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Old 04-27-2010, 11:23 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Elevation of an Outcast

Story Summary: [AU] Once the Jedi Order was a strong embodiment of the Republic's very nature, now it is an order with dwindling numbers scattered across the galaxy. In the aftermath of the Jedi Civil War, dark forces converge once again and it will be up to an outcast, Kaelan Nalto, to bring stability to a shattered galaxy. But with mixed feelings towards both warring groups, which faction will claim victory?

Chapter I (part 1): Command Decision

Against the blackness of outer space, on the fringes of the known galaxy, two forces were locked in a savage confrontation. Green and blue fire lanced from the weapon systems of starships, impacting into shields and armour plating as the combatants unleashed devastating broadsides and frontal assaults with heavy turbolaser and laser cannon batteries. Previously stable crescent and line formations were starting to break and one side found themselves on the defensive.

“Stay the course!” The barked command resounded throughout the bridge of the Hammerhead class cruiser Devastator, a nearby console emitting a shower of sparks as the power grid on the bulbous craft took a direct hit. Despite the beating the ship was taking, Jedi Knight Kaelan Nalto stood firm in his effort to push the aggressors back. “Siphon whatever excess energy is still available and route it to the forward turbolaser capacitors!”

“But General,” Lieutenant Mala protested from her console at the front of the bridge, pausing as the capital ship rocked from another series of hits, “The thermal build-up could disable the forward armament!”

“I’m aware of the risks Lieutenant,” Kaelan responded sharply, “But we came here to trap the Mandalorians, not the other way around. Do it!”

“Aye sir,” The Republic officer conceded, her fingers dancing across her display board. “Diverting power from secondary systems and charging capacitors. I’ll need a minute to bypass the damaged power conduits, stand by.”

His hazel eyes flicked toward the transparisteel glass of the bridge viewport, the sight of four Kyramud-class Mandalorian warships advancing in a single line greeted the Republic General’s vision. The capital class ships of the Mandalorian fleet, Kyramud class vessels were heavily armoured ships, with armour plating so thick it almost functioned like a second shield generator. The craft’s shape resembled a serpent coiled back, reflecting the personality of its builders, a species always preparing to strike. The group confronting the Jedi’s task force had broken off from the main battle site on the edge of Malachor V’s gravity field, their turbolasers trading fire with the Devastator and its two Foray-class blockade runner escorts, pressing their attack on the Republic’s flanks.

Kaelan scowled, a hand moving through his closely shaven brown hair, his own battlegroup’s systems had been damaged before the battle had even started, a result from the fierce fighting on Dxun. Unfortunately, damaged systems were not an isolated problem. Recent engagements at Taris and Duro had left the rest of the fleet in the same predicament. With little to no intervals in-between battles, repairs had to be conducted manually, without use of a dry dock. Even the most skilled technicians could only do so much in so small a time span, leaving ships with their scars, from impaired reactors to weakened hull integrity.

“General?” Shaking his head to dispel his thoughts, the Jedi General turned to regard the one who’d spoken. Bao-Dur, a Zabrak engineer and personal friend of his, with the rank insignia of Lieutenant, regarded him with a look of worry. “We’ll have to push the Mandalorians back to Malachor V if this is going to work.”

Kaelan shot a small-smile to his friend, “Never fear Bao-Dur. I already have a plan.” The Republic General turned to the COM officer, his hand gripping the edge of a tactical board to keep himself steady while more enemy fire impacted into the cruiser’s already weakened shields. “Signal the Vanguard, tell Captain Lomax to divert on course two-zero-zero mark five-one, parabolic trajectory.”

“Yes sir,” The COM operator said in acknowledgement, relaying the message to the battlegroup’s sister Hammerhead.

“General,” Mala called from her station, “Power routing is complete. Capacitors are now operating at 130 percent of maximum. Thermal build-up is rising, I estimate five minutes until it exceeds maximum tolerance.”

“Understood Lieutenant,” The Jedi set his eyes narrowing at the Mandalorian ships in front, “Target the life support systems of the closest Kyramud.” He waited until the tactical officer reported a lock, “Fire at will!”

Heavy bolts erupted from the newly enhanced forward batteries on the Devastator, impacting into the bottom fore of the targeted Mandalorian cruiser. Its shields flared a bright blue at the impact, but with more bolts following the first volley, the protective screen only lasted for a few more seconds until it extinguished entirely, leaving the remaining fire to shred through the enemy cruiser. Armour plating quickly gave way under the onslaught, leaving the discharging munitions to breach the hull itself.

With the cruiser’s protection stripped away, the amplified energy blasts continued to riddle the cruiser. Piece by piece, the hull started to fail on the enemy ship, venting gas the only outward sign of the severe damage it had taken. Kyramud cruisers were designed to take a punishment, but the concentrated fire from the Hammerhead warship was dealing out a bombardment that put the protective specifications to shame. Another burst of fire from the Devastator disabled the cruiser’s stabilizers, sending the thoroughly damaged ship in a downward spiral, away from the skirmish still raging above it.

A slight smile adorned Kaelan’s expression at the sight of the disabled cruiser; small whoops erupted from the bridge crew as their own gaze fell on the disabled Mandalorian vessel. The feelings of elation were short lived however; the remaining three ships switched their attention to the Devastator. But while worry tinged through the officers and crewman at their stations, their Jedi commander only smiled wider.

“New course,” Kaelan barked, pausing as the capital ship shook from retaliatory strikes, “Come about to three-zero-one mark two-six.”

“Uh sir,” The navigation officer stated uncertainly, glancing back at his superior, “That course will take us—”

“In-between the two lead Kyramuds,” The Jedi finished. “I know. You have your orders Ensign.”

“Aye sir,” The naval officer’s fingers swept across his display board, inputting the numbers he’d been given. “Course laid in.”

“Full ahead.”

The Devastator shot forward, its previous half speed rising to full power, sending the capital ship accelerating toward the Mandalorian line. Their opponents seemed to hesitate at the action, answering fire lessened as the enemy gunners tried to make sense of such a manoeuvre. Though their hesitation was brief, it gave the Hammerhead-class vessel enough time to swerve to its new line of attack. Forward batteries on both sides opened fire, green and blue met in a cataclysmic swirl, the energy blast impacts flared against shielding and armour plating alike.

“Target the shields of the two cruisers,” Kaelan called while he continued to calmly observe the enemy ships in front of him, “Weaken them as much as possible. Inform our Foray escort to concentrate on the third vessel.”

Answering acknowledgements from both the tactical and COM officer answered the General’s order, the former relaying the orders to the ship’s gunner coordinators while the latter sent a transmission to the two Foray ships in the rear. A few moments passed before the forward turbolasers began to fire on the ventral section of the closest Kyramud, a section that housed the ship’s shield generator. While the equipment itself was buried beneath layers of armour plating, short bursts of fire ensured that every bolt was as close to the target as possible, leaving the energy blasts to peel apart the durasteel coverings.

“Sir, capacitors are approaching the red line,” Mala frantically called to her Jedi leader. “Thermal build-up will reach critical levels in thirty seconds.”

“Time to coordinates?” Kaelan asked, not bothering to do anything about the capacitors yet.

“At present speed, ten seconds sir.” The navigation officer responded after a quick glance at his display.

As the Devastator moved closer to the Kyramud fleet, the Hammerhead cruiser was slowly passing out of the firing arc of the Mandalorian battlegroup’s forward batteries. The enemy seemed to realize it as well; thrusters on the battleships were used to get the vessels to turn into an attack position. A small grin found its way onto the Jedi’s face, as the opposing ships began to rotate, though too late.

Four more bursts of fire resounded from the forward batteries on both sides before the fire ceased, the Mandalorian’s from a bad angle and the Devastator because of its capacitors. “Mala, shut down the capacitors and initialize emergency coolant procedures.” The Jedi’s voice echoed throughout the bridge, his tone portraying an urgency that was reflected in the performance of those who received his commands. “Port and starboard gunners standby for broadside assault.” The Jedi waited until the tactical officer reported they were in range, “All cannons, fire!”

The five dual rapid-fire laser cannons on each side of the Hammerhead class warship unleashed their payload not long after. Green bolts impacted into the sides of the wounded Mandalorian warships, tearing away the armour that still remained. While not as powerful as the forward turbolasers, the high rate of fire with the smaller laser cannons came close to making up for it. Even so, Kaelan knew he wouldn’t be able to defeat a single Kyramud class battleship with such a tactic, let alone two.

But that was never his plan.

While the two Foray-class ships held the attention of the third Kyramud and the Devastator distracted the remaining two, the Vanguard was left to continue its course towards the rear of the enemy line. Its forward turbolasers quickly came to bear on the Mandalorian warship under attack by the Foray-class vessels. The first volleys of fire tore through the battleship’s rear deflectors; the Mandalorians had routed power to their forward shields, leaving their flank severely weakened. Heavy energy blasts burned through the battleship’s armour plating, destroying the many systems that lied beneath. Thoroughly disabled and unable to fight, the Kyramud battleship drifted in space, all of its systems down from a combination of enemy fire and power failures. The Mandalorians onboard recognized the fate that awaited them. Rather than slowly asphyxiate, however, they activated the self-destruct, as honour demanded. The reactor overload split the vessel in half while a blue shockwave exploded outward toward its Republic attackers.

The Vanguard and the two Foray ships had already moved to the next target however. Years of experience had left them with a thorough understanding of the Mandalorian code so they showed no restraint, no mercy. Such feelings had led to the needless deaths of a great many Republic soldiers early in the war, leaving the Republic to recognize that they would need to adopt the Mandalorian’s principles in order to defeat them. Captain Lomax was one such officer who fully believed in such a doctrine, as did his crew. The Vanguard’s commander watched through narrowed eyes while the Hammerhead and Foray class vessels dealt out a combined bombardment on the second to last Kyramud’s starboard flank.

Hammered from both the port and starboard sides, the shields quickly failed on the Mandalorian capital ship, leaving the durasteel armour to boil away as Republic energy blasts shredded the battleship’s flanks. The capital ship’s reactor was inadvertently hit during the violent exchange of turbolaser and laser cannon blasts, triggering an explosion that tore the craft’s hull apart. The once formidable battleship was reduced to nothing more than large pieces of debris.

While Captain Lomax and his group were far enough away to avoid being affected by the ship’s explosion, the Devastator was not so fortunate. The Hammerhead’s shields flared a bright blue, the protective screen shielding the vessel from both the explosion and the debris that impacted into its side. Though the shields held, the craft still shook from the jarring force of the impacts. Jedi Nalto gripped a tactical display as he hauled himself back to his feet, Bao-Dur and some of the other crewman doing the same. “Damage report!”

“Port shields are down to ten percent,” Mala reported as she ran a diagnostic on ship systems, “Power conduits B3 to C6 are offline. That puts our total energy levels at forty percent of optimum sir.”

Kaelan grimaced at the Lieutenant’s report. With power levels so low, there would barley be enough power to sustain critical systems, making it a stretch to sustain the Hammerhead’s combat functionality. “Understood Lieutenant, dispatch repair teams to deck two and ask for volunteers to repair the power conduits.”

Mala sent back her acknowledgement while Kaelan looked to the last enemy ship. Outside the viewports on the right side of the bridge, the sight of green flashes could be seen impacting into the Kyramud’s hull. While the bow of the Devastator was clear of the Mandalorian ship’s port turbolasers, Kaelan could still see blue bolts targeting the stern of his ship. The Jedi stretched out with the Force, probing the hull of the enemy vessel. A slight grin framed the Jedi’s features and he moved towards the forward stations, his brown cloak billowing as he moved. “Excuse me Ensign,” The Jedi spoke in a light tone, his form hovering over the Devastator’s tactical officer.

Months of serving under the General let the junior officer know that his superior wouldn’t request or order anything without reason, so he moved aside without a word. The Jedi inputted a string of new spatial coordinates into the terminal, the tactical officer raising his eyebrows at the pinpoint accuracy the coordinates gave. He shrugged off his musings as quickly as they came, however, and sat back at his station once the General was done.

“You may commence firing Ensign,” Kaelan spoke with a bit of amusement, the officer’s surprise having not been lost to the Force Sensitive.

“Aye sir,” The Ensign stated as he relayed the coordinates to the starboard gunner coordinator along with a standing fire at will command.

The order to fire was given by the coordinator as soon as his gunners confirmed a lock. The laser cannons on the Hammerhead’s side had rotated to face their new line of attack and were now discharging towards the centre of the Mandalorian battleship instead of the stern. Firing the laser cannons as rapidly as their design would allow, the gunners were able to ensure that the ensuring payload made short work of their target.
Kaelan gazed at the last Kyramud, not having to wait long before seeing the results of his work firsthand. The coordinates he’d entered into the tactical officer’s station pointed to a precise location on the hull, a small gap in the centre of the vessel where the armour plating had been completely stripped, exposing the battleship’s fire control centre. The rapid firing laser cannons impacted into the bare hull of the enemy ship, obliterating the targeting sensors on the Mandalorian capital ship. Attempted answering fire came in the form of blue bolts firing on seemingly randomized vectors, the gunners now unable to direct the craft’s weapon systems, turning the once powerful weaponry into little more than a light show.

Even with disabled targeting systems, however, the Mandalorians weren’t ones to surrender.

The Kyramud turned towards its aggressor and moved with as much speed as it could muster, its heading pointing it towards the bow of the Devastator. “The view on our starboard side seems to be obstructed,” Kaelan spoke to the tactical officer with a grin, his eyes locked on the incoming enemy warship. “Kindly remove it from my sight Ensign.”

“With pleasure sir.”

The Devastator’s starboard batteries swerved to target the bow of the Mandalorian battleship, green laser blasts impacted against the remaining armour on the ship. Captain Lomax had ordered both the Vanguard and the two Foray-class ships closer as soon as the second last Kyramud had been destroyed, putting the battlegroup into attack range by the time the Devastator resumed firing. The combined firepower of the small task force turned the already battered enemy ship into a derelict in less than a minute.

With the immediate threat to the battlegroup eliminated, Kaelan switched his attention to the battle itself. His eyes moved back to the central viewport, the distant flashes of both enemy and friendly fire setting him on edge. The Jedi’s eyes fell on the tactical display board showing updated holographic feed of the current battle raging above Malachor V. Far from a fan of the ‘leading from the rear’ policy, Kaelan strongly believed a commander either led from the front, or not at all. For a man of such practise, the Jedi found the current methods more than a little distasteful. If his current orders to remain at a certain distance from Malachor, with a select section of the fleet, hadn’t come from Revan himself, Kaelan wouldn’t have hesitated to disobey. As it was, he simply continued leading the Second Line, a collection of ships responsible for providing support fire and reinforcing weak points in the primary line.

A scan of the tactical board showed a weakness still apparent in the lead formation’s right flank. The line that was supposed to be straight was now curved at a downward angle, turning the previous line formation in one of half-circle proportion. If such a weakness continued, the section would collapse, giving the enemy amble opportunity to sweep around and attack the primary line’s rear flank. The Mandalorians were aware of this too, more ships were converging on the weak point in the Republic line.

“Bring the ship about,” Kaelan called while he still gazed at the tactical map, a gentle touch with his finger in a specific section displayed a string of numbers. “Target coordinates three-three-six mark seven-one.”

“Three-three-six mark seven-one,” The navigation officer repeated, “Aye sir.”

The Devastator turned to move along its new vector, a heading toward the heart of the conflict. Mandalorian ships were steadily advancing, it was their last stand above Malachor, and they knew it. Thousands of ships traded fire with each other, the entire number of forces on both sides gathered in a single sector of the galaxy. Squadrons of fighters engaged in fierce dogfights, each side attempting to keep the other away from their ships. Boarding craft were the primary target of frigates, laser batteries locked onto the bulky vessels. Discharging blasts tore through the armour plating in seconds, vaporizing both the craft and the occupants within. Capital ships fired their weapon systems as fast as their specifications would allow. The sheer number of turbolaser blasts created flashes bright enough that, were other ships passing through, they would’ve mistaken it for a nebula disuprtion.

Despite the damage the Republic fleet had taken, they were still standing firm, but an officer of Kaelan’s years knew that even the most disciplined of soldiers could be pushed back, as the Republic Navy slowly was. “What’s the status of the forward battery capacitors?” Kaelan’s query was directed toward Lieutenant Mala.

“The coolant process needs another four minutes sir.”

The Jedi nodded in understanding, with the forward batteries offline, a frontal assault was out of the question. “Looks like we’ll need to resort to more…unconventional methods,” Kaelan spoke to himself, a smirk stretching across his lips as a plan formed in his mind. Though there was one factor he needed to consider, “Bao-Dur, what’s the estimated range of the weapon?”

The Republic General specifically avoided naming the super-weapon placed on Malachor V’s surface. While the majority in the fleet knew that a trap had been set for the Mandalorians, only a select handful were privy to the exact nature of the trap. Bao-Dur, having created the weapon, was one such person. The Zabrak engineer moved to stand beside his general, gauging the projected radius of the device’s detonation. Several seconds later a repulsor arm traced a large radius around the current battle zone, stopping just five kilometres short of the Devastator’s new trajectory. “That’s as good a guess as I can give you General.”

Kaelan nodded in response, though he spared his friend a sideways glance. “How’s the arm?”

The Zabrak’s gaze unconsciously switched to his right arm. Rather than see an appendage of flesh and blood however, his eyes were met with the sight of a metal hand connected to his right elbow through the means of a shimmering blue repulsor field. Installing the Mass Shadow Generator on Malachor’s surface had meant sending in a strike team ahead of the fleet. On orders from General Revan, Kaelan and Bao-dur had moved planetside to install the weapon at the target sight. No resistance was expected as the world was a taboo in the Mandalorian culture. The slaves the Mandalorians had acquired in their conquests, however, had been stationed in their stead.

Fierce skirmishes had dragged on, and by the time the group reached the target site the original platoon had become little more than a squad in number. After setting up the weapon, the squad retreated back to their extraction point. On the last push to the objective, they were ambushed one last time. Bao-Dur and Kaelan met their foes head on and had been making amble progress until Bao-Dur found himself separated from his friend. A Mandalorian trained slave had charged the Zabrak with a vibroblade, catching the blaster equipped engineer off guard and striking with enough force to sever his arm. Though the General had been able to carry Bao-Dur out to see the rest of his troops to safety, he still felt responsible for his friend losing his arm.

Bao-Dur knew as much and he looked away from his repulsor arm and to his commander and friend. “It’s fine General, no worries.” A grin stretched across his face, “Besides, now I’ll always have something to modify.”

Kaelan only offered as slight smile in response.

“General,” The navigation officer reported, “We’re approaching the target coordinates.”

“Very good Lieutenant,” The Jedi responded while he redirected his attention to the tactical board. The closest Mandalorian ships hammering away at their weakened flank were just a kilometre away. “Order Captain Lomax to hold here with the Foray ships and prepare to bombard spatial coordinates eight-five-five mark six-three-two.”

“Sir, there are no enemy ships in that sector!” The Devastator’s tactical operator called in confusion, briefly glancing at the Jedi leader over his shoulder.

“Not yet Ensign,” Kaelan admonished sharply, continuing before any more comments could be voiced. “Move along course two-six-two mark one-four-four.”

Knowing their Jedi General had a taste for unorthodox tactics in the heat of battle, no more comments were voiced as the officers carried out their instructions. The Devastator moved along a new course, one that would take the warship alongside the Mandalorian ships making another push on the right flank. “Divert power to port shields and capacitors,” The Jedi waited for Mala’s confirmation before continuing, “Target the closest assault ship and fire at will.”

With the power levels on the Devastator so low, the most the port shields and capacitors could be charged to was just five percent over maximum. While the increase would help, it would be insufficient for the Devastator to inflict anything more than minor damage on the Mandalorian vessels. Something the warriors were quick to notice, two warships had already broken off their attack and were baring down on the lone Hammerhead cruiser in their midst.

The Mandalorian ships moved closer to their mark, their heavy batteries firing an array of both turbolasers and concussion missiles. The missiles were a relatively new weapon designed after the Great Hyperspace War. Answering to a direct call from the many naval officers for heavier firepower, the missiles were fitted with a high concentration of energy stored in several packs located throughout the casing. On impact the payload riddled a target’s defences and while they were primarily opted for use against shields, they were just as effective against armour plating as well, causing more damage than a single turbolaser bolt. The ordnance was generally reserved for the more heavily armed classes of capital ships or, in the case of the Mandalorians, the majority of their fleet.

“Target those missiles!” The General’s warning was answered instantly, the Hammerhead’s laser cannons rotated to fire at the incoming threat. Two-thirds of the explosive ordnance were eliminated by the rapid firing lasers, leaving the missiles that connected with their target to only make the cruiser’s shields flicker for a brief moment, a flickering that intensified for several seconds from the follow-up turbolaser blasts. “Lock onto their forward cannons,” Kaelan spoke as soon as the last missile had impacted into his ship, “Unleash upon them!”

The final roaring statement from their ship’s commander raised the despairing spirits of those around him, giving them a determination to continue forward they so desperately needed. The Devastator’s laser cannons targeted the incoming enemy ships once again, attempting to counter the threat of turbolasers. While every energy blast scored a hit against the bows of two Mandalorian assault ships, it was clear that even with the laser cannon capacitors enhanced, the Devastator still lacked the firepower necessary to bring down the shields. The hammerhead’s tactical officer confirmed as much, reporting that the lead enemy’s shields had only lost five percent of their strength.

“Sir,” The COM officer asked, his voice tinging with apprehension upon hearing the tactical officer’s report, “Shall I give the Vanguard the order?”

“Not yet,” The Jedi Knight answered in defiance, “I did not take this ship as my flagship without reason. Bring their shields down by another ten percent; show the Mandalorians why my ship is named the Devastator!”

Answering fire continued from the lone Republic cruiser, earning them a strong respect from their Mandalorian foes as they returned the favour. The heavier bolts of the Mandalorian ships impacted into the sleek side of the Hammerhead class vessel, wreaking havoc on its already damaged protective screen. ‘

“General, our shields are taking a beating; they’re down to twenty percent!”

The Jedi’s eyes narrowed at Mala’s report, even with the shields down, he wasn’t about to withdraw. “Take all deflectors offline and recharge the generator, that will bring them back to full power.”

His calm command to leave the ship defenceless in the middle of a firefight did not go unchallenged. Several crewmen snapped their heads to their leader with wide eyes, though Mala was the first to put the fear in words. “Sir, a full recharging cycle takes fifty seconds, we’ll be vulnerable!”

“Twenty percent shielding won’t do us much could for long,” Kaelan explained quickly, “Better to have some power remaining for recharge then none. Get our bow pointed at them, standby to transfer all available power to the capacitors!”

“Aye sir,” Mala replied as she hurried to carry out her orders.

Several seconds passed by while she prepared to take the shields down and route power to the forward turbolaser capacitors. The navigation officer used that time to angle the ship to its new line of attack, by the time Mala reported that she was ready to drop the shields, the Hammerhead was already facing its enemies. The Jedi General paused to let the cruiser’s protective screen absorb one last volley before giving the order, “Drop shields!” His slowly shouted command warranted no argument from the others, even though many of them were extremely apprehensive as Mala keyed in a simple command.

The shields on the Republic warship extinguished, the recharging cycle in the shield generator activating in order to recharge the emitters. What energy wasn’t being used to power critical systems was siphoned to the forward capacitors, until the energy levels were at a hundred percent. As soon as the forward batteries had power, the Devastator’s gunners opened fire. The Mandalorian battleships followed suit, sending bolt after bolt toward their foe. Green and blue bolts each found their specific target. But while Mandalorian shields absorbed the turbolasers aimed at them, the Devastator no longer had such a luxury. Answering commands from the navigation officer, the cruiser’s emergency thrusters fired to move away from the incoming energy blasts. Still, a capital ship was only manoeuvrable to a certain extent, and the navigation officer only succeeded in evading a handful of the bolts before the rest found their mark.

The ship shook with a force unlike anything the crew had experienced yet, those who had been standing found themselves down on the floor and even those were seated at their stations were forced to hold on as the bolts tore through the warship’s armour, armour exceedingly close to the bridge itself. Kaelan was the first to pull himself back to his feet, quickly extending a hand to assist Bao-Dur.

“Armour plating is down to forty percent sir, The tactical officer reported after running a quick diagnostic on the cruiser. “We’ll be able to survive one more volley, but beyond that…” The junior officer trailed off, unwilling to consider what would happen if two enemy ships assaulted an unprotected Hammerhead class ship.

Despite the under current of rage coursing through the Republic General at the Mandalorians, he was still aware of the extreme danger that accompanied his original order. “Contact the Vanguard,” Kaelan said as he turned to face the COM officer, “Tell Captain Lomax he may commence firing.” The Jedi turned back to the forward viewport once the officer sent his acknowledgement. “Recharge cycle?”

“Twenty seconds,” Mala reported, forcibly tearing her eyes away from the viewport to look at her console.

Out of ideas, the Jedi Knight could only watch as the Devastator continued to trade fire with the enemy assault ships. Each hit against the Hammerhead cruiser forced the bridge crew to hold on, both to their will to stay and fight and to whatever console was available to keep themselves from falling over. The Mandalorian guns were slowly peeling away the last protective layer on the Republic warship, each bolt bringing the vessel closer to a hull breach. All Kaelan could do was encourage those under his command to stand firm and look to their stations, a command that, to the Jedi’s slight surprise, seemed to be obeyed.

Mala reported that the armour plating was starting to buckle, still, Kaelan stood impassively, his gaze never wavering from the enemy. Just as the Mandalorian ships were about to fire again, a flurry of bolts tore through their starboard side. The bridge crew on the Devastator emitted a combination of relieved sighs and cheers as they watched one of the assault ships turn to face its attacker even while a continuous stream of green fire hounded the warship. The remaining vessel’s crew seemed unsure whether to continue firing on the enemy cruiser in its midst or assist its sister ship and fire on the distant Republic group. Kaelan didn’t wait to see what their choice would be, “Target their reactor, all batteries fire!”

Both the command and execution were done in quick succession, the forward tubrolasers on the Devastator opened fire once more. The discharging heavy bolts covering a single spot on the assault ship, in an effort to both bring the shields down faster and target the reactor of the enemy ship. The sudden barrage forced the Mandalorians to make a decision and answering fire quickly followed the Devastator’s bombardment. A grimace shot through all of those present on the bridge of the Hammerhead vessel with the sight of the all too familiar blue bolts moving toward their ship. The shields were still offline and Kaelan was quite sure that his flagship’s forward armour wouldn’t be able to survive another volley. “Mala,” He spoke firmly, his voice and posture both portraying a calmness that did not reflect how he was feeing inside. “Recharging status?”

“Seven seconds,” The system analyst responded, her voice sounding shaky.

The feeling of a hand on her shoulder made her turn her head to look at the source. A slight smile from her Jedi General met her gaze and she found herself turning back to her station, feeling a steely resolve unmatched from anything she had ever felt before. Her hand hovered over the cruiser’s activation, waiting for three more seconds before hitting a single button her console. The shields of the Hammerhead cruiser pulsed back to life instantly, the protective screen reinitializing just in time to absorb the blue bolts that would otherwise have impacted dangerously close to the bridge.

With the cruiser’s shields back online and their attackers numbers now thinned, the Republic flagship, even moderately damaged, proved to be too much for the Mandalorian assault ship. It didn’t take long for the Hammerhead’s turbolaser batteries to shred through already weakened shielding and armour plating. The reactor was hit soon after and the heavily armed vessel shattered in a brilliant flash of blue, its once sturdy hull reduced to various fragments drifting in space. Captain Lomax and the two Foray-class ships had rejoined Kaelan by then, having dealt with the other assault ship just before the Devastator.

Kaelan moved back to the tactical board, pleased to note that the other Republic ships were inspired by his performance and were now pushing forward with a vigour that pressed the design specifications of their respective ships to the limit. The General ordered his task force to reform at the head of the Second Line, while his gaze switched back to the holographic representation of the fire storm raging above Malachor V. With the right flank secure, the Primary Line was free to continue its assault, but the Jedi knew all that he had really done was bought them time. Even though they outnumbered the Mandalorians, their ships were weak and they didn’t have enough numbers to compensate for such a short coming. Despite the deep resolve imbedded into the minds of every Republic soldier, the tide of battle was turning in the favour of their enemies.

The General’s hazel irises scanned the board at every angle, looking for a gap n the Mandalorian’s lines or another discernible weakness he could send his battlegroup to exploit. Even with a strategic and tactical mind eclipsed only by Malak and Revan, Kaelan could find no such solution. He strongly doubted if even Revan could find such a solution. Still, even in the brink of chaos, there was always a way. The Republic General realized there was no viable alternative, steeling himself for what needed to be done. He turned to Bao-Dur standing not two metres from his right. The eyes of the two friends met, with Kaelan glancing at him for the longest amount of time he had ever spared anyone in his life, his command to proceed emitted in the form of a single nod. The Zabrak engineer nodded in response and moved to one of the communication consoles. The opening of a broadband COM signal and the inputting of a single string of encrypted code was all it took to bring a close to the Mandalorian Wars.

Kaelan moved back to stand at the front of the bridge after watching Bao-Dur move off, he had to see the results of his command, to not do so felt like a disgrace to those that had been sentenced to death. Standing perfectly still, the Jedi watched as a bright flash erupted from Malachor, its gravitational pull magnifying to a percentage never before seen in stellar history. All of the ships within Bao-Dur’s projected range, all of the warships that composed the Primary Line and the vast majority of their Mandalorian aggressors were pulled in along with it. Ship after ship either collided with the planet’s surface or had its hull sheared from the singular strength of the gravitational pull.

The Jedi, once standing stone still, fell to his knees, the sound of thousands of screams echoing through the Force.

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Old 04-27-2010, 11:28 PM   #2
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Chapter I (part 2): Command Decision

With a great start, Kaelan Nalto jerked awake, a previously holstered blaster pistol now gripped strongly in his right hand. Wide brown eyes surveyed the immediate surroundings, the sound of his heavy breathing the only thing he could hear. Taking deep breaths to entice some form of calm in his racing mind, Kaelan holstered his pistol when he realized it was a just another nightmare. He removed himself from the warmth of a therma blanket, his form now exposed to the cool morning air he had started to grow accustomed to in the Southern Hemisphere of Eriadu. Letting out another deep breath, the former Jedi tried to calm his racing nerves. Thinking of Malachor only served to unnerve him. It wasn’t so much the battle itself as it was the last two minutes of it, the sight of all the those ships plummeting into the planetoid and the screams…

Growling in anger, Kaelan shrugged off his useless musings, what was done was done. Since his subsequent exile from the Jedi Order following his appearance at Coruscant after Malachor, such a belief was all the more important. He didn’t want to think about those things anymore, all he wanted to do now was keep himself occupied. And to keep moving, Kaelan thought as he gazed out at the seemingly limitless stretch of grassy plains, hills, and rock faces before him, always moving. The Exile had lost track of the planets he’d visited, he never stayed in any one place for more than three weeks. Past that time, Kaelan began to feel familiar with his surroundings and so his usually alert mind would reminisce on past events he never wanted to think about.

The former Jedi didn’t just stay and admire the local attractions on visited planets, however. He lent his skills to local governments and contractors, working as either an explorer, scout, or surveyor. His current assignment outside Eriadu City, the planetary capital, called for the latter. The local government was interested in expanding their resource operations and they had several sites marked out, three of which had been assigned to Kaelan. He was now moving to the last site and there was only a distance of a few kilometres left to cover and, knowing he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, Kaelan felt it best he head out now, the sooner he moved along the better.

The ex-Jedi turned his gaze away from distant landscapes and toward his immediate surroundings. He had constructed a small camp site just before he had retired and it consisted of only an air-mattress and therma blanket, a small fire –whose flames had decreased over the night and had been replaced by dying embers- , a swoop, and his own personal gear. The swoop was a repulsorlift vehicle so named for the repulsors positioned in the bottom of the vehicle that enabled its fast method of propulsion, by allowing it to hover above the ground. Kaelan’s particular model featured a streamlined design, with elongated stabilizers on the front and rear that looked like giant blades. The vehicle had been provided to him by his employer and Kaelan was grateful for not having to rent one himself, though he had been forewarned that he would have to pay for it if he damaged it in any way.

Kaelan’s personal gear had changed dramatically since his time as a Jedi and Republic General. The former Jedi had learned quickly that he needed something more than a simple tunic if he wanted to adapt to his new lifestyle. The purchase of dark gray cortosis woven armour that covered him from shoulders to toe had provided the means for such adaptation. Still, Kaelan’s initial appearance had unnerved him, as he resembled something of a mercenary. To compensate for this, he had commissioned a hooded cloak to be custom fitted around his armour. The lower half of the cloak’s fabric had been designed so that single, thick strips of cloth ran down his flanks. Not only did it allow Kaelan to blend in more, but it also allowed him to conceal his dual pistols and vibroblade, which were holstered around his waist and leg respectively.

Sheathing his vibroblade, which he’d left at the side of his make-shift bed while he slept, Kaelan put the sleeping gear in his rucksack and mounted his swoop. A quick pre-check of the systems ensured that they were still functioning at optimal parameters. The former Jedi started the repulsor-lift vehicle’s engine and sped away.

The last site was at a cave imbedded in the rocky faces just shy of a small range of hills. Eriadu’s resource locaters had detected the presence of neutronium, a valuable ore that was utilized as a primary construction material throughout the galaxy. Now it was Kaelan’s job to procure several samples in various areas around the site to determine the concentration of the resource. If the area yielded a high concentration, the local government would deem it worthwhile to establish a mining operation.

It took just over an hour for the Exile to make his way to the planetary coordinates provided, his holographic map indicator pointed him to a spot ten metres away from the mouth of the cave. Nestled between hills within a rocky slope, the cave’s wide arch entrance looked to be about one and a half metres across and two in height. Making sure his swoop was secure, Kaelan deactivated the repulsor-lift vehicle’s engine and headed toward the subterranean entrance. Stepping within the dark depths of Eriadu, Kaelan withdrew an optical enhancer from his armour’s utility belt and placed it over his eyes. The thin visor gave the wearer the ability to see further into the infared spectrum, enabling clear sight where one would otherwise be shrouded in darkness. A few years ago, Kaelan would’ve simply used the Force to aid his vision, but the energy field that coursed through all living things no longer responded to him. Losing his ability to harness the Force had been an extreme eye-opener. Without the enhancement to all of his senses, his abilities had reverted back to what they truly were. Kaelan had been forced to work at specific areas to reacquire at least some of what he’d lost. After years of practise, he felt he had been as successful as he would get in such a regard.

Pushing away his reminiscing on the Force, the former General moved further into the cave, the visor illuminating the various geological formations and passages within. Stopping just after moving ten metres, Kaelan glanced at the holo-emitter installed on his left gauntlet, a device which functioned as a transceiver, general display, and a map. The holographic feed was currently showing four target areas scattered at distances of twenty metres. The ex-Jedi had inputted the distances as per the standard surveying method of determining resource concentration in any given area. Seeing that he was close enough to the site, Kaelan set his rucksack down and withdrew the mineral survey device from inside, another gift from his employer. Little more than a long cylindrical tube, the survey device was used to measure the concentration of any substance placed inside. Scanners were used to measure such concentration and so they had to be calibrated to limit the search for the specific mineral being surveyed. It wasn’t a foolproof process however, as its accuracy rating was rated at eighty-five percent.

Breaking away a few samples of rock, the veteran officer placed the samples within the sampler. A soft beep from the survey device signalled that the process was complete, the device’s display revealing nearby concentrations of neutronium to be between twenty-five and thirty percent. Kaelan recorded the range to the device’s memory and moved on to the next location, immersing himself further within the dark and damp cavern. A light splash resounded within the cave as he stepped in a small stream, a noise quickly followed by what resembled a soft screech. The Exile ceased his movements and listened intently, but a soft drip and the sound of running water were the only things he could hear. A quick scan yielded the same results, nothing out of the ordinary. Passing it off as his imagination, he started forward once again.

At the second site, Kaelan repeated the process, recording a concentration only slightly higher than the first, standing at forty percent. Clipping the survey device to his belt, the Exile prepared to take another step when another screech could be heard. His movements tensed and his hands instantly moved to his holstered pistols, there was no mistaking such a noise this time. Enhanced optical feed showed no other life forms in the vicinity, however, until he realized that he had been neglecting to look in one direction. Switching his gaze to the cavern’s ceiling, the former Jedi’s eyes fixated on a truly horrific sight. Seven-legged insect creatures clung to the tops of the rock formations, short eyestalks protruded from armoured heads, with razor sharp pincers making light clicking noises that Kaelan had mistaken earlier for the echo of his own footsteps. Spikes jutting out from their legs and carapaces completed their appearance.

The creature above looked at him, its red irises seeming to lock onto him before dropping down for a kill. Years of dexterity honed by training and maximized by experience ensured that Kaelan’s dual blasters were unholstered and discharging before the creature was anywhere near striking distance. His Vericon D5-A2 disruptor pistols were among the finest handheld weapons available. With an increased energy output per charge, larger power packs were needed to compensate. This made the weapons heavier, but the advantages of being able to easily shred through armour, flesh, and droids were unmatched. The technology was illegal in the Republic, but Kaelan’s travels had let him see that black market operators always had a shipment in stock, whether they were within Republic jurisdiction or not. He had initially stuck with the standard blasters, but after encountering creatures that had been able to shrug off several concentrated bolts, and mercenaries who were so desperate for work that they would kill for any type of contract, the need for greater firepower had become apparent. With the necessity of survival eclipsing his morals, the Force Sensitive outcast had obtained a pair of some of the finest pistols in the galaxy.

It was an action he had never been more proud of as he watched the erupting red bolts tear through the creature’s carapace in the blink of an eye, killing the beast with only a pair of shots. Kaelan still had ample time to sidestep out of the corpse’s way. No sooner had the life-less form created a resounding splash in the water than a multitude of screeches rocked the cavern. The former Jedi’s eyes instantly shot to the ceiling, his pupils growing wide as sections of the ceiling moved. Closer inspection revealed that the things Kaelan had mistakenly identified as rock formations were actually areas where the unknown insects clung to the top of the cave, their black coloured carapaces allowing them to blend in seamlessly within the dark cavern.

The former General watched as blood red irises fixated on him, sharp pincers clicking rapidly as the creatures detached from the ceiling and advanced toward the infiltrator in their territory. Discharging disruptor pistols kept the creatures at bay, their defences proving incapable of standing against bolts capable of breaking their molecular bonds. Creature after creature fell against the Exile’s onslaught, but his actions seemed to have awoken the cavern’s entire complement of insects. One of his pistols was rampantly firing straight ahead of him while the other was discharging against those approaching from the passageway to his left. Red flashes illuminated the once dark cave, highlighting the point of impact for the dual blaster wielder. The creatures hit by the energy blasts died without a sound while the others only screeched in what the former General assumed to be defiance.

Despite his best efforts, there were simply too many insects for him to hold off. One evaded his line of sight and leapt toward his back, its pincers striking his leg. The Exile’s armour was more than enough to protect against such an attack, however. Still, he realized that it was only a matter of time before he was completely engaged in melee combat. Quickly putting a bolt into his attacker’s head, Kaelan holstered his right pistol and drew his vibroblade. Swinging the blade at the closest cluster of charging creatures while simultaneously squeezing off bursts of fire from his left pistol required a skill of double-tasking that the former General knew all too well. Red energy blasts riddled through creatures while a metallic vibroblade pierced through the creature’s armour and flesh with ease, turning the once silver coloured blade to one of a dark crimson. The defiant screeches were drowned out by frantic wails as more and more of the insects met the power and finesse of Kaelan’s vibroblade strikes.

Still, the creatures kept coming. Driven by basic instinct, their only mandate was to kill the trespasser in their midst. It was a protectiveness of home that overrided everything, even the concept of self-preservation. Wave after wave charged the former Jedi, having to resort to climbing over a wall of their own kin’s life-less bodies as more and more of the creatures were struck by disruptor blasts and sharpened metal alloy. Kaelan was constantly in motion, firing his pistol in quick bursts, slashing and stabbing with his blade, and twisting to avoid striking pincers.

He was concentrating solely on the areas straight ahead and to the left of him, a focus that made him fail to notice two of the insects manoeuvre toward his rear flank. The veteran would later wonder whether the creatures had acted with a degree of intelligence or if it was merely to move around the pile of bodies forming around him. At the time, however, he was left startled by the sensation of a pair of pincers striking both of his legs. His sudden tenseness to his previously fliud attack movements presented an opportunity another insect was quick to capitalize on.

Kaelan grimaced as another set of pincers gripped his armoured right forearm. Though the creatures were only half a metre in length, their wide pincers were long enough to wrap around his limps, where the sharpened mandibles were squeezing against his metal alloy armour in an attempt to break the protective attire. The energy resistant plating was more than enough to protect against animal attacks. All it took was series of quick slashes with his blade and his former attackers were nothing but corpses, the rest of the swarm sharing the same fate not too long after.

Thirty minutes later, with his surveys complete and his assignment finished, a tired outcast moved back to Eriadu City. Although it had taken ten hours to move between the second and third resource sites, it took only two until Kaelan stopped his swoop outside the government complex of the planetary capital. Having been colonized only a year prior to the outbreak of the Mandalorian Wars, the level of progress the colonists had made in just eight years was amazing. First settled by a string of wealthy families across the inner rim who saw potential in the planet after early explorations had discovered a vast supply of ore deposits, they had attracted mining corporations and potential settlers with the declaration of Eriadu being ‘the hidden gem of the Outer Rim.'

The former settlement was now the size of a small city, a single spaceport was usually a constant bustle of activity, with freighters and passenger transports constantly dropping off both supplies and people, whether they be miners, explorers, or prospective citizens. Kaelan stopped at the top of the staircase of the government complex, elevated above the surroundings buildings, a frown in his expression. The spaceport seemed to have drawn the entire city outside it, something about their distant forms told the outcast that the people were doing more than just waiting to enter. Curious as to what was going on, but deciding to save his questions for later, he moved inside the building to find his government contact.

A small rotunda was the first thing of any significance within the complex, government officials moved towards the various adjoining hallways. Since the planet had been settled by wealthy families, the main government body of Eriadu was a council with each representative of one of the wealthy groups holding a seat. From previous exploits, the Exile knew that their meeting room was on a linear trajectory from the entrance hall. While he didn’t directly interact with any of the councillors, his employer was one of the many spokesmen for the council. Kaelan found her standing outside the threshold between the council meeting hallway and the rotunda. He greeted her on his approach, “Hey Gela!”

The woman in question snapped her head around to face the person addressing her. She ended the conversation she’d been having with one of her assistants when she recognized the man striding towards her. “Kaelan,” She spoke with a friendly smile, “How’d you make out?”

He responded by handing over the mineral survey device, “First site’s concentration is negligible,” The former General recited from what he remembered of his two day trip. “The second area contains a reasonable amount, but the third site has a high percentage all around the area.”

“Excellent work Kaelan,” Gela said after verifying everything he’d told her. “I’ll recommend to the council to establish mining operations in the second and third locations.” She paused when she got a better look at him and noticed the bloodstains adoring his armour; Gela looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “Problems?”

The veteran shrugged, “Not unless you count an attack by a swarm of seven-legged insects.”

“Those would be Septoids,” Gela explained with a sympathetic wince, “Contact reports have been growing among our explorers, they’re nasty little critters.”

Kaelan only nodded in response, “I don’t suppose my payment is ready.” He’d asked Gela to have his fee of two thousand credits ready by the time he returned. The former Jedi hated the fact that he sounded like a mercenary at the moment, but he was feeling anxious. It was a sensation he always felt after staying too long on a planet, and one he’d only ignored once.

Fortunately, his employer withdrew a handful of credit chips from a small pouch on her belt and handed them to him. “It is all there, the two thousand promised plus an extra thousand. Call it hazard pay,” She hastily continued when Kaelan looked as though he were going to refuse.

“I don’t suppose I’ll be able to get off-planet,” The outcast asked as his thoughts returned to Eriadu City’s spaceport. “There’s a lot of people outside the port.”

Gela’s normally friendly expression turned to an angry scowl, “We had to close it down yesterday; a freighter was sabotaged while it was off-loading supplies. No-one was hurt but we’ve had to close the docking area to all ships until we can upgrade security measures and catch whoever is responsible. A few dock workers reported seeing a white-robed figure moving away from the freighter just before it was destroyed but that’s all we have to go on.”

“So there’s no way off-planet?”

The government official regarded the armed surveyor before her intently for a moment, his tone having portrayed a barley suppressed apprehension. “Not at the spaceport no,” Gela continued slowly, “But the council sent a message to the Republic to request their assistance in dealing with the situation. They dispatched the cruiser Harbinger to assist us, they’ll be able to get the docking area up and running and they’ve expressed an invitation to transport some explorers and merchants on their ship. I can ask them to extend that offer to you as well if you wish.”

At Kaelan’s eager nod, Gela smiled, “I’ll pass the message along. The Harbinger should be arriving within a couple of days.” With that she offered a departing farewell and moved toward the council chamber.

True to Gela’s estimation, the Hammerhead class cruiser arrived in orbit two days later. Docking on the spaceport, a complement of Republic soldiers quickly restored order to a city whose tensions had been mounting to the point where talk of rioting was not uncommon. Security enhancements were made by the ship’s technicians in the docking area at a speed so quickly that Kaelan and the other passengers found themselves boarding the Republic warship in a matter of hours. The former General found a strong sense of nostalgia as he stepped onto the cruiser. He pushed it aside, however, and continued forward.

The ship’s Captain had glanced at him for far longer than the others and Kaelan felt a twinge of worry that he might recognize him. His voice didn’t register any such familiarity as he ordered the ship’s protocol droid show him to his quarters. As the Exile’s armoured boots clacked against the deck plating, he couldn’t help but feel that he was up for more than he’d bargained for.

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Old 04-28-2010, 10:29 AM   #3
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Old 05-02-2010, 04:07 PM   #4
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Chapter II: En Route (part 1)

“Set course for Telos,” The order came from the Captain of the Hammerhead class vessel Harbinger, Lasek, as soon as he marched onto the bridge. The situation on Eriadu had taken longer than the naval officer had expected and with an exceedingly tight timetable, delays were unacceptable.

The navigation officer acknowledged the order. Not wanting to waste the Captain’s time by waiting for a confirmation he knew his superior would give, however, he activated the hyperdrive and sent the warship travelling at faster than light sped. “Estimated time of arrival is ten days Captain.”

“That shouldn’t be too much of a delay then,” Lasek said, more to himself than anybody else, though it did nothing to quell the frustration inside him.

It was a feeling shared by many officers in the navy. Their numbers had been severely weakened during the Jedi Civil War and, by the war’s end, the devastation inflicted in the conflict ensured that the number of calls each vessel responded to had grown exponentially. Ships normally rotated between dry-dock stationing and deep-space operations, a practise the Republic could no longer afford. Every single ship was constantly moving through the Republic, patrolling systems to provide the illusion that the galactic government was still capable of maintaining security for its member star systems. With the Republic as weak as it was, many of those at High Command, and in the Senate, knew that the coalition’s infrastructure depended on every single planet.

Then again, Lasek thought, his gaze fixated on the familiar blue funnel associated with Hyperspace, sometimes even that doesn’t feel like enough. The Harbinger had originally been dispatched to Onderon, to attempt to ease the growing tensions between the disputing factions. The planet was positioned on the edges of Republic controlled space, providing the galactic government with a distant outpost to warn against outside incursions. It was for these reasons that Lasek’s original assignment had been extremely important, but the distress call from Eriadu could not have been ignored. Having been settled by Republic citizens, the planets was one of the exceedingly few worlds in the galaxy’s outer-rim, making it important from the start. What made High Command designate Eriadu as a priority for the Harbinger was its economic worth.

Since its settlement, Eriadu had made rapid progress in such a short time. With the goal of the settlers to make the world the galaxy’s second Coruscant, it was no wonder its mining operations generated a revenue far greater than most planets at such development could produce, and there was great potential for it to be able to continue developing even further. The general conception was that Eriadu would be able to reach a level of economic importance Taris had once been centuries before its destruction.

Even with Eriadu’s importance to the Republic, Captain Lasek felt the diversion from Onderon to be too risky. It wasn’t until the request to bring to bring an additional passenger onboard had made the new assignment’s value clear. As was standard procedure for those wishing to book passage on Republic ships, intergalactic databanks were consulted to perform a background check. The Harbinger’s Captain had been surprised when his Commander informed him that there was no data available on a ‘Kaelan Nalto’ and so he had transmitted the name to Coruscant. Lasek hadn’t expected any information, as he suspected it was a false name. Instead he not only received a reply, but direct orders from High Command, with a Priority One tag, to pickup the passenger and proceed to Telos as expediently as possible. No further explanation had been provided, something which irked the naval officer and only added to his frustration. Still, orders were orders.

The steady clacking of metal striking metal made Lasek turned away from the bridge’s central viewport to regard the mechanical form approaching. Standing just under two metres in height with yellow photoreceptors and a grey coloured frame, the HK protocol droids were a valuable asset to the fleet and the Captain was glad to let it take care of both trivial and delicate matters on the Harbinger.

“Query: You summoned me Captain?”

“Yes,” Lasek responded, “I need you to check on the passengers again and make sure they’re comfortable, particularly the one we discussed earlier, his safety is paramount.” The Captain moved to turn back to the viewport but stopped and added, “Try not to be too obvious about it though.”

“Statement: I shall use the utmost discretion Captain.” With that the protocol droid walked out of the bridge and toward the crew quarters of the Hammerhead class ship.

Kaelan sat in one of the chairs in his quarters, one of his Vericon disruptors lay disassembled on the table. A micro-extractor, guided by the exile’s hand, ran through the upper and lower assembly of the weapon, collection trace amounts of particle build-up in the chamber of the disruptor, a build-up caused by the firing process of a discharging blaster. When a blaster bolt was formed, three important components were used in the process; blaster gas, a power pack, and an actuating module. Once a blaster’s trigger was depressed, blaster gas moved to the power pack, allowing it to be energized. From there, it passed on to the actuating module where it was magnetically compressed, a process that forcibly rearranged the energized gaseous atoms into a linear patterns, creating a compressed beam of energy particles commonly known as a ‘blaster bolt.’ Over time, this resulted in a steady increase of heat in the blaster’s barrel and a slow build-up of waste particles in the chamber. Heat absorbent alloys lining the barrel of the blaster kept the thermal levels under control and weekly use of the micro-extractor kept the weapon at optimum performance.

It was something Kaelan had neglected for four days past the recommended time allotment, though he actually appreciated his absentmindedness now as it gave him something to do onboard the Harbinger, if only for a few hours. The sound of a knock on the door made Kaelan stop what he was doing and drop his right hand to its respective side, his fingers brushing against the pistol grip of his holstered disruptor while he called for the unknown party to enter. The wide elliptical shaped door opened and the same and the same protocol droid that escorted him to his room marched in. The mechanical’s photoreceptors focused on the outcast and he took a few steps closer.

“Greeting: I see that you have already made adequate use of your living arrangements. Do you require anything else?”

“No,” The former General said with a shake of his head, “I have everything I need.”

“Departing statement: Very well, if you have any further need of my assistance, do not hesitate to call.” The HK protocol droid looked at him a moment longer, shot a glance around the room, then withdrew to the entrance and out into the corridor.

Kaelan watched it go, puzzled at the droid’s odd behaviour but shrugging it off as he continued cleaning his disruptor. Realizing his right hand was still hovering near his holstered blaster, the exile moved his hand away. The reaction was a purely instinctual movement born from years of wandering in the Outer-Rim. Trust was not something easily earned in such regions of the galaxy, a feeling Kaelan had absorbed all too well.

Four days passed, with the outcast spending most of his time wandering around the cruiser. Security concerns, however, meant that the HK unit had to be his escort at all times. The droids constantly described areas of the ship, added his own personal observations, and posed questions every few minutes about Kaelan himself. Despite the annoyance permeating through his senses, the ex-Jedi was slightly suspicious of the mechanical escort. It was as though the droid were trying to trick him into answering questions through the enticement of sheer exasperation. If that were the case, it had been unsuccessful; he had revealed nothing about a past he kept closely guarded.

Of all the areas of the ship, the lower sections were of particular interest to Kaelan. Despite his efforts to learn about every part of the Devastator during the Mandalorian Wars, he had never really had time. It was part of the reason he was so interested in the HK unit’s explanation of the operations conducted on the lower decks. The protocol droids gestured toward the various conduits lining the walls above the terminals in the narrow spaced hallway.

“Observation: Org- I mean crewmen in this area are responsible for monitoring power distribution, nearby systems, and affected sections of the ship’s reactor.”

The exile nodded in understanding, the section was one of those he’d rarely visited during his time as a Republic General. It was one of the few regrets he had from back then, particularly since the ventral area of his ship seemed to take the most damage during engagements. Having not paid attention to those responsible for maintaining ship functionality was something he believed every Captain was guilty of. “Which conduits run through this section?”

“Supposition: I believe these are conduits E1-F3.”

Kaelan glanced at the protocol droid, raising an eyebrow at the mechanical’s terse tone. “Is there a problem?”

“Clarification: Of course not.”

He glanced at the HK unit a moment longer before turning back to the crewmen. The droid was proving to be a strange unit, whether it was a defection of the individual or the series itself was unclear, but the protocol droid was prone to bouts of unpredictability unbecoming of a stable model. Many times it had replied with strange tones or replaced words in the middle of a sentence. Still, he knew he had been away from the Republic for some time and the thought of the galactic government testing prototype droids did not escape him.

Taking one last cursory inspection of the lower deck, he decided he’d seen enough of the ship for the day and promptly asked the droid to take him back to his quarters. An eager agreement from the HK unit and a lift ride later brought the exile back to his temporary dwelling.

“Captain?’ The query resounded from the Lieutenant stationed at the ship’s operations console, his voice mixed with confusion and surprise.

“What is it?” Lasek asked, breaking off the conversation with his executive officer as he moved toward the front of the bridge.

“I’m picking up a distress signal on the lower COM frequencies,” The OPS officer responded, his brow knitted in concentration while his fingers rapidly inputted commands on his console. “The transmission is very weak sir.”

The Captain nodded absently, “Play it.”

Static filled with bridge intercom, a noise eventually punctuated by the voice of an old woman. “This is…freighter……under atta-….Sith Warship….”

The words were quiet and hard to comprehend, but it was clear a vessel was under heavy fire. Lasek thought about the ramifications of responding to the plea for assistance. While it was Republic protocol to offer any and all available assistance to those in distress, the naval officer wondered whether the Republic could realistically continue to offer such assistance. At its weakened stage, every single scrap of resources was vital to the Republic. Not to mention that he had direct orders from High Command to proceed without delay to Telos. Despite his personal feelings on protocol, he knew it was his duty to follow them, or at least attempt to.
“Lieutenant, can you get the ship’s ID signature?”

“Affirmative sir,” The OPS officer replied, “It doesn’t match anything in the registry though.”

“Strange,” Lasek murmured, a ship without a registered ID signature was a very rare occurrence. All ships in the Republic, from the simplest starfighter to the navy’s capital ships, were required to have their signatures transmitted to the galactic registry, even if that ship only made occasionally trade runs through Republic space. To encounter a ship without a listed registry meant the vessel was either making its first run inside the borders of the galactic government, a virtual impossibility, or it was involved in something very illegal.

“What to do you want to do sir?”

Knowing the question was posed by the Harbinger’s executive officer, Lasek turned to his second in command, Commander Nire. She looked at her superior a moment longer as he remained silent. Just before she was about to speak, Lasek beat her to it. “I’ll need to check with Command. In the meantime, assume we are following protocol.” The Captain let his gaze wander away from the port viewport back to his executive officer, “Take us within 10,000 kilometres and bring the ship to combat alert level blue. I’ll be in the COM room,” The naval officer called as he moved toward the closest exit. “You have the bridge Commander.”

“Aye sir,” Nire acknowledged just before the Captain left the command centre.

Lasek hadn’t taken more than five steps out of the bridge before the voice of his executive officer resounded throughout the Republic cruiser. “Attention all hands, this is Commander Nire, we are dropping out of hyperspace and investigating the presence of an enemy warship. All stations to code blue, stand by for further orders.”

The Captain of the Harbinger made the short trek to the COM station thirty metres away from the bridge, an area which doubled as a briefing room. Crewmen and soldiers passed by the naval officer at a brisk pace, some of them wearing civilian clothing, as they moved to fulfill the duties they had only recently been relieved from. It didn’t take long before the Captain reached his destination, the standard elliptical doors barring entry to the long-range transmitter aboard the Republic cruiser. A lone table with eight chairs around it were the sole contents of the rectangular room, but the naval officer was only interested in the large interface embedded into the side of the table.

The transceiver was able to send transmissions to any place in the galaxy, by having enough range to reach the closest communication centre. From there, the outpost would rout the signal across a lattice work of other facilities, each station automatically routing the communication until it reached its intended destination. For Lasek, that destination was the Hammerhead class vessel Sojourn, a ship on patrol near the inner rim world of Selvaris. He sent a Priority Two tag along with the message, an action that sped his transmission through the routing process, ensuring he was speaking the commanding officer of the Republic flagship in less than thirty seconds. “Captain,” The holographic form of Admiral Carth Onasi spoke in greeting as it flickered on the opposite side of the table. “No troubles with your assignment I hope.”

Carth had been given a complete commission to the rank of Admiral for his contribution in ending the Jedi Civil War. Having been promoted from Commander, it was one of the biggest leaps in the ranks in Republic history and it made Lasek more than a little nervous to be in his presence, if only through holographic means.
“Uh…not so much trouble sir, as complications.”

The Admiral raised an eyebrow, clearly expecting an explanation. With a small sigh, Lasek provided one. “Since I’ve received explicit orders, I wanted to check with you sir, before diverting course from Telos. We’ve received a distress signal from a freighter under attack by Sith forces and I’m requesting permission to respond.”

“You have permission to divert course Captain. If there’s a Sith presence in the region, I want you to investigate. The Admiral paused for a moment, clearly thinking something over. “Were you able to get the ID signature from the ship?”

“Yes sir, its signature doesn’t match anything in the registry. I have it in the ship’s relay system and I’m transmitting to you now Admiral.” The cruiser’s commander inputted the same tag to the information and sent it on its way.

Seconds of silence were interrupted as Carth looked to someone to the right of his holographic form. “One moment Captain,” He called before his form disappeared.

Believing the Admiral would likely have to confer with the resources available on the galactic capital of Coruscant, Lasek sat in one of the chairs. Barely seconds after he had sat down, however, the Admiral’s holographic form returned, sending the naval officer bolting to his feet. Luckily for him, Carth was too distracted by his own thoughts to lecture the Captain on proper protocol. “Are you sure this is the ship’s codes? Have you confirmed it?”

“It is the freighter’s signature,” Lasek said, wondering what the sudden concern was for. “I’m absolutely sure on that sir.”

“Then listen to me carefully Captian,” Carth replied in a serious tone that demanded full attention as he leaned forward, “I want that ship recovered. I don’t care if it is just wreckage or pieces of debris.”

“I understand sir,” The Harbinger Captain replied with a curt nod.

“Good, as soon as you’re done, resume on your previous heading. It is of the highest importance that the passenger reach Telos.”

“You can count on me Admiral.”

A small smile played across Carth’s face, “I don’t doubt that. Good hunting Captian. Admiral Onasi out.”

Carth’s holographic form flickered out leaving Lasek with an abundance of both curiosity and questions. Pushing those to the back of his mind for now, he tapped a button on the interface for the bridge COM. “Commander this is Lasek, report.”

“We’re holding position at the specified distance Captain.” Nire replied, her voiced emitting from the interface’s speakers. “One freighter, heavily damaged with no life signs and a Sith frigate, Valiant class. Its systems look to be operational but there’s no life signs either. For all intents and purposes, it's adrift sir.”

Lasek’s eyes widened in a combination of surprise and disbelief, no warship could have been automated, which left the question of what happened to the crew. A question the Captain wanted answered. “Bring us within docking distance, then inform Major Varn that he may commence boarding operations, the warship first. I’ll join you on the bridge shortly.”

“Understood sir.”

“All hands prepare to board!” The barked command from Major Varn resounded in the corridor just outside the armoury. A platoon of soldiers formed a line outside the ordnance storage room, accepting the rifles and grenades handed out. Extra power packs, first-aid kits, and thermal charges were secured on the red and orange coloured tactical vests that lay over similar coloured plate armour. Their actions were carried out with a speed and efficiency heightened by repetition and strengthened by the task at hand, ensuring that the group of twenty-one was armed and heading to the airlock in less than two minutes, with Varn at the front. “Step to it gentlemen!”

The main airlock was stationed near the ship’s bridge, it ran off a branching corridor and was embedded five metres in. The platoon took up firing positions on the access hatch, the Major moving to the side of the door while the rest formed up along the side of the wall, each with their weapons primed and at the ready. Varn listened as the sound of the airlock’s magnetic interlocked could be heard locking on the enemy ship’s hull. The veteran officer knew the process was complete when the hatch opened and the airlock itself was exposed.

The Republic soldiers tensed at the door’s opening, each one half-expecting a wave of enemy forces to converge on their position. When no such response was forthcoming, Varn was quick to order an advance. The platoon leader took point in the widely spaced double-column formation, the spaces composed of one metre intervals in-between pairs of soldiers referred to as fire-teams. Each fire-team was responsible for scanning for hostiles, whether it be directly to their front or the side. Since the group was going through the airlock, each soldier pointed their weapons forward as they ran to the sealed hatch of the enemy warship.

“Ready to set a charge sir,” One of the Sergeant next to the Major suggested eagerly.

With the only options available being to either slice the door’s interface or blow it open, Varn opted for the more dramatic approach. He sent a grin towards the Sergeant, “Do it.”

The non-com responded by withdrawing a thermal charge from his tac-vest and attaching it to the middle of the door. Little larger than three grenades, the charge carried a thermal output strong enough to burn through the entry way’s locking mechanism, effectively breaking the seal. The device was triggered by either remote or a specified time. The sergeants set the time for the standard five seconds, an interval long enough for him to retake his place in the formation and shout the precautionary, “Clear!”

The explosive was triggered right on schedule, the area ahead couldn’t be seen through the smoke, but the Major moved ahead regardless. The rest of the platoon followed their commanding officer’s lead, blaster rifles at the ready as they stormed through the airlock, emerging onto a completely deserted corridor. The only noises to be heard were that of the Republic soldiers, the sounds of their gear clinking against their armour as they brought their rifles around to scan for threats. There was no sign of damage in the immediate area, nearby electronic interfaces within the hallway were intact, and there was no sign of damage in the immediate area, nearby electronic interfaces within the hallway were intact, and there was no carbon scoring to suggest an internal strife. One of the soldiers let out a small shiver as he took in the seemingly abandoned vessel, “This place gives me the creeps.”

“Stow it Corporal,” Varn snapped, not needing to turn around to know who was speaking. Though he shared his suborinate’s musings, he wasn’t about to show it. “We’ll split up by squads,” He ordered, pointing to two of his best. “Terius, take your group to the engine room. Sol, you head to the fire control centre; my group has the bridge. Status reports every ten minutes.”

The designated squad leaders, holding the ranks of Lieutenant and Warrant Officer respectively, motioned to their teams and proceeded towards their assigned areas, their formation adapting accordingly. Varn watched them go before motioning to his own squad and heading toward the vessel’s command centre. All of them were familiar with the schematics of Valiant-class frigates and it didn’t take long for the Major and his group to arrive at the entrance to the bridge. A square shaped door barred the team’s entry and it was one the squad leader decided to breach too. The same Sergeant who had broken the seal on the enemy airlock was in his squad and Varn decided to make use of his talents once again. He pointed to the non-com, then the door, and then flashed five fingers, signalling for a five seconds breach.

A firm nod was the only response as the Sergeant withdrew another thermal charge and attached it to the entry way. The soldier keyed for a five second delay, side-stepping to the door frame while he silently counted down to zero. On one he shouted, “Clear!”

The last letter had barely been enunciated when the charge exploded, kicking smoke into the narrow hallway. Varn charged, moving in a crouched position, his blaster rifle firmly placed in his shoulder as he emerged from the dissipating haze and scanned the command centre, his finger hovering near the weapon’s trigger.

The bridge was a small, circular area composed of rings of declining platforms, each with consoles and terminals devoted to control specific aspects of the ship. Large, rectangular viewports exposed the sight of the familiar black void of space. Varn’s peripheral vision registered a form on the command chair of the frigate and he quickly brought his blaster around, focusing on the target as he approached at a cautious pace. The rest of his squad followed, though they all recoiled when the sight of what, essentially looked to be a corpse, greeted their vision.

Cracked and scarred flesh composed the visible sections of the body, that being anything above the waist, the rest was covered by loose fitting black pants and boots. The Major had seen a lot of corpses in his years of service, but this level of damaged flesh surpassed anything he’d ever seen on the battlefield. Opening a channel on the COM unit installed on his armour’s left wrist plate, Varn signalled the other team leaders. “Two-One, this is One-One, report.”

“Engine room is clear,” Terius said, “We’ve made a thorough search of the area. Everything is still operating at standard parameters, nothing in this section looks damaged.”

“Move onto the escape pods, we’ve got some corpse here and it is possible the rest of the crew jumped ship.”

“Understood,” Terius responded after a brief pause, “Two-One out.”

“Three-One,” Varn said once Terius disconnected their link, “What have you got?”

“Absolutely nothing sir,” Sol replied, a tinge of disappointment in his voice. “No life-forms or any discernible damage detected.”

Varn was beginning to wonder what the hell was going on. The ship had clearly bore a full crew complement, as evidenced by the frigate’s fully functional systems. Yet they seemed to have vanished, they clearly had no desire to protect their ship’s critical systems. Then again, the Major supposed they could have abandoned ship. Still, Varn was uneasy, one glance to the corpse in the command chair made him think there was far more to this than it seemed.

“Sol, contact the Harbinger and tell them we have a corpse for medical retrieval, and escort the recovery team to the bridge. I don’t want to take any chances.”

“On it sir, Three-One out.”

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-03-2010 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 05-02-2010, 04:12 PM   #5
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter II: En Route (part 2)

Investigating reported presence of an enemy warship. The words refused to leave Kaelan’s minds since he had heard the general announcement from the bridge. The exile had considered asking either the ship’s commander or passing crewmen on what the situation was, but quickly decided against it. As a former General, Kaelan knew how annoyed he would be if a civilian passenger onboard his ship were demanding status reports. So he had settled for pacing in his quarters, but thirty minutes with no shakes to indicate the ship was under attack had made him anxious, so he had started roaming the corridors of the ship, gauging the reactions of the crewmen and officers he encountered. Their movements suggested an anxiety to be expected of a crew on cod blue readiness and, after spending an hour moving around the cruiser, Kaelan realized that the current incident was isolated to the bridge and whatever specific sections had been advised. Taking some comfort from the fact a ship to ship engagement was highly unlikely, the former Jedi moved back to his quarters. The sight of a datapad on the table caught his eyes and he quickly picked it up. A frown adored the outcast’s expression once he had finished reading it. He was to undergo a general medical examination.

It was a standard procedure for any of those transferring onto a Republic vessel, be they military or civilian. What was strange was that such an examination was normally conducted within the first few hours of the newcomer’s arrival, not a few days later. That being said, Kaelan knew such a command could not be disobeyed. Not wanting to alarm or needlessly hassle the medical personnel, he removed his weapons ad stripped off his armour and cloak, placing both within the footlocker in his room. The former Jedi made his way to the medical bay, garbed only in a light green jumpsuit. For once he found himself grateful that the medical centre was close to his quarters.

Stepping in, he found the area completely vacant, save for a small medical droid in the centre of the room. The droid’s carapace resembled that of a teardrop, four photoreceptors in the centre glowed a fierce red. Six spindly appendages sprouted from the top of the carapace, forming a circular overhang around the droid’s main body, each was fitted with some type of medical instrument. Navigating his way through the various medical beds, kolto tanks, and storage containers clustered around the large, rectangular room, Kaelan moved toward the central terminal. The station was the main interface for the medical bay and the former General inserted the datapad with his examination orders into the receptacle port.

Text scrolling across the terminal’s display told him to remain where he was, a command the exile obeyed while he watched the medical droid move towards him. The mechanical healers were rarely constructed with vocabulators, a fact Kaelan had never found more irksome, particularly since he would’ve liked to question the droid on why he was only now being assessed for medical conditions. Were he to actually carry a disease, the Republic ship’s entire crew would be infected by now. He found it hard to believe a ship’s chief medical officer could be so incompetent and it made him think there was something wrong with the medical bay being so deserted.

A sharp pain in the outcast’s neck made him snap around to look at the droid, only to see the arm with a needle attachment extended outward, a vial of an unknown substance decreasing from its container, as it entered his system. His eyes widened at the sight and he moved to push it away, only to be overcome with a strong sense of drowsiness. Blackness crept along the sides of his vision and Kaelan realized he had been injected with a sedative. The veteran tried to fight off the effects as he took tentative steps toward a nearby canister. Either the dose was too strong or he was too weak, in the end he only managed to take a few steps before he crumpled to the ground. The sound of distant footsteps drawing closer was the last thing he heard before he surrendered himself to the darkness.

Captain Lasek stood on the bridge, hands clasped behind his back, while he gazed at the hull of the Sith frigate, a sight that took up the entire view of the starboard viewport. It was a sight that brought up memories of the Jedi Civil War at a time when the Valiant-class frigates were widely in use by Revan’s Empire. Like all of the ships under the Dark Lord’s command, the model had been one created by the Republic. Its shortened dagger shaped design enabled it to achieve a greater amount of speed and manoeuvrability, as did the lack of any fighters, excessive crew, and ground assault vehicles. This also allowed the placement of more turbolaser batteries, though the engineers had been careful to find a balance between firepower and speed. During the reign of Darth Revan and Darth Malak, its primary tasking was to engage enemy ships of the same class, intercept boarding craft, and perform strafing runs on capital ships. All of which were carried out with terrifying efficiency.

But this frigate was adrift, no life-signs had been detected anywhere in the ship, turning the formidable vessel into just another piece of debris in space. It was a sight that beset a degree of both relief and worry. Relief because the frigate was not actively engaging the Harbinger, Valiant-class ships had a history of being able to all but nullify a capital ship’s shielding while they remained safe as they constantly shifted to areas outside their target’s firing arcs. The worry came from the absence of a crew, it had been two hours since a recovery team had brought a Sith corpse onboard after Warrant Officer Sol had contacted the bridge. In that time, the chief medical officer had reported that, as far as she was concerned, the individual should have literally fallen apart a long time ago.

Now the naval officer was waiting for Major Varn to make his report, initial information had provided few answers to swarms of questions. As if on cue, the starboard bridge door opened and the platoon leader in question marched onto the command centre. Spotting Lasek, Varn moved towards him, the gear he wore during the boarding operation still on his person. Stopping only a few metres away, the veteran stood at attention and snapped off a crisp salute to his superior, “Sir, Major Varn reporting as ordered.”

“Your report Major?” Lasek asked once he had returned the salute.

“We’ve thoroughly searched both vessels sir, nothing onboard either except that corpse from the frigate and a badly damaged T3 astromech from the freighter.”

“There was no-one onboard?” Lasek repeated in disbelief, he had expected a report of at least a trace of activity or something to indicate the ship had clearly been abandoned. “Then who was firing at the freighter?”

Varn wasn’t sure if the Captain was asking him or not but he decided to answer anyway, “We don’t know sir. All the escape pods are still in their berths, the only evidence to suggest the frigate even had a crew is the condition of the ship itself. If I didn’t know any better I’d say it was a derelict.”

“You’re sure of this?”

“With all due respect sir, my men are the best. If they didn’t find anything after two thorough searches, then there’s nothing to find.”

The naval officer nodded, either too pre-occupied with his own thoughts to have noticed the Major’s defensive tone or else just not wanting to press the issue. He became silent as he mulled over the information he’d just received, trying to decipher the next logical course of action.

“Do you want to tractor the freighter over here now sir?” Varn asked, his voice betraying some of the fatigue he was starting to feel. Though the veteran officer wasn’t required to be involved in the process itself, he and his squad would need to be standing by in the cruiser’s hangar bay, as protocol dictated when any ships were brought aboard a Republic vessel.

Whatever Lasek’s response was going to be was cut off by a frantic shout from Commander Nire, “Sir, you better listen to this!”

The Captain quickly crossed over to the other side of the bridge, where his executive officer was hunched over the ship’s internal communications console. One look at his second in command made a knot form in his stomach, “What is it?”

Nire hit a single button on the terminal, the sound of breaking glass along with the scream of the medical officer filled the speakers, a noise quickly accompanied by a deep voice that sent chills down Lasek’s spine. “I have come for the Jedi.”

“What the hell was that?!” The Harbinger Captain demanded, his tone on the verge of panic.

“Sir, I don’t know. Nearby sections aren’t responding to calls.”

“Varn, get a squad down there now!”

“On it sir,” The acknowledgement barely spoken before the Major sprinted out of the room, a channel on his wrist-COM open” Terius, this is Varn.” The veteran’s pace slowed to a jog when no response was forthcoming, “Terius, respond.” He halted entirely when silence continued to be the only transmission on the channel. “Damn it Lieutenant, I need a sit-rep!”

Further transmissions revealed no contact from Sol either, Varn was now running to the medical centre an open COM channel broadcasting to every wrist-COM on the ship. “This is Major Varn to any available units, respond!”
“Sergeant Akana here sir.”

The squad leader took notice of the fear in the non-com’s voice and he couldn’t help but cringe at the thought of what the current situation was on the Hammerhead class cruiser. Even if the situation was dire, he wasn’t about to discuss it over an open COM channel, “Switch to encryption protocol theta two-two-four.”

“Un…understood,” There was a pause as both parties switched to the designated encryption, the Sergeant’s voice returning shortly after. “We’re holding position in section two-zero.”

Varn breathed a sigh of relief, he had feared they would be near one of the aft stations but was pleased to note they were only a deck away from the crew quarters. “Converge on the medical bay; we have reason to believe the prisoner has escaped.”

Akana’s voice returned, hesitancy clear in her tone. “Is that wise sir? I haven’t been able to hear from anyone else, it’s possible they’re—”

“No time for that type of talk,” The Major said sharply, cutting off the soldier mid-sentence. While it was a distinct possibility that Akana was right, it wasn’t something he was willing to consider, because of both a refusal to believe his friends were dead and because the prospect itself was more than a little unnerving. That didn’t mean he was going to blindly ignore such a potential danger, as he planned to keep his guard up at all times, he just wasn’t going to think about it. “Rendezvous outside the medical bay,” He repeated the command firmly, his tone discouraging any further objections.
“We’re on our way sir,” The Sergeant responded, closing the channel shortly after.

Varn did the same, shouldering his blaster rifle and moving forward once more. The fast pace he initially brokered with had left him far from the Harbinger’s command centre. He had been too distracted with attempting to make contact with his platoon that he didn’t realize that there was no-one around him. An area normally bustling with activity, as crewmen monitored the status of ship systems, was nothing but a ghostly husk, devoid of any signs of life. Such a sight should be impossible, the vessel was still at standby alert and it made the Major realize that the situation on the Hammerhead ship was clearly as bad as Akana feared. The revelation sparked a desire to spread a warning throughout the ship, the prisoner they picked up may have been extremely dangerous by himself but it was clear that there were more problems on the Harbinger than one escaped Sith Lord.

The officer’s hand flew to his wrist-COM, but a sudden transmission made him check his movements. “Sir, we’ve got contacts!” Akana’s voice shouted on the COM, a sound accompanied by the warnings and screams of his other squadmates. “Too close,” The Sergeant shouted, “Switch to blades! Blades!”

The accompanying sounds made Varn realize that the squad’s defeat was never in any doubt. The noise of clashing blades only resounded for a handful seconds before they were overpowered by pained grunts and screams. The other end of the COM fell silent soon after, with the squad leader about to double back to the bridge when he caught the sight of faint shimmers in the hull around him, as though parts of the deck plating were distorted. It didn’t take him long to realize he had been surrounded by enemies with stealth generators. On impulse he tried to contact the bridge one last time, only to find that his wrist-COM was being jammed. Knowing they could have done the same to Akana’s group, he didn’t need to have an officer’s commission to know that his unknown adversaries had wanted him to hear the Sergeant’s transmission. The realization made him snarl in anger, his hand reaching for the vibro-blade holstered at his side.

No move was made against the squad leader, they simply stood there. Their stealth generators deactivated when Varn drew his blade, making it look as though they appeared out of thin air. The Major expected an attack, but they still stood with held combat stances. They knew he was isolated from any remaining soldiers and that he had no way to spread a warning or call for help, so they were content to let him make the first move. Varn promptly did so, charging forward with his blade held high. It was a movement he’d often done when forced into melee engagements. The sheer lack of any discernible technique often made enemies underestimate Varn. When he was close enough to strike at the mysterious assassins, instead of bringing his blade down in a haphazard vertical chop, he quickly brought the vibroblade around in a horizontal swing.

To his surprise, his strike was deflected by the one of edges of his opponent’s double-bladed sword. Recognizing the skills of his enemy, Varn switched for more aggressive thrusts, hoping to catch the assassin off guard, or at least force the intruder into a retreat long enough for him to slip away. Quick flourishes and an unwillingness to move on the assassin’s part ensured that Varn’s plan failed. His attacks became more desperate as the others started to converge on him, their double-bladed weapons moving in rapid flurries too fast for the Major’s eyes to track. He settled less for an attack and more for evasion, ducking and weaving in-between the blades. The assassins formed a tighter circle around him in response and Varn knew he wouldn’t be walking away from the battle alive. In the end the Republic officer only managed to include a few more strikes and slashes before he fell, a combination of slashes of stabs being the cause.

Major Varn’s last thoughts were a desire to have warned the bridge earlier, then, perhaps, the Harbinger wouldn’t have fallen.

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-02-2010 at 04:24 PM.
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Old 05-15-2010, 05:02 PM   #6
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 3: Unexpected Detour (part I)

Pain, it had been a constant companion in the recent years of Kaelan's life. Whether it was during the Mandalorian Wars or delving through the galaxy as an explorer and surveyor, it was always present. It manifested in different ways. Memories were the most common. The sights of friends long dead, worlds ravaged by conflict, and derelict ships floating in space were the more prevalent. The outcast had taken great care to suppress such things, locking them away in the dark recesses of his mind, but the memories could only be caged for so long. When they did come out, there was no stopping it. Kaelan was forced to relive the events, as though a part of himself were trying to make him confront and accept it. He never did though. The former General only watched as the events played through, a repeating cycle that could never be changed, never escaped.

The visions suddenly shifted and a different kind of pain could be felt, its effect so strong it eclipsed the emotional distress. Just when the exile felt like giving in, to end the searing pain that coursed like a fire through him, he felt a distant feeling of emptiness. It felt like a distant void, as though Kaelan could reach a place where he could end this torment and rid himself of his agony. The thought was more than a little appealing and so the former Jedi reached out, coaxing the sensation closer. It responded after several moments, drawing nearer and nearer until the agony had vanished. Delving fully into the strange phenomenon, Kaelan felt a mixed sense of familiarity before his perceptions went dark.


The command echoed inside Kaelan's mind, jump-starting his previously inactive limbs. The sudden activity triggered the release system of the tank he was submerged in, his mind conscious enough for him to recognize the feeling of immersion within a kolto tank. The grates of a wide drain on the bottom of the tank snapped open, the healing fluid slowly receding into the storage chamber below. The veteran felt the familiar feelings of gravity take hold; his body slowly sank to the bottom of the tank. The transparisteel covering opened once the tank's independent systems registered the container was clear of kolto, leaving Kaelan's weak form to slump forward. Only a quickly extended hand saved him from smacking his face against the deck plating.

The exile stayed like that for a few moments, breathing deeply to try to fully regain his senses before he rose to his feet and took in the unfamiliar surroundings. The arrangement of more kolto tanks around the circular room made it clear to Kaelan that he was in the treatment section of a medical bay, the design of which did not conform to a Hammerhead class vessel, making it clear he was no long onboard the Harbinger. Gazing at the tanks themselves, he could see he was not the only one in the room. Humanoid forms could be seen suspended within the mildly opaque, white healing fluid in the tanks. Kaelan briefly considered starting the reviving process but checked his movements when he realized they were dead.

The sudden awareness made him freeze. He hadn't even looked at the displayed bio-readout, he had just known, as though he had sensed it. Impossible, the former Jedi thought, it has been gone for years. The mental statement did nothing to dissuade him, however, as he tried to call on the feeling again. It took a great deal of concentration, but he could feel that the life had left the others within the tanks long ago. The Force, which had once been so vibrant within him was a dull shadow by comparison now. Kaelan imagined it was how a Naboo Nightspider would feel if its giant web were reduced to a single spindle. The enhancement to his senses was back, but only if he focused in a single location, and even then it took a high degree of concentration that made it not as practical as it once was. It didn't really matter to the ex-General though; he had learned not to rely on the Force since his exile and, in four years, had become highly adept in a wide range of skills.

Pushing his thoughts away, Kaelan caught sight of an adjoining room and he moved inside. Various medicals beds and shelves positioned within a rectangular room a third the size of one on the Harbinger met his wandering gaze. A console positioned near the bay's exit promised to provide some sort of explanation and it was one Kaelan hoped would be kept as he moved toward it. Medical logs from the officer in charge were the first piece of stored data to catch his eye and, on instinct, he brought his left forearm toward the system to download the data. Instead of the sight of the transceiver attached to his armour, however, bare flesh was present instead. The sight made Kaelan realize his only apparel was his green and brown jumpsuit. He hadn't noticed at first since he had grown accustomed to wearing the protective attire, so much so that he rarely took it off.

Shaking his head to dispel his distracting thoughts, Kaelan accessed the first log, selecting for the text of the entry. Curiously only the logs from the past three days were the ones shown, but he accessed them all, hoping to shed some light on his current situation. The entries raised just as many questions as they answered, however. According to the medical officer, he had been recovered when the freighter Ebon Hawk touched down on the facility he was in, named Peragus. Kaelan could only assume he had somehow been transferred from the Harbinger to the Ebon Hawk while he was unconscious. It was a theory that seemed to fit since the last thing he remembered was the Hammerhead warship responding to a distress call that could have involved the freighter in question, though he knew that there could be other factors involved.

Apparently, trouble seemed to follow him to this facility as well. A number of accidents had occurred with the miners and their droids, a few bad enough to leave a group of miners both dead and critically wounded. A detonation was the last thing to be recorded by the logs, with a general order for lockdown being issued by the facility's failsafe systems not long after.

The Force Sensitive regarded the system's other functions. Video feed to the hallway outside and the morgue were the only other options of interest. Selecting the recording of the hallway, the sight of a damaged door filled the console's small display. It was easy to surmise that an effort had been made to lock the door, either in response to the facility lockdown or manually, as evidenced by the entry way's rapidly moving locking mechanism on the left side, as the built-in electronic systems continually tried to form a seal. A brief scowl adored Kaelan's expression; the only way to get through the door would be to destroy the locking mechanism. Not an easy thing to do without weapons.

Switching to the morgue camera, the veteran could see a lot of bodies within the large chamber. He let out a snort when he realized that the morgue was larger than the medical bay, a fact that gave testament to why there were so many dead. "Fantastic medical care," Kaelan muttered to himself dryly as he unlocked the door.

Crossing out of the medical bay toward the now open door on the opposite side of the narrow hallway, the former General's gaze first fell onto an old woman just right of the entrance. He gazed at her for a moment, comparing her appearance to the others in the room. While the rest all wore similar blue and brown uniforms, the woman was dressed in robes. There was something else about her that gave him pause, something more than just her outlandish garb and it compelled him to reach out with the Force and try to sense what it was his instincts were telling him. After a full minute of Kaelan visibly straining with effort, he pulled back, having discovered something to give substance to his feeling. The woman was, in fact, still alive, though her heart rate and neural activity were incredibly slow, as though she were in some kind of stasis.

The former Jedi knew he didn't have any knowledge of how to attempt a revival so he simply looked to the other bodies, searching for something that could allow him to break the locking mechanism on the hallway door and move away from this section. While it was possible for the veteran to use some of the chemicals in the medical bay to form a corrosive substance to burn the lock on the hallway door, the creation and application could take hours and he wasn't one to wait for so long unless he had to. That being the case, Kaelan was aware it was just as unlikely for there to be anything of significance on any of the corpses. The lockdown, however, gave a strong possibility that the medical staff had left in a hurry and it was plausible that something of value still remained on some of the corpses.

He searched all of the bodies in the area, a search that passed quickly since most of the corpses had been stripped of everything prior to their placement in the room. Three of the bodies along the far end, however, were still in uniform. A utility belt with a few tools clipped to the sides, along with a first-aid kit and datapad within two of the pockets, caught the Force Sensitive's eye. Removing the belt from its previous owner and putting it around his own waist allowed him to examine the tools more closely. A plasma torch was the most prominent find among the survey equipment. A standard mining tool for most miners, the plasma torch was used to burn away the rock around a layer of located resources. The piece broken away could then be sent to a refinery, allowing for a greater collection of resource since the deposit could be harnessed in its entirety. Kaelan knew it would also be capable of burning through the lock on the door.

"Find what you're looking for amongst the dead?"

The veteran might've been startled if he hadn't already sensed that the old women near the morgue's entrance was alive. He turned to face her, unable to see her eyes now that the hood of her green robes was pulled over them. "I'm curious as to why the medical staff left someone alive in here."

It was an offhand statement but spoken in a way that demanded an explanation, something that the woman seemed to pick up on. "I was close to death, closer than I would've liked." She paused for a moment as though her atrophied eyes were looking him over. "You have the smell of the Kolto tank about you. How do you feel?"

A frown was her only reply at first as Kaelan mulled over her sentence. Kolto was a near odourless substance, only heightened senses could possibly discern the scent. While it seemed possible in her case, given her blindness, it didn't strike him as being possible. "A little disorientated," He finally answered cautiously, "Was it your voice I heard in the tank?"

"Yes, I had hoped as much. I slept here too long and could not awaken. It may be I reached out unconsciously and your mind must have been a willing one, or perhaps you have been trained for such things."

A small smirk played across her lips with her last sentence and it unnerved Kaelan a great deal. Her confession of speaking to his mind made it clear she was attuned to the Force on some level and the former General wondered if she had been sent by the Jedi to look for him. An undercurrent of rage poured through him at the thought, the idea of the very people who exiled him now looking for him was far from a welcome prospect. No sooner had the emotion appeared than it dissipated, however, something about the woman made him think that she had as much ties to the Jedi as he. "So you can touch minds and feign death," Kaelan said, listing off the abilities he had already learned she possessed. "Who are you?"

"I am Kreia and I am your rescuer as you are mine. Tell me, do you recall what has happened?"

Kaelan was left perplexed by the second half of her first statement, feeling as though there were more to the words than he thought. It took a moment for him to realize she had asked him a question. "Last thing I remember I was forcibly sedated on the Republic cruiser Harbinger," He had considered omitting his sedation but decided against it, there was nothing to be gained by such an act.

"Your ship was attacked," Kreia spoke, filling in the gaps. "You were the only survivor, a result of your Jedi training no doubt."

"If you think I am a Jedi, then you are mistaken." The veteran snarled, the thinly veiled rage returning.

"Your stance, your walk, say otherwise. You walk is heavy, you carry something that weighs you down."

A brief flash on the surface of Malachor V filled his mind before Kaelan suppressed the unwanted memory. "Let's deal with the now. Where are we?"

"I do not know." Kreia replied with a shake of her head," I was removed from the events of this world as I slept. A survey of the surroundings may provide the answers you seek." She looked around the room briefly, as if trying to focus on something. "The ship we arrived in must still be here, we should recover it and leave."

"Care to explain the sudden rush?" Kaelan asked, a single eyebrow raised at her hurried tone.

"We were attacked once and I fear our attackers will not give up the hunt so easily. Without transport, weapons, and information, they will find us easy prey indeed."

The former General nodded in acceptance of their pressing need. If everyone on the Harbinger had been killed by their mysterious pursuers, as Kreia caimed, it stood to reason that they were in danger. "I'll see if I can find a way out of here then."

"You may wish to extend your search to some clothes," A small amount of amusement in her voice, "If only for proper first impressions."

"Indeed," Kaelan said with a raised eyebrow. While his current state of undress left him with a slight problem when it came to defence, finding clothing was more of a secondary priority now that he knew he was being pursued.

"I'll leave you to the explorations of this place, here I will remain in an attempt to centre myself."

The ex-Jedi felt another stab of anger at the woman's inaction. Another Force Sensitive who just wants to meditate while a crisis brews around them, he thought with a barely suppressed growl. He managed to curb his anger long enough to offer a curt nod in acknowledgement before moving out of the room. Making a short detour to the medicaly bay, Kaelan withdrew the datapad from his captured belt and downloaded the medical officer's logs. Something told him it wouldn't hurt to have them for future reference. The veteran quickly made his way to the locked door, replacing the datapad and withdrawing the plasma torch. The plasma flow sparked to life with a touch of the ignition switch, an orange flame erupting from the end. Kaelan brought the torch near the door's locking mechanism, right in the centre. The metals used in the entryway's construction were not meant to be thermal resistant and it didn't take long for the locks to melt and the door to open.

Stepping through, Kaelan was met with the sight of destroyed droids and the scattered corpses of miners. Pieces of metal littered across sections of the room, faded scorch marks on the walls, and discarded pistols gave the indication that a battle had taken place. Moving further into the carnage, the former General picked up the closest pistol. It didn't take him long to realize that the weapon wasn't a blaster, but a mining laser.

Known for having a low temperature discharge, the lasers were used to excavate minerals that were more sensitive to heat. There were two firing modes on the equipment. The first was a continuous beam that made finite cuts into a harvesting site, reaching areas that could not be touched by plasma torches. The other mode was a single concentrated pulse that made it seem similar to its blaster counterparts. Only three shots could be fired every four seconds, however, a feature due to the equipment's built-in temperature regulator. The device monitored the laser's thermal output and would lock the trigger once it reached a specific level, a lock that would disengage once the levels returned to normal.

"Not exactly Vericon disruptors," Katelan muttered as he gathered two of the lasers that were in the best condition.

The veteran looked at the corpses of the miners, searching for holsters. Two of the fallen miners had a holster each, in addition to a vibroblade gripped in lifeless hands. Kaelan removed all of the items from their previous owners and equipped himself. Two of the laser holsters were tied to his belt, the lasers placed within, and the vibroblade was fitted through his utility belt.

Now full equipped, the outcast moved to another door that barred access to the rest of the facility. A quick touch of the enter button on the electronic interface near the centre of the entryway, allowed Kaelan to overcome such an obstacle. The section beyond was larger than its predecessor with the familiar sight of miner corpses and destroyed droids. Unlike the previous area, however, two of the mechanicals were active. They turned to regard the former Jedi, allowing him to analyze their model.

The mining droids were quatrapedal, a stocky head protruded from a small carapace that looked to have a complement of power rods attached. Extra mechanical limbs extended a foot away from the head, the ends of which were fitted with mining laser attachments. Further observation was cut off when the single photoreceptors of each droid focused on him, their laser equipped appendages discharging in single bursts. Kaelan didn't even bother moving as the shots went wild, he quickly withdrew his own ranged weapons and returned the favour, sending two blasts from each pistol in the heads of the droids. The pulses impacted into the optical centres of the mechanicals, effectively disabling them.

The exile holstered his pistols and pushed on, stopping briefly to look at a door built into an area where the metallic plate covering on the walls ended and the bare rock underneath was exposed. The entryway seemed to lead to one of the harvesting areas of the facility, but with no discernible way to open it the veteran moved on to the next section. Lockers lining the walls made Kaelan think the area was a storage room until his gaze fell on a cluster of consoles and terminals near the centre. Recognizing it instead as the facility's security centre, the former General wasted no time in raiding the lockers. The containers had all been cleared out, however, and so he switched his attention to one of the security stations.

It took a minute for Kaelan to bypass the station's own encryption and gain access to the facility's security network, but once he did he had access to nearby cameras. He cycled through the visual feed of adjoining sections, gazing intently at the console's small display. All of the areas the Force Sensitive saw either contained dead bodies, were crawling with droids, or were abandoned and he was about to terminate his interface when he caught sight of a person in the holding cells. It was hard to make out the individual's appearance on the small display, other than the fact that the person was a human male and that they were contained within a force cage. Kaelan wondered whether or not it would be wise to free the man but he eventually settled on a wait and see approach.

A few logs had been recorded by the senior security officer and the entries caught his attention just before he logged out. Not wanting to waste time reading more logs at this point, Kaelan withdrew the datapad from his utility belt. The miner it once belonged to had uploaded his designated mining locations on the day he was killed. It was something he hadn't noticed before and the veteran deleted the entry and, instead, used it to download the security officer's logs.

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-15-2010 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 05-15-2010, 05:04 PM   #7
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 3: Unexpected Detour (part II)

The former Jedi left the security station behind as he continued his exploration, passing through a vacant area before standing just outside another door. His hand reached for the enter button, only to be stopped by the sound of a familiar voice. ::Be careful, there is much energy in the room beyond, yet it stems from nothing that lives.::

Kaelan stopped dead in his tracks, instinct taking over as he erected mental barriers that had long laid in ruins, obstacles that protected the sensitive areas of his mind. It was possible to force the foreign presence away, but the familiarity he felt from the voice made him stop. ::Kreia?::

::Can you not sense them? Reach out, cast aside your corporeal perceptions::

The exile hesitated, part of him still not sure if he wanted to immerse in the Force more than he already had. The hesitation was brief, however, barely a split second pause before he did as instructed. Immersing himself into the Force, Kaelan probed the adjoining section, seeking anything of interest. Such an interest came in the form of blurred outlines scattered across the massive chamber beyond. It didn't take him long to realize that the outlines were in the shape of the mining droids he'd recently encountered.

::Ah, you can feel them. The droids themselves you cannot percieve, but the small oscillations of energy can be, as they echo outwards::

It is starting to get easier to draw on the Force, Kaelan thought, realizing it had only taken a fraction of the original time to utilize the mystical energy field, with slightly less concentration.

::As it should. With more time, you will be able to feel the Force as strongly as you did before and, possibly, even more so::

The former General was left startled by Kreia's statement, either he had inadvertently sent his thoughts to her or she was able to read them. Either way, it was clear he had to learn more regarding control. The old woman's presence left his mind after her last communication, allowing Kaelan to fully concentrate as he stretched out with the Force again and continued to probe the next section. His perceptions extended beyond his body as though he were using the energy currents excluded by the mechanicals to carry him across the room. He mentally marked the locations of the five droids in the chamber, only withdrawing his probe once he was satisfied he had it committed to memory.

With his hands on his holstered mining lasers, the veteran opened the door. The entryway had barely slid apart before he moved in, mining lasers gripped in his hands. Kaelan didn't move more than five metres before he rounded a corner, side-stepping to face a mining droid he already knew was there. A pulse from each of the lasers impacted into the droid's power system, rendering it useless. He was already moving before the last pulse had even found its mark, however, spinning to his left to fire at another droid on the opposite side of the room. The Force Sensitive veered to the left, stopping to fire off three pulses at each of the two droids on the far side of the chamber. He moved toward the other side as soon as he had confirmed the droids were inoperative, destroying the last mechanical with two pulses into its lone photoreceptor.

The former General holstered his weapons once he was sure the area was secure, letting his wandering eyes survey the chamber he had stepped into. The last mining droid had been positioned near a cluster of consoles toward what could have been designated as the 'front' of the area. Holographic display boards showed the current path of the asteroids around the space station, with projections for future changes in their orbit. Three enormous viewports had been fitted into the wall, the transparisteel designed to enable a view of the thousands of asteroids in the sector, in addition to any incoming ships.

He moved toward the centre console and tried gain access to its systems, only to be met with failure. He had to resist the impulse to slam his hand on one of terminals in frustration when his attempts on the other stations yielded the same results. Realizing his efforts were wasted, Kaelan turned around and explored the rest of the area, looking for a clue as to how to proceed. Such an indication came in the form of a door protected by a security field. It was obvious to him, even without the use of the Force, that he had found the holding cells on Peragus. He studied the door intently, looking for a way to shut off the security field by conventional means. The lack of any discernible switch or interface made his search prove fruitless and so he turned to the Force. The power grid of the field, something normally impossible to touch while a field was active, was shutdown, allowing Kaelan to step toward the door unhindered.

His hand hovered near the enter command on the door's interface, when Kreia's voice entered his mind once again. ::Be mindful of the one that lies ahead. His thoughts are….difficult to read:: There was a pause as though she were still evaluating the prisoner. ::But you have nothing to fear from this one and he may yet prove useful::

The veteran sent his acknowledgement of her advisement and keyed the door to open. The prisoner turned to regard him as he entered, allowing Kaelan to get his first real look at him. The man was garbed in a loose fitting, sleeveless brown jacket, a white shirt visible underneath. Black boots and pants completed his attire and gloved hands ran through his short black hair while he scratched his head. A small smirk played across his lips as he saw Kaelan's current state of dress, or lack thereof. "Nice outfit. What, did you miners change regulation uniform while I've been in here?"

"Yes," Kaelan replied simply.

The prisoner took note of the man's stern looking face and hesitated briefly, "Uh…" He trailed off unable to form any kind of response at the newcomer's strange reply.

Kaelan moved until he was a few metres away from the man before continuing, a grin on his face and his tone woven with sarcasm. "I was about to stake a claim, can't you tell? The name's Kaelan Nalto," He continued once the captive let out a laugh, "You?"

"Atton, Atton Rand. Excuse me for not shaking hands," He said dryly, "The field only causes mild electrical burns."

"I suppose I can overlook this small oversight," The former General replied in kind, his grin still in place. His amusement faded from his expression, however, as he asked one of the many questions he wanted answers for. "Care to explain why you're locked up?"

"Security claimed I violated some trumped up regulation or another," He said with a shrug, "Take it up with them if you want. But they stopped listening to me shortly before they stopped feeding me. Now that's criminal."

Not being able to sense anything aside from a disregard for the rules he was referring to, Kaelan decided that Atton would be able to help him. "The facility is deserted, what happened?"

"You mean before or after that Jedi showed up?" Atton asked with a snort. "Either way it's a real short story. See, this Jedi shows up and you know what that means. Where there's one Jedi the Republic will soon be crawling up your ion engine in no time. But the story gets better," He said with a smirk, "See, some of the miners get it into their little ferrocrete skulls that since the Jedi is unconscious, they can collect the bounty the Exchange has posted for live Jedi."

"There's a bounty on Jedi?" Kaelan asked with a snarl, his anger returning to levels he hadn't felt in years, "Why?"

Atton cocked his head at the newcomer's anger, but decided not to ask about it. "Don't know much about it. Maybe the Exchange wants one as a trophy or one of the higher-ups in the organization has a grudge against Jedi. Aren't many of them left now, wouldn't surprise me if the bounty's pretty high."

His last sentence stopped Kaelan's thoughts cold, "Not many Jedi?" He echoed in disbelief. "What happened to them?'

"The ones that weren't killed in the Jedi Civil War ended up switching off the lightsabers long ago, word is there's not even a Jedi Council anymore, but who knows."

The former General wanted to ask what exactly the Jedi Civil War was. He'd heard stories in his excursions throughout the Outer-Rim, rumours and second-hand accounts of battles raging above and on scattered worlds, battles involving the Sith. He hadn't paid too much attention to them though, as far as he was concerned galactic wars no longer had any significance to him. Angry at himself for letting his distractions get the best of him, he pushed his thoughts aside and took measures to try to suppress his rage. "Look, I need to know exactly what's happened here."

"Yeah well, no offence or anything, but your weird half-naked interrogation isn't my..," Atton trailed off, suddenly studying Kaelan carefully. "Hey, wait a minute! You're the Jedi the miners were talking about! Are they still alive?"

"Not from what I've seen so far and I wouldn't put much faith in the thought either."

"The miners can't all be gone," Atton thought to himself, his gaze switching to the bottom of his force cage. "But if they are…" Again, he broke off, his downcast eyes suddenly locking with Kaelan's. "Look, let me out and I can help you. I can. I've gotten out of trouble countless times."

"I'm sure you'll forgive me if I don't feel terribly convinced," The exile said, wanting to coax more answers from Atton before he agreed. He may not have sensed anything wrong with him through the Force, but after years of living without it, he found relying on his traditional senses to be more dependable. "Telling me your plan might convince me otherwise."

The prisoner thought about it for a second, a look of respect dawning on his face. "Smart not to take things at face value. Alright, this facility is far from a military installation, so its lockdown protocols will be easy enough to circumvent. I just need access to the emergency systems and I can get us a path straight to the hangar. We grab a ship then we fly out of here."

Kaelan could tell from the way he spoke that his offer to help was genuine. "Sounds simple enough," He said while he deactivated the force cage, allowing Atton to finally step out.

"Feels great to be free again," Atton said as he walked to the entrance of the holding cells. "Well, figuratively speaking of course," He added once he caught sight of Kaelan's amused expression, realizing the both of them were still confined within the mining facility.

The two ran to the control section of the facility, with Atton moving to the central station once he was close enough. "Alright here we are," The former convict said as he started to key into the system, to Kaelan's surprise. Now this section is usually set for automatic hail, you probably heard it when you came in."

"Yes," Kaelan said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "Because I'm always aware of my surroundings when I'm unconscious."

"Right," Atton said with an offhand glance to his companion, "Well anyway the hail warns incoming ships to keep their distance until the asteroid drift charts can be transmitted. Then it provides docking instruction to incoming ships, usually freighters. Thing is," Atton continued, a grip spreading across his face, "You bounce that same transmission back to the COM here and suddenly you've got access to the communications from the inside. Pure pazaak, the console's ours!" A whoop of self-congratulation escaping him, "Now all we need to do is activate the tuborlifts, cancel the emergency lockdown—," His hands, which had been a flurry of activity, came to a sudden halt, a cry of indignation escaping his lips.

"Don't tell me," Kaelan couldn't help but guess, "More problems?"

"Afraid so," Atton replied, a sour expression etched on his features as he turned to face his Force Sensitive companion. "This section has been severed from the main hub."

It didn't take much thought to know that no emergency lockdown would result in isolation from the rest of the facility. Specific sections might be sealed but they would still be able to be opened, not to mention that no electronic system would be disrupted, such a thing would be counter-productive to the safety concept behind the procedure. "That wouldn't be a result of the lockdown."

"No it wouldn't, someone wanted to leave us here, trapped."

Kaelan thought about their predicament for a few seconds, "You're better with these systems than I am, anything else you can do?"

A shake of the head was his response, "All we have is communications back."

"Maybe we can contact some of the miners. It is possible some of them are still alive."

"You could try," Atton said warily, "But if the miners were trying to kill you and sell you to the Exchange, why not call them and chat?"

"Point," The veteran conceded, "But there's no question that we're going to need help if we want to go anywhere; might as well access the COM system."

"Be my guest."

The former General moved to the central station, keying for a listing of sections with still active COM systems. He decided to avoid the dormitories unless he had no other choice; the thought of contacting people likely to betray him at some point was not a welcome prospect. That left the main Hangar Bay as his only other option, he sent out a broadband emission to the area's system. The signal would trigger the COM in the hangar, letting those in the vicinity know that they were being contacted. Several seconds passed with no follow up transmission forth-coming. Kaelan was considering trying a different approach when a faint whirr could be heard emitting from an established link.

"Is anyone there?" He asked, his tone portraying a sense of doubt. The noise resembled more of a feedback pulse from his broadband emission, but he couldn't shake the feeling that it was something else.

The noise was repeated, much louder this time, and with the unmistakable tone of a droid. From the soft whistles and beeps, the mechanical was most likely a utility model, a damaged one at that. "Are you operational?" Kaelan asked once the mechanical's transmission finally came to a stop.

A string of louder, and if the former General wasn't mistaken, more confident sounding beeps met his statement, letting him know the droid was indeed functioning. "Is it possible to provide access to other areas of the facility? We're on the administration level but there's no way out."

The droid sent back a slightly alarmed sound whirr, citing the mining tunnels as the only other section he could access. "I'd appreciate it if you could open up the tunnel entrance for this level."

A soft whistle portrayed the utility droid's concerns but it acknowledged the order and signed off. "Tell me you're joking."

Kaelan turned from the console to meet Atton's disbelieving gaze. "I'm not joking."

"I heard an explosion earlier before you came to see me; I'm guessing it's what triggered the emergency lockdown. If that's the case, than those areas are going to be filled with superheated rock and collapsed blast tunnels, you'd be crazy to go down there."

"Then I'll be crazy," Kaelan said with a smirk.

"Alright," Atton said with a shake of his head, "I can stay here and try to monitor your progress when you go down."

With that said, Atton turned back to the communication console and started to move his hands along the interface once again. Kaelan contented himself with simply sitting on the ground, happy for the break so he could finally immerse into his thoughts. His life had changed dramatically within the last four days, he had boarded a Republic ship for the first time since his status as a General, learned that he was being pursued by a mysterious group, and had a brief history lesson on galactic events.

The last was the more disturbing, learning that the rumours in the Outer Rim of another war had been true, that the Jedi were all but extinct, and that the Exchange, the notorious criminal organization, was interested in hunting the remaining Jedi was more than he had expected. While Kaelan had felt an intense anger when he first heard the status of the Order, it had since subsided, and he found he wasn't really sure whether to care or not. It was a line of thinking that unnerved him to the core. For him, the word Jedi did not refer to the ones that blindingly embraced the Jedi Code, rather it was a more fitting title of the Revanchists, the ones who had defended the Republic in its greatest time of need while the others only watched as the galaxy burned.

The very thought was enough to rekindle the rage he had taken pains to suppress and he found himself forcing to get it under control. When the outcast finally did, he couldn't help the guilt that replaced it. Part of him felt he was disgracing the Order by making such claims of what a Jedi was, disgracing those who hadn't followed Revan and Malak, people he once considered friends. Another part of him didn't care, however, it was a part of him that strongly believed in the reasons he went to join the Mandalorian Wars in the first place. The further he thought about it, the more his emotions continued to grow and he had to fight to get them under control. The exile shook his head in an attempt to dispel the wanderings of his mind; it wasn't something he wanted to indulge in, especially not in hostile territory.

Loud beeping from the central station gave Kaelan the reprieve he craved. He moved back to his feet, just as Atton turned to face him. "Well what do you know, that little cargo cylinder came through."

"So it seems," He responded with a quirk of his lips. His hand moved down to the mining laser on his right side and he pulled it free of its holster. "Take this," Kaelan said as he tossed it at the ex-convict, who caught it with his right hand. "Given the state of this facility, I wouldn't be surprised if more mining droids were around."

"Thanks for the happy thought." Atton stated dryly, laying the weapon down on the communications console while he retrieved an item from the bottom of the terminal. "Since we're exchanging gifts," He said as he threw the retrieved object at his companion, "Here. It's a COM-link so we can stay in touch."

"I didn't know you cared," Kaelan stated with a slight grin as he placed the small rectangular item in one of the pouches on his belt.

"I don't," Atton said with a shrug, though the veteran could tell it was false. "Now get going."

Kaelan gave a nod in acknowledgement and moved back in the direction of the medical bay, veering to the right once he reached the sight of the mining tunnels. The blast door that previously barred access was no longer present, leaving him with no further obstacles as he made his way into the tubrolift within and keyed for a descent.

Three minutes passed before the rapidly descending lift reached the bottom. The turbolift doors parted to reveal a wide hallway reinforced with durasteel beams that ran across the ceiling and walls. Lights imbedded within the walls provided adequate illumination as the former General continued to move forward. A simple touch of the entry key on the far door was sufficient to allow it to slide open, revealing a small room containing plasteel cylinders and bulky storage containers. Believing it to be a supply or staging area for miners, Kaelan moved to the closest container and opened it. To his surprise, he found a mining uniform inside the first. He withdrew the blue shirt, overlaying brown vest, brown pants, and brown shoes from the container.

Working quickly, the exile was able to don the attire in two minutes, all of his gear now attached to the uniform instead of his jumpsuit. On a whim, he checked one of the other containers and found a cache of energy shields inside. Utilizing rechargeable power cells, the devices projected a field of energy that protected the wearer from specific dangers. Different models protected against different things, some provided shielding against standard energy attacks, while others were designed to protect against melee attacks, or even environmental hazards. Given that it was a mining shield, the veteran believed it to fall into the latter and so he tied the shield around his right upper arm.

A soft ping from one of the pockets of his belt made Kaelan withdraw the COM-link he'd been provided. "I'm here."

"Good," Atton's voice came from the unit, slightly distorted. "It's hard to hear you though, there's a lot of static."

"Same on this end."

"I'm tracking your position with the COM-link and it looks like you're in the miner's staging area. Any supplies left?"

"Now that you mention it I did find a uniform in one of the storage containers."

"About time," Atton said with visible relief, "The whole half-naked Jedi thing was starting to take its toll."

"I'm sorry Atton," The veteran said, a grin in place, "I didn't realize I was such a distraction to you."

There was a few seconds of silence and Kaelan's grin only grew wider when he realized that Atton was probably glaring at the communication console. "I haven't been in prison that long," He finally responded stiffly, though there was an undercurrent of amusement there too.

A chuckle escaped the former General at the ex-convict's tone, "Anything interesting to report?"

"Yeah, I've tried to narrow down some of the ID signals in the tunnels and, well if what I'm seeing here is any indication, you're sharing the area with a good hundred mining droids."

"Fantastic," Kaelan muttered dryly.

"I can't isolate where they are exactly, most of them could be in different parts of the tunnels, or they could be straight ahead of you. Stay alert."

"Let me know if you detect anything else." The former Jedi waited for his companion's acknowledgement before placing the COM-link back into his belt.

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-15-2010 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 05-15-2010, 05:08 PM   #8
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 3: Unexpected Detour (part III)

Withdrawing both of his two remaining weapons, mining laser in his left hand and vibroblade in his right, the outcast advanced. Moving out of the staging area, he found himself in a hallway where the durasteel plating ended and the bare rock of the hollowed out section of the asteroid was left exposed. The sound of metal clacking against rock as the former General reached the end of the first hallway made him glance into the adjoining section. The sight of a group of mining droids holding position near the rock walls made him consider whether or not to use the mining laser.

He didn't need to make use of the Force to know that the mechanicals were mining and, since he still had no idea what the valued commodity here was, he decided to holster the laser and rely on the vibroblade. The thought of a melee weapon becoming his primary weapon once again threatened to drudge up memories but he quickly suppressed them. Anger surged through him once again as he couldn't help but wonder why his recollections seemed to surge forth every few minutes. He had taken pains to ignore them for four years and had been relatively successful, but ever since his connection to the Force had returned, the part of him that wanted to confront and accept the past had grown in strength and he was finding it harder to block it.

Rather than wait for his anger to dissipate, he used it to his advantage, allowing it to give him more focus. The emotion had been something he had fallen back on throughout his exile, an anchor that kept him steady through the worst of storms. Stretching out his senses, Kaelan could detect seven mechanicals in the area ahead. Most of them were clustered together so he knew using only a vibroblade wouldn't pose much of a problem. He only pulled back once he memorized the locations of the droids and then charged ahead.

The quatrapedal mechanicals, with their photoreceptors focused on the rock, never noticed the advancing veteran until he struck with a whirlwind of motion. His melee weapon slashed across the head of the closest droid and then was brought in a swift diagonal uppercut against the carapace of the neighbouring droid. The next mechanical was just out of range, giving it time to turn to face its aggressor before the vibroblade was thrusted forward, piercing the lone photoreceptor. A blade by itself wouldn't have harmed the droids in anyway, but vibroblades were named so for the ultrasonic generator placed within the handle. It caused the blade to vibrate at incredible speeds, allowing it to pierce through the droid's plating enough to sever circuitry. A searing pain shot through his right arm just as the thrusted blade impacted into its intended target, making him look to see that another mechanical had joined the fray.

The newcomer had neglected to switch the firing modes of his mining laser attachments, however, resulting in a beam discharge rather than a pulse. While this prevented his arm from becoming unusable, it left him with a deep wound that would need to be treated. Ignoring the pain from his arm as he maintained the grip on his melee weapon, Kaelan brought it slashing across the droid's head. With the last mechanical disabled, the exile holstered his vibroblade and inspected his wound.

While the lasers fired low temperature discharges, they were still capable of searing through flesh; it just took a couple of more pulses than a blaster. The droid's beam had burned away the clothing around his forearm, cutting through his skin and ending just shy of the nerves. Withdrawing the medical kit from his pouch, the former General applied a layer of disinfectant that stung to the point where he had to grit his teeth, and then sealed it with a kolto patch. The patches were less strong than their injection or tank counterparts but the concentration of the medical substance was enough to increase the body's natural regeneration capability.

With that accomplished, Kaelan placed the med-kit back in his utility belt and continued pushing forward. Various durasteel support columns were positioned against the rock walls, though it was clear to him as he passed by a collapsed section that the columns could only provide so much support. A few minutes passed into his journey until he caught sight of damaged refineries in the area. Large cylindrical tubes sprouted from a wide base. The tubes were filled with a yellowish substance that Kaelan could only assume was the commodity being mined. The refineries featured collecting ports where miners and droids would deposit the extracted rocks with the desired resource. From there, the refinery's systems would analyze the sample, strip away the unnecessary components and siphon the resource itself into a storage chamber above.

In this case, however, the side of the refinery had been damaged; the tube had been breached and was leaking its contents into the tunnel. That in itself wasn't a problem but a glance to the next passage showed that part of the leak had been caught in the wake of explosion Atton had mentioned, a fact supported by the sight of superheated rock in the section beyond. Pulling out his COM-link he contacted his companion, "Atton, I've got a problem here."

"I was just about to tell you that," Atton replied with a note of surprise. "That explosion has superheated the section near you. I wouldn't recommend stepping in, that stuff will cock the skin off your bones."

"Any suggestions for getting past this?"

"Checking," There was a pause as Atton could be heard tapping away at the one of the consoles in the control centre. "There's another tunnel that intersects that passage about ten metres behind you."

"I've already seen that, it collapsed."

"Huh, strange that it doesn't register on the readout here." The former prisoner paused, as if wondering why such a thing would occur. "In that case, the only other way to continue forward is to get a mining shield and switch it on. They'll protect you against heat but you've got to be quick if you want to make it in one piece."

"Understood,' Kaelan responded, switching off the COM-link and putting it back in his belt.

His attention turned to the mining shield on his arm as he keyed for activation. Almost instantly, the exile could feel the field project around his body. He moved to holster his vibroblade and was immediately reminded of why he hated the devices. Although the energy field projected as close to the skin as possible, in order to allow weapons to be held, it was still far enough away that it made him feel as though his movements were cumbersome. After a fashion, he holstered his blade and ran into the superheated section of the tunnel. Visibility proved to be extremely low within the thick steam clouds; he had to rely on the Force to be his second sight as he sprinted for the end of the passageway. The former General made it with seconds to spare, if the power readout on his shield were any indication.

Powering down the shield, Kaelan withdrew his vibroblade once again and advanced further into the tunnel. He paused when he was close to a point where the tunnel linked to a large chamber. Several mining droids were moving around the area, but while the other group had been actively mining, these ones looked as though they were on patrol. Pushing the consideration aside for later, the veteran knew it would be a risk to engage seven droids with just a vibroblade so he decided to thin their numbers first. Exchanging the blade for the laser, Kaelan took aim and fired off three pulses. Two of the discharges impacted into the photoreceptors of the droids, as he had intended, but the last once impacted into the droid's plating. The single pulse only had the strength to weaken the plating and not damage it, leaving the five droids to switch their attention to the aggressor in their midst.

A barrage of laser pulses was easily avoided with a quick side-step, only two of the discharges managed to be fired in his direction. Kaelan had time to fire off two more shots of his own before the next salvo. His aim proved to be sufficient this time, both of the pulses impacted into the photoreceptors of two droids, disabling them. Taking out his vibroblade, the outcast charged forward, rolling once to evade fire before he was within striking distance. Two of the mechanicals to either side of him were quickly disabled with downward slashes, while the last had the vibroblade pierce through the top of his head, rendering enough circuitry useless to bring an end to the last threat.

With the obstacle out of the way, the Force Sensitive proceeded forward into a large chamber completely covered in durasteel plating. Containment fields were active in the corners, the sight of refineries and mining droids visible behind them. In the centre, a walkway stood over a shaft below, with an antenna array above. The walkway segments at opposite ends of the pit met in a circular platform that housed a databank. Further observation was interrupted by the ping of the exile's COM-link. "Yes?'

"If these readings are correct, you're in the main ventilation shaft. The central droid controller should be nearby, keep an eye out for it."

"I'm looking at it already."

"Good, then you should be able to gain access to the droids."


The lack of any potential threats made Kaelan holstered his vibroblade and moved onto the walkway and toward the databank. Various numbers and listings scrolled across the terminal's displays, he recognized them as transmitted priority signals to droids in the area pertaining to mining. The databank was connected to the various electronic systems scattered throughout the tunnel, enabling the system to provide automatic updates to the droids in the field. Tapping into the droid network, the exile was left puzzled by the fact that the mining signals had been rerouted to reflect them back onto the databank, effectively preventing the commands from reaching the droids. He tried to track the source of the rerouting command but was met with an encryption that would take hours to bypass.

Ignoring it for the moment, the veteran accessed the droid file itself and keyed for a view of the schematics. A display of the quatrapedal mechanicals appeared on the databank's screen. Written specifications revealed that the droids utilized a thermal optic interface, letting Kaelan know he would be able to blind them by raising the temperature, He promptly inputted the command, able to feel the heat level build by several degrees right away. The last obstacle to take care of was the containment fields, he watched with satisfaction as the purple coloured fields faded away. The satisfaction quickly turned to wariness as he felt a small flutter beneath his feet and Kaelan knew that a 'flutter' in an area composed exclusively of durasteel was not good.

His COM-link gave a sharp ping, the former General had a bad feeling withdrew the device. "I'm reading that the containment fields are shutting down," Atton's voice came in before he could say a word.

"I take it that's bad?"

"You could say that. Without containment the automated systems are going to start venting fuel to the asteroid surface, through the tunnels."

Atton didn't need to finish for the former General to realize what would happen. With scattered sections of superheated rock, there was a high chance the fuel would ignite on its way to the surface, turning the tunnels into an inferno. "Can you override the system?"

"Not from here, I don't have enough access and even if I did, I doubt I'd fix it in time." There was a pause, the sounds of Atton keying in commands on his console audible even over the COM-link. "I'm locking down the turbolift to the administration section now to keep the blast from spreading, but I estimate that you've got two minutes before the fuel starts to vent in your area."

Not needing any further encouragement, Kaelan quickly placed the COM-link back in its pouch and stretched out with the Force, with four possible ways he wanted to be sure he picked the right one. It didn't take him long to know that the top right corner led to another turbolift so he took off in a sprint, avoiding the now blind mining droids as they wandered about the tunnels aimlessly. The former Jedi moved through small durasteel covered passages and knew he was getting close, he also knew that he didn't have much time so he started to step out further and faster with his feet.

After a while he caught sight of the turbolift door he so desperately searched for, a flicker of his senses told him he didn't have long. The veteran reached the turbolift just as he could feel a violent shake in the tunnels, a sound quickly followed by the sight of a fireball already moving toward him. He had just enough time to close the door and key for an ascent, finally grateful that the lift was fast moving.

It didn't take long for the tubrolift to grind to a halt, the doors opening onto one of the surface levels. The outcast didn't take more than five steps before he caught sight of a corpse, an individual garbed in a miner's uniform was laid on his back, his lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling. Upon closer inspection it was easy to see how the man died, sections of his body were scorched, suggesting that mining droids had used the beam mode of their lasers to 'mine' the man.

"Greeting: It is a pleasure to see you alive Master," An eerily familiar voice called from the other side, the sound of its mechanical limbs clacking against the durasteel floor as it approached him. "Provided my receptors are not off focus, how may I be of assistance?"

"You can assist by telling me everything you remember between the Harbinger and here." Kaelan replied, wanting to know how the quirky protocol droid had escaped the Republic cruiser when no-one else had.

"Irritated Answer: Master it is such a long, dull story and not terribly relevant to our current situation."

"I disagree, so why don't you tell me anyway?"

"Hesitant Explanation: That has been the subject of discussion since our arrival here Master. Many have attempted to claim you, and this unit, as salvage." The droid's vocabulator allowed it to say the last word with utter revulsion. "I was crudely interrogated concerning our brief history onboard the Harbinger before it was seized by hostiles."

"Why don't I remember any of this?" Kaelan managed to ask the question with a convincing tone of confusion. He knew perfectly well that he had been sedated, but there was something about the HK unit that had been nagging at him ever since it first escorted him to his quarters on the Hammerhead class cruiser. Now he wanted to see if the feeling was justified.

"Speculation: It is possible you were incapacitated and locked in one of the well shielded cargo compartments."

An oddly specific theory, the former General thought with a raised eyebrow, a difficult thing to even speculate on unless it was responsible for the incident. "So how did I get from the Harbinger to here?"

"Recitation: After responding to a distress call from a freighter with unknown ID codes and discovering that it was under attack by a warship, the Captain sent boarding parties to secure the ship. It was after the soldiers returned that your cargo compartment was breached and you were taken onboard the freighter. I, too, managed to board the ship before the Harbinger was destroyed. We were both fortunate to have survived Master."

First it speculates about the cargo compartments than it talks about them as though it were a well known fact. Kaelan couldn't help but be more suspicious of the droid the more it spoke, the chances of a protocol droid boarding an unknown ship and leave the vessel it was programmed to serve on were practically astronomical. As shifty as the mechanical was, however, he need more answers. "What was this freighter that sent the distress signal and why was it there?"

"Explanation: I believe it was a smuggler's vessel by the name of the 'Ebon Hawk.'" The droid was silent for a moment before continuing, "Speculation: As for its purpose, I do not know. Perhaps it was always its intention to play dead, kidnap you from the Harbinger, and rob me of my bounty."

"Bounty?" The exile practically snarled. If the mechanical was programmed to be a bounty hunter, it would explain the erratic behaviour demonstrated both on the cruiser and here, the role of a protocol droid would be hard to maintain. But if that was true it brought up the question of why he would have a price on his head to begin with.

"Quick Clarification: By bounty, I refer to your life Master. It would pain me to see you damaged in anyway. That is why the arrival of this 'Ebon Hawk' caused me considerable distress."

"I'm sure it did," Kaelan replied, making no effort to his sarcasm. "What happened once we arrived here?"

"Explanation: Despite my market value Master, the miners were far more interested in you. It did not take me long to ascertain the reason for this. While an HK protocol droid is a valuable piece of property, Jedi are worth much more in certain…exclusive markets across the galaxy."

Collect the bounty the Exchange has posted for live Jedi, the words Atton had spoken to him earlier came rushing back at the droid's words.

"Painful Admission: I must confess to feelings of inferiority at the speculated differences between my market value and the price for your capture. I was forced to remind myself that it was not due to a failing of model or function, but because you were a Jedi."

Ignoring the 'protocol' droid's rant, Kaelan continued to press for answers. "How exactly did they find out I was a Jedi?"

"Surprised Answer: Why, I told them Master. You are the exiled Jedi who served with Revan in the Mandalorian Wars, are you not?" The HK unit took a moment to pause, as though making himself look regretful for his actions. "I hope all that has happened has not been due to a miscommunication. If so, then the problem lies with the coreward databases, which are notoriously spotty."

"Information about Jedi would not be in coreward databases…only in the Jedi Archives." Even as the words fell from the veteran's mouth, part of him couldn't help but wonder what exactly had happened to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and the enclave at Dantooine. If there were only a small number of Jedi left, as Atton said, then the temple and enclave would most likely be abandoned. If that was the case, then the information in the databanks wouldn't be as secure as it once was.

"Indignant Exclamation: Master, I am only a protocol droid! But it is part of my function to know such information and relay it to any interested parties."

"Yes, yes," Kaelan dismissed tiredly, not even bothering to listen to the droid's lies. "What happened to the miners then?"

"Answer: All that has happened has been because they believe you to be a Jedi, Master. They debated what to do with you as lay unconscious in the medical bay. One group seemed intent on selling you as property, the other group opposed this. Three standard hours after the division within their ranks became apparent; accidents began to occur throughout the facility. A result of improper maintenance I believe."

There had been a slight hesitation before the droid spoke the last statement, a hesitation that only reinforced his already strong suspicion that the droid was an employed bounty hunter.

"These accidents," The HK unit continued, "Coincided with the degradation of the mining droid behavioural cores, crude models are prone to such failures. This resulted in murderous rampages, leaving the mortality rate of organics to rise quickly. Many miners began to join you in the medical bay as a series of flawlessly timed detonations occurred in isolated gas pockets in the lower levels of the facility. The explosions herded the miners into emergency sections of the stations, quickly and efficiently cutting them off from communications and facility control."

The pride in the droid's voice on the words flawlessly, quickly, and efficiently was unmistakable and it was clear that droid had been behind the disaster at the facility. Not to mention his explanation of the mining droid's behaviour cores degrading did not make any sense. Kaelan had to resist the urge to pull out his mining laser and fire, there was no guarantee the pulses would be able to pierce through the mechanical's armour. His anger was back full force with the knowledge that the droid before him was responsible for the death of the facility's entire personnel and it demanded to be sated.

Remembering Kreia's lesson from earlier about feeling for droids, Kaelan stretched out with the Force and sensed the energy rippling out of the HK unit. Taking it further, the outcast plunged his senses forward, following the energy current to its source. It took only a few moments until he found his mark, the droid's power core. With an extension of his hand, the Force Sensitive completely disrupted the droid's energy source, leaving the now deactivated 'protocol' droid to fall onto the deck plating.

Withdrawing his mining laser, the exile set the firing mode to its steady beam and slowly started to cut away the armour protecting the power core itself. It took a few minutes before the item in question was exposed and he wasted no time in removing it and tossing it aside. Now without the threat of the droid reinitializing, Kaelan grabbed a hold of the mechanical and started to drag it away with him. If this was a bounty hunting droid, it was possible there were more of them. If that was the case, he wanted to know all he could about them. Since there wasn't enough time here on Peragus, Kaelan would just have to take the droid with him.

Moving back into the hallway with the turbolift in it, droid in tow, the outcast looked for where to move to next. A door at the opposite end of the corridor, relative to the lift, seemed to be the next logical step. Emerging from the door, he found himself in an enormous area where a large section of the asteroid had been hollowed out, with durasteel plating used as structural reinforcement. A security field barred access to the left and so Kaelan moved to the door on the far right. When he was within twenty metres, however, the entryway slid apart to reveal two mining droids. While the other models had been quatrapedal in design, the newcomers were bipedal. Constructed with the thought of echoing humanoid shape, the droids were two metres tall with two power rods protruding from their backs. One arm was fitted with a mining laser attachment while the other had three grasping appendages, presumably to make it easier to get a hold of extracted rock.

Before they even had a chance to fire, Kaelan's laser was already in his grasp and aimed at the mechanical threat, his right hand no longer holding on to the HK unit. A flick of the selection switch changed the firing mode back to a pulse and the veteran wasted no time in squeezing the trigger. Due to his quick, snapping movement he didn't have time to aim for the droid's vulnerabilities so, by default, he aimed for the centre of mass. The three discharges struck the mechanical directly in the chest plating, making the droid stagger with every impact until the final pulse broke through the weakened plating, destroying the systems beneath and leaving the useless droid to fall to the deck.

By then, its partner was opening fire and Kaelan was surprised to find the need to evade the pulses, as the majority of them were fired in his direction. By the time he recovered from his sideways roll, his laser was ready to fire again. A precise hit to one of the power rods jutting from the mechanical's back caused an overload of its systems. A power surge caused sparks to emit from several areas on the droid before, it too, collapsed on the floor.

The former General waited a moment for any more droids to show up. When none appeared he grabbed the arm of his mechanical burden and continued forward. The area where the bipedal droids had come from led to another turbolift that the Force Sensitive hoped would lead back to the administration level as he stepped inside and keyed for an ascent. For once, the former Jedi was lucky, the turbolift door parted to show he was back on the level he had started on. It didn't take long to spot Atton furiously inputting commands into the central console in the control area and he quickly made his approach.

"Atton," He called when he was only ten metres away.

Startled, the former prisoner started to make a grab for the mining laser on the console, but checked his movements once the familiarity of the voice registered. "Kaelan," He said once he turned around to face his approaching companion. "It's about time. I lost your signal after the fuel vent in the mining tunnels; I was beginning to think you were dead."

"Sorry to disappoint," Kaelan said with a shrug and a small smile.

Atton's only response was snort of laughter and a shake of his head, though he stopped once he caught sight of the droid at Kaelan's side. "Friend of yours?"

"Hardly," The former General said with a scowl as he tossed the mechanical forward a bit to bring its form more into the former convict's view. "Only the reason this facility is in shambles."

"A protocol droid?"

"It's no protocol droid," The veteran replied, narrowed eyes fixated on the droid in question.

Before the smuggler could ask what his companion meant by that, the COM station started to beep softly. Atton moved toward it with an intrigued expression, one that quickly tuned to a look of sheer disbelief. Kaelan noticed the look as soon as it formed, "What's wrong?"

"I don't believe this," Atton said, trying to confirm what was already on the display. "There's a ship coming in, sending a docking code."

"Could it be a freighter making a pickup?"

The ex-convict looked out of the central viewport and his eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the approaching ship, "That's no freighter."

Kaelan followed Atton's gaze and felt a surge of apprehension. Approaching the mining facility was the very ship he thought he'd never see again, the Republic Hammerhead class ship Harbinger. While every ship of similar class was the same in design and specification, the unique pattern of colour stripes shipyard workers were allowed to apply at the end of completion, distinguished each ship. The red bordering on the bow of the incoming vessel was the exact same he'd seen on Eriadu and it left no doubt in his mind that the cruiser had, in fact, not been destroyed as the HK unit believed.

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-15-2010 at 09:10 PM.
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Old 05-15-2010, 05:14 PM   #9
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 3: Unexpected Detour (part IV)

Kaelan could only nod in mute agreement, though he shook away his feelings and concentrated on the task at hand, a task made all the more important by the approach of the Harbinger. If the bounty hunting droid was right, then the cruiser had been hijacked by enemies and Kaelan had a well founded suspicion that they were the very individuals Kreia had first warned him about. Thinking of Kreia made him realize she was still in the morgue. He tried to reach the woman's mind as she had done to him but found that he could not. Realizing he would have to physically tell her, he told Atton to wait for him and then sprinted for the medical bay.

The exile only made it past the security room before he could see the old woman he was trying to reach running towards him. He met Kreia halfway, her expression clearly showing that she already knew what he had sought to inform her of. "Our enemy has arrived, we must leave at once."

"Who exactly is this enemy you keep mentioning?"

"The answers are long and time is short, come."

Kaelan nodded, filing away his questions for later, as he moved back to the area he had just come from, Kreia at his side. The pair found Atton as Kaelan had left him, gazing out at the cruiser now docked with the facility. At the sound of approaching footsteps, the former prisoner turned to look at them. His greeting for Kaelan died in his throat when he laid eyes on Kreia. "What in space is going on? Who's this, another Jedi? What did you start breeding when I wasn't looking?'

"Atton, there's no time. Grab your weapon and let's move."

Kaelan's tone was sharp, one he'd only used during his days as a General and it instantly had the former prisoner's attention. "Uh, alright. I'm guessing that Republic ship isn't carrying friends of yours."

"I hope your talent for understatement is offset by your skill with a blaster. If not, I fear our time together will be short indeed."

"Yeah," Atton drawled as he looked at the strange woman in front of him. "I'm also good at running and drinking, your majesty."

Kreia scowled at the ex-convict and opened her mouth to retort. Despite the amusement garnered by the scene between the two, Kaelan stifled any further argument. "Enough, we need to get out of this facility and that warship is the key."

With that said, the exile draped the HK unit over his shoulders and the group of three moved to the docking hardpoint on the facility. A branching passageway to the left of the control room was their destination. They found the airlock already opened when they arrived, a sign that those onboard the cruiser were already scouring the facility. Moving through Peragus' extended umbilical, the veteran opened the familiar elliptical doors of the Hammerhead class vessel and boarded the cruiser once more.

Instead of being met with the bright interior lighting as he had on Eriadu, however, a dull flickering was present instead. Kreia was the first to put the uneasiness into words. "Something is wrong, I sense no-one on board."

Atton glanced down the vacant corridor they were in and the equally abandoned adjoining section. "Now who's the one with a talent for understatement."

"Everyone here has been slain," Kreia continued, blatantly ignoring Atton's remark. "Yet there are no signs of battle, no carbon scoring. This place has been hit by assassins of a strange sort."

The old woman's calm conclusion on the presence of assassins did noting to allay Atton's fear. "Then what are we doing on this ship? We were better off in the facility! You two are supposed to be Jedi," The former prisoner said with a glance between his two companions, "You two are the worst Jedi I've ever met!"

"Maybe you'd like it back in your cell," Kaelan said as he turned to face Atton, a small smirk etched on his face.

"Maybe I would! At least I was safe there."

"At least until you starved."

"We cannot go back," Kreia interrupting any further comments, "Our enemy has sent search parties into the facility. Be silent, I need some time to think."

Kaelan called on his memory of Hammerhead class ship docking procedures to answer the dilemma. "As long as this warship is still docked we can use the fuel pipe near the engines to quickly make our way to the main hangar and reacquire the Ebon Hawk."

"That's great and all," Atton said in a tone that clearly portrayed otherwise, "But we'll need the asteroid drift charts to make it out of this sector, unless you want to have the shortest flight out of Peragus ever recorded."

"Right, so we'll just get the charts from the Harbinger's navicomputer and make out way to the hangar." The veteran glanced between the two, "Any objections?"

"Well." Atton replied with a thoughtful look, "We'd have to get to the bridge…"

"You're right Atton," Kaelan spoke with a tone that fit the very definition of sarcasm, "We'd have to make a twenty metre walk. It's too much."

"Both of you, be silent."

Kreia's sharp reprimand made the former General's lips quirk up in a small grin before he started walking toward the bridge. The group arrived at the Harbinger's command centre to find it completely filled with corpses. Officers that had once been seated at stations were now leaning against either their consoles or chairs, or were scattered across the deck in a manner that suggested they had enough time to react to their unknown attackers. A quick inspection revealed blunt trauma to be the cause of their deaths, an unusual occurrence in itself, and it made him wonder just how skilled the assassins Kreia mentioned were.

Ignoring his distracting musings, the Force Sensitive headed straight for the navigation console at the head of the bridge. Withdrawing the datapad from his belt after accessing the necessary files, he downloaded the drift charts to the electronic device then placed it back in his belt. With their primary task accomplished, Kaelan led the way back out of the bridge the way they came, heading in the direction of the crew quarters. The group was outside the area of the cruiser's long range communicator when the exile felt a feeling of uneasiness, one magnified by his newly returned Force connection. Clearly, something was wrong.

The realization was swiftly followed by the whisper of danger to his front and right. Acting on quickness forged by the Jedi and amplified by the Mandalorian Wars and his exile, Kaelan used the HK unit as a lance, throwing it in the location of the danger to his front. With his movements no longer restricted by the droid on his shoulders, he was able to draw his vibroblade and thrust it completely to his right. As expected, the blade met with resistance halfway into the stroke, but the veteran continued to push. He was rewarded with a sharp gasp of pain as a figure seemed to materialize out of thin air. The unknown life-form was garbed in black robes, its face obscured by a metallic mask with large, red-tinted goggles.

With the element of surprise lost, the attackers saw no further point in camoflauge and materialized in the same manner as their fallen comrade. Their remaining number capped at seven, the assassin who the exile had thrown the droid at was only left temporarily stunned. Those seven didn't hesitate to charge, three of them moving to engage the outcast, two heading for Kreia, and the last starting towards Atton.

The assassin heading for the ex-convict had to move into melee attack range, a delay which proved more than sufficient to allow Atton fire off three pulses from his laser, all of which shredded through the attacker's chest and left him slumping to the floor. The three assassins heading for Kaelan found their double-sided quarterstaffs intercepted by his lone vibroblade, the sounds of metal clanking against alloy echoed within the once silent corridor. The assassins to his left and right were constantly spinning their staffs in an intricate set of flurries, coupled with the threat of the attacker to his front performing precise thrusts and it was easy for the veteran to see how the Harbinger's crew had been killed.

Quarterstaffs were lined with heavy alloys, strategically positioned to allow for balance. A single hit from one of the weapons could damage the intenral organs of a target as much as a stab from a vibrbolade. The regular officers and soldiers of the Harbinger would not have been prepared for such a thing.

He was far more adept, however.

Now that he understood their offensive style, it was a simple matter to counteract it. The next time the assassin to his front thrusted his staff forward, Kaelan ducked, positioning himself as far down as he could, and leaned forward. When the attackers on his flanks made their next set of flurry sequences, they found the alloy ends of their staffs deflected off their comrade's extended weapon. As soon as the sharp thunk could be heard, the former General stood back up. The one with the extended blade didn't have time to react as Kaelan grabbed the handle of his weapon and pulled the assassin toward his left side. The attacker on his right was recovering by now and made to strike against his target, but was stopped by a quick stab. Before Kaelan's prisoner could struggle, he brought his extended virboblade back to slash at the captive's neck, pushed the now dead body to the side, and brought his blade in a precise, upward diagonal strike that tore through the torso of the last aggressor.

With the immediate threat to his person eliminated, the exile expected to hear the familiar silence in the hallway but, was instead, able to distinguish the sound of a steady hum. Even though he hadn't heard the sound in five years, Kaelan recognized it instantly; a lightsaber. He turned toward his companions to see exactly what he expected, Kreia wielding an activated green lightsaber, the two assassins that had chosen to attack her lay slain at her feet. His gaze wasn't directed to the blade so much, as it was the hilt. Unique to every Force user, the hilt was often seen as a reflection of the user. In Kreia's case the hilt was made up of curved grooves for ease of grip with claw-like blade guards sprouting from the emitter, in addition to the bottom of the hilt.

A sense of nostalgia gripped the outcast at the sight of the exotic weapon, but he shook it off once the pressing need for escape engrained itself in him. Retrieving the HK unit from where he'd thrown it, he draped it over his shoulders once more and started moving to the crew quarters. The group passed by several more clusters of corpses as they stepped through the corridors leading to the centre of the Hammerhead class vessel. Though there were no more attacks from the assassins, Kaelan could feel faint flickers of their presence in the corridors they walked through. He didn't need to look at Kreia to know that she sensed the same; he could feel her probing the area with the Force in an attempt to locate their mysterious pursuers.

The fact that no more ambushes were forthcoming left Kaelan even more apprehensive. Brief though his encounter with the stealth killers may have been, they didn't strike him as the type that waited to attack when they had their quarry surrounded. The flickers he felt in the Force seemed deliberate, and the possibility that the trio was being herded into an ambush did not escape him. Nevertheless, there was no choice but to stay on course; a deviation from their current route would add on time that the group didn't have to spare.

The outcast had been so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't realize they had already reached the crew quarters and that he was right outside his quarters. He came to an abrupt halt, wondering why he could have possibly let himself get so engrossed in his thoughts as to be unaware of his surroundings, in enemy territory no less. "Are you alright?"

Kaelan turned to face Kreia, her atrophied eyes seemed to study him intently. "Yeah, I just need a second. This was my room."

"This was your room," Atton queried, his voice woven with confusion, "When?"

"When I was picked up in the Outer Rim and given passage onboard."

"We do not have much time. Whatever you intend to do, do it quickly."

Taking the old woman's advice to heart, the exile set the HK unit down by the door and moved into his old accommodations after asking the others to wait outside. As soon as the elliptical doors closed behind him, Kaelan opened up the footlocker near his bed and was immensely relieved to see that his Vericon D5-A2 Disruptors were still present, as was his dark gray cortosis woven plate armour, and custom fitted cloak, all of which was donned in five minutes, after he stripped off the mining uniform and tossed it aside. The datapad from his captured utility belt was placed in the one already on his armour with the mining belt itself being cast aside like its uniform counterpart; his disruptors and vibroblade were holstered in their usual spots.

Feeling immensely relieved to be fitted back in his armour, something he'd feared had been lost forever when he'd awoke on Peragus, Kaelan stepped out of his quarters and rejoined his companions. He picked up his mechanical burden once again, tossed Atton his mining laser, and started moving forward. The trio made it to the corridor that led to the engine room, a section that branched off the main hallway near the medical bay, before they had their first indication that the assassins had indeed led them into a trap. Roughly a hundred metres away, a truly gruesome looking humanoid stood. Even from such a distance it was easy to decipher the mutilated and cracked flesh.

Kreia withdrew her lightsaber from her robes, "This battle is mine alone. I am not defenceless," She added the last statement once she sensed Kaelan's objection forming. The old woman took a few steps forward before turning back to face the others. "He cannot kill what he cannot see and power has blinded him long ago. Run, I shall be along shortly."

Kaelan watched her go, knowing there was no way he could stand against a Sith Lord at the moment, even if his Force connection had returned. He motioned to Atton and the two headed toward the engine room, closing the door behind them as they ran down a hallway with dim lighting. The former prisoner stopped halfway through, a look of worry on his face. "I got a bad feeling about this."

The exile turned to regard his companion, "What do you mean?"

"Don't you feel it? Something's going to get real wrong, real quick."

Now that he mentioned it, if the outcast concentrated hard enough, he could feel the faintest whisper in the Force, signifying the approach of danger. "How did you…" He trailed off, wondering how Atton could've sensed something even he, with his Force connection –weakened though it was, couldn't have.

"Trust me, you don't survive on the Rim as long as I have without knowing when trouble is coming."

Kaelan nodded in understanding, filing away his thoughts of Atton's intuition for later analysis. "Be that as it may, we still need to keep moving."

"Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you."

The two continued to run toward the end of the hallway, Kaelan relying on his memories of Hammerhead class schematics to head to the maintenance access point for the vessel's ion drives. Just as the pair were about to turn onto the corridor leading to the walkway next to the engines, the warning within the Force, that had once been a faint whisper, was now a blaring siren. The mysterious threat materialized in the form of a loud bang that reverberated within the small hallways of the Harbinger. Kaelan turned to see the entrance to the engine room now wide open, a cloud of smoke dissipating near it.

Figures, covered head to toe in silver armour, emerged from the smoke. Their black coloured faceplates completely obscured thier facial features as they scanned the corridor ahead, blaster rifles at the ready. That was all the observation Kaelan had time for, as the Sith soldiers spotted the two unknown life forms in their midst and opened fire. Kaelan had his Vericon disruptors in his grip as soon as the first burst was fired, the red bolts from the soldier's rifles countered with those of his own weaponry. Two of the veteran's bolts struck the closest trooper, the disruptor's payload shredding through his armour in a picosecond, leaving the corpse to fall backward from the force of the impact.

The rest attempted to take cover in the hallway, but the flat sides made that impossible. The soldiers settled for moving low to the ground while they continued firing. Their scattering provided a break in the fire, however, and Kaelan was quick to order Atton to move to the maintenance walkway. The former prisoner eagerly complied, sprinting through the adjacent hallway and out of the line of immediate fire. The exile followed, firing off one last series of bursts from his pistols as he side-stepped after his companion.

The pair ran down a meandering, narrow corridor until they emerged onto a metal walkway, portions of the vessel's ion drive visible on the right. To the left lay a grouping of terminals used by maintenance crews to perform diagnostics of the ion systems and directly correct any possible problems. If the problem was unable to be corrected electronically, then a hands-on approach would be required. Maintenance procedures were stored in the system's databanks and it was one such procedure, regarding the fuel storage tanks, that Kaelan accessed. The command called for the doors leading to the fuel line to opened, so that crewmen could manually check the system of the storage tanks and fix any problems. In the outcast's case, it would allow him and Atton to move into the fuel line and cross back into the Peragus facility, something they quickly did, the sound of pursuit echoing in the shaft behind them.

"I sense you my Master. Faint, weak."

The deep voice of Darth Sion resonated within the small rectangular room the two were in. He willed his scarred body to move forward, barley sensing Kreia's presence as the old woman stayed close to the walls. Utilizing Force Camoflauge, she was able to affect the minds of those around her and allow her to move unseen while in plain sight. It had been some time since she had used it, however, and it was no surprise that she was unable to completely conceal her presence from her former pupil. Though the fact that he was so foolish as to assume that Kreia wasn't even a threat brought a thin smile to her lips.

"Your senses betray you," She chided while she continued circling him, "As you betrayed me."

"After all that has happened still you live. You are difficult to kill."

"For one as limited as you, perhaps," Kriea said with a scoff. "To have fallen so far and learned nothing, that is your failing."

"The failure is yours! No longer do your whispers crawl within my skull. No longer do I suffer beneath teachings that weaken us."

Kreia used Sion's brief pause to come up behind him.

"And now you run in search of the Jedi," the Sith Lord continued, "They are all dead, save one. And one broken Jedi cannot stop the darkness that is to come."

"Perhaps," Kreia whispered, "We shall see."

Reaching for the hilt of her lightsaber, her finger was near the activation switch when her control with Force Camoflauge failed entirely. Her presence was now clearly broadcasted to Sion, who activated his lightsaber and brought the crimson blade in a tight arch behind him. The energy beam severed Kreia's left hand, cutting clean through tendons and bone. The old woman could only let out a brief scream as her lightsaber hilt clattered to the deck. Desperate, she managed to reform her Force Camoflauge before the Sith Lord above her could do anything more. Kreia snatched up her lightsaber with her remaining hand and started running towards the Peragus Hangar.

"Atton, get to the ship! I'll hold them off!"

The barked command from Kaelan could barely be heard over the blaster fire in the corridor leading to the Hangar Bay. Pursuing Sith soldiers were keeping up a steady advance, despite the constant fire of Kaelan's disruptors, Atton's lasers, and the lone blaster fire of a utility droid. The outcast had found the utility droid deactivated in the fuel line of Peragus after they had crossed over from the Harbinger. After activating it, he had asked the droid, whose designation he had learned was T3-M4, to accompany him. Their group had been just outside Hangar control when the Sith troopers had caught up. Kaelan and Atton had kept them occupied while T3 opened the door leading to the main hangar bay.

From there, it had been an all out fire fight as wave after wave of soldiers reinforced their comrades until their attacking number reached a platoon in strength. Three against twenty-two was hardly favourable odds and so the group began a slow retreat to the ship, firing rampantly to keep the enemy combatants at bay. As Kaelan and his companions moved closer to their objective, however, the need to escape led to a more frantic withdrawal; something the former General knew would not play in their favour.

"I'm not going to leave you here to die!" The former prisoner shouted back. After everything the man had done for him, the last thing he wanted to do was abandon him to his death.

Kaelan's response was cut-off by a searing pain that flared through his senses, making him drop the disruptor in his left hand and a strong grimace erupt from his throat as he fell to his knees, the droid that was once draped over his shoulders clattered to the ground beside him. He was no stranger to pain, but this feeling was stronger than anything he'd felt before. At first he thought he'd been struck by a stray blaster shot but the idea was dismissed as quickly as it came, blaster shots weren't nearly as painful. The next thing he was aware of was Atton pulling him towards the door to the hangar, the disruptor he'd dropped in his left hand now in the ex-convict's grasp as he fired off a quick burst.

"Hold on, damn it. It's only a little further. Don't give up on me now!"

Slowly the pain receded from his mind and he was able to bring himself back to his feet. He snatched the disruptor from Atton's hand and moved forward, despite the former prisoner's protests to the contrary. The Force Sensitive sprinted to the HK unit that had fallen from his shoulders and dragged it back with him. He dropped it at Atton's feet and shouted a single command, "Go."

Atton nodded solemnly, pulling the HK droid with him as he moved toward the Ebon Hawk, T3 moving with him after Kaelan gave the mechanical the same command. He turned his attention to the Sith infantry, finding himself more on a course of evasion rather than engagement as all the remaining blasters were focused solely on him. The exile side-stepped, rolled, and sought cover to dodge, firing his disruptors all the while. Only two of the enemy soldiers were killed by his discharging bolts, and he believed that to be more luck than skill. He was calling on all of the combat experience he had had in his lifetime simply to survive, but in the end, he found himself sprinting onto the Ebon Hawk.

He had wanted to keep an escape route open for Kreia, but had been unsuccessful. With a heavy heart, he keyed for the ship's boarding ramp to close as he stepped inside. "Atton," He yelled as he sprinted to the cockpit, "Get us out of here!"

Atton demonstrated his compliance by starting up the ship's thrusters. The Ebon Hawk hovered above the ground as the pilot reoriented the ship's bow. Enemy fire from the Sith soldiers impacted against its bottom fore as it rotated, but the craft's shields were more than enough to protect it against small arms fire. Atton sent the freighter at its top speed, letting it rocket out of the Peragus Mining Facility and into the asteroid field outside.

They didn't get very far before the port laser cannons of the Harbinger opened fire, the cruiser already undocking from the facility and in hot pursuit. Its forward turbolasers took over once it rotated to bear its heavier firepower down on the nimble craft on its scanners. Kaelan put his hand against one of the empty chairs in the back of the cockpit to stabilize himself as the ship shook from the near misses of turbolaser fire. The sound of approaching footsteps made the former General reach for the disruptor on his right side and aim it in the durasteel covered corridor behind. He expected to see a Sith trooper that had somehow boarded the ship before he, not the green robes of someone he thought he'd regrettably left for dead.

"Kreia?" He asked in sheer disbelief as he holstered his weapon. "How did you escape?"

"A strange question from one with the ability to draw upon the Force."

Puzzled by her reply, but knowing anymore questions would have to wait, he only turned back to look out the transpariseel windows as green bolts could be seen impacting near asteroids as Atton continually weaved the ship in tight rolls and arcs. A loud curse came from the pilot as he moved the ship in a dive to avoid an asteroid, "Kaelan I need those drift charts if we even want to have a chance of getting out of here.

Withdrawing the captured datapad from his belt, the former Jedi moved over to the navigation computer on the side wall and uploaded the drift charts. "You should have them now."

Atton spoke a confirmation as he plotted a new course out of the dense field, the Harbinger matching their heading as the cruiser continued its bombardment. The sight of a turbolaser flashing straight by the transparisteel windows made the former prisoner grimace once again. "If they hit us we're dead, but if they keep missing us, we're still dead! That's great odds." T3 tootled a warning as the freighter passed by a large asteroid, just barely avoiding it. "Somebody shut that trash compactor up!"

"Just keep evading them until we clear the field."

The pilot risked a glance at Kaelan as he frowned, "Hey I'm doing all I can. The problem is if they don't hit us, they'll hit an asteroid, which will make the whole field go nova."

"Then why not fire on the field ourselves?" Kreia asked, "It can be destroyed by us as well, can it not?"

"It could, but it'll take out the whole field, the colony, and maybe us. There's no guarantee we'll be able to jump into hyperspace before we're caught in the blast."

"Then we die here," Kreia said in response to Atton's remark. Her sightless eyes switched to Kaelan, "Choose now."

The outcast hesitated, he knew enough about Hammerhead class ships to know the cruiser would most likely be caught up in the blast. It wasn't a certainty, however, and the logs from the medical officer made him think this place was important in someway, and until he knew what that was he couldn't risk destroying it. Decision made, he looked out of the cockpit and uttered two simple words, "Evade them."

"Hold on, this is going to get a little rocky!"

The Ebon Hawk approached the end of the asteroid field, closing at 20,000 kilometres. Just as the freighter passed underneath another large asteroid, a series of turbolaser blasts targeted the orbiting rock. The energy blasts triggered the high concentrations of Peragian fuel within, triggering a detonation that spewed thermal fragments in every direction. A chain reactions started as the fragments riddled neighbouring asteroids, each one exploding as the thermal level spiked beyond tolerance.

Kaelan found hts grip tightening on the empty chair as the ship rocked from the resulting blasts. Just when it looked like the shields would fail, Atton pulled back on the hyperspace lever. All of the ship's occupants watched as the stars streaked into starlines and the ship entered the extra dimension home to faster-than-light propulsion. All of them breathed their own sighs of relief when Atton said, "We're clear!"

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 05-15-2010 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:40 AM   #10
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 4: A Purpose Revealed (part I)

Hyperspace. Kaelan had missed how soothing it could be in the extra dimension. The sight of the encasing blue funnel around a ship helped to evoke a sense of calm into even the most troubled of individuals. The recent events the exile had been bombarded with at the Peragus Mining Facility had left him just that, troubled. The history lesson of galactic events for the past four years, brief though it may have been, left him with an abundance of frustration, confusion, and questions. Now that he was no longer in danger, his mind was running rampant with queries that demanded answers.

"Well," Atton spoke up from his position in the centre of the cockpit, the ship clearly engaged in auto-pilot. "Now that there's one less planet in the star charts, maybe one of you can tell me what's going on. Because between stealth killers, squads of soldiers, a Sith Lord that looks like he sleeps with vibroblades, and being target practise for a Republic warship, I was better off in my cell!"

Kaelan eagerly turned to Kreia, awaiting responses to ease his frantic mind, just as Atton was. "The Republic warship was the Harbinger," The old woman spoke, her first statement directed more to Atton, "It was seized on its way to Telos by the Sith. They sought you Jedi."

Deciding to forget Kreia's deliberate use of a title he wanted no part of, he was surprised that the old woman knew of the cruiser's destination, when he, a passenger onboard, had not. "The Harbinger was on its way to Telos?"

"Yes, to aid in the recovery effort there. Many roads lead to Telos, including ours."

The destruction of Telos was one of the few events he had heard about in his exile. The impact had been felt not only in neighbouring sectors, but throughout the galaxy. The entire region had been left in chaos, those who had escaped the bombardment or had been out of the system, found themselves without a home. Bands of people scattered in ships, attempting to claim refugee status in Republic worlds. The influx of expatriates proved to be too much for some worlds to cope with, a fact which led to the destabilization of some systems and the rippling of fear within the Republic.

Not many people had the strategic insight to predict how far-reaching a simple act could be. But Kaelan knew of one such person who had that and more, Revan. The news of Telos had made him think of his old friend for the first time since the aftermath of Malachor V, where he and Malak had relieved him from his duties. Their demeanour had been cold, but a distant sense of regret lay beneath. Revan was one to focus on the long-term ramifications of an act and it only made sense for him to be responsible for the destruction. At the time, Kaelan had dismissed the news, no longer caring for galactic affairs.

"Not like we have much of a choice," Atton's voice snapping Kaelan out of his thoughts, "The Peragus astrogation charts being what they are."

"It is where we must go."

"Care you explain how you knew I was on the Harbinger?" Kaelan wasn't sure whether to be regretful of his decision to leave Eriadu on the Hammerhead cruiser or not. It seemed that all of those who had an interest in him suddenly knew where to look and he had a hard time believing it to be a coincidence.

"You were difficult to find," The old woman spoke with some degree of assurance, "But coincidence was on our side. The Sith attacked us en route, intent on setting a trap for the Harbinger. Fortunately, this worked to our advantage. After the Republic soldiers searched both ships, I was able to board the warship and rescue you."

"How did you find me? I was unconscious."

"Your thoughts were faint, but I was still able to find you, sealed in one of the cargo holds. Unknown to me, however, the Sith were already on board. Just as we made the jump to hyperspace they fired upon us, nearly destroying the Ebon Hawk."

"That's an unusual set of coincidences," Kaelan said, more to himself than anyone else.

"True," Kreia spoke, deciding to reply. "But as one trained in the Force, you know that true coincidences are rare."

Clearly the old woman had the same thoughts as the exile pertaining to how strange it was for him to be targeted the moment he stepped onto a Republic cruiser. Kaelan pushed the thoughts away for the moment, deciding to analyze them later. To not do so would be to engage in idle speculation, an exceedingly pointless activity in his mind. "That doesn't explain how we made it to Peragus."

Kreia's uninformative reply was cut off by warbling from T3-M4, whose excited sounds told the exile that he had been the one to repair the ship enough to allow it to dock in Peragus. Kaelan gave the droid a friendly smile and an apprising nod, to which it tootled happily.

The others were not so praising however, "Be silent!" Kreia reprimanded, "We're having a conversation here!"

"Easy," The outcast admonished, "He's the one that repaired the ship and allowed us to dock at Peragus."

Atton scoffed in response, "Repaired this ship, my eye. Next thing you know it's going to claim to have invented the hyperdrive. If that junkheap on wheels repaired this ship once then it can prove it by doing it again. Go on," Atton said as he glared at the utility droid, "Get!"

Emitting a dejected wail, T3 moved out of the cockpit. Torn between amusement and pity by the spectacle, Kaelan could only look at the former prisoner with a raised brow. "Was that really necessary?"

"I don't like droids," Atton mumbled in reply, "So yes, it was."

"I see," Kaelan said before turning back to Kreia, focusing on the many questions he still wanted answers to. "Why exactly are these Sith hunting me?"

"Because you are the last of the Jedi, once you are dead then they have won."

As soon as the word Jedi fell from her lips, Kaelan could feel his anger flare. By the time she had finished her sentence, he was snarling. "I am not a Jedi!"

Kreia only tilted her head to the side, "The Sith would dare to accuse you of such," She spoke, her tone indicating she was intrigued by his response. "They believe you to be a Jedi and that is all that matters."

"If they're hunting Jedi, why go after me specifically? What about the rest of the Order?"

The old woman only shook her head at first, though whether in sadness or frustration at his lack of knowledge, or perhaps both, Kaelan couldn't say. "The Jedi Civil War destroyed the Jedi. By the war's end, barley a hundred Jedi remained. Many fell in battle and many more were seduced by Revan's teachings."

Finally having confirmation that Revan was involved in the last galactic conflict, Kaelan could only nod in understanding at the last part, though he had a hard time believing all of the Jedi to be gone. "What about the Jedi on Dantooine? And on Coruscant?"

"The Jedi Academy on Dantooine is nothing more than a crater that echoes with the ghosts of dead Jedi." Kreia spoke pointedly, "And the temple on Coruscant lies empty. The water in the Room of a Thousand Fountains has fallen still, in reverence to the fallen Jedi, and those now lost. Many Jedi blamed the teachings of the Jedi Masters for Revan's fall and the Civil War that followed."

She made a point of looking at him for the last sentence, a thin smile on her lips letting him know that she strongly suspected, or even knew, that he felt the same. "Rightly so," Kaelan said with narrowed eyes of conviction glaring at nothing in particular.


Steeling himself for the moment, Kaelan pushed his thoughts away and looked back at Kreia. "How do we stop these Sith?"

"That is not an easy question to answer," The old woman spoke after several seconds of silence, "This threat is greater than you know and I do not believe it is a battle that can be fought."

A strange response, the exile thought as he looked at the other Force Sensitive. "Then what do you think we should do?"

An exaggerated sigh came from behind him, "Look enough with the 'we' already."

Kaelan had almost forgotten that Atton was there, but he ignored him for the moment. He had been waiting for hours on Peragus for answers and nothing was going to stop him from getting them now that there was a reprieve.

"We cannot hope to triumph against them alone," Kreia replied, "To stop them you will need weapons, allies, and....a teacher. In the end, I fear it may not be enough."

"What do you mean?"

"You fought in the Mandalorian Wars and it cost you everything. Are you prepared to sacrifice as much again?"

Kreia's query cut through him sharply and, for the first time since the conversation had started, the former General found that he didn't have an answer for her. Memories of Malachor flashed in his mind, the sights of thousands of ship being ripped apart, the panicked screams of comrades and friends echoing through the Force. All of it begged the very question Kreia was asking and he couldn't even begin to even think about it, let alone respond.

"This is not like any field of battle you have fought in," The old woman continued once she realized he would not respond. "If you choose to fight, if you choose war, it is a choice few can walk away from. It carries with it a terrible price, and in the end you may find you have nothing left to sacrifice."

"I turned away from war once, I can do it again." Even as he spoke the words, they didn't ring with as much truth when said aloud as they had in his mind. He had turned away after Malachor V, but it had been done more out of necessity. The final battle of the Mandalorian Wars had left him hollow, devoid of the perceptions he had grown so accustomed to. Kaelan had approached Revan before he left, he wasn't sure if he had been seeking reason, permission, or assurance. But he knew he had found everything, except the latter.

Kaelan moved down the corridor of the Republic Hammerhead class cruiser, Adamant. His communications regarding Revan's whereabouts after the Battle of Malachor had revealed that the Republic General was personally moving through what was left of the ships in the fleet, inspecting the remaining vessels; word had spread that the Republic leader was pushing for a pursuit of the Mandalorian remnants. Kaelan had been quick to take a shuttle over to the ship in question.

Now he was walking toward the very man he wanted to see, the boots of his Jedi attire clacking against the deck plating. Revan was conferring with the Adamant's Captain, Malak at his side, and so Kaelan stopped a few feet away. Once Revan dismissed the naval officer, he seized his opportunity and closed the distance between them. "Sir!" He shouted once he snapped himself to attention.

The man, seen by many as a hero of the Republic, turned to face him. Though his face was still hidden behind the Mandalorian mask he had acquired after the battle on Cathar, and his features hidden beneath the fully encompassing black and crimson robes and armour, Kaelan was quite convinced he had no real expression on his face as he looked at him. "Something I can do for you General?"

The use of his rank stopped Kaelan cold. In the past, the military formalities stopped after a simple uttering of the word 'sir'. Revan would always call him by name after that, they were friends after all. Now, Kaelan didn't know what to think. But he knew that the man in front of him couldn't provide the assistance he sought, he needed to find those who could and there was only one group he could possibly turn to. "I formally request permission to be relieved of duty, sir."

Revan gazed at him for a long moment in silence and the General found himself growing increasingly uncomfortable under his superior's gaze. It was as though Revan were trying to assess the reasons behind his query. If that were the case, Kaelan knew he no longer had the ability to shield the sensitive thoughts of his mind from a Force probe. He highly doubted such a thing would occur, but he was still wary. "Permission granted," Revan eventually spoke, "You are relieved General."

With that said, the Republic leader turned away from Kaelan to address the Adamant's Captain once more. The action was simple, the message, even more so. Kaelan had been cast aside, discarded by the very man he once considered a good friend. Nodding slowly at the realization, and trying to suppress the wave of anger and sadness burning within him, Kaelan left the bridge, not needing the Force to know that Malak was watching him depart with a cold gaze.

"Kaelan? Kaelan?"

Atton's words brought the exile out of the indulgence in his memories and he found himself still standing in the cockpit of the Ebon Hawk, though he noticed that Kreia was no longer there and that Atton was standing next to him, a questioning and slightly concerned look on his face. "Sorry," The former Jedi said as he willed himself to fully come to, "I was just thinking."

The pilot eyed him with a sceptical gaze for a few moments before nodding slowly. "Yeah, well like I was saying before you spaced out, I think our passenger could use your help."

"She seemed fine enough for someone who had lost her hand." It hadn't escaped the former General's notice that her left hand was now nothing more than a stump. Cleary, her encounter with the Sith Lord on the Harbinger had been more than she had bargained for.

"I think she was barely keeping it together," Atton said, a note of respect in his tone, grudgingly given thought it may have been. "I'm surprised she's able to stand with all that pain rolling off of her."

"What are you talking about?" The former prisoner's words in his last sentence were a strange choice in Kaelan's mind.

"Are you blind?" The pilot said, shooting him a look as though he had suddenly become stupid. "If I were her, I'd be screaming like a stuck Mynock." Realizing how bad that sounded, even to himself, he added, "Well I mean a very strong, manly Mynock. I think she's just too proud to show any weakness, especially in front of you."

"That's strange."

"Is it?" Atton challenged, "In case you haven't noticed she won't say two words to me, but she'll talk your ear off any chance she gets. Besides," He continued with a flick of his hand toward the blue funnel outside the ship's viewport, "We haven't got much else to do before Telos."

"I never knew you could be so sensitive," Kaelan teased with a slight grin.

The pilot only rolled his eyes in reply, "Oh don't give me that. All it takes is being around people long enough to read them, you should try it sometime."

"Right, I'll go check on her then- if only to appease your sensitive nature."

"Yeah, whatever," Atton spoke in an offhand manner as he turned back to the system displays of the ship, wanting to get a feel for the ship's specifications so he could fully judge its capabilities.

A chuckle escaped the former Jedi at his companion's response as he moved away from the cockpit and down to explore the new ship he was on now that he had some time, and because he didn't know exactly where Kreia was- at least that was the excuse he gave to himself. The walls and ceiling of the ship's corridors were cylindrical in design, light panels constructed into the side provided a good degree of visibility while still dim enough for Kaelan's eyes to tolerate. The area leading away from the cockpit, led to a small room filled with a cluster of databanks and terminals.

On closer inspection, Kaelan could see that the various stations were backup and support systems for the ship. Everything from sensors to navigation was contained inside. Of course the former General knew that the backup systems would not be able to completely compensate for a direct hit to the primary sections, they would provide the ability to keep the ship flying, however, possibly enough to make a difference between life and death.

Kaelan moved out of the system readout area and continued his exploration emerging into the central part of the Ebon Hawk. A large, circular holo-projector stood in the centre of the room, it didn't take the veteran long to realize that it was an essentially larger version of the same equipment on his armour's left gauntlet. It would be capable of receiving and sending communications, projecting tactical maps of areas listed in the ship's databanks, and anything else that could be displayed.

The outcast approached the holo-projector and keyed for a display of the Ebon Hawk itself. He hadn't had time to process the ship's design on Peragus while he was running toward it, but, from what he was seeing, they couldn't have escaped with a better ship. The Ebon Hawk was a Dynamic-class freighter that had been manufactured by Core Galaxy Systems, a shipwright organization most famous for the dreadnoughts it had manufactured during the war with Exar Kun. But while the battleship had been impractical due to its costly upkeep, the Ebon Hawk was anything but.

It was a circular shaped vessel with systems more at home in a military than civilian craft. It had a hull reinforced with both vacierite and durasteel, the latter a common alloy for armour plating, while the former was far more expensive and only present on the most heavily armed of vessels. It also had a shield generator more at home on a military dropship, a sublight drive able to reach top speeds comparable to an Aurek starfighter- with an armament to match, and, perhaps most notably, it contained the most recently designed hyperdrive.

It made it a powerful ship, especially for its class, and the exile wondered why it had been refitted with such components. Then again, Kaelan recalled the HK unit on Peragus citing it as a 'smuggler's vessel,' so the heavy modifications made sense. CGS had designated the design as a light freighter, but the Ebon Hawk had specifications usually only seen on a fighter/bomber class of starcraft.

Thinking of the HK unit made him wonder where the deactivated droid was and he started his search for it. It didn't take him long to find the mechanical's deactivated form right next to the vessel's boarding ramp and it made him wonder how he had missed it coming in. Kaelan wanted the bounty hunting mechanical closer to the inside of the ship itself, even though he had removed the unit's power core he couldn't shake the fear of the droid being able to reactivate itself and so he hauled it into the main hold of the ship.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:42 AM   #11
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 4: A Purpose Revealed (part II)

Kaelan stopped when he caught sight of a door to his right. He knew he hadn't explored the entire ship yet, but it struck him as odd that one of the ship's security doors was active when the rest were not. He pressed a simple command on the entryway's interface and watched as it slid apart. His curiosity turned to alarm when he caught sight of a droid behind the door and he immediately drew his disruptors.

The former Jedi relaxed his guard, however, when he realized that the unit, while strikingly similar to the one he'd encountered on Peragus, bore some differences. For starters, it was off-line. Its power core was still intact, as evidenced by the spark emitting from its chest plate. In addition, the majority of its rusty red chassis was in fairly good condition, though a few gray marks were present from where the droid's paint had been chipped off. Closer inspection also showed the veteran that it was missing a number of parts, without which, it could not function.

The droid's processor, a component that enabled it to perceive its surroundings and receive commands was one of those missing. The control cluster, a part that regulated the unit's functions and other components was absent as well, as was the droid's vocabulator, a part essential for its speech. Fortunately for the exile, he had all the parts within the deactivated HK unit he'd carried from Peragus.

Now that he had assessed the droid's functions, all he had to do was salvage the desired components and put them in the new droid. Reactivating a droid that looked similar to a known mass-murderer made him wary of doing such a thing, however. He needed more information before taking such a step and he had a feeling who could provide it. "T3?"

His call was answered by a quizzical beep from behind him. It made Kaelan turn around sharply to see the utility droid in question glancing up at him with what he imagined to be a questioning stare. "Know anything about this droid?"

An affirmative resounded from T3 after a few seconds of silence, a reluctant sounding affirmative at that and it brought a frown to the Force Sensitive. "What can you tell me then?"

The utility droid lapsed into silence again, one that dragged on far longer than the previous stretch. Just when Kaelan was considering asking the question again, a string of beeps and whistles emitted from the mechanical. "The unit was damaged during the initial engagement with the Sith frigate?" The former General asked, seeking confirmation for the quick communication he had had difficult following.

T3 gave another affirmative, adding an additional set of beeps not long after. "You tried to repair him?" Kaelan adopted a look of surprise at that; T3 was shorter than his counterpart, making a complete repair impossible. "So, I take it this is a friend of yours?" He continued, not waiting for a response to his first, rhetorical question.

Rather than an affirmation, as the exile expected, T3-M4 made a regretful wail, but followed with a quick emission of beeps. "I see," Kaelan spoke in response to the utility droid's suggestion to reactivate the mechanical. "I'll keep that in mind T3, thanks." He decided he'd think about it later, right now he needed to see Kreia, both because of her hand and the need for more answers.

Moving to the right, he headed for the port section of the ship, passing through another corridor before he stepped into one of the ship's quarters. Three beds were against the left side, each interconnected with both each other and the wall. The beds were larger than those in the barracks of naval ships, a fact Kaelan was immensely grateful of. Kreia sat in the centre of the room, his analysis of her Force signature letting him know that she was meditating. He simply stood in the doorway, knowing without a doubt that she knew he was there.

"Have you come for more answers?" She asked, finally standing and turning to face him after several seconds. "There is little more left to give."

"Is there anything I can do for your hand?"

A dismissive shake of her head and a flash of annoyance at his concern met his query. "This wound is a physical thing and will fade with time. It was necessary as well, for some things may only be learned from sacrifice."

Kaelan frowned at her briefly, wondering what she could have possibly learned from such a thing. Now that he was concentrating fully on the old woman, he realized that she was using the Force to dull the pain of the wound but not to promote healing. A strange action in his mind and, though he wanted to ask her for the reason behind it, he decided against it. He knew her well enough by now to know that the chances of getting a straight answer were slim, and he wasn't in the mood for half replies.

The veteran, instead, stated the thing that had bothered him since the final moments on Peragus. "When you lost your hand, I felt it too."

It had not escaped him that he had felt an almost unbearable agony in his left hand, only to find that Kreia had lost hers during their absence. "That does not surprise me," The old woman responded, "Anymore than you hearing my thoughts when we were apart."

"If I felt the pain of you losing your hand, what would have happened if you had died?" Kaelan felt an immeasurable sense of fear grip him at the thought of such a link.

"I do not know, I fear the consequences would have been more…extreme."

"More extreme?" Kaelan repeated in disbelief, "I felt like the molecules in my hand were being ripped apart."

"Then the sensation you would have felt on my death," Kreia admonished sharply, "Might be less than that, though much quicker."

"Would it have been lethal?"

Possibly, yes and I fear it works both ways. I would not wish to test it, nor should you."

"Fantastic," Kaelan muttered drly.

"When battle is upon us in the future," Kreia began in a thoughtful tone, "I suspect our minds will be prepared enough to shield each other from the pain. I don't think we will have a repeat incident of what occurred on Peragus."

"Does this connection have any advantages?" The thought of a bond with such dire consequences made the veteran cringe, but he had a feeling there was more to it than that.

"Indeed there is," The old woman spoke with a nod of her head. "The Force seems to flow easily between us. When one of us uses the Force to heal or strengthen ourselves, the other is aided as well. It is a powerful technique," She said with a thin smile, "But, as we have noticed, is not without its drawbacks."

"If we are strongly linked, as recent events would suggest," Kaelan said dubiously. "Why aren't we aware of it?"

"Who's to say that I am not?" Kreia asked pointedly, "Perhaps you, yourself, need only concentrate harder."

The former Jedi thought about it, his failure in attempting to reach Kreia's mind would suggest he had not recovered enough of his Force connection to be aware of their link. Taking the old woman's advice though, he stretched out, focusing exclusively on something he now knew to be there. The effect was subtle at first, a feeling of a slightly stronger Force connection and, with it, the ability to pick up distant thoughts. Thoughts, Kaelan realized after a moment of analysis, that were not his own.

He pulled back on his search, drained by the excursion. "I can feel it, only distantly though."

"The fact that you feel it at all is a testament to your rapid recovery and strength. Perhaps," She spoke after a few seconds, "The damage inflicted upon you was not as bad as I had believed. It is not an easy thing, to cut one off from the Force."

Kaelan remembered how numb he had felt after the activation of the Mass Shadow Generator. He had chalked it up to the screams echoing through the Force at first, believing the sudden death of other Jedi to have dampened his ability to call on the Force. Later, however, several hours after the war was over, with him still unable to call on the Force, he knew there was more to it then he had initially thought. Eventually, he came to realize that he had been deafened to something he had come to rely on. The only question that still burned within him when it came to the subject was why.

Looking at her, he spoke the words he'd wanted to ask someone ever since event had occurred. "Do you know the reason behind that?"

Kreia regarded him for a long moment in silence. "The answer will come to you in time," She responded finally, "It must. And at any rate, strong as you may be at the present, you would do well to use the time left to Telos to strengthen your Force connection."

The exile couldn't help but feel that she knew more than she was letting on, but the knowledge that the question would be answered at some point gave him satisfaction- for the moment. "So, what do we do now?" He asked, turning back to the more immediate problem.

"I do not know, the Sith struck more swiftly than I would have thought."

"I doubt that Harbinger was destroyed at Peragus," The veteran interjected. Not only was it easier for Hammerhead class cruisers to make hyperspace jumps than other naval vessels, due to their streamlined navicomputers, but Kaelan had a hard time believing a Sith Lord could be killed by such a thing.

"As do I," The elder agreed, "But even if it was, more Sith will undoubtedly be on their way."

"So, why is it so important for us to go to Telos?' He recalled her conviction that reaching the planetoid was important, now he wanted to know why.

"Before the war, those Force Sensitive that failed would be sent to Telos in order use their talents as farmers and labourers."

The infamous AgriCorps, every Jedi knew of them. Those apprentices unable to to pass their training and become padawans within the Order were to become farmers. The Council always said the pursuit was just as beneficial to the galaxy as that of a Jedi Knight. Kaelan had to suppress as snort at that thought. If that were true, it would not only be those that failed the training that went, but a select number of those in the Jedi Order.

"It is possible," Kreia continued, "Though unlikely, that we will find…echoes of their passing. We shall see."

Kaelan nodded in understanding, knowing what they were looking for. Though he personally doubted AgriCorps held any sums of Jedi knowledge. "And if our search yields nothing?"

"Then I am left with nothing but what I had before; my faith in you and your ability to meet what comes."

"I see," Kaelan said with a raised brow, at such a poor strategy. He had nothing else to go on at the moment, however.

The exile's answers about the present had been answered, now he needed information on the past. He had always tried to separate himself from galactic affairs, but now such troubles had been thrusted onto him, and he found he had no choice but to be immersed into it once more. "What happened after the Mandalorian Wars?"

"Much has happened in your absence after Malachor V," Kreia stressed, as if in warning that he wouldn't like what she had to say. "Revan and Malak returned from the unknown regions months after they had disappeared in their 'hunt' for Mandalorina remnants, and at the head of a massive fleet. Having taken upon the mantles of Lords of the Sith, they waged war against the Republic and the Order. Only a few years into the conflict, Revan was ambushed by the Jedi and captured. Malak continued to wage war in his Master's place, inflicting terrible wounds on the Republic, wounds that bleed still. Revan resurfaced a few months later, returning to finish Malak. That was the end of the Jedi Civil War."

"Malak's dead?" Kaelan whispered in a mixture of sadness and shock.

He'd been far from unaware of the changes in his friends as the war with the Mandalorians dragged on. Revan gradually became more calculating, developing a cold demeanour as he immersed himself into the philosophy that the ends justified the means. Malak took his new name prior to the massacre of the Cathar, wanting to make everyone aware of his accomplishments. He became more brutal, developing a ruthlessness matched only by their opponents.

The changes had not been limited to just the two leaders, however. Many other Jedi, Kaelan included, had become more prone to bouts of rage. For the veteran, that change had followed him even in exile. He had learned to control it for the most part, but there were still moments where it seeped through, bringing a storm of memories with it, memories that only intensified the feeling.

The outcast was barely aware of looking at Kreia, "I think I've heard enough for now."

"I would see to that fool in the cockpit," Kreia spoke with a scowl, "And remind him of our destination. I would not want him attempting to veer from Telos."

Too distracted to remind her that the 'fool' had a name, he only nodded and moved toward the bow of the freighter. Despite the confirmation of his suspicions that two of his close friends had been instigators in the last galactic war, and his belief that several of the planets he'd heard about being bombarded during his time in exile were a result of their actions, he couldn't help but feel a sense of grief at the news that one of them was dead. Part of him believed it was only because he had never seen them during their time as Sith Lords that made him feel as he did. Another part of him felt he would feel the same regardless, but he knew that he would never find out which was accurate.

"How's our passenger?" Atton asked as the former Jedi stepped onto the cockpit, having heard the sounds of his armoured boots clacking against the deck plating on his approach. "She still aging?"

Despite his internal turmoil, a thin smile touched Kaelan's lips at the former prisoner's words. "She's as cryptic as always."

"What a surprise," The pilot spoke dyly, "Just so you know the whole cryptic routine isn't mysterious, it's just irritating. If you really can see the future you should be at the Pazaak table."

"Some of us have already done that," Kaelan spoke, his grin widening a bit; he had immersed himself into quite a few card games in his exile.

On some planets, Arbra for example, where either colonization was in its very early stages, or it was a world more at home to the criminal underworld, gambling was one of the few ways to earn credits. Even without his Force connection, he had won enough hands at Pazaak for his drunken opponents to accuse him of cheating. It had led to a fight that served as a catalyst for a number of other players to follow suite. Even though the former General had been forced to subdue his opponents, even kill one that had pulled a blaster on him, he couldn't help but reflect that he had made a good haul that night.

"Really?" Atton said with enough surprise to make him glance at the veteran over his shoulder. "In that case, as soon as I get my hands on a Pazaak deck we should have a match."

"Sounds good to me," A true smile now on his face. "That is, if you don't mind losing."

"Big talk Kaelan," The pilot replied with his own smile.

Shaking away his amusement, Kaelan pulled himself back to more pressing matters. "Are we still on course for Telos?"

"Unfortunately," A scowl now adorning the ex-convict's face, "It's the only thing that comes with the asteroid drift charts. If you thought Peragus was dead, than Telos is a dying world the Republic is trying to breathe back to life. Should be there in about two hours," Atton said after a quick glance at one of the displays in front of him. "You can check our course on the auxiliary navigation terminal if you want, it's just behind you."

The exile moved to the area in question, finding the console and a deeper liking of the Ebon Hawk. Every system seemed to have multiple redundant backups, he had no doubt the small freighter would be able to easily withstand a beating that would destroy any other ship of the same configuration. A quick check of the system confirmed what Atton had already told him, the ship would arrive in about two hours galactic standard.

"So…what happened?"

The sudden query stopped the outcast in his retreat from the cockpit and it made him turn back around to face Atton. "What are you talking about?"

"Come on," The pilot urged, as though he wanted Kaelan to spill some deep secret. "There are plenty of times back on Peragus where a lightsaber would have come in handy. So where's yours?"

"My lightsaber was taken from me," He said slowly, trying to keep his voice controlled as long suppressed memories threatened to resurface once more.

"Huh, I thought a Jedi was supposed to be married to their lightsaber. Were you a single hilt or one of those double-bladed Jedi?"

Kaelan ignored his impressed tone at the words double-bladed, "It was a single-hilt."

"Figures," The former prisoner replied, a tinge of disappointment in his voice. "It wasn't red, was it?"

The slightly fearful question made his anger flare. A few of his friends from the Mandalorian Wars had changed the colour of their lightsaber during the war, red being among the choices. Those that he knew did were far from being Dark Jedi, red was only a colour after all and some just found it more aesthetically pleasing, or had changed their blade's colour for the same reason as he. "Even if it was," He spoke with a snarl, "It wouldn't mean I was some Sith Lord!"

"Whoa! Alright, alright," Atton threw his hands up in surrender after turning to look at his companion. "Sorry for being curious!"

Knowing he had let his suppressed memories get the best of him once again, Kaelan took a moment to calm himself. "It's just not something I like to think about," His voice now softer.

"Well, if you don't mind me asking," The pilot began with caution, "What colour was it?"

"It was blue at first," The veteran's tone adopting an almost nostalgic quality.

"At first?"

Kaelan nodded, even though he knew Atton was no longer facing him. "I changed it after only a few weeks into the war, it reminded me too much of the Order. When it was clear they had turned their backs on us," The former General's eyes narrowed, "I switched the crystal to an orange one. It glowed as intensely as Hasaq's sun."

"Must have been something, sure would be nice to have it now. Might make those Sith think twice about coming after us."

"I guess it would."

Atton shot a glance to his companion at his offhand statement. "You don't sound too convinced."

A heavy sigh was the only response at first, "I'd rather not talk about this anymore." He was about to leave his comments at that when his thoughts drifted to the deactivated HK unit in the storage hold. "Can I borrow one of your mining lasers?"

Confused as to what he could possibly need a mining laser on the ship for, but complying none-the-less. Atton withdrew one of the mining tools from his side and threw it to the veteran. Kaelan caught the weapon, said his thanks, and retreated towards the main hold.

Once he was near the gray framed HK unit, he switched the firing mode of the laser to its steady beam and started salvaging the desired parts he needed for reactivating the other mechanical of the same class. It took thirty minutes to burn through the droid's armour plating, another ten to remove the needed components without damaging neighbouring systems, and twenty more to insert them into the rusty red framed HK.

As soon as he connected the last part, the control cluster, a low hum could be heard from the mechanical as its newly restored systems were charged by the mechanical's power core. Its photoreceptors flared a bright red, the head snapping up and the droid taking a few steps forward before coming to a halt. Kaelan's right hand hovered near his disruptor as soon as the droid was active, a hand which tensed when the HK unit started moving closer.

"Diagnostic: HK-47 activated, running checks through primary systems." The droid's monotonous voice turned to one of surprised distress after a few seconds of silence. "Assessment: It appears I have suffered considerable damage and dismemberment. I can feel all the cracks in my motivators!"

The exile adopted a small smile at the droid's behaviour, though he didn't lower his guard quite yet. "What were you doing in the storage hold?"

HK-47 looked at the human in front of him, a note of, what his behaviour core identified as respect, surging through him at the sight of the impressive defensive posture. "Answer: I do not know Master. It is curious that I am here," The droid paused to glance briefly at his surroundings, "Although this place does seem familiar."

"Do you have any idea what happened to you?" Kaelan pressed, a lack of answers seemed to be a prevalent thing in his life lately and it was starting to annoy him.

"Answer: It would seem you would know more than I Master. My memory centres are experiencing some setbacks." HK-47 paused, the electrical signal sent from his behaviour core didn't register the type of feeling he had expected. "Reflection: Of course, for some reason, that does not alarm me. I suspect I have suffered such memory failures before. Still, the loss of my higher combat and assassination protocols is shameful and degrading."

An assassin droid, Kaelan thought with tensed movement. He wondered whether the other droid had the same functionality, a difficult thing to ascertain since it had seemed intent on only capturing him at Peragus.

"You look like another droid that was hunting me." Kaelan had noticed that the red framed HK had yet to notice his deactivated gray plated counterpart lying on the floor beside him. His fingers brushed against the pistol grip of his right disruptor, waiting for some type of response. It was a test. If the droid was as memory impaired as it claimed, and was in league with the others as Kaelan suspected, he had no doubt the statement would stimulate enough memory circuitry for the droid to attack.

He did not, however, expect the mechanical to speak with a tone filled with amusement. "Statement: Oh, that is impossible Master. If I were out to kill you, we would not be speaking. And, regardless, I am a unique model. Why to think there would be other versions of me would be unacceptable."

He finally relaxed his guard, the droid's vocabulator adept at mimicking human speech enough to let him know that HK-47 was telling the truth. Still, he realized he would have to break the news to the assassin droid. Kaelan's silent retort to HK's statement came in the form of him motioning to the deactivated unit on the floor.

The rusty red framed mechanical followed his Master's extended hand and felt a deep surge of rage course through him at the sight of a grey plated version of him on the floor. At first, he believed his new Master had made a cruel joke and he was about to compliment him but, as he analyzed the droid's specifications and compared it to his own, he found them to be remarkably similar. Too similar for the situation to be the cruel joke he had had hoped it was.

"Analysis: This unit resembles my own base construction template on many levels. Components are compatible with my own design; my scans even show enhanced armour plating and improved shock resistance frames. This discovery is causing me some degree of anger, and humiliation."

"Are you alright?"

HK-47 finally looked way from the deactivated remains of the other unit, his photoreceptors snapping to his new Master. "Mockery: 'Am I alright?' Oh, yes Master, I am fine." The droid's vocabulator made his voice sound as though it were dripping with sarcasm. "Statement: I mean I have only just been reactivated only to find that there are sub-standard duplicates of me- running all over the galaxy in all likelihood. It is almost enough to strip away the pride of being an HK. Almost"

The assassin droid switched his gaze back to his grey plated successor, "But if they are in fact hunting you, then I look forward to meeting these units and educating them in proper assassination protocol."

Deciding that a change of subject was needed, Kaelan decided to ask more about HK himself. "So, you're an assassin droid?"

"Recitation: Yes, as I said," His vocabulator portraying the annoyance he was still feeling from the recent discovery, "I am an assassin droid. It is my primary function to eliminate meatbags you wish removed from the galactic population Master."

"Well, it just so happens that I am the target of both the Sith and every Bounty Hunter in the galaxy, so I'm sure I'll get the chance to witness your skills firsthand soon."

"Thrilled Remark: That is the best news I have heard since my activation Master. Despite the loss of my assassination protocols, you will still find me a formidable asset."

Intrigued by the 'assassination protocols' HK whimsically referred to, the outcast looked at him curiously. "What exactly is the function of your assassination protocols?"

"Answer: When activated, my assassination protocols allow me to operate single-handedly in the pursuit of a specific target, only returning upon complete termination." The mechanical combatant let out a sigh, "How I miss them so."

A low chuckle came from the outcast at the mechanical's last statement, "We'll be arriving at a planet called Telos in about an hour. Will you be ready for an excursion?

"Irritated Statement: Of course Master, or does the designation Hunter-Killer no longer have any meaning to the current galactic population?"

"No," Kaelan spoke with a suppressed grin, "It doesn't."

HK-47 regarded the human in front of him in silence for a moment. "Commentary: Those are harsh words Master. You managed to wound me in my behaviour core, a truly commendable line of attack. I like you already."

The former General could only laugh in response, bidding the newly reactivated assassin farewell while he moved to explore the rest of the Ebon Hawk. He was delighted to see a workstation area, across from the boarding ramp, with enough upgrade components stored within plasteel cylinders. The engine room was past that, branching off the exiting corridor to the left. Both the hyperdrive and the starboard and port engines were visible. To the right was a medical bay that held everything simple kolto patches to a kolto tank, in addition to mundane concerns like a simple refresher.

The cargo hold was next to the engine room, a wide space was available inside with the actual storage canisters either kept in the very back or to the side, where fastened netting kept it in place. To Kaelan's surprise, one of the netted off areas functioned like an armoury; several canisters were filled with enough weapons and equipment to supply a heavy platoon. But he felt his best discovery was a room that branched off the corridor that led to the port crew quarters.

It looked to be designed as a security room, but Kaelan was quick to realize it could double as his own private dwelling. It was a conclusion not reached for the room's size; it was only twice as large as the storage hold. The decision was made, instead, due to the presence of a small holoprojector in the centre of the room. Originally implemented to replay recorded footage from either the exterior or interior cameras- each of which had its video feed displayed on wall mounted screens-, a quick reconfiguration of the device linked it with the ship's systems, allowing it display anything stored in the vessel's databanks.

Keying for a display of the galaxy itself, the former Jedi nodded in approval as the various stars and planets appeared in miniature form around him. Kneeling on the deck, he closed his eyes and immersed himself in the Force. Although his Force connection had returned, it was far from being at full strength. Still, he knew he could fix it, all it required was to spend more time familiarizing his body with the sensation of drawing upon the mystical energy field.

The exile emerged fifty minutes later, feeling a combination of success and failure as he moved to the cockpit. Though he now had a stronger Force Affinity, it wasn't nearly as strong as it he felt it should have been. Where the Force Sensitive had to concentrate for a long time to be able to feel anything, now he could easily sense things around him, but only to a certain point. If he stretched out now, he could feel what was going on throughout most of the ship, though there were still a few sections beyond his current level of perception.

Stepping onto the ship's cockpit, he sat down on the co-pilot's chair. "Time to arrival?" He asked in a somewhat distracted manner while his eyes lingered on the transparisteel viewport.

Atton's response was to pull the ship back to sub-light speeds, the sight of a distant yellow star and a planet filled the region of space they now occupied. The pilot looked at Kaelan with a smirk, "Now."

The former General didn't respond, his attention completely focused on the planet they were approaching. Telos was a barren rock for the most part, colours of black and brown were the dominant vistas. Pockets of green could be seen sprouting beneath a large orbital space station that seemed to conform to the shape of the planetoid as it maintained its geo-synchronous orbit.

"What is that?"

"Citadel Station," Atton said once he followed his companion's gaze, "It's the centre of operations for the Republic restoration effort. It's also home to what's left of the Telosian population."

"What powers it?"

The former convict glanced between the looming orbital complex and the outcast, judging how to form a response. Deciding the Force Sensitive would find out eventually, Atton answered. "Well it used to be powered by Peragian Fuel."

Kaelan visibly grimaced at the news, "That's not good."

"Probably not," Atton agreed with a frown. "Peragus was able to supply cheap fuel to various sectors, so it's fair to say that the lack of export won't go unnoticed."

Further comment was cut-off by a transmission from the station itself. "Approaching vessel, this is station control, state your identity and intent.."

"Control," Atton replied, "This is the freighter Ebon Hawk requesting permission to dock."

A silence followed that gradually made both males uncomfortable, the response finally transmitted several seconds later. "Ebon Hawk you are cleared to dock at bay 24 at module 126."

Coordinates were uploaded to the smuggling vessel not long after pointing the pilot in the right direction as he changed course. "Acknowledged Control, coordinates received for bay 24, we've started our approach."

"Understood, Control out."

As the Ebon Hawk moved to its destination, Kaelan could see that the orbital complex was composed of interlocking sections he felt were the 'modules' Station Control had referred to. The only visible methods of connection between neighbouring modules were clusters of airlock passages, though the amount of shuttles moving around the station testified to an alternative method of travel.

The ex-convict brought the vessel in for a landing, Kaelan was already moving to the boarding ramp before the freighter's landing struts made contact with the deck plating of bay 24. Atton's mentioning of Citadel Station being powered by Peragian Fuel and Kreia's declaration of the Ebon Hawk's distress call being answered by the Republic cruiser Harbinger, made him think that Station Control's pause, once they requested docking permission, was caused by more than just the standard delay of searching for available docking bays.
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Old 06-07-2010, 01:47 AM   #12
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 5: Boarding Citadel (part I)

Kaelan, Atton, Kreia, T3-M4, and HK-47 stood outside the Ebon Hawk, the bay’s controller having requested that all personnel disembark once the ship had landed. It had been three minutes since the controller had issued her command to wait for a Lieutenant Dol Grenn and the outcast was patiently staying in place. He had no doubt that the authority figures wanted to blame him for the destruction of Peragus. And, while that was indirectly true, Kaelan wasn’t about to sit around when there was work to be done. Not to mention he had no desire to show up on Republic scopes again.

The former General had already devised a plan, one that hinged on the assassin droid standing to his right. HK’s initial delight about being the driving force behind his Master’s plan had faded slightly once Kaelan had fully explained it; the veteran wanted to take advantage of the mechanical’s identical construction to his HK-50 counterparts. Since the unit on Peragus had admitted to having served on the Harbinger and, because Kaelan was convinced there were more of the droids out there, it stood to reason that they could also be spread among the Republic fleet.

With that in mind, the former Jedi planned to have HK claim to be the protocol droid that had served on the Harbinger. It was his hope that the Telosians would analyze both the droid and the datapad obtained from the facility, containing the logs of the Peragus security and medical officers, giving HK the opportunity to stage a prison break in whatever detention cell they were imprisoned in. Kaelan wasn’t unfair, however. He couldn’t deny that the planet’s destruction had been triggered by his presence, so he told the assassin droid to wait at least twelve hours before proceeding ahead as scheduled. He would be providing the Telosians with enough evidence to clear his name by then. Any longer than that and they were wasting his time.

The sound of the bay’s air-lock doors opening made the crew of the Ebon Hawk turn to see the approach of four members of what could only be the local police force. Their uniforms bore a striking resemblance to those of Republic soldiers, except that the red plate coverings had been swapped for gray ones. Though they moved with a relaxed posture, the presence of blaster rifles gave no doubt that they were prepared to defend themselves if pushed.

The one in front, a grizzly looking officer with slicked back brown hair bore his brown eyes into the group at his approach, a blaster pistol in his right hand. “I’m Lieutenant Grenn of the Telos Security Force,” He announced as he stopped only a few feet away from the group in front of him. “I’m under orders to take you into custody in regards to the destruction of the Peragus Mining Facility.”

“Are we under arrest?” Kaelan posed the question with a light tone, though he was mentally grinning at how his instincts had been right.

“You haven’t been formally charged, but you will be placed under house arrest, a situation that is subject to change pending the results of our investigation. And before you ask, I have no specific time table to offer you.”
Kaelan withdrew the datapad he’d acquired on Peragus from his armour’s belt and tossed it to the officer, “This should help.” He gave a slight smile at the speed with which the Lieutenant’s armed escort raised their weapons in response to his action.

The TSF officer caught the data storage device with a frown, “What’s this?”
“Logs I recovered from the facility before its destruction. They’re from the medical and security officers.”

Grenn nodded as he skimmed through the entries, “Very well, we will take these into consideration during our investigation.” He placed the datapad into a pocket on his own belt then looked back at the exile. “While this case is still open, I’m sure you understand that your ship and droids will need to be in TSF hands for safekeeping.”

Kaelan caught HK’s glance to him at the officer’s words, a silent request to proceed with the plan. A request answered by the veteran’s slight nod, an action completely missed by the TSF.

“Request: Master,” HK said as he took a couple of steps forward and addressed Grenn, “I may be able to assist in this investigation. I was one of the Republic protocol droids stationed on the Harbinger prior to its appearance at the Peragus Mining Facility.”

“You’re an HK protocol droid?” A note of surprise coated the officer’s voice as he caught his first glimpse of the two metre tall droid.

“Affirmation: Correct, Master.”

“In that case, you’ll be coming with us.” Grenn’s statement was made with a motion of his hand toward himself, with HK-47 reluctantly following the command. “As for the rest of you,” The TSF officer said as the rusty red framed assassin droid moved beside him, “My men will relieve of you of any personal arms and armour.”

“As long as you don’t expect us to strip in the docking bay,” Atton said dryly.

Kaelan grinned at the comment while he relinquished control over his disruptors and vibroblade, Atton reluctantly following his lead as he forgo control over the lone mining laser still in his possession. The exile glanced to Kreia, half expecting her to hand over her lightsaber. A subtle wave of the old woman’s hand made it clear she had no such intention, the dazed officer that searched her informing Grenn that she was clean. The TSF lieutenant led the way out of the docking bays, the three armed officers walking behind the captured travellers as they were escorted to the detention block.

A shuttle ride and minutes of walking later found the freighter’s crew in one of the station’s detention blocks- minus HK-47 since one of their escorts had moved to a different area halfway into their journey. Two rows of force cages lined what was essentially a short hallway. Orange and gray, a colour common throughout the station, composed the majority of the room’s plating, though the block’s sole entrance was a durasteel gray. The exile and his companions were placed in the closest force cages, their escort finally seeming to fully relax once the cage’s electrical field sprang to life.
Green looked to Kaelan once he was confident the fields were stable, a fact he verified by checking one of consoles next to the door. “You will be held here until living quarters can be arranged, I trust you understand.”

“I understand that I feel like we’ve been officially arrested,” Atton said as he glared at the all too familiar containment chamber.

“As I said,” The TSF officer said with a terse tone while he switched his gaze to the pilot, “This is only temporary. I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to bear with us until then.”

With Kaelan’s acknowledgement of the situation, and a motion of his hand to the others, Grenn and the TSF moved outside the room. “Take it from one who knows,” Aton began as he sat down in his cell. “We’re going to be here for awhile, might as well get comfortable.”

“The first sensible thing I’ve heard you say,” Kreia said in reply as she lowered herself in a meditative position.

“Yeah,” Atton spoke, his tone one of sarcasm, but his eyes told of a barley hidden edge. “Maybe there’s hope for me yet.”

The old woman cracked one of her eyes open to gaze at the pilot, “I would not put much faith in the prospect.”

Atton’s lips curled into a brief snarl and Kaelan decided it was time to interrupt the spat. “Atton’s right, while the TSF are investigating all we can do is try to relax. At least until HK busts us out.”

Atton looked at his companion with a slight frown, “Is that really a good idea? The TSF will be looking to arrest us if we escape.”

“I know, but I can tell that the TSF want to pin Peragus’ destruction on us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have put us in force cages, it doesn’t take as long as they’re making it out to for them to designate quarters for us.”

“True,” Atton said with a sideways nod, “But there’s still the problem of avoiding the officers on the station.”

“We’ll find a way around it,” Kaelan stated confidently. Although he knew he had only been inside two of the station’s many modules, the lack of TSF in the detention block, and the immediate surroundings, suggested that the local authorities were stretched thin. “At any rate, this investigation is undoubtedly going to involve the Republic and I’d rather stay out of their sights.”

Atton nodded his head in understanding at that and the three lapsed into silence.

Kaelan sat down on his cell, the feeling of bare clothing against his skin was not something he was used to. While the former Jedi had been given a set of local attire in exchange for his armour, both Atton and Kreia were still garbed in their original clothing, the TSF having not detected any devices on their person. Being without his armour gave him the feeling of being naked, despite the fact that he was clothed in a dark green tunic. The outcast had been separated from the protective attire far too often lately and it was starting to grate on his nerves.

“I would suggest,” Kreia’s voice interrupting his thoughts, “That you concentrate on more important matters, exile. You have been given an opportunity to continue strengthening your Force Affinity. Do not waste it.”

Kaelan sent his acknowledgements, but not before strengthening his mental shields, oblivious to the small smirk that stretched across the old woman’s lips at the action.

HK-47 stood in the centre of the main establishment of TSF operations on Citadel Station. One of the officers from the docking bay had escorted him to the dispatch section of the outpost. Various pieces of equipment were clustered against the left and centre sides of the small rectangular room. Monitors and consoles were on the left, the monitors showing visual feed of the more crime prone areas on the station, while the consoles made up the station’s security network. More electronic interfaces were in the centre of the room, most of them responsible for managing select areas of the stations themselves, everything from power distribution to fuel control.

The droid had been questioned by Lieutenant Grenn for several hours. His Master had given him an abridged version of the HK-50’s activities on both the Harbinger and Peragus and it was enough to get through the interrogation. Even so, the queries were repeated so often for clarification that the assassin droid was finding it hard to stay within the bounds of his mission parameters- to not permanently harm any of the TSF personnel or any civilians. His Master had been very stern in the command, despite the mechanical’s pleas to the contrary.

Just when the HK unit felt like he had reached his limit, the TSF officer had left to check Republic records and continue inspecting the datapad Kaelan had given him, leaving the droid alone in the TSF security network. HK wasn’t surprised, many meatbags had a low regard for droids and a protocol droid was hardly considered a threat. Of course, HK-47 was much more than that.

As soon as he was alone, the mechanical moved toward the terminals in the room, having already decided how to proceed; he had devoted the majority of his processor to the task of breaking his Master out of the detention facility during Grenn’s interrogation. The assassin droid had decided to draw the TSF’s attention away from their establishments. To that end, he would need to cause a distraction severe enough to keep the authorities efforts fixed in a select area, but not enough so that it put the entire station on high alert.

The answer was to disrupt the power grid in a select section. HK sliced into the Citadel network, easily bypassing the system’s encryption while he downloaded a map of the station directly to his processor. He scoured through the data at lightning speed, pinpointing an ideal point of attack in less than thirty seconds. Calling up the power flow for module 064 and 065, the droid keyed for a slow increase of the power flow to the specified area, a process that would overload the conduits in a matter of minutes and leave the module in the dark, something bound to warrant an immediate response by the TSF.

His primary objective about to be accomplished, the droid switched to his secondary agenda and scoured the system for the whereabouts of the Ebon Hawk. He downloaded all relevant data into his processor, only storing it for now, analyzing would come later. The tasks accomplished, HK-47 erased all evidence of his intrusion before moving back to his previous location in the room and settling to wait.

It didn’t take long for alarms to start blaring in the room, several TSF officers rushing inside in response. Lieutenant Grenn was one of the first to appear and immediately started barking out orders, “Report!”

“We’ve got a power destabilization in modules 064 and 065 sir,” One of the officers at the controls replied. “The conduits are starting to overload.”

“Shut them down, emergency procedures!”

“It’s not working,” The officer responded in frustration, after several attempts to do as instructed.

Lieutenant Grenn frowned at that information; modules 064 and 065 were two of the many sections in the facility where the TSF’s presence was not strong. He didn’t even need to think on the subject to know that a panic would settle in with the citizens and workers in the area. Nestled in module 075, Grenn’s TSF outpost was the closest able to respond. He ordered all but six officers to accompany him to the modules in question, hoping that they would be able to get there before a panic started.

HK watched with hidden amusement as the majority of the outpost’s police force headed out of the area and to the nearest shuttle. With six of the officers remaining, and with no discernible weaponry at his disposal, the mechanical combatant pondered on how to proceed. Various tactical simulations sprouted through his control cluster, each one more appealing than the last. He reluctantly dismissed them, however, knowing he had to do the difficult task of rendering the officers unconscious without alerting them to the fact that he was responsible. Despite the absence of death involved in the task, HK couldn’t help but feel a sense of intrigue growing within his behaviour core. He always enjoyed a challenge.

While the assassin had no visible means of weapons at his disposal, a number of modular equipment had been mounted to his frame, underneath his wrist plating. Despite his damaged state, all of the weapon mounts were still functioning. Flamethrowers, plasma emitters, carbonite projectors, neural scramblers, and multi-spectral emitters were all fitted to his frame. The droid selected the neural scramblers within both his wrists and observed the movements of the six remaining TSF personnel, scanning for a pattern.

It didn’t take the HK unit long to see exactly what he had been searching for and so he moved in. The main hall of the TSF outpost was wide and rectangular in design, its primary purpose being that of a redirection point to the many sections that branched off of it. From the map HK had downloaded, he knew that the primary armoury for the security forces, as well as the communications hub, barracks, medical bay, and offices were but a few of those sections.

He designated the six officers in order of attack, having finally identified the pattern in their routes. Three of the officers were stationed by the entrance to the compound itself. They stayed still for the most part but, when the three did move, they did so in a counter-clockwise pattern that presented the assassin droid with multiple opportunities to silently neutralize them. Once they started moving again, he moved in.

HK-47 moved at a pace fast enough to close the distance quickly to target number one, but slow enough for his metallic limbs to barely be heard against the station’s floor plating. He timed the strike so that when his servo-powered fist impacted into the side of the meatbag’s head, the other two were facing the entrance to the TSF outpost, their eyes not witnessing their comrade falling unconscious to the floor.

Through the countless termination of meatbags across the galaxy, the assassin droid had learned of the various weak points in biologicals, and the best means of exploiting them. While most of these were geared specifically toward annihilation, in the wake of his orders to not cause permanent damage, he was able to extrapolate probable methods of incapacitation. The actions were not a certainty, however, which left the mechanical hopeful that he might overdue it. It went against his primary programming to purposely disobey the orders of his Master, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do it accidentally.

To the assassin droid’s dismay, however, his prediction for incapacitating the meatbag in front of him was a reasonable one. His fist struck the biological at the point where the body’s neurons led to the base of the brain, with a force just hard enough to temporarily disrupt the neural activity, enough to render the meatbag unconscious. With target one neutralized, HK activated the neural scramblers underneath his wrist plating and swiftly moved toward targets two and three. The emitting shocks were set to a frequency designed to disrupt a target’s neurons by jamming the electro-chemical signals, essentially making them a more practical way of subduing opponents than the approach the droid took with his first target.

Targets two and three quickly collapsed from the impact, the shocks disrupting their nervous system so fast they didn’t even have time to scream. After that it was a simple matter to hunt the remaining three down, HK quickly dispatched them with the neural scrambler, ensuring that none of them saw their attacker. With his means of escape now open, the mechanical combatant utilized the map still imprinted in his processor to quickly make his way to the detention block a few levels below the TSF outpost.

Atton sat in his cell, feeling the same way he had on Peragus, bored out of his mind. He wasn’t one to be confined into one area, it was part of the reason he had supported Kaelan’s plan for early release. Thinking of the exile made the pilot glance at the man in question. He too was sitting his cell, though Atton got the impression that he was asleep and not meditating like he was certain Kreia was. The corners of his lips quirked up in a slight grin, Kaelan wasn’t at all what he had expected from a Jedi.

The pilot couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Kaelan and himself. The outcast had a guarded past just as he, one he had tried to escape as well. Despite their similarities though, Atton still wanted to ask his companion a lot of questions. The strong reaction he had received from a question as simple as why he didn’t carry a lightsaber anymore, deterred Atton from asking Kaelan, however.

Instead, he turned to Kreia. “Explain something to me,” He whispered just loud enough for the old woman to hear.

“I have neither the time nor the desire to placate your mind.”

“If he served in the war,” Atton continued, ignoring Kreia’s dismissing response, “Well…Jedi are supposed to be tough, capable.”

“Yes,” The old woman said, cracking her eyes open as she turned to regard the pilot, “And what are they without the Force? Take the greatest of the Order, strip away the Force, and what remains? Very little. It is something unconsciously relied on, depended upon so strongly that, when it is taken away, it would be like one such as you becoming blind at the snap of one’s fingers.”

“To lose that much,” Atton trailed off, not willing to think about how he would have to struggle to adapt to such a thing- or if he even would.

“Do not be so surprised, in many ways even you are more capable than a Jedi.”

Atton knew that all too well. The simple statement threatened to drudge up suppressed memories, and it was only with his sheer will that they were forced back down. He took a moment to calm his mind and was about to ask another question when Kaelan jerked in his cell. The former Jedi didn’t wake, but the movement was enough for the pilot to hold his tongue.

“We have spoken enough of this,” Kreia said, her eyes on Kaelan as well. “And we do him a disservice by not speaking of this while he is conscious.”
Atton had a hard time believing that to be her real reason for ending the conversation, but he only nodded in reply as he sat down to rest once more.

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 06-07-2010 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 06-07-2010, 01:49 AM   #13
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 5: Boarding Citadel (part II)

“Standby, drop is in five.”

The voice of Captain Rahn, the commanding officer of the Praetorian class frigate Defender, came through the COM system onboard one of the frigate’s troop transports. The fluorescent lighting inside had been replaced with dim red, a silent reminder that battle was nearing. While the twenty soldiers occupying the assault craft were seated and strapped down in close quarter seating, their leader took to pacing the small space in-between the seating, brown robes billowing slightly from his slow movements.

Commander Kaelan Nalto was growing impatient. Now that the space above Vanquo had been cleared he was to lead the first wave against the Mandalorians operating on the planet’s northern hemisphere. The padawan was well aware of the Mandalorian’s true purpose in this attack, the planet’s mining operations were essential to Taris. An attack at Vanquo only meant that the crusaders were preparing for an attack on Taris, and were drawing away the Republic’s attention to do so.

Revan, of course, was all too aware of this fact as well, but the Republic fleet was stretched thin in the sector and they could only spare enough forces to liberate the planet from the small detachment of Mandalorians. The space battle above Vanquo had been bad enough. Many ships on both sides had burned above the planet, making it look as though Vanquo’s skies had been alight with fire. Now the Republic was gearing up for a ground assault that promised to be even more brutal than the ship to ship fighting.

To break the Mandalorian’s grip on the planet, Revan had devised an attack against three separate locations. The given areas were the strength behind Mandalorian control. If the Republic broke through those areas then the Mandalorians would be pushed back, whether they wanted to be or not.

“Commander?” Sergeant Arlos called as Kaelan continued to pace the deck, “Wouldn’t you rather take a seat sir?”

The padawan turned to face the Sergeant, a grin on his face. “What’s the point? We’ll get to ground just fine.”

The Force Sensitive’s confidence was contagious and the non-com found herself smiling despite her doubts, a feeling that was quickly becoming a distant one.

“Are you sure about that sir?” A nervous looking Private asked from near the front of the transport.

“What’s your name Private?” Kaelan asked in turn, sensing there was more to the soldier’s apprehension than the prospect of dying in the atmosphere; though it was a fear shared by all infantry.

The nervous soldier, a young looking man no more than nineteen, looked at his commanding officer. “Ornil, sir.”

“Don’t worry Ornil,” Kaelan said as he laid a hand on the man’s shoulder, “Stay with me and you’ll be fine.”

Slowly, the fear and apprehension started to fade until the young soldier was left with an expression as stern as those of his comrades. He gave his superior a nod in acknowledgement, one that Kaelan returned with a smile. The Commander considered giving a speech to those in the transport, but dismissed the idea. A quick use of the Force told him that his platoon was already confident and committed.

It was only a fraction of the padawan’s task force, however. Two other transports deploying from the Defender were part of Kaelan’s strike team, each under the command of the company’s more experienced soldiers- Second Lieutenant Threl and Warrant Officer Serth. The other two would be landing five kilometres away from each other, the plan of attack being to spearhead through enemy lines in a reverse trident attack pattern, converge in the middle, and continue fighting as a single unit until all the Mandalorians were dead.

Revan had personally asked him to assist the Republic in this battle, having been impressed with his command ability and tactical prowess. Such skills had been demonstrated after his superior, Jedi Ren, had been killed in one of the many skirmishes at Phindar. Kaelan had stepped in, leading the other Jedi to accomplish their objective with minimal casualties. Revan had taken a strong interest in him after that, testing his tactical and strategic insight with simulated problems. He claimed to be pleasantly surprised by some of Kaelan’s proposed solutions- though the padawan couldn’t help but doubt that.

The Revanchist himself was not present in this battle, however, having gone to scout out the situation on Onderon and Dxun. Alek and many of the others were on Suurja, another key resource world for Taris. Three other battles had already been fought on the planet, and Revan was determined to keep it from being conquered. Having anticipated a strike against the other resource planets of Jebble, Tarnith, and Vanquo, Revan knew something had to be done. The Revanchists numbers were far too small to protect all three worlds but, after hearing of the Republic’s plan to retake Vanquo, Revan had chosen Kaelan, and a few select others, to assist. The Republic had welcomed Kaelan and his group right away, giving them temporary command status once Revan’s plan was unveiled.

“Commander, thirty seconds to insertion.”

“Thanks for the heads up Crix,” Kaelan spoke into his COM-link, knowing the transmission was from the transport’s pilot. He had only met the young man in the Defender’s hangar but they had instantly taken a liking to one another.

“Anytime Kaelan, but don’t thank me yet,” The pilot said with a slight chuckle. “I’ve still got to get you to the surface in one piece.”

“Why is everyone but me worried about that?” Kaelan asked with exasperation, though the humour was still in his voice. “We’ll get to ground intact.”

“I’m not worried Kaelan, just telling you when to start worshipping me.”
The padawan laughed at the statement, “So you say.” He disengaged the COM-link and placed the device back on his belt.

“Not a good sign when the soldier has to reassure the pilot,” Sergeant Arlos muttered.

The non-com’s statement made a grin stretch across all the faces around him, having been loud enough to be heard by everyone in the transport.
The red light on the transport pulsed twice, a sight quickly accompanied by the feeling of freefall as the transport emerged from the Defender’s starboard hangar, the other two from Kaelan’s group right behind his own, as the assault shuttles streaked through the atmosphere of Vanquo. None of the fleet’s transports or starfighters made it very far toward ground level before a storm of anti-aircraft cannons opened fire.

The primary ammunition of most anti-aircraft cannons was blaster flak, a type of ammunition that relied on a high power supply to propel it far enough into the air to adequately damage enemy aircraft. Such an energy source, however, was highly unstable. It could only last for a handful of seconds before the energy’s core pressure reached critical levels, resulting in an implosion. The implosions were almost as devastating as direct hits, each one slowly draining a target’s shields, making the targeted craft more susceptible to destruction.

There was no real practical defence for such an attack. Even the best of pilots were unable to navigate something as bulky as a transport through such crossfire. Fortunately, Kaelan knew of one way to get his team through. “Hound’s Eye to all pilots” The padawan spoke into his COM-link, having set the device to the company frequency. “Bring the engines to 120 percent of maximum.”

Crix and the others warily acknowledged the command, a jolt in the transport signifying the increase in the assault craft’s velocity. “Engines are running hot!” Crix called to his Commander, “E.T.A to insertion marker at this speed is three minutes!”

Despite the pilot’s stressed warning, their current time of arrival was now much shorter than was considered safe, even in battlefield conditions, Kaelan only set his jaw. “Understood.”

The transport continued to rock from the blaster flak still erupting around them. The jarring force was enough that the soldiers were finding it difficult to stay steady, even while strapped in, leaving many of them to wonder how their Force Sensitive Commander could stay upright with only a grip on a single handhold. The Republic soldiers listened intently to the pilot’s chattering that could be heard from their superior’s COM-link. Crix was continually listing off the amount of kilometres to ground; every so often he would say the padawan’s name, as if to be sure he were still listening to the numbers of their rapidly falling altitude.


“Stay on course.”



Crix and the other pilots acknowledged the command, cutting power to the engines and pulling their respective transports into tight arcs. The crafts skimmed the planet’s surface, each pilot managing to pull their transports up with barely metres to spare. The avian inspired assault craft touched ground, the wide loading ramp slamming down not a moment later, Kaelan being the first one out. “Welcome to the Vanquo Resort,” Crix spoke into the COM, his tone bordering on taunting as the pilot’s passengers stormed out of the transport.

“I hope you remembered to make a reservation,” Kaelan called back dryly.
Crix laughed at that, “Of course, but I put in on your tab. Lucky for you though, extraction is on me.”

“You’re too gracious.”

A final laugh came from the assault craft pilot before he guided his transport a safe distance away from the Mandalorians waiting ahead. Crix had set the strike team near a small hill that was just large enough to provide cover for the transport and its disembarking passengers. Their enemies were waiting beyond and Kaelan didn’t wait long before securing his COM-link back on his belt and selecting his lightsaber instead.

The blue blade pulsed to life with a hiss, the padawan already moving toward the Mandalorian lines while he pointed the weapon in the direction of their enemies. “Platoon, forward!”

The soldiers took up the battle cry with roars of approval, moving after their commanding officer in a scattered variation of an inverted V. Red bolts erupted from the enemy encampment as soon as they were visible, forcing Kaelan to move his blade in tight swings to redirect the deadly energy projectiles. Sergeant Arlos shouldered her blaster rifle and squeezed off a burst, while side-stepping to avoid answering fire, the others following her example.

In their short time on the planet, the Mandalorians had erected a series of trenches and barriers; the Republic outnumbered them to the point where it would be foolish to do anything other than dig in and wait. The trenches had only been dug deep enough to conceal the stomach and lower body of the occupants. Still, with the Mandalorians guarding the planet’s refineries, located in large mining camps- some of which were as large as cities- a ground assault was the only available option.

Kaelan was cursing that fact as more of the enemy combatants started to open fire on the advancing Republic platoon. Red bolts from both sides discharged toward the other, the warriors able to take the valuable time to aim, while the Republic infantry fired more out of a sense of desperation. It was an attempt to force their foe to seek cover and stop firing long enough for the Republic soldiers to gain a reprieve. It wasn’t working, however, and it wasn’t long before Kaelan’s forces found themselves hard pressed to keep advancing.

Just when the Commander was considering ordering a withdrawl, the blaster fire suddenly ceased. It was so unexpected that the padawan stopped dead in his tracks, Sergeant Arlos and the others following suit. The Mandalorians had never stopped in any engagement, it went against everything they believed in. It was a sight that filled Kaelan with dread; he couldn’t help but feel they were planning something.

“Energy rounds incoming!” Arlos screamed out the warning as she pointed toward the sky.

The Commander turned to see that the Sergeant was correct. The green orbs falling from the sky signified why their enemy had stopped firing, to group them together enough for the energy blasts to riddle through the platoon. He knocked himself out of his shocked stupor, “Disperse!”
The command was instantly obeyed as soldiers scattered in every direction, the Mandalorians resuming fire not long after. One of the troopers was unable to run to safety in time, an energy blast striking near enough to his position that he was killed as the energy spreaded outwards. Another three were killed as a multitude of blaster bolts tore through their energy resistant armour, cauterizing the flesh beneath.

A loud curse escaped Kaelan’s lips as he pushed himself back to the front, once again becoming the prime target for enemy combatants. Clever, the padawan thought with a mixture of anger and sadness while he continued to deflect enemy fire; he’d just lost nearly a quarter of his platoon from a completely unexpected form of attack.

Energy rounds were a more experimental form of artillery, one not at all as practical as their concussion shell counterparts. The energy rounds required a large amount of power to fire, making each power core a one use thing and the reloading process a lengthy one; replacement power cores had to be installed afterward to recharge the weapons.

Concussion shells, on the other hand, were a more practical type of ammunition. Highly explosive and requiring only a minimal amount of energy to expel, the ammunition was the more common sight on the battlefield. Able to travel at a speed fast enough to punch through solid durasteel, the velocity alone made them deadly weapons. Adding the secondary payload to the equations, explosives that detonated on impact, only furthered its destructive potential.

“Arlos,” Kaelan shouted amidst the constant sounds of discharging blasters and the hum of his own weapon s he continually deflected the bolts moving toward him. “Did you get a fix on those artillery positions?”

“I have a rough idea Commander,” The woman replied after doing a quick set of evasive rolls.

“Good, tell Two and Three Platoon that its their new objective.”

“Yes sir,” Arlos responded, reluctantly disengaging from the battle while she moved into a nearby crater, now protected from blaster fire, and relayed the order. She’d seen the artillery fire come from a position over some hills to either side of the Mandalorian encampment and she told as much to Threl and Serth.

With the platoon leaders’ acknowledgements, Arlos turned her attention back to the battle. The path in front of her was ablaze with red. Even with Kaelan further ahead to draw enemy fire, enough was still directed at the troops that they were finding if exceedingly difficult to keep moving forward and stay alive.

The sight of another soldier fall, as a storm of energy projectiles riddled through his evasive manoeuvre path, made Kaelan cringe. A lot of ground had already been covered by the platoon, but there was still a remaining distance of a hundred metres left to cover. The initial sprint had declined to a steady jog, a pace that was slowing even further as evasive sequences became preferable to forward action.

That was something the Commander intended to change. “Platoon,” The Commander’s voice was loud enough to carry to their enemies, “Fire and advance!”

A simple command, fire and advance called for an attacking force to split into its respective fire teams. One trooper would fire their respective weapon and force nearby enemies to take cover while their partner took advantage of the presented opportunity and sprinted to the nearest available cover. The process was repeated until the distance between the combatants was closed enough that each side could openly engage the other. What was left of Kaelan’s platoon split into their fire teams, or formed new ones, and started utilizing the aggressive skirmish tactic.

A somewhat shaky voice called from behind Kaelan, “Uh…sir?”

The padawan didn’t need to look behind him to know the Private he’d spoken to in the transport was the one talking. Nor did he need to ask to know that his question was about whether he should break off and join one of the fire teams. Kaelan had no way of knowing how many he’d lost, nor did he dare find out. He wasn’t about to let the soldiers leave his side, however, he’d effectively made a promise. “We stay together Ornil.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir.”

Kaelan continued deflecting enemy fire, finding himself hard-pressed to keep it up as more and more Mandalorians started targeting the Force Sensitive in their sights. The padawan’s blue blade looked to be nothing but a stream of light in front of him while he continually used the Force to anticipate the trajectory of the incoming blasts. He had to concentrate exclusively on blaster bolt deflection, so much so that he was barely aware of his own feet moving forward.

“Commander, look out!”

The warning was completely ignored by its recipient, or so it seemed to Ornil. The soldier had been in the same position for the majority of the battle, several metres behind- and to the left- of the padawan. Kaelan seemed to be concentrating so hard on what he was doing that he didn’t notice another energy round baring down on his position. Making a snap decision, Ornil closed the distance between himself and his superior and tackled him to the side.

The two rolled on the ground for a few seconds, a burst of energy rounds impacting into the place the pair had stood only moments before. Kaelan was too shocked by the sudden interruption in his concentration to decipher what happened right away. When he did finally come to, he realized that he had been pushed into one of the many shallow craters on Vanquo’s surface. It was just deep enough to shield the Commander from the blaster fire looming overhead. The thought of the energy projectiles made him think of the platoon under his command, Ornil in particular. He quickly moved himself to a crouching position, scanning for the Private.

It only took a cursory glance to find the man’s body, unmoving, only a few metres to Kaelan’s left. The padawan quickly moved at a crouch to the soldier’s side. “Ornil?” The tentative question hung in the air while Kaelan reached out with the Force and assessed him for injury. It only took a split second for him to realize that the Private was grievously injured, a visual check confirming it as the sight of four blaster bolts in the man’s left side greeted the padawan’s sight, bolts that would normally have been intercepted by his lightsaber.

A weak groan escaped Ornil’s lips, blood oozing down both his side and mouth. “Co….Com…mander?”

“Hang on Ornil, I’m getting you out of here.”

Even though Kaelan knew there was no way he could heal such an extensive wound, either through conventional methods or with the Force, he still reached for his COM-link and made to contact Crix. His thumb was just pressing on the switch when Ornil weakly extended his left arm, as though wanting to be helped back up to continue the fight. For reasons he couldn’t explain, the padawan brought his right hand towards the soldier’s extended limb. His fingers were only a split second away from clasping the man’s hand in his own when Ornil’s arm fell limply back to his side, Kaelan’s enclosed fingers now gripping nothing but air. He looked down at the soldier, not needing the Force to know he was dead.

“I’m sorry kid,” The softly spoken words falling from his lips as he gazed at the corpse, a feeling of misery flooding his mind for he saw as his own failure to safeguard the very soldier he said he would.

That misery churned to a seething rage as the sounds of battle returned to his senses and, with it, the desire for vengeance. Kaelan sprinted toward the Mandalorian encampment, his blue blade deflecting bolts with a skill he could scarcely imagine he possessed. His cry for a charge echoed across the ravaged landscape, one that was answered by what was left of his platoon.

Kaelan's eyes shot open, his gaze frantically searching for Mandalorians warriors. His mind started to calm once he realized he was still in one of the force cages within a detention block on Citadel Station. The rage he'd felt at the memory slowly began to fade as the veteran became aware of his surroundings. The Battle at Vanquo had been his first time in command and, though he had personally succeeded with his objective, the others had not. In the end, the Mandalorians had claimed victory, though they had lost a significant portion of their own forces. The battle had been the first time the Force Sensitive had entered an extreme bout of rage- none of the earlier skirmishes had ever gotten such a strong reaction from him- but it certainly hadn't been the last.

The exile glanced at the others, his eyes first focusing on Kreia, who looked to be in meditation, and then to Atton, who simply sat within his cell, looking bored. He wanted to ask how long they'd been inside the cells but was cut off by Kreia's declaration of something approaching. The door to the detention block slid open and the familiar sight of HK-47 stepped through.

“Greeting: It is good to see you still intact Master.”

A grin touched the former General’s lips as the assassin droid moved toward the block’s control panel and deactivated the force cages. As soon as the security fields were down, Kaelan and the others stepped out of their cells. “How did it go HK?”

“Egotistical Boast: I have been completely successful in accomplishing my objectives Master. A power shortage in modules 064 and 065 has distracted the TSF meatbags, all requested data has been downloaded from the station’s security network into my central processor, and all traces of my infiltration have been erased.”

“And?” Kaelan pressed slightly, knowing the droid was well aware of what he really wanted to know.

“Annoyed Statement: And, as ordered, no meatbags have been……permanently harmed.”

HK spoke as though the last two words were poison to his vocabulator and it brought a slight smile to Kaelan’s features. “Good. In that case, I take it you know where our equipment has been stored?”

“Answer: Yes Master, follow me.”

As Kaelan and the others followed the mechanical, Atton regarded the outcast oddly. “Hey, you okay?”

It was at that moment, that the veteran realized his breathing was heavier than normal, the remnants of his last resurfacing memory still managing to affect him. “I’m fine,” He said after taking a moment to compose himself, not even bothering to face the pilot as he answered. If he had, he would have noticed Atton’s un-convinced expression and Kreia’s scowl as she shook her head.

The assassin droid led the trio to a secure storage room, the sight of multiple unconscious TSF officers around the entryway making it clear that something valuable was inside. That something turned out to be Kaelan’s gear, equipment that was quickly reunited with its owner. The exile closed the storage room door long enough to re-don his armour and cloak, as well as retrieving his disruptors and vibroblade; he was slightly surprised that none of the security personnel had recognized his side-arms as the illegal weaponry they truly were. A spare blaster pistol and additional vibroblade were handed to Atton, who was more than happy to have something other than a mining laser in his arsenal.

Emerging from the armoury, Kaelan looked to the rusty red mechanical. “Did you find out where the Ebon Hawk is? I want to secure the ship before we do anything else.”

“Hesitant Answer: I’ve just analyzed the data I downloaded while in the station network. It appears that the freighter was not moved to its intended destination of impound dock AA-21.”

A deep scowl adorned the former Jedi’s expression, “Then where is it?”

“Speculation: The relative strength of the Repubic Navy around the station would lead to an unlikelihood of escape from the sector; my calculations only show an eight point three percent chance of success. With no record of the vessel in any other docking bay on the station, the only remaining option is landing on the surface of Telos itself.”

“On the surface?” Atton repeated in disbelief, “This day just keeps getting better and better.”

“What’s the problem?” Kaelan asked with a glance between Atton and HK. “We’ll just secure another ship and take it to Telos.”

The pilot glanced at his companion, the look of disbelief only more pronounced upon hearing the veteran’s words. “What, you think this dead zone of a planet is open to tourists? Only those authorized to work in the Restoration Zones are allowed access to the planet, anybody else would be intercepted by the Republic. And before you get any bright ideas, shuttles bound for the Restoration Zone are locked up tighter than a Hutt’s vault. I doubt if HK could even get in.”

“Objection: The indignation of such a remark can not be put into words, but suffice it to say that I am willing, and most eager, to prove you wrong meatbag.”

“What groups have access to the Restoration Zones?” Kaelan quickly interjected, not wanting Atton and HK-47 to get into a spat.

“Answer: Current Citadel records show a local group of Ithorians and a branch of Czerka Corporation to be the parties responsible for managing the Restoration Project.”

“Well then,” The former Jedi said as he headed out of the detention block, “We’ll just have to find out who’s better suited to help us.”

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 06-07-2010 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 06-12-2010, 06:37 PM   #14
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 6: Hunt for Information (Part I)

Kaelan studied the map of Citadel Station shown on the holoprojector fastened to the gauntlet of his armour. His gaze was fixated on module 081, a section listed in the Citadel directory as the primary entertainment area for the station, and the very section his group was currently heading toward in a transport shuttle.

The module was likely to have several cantinas within, places- that the outcast knew from his travels in the Outer Rim- were a good first start in obtaining information. He planned on getting information on both groups involved in the Restoration Project –Czerka Corporation and a herd of Ithorians- then deciding which one to work for. The presence of two separate groups working on the same project was puzzling to the former General. Such splinter groups were inefficient by nature, each often divided by differing opinions, leading to an inability to make decisions. It was more logical to pool resources together and the apparent division in the Restoration Project pointed to different agendas. While Kaelan had no idea what other agendas there could possibly be, he considered it foolish to blindly discount the possibility.

Czerka Corporation was a galaxy spanning group, one motivated exclusively by profit. The enterprise dabbled in a bit of everything, be it small miscellaneous components or starship construction. Motivation and ambition had allowed them to build connections and establish direction operations on hundreds of planets. Their blind pursuit of profit had given them a reputation for questionable activities in the past.

By contrast, the Ithorians were a species known for their pacifistic nature and affinity for nature. This affinity, however, gave the plant tenders a knack for obsession, often leading them to be fiercely protective of their ‘charges.’ Such behaviour could result in irrational decisions, such as their choice to retreat to orbital cities above their homeplanet, Ithor, in order to preserve the vegetation.

At first impression, none of the two seemed as though they were participating in malcontent, making the exile’s trip to the cantina even more important. The automated shuttle docked at the nearest port built into the side of module 081, the airlock doors opening once the external interlocks had the ship firmly in place. The group of four stepped out of the shuttle, finding themselves in a large area.

Where the other modules had twisting mazes of corridors and lifts that ran along the complex, the entertainment station was an open, multi-level chamber for the most part. Doors to separate entertainment areas ran along the walls, towering the entire length of the module; various lifts took users to the higher-up areas. The different levels in the area were filled with crowds moving to the various sections, advertising holoboards showed the more attractive locales in the module.

Kaelan only needed to take one look at the station to know he had to modify his plan. “Let’s split up,” The exile said as he turned to face his companions. “Atton, take the second level and Kreia, look into the third. Remember, obtain any information you can about Czerka and Ithorian activities on the station.”

The designated pair gave nods in acknowledgement before moving off to carry out their instructions. Kaelan watched them depart, heading for one of the advertisement holos. “HK,” He called over his shoulder, “You’re with me.”

“Statement: Yes Master,” The assassin droid said as he fell into step behind his owner.

The exile headed toward the cantina one of the holoboards identified as Restoring Thirst. The name itself was what attracted Kaelan, an oxymoron designation for a bar that he couldn’t help but think gave the owner’s impression on the Restoration Project. Dim blue lighting gave the bar its illumination, just bright enough for the veteran to make his way over to the serving area to the right of the entrance.

“Gizer Ale,” Kaelan called to the bartender once he was able to get close enough to the counter to place his order; there were quite a few people milling around the area, either placing orders or retreating to the various tables and booths running along the centre and sides of the large room.

The bartender, a female, green-skinned Duros, left to retrieve his desired beverage. By the time she returned, Kaelan had withdrawn a credit chip worth fifty credits from his armour belt- he had yet to transfer the three thousand credit chips he’d earned on Eriadu to his bank account- and placed it on the table. The Duros looked at him, her large red eyes regarding him intently for a moment. “Gizer Ale doesn’t cost that much.”

Her wary tone brought the ghost of a smile to Kaelan’s lips. “Ten is for the drink, the forty is for a moment of your time.”

In response, the Duros delegated the rest of the orders to her serving droid and turned her full attention to the human in front of him. “I’m listening.”
“This Restoration of Telos interests me and I’m thinking of lending a hand. Know how I could go about doing that?”

A small whining noise emitted from the alien’s mouth, the equivalent of a human sneer. “You’re wasting your time, that Restoration Project isn’t going to be doing anything significant anytime soon. Czerka Coporation and the Ithorians keep clashing with each other, preventing the project itself from coming to fruition.”

“What do they have problems with exactly?” Kaelan asked, intrigued by the Duros’ statement.

“Budget distribution, restoration zone control, specifics of managing the zones themselves,” The Duros said while counting off their problems on her long, slender fingers. “If this keeps up, I’d bet a single person restoring the planet before those two managed to accomplish anything.”

The exile absorbed the information as the Duros spoke. None of this put him any closer to deciding who to work for, but it did make him wonder whether he had been wrong in his initial assessment. Perhaps the two groups had broken away due to something as minor as a conflict of procedure, rather than one of interest. He shook the thought away, however, knowing he needed more information before he would know what to really think. He thanked the Duros for her time, taking a moment to simply enjoy his Gizer Ale, one of the many simple pleasures he had been unable to indulge in for the past few days.

“Ah, so here’s the Jedi all the rumours have mentioned,” A voice said from Kaelan’s left.

The outcast tensed briefly at the word Jedi, though he hoped it was too dark for anyone to notice the slight shift in his movement. He didn’t bother responding either, since he couldn’t help but believe that whoever was addressing him was taking a wild guess. The alternative was to believe that someone had spread word of his appearance on Citadel, whether it be the Republic itself or simply someone who had recognized him on his arrival.
“No more trouble with the TSF I hope?” When Kaelan still remained silent, the voice sounded again, agitation clear in the tone. “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
“Warning: Tactile contact with the Master is unadvised if you wish to keep your arm, meatbag.”

Kaelan glanced to the left of him at that to see HK-47 focusing his red photoreceptors on a human male garbed in a heavy combat suit. The man had been in the process of reaching toward the former General’s shoulder, only to freeze half-way with the assassin droid’s warning. “Something I can do for you?” Kaelan asked the man once he finally pulled his hand back to his side.

“I see that you don’t know who I am.”

The newcomer’s voice was coated with enough arrogance to make Kaelan roll his eyes as he turned back to his drink. “Someone with a narcissistic quality bigger than this entire station?”

The jab made the man’s eyes narrow in response, something Kaelan had to hide his amusement at. “I’m Benok, the man in charge of Loppak Slusk’s protection. The two gentlemen with me are Matu and Nahata,” Benok said as he pointed to the armoured Rodian and Aqualish at his side. “They are some of Slusk’s best men, aside from myself of course.”

The sheer arrogance in the man’s statements was so powerful it could be felt through the Force. It was enough to make him consider letting HK go at them with no restrictions. “Oh leave the man alone Benok,” a feminine voice called from behind both groups. “I bet he’d come out on top if you fought.”

The veteran turned his attention towards one of the tables behind them, a woman with short, red hair, garbed in a skin-tight black bodysuit stopping just high of the thighs- an outfit more at home on the Twi’lek dancers in the back of the cantina- made the statement. Her bare legs were propped on the top of the table, while she leaned back in the chair, her pink coloured irises switching between Kaelan and Benok.

“Now Luxa,” Benok spoke in a slightly dismissing statement as he looked at the woman, “I meant nothing by it. You’re probably Slusk’s strongest….woman.”

“It’s your skin Benok,” The woman spoke lightly, though the hint of reprisal lay beneath. “Just warning you, Slusk could easily replace you.”

Finally, Kaelan thought with a small grin, someone who can help peg this guy’s ego down to where it belongs.

Luxa looked to the veteran; he didn’t need the Force to know she believed he could be the one to provide the means for the very replacement she mentioned. As appealing as it would be to show the armoured thug his place, Kaelan had no desire to start a fight in a cantina– nor did he have any wish to attract the TSF’s attention more than he already had. “I’m not looking for trouble,” His said, his declaration made more towards the woman than Benok.
The three males only left the cantina in response but not before Benok’s snide remark, “I doubt you could cause any.”

“Request: Master, may I crush the meatbag’s neck?”

Kaelan wasn’t sure if the assassin droid intended to be loud enough to scare the thugs, or if he was only speaking loud enough to ensure he heard his statement. Either way, the result was Benok moving just a little bit faster out of the cantina. He chuckled at the retreating form of the three thugs, downing the rest of his drink. “Maybe later HK,” He said to the mechanical while he moved toward a nearby group of patrons to continue his hunt for information.

An hour later, Kaelan sat at one of the tables in the back of the cantina. He had questioned multiple patrons on their thoughts about the Ithorians, Czerka, and the Restoration Project in general. None of the responses had been very informative; people who supported one side cited the other as being responsible for the project’s standstill state. And even those who had no qualm against either only gave a simplistic overview of the setbacks, none of which helped Kaelan make his decision.

“Doton, please, you’ve got to let her go! I can get you the credits; it’ll just take a while!”

The frantic shouts stirred the former Jedi from his thoughts, his eyes snapping toward the direction of the disturbance; a table at the far end of the Cantina, close to the stage where a Bith band and two Twi’lek girls were. Curious, Kaelan moved closer to see what all the commotion was about. Though the shouts had been loud enough to be heard above the band’s music, most of the patrons paid it no mind.

“A deal is a deal Harra,” A green-skinned Twi’lek wearing the dark green tunic common among Telosian attire said. “And until you have the agreed upon sum in its entirety, we have nothing more to discuss.”

“But it will take me months to get that much, maybe years! Doton, please, you can let her go now and I can still pay you back a bit at a time!”
“You shouldn’t bet more than you’re willing to lose Harra,” Doton spoke with a slight smirk on his face.

The other Twi’lek went livid at the comment and would undoubtedly have made a move against Doton if Kaelan didn’t intervene. “What’s going on here?”

“Just a simple business deal,” Doton replied smoothly, though his hard gaze was fixated on Harra, “Which has been concluded.”

“It doesn’t seem to be,” Kaelan spoke with a faint degree of amusement, a feeling which changed to curiosity. “What is the exact nature of this deal?”

Harra quickly explained the situation to the former Jedi, telling of how he had bet his girlfriend, Ramana, in a pazaak game against Doton, a statement which Kaelan had immediately narrowed his eyes at. An intensive anger boiled within him at the thought of someone willingly selling their own lover into slavery. “I’ll get her out of this.”

Kaelan had made the comment more to himself than Harra, but the Czerka-employed Twi’lek answered anyway. “I wish you luck then, for no amount of pleading or bargaining has yielded any results for me.”

The exile only regarded Harra with a cold gaze for several moments, turning his attention back to Doton only when Harra started to look extremely uncomfortable. “So, how much do you want in exchange for Ramana’s freedom?”

“Credits are such a dreary method for conducting business transactions,” Doton paused, as though wanting to know if the Force Sensitive had anything else to trade. When Kaelan remained silent, he continued. “But if that is the only way, I would accept no less than two thousand for her.”

As far as slave prices went that Kaelan had heard of, two thousand was one of the more reasonable amounts. Still, he wasn’t one to needlessly spend currency, particularly not to a slaver- unless he absolutely had to. Stretching out with the Force, Kaelan intended on compelling him to agree to Ramana’s immediate release. Guided by his hand, he used the Force to form a barrier around the decision making section of the Twi’lek’s brain. Once it was formed all he had to was maintain it while he looked at Doton, the entire process took less than a second. “You will release Ramana.”

With his decision-making ability blocked, the Twi’lek saw no reason why he shouldn’t give in to the command and he eagerly complied. Moving over to the stage, Doton pulled aside the lithe form of a green-skinned Twi’lek female in a bodysuit quite similar to the one worn by Luxa, save for the fact that it was red. Without a word, the entrepreneur brought Ramana to Kaelan’s side. A final command from Kaelan and Doton left the cantina.

“Wait here a moment,” Kaelan said, the cold tone he’d used since learning of the incident replaced by a softer one as he spoke to Ramana.

Though the young woman looked intensely confused, she obeyed. The Twi’lek dancer didn’t have to wait very long before the former Jedi returned, handing her a thousand credits he’d relieved from Harra, along with five hundred of his own. “Here you go,” He said with a smile. “I negotiated your release, you’re free now.”

Ramana only regarded him in disbelief for a few seconds before she realized that he was telling the truth. Her eyes light up in joy and she briefly wrapped her arms around her liberator in a thankful hug before running out of the establishment. She had moved with such quickness, that even the Force Sensitive was barley able to keep track of her movements.

Kaelan stared at the spot she’d left for a few seconds longer before he started moving toward the cantina’s exit himself, believing he had discovered all he could here. “I can see I was right about you, you are a capable sort.”
The unmistakable sound of Luxa’s voice made him stop in his retreat, HK mirroring his movements. “And what makes you think that?” He asked, stepping toward the table the woman was still at. He’d felt Luxa’s gaze on him as soon as the incident with Benok had ended. It was clear she was curious about him, but he felt that there was something more to it than that.

“Being able to easily resolve a dispute in here that’s been raging for days is no small feat,” The woman replied, a sly grin etched on her features.

A shrug met her statement as he took a seat at the table, “Sometimes you just need the right skills.”

Her grin only grew at his words, “And what sort of skills do you have?”
“Enough to do what I need.” A feeling of caution started to work its way into him. Part of him felt she had witnessed his unique persuasion abilities. Such a discovery would not bode well for him. “Is there a particular reason for these questions?”

She cocked her head to the side, for a moment, as if assessing the reasons for his question. “So forward,” She said with a stern expression, one that melted into a flirtatious smile after a few moments. “I like that.” She paused for a moment to simply stare at Kaelan before continuing, “You’ve already noticed from my encounter with Benok that I’m not particularly fond of some of those I work with.”

“Indeed,” The exile said with a raised brow at such an understatement.” And what exactly do you do in your line of work?”

“I handle the vice of this station. You know, spice, gambling –the good things in life- for the local Exchange boss Loppak Slusk.”

“Exchange, huh?” The query had been posed with an almost casual tone, though a subtle movement to the disruptor on his right side gave the indication of what he truly thought on the revelation.

“Don’t worry, I won’t make a move on you.”

“Why would I be worried?” Kaelan spoke with genuine confusion. How the woman had been able to tell that was beyond him.

The sly smile was back on her lips, “You’ve obviously never met a Zeltron before. We can feel emotions, and you are just too tense to be anything but worried.”

The veteran instantly slammed his mental shields back in place, cursing himself for both his lack of control with his mind and for his failure to recognize her species. Mental shields were a technique almost implicitly known to Force Sensitives, a barrier that guarded against unwanted attacks- be they subtle attempts at reading the mind or all out aggressive use of the Force. And the Zeltron were a species known as much for their empathic abilities as they were for their extravagant features.

He took some satisfaction in watching Luxa’s confident feeling dim once she no longer had the ability to sense his feelings. “Like I said,” Luxa continued, “I’m not going to make a move on you, I want to make a deal with you.”

“A deal?”

“Mmmm, that squid boss of mine and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, you, of course, being one of them.”

“What does Exchange business have to do with me?”

A soft sigh escaped the Zeltron’s lips, “Look, there have been a lot of rumours going around the Station. This is your chance to set the record straight.” She took a brief pause but continued before Kaelan could ask a question. “Are you really a Jedi?”


The lack of hesitation in his voice brought a flicker of surprise to Luxa’s face before she steeled herself and nodded at his answer. “Exactly, this bounty the Exchange has posted for Jedi has nothing to do with you, but the squidhead won’t listen to me.”

“So you want me to kill your boss for you?” Kaelan asked bluntly, growing weary of the dancing around the issue.

The smile came back to her face, “Precisely.”

‘Forget it’ were the first words to come to Kaelan’s mind, but instead he found himself considering her offer. It would give him a chance to get some answers to questions he’d had ever since Atton had revealed the existence of the bounty to him. “What’s in it for me?”

“Simple, you help me dispose of Slusk and I’ll clear up this bounty matter for you.”

It sounded good, far too good. If his excursions throughout the Outer Rim had taught him anything, it was never to take things at face value. Using the Force, he slowly entered the woman’s mind. Once inside, he started searching for proof to validate her statement. The outcast’s progress was blocked, however, by the natural defences inherit to every Zeltron due to their empathic abilities. While the barriers themselves were insignificant in comparison to the abilities of a Force Sensitive, they were strong enough that Kaelan wasn’t sure if he would be able to get what he wanted without alerting Luxa to his subtle probe.

::Letting your perceptions extend to the mind of another is a complicated task, you are to be commended for getting as far as you have::

Kreia’s sudden transmission of thought was so unexpected Kaelan almost lost his concentration. It took him a moment to figure out how to maintain his probe within Luxa’s mind and simultaneously send his thoughts across the link he shared with the old woman. Once he did, he explained the situation.

::Slowly chiselling away a specific layer to the barriers is the wisest course of action. For those touched with the Force, sometimes, all it takes is a crack::

The former Jedi followed his unofficial mentor’s instructions, harnessing just enough power from the Force to pierce the Zeltron’s mental shields at a single point. A simple breach, but one that allowed him to slip through Luxa’s defences undetected and search for what he sought. The double-meaning in her words was revealed, a finding accompanied by a feeling of deviousness and a strong sense of impending betrayal.

The last find was enough for the veteran to withdraw his probe, having found something he could say he wasn’t surprised to discover. Luxa was planning to betray him at some point, that much had been clear. Now he wanted to know why. “Why do you want your boss removed so badly?”

His probe into Luxa’s mind hadn’t taken more than several seconds. To the Exchange member, he had only been thinking of whether or not to accept her offer, so his question in search of more answers did not surprise her. “Slusk works for Goto, one of the more well known crime bosses of the Exchange who operates out of Nar Shadaa. Now this Goto is ruthless, efficient, and all he sees are numbers. Goto keeps the local squid around since he maintains a consistent flow of credits, more or less. But it is only half of what I know it could be.” Luxa’s relaxed posture started to fade away, her devious nature starting to seep through while she continued to rant. “I should be Citadel’s boss, but Goto doesn’t allow breaks in the chain of command unless he himself orders it.”

“I see, and how would this work?”

His use of the hypothetical word ‘would’ didn’t go unnoticed by Luxa, her posture returning to her laid-back façade when she believed she had more convincing to do. “I can get you into the centre for Exchange operations in module 043. More than a few of the guards are loyal to me alone so there shouldn’t be too much resistance inside. Once Slusk is dead, I’ll clear up the bounty. Do we have a deal?”

He hadn’t really found the answer to why she would betray him, but he figured he’d find them at some point. Not to mention that this was his only way of obtaining the answers he sought. In response to Luxa’s query, he gave a curt nod in agreement, “Deal.”

“In that case,” The Zeltron spoke with what Kaelan was beginning to think was her signature smile, “We’ll be speaking soon. Best of luck, handsome.”
Leaving Restoring Thirst and heading back into module 081 itself, Kaelan quickly informed his companions of the change in plans- Atton via his transceiver and Kreia through their bond.

Five minutes later, the reunited group of four were in another shuttle headed for module 043. A look at the map displayed on his armour’s holoprojector showed Kaelan that the headquarters of the Exchange was nestled in a part of the station formally listed on the Citadel’s directory as a segment of the local swoop track. Such areas had been made in the unoccupied sections of the station, making it a good cover for illicit activities of the intergalactic crime syndicate- as the overly stretched Telos Security Forces had no reason to mount any searches. It also created a good opportunity for the Exchange to collect the bounty on Kaelan’s head, a fact that did not escape the exile.

“Query: Now that we are heading toward a meeting of known hostiles, may I now rescind your order to not harm any meatbags?”
Kaelan shot a surprise glance over to his right, where HK-47 was standing, an area close to the front of the transport. “I’m surprised you’re following my orders so precisely.”

“Irritated Statement: I am bound by my central processor Master. Even I cannot countermand my own programming.”

“I see,” Kaelan spoke with amusement, deciding not to voice the fact that ‘meatbags’ had the ability to exceed their ‘programming.’ “Do you really find my command not to harm civilians so restricting?”

“Definition: Civilian….an individual not on active duty with a military or police organization. My calculations indicate that the term applies to all but forty-five percent of the meatbags on the station. Among the forty-five percent are those working for the Exchange.”

“I’ll consider it,” The outcast responded after a minute of silence.

“Observation: Since I am still disarmed, perhaps you will at least equip me with some form of armament. I do not feel true to myself without a blaster in my grasp.”

“I’ll consider it,” Kaelan repeated once more, a small smile on his face.

“Statement: Oh fine, Master. Reactivate an assassin droid only to treat it like a protocol unit. Even by my standards, this level of torture borders on excessive.”

The veteran couldn’t help but chuckle at the droid’s wounded tone.
“Kaelan, are you sure this is a good idea?”

The former Jedi regarded his companion in silence for a moment, his previous feelings of amusement fading. After several seconds, he turned to look out of the shuttle’s forward viewport. “I need answers Atton and they’re going to provide them,” His expression growing darker, “One way or another.”

Atton could only nod his head in response, a gesture made more to himself, since everyone else’s attention was drawn to their approaching destination.
The shuttle docked at module 043 not long after, the group departing once the airlock opened. Rather than the large amount of space, Kaelan expected to find, however, a small hallway led to an entryway guarded by two armoured Rodians. At the group’s approach, the aliens trained their blaster rifles on them. “State your business.”

The exile let his right hand rest on his holstered disruptor, now was the time to see if Luxa had command of as many guards as she claimed. “Luxa sent me.”

Immediately, the weapons were lowered. “I hope you’ve realized what you’ve gotten yourself into Human.” One of them turned to a COM panel next to the door and spoke a few words that Kaelan couldn’t hear, the door to Exchange headquarters opening not long after and the two guards retreating toward the shuttle the group had just arrived in.

Without hesitation, the veteran stepped into the centre of the criminal operations on Citadel Station. An Aqualish, a male and female human, and two male Twi’leks turned around at the sound of approaching steps, their forms clustered near a large door that Kaelan assumed to be the final security door barring access to the rest of the Exchange establishment. Even with the precognitive awareness granted by his limited Force connection, the outcast was barely able to roll to the side as a flurry of blaster bolts riddled the section on the permacrete floor he had stood in only moments ago.

His disruptors were already in his grasp by the time he came to a stop, a quick burst of shots impacting into two of the thugs. The male human was killed but the other, a blue-skinned Twi’lek, was only hit with a glancing blow against his armour’s left shoulder plating. Even a slight skim from a disruptor bolt, however, was enough to make the alien cringe in pain, his right hand shooting to his injured limb.

Answering fire from the remaining Exchange members forced the exile to roll away and seek cover amid the small cutaways in the walls of the thirty by ten metre corridor. Kaelan had to resort to blind-firing with his right disruptor to attempt to discourage any possible advance. With all the red bolts swarming his position he couldn’t risk moving from his cover without getting shot. He was fairly certain his armour would still be able to absorb the energy projectiles, even from thirty metres, but he saw no reason to test the theory.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to.

Two precise bolts from Atton’s captured TSF blaster pistol struck the female right in the centre of mass as the pilot moved in. A burst of enemy fire toward his position greeted his arrival, forcing him to move behind Kreia as her green lightsaber snapped to life and deflected the five bolts that would have made short work of Atton. Two of the energy projectiles were only deflected to the side while three were redirected back to their source, the Aqualish thug.

“I want the last one alive!”

Atton shot the former General a surprised and dubious glance in response. He was undoubtedly about to reply with a scathing retort but Kaelan never gave him the chance to say it as he moved out of cover. He paused just long enough to aim his right disruptor at his distracted foe and fire off a single shot. The bolt riddled through the orange-skinned Twi’lek’s armour, at a space just at the side of the kneecap. Easily riddling through the joint, the alien was left to collapse with a scream.

Kaelan capitalized on the inflicted wound, swiftly closing the distance between himself and his target. Grapping the Twi’lek’s left wrist, the outcast wrenched the blaster pistol from the thug’s grasp and tossed it aside. His other hand quickly shot out to grip the Twi’lek at the neck, gaining him the necessary leverage to slam the alien into the nearest wall.

The Exchange member winced in pain at the assault, but Kaelan only regarded him with a cold gaze. “Tell me what I want to know and I’ll consider letting you live.”

“Kaelan, what are you doing?!”

“Observation: The Master is interrogating the Twi’lek, inflicting pain to extract information.”

Atton rounded on the assassin droid and shouted, “I know what he’s doing, I mean why!”

The former Jedi shot Atton a look that wordlessly commanded him to stand down, an order almost immediately obeyed.
Fear gripped the alien at his interrogator’s words, but he was more afraid of his own employer. “I’m…not telling…you any…thing.”

An increased pressure on the Twi’lek’s windpipe was the only response at first, his breathing coming in short, laborious intakes. “Wrong answer. For your sake, I would advise against it in the future.” Kaelan paused for a moment, staring into the alien’s eyes with a hard gaze. “Where is Loppak Slusk?”

“M…Middle of…head…quarters.” When it looked like the veteran wanted more, the Twi’lek hurriedly continued, “I…I don’t know…….where ex…exactly....I s…swear.”

Kaelan nodded after a moment, sensing his honesty through the Force. “How many more Exchange members are in here?”


A disruptor bolt to the alien’s other leg forestall any more words, a muffled cry of pain escaping his throat. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“What do you call seventy dead Exchange thugs?” Whether Kaelan’s posed query was directed to the captive or his companions was uncertain. Neither made any attempt to guess, however, so the outcast gave them the answer. A disruptor bolt riddled through the Twi’lek’s chest, his corpse ceasing to struggle in his attacker’s grasp. “A good start,” Kaelan replied to his own question with a slight growl.

Throwing the lifeless body to the ground, Kaelan turned to the wall mounted console and motioned for HK to slice it and open the inner door. The droid obeyed the command, but not before focusing on the corpse of the fallen thug. “Statement: One cannot help but applaud your methodology Master.”

No-one bothered to answer the droid, least of all the individual the comment was directed toward. Atton was silent, torn between a sense that Kaelan was right in what he was doing and feeling that he was wrong. The former made up the largest part of the pilot; he felt a sense of justification for what the exile was doing. After all, the man had only recently learned of the Exchange putting a bounty on Jedi, so he was bound to be angry.

For Kaelan’s part, rage dominated his senses at the moment. It had sparked once he had learned of the Exchange’s presence on Citadel. He had told himself that he would keep it in check, but as soon as the Exchange members inside had opened fire, he had lost whatever control he had managed to create. The emotion coursed through him as strongly as it did during the Mandalorian Wars, his own memories from the conflict kept the inferno of rage within him active.

At first, the former Jedi was surprised by how much the news of the Exchange hunting Jedi had affected him. The Order had abandoned him long ago and he wasn’t sure if part of him was unable to return the favour. Now, however, he realized that it wasn’t a feeling of misplaced loyalty that was behind it so much as it was the feeling of those he had still considered friends during the Mandalorian Wars- despite the fact that they had not followed Revan as he had- being the targets. The veteran kept imagining bounty hunters coming after those select individuals and, after feeling like he had already lost all the friends he’d ever known, it ignited a fire inside him he just couldn’t quell.

He had expected a scolding from Kreia at his actions, either in his mind or spoken aloud. The old woman did neither, however, and, after glancing at her, the veteran wasn’t sure if she didn’t care or was just waiting until later to voice her opinion. Shaking his head, Kaelan tried to dispel his thoughts, wondering when he had started to become concerned with how others viewed his actions. He’d been numb to such things since Malachor V and his subsequent final encounter with the Jedi Order.

The former General had been so distracted that he didn’t notice right away when HK opened the door. When he did realize that the assassin droid had succeeded, he found himself looking at a vast storage area more at home to a warehouse than a headquarters. Racks of weapons, armour, munitions, and equipment were laid out in rows of shelves in such abundance that it was clear the Exchange considered it impossible for any unwanted visitors to get past the final security door. The room wasn’t limited to just the tools of combat however, stacks of storage crates lining the walls looked to hold some of the galaxy’s most valuable commodities, whether they be something as simple as medical supplies or the more illegal substances such as spice.

The absence of life in this section of the criminal establishment allowed the infiltrators a moment of reprieve. Three doors permitted access to branching areas of headquarters, each on different sides of the room. Since the Twi’lek had informed him that his target was around the centre of the complex, the outcast opted to use the door straight ahead of him.

He didn’t know what lay beyond but he felt it was conceivable to believe that he wouldn’t be able to tackle it alone, so he’d bring Atton and Kreia along with him. The rest of the Exchange members still needed to be dealt with, however, so the veteran turned to his mechanical companion. “HK, I have an assignment for you. I want you to comb through this entire complex and terminate anyone you see, so long as they are aggressive.”

“Query: What of your restrictions?”

A cruel smile stretched across Kaelan’s lips, “Against combatants, consider them levied.”

“Statement: The feeling of immense excitement is spreading through my behaviour core at this news Master. I will depart at once.”

The assassin droid paused at the racks of stored weapons long enough to select a blaster rifle to his liking, a medium repeater if Kaelan wasn’t mistaken, and heading out through the door on the left.

“I guess even assassin droids understand the importance of speed,” Atton commented, obviously having thought that HK-47 would have stopped to gleefully browse at every weapon available.

Normally, such a statement would have brought a grin to the former Jedi’s expression- for he had been thinking along the same lines- but not now; he only nodded at the statement before pressing forward.
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Old 06-12-2010, 06:42 PM   #15
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chpater 6: Hunting for Information (part II)

Minutes passed, odd skirmishes between the resident inhabitants occurring as the trio proceeded further into Exchange headquarters. The complex’s scenery had turned from one of a secure storage facility to the type of lavish accommodations rivalling that of 500 Republica on Coruscant itself. Rooms designed as lounge areas functioned as barracks for the criminal garrison, each one filled with enough plush couches and chairs to keep a Republic Senator content.

After navigating through twisting hallways and rooms, the group found themselves standing outside of a large door in a long corridor. Unlike most of the doors in this part of the complex, the entryway was locked. Kaelan’s slicing skills proved sufficient enough to remove the obstacle from his exploration. With the door now open, the three moved inside to be greeted by a truly spectacular vista.

The room was large, its size more at home in the entrance of a palace. Various gemstones made up the floor, with equally expensive materials used in the forging of the walls and ceiling. Though the room was tall enough for a shuttle to stay at a comfortable hover, there was only one level present in the room. A contingent of twelve Exchange members occupied such a level, all of them turning at the sound of the party’s approaching footsteps echoing across the expensive flooring.

Kaelan stopped just twenty metres away, noticing that, while all of them had drawn their weapons, they had yet to take an aggressive stance. The reason for such inaction became clear when the exile noticed a Quarren standing at the group’s centre. It was the only individual of the aquatic humanoid species that Kaelan had seen in his entire time in Exchange headquarters. Given that, the current surroundings, and the amount of criminals present, he felt it was safe to venture that the Quarren in front of him was none other than his target, Loppak Slusk.

“If it isn’t the very person I’ve been looking forward to meeting.” A guttural laugh emitted from the Quarren, the four tentacle appendages protruding from his squid-like physique twitching rapidly in response. “If I knew you’d have walked in here willingly Jedi, I wouldn’t have bothered making arrangements for your capture.”

“I want answers Quarren, answers in regards to this bounty.” Kaelan spoke with a growl, the aquatic’s arrogant statements only serving to fuel his already intense anger.

“You’re marked and have a large price on your head, that’s all you need to know.” Slusk turned to the human male at his left, the man in question was currently glaring at Kaelan, eager for a fight. “I trust you can take care of this fool, Benok?”

The bodyguard glanced at his charge, a grin on his face. “But of course.”
With that, Slusk turned and moved inside a heavy security door only a few metres behind him, an entryway similar to the inner security door of the headquarters itself. Both parties waited for the Quarren to leave the battle zone before attacking, the Exchange out of a desire not to have their boss injured in unintended cross-fire and Kaelan out of a desire to preserve his only means of acquiring information. As soon as Slusk was gone, however, both sides engaged the other.

Four Exchange members rushed forward with virboblades drawn, their comrades providing covering fire. Kaelan wasted no time meeting the melee wielding enemies head on with his own blade in his grasp. Kreia moved closer to his left side to deflect incoming fire with her now active lightsaber, while Atton fired on the enemies to the veteran’s right. Kaelan himself was mostly protected from blaster fire by his advancing enemies, two of them coming from his right and one from his left, the last seemed to be purposefully hanging back.

The pair of thugs on the exile’s right entered attack range first and stepped to either side of him. The one to Kaelan’s left made a simple vertical strike that spoke of years of utilizing brute force to achieve victory. The move was easily countered by intercepting the blade mid-stroke and deflecting it to his right. The unexpected deviation caused the man to inadvertently take a step forward, where he his face was struck by Kaelan’s extended elbow, enough force behind the blow to send the target stumbling backward. While the man regained his balance the other thug was already making a horizontal swing against his right shoulder blade. The veteran brought his vibroblade to the side of his body, bringing it at an angle so that it was perpendicular to the floor below.

With the thug’s blade now prevented from striking him, Kaelan quickly pushed the enemy’s blade back around to his front, putting it in a position he already knew would deflect the swing of the other Exchange member’s attack. As the Force Sensitive’s first attacker was left stumbling back again, Kaelan slapped the blade of the other man aside and swiped at his chest, killing him instantly. Before the other one had time to recover, the outcast impaled the man with his blade.

By that time, Kaelan’s third attacker entered melee striking range and charged with a horizontal strike. The attack would have hit its mark were it not for the fact that the former Jedi had sensed it coming through the Force, and had already ducked to avoid the strike. Before the aggressor could attempt another attack, the veteran raised himself back into a standing position and brought his blade slashing across the chest of his target twice, using the momentum of his last attack to spin around and bring his vibroblade into a backward stab. The blade easily pierced through the target’s protective attire, leaving the receiver of the strike to collapse to the floor, dead.

With the immediate threat to his safety eliminated, Kaelan turned back around to face the final melee wielding opponent, a Rodian with twin vibroblades clutched within his long fingers. The same Rodian, Kaelan realized, he had met in Restoring Thirst, Matu.

“It has been awhile since someone could test me,” The Rodian said, issuing a challenge.

Kaelan didn’t even bother responding as Matu charged him, his twin blades raining blow after blow. The Rodian’s movements were well practised, but they were automatic in nature; a movement rough and barely refined, with sequences unable to directly flow into another set. Years of practise in the Mandalorian Wars and in the Outer Rim, gave Kaelan an advantage a simple Exchange thug could never hope to match. The former General took a moment to scrutinize Matu’s actions, not having to wait long before he saw the very thing he could exploit.

With his twin blades, the Rodian was utilizing swift flurries with the weapons. It was a technique simply designed to confuse opponents, one that capitalized on such confusion to cause disorientation in enemy combatants, effectively making their defences crumble as they attempted to guess which direction the blades were coming from. Even without the precognitive awareness granted by the Force, Kaelan was more than capable of defending himself from the Rodian. When the next set of flurries started, the veteran was ready.

As Matu started to bring his vibroblades in for downward swings, Kaelan stepped to the left. Having expected his weapons to be deflected off his target’s own blade, the unexpected absence of such a buffer made the Rodian take a step forward, right into the path of the exile’s slashing blade. The upward diagonal strike brought Matu to his knees, his twin weapons clattering to he ground as they fell from his weakened grip. The outcast stepped around the fallen Rodian, adding a final stab to the back for good measure.

“Likewise,” He finally spoke in response to the Rodian’s challenge, withdrawing the vibroblade from the alien.

In the time it took for Kaelan to eliminate the four targets, Kreia and Atton had eliminated the majority of the other eight. All that was left was Benok and three others. A quick switch to his disruptor pistols ensured that the rest were quickly taken care of. He took an immense amount of satisfaction in watching four of his disruptor bolts shred through Benok’s armour and flesh, leaving his lifeless form to collapse on the floor.

The group paused outside Slusk’s door, Kaelan activating his transceiver and keying for an encrypted transmission to HK-47’s COM array, “HK, status.”

A holographic projection of the droid in question appeared on his armour gauntlet as the mechanical acknowledged the transmission, the sight of the droid in an unknown section with blaster fire filling the area becoming apparent. HK paused to fire off an eight round burst from his rifle, enemy fire ceasing to be seen after that. “Statement: This complex is larger than I predicted, but I have already eliminated sixty Exchange members. There are only two more sections I have yet to search Master.”

“Excellent work HK,” Kaelan said, impressed at the droid’s speed and efficiency. He paused to upload the group’s current location to the mechanical combatant. “Meet us at these coordinates when you’re finished, and alert me when you’ve arrived.”

“Acknowledgement: Of course Master.”

As the holo faded away, the exile turned to Kreia and motioned to the security door. “If you wouldn’t mind making an entrance for us Kreia.”

The old woman said nothing in reply, merely doing as the younger Force Sensitive requested. She inserted her green blade into the door and burned through enough of the security entryway to form a large square outline. Opting to make a grand entrance and, after briefly stretching out with the Force to make sure Slusk wasn’t too close to the door, Kaelan used the Force to push the door inward. Even with the exile’s diminished command over the mystical energy field, he still had enough power behind the movement to propel the cut away section of the entryway flying several feet inside.

The trio moved in slowly, blasters and lightsaber at the ready. Surprisingly, unlike the adjoining chamber, Loppak Slusk’s office was what one would expect in any business company, save for the fact it was twice as large as the standard size. A conference table on the left corner by the door, a group of terminals on the right side, and a desk in the centre were the only items of interest.

Kaelan’s eyes immediately focused on Slusk once he noticed the Quarren shakily backing up to his desk. “You….You’ve handled yourself well...getting this far. But, think about this…I can be a valuable ally. Just tell me what you’re here for.”

The exile’s response was to Force Push the Quarren away from his desk, sending Slusk slamming hard against the far wall, the alien falling to his knees shortly after. “Don’t try any of your tricks Slusk.” He warned, closing the distance between him and his target until he towered over the Exchange boss. “I already told you what I want, information.”

“Really? All…All of this…for just that?”

“Well,” A new voice spoke up from the doorway, “Not for just that.”
All eyes turned to see Luxa, flanked by four Exchange members she had brought with her. Each of the guards had a vibroblade in their grasp, while Luxa herself carried a stun baton. Able to immobilize organic targets with a powerful electrical shock, the weapons were primarily used as riot control devices throughout the galaxy. There were other groups, however, that supplied modified version of the stun batons, versions with upgraded power cells that supplied enough of an electric payload to be lethal to targets.

Kaelan absorbed the information in a handful of seconds. He had expected Luxa to show, just not now. He needed to stall for time, but before he could even think about what to say, Slusk took the initiative, having moved back to a standing position. “Luxa, it is a shame you didn’t show up earlier. I’d prepared a welcoming party for you and everything.”

“I had expected as much Slusk, that’s why I had someone else enter first.”
“That bit of information,” Kaelan spoke slowly and coldly, “Seemed to have slipped your tongue during our earlier conversation.”

Come now,” Luxa replied in a gentle tone, clearly realizing that certain events were threatening to come about faster than she predicted. “I did tell you there wouldn’t be ‘too much’ resistance inside. I never said there wouldn’t be any at all.”

He didn’t believe her explanation in the slightest, but his sense of reasoning curbed his anger just enough for him to realize that he needed to stall the impending attack for just a bit longer. So he merely offered a reluctant nod, “True enough, I suppose.”

“Well, now.” Slusk stated slowly, “I don’t suppose it is possible for all of us to be leaving here alive?”

A soft beep from Kaelan’s armour gauntlet brought a brief smile to his face. He turned to Slusk, his smile dissipating into a scowl. “No, it’s not.” The exile keyed for his transceiver, acknowledging the confirmation tag he had received with a command. “Take them down.”

Before anyone had time to decipher what was going on, a single blaster bolt impacted into an Exchange thug’s head, riddling through the skull in a picosecond. Two more energy projectiles quickly followed the first, both into the neck of the thug standing next to the first. By the time the Exchange members realized they were under attack, a burst of three bolts tore through Luxa’s shoulder blades. Before the others could even so much as turn to try and face their attacker, however, they were each hit by bursts of four and five bolts.

The sound of metal striking metal became apparent, a sound quickly accompanied by the sight of a familiar rusty-red framed assassin droid. “Analysis: Blaster accuracy ratio is exceeding estimated operating levels by ten percent, and my shock resistance frame is withstanding higher levels than I had predicted.”

“Well,” Atton said into the slight silence that followed the droid’s declaration, “At least you have good timing.”

“Commentary: Wherever there are targets to kill, I will always ‘be on time.’”

Kaelan offered his compliments on HK’s abilities before turning to Slusk. “It seems Quarren, that it’s just you and me now. I want information about this bounty.” The veteran made a point of showing his disruptors as he spoke, “And my patience is wearing thin.”

The tentacles on Slusk’s face twitched involuntarily at the sight of the weapons, the only visible sign of the crime boss’ intense fear. “The bounty was posted by my superior, Goto. He operates in Nar Shadaa.”

“What does he want with me?”

“You think he tells me?”

A disruptor bolt firing mere centimetres away from the squid’s head gave Kaelan’s opinion on the matter. “Yes,” He said with a snarl, “I do.”
The Quarren started to panic, backing himself into the wall. “I don’t know why! I just assumed you had angered him greatly!”

The former Jedi nodded slowly at the information, accepting Slusk’s words as the truth. “In that case, you’re of no further use to me.” Before Loppak Slusk could do anything more than quiver in fear at the words, an energy projectile shredded through his skull. “Alright then,” Kaelan stated in a casual tone, “HK, slice into the Exchange databanks, look for anything of interest. I want to know what they’ve been up to recently.”

“Statement: Yes Master,” The assassin droid said as he moved over to Slusk’s personal selection of terminals.

The exile gazed at the corpse of the local crime boss for a few moments, feeling his anger beginning to recede with every passing moment. Like a beast whose appetite had been sated for the time being, Kaelan felt his sense of calm resurfacing now that the Exchange had been dealt with. The process was one the veteran had grown accustomed to during the Mandalorian Wars, an intense rage that would only be satisfied when whatever triggered it had been dealt with.

A forgotten feeling followed the evaporation of rage, guilt. It was something the Force Sensitive had first experienced during the beginning of the war but one he had ultimately tried to abandon as the galactic conflict dragged on. It hadn’t taken long for him to succeed in such a regard, circumstances had demanded a focus that such an emotion only served to hinder. Suppressing the feeling had become so automatic that he had continued to do so, even during his excursions throughout the Outer Rim.
::There is nothing to be guilty of Exile::

Without even turning to acknowledge Kreia, he responded through their bond. ::I know that and, yet, I cannot stop myself from indulging in the feeling::

::You have already achieved a level of control over your emotions that most Force Sensitives could never understand::

::Control?:: Kaelan’s disbelief managing to be sent clearly through the link. ::I haven’t been in control for the past hour::

::I am not speaking of control as the Jedi would, a way of attempting to forge the illusion of domination over one’s emotions. Control is about more than such tenuous delusions. It is about being able to unleash specific feelings at a time, to bring a single emotion to the centre fold and then seamlessly transition to another. That is what you have mastered, and what you should continue to utilize::

Kaelan thought about Kreia’s lecture, not finding any reason why he shouldn’t take her advice to heart. Still, if anything her words made him wonder what exactly she believed in. ::You’re not a Jedi, are you?::

::No, but then I never told you I was::

::Then, what are you? A Sith?::

::Perhaps I am neither and I regard both the Jedi and the Sith as what they are, pieces of a whole. For now, it is sufficient only that you know that I am your teacher::

With that, Kreia closed the connection between the two, cutting off any possible reply from Kaelan. Before the outcast could verbally protest, HK told him he had discovered something important.
“What is it?”

“Answer: I have discovered a logged communication detailing, what appears to be, a conversation between the terminated Quarren and a female meatbag.” The droid was silent for a moment, his processors going through the data he’d uploaded into his systems. “Analysis: It seems the system did not fully terminate the file as requested two days ago. File corruption is rated at sixty-seven percent, but I have managed to string several fragments together.”

“Play it.”

HK-47 followed his Master’s command. With his vocabulator utilizing the ability to mimic speech, he was able to reproduce the dialogue in the voices of both parties. Kaelan only stared at the far wall as the message played, the familiar sound of Quarren dialect heard through the light garbles and static associated with restructured transmissions. “These interruptions into my work are getting tiresome, what is it this time?”

“I can’t…….Received word from the dock supervisor that you delegated two hours of our dock to receive your shipments. Our bays are……Operations on the surface are….Cannot allow the Exchange to make frivolous use…..whenever they please.”

“This is…..not a standard shipment.” Slusk’s tone as angry as the aquatic species’ dialogue would permit. “Received word….Nar Shadaa. This is a passenger disclosure, not a shipment request.”

“Be that as it may, our operations…..cannot be postponed. Work will continue.”

“Our alliance states otherwise, the incoming passengers will be landing at the designated dock. Failure to meet such a simple demand is not recommended.”
The rest of the communication dissolved into static, leaving the group to ponder the result. “Well,” Atton spoke up first. “I guess we know who we’re working for.”

Kreia turned to face the pilot, “Do we really?”

Her challenging tone only served to convince Atton more, “Yeah, we do. We already know that the only groups working on the Restoration Project are the Ithorians and Czerka and- sorry to break it to, your Eminence- but the second voice was no Ithorian.”

A deep scowl adorned the woman’s face at the former prisoner’s choice of words, but she chose to ignore it. “Just because it was not an Ithorian that spoke, doesn’t mean that they are any less likely to be the ones involved with the Exchange. Even prideful herders require the assistance of others in large projects such as this. We have no way of knowing anything for certain, other than the fact that one of the groups was allied with criminals.”

“You’re both right,” Kaelan interrupted sharply as soon as Kreia was done, knowing Atton well enough to know he was about to retort. “All we know for sure is that one of the groups had an alliance with the Exchange. I find it hard to believe the Ithorians would do something like that, but I’m not taking any chances. Whichever group formed a coalition with a crime syndicate will not be the one I choose to ask a favour from.”

“And how,” Atton asked lightly, “Are we going to find out which group it was for sure?”

“We’ll need to interrogate a Czerka employee, one well placed within the company.” Kaelan explained, his gaze finally locking with his companions. “See anyone fitting that description in any of the cantinas?”
When both Atton and Kreia offered negative responses, HK spoke up. “Advisement: The Czerka-affiliated green-skinned Twi’lek male we encountered within the establishment, Restoring Thirst, should be able to lead us to such an individual, Master.”

The outcast considered the droid’s suggestion. He had purposely chosen to disregard Harra since his situation made it clear he was not receiving a large pay check and, by consequence, not in a high position in Czerka Corporation. Interrogating him, however, could very well lead the veteran to one such person who did hold such a position. “Very well HK, we’ll go with your suggestion.”

With that said, the group proceeded out of Exchange headquarters and back to module 081. Their search for Harra in Restoring Thirst proved fruitless, however, something Kaelan realized was due to the fact that his sole reason for being there- Ramana’s freedom- was now gone. After questioning several patrons, Kaelan was able to track the Twi’lek down to residential module 073.

Two shuttle rides and an intimidating conversation later, found the group standing inside Eye of the Swoop, a spectator gathering for the local swoop track races. The room was twice as large as most of the cantinas in the entertainment module, its size enabling the accommodation of the massive amounts of visual screens displaying live feed of the active tracks, betting terminals, and wall-mounted panels showing the statistics of the individual racers. And, of course, there was a bar present as well.

Based on Harra’s description, it didn’t take Kaelan long to recognize the individual named Corrun Falt. The man had short brown hair and eyes, but what set him apart from the others was his flashy attire; red and black coloured clothes were a sharp deviation from the dark green and blue worn by other patrons of the establishment. Whether the man’s choice of clothing was in line with a desire to be recognized by being different from those around him or not was in question, but the line of thinking would certainly be in keeping with the normal attitude of those holding executive positions in a prestigious company.

Not wanting to intimidate Falt by bringing too many of his companions with him, the exile told Atton and Kreia it would be best for them to mix and mingle amongst the others. Atton had taken to the suggestion without complaint. Not surprising, considering his first destination had been the bar. Kreia had scowled at the pilot before moving into the thick of the crowd.
Both actions had brought a grin to Kaelan’s face as he watched them go for a few moments, moving to walk beside the man he’d come all this way to see shortly after, HK lumbering after him. “Corrun Falt?” The veteran asked as he stepped beside the Czerka employee.

“Who wants to know?” Falt asked in a tiresome manner, only sparing Kaelan the briefest of glances before turning back to the screen showing the current racer manoeuvring his vehicle through the Citadel’s course.

“Someone with a proposition for you,” Kaelan responded lightly. Harra had said that it was no secret that Falt had a personal rivalry with Jana Lorso, Czerka’s current administrator in charge of Citadel operations. With that in mind, the former General planned to use the animosity between the two to his advantage.

‘And what could someone like you offer me?”

The man’s tone wasn’t so much dismissive as it was curious, a feeling Kaelan planned to soothe. “Lorso’s position.”

The statement, spoken so simply, threw Corrun off guard, he froze for several moments before fully turning to face the Force Sensitive. “I’m listening.”

“I’ve heard of some interesting transactions that Lorso has made recently. If I can prove it, she’ll be gone for good.”

Falt eyed him for several seconds, “What do you get out of this?”

Kaelan gave a shrug, “I just want to see her gone.”

“Alright,” The Czerka executive replied after a few seconds with a nod. “There’s only one way to gain access to that information though, and it is not going to be easy.” Corrun paused for a moment, looking Kaelan over as if determining his abilities. “The problem is that all of the highly sensitive information is stored in the company’s central database inside Czerka headquarters itself. Not only is it severely encrypted but it’s a closed system.”

Kaelan scowled at that information, closed systems were as protected as systems went when it came to databases. Unfortunately, the very thing that made them so secure also made them impractical for most situations. Under closed systems, no remotes or transceivers were linked to the database, any information had to be uploaded or downloaded directly from the interface itself. It was a feature that slowed down electronic transactions a great deal. “So, how do I get in?”

“Only Jana Lorso and her personal assistant droid, B4-D4, have access rights to the mainframe.”

“So I’d need to reprogram the protocol droid,” Kaelan said more to himself than Falt.

“Right, and there’s only one technician still on station who’d be qualified to help you with that, Opo Chano.”

“Where can I find him?”

Falt paused for a few seconds, frowning slightly as he racked his brain for the desired memory. “He’s set up a droid shop in the trade centre of the station, module 092.”

Kaelan nodded his thanks and, after finding the others, left- despite Atton’s protests that he was just about to make the bet of a lifetime.

“This station is way too big!”

Kaelan simply nodded at Atton’s observation and complaint while he let his gaze wander around what was considered the hub for trade transactions in Citadel. Its design was similar to that of the entertainment module; a vast open area dominated the entire section. The difference between the two, however, was that there were no closed up areas for shops like there were for the individual cantinas.

Merchants stood behind stock listings of the various items they sold, a few sample items in the customer’s line of sight gave the indication of what they sold, while the rest of their merchandise was stored in shelves and racks behind them, with large gaps in-between the different vendors. “Split up,” Kaelan said, his command directed to Atton and Kreia. “Search the upper levels for Opo Chano.”

“I’ll get right on that Exile Master Kaelan,” Atton spoke, a bow used in such exaggeration that Kaelan couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Atton flashed a wide grin in response before he departed for the second level.

Kreia followed some time after, her face seeming to be permanently twisted into a sneer as she watched Atton’s departing form. “Complete and utter fool,” The old woman muttered, heading for the third level soon after.

The ex-General moved through the various trading posts on the ground level, with HK-47 in tow, spotting vendors selling everything from clothing to personal weaponry. Kaelan moved through the various displayed merchandise, quickly scouring through the displayed items to see if any droid were on sale. After several minutes of weaving through the trading centre, Kaelan’s eyes caught sight of something he’d never imagined finding. His brown irises stared, as if transfixed by the object.

“Welcome Sentient, how can I help you?”

The voice jerked the Force Sensitive’s gaze away from what he’d been staring at, to see a blue-skinned Duros regarding him with large red eyes. The veteran turned his eyes back to the displayed component, quickly realizing he must’ve started to move toward it without consciously realizing. Sparing the trader another glance, Kaelan pointed to the object he’d been staring at, “How much for this?”

The merchant thought for a moment, slender fingers stroking his chin. “Unique object, possibly rare…have yet to find a use for it though. An acceptable market price would be about…three hundred credits.”
The veteran easily pulled out the requested credit chips from his belt, tossing them to the seller before picking up the component. Even with it in the palm of his right hand, he still found it hard to believe it was real. He had located a lightsaber crystal, one that glowed a fierce green.

After he bought the first piece used in making a lightsaber, thoughts of tracking down Opo Chano went out of his head as he moved throughout the trading posts, purchasing related parts. Before he knew it, he had all the components required to build a lightsaber and, after paying a trader for the private use of his workbench, had assembled the weapon- the knowledge of constructing the weapons still fresh in his mind, even after four years. Now, Kaelan simply stared at the exotic device, finding himself unable to pick it up.

Catering to the refined melee fighting style he’d developed during his exile, he had designed the hilt to be slim with the outer casing flattened inward at the middle, just enough to allow for the placement of multiple black handle grooves. The material enabled a superior grip, its colour a sharp contrast to the worn gray plating of the hilt itself.

Simply locking his eyes with the weapon left him feeling as though his memories of the last time he wielded a lightsaber were filtering back to the forefront of his mind; memories he knew all too well that he was not ready to confront. Despite how involved the outcast had become in galactic affairs in less than a week, despite all the surprising turnabouts in his life recently, he knew that using a lightsaber was not a step he was currently willing to take. Stowing the lightsaber in the right side of his cloak, in a section where a few pieces of cloth had been cutaway to form makeshift pockets, Kaelan stepped back into the trading area and resumed his search for Opo Chano.

HK-47, who had been waiting for his owner to move back into the market, fell into step behind Kaelan at his exit. It did not escape the assassin’s droid observant gaze that the very weapon his Master had been collecting the pieces for was not on his person, a fact that baffled the mechanical.

“Confused Query: Did you not finish constructing your project Master?”

“I did,” Kaelan replied distantly, feeling the hilt weighing down the cloak on his right flank just a bit. “I’m just not about to display it.”

Misunderstanding the statement as a desire to not attract attention, HK spoke with a tone of disappointment. “Very well Master, if you do not wish for countless meatbags to fall to my blaster in their attempts to capture you, I shall not argue the point.”

“Didn’t you just do that?” The former Jedi asked, the ghost of a smile on his face.

“Objection: I would never dispute the claims of my Master!” A slightly amused look from Kaelan made the mechanical reconsider, “Reassessment: I would never dispute the logical claims of my Master.”
“Just so long as they fit with your views?”

HK was silent for a few seconds, “Statement: This form of circular argumentation is having a negative impact on my central control cluster. I recommend ceasing with this current line of inquiry.”

A smirk played across the exile’s lips, “I’ll take that as a yes.” A beep on his armoured gauntlet made him turn his attention away from HK, “What is it?” He spoke into his transceiver, having identified the origin of the transmission as Atton’s COM-link.

“Kaelan, I’ve found him.”
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:49 PM   #16
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 7: Turning the Tide (part 1)

Opo Chano, a local Duros droid vendor in the second level of Citadel's trade centre was more than a little intimidated by the approach of three sentients and one droid to his shop. "What do you want?" He asked in a tone mixed with wariness and caution.

"I'm looking for someone to assist me with a project. I've been told you're the one to see about such things." Kaelan spoke, his face one of indifference that did nothing to ease the merchant's fears.

"What project is this?"

Kaelan took a quick look around before leaning closer, "It concerns Czerka, specifically Jana Lorso's personal assistance droid."

"B4-D4?" The Duros looked at his customer in confusion, "What do you want with him?"

"That's none of your concern," The veteran spoke sharply. "All you need to know is that I want the droid reprogrammed to do a task for me."

Chano gazed at the human for a several moments in silence, "And what assignment would this be?"

"I recall saying that it was none of your concern," Kaelan spoke with more than hint of malice highlighting his tone.

"Y…you did," The merchant spoke quickly, trying to placate the person he was quickly realizing was dangerous. "But I must know, in order to better meet your needs."

Kaelan looked at the Duros for a long moment in silence before slowly nodding, "Very well, I require the droid's services for accessing the corporation's mainframe."

"I...I can't do that." The Duros said, his voice quavering in fear of the group's reaction.

Kaelan's response was to harden his gaze at the merchant, "Why not?"

"I have a contract with Czerka, I'm in need of the money."

"Isn't every trader in need of money?" Atton said with a laugh.

"Perhaps," Chano said, more out of indulgence than confirmation. "But I do, in fact, need to keep my contract."

"For what purpose?"

The Duros switched his gaze back to the armoured human, "I….I need to repay a loan."

"Well I wasn't about to ask you to work for free Duros," The former General spoke with a small smirk. "I'll give you five hundred up front and another thousand once I have what I need. I trust that will be sufficient to cover your expenses?"

The merchant was left speechless for several seconds. One and a half thousand credits was far more than he had expected as a first offer and it left him sorely tempted to say that it was not, but he felt a strong urge to agree. "Yes, that will be fine."

"Good." With that Kaelan tossed five credit chips at the Duros, who eagerly caught them. "Get to work."

Three hours passed before Opo Chano announced that his work was complete. B4-D4, after being retrieved from Czerka headquarters, had undergone extensive modifications, most of which started with his central processor and control cluster, in order to remove the programming implemented by Czerka. Once his systems were free of the corporation's baseline commands, Chano proceeded to implement new instructions. Those instructions included the primary tasking of searching Czerka's database for anything relating to the Exchange. If such data was present, the secondary objective called for all of the corporation's activities to be downloaded.

Additionally, a new pattern was implemented into B4's behaviour core, giving the droid the ability to lie. Deceit was far from common in mechanical units and it stood to reason that no-one inside Czerka's holdout would be able to know about the protocol droid's turn in programming.

Now B4-D4 stood in front of Kaelan, being assessed by the exile prior to his task. "Outline the details of your mission."

The droid responded to the order, scouring through his control cluster for the uploaded assignment in a few microseconds. "Infiltrate main Czerka compound and gain access to the mainframe. Once there, I am to download any files relevant to the topics concerning an alliance between Czerka and the Exchange and the company's general activities for the past six months."

The outcast nodded in approval, "And your safety protocols?"

"In the event of unexpected complications, either resulting in suspicion or my capture, I am to initiate fail-safe program 001."

"Excellent B4-D4, you may proceed with your assignment."

As the mechanical moved to carry out its task, Kaelan turned to the assassin droid standing by his left side. "What do you think HK?"

"Risk Assessment: You have taken great pains to cover your tracks Master, you know more about droids than I would have thought. Still, I calculate only a seventy-eight percent probability of everything going according to plan." The droid paused to focus his photoreceptors on his Master, "Analysis: Protocol droid models are prone to such short-comings."

A small smile grazed Kaelan's features at the mechanical's accusatory tone, "True, and I would much rather send you to do this task, believe me. Unfortunately, closed systems can only be opened by those who are authorized, as I'm sure you know."

"Query: Would one still require authorization if no-one were around to ask for it?"

"No HK, they wouldn't," The exile spoke with a chuckle at the droid's rhetorical question, "But they would run the risk of becoming posted on the TSF's most wanted list. Even you, I think, would object to the idea of the entire Republic trying to capture or dismantle you."

The assassin droid was silent for a moment, his photoreceptors still focused on his Force Sensitive owner. "Observation: You don't know me very well, do you Master? An entire Republic's worth of meatbags hunting me? I would find that to be a most ironic turnabout. Besides Master, one death is a murder, but one trillion is a galactic record."

Kaelan could only shake his head and laugh, unable to hide his amusement at HK's almost philosophical sounding tone.

"I was under the impression that Jedi could handle long waits," Atton said as he watched Kaelan slowly pace the floor of the apartment they'd booked not long after B4-D4 had left for the main Czerka compound.

The apartment was only large enough to comfortably accommodate three people, leaving the four strong group feeling a little claustrophobic in some rooms. The living area was one such place, its size only large enough to include two beds, a couch, workstation, and a table with two chairs.

Kaelan, who had been slowly pacing a five meter span of floor, came an abrupt halt at his companion's words. "And I was under the impression that smuggler's knew when to keep quiet!" The exile took a deep breath to steady himself before he spoke again, "Sorry Atton."

The pilot didn't really register his friend's apology, however, he only regarded him with a surprised expression. "How did you know I was a smuggler?"

Kaelan only shrugged in response, "On Peragus you told me you were imprisoned for a 'security violation.' How many security protocols would a small facility like that have? And how many of them warrant a severe penalty like imprisonment for an infraction when every worker is needed? Only important protocols, I would think. Since I knew from the security logs I downloaded that the security chief had been stamping down on miners in possession of blasters, it seemed to fit."

"Huh," Was all Atton said at first, making a mental note to be more careful around his clearly very observant companion. "Well, you're right, I did smuggle weapons onto the station for miners. But it was more of a side job," Atton quickly continued, briefly surprised at his own sudden concern of how someone else viewed his actions. "I took a job for being a freighter pilot for shuttling Peragian fuel here. When I found out that the miners wanted to get their hands on some firepower, I jumped at the chance to earn some extra credits."

"Atton, relax," Kaelan spoke in a slightly amused one, "I don't care about that."

"You…don't?" The former convict replied with confusion.

"No, I don't. In fact," The Force Sensitive said as he looked at his friend, "I'm wondering who your supplier was."

"I was able to go into business with a Duros who operates here on the station actually, Samhan Dobo."

"Let's pay him a visit," Kaelan said as he headed for the door."


"Yeah, now. Unless, of course, you like watching me pacing around."

Having been silent during the entire exchange, HK chose that moment to speak. "Statement: Master, your incessant movement is even beginning to drive my tracking sensors crazy."

"I'm not sure if that's your way of inviting yourself along," Kaelan said with a glance to HK, "But you may as well come too." The outcast paused for a moment after opening the door to the apartment, his gaze resting on his still sitting mentor. "Kreia, are you coming as well?"

"I have better things to do with my time than gallivant around Citadel to appease your restless nature."

"A simple 'no' would suffice," Atton whispered to Kaelan as the two left the room, leaving a small smile to stretch across the Force Sensitive's face.

Tracking down Samhan Dobo proved to be easier than Kaelan would have thought, particularly since the alien had set up shop directly in the trade centre of Citadel Station. The green-skinned Duros stood in front of a lattice work of storage racks, making the back of his shop almost look like a warehouse. It was certainly large enough, with his shop being twice as large the others.

"So, this was your supplier?' Kaelan asked as they stood only a few metres away from the merchant in question.

"Yeah, among others. Samhan was the one I always turned to for weaponry though, he's got an armoury filled with enough outlawed weapons to supply an army."

"Good," The outcast spoke with a smile Atton was beginning to find a little eerie.

"May I ask what you're planning to do?"

"If we're going to take the fight to the Sith, and deal with the bounty hunters, then we'll need all the firepower we can muster."

"Commentary: The more diverse the weaponry, the more creative the kill."

"Right," Atton drawled as he glanced between the assassin droid and Kaelan. "And I'm guessing you don't want to buy any of this."

Kaelan merely looked at his companion for a few moments. "Would you?"

Without waiting for further comment, the veteran moved toward the Duros vendor, who eagerly greeted him at his approach. "Welcome sentient, you have made a wise choice in selecting my shop. I can offer a wide variety of items. Tell me, what do you seek?"

"Disruptors," Kaelan stated simply.

"Well, I'm afraid I do not have such weapons for sale. They are illegal in the Republic after all."

"Are you sure? I was told you were the one to come to for such things."

The Duros fixed his red eyes on Kaelan briefly. "People whisper a great many things, that does not make it true."

"Perhaps not, but those I spoke with were adamant."

A longer silence ensured this time, with the green-skinned trader studying the exile for several long moments. "Why would this be of interest to you?"

Kaelan leaned in and said in a voice scarcely above a whisper, "I've heard you're part of a smuggling operation here on the station, its something I'd like to get involved in."

Samhan mulled the offer over for a few seconds. "Well, I suppose I could use an extra hand."

"I'm listening."

"I'm nearly ready to send off my next shipment, but there are a few," The Duros paused, searching for the right words, "Unique items within the station that I have not yet acquired. If you can get them for me, it'd be very much appreciated."

Kaelan raised a brow at that, "If I am going to do this, I would require much more than your appreciation as compensation."

Samhan only waved the demand away, "You will be richly rewarded as well, of course."

"In that case, what exactly do you need?"

Kaelan left the shop a few minutes later, a new datapad stored within his belt pocket. He met up with Atton outside the trade centre, who had wisely chosen not to follow Kaelan and HK.

"I don't get it," Atton said as the group moved out of the trade centre. "How does working for a black market operator get you access to his merchandise free of charge?"

"It doesn't Atton, this is only the first step."

A sigh escaped the smuggler's lips, "Great, there's more involved." He paused as they moved through a small crowd gathering near one of the kiosks. "So what has Samhan so interested that he's willing to recruit complete strangers?"

The outcast answered by throwing his datapad back to Atton. "Never a dull moment in the smuggler's lifestyle," The pilot murmured to himself after reading the listed items. "You do realize," He said as he looked to his left to catch Kaelan's attention, "That Samhan has probably hired a few dozen before you to do this exact same thing."

"No doubt."

"And the reason he's still looking for them is because they failed."

"Of course."

"Which means they're dead."


Atton let out an exasperated sigh, "This isn't dissuading you in the least, is it?"

Kaelan smiled as he glanced at his friend, "No."

"Great, so what's the plan?"

"Simple," The veteran spoke as he stopped outside the module's shuttle platform and faced his two companions, "We split up and get this done faster. Atton, you'll be going for the energy matrix schematic in the Exchange compound. Well," he amended with a cruel smile, "What's left of it."

"HK, your goal will be the salvage droid parts in Czerka's private storage facility. I want you to pay close attention to everything inside; it could give us a clue as to what they've been up to."

"Statement: If there's anything important to find, I will discover it Master."

The exile nodded to the droid, "Good. I'll be going for the prototype shield unit in the Ithorian controlled docks. We'll rendezvous back at the apartment when we're done."

Kaelan picked his way through module 130, shifting his way through the mass of lifeforms meandering around the dock. A curse sprang from the veteran's throat at the situation he had found himself in, wishing- not for the first time- that there were more shuttles available to thin the crowd to a more tolerable number. It took nearly twice as long as it should have for the outcast to finally make it to the Ithorian landing bays. He approached the entrance, only to be intercepted by a dock supervisor. "Greetings sentient, how may I help you?"

In answer, the exile drew on the Force, using it to form a barrier around the decision making part of the alien's brain. "You will open the door and forget you ever saw me."

Repeating the instructions word for word, albeit with a different pronoun, the Ithorian did as commanded, allowing the landing bay's outer airlock to slide apart.

Stepping inside and approaching a terminal in-between the inner and outer airlocks, Kaelan started the entry cycle. The outer airlock started to close, with the inner door opening immediately after the other entry way was sealed. It was a safety measure incorporated into every docking bay galaxy wide, a feature designed to keep the rest of the station safe in the event of a hull breach in the port itself.

With no shuttle present on the landing pad, there was only a minimal amount of activity in the bay, activity Kaelan was able to completely avoid as he started his search for the prototype shield unit. Looking through stacks of ready-to-ship containers found the former General staring at swarms of engineering supplies and collections of intergalactic flora and fauna. None of them held what the veteran was looking for, however, so he extended his search to the storage hold.

After using the Force an Ithorian who took an objection to his presence, Kaelan found what he had been searching for. When pressed for information, the alien herder revealed that the arm mounted protective device was designed to shield the user from hazardous environment conditions. Apparently, the landscape of Telos outside the designated 'restoration zones' was completely inhospitable. This meant that the shield network could only be expanded when orbital craft dropped off a new generator, even droids could not stand the conditions for long.

Unfortunately such a process was incredibly time consuming, making it highly impractical in a project where timing was crucial. The shield was designed to assist in that regard. With Ithorian workers safe from the lethal conditions outside restoration zones, they would be able to setup new shield generators far faster than they used to.

Making a mental note to copy the design as soon as he could, Kaelan pocketed the shield and headed out of the Ithorian docking bay. He didn't take more than ten steps, however, before he abruptly came to a halt. It only took a few moments for him to ascertain the reason for his sudden feeling of uneasiness, there was no longer any activity in the hangar.

Such a fact struck the outcast as more than a little strange, especially considering it was standard procedure for there to at least be a skeleton crew present in the bay at all times. It was a protocol implemented to ensure that inactive landing pads could still be utilized for emergency purposes.

It was this knowledge that made the former General survey his surroundings more closely, both through conventional means and through the Force. With his extended perceptions, Kaelan could feel as though something was just outside his current range of awareness. It instantly set him on edge, his hands immediately falling to his holstered Vericon disruptors, waiting for whatever, or whoever, was nearby.

He got his answer when an armoured humanoid suddenly appeared near the inner airlock, dual blaster pistols of his own clutched in his hands. Kaelan had quickly withdrawn his own weapons the moments the cloaked individual revealed himself, leaving them in a bit of a standoff.

At least, that's what Kaelan thought it was.

"Impressive reflexes," The armoured human spoke with a tilt of his head, his voice sounding distorted through the respirator attached to his black helmet, "Though I suppose I should expect nothing less from a Jedi. I must commend you on standing your ground when you are clearly outnumbered."

Before Kaelan could remark that they looked to be in a standoff from his position, two more armoured forms appeared to his left and right; each of them garbed in the same full-body black armour as the one directly to his front. Glancing briefly to his left and right, Kaelan found himself facing another human male and a female, whose displayed lekku made it clear she was a Twi'lek.

The appearance of the two newcomers caught the veteran by surprise. An expression that, while brief in appearance, did not go unnoticed by the human in the centre. "Surprised? I didn't think it possible to catch a Jedi so unaware, maybe this won't be as much of a challenge as I expected."

"What do you want?" Kaelan growled, the taunting making his anger flare as he thought about his weakened Force Sensitivity.

The question was completely rhetorical, but it gave him the scant seconds needed to search for a tactical advantage. The sight of the human mercenary to his left taking a couple of steps closer, gave him exactly what he needed..

"Haven't figured it out yet? My my, aren't we the slow one?" He let out a brief chuckle at his own taunt, the distortion from his helmet making him seem more machine than flesh and blood. "What I want, is you, Jedi. You're worth quite a bit in a certain exclusive market. There's more to be had if you're alive though, so drop your weapons and come with us."

"I'm afraid I can't accommodate your request."

The group's chosen leader only nodded, "I didn't expect you to."

Red bolts erupted from the man's blasters only a split second later, each of them lancing toward Kaelan. At least, they would've if Kaelan's sharpened instincts had not already set him in motion before the armoured human finished speaking his sentence. The exile sprinted for the human to his left, a quick burst discharging from both his disruptors before he holstered them and withdrew his vibroblade. His target was able to avoid the disruptor bolts with a simple set of side-steps and rolls, something Kaelan had expected. The outcast, however, had anticipated that his opponent would be too busy recovering from such manoeuvres to notice his charge, not that he would have already drawn a melee weapon of his own.

The action proved to be life-saving for the mercenary, as the veteran's swiftly delivered flurries were intercepted with a defence brought up at the last second. The exile continued to press his assault, though, showing no restraint as he utilized overhead swings, side attacks, and stabs. Several times, his opponent attempted to take the offensive role, but each time Kaelan would either redirect his opponent's strike or simply counter with one of his own.

The human using his blasters had chosen to cease firing the moment Kaelan engaged his ally, settling for switching to a double-bladed weapon as he charged forward to aid his comrade. Kaelan had wanted to put a quick end to the confrontation, hoping to dispatch the armoured adversary before the others would join the engagement. The unexpected skill of his opponent spoke of a certain degree of training. While it was insufficient to go on the offensive, the training proved adequate enough to hold Kaelan at bay.

It wasn't long before the outcast was surrounded by all three aggressors. Rather than be met with the more sloppy offensive he expected from three bounty hunters attempting a coordinated assault, however, he found himself on the defensive as the armed group began attacking with ferocious sequences, sequences that compensated for the weak points in the stances of their comrades.

Every time the double-bladed weapon wielding mercenary started his set of flurries, it was to cover his single-bladed companion as he disengaged from the attack. Such a tactic kept the former General from taking an offensive approach to the engagement.

At least, the assault by the two humans did, the females Twi'lek on the other hand, was a couple of seconds slow in engaging Kaelan once the group leader disengaged. It was an error few could pick up on and he was quite certain none of them realized the small window of opportunity he was presented with every time the armoured aggressors cycled through their attack pattern.

Serving in the Mandalorian Wars and exploring the Outer Rim had taught Kaelan the importance of patience and it was that, more than anything else, that allowed the veteran to hold out for four more attack runs until his opponents made their first mistake.

Just before breaking off from the attack, the bounty hunter group leader made the mistake of bringing the left blade of his weapon in at a higher angle than normal. Seeing his chance, Kaelan quickly slashed his vibroblade along his enemy's exposed flank, his weapon cutting through enough of the protective attire to cut a wide incision into the flesh beneath.

Seeing the group leader crumple to the deck with a scream, the remaining human launched another attack. His panicked movements were quickly countered with two slashes to the chest, with an added stab through the stomach once Kaelan spun in a hundred eighty degree arc, putting him in a line of sight trajectory with the last remaining bounty hunter.

The entire attack had taken advantage of the female Twi'lek's lull between strikes, Kaelan quickly dispatching both the targets before she could get another attack in. Rather than stay and fight as Kaelan expected the Twi'lek female to, however, she ran; clearly realizing what a bad position she was left in. The exile's disbelief only lasted for a second before he withdrew his left disruptor. He was just a split second away from pulling the trigger when she re-engaged her stealth field and disappeared from view. Bolts discharging in her last known location hit nothing but the far wall, making a growl erupt from the Force Sensitive's throat before he holstered his weapons and moved over to the group leader's still squirming form.

"Quite a turnabout don't you think?" The menacing spoken query posed after Kaelan deliver a sharp kick to the bounty hunter's injured side.

"D….Do you….really….think you've w…won. We are but….the first…wave…of hunters….you will face."

Something about the mercenary's tone made the exile think the man was referring to more than the other bounty hunters in the galaxy. "Who are you?"

A hidden smile graced the leader's lips, "We are that….which lies….in s-shadow."

The expression of satisfaction only lasted for a handful of seconds before his body went limp, his now lifeless eyes fixated on the veteran. The lack of answers and last issued torment from the hunter increased Kaelan's frustration to the point where he withdrew his right disruptor and put two bolts into the man's corpse.

Holstering his Vericon manufactured weaponry, Kaelan exited the docking bay and headed for the apartment, part of him still feeling as though he weren't completely alone in the deserted landing pad.

A few hours had passed since Kaelan had told Atton and HK to split-up, now the reunited group were back in the same room they had occupied before departing. This time, however, Kaelan was sitting down in front of his bed, thinking about the newest complication in his life. The appearance of the three mercenaries in the docking bay struck him as more than what he had first accepted it as, the last words of the group leader kept echoing in his mind.


Angry with the interruption to his musings, the exile shot a glare at Atton. "What!"

"Easy, it's not my fault you keep spacing out. I've been trying to ask you what our next move is, now that we have all the supplies Samhan asked us to retrieve."

Kaelan took a deep breath to steady himself, "Right. Well, I've been thinking that there are a lot of mercenaries on this station."

A dubious look from Atton showed that the smuggler didn't like where this was going at all. "Sure."

"So, I'll tell Samhan I've got all the things he wanted for his next shipment. He'll want me to come along as protection—,"

"How do you know that?" Before Kaelan could so much as react to the interruption, Atton continued. "Oh, right. Jedi senses."

"I can tell that he feels a strong sense of vulnerability when it comes to his black market operations," The outcast said with a look to Atton, deciding to voice his reasoning anyway. "HK and I will move to whatever docking bay he uses for his business. Atton, I'll contact you and tell you where it's located. I want you to hire mercenaries to raid Samhan's docking bay."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up. You want me to pay a group of armed killers to shoot at you?" Atton's disbelieving expression was enough to make a small grin stretch across the veteran's face. "That's…that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life! Did you get a hold of some spice when I wasn't looking?"

"Commentary: The Master wishes to test his blaster-accuracy ratio. It appears we do have something in common after all Master, for I too have been looking forward to a re-examination of my skills."

Kaelan nodded to the assassin droid, his small smile having grown into a wide grin at his mechanical companion's words. "See," He said as he turned to Atton.

The smuggler turned to Kreia who had silently been meditating during their entire conversation, "I can't believe I'm going to say this, but you have got to see how foolish this is."

"An amusing choice of words," Kreia said without opening her eyes, "Coming from one such as yourself. The exile has made his decision," The old woman continued after a moment's pause, "While I may not entirely agree with the methodology; the potential gain would prove to be advantageous."

"You want my opinion." Atton said after staring at the one person he thought would share his view on the matter, "You're all insane."

"So will you do it or not?"

Turning to face Kaelan, Atton nodded. "Yeah, I'll do it. Just don't blame me if you die."

"Your confidence in me is awe-inspiring," Kaelan sarcastically stated with a wide grin as he stood and motioned for HK to accompany him.

"One last thing," Atton shouted just before the two left the apartment, "This hiring fee is coming out of your bank account!"
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:50 PM   #17
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 7: Turning the Tide (part II)

On the trip back to the trade centre of Citadel Station, Kaelan listened to HK-47's description of Czerka activities based on what he'd seen in their private storage facility. The assassin described a wealth of salvaged components, equipment, and parts present inside the storage area, most of which had once belonged to the Telosian Military prior to the Sith bombardment. Many schematics had been stored inside as well, all of them designs for old factories and research centres.

"Conclusion: I believe Master, that the question of why the galaxy's premiere arms manufacturer would take an interest in the Restoration Project, can now be answered."

"So it would seem," Kaelan responded after a moment of silence, the potential gain to Czerka with such an operation would be quite large. "Did you see anything to make you believe they actually contribute to the Restoration effort?"

"Statement: If you're asking whether removing them from the competition would prove harmful to Telos Master, I would have to gleefully answer no."

Smiling slightly at the assassin droid, Kaelan nodded hjis head. "Good."

Exiting the shuttle once it docked with the trade centre of Citadel, the two quickly made their way back to Samhan.

"I have everything you need," Kaelan said as he approached the Duros trader and handed him the items he'd been interested in acquiring.

After expressing his surprise at Kaelan's truthful statement, and his amazement at the short timing, Samhan felt that his newly hired hand would prove adequate enough to provide security for him during his shipment-loading at his private dock. The exile accepted and, after asking where they were going, contracted Atton.

"Our trader loads his shipments in bay 114."

"Understood, do you still want me to send the pleasant greeters or have you finally realized how stupid this is?"

"By all means, feel free to send them."

A loud sigh sounded over the COM, "Sure, I'll get right on that."

Closing the interface down with a grin, Kaelan continued escorting his merchant charge, with HK in silent tow.

"Statement: Master, this is not exactly what I had expected."

After loading another set of supply crates, Kaelan couldn't help but agree with the mechanical killer. "I feel the same way HK, but this will all be worth it soon enough. At least," The veteran added quietly, "It had better be, for Samhan's sake."

Apparently, he had not spoken quietly enough. "Statement: This was my line of thought as well Master. You have a ruthless quality I cannot help but admire."

Kaelan shot a glance at his droid companion, a brow raised at the choice of words. "Indeed."

"Everything has been loaded," The unmistakable sound of Duros dialect resounded through the bay as Samhan exited a Czerka freighter.

"About time," One of the corporation's affiliated dock officers spoke in reply as he consulted his datapad. "Unfortunately, that still puts us five minutes behind schedule."

"Something which might have been avoided if you had actually helped instead of standing there and complaining!"

The dock officer only smirked, "Nowhere in my job description does it say to lift cargo canisters."

"As exciting as this conversation is," Kaelan interjected with a scowl deep enough to make Kreia proud, "Are we done here?"

Before the exile's question could be answered by the intended recipients, someone else answered. "I'd say so."

Fighting to hide his smirk, Kaelan turned to confront five armoured forms. His amusement faded, however, when he was confronted not wit the neutral colours associated with mercenary armour as he expected, but rather the silver and gold colours of the Telosian Security Force.

The person in the centre, a female lieutenant, locked eyes with Kaelan. "You will be coming with us off-worlder, Lieutenant Grenn has been looking for you."

Shocked that the TSF had been able to track him on the station, Kaelan wasn't sure what to say. Fortunately, he didn't have to. "Hold it right there Lieutenant," The Czerka dock officer spoke, "This is privately owned property, the TSF has no legal authorization here."

The female officer brought her cold gaze swerving toward the Czerka official. "The TSF has legal authority over its own escaped prisoners, wherever they try to run."

"Be that as it may-,"

"If you want to remain a free man, I'd advice you to co-operate with us on this matter. The woman interrupted the deck officer, but her last sentence was aimed toward everyone present.

"Lieutenant, I would advice you to turn around and leave. I'm not going with you." Kaelan had spoken with the sharp tone he'd acquired during his time as a Republic General, a tone he had reserved for insubordinate soldiers. It was more than enough to make the junior officer flinch.

"This isn't a request off-worlder,' The woman continued after a moment of hesitation, her blaster, and the blasters of her companions, raising to target the exile. "You're coming with us, one way or another."

Kaelan's disruptors were out of their holsters before the TSF could fully bring their respective weapons to bear, HK-47 following suit with his repeating rifle.

"Commentary: Visual indications show that we are at an impasse, but tactical simulations do not bode well for the TSF, Master."

The veteran flicked his head in the direction of his mechanical companion, "You heard him. Tell your men to holster their weapons, Lieutenant. Think about this carefully, no-one has to die here."

The junior officer tightened her grip on her weapon, her eyes beginning to show her uncertainty, before she hardened her gaze. "I can't let you get away again, I'm under orders."

"I'm countermanding those orders, stand down."

Dressed almost like a mercenary, the tone and behaviour of a Republic General coming from Kaelan seemed more than a little ridiculous. It was enough, however, to make the junior officer hesitate once more.

Feeling a whisper of danger in the Force, Kaelan's fingers hovered close to the triggers of his disruptors. "This is your last chance, holster 'em!"

The sensation of an imminent threat was intensifying, Kaelan knew a bolt was only seconds away from being fired. With the junior's officer's expression one of fierce determination, he knew which member of the TSF was going to fire. Bringing his disruptors around to target the junior officer, the veteran sent a quick burst at the Lieutenant. The discharging red bolts riddled through the TSF officer's armour in a picosecond, burning enough holes through her flesh to leave her lifeless form slumping to the deck.

Following the Force Sensitive's lead, HK opened fire with his own repeating rifle as soon as his aural receptors proceeded the sound of the first shot. With the combined effort of the two's assault, the remaining security personnel could only afford the most basic of retaliation before succumbing to the same fate as their team leader.

"Fools," Kaelan muttered, his sense of anger flaring at such a pointless action.

The outcast was about to holster his disruptors when he stopped cold, the feeling of danger was still blaring through his senses. He didn't have much time to wonder where such a thing was coming from before a burst of blaster bolts erupted from the ceiling, the dark coloured armoured forms of mercenaries rappelling from the top of the landing bay.

"Clever," The former General growled after avoiding the first set of shots with a roll to the side. Noticing after he performed such a manoeuvre that he hadn't been able to avoid all of the shots- if the carbon scoring on his shoulder blade was any indication.

Recovering from his roll, Kaelan trained his weapons on the still rappelling forms of two mercenaries. A quick burst from each disruptor found its respective mark, leaving the two that were hit to let go of their handfuls of rope. A single scream resounded from the human still alive before he impacted against the permacrete deck below.

HK-47 hadn't bothered to move, the shimmering red energy shield glowing around his chassis absorbed the few blaster bolts sent his way. The tactic allowed the assassin droid to gun down three mercenaries before the rest were able to accurately return fire once their feet made contact with solid deck plating.

The Czerka dock officer was the first to be killed during the initial exchange of fire, leaving Samhan to take refuge by Czerka's freighter as the blasters-for-hire pressed their attack on the bay's only remaining defenders. Unlike the exchange with the TSF, Kaelan found this engagement anything but brief. The mercenaries utilized fire and advance tactics, splitting themselves off into three groups of three. Two people per group laid down a continuous stream of blaster fire while the other pushed forward for a few steps before stopping at a position of cover to fire his own weapon.

With two of the armoured aggressors firing at all times, Kaelan was finding it difficult to fire his weapon accurately. He had to resort to shooting behind cover to keep his foes at bay. It wasn't truly blind firing, however. With the Force at his command, the former General was able to see past the mere physical objects hindering normal sight, giving him access to a unique secondary form of vision.

The slightly blurred forms of mercenary forces could be seen to the outcast as they continued pressing forward, their advance brining them dangerously close to Samhan's position. Kaelan evaluated their deployment pattern as quickly as he could, searching for a weakness he could exploit. Such a flaw manifested itself in the form of the far left group being relatively exposed as they passed through the area where cargo canisters had been stacked in preparation for Czerka's next shipment.

Kaelan smiled to himself while he sent a transmission to HK-47. "Concentrate your fire on their left flank, HK. Wipe them out!"

The assassin droid wordlessly demonstrated his compliance, his repeating rifle swerving to target the indicated group of mercenaries. Red blaster bolts impacted against the three aggressors, each of them riddled with shots before they could even react to the new threat in their midst. The rest of the groups were quick to target the droid halting their advance. Various blaster bolts lanced toward HK's rust-red chassis, only to be absorbed by the droid's still active shield.

Breaking from cover once he realized HK had their attention, Kaelan caught the second group of mercenaries off guard with a quick burst from his disruptors. Desperation settled in on the remainder of the blasters-for-hire, their coordination all but vanishing as more and more of their number fell to the advancing outcast. With support from his mechanical companion, Kaelan was able to finish off the remaining six in swift succession.

Holstering his disruptors with a weary sigh of how close he had come to sharing the fate of the Telosian Lieutenant, Kaelan moved back toward the Czerka freighter where HK still stood, the assassin droid having not even moved during the entire fire fight. "You can come out now Samhan," The exile announced in a casual manner, leaning against the Czerka freighter. "It's over."

The Duros glanced peeked out from the corner of the trade ship he was cowering behind, checking to confirm whether the statement was true or not. Trying not to roll his eyes at the display, Kaelan merely waited as Samhan picked himself up off the deck, idly brushing dirt of off his once immaculately clean robes. "Yes, well, thank you. That was not the most...pleasant transaction I've conducted recently."

Kaelan raised a brow at the such an understatement, "Indeed. Now, I believe there is the matter of my payment."

A waving of the hand met the exile's statement, "Of course, of course. Unfortunately, this 'incident' may make Czerka decide to cut its losses and abandon our agreement. It will take some time for me to secure another private dock for my business. However, I believe I can spare several hundred credit-,"

"That's not what I mean," Kaelan interrupted sharply, not even bothering to listen to the merchant's rant of lost profit. "I just saved your life Samhan, you owe me."

The Duros visibly swallowed at the intense stare he was fixed with, clearly not liking where this was going at all. "Wha...What do you mean?"

"I think you know," Kaelan said with narrowed eyes. "I'm taking control of your business."

Despite the feeling of fear working its way through Samhan, the very notion that another could be in control of his enterprise was enough to make him sputter in outrage. "Absolutely not! That is unacceptable!"

"You act like you have a choice in the matter," Kaelan spoke venomously, taking two steps closer to the merchant who immediately took just as many steps back in response. "I assure you, that is not the case. Let me put this in another perspective for you, Samhan. If you do not agree to my demands, not only will Czerka be informed that you paid mercenaries to raid their docking bay, but," He continued over the Duros' words of outrage, "The TSF will also become aware of this little incident." Kaelan added with a gesture toward the dead security force members. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you what the results will be."

The Duros was thinking frantically, trying to figure out a way out of his current situation. "Czerka and the TSF would never believe you."

A vicious smirk adorned Kaelan's features at the desperate, hopeful sounding statement. "Don't be so sure Samhan. Corrun Falt owes me a very big favour and who do you think Lieutenant Grenn would believe? An escaped TSF prisoner with no criminal history, or a Duros trader believed to operate a smuggling ring on the station?"

A long silence followed, as the reality of the situation slowly sank into Samhan's mind. it didn't take much longer for the Duros to realize that there was no way out. "What do you want me to do?"

Smiling slightly at his victory, the former General shrugged. "At the moment, nothing new. Continue expanding your operations and stockpiling weapons. I will contact you when I have further need of your services."

Samhan offered a stiff bow in acknowledgement, "As you wish."

"Before you go, Duros, a word of advice. Do not even entertain the thought of betrayal, or I will make you wish I had not been here today."

Swallowing heavily at the cold gaze of his once helpful supplier, Samhan nodded in reply before leaving the docking bay as fast as he could.

"Still alive I see," Atton said once he had reunited with Kaelan.

"A disappointing prospect I know," the Force Sensitive replied with a grin.

Having contacted Atton after Samhan's departure, he had told the smuggler to meet him and HK at the Ithorian compound in module 083; and had told Kreia the same thing through the use of their Force Bond. The group now stood just outside the entryway to the herders domain, waiting for Kreia to arrive.

A laugh escaped Atton at his companion's earlier statement, "Not as much as you'd think. You owe me ten thousand credits for the hiring fee by the way."

Keeping a straight face at the statement proved to be a challenging feat for the smuggler, especially since Kaelan's scowl was all-too reminiscent of Kreia. When the exile's play-along look started to morph into an expression of shock when he thought Atton was serious, the ex-convict couldn't hold it any longer and started to laugh. "The look on your face!"

"Yeah, yeah." Kaelan said, a scowl still very much prominent, though he let out a brief chuckle of his own. "That's a real funny joke Atton, keep making your jokes."

"Let us hope he does not."

Turning at the sound of Kreia's voice, the outcast offered a respectful nod to his informal mentor. "Were there any complications?"

The silent wonder as to the old woman's delay was answered when she presented Kaelan with a datapad. "The Czerka droid returned shortly before my departure, his task accomplished."

"So I see," Kaelan replied absently as he looked at the data. B4-D4 had obtained a wealth of knowledge on Czerka activities, many of which made a Hutt look like a respectable entrepreneur. He ignored the list for the most part, however, his only interest was in validating HK-47's earlier assessment of Czerka's practices, something which didn't take very long.

Pocketing the datapad for safe-keeping, the outcast motioned to the others to follow him as he moved inside the Ithorian compound. A quick conversation with the human receptionist pointed him in the right direction of the Ithorian in charge of their opertaions, and he moved further inside.

While the rest of the station was covered in gray and orange coloured durasteel plating, the Ithorians had taken careful measures to bring some life into their domain. Plants of various species were placed in enough places to give Kaelan the implication he was in an atrium as opposed to an actual office complex. The main hall even had a few small water fountains placed inside.

All too soon, the group moved into a small room filled, not with vegetation as expected, but rather, clusters of terminals and consoles with a large holoprojector in the centre displaying a specific restoration zone on Telos. One Ithorian standing near the holographic planet noticed them almost as soon as the group had entered. The plant herder focused more on Kaelan as he spoke. "Welcome to the Ithorian compound of Citadel. I've been hoping to meet your acquaintance, young Jedi."

Biting back the scathing retort the word 'Jedi' brought to mind, Kaelan looked at the alien in front of him curiously. "What makes you think I'm a Jedi?"

The two mouths along the Ithorian's flat face seemed to widen at the query, "I am a Force adept among my people, I sensed your presence soon after arriving on the station and have been looking for you since."

"I assume you are the Ithorian in charge whom I've been looking for then."

"Forgive me, I seem to have forgotten introductions. I am indeed the one you have been seeking, I am Chodo Habat, priest and leader of this herd."

Frowning at the elaborate bow he was presented with, Kaelan settled for a simple nod. "Kaelan Nalto."

"A pleasure Kaelan," Chodo said as he motioned for the group to step further inside. "What, might I ask, brought you to see me?"

Tearing his gaze away from the projection of Telos, Kaelan looked back at the Ithorian leader. "I am in need of transportation to the surface of Telos. As part of the restoration project, I know you are allowed access."

"We are," Chodo replied cautiously, suddenly studying Kaelan intently. "But why ask for our help?"

The outcast fixed Chodo with a patient look, "Why not ask for your assistance? I know Czerka can't be trusted and I really must get to the surface."

"May I ask why?"

"You may," Kaelan said in reply, his tone clearly indicating the opposite.

It was something Chodo picked up on, "While transporting unauthorized personnel to the surface is illegal, I believe I can accommodate your request, provided you do something for me."

"Which is?" Kaelan asked, careful to keep his tone neutral.

"As a member of the restoration project, I must say we Ithorians share your dislike for Czerka Corporation. They have done nothing but hamper efforts to rebuild Telos since their arrival. The organization has taken a number of restoration zones from our control, many of which are already reverting to pre-restoration status. Kaelan, we ask for your help in dealing with this corrupt corporation to free Citadel from their influence once and for all."

"And what do I get out of this?"

"Passage to a restoration shuttle bound for zone 00-31."

A frown adorned the former General's face at the specific zone name, when the Ithorian had no idea what they were searching for. "Why that zone?"

In response, the Ithorian spiritual guide moved back to the holoprojector he'd first been standing next to. Keying for a display of the zone in question, Kaelan found himself looking at, what looked to be, a military base. A raised brow was directed at Chodo who quickly offered an explanation. "This used to be the focal point of our operations before Czerka wrestled control from us and began using it for their own nefarious purposes." The Ithorian paused for a moment, visibly composing himself before continuing, "We had a tracking system in development down there. The idea was to be able to monitor the status of our zones remotely instead of sending our herd out in the field to make a visual assessment. I don't know if it is still there, but it is your best bet to find whatever your looking for."

Nodding at the both the statement and the formation of their agreement, Kaelan sealed the deal by withdrawing the datapad he'd only recently placed within his cloak and handed it to Chodo, who looked at him in confusion. "I've already taken the liberty of downloading a list of Czerka's operations for the past six months. I think you'll find it most...interesting."

The Ithorian leader looked at the datapad in disbelief, an expression which gradually turned to shock as he skimmed through the data. "How did you get this? The only place Czerka would keep such records would be-,"

"Inside their mainframe." Kaelan finished with a small smile. "Precisely."

"This...This is incredible," Chodo spoke to himself as his hammerhead structured eyes scanned through more of the datapad. "We will take this to the Telosian Council at once, not even they will be able to deny the extent of Czerka's infractions. The corporation will be banned from the planet." Smiling at his own statement, Chodo motioned to a nearby Ithorian. "Moza," He spoke to the other member of his herd, handing him the datapad.

The faint flickering of a warning through the Force brought the outcast's attention away from the conversation between the two Ithorians, his head snapping in the direction of the entrance to the compound. He shot a glance at Kreia, who seemed to be studying him intently. "You can feel it, can you not?"

Kaelan nodded in answer, trying to put words to the bare whisper of danger he had just felt. "Something seems...out of place. But I can't pinpoint the origin."

"Your affinity grows stronger Exile, I had not expected you to sense anything at all."

The former General brought his wandering gaze back to Kreia. "Do you know what it is?"

A single nod met his query, "This area has been marked."

Puzzled by the odd response, the outcast furrowed his brow. "What do you mean?"

The none-too-distant sound of blaster fie provided a partial answer, with Kreia unhooking her lightsaber as she looked at the other Force Sensitive. "If we move to the entrance, we shall see for ourselves."

Recognizing a battle when he heard one, Kaelan withdrew his disruptors and followed his mentor's advice, giving a quick warning to Chodo to seal the doors behind them. The group emerged in the main hall with Kaelan settling his gaze upon an all too familiar sight, mercenaries storming through with blasters at the ready.

Their weapons swerved to target the exile and his group once they caught sight of them, though they held their fire. Atton, HK, and Kaelan did the same with their own weapons, their fingers hovering near their respective triggers, while they wondered what the mercenaries were doing.

The answer came in the form of a gold-armoured mercenary stepping through the smoke and haze that blaster fire and cutting tools had created in the previous area. He regarded the group before him with mild amusement, though he raised a brow at the active lightsaber in Kriea's grasp. "Well, isn't this a surprise. Not only will I get the reward for completing this contract, but I'll be able to collect on the bounty for Jedi." A brief chuckle escaped him before he pointed his own blaster pistol at the group blocking his advance. "Get them!"

Red bolts erupted from both sides at the mercenary leader's words, with Kaelan advancing beside Kreia, his disruptors having been exchagned for his vibroblade. The two melee combatants charged the mercenary line, ranged support from Atton and HK forcing tbeir foes to scramble for cover, giving Kaelan the time he needed to safely close to striking distance. His vibroblade was little more than a blur of motion as he twirled the blade in wide arcs that cut down more than a single mercenary at once. Armour plating and flesh alike was sliced indiscriminately, the former General showing no restraint in his actions as he chaneled his anger to the Force, empowering his movements.

The exile's sole focus was on carving a path to the mercenary leader, a goal that, with the extra firepower of his companions and Kreia's lightsaber prowess, was met only five minutes after the skirmish had started. The gold armoured blaster-for-hire had his attention focused on Kreia, believing her to be the larger threat as he continued unleashing a barrage of blaster fire directly at her. Though the elder Force Sensitive was more than capable of deflecting the shots directly back toward him, she had already sensed the exile's intentions toward the mercenary and was interested to see what he would do, so she settled for harmlessly deflecting the bolts to the side.

Closing the distance between himself and the mercenary leader, Kaelan brought his vibroblade down on the still distracted blaster-for-hire's weapon, the sharpened metallic edge slicing through enough of the pistol to render it useless. Not satisfied with simply disabling the blaster, the exile brought the blade slashing across a small exposed section in the armour at the left side of the torso. He pulled the weapon back once he felt it cut a small incision into the mercenary's side, he didn't want to kill him.

Grimacing in pain, the mercenary found himself slammed against the wall, an armoured hand gripping his throat with enough force to restrict his breathing capacity. "Who was your contractor?"

"I'm not telling you a damn thing!"

With an already enraged state of mind flaring at the statement, Kaelan showed his dissatisfaction by kneeing the merc in the gut and throwing him down to his left side, adding a good punch to his face for good measure. Before the mercenary could do anything more than try to rise, however, the outcast unleashed a Force Push strong enough to send the man careening through the doorway he had only recently entered, crashing into a section of wall in the reception area a few metres away.

Gasping in pain once he slid down from the metallic plated barrier, the man was more compliant when Kaelan grabbed hold of him a second time. "Alright, alright! I'll tell you."

"I'm all ears," Kaelan spoke with such a malicious tone that the mercenary couldn't help but flinch.

"I...It was Czerka."

"Czerka, you say?"

Though the question was rhetorical, the mercenary nodded anyway, desperately trying to placate the man holding him by the throat.

Eventually, Kaelan released his hold on the mercenary, letting the man slump to the floor as he took in ragged breaths before a disruptor bolt shredded through his skull and ceased the need for such an action.

"Atton," The exile called as he holstered his weapon, "If you'll be so kind as to get the information of our shuttle departure from Chodo, you and Kreia can head to our designated docking bay. HK and I will meet you there shortly."

Only slightly disturbed by Kaelan's calm execution of another mercenary, Atton nodded in response. "Sure."

As the smuggler and the old woman moved out of the main hall, the former General turned his attetnion to the assassin droid approaching him. "HK, do you know where Czerka headquarters is located on this station?"

"Statement: Yes Master, the corporation has established operations in module 057."

"Than module 057 is our next stop."

Entering Czerka's main office on Citadel, Kaelan immediatley started marching toward the executive representative's office, not even bothering to acknowledge the Czerka affiliated officials who shouted at his abrupt entry. The towering presence of an armed HK-47, however, kept them from attempting anything else. The corporation's security division did not have any such qualms. They stopped the pair's advance with raised blasters just outside of the executive's office.

"No ciivilians are authorized to be armed on Czerka property, surrender your weapons and you may proceed."

Kaelan regarded the one who'd spoken, his tone cold enough to make the CSD member cringe. "You're in my way."

Visibly flinching at the threatening expression on the armoured human's face, and the armed droid that regarded him through red photoreceptors, the guard considered doing as the armoured human asked, only to stomp the feeling down seconds later. "I'm afraid Czerka policy is non-negotiable. Surrender your wepaons."

"Query: Shall I blast him Master?"

Eyes widening at the droid's question, the guard felt his heartrate sky-rocket once the human continued to stare at him, ignoring his mechanical companion while his eyes bore into him. The inexplicable urge to stand down overcame the guard and he lowered his weapon, the other CSD member following suite.

Not even bothering to spare the guards a second glance, Kaelan continued his march as though it had never stopped. A Mirialan female looked up in alarm when she caught sight of two very unfamilar individuals entering her private office. Two startled CSD members guarding the mainframe access near her gunned down by a rusty-red coloured droid before they could even draw their weapons. "Who are you?"

"That's none of your concern," Kaelan replied before Force Pushing the woman out of her chair and into the wall directly behind her.

Shakily rising to her feet, executive Czerka official Jana Lorso looked at the armoured intruder with wide eyes, "Y...You're a Jedi!"

Kaelan only shook his head as he withdrew his right disruptor and advanced towards her. "No, I'm not. An unfortuante prospect for you Lorso."

"W...What do you mean," The Mirialan replied with a shaky voice as she tried to back away from the advancing human, only to find herself up against the far wall. She silently cursed herself for not having procured a bigger office.

"I know you Lorso; your employees, your corporation, and its activities for the past six months. I was simply planning to let the Telosian Council deal with you but your little act of contracting mercenaries to get rid of your Ithorian competition has forced my hand on this matter."

Jana Lorso's eyes widened at the man's words, her olive coloured skin seeming to lose its complexion as she felt fear dominate every emotion in her mind. Her attempts at trying to reason with the enraged human in front of her were cut off by a discharging disruptor, a smoking hole in her forehead testifying to the disruptor's accuracy.

Staring down at the woman's corpse, Kaelan felt the same emotion he'd experienced after killing Loppak Slusk, guilt. The sensation only lasted a handful of seconds this time, however, before he viciously stomped the feeling down, remembering Kreia's words from a previous time to assist him.

Control...It is about being able to unleash specific feelings at a time, to bring a single emotion to the centre fold and then seamlessly transition to another.

A grim, but necessary task, Kaelan silently concluded to himself. Lorso's history and recent actions made it clear she was far too much of a threat, not only to the restoration proejct, but Citadel Station itself. With that in mind he moved out of Czerka's headquarters and, after contacting Atton, moved to the docking bay containing Chodo's shuttle.

Now all he had to do was find his ship.

Last edited by Mandalore_Reborn; 09-26-2010 at 10:57 PM.
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Old 10-09-2010, 10:49 AM   #18
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 8: A Forgotten Past (part I)

"See what I mean now about this planet being a dead zone?"

Kaelan barely registered Atton's statement, his own gaze locked onto the ravaged surface of Telos. During their initial approach into the system, his attention had been drawn more to the gigantic form of Citadel Station orbiting the planet. Now that their ministry-class shuttle was streaking through the planet's atmosphere, the true scars of Telos were laid bare for all to see. While sets of green testified to the efforts of the Ithorians to reclaim the world's former beauty, a vast set of barren wasteland still covered much of the surface, its brown colour seeming to mock the restoration project with its mere presence.

"Revan," He whispered so softly that only he could hear, "What have you done?"

A grim, but necessary task. The words Kaelan had thought of only minutes before rushed back to him at his own sentence, making him let out a wince at the thought. Had Revan's decision to bring destruction to this world been based on the same reason he himself had given for killing Jana Lorso? It was a question, the exile was starting to believe would never be answered by anything more than idle speculation.

"We're approaching zone 00-31, where do you want me to land this bucket?"

Forcing his thoughts back to the present, and his eyes away from the shuttle's viewport, Kaelan looked at Atton from his position in the centre of the shuttle. "Take us down near the outskirts of the zone, we'll need to approach on foot if we don't want to draw attention."

"Right," A quick inputting onto the pilot console and the orbital vehicle started to bear downward, "We're on approach for landing."

An incessant beeping seconds later drew Kaelan's attention back to the piloting station. "What's going on?"

"I don't believe this," Atton cried, "Sensors are registering a target lock on the shuttle."

"Go to random flights, evasive manoeuvres!"

The pilot did as ordered, banking the shuttle to the left just as a stream of laser fire erupted from, what Atton could have sworn, was an air defence tower near a grassy hilltop only a couple of kilometres away. He continued to make their course as erratic as possible, cursing the ship as he did. Ministry-class shuttles were hardly starfighters and with their folded wing design, they were made even less manoeuvrable than he would have preferred.

Despite the short-comings in design, however, the veteran pilot was able to continually weave the shuttle through the storm of bolts filling the skies as they moved closer to the surface. At least he did, until they were only a few hundred metres above ground. The shuttle rocked briefly as it was struck directly in the port engine, forcing all of those standing -even HK- to briefly sway in their spots as they tried to maintain their balance.

"Damage report!"

"The port engine's been hit, stabilizers are offline," Atton's fist slammed down on the console as the diagnostic screen continued to scroll, "And, because we're so lucky, thrusters are offline too! We're going down, I'll have to try and slow this ship the old-fashioned way." He adjusted the shuttle's heading to bring them on a course for a cluster of hilltops, hoping they would slow the ship's velocity enough to prevent a complete catastrophe. "Hang on!"

Kaelan shot the smuggler an incredulous look as the shuttle continued on its downward trajectory, "To what?"

Any possible rebuttal from Atton was cut-off as the shuttle impacted against a hilltop, its velocity making it bounce against several more before its final impact against a wide stretch of plains, tearing into the ground with the speed of its impact.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Kaelan kept his eyes on the viewport, wanting to know if they'd made it or not. The jarring force of the final impact was enough to break the exile's grip on the metal edge he'd been holding. His face slammed into the metal hull with enough force to send him unconscious, his body crumpling to the deck as he felt himself slip into darkness.

The sight of the smoking wreck of an orbital shuttle careening into the ground brought a halt to Bao-Dur's movements. Since only those with Czerka's authorization were allowed to enter their restoration zones, he knew whoever was inside was no friend to the corrupt corporation; which meant he wasn't about to abandon them to a fate of captivity he himself had only recently escaped from. He glanced around briefly, trying to see if anyone else had taken notice of the crash.

From his position atop a small hill, he had a good view of the plains below. When nothing caught his eye, he started making his way to the shuttle, holding his captured blaster rifle in the port arms position as he ran. If he had seen the crash, chances were the mercenaries still looking for him had caught sight of it as well, which didn't give him a lot of time.

The brief warning blares of a droid, made him flick his eyes toward the small remote keeping pace with him at his side. "I know the mercenaries will be here soon, don't worry I'll do this as fast as I can."

The spherical mechanical was not convinced. It continued to issue stressed warnings, but the Zabrak engineer ignored them. Once he approached the crash site, Bao-Dur quickly realized he had even less time than he thought. The ship was still on fire, the flames dangerously close to the thermal conductors, which the mechanic noticed had been damaged- by either the laser blast or during the crash. With the equipment's ventilation systems inoperable, he only had a few minutes before the flames spread to the conductors and ignited the reactive waste still trapped inside.

Slinging his weapon once he was sure the area was secure, Bao-Dur stepped into the smoking interior, avoiding the sparking wires jutting out from exposed conduits. Three people were inside, as well as a rusty-red framed droid that the engineer knew had seen better days. He approached the first person he could reach, a human male almost completely encased in armour. Reorientating the man so that he was right side up, with his head facing toward the shuttle's loading ramp, Bao-Dur almost stopped cold when he caught sight of the face.

"General?" A wide smile stretched across the Zabrak's face before the gravity of the situation returned and he placed his arms under the General's armpits and started dragging him out of the shuttle, new motivation coursing through the mechanic now that he knew who he was saving.

He dropped his old friend ten metres away from the shuttle, before moving back inside to repeat the extraction procedure with the rest of the ship's occupants. He saved the droid for last, barely dropping the mechanical's deactivated form next to the General before a fireball engulfed the shuttle interior he had been in only minutes before.

After having performed a quick injury assessment, Bao-Dur was certain no-one had sustained anything more than head trauma, most likely brought on during the shuttle's impact with the ground. Once everyone was out of the transport, he had moved his friend and the others into a section of tall grass he hoped would shield them from any prying mercenary eyes. Unslinging his blaster rifle, Bao-Dur kept the weapon in the shoulder at a low ready position, ready to snap it up at the slightest hint of a threat while he kept a vigil over his friend.

Returning to consciousness was a highly unpleasant prospect for Kaelan, his sluggish mind almost recoiling at the sudden sensation of a searing pain in his head. As he gradually remembered what had happened to leave him in such a state, he realized he was in contact not with the cold feeling of metallic plating as he suspected, but the soft sensation of grass. Realizing something was amiss, Kaelan attempted to stand. He only managed to move himself to his knees, however, before an even stronger feeling of pain rippled through his head and he couldn't help but let out a loud groan.

"Easy now," A voice said as a hand was placed on Kaelan's shoulder to keep him from swaying back to the ground as he forcibly rose to his feet. "You survived one hell of a crash."

Too disorientated to realize the voice was not from his travelling companions, Kaelan only gripped his head briefly, trying to gather the Force to heal his throbbing skull. "I feel like my head was ripped in half."

A chuckle met his statement, "I wouldn't bet on it, you always did have a hard head General."

General? The Force Sensitive thought as his eyes shot open, the voice finally sounding familiar. An expression of complete disbelief shot across his face when he caught sight of the smiling Zabrak next to him. "Bao-Dur?"

When the mechanic's smile widened at his recognition, he knew it was no illusion. Gripping his friend's remaining arm, the exile pulled a startled Bao-Dur into a crushing one-armed hug. "I can't believe this! I didn't think I'd run into you again!"

"Likewise General," Bao-Dur replied, his smile still in place after his old friend took a step back and released him. "Though I wish it was under more...normal circumstances."

"What, crash landing next to a friend isn't normal?"

The engineer chuckled at the almost innocent sounding query, "Not for most people General."

Suddenly realizing his companions were also unconscious, Kaelan cast a quick look to his friend, who only responded with a dismissing wave. "They're fine, your pilot's more or less unharmed and the old lady is a lot tougher than she looks."

"What about the droid?"

Realizing he had forgotten the rusty-red framed mechanical, the Zabrak kneeled down and performed a quick analysis. "He only needs a jolt to his power cell, looks like one of the exposed wires inside the shuttle shorted out his systems." Motioning to his remote, Bao-Dur told it to initiate a power transfer. The droid quickly complied, an energy beam emitting from its central node to strike the power cells of the larger mechanical below it.

Red photoreceptors instantly sparked to life, with HK-47 quickly moving to a standing position, his head swivelling to take in his surroundings. "You alright HK?"

The assassin droid turned to focus its photoreceptors on his owner. "Assessment: Minor damage to tertiary couplings only Master, I remain a highly formidable asset."

"I don't doubt that," The outcast responded with a small smile at the droid's almost wounded sounding tone.

"As great as it is to see you again General," Bao-Dur said as he turned his eyes away from the assassin droid and toward his former commanding officer, "I have to wonder what you're doing here on Telos. After all, I would never have suspected I would run into you out here, of all places."

"Believe it or not," Kaelan spoke with a grin, "I'm looking for my ship."

An amused glance was thrown at what was left of the shuttle, "Let's hope your ship's in better shape than your shuttle."

"Indeed," Kaelan replied after taking a closer look at the damage inflicted on the Ministry-class transport. "So you know why I'm here," He turned back to face his friend, "What about you?"

A frown adorned the Zabrak's face, "I've been trying to deal with Czerka, to drive their corruptive influence off of Telos. They're killing the Restoration project, General and the Telosian Council doesn't even have the gall to act without 'solid evidence.'"

"I wouldn't worry about Czerka anymore," A grin stretching across the Force Sensitive's lips, "I found a way to break into their mainframe and discovered all about their 'special projects.' I turned it over to the Ithorians, you can imagine their delight."

Before Bao-Dur could do anything more than adopt a wide smile, a groan from the grass drew the attention of the two friends to a slowly recovering Atton Rand. "Well, this is familiar," He said through gritted teeth while he tried to ignore his pounding head. "Feels like my last oh so pleasant trip to this joyful planet."

The Zabrak cast an amused glance at the sarcastic speaking pilot, "Crash a ship that time too?"

"No, Pazaak."

"Accused of cheating were you Atton?"

A look of surprise flickered on the smuggler's face before he nodded at Kaelan, "Yeah, apparently winning seven hands in a row doesn't mean your skilled."

"I would ask if you were able to fight them off or not, but seeing as how you only remembered this by returning to consciousness, I think I already know the answer to that question."

Atton narrowed his eyes at the grinning exile, "Yeah, well there was like twenty players all against me."

"Quite a pazaak table that must have been," Bao-Dur said with a snort at the obvious lie. He had played Pazaak as a distraction during the Mandalorian Wars enough times to know that you never wanted more than five players at a time.

Frowning at the follow-up laugh by Kaelan, Atton glanced between the two before their smug expressions caused him to relent. "Alright, fine there was only four. But," He stressed the last word while he pointed to the two in front of him, "At least they were sober."

"That was not the most pleasant landing I've endured," Kreia spoke, her voice surprising all of those present- aside from HK-; for she hadn't even made a sound upon awakening. "Perhaps next time," She continued with a glance to Atton, "We should seek out a more reputable pilot."

The smuggler's response was to narrow his eyes at the old woman, "Your welcome Kreia. You know if I wasn't such a crack pilot we could've hit the shield wall or one of those rock faces."

Spotting the smoking ruin of what was left of the Ministry-class shuttle, Kreia smirked at the pilot. "Yes, our current situation is a vast improvement."

"Now that we're all up," Kaelan quickly interjected, "We need to make our way to the base that Chodo mentioned."

"Chodo Habat told you to go to the abandoned Telosian military base?" Bao-Dur asked with a complete look of disbelief. "That place is swarming with Czerka's mercenaries. Why do you need to go there?"

"He mentioned the possibility of an old tracking system they had in the works to monitor restoration zones remotely."

The Zabrak only shook his head. "The mercenaries stripped away a lot of Ithorian equipment when they stole restoration zones. I highly doubt a tracking system would have been left intact General."

A growl escaped the veteran's lips at yet another setback, "I don't suppose you can think of a way for me to find my ship?"

"I can actually," The mechanic replied with a grin, "When we get to the military base, I can access the shield grid to help locate your ship."

"Perhaps," Kaelan stated slowly, "But if you're so sure Czerka would get rid of the Ithorian tracking system, what makes you think this will still be there. Wouldn't they have just disposed of this too?"

"They couldn't without raising a red flag, General. The TSF is directly linked to all restoration essential equipment, they'd know immediately that something was not right. Trust me, the shield network is the best bet."

"What good would that do though?" Atton asked with a frown, "We know its gotta be in one of the zones."

"No, it wouldn't be," Bao-Dur replied, "The Ithorians would have told you if your ship had landed in any of their zones, even Czerka would have made a record of such a find."

"Wait a minute, hold on," Atton spoke after sparing a glance at a section of land separated by one of the many shield wall segments that ran through the restoration zones. "Are you saying the ship is actually somewhere on the planet's barren surface?"

"No, of course not." Bao-Dur admonished, "Telos' atmosphere has been reduced to little more than acidic vapour outside of the zones. Landing a ship in the wastes would be like sealing it in a hangar full of hungry Mynocks."

Atton visibly shivered in disgust at the implication, "I hate Mynocks."

"Warning: Master, my scanners are detecting multiple life-forms rapidly approaching from the south-west."

"Its the mercenaries," Bao-Dur confirmed while tightening his grip on his rifle, "They've been looking for me."

Carefully taking in his friend's appearance at his statement, Kaelan could see more than a handful of scorch marks and cauterized wounds from skimming blaster bolts. Bao-Dur's green shirt was ripped and torn in multiple places as well, some of which looked to have been inflicted by the sharpened edge of a vibroblade. "Have they now?" He finally responded through gritted teeth as he felt his anger flaring. "We'll just have to rectify that situation."

The former Republic General quickly ordered everyone to spread out through the tall grass and wait for his opening shots before striking. He had been the last to lay down within the patch of vegetation, watching through the gaps between blades of grass that he made with his disruptors as a group of mercenaries appeared from a sharp bend in the plains stretching out before them. The Czerka contracted thugs were riding both swoops and landspeeders, all of them surveying their surroundings sharply as they drew nearer to the downed shuttle.

"HK," He whispered into his gauntlet COM, despite the fact that the mercenaries were fifty metres away, "How many do you count?"

"Statement: Composition of patrolling meatbags stands at twelve Master."

Kaelan watched as all but four of the mercenaries dismounted their vehicles, automatically splitting themselves into groups to comb the area for survivors and search the shuttle wreckage. A frown worked its way onto the Force Sensitive's face at the sight of those still sitting on their swoops. They would pose to be quite the problem if they were able to escape the battle and warn the rest of their group. A priority target assignment for HK-47 was all it took to erase the worry from his mind.

The exile switched his attention to a trio of mercenaries in their midst, gripping his disruptors just a little tighter as he waited for them to move a little closer to the group's location. When the three solders of fortune stopped to study an impression made in the dirt, Kaelan decided he'd waited long enough. Springing up to a kneeling position, the outcast brought his disruptors snapping up to a firing position and unleashed a barrage at the three mercs he'd been targeting. Caught completely unaware, all of them were dead by the time the others realized what was happening, their corpses riddled with disruptor bolts.

Following orders to the letter, the others revealed themselves as soon as they had heard the first shot. HK immediately locked his photoreceptors on the swoop bikes still carrying mercenaries, opening fire with his repeating rifle the moment he had a confirmed lock. Three precise bolts impacted against the power regulators of the repulsor-lift vehicles, disabling them instantly and leaving the assassin droid free to kill the drivers at his leisure.

Bao-Dur and Atton concentrated on the mercenaries who had been conducting searches, avoiding the few retaliatory shots sent their way as the two squeezed off their own bolts. The discharging energy projectiles riddled through merc ranks, impacting against light armour. Two had been killed in the initial cross-fire, with the rest of the blasters-for-hire seeking cover next to the shuttle's wreckage while they returned fire.

Kreia was pushing forward, indirectly drawing fire away from the others and towards her as the mercenaries depleted entire power packs in their rifles in their attempt to keep the lightsaber wielding woman at bay. Their fear played perfectly into Kaelan's attack strategy, allowing himself and the others to push forward and surprise their otherwise focused foe, until the last few had fallen to Kreia's lightsaber.

"Unnecessary Analysis:" HK said as he stood in the centre of post skirmishing carnage, his repeating blaster rifle lowering while he spoke, "All targets have been terminated Master."

A simple nod was given to the assassin droid, only a tinge of amusement present in Kaelan's mind.

"So," Atton asked after holstering his blaster pistol, "How exactly are we going to enter this old military encampment?"

The exile turned to the pilot, a quick glance exchanged to the swoop bikes and the dead mercenaries before he turned back to his companion, a half-smile on his face.

Atton recognized the look immediately and knew that Kaelan was thinking of something stupid. "No way."

The Force Sensitive's smile stretched just a bit wider.

"Absolutely not!"

When Kaelan's amusement only grew, Atton tried one last time. "NO!"

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this."

A grin met Atton's statement, hidden behind a COM unit and the small gap between his swoop bike and Kaelan's. "I can."

"Yeah, well are you sure this is a good idea Kaelan?"

As Atton had suspected, his companion's bright idea was for he and Kaelan to ride straight into Czerka's encampment. After exchanging his old garb for some of the mercenary affiliated light armour that hadn't been in too bad a condition, Atton and the rest of the group had mounted still-functioning swoops and followed Bao-Dur's directions to the mercenary encampment. Kaelan wanted to infiltrate the base with Atton only, the idea being to be able to easily sneak in since, now with Atton's change of appearance, they both wore passable disguises, while Kreia, Bao-Dur and HK-47 lied in wait along the base's perimeter. On the exile's command, the trio would mount an offensive, drawing their enemies toward them. Kaelan and Atton would strike soon after, catching their enemies in a cross-fire that they wouldn't survive.

"The General knows what he's doing Atton, he has more than enough experience planning successful operations."

"Listen to Bao-Dur," Kaelan responded to his friend's encouragements with a slightly pained voice as he briefly reflected on some of his less than successful operations as well. "He knows what's he talking about."

"Alright, but I still don't like this."

The rest of the trip passed in silence, with Kreia and her group breaking off once they were only a few hundred metres from the camp. It didn't take long for Kaelan and Atton to catch sight of their goal, the Czerka converted military base. Almost completely encompassed by surrounding hills, the only opening was a small man-made gap that led directly to the base's swoop garage. Only a handful of buildings were present inside the encampment, ranging from small, square buildings to long, rectangular ones- the latter of which was only built to provide accommodations for those stationed at the base.

What truly caught the exile's attention, even more so than the looming presence of the dual barrelled anti-aircraft tower in the northeast section of the camp, was the large landing platform on the opposite side. Its substantial circular surface had a diameter large enough to comfortably accommodate two Ministry-class orbital shuttles at once. Eight small pillars were positioned around the platform, their top ends fitted with pulsating lights to mark the landing zone for the frequent shuttles retrieving salvaged goods. Czerka affiliated workers were constantly busy loading stacks of containers onto the two transports still docked, reducing them from the pile on the landing pad, even as more were being brought out from a storage facility placed on the opposite end of the base.

Driving their swoops at a pace slightly faster than normal as the two moved into the base, Kaelan and Atton passed through the entrance without incident. With most of the other mercenaries not even sparing them so much as a single glance, it was quite easy to drive up the small ramp leading to the swoop garage only a hundred metres away from the entrance. Row upon row of the large square building was filled with both the single-seated swoop bikes and the dual passenger speeders.

With only a few mechanics inside, the pair didn't have much trouble parking their swoops and exiting the garage without arousing suspicion. "We'll need to secure the landing zone before the others get in position."

Nodding to Kaelan, Atton moved to walk beside his companion, keeping his outward composure neutral even though he felt more than a little anxious being in the jaws of the Krayt Dragon. The two infiltrators needn't have worried, the light garrison of mercenaries meant it was more than easy for them to walk onto the landing bay.

"Take them out," Kaelan said while his hand lowered to his holstered vibroblade. "Keep it quiet."

Acknowledging the outcast's order with another nod, Atton moved to work his way through the right, while Kaelan did the same with the left. A worker moving down from the left shuttle's boarding ramp to retrieve another container was the exile's first target. Taking a quick look around to ensure no-one would be nearby to be a witness, Kaelan rushed forward in a fast, but quiet, pace, his vibroblade already drawn.

Just as the Czerka employee was about to retrieve another container, Kaelan swiftly covered the man's mouth with his left hand to muffle his surprised cry, then pulled him back towards his readied vibroblade while he simultaneously thrusted the weapon forward. The blade pierced the man's spinal cord with only the slightest sounding crack as the protective vertebrae bone shattered, paralyzing him below the inflicted point of injury and leaving the exile free to follow up with a final, fatal stab to the chest.

The outcast repeated the process on the two others he found inside the shuttle itself. Descending from the transport's ramp, he caught sight of Atton smashing his armoured fist into the side of another worker's head, the force more than enough to render the targeted human unconscious.

Mouthing the word 'clear' to Kaelan when he caught sight of him, Atton waited for his companion to do the same before approaching, stretching his wrist as though afraid he had sprained it. "Remind me to get a vibroblade too."

A small series of soft beeps from his COM channel deferred Kaelan's response, letting him know that HK was signalling that he and the others were in position. Withdrawing his disruptors and, motioning for Atton to get ready, the veteran gave the order. "Begin the assault."

A stream of blaster fire from the base entrance met the exile's command, a flow of red energy punctuated by the swing of a green lightsaber as Kreia entered the fray. Muffled cries rang out from the mercenaries posted as sentries, their panicked shouts vanishing almost as soon as they were uttered. The rest of the base's garrison, however, were not so easily silenced.

Shouts of alarm were echoed throughout the encampment as mercenaries sprinted to the entrance to confront those bold enough to mount an attack on their own base. Blaster rifle fire was exchanged by both parties, the precise firing of an engineer and assassin droid killing more than a few of the armoured thugs as they ran up to meet the assault group. Kreia continued to deflect incoming fire, her green lightsaber moving to the point where it was little more than a blur of motion as the old woman immersed herself in the Force, utilizing it to enhance her speed and senses.

A simple nod was given to Atton before he and Kaelan moved closer to the action, opening fire on the rear flank once they were within range. Caught completely by surprise, six more of the blasters-for-hire were killed before they realized that they had been outflanked. The twelve still standing were caught in a cross-fire, their coordination disintegrating as more and more of their number fell to lightsaber and blaster precision. It didn't take long before the last mercenary was dead, his flesh riddled with a combination of disruptor and blaster bolts.

"Do you know where this shield network access station is Bao-Dur?"

"I know it's in the old Ithorian research centre, General," The Zabrak replied with a look around the base, a frown marring his features. "As for which building that is exactly, I...uh couldn't tell you."

Kaelan nodded, he hadn't expected his friend to know exactly where it was. "We'll have to split up, Kreia and I will work our way through the northern section. You two take the south end," The exile continued with a pointed finger at Atton and Bao-Dur, "Alert me immediately if you find anything."

"Query: What would you have me do Master?"

"Comb through this entire base, HK." Kaelan continued without missing a beat, "Kill anyone you find still alive, while we look for this shield terminal"

"Ecstatic Response: A highly efficient course of action Master."

As the group split up to perform their appointed tasks, Atton started walking beside the Zabrak engineer. "So, Bao-Dur, how do you know our exiled friend?"

"Exiled?" Bao-Dur asked, shooting the smuggler a look of complete surprise, "The General?"

"Uh...yeah," Atton said, equally surprised that the engineer didn't know. "I thought you knew."

Bao-Dur only shook his head, "The General and I haven't seen each other since..." He trailed off, not quite bringing himself to say what he was really thinking, "Since the end of the Mandalorian Wars." The Zabrak trailed off once more before hastily continuing, trying to distract himself from the thought of Malachor. "To answer your question, he was my commanding officer during the war, a Republic General I was more than proud to have served with, and befriended."

A small smile graced the mechanic's lips at the thought, quickly replaced by a troubled expression when he started delving deeper into his memories of the Mandalorian conflict. "Look no offence Atton, but I'd rather not talk about this."

Atton spared the Zabrak a curious look before simply shrugging at his statement, "Fair enough."

The pair continued their work in relative silence, only punctuated by blaster fire when they ran into the occasional mercenary still alive in the encampment. After searching a cluster of buildings near the swoop garage, structures that turned out to be Czerka's warehouses for salvaged items and the control centre for the same operations, the two found nothing relating to the restoration's shield network.

Kreia and Kaelan's search proved the more fruitful of the two, with the discovery of the very thing they were searching for inside, what could only have been, the old research centre. The building itself looked like it hadn't been used in quite a while, despite the fact that there were still a variety of terminals and consoles set-up along the square shaped room. Gaps were present within the row of electronic equipment, however, giving testament to Bao-Dur's statement of mercenaries stripping the old Ithorian equipment away.

"Are you sure you can get this working Bao-Dur?"

The sight of the shield network station powering up to life gave Kaelan his answer, while Bao-Dur looked at him with a grin. "I'd say so General."

Turning back to the now working console, the engineer keyed for a display of the shield network on the small display screen. Power levels were shown at each of the generators that composed the shield wall, with the Zabrak's attention quickly focusing on one group in particular. "That's strange..."

"What have you found?"

Shuffling aside to give his friend space to see what he was looking at, Bao-Dur pointed to a cluster of generators near zone 00-10. "This group of generators is operating with a two percent power deficiency."

Kaelan frowned at the screen, "I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Isn't that just a normal declination in energy usage?"

"Normally General," Bao-Dur concurred, "But for so many generators to do that at once..." He trailed off as he inputted a few more commands, searching for a carrier emission or something else to help explain the situation. "I've got it," The engineer replied with a grin, he always enjoyed solving mechanical problems. "The energy is being siphoned from the generator, drawn from a carrier emitter coming from here." The Zabrak tapped a finger on the display for the General to see, "The polar region."

"Excellent work Bao-Dur," Kaelan spoke with a smile, finally glad that things were starting to look up. "Have you got the coordinates?"

"Yes General," The Zabrak said after keying for a planetary display of the region's location.

"Good, we'll take one of the shuttles."

Kaelan led the way toward the landing pad, not forgetting to tell HK that it was time to depart. The droid was reluctant to leave before he had ensured that the entire base was devoid of life, but followed his Master's command regardless. Once the group was reunited in the Ministry-class shuttle, Atton took the controls once again and started the transport's ignition sequence. The shuttle lifted off from the former Telosian encampment, moving through the skies and toward the polar region.

It took five minutes before Atton saw that they were approaching Bao-Dur's provided coordinates, it was after a few seconds had passed and their destination was in view that the pilot frowned at the scenery he was presented with. "You're sure these were the right coordinates?"

A mesa could be seen jutting out from the ground below them, its snow covered surface completely devoid of any type of man-made structure that would attest to the presence of life. Four rocky pillars surrounded it, their narrow cylindrical design was the only thing that pointed to Bao-Dur being right, for they did not look like naturally forming landscapes.

"I'm sure," Bao-Dur responded firmly, though he wondered why the shield would be diverted towards this spot if there was nobody to protect.

"So am I," Kaelan responded, his personal experience with Bao-Dur's technical skills left no doubt in his mind that they were in the right place. "Find a spot to land, we'll search the mesa on foot."

Atton acknowledged the order, bringing the shuttle down for a landing on the left side of the mesa. Its landing struts extended once the transport began to hover toward its improvised landing zone, making contact with the mesa without incident.

The orbital shuttle's boarding ramp descended and all of the occupants piled out of the transport, immersing into a far colder temperature than they were used to. "Bao-Dur!" The exile shouted in his attempt to be heard over the howling wind. "We'll start a standard echo search pattern, just make sure to keep it tight, I don't want to lose anybody in this blizzard."

"Copy that General," Bao-Dur replied, grimacing as a strong shiver wracked his body in the cold. "Let's try to make this quick though."

Nodding to his friend, Kaelan started moving toward the opposite end of the mesa, motioning for Kreia and HK-47 to follow while Bao-Dur did the same to Atton. The Zabrak started herding the pilot in a single-file line fifteen metres to Kaelan's left. While it was a strain for he and Atton to keep sight of Kaelan's form in the blizzard, it was still possible.

Snow crunched beneath the marching feet of the two groups as they continued moving forward, eyes and photoreceptors scanning the surroundings for anything out of the ordinary. "Statement: Provided my photoreceptors are still functional, I believe there is a small mound fifty metres to this unit's front."

Not being able to see so far ahead, Kaelan decided to take HK's word for it, re-orientating himself along the droid's current line of sight and informing Atton on the discovery, silently wondering how in the world Kreia could keep moving forward while blind. It turned out the assassin droid was right in his discovery, identifying not only something out of the ordinary- a small mound on an otherwise flat surface does qualify as such- but uncovering a camouflaged doorway that seemed to lead into the mesa itself.

With a long journey back to the ship, and with nowhere else to go, Kaelan opted to see where it led. The passage was locked, but a quick slicing job by Bao-Dur allowed the group to overcome such an obstacle and move onto the turbolift beyond. Kaelan keyed for a descent as soon as everyone was inside, able to feel the lift start descending inside the mesa.
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Old 10-09-2010, 10:51 AM   #19
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 18
Chapter 8: A Forgotten Past (part II)

It reached a stop five minutes later, with the lift doors parting to reveal a rotunda with branching corridors to the centre, left, and right of the group's position. Kaelan didn't have time to do anything more than take in the white and gray plating adorning the walls before three females garbed in skin-tight, white clothing approached, double bladed extended quarterstaffs held at the ready.

"Drop your weapons and you shall not be harmed."

The command was issued by the female in the centre, one who, unlike the two others flanking her, had her hood down, showing a face that seemed different than that of the others. Others, Kaelan would have thought to be identical twins, if he hadn't sensed differently through the Force. While all of them sported highly athletic forms and white hair, the one in the centre also had short braids of hair dangling next to each ear as well as a pair of cool blue eyes that had drawn the exile's attention far longer than they should've.

"Who are you?"

"I will not issue such a cautionary again," The woman continued, ignoring Kaelan's query. "Drop your weapons."

Her curtly spoken demand brought a small smile to his lips at her boldness, her tone quite similar to the one he'd used on Citadel against a TSF Lieutenant. Kaelan was no fool like the junior officer, but in this situation he couldn't fathom how she expected him to comply when he had both a tactical and numerical advantage.

"Antagonistic Query: Are you aware of the time it would take this unit to aim and fire a repeating rifle." HK was silent for a moment, as if he wanted to see whether they would respond. "Self-Evident Answer: Quite faster than it would take you to close to attack range with melee weapons."

The outcast's smile grew just a bit wider at those words, clearly he wasn't the only one to be thinking about such things. "He's quite right" Kaelan said with a nod to the mechanical while he continually smiled at the female in the centre, "This is no standoff."

Something flickered in the woman's blue irises, briefly showing a glimpse of an emotion Kaelan's wasn't able to identify before her gaze hardened. "Do you wish for us to make it one?"

The veteran tilted his head to the side slightly, regarding her with nothing short of intrigue at her outright challenge before he felt a faint whisper in the Force, his previous expression morphing to one of confusion. He could feel the faint echo of a familiar presence. Kaelan tried to track down the source, but gave up when it seemed to have originated far beyond his current range of perception.

"General?" Bao-Dur stated with confusion, risking a glance away from the strange females when he saw his friend suddenly looking uncertain. "What is it?"

"I...I sensed...something," The exile replied, trying to wrack his memories for why the sensation had felt so familiar. "A presence I've not felt since..." He trailed off, unable to give an answer he did not have.

"I would suggest co-operation," Kreia spoke up when it looked as though the female in the centre was going to issue a final edict, though she was looking at the exile curiously. "I sense we will come to no harm."

"Advisement: That would not be a wise course of action Master. Self-destruction is always preferable to capture."

"Perhaps, but there is nothing to be gained by engaging in battle here HK." Nodding to Bao-Dur and Atton, Kaelan slowly withdrew his disruptors and placed them on the ground, following up with his vibroblade while Atton and Bao-Dur mimicked his actions with their own weapons, Kreia following suit for her lightsaber. The outcast brought a disapproving gaze to HK when he noticed that the assassin droid had yet to part with his rifle. "Only a fool kills for no foreseeable purpose, HK. Stand down."

The droid seemed to consider the words, "Statement: Your words seem strangely familiar Master, and a small part of me believes there is logic behind your apparent madness. I will comply."

After placing his weapon down in the slowest fashion imaginable, HK-47 stood back to his full height, where he and the others were told by the identical females to follow them out toward the left passage. When Kaelan started to follow, the one in the centre instructed him to head for the passage straight ahead. "What about my friends?"

"They are merely being detained."

She followed behind him when he had moved ahead of her, and he couldn't help but feel that she was studying him. "I don't suppose you'll now be kind enough to tell me who you are?" When the woman stayed silent, Kaelan continued. "Come now, it's not very nice to skip introductions."

"We are the Handmaidens of this academy, exile."

Exile? Kaealan thought to himself as he stopped cold, whirling around to face his escort. She hadn't spoken the term with anything short of fascination, but the fact that she knew who he was far from comforting. "How do you know me?"

She opened her mouth as though to speak then paused mid-action. as if in hesitation. and closed it. "Continue up this walkway," The Handmiaden said as she indicated a ramp leading to a small chamber beyond, "The Master of the Academy will meet you shortly."


She nodded, "This is the Jedi Academy of Telos."

A frown worked its way onto the outcast's features, he had only caught the briefest glimpse of one Force Sensitive in this entire place. He was aware that his Force connection was still a weak one, but he found it hard to believe he could not sense more than just one Force Sensitive in a location, that by all rights, should be filled with them. "You said you are a Handmiaden, so where are the students?"

The woman only shook her head in response, "There are no others present within these halls."

"Indeed? Then what is your purpose here?"

The Handmiaden looked as though she were going to answer, then seemed to hesitate once more before she firmly pointed ahead, "Please, do not ask me anymore questions."

Inclining his head to her briefly in both thanks and acknowledgement of her request, Kaelan hid his confusion behind a small smile. "As you wish."

Walking up the ramp she had indicated, Kaelan spotted three more of the identical looking Handmaidens standing outside of what looked like a recreation of the Jedi High Council chamber on Coruscant. Eight chairs were placed in a circle around the edge of the chamber, each orientated so that they were facing an ancient looking stone in the centre. It was that centre piece that caught the exile's attention more than anything, an armoured hand running across its surface as if searching for a particular marking.

He frowned, however, when he neither saw nor felt what he had been seeking. It comforted him, somewhat, but at the same time left him more than a little angry. The Handmaiden had told him the Master of the Academy awaited him here, and he couldn't help but feel this was the Master's version of a sick joke, being told to wait inside the very room he wanted to have thought he had left behind forever.

The Handmiaden watched the exile through newly hooded eyes, taking note of the way he held himself and studied his surroundings. He was more than a little on edge, that much was evident in the way his eyes fleetingly darted around the walls of the Academy. She couldn't help but cock her head in confusion when he seemed to pay great attention to the slab of stone placed in the middle of the chamber beyond. As far as she knew, there was nothing of real significance behind the structure, save for the architectural tastes of the Jedi. Yet the exile studied it intently as though it were the most important thing there.

His focus soon wavered from the object, his apprehension seeming to have intensified to the point where the Handmiaden could swear that it could be felt from where she and her half sisters stood. They made no sign they had noticed anything, however, as they continued to watch the armoured human in front of them. But while the Handmiaden had taken to studying the exile, her half sisters only watched through a cold gaze, their hands resting on the handles of the quarterstaffs clipped to their belts, searching for any discernible sign of ill intent.

As if knowing he had an audience, the exile looked over his left shoulder, his peripheral vision clearly focused on the group behind him. A slight smile stretched across his lips briefly before he turned back to his front. The Handmaiden almost gasped in surprise, but steeled herself as she settled back to studying the man in front of her. Though it was impossible to tell where his peripheral vision had been focused, she couldn't shake the feeling that he had been looking not at her half-sisters, but at her specifically, the smile almost a displayed indication that he knew she had been watching him. It was the type of thing only an Echani would be able to pick up on and though part of her wanted to dismiss the action as impossible, another felt that it was not so implausible and wanted to discover the secret to such an observation.

The opening of a large pair of doors beyond the council chamber drew all eyes to the sight of a white robed woman moving on a long catwalk that connected her private mediation room to the council area. While the Echani servants bowed at the approach of the Master of the Academy, the exile was not so respectful.

"Atris." The whispered word fell Kaelan's lips as though it were poison, a ripple of rage briefly escaping him through the Force, now that he knew why the presence was so familiar, before he suppressed it. He couldn't afford to start a confrontation until he knew what game the Jedi historian was playing.

"So," Atris said once she was standing in the chamber entrance, a hand tucking a stray strand of white hair behind her ear, "The exile resurfaces. I would have thought you to at least be wise enough to accept the council's judgement and take the path of the outcast. Yet, after so many years, you have come before the Jedi once more. Why?"

Kaelan narrowed his eyes at the woman, "You speak of wisdom? I wonder, are you using the word as it is meant to be used, or are you referring to the Jedi's interpretation? The one that would have gladly seen the outer-rim burn during the Mandalorian Wars."

"So," Atris spoke venomously, "You still hold to your flawed convictions, unable to admit that the Council was right, both in its decision to urge caution during the war and for exiling someone like you."

"Someone like me?" The suppressed rage threatened to burst to the surface, but Kaelan kept it contained, siphoning bits and pieces of it to his words as he continued. "You mean someone who was willing to fight a threat that was tearing its way through the Republic, while others merely sat and watched?"

Atris shook her head briefly before fixating narrowed eyes on the exile. "You said the same thing so long ago, I didn't believe then and I do not believe it now!"

"You don't believe it?" Kaelan spoke, quelling his angry tone in favour of disbelief that someone would even try to refute a statement that was an undeniable fact. "Shall I describe it to you? Hundreds of Mandalorian warships maintaining a low, geosynchronous orbit above a Republic planet, their turbolaser batteries unleashing their deadly payload. Blue fire streaking towards the surface,...targeting, not just the military bases in major cities, but the urban centres themselves. Soldiers and civilians alike crying out in horror, a feeling that echoed through the Force." His sad recollection of the attack on the Zabrak colonies in the Outer-Rim vanished, replaced by an expression of rage. "And the only Force Sensitives to even feel it were the Revanchists, for the echoes did not reach as far into the Republic as Coruscant!"

Even Atris seemed momentarily taken aback at his recollection, only to recover her icy exterior and fire off a scathing, lecturing retort of her own. "Every choice we make sends echoes through the Force, it can awaken feelings and ignite passions- hate, anger- where no such things existed before. By going to war, by meeting Mandalorian aggression with your own, you only served to feed their appetite for war. Your actions only served to create those terrible echoes, forging sensations that made you and the other Jedi lose their way. That is undoubtedly why you turned on us."

"Do not," Kaelan spoke slowly and sharply, "Accuse any of the Revanchists of being betrayers. Such a title belongs to the Jedi alone."

"We did not betray you." Atris interjected immediately, her face twisting in anger. "Do not place your crimes on other's shoulders, when you only have yourself to blame."

"Oh no?" The veteran responded to the former historian's first statement, completely disregarding her second. He paused for just a moment, unconsciously letting his fingers brush against the lightsaber hilt hidden in his cloak- he had never surrendered it to the Academy Handmaidens. "I still remember the most pathetic decision of the High Council during the war," Kaelan continued, "Their attempt to force the Revanchists to disband on Cathar. Revan and Malak had led most of our number there, seeking the evidence we so desperately needed to convince you that our decision was the only decision."

A snort of disgust escaped the exile while he locked eyes with Atris, "Malak explained what happened once I had rejoined with the others, but even then I still found it hard to believe. To think, that when it came to the Mandalorians and the millions of innocents left burning in their wake, you did nothing. But when it came to arresting the 'renegade crusaders' you were more than willing to jump into the fray. If that is not a betrayal Atris, I do not know what is."

"Without you and the other Jedi to support Revan's crusade, we would not have needed to demand your organization's dissolution! If you had only heeded the Council, Revan's crusade would have been over before it began."

"Do you really believe that?" Kaelan replied with a shake of his head at the woman's ignorance. "Revan is the very definition of a leader, his charismatic nature is both powerful and undeniable, it would have given him just as many followers. Whether I answered the call or not is irrelevant!" The veteran took a moment to try and regain some semblance of containment over his anger before continuing in a quieter voice. "I wonder if this is the same type of reasoning you used to make your decision on my exile, it would explain quite a bit."

Atris scoffed at him, "What did you expect us to do? Your crimes were far to numerous to name in one Council session, I would have thought even you would realize we were being merciful."

It was the exile's turn to scoff, "Your definition of mercy would put a Sith Lord to shame. What you did to me was nothing short of a second betrayal. The one time I came to you for assistance and you spat in my face, not even bothering to listen to what I was saying!"

"There was much about that day that was difficult to decipher- your motivation, your words, your defiance..." Atris trailed off, withdrawing a lightsaber hilt from the belt of her robes. "And when you threw your lightsaber into the centre stone." The lightsaber in her grip activated with a snap-hiss, an orange blade appearing from the end.

Impossible, Kaelan thought as he eyed the lightsaber hilt in her grasp, finding the design of it all too familiar. His denial was short lived, however, the moment he saw the activated blade's colour. It was the very lightsaber he had been forced to part with on Coruscant so many years ago.

"I have kept it," Atris continued with a slightly softer voice than before, her eyes focusing on the blade as well. "So I would never forget your arrogance or your insult to the Order."

The former High Council member's words did not register to Kaelan. The sheer disrespect in any Jedi handling his weapon, not to mention Atris herself, was beyond words. He didn't even bother to try to contain his anger anymore, he immersed in the feeling. "You know the conditions I set for that blade's retrieval from the stone." Kaelan said, his tone frosty enough to make the polar region temperatures seem tropical. "Conditions, we both know from our earlier conversation, have not been met!"

The exile's hand had moved to withdraw his new lightsaber with a speed only an enraged Force Sensitive could achieve, the green blade snapping to life at the end of his sentence. Atris' eyes grew wide as she stared at the lightsaber, though the shock only lasted for a brief second before she was screaming for her Handmaidens to come to her aid. Kaelan had expected the action and was already channelling the Force into his left hand as he turned to face the archway entrance behind him.

Five of the Handmaidens were in view before he unleashed his gathered power, the strength behind the Force Push more than enough to fling the Echani servants into the rotunda he and his companions had originally entered. Their bodies hit the ground with a distant thud, their unconscious forms unmoving. Kaelan didn't spare them another glance as he looked back at Atris, his expression the very symbol of pure fury while he slowly advanced toward the historian. He took satisfaction in the sight of her taking more than a few steps back before she seemed to scold herself and stood her ground.

"There is no word in any language I know to accurately describe such insolence." Kaelan spoke in the same deathly cold tone, his lightsaber raised to an attack position at the end of his speech. The thought that he might not be up for such a confrontation under his current state crossed his mind, but he discarded it and continued forward. The woman would answer for what she had done to him, his rage demanded nothing less.

"Exile, stop!"

The command was issued, not by Atris, but by the same Handmaiden who had first spoken to him. Her quarterstaff was held at the ready as she stood less than two metres from his right, ready to intercept his strikes with her own staff if she needed to.

Kaelan glanced at her, the look of fury he had been giving Atris turning into a neutral expression when he looked at her. His anger, strong as it was, was also focused on one person only. "Stand aside, Handmaiden. My quarrel is not with you."

She regarded him with a mixture of curiosity and surprise, for she had expected him to attack the moment he saw her interfering. "It is, if you follow through with what you are thinking. I will not allow you to bring harm to my mistress."

"Your mistress has dishonoured me in more ways than you can imagine," Kaelan countered, briefly turning to Atris before regarding the Handmiaden once more. "It will not go unpunished."

He spoke the words, but made no move to do as he said. So the Handmaiden tried again. "Perhaps it should, there is no shame in not seeking retribution."

Kaelan's brown irises switched between Atris and the Handmiaden, his gaze eventually settling on the latter. "But I made a decree, I set a condition. What good is an edict if there is no retribution promised?"

The Echani hybrid found that she didn't have an answer to that, something the exile seemed to realize, for he looked back to Atris. He took another step closer and both Atris and the Handmaiden tensed, physically preparing themselves for combat, though the Handmaiden knew she was not so focused mentally. "Exile, don't do it."

"I don't want to fight you Handmiaden."

She merely frowned in answer, "Then don't."

Several seconds passed in silence, with the Handmaiden beginning to believe she had failed in preventing the attack before the exile's lightsaber snapped off. He glanced once more at the Handmaiden, the ghost of a smile given to her before he turned to Atris and the expression vanished. "She saved your life." Kaelan said with a flick of his head to the Echani.

The veteran moved out of the council chamber, stopping at the centre stone. "I know you have my ship Atris, I'm taking it back and setting my companions free." He paused to turn around and face her, "Don't get in my way."

"Fine," Atris spat, using her anger to help mask her fear at what had almost transpired minutes earlier, "I don't care where you go, just leave this place. Leave Telos."

"Believe me," Kaelan said, eyes flashing and briefly displaying the rage he had forcibly contained once again, "It will be a pleasure."

The Handmaiden watched the exile leave, wondering how he could possibly contain his anger as much as he did. She pushed the thoughts out of her mind, however, when she caught sight of Atris' troubled expression. "Mistress, are you alright?"

A few moments passed before the Academy Master turned to face her, a loud sigh escaping Atris' lips. "The Exile brought up feelings...best left forgotten."

"Forgive me for asking this mistress, but I have never seen another effect you so strongly. Was he important to you once?"

Atris was silent for a time, still watching Kaelan's retreating form. When she finally did talk, her voice was little more than a whisper. "We all have our heroes, and when we watch them fall, we lose a bit of ourselves." She paused for several moments before turning to the Handmaiden, "I have a task for you."

"What would you have me do mistress?" The Echani hybrid eagerly asked after bowing to her mistress, hoping the assignment would take her away from the Academy for awhile. She hadn't performed a task in weeks and her half-sisters were starting to grate on her nerves once again.

"I'm far from convinced that the Exile is not collaborating with the Sith. I need you to stow aboard his ship, gain his trust, and report to me on his activities. Something has changed within him since the last time I saw him. I don't know what it is, but I know that I do not like it."

"I hear and obey mistress," The Handmiaden responded with a final bow before moving toward the Ebon Hawk to carry out her instructions.

Kaelan stood inside the main hold of the Ebon Hawk, trying to work up the nerve to go on. He had freed his companions from their containment within Force Cages recovered everyone's weapons, and found the astromech droid he had almost forgotten about, T3-M4. Now the ship was accelerating away from Telos' surface with Atton determined to at least make a micro-jump out of the system before they conferred on their next course of action. The exile had easily relented, more than determined to put some distance between the Telosian Academy and himself.

"So," Atton said as he moved out of the cockpit and into the main hold, "The ship's holding position two light years from the ice box we so reluctantly departed. Where to now?"

"It does not matter where we go at the moment," Kreia's spoke from her position near the port dormitory corridor, "For now it would be best to find a place to rest and recuperate."

Atton glanced at the woman with a frown, "You might not know the ways of the galaxy, your Eminence, but I can tell you that it really does matter where you go."

"I already have our next destination in mind," Kaelan interjected absentmindedly, his interruption timely enough that it stopped Kreia from forming her own retort to the smuggler's remark.

Bao-Dur looked at his friend, silently wondering what had happened to him inside the Academy. He had returned to them seething with such rage that no-one, not even HK-47, had spoken until they had boarded the Ebon Hawk. Before the Zabrak could put his concern into words however, the small astromech droid next to the storage hold started twittering madly.

"You did what?" The exile asked with confusion, only having caught half of the utility droid's excited chatter.

"You were able to slice into Atris' database?" Kaelan asked for confirmation once the droid had repeated himself. With the droid's affirmative beep, the veteran pressed for information. "Well, what did you find?"

The exile's expression turned to a familiar one of anger at T3's explanation. "She had a copy of my trial record? A pity she never played the damn thing to refresh her failing memory," Kaelan hissed, the sight of her gripping his lightsaber just wouldn't leave his mind. "Play it, T3."

Bao-Dur was quick to notice his friend's anger was intensifying and thought it best if he refrained from dwelling on bad memories at the moment. "General, under the circumstances maybe it's best if you gave it some time."

"It doesn't matter anymore Bao-Dur," Kaelan responded, letting his friend know that he couldn't get much angrier. Looking back to the astromech, he nodded at the utility droid to continue with his previous order.

After T3 uploaded the holo-record into the Ebon Hawk's systems, the shimmering blue representation of the High Council appeared for all eyes to see. Twelve seats encircled a slab of stone, with only five of them occupied. Lonna Vash, Vrook Lamar, Kavar, Zez-Kai Ell, and Atris all turned their gaze away from each other, at the sound of the Council doors opening, and toward a Jedi robed wearing Kaelan Nalto.

Holo-Kaelan stopped only a few steps into the chamber, immediately taking a tactical advantage by forcing the Masters to face him, rather than stand in the middle of their circle and feel surrounded, as was standard custom.

"Do you know why we have summoned you here?"

A raised brow met the gruff, demanding voice of Master Vrook. He recalled the High Council issuing similar 'summons' to Revan, Malak, and the rest of the Revanchists. Clearly, they were not about to heed such a call. It was an observation Holo-Kaelan was tempted to say outloud but knew that he could not if he wanted this encounter to work in his favour. Even so, however, he was not about to let the Council think they could dictate terms to him. "I returned to Coruscant because I made a choice to do so, not because I flocked to your summons."

Vrook's eyes narrowed at Holo-Kaelan's choice of words, but Kavar spoke up before the aging Master could form a retort. "As Revan called to you during the war, you have answered our recall to come full circle and return to the Jedi."

Holo-Kaelan gave the slightest of nods to his old friend, silently conveying his thanks for attempting to reword his earlier statement in the way that seemed balanced to both himself and the Council.

"Why did you defy us?" Zez-Kai Ell said after switching his gaze away from Kavar. "The Jedi are guardians of the peace and have been for centuries."

Briefly closing his eyes to fight the swell of rage that threatened to spill out of him at a question he had already given his reasons to countless times, the former Republic General took a deep breath before answering. "Exactly Master, Jedi are guardians of the peace. But I think we can all agree that war is not a peaceful affair. With the Mandalorians invading the Republic, there was no longer any peace in the galaxy by any sense of the word. The Revanchists did what you failed to do, fight to restore a peace that no longer existed. We were peace-makers."

"The term of a delusional, conflict loving individual trying to justify his own lost cause."

Both Kaelan and his holographic counterpart fixated narrowed eyes on Atris at her outburst, though it was Holo-Kaelan who put the anger into words. "Interesting statement coming from one who labels themself a guardian but fails to safeguard the very thing they swore to defend."

The historian looked to be on the verge of jumping to her feet at his words, but steeled herself and fired off her own retort instead. "Is Revan your Master now? Or is it the horror your wrought at Malachor that finally caused you to see the truth?"

A growl escaped the former Republic General at Atris' words, her implication quite clear. As far as she was concerned, he was either a spy sent by Revan to infiltrate the Jedi Order or else a man seeking atonement for his part in the Mandalorian Wars. "Neither of those apply to me, I have returned here for-,"

"We know exactly why you are here," Vrook interrupted sharply, "But we did not give you an audience to listen to your requests. We cannot give you what you seek."

Holo-Kaelan was finding it a strenuous task to keep from lashing out at the arrogant Masters in front of him. They called themselves self-less, but when one of their own came seeking assistance, they turned him down. "Then why exactly am I here?"

"To face the Council's decree," Zez-Kai Ell replied. "Know that there is no turning back from our judgement."

"You are exiled," Lonna Vash announced, "You are a Jedi no longer."

The veteran stood, almost numbly, for a few seconds, before the woman's words finally registered. Without a word, lest he show them how much anger he truly had inside him, Holo-Kaelan turned to make his exit.

He was just shy of the entrance to the chamber when Vrook's voice rang out in the chamber. "There is one last thing. Your lightsaber, surrender it to us."

Knowing he wouldn't be able to get out of the temple before he did as demanded, and knowing he no longer had the Force by his side to even attempt a resistance, the exile withdrew his lightsaber from his robe belt. He studied the weapon one last time, before activating it and turning back around to face the Council.

With a cry portraying but a taste of the rage he felt inside, Kaelan threw the lightsaber like a javelin. Even without his command of the Force, his aim was true, and his form, perfect; the orange blade impacted dead centre into the slab of stone, the hilt slowly lowering to the ground as the energy weapon burned through the rock.

"When you have cast aside both your arrogance and the veil blinding your eyes, and allow yourselves to see the truth of the Mandalorian Wars then, and only then, may you lay a hand on my lightsaber and remove it from the stone. If your past and current behaviour is any indication, I suspect it will be in there for a very long time."

Growling in a final display of anger, Kaelan sharply turned around and marched out of the Council chamber, never once looking back.

"Much defiance in that one," Kavar spoke softly, his eyes lingering on the lightsaber still burning through the stone.

"Indeed," Zez-Kai Ell said with an equally pensive expression, "When he was here I felt as though he were not really there, as if he was nothing more than a shadow."

"The war has touched the youngest of our order," Lonna Vash spoke in agreement, "Many of them have lost themselves fighting the Mandalorians."

Atris spared her fellow Council members a surprised look, mentally sneering at their misplaced compassion. "We have not lost a Jedi this day. He merely walked Revan's path, but turned back when he realized when he was not strong enough."

"Perhaps," Zez-Kai Ell said doubtfully, "Though I cannot help but fear that the teachings of our Order may have guided Revan toward his chosen path."

"We are not the ones who taught him," Atris stated sharply, clearly offended by the very thought.

"We take responsibility Atris," Lonna reprimanded just as sharply, turning to face her fellow Council member, "Not cast blame."

"It was the choice of the individual to take the path they did," The historian continued, trying to persuade them along her line of thinking. "Which is why the exile fell to the darkside."

Lonna shook her head at Atris' remark, "No, the darkside is not what I sensed in him. It is just as you mentioned Zez-Kai Ell, that sense of emptiness...he has changed."

"Whatever that 'wound' was," Atris spoke with nothing short of dismissal at the comments of her fellow Council members, "It was of the darkside. Casting him out of the Order may prove unwise, he will most likely just join Revan again."

"I do not believe so Atris," Kavar said with a glance at the place his friend had once stood. "This one walks a different path. Where he travels, he carries his destination with him."

"We should have told him the truth," Lonna said with a sigh, "A Jedi deserves to know."

Vrook shook his head immediately, "No good would have come from it, even if what you believe is true."

"But he may never know the truth and will never discover the basis for our decision."

"Then that is the future we must accept."

"Those Jedi sure love their secrets don't they?" Atton asked, trying to penetrate the uncomfortable silence that followed after the holographic record ended.

For his part, Kaelan couldn't have been more wrong when he had thought that he couldn't get much angrier after his encounter with Atris. To know that the Council had not only exiled him for reasons different from what they gave and that they were withholding vital information from him had increased his fury to the point where he felt as though an inferno of rage were blazing within his veins. Just when he felt the need to smash something to try and quell his anger, a familiar presence could be felt through the Force.

A quick look to Kreia showed what he had expected, that she had sensed the disruption too. Stretching out again, the outcast felt some of his anger slip away as he recognized the presence. "You may as well announce your arrival now," Kaelan spoke with a voice loud enough to reach the person he could sense inside the ship's garage. "I know you're there."

Only a few seconds ticked by before the Handmaiden who had stopped Kaelan's assault on Atris strolled into the mainhold. Her stride was confident, though her expression was wary when she caught sight of the exile, clearly not expecting to have been detected before she wished. "How did you know?"

Kaelan only smiled slightly at her, tilting his head at her in way that let the Echani know that she already knew the answer.

While the former General felt comfortable in the woman's presence, it was a feeling not shared by all of his crew. "You again?" Atton spoke up in both exasperation and wariness, "What are you trying to do? Steal the ship back?"

"My mistress no longer has an interest in your vessel," The Handmaiden replied with narrowed eyes at the smuggler, "So neither do I."

"Great," Atton spoke with a voice dripping in sarcasm, "Then, to what do we owe this distinctive honour?"

"I have come to join you," She said in response to Atton's query- oblivious to the sarcasm-, though she had turned to regard Kaelan. "I can assist you in your journey."

"Well, we don't want your help," Atton responded firmly, eyes narrowing at the thought of just how many of the Echani servants had been at the Telosian Academy. He started glancing at the branching corridors around them, as though afraid the others would emerge, "Or any of your sisters."

Rolling her eyes at the pilot's less than subtle attempt to see if her half-sisters had accompanied her, the Handmiaden assured him it was just her. She brought her gaze back to the exile, awaiting his judgment and finding herself hoping he would accept her, and not just to fulfil her mistress' tasking.

Kaelan regarded her for a moment longer, simply nodding at her several seconds later. "I accept your proposal."

"Indeed?" Kreia said with a scowl directed at the exile, her disapproving tone showing what she thought of the issue. "Perhaps it would be better to evaluate the situation more thoroughly before making a final decision." She didn't even bother waiting for Kaelan's response, however, as she continued. "I grow weary of this, I will retire to my chambers."

The veteran merely watched Kreia's retreating form, shrugging to himself and turning back to Bao-Dur when he noticed the Zabrak looking at him expectantly. "What?"

"I asked where our next destination was, General."

All too soon, the rage Kaelan had left momentarily forgotten came flowing back to him as the reality of their situation returned. "We're going to have a talk with some bounty hunters. Atton," He said as he turned to face the pilot, "Set our course for Nar Shadaa."

Smiling at the command, Atton moved to head back to the cockpit, but stopped just before leaving the mainhold. "Oh and if she's coming with us, she gets the cargo hold." He turned to face her with a scowl, "Might remind her how fun it is to get locked up."

The Handmiaden, however, was unfazed by the smuggler's declaration. "The cargo hold will be adequate, I need little in the way of accommodations."

"Perhaps so," Kaelan continued, looking at her curiously. "But, despite what Atton may think, this is not his ship. You are more than welcome to the normal accommodations."

"That...will not be necessary," The Echani hybrid said slowly, clearly not expecting him to say such a thing.

"As you wish," The outcast responded, watching the Handmiaden depart for her new lodging.

Bao-Dur glanced at his friend with a smile, "Now that that's over, I think I'll start some repairs on this bucket. It's not exactly in the best of shape."

A faint flicker of amusement appeared on Kaelan's face as he turned to face the Zabrak. "On the ship for less than five minutes and, already, you've found problems?"

Bao-Dur chuckled, "You'd be surprised General."

A slight smile met the Zabrak's statement, "Not really."

With that said, the Zabrak mechanic left to see if he could start upgrading the ship. Kaelan stayed a moment longer, eyes fixated on the corridor the Handmaiden had departed to before he shook his head and started moving to the room he had claimed as his own shortly before their arrival on Telos; the security room.
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