thrawn trilogy, played DFII: JK, JO, JA, KotOR, and KotOR: TSL and that pretty much covers all the sources of my SW universe knowledge. I plan on reading some more SW books like the movie novelisations and some others Prime recommended but haven't gotten around to purchasing them yet.
Everything put out about Star Wars is considered canon because it has to be cleared through Lucasarts. If I tried to sell this work without clearing it through them any suit Bioware decided to file would be chuimp change in comparison. That is part of my problem. No agent means no representation, meaning I can't even submit it for consideration.


'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
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Old 04-02-2006, 12:02 AM   #26
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If you are coming back to read reading this after any length of time, stop, go back, and start over. The piece is in the editing stage of this week, (1st April) not five or six months ago. I have finally deleted all of the older posts, and everything after halfway through post ten is stuff no one beyond a few close friends has seen.

I would like at least one comment from someone before I continue.

I hope you enjoy 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

Last edited by machievelli; 04-04-2006 at 01:07 PM. Reason: update
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Old 04-07-2006, 12:17 PM   #27
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16 views in the last week, and no comments?

Whimper...


'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 04-08-2006, 02:21 PM   #28
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^^^
Well, it took a while to read everything from the beginning again.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #6
Taris was a pearl, with layers of beauty, and inside the filth that began it all.
An apt image to sum up the planet Taris. I really liked this sentence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by post #6 Apartments
The Sith merely drew his sidearm, and shot the protester. “That is how we Sith deal with smart mouthed aliens! Now up against the wall before I lose my temper again!”
This works but I thought I should point out the fact that in the game this Sith soldier used a blaster rifle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by post #7
Besides, there’s at least two of the Interdictor class cruisers in orbit, and a dozen smaller ships.
Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?

Why did you place the rakghoul serum in the Black Vulkar base instead of on the dead Sith trooper's body in the Undercity (where it's located in-game)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by post #12
“Yes. He put me in a Bacta tank for an hour or so, and I’m fine now.”
Are you sure you want to use the term Bacta tank instead of kolto like the game uses?

This is a very good story. I like how you've added some enhancements like the Taris Undercity plant and it's relationship to the Rakghoul disease. The underground tram to the "Promised Land" and additional background detail about what the "Promised Land" is and how it came into existence is also a nice touch. I also like how you've handled relating the dream sequences. All in all quite an enjoyable read.


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Old 04-08-2006, 02:50 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cutmeister
Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?
Yes, they were. The Leviathan was an Interdictor-class Cruiser. And technically, Kotor is set in 3,956 BBY, not 4,000 BBY.

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Old 04-08-2006, 10:36 PM   #30
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Hmmm, so the Interdictor ship class has been present in the SW timeline for 4,000+ years? Seems like quite a long time to have a class called by the same name...

EDIT: I looked up the starwars.com databank entry for the Leviathan and it does state that the Leviathan was "the vanguard of interdicting technology" but it doesn't say it was an Interdictor-class ship. Meh. I'm probably just splitting hairs on this one...
http://www.starwars.com/databank/sta...han/index.html

EDIT 2: I stand corrected. 3956 BBY it is.


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Old 04-09-2006, 01:06 AM   #31
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[QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^
Well, it took a while to read everything from the beginning again.
An apt image to sum up the planet Taris. I really liked this sentence.

This works but I thought I should point out the fact that in the game this Sith soldier used a blaster rifle.

Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?[/QUOTE=cutmeister]

The Interdictor is not really a class, it is a type. If you look in a listing of ships, you will find anti-submarine vessels, anti-aircraft vessels (The Atlanta Class Light cruisers from WWII come to mind) and anit-shipping vessels.

[QUOTE=cutmeister]
Why did you place the rakghoul serum in the Black Vulkar base instead of on he dead Sith trooper's body in the Undercity (where it's located in-game)? [/QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^ Literay license. I didn't want to introduce a spoiler.

[QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^
Are you sure you want to use the term Bacta tank instead of kolto like the game uses?[/QUOTE=cutmeister]

I don't see kolto as a type of bacta. What I envisioned was a large spectrum antibiotic and analgesic. Sort of like taking sulfa drugs and penicillin, and mixing in bacitracin ointment. Besides, Bacta does not come from Manaan.


'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?

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Old 04-09-2006, 01:26 AM   #32
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Danika

Break into a base, fight who knows how many guards, find the launch codes, then get into the Lowercity past yet more guards in the midst of a serious battle? Sure no problem.

It seemed to be my day for impossible missions.

I walked back toward the apartment. I had to leave someone behind, but who? I was dealing with two serious prima donnas here.

I decided I would leave Carth. He could inform the others of what we were doing, and at least he and Mission got along. I signaled for him to move closer, and gave him his instructions. He looked pensive. Probably wanted to keep his eye on me even now. “Maybe we should finish our discussion.”

He stiffened. “I said I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Well I do.”

“Listen sister, just because were working together doesn't mean you get to poke and prod at me every chance you get!”

“So we have another problem?”

“Blast it, you are the most stubborn and frustrating woman I have ever met!”

“I’m frustrating? Look who’s talking!”

“What? Me? What did I do?”

“What, you stepped out for a drink and sandwiches for the last few days? Where have you been that you don‘t remember all the crap I‘ve had to take from you?”

“Okay, I give up. I’ll talk!” He sighed, and inside of him I felt a pustule of hate burst. “I could really use someone to talk to about it.” She watched me silently. “When I think of everyone who betrayed us, the one that stands out above all the others is Saul.”

“Saul? You say that name like I should know it.”

“You don’t? I thought everyone did. Saul Karath is the Admiral commanding the entire Sith fleet now. He’s the reason Malak has done so well since Revan died.

“But he didn’t start there. He was the first officer I reported to back when I joined during the Mandalorian wars. He was only the exec of a Frigate then, an old man who had been passed over because he didn’t have the right connections, but he was going up the promotion ladder fast since the Mandalore wars started. He took a green kid under his wing, and taught me everything I know about how to fight. When he transferred to his own ship, he took me along. Then it was Admiral Karath, and I was still there, now as command pilot for his ship. I looked up to him, and he betrayed me. He’s up there now with that very ship. Leviathan.

“I was transferred home for a while there. Revan and Malak had taken the fleet out on a deep space recon, looking for any remaining Mandalorian holdouts. Three years ago they came home.

“He approached me right before he went over. I had just been recalled because of the first Sith attacks. He talked about how the Republic was weak, how it was going to fall unless the strong took the lead. He told me that if it came to that fight, I should be on the winning side.” I shrugged. “I didn’t think about it until later, but I heard later that he was sounding out a lot of the officers aboard. He was trying to get me to join him. Me, I was home, I was happy, and I was sick of fighting. We fought, he left. That was the last time I saw him.”

“But you didn’t think he would betray the Republic.”

“Saul was my mentor. Before the Jedi joined us he was in the front of every battle, and he brought us through even when it looked hopeless. After all the men that had died under his command, all of the battles he had won, I couldn’t see him turning his back on what he had stood for.

“He did though. Worse yet he gave them the access codes to the planetary shield grid. I was assigned to the fleet there, and saw the waves of bombers and fighters coming in unnoticed and unopposed when we arrived. I knew then how they had pulled it off. We fought, and lost.” I felt my eyes burn. “I could have saved them if I had killed Saul before he betrayed us, before he betrayed me! But I didn’t.”

“So you blame yourself for trusting your friend.”

“I blame Saul! I was... I was naive. I ignored the danger such a man could be on the other side. He nearly destroyed us all.

“I’ve fought him for years now. If I ever meet him face to face I am going to make him regret what he’s done with his dying breath.”

“That isn’t all.”

“It is for now.”

We reached the apartment. I made sure Carth had his communicator on, and Bastila and I left again. We went to North City. The droid shop was where I had been told it was, and I entered. There was the smell of burning insulation, and A Twi-lek was cursing in her own language behind a counter.

I called her, and she came out. “Canderous sent me!”

“Ah! For the little droid.” She went into the back, and a little wheeled astromech droid rolled out. “As specified, the droid is disguised as an astromech, but it has several features. Weapons!” A blaster popped out of a panel in it’s front. Two other tubes lifted one to either side of its dome. “A shield disruptor and a stun beam. All I had for installed weaponry unfortunately. It also has a full security and encryption package as requested.”

“Good. How much.”

“Two thousand.”

I winced, but Davik was a big man, and would have paid without complaint. I pulled out the coins, dropping them into her palm. “Hey, big spender! Well, he’s all yours. T3M4, go with her.”

The droid whistled, dome turning to lock onto my face. It beeped quizzically at me. Janice handed me a small com screen. “I didn’t install voice circuits, but you can read what he says here. It attaches on the wrist.”

I looked at the screen

-Can you get me out of this shop before she thinks of more modifications?-
“I laughed. “Let’s go T3.”


He whistled. -Good finally somewhere else-

Bastila and I walked across the concourse past the elevator that led down to Bek territory. It opened, and half a dozen wounded were carried out. We followed as those were taken to a shuttle that then lifted off. The battle was still raging down below.

The door to the base was unguarded, and I leaned against the wall beside it. Watching the shuttle take off. Another was coming down to take its place. “T3, Open this door.”

He bleeped at me, rolling forward. An arm extended, and he stretched his frame upward until it linked to the lock plate. There was a clicking sound, and the arm retracted, the door opening. I walked past him into the elevator.

There was a Twi-lek at the receptionist’s desk, and her eyes widened when she saw us. “You’re not supposed to be here!” She looked at the desk, probably at an alarm button.

“Wait, you really don’t want to be here in the next few minutes. Maybe you can take a lunch break?” I flashed a 50-credit coin.

She grinned. “As long as you let me out of here before all hell breaks loose!” I flipped her the coin, and she took off running.

“T3!” The little droid rolled forward, and inserted the arm into a slot. I watched the screen.

-Four concentrations of life forms. War droids patrolling halls. Heavy combat droid in the elevator. Blaster turrets in elevator and armory-

“Can you gas them?” I asked.

-Negative. However two concentrations of guards are in rooms where I can blow access panels and remove them-

“Do it.”

-Complying. Done-

“Now take the droids down.”

-Query, take down? -

“Deactivate.”

-Understood. War droids in diagnostic cycle. Will remain for ten minutes. Heavy combat droid systems can be reached, but only force field can be deactivated. That has been done. Turrets have been shut down-

“Now download a base schematic.”

He did so, and I checked the screen. There were four Sith in a room right off the reception area, five in a control room. Red markers noted the presence of light blaster turrets now deactivated.

I motioned for Bastila to follow, and ran to the door. It opened, and we were among the enemy. I cut one down, turned to another, and hacked him down as well. Bastila had shoved the officer in uniform into a console, and he whimpered as his back broke. T3 calmly shot the last one.

I put the officer out of his misery, and we ran down the hall. It opened into a vaguely triangular room. There were restraint fields to the side, and the occupied one caught my eye. “You?”

The Duros looked at me. “You remember me?”

“I remember a brave soul that hid bodies so they wouldn’t be discovered.”

“Not well enough. I was captured last night.”

“Can we free you?”

“The panel on the wall control the cage.” I ran over, and released the field. As it came down, he stumbled out, then ran for the entrance.

There were five guards in the section to our left, and I led us that way because it’s stupid to leave an enemy at your back and I didn't want to have to fight every Sith on the planet to escape. The hall opened into a control room, and I froze as I saw a mine laid at the threshold. But T3 rolled forward, and deactivated it. I ran forward toward the center where four people worked at the consoles. Bastila followed me as T3 shot the technician.

One of the armored guards reached for his weapons, and was down as I continued my rampage. The other went down, then I turned. Bastila had taken the other two. I motioned and we hurried to the room we had just left to go the other direction. At the end of the hall, I opened the door, then ducked instinctively. The heavy attack droid had been waiting, and only my reaction had saved my life. Bastila reached out, and the droid arched as electricity ran wild through it‘s chassis. Then it sagged and collapsed.

I motioned and we went on into the elevator. It was a short trip down, and I readied my equipment as it did. Then it opened into a room. A man in Sith armor, bald head gleaming turned, glaring at us, “Who dares...” He stared at Bastila, then at me with increasing interest. “So there were two of your kind, Bastila. Your master, perhaps?” He drew. “It doesn’t matter, you’re both dead.” He stepped forward, then froze staring at me. “You!” Then he screamed, charging. I felt something hit me in the chest, and somehow stayed on my feet. I blocked his cut, then Bastila slammed him against a wall, cutting him in half before he could fall to the ground.

“Me?” I asked.

“They recognized you from the race obviously.” Bastila suggested.

We searched the room, finally finding the pad with the launch codes. With our timer running down, I led a frantic run back out of the base.

T3 had not been able to extend the cycle, so we only had a couple of minutes. I ran down the promenade to the elevator.

“No civilians-” The guard started and I rammed the authorization papers I had kept into his face. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know they had extended your contracts.” I walked past him, and opened the door. As the elevator dropped I heard a wailing alarm. I keyed my communicator. “Carth!”

“Go ahead.”

“The fat is in the fire. We have really heavy crap coming down in the next few minutes. Ready to move?”

“Yeah. Mission got into the local database, and we have a shuttle prepped and ready to launch.”

“I’m enroute to our meeting with Canderous. Lift off and get ready to head toward Davik‘s estate.”

“You mean the big area marked fatal to all incursions?” Mission asked from the background.

“Well it’s either that or surrender.”

“I take your point.” Mission replied.

The area at the base of the elevator was packed with wounded not yet transported. I threaded my way through them, and turned, headed for the cantina. Bastila followed, eyes downcast. Still no one noticed her. I nodded to the doorman, and entered the Cantina.


Bastila

When the Sith apprentice had shouted, I was worried. He tried to throw us back with the force, but she resisted it well, and I had been ready for it.

I dealt with him swiftly, and while my answer was lame, she seemed to accept it. We hurried through the maze of paths and finally entered the Lowercity cantina. It was not even close to being as clean as the one above, but the fighting seemed to have kept it busy. Danika moved through the crowd, and there was Canderous.

He tapped his earpiece, grinning. “Some piece of work you did girl. Sure you weren’t born among the Mando?”

“That I am sure of.” She replied. “All right, we have the codes, now what?”

“We walk into Davik’s place, take it down, and grab the ship.”

“Is that all?” She asked aghast. “Probably the most heavily fortified place on the planet and he’s going to just let us walk in?”

“Davik is always looking for quality talent. As you saw down in the Wasteland, there isn’t much to be had on this backwater flyspeck. That was why he hired me. But he hired some bounty hunter-”

“Calo Nord.”

“That’s him. He thinks that because he kills retail, he’s as good as one of my people. Better than me!” He snarled. “I’d like to see a hundred of his kind take on just one battle phalanx of Mandalorian recruits!” He snarled, then the emotion was gone. “He watched the swoop race, and thought you looked like a good candidate, especially after the altercation with the Vulkars. He said that if I could contact you, he wanted to offer you a job. I’m just following orders. The way he works he‘ll offer for you to be his guest while he does a background check. If you clear, he hires you. If you don‘t.” He flicked his thumb across his neck.

“That might actually work. What about my friends?” I motioned upward.

“They can fly in after we get there. The shield extends to the elevators and landing bay. Once they come down, I can transmit the code to open them from outside. Your friends can land right on the pad beside the Ebon Hawk.”

Danika nodded. “All right, I’m in. When do we go?”

“Right now. I have a skimmer waiting.” He looked at me. “But I bring you, he’s going to be thinking credits big time. The reward has been jumped to 10,000 credits. You had better stay here.”

“But-”

“No. Danika shook her head. She touched the com on her wrist. “Carth?”

“We’re airborne. Headed for the estate.”

“Change of plans. You have to pick up Bastila. “ I considered. “The apartments at the West end of the promenade here. Home in on her com unit.”

“Next time let’s schedule all the stops first.” He laughed “Mission forgot to go to the bathroom before we left.” I heard Mission squeal at the comment in the background.

“Good. Listen in on my unit after picking up Bastila. Canderous is going to give us the code for Davik’s defensive shields.”

“Better and better. I’ll be there.”

They led me to the apartment complex, and Canderous blew out the window with his heavy blaster. A shuttle dropped down, and I could see Carth coolly gauging the distance. The hatch opened, and Zaalbar was standing there, waving. I leaped, and he caught me, dragging me aboard.

The last thing I saw was that frail form waving wordlessly once before she disappeared back into the structure.

Leviathan

Like a great killing fish, Leviathan swam over the planet. One of the largest ships ever built, the Interdictor cruiser was over 600 meters long, and carried a crew of almost 3000.

On the bridge, a man watched the planet below. Darth Malak was in a foul mood. If he had still had teeth he would have been gnashing them. A week wasted on this futile exercise!

Admiral Saul Karath came up behind him. He had seen Malak lash out at those that disturbed him when he was meditating, but he had after all been sent for.

“You summoned me, Lord Malak?”

“Report.”

“The men in the Undercity are being routed. We have already lost a hundred or more to those damnable Swoop riders. Who thought a gang of incompetent criminals could be this good at fighting?” He hesitated. “There is also a report that someone attacked our base in the Uppercity. Calan is among the dead.”

Malak didn‘t even flinch. One of those vying to be his apprentice had just died, and he didn’t seem to care. “I grow weary of this. Bastila is either dead, or down among the riders. I cannot risk letting her escape. I want the fleet to close in and destroy the planet.”

“Sir? But there are billions of innocent civilians down there! Not to mention our own men!” He knew as well as Malak that any attempt to withdraw the troops would be seen as clearing the planet for demolition.

Malak turned. His bald head glinted, but the gorget that covered his face below the eyes gleamed even more. “Your predecessor once questioned my orders, Admiral. I trust you are not making the same fatal mistake?”

Saul had seen that, the man gasping as his heart had torn from his chest into Malak’s hand. All without a word. “No my lord. However only we are in position to begin such a bombardment. It will take some time, several hours to move the others into an interlocking position.”

“Then I suggest you get to it.” Malak turned, dismissing his servant.

Estate

The run to the estate didn’t take that long. Canderous wasn’t the kind for unnecessary talk. He just sat there as the automated system took us to our destination. T3 had come with us, and he bleeped to himself. I looked at the screen.

-How do I get out of this crazy outfit? - I laughed, rubbing my hand across the dome. He burbled, and I looked at the screen again. -OH baby! Right on the sensor! -

“Behave.” I said.

The screen bleeped, and an automated voice said, “Inbound skimmer, state your authorization or be fired on.”

“Now.” He whispered leaning forward. “Authorization 9941210.”

I had keyed my com, and it tingled as Carth sent back a silent acknowledgement. The skimmer lifted, and entered a tower near the Western extreme of the city. It dropped to the deck, and powered down. We stepped out, passed through a door, and into a hall. Davik stood there. He was a chubby man in his fifties, hair slicked down. He wore what looked like a suit of heavy armor. “Well, if it isn’t the best swoop rider in twenty years!’ He said. He came forward, shaking my hand firmly. “I’ve seen what you can do and I am impressed.”

A man entered from behind Davik and I looked at him. Calo Nord. “Well, you usually work solo Canderous. Getting soft in your old age? Or did her face turn your head?”

“Watch your mouth, Calo.” Canderous gritted out. “You may be the newest hound in the pack but you’re not the top dog while I’m still here.”

“Guys, let it go. I can’t stand to see my two best men fighting.” He gave me a wry look as if to say ‘boys!’ “So you decided to accept my offer?”

“Let’s just say your offer intrigued me.” I replied.

“Fair enough. The Exchange is always looking for new talent. You could go far in the organization if you live up to expectations.” He looked at Canderous. “With Canderous’ recommendation and verification that you don’t really work for some law enforcement organization, you could easily become a valued member of the Exchange. There are those that would kill their mothers for such an offer.”

“The offer was interesting enough that I am here, Davik.”

“Well come along and I’ll show you around.” He motioned for me to walk beside him, leaving Canderous and Calo to follow. He did have a big operation. A warehouse full of goods from all over the galaxy, a room filled with guards and a dozen boxes of glitterstim spice from Kessel. And slaves. I wanted to vomit at that. The slaves looked pathetically willing to please, their slave collars explaining why they were so obedient. Finally we walked through the hanger. I had never seen a JT 4100 up close, and I wasn’t impressed at first glance. I know Carth had enthused about its capabilities, and was impressed by the guns in the turrets, one above and below, and larger bore cannon attached firing forward on her hull port and starboard. “There she is. The newly upgraded Ebon Hawk. Remind me to tell you how I got her later. It’s quite a story.” He led us through a large room that Davik called his ‘throne room‘, then into the guest wing.

“These are your accommodations while you are my guest. The house slaves are quartered right down there. If there’s anything you desire, food, drink,” He leered, ‘A massage, your wish is their command.”

“Am I a prisoner?”

“Perish the thought! Thanks to the law enforcement agencies we have been forced to use deeper background checks than we are used to. That forces us to make the applicants wait. At least I’m not a Hutt! They’d throw you in a dungeon and let you out afterward without even an apology!

“Once the background check is done, we’ll talk again. Then I will make you an offer. I would suggest you consider it very carefully when I do.” I could see the cold anger in his eyes. He wouldn’t like having someone turn down his offer! “Until then, I bid you farewell.” He motioned, and left, followed by Calo. The door hissed closed.

Canderous growled, then went to the table. He ripped it free of the floor, and slammed it into the wall.

“I’ve seen him treat his Kath-hounds better.” He snarled. “Well we’re inside. Ready?”

I nodded. I started to reach for my com, but he stopped me. “Davik has every circuit monitored. Any calls from here gets us killed right now.” I nodded again, and opened the door.

The hall was empty. “Which way?”

“Through the throne room, then left, down the hall to the main security computer, then we blow the door to the hanger, grab the ship and get out of here.”

“Where’s the nearest computer?”

He looked at me. “Turn right at the throne room. There’s a common terminal there.”

“Then we go there first. Hey, T3!” The little droid whistled. “Ready to do some more slicing?”

I looked at the screen. -Always ready-

We moved through the throne room. There were three guards in the room, and we took them down fast. T3 raced to the terminal, and a blaster bolt just missed singing him. I ran up, through the door that had opened on the right, and took down the guards there.

“T3, gas or zap any rooms you can! Then get the hanger door open!” I shouted.

The droid worked, then paused, giving a whistle and a few bleeps. -Rooms gassed, most of the life forms are dead. However the codes for the hanger door and access codes for the ship are not in this system-

“Who has them?”

-Davik Kang, Calo Nord, and a man named Hudrow-

“All right, we can’t get to Davik or Calo without entering the hanger, so there is no way to get to them. Where is Hudrow?”

-In the ‘guest room’ -

“Davik’s torture chamber.” Canderous explained. “What did he do to deserve that?”

“Where?”

Canderous led me into the throne room, turning right again. We were headed for the spice refinery. The door opened, and I was charging even before I saw the bounty hunter that was patrolling the hall. I killed him. Canderous watched with respect. “You sure you’re not aren’t Mando? Ever been a war bride?”

“No. You can explain it later. Where.” He pointed again to the right, and I ran that way. The door opened, and I stared in horror. A man was in a holding cell, and two torture droids were working on him. I charged, Canderous standing behind me to blast one of the droids as I cut the other into scrap. I disengaged the force field, and the man collapsed, gasping in pain.

“Thank you.” He gasped.

“I couldn’t let you be tortured.” I replied.

“Well I pay my debts. I don’t have money, but I do have something of value. I was the pilot of the Ebon Hawk. I have the codes for access to the Ebon Hawk. Hanger, security, all of it. You can take the ship, sell it, ransom it back to Davik.” He laughed. “Or go into business for yourself.”

I held up my pad. “What are they?”

He spoke, giving the code numbers. When he nodded that he was done, I hefted him to his feet. “You don’t want to be here!”

“I know that! Davik was going to kill me when I finished screaming. I’m out of here.”

Canderous was merely watching. “All right, we have what we came for. Let’s go!”

We had a number of rooms to go through, and we showed no mercy. The Exchange was brutal enough that these men would die rather than surrender or let us pass. I had to assure we had no one able to fight behind us.

We reached the security computer, and I entered the code. The monitor flashed HANGER BAY DOOR OPEN.

I ran to the door just as the building swayed. “An earthquake?”

“Nah. I think those lunatic Sith are blasting the city apart.”

The door opened, but we had just run out of luck. Davik and Nord entered from the other section of the estate. “Damn Sith are going to ruin everything! There’s a lot of money to be had here! We’d better get to our ships, Calo-” Davik saw us.

“Well, thieves in my hanger! I thought better of you Canderous.”

“If you did it wouldn’t have come to this, Davik”

“So you expect to just waltz in, steal my ship, and leave me here to die? Sorry, but that isn’t the way it’s going to be.”

“Leave him to me, Davik. I’ve been looking forward to it.” Calo said.

I threw a frag grenade at Calo, charging him. Better to die fighting him than the bombardment. I expected Canderous to support me, but he yelled, “T3!” And opened fire on Davik instead. The man went down in a welter of blood, and Calo backed away, grabbing something from his vest. I felt horror when I saw the thermal detonator in his fist. “I’m not going to hell alone!” He screamed. I skidded, falling.

The scream brought the house down literally. Actually it was a turbolaser bolt that blew through the supports, dropping a section ten meters on a side right on top of where Calo was standing less than half a meter from my legs.

Canderous ran up, “we gotta get out of here!”
I thumbed my com. “Carth!”

“Inbound! One hell of a storm out here!”

I ran to the side of the Ebon Hawk and stared at the distant towers.

The sky was raining fire. The city was being leveled by something they couldn’t defend against. I saw a structure hit far below. It shuddered, then like a forest giant it fell, taking smaller buildings with it. “Hurry!”

“Clear the path!” Suddenly I saw a shuttle coming toward us. Carth wasn’t slowing down. I yelped, dodging aside, and suddenly it was there, slamming into the pad as Carth hit the retros at the last second. The skids screamed, then ripped loose and the shuttle slammed to the deck on it‘s belly. It rammed into the wall, and I thought they were all dead. But the ramp opened, and Zaalbar was there. He carried a screaming Mission with him and up the ramp, followed by Bastila and Carth.

“Well, you coming?” Canderous shouted.

I thought of Zelka Forn, who wouldn’t leave his patients this side of their deaths. Gadon and his merry band of lunatics far below in their desperate fight. All the people I had talked to who were or might soon be dead. I wished them all well and flung myself up the ramp.


'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; 04-09-2006 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 04-09-2006, 01:05 PM   #33
Char Ell
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RE: the interdictor stuff - I agree that an interdictor in the SW universe is a type of ship that carries gravity well generators it can employ to pull ships out of hyperspace. It's just when I see people capitalize the first i in interdictor then I assume they are referring to a specific class of ship. For instance, the USS Enterprise and the USS Ronald Reagan are both aircraft carriers (same type) but are different aircraft carrier classes, respectively Enterprise-class and Nimitz-class. In the SW movies you have Venator-class and Imperial Star Destroyers. Both are attack cruisers but are based on different designs. Of course the same rules may not apply in the SW universe but like I said, this is only so much hair-splitting on my part. I just didn't see the Leviathan being of the same design as the movie-era Interdictor-class ships although it is a hyperspace interdictor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
“Okay, I give up. I’ll talk!” I sighed, and inside of me I felt a pustule of hate burst. “I could really use someone to talk to about it.” She watched me silently. “When I think of everyone who betrayed us, the one that stands out above all the others is Saul.”
The first passage is from Danika's POV, right? It seems like you switch to relating it from Carth's POV but don't indicate you've made that change anywhere. I had to read the first section's dialogue between Carth and Danika a couple of times before I figured it out.

Looking forward to more of the story!


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Old 04-09-2006, 01:24 PM   #34
machievelli
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Have you noticed that I have dinged people when they use improper military terminology? The reason you mentioned is precisely why. As I have mentioned in the critic column I read everything and the military has always been a specific interest.

As for the place you mentioned, congratulations! I didn't even notice that little error until you mentioned it. Have a Whatever prize. I have corrected 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 04-09-2006, 01:49 PM   #35
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Leviathan

Saul Karath walked up to report to Lord Malak. The ships of the fleet had closed their encirclement, and now hell reigned on that planet. They had started at the edges of the city and worked inward like a harvesting machine, slicing the buildings into ruin, then smashing even that rubble. The last report from the troops that had been sent into the Undercity was a call that they might have trapped the Swoop gang in the sewers when a bolt had obliterated the entire unit. Someone down there has been able to get parts of the planetary defense grid up even through the lockdowns the invaders had installed. That merely drew fire to the protected areas. Others had overwhelmed the guards on the docking bays, and dozens of ships were airborne, heading out.

Not that they had a chance really. If they hadn’t already been confiscated, and their pilots given the access codes, they were dead meat. A yacht that cost more than Karath had ever made in his lifetime drew fire from two ships, and pin wheeled back into the atmosphere, burning as friction finished the kill.

“Report Admiral.”

“Taris is defenseless against our assault. They are offering no resistance. The city is in ruins.”

“Maintain the bombardment. I want this pathetic planet wiped from the Galaxy.”

“Yes, my lord.” He turned and hurried back to his command console. Three of the ships frantically climbing away from the carnage were marked with the green of friendly ships. Two were shuttles returning from the fighting bearing wounded. But the third...

He highlighted it, and brought up the scan information. Mass 200 tons, speed- He blinked. All of the faster ships had been commandeered as couriers. This was faster than anything he had seen in the reports. It should already be in service. But where had it been hiding? He brought up its flight path. Ah yes, the Crime Boss, Davik. He must have had this hidden near his estates.

Then his blood ran cold. If Kang’s people had been the ones that had broken into the base, they might have stolen the launch codes. If they had, this was Kang and some of his people trying to escape. He switched to his com system, and painted the second squadron. The fighters had been having a field day, protected by their IFF they had already destroyed a dozen ships. The Second squadron had just started to engage some of the ships that were fleeing, and weren’t too deeply enmeshed.

“This is command.” He ordered. “Ship with proper access codes. Believed to have been captured. Destroy it.” He marked the ship with a circle of red.

Half of the squadron lifted away from their attack runs, moving first to rejoin, then they turned, and boosted their speed. They would catch the ship in seconds.


Ebon Hawk

Danika

Space was as much a hell of fire as the planet. We could see other ships around us being blasted into shards, see the fire of the ships from orbit tearing into them, or into the planet. A pair of fighters had shot past us to savage what looked like a cargo ship. Communications was a mad house. Signals overlapping because everyone was using the same channels. Calls by ships begging the chance to surrender, angry replies from fighter pilots coming in for the kill, and over it all, pleas from people on the ground begging for their lives. I squeezed my eyes closed as tears flowed.

Carth was silent, his hands on the controls. We weaved through the mass until we were free. Only the massive ships of the line were in front of us now. He rammed the throttle to the stops, and Ebon Hawk lived up to her reputation. She leaped into a flat out run that shocked me.

A destroyer fired at us, but it missed. Her actual target, a ground shuttle someone had somehow gotten into space ripped into pieces.

“I didn’t ask before, but where are we headed?” Carth asked. He lowered the nose, and Ebon Hawk ran between the destroyer and a frigate. We were clear of the planet and close orbit, but that merely meant that anyone shooting outward instead of inward had only the one target.

“Set course for Dantooine! There’s a Jedi enclave there, and we can seek refuge.” Bastila ordered.

“Take the controls!” He shouted.

“Got it!”

Carth spun, his hands running over the hyper drive controls. An alarm sounded, and he looked up. “Fighters coming through the grid, on our butts.”

Bastila looked back at me. “Take the upper gun turret! Keep them off us until we can leap into hyper drive!” She spun as I ran aft. “Canderous! Take the lower turret!”

I reached the ladder, and climbed. The turret was in zero G, which made climbing into the chair easier. I buckled in, flicking the line of switches that brought the targeting system on line. Everything was automatic, I had done this on ships throughout my career. There was a mass of red dots approaching fast from astern. I unlocked the traverse, and pulled the handles, spinning the turret to aim behind us. “Ready!” I shouted.

“Ready.” Canderous drawled. I checked the scan data. They were right there! I saw them even as I began firing. A fighter exploded, and the ship shuddered as they made their pass, bolts rocking us. I spun the turret to follow, a second fighter rolling frantically as a near miss clipped a control surface. It dived to get away from me, and Canderous blasted it to scrap. The forward firing guns joined mine as I continued the spin, and fired at the four remaining fighters as they swooped outward like scraps of metal from an explosion. As units they made larger targets. But as individuals, they had more options.

I spotted one swooping toward our stern, and spun the turret. I estimated its speed, deflected my aim, and fired. The fighter exploded. I spun back, lifted the guns and caught another as it began its run. I saw another dot vanish, Canderous was covering his area. The last was wary. We were a little too deadly for him to attack, but he had his orders. He charged in from starboard, staying exactly on our centerline. Both of us fired at him, but he came in until he was too close for the guns to bear. A good pilot could maintain that, only turning to fire and turn back out immediately. It was tricky, but I had heard of some that good. But there was a counter.

“Bastila, hard to starboard 90 degrees on my mark... Mark!”

She did as I instructed. The fighter turned into us, bolts shattering some of the hull metal, and was gone. Unfortunately for him he turned to his starboard side, toward our bow even as Bastila made the turn. The forward firing guns ravened as he flew into their zone, and the fighter blew into scrap.

“Ready for hyper jump!’ Carth shouted, and I felt the surge as the hyper drive cut in. The stars became for an instant lines etched in the sky, then there was the swirling glow of hyperspace.


Ebon Hawk:

Enroute to Dantooine

We were all stunned by what we had seen. Even Carth who had seen it before. Planets have been bombed into rubble before, but that had been when active resistance was being suppressed. Taris wasn’t resisting the attack. The com waves had been frantic with calls pleading for them to stop but the Sith had kept firing.

All because of us.

Mission was hit hard. In the day and a half it took for us to reach Dantooine, she didn’t speak to anyone. Zaalbar had taken her in his bosom, and had sat through that entire time merely holding her, being there in her grief. The picture of that poor child hunched against the furry chest, eyes wide with pain and shock will haunt me for the rest of my life.

There was nothing the rest of us could do. She didn’t want to hear how they had gone to the Force. That they would be avenged, or maybe they had lived. She wanted the world back the way it had been the day she had met us. Like any child who has just lost everything she cared about, she wanted it back.

We couldn’t give her that.

Carth was flying us, with Bastila assisting. I couldn’t pilot so I haunted the ship as we tunneled through space. Canderous had moved into one of the cargo holds, and was tinkering with his weapon. Only one thing was on my mind.

Malak. What kind of madman were we dealing with? The problem was that in war you always demonize the enemy. He’s always a brutal monster that kills without compunction while your men were superior because their hearts were pure. As a soldier I knew better. The enemy you faced was you in a different uniform mostly. Sure there were monsters over there, but if you watched those around you there were monsters on your side as well. Those that would take it too far, kill without reason, enjoy the deaths of the enemy.

War is mankind at his best and worst. Best because She finds something beyond herself to care about, defends those that depend on her even unto death. Worst because sometimes the beast in all of us gets free, and won’t go back into its cage afterward.

I checked the computer files aboard but there was nothing about the war at all except for planets to be avoided. Davik Kang obviously had been indifferent to the slaughter. After seeing some of the files of ‘items’ sent to slavers, or opponents within the Exchange removed I understood. If he wasn’t dealing the pain or feeling it personally, it didn’t exist.

Bastila probably knew, but she was uncommunicative. She would watch me with hooded eyes when she left the flight deck. Almost as if she were afraid of me.

Finally I took a cup of tea to Carth. He nodded his thanks, leaned back, and sipped it. “Take a load off.” He waved at the copilot’s chair. I sat, made sure the controls were not active, and sipped my own tea.

“What do you know about Malak?”

He looked at me. “Malak and Revan were Jedi, you know that, right?” I nodded. “Well we were deep into the Mandalorian wars. The Jedi had been asked for help but they had refused.” He shrugged as if that was no surprise. “But some of them didn’t like the Council’s ruling. A few led by Revan joined us. Malak was Revan’s right hand man. They spread out among the fleet, and almost immediately things changed. Before that it was like the Mandalorians were everywhere, hitting us from all sides. But those few people made us see the pattern.

“They made mistakes at first. Revan took a fleet to catch a Mandalorian one at a place called Hotma. But when she did, the enemy fleet had jumped from Hotma to Kando, where Revan was based. So she arrived, found the base empty, and smashed it, then returned to find her own base destroyed.”

I understood the concept. In military parlance it was called being overtaken by events. The enemy was supposed to be here, so you went there. But you didn’t know they were moving, so you missed each other.

“She got better fast though.” He sighed. “When she hit her stride, the Mandalorians didn’t have a chance. She always had Malak close at hand. Maybe she saw Malak for what he was.”

“Which was?”

“A hardheaded pragmatist. Watching them work alone was interesting. Revan was like a sniper. Picking her targets and taking them down fast with minimal damage. But when the going got tough, she let Malak have his head. If Revan was a sniper, Malak was more like a Gamorrean, smashing everything in his path to his goal. He lost a lot of his own people, but he decimated the enemy as he did it. He never settled in battle for anything but absolute victory. If a garrison resisted, he bombed them into submission. If he wanted it, nothing could keep him from it.” His face hardened as he remembered that Malak was now the enemy. “When Revan was still there, even when she had turned to the Sith, she had remained the same. She didn’t smash entire planets unless there was no alternative. She kept Malak on his leash, only letting him out when all else failed. Since Revan’s death Malak has changed. He became even more brutal. It was like someone had stripped the governor on an engine. The Sith have been following his lead, and picked up the pace ever since.”

The Sith had been a problem for several Millennia. Originally I knew, they had been a race, a violently xenophobic race. They had hit us hard back then, killing anyone that stood in their paths. It was one series of wars the Jedi had gotten into willingly, because the Sith had been strong in the Force. Finally they had been beaten back, the race almost destroyed. But the problems had not stopped there. The nihilistic worldview the Sith had enjoyed must have been catching. A number of Jedi had split off from the others, and left abruptly, seeking the remains of the Sith. They had settled on a planet named Korriban, which had been smashed, occupied by the Sith, smashed again, then left fallow for almost two centuries. The Jedi had proclaimed themselves the New Sith. The actual Sith that had still lived there hadn’t been amused and considering the carnage these Dark Jedi and the Sith were inflicting on themselves, the planet had been pretty much been left alone by everyone else.

But that had not ended the problem either. The Sith race was long gone, but others had gone there, and now the Sith, albeit only those that believed the old ideals had struck again a millennia ago. They were beaten, regrouped, and struck again in a pattern that has lasted now for over a thousand years. Yet another Jedi expatriate had led the last Sith war before this one. Exar Kun had left, become the dark Jedi master, and become Darth Kun, the first time the title had ever been used. He had ravaged the galaxy, and been put down as those before him had. His base had been smashed into ruins, and the Republic had again turned its eyes back to the business of living.

This was the result.

“I saw Revan in my vision. She was wearing some kind of mask. Why?”

“Rumors abound.” Carth commented. “Some said that she had been disfigured when she was young. Others that she was an attractive woman and had problems dealing with people as a Jedi because of that.” He grinned. “Sort of like you and me when we first got together.”

“Maybe I’ll get a mask then.”

“Oh, don’t do that.” He teased. “Then I’ll have to ask what make up you put on that day.”

I shook my head. “I am going aft before your fantasies get the better of you.”


Dantooine

We came out near Dantooine, about two planetary diameters away, as close as you can get safely. No one really knows where or when the hyperspace drive was developed. About 22,000 years ago, it just appeared, discovered in ancient ruins on dozens of worlds. Everyone would like to claim the credit, but even a hyperspace physicist can’t explain exactly how it works. It’s like electricity. For the layman, you flip a switch and it’s there. But it worked, and with the proper astronavigation calculations, you can go anywhere. But here you immediately ran into problems. You had to first find out where to go before you could go anywhere. Each planet that had discovered the drives in ruins tried. A lot of them gave up after a time. Others kept at it with bloody-minded persistence until they discovered the corridors that exist today. It’s like the old man everyone had heard of that when asked for directions, replies, ‘You can’t get there from here‘.

Hyperspace also has quirks. There are half a dozen paths that are easier to travel for some reason. They bridge the galaxy.

Hyperspace travel is like nothing else. There are 100 billion stars in the galaxy, but only about three quarters of a million are accessible to date. Unless you want to slow-boat it at less than light speed, or use a light cannon system, which required that you build one on the other end before you return, you don’t go anywhere unless there’s a hyperspace corridor. They spent almost 4,000 years doing it that way before hyper drive. That is why Humans are so wide spread.

Scouting new routes is the most dangerous job in the galaxy. A mathematician would do the math, sometimes taking decades, then submit it to the local planetary government, or back when the Republic government was in charge, the Republic Survey Department, and eventually a ship would be sent to try the new equations. Out of every ten ships that try, only one succeeds. Of the others some make it back, others disappear. Corridors don’t care about something as thin as a star’s core, but the people in the ship get fried anyway. Getting too close to a planet on arrival is only one of the problems you face. Most of those deaths come when the gravitation of the planet, star etc, drags you out of hyperspace, usually too close to get away.

Around two centuries ago, the Republic had quietly gotten out of the Survey business. It just wasn’t cost effective. There were already a few hundred thousand planets, some of them virgin terrain, and the population hadn’t grown enough yet to make it vital, so the Republic instead handed it over to Corporations. They could deduct the expenses from their taxes, and didn’t care about the piddling losses of a hundred men or so a decade.

But when they found a new world, the return could be fantastic. In the last century a planet named Kessel had been discovered. The company that had done so almost sold it to the Republic for a weapons test facility, but some enterprising young vice president sent a survey team down onto the planet itself. He found the energy spiders, and took samples of their web for analysis. Those webs, made of Glitterstim, had catapulted him to a presidency and the company into a major contender.

“Dantooine.” Bastila sighed. “It seems like a lifetime since I last set foot on her surface though in truth it has only been a few months. We should be safe here from Malak. For now at least.”

“Safe! You saw what his fleet did to Taris! There wasn’t a building over five meters tall when they finished! They turned the planet into one massive pile of rubble, and Dantooine, with no defense at all, will be safe?”

“Even the Sith would think twice about attacking Dantooine, Carth. There are many Jedi here, including several of the most powerful Jedi masters of the Order. There is great strength in this place.”

For some reason, the view of the planet was like a cooling shower to me. “Bastila is right that we need to stop somewhere. This feels, peaceful somehow.”

Carth snorted. Any amity he had felt for me had evaporated again.

“If nothing else we can resupply and recuperate here. The Academy is a place of mental and spiritual peace. Something we can all use after what we have been through.” Bastila pressed.

Carth shook his head, closing his eyes tightly. “Maybe you’re right. It isn’t easy to watch the annihilation of an entire population. Mission is still taking it pretty hard.”

“She will find a way to work through her grief.” Bastila replied tartly. “She is stronger than she appears. We just need to give her time.”

We called approach control, and were directed to a landing pad inside the Jedi Academy itself. I was astonished how mundane the evolution was. A brisk young man on the ground had directed us, no fighters came to check us out, no guns I could see tracked us. It was like there wasn’t a war going on.

The Jedi Academy had been built by the standards of the planet, meaning it was burrowed into an existing hillside and set up within it. In this case the center had been hollowed out, and a glorious tree grew in the courtyard that had been created. The landing pad had also been dug out, the berm stabilized so that if something happened and the ship blew up, the energy would be directed mostly upwards. Other trees had been grown here, making it look as if we had landed in a small park.

Bastila had spent the descent in the communications room with the circuits locked so we couldn’t listen in. I didn’t care. The mission was over. I was ready for some R&R and then back to the front.

The ship settled down, and I could hear metal ticking as it cooled. Bastila came forward. “I must go and speak with the Jedi Council. I need their advice on... recent developments.” I could tell she wanted to look at me, but she stared at Carth. “After I have met with them, I will contact you. The local authorities have instructed that no one is to leave the ship until I return. However the quartermaster of the Republic supply center is awaiting you list of our needs.”

“Friendly place.” Carth snorted. He got on the com, and began listing what we needed. I went aft. Mission was sitting alone for once. I could hear noises from the engine room. Knowing the Wookiee, he was happily at work tuning the engines. He had been complaining about tuner flutter for the last day.

I walked over, got a cup of tea, and brought one to her. She stared at it, then up at me. “Sorry I’ve been out of it the last couple of days.” She stared at the cup. “I was just thinking about Taris. I can’t believe it’s gone!” She looked at me, begging for understanding. “I mean, I grew up there! I remember the old man who ran the sausage booth, the woman that sold clothes that were only ten years out of date. Now, it’s-it’s just gone!” The last was said as if she had seen someone disappear from a street, and never returned.

I motioned toward a chair, and she nodded. I sat, sipping my own tea. “I’m sorry, Mission. I don’t know what to say.”

She shrugged. “I don’t think there really is anything you can say. I just have to find some way to deal with it, I guess. It’ll take some time.”

I watched her, and she looked at me, and got defensive. “Look, it’s not like I’m saying I can’t go on or anything like that. It’s just, a shock, you know? I mean I’d heard horror stories about how evil the Sith are but the reality of it kind of slaps you in the face.

“But that’s why we need to stop Malak, right? The more time I spend dwelling on Taris, the closer it comes for someone else. If I can stop just one person from feeling what I am feeling, I’ll die happy. So stop worrying about me. I’ll be okay. And I don’t care what I have to do, if I can help bring down Malak, just let me know.”

I knew she wanted to end it there, but we hadn’t had time to really talk, and the girl made me feel better. Talking so blithely about death had bothered me. “We haven’t really talked before, Mission. Tell me about yourself.”

“Me?” She chuckled, and I smiled. She was healing after all. “You want to know about me? Nobody’s ever really been interested in me!” She seemed delighted.

“Carth talked to you-”

No. The geezer talked at me, not to me. Even when all I was to you was some kid, you talked to me. What do you want to know?”

“How did you and Zaalbar get together?”

“Big Z is my family, you know? My parents, well I think they’re dead. I haven’t seen them since I was really little. It was just me on my own until the day I saw Big Z in the Lowercity. I could tell right away he was in trouble.

“This was before the gang wars got out of hand but even then the Vulkars were slime. A few of them were hassling Big Z, trying to goad him into a fight. But he’s really a big teddy bear, he didn’t want to fight.”

“What kind of fool tries to provoke a Wookiee?”

“Hey, no one ever said the Vulkars were smart. But there were three of them. I think they might have figured they could take him if they had to. Anyway, I don’t like the Vulkars even on their best day. I’d sounded them out about joining the gang, this was before Brejik was in charge, you see, and they told me that when I filled out,” She motioned to her chest. “They’d think about it. That really ticked me off.

“When I saw them picking on this poor defenseless Wookiee, new and all alone on a strange planet, I just lost it! I screamed, ‘Hey! Leave him alone you core slimes!’ and charged them. One of them saw me coming, and he belted me one good. He hit me so hard I just about lost consciousness.”

“Striking a child?”

“Who you calling a child? I’m fourteen!”

I lifted my mug pretending to sip to hide my smile. This meant she had charged three adults when she was only eleven or so. She had courage at least.

“Those Vulkar didn’t scare me. They’re cowards, always have been. They see their own blood, and they run bleating home to mama. I was going to deal with them, but I never got the chance. I guess Big Z didn’t like seeing me smacked because he grabbed the guy who hit me, and held him a meter off the floor by the neck.”

What did the others do?”

“Like I said, cowards. They ran screaming. Can’t blame them, really. The first time you see an irate Wookiee up close, it makes an impression you don’t forget. I saw it and it isn’t a pretty sight. I’m just glad he wasn’t mad at me right then. I thought Zaalbar was going to rip that punk’s arms off, and beat him to death with the wet ends. The Vulkar was so scared he wet himself and fainted. Or maybe Big Z’s breath knocked him out.

“I keep telling him to brush those choppers of his, but do you think he listens? Just stand downwind when he talks, and you miss most of it.

“Anyway, I knew those Vulkars would gather up a really serious group to take him down, so I dragged him away.

“We’ve been together ever since. We’re one hell of a team. We look out for each other, You know?”

I pictured an eleven-year-old Twi-lek a little over a meter tall towing a two and a half meter Wookiee as if she were a tugboat. I nodded. “How did Zaalbar end up on Taris?”

“All he ever said was there was trouble on his home world of Kashyyyk, and he had to leave. If you haven’t noticed, he’s not a motor mouth. He’s the strong and silent type. Don't matter though. We don’t pay attention to the past, it detracts from the now.”

“How did you survive before you met Zaalbar?”

“What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’m the damsel in distress like a historical drama? I got street smarts, I learned to take care of myself. In fact more times than not it’s me getting him out of trouble. You know, Big Z is really gullible. If I wasn’t there, he’d have bought the Senate tower or something.”

I laughed. “Now he has a purpose, as do you. To beat this.”

“Yep. It’s like I used to tell my brother ‘fast talk and slick banter don’t get the job done’.”

“Brother?” I looked at her. Suddenly she was wishing she was the silent type. “Mission, you have a brother?”

“Hey! My brother is something I don’t talk about okay? He’s a touchy subject. If it’s all the same to you, let’s just leave him out of every thing we ever talk about!” She stood, taking the empty cup with her. A moment later she came back in, and slid it in the sanitizer. Then she walked back 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 04-10-2006, 05:28 PM   #36
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I love it. almost 50 hits in 36 hours, and NO comments.

Sigh. Well you did read it so...


'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 04-10-2006, 05:42 PM   #37
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Jedi Council

Carth

We expected a couple of hours, but it wasn’t until noon the next day that Bastila finally signaled for us to let her back aboard.

“I have spoken briefly with the Council. Danika, they have requested an audience with you. We should go at once.”

“An audience, and not even a command performance? And making it for someone that isn’t even a Jedi? That’s pretty unusual for Jedi under even the best of circumstances.” I was gathering up my weapons. “Any idea what this is about Bastila?”

“I am sorry, Carth, but I can’t tell you, and you are not invited. I ask you to please just trust in the force and the Council.”

I glared at her, then threw the holstered weapons back down. “The same force and Jedi council that gave us Revan and Malak? What type of spice have you been sniffing?”

She looked at me until I looked away. “I don’t like being left out of the loop, but I’m not looking to get you in trouble with the council, Bastila. We’ll do things your way, this time.”

“Come, I will escort you to the council chamber.”

Danika shrugged helplessly. She had changed into some clothes we had brought aboard, but she still carried the Echani Brand and a holstered blaster. I watched them off the ship, then went to find something to beat on, or fix.

Danika

Stepping off onto the surface of Dantooine for the first time was like slipping into bed as a child. Everything felt comfortable and soft. I almost hugged myself. The docking area was cleared except for two Blba trees. These had been dethorned by the council, because the natural life cycle of the tree included the local carnivorous snails, and they were a pest in dwellings.

Bastila and I walked together, pacing in rhythm. The dreams about her had stopped, but I still felt uncomfortable. It was like someone had taken my life and turned it into an entertainment drama without my consent. She was more silent than usual. I wanted to ask her why, but I felt she would refuse to answer.

The entryway had a massive blast door and the hall beyond jogged sharply right then left at the other end. Simple safety precautions. If a ship exploded, it might blow the door to hell, but even if the door stood open as it did now the hall would act as a blast channel to slow it before it reached the living areas.

Everywhere there was a bustle of movement. Children streamed in laughing crowds from room to room, shepherded by older men and women in Jedi garb, the ubiquitous robes they always wore. I later discovered that while it looked crowded, it wasn’t. There were fifty of the order here, About fifteen Masters, the same number of young students, and the remainder were Padawans.

There was room for three times that number.

Padawan is an indistinct title. A trained Jedi, but one who wasn’t yet considered a master. Most of them were still in training, just learning the basics of their craft. I would only learn the nuances of the title much later.

We came into the courtyard, and the massive Blba tree there rose ten meters over our heads.

“You there, Padawan!” A sharp voice called. I looked to the speaker She was a woman younger than Bastila. She stormed over to me glaring. “Why are you not robed? Do you mock the honored traditions of our order?” Bastila shook her head wryly and walked on, leaving me to the girl.

“I don’t know what you mean.” I replied. “I am not a Padawan. I am a guest, Danika Wordweaver. I am here with Bastila.”

“Bastila! I have heard of her. They say she has already mastered the art of battle meditation. Remarkable in one so young. Though I have also heard that she has a foolish pride in that accomplishment.” Since she was about three years younger than Bastila, I took that more as envy than anything else.

“But as for you. You claim you are not a Jedi? I find this hard to believe. The Force is strong within you, I can feel its presence. If this is some kind of jest take heed! The masters will not allow the order to be ridiculed.”

“I didn’t even know what the word Padawan meant before I came here.” I replied. “I have no reason to jest with you, or lie to you.” I let a touch of irritation creep into my voice.

She sensed it, and regarded me with hooded eyes. “Please forgive the abruptness of my greeting.” I could tell from her tone that the apology was pro forma. “It was harsh and perhaps unfair. My master often warns me I must learn to control my emotions. I see I have much left to learn. I wish you a pleasant stay among us, Guest Danika. May the Force be with you.”

I nodded, and walked on. I wouldn’t let some child irritate me. Bastila rejoined me. “I could have used a little help there.”

“Why? You handled it well. And Belaya does need to learn to control her temper.”
“You know her?”

“Know of her. She just became a Padawan last year. They want to have her more seasoned before releasing her on the galaxy.”

“Maybe they should marinate her instead.” Bastila choked back a giggle. Suddenly in my mind the dreams came back in full force. What was happening?

There were four Masters awaiting us. Two were human, one Twi-lek, the last a race I had never seen before. He was short, not even a meter tall, green skinned, with wide mouth, expressive eyes, and ears that flicked about as he talked. Vandar Tokare’s race has been among the Republic for as long as the Jedi order has existed, but no one knows what their race is called, or where they are from. All of his answers were the same as every one of the race since they had joined us. He said they called themselves the people, which means exactly nothing. If you look up the root languages of the Republic, you will see ‘the people’ is what all of them call themselves, with minor variations. He said they came from the planet Dirt, which also means little. Every version of language and race throughout the Galaxy calls their home planet ‘the dirt from which we came’. But he spoke Basic, slightly changed by the way his mind worked, and never spoke his native tongue.

The Twi-lek motioned for us to join them. The council room was large enough to hold everyone of the order on Dantooine at present. They were standing, not seated as if in judgment. But somehow I knew they were judging me.

“Ah, so you are the one that rescued Bastila. It is appropriate that you are here for this discussion.” His voice was deep and mellifluous. His basic clean and precise. “After all, we had been discussing your rather... special case. I am Zhar Lestin of the Jedi Council. With me are Master Vrook Lamar, Master Vandar Tokare, and of course the chronicler of our Academy, Master Dorak. Padawan Bastila I am sure you already know.” I nodded to each in turn. Vandar watched me as if I was an amusing pet, but it didn’t bother me as much as you might think. Vrook glared at me as if I had come in half dressed. Dorak merely looked at me coolly. I later found that he had a perfect photographic memory, and would record exactly what happened afterward. They all stood there, as if waiting for me to speak.

“What does the Council wish of me?” I asked.

Zhar motioned to Bastila. “Bastila tells us you are strong in the Force. Under the present circumstances, we have been considering you for Jedi training.”

My mind reeled. “Strong in the Force?”

“Master Zhar speaks out of turn perhaps.” Master Vrook bit off. “We need indisputable proof of your strong affinity to the force before we would even consider you for training.” I looked to Vrook. If anything his animosity was growing. For a moment, I thought maybe he actually hated me but I set that thought aside. I had known drill instructors in boot camp that were the same, always angry, never satisfied. When everything went to hell, it was them you thanked because they were the ones that never allowed any slack.

“Proof!” Bastila was outraged. “Surely the entire Council can feel the strength of the Force in this woman! And I have already related the events that took place on Taris.”

Vrook shook his head. “Perhaps it was simple luck.”

Master Vandar looked up at the man. “Master Vrook, we both know that there is no luck. There is only the Force. We all feel the power that flows from this woman, even though it is wild and untamed. Now that this power has manifested itself, can we safely ignore it?”

Vrook was adamant. “The Jedi training is long and hard, even when working with the open mind of a child. Teaching a child is hard, how much harder will it be with an adult mind already set in its ways?”

“Masters, I consider this a great honor.” I said. They all looked at me as if they expected the next word to be ‘but’. “I do not know if I am ready for this, but if you believe I can learn, I will try my best.”

“There is no try. You do or do not.” Vandar piped.

“Master Vrook, traditionally the Jedi do not accept adults for training, this much is true.” Dorak interjected in his dry pedantic way. “There however have been exceptions in the history of our order. In each it has come down to one such as her.” He motioned toward me. “A special case.”

“I agree with master Dorak.” Vandar said. “The times are hard, and we must be ready to face that. Many of our own students across the galaxy have left to learn the ways of the Sith instead. The order needs numbers, and if the recruits must be older than is customary, we must consider the need. To stand against Malak we must have strength. Since Revan died-”

“Are you certain Revan is truly dead?” Vrook roared. He glared at Bastila, who looked away. “What if we were to undertake training this one, and the Dark Lord should return?”

Vandar looked up at the man calmly. “Such is not for the ears of anyone save the Council, Master Vrook. Bastila, take your companion back to the ship. Tomorrow morning we will speak with her again.”

Bastila bowed wordlessly. I echoed the bow and followed.

“I thought Revan was dead.”

She merely shook her head.


Acceptance

The room was stone, the separate blocks locked together in a manner that suggested not only cutting, but the Force as well somehow. Doors opened, and air screamed into it as the pressure equalized. Two figures entered, and I wafted toward them. One was huge, head shaved, and male. The other was smaller, slimmer, wrapped in a flowing robe, with a mask. I felt a chill. Revan! That meant the other, young, handsome, unblemished, was Malak.

“Can you feel it, Revan?” Malak raised his arms as if embracing the entire room. “I can feel the Dark side here, stronger than you have ever imagined!”

“We do not have time for this.” Revan replied. Her voice sounded familiar somehow. “If the text we read is correct, there is a key to the survival of the Republic in this place. That is why we are here.”

“Yes. Forgive me, my old friend.”

Revan waved forward. “Come. It is beyond that door.” I turned unbidden, and there was a door that looked like a solid block. “Yes, it is here.” She whispered. Her hands came down, and I felt the force run through them, slamming into the door. It began to open-


I snapped upright in my bed. I knew the room they had been on was just a few kilometers away from where I was. How I don’t know. They had sought something of great strength. To protect the Republic, Revan had said. But Malak had felt only the Dark side there. They had instead found something that had brought about the war we were fighting. Something so steeped in the darkness that no sane person would consider using it. But Revan had not cared.

I couldn’t get to sleep after that. When I finally arose, Bastila was already gone. Carth and Canderous were off getting the supplies we had requested, Mission and Zaalbar were back in the engine with T3 kibitzing. I drank my morning tea, and tried to wake up. The meeting was- I looked at the chrono. Supposed to be in a few minutes.

I stepped out into the crisp morning air. A lifter had just landed, and droids were moving crates from it. Carth saw me, and shook his head. “This morning is getting stranger by the minute. The quartermaster didn’t even quibble about what we needed. That‘s a switch. Then Bastila left looking like she’d seen a ghost. She did say you should go to the Council chamber without her when you got up. I think it’s important.” He snorted. “So you shouldn’t keep them waiting.”

“Did she say anything else?”

“No she didn’t. She didn’t look well as I recall. For that matter, neither do you. Are you alright?”

“I had a rough night.” I told him. I walked away.

The Council was already there, as was Bastila. They stopped talking as I walked in, and Zhar motioned for me to join them.

Vandar looked up at me. “Bastila has told us of a most unusual development. She claims you and she shared a dream. A vision of Malak and Revan in one of the ancient ruins right here on Dantooine.” He tapped his cane on the ground for emphasis. I was stunned. I had thought I was alone in that dream!

Dorak coughed delicately. “These ruins have long been known. After all, the Academy has been here since Master Vodo-Siosk Baas established it a century ago. It has been believed all this time that they were merely ancient burial mounds. But it seems that they are more than that if Revan and Malak found something of such power there.”

“Yes.” Suddenly the dream returned in full force. “They were looking for something. Something they had read about in the ancient records here.”

“Bastila has described this shared dream to us in great detail. We feel that this is more than a mere dream. It is a vision. The Force is acting through you, and at the same time, is working through Bastila as well.” Vandar continued.

I looked at Bastila. She looked haggard. I must have looked as bad. “I see no answer than to trust in your wisdom, Master.”

“You and Bastila share a powerful connection to the Force. Through the Force, you also share a powerful connection to each other.” Zhar took up the narrative. “This is not unheard of. Connections such as this can form between master and apprentice. Between friends who learn together, between lovers even.” I blushed at that. I hadn’t told them about the earliest dreams. “But it is rare for them to form so quickly.”

“From what we see whatever dangers lie ahead, we can no longer ignore the destiny that brought you and Bastila, to us at this time together.” Vandar said softly. He looked up at Vrook who was ignoring him. That man’s eyes were locked on me.

“Then you are saying that we are joined together somehow. That a bond I do not understand has been formed.” I said, still reeling. Suddenly I heard the words again, but now it was Bastila’s voice. Bond with me.

“You and she are linked as is your fates by this bond as you call it. But this is something we can use. This link may be what is needed to defeat Malak and the Sith.” Vandar explained.

“But don’t let thoughts of power and glory fill your head.” Vrook snapped. “Such thoughts are sure paths to the Dark side. The way of the light is long and hard. It is like climbing a mountain. Sure you can stay at the bottom, but that is the Dark side in all its strength. Sure you can climb up a way, then give up, but that can lead to the Dark as well, for the Dark never gives up on dragging you down. Or you can fall as many have. To reach the light you must climb and never allow yourself to make a mistake that sends you crashing down again. Are you ready for such an undertaking?”

“I can only do my best not to fail.“ I looked at Master Vandar. After his first comment, I had found another way to say it.

He looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye. “You must understand that there is little choice in this decision. For you, or for us. Across the Galaxy our numbers dwindle at an alarming rate. We have had to send many Jedi on quests to find that which we can use to stop Malak and the Sith. Most have not returned.

“The Sith as well know what we must do. They hunt our brothers like animals, striking from ambush, or by assassination wherever they are found. We feel that it is only a matter of time until they discover this hidden refuge, and destroy it as well.” I suddenly pictured the hell rain I had witnessed, seeing the Academy falling in ruins, the Jedi in windrows, unable to strike back from the ground. I was terrified by it.

“Others of our order have fallen from the light, or turned from it willingly.” Vrook’s face was a mask, and again I felt his hate directed at me. “They have given their allegiance to Malak and the Sith.”

“Jedi leave the order to join them?”

Vrook snorted. “Where do you think the Dark Jedi within their ranks come from? The lure of the dark side, of learning rapidly what we know must be taught more slowly calls to these weak ones. Malak’s power grows as more planets fall to his armies, make agreements to surrender, or swear themselves ally. And those of our order who cannot stand the chance of losing run to him instead of fighting.”

“Yes.” Zhar cast a warning glance at Vrook. “If Malak is not stopped, the Republic will fall. The Sith will never stop trying to hunt us down, for in all the Galaxy, only the light can confront the darkness. If the Jedi are no more, the Galaxy will fall into the dark times before the Republic existed again. A time of Darkness and tyranny that has not been seen for a thousand generations.”

They all looked thoughtful at that. Vandar broke the silence. “The Council has decreed that if you are willing to undertake it, you have a mission that can be handled only by you and Bastila. You must investigate the ruins you dreamt of once the Council deems you ready.”

“Yes.” Dorak said. “Perhaps you will find something there, some clue, that can explain how Revan and Malak were corrupted. Perhaps a way to stop Malak at last. As you go, I shall be going through the ancient archives of the order. You say they found the clues that led them there in our own records. If it is there, I shall find it!”

“I’m ready to go now.“ I considered what weapons I would need. Bastila could cover my back with her lightsaber and Force abilities. I was considering taking T3 with us when Vandar interrupted my thoughts. “Your bravery does you credit, but an untrained person in the force, entering such a place would be a danger we will not countenance. First you must be trained in the ways of the Jedi. You must learn to resist the darkness within you, which resides within all of us. Otherwise you are doomed to fail before you have even begun.”

I wanted to scream that there wasn’t time. That Malak would be knocking on the door with a 100-megawatt turbo laser before I learned enough to help! But part of me knew that like any weapon, I had to take this Force in me and learn to control it before I destroyed myself with it. “While I worry about how long this will take, I accept your judgment, Master Vandar.”

He looked at me with that knowing look. I knew that somehow he had been watching my mind wrestling with the two constraints of time and necessary training. He seemed pleased with my decision. He motioned toward Zhar.

“We must begin your training at once. You have a destiny that awaits you that we must prepare you to face. The fate of the entire galaxy may rest on your shoulders.”

“I just hope she is ready for it.” Vrook growled.


Leviathan

Admiral Karath approached Darth Malak. The dark lord merely watched the stars beyond the clearsteel screen.

“The Star Forge is running at 200% My lord. It has exceeded every expectation.”

“Except mine.“ Malak said. “Have we discovered how Bastila escaped Taris yet?”

“Carth Onasi and a Republic soldier we have not yet identified aided her. Onasi is a decorated war hero, and a legendary warrior. During the Mandalorian wars he was honored many times for his bravery.”

“Malak looked back at the Admiral. “From your words, I believe you know this man personally.”

“I do my lord. I was his mentor in many things. When I still served the Republic he was the command pilot of my ship.” He waved around him.

“Interesting. How were you able to gain this information?” He asked softly. Unsaid was the addition when my own sources could not.

“I have an eyewitness to their escape aboard. As you know, a dozen of the faster vessels were able to get away. One of those that did not was brought aboard. The pilot had a great deal to say about Bastila and her companions. He is Calo Nord, the bounty hunter. He was present when Bastila acquired the ship they escaped in.”

“Bring him to me.”

Nord looked as if he had not even been injured. He strode down the deck, and stood, arms crossed facing the Dark Lord. “Dark Lord Malak.”

“A Jedi and a war hero. It seems you’re lucky to be alive, Nord.”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle. I had more problems keeping your bombardment from killing me than they represented. But I‘m hard to kill.”

“Nord has offered to help us capture the young Jedi, for a heavy bounty of course.”

“But there is another reason.” Malak said.

“Yeah. Canderous Ordo betrayed me, and only missed killing me because of some debris that hid me when I was knocked out. I want some payback, and he’s probably still with them.”

“I will even pay you for this Mandalorian’s head, Nord. I want the Jedi alive if at all possible. Her companions mean nothing to me. Dispose of them.”

Karath held the datapad that had just been delivered. “My Lord Malak, Forgive me. There is something else. The tapes of the attack on our base were finally cleaned up, and there is something there I believe you will be interested in.”

“I trust you are not wasting my time, Admiral.”

Karath handed him a datapad, and Malak keyed it. There was no outward sign, but Karath could feel the temperature of the room drop as he did.

“Who knows of this?”

“Myself, My lord, you, Calo Nord, and Commander Beck of the scan department.”

Malak strode over to a com console. “I want visual communication with commander Beck.” He ordered. The screen lit with the face of a homely young man. “Scan department, Beck.”

Malak lifted his hand, and Beck clutched his head, moaning. He screamed, then his head exploded. Malak cut the communication channel, turning to face Calo Nord. “The orders are changed. You will capture Bastila if at all possible. Carth Onasi you can deal with as you choose, but this other one, this Danika Wordweaver, you will guarantee she dies. She must die.” He waved toward the now blank screen. “That is how I deal with incompetence. Fail me and die, Nord.”

“I’ve never failed before, Lord Malak.”


'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 04-10-2006, 11:45 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by machievelli
As for the place you mentioned, congratulations! I didn't even notice that little error until you mentioned it. Have a Whatever prize. I have corrected it.
Woo-hoo! That's twice now! Does this mean I can put another line in my sig?
Two-time winner of the local curmudgeon's highly coveted "Whatever" Prize

I like how you made use of the Ebon Hawk's forward firing laser cannon in the escape from Taris. I found it disappointing that the Ebon Hawk had blaster emplacements on port and starboard sides but you never get to use them in the game.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #35
Bastila looked back at me. “Take the upper gun turret! Keep them off us until we can leap into hyper drive!” She spun as I ran aft. “Canderous! Take the lower turret!”
More literary license here? If so I think it's highly logical as the game's portrayal of only one gun turret on the dorsal side of the Ebon Hawk seems poor to me. Why would a ship be designed such that it could only defend one side of the ship? Such a design would restrict defensive capability and make it more vulnerable in combat. I definitely give the to this little embellishment.
Quote:
Originally Posted by post #37
We came into the courtyard, and the massive Blba tree there rose ten meters over our heads.

“You there, Padawan!” A sharp voice called. I looked to the speaker She was a woman younger than Bastila. She stormed over to me glaring. “Why are you not robed? Do you mock the honored traditions of our order?” Bastila shook her head wryly and walked on, leaving me to the girl.
This passage doesn't seem right to me. To me it makes more sense to find a way to separate Bastila from Danika before they reach the courtyard. Why would Bastila simply shake her head and walk away from another Jedi who had erroneously concluded Danika was also a Jedi. I think if the encounter had happened like this Bastila would have set her straight about Danika's current Jedi status and advised the woman that she and Danika could not be deterred because they needed to meet with the Jedi Council. And then in the passage after that the woman talks like she doesn't know Bastila when Bastila had been standing right there moments before. I know you're following the general game dialogue in this but to me this situation only works if Bastila goes ahead of Danika or in some other way gets separated from Danika when Danika runs into Belaya for the first time.

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Originally Posted by machievelli
I love it. almost 50 hits in 36 hours, and NO comments.
I thought about replying before you had posted the Jedi Council chapter but I didn't want to monopolize the story's feedback. I thought it better to give others a chance to read and respond. Perhaps you should consider only posting one or two chapters a week. This would give people some time to read and digest. I've also thought that since your chapters are longer than normal some forum members might not be inclined to read so much material in one sitting. I know it took me about an hour and a half to read from the beginning again last Saturday. My thought is that perhaps not everyone is willing to invest that much time all at once.


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Old 04-11-2006, 12:09 AM   #39
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I suspect some of the lack of comments may also because they know you're the Critic, and perhaps feel like they don't have the credentials to critique your material or are even intimidated (when I was a teen (awhile ago....), I was very uncomfortable critiquing something by someone older than 20 ). I just need more time to read through it more before making comments. I'm having too much fun reading your other one yet.


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Old 04-11-2006, 11:04 AM   #40
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This passage doesn't seem right to me. To me it makes more sense to find a way to separate Bastila from Danika before they reach the courtyard. Why would Bastila simply shake her head and walk away from another Jedi who had erroneously concluded Danika was also a Jedi. I think if the encounter had happened like this Bastila would have set her straight about Danika's current Jedi status and advised the woman that she and Danika could not be deterred because they needed to meet with the Jedi Council. And then in the passage after that the woman talks like she doesn't know Bastila when Bastila had been standing right there moments before. I know you're following the general game dialogue in this but to me this situation only works if Bastila goes ahead of Danika or in some other way gets separated from Danika when Danika runs into Belaya for the first time.

I thought about replying before you had posted the Jedi Council chapter but I didn't want to monopolize the story's feedback. I thought it better to give others a chance to read and respond. Perhaps you should consider only posting one or two chapters a week. This would give people some time to read and digest. I've also thought that since your chapters are longer than normal some forum members might not be inclined to read so much material in one sitting. I know it took me about an hour and a half to read from the beginning again last Saturday. My thought is that perhaps not everyone is willing to invest that much time all at once.
I understand that. That is why I looked at hits as well.
As for the scene with Belaya, I looked at it this way: First, Belaya is a sanctimonious twit. She's the type that would eventually go to the dark side because of her 'holier than thou' attitude. While she speaks as if she does not know Bastila, I assumed it was more of the 'she can do something I can't and it irks me'. The reason I had Bastila go on and let Danika handle it on her own was simple...

Do you think Danika actually needed any help to set her straight?


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