IT’S A TRAP!
Natunda, the 10th of Elona. 250 ABY
In space around Nubia
The black night of space was peaceful around the planet Nubia, looking graceful as the more populous cities began to rouse themselves from slumber, creating a twinkling dance of lights across the surface. High above these cities, although it was too small to be seen by the naked eye from such a distance, Nubia's shipyards orbited the planet in sync with its primary producer. In the distance, the patrols were making their way around the curve of the planet, ready for the morning dose of traffic. Soon the sky would be filled with transports and starships, incoming freighters and on today's agenda, the departure of a brand-new starship berthed at the shipyard, a commission for an Ithorian scientist of some repute.
A bright speck of light began moving away from the dark form of the shipyards, an event barely noticeable to the naked eye but clearly visible on dozens of high-tech scanners throughout the system. As it grew closer, the light could be recognized as an object. A ship. A trio of engines at its rear, firing —in what must have been a deafening roar inside— brightly as the ship shot away from the planet. Off the port side of the vessel, which appeared to be completely intact, a few dangling cables and wires could be seen, evidence of its rough departure from the shipyard. Yet before any observer could question the reason for such a departure, the dark form of the shipyards suddenly exploded into a blaze of light.
Literally, it exploded.
Bright bursts of fire could be seen exiting the station, only to be snuffed out as the atmosphere was emptied into the cold of space. Those on the station had little time to learn how to adapt to the sudden lack of oxygen, an instant later their compartments and components were reduced to small pieces of debris in a dazzling show of fireworks. The attached docks, now listing and beginning to spin away from the doomed shipyards, began their own series of explosions, the blasts originating from inside the structure. Like a long, undulating string of dominoes, the explosions had set off one after another, never yielding or stopping until the entirety of the shipyards were completely annihilated, leaving nothing but debris and a long list of damages that someone was sure to be sued for.
For a moment, it seemed like nothing had changed, as if shipyards exploding was a normal day of business in the Nubia system. The starship drew closer, near enough to pick out the red and grey colors on the vessel's elongated triangular shape. A studious observer might make it out as a Republic cruiser, but that wouldn't have made any sense, those ships were all scrapped long before the dawn of the New Republic. Nevertheless, the Consular-class ship continued on its way as the rest of Nubia held its breath. Then the system exploded with activity.
Patrol ships suddenly changed course, veering to head off the escaping vessel. Starfighters launched from hangers around the planet, yet while their nimble engines were faster than the Consular's own, their pilots had to push the thrust to the maximum in a desperate attempt to beat the starship's head start. Traffic was diverted to avoid more civilian casualties of another potential attack, leaving military ships free to engage the ever-speeding cruiser. And among the dark backdrop of the stars, a small, silver-shaped bullet slipped into the cruiser's wake, just far enough away to have escaped detection before now. Red lasers lanced out from the silver starship, veering wildly off the cruiser's bow in a clear form of message.
The three engines of the Old Republic’s fast frigate burned an intense blue against the tenebrous vacuum of space. On board the ship was a flurry of activity not seen since more than two centuries before -- or a week in the case of the ship’s five remaining original crew members, harkening back to memories of alarms sounding throughout the vessel upon sighting of a Separatist ship. In those days, twenty clone trooper marines had pounded through the hallways, taking their station in the turbolaser turrets or the armory in preparation for what history had come to term the Clone Wars.
Now there was no uniformed crew, and only one clone left of what had been a grand army of the Republic. This was a ship that owed allegiance and loyalty to none, for none still lived who remembered it. The flag of the Republic no longer waved. The last chorus of ‘All Stars Burn As One’ had faded into memory. And yet, this was a ship intended to go to war and it was still capable of doing battle.
“Kur, keep our flank to that Nubian cruiser. We can handle the smaller ones.”
Managing the chaos inherent to war was a small boy. From the bridge of the ship, the young Anzat Jedi slung a headset over his ear and immediately became issuing orders over the intercom. “Colonel, Daiya, into the lower turrets,” the little veteran of foreign wars snapped, in a tone that was shockingly resolute and uncompromising for someone who looked as young as he did. Making his way through the circular hallways to a ladderwell, the Jedi added, “Three, topside, with me.”
As he crawled into the turret of the turbolaser battery to the port side of the ship’s uppermost deck, the young Anzati had to adjust his bearings to an entirely different gravity, as the alignment was altered so that what had been directionally ‘up’ before now felt as though it was naturally straight ahead of him. “Doctor Mir, please join TwoOneBee in the medlab. If we need you, we’re gonna need you fast,” the boy cautioned aloud, as he strapped into the turret seat and began adjusting the targeting settings. Cycling the weapon through a series of tests, the small Jedi set his hands on the trigger and adjusted his headset.
“Everyone stay focused. There’ll be time for figuring out what happened later,” the boy said aloud, as the number of contacts on the targeting computer doubled. Then tripled. “Stannon, angle the deflector shield for that cruiser’s field of fire,” Sor-Jan ordered, as his thumb brushed over as the trigger as the first starfighter came into range. “Everyone else. Fire.”
Kur was happy to be at the controls of a ship again, but piloting combat maneuvers in an ancient hunk of junk that he had been on for less than two weeks was not particularly what he had in mind! He had no time to be angry about it, though. He would save his vitriol for another moment. Right then, he spent his time concentrated on not getting blown up. Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s not get blown up.
Happy to have two astromechs at his side giving him calculations, variations, and coordinates, his opaque red eyes scanned across the numerous screens in front of him as fast as he could. Checking his trajectories, he set a waypoint which was targeted a miniscule distance outside of the gravity well of the planet’s gravitational pull. That planet, Nubia, was sending a decent number of ships after them, waves of them to be more precise. He was receiving hail after hail and long since shunted the ignore feature over to the astromechs. Bloody idiots wouldn’t stop shooting even if I did answer.
“Stannon!” Kur yelled. “How long are the sublight engines going to be able to maintain these speeds?!”
“You don’ ‘ave ta yell, I’m righ’ ‘ere!” The bundle of fur and padded extremities yelled back. The Tynnan was keeping a close eye on several systems and moving power from one station to another, making sure to stay ahead of any surges in the power relays that could occur at any time. Within moments he excitedly, though not in a good way, gave his response: “I wouldn’ say more ‘n two minutes!”
“Two minutes, just enough to get us to the coordinates for the jump to lightspeed. You hear that, General?” Kur did what he could to perform a sharp maneuver with the slightly too bulky ship. Would’ve been easier on our damned freighter.
Somewhere on the ship, numerous pots fell at the same time and Tel scurried to pick them up. He was unsuccessful in replacing them, as more cupboards became unsecured, and more cookware went flying around the cabin. His arms were flailing in the air as he ran about in circles.
Elsewhere on the ship, a young, Human girl strode alongside a shaggy, brown-haired Wookiee. Their stroll wound through the cruiser's twisting, industrial-looking hallways, a hallmark of its military past. The pair had a peculiar appearance, with the girl's wildly curly, blonde hair, streaked with highlights of bright blue and pink, contrasting against the Wookiee's more conscious grooming, whose tousled look could barely disguise the well-kept demeanor of a former soldier. To the casual onlooker, it seemed as if neither one belonged with the other, and yet they knew each other almost intimately. A large, clawed hand rested gently on the girl's shoulder as they walked, but the giant Wookiee seemed to be the one being lead on. Even standing more than a head and shoulders taller than his companion, he seemed to sag under the weight of her rapid-fire questions.
"What was going on back there, Tawrro? The young girl, barely an adolescent by Human standards, lifted her head to peer up at her guardian. Her blue eyes hid the true intent of her questions, but she still felt sore from their recent argument. Old wounds healed slowly for her. "Why did you have me take Three back to the ship? Where did you and Sor-Jan go? What's happening?"
Taking his hand off her shoulder, the great Wookiee adjusted his baldric, the bearer of the translation device which made speaking a great deal easier with most species. "Daiya," he growled, the warbles and rolling elegance of his native speech muffled by the device's mumble-like Basic. "We went to find Mir and his friends. They stumbled into trouble with their new ship."
It was at that point that the shipboard alarms went off, the blaring sound bouncing wildly off the narrow corridors and close-quarters of the ship's interior. Daiya blinked at the Wookiee, "You mean this kind of trouble?" She started moving faster now, looking back to see Tawrro still in place. "Don't you watch holos? They're going to need us now, come on."
The soprano voice of Sor-Jan floated over the speakers. Jedi Sor-Jan, Daiya reminded herself as she rushed through the hallways, hair flying behind her, Tawrrowaldr lumbering after. Jedi Sor-Jan had said she was like him, but right now she and the Jedi weren’t much alike. He was shouting instructions, and ordering the pair to the lower turbolaser turrets. "Shit," she blurted out to nobody in particular. She reached the ship's lift and mashed the call button, hoping it was already at their floor. Things were getting real.
Tawrrowaldr's full bulk drew up beside her, and absentmindedly the girl wondered how well they were both going to fit inside the tiny lift. He interrupted her thoughts with a question of his own, "I haven't manned a ship's guns for years. You sure we don't have a crew for this?"
Daiya peered at the Wookiee for a minute, almost unbelieving of what she had heard. It took her a moment to realize that he was joking. Who thought up jokes at a time like this? Then she laughed and punched him in the arm, knowing that her hard-driven, clenched fist would feel like nothing more than a light tap to Tawrro. "We are the crew," she exclaimed at the same second as the lift opened. The pair stepped inside and made their way to the lasers.
Manning a ship's laser was like nothing she had ever experienced. The girl strapped herself in, noting that the seats were made for someone larger than herself. Grabbing the controls, she peered straight ahead, blinking furiously to try to orient herself. Though she had walked straight in the corridor, the turret was pointed down against the ventral hull, not out to the port side as she was expecting. The vastness of space was exactly where she wanted her feet to be, so having her body facing it made her feel as if the straps were the only thing keeping her from flying out. She shook her head woozily and gripped the handles of the weapon control. Soon the pursuing starfighters were closing in, like a swarm of insects just daring to be swatted. Daiya started firing.
On the roof of the starcruiser, the small clone hopped into the large, adult-sized cannoneer chair and began adjusting the settings with a practiced affinity for the task. Slipping the headset on, 3X744 swung his turret around and began textbook motion tracking the first target in his field of fire. “Here they come,” the young Fett trooper’s voice announced through the commlink. “Twelve marks at two-ten.”
Opposite the student of the Kamino weapons program, the Jedi general was meditating. The last time he had operated a turbolaser turret, the Republic had been embroiled in the Stark Hyperspace War. Without using hands, the Anzat soldier switched off the automatic targeting system. There were living beings in the craft approaching the ship, of that Sor-Jan was painfully aware. He could feel their presence, sense the thoughts of the pilots closest to his position.
The one approaching was named Xaron Hass. He was married, with a child and a second due. Xaron was strafing over the top of the ship, putting at risk the communications array and both Sor-Jan and Three’s turrets.
He died in a plume of fire quickly extinguished by the dead of space. And Sor-Jan merely swung the barrel of his turbolaser around for the next shot. In so doing, the boy-general caught a glimpse of the Nubian cruiser’s silhouette against the starlight. There was a presence there as well.
Something wicked this way comes. And without Dilly here, Sor-Jan had no intention of being in front of it. Let alone still here when it arrived. “Kur, how long until you can make the jump to lightspeed?”
Mir had made for the medbay immediately. He often wondered how useful medbays were on ships during an actual sortie in space. There were specific instances, for example if a relay overloaded and burst within the ship a fire could break out and Mir could treat a burn, or if a compartment became depressurized Mir could give oxygen or treat radiation exposure. But if any of these were necessary, they would likely have several patients simultaneously, and not only would Mir be overwhelmed, but parts of the ship would go unmanned and they would likely all be dead as a result. “Would you watch the life support systems for me... I’m sorry what’s your designation?”
“2-1B. And yes, sir.”
“Very well, 2-1B. Thank you.” Mir as the droid moved to monitor the appropriate systems, Mir began to gather the things he would need aboard a starship if he needed to administer aid immediately. “Also hook into the ship systems and be sure to check damage control. If there are any breaches, surges, or otherwise internally sources of harm, inform me immediately so that I may treat on the spot.” Mir received another dry affirmative in response.
“Just one more minute, General!” Kur shouted over his headset. With all the flashing lights, alarms, and screens appearing and disappearing, Kur didn’t have time to make sure someone heard him or not. He only knew when someone called for him. Everything else was instinct, as most pilots would tell anyone that wanted to learn. His fingers flew over the controls in front of him without even looking at the console. He checked one screen to see relative locations and projected/estimated trajectories of the fighters around them.
Another screen showed a cruiser approaching from behind and the time within which the much larger ship would have it’s big guns in range. Kur gritted his teeth when he saw how close they would be cutting it. He wouldn’t have time to fully choose a point to which the Luck’s Revenge could jump. The Duros checked the astronavigation charts that one of the R2 units was calculating. We’ll just have to risk a short one in that direction. Kur shifted the course of the ship slightly to match the line of the jump point he set.
Voices echoed in her headset, fighters whipped by the transparent cockpit of her turbolaser pit, but none of these registered on the young teenager's mind. Most of the world existed in a haze to her vision, but through it all her mind was focused like a laser. The tracking computer whistled and shouted at her, but she paid it no mind, adjusting and correcting the height and pitch of her laser. A shot fired before Daiya even registered that she had pulled the trigger, a blue laser from her weapon sliced into an incoming fighter's wing, cutting an engine clean off. Now without control, the fighter spun slightly off-course, heading toward the cruiser's salon pod. A blast from the opposing turbolaser finished it off, leaving nothing but dust and shards of metal to bounce harmlessly off the pod.
Her concentration slightly broken, Daiya uttered a shaky, "Thanks," into her headset. The reassuring voice of Tawrrowaldr came back through the other end, putting a grin on her face for only a moment. Then it was back to the task at hand. As in a firefight with regular blasters, Daiya felt as if she knew where things would be before they were there. It was something of a sixth sense, though Sor-Jan had called it the Force, but whatever it was she was grateful for the assistance. Another fighter rose up in her mind, and Daiya instinctively pulled the trigger, this time hitting it square in the fuel tanks. The fighter vanished, but three more appeared in view. This was getting too real.
Since he wasn’t using it, Sor-Jan had replaced the targeting computer screen with an internal report on the ship’s systems, allowing the young Jedi to monitor the rapid decline of the starcruiser as it continued to weather the hail of fire from the Nubian ship and the swarm of starfighters. Two additional Nubian light ships were coming into range. Statistically, this was becoming an overwhelming numbers game. “Ar-Three, we’ve lost the lateral controls and there’s a fire on Deck Three,” the general announced through his headset, calming bringing attention to the ship’s internal damage as the Jedi calmly manned the turbolaser turret. In a different era, there had been eight astromech droids for the care, upkeep, and maintenance of the ship. The Separatists had managed to destroy one of those, and that had been the Battle of Duro. Five had been lost during the in-fighting that had broken out when the clones had turned on Three, and then on Sor-Jan. That left two droids for a ship intended for a minimum complement of four.
Stannon watched the yellow astromech droid pop it’s front leg out and wheel away off of the bridge. “Kur!” he yelled at his friend.
“Now who’s yelling!” Kur had the screen up with the cruiser’s range and firing distance up constantly and was watching the timer go down. He had stopped nearly all of his maneuvering to simply put as much direct velocity into their escape as he could, letting whoever was on the guns do their job and try to keep the fighters around them off their ass. It wasn’t working as well as he would have liked. “Almost there...” Kur said under his breath. The number went from green to yellow.
“Kur!” Stannon yelled again, also watching the same number countdown, now from yellow to red.
“Almost there...” A new alarm went off away from the Duros’ field of vision. “Now!” Kur hit the hyperdrive.
A window opened and swallowed the Luck’s Revenge. A red laser bolt passed straight through the spot that the ship had previously inhabited up until nanoseconds beforehand, but instead of striking its made target, it passed harmlessly by, fading into the distance to fizzle and die, it’s purpose lost.
Last edited by Captain Jordan; 09-03-2013 at 05:50 PM.
“Nobody knows... the trouble I’ve seen...”
Atunda, the 11th of Elona. 250 ABY.
Aboard the Lady Vicar’s Nubian Cruiser
There still wasn’t much to go off. Shenn was stuck. Four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The only furnishings were a slightly-less-than-adequate ‘fresher that lacked any walls, taking away any semblance of privacy, and a flimsy cot that barely held his weight. Luckily, or unluckily, but Shenn preferred to stay positive, his meals were hardly filling and he doubted whether they would sustain most humans for very long. Shenn, of course, had some fat stored to spare. By his reckoning, he had been there less than a week, though his reckoning meant little, considering no one who visited him cared what time it was.
A guard came by once in awhile to drop off food. The time increments were almost exactly even, so even if Shenn wanted to, he couldn’t tell if it was day or night judging by food cycles. The only other person who came to by see him was Sankt Yora, and all she seemed to want to do, at least for the time being, was psychological warfare. She, a Church Bishop, was the one who had kidnapped Shenn; or arrested for compliance with criminals, aiding and abetting, and any number of other charges that the Church of the One Force’s judicial system on Coruscant deemed reason enough to allow for Shenn to be put into such a position. He knew quite well that it didn’t take much.
He also knew he was a special case.
Shenn sat on his cot, still wearing the same clothes he had been in when this Lady Vicar had abducted him. He believed that he had been moved once. The first location he had been held only had a chair in it and was probably just for temporary questioning. The old Chandrilan took that to mean that he was being processed through some system on Coruscant and then Yora could take him wherever she pleased. He had been drugged for a time, which was the basis for this assumption, but, of course, being in a cell with no windows, there was little to go off and there was no way to tell if any of his assumptions would prove true.
He did know, however, that he was on a ship. The room was well proofed to cut a majority of the sounds and feels of flying through space. But in a smaller ship, the vessel’s engine reverberated through the every panel, regardless of any other measures taken. The room design was a little surprising, if his assumptions proved true. Black floors, off-white and sloped walls, the shape of the doors and even the open-face fresher. It bore an incredible resemblance to a Nubia StarDrives model, though he couldn’t recall ever seeing any that carried a prison block in them, even more surprising for how small he assumed the ship to be, for him to be able to pick up on the engines as it were.
From her vantage point against a wall of the cell block, she could easily peer into the cramped cell and its sole occupant. The old man had taken in his new surroundings with such aplomb, well befitting the rusty soldier, yet his graceful acceptance was not the goal of such internment. A wave of anger rolled through her, but she let it pass. There was little room for emotion when dealing with such an attentive foe. Using her shoulder to push away from the wall, the Falleen stood straight, placing herself within the prisoner's view. Her mouth twitched, whether from ego or in anticipation of something else, it wasn't clear.
"Comfortable, my dear Mr. Rosham?" She approached the cell effortlessly, as if floating more than walking. Yora peered at his appearance, still unchanged from the day she'd had him taken from his battered little tavern on Coruscant. His well-groomed front had decayed in the last few days, his clothes looked a little stiffer, his hair a bit greasier. "Your comfort is my utmost concern at the moment. I insisted that you be well treated, only the best for my," she spoke the next words with absolute sincerity though she meant nothing of the kind, "esteemed guest."
“I’ve been in worse,” Shenn responded to her, making a show out of looking around the accommodations. “At least the room is clean. And the food is better than military rations anyway.” He looked back at the lithe Falleen woman. “And how does the day suit you, milady?” He stood from his cot and made a mock bow with one arm to his midriff.
"Splendid, just splendidly!" Clapping her hands, the Bishop allowed her charge to see a glimmer of emotion. Then the facade returned, masking her behind a wall of stony, green scales. "But we must do something about these accommodations. They simply won't do for a man of your stature, don't you agree?"
Yora hardly waited for a response, counting on his ego and her own, natural pheromones to lead him on, "Why don't you tell me about your friend, Mr. Nehrahn? Tell me all about him, and I'll see that you're given a warm bath and some decent food, something to put a bright smile on your face. What do you say?"
Shenn smiled, mostly out of spite to his captor, he made sure it was as jovial as he was known for. “I hear he drinks a lot of water. Ithorians, you know. Not very up on drinking alcohol, even when they visit a bar.”
With a toss of her dark brown locks, Yora threw back her head and laughed. "A tidbit will get you a morsel, Mr. Rosham," she chided. She stared into his face, her steely expression never betraying the increase in pheromones she was producing, birthing to the air for the singular purpose of invading the mind of her prisoner to bend it to her will. "Come now, you know how the information business works. You give me what I need, and I give you what you need."
Shenn used the opportunity to push farther away from the topic at hand. He knew that the Lady Vicar was fluent with the Force arts. The more he could dodge her line of questioning, the less information he would accidentally give away just by thinking about it. “What I need is quite a sensitive topic, is it not?” He clasped his hands behind his back and started slowly pacing about the room, as if in thought. “What I need is to leave your pleasant company. But I don’t see that happening while I yet live and neither do you. This isn’t a business. This is a death sentence. It was the moment you walked into my bar.”
"You wound me!" The Falleen placed her hand on her chest, a gesture that any Human would have associated with the heart. Her hearts were hardly all contained within the chest cavity, that was hopeless physiological simplification that her species had evolved past long ago. Yet the gesture seemed effective for some, and played well into Yora's love of theatrics. "And here I thought you and I were beginning to become good friends, Mr. Rosham."
Shenn, scathing or not, still had a smile on his face. “No, ma’am. I’d say that this relationship will leave us at nothing more than acquaintances. Though if you’d like to break down some barriers, how about we share? I would love to know how you came into possession of a vessel from the Nubian StarDrives.”
"A gift," she explained, "from a good friend. Something like what your Mr. Nehrahn gave me." Drawing out a small device, Yora held it out in front of her. She gave a little chuckle, "You see, I got to know your Ithorian friend rather well. He told me everything I needed, and then, well, just watch." With a short-clawed finger, the Falleen activated the device, producing a hologram of the starship that had been commissioned by the Ithorian. Around the ship, the structure of the shipyards was visible. The holo began to move, stars moving by as it tumbled from some unknown force, before the shipyard exploded around the starship, compelling the overwhelmed vessel to do the same.
"Yes," Yora cooed, fully opening the pores that released her pheromones now. She watched Shenn's face, tapping into the Force to see him beyond what her eyes could receive, the being before her now raw, exposed. "He and his three, little friends are nothing but atoms now, floating on a solar breeze."
Shenn tried to watch the video with apprehension. He tried not to pay attention as the ship exploded. He tried not to think of the crew that was on that ship. But something prevented him. Something beyond his control forced him to watch, and he couldn’t help his mind from wandering. Shenn strained against it, but he couldn’t help but feel grief for the friends that he might have lost. He knew that this woman wouldn’t be above using falsified footage, but the emotions were there nonetheless. He also began feeling fear. She only said three friends, he thought.
She could feel his fear bursting from his frail, Human shell. Yora breathed it in like a fragrant scent, a pleased expression on her face. And yet she hesitated, for something was wrong. His fear was segmented, fractured by another emotion. Relief? the Bishop pondered, her eyes searching his face as if it were written there. Reaching into him with her mind, the Force gave her an eerie look into the storm of rampant emotions that her prisoner felt. Wading through his thoughts, she plucked one and sorted it, looking for the errant thread that would explain this madness, this annoying thorn in an otherwise perfect defeat.
Human minds were tragically mislaid, rarely very organized at all, she found. Thoughts relating to Shenn's Ithorian friend were tucked away next to information from what appeared to be the old barkeep's homeworld. An amusing association, though irrelevant. She sifted through memories of Shenn with the blue Ortolan that had been on the shipyards as well, both creatures seemed to reside in the same, low-class bar on Coruscant. Then a glimmer, something caught her eye, and Yora reached for the memory. Something resisted her, tugging it away, hiding it behind others, but she persisted and called upon all her tricks to distort and distract the Human's mind as she worked. Finally, fluttering and struggling against her might, the memory was dragged to the surface.
A young girl featured prominently, Human from the looks of her, who often patronized Shenn's bar. What's more, this Daiya T'aemin appeared to share a special connection with the prisoner. Yora felt the adrenaline rushing through her system, this could be the bait she needed to get through to Shenn. As she watched, the Falleen saw Shenn's memory recall the departure of this girl with Mir and the others. Good, she thought, Now I know just where to find her. But while she was withdrawing from his mind, another thought caught her attention. Shenn himself barely registered as a blip with the Force, much less as someone who could communicate with it. Yet this girl, she could. Yora could see it through Shenn's eyes, he recognized the signs from his own dealings with Jedi, as did she from her own. This Daiya was exactly who Yora was looking for.
Shenn felt himself sweat. He wanted to twist but all he could do was contort his face in anguish. Whatever the Disciple was doing to him was not pleasant. His head was splitting, as if being slammed into with a sharp, metal rod. He couldn’t help it. The hologram was playing on repeat. Watching the ship blow up, over and over, the things the woman told him. His mind raced with memories and thoughts and feelings. He couldn’t help it.
And then there she was. Daiya’s smiling face. Shenn could see her almost too clearly. He did everything he could to close down that portion of his mind, but he knew it was too late. Whatever safeguards he had tried to come up with in his mind hadn’t kept the girl safe. Shen could only hope that the girl was alright. That she would stay alright. He could feel Yora release him and he gasped, not realizing that he hadn’t breathed. He fell to the floor, hands wet and slipping to hit his face on the cold floor.
Sighing, Yora smiled at the prone form of the old man. "Thank you, Mr. Rosham." She shook her head, Humans were far too frail. Feeling her own fatigue at the effort expended in pursuit of her victory, the Falleen departed from the room, making her way through her vessel's corridors. Sinking into the molded chair in her favorite spot, she waved a green-scaled hand at her attendant. "Tell the captain to contact the Cerulean Palace on Pantora. There’s an old friend I need to speak with."
HoloNet News Report Volume 803 03
Altunda, 16th of Elona
Lively music plays as the three-letter HNN logo flashes on the screen, expanding into its full HoloNet News name. A disembodied voice speak over the music, proudly exclaiming, "This is the HoloNet News." The letters seemed to slant and then accelerated off the screen, as if jumping to lightspeed. As the picture dissolves from the imagery, the camera switches to footage from a violent explosion.
"The destruction of the Nubian shipyards has plagued the galaxy for a week. Tonight, we reveal an insider look into the investigation and uncover answers to the lingering questions of the Nubia Incident."
The screen resolves into the picture of a studio, where a Zeltron male sat behind a desk, his attention somewhere off-camera. A moment later, he turned towards the viewer, flashing a smile of white teeth. "Hello and welcome to HoloNet News. I'm Zodd Flong. This is the late-night Coruscant edition.
"A week ago, the shipyards in orbit around Nubia exploded in a tragic incident that claimed the lives of 47 faithful individuals, and resulted in billions of credits in damages and lost revenue. Governments around the galaxy have condemned the incident, which appears to be only the latest in a string of terrorist attacks that began with the near-destruction of the Galactic City Temple on the first of this month.
"While spokesbeings from the Church have declined to comment on any suspects so far, tonight we bring you a behind-the-scenes look into the investigation. Our local Nubian correspondent, Nev`ek Ch`son, has the story."
The screen flashes over footage of shipyard debris, with several patrol ships forming a perimeter around a few smaller vessels, which appeared to be manipulating debris with droid arms and scanners. A voice, lightly inflected with a Core accent, spoke over the scene, "It was the worst destruction that Nubia has seen since the end of the war. A massive production industry called these shipyards, and Nubia, home. Now there is nothing but destruction, a crippling blow dealt to the Nubian economy and to the families of those forty-seven workers. But while Church officials are staying quiet on the matter, we found many who were willing to talk."
A large, ragged Gran spacer sits in a chair in a small room, brightly lit in an attempt to flatter his appearance. The Gran's disheveled looks and slightly-protruding gut did nothing to assist this cause. He was seated facing another being, who sat facing with his back to the camera, clearly the reporter Nev`ek Ch`son. Ch`son was finishing up his question, "...and then at what point did you notice something was awry?"
Gesturing wildly, the Gran began to speak in his native language, dubbed over by a female, Basic speaker for the news program, "We were coming into the system for a regular run. My crew and I, we often get into these parts, the Nubians will pay big money for hard-to-find materials. After a while, they get easy to find if you know where to look." The gruff Gran snorted in what appeared to be laughter. "Anyways, we were just slipping into orbit when we noticed the shipyards going up in flames. Then all hell broke loose."
Nodding, the reporter leaned in as if he was asking something that would stay between the two of them. The Gran seemed oblivious to this motion, one of his eye stalks swiveled to peer at the holocamera. "Was there any indication of what caused the explosion? Were there any ships around the station? Was there a fight?"
Opening his mouth, the Gran let out something between a squeal and a screech, surely unpleasant even to his own kind. "No, no, no fights. Not until after it blew up. Someone was shooting after that, but Nubian security was quick to get everyone away from the site. It's like they didn't want anyone to know."
The scene changed again, this time the reporter faced a young, fighter jockey, dressed in her combat uniform for the interview. "I don't know," the fresh-faced pilot was saying, "they just told us we were needed. Something was sketchy, probably a pirate or some such like that. I never got near what it was, but if it took out the shipyard, it better not come back!"
Now facing the camera for the first time, the handsome, Nubian reporter Nev`ek Ch`son spoke candidly with his viewers. "None of the witnesses knew anything of importance, so I knew this must be a cover-up. Something bigger was going on, but I couldn't figure out what. Then I was contacted anonymously by a being who claimed to work for Nubian Criminal Investigative Services, offering me information. He would talk, he said, but only in exchange for his privacy."
For the last time, the camera returned to the interview room. This time it was dark, digital artifacts coursing over the screen to prevent anyone from manipulating the footage post-production. A figure was in the hot seat, but none of his features could be made out, only a vague impression of the being's frame and height. When he spoke, a modulated voice could be heard through the audio. The title on the bottom of the screen identified him as Anonymous NCIS Spokesbeing. "I can't speak on any real kind of authority, you know."
"Of course," the interviewer replied, nodding his head in an exaggerated way. Clearly he was interested in any information, be it accurate or not.
"What I can tell you," the voice went on, the figure's head moving in a rough approximation of speech, "is that my supervisors seem to be very interested in a ship that was here just before the shipyard exploded. In fact, it was seen leaving the shipyard mere minutes before."
"Really? Is this the same ship that Nubian security forces were deployed to intercept?"
"I wouldn't know anything about that," the tipster professed, which didn't seem to please the interviewer. "But the funny thing about this ship is that this is the second time it's escaped a big disaster like this."
Now the interviewer's interest seemed piqued. "What was the first?" he asked. The manner in which he said it betrayed a hint of emotion, giving an indication that the interview had been practiced and perfected for the highest dramatic effect.
"Coruscant, on the day of the Galactic City Temple attack."
The image on screen changes to a montage between scenes of the damaged Galactic City Temple on Courscant and the debris of the shipyard. "A single ship," the voice of Nev`ek Ch`son comes back over the feed, "connected by two destructive events. It seems too far fetched to be a coincidence, but tonight we've laid out the evidence for you to draw your own conclusion. Nev`ek Ch`son, Nubia Seven News."
Back in the newsroom, Zodd Flong seemed to be particularly pleased with this information, "Nev`ek assures me that his own investigation is not yet over, and he will continue to provide updates as this story develops. For the moment, these escape-artist bombers remain at large and mostly unknown, but during the course of our story the Nubian Criminal Investigative Services assured us that they are doing all they can to bring the culprits to justice.
"Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Zodd Flong from HoloNet News, wishing you a safe and enjoyable evening. May the Force be with you."
The roar of twin ion engines was like thunder across a clear, blue sky. TIE starfuries, flying in close formation, rocketing overhead in colorful streams of silver and blue smoke. The standard of the once and future Galactic Empire were flown high, as soldiers of the New Order paraded in full ceremonial uniform before a platform raised at the head of a great crowd. There were Pantorans and Rodians, Sullustans and Caamasi, humans and Talz, all gathered together at the foot of the Empire.
At his feet.
A ceremonial loop of gold and blue cord decorating the stormtrooper armor, the unmaked captain stepped forward and he addressed the crowd in a voice that boomed even over the sound of the TIE fighters in the air. "The Most Honourable, the Right Reverend Lor-Gaen Xantha of Corellia, High Priest of the Temple of Pantora, Bishop of all Sujimis, Steward of the Cerulean Throne, Lord-Regent of THE EMPIRE!"
The black garbed figured rose from the back of the platform, his dark robes flowing over the tops of his boots as his purposeful stride bridged the gap between himself and the podium with the kind of stately grace that made people believe in such a thing as the divine right of kings. And he had been. King, pauper, warrior, thief, angel, devil, savior, murderer... All good things in time.
He stood there, savoring the moment as a wolf among the sheep. Then he stretched out his arms, and he said, "Salutations and peace to you on this, the seventeenth day of remembrance for the Martyrdom of the Prophet." A murmur ran through the crowd, as some echoed back the ritualistic greeting. Stepping off to his left, the black priest seemed to address one-half of the crowd before him. "On behalf of the Bishop of Coruscant, I embrace you as brothers and sisters through our faith in One Force," the black bishop offered, drawing a louder ruckus as some began to applaud. Then, he stepped to his right and added, "On behalf of His Imperial Highness, I greet you in the name of your future emperor."
That brought a cheer which rippled through the assembly like a wave. These were not sheep, this was cattle. So eager to be herded, to be fatted and sacrificed. And he would honor those desires.
Raising both arms over his head, the ashen figure loudly proclaimed, "May the Force be with you, so say we all."
So say we all. Even as the dying refrain of the crowd's echoing cry faded into clapping, the Anzat was left in still some disbelief - even after thousands of years - at what fickle creatures these people were.
Reaching to the podium, the black bishop lifted up a set of notes as he said, "Open your codex and turn with me now to page three hundred and ninety four..." Pausing there, the priest appeared to look about in a state of confusion for a moment, before clearing his throat and announcing, "...wrong speech."
A few laughs were loud enough to make themselves heard as the joke went over the crowd. Standing casually beside the lectern, the bishop casually addressed the audience. "No, I am not here to lecture from the pulpit today. I am here to talk about the Empire."
The sound of applause made his pause in his speech. When he spoke again, he only further incited their patriotic fervor. "Your Empire." Another wave of applause and cat-calls. "Our... Empire."
The cheer which broke out at those words drowned out even the thunder of the starfighters. And the priest was not about to let the fires of this mob be abated. This was precisely the fire which fed them their just fate. This was exactly the ignorance in which they burned. He would not snuff it out, he would throw fuel upon it. "The Force is strong with us!" the priest proclaimed, raising a fist into the air as the sound of the crowd rose even higher.
Yes. He had their attention now. Slowly, the man lowered his arm. As he did, the sound of the crowd faded until there was silence once more. Resuming a conversational tone, the priest began speaking once more. "His Imperial Highness and I are pleased to have been invited to Suarbi to celebrate the Fete of the Miraculous Acts at the conclusion of the Twenty Days of Mourning. Suarbi has been, and remains, our most powerful ally," the priest declared, pausing to turn and offer a hand out toward the planetary governor. "...and trusted friend, as we continue to make this sector the most vital sector in the Outer Rim."
Another bout of cheering, as the cattle latched themselves upon his words as though he were feeding them salt-lick. "Suarbi holds a special place in the union and fellowship that unites the worlds of the Empire," the priest stated, leaning against the podium as he continued. "In war, you suffered greatest... and in peace you prosper greatly. There is no more richly deserved reward than what we see happening to Suarbi today."
Again the priest offered a hand toward another there on the platform with him, this time a delegation of humans and Gungans. "Today we have the signing of a new trade agreement with Naboo, one that will put Imperial-produced goods on the tables far beyond our corner of the galaxy. Bantha milk from Karazak. Fruits from Svivren. And, of course, Suarbian brandy."
Turning back to face the crowd, the priest added slyly, "I know I'm not returning to Pantora without a bottle of that myself." Setting what had appeared to be his notes aside, the priest stepped away from the lectern and took several steps across the stage as he continued. "We continue negotiations with Corellia to expand on markets in the Mid-Rim, and with the goal of unfettered access to trade routes between here and Coruscant. We continue to believe that the shipment of our goods to Coruscant, the spiritual home of our hearts, should not be subject to tax merely because of the road it travels."
Pausing, the black bishop surveyed the crowd for a moment, then started back toward the podium, his hands folded into the sleeves of his dark robes. "But, enough about an old politician's agendas," the priest stated placidly, turning to regard the crowd a moment. "You have questions. I want to hear them."
A Caamasi with the HoloNet News Agency was quick to jump at the opportunity. "Lord-Regent, you referred to access to trade routes just now. Why, then, has the Empire blockaded the opening to the Five Veils trade route just outside this system? Is the Empire restricting trade within its borders?"
Returning to the podium, the priest stretched across the lectern as though peering out at the audience. "First of all, I'd like to address a gross misconception," the man stated, in a matter-of-fact tone. "Our border security programs are not an interdiction, and certainly not a restriction on legal trade. Anyone who has been to a market recently on Pantora or Svivren can not only attest to having witnessed this, but probably come away from the experience with at least one souvenir. As a matter of fact, we've increased the number of imports to Karazak and Maryx Minor by more than twelve percent and those traditionally more reclusive ports have enjoyed the most prosperity they've seen since before the Triumvirate was in power. I think the economic reality shows that it is not at all a... blockade."
Pausing for a moment, the priest continued in a lighter tone. "I do desire to be clear that, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Coruscant, we will ensure the home space security of the Empire," the black bishop announced, slowly turning his head to take in the whole of the crowd before continuing. "Recent humanoid trafficking through our space and the increase in spice smuggling has made us aware that we have domestic issues that must be addressed, so what is it that our ships and patrols are doing? Would it surprise you that we are stopping suspicious vessels? Or that we are making certain that our border patrols are asking the right questions when cargo manifests and inventories don't match up?"
The reporters were hastily making their notes as holo-vid cameras snapped different images. "Simply, we are holding accountable those who would seek to violate our laws," the priest stated, giving the media take-out it's two second blurb for the attention span of the masses. "Next question."
A Pantoran this time. "Lord-Regent, what about the claims of prisoner and labor abuses on Karazak?"
Folding his arms down on the podium, the priest gazed down at the reporter for a moment as though restraining himself from asking whether the man might wish to reconsider his question. "What about the claims? Honestly, I regret that the media gives credence to the words of a convicted and escaped convict, let alone re-printing them with the appearance of credibility, or more credibility than they are likely due," the man answered in an off-handed fashion, before striking a fist down on the lectern and firmly announcing, "We do not abuse prisoners in the Empire. We are an Empire of laws. We are an Empire of faith."
Relaxing slightly, the priest stepped out from behind the podium and took a small step forward, toward the edge of the stage, as he addressed the crowd. "Now some of our prisoners, compelled by the conciliatory nature of the Force and overwhelming guilt of conscience for their crimes, have volunteered their time and service at a monastery established on Karazak for the unique spiritual needs of these people seeking atonement. While there, they have the option of engaging in a work-study program that enables them to exercise both the mind and body, while returning the fruits of their labor to the society that they harmed." Pausing there, the man looked back at the Pantoran who had asked this question and stated, "This program fully complies with Imperial and interstellar law, and is, in fact, a program supervised at the highest levels by the Church."
Spinning around, the priest returned to the podium. "So, not to put too fine a point on it, but if you won't trust your government... have faith, brother," the bishop stated, in a pleading tone, stretching a hand down toward the Pantoran, then again toward a female Sullustan. "Have faith, sister." Relaxing back, the man looked over the crowd and said, "Faith is what these prisoners have. It is what they hope to demonstrate through this program. And it is what will lead them to spiritual, as well as physical, emancipation. Do not disparage them this, but celebrate their labors."
"Lord-Regent, any comment about the death of Jarrick Wiggs?"
Ah, there it was. Slowly, deliberately, the priest turned his head to glare at the human who had dared ask that. Did he have any comment? Only that there was, apparently, a twenty-five percent mark-up for assassins carrying out hits on New Alderaan.... if they were willing to work on Alderaan at all
"Yes. I wouldn't claim asylum on New Alderaan," the priest deadpanned dryly, seizing hold of the podium with both hands and taking a deep breath. "The death of Mister Wiggs, while tragic, continues to provide an illuminating lesson for us all. Not the least of which is the danger of turning away from the true faith, as we've heard a number of sources claim that Mister Wiggs may have been influenced by a Jedi cult, which is something that continues to be under investigation by our Judicial Forces."
Pausing, the priest turned to now look over at the human woman. Some harlot with one of the Outer Rim rags. "As long as we're on this subject, I'll again re-iterate that our home space security programs are carried out with the goal of being non-intrusive into the lives of Imperial citizens while safeguarding society as a whole. It isn't a fine art or simple equation that can be so easily described, but a legislated balancing act -- carried out with full transparency before the Moff Council -- who ultimately authorized the holonet surveillance that Mister Jarrick revealed."
Swiveling his head around to take in the crowd as a whole, the priest continued. "I would admonish those who might laud him for this act with a simple word of caution. We are weaker as a whole for the fact that it is our adversaries -- not our neighbors, not our families, not our children -- our adversaries are the only one's who gain by having knowledge of this program, of it's capabilities. And it is our neighbors, family, and children who suffer the consequences of this national secret being outed prematurely," the black bishop announced, turned back to face the reporter woman again. "You asked me to comment, and I will answer that I regret that Mister Jarrick will not face justice before the Imperial Courts. I regret that he will not be made to answer for this act to the Imperial people, whom he ultimately harmed... in my belief at least."
The ceremonial stormtrooper captain stepped forward, causing the priest to step back as something was said between them. Returning to the podium, the priest announced, "My boss appears to be on his way down, so I fear that will be all the time that we have for today," the black bishop announced, as behind him a small, blue-skinned child was led up onto the stage by a pair of marked, blue robed bodyguards. Raising his voice, the priest announced, "People of Suarbi, I give you the first-born of Emperor Chiyo the Second, Defender of the Faithful, and Heir to the Empire!"
Stepping aide, the priest found himself overshadowed by the presence of a small boy, retreating back into shadow as the young Pantoran approached the masses with a formidable strength of conviction and presence that were both well trained in him. "Citizens of Suarbi, it... is... a great... honor... to be with you... on this moon of... Susefvi," the young emperor-apparent stated, speaking slowly and clearly as he made the rehearsed remarks. "Thank you... for your great-- gracious invitation. Let us... celebrate... the coming fete... to-- together... as one Empire."
The finale to: A Rift Away
250 ABY, Datunda, the 24th of Elona, late morning.
Dantarius started back down the alleyway quickly but not overly fast, when the shuttle blew they would run. Dantarius’ goal was to get as far from the blast site as possible, they couldn’t afford to get caught up in the ensuing pandemonium. They wound their way back out to the main road just as the explosion rocked the hangar bay.
Tyl was glad for the brief respite of walking slowly through the alleyway. She took the opportunity to relax her senses for a few moments while the other Jedi kept his up. She would need to remain quite strong if she was to get out with her newfound ally’s superior physicality. Seconds before the ship exploded, she bolstered her muscles with the Force again, pushing them to their limits, as she prepared to run.
The two took off at a sprint once more. “We’re not far from my ship now,” he called back to his companion as he ran. He knew that she would not be able to sprint at this speed for an extended period but they were only a few blocks away. He could hear emergency sirens in the distance and the shouts of the crowd as they flooded both toward and away from the blast site. Thankfully in the chaos no one gave them a second look and they were able to slip their pursuers.
In times of crisis, it always amazed Tyl how the unimportant things seemed to just fade away. Here was a Kaminoan, exerting a considerable amount of speed, both incredibly foreign concepts, and yet, with the explosion, no one seemed to care. She reached out back towards the site where her ship had been. Many of the would-be mercenaries not killed or injured by the blast were scattering just as much as the townspeople were. She had no time to mourn the loss of life, as she needed her concern to be on her own preservation. There was an Order to warn.
Dantarius skidded around the corner and slowed to a walk. They were in a small clearing behind his home. He started back into the encroaching jungle at the edge of the clearing. He had hidden his ship in the brush about a thousand meters from the clearing. He beckoned his companion to follow him as he picked his way through the underbrush. Dantarius stopped at a rather inconspicuous area of the jungle and thumbed a switch in his pocket. The air in front of him shimmered as the jungle around him dissolved and presented them with a ship resting on a duracrete platform.
“Holo-emitters,” said Dantarius unnecessarily to his companion as he gestured to several devices in the trees around the platform. His ship was traditional Mon Calamari in design, all sleek lines, curves, and bubbles. It will be good to be back in the pilot’s seat again, thought Dantarius to himself. As he took an eager step towards the ship and hopefully their safe ticket off-planet, Dantarius felt the Force tell him something wasn’t right. He needed only to glance at his companion to know that she had the same feeling. Drawing his lightsaber, but leaving it unlit, Dantarius cautiously made his way closer the ship.
Tyl flicked her saber back into her hand. She couldn’t feel any presences, but her danger sense was strong. What is it? she thought, as her eyes scanned the area. ”We don’t have time for this,” she stated, putting her saber back and maintaining her calm nature despite the situation. “It won’t be long before our pursuers from the village catch up. Open the door. One person can get the ship going on their own while the other stands guard. I should probably take the former.”
”Indeed we don’t,” agreed Dantarius. ”Get to the ship, I’ll watch our backs.” The Kaminoan nodded and he watched her hurry towards the ship. As much as Dantarius didn’t want someone else to pilot his ship, he had to be practical about the situation. Something was very wrong and while he couldn’t quite figure it out yet he knew that the Kaminoan was fast approaching her physical limits and would only hinder his efforts should some sort of confrontation arise. Dantarius moved toward the boarding ramp and took up a defensive position near the ramp. His eyes and the Force scanning the surrounding jungle looking for something out of the ordinary.
Tyl stepped aboard the ship. She had enough experience with Mon Calamari designs to get the ship’s systems warm. Her senses were still on fire, though, and as she booted the ship, she kept stretching out, hoping to catch on to something. She knew Dantarius would be doing the same. It couldn’t be the mercenaries. They’re still dealing with the situation in the town. Only a few have managed to recover from the explosion and return to tracking us. So what is this feeling?
Just then, she found it. Approaching from above in a speeder, it came in from the gash in the crust of Belsavis that made the valley they found themselves. There was one normal presence piloting, who seemed incredibly nervous, but several others that were… odd. They were nothing like what she had felt before. Devoid of life, and yet the Force was being poured into them, like an incredible light source into an impossibly large, dark cave.
Dantarius felt the change at the same time his companion did. As the speeder approached, he began to get a clearer picture of what was going on inside the speeder, it was like a river of the Force was flowing directly into two of the passengers. The sheer volume of Force energy was so high that he could almost see the Force being pushed into the life forms. His yellow lightsaber blade flashed before his eyes as he ignited it. He moved slowly toward the center of the landing pad and took up a defensive posture.
The speeder touched down at the edge of the clearing and the ramp lowered. The pilot’s tension had increased exponentially by this point. As the two Force enhanced beings came down the ramp Dantarius could see why the pilot was so nervous. They approached him silently and as he looked at their eyes all he saw was emptiness. There was no spark of emotion present on their faces. They simply stared blankly at him.
“Who are you?” Dantarius said to them. They didn’t respond to his request. Instead they continued to stare at him.
“Attention Force user,” came a wavering voice from the speeder. “You cannot hope to win this battle. In the name of the Church of the One Force I command that you lay down your arms and surrender.” At this command, the demeanor of the beings in front of Dantarius changed. Their faces became stern and they drew their weapons.
”I don’t think that will be happening,” called Dantarius to the speeder. As the words left his mouth the beings fired their weapons. However instead of blaster bolts, Dantarius was surprised by what he saw. One weapon instead fired what appeared to be a concentrated Force push and the other bolts of Force lightning. Dantarius was taken by surprise at the turn of events and he was hit hard by the Force powered weapons. He was flung across the landing platform and he smelled his fur begin to burn from the impact of the Force lightning.
As the Force lighting coursed through his body, Dantarius managed to get his lightsaber in front of the bolts and deflect them away. He bared his teeth as he stood, his fur still smoking. ”You’ll have to do better than that if you expect me to surrender,” he snarled. With his free hand he gestured towards the two beings and the orange Force lightning from his electric judgment lanced out towards them. The beings never moved and the lightning struck them full bore. Instead of having the intended effect the beings seemed indifferent to the attack. In response they simply raised their weapons again and prepared to fire.
Dantarius was ready for it this time and he braced himself for the attack. The attack never came. It seemed that while the Force lightning didn’t affect the beings themselves, it did affect their weapons. Thank the Force for small miracles, thought Dantarius to himself. The beings now seemed unsure of how to proceed and Dantarius took advantage of their momentary hesitation to close the distance.
Putting on a burst of speed, he got within lightsaber range before the things could recover, but as his saber made contact with one of their limbs it simply skidded away leaving a small dent in the thing’s armor. Dantarius slashed again this time for a decapitating blow only to have a similar experience when he made contact with the thing’s helmet. By this time the beings had recovered and one of them reached out to grab him. He parried the arm with his saber and thrust forward towards a gap in the armor near the armpit. His blow was stopped short however by the other thing as it grabbed his arm mid-thrust. Its grip was vice-like and Dantarius was unable to free himself as the other being began its approach. Thinking quickly, Dantarius was able to morph his arm and pull it free just as the other one reached for him. With a quick Force shove, Dantarius flew free from the things attacking him.
It seems like whatever is pumping all of that Force energy into them is also making the immune to any kind of direct Force based attacks. Even my lightsaber is next to useless against them. Perhaps it’s time to simplify things a little bit, Dantarius thought to himself. This time, keeping his distance, he reached out with the Force and grabbed onto a fairly large shipping container on the landing pad. The container sailed across the pad and struck the beings with a loud crunch. Together with the container they flew across the remainder of the landing pad and slammed into a tree which snapped at the force of the impact. As Dantarius approached where they fell, he felt the Force river that was flowing into them flicker; fading in and out like a bad comm reception.
Tyl could sense most of what was happening with the engagement from inside the cockpit, though she could see very little from the transparisteel canopy. She focused the majority of her energy on activating and warming the systems of the ship as well as plotting an escape vector out of the canyon. Scoping further out with her senses, she plotted a route that would avoid as much resistance as possible. Her strength of mind, however, let her keep up with Dantarius and the two anomalous beings he was fighting. She had a hard time even calling them beings. Although the Force flowed through them strongly, it wasn’t as if it was their essence, they didn’t feel connected to it at all, only shells, containers through which the Force was bottled and thrust out of as it was used.
The beings were still moving, but their movements were disjointed and ungainly, not that they had been the picture of grace before, but now it seemed that they were unable to perform any kind of intelligent motor function at all. Dantarius noticed something sparking at the base of one of their skulls, It must be some sort of Force receptor, he thought. That explains why they can’t do anything now, the Force was controlling them.
As he moved in for a closer look, his musings were cut short by the arrival of the mercenaries who had finally reorganized and resumed the pursuit. He loped towards the ship as a hail of blaster fire erupted around him. Spinning quickly as he approached the ramp be began to back slowly up it into his ship. His lightsaber was a whirl of yellow light as he parried the veritable storm of blaster fire back into the jungle. During the commotion, he noticed that the speeder that deposited the two Force “monsters” on the pad had disappeared. A pity that they could not capture the pilot and question him but they had more pressing concerns at the moment, like getting off the planet in one piece. As he reached the safety of the interior of the ship, the ramp sealed behind him and he could hear blaster fire ringing off the hull. He sent a Force nudge to his companion to let her know he was safely on board and he felt the ship lift off from the landing pad. With that he made his way quickly to the cockpit. Undoubtedly the fun wasn’t over just yet.
Once the door was closed, Tyl lifted the ship up on its repulsorlifts and shot it out towards the opening. Dantarius bound up to the cockpit but Tyl was already relaying course corrections as she adjusted to the movements of the few fighters in the atmosphere and in orbit. There wasn’t a great deal of resistance as the two Jedi Masters had certainly been underestimated by Dantarius’ former employee. Keeping the freighter just ahead of the one capital ship in orbit was not difficult as she breached the atmosphere, slung out of orbit towards open space and opened a hyperspace window just outside of the gravity well. As the stars blurred past, the freighter then safely in hyperspace, the Kaminoan sat back knowing that though their first escape had been easy, each of the rest would be harder than the one before.
Republic Cruiser LUCK'S REVENGE
Natunda, 10th of Elona
With a full crew, including seven astromech droids, repair efforts from a skirmish such as they'd experienced out of Nubia would have taken no more than an hour to repair. But that had been two centuries past, and now the Jedi General had neither crew nor sufficient astromechs with which to address all of their problems. The sublight engines had overheated, sparking a fire in the engine compartment which now threatened the hyperdrive unit. And the fire that had, earlier, began on Deck Three had spread to the deck above and below it, which had thankfully been slow in moving through the bulkheads as it wasn't something anyone could address until after the universe was done shooting at them.
Even then, Sor-Jan didn't have a whole lot to work with.
Three was down with R3-M9 at the site of the fire's origin. Stannon was in the engine compartment. Daiya and Tawrro were down on Deck Four. Which left Sor-Jan on the second deck, and what remained of the smoldering blaze creeping through the deck plates in puffs of toxic smoke. Stretching out with both hands, the small Anzati boy let his mind drift over the air in the compartment. He could see the molecules, the miniscule galaxies of atomic interactions, and could feel the shifts as the hot air pressed upward from below.
Stretching out with his feelings, the child extended his being to include the molecules of air. Drawing them together, the small Jedi pushed down, symbolically represented by the lowering of his outstretched palms. As he did, the dense air blanketed the fire, smothering it.
At least there was nothing on this deck for the moment but unoccupied staterooms. A shrill whistle caught the boy's attention, as the silver domed R2 unit came wheeling in behind him. "A year of fighting Separatists, and a spat with a few starfighters burn us up. I think I should be embarrassed," the young Jedi proclaimed, running a hand over the top of the red-trimmed droid as he made his way to the lift. Exiting a moment later, the Jedi made his way through the ship's corridors toward the communal area at the rear, where the lateral controls had exploded and caused the source of everyone's fun for about the last hour. And that was only putting the fire out. The ship would need to shut down somewhere in order for the astromech droids to clean up the repair work, assuming they had the spare parts that they needed.
As he rounded the bend into the kitchen, R2 slid out from behind the boy to join the yellow R3 unit. The pair circled one another in a cacophony of clicks, chirps, and whistles. Looking over at the communal dining table, the boy spotted the small clone trooper slumped over in a chair, an empty canister of fire suppressant clutched in his hands. Three appeared to be coated in soot, smeared with grease, and soaked through with fire fighting foam. He was also exhausted, in need of a bath, and to be put in a proper bed.
All of which Sor-Jan was responsible for -- or felt he was responsible for -- while burdened with a myriad of competing responsibilities equally hefty for a young boy so readily willing to try and shoulder the troubles of a Republic upon his shoulders.
Turned as another presence crept in behind him, the Jedi looked back to see the Ithorian emerging from out of the medical suite. The sound of the lift doors a moment later heralded the imposing Wookiee and his rather unique companion.
"Daiya, do you mind helping Three to bed?" the young Xantha asked, looking at the girl and then gesturing over toward the seemingly unconscious clone.
Turning his attention toward Mir and Tawrrowaldr each in turn, the Jedi said, "I think that we should have a word. In the salon pod?"
Exhaustion was already settling into the great Wookiee's bones, like the dull ache of an old wound. If fight against the starfighters for their escape had been weary, then the fight against the fires for their mere survival was deadening. His shaggy coat, generally a more lustrous brown, was dull and ragged in parts, singed in others, and sodden with soot, dirt and grime all over. Even a creature used to hard labor and long days could feel spent after such an effort.
Though fighting sleep, Tawrrowaldr inclined his head in the Human fashion, indicating his agreement to the General's suggestion. For the old soldier, it was a relief to have someone else making the decisions again, someone else with a higher rank to take the responsibility. Retirement had done nothing to alleviate the former-Lieutenant Colonel's burdens, which had only grown in the previous battle. Taking a sidelong look at his charge, he considered the blonde-haired girl as she spoke softly with the clone boy. She was too young, too innocent to be caught up in the galaxy's problems like this.
"Of course, General," came the reply, the low growl of the Wookiee's true language audible underneath. He began slowly padding towards the doorway.
Mir could say that he was actually thankful for some of the time he spent on Coruscant. Being able to work there in an emergency facility doing mostly routine medical care had kept his skills in the area sharp, though the treating of dehydration, common sicknesses, and other easily avoidable ailments was, in the end, incredibly dull. Not to mention that the work had gotten in the way of his research, and that being stuck on Coruscant hadn't helped that end either. But, nonetheless, the Ithorian was thankful to have done, if only for situations like these. It had been some time, though, since he had served medic duty on a ship. Not that the experience was incredibly different than attempting to perform surgery in a moving speeder in Coruscant traffic, but the knowledge that all one had around them was space put a different mindset into certain actions.
The actual damage taken during the battle had not caused anyone injury, and Mir spent most of that time just preparing for something that could go wrong. Once in hyperspace, and repairs were underway, there was quite a bit more for him to do, and he being mobile helped considerably. A few minor burns and cuts and lots of weary bones was, fortunately, all that arose. He applied bacta patches to the former and a prescription of a good night's sleep to the latter. Returning to the med suite, he told 2-1B, who had been monitoring the ship through everything, to set reminders to check-up all injuries within 24 hours. Replacing the tools he had carried with him in the bay, he sighed. All this time running about has also kept me from thinking about our loss... and that woman. He shivered.
Not wanting to linger, he left the suite to find most of the crew congregated about. Mir nodded his silent affirmative to the young Jedi General and turned to follow the two.
As the young Jedi stepped into what had been the command center for his flotilla and its clone element, the monitors and holographic star charts came alive with a practiced ease as the smallest of hand gestures accompanied the Force telekinetic manipulations which had activated the computers in the room. As he positioned himself near the navi-computer, the small Anzat focused the holographic image before them on the sector of space that the ship was presently occupying, before zooming out and highlighting several adjacent quadrants.
"Our damage was minimal, but the fire damaged many of the slave circuits between the cockpit and the primary droid brain, and the engine fire concerns me as well," Sor-Jan remarked, glancing from the holographic to both the Wookiee and the Ithorian in turn. "The astromechs can repair the cables, but we'll need to have the ship berthed with the engines completely cooled down for Stannon to be able to fully assess any needed repairs," the boy added, now indicating the highlighted graphic as he said, "That means a planet."
It had been a long time since the old Wookiee had been at the helm of a battle, leading troops into the fray of enemy forces, but even decades of retirement had not dulled his skills of strategic thinking. Already his mind turned, viewing the map before him as it would be in a war room somewhere, with the lines of various warlords zigzagging through the clusters of stars to denote the bloodstained borders that the long war had nurtured and the Church cemented. The latter's own political currency gave it considerable reach and power, even to the furthest corners of the galaxy, something that would cause the party no end of concern.
For the moment, their task was to find a safe haven. Like an old hat, Tawrrowaldr set his focus on their goal, letting everything else fade to the wayside, just as he could once do easily as an army Colonel. The great Wookiee took the reigns of the display system, tapping it deftly with his claws to manipulate the map. "Finding a planet will be a difficult task. Many worlds and systems have become faithful servants of the Church."
The map zoomed out, beyond the sector that the ship currently inhabited, to the galactic scale to illustrate the Wookiee's point. "The Disciples' reach is far, systems from the Core to the Inner Rim are subjected to the highest scrutiny." The mentioned regions flashed as he spoke their names, then faded to a muted grey, leaving the galaxy beyond still in visible color. "Do we have the fuel to make it past the Expansion Region? Our pursuers will have a harder time in the broader reaches of the galaxy."
"We were able to take on fuel at Nubia, but we didn't receive the stores we'd ordered," the young Jedi remarked, without adding the implied fact that they'd also paid for the stores... which left them short of food and on credit. "With the stores we took on at Corellia, we probably have enough to cross into the Mid-Rim. No further than the Hador Sector though."
The Ithorian looked at the stars whirling about on the star chart. The time he spent aboard a smuggler's vessel gave him a preliminary competence at astronavigation as well as a familiarity to the clusters and groupings of stars across the map. The map was detailed enough to where the names of systems hovered close to their corresponding star in Aurebesh and applying some sort of physical or holographic stimulus to any of those names would expand the system and the details offered, though Mir questioned just how up to date that information would be. While it was simple for a droid brain to make up a few centuries of solar drift, taking supernovae, drifting black holes, or any number of other spacial or man-made anomalies into account was another thing entirely.
"We should also avoid any trade routes as they would be considerably more trafficked these days. It might be treacherous to stray from trusted paths, but I don't see much of a choice." Mir's arms crossed in front of his chest as he looked upon the map with the others.
"Jedi rarely traveled along trade routes. Too many smugglers, or Separatist convoys, don't use them," the young boy stated, briefly recalling the decades spent as padawan to a Thisspiasian Sentinel. One thing Master Gol had never ascribed to was 'staying inside the lines.' "I suspect we'll want to avoid the Tinn System, but what about Rindao? It was never a hub of activity in my day."
With a deftness that belied his enormous hands, the Wookiee manipulated the star chart as his comrades spoke. Systems on or near the major trade routes fell away and the outer edges of the galaxy dimmed to indicate the limits of their range. Only a few stars were left glimmering before them, a stark reminder of the desperation of their plight. Touching a claw to one of the systems still highlighted, Tawrrowaldr uttered a growl that his transliterator interpreted as, "This."
A blue orb appeared on the display, spinning gradually to illustrate the climate and geography of the planet. Small dots of green speckled the ocean world, with only a scattering of brown and virtually no ice. The untouched, gem-like quality of the world was most indicative of the crew's greatest desire for the moment: privacy.
"This is Tibrin. It is the Ishi Tib world, who are known to the galaxy as great administrators off-world, but in their own neighborhood have a reputation for being backwards and technology Luddites," the Wookiee explained, speaking as he would to troops before a mission, or sometimes to the council of Wookiee elders he once felt called to support. For a moment he considered how easily it came back to him, how quickly the fatigue had faded when he had need of his mental acuity, how tempting the soldier's life was with General Xantha's ever-present reminder.
"They will not bother us," he continued, "so long as we respect their world. But it might be prudent to find someplace more isolated to land for repairs, the Ishi Tib might not care for the sight of droids and machines doing work on their world."