Chapter 4: A New War
Voss, The Nightmare Lands
The Mystics Cavern
Have you ever been a prisoner inside your own mind? It is a nightmare that cannot be imagined. I heard myself speak those words to Elliah. I felt myself fight him, but I could do nothing to stop it. Something else sat inside me, controlling me with a power greater than my partnership with the lightside of the force.
I screamed, I fought, but I was helpless to prevent myself from killing him. Elliah... oh no. The only positive thing from that encounter, if I could even call it that, was that somehow he'd known. And he'd let my nephews and nieces go. I prayed that he'd told Laresa, that she was on her way to rescue them and to stop this insanity, but as I watched myself stand in front of that holoterminal and tell her those lies, accuse of her being nothing more than a Sith, my hopes were crushed.
I could only imagine what I'd just done to her. What they'd made me do after we'd just found each other again. It was no wonder the darkside was so tempting because I was so utterly angry that for moments I forgot to pay attention.
Locked away in the cage of my mind I silently repeated the Jedi Mantra, letting it calm me just enough since the lightside of the force was not present here. Laresa had terminated the connection between us. I was speaking to the Voss that had done this to me.
"They've gotten away," I heard myself say.
"No matter, we will find them. They will not leave Voss."
"Will you kill them?"
"Yes. You have your orders Master Jedi. Go and lead your republic into war."
Without argument I felt myself walking away. One of the Voss that had been in the room during their mind control ritual followed me - for what purpose I wasn't sure. Was he keeping whatever spell that put over me in place? When I left Voss and went somewhere the force was still alive could I find a way to break free of his control?
Once more the faint stirrings of hope reappeared. I would damn sure try.
The Imperial Agent
Voss, The Nightmare Lands
When we broke free of the cavern we didn't meet daylight but darkness. And not because it was night time. Unfortunately I'd been here before. We were on Voss - and we were in the Nightmare Lands.
"What the frak are we doing on Voss?" Vanceto all but roared, his breath heavy from carrying Lancoro's weight. Lan was a big guy, but I wasn't worried Vanceto would tire, if he did get low on energy he could channel the darkside. At least I hoped he could. I still couldn't feel mother but I didn't think she was dead, not after seeing Dad.
Sadness crashed into me as we sprinted through the forest with Kaliyo leading the way. Never mind that we were probably being chased by the Voss but the Nightmare lands lived up to its name and then some. It was a dark twisted forest and randomly you'd stumble across piles of bones curtsey of rabid packs of crystfangs or even worse the Vorantius Gnashers. And if the wild life didn't kill you, the longer you stayed the more likely it became that you'd go mad. Even as we ran I could hear the insane whispers and ramblings of beings made insane by the forest, their tormented cries carried on a cold, still breeze.
"Where we going Kailyo?" I asked.
"Gaden-Ko's shuttle is just ahead in the Meadow," she said.
Gaden-Ko. The name was only vaguely familiar to me. I knew he was a Voss but that was it. For now I held back my questions, my instincts were better used making sure we got to our destination.
We'd barely made it to the edge of the forest when Kaliyo's holocom rang.
Muttering a foul curse she skittered to a halt. We all pressed our backs against each others, giving us a 360 view of our surroundings while Kaliyo answered it.
"What?" Kaliyo barked as Gaden-Ko's face appeared.
"They've found me - don't come here you'll be cap-"
He didn't finish and we all knew why. We could hear the explosion and see the smoke rising high above the gnarled, black tree branches.
"****," Kaliyo snapped the com closed. "That was our ride."
"We need to get to high ground," I said. I didn't like the idea of staying in the forest but at the moment we need to regroup and find out what the frak was going on.
Kaliyo nodded. "This way."
A deep cliff ran through the forest in the nightmare lands. We'd managed to scale partly down it onto a plateau that barely had enough room for all four of us, but it was out of sight from whomever might be pursuing us and the wildlife wouldn't climb down here just to eat us.
Kaliyo had brought a med pack with her. While she explained, I gave Lancoro a much needed dose of Kolto.
The whole thing was nuts but after being in Imperial Intelligence I wondered why anything surprised me anymore. Kaliyo explained that after I'd gone missing from the IA headquarters, or rather, Sith Intelligence as Darth Jadus now called it, she'd tried to contact Mom but hadn't gotten thru. Father had answered and Kaliyo had met up with he and Gaden-Ko mostly because Kaliyo had a connection in the Voss spaceport that had let them through the blockage unseen. At least so they thought.
And there was a blockade around the whole planet. The Republic and Empire had officially gone to war and the Voss had kicked both sides out effective immediately. Any side that hadn't left by now was being executed without mercy.
"I can't say I particularly care what the Empire and Republic do to each other," Vanceto said. "But killing the force is out of the question."
I nodded my agreement with that. "Why didn't dad contact mom when he found out?" I ask Kaliyo.
"Gaden-Ko wasn't certain if the bantha**** crazy Voss had done the same thing to her as they did to your aunt," Kaliyo said. "So we held off and decided to come rescue you all first."
That made sense. ****, I hoped they hadn't done anything like this to mom. "Aunt Reide," I said. "We've got to get a message to her."
"And get off this rock," Kaliyo added.
"The Gormak," Lancoro said quietly.
I glanced over at him. "They don't exactly like us either."
"I got a call for a bounty - there's a new leader some guy named Raklann's that mounted a new offensive against the Voss. Imperials put a Bounty on him to help the Voss out."
"An enemy of my enemy is my friend," Vanceto said.
It was as good a plan as any. We certainly couldn't stay in this forest. "Do you know where his camp is Lancoro?"
Lancoro nodded. "Get me outta this fraking forest and I can take us there." He paused, looking over at Kaliyo. I could hear the tiny thread of hope in his voice when he asked - "My wife, Mako - we were attacked in a Cantina on Courscant-"
Kaliyo shook her head at him. "Word is she didn't make it."
Normally I didn't do the whole men crying thing. They looked like big babies but I guess that didn't apply to family. Lancoro buried his face in his big hand, hiding his pain. His shoulders shook but other than that he didn't make a sound. Didn't have too though, I could feel his anguish. My brows pinched together and I felt utterly helpless because I just didn't know how to console him. If there even was a way to console someone through that kind of pain. Vanceto laid a hand on Lan's arm, whispering something to him.
I bit my lower lip. I'd left someone behind too and I had no idea if she made it through the explosion or the attack it had all happened so fast. I vehemently refused to think about it though. We had a mission and everything beyond that circle was irrelevant.
"Lan..." I said after a moment. "We need to move."
He didn't do anything for about five seconds. Then, I heard him suck in a watery breath. When he dropped his hand he looked as furious as any Sith. " Give me a shot of kolto, a blaster and let's go."