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The Voyages of Targon Karashi


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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 10:32 AM | #1
So...long time no see on these forums.

Before the wipe, I had a series going that a lot of people seemed to really enjoy, and sadly, I never finished because of the wipe. Well, the game is loads of fun and has motivated me to reboot the series so readers can see the end and so I can share with new readers.

And so, I am pleased to announce the return of Voyages!

The Voyages of Targon Karashi


Episode 1 – Rise a Knight


Chapter One

The forests of Tython in the early morning rang with the songs of life rising with the cool mists above the trees. Shimmering rainbows glittered in the air as the sunlight bathed the landscape. In one of the clearings, littered with a few ancient ruins, came two persons.

Leading the pair was an elderly man. His white hair was long – reaching down to his thighs – and it was separated into two braids. A few feathers were tied into the braids at the ends. His clothes were peculiar – made entirely of animal fur. There was a deerskin cape that hung on his back, and the head of the animal – with its immense antlers thrusting upwards – was made into his cowl. He leaned heavily on a wooden staff shaped like a shepherd’s tool.

The second person was far younger, with short brown hair save for a single braid that brushed against his shoulder. He wore modest robes colored white and brown – the typical sort of clothing for a Jedi. His face was full of youth, untouched and bright and soft. He looked far younger than he truly was. Instead of his twenty-one years, he seemed more like eighteen.

The elder man stopped in the center of the clearing, and the younger lad stood next to him. Kneeling down, the former reached over and touched a small, delicate flower. Next to it was a piece of one of the ruins.

“Do you see this flower, Targon?” he asked, turning to the young man, who kneeled to join him in inspecting the blossom.

“Yes, Master Tieru,” the youth replied. “What do you intend to teach with it in today’s lesson?”

The old man smiled. His pure white eyes sparkled, and his pointed ears twitched. “Not something as simple and typical as that, my padawan. First, I want you to inspect the flower and enjoy the beauty it presents.”

Targon Karashi nodded, and did as he was told. His master, Tieru was unlike anyone in many respects. For one, he did not share the usual Arkanian reliance and fascination with technology and science. He focused his interest in the natural world, and enjoying the beauty it presented. For another, he was not the usual Jedi Master. His lessons were not taught as lectures or tests – but rather he concealed his teaching principles in stories, and in this case, in objects.

After a moment, Targon said, “It certainly is a bright and pretty flower, master.”

“Go into more detail,” Tieru requested.

“Its pattern is simple, yet complex at the same time. It doesn’t follow any discernable course; the petals just follow a random course as they extend outward.”

“Are they random?” the master asked pointedly.

“I don’t know…they aren’t structured, as a person would create. I think…I think the flower takes its own direction and design.”

Tieru nodded. “It follows the path that the Force has prepared for it, not what anything else demands.”

“Is this how a Jedi should be, master?” Targon asked.

“That is no easy question,” Tieru replied. “In order to be a part of this world, you must learn to be in harmony with all the other life and patterns around you. But, in order to be what the Force wills you to be, you must learn to take your own path, and not simply follow what the world governs.”

Targon sighed. “Master, that seems a contradiction.”

“It is, and yet it isn’t. You’ll have to find the truth of that matter for yourself. Now, look again at the flower…” Tieru pointed to it. “Tell me, Targon, does the flower appear strong to you? Do you think it could endure a harsh storm?”

“No, master,” Targon answered. “It’s too weak; there isn’t the strength within it to match against any sort of threat.”

“Yet it has survived,” Tieru said. “Tell me, why do you think it has been able to remain intact for so long despite being such a delicate object?”

Targon studied the bloom a little longer and then noted the rock next to it. “It has been sheltered by the rock, master. The ancient ruin has protected it from the heaviest incidents of the weather and from animals that may have passed this way.”

“Good,” Tieru smiled. “As you have noticed, this stone – far more experienced and venerable – protects the flower against the threats of the world. However, remove the stone, and do you suppose that the flower will survive?”

“I suppose you’re comparing me to the flower and you to the stone?” Targon countered. “You don’t think I am strong enough to withstand the harshness alone because I have been sheltered by you?” Targon knew this was the analogy, and it definitely fit well enough. Targon was young, like the flower, compared to Tieru and the stone. His master was well over one hundred years old.

Tieru shook his head slowly. “I do not believe I have failed to teach you to be strong on your own, young Targon. You are a fine young man, and a strong disciple of the Force. However, I have presented this lesson to you to get you in the proper mindset. We are leaving Tython tomorrow.”

“Leaving to where, master?”

The old Jedi started to lift himself back up to his feet. Targon quickly was up and helped his teacher.

“As Jedi, it is our duty to mediate disputes and debates between the people of the galaxy. Your training is nearing completion, my padawan. Your knowledge of history, channeling, and combat has well exceeded the requirements, and now it is time for you to learn diplomacy and to put what you have learned into application.”

“Yes master,” Targon concealed his excitement. He enjoyed the peace and safety on Tython, but he was eager to go out and see the galaxy – and to do all the things Jedi did.”

“Well, Targon, we’ll get our things together this evening and be off to Ord Mantell on the morrow. There’s a lot of work to be done in order to get the separatists and the planetary government to consider peace talks. It will be our responsibility to bring the two sides to the table. Are you ready for such a mission, Targon?”

“Of course, master,” Targon nodded eagerly.

“However, there’s no need to rush back to the temple,” Tieru said. “Let’s continue our walk through the forest, and you can take the time to ponder my lesson in your mind.”

---

Targon had trouble sleeping during the night. At first it was the excitement of actually going out into the field. He had been cooped up on Tython for many years. Sure, he had plenty of learning and exploring on the capital world of the Jedi Order, but he longed to see the galaxy – and do all the things that the Jedi were meant to do.

But that eagerness did not keep him awake. He had drifted off to sleep in the middle of the night, but he awoke suddenly mere minutes later after getting a sudden wrenching in his gut. Three more times that happened.

He got himself a drink and used some meditative calming techniques. For a moment, he was calm and felt better. Getting back into bed, Targon then fell asleep. And then the unease came again – worse this time. And he was unable to wake up. He found himself lost in a horrific dream.

It was a cold, dark cavern. Targon shivered, but there was no way of getting warm. He felt as though he was down deep somewhere, for he felt the pressure of the dank air. He was standing on a stone walkway, high above a bottomless pit. Down the way, there was a wide, circular platform. Targon made his way over there, wondering if there was anything to see.

Sitting alone in the center of the platform was a haggard old woman, dressed in a dark cloak. Her gray hair was ratty and filthy. Her face seemed shriveled by the wrinkles. She looked quite disgusting. And the presence she had seemed even more so.

Targon happened to hear some of her thoughts – and they were horrible and dark. It was all about destruction, vengeance, ruin…and death. He figured this woman must be a Sith, for who else would dwell on such horrid thoughts? Targon wanted to leave, but he couldn’t. Something forced him to remain.

A presence was approaching. Something even more dark and sinister than this old woman. Targon thought he could smell rot and decay growing stronger in his nostrils. Footsteps came from behind, and Targon turned to see.

It was a man, dressed in black robes that seemed to disappear into the dark void. He was human – but he certainly didn’t look like it by his face. His skin was gray and thin, so that it simply clung to his bones. Lips pale, hair thin…eyes inverted. Where they were meant to be white they were dark as ash, and the pupils were ghostly pale.

Targon felt fear grip him at the sight of both hideous persons. He wanted to flee, to get away from these grisly, terrible beings. The man passed by him and approached the meditating woman.

A cold, grating query arose from the old woman’s lips. “Why do you disturb me?”

“I am finished with your tutelage,” came the reply from the man’s cruel voice.

The old woman rose, her stern eyes glaring at her pupil. “Is that any way to speak to your master? After decades of training and learning the higher ways of the Force, you dare to come and cast me off like a withered branch?”

“Forty-seven years I have endured your preaching, and wallowed under your foot, you worthless hag,” the man snarled. “Always you promised to teach me how to obtain power for my vengeance, and yet all the while you have lied to me and used me for your own glory.”

“What foolishness have you concocted here?” the woman asked. “Do you dare to defy your master?”

“Master?” the man hissed in foul mockery. “You are not my master anymore, witch. I have seen your true purpose in mind for my power – you desire to use me to destroy your bitter enemies in the Sith. But I will not be used…my power is for my vengeance, not yours.”

A lightsaber ignited in the old woman’s hands. Its crimson glow lit up the chamber a bit, but not enough to subdue the darkness around them. “You are a failure, Khan, and I see that my decades of training you have been for naught.”

“I disagree,” the man rebutted. His hand rose and the saber was yanked from the witch’s feeble hands. It was crushed in the outstretched hand without any exertion of effort. “I have applied your knowledge to hone and focus my strength. Now see what power I have learned on my own…”

The old woman rose into the air, weak cries uttered from her throat. “What is this? How is this possible?”

“I am one with the darkness,” the man answered. “I am the master now.”

His bony hand clenched slowly, and it appeared as though he was grabbing hold of something. Then his other hand rose and reciprocated the motion. The old woman’s body trembled and shook. At last, the man pulled his arms apart, and the hag screamed so horribly that Targon felt his blood run cold.

The molecules of the old woman were ripped apart, and a charred skeleton remained floating in the air for a moment before it too was shattered into microscopic particles. A horrid sigh came from the man, as he seemed to strengthen in stature and power – as though he fed from the death of his former master.

Targon cried out in terror, as he happened to see the ghostly eyes of the dark being once again.

He awoke in his bed, back in his warm chambers in the Jedi Temple. Back on Tython. Targon did not sleep for the rest of the waning night. Instead, he spent these hours trying to calm and center himself in meditation. The frightening vision did not recur, and it did not seem to replay in his thoughts. But the memory of it was sure enough, and it kept him in a cold sweat until the rising of the sun at dawn.
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 10:42 AM | #2
Chapter Two

Targon kept quiet during the trip. He said a quick farewell to some of his friends at the temple, and then he followed Master Tieru silently to the ship that would take them to Ord Mantell.

It was a small diplomatic ship, carrying several other ambassadors, suppliers, and office transfers. The Jedi pair were the last passengers to board before it took off and headed towards the war-torn planet. There, each of the passengers would go their separate ways Most to Republic military bases, others to offices in the cities. It was more than likely, Targon noted, that he wouldn’t be seeing most of these people again. So nobody bothered to get to know each other, despite the long and boring flight.

Tieru noticed the troubled thoughts from his padawan’s mind. He let the lad alone for a while, but soon he turned to his apprentice.

“Would you like to tell me what is bothering you, Targon?” he asked softly.

Targon looked up at his master. “I had a rough night, master.”

“So I see,” Tieru nodded. “You’re a little dark under the eyes, suggesting you didn’t sleep well. Not to mention your tired expression. But I’m guessing it was more than simple insomnia.”

Sighing, Targon said, “I had a disturbing dream…it may have been a vision.”

“A vision?” Tieru’s eyebrows rose slightly. “What did you see?”

“It was frightening, master, deeply entrenched in the Dark Side.”

“Indeed? What was it? Was it about you?”

Targon shook his head. “I was witnessing it, but I wasn’t participating. There was a dark cavern, with a walkway and a platform high above an abyss. There was an old woman…a Sith, I think. She was destroyed by her apprentice.”

“Killed? Like a coup or an assassination?” Tieru inquired.

“No master…I say destroyed because that’s what it was…She was ripped apart – at the molecular level.”

Tieru’s hand came to his chin in a pondering gesture. “I’ve heard of such techniques through the Force – but such is rare and terrible. It requires great power and enslavement by the Dark Side.”

“The apprentice,” Targon continued, “he was most frightening. He appeared completely ravaged by the Dark Side, his whole body…and his eyes…”

“Were there any names?” Tieru asked. “Did you learn who they were?”

“The old woman called her apprentice…Khan.”

Master Tieru’s expression betrayed nothing of what he thought. But when Targon mentioned the name of the man in his vision, his master questioned him no more.

“Is something wrong, master?” Targon asked.

“No, no…It is best to keep our minds focused on the here and now. We’ll be arriving at the planet soon enough and we need to be focused on our mission of diplomacy. We can discuss this later, and devote our full attention to it.”

Targon nodded, but he still felt uneasy. It was difficult to set aside such a disturbing vision, but he was able to keep his mind focused on the work ahead of him. He needed to remember all the proper etiquette that would be expected of him, the right things to say – and the proper time and manner in which to say them. While thinking, he happened to fall asleep. Peacefully, this time.

---

Seeing Targon asleep, Tieru stood up and walked to a secluded area of the ship for privacy. He then sat down in a meditative stance and closed his eyes. His consciousness left the ship and sailed through the depths of space to a calm and peaceful field of pure white. The light was nearly blinding, but he had long ago grown accustomed to it.

Here was where he had often gone in his meditations to find peace and solace. This was also where he could consult his closest friends, wherever they might be in the galaxy. He called out a name, and his voice seemed to echo endlessly through the empty field.

“Eseri.”

A figure faded in from the whiteness – a female Miraluka, slender and elderly. Her graying hair was tied carefully in a braid. She was dressed in soft blue robes, with a white band that covered where eyes would be, if she had any.

“Tieru, how good to see you,” she said with a soft smile. “How long has it been?”

“Too long, my old friend,” Tieru replied. “Almost fifty years.”

“Yet I suppose we had our reasons,” Master Eseri sighed. “What brings this meeting?”

Tieru replied, “A matter of grave importance. Do you know where the others are? Urak and Boreos?”

The Miraluka shook her head. “The others have been silent, and I have not been able to contact them over these many years. However, I suppose that could be considered a good thing, considering…”

“I’m afraid he is returning,” Tieru stated.

Eseri put her hand to her mouth in surprise. “Are you certain? How do you know?”

“My padawan has had a vision – and he saw Khan.”

“Impossible,” the Miraluka shook her head. “If he were still alive after half a century, he’d be a terribly old man. Humans do not live very long, and their strength fails them in their old age.”

“Not always,” Tieru countered. “You let your prejudice against the human species fool you into false security. Many humans have lived for long periods of time. The Force can strengthen and prolong life. And you know what Khan sought.”

“He was a blind fool then, Tieru, and if he still seeks immortality now, he is yet a fool. An old fool.”

“Like me, I suppose?” Tieru said, lightening the mood. “If Khan is returning, as my apprentice’s vision suggests, then we must warn the others.”

“I have tried to contact them, as I said,” Eseri shook her head. “I wonder if they are still alive. Fifty years is a long time, after all.”

“Not according to the universe, or the Force,” Tieru cocked his head.

“You continue to humble me, Tieru,” Eseri smiled in resignation.

“Only because you have much yet to learn, as do I.”

“Will you seek out the others then?”

Tieru sighed. “If you cannot find them, then I don’t know if I can. I lack the sight and clarity of the Miraluka.”

“You say that,” Eseri smirked, “and yet you seem to lecture me with your greater wisdom.”

“Wisdom and sight are not the same,” Tieru held up a finger. “But I have no need to lecture or instruct you, Eseri. You have been a master almost as long as I. Be watchful, my friend, for it would seem a greater darkness than the Empire is returning like a storm. I only hope we can stop it this time.”

Eseri bowed and then faded away. Left alone, Tieru at first tried to call out to the others…but as his friend had said earlier, they were not answering. He peered deeper, letting himself be taken on the currents of life through the Force, searching for Urak. That Feeorin was nearly as old as Tieru, and therefore had many more years to live.

He followed the path that his old friend had traveled through the galaxy, as though he were following his footsteps. They moved all over the Outer Rim…and then they stopped at a small world in a remote system. There were signs of recent life – whole cities, even – and now there was nothing. No life…and a lingering darkness. This was most distressing. Urak was nowhere to be found, his presence was not among the living.

Tieru then started to search for Boreos. He pursued the trail one planet after the other…

He suddenly felt himself yanked back into the world. Targon knelt before him, lightly shaking his shoulder.

“Master,” Targon said. “The ship has arrived at Ord Mantell.”

“Ah, yes,” the Jedi Master nodded and started to get up. He leaned a great deal on his staff for support. Targon took his arm and tried to help him.

“Thank you, my boy,” Tieru nodded to his apprentice. “We should be off at once.”

“What were you doing, master?” Targon asked. “Besides simply meditating?”

“Just meditating, Targon, just meditating.” He didn’t want to delve into this sort of thing at the moment. And certainly not with his padawan. This was something far beyond the boy’s control, and it would only put fear and unease into his mind.

---

Targon was frustrated. It had been hours since their arrival, and still they had yet to speak with anyone of importance with the government. The Republic garrison command had simply sent them off to the city center, and then the secretaries of the various departments had simply passed them around in circles.

Noting his padawan’s irritation, Tieru stopped before they entered into yet another office. He turned to Targon.

“Why don’t you go for a walk to relax your mind?” he suggested. “I’ll handle the obstinate business in here. I’ll contact you if I make any progress.”

“Are you sure you should be alone, master?”

“What? You think because I’m old I can’t handle a few politicians and their secretaries?” Tieru laughed. “I’ll be fine. It’s you who needs to find focus. And you definitely won’t find any walking in circles and listening to annoying officials direct us to a different department. I daresay the government on this planet is a joke.”

“That doesn’t sound very Jedi-like, master,” Targon smiled.

“No, I suppose it doesn’t. However, unhelpful individuals annoy even a Jedi Master. Yet, we must continue this work. Eventually, we’ll find someone who has the ability to see to any sort of peace talks. Perhaps you shall find a way on your walk – an unorthodox method. I’ve known many padawans that have done such.”

“Yes, master,” Targon bowed and walked down the street. There wasn’t much to be said for sights to see. Everything was run-down or damaged – consequences of the civil war. Soldiers were scattered through the area, most resting, others checking their gear.
Targon, while looking around inattentively, accidentally bumped into one. The bulk of the trooper nearly knocked him to the ground, but he caught himself.

“I’m terribly sorry,” Targon bowed.

The soldier turned around to face him. He was somewhat tall, and he was certainly a veteran. Targon noted his battle scars and gray hair. His armor was also battered, and well used.

“You’re quite alright, lad,” the soldier said. “I never could keep out of the younger generation’s way before, and I suppose it’s no different now.”

“I beg your pardon?” Targon raised an eyebrow.

“The name’s Marc Avis…but all the young boys call me ‘Old Greyhawk’.”

“Pleasure to meet you…Major?” Targon supposed, glancing at the insignia on the soldier’s armor. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by ‘out of the way’.”

“Well, you probably wouldn’t,” Marc sighed. “I am an old dog, a relic of the past war. I’ve no business being around young sports like you.”

“I suppose you’ve a few years over me to come up with that philosophy,” Targon said. “But I imagine you’re no grunt when it comes to the battlefield – you’re still here, aren’t you?”

Marc smiled. “Well now, I wasn’t expecting praise from a young lad – even a Jedi. Thanks.”

“Perhaps you could share your greater knowledge and experience with me?” Targon asked.

“How can I help?”

“My master and I have come to aid in possible negotiations with the separatists here on Ord Mantell – to put an end to the fighting.”

The major interrupted. “After all this time? The Jedi never came before – what’s with the change? All other attempts at diplomacy have failed. That’s kind of the reason this is a war-zone planet.”

“Well,” Targon chose not to be offended by the interruption. “The fighting has gone on for quite some time, and my master was hoping to bring an end to it.”

“Who’s your master?”

“His name is Tieru.”

“I’ve never heard of him,” Marc shook his head.

“No, you probably wouldn’t have.”

“So what’s your problem?”

Targon shook his head frustrated. “Everywhere we go to speak with someone useful in the government, we just keep getting sent to another office. And when we get there, they send us off again.”

Marc chuckled. “That’s not unexpected. The government of this planet is a bad joke, to be completely honest.”

Targon raised an eyebrow again. “My master said almost the exact same thing!”

“He was right,” the soldier sighed. He leaned in closer to him. “I’m not supposed to talk like this, but it’s really no secret that the whole planetary government is run by criminal cartels that threw in their lot with the Republic. If anything, you’ll probably find more success in diplomacy with the separatists…but that’s not saying much.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Targon nodded. “I certainly don’t want you to get yourself in any trouble.”

“Bah!” Marc scoffed. “I’m an old soldier – and command’s been trying to get me killed on the field for twelve years now. It doesn’t matter what I say.”

“Is there anything you could tell me about the situation on the planet? Or about the separatists?”

“Not much more than you probably already know,” Marc replied.

“Do you know any way to contact someone of the opposite side that might be interested in talking?”

“I don’t, but I know someone who will,” the soldier answered. “Follow me; I’ll take you to him.”

Targon followed, figuring to himself that if his master needed him, he would be contacted directly. Besides, Tieru would probably want Targon to start doing some Jedi business on his own. He needed to if he ever wanted to become a knight.
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 10:47 AM | #3
Chapter Three

Marc Avis brought Targon to a penurious area, where every structure looked like it was about to collapse at any moment. Poor folk were littered all over the place, digging through garbage to find food. They all seemed to ignore the pair of strangers walking past them.

“Doesn’t the Republic do anything to help these people?” Targon asked.

The soldier sighed. “Yes, what aid can be spared for this world is sent to alleviate the suffering of the poor…but I’m afraid that most of the supplies never reach the people.”

“Why?” Targon asked, though he had a suspicion as to the reason.

“The government is full of greedy and selfish criminals masquerading as officials.”

“And yet the Republic works with them? Don’t they do more to stop the corruption?” Targon felt disgust rising in his stomach at the idea of the Republic working with criminals that starve their own people.”

“If I could do anything about it, I surely would,” Marc stated indignantly, for he felt that the Jedi’s accusatory tone was directed to him as well as his superiors. “I follow my orders, and I do what I’m told. I’m no commander, and I’m definitely not someone with power to bring supplies directly to the people.”

“Yes you are,” Targon countered.

“If I were a smuggler or a vigilante, then sure,” Marc shrugged. “But I’m a soldier – and there are rules to follow for a soldier. You wouldn’t understand, Jedi.”

Targon sighed. “I suppose I wouldn’t. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. It’s just…I’ve never really seen suffering like this…up close and in person.”

“Well,” Marc’s tone softened when he himself realized that the Jedi meant well. “As a soldier, you end up seeing a lot of pain – on all sides of the conflict. These folks here, most of them are relatives and supporters of the separatists. I can’t say I blame them.”

“Won’t they have a problem with us?” Targon asked.

“Nah, they’re too busy trying to survive. And I keep on good terms with the guy in charge here. Jethro Pax, he’s called…and he’s the guy we’re going to see.”

“Is he part of the separatists?”

Marc nodded. “Head of one of the cells in the region. If you want to talk peace with the separatists, he’s a good one to see.”

“How is it you keep an amicable relation with him if he’s an enemy? Don’t your commanding officers…?”

“What? You think my superiors know about everything going on here?” Marc cut him off. “They’re too busy trying to run the cities, let alone manage what the troops do. Besides, nobody cares what old Greyhawk does.”

They came at last to a building that was supposed to be a library – or at least it used to be. No computers or books remained. Instead, the shelves and ragged furniture was put up as a series of barriers in the building. There wasn’t anyone around, which Targon thought odd, if it was where a separatist leader hung around.

Suddenly, three armed men emerged from clever hiding spots. They were out so fast that Targon didn’t have time to even sense their presence and intent before both he and Marc were surrounded – with blasters pointed at their heads.

“Are you greeted so hostile every time you come to visit?” Targon asked.

“Hostile? No, Jedi, this is a rare friendly greeting. They must have seen me coming a ways off and put down their guard a bit.”

Targon glanced at the closest blaster’s muzzle, mere inches from his ear. Friendly, eh? He’d hate to see an unfriendly greeting, then.

A man came out of the building. He was dressed in old body armor that was in dire need of cleaning. Actually, everything about him needed some cleaning – but then, Targon figured that the separatists wouldn’t be any better off than the civilians with the government being as it was.

“Well, Greyhawk,” the man laughed. “You’ve snuck away from your post for another chat, huh?” He shook Marc’s hand, and then regarded Targon. “I see you brought company…a Jedi, no less.”

Targon bowed his head in greeting. “My name is Targon Karashi, and I’m here to…”

The man cut him off. “Inside, we talk inside,” he pointed to the entrance of the building. The man led in Marc and Targon, and the armed guards followed behind them.

“You must be Jethro Pax,” Targon supposed when they finally came to a stop.

“Indeed I am,” the dirty man said. “Now, what’s your business in coming here, Jedi?”

“My master and I are here to promote possible peace talks between the planetary government of Ord Mantell and the separatists.”

“Those criminals are not our government,” Jethro frowned. “And I don’t like anyone considering them as such, or even hinting at them.”

“I’m sorry,” Targon apologized. “All I was meaning to say was that we want to bring peace to this world.”

“For all I know, the Republic could be using your Jedi peacefulness to draw us out and ambush us. I’m no fool to underhanded tactics in war, Jedi.”

“I assure you this is no plot of treachery,” Targon said.

“Yet what good is the word of a stranger?” Jethro asked. He held up a finger to silence Marc before he spoke. “And don’t try to sway me with your personal assurance, Greyhawk. I have no way of knowing whether you’re working for yourself or your masters in this instance.”

“Pax, you know me,” Marc protested.

“Maybe not as well as I should,” Jethro countered. “And I certainly don’t know this boy here.” He turned back to Targon. “If you really want to convince me of serious intent of peace, then you’ve got to prove it.”

“How can I do that?” Targon asked. In the back of his mind, he was starting to get nervous at the whole situation. Technically, he was speaking to a rebel and an enemy…but wasn’t he also a person and a man believing in his actions?

“You probably noticed the starving folks outside – my people,” Jethro pointed out the window. “Jedi are meant to help the weak and the suffering, aren’t they? I want you to raid a shipment of supplies that the worms in the government are shipping to their personal estates. Bring the food and aid to the people, and then I can consider going along with your plan to negotiate with us.”

Targon’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You want me to steal? I can’t do that.”

“They are the one’s who have stolen from their own people!” Jethro said boldly. “You can’t steal from someone when it doesn’t belong to them in the first place. I would have thought a Jedi would know that.”

Targon did not know what to say to that. The only thing he could think of was to counsel with his master, and see what he thought about the matter. His thoughts were interrupted by Jethro’s next statement.

“Spies say a large shipment will soon pass the river a few kilometers east. That will be your target. Well, Jedi, are you going to help the people? Or are you going to keep throwing in your lot with the government?”

There was no time for contemplation, and certainly no time to get back to his master. He had to make a decision…but what? Should he refrain from getting so involved in the conflict? He came to make peace, not join in the fighting. Yet…could he sit and do nothing while people starved? Such was not the way of the Jedi.

To Marc it was a clear and easy choice – even though he had some of his own concerns to deal with. He clapped Targon on the shoulder. “Of course young Targon here will accept the mission, won’t you?” He raised a gray and bushy eyebrow.

“I…” Targon hesitated, but then he made the decision. “Yes, I will get the supplies. There’s probably no chance of simply talking about the matter and getting the food through diplomacy, is there?”

Jethro laughed. “No chance. We’ve been fighting the government for years…and they aren’t about to allow the poor and destitute respite any time soon. You’re probably going to have to fight them for the contents of the shipment, but that shouldn’t be too difficult for a Jedi.”

Targon sighed. “I guess I’d better be leaving now.”

He was shown to the door, and he walked slowly eastward. There were heavy footsteps tromping a little behind him.

“What are you doing, Marc?” Targon asked.

“You didn’t think I’d get you into this sort of mess and then just leave you to get out of it by yourself, did you?” the soldier asked.

“Couldn’t you get in trouble with the military for aiding the enemy? I can’t allow you to put yourself in that situation.”

Marc shook his head. “What does old Greyhawk care for those bums that run the Republic military from their fancy offices? This is about helping real people – about standing up for the principles that the Republic claims to uphold. If I end up being court-martialed for this, well then, I’ll still have felt better about today than my entire career in the military.”

Targon was awed by this man’s devotion, and it shamed him that he had actually had to think about his assignment – and even considered walking away from it. Well, now he was involved. It was nice to know he wasn’t going to be completely on his own.

He just hoped he wouldn’t disappoint his master.

---

Tieru leaned on his staff, using his free hand to rub his forehead in exhaustion and frustration. Yet another secretary brushing him off. He easily resisted the urge to simply force his way through and get results. Such was not the way a Jedi behaved – and he had over one hundred years’ worth of experience to tell him that confrontation is not the way to handle a situation – except in the rarest occasions. A stubborn office clerk was no such case.

Still, this work was getting tedious and was wasting a great deal of time. All the while, the conflict continued; somewhere on the planet, someone was dying or suffering. Did these government officials care? It became more and more apparent that they did not.

Targon had been gone quite a while, but as he had not made any progress, Tieru deemed it unnecessary to summon his padawan yet. He might be in the midst of getting somewhere Tieru was not. Then again, he might have gotten in trouble. Or he could have simply taken a longer stroll…there was no reason to jump to any conclusions.

He remembered Boreos – that old Lorridian – and he decided that since he couldn’t get anywhere, now was the best time to seek him out.

Tieru walked just outside the city and found a nice patch of ground to kneel down and slip back into meditation and the field of white. His mind searched and called out to his friend. There was no reply.

Following the trail of Boreos’ presence through the Force, he came to a monastery deep in wild space. A place ancient and forgotten. There was a darkness hanging thick in the air, like he felt on the world he tracked Urak to. No stench of death – there was any life there to begin with except one. The familiar feel of his old friend…yet his spirit had passed beyond the mortal world.

Tieru sighed sadly. Urak and Boreos were both dead. And there was only one person who could have possibly located them – and have been so dedicated in seeing them dead.

So they were being hunted one by one. Yet Tieru couldn’t understand how…how could he be finding them? Nearly fifty years…

Something brought him back to his physical surroundings. Three men stood around him. Three dirty, burly, and armed men. Tieru did not have to guess who they were, or what they wanted.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” he asked calmly.

“You could hand over your possessions,” the biggest of the trio replied.

Tieru shook his head. “I’m afraid I have nothing that would interest you.”

“We’ll be the judge of that,” another of the thugs said. “You’ve got a nice animal skin, you might give us that.”

“What would you want with that?” Tieru asked, rising to his feet. “It’s so old – I’ve thought about getting a new one.”

The first man pointed to his dangling lightsaber. “That would be worth a lot to us, Jedi. Hand it over, and we’ll be on our way.”

“And don’t try pulling it out,” the last of the men barked. “I’ve got a blaster pointed right at your head. You try anything, and you’re fried. I’m the fastest shot on this side of the planet.”

“Are you separatists or just common thieves?” Tieru inquired.

“What’s it matter?”

“Not much,” the old Jedi shrugged. “I don’t want to pick a fight, but you’re not getting anything from me.”

“You must be senile, old man,” the man took a step closer, keeping the blaster trained on him. “I guess we’ll just kill you and take whatever you’ve got. Starting with the lightsaber…”

Tieru sighed. “The saber is not the weapon you should be worried about.” In a blur, he twirled his staff around and swatted the blaster out of the thug’s hand. Then he crashed the thick wood against the man’s head.

One of the others drew a knife and lunged. Tieru twirled the staff, knocked away the leading arm, and jabbed at the man’s chest. He dropped, gasping for breath.

Then Tieru faced the last man, who had a pair of pistols out and was inching to pull the triggers. Suddenly, he found the guns yanked out of his hands and thrown to the ground. Tieru then swiped his staff and knocked the man’s legs out from under him. The thug fell with a thud, and Tieru incapacitated him by rapping his cane against the man’s gut.

The incident was over in a few seconds. All three men were down – one unconscious, two struggling for breath. Before they could recover, Tieru walked off and headed back to the city. He had been meditating for several hours, apparently, by the movement of the planet’s sun. It might be time to find Targon and continue with his business.

Still, his mind was heavy with sorrow for the deaths of his friends…and the worry that Eseri was next on the forsaken one’s list.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 10:53 AM | #4
Chapter Four

The shipment of supplies was a large one – and the size of it, mixed with the intent of it all, sickened Targon. Four large cargo transports, escorted by three speeders with cannons. And a complement of seven battle droids.

Sure, they needed to keep their convoy protected from possible attacks…but if those transports were full of supplies – as Jethro claimed – then they were definitely going the wrong direction from the people who needed it. Targon was willing to help starving civilians if he could, but how was he going to take out all that alone? Well, there was Marc here too, but two against all that?

“What do you think?” Targon asked the major.

“Looks like they’ve got quite the party,” Marc sighed. “I’ve taken on worse, however.”

“By yourself?”

“Well…” Marc smiled with embarrassment. “Bah! Don’t worry; we’ll take care of them. I’ve got a plan.”

“What is it?” Targon asked.

“First, you’re going to go out there and see if you can talk with them. See if they might be willing to negotiate a price for the supplies to be given to the people.”

“You can’t be serious. They wouldn’t agree to that…” Targon started to protest.

“No, you’re right. They won’t. But your efforts will distract them – since they’ve probably never run across a Jedi before and they’ll be scared of you for a while. Rumors abound and escalate of Jedi and Sith throughout war-torn worlds.”

“Alright, that makes sense…sort of,” Targon nodded. “And then what? What will you do?”

“I,” the soldier said proudly, “will start the fight.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll know it when it happens,” Marc winked.

Targon sighed. “I guess that’s going to have to do. All right, let’s get this over with. The sooner we get it done, the sooner those people can get some help.”

He walked out onto the road, right in front of the oncoming convoy. At first, there was no hinting of slowing down, and Targon started to fear they might simply run him over. Well, he wasn’t going to allow that, but he was a little worried that Marc’s mysterious plan would be over before it began.

Finally, the vehicles stopped, and the battle droids’ weapons were raised. A man leaned out of the window of the front speeder. “Hey! Get out of the road!” he shouted carelessly.

“I would like to speak with the man in charge of this convoy,” Targon stated.

“What for?”

“To negotiate a price for these supplies.”

There was silence, and then the man laughed. “Price? Look, buddy, this cargo is headed for the estate of the District Administrator. He’s not selling these.”

“I have a fine offer,” Targon said, wincing inside that he might be getting himself into a big mess of lies.

“Take it up with him at his estate, but we’re not making any deals on the road. You might be the pretense for a separatist ambush. If you value your life, stranger, you’d better get out of our way.”

Targon pointed to his lightsaber. “I am a Jedi, and I wish to negotiate for the trade of these supplies so that they might reach people who actually need it.”

More laughter – including those others inside the speeder. “You look like a kid, pal, and we’re not buying your claim.” He turned to the driver of the vehicle. “Come on, let’s go. If he doesn’t move, then just run him over.”

Targon’s hand grabbed his lightsaber and ignited it. The brilliant green blade sprung to life with a soft hum. The men in the vehicles gaped, and the battle droids targeted him.

For a long moment, there was no sound but the humming of Targon’s saber and the unnoticed drone of the repulsion engines. It looked like the men were afraid of him…but their fear was passing. Targon started to worry how long he would need to keep this up.

“Do you intend to rob us, Jedi?” the speaking man asked. “Because if you do, then the Administrator…”

“My intent is to trade for the supplies,” Targon cut him off brusquely.

“I don’t like young punks – even Jedi – to boss me around and try to threaten me,” the man said in an unjustified tone of indignation. Apparently, he was not taking the saber display very well.

“There is no need for hostilities,” Targon tried to reassure him.

The man ignored him, turning to the battle droids. “This man has blocked our path and intends to rob us. Deal with him, now!”

Confusion and annoyance coincided in Targon’s mind. Why was this man being so unreasonable? Sure, he had drawn out his lightsaber, but he was not in an aggressive stance. He hadn’t shown any inclination towards violence in his speech or tone. Yet, it looked like there was no deal going to be made here. It looked like fighting was the only course. Hopefully, nobody would have to die…

A volley of blaster fire leapt towards him. With quick reflexes, he deflected the bolts away, and then leaped off to the left. The firing followed after, striking against the dirt behind his feet.

Then he jumped up onto one of the speeders to gain a good vantage point. One of the passengers within the vehicle pulled a blaster and tried shooting him through the roof. Targon jumped off the speeder to avoid being shot from below, cutting a battle droid in half as he landed next to it.

More bolts started zipping towards him. The droids, the men in the speeders…and he noticed the cannons of the escorts start turning towards him. Targon sighed in dismay. He could block and he could run…but soon he would be overwhelmed. He hadn’t exactly been planning on fighting all these guys alone.

A small metal ball clanked against the metal surface of one of the speeders, and then rolled beneath the one next to it. With his intuition racing, Targon leaped a distance away as an intense blue surge of electricity exploded and engulfed the convoy. When the blinding flash dissipated, the droids collapsed and the hovering speeders clattered to the ground. All mechanical objects were fried.

Marc appeared, a blaster rifle out and pointed at the drivers. “Gentlemen, if you would please exit your vehicles and get on the ground, that would be greatly appreciated,” the major said.

The men did as they said – except the offended leader of the troupe. “Do you have any idea what you two hoodlums are doing? I ought to kill you right now…”

“I think you’ll find your weapons useless,” Marc cut him off. “And they should remain useless for some time, thanks to the wondrous power of electromagnetic pulses.”

“You,” the man snarled. “You’re a Republic soldier! I’ll see to it that you’re put in front of a firing squad for this treachery! The Administrator will be hearing about this…”

Marc lifted his boot and kicked the annoying man, knocking him out cold.

“That wasn’t necessary, was it?” Targon asked as he approached the downed vehicles. “He’ll only be more upset when he comes to.”

“Like I said – what does…?”

“Yes,” Targon sighed. “What does old Greyhawk care?”

“You’ve got it, lad. I guess the plan didn’t go quite as expected, but it seems to have worked out fine. Now, what do you say about getting this stuff to the folks who really need it?”

---

Luckily for the pair, there were hoversleds in the cargo transports to carry the large and bulky crates. They unloaded many of the materials, but not nearly the entire shipment. It wouldn’t have been smart to take all of it anyway. That would have caused major issues down the road.

By early evening, Targon and Marc had brought the sleds into the town, and the citizens congregated around them swiftly. The two began handing out supplies to each of the desperate people. Fortunately, they had not become feral in their impoverished state and did not try to swarm and ransack their suppliers.

A pale stick of a child approached Targon. Upon seeing the girl, Targon reached into one of the cases and withdrew a treat – an expensive and fancy one. Kneeling down, he handed it to her. The child perked up and grinned with malnourished teeth as she took it.

“Thank you, Master Jedi,” she said softly.

Targon felt himself blush. He patted her head gently and smiled. This was how a Jedi should act, he thought to himself. This is how a Jedi serves the people – and follows the code. Helping, strengthening, and protecting the weak and helpless…such acts were what truly made a Jedi. However, he felt a little embarrassed at being called a master. He wasn’t even knighted yet.

He stood up and continued handing out the contents of the shipment. Coming through the joyous crowd was Jethro Pax. He was clapping his hands lightly.

“I must say I’m impressed, Jedi,” he said.

Targon nodded. “While I am happy to help people, has this act proved my intent to try and forge a peace to this conflict?”

“To me,” Jethro replied, “yes, you have. I’ll contact other cell leaders. It will take time for any decision of diplomacy to be made. We may not be like the government, but we can’t do anything as fast as many of us would like.”

“I suppose all I can do is wait then,” Targon sighed. Suddenly, he felt odd. His fingers and toes started to get cold quickly. His eyesight started to dim, and things became blurry.

Targon blinked to check if he might be tired…and he felt his legs give out from under him.
His world went black…but then he found himself in a chamber. A place he had never seen before: a circular room, very few furnishings, no window, and a single door that led into a narrow hallway. It was no room like in the Jedi Temple, or any building he had seen on the planet.

There was someone within the room.

It was a woman meditating on a rug on the far side of the circular chamber. Targon felt a cold chill run through him. She was older, though not as old as the other woman he had seen. The similarity, however, he found quite disturbing.

She was a Miraluka, he could tell. A band across where her eyes would have been and a braid of hair covered her upper face. Her robes were light blue, and there was an incredible placidity and peacefulness about her that rivaled that of Master Tieru. However, when he continued to watch her, she stirred and rose.

“Who is there?” she asked softly, yet sternly.

Targon felt nervous. Who was she speaking to? Was this a vision, or was he truly there in the room with her? But if he were physically there, then she would see him through her sight in the Force.

She repeated her question, louder this time.

Figuring he might as well test the situation, he answered, “My name is Targon Karashi. I don’t mean to disturb you.”

The Miraluka’s head cocked like she was straining to hear a faint whisper. “Where are you? You are not here in my chamber…you are distant. Who are you and how did you find me?”

“My name is Targon,” he reiterated, more confused than she seemed. “I don’t know where you are…I don’t even know where I am.”

“You are a Jedi…a padawan,” she stated.

“I am apprenticed to Master Tieru,” Targon figured he might as well say what he knew. She didn’t feel dark at all – she wasn’t like that other woman.

“Tieru?” she exclaimed. “Is he here?”

“No…” Targon supposed. He didn’t feel his master around, anyway. “You know him?”

“Of course I know him. I spoke with him just this morning.”

“What? How?” Nobody ever knew Tieru…

There was no time for answers. Footsteps could be heard outside in the hall – and a frighteningly familiar presence consumed by darkness approached.

“Someone is coming,” Targon stated.

The woman’s face grew grim, yet calm. “Khan,” she breathed.

In a crash, the door to the chamber burst in. Targon rushed to a wall to avoid the shivers, though it was unnecessary, as he discovered when a piece of the door flew right through him. He wasn’t there physically.

The entryway was filled with the form of the dark man Targon had seen in his nightmare. In the greater light, he looked far more haggard and spent – like a man who hadn’t slept in years. There was cruelty in his inverted eyes.

“Master Eseri,” the dark man said in his malicious voice. “I would have thought you harder to find…given your history.”

The Miraluka’s hand was to her lightsaber, and the blue blade ignited – lighting up the room with its glow. “The years look like they haven’t been kind to you, or your sense of dramatics,” she said.

Khan bared his foul teeth. “Still holding to foolish banter, and wallowing in your pride…I see the Jedi don’t change even after half a century.”

“I know what you’re here for, and you shall not have it,” Eseri stated with intense boldness. “You will not find the vengeance you seek.”

“When I have taken your head, and the pieces of the secret you possess, your spirit might want to reflect on that conclusion.” From his hand ignited a ghostly green blade. Targon was surprised – having expected a Sith’s blade to be red.

No more words. The man flung forward, swinging his saber. Eseri stepped to the side and blocked his attack. He continued a full assault, swinging from left to right, high to low…yet he didn’t seem like he was exerting himself. It appeared it seemed more like an exercise with him.

“What’s this?” Eseri asked. “Forty-seven years, and still you have not grown in strength? Where are you powers you claimed to be mastering? Where are the skills in the manipulation of matter, Khan?”

“A bit of sport always comes first,” her opponent replied. “I want satisfaction in this beyond simple victory. A quick kill is a wasted kill.”

They fought on. For a while, it looked like Eseri would be able to hold out forever against her attacker. But then his strikes became faster, stronger, and sneakier. The wicked snarl on his face grew larger as the battle dragged on.

Their blades locked for a minute or two, both struggling over the strength of the other. Khan twisted the blades in a circle, and then flung Eseri’s weapon out of her hand. Before he could take advantage of her disarmament, she hurled him back with the Force. She then sent another wave towards him to shove him through the wall.

Khan lifted his arm and covered his face. The blast crashed into a barrier he had set up, which parted it and sent it into the wall behind him. He stood unmoved.

“This bores me,” Khan hissed. “I had hoped you might provide a more impressive confrontation than your brethren…but it looks like you have disappointed me as well.”

“I’m not here for your entertainment,” the Miraluka said.

“And you won’t be here for much longer,” the man countered, lifting his left hand towards her. “Now see what power I have mastered over these many years…”

Eseri grimaced in pain, but she tried to remain calm and push back the power being exerted over her. Blood began oozing from her pores and her robes began to tatter into shreds. She started crying out in pain, and that soon escalated to screaming.

“Impossible!” she shrieked. “This is impossible!”

The man smiled cruelly. “Is it impossible that I have such ability? Or impossible that I am stronger than you? You Jedi should know full well that nothing is impossible through the Force. And I control the Force.”

Her cries became horrendous, much like the old witch. Targon turned away so that he might not witness the disturbing scene again. As he faced the wall, the room became silent. Terrified, he noticed that the vision continued, and he rotated to see what more there was.

Khan stood alone in the chamber. There was no remnant of Master Eseri. The dark man took a moment to stand triumphant, and then he felt a presence.

“Tieru?” he inquired. “Is that you, old druid? You’re the last one left – and I’ll find you just as I’ve found the others. And when you are dead, I shall have the secret you and your friends have failed to keep hidden.”

Targon felt his blood turn to ice. Who was this abominable person?

“You do not know who I am?” the man hissed, frightening Targon by responding to his thought. “You are not Tieru, then. Well stranger, know that I am Khan Arc-Saal, and I am Death.”

With that, a foul whisper arose and Targon felt himself fall into blackness once again. Yet in his soul, he could still see Khan’s dread eyes.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 10:59 AM | #5
Chapter Five

Targon awoke with a start; sweat beads were all over his face. He was lying on a weak and rickety cot. It was dark outside, and he had no idea how long he had been out. Standing over him were Marc and Jethro. Their looks were of relief, but also concern – probably with the intensity of how Targon awoke.

“You’re awake!” Marc gasped. “Are you alright?”

“What happened?” Targon asked weakly.

Jethro answered, “You collapsed while giving out supplies. No one could wake you, and some thought it was an attack.”

“An attack?”

“A fearful proposition that was disproved quickly,” Marc waved his hand. “Do you know what happened to you? Why you fainted?”

“I…” Targon hesitated. He wasn’t exactly sure what he had seen. It was a vision, yet somehow he was interacting with it. That wasn’t normal. It was almost like he was communicating his voice and presence through the Force…and the two people had felt him and spoken to him.

“We don’t have much time to sit around chatting,” Jethro said. “The government authorities know about the missing convoy, and they’re probably going to hit here fast and hard. It’s time to get out of here. I’ve already started evacuating the civilians – my soldiers’ families. I think we need to go now, as well.”

“Why haven’t you already gone?” Targon asked.

“You weren’t in any condition to move,” Marc replied.

“Then you should go now, without me.”

“What?”

Targon sighed. “I need to take responsibility for my actions.”

“You’re only in this as far as I am,” Marc stated.

“But I may be able to help you. The government of Ord Mantell doesn’t hold authority to punish a Jedi. They will take me to the city where I will be sent back to the Order to stand judgment. That gives you time to escape and avoid any retribution.”

“You’re willing to make that sacrifice for an enemy?” Jethro asked, amazed.

“I am. My master and I came here to build peace, not continue the civil war. Hopefully, this will help both sides see reason.”

“Then I’m staying with you,” Marc said. “I’ve got you into this, so I might as well face the consequences as well.”

“There’s no need,” Targon shook his head. “They might not even know who you are. If there’s a chance you can get out of this mess, take it.”

“Either you’re selfish for attention,” Marc sighed, “or you’re one of the most noble Jedi I’ve ever met. If they arrest you, I’ll be sure to bust you out – or die trying.”

“I pray that will not be necessary,” Targon said as he began to stand. “I’ll meet them outside the village. You need to get everyone out – including yourselves.” He wobbled a bit, still weak and uncertain from his experience. The vision remained clear in his mind…clear and horrible. But he pushed the fear aside so it would not distract him.

He walked out of the building, noticing the abandonment of the area. It looked like nobody was taking any chances with government retribution. From reports he had heard about the civil war, Targon remembered that many times whole villages were destroyed for housing enemy soldiers. It didn’t matter which side.

Targon was nearing the part of the city where he had left his master – the district of government administration buildings that had been ever so hospitable to them. He didn’t sense Tieru’s presence anywhere. And he didn’t see him…or anyone else, for that matter.

It must be a government curfew, or something. Nobody was about on the streets. But that wasn’t for long. Targon soon noticed half a dozen men coming his way. They were armed, and wearing the uniforms of the planet’s police force.

“Halt!” the lead man ordered when he saw Targon.

He did as he was instructed.

When they came nearer, the man observed, “You’re a Jedi.”

“Yes I am, officer,” Targon replied coolly.

“You match the description of a Jedi that raided a supply convoy earlier today. We are here to place you into custody and proceed with questioning.”

“Very well,” Targon submitted.

“You were also in the company of a traitorous Republic soldier. Where is he?”

“Well, he’s not here,” Targon replied.

“I don’t like smart-mouths,” the officer frowned. “Where is he?”

Targon sighed. “Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you.”

“You’re a fool if you think you can lie to us,” the officer got up in Targon’s face. “We know full well where the supplies you stole were taken.”

“If that’s so, why are you bothering with me?”

The officer smacked Targon’s face with his baton, sending him to the ground. Then cuffs were harshly put on his wrists and he was yanked back up to his feet. The officer pulled out a cigar and lit it. He took a puff and blew the exhaust into Targon’s face.

“You’re conspiring with separatists, Jedi,” he said. “Such treachery is punishable by death. And your friends will suffer the same fate. Fighter squadrons have been dispatched to nullify the hive of separatists you’ve aided. Those supplies had tracking beacons on them for such a case as this.”

Targon coughed at the smoke in his nose, but he kept calm. Perhaps the officer was lying? Trying to force a confession or a reaction? That would be plausible, but it didn’t make sense.

“Are you done? Are you going to take me away?” Targon asked. “I’d like to make sure my head is not badly injured.”

“Giving me attitude, are you?” the officer growled.

“So, sir,” Targon said, defiantly. He knew by his training that he shouldn’t get agitated, but the behavior of this officer was starting to rile him. And his discipline was starting to fail. These brutes had no idea what Targon had just seen. They were concerned about aiding the enemy, when he had just witnessed a Jedi Master be slain by unholy means.

“Let’s take this fool away,” the officer said to his group. A sound of distant explosions was heard in the silent night. “Ah, you hear that, Jedi? That’s the sound of your rebel friends being annihilated.”

The nasty smirk on his face made Targon angry. He shoved his elbow into the officer’s gut, but as he did so, another officer struck him from behind. Targon fell to his knees and felt a blaster be shoved up to his head. Targon tried to calm himself and focus on getting out of the cuffs.

He heard footsteps a little ways off. And then he heard a man shout, “Get back, citizen! This is official business!”

Suddenly, all the group’s weapons were pulled out of hands and holsters and thrown a great distance away. The footsteps grew nearer, and Targon could hear the distinct sounds of two feet and a wooden staff clapping against the road.

“Gentlemen, what is this all about?” the welcome voice of his master asked. “Unless my old eyes deceive me, you’re arresting my padawan.”

“This young man has stolen cargo from the District Administrator and given the supplies to separatist forces. He is an enemy to the government of Ord Mantell.”

“Now I find that just ridiculous,” Tieru said. “You must be mistaken.” That addendum was said in a familiarly dictated tone.

“I…must be…mistaken…” the officer responded slowly. “Yes, I must be mistaken.”

“You will release him and speak of this matter no more,” Tieru said.

“I…will release him and speak of this matter no more,” came the obedient repetition.

The cuffs on Targon’s hands were released, and the officers left. He remained on his knees for a moment. His head hurt, he worried that his master was displeased…and he feared that the people he had helped had been killed. Maybe they had escaped…but he wouldn’t be able to tell.

His master’s firm hand rested on his shoulder. “Well, Targon, I see we’ve had a bit of trouble today.”

“I’m sorry, master,” Targon said quietly.

“Well, why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Targon proceeded to relay his meeting with Major Marc Avis, his visit to the hideout of separatist officer, Jethro Pax; and the assignment he had been given to prove his honest intent on promoting peace. And then he told about his escapade with Marc against the Administrator’s convoy. Tieru listened intently, nodding with each new development.

“Have I done wrong?” Targon asked when he finished.

Tieru did not answer right away. He tapped his chin in thought, and then he answered, “No, Targon. I believe you did very well.”

“But, master?” Targon said, confused. “I stole, I attacked a government convoy…and I nearly got myself arrested.”

“Yes, that’s true. But, you found a way to talk to the separatists, you offered to negotiate for the supplies, and you fought only when they had provoked the conflict. And you gave the supplies to those who desperately needed it to survive. In my book, that’s how a Jedi should be. However, I think other – more traditional – masters would think differently.”

Targon smiled at his master’s praise, and thanked the Force he had a teacher who would have done the same as he had done. But the fear he had suppressed entered back into his mind. “Master, there’s something else.”

“What is it?”

“I experienced another vision…but it was different, and much worse.”

Tieru beckoned his apprentice to his feet. “Let’s get indoors. Some quarters have been prepared for us in an apartment complex a few blocks from here. It took a while to actually get them, but we might as well use them to our comfort for tonight.”

---

They arrived at the apartment, and when they were warm and settled, they each sat on one of the beds and faced each other.

“Now, Targon,” Tieru said, taking off his deerskin cloak and cowl. “Tell me about this vision.”

Targon related how he had collapsed suddenly, and then found himself in a chamber with an elderly Miraluka Jedi.

Upon her description, Tieru nodded. “Master Eseri, a very old friend of mine.”

Targon continued, informing his master of her sensing his presence and speaking to him, as though he were actually in the room. To that, Tieru admitted he was not sure how that was possible. Targon noticed his master holding something back and inquired into it.

Tieru sighed, “A lesson for another time, I believe. Suffice to say, it is possible for Jedi Masters to project their consciousness and communicate with other masters over great distances. However, I must say I know of only a few who can do so, and never has it occurred with a padawan. We must look into this, when we have the proper time to look into it. Now, please continue.”

Nodding, Targon then told of how the same dark person had entered, and destroyed Master Eseri the same way he had killed the witch in the previous vision.

Learning this, Tieru sighed, and grief was apparent on his face. “I was afraid of this,” he said solemnly. “It appears it was unavoidable. We knew about this…and we should have done more to guard against it…but perhaps that was not possible.”

“Master,” Targon said softly. “He sensed my presence in the vision. He mistook me for you – and he called himself Khan Arc-Saal. Who is he, master?”

Tieru was silent for a long while. His apprentice waited patiently until he spoke. “He is a man I had hoped would not return – yet I feared it may have been inevitable. Many years ago, not long before the Great War had begun, three Jedi Masters and myself discovered the secret to a hidden world deep in Wild Space from an ancient holocron. This world was a nexus to the Force – a power beyond all comprehension. Knowing the possible danger of such power, Masters Urak, Boreos, Eseri, and I hid the holocron away, never to let it be accessed by anyone. Not even ourselves.”

“What does this have to do with Khan?” Targon asked.

“All things in time,” Tieru said. “You must know the background first, and then you can understand the present. After a time, we thought there was no threat of anyone discovering the secret. But a scholar, who had spent his years studying the great Jedi Library, had happened upon a mention of it, and he sought us out. His name was Khan Arc-Saal, and he neglected the duties of a Jedi Knight in his pursuit of knowledge and power. We denied him the holocron, or any knowledge of it, and we foolishly thought he might forget about it and pursue other studies.”

Tieru paused and sighed sadly. “How foolish we were. Days later, Khan embraced the temptations of the Dark Side and slew his master. He was brought to judgment by the Jedi Council, and because of our involvement, we were part of the Council’s decision to denounce him as a Jedi and banish him. As he was taken away, he swore in a rage that he would find the secret, and use the power to become immortal and destroy all who challenged him. It was then that the four of us decided to destroy the holocron and divide the knowledge of the secret between us. Then we separated – each of the others went to remote areas across the galaxy and I remained at the Jedi Temple.”

“And you never spoke with them – your friends?” Targon inquired.

“No,” Tieru shook his head. “As I said, some Masters have been able to communicate over great distances. We may have never been together in person, but we were often in council through the Force. But it is apparent now that Khan has slain the others. And now he will be coming for me. I hold the last piece of the puzzle…he must never find it.”

“So we should retreat and return to the Jedi Temple,” Targon said. “He can’t assault Tython with the entire Order to stand against him.”

“It would be wise to fall back, young Targon,” Tieru nodded. “But not at the expense of others. Khan must be stopped – we must do what we failed to do nearly fifty years ago. I must destroy him.”

“How? He has killed the others!”

“I know. But I must try…and I think I can lure him into a place where the battle could be in my favor.”

“Where?”

“If he has been able to locate the others so quickly, then he likely knows that we are here on Ord Mantell, and will be on his way. Perhaps I can choose the field to face him.”

“You mean we will face him,” Targon said.

“No, Targon, I cannot ask you to face this monster.”

“Master, I cannot let you face him alone. He has slain the others – they were alone. I am not afraid of him.”

Tieru shook his head. “No, I can tell you are afraid, but you have courage – for you are willing to face that which you fear. You have the makings of a great Jedi, Targon. There is no sense in saying anything different. Your fear is well placed, for I too fear this man.”

“Then I suppose our mission to forge peace on this world is cancelled,” Targon sighed. “Our efforts are meaningless.”

“Do not be so sure,” Tieru said. “No acts of kindness and compassion are ever wasted, Targon. Your actions today may have great ramifications that lead to peace in the future…”

There was a knocking at the door. Tieru rose as Targon answered the door. Without any sort of greeting, the visitor walked in. He was dressed in business attire and he was flanked by a police officer.

“Master Tieru?” he asked the Jedi Master.

“I am he,” Tieru replied.

The man continued, a tone of franticness in his voice. “I come on behalf of the Administrator. We have lost all contact with one of our orbital stations. From last report, a vessel – of unknown origin, make, and even energy source – sent docking codes. And soon afterward, there was a brief distress call, and then complete silence.”

Tieru frowned. “So, all day I ask to speak with officials to discuss diplomacy with the separatists and am continually denied, but as soon as a crisis occurs, the Administrator seeks me out?”

“He was aware that the Jedi were here on the planet.”

“Might he consider our requests to discuss possible peace talks if we investigate this?” Targon asked, but Tieru held up a finger.

“We shall look into this at once,” Tieru nodded to the messenger.

“The Administrator will be most grateful,” the man bowed and left.

Tieru put on his deerskin as Targon handed him his staff. “So much for using the apartment,” he sighed. “And so much for choosing the field.”

“How could Khan have arrived so soon?” Targon asked.

“Eseri wasn’t too far from here, I believe, and perhaps he has found many new things in his long exile. It does not matter, regardless. He is here, and so we must face him.”

“Do you think there are any survivors?” Targon asked.

“The sooner we face him, the better the odds,” Tieru replied, but there didn’t seem much hope in his tone. “Come, Targon, whether or not the government decides to be cooperative afterward, this task is of greater importance than one world. If Khan obtains the secret I have tried to keep from him, then the galaxy will be lost.”

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TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 03:24 PM | #6
Chapter Six

Tieru and Targon arrived at a government hangar where a shuttle had been prepared for them. Three Republic troopers had been assigned to join them. The commander, a Kel Dor, addressed them.

“I’m Lieutenant Ko,” he said. “The Administrator and my commanding officers asked me to convey their best wishes to you, Master Jedi.”

“I thank them,” Tieru bowed. “Though I must admit I would be more impressed if I could see them in person. But such as it is…”

“We should set off immediately,” Ko gestured to the shuttle.

Tieru boarded, followed closely by Targon. The troopers got on board after they were on. They wasted no time in taking off and zipping up through the atmosphere to the orbital station. From outside, it appeared completely normal…but Targon could feel darkness about it. And if he could feel it, Tieru must be sensing it with greater clarity.

As they approached the station, the shuttle began sending docking codes…there was no response. They prepared to enter the nearest hangar. The shields weren’t up, so they set down on the landing platform.

Across the wide hangar was a strange ship. It was small, only capable of holding a single person, and it was shaped like a claw.

“That must be his ship,” Targon supposed.

“Whose ship?” Ko asked.

Nobody answered. The ramp went down and everyone exited. The troopers surrounded the Jedi, their rifles and heads remaining on a devoted swivel. They exited the hangar and entered the corridors. There were signs of fighting – scorching on the walls and weapons and objects littered the floor.

Searching the rooms they passed, there were a few bodies. But not enough to account for the entire population of the station.

“Where do you think they all are?” Targon asked.

“They probably herded into a single area when the threat came,” Ko answered.

“That is likely,” Tieru nodded, leaning on his staff. “Targon, I want you and the others to search all living quarters and areas where the crew of the station would congregate. I will head down towards the power core.”

“The core, Master Jedi?” Ko asked. “Why would you go down there? It’s not wise to split up with so few of us. There should be a full squadron here with us, but the Administrator felt we were all that could be spared.”

“I know it isn’t wise, lieutenant,” Tieru said. “But I don’t think he’s planning on ambushing us. This fight is between him and me, and he wants to face me in a place of the greatest power.”

“Why?” Ko persisted.

“Probably for dramatic effect,” Tieru smiled.

“Master, I should go with you,” Targon protested. “You stand a better chance if you’re not alone.”

“I don’t want you near him,” his master stated. “He is too dangerous. You must see to finding any survivors.”

Targon sighed. “As you wish, master.”

“Believe me, nothing is going as I wish today.”

With that, Tieru headed off down the hall, indicating with a finger that they should start down the other. Targon and the troopers watched him walk off, and then turn a corner and disappear. Then they started down their own path.

As they went, they continued to check each room. More bodies…nobody alive. Targon felt the fear in him shiver through his body, and he could feel the discomfort and disturbance in the soldiers’ minds as well. Thinking for a moment, he considered the possibility that talking with them would alleviate their tension.

“Have you been stationed on Ord Mantell long, lieutenant?” he asked.

“What?”

“I think that if we keep ourselves cool and easy, we won’t let anxiety start getting the best of us.”

The lieutenant nodded in agreement after considering the idea. “We’ve been assigned to this planet for eight months, padawan.”

“Has it been difficult? Has there been a great deal of conflict?”

“With the separatists? I’d say there’s been plenty. Firefights occur almost on a daily basis.”
Targon sighed. “And nobody has considered bringing the fighting to an end?”

“I was briefed about you,” Ko said. “I know about why you and your master are here. Personally, I find your business here insulting.”

“Insulting?”

“It’s like you’re saying that what we soldiers are doing here – dying for – means nothing. That it’s simply a hindrance to peace. Like our lives don’t matter.”

Targon was shocked. “That’s not how we view you at all!”

“Really?” Ko gave him a glance. “Well, you’re doing a poor job of showing that you care. You Jedi are the reason behind the Sith Empire’s slaughter…”

“I don’t think we need to get heated here…it’s not the place.”

Ko sighed. “You’re right, Jedi, I shouldn’t have let my personal feelings show in our current situation. I apologize.”

Targon nodded. “I guess I can understand you opinion. And I can understand if you don’t trust me. But right now, there may be survivors that need our help, and we need to work together.”

“Right you are,” Ko replied.

They turned yet another corridor, finding the area much the same as what they had seen before.

“Do you know Major Marc Avis?” Targon broached a new subject.

“Old Greyhawk? Sure I do, every soldier knows of him. He may be a bit of a geezer, even he accepts that, but he knows how to fight. Or rather, how to end a fight real quick.”

“Yes, I noticed,” Targon muttered.

“You know him?” Ko posed the question in return.

“We met today, he helped me in my endeavor. I just hope he isn’t paying for it.”

“What do you mean?” Ko asked.

Targon couldn’t answer. At that moment they opened the door to on of the major dormitories that held a mess hall. It was probably a center where the crew gathered for occasions, briefings…and cases of emergency.

The sight made the troopers gag, and Targon felt his blood run cold once again. There were no bodies…at least in the sense they were expecting. There were bones – skeletons – hundreds of them.

As one of his men leaned against the doorway, feeling sick, Ko shook his head and turned around. “I think we can assume we’ve found the rest of the station’s crew.”

Targon could not answer. He barely even heard him as he gaped at the gruesome sight. The remains were in the positions that the people had died in – positions of fear, cowering, and a few trying to protect each other. Throughout the chamber, he could feel the lingering fear and terror, as well as the darkness that had consumed them.

Something told him that their skeletal remains had been left like this on purpose. Not simply killed, not disintegrated like the two he had witnessed…a scene to inspire pure horror and to break the spirit of anyone who saw it. Or to provoke the soul to rage and vengeance. Either outcome, it would weaken his foes so that he would have the advantage.

“There are no survivors,” Targon said. To be sure of his claim, he focused his senses, trying to detect any other presence at all. A flicker of fear, desperation, confusion…any sort of sign of life. Nothing. Just a void of darkness.

“We should try to find your master,” Ko suggested. “There’s no reason to remain here.” He lifted up his men and nudged Targon’s shoulder.

Targon knew he was right. There was nothing to be done here, except pray that somehow these souls may find peace in death. He turned around and followed the troopers back out into the hall.

---

Tieru opened the door and entered onto a great walkway, overlooking the immense core of the station. Massive intestines of conduits ran along the walls, and walkways up above, with computer consoles adorning the sides. There was a surprising silence, despite all the machinery and electronics. Still, being enclosed by so much unfeeling metal and wiring made Tieru uncomfortable.

That was no doubt Khan’s intent.

Across the bridge was the dark one. Where he stood, it seemed the low light would disappear. His black cloak hung about him, and he appeared like a foul vulture with his pale, bare head. The glazed eyes stared at the Jedi Master.

Tieru’s staff against the metal caused a resounding echo through the massive chamber. He advanced towards the dark figure, without any sort of hesitation.

Khan’s paled head cocked and he bore a soulless grin. “Still wearing the garb of a hermit, old man? That looks like the very same deerskin I saw you wear forty-seven years ago.”

“It may be indeed,” Tieru replied. “I don’t recall. I see the years haven’t been kind to you, Khan. You look like you haven’t been sleeping or eating well.”

“I am beyond requiring any sort of mortal nourishment,” Khan stated.

“You are not immortal yet, Khan,” Tieru said simply. “You should remember that.”

“Once the last of the four are dead, that fact will be null.”

“Your slaughter ends here, Khan. I will make certain of it.”

“I’m sure you’ll try,” Khan nodded. “But you’re wrong. Death does not stop, and I am Death. When I have finished with you, there will be no one who can challenge whatever I do – or whomever I choose to kill.”

“All this time,” Tieru sighed. “And still you cling to foolish notions as pride, glory…and drama, I might add.”

“When I am immortal, such emotions will become irrelevant.”

Tieru stopped, still a distance away from him. “Immortality cannot be obtained the way you suppose, Khan. You will learn this when you fall into the darkness that awaits you.”

“Bold words,” his opponent said. “Let’s see if you can prove them with greater effort than your defeated brethren.”

Computer panels ripped off from the catwalks above and flung themselves toward Tieru. He stood unmoved and did not make any motion to dodge the approaching objects. Just before the first one struck him, he swung his staff and knocked the computer away. Then he did the same with three more that followed. The crashed against the walls as they fell into the huge pit.

Khan frowned that his first attack was handled so easily. He motioned his hand and one of the giant conduits unhinged from the wall and collapsed towards the Jedi Master.

Tieru saw it, and he raised his own hands, holding the towering object back. He pushed it back and hooked it back where it belonged.

With a snarl of annoyance, Khan hurled bolts of lightning form his fingertips at his opponent. As the dark energy streaked towards him, Tieru spun his staff around and caught the lightning and absorbed it into the wood. Immediately, he sent the energy out and back at its progenitor. Khan could only hold up his hand and deflect it into the wall, causing an explosion of one of the conduits.

Khan then ripped a huge portion of one of the walkways above and sent it down to crush Tieru where he stood.

The Jedi Master thrust up his staff and met the arrival of the rubble. Incredibly, the catwalk shattered into tiny fragments upon encountering the staff. The harmless pieces clattered off the bridge and down into the pit below.

“Your mastery of the Force is incomplete,” Tieru said.

“We shall see,” Khan pointed his outstretched hand towards his target and projected his will over the matter that made up the old Jedi. Shockingly, his power was rebuffed. The Master’s power created a barrier around him – an impenetrable barrier that hid the molecules of his body from Khan’s sight.

“We shall have to settle this in the more traditional fashion,” Khan growled, grabbing hold of his lightsaber. Activating it, the viridian blade came alive with a foul hiss. He didn’t look like a Sith – he looked something far more wicked – something dead.

Tieru was not intimidated. He held to his staff with his left hand, and his right remained calmly at his side. His lightsaber hilt unhooked from his belt and floated into the air. The metal cylinder had a leather grip and two feathers hanging from the bottom.

Reaching up with his free hand, Tieru clutched it and activated the bright yellow beam. The golden light lit up his features, bathing him in a shining glow.

Khan charged forward, his blade swinging. Tieru met him and the blades of energy crackled against each other. The attacker then swung from the lower left, forcing the Jedi to counter accordingly. Four more strikes, all blocked by Tieru.

Their fight continued. Khan pressed the offensive, trying to force Tieru to give ground. He made a bold move, but it left his side open. Tieru wasted no time in smacking him away with his staff. Khan stumbled, and the master made another swipe at his face with the cane.

Khan recovered and leaped over Tieru’s head. He landed behind him, but the Jedi quickly rotated to face him again. Khan made another swing, but Tieru held it off with his blade and forced their arms to the side, leaving his opponent open. Tieru then lodged his hooked staff around Khan’s neck and swung him through the air, slamming him onto the ground. He made a slash to finish him, but Khan rolled to the side and got to his feet.

Blaster fire struck around Khan’s feet. Both looked up to see Targon and the troopers on a walkway a little ways up. The soldiers had begun firing at Khan, while Targon called to his master.

Tieru shouted back, “Targon, take the others and get out of here!”

“Master? We’re here to help you!”

“No! Get them out!” Tieru then returned to facing Khan.

But the dark one had no intention of allowing these intruders to escape. Force pushing Tieru away from him, he hurled his saber up at the group. One of the soldiers was slashed, and his body crashed into his fellow – who lost his balance and fell.

When his saber returned, Khan began to buckle the bridge as he ripped it from its supports. The remaining persons struggled to keep their footing – the padawan went as far as to grab hold of the floor and lie on his stomach.

The last soldier, Lieutenant Ko, took a chance to fire a well-aimed shot at Khan’s head. His blaster rifle sent out a blue bolt, but Khan’s reflexes easily reflected it back at its sender, striking him square on the head. The soldier flew back from the hit and fell into the abyss.

But Khan had nearly forgotten his first opponent. He felt a hard wood smack across his face, and then a Force push hurtling him backwards. Khan barely regained his footing when Tieru was upon him, not the Jedi had taken the offensive. A slash, then a kick, followed by yet a series of successive swings of the golden saber. Khan could not keep up with the assault, and a few of the attacks made it through to slash through his skin.

In an attempt to stop him, Khan sent a shockwave through the Force that buckled the bridge, causing it to shake and contort slightly. Tieru was knocked away, but he was up quickly. He did not, however, try to charge forward again.

Khan laughed as an ideal tactic became apparent. “So much for help, and so much for protecting your weak friends,” he taunted. “You couldn’t stop me from killing the soldiers, and now you can’t stop me from killing your pathetic apprentice.”

He turned to eye Targon still holding tight to the failing catwalk. It didn’t look like it would hold up much longer. He lifted his hand to extend his power towards the helpless young man. There was no way the boy could see what was coming…

Suddenly, an intense flash struck him, and he felt his skin searing – as though it was burned. He looked down at his cloak and saw smoke rising from a charred area of his cloak. Turning to face Tieru, he barely saw a fireball headed straight for a split second before it struck his face. He roared in pain – something he hadn’t truly felt for years. Touching his face, he felt the skin charred and broken.

Tieru’s stern face stared at the abominable sight before him. The left half of Khan’s face was burned away, revealing his skull, and the other half was charred heavily. It seemed impossible for him to still be alive and functioning, but Khan’s dark eyes looked back at him just the same as they had before.

“What new trick is this, old man?” Khan hissed.

Targon struggled, but he was able to get to his knees and look down at the scene. He saw the burned face of the enemy, and something odd about Tieru. His staff was…on fire. Flames were ignited all over it, yet his hand was unharmed.

“The Force can hold flesh together,” Master Tieru stated, regarding Khan’s face. “And it can also manipulate molecular energy. Your mastery of its power is hardly complete, Khan.”

He jabbed the burning staff forward, and another ball of flames burst forth and hurled towards Khan, who could do nothing but simply endure the impact. He held up his arm, and the fire flashed around him.

Khan roared in a primal, terrifying savagery, and then charged forward. Tieru met his blade, and countered by swinging his staff to strike his blackened skin. The two continued on, blow after blow, in an intense and brutal dance. Finally, Tieru crashed his staff powerfully on Khan’s neck, sending him to his knees. He then twirled through the air and prepared to land a final stab into Khan’s chest.

But in a flash that happened so quick that Targon could barely register, Khan rose to his feet and slashed Tieru along the chest. The Jedi Master tumbled to the floor and his staff landed by his side – its fire extinguished.

A cry of anguish and despair and rage erupted from the young Jedi. He had just witnessed his mentor, counselor, protector, and essential father brought down by the monstrous coward. To see such dishonor to his master was more than Targon’s discipline and conditioning could bear.

He leaped from the catwalk and landed on the bridge before the dark one, sending a massive wave through the Force as he did so. Caught completely off-guard, Khan was thrown to his back.

Soon recovering, Khan rose and saw the padawan activate his own saber and charge forward.

Their blades crashed against each other, over and over again. The speed Targon attacked with was astounding, and the anger in his heart made his nerves tremble and spark.

Khan knocked him away and stretched his hand out. Tieru was not there to protect him now; he would be no match for…

His power was rebuffed, much more intensely this time. Through his Force-attuned eyes, he saw the padawan accompanied by the spirit of the Jedi Master he had just slain. Tieru’s body had vanished, save for his clothing, but his personage was standing there, glowing and in full regalia. He couldn’t understand, and he was stunned.

Targon felt a presence in his mind, and he heard his master’s voice.

“Don’t give into hatred and wrath, Targon,” Tieru said. “Do not let the Dark Side consume you as it has Khan. The time has come for the rock to be removed from its guard of the flower. Now prove to yourself that you are a Jedi. The Force will be with you, Targon…always.”

Targon heard his master, and he quieted the storm within his soul, until he was fully at peace inside. He felt fully in control, and he leapt forward united with the Force. His foot raised and he kicked the dark one’s chest.

Too consumed by confusion and fury, Khan could not react soon enough, and he was thrust off the bridge. Screaming like a banshee, he plummeted down into the deep darkness of the station’s core.

At last, the dark presence of Khan Arc-Saal vanished, and Targon could feel himself return to his physical status. There was silence.

He deactivated his saber, knelt next to his master’s empty fur robes, and wept.

TargonKarashi's Avatar


TargonKarashi
03.12.2012 , 03:28 PM | #7
Chapter Seven

Targon carried his master’s belongings with him to the shuttle and returned to the planet. There was no time to continue the work of diplomacy, for the Jedi Council summoned him. He had no real desire to remain on this world much longer, anyway. There had been no word about Marc Avis, and that concerned him. Yet, somehow, he had the distinct feeling that he had not been killed, and that he would see him again. That gave him a small bit of comfort.

All charges against him had been dropped; some of the officials figured it was well enough that he had stopped the threat that had slaughtered the people on the station. Those that weren’t so convinced decided that the Council would likely try Targon for his actions in aiding enemies of the Republic. And that was enough to sate them.

A transport was leaving to the Core Worlds, and Targon boarded it silently, carrying his master’s things along with his own. Jedi do not have many possessions, so there was no issue in carrying too much.

Targon then made the long and silent journey back to Tython. Alone.

He stood before the Council, the wise and respected masters regarding and speaking to him calmly. Finishing his report of what occurred on Ord Mantell, there was a long moment of silent thought. Then there was discussion, questions, clarifications…all the sort of business that is to be expected with such a unique development. Over all, they showed great remorse for Tieru’s death, and the deaths of so many others – Jedi and civilian – by the hand of Khan.

There was only one master who remained on the Council that witnessed the exile of Khan Arc-Saal. He was Iotar Wixas, a small creature with gray fur and long pointed ears, like a rabbit’s.

He nodded at the padawan’s story. “Yes, it is better for the galaxy that Khan is dead. His intent and ambition were dangerous then, half a century ago, and it would appear that his power was too great for anyone to ignore. I believe Targon is to be commended.”

“I agree on that matter,” Master Karus Salar said. He was a human with a signature head of platinum blonde hair. “But what about his actions on Ord Mantell? Master Tieru should have taught him better than to fraternize with…”

Targon felt a rush of indignation prepare to burst from him. How could he dare to judge what Tieru should or should not have taught? How would he know what the circumstances on Ord Mantell were if he wasn’t there to see them? Targon had seen both sides of the conflict, and government was certainly not any better than the separatists.

Fortunately, a voice that shared his view kept him from making an outburst and shaming himself before the Council.

“Let’s not speak out of ignorance or personal prejudice,” Master Arbir Cyrus said. “I’m sure Master Shan would tell you the same were she here with us.”

“You should not speak for the Grand Master in her absence,” Master Salar countered.

“We should all show more respect for Master Tieru,” Master Shado Nalos, a violet-skinned Twi’lek, stated.

“Yes, you are correct,” Salar admitted.

“Padawan Targon Karashi,” Wixas said. “Please return this evening while the Council deliberates the recent events and what shall follow in consequence of them.”

Targon bowed and exited.

“You intend to discuss whether he is ready to be named a Jedi Knight?” Master Salar supposed.

“I do,” Wixas replied.

“He is old enough, surely,” Nalos stated. “And he shows a great affinity to the Force.”

“Yes, but his master is no longer here to present his own recommendation,” another of the Council stated.

“Then we must make the decision ourselves,” Wixas said.

“He showed a disregard for politics and attempted to work with members of the separatist movement on Ord Mantell,” Salar stated. “That is not fitting for a Jedi, who is meant to protect the Republic.”

“We Jedi show little interest in politics on a regular basis,” Shado said. “Besides, we do not follow the directives of the Republic as some branch of the military.”

“True,” Cyrus said. “And I would point out that Targon showed the compassion and kindness of a Jedi by giving aid to the starving citizens.”

“Aid that he stole from the planetary government,” Salar held up a finger.

“This is one situation that has been seen in the lives of many Jedi Knights over the years,” Wixas said. “How can we judge him on an act that is repeated by others? Even ourselves?”

“Are you suggesting…?”

“Let’s consider the bigger issue,” Cyrus cut in, before the debate went in an off-topic direction. “The issue of Khan.”

“He showed prowess in skill and connection to the Force in defeating such an opponent,” Shado said. “Khan killed four Jedi and countless more people in his rampage. Including Targon’s own master.”

“Those four were aged and venerable,” Salar said.

“But no less powerful,” Wixas stated. “I knew Masters Urak, Boreos, and Eseri, back during the time when Khan was exiled. And we all are familiar with Tieru. He may have had…different techniques and philosophies, but none can dispute his strength.”

“And I would venture to suppose that he passed on his knowledge and strength to his apprentice,” Cyrus said.

“That does not prove…” Salar started to get agitated.

“Calm yourself, Karus,” another of the Council said. “What is your reason for getting upset with young Targon?”

“Too many Jedi are starting to slip away from the direct code. They are following tangents that can lead to the Dark Side. Targon Karashi is no different. He flew into a rage with the death of his master. To knight him would be to accept a great risk.”

“Orthodoxy is a difficult thing to enforce and follow entirely,” Shado tapped his chin. “None of us can claim that we adhere strictly to the code at every given moment. There are temptations of the Dark Side for all of us, no matter our position or strength.”

“Targon is no different,” Cyrus added. “And he overcame his fury with the final guidance of his master. Such is to be admired given the circumstances.”

Shado continued. “You, yourself, are upset at this moment. Peace is the first edict of the code, Karus. If you – or any of us – do not always show complete discipline, then how can we ask of such perfection from a young man such as Targon?”

“I see your point,” Salar conceded. “But I still have my reservations.”

“As do we all,” Wixas said. “But Targon is young. His journey as a Jedi is still just beginning. Even a Jedi Master has much to learn.”

Salar nodded slowly. “Yes, that is true.”

The Council continued its discussions on the matter for a while longer, and it was quite some time before they contacted Grand Master Shan. All the while, Targon was out in the gardens outside the Temple. He sat on a bench by himself, reflecting upon himself, and what had happened. His feelings were full of sadness. He knew it was over, but he couldn’t come to terms with the death of his master and the rage that had filled him.

And now the Council was deliberating on his fate. Would he be assigned to a new master? Given new assignments as a janitor or gardener? Expel him from the Order? That was a bit extreme…but it might be a possibility, given his actions. Tieru may have approved of his escapade with Greyhawk, but the Council did probably not share the view.

Still, from what he heard, he might have supporters among the Council. Wixas knew Tieru for many years, and knew the history behind Khan. Masters Nalos and Cyrus seemed on his side…and they were rather strong voices on the Council…but so was Master Salar. It didn’t take great insight to see there was something Salar saw in Targon that he did not approve.

As he wandered, he did not notice the sun begin to set behind the forest. Soon, several hours had passed and he was summoned to go before the Council again. Sighing with resignation, he returned to the Council chamber.

The light was dim, and at first, Targon suppose that no one was there. Then the light of a holoprojector illuminated the faces of the Council members in their seats. The image of Grand Master Shan appeared; her kind eyes seemed to pierce into him.

“Take a knee, padawan,” she said softly.

He did so. The other Council members stood up and kept their eyes directly on him. Targon felt a twinge of nervousness tingle his senses – a feeling of fear that he was to be punished. Still, he subdued the emotion.

“Targon Karashi, after reviewing your actions and the training you received from Master Tieru, the High Council names you a Knight of the Republic.”

The words echoed in his ears for what seemed an age. He was shocked…he hadn’t even considered being knighted. It simply wasn’t something he had thought about. Yet the feeling of gladness at this step forward was lessened, as he realized that his master was not here to see him attain knighthood. Honor was mixed with sorrow in his heart.

“I can sense your pain,” Master Shan said. “Your master lives on through the Force, Targon. He no doubt is very proud of you. Rise a Jedi Knight, Targon Karashi.”

He did so, and stood to his full stature before the Council. There was a smile on his lips, and tears trickling down his cheek. His emotions were confused – caught between joy and grief. He had become a Jedi Knight, as he had worked so hard to achieve, yet he knew a great deal of responsibility came from such a rank. And he would not have his master’s counsel readily available.

“Thank you, masters,” he bowed. “I am greatly honored.”

The stars were out, silently watching Targon as he entered the clearing in the forest, walking between the great ruins. He came upon the same spot where he and his master had knelt not too long ago. Only now it seemed so much longer.

He found the flower next to the stone. It seemed to glow in the starlight. He watched it for a while; studying the details his master had wanted him to notice…and pondering on what else he might learn from it.

There was a soft whisper of the night wind. He shivered from the sudden breath of cold air. Staying for a while longer, he then returned to the Jedi Temple. In one of the shrine rooms, he worked with the librarian to find a proper place to display his master’s deerskin cloak. It soon joined the belongings of the many masters of the Order, objects that signified their legacy and lasting work for the galaxy.

Tieru’s staff was hung on the wall as well. Targon stared at it a long while. He could see the strains on its frame, after his master’s long use of it – especially his heavy leaning. It was incredible to him that he had once seen it flaming with energy of the Force.

“You taught me well, master,” he said softly. “Now I am a Jedi Knight, and I stand alone, without your protection. I still have your wisdom…and I promise that I will not disappoint you in my duties to the people of the Republic. Be at peace, master. May the Force be with you.”

He then tied his padawan braid on the staff, next to the ornamental feathers that Tieru had kept during his many years as a Master. Targon walked slowly away, looking back at his master’s staff before leaving.

Conclusion of Episode One

So, that was the beginning...again. As with most stories, all comments and opinions are welcome. I'll try to get an episode or two up each day so I can get everything caught up...and then I'll be trying to reach the end of the series.
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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RulithBarakis
03.12.2012 , 04:17 PM | #8
Well if it isn't Targon! Welcome back, my friend! I've been waiting to see what happened to Targon and Co. since the end of the last chapter you posted, before the forum wipe. I'll be eager for you to catch up, or at least get up to... that Nautolan... again. Once again, welcome back, and glad to see the story up again!
You should click the link below.

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TargonKarashi
03.13.2012 , 01:35 PM | #9
Episode Two – Lost on Calpronica V

Chapter One

Targon awoke covered in sweat. The dream again…the fifth this week. Every time he fell asleep, he would witness Tieru’s death just as vividly as that terrible day. All the emotions, all the fear and anger…

He sat up from his bed and rubbed his forehead. It had only been two weeks since he had watched his master suddenly slain by Khan. He had remained at the Temple, trying to center himself. Meditation, practicing, even more meditation…he was starting to get restless. And then there were these dreams.

Standing up, he got a drink and put on his robes. He looked up at the mirror and for a second he thought he saw Khan’s face looking back at him.

He jumped back in alarm, but then a second look showed there was nothing but his own reflection. Sighing to put himself at ease, he combed his hair and then left his chamber. The halls were silent and empty – it was dawn. Most of the Temple was still asleep, or deep in meditation.

His soft footsteps echoed lightly in the hall as he made his way down to the library. Targon knew the hallways well enough to manage perfectly fine even in the dark. It was all he had really known during his life. However, he rarely walked the halls alone. Usually he was in the company of Master Tieru.

Targon shook himself mentally. “Quit acting like this,” he told himself aloud. “Tieru wouldn’t want you moping about like this, lost in self-pity.” He didn’t notice the light on in the room he was passing at that moment.

“I see I’m not the only one who talks to himself,” Targon heard a familiar voice from behind the door. He stopped short as the door opened and Master Cyrus’ figure appeared in the frame.

“Master,” Targon stuttered slightly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“It’s quite alright,” the Council member smiled. “I’ve been up for some time. Why don’t you come in?”

“I, uh…”

“Come in,” Cyrus stepped back to allow him in. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to speak with you – when it was appropriate. I think now is a good time.”

“What do you want to talk about, Master?” Targon asked as he sat down on the pad where Cyrus gestured. The Master sat across the mat on the floor, on another cushion. Targon had known Cyrus for a long time – he and Tieru were close friends – yet he hadn’t really noticed the features of the man.

Master Arbir Cyrus was the son of a human father and an alien mother, and he bore the resemblance of both. He had light brown hair, sharp nails, blue eyes, and strings blue and green speckles on his arms and cheeks. For the most part, he looked normal – to human standards – and so didn’t seem very odd to anyone, unless one was extremely focused on specific details. Targon thought him fascinating.

“Tieru was a friend,” Cyrus said softly. “And to show that I remain his friend, I want to extend my friendship to you. Targon, I know you’re going through a difficult time – I feel the pain, but not to the degree you do. If there’s anything you need, or want to talk about, I’m here.”

“Thank you, Master Cyrus,” Targon smiled. He figured now would be a good time to take him up on his offer. “I’ve been having dreams that disturb me.”

“Dreams reenacting that day?” Cyrus supposed.

“Yes.”

“I understand. In my experience, everyone finds himself or herself caught seeing a traumatic event over and over again, especially in their dreams.”

“How do I get through it?” Targon asked.

“It’s not easy,” the Master interlocked his fingers. “You can never forget a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to consume you. Some never get over it, but I believe you can be successful in overcoming your fear and grief by becoming actively engaged in your duty. Tieru would want you to go on with your life, and he wouldn’t want you becoming lost in sorrow, even at his own death.”

“But how? How can I go on without his guidance?”

“You still have him to guide you, Targon. You remember his wisdom? You spent years under his teaching? Apply what you have learned. Beyond that, remember that he lives on in the Force.”

Targon nodded, though he felt doubtful and not entirely satisfied. “I understand.”

Cyrus nodded slowly, thinking. Eventually, he said, “I think you would find peace in you mind if you left the Temple for a while and went out into the galaxy. The Republic still needs Jedi, even if it might not want to admit it. And there are plenty of people in need of help. Immense sadness is overshadowed by immense joy, and for a Jedi – at least, in my opinion – there is not greater joy than in helping someone.”

“I think you’re right, Master,” Targon perked up a bit. “Helping those destitute people on Ord Mantell was extremely satisfying…just the feeling of knowing that they weren’t hungry anymore.”

“Ah,” Cyrus grinned. “Yes, you do see.” He stood up and walked over to Targon, who stood up in response. “Now, young Jedi Knight, I want you to go and do more good for the galaxy. I’m willing to predict there’s someone you will find to help – and can probably help you.”

Targon bowed. “Thank you for your guidance, Master Cyrus.”

“May the Force be with you,” the Master said.

The sun was starting to come up as Targon left, walking out into the hall and considering what the Council member had said. He was right, after all. A Jedi Knight needed to be out, defending justice and strengthening the weak – not cooped up in the Temple meditating. Such was for stuffy old masters…those who weren’t like Master Cyrus, of course.

Targon made his way to the spaceport. There was a transport that would be leaving for a number of worlds later in the morning. He decided he might as well take it and see where he could go and what he could do. There was a twinge in the memory that this was the dock where he had left for Ord Mantell with Tieru. However, he put the pain aside as best he could. He was going to try to go on with his life…wait; there was no such thing as try. He would.

It was midmorning and the sun was up in the sky before the transport started loading up on passengers. A few other Jedi and visitors to Tython got on with Targon, but not many. There were many empty seats, and the whole cabin was quiet.

The flight was long, and it stopped on several planets as it headed toward the Outer Rim. At each stop, people got off, but no one got on. When Targon noticed this, he felt quite awkward, and a little nervous. At the next port, the last of the other passengers got off and Targon was alone. There was only one stop left – a world called Calpronica V.

Figuring there wouldn’t be any bother, Targon headed up to the cabin to see the pilot and the crew. He might as well see where this last planet was. He hadn’t ever heard of it.

He found that there was only a crew of five, and they were all in a lounge room chatting and smoking. Apparently, there was a droid up in the cockpit, and the ship was on autopilot anyway.

“Do you mind if I join you?” Targon asked.

“No,” the captain shrugged. “Though if I were you, Jedi, I’d find a change of clothes.”

Sitting down, Targon asked, “Why?”

“It’s just a suggestion.”

“What can you tell me about Calpronica V?” Targon posed to anyone who might be a bit more helpful than the captain.

A crewman – the cook – pulled out his cigar and blew a plume of exhaust from his mouth. “Calpronica’s a big city planet. It’s not in Hutt space, but it might as well be. You can find just about anything there that you might find on Nar Shaddaa. And those slugs have just as much power. Though, I don’t know about that anymore.”

“Why is that?” Targon inquired.

“The Empire’s made a deal with certain Hutt cartels to gain a foothold on the planet. There isn’t any Republic presence there, and I guess the Sith are piling on the garrisons.”

“What?” Targon was shocked. “Well, how are you going there? When did this happen?”

“About three days ago,” the cook answered.

The captain coughed. “We’ve still got a contract for a cargo to deliver there, so we get to make this last trip. But you can see why there aren’t any more passengers…and why you might like to change your clothes before you get off there.”

Targon’s eyebrow rose, still confused and dumbfounded at this. “So it’s not part of the Sith Empire, or the Hutt cartels?”

“Like I said,” the cook replied, “it might as well be. And probably will soon enough. Have a nice stay there.” The crew laughed.

Targon stood and left to deal with what he had just learned. Calming himself, he wondered if he should just turn around. Well, that wasn’t really an option. Even if he stayed, the ship would be inspected, as it was unloaded.

An odd feeling came to him. Perhaps he was meant to go there? Maybe Calpronica was where he would be able to help people? After all, the folks there would no doubt be largely in need on a world run by both the Empire and the Hutts. It made sense, and yet it didn’t.

A Jedi wouldn’t exactly be welcomed there. So Targon decided to take the captain’s advice and figure out a way to change his appearance. Robes would be easily recognized.

There was a suitcase that looked like it had been sitting on one of the seats for a long while. Targon opened it up, hoping that there might be some clothes in there that he could change into to disguise himself. Inside were women’s clothes.

Targon sighed in frustration. Even if he had the audacity to try to wear them, they wouldn’t fit him at all. It looked like he was just going to have to cover himself in his brown cloak, put up his hood, and try to keep a low profile.

The ship shook slightly, and he knew they had exited hyperspace. Looking out a window, Targon’s nerves tingled with anxiety. There were several Imperial ships in orbit around the planet. And it looked like they were keeping an eye on who came and went. Not a blockade, per se, but a close monitor nonetheless.

He didn’t like it, but he sighed and sat down to await their landing. It looked like his first mission as a Jedi Knight was going to be an interesting one. He just hoped he wouldn’t cause too much trouble – and that trouble wouldn’t find him. There had been plenty of stories about the Empire circling among the padawans. Targon didn’t want to be one to find out if they were true or not.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.13.2012 , 01:46 PM | #10
Chapter Two

Calpronica was a city planet to rival the other major metropolises in the galaxy – greater than Taris was three centuries ago, before its destruction. It wasn’t on quite on par with Coruscant, but then again, the Republic’s capital had suffered quite a beating during the war and hadn’t quite recovered.

While the gleaming skyscrapers shone of prosperity, Targon could easily smell the stench of poverty and corruption. He could see it too. Unlike Ord Mantell – ravaged by war – this world had not experienced any serious conflicts. Instead, the poor lived in destitution by the greed and exploitation of the wealthy.

Targon scowled as he exited the ship. Those wealthy were no doubt the Hutts – and their constituents.

He wasted no time in making himself scarce around the docking authorities. Rushing off before anyone could see or question him, he made his way to a crowd of people that were headed along to their numerous destinations.

The people were dressed in peculiar fashions. Some wore filthy rags, some wore high-end fashion material, and there were plenty of styles in between – and the distant bizarre as well. Targon figured he wouldn’t stand out too much, being draped in a cloak and hiding his face with a hood.

Still…if he ran into Sith, they would probably recognize his garb.

The streets were packed with people – even as streams of hover-vehicles flew overhead. There were folks headed to and from work, beggars looking to elicit sympathies, and drunks lying about in their stupor. Except the alleys were full, so many were in the middle of the street, forcing people to step over them as there was no room to go around.

Targon kept with the flow for a while, observing the buildings and sights – though most were rather unappealing. Advertisements for drugs and other vices, scandalous and offensive advertisements…things that should be expected on a world run by two groups that care little for the details of the population.

On nearly every street corner, there was a Sith trooper or two. They had rifles at the ready, as though they were expecting to be shooting someone at any moment. Each time he saw one, Targon felt himself tense up and twinge with apprehension. He tried to keep them in his sights while avoiding their attention.

A large patrol happened to be walking through. The crowd incredibly was able to part to allow them passage through. They came within a few meters of Targon, and his heartbeats quickened.

He needed to get out of the way and get his bearings. It wouldn’t do to be simply walking around the streets forever. He couldn’t do any good that way. However, stopping to help anyone in the middle of the street would certainly draw attention. So he started to look for a place to rest – away from the eyes of the Sith soldiers.

Targon noticed a change in the atmosphere a little ways past the patrol. While the streets were definitely lacking care and cleanliness, the ones up ahead appeared even more so. And there seemed to be no troops standing around. Instead, there were signs of gangs marking out territory and hanging out in alleys and on corners. After a moment of pondering, Targon figured he had just left a Sith controlled region of the city, and had entered gang turf – area under the Hutts’ influence.

“Well, I guess that suits me well enough,” he sighed to himself. “At least the Hutts aren’t discriminating against certain individuals – such as Jedi.”

Yet it wouldn’t do to be mugged and be left for dead in the street, Targon decided. There was little in the way of rest areas in this part of town, and the apartments were atrocious. He wasn’t excited at the prospect of long-term stay, but to be a real benefit to the people of this city, it was going to take time. However, the apartment complexes looked like they saw gang fights on a regular basis. Targon had no desire to get caught up in that.

There was only one place that actually looked good enough to consider. One of the blocks was dominated by a large structure adorned with multi-color fluorescent lights. Signs called it “Hondor’s Cantina”, but to Targon, it looked more like a club than anything else. There were bouncers at the door – two burly men who kept a close eye on who went in and who went out.

That didn’t bother Targon much, though, as there were no Sith troops around. He could handle a few thugs that gave him trouble well enough. Soldiers brought more soldiers, and they had bigger guns.

He didn’t see any line, which he found odd since everything else seemed like a club. Folks that the bouncers seemed to recognize just walked right in. Soon he was near enough to draw their attention, and unfortunately, he happened to be far away from anyone else that they could tell he wasn’t a member of a party. That meant he would be dealing with them one on one.

“Good evening, sirs,” Targon nodded. One of the men stepped in front of him and held up a hand.

“You got an invite?” he asked.

“Invite?” Targon raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, pal, an invitation. Not just anyone gets to go into the Hondor’s Cantina. You think this is some open place to the entire city? We have standards, bud.”

“I see,” Targon nodded. “And I don’t fit them?”

“Not necessarily, but you do look suspicious. And we don’t like suspicious people.”

Targon waved his finger subtly. “I can go in,” he said.

“You…can go in,” the bouncer repeated. He stepped aside and allowed Targon to pass.

“Thank you, sir,” Targon said as he went through the door.

Once he was through, he caught a huge whiff of the atmosphere and gagged. The air was thick with odors of alcohol, sweat, and filth. Not to mention the haze of smoke that hung just below an average head’s height.

There were plenty of tables, and drinkers occupied most. Some were slumping in their chairs, some were starting to sink into unconsciousness, some were lost in revelries and grievances they freely voiced in their intoxication…and some were getting ready to pick a fight. The bartender – a four-armed Besalisk – was busy getting rounds to the many patrons.

Targon knew the building was large, so there were probably more rooms to be had. And he might be able to see if they had rooms available. The place might stink, but at least there was security to be found here that would not be available in those apartments he passed by earlier. It wouldn’t hurt to check.

He made his way through the tables, and stopped at the bar.

“Excuse me,” he said.

The bartender turned around and growled. “I’ve got a lot of orders to handle, you can wait your turn.”

“No, no,” Targon shook his head. “I’m not looking for a drink, I’m wondering if there’s rooms available?”

The large alien chuckled, causing his great potbelly to jiggle. “You must be a new customer. Just invited – or did you sneak in?”

“Does it matter?” Targon asked.

“Not to me, as long as you’re pay for your drinks. I don’t do tabs here.” He handed a glass off to a man sitting nearby, who scanned his credits on the table to pay his fee. “Here’s the deal, stranger: you got invited, so you got a place to stay. There are couches in some of the other rooms, and plenty of entertainment. You can stay as long as you like, just pay for drinks, food, and pleasure up front. If you want privacy, there are a few bedrooms. Extra charge, though.”

“Ah, I see,” Targon nodded. “Thanks for the information.”

“Yeah, sure, now I’ve got orders to take care of.”

Targon left the bar and headed off to the hall to check out the other rooms. Hopefully, he’d be able to find one that smelled better.

---

There were only a few tables in this lounge – one of the more exclusive areas. Most of the patrons of the room were focused on the platform in the middle of the room, where they could drool over the dancing girls.

But there was no time for such foolishness at one particular table. Three men, a human, a Trandoshan, and a Devaronian, sat at it, a pile of credits in the center. They were deep in the business of high stakes card playing.

The human, Rick Orlan, stared at his opponents. He then glanced down at his cards for a second, and then his eyes went back to the aliens.

“Alright, gentlemen,” he said. “It’s the moment of truth. Let’s see the cards…” He turned to the Trandoshan. “Molsskin, what have you got?”

The lizard placed his cards on the table, face-up. Rick nodded as he looked at it.

“Two pair…not bad, not bad,” he said. He then looked at the Devaronian. “Jagi? How about you? Think you can beat that?”

With a grin, the horned alien showed his hand.

“Ooh,” Rick grimaced. “That’s a good hand. That’s a very good hand.”

The two aliens stared at him, waiting. He let them wait a while longer as he scratched his head and then his bristly chin.

“Well?” Jagi asked.

Rick ignored him for a moment, running his hands through his brown hair that was in need of a visit to the barber. Then he sighed in a sorry tone. “Well, gentlemen, it’s been a fun game…” He revealed his hand. “…But it looks like I win again.” It was clearly a game ending hand.

Jagi and Molsskin’s eyes widened, and they shoved their fingers into Rick’s chest as he was gathering the credits.

“Cheater!” Molsskin howled.

“Nobody can win that many times!” Jagi snarled. “Nobody!”

Rick sat back in indignation. He scoffed. “What? Are you accusing me – Rick Orlan – of cheating? Do honestly think I would do that to you?”

Jagi’s fist answered for him, smashing into his face. He fell backwards in his chair and the aliens were about to leap on top of him when a security droid entered and picked Rick up.

“Come with me,” the artificial voice ordered.

“Don’t touch me! Get your hands off me!” Rick shouted, thinking that it was some normal person and not a machine.

“Comply,” the droid said in a tone that could almost be called menacing.

“Oh, okay,” Rick resigned.

The room had become silent with the scene. As the droid dragged Rick out, his opponents started gathering up the credits.

“That cheater!” Jagi growled. “I should have seen right through him…Hey! These credits are mine!” The two began squabbling and when the door closed behind the security droid, the music and entertainment resumed as though nothing happened.

Rick was taken down the hall to the door of the owner’s chamber. There was a Rodian standing there, with lugubrious amounts of piercings on his face – ears, nose, mouth, and even antennae. He regarded Rick with his one good eye; the other was completely removed.

“Well, well,” he said in his blabbering language. “It’s the little troublemaker. Still wearing that jacket, I see?”

“Are you kidding, Leedo? I’ll wear this jacket to the day I die,” Rick pointed to his clothing. His jacket was a rusty red that stood out against his tan shirt and light brown pants.

“It’s been a while, Rick,” the Rodian said. “But as usual, you manage to cause a ruckus that brings you here. As head of security, I’m seriously thinking of having you banned from this establishment.”

“Banned? This was just a simple misunderstanding!” Rick protested.

“I’ve heard that one before.”

There was a deep, rumbling laughter from behind the door. Rick’s eyes widened. “That laugh,” he muttered. “I know that laugh…”

“Leedo,” came the loud voice of the Hutt, “bring him in.”

The Rodian opened the heavily secured door, grabbed Rick by the arm, and thrust him into the large chamber. The room was heavily lavished, with all sorts of fine linens draped on the walls, and gold trinkets littering the floor and tables. There was a large bed, adorned with dozens of expensive pillows. On top of the cushions was a large Hutt, surrounded by half a dozen slave girls rubbing him with oil. Three guards stood watch, two behind Rick at the door and one near the boss.

Again, the Hutt gave out a booming laugh.

“Ho-ho-ho! Rick Orlan, what a coincidence to find you here in my joint!”

“Hey, Gardogga,” he said hesitantly. “Fancy seeing you here. I thought you were still running your businesses on Hutta.”

“I recently…acquired…this place from old Hondor. I’ve been meaning to change the name and issuing new invitations out to the patrons.”

Rick laughed, but without humor. He knew what he meant by “acquired”. He felt a little shaky in the boots. “Look, Gardogga, my favorite slug…this really is just a big misunderstanding. I was just playing a game of cards when…”

“Save it, Rick,” the Hutt cut him off.

“Okay,” he shut up.

The Hutt chuckled. “Cheating again? Getting caught again?”

“Nah,” Rick scratched his head. “They were just poor losers.”

“Right, the usual story,” the cat eyes narrowed. “You probably know what I do with troublemakers, but I think I could let you go if you do a job for me.” He waved his hand to all the others in the room. “Leave us.”

The slaves and guards did as they were told. Leedo remained still for a while.

“I said leave,” Gardogga said.

“Great Gardogga,” the Rodian argued, “I am head of security and Mr. Orlan here is a security risk.”

“Leave!” the Hutt bellowed.

“You heard him,” Rick made a scooting gesture with his fingers. “Out you go.”

Leedo finally bowed and left.

“I see your employees aren’t taking orders too well,” Rick turned back to the Hutt.

“He’s a remnant from Hondor’s employ, and I was trying to cut costs with keeping most of the workers signed on,” Gardogga sighed. “However, it appears that they’re being more trouble than they’re worth.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Which is why I’m glad you’re here,” the Hutt smiled. “I’ve got a job for you, and doing it will let this whole misunderstanding slip.”

“A smuggling job?” Rick asked. “No way, I’m not doing that anymore.”

“Oh?” the Hutt’s giant eyes widened. “Why is that?”

“Haven’t you heard – oh wait, you wouldn’t have – I’ve gone straight.”

Gardogga erupted into a fit of laughter that shook the room. “Rick, you’ve always been able to tell the best jokes!”

“Um…I’m serious.”

“And yet you’re cheating at cards?”

Rick pulled out a high card from his sleeve and chucked it. “Not anymore.”

“Come now,” Gardogga liked his lips. “Just do the job, get paid, and…”

“Oh, wait, you’re paying? Why didn’t you say so?”

Gardogga smiled. “There’s the mercenary attitude I like. Of course I pay – this is business. You get the job done, and I’ll easily reimburse your losses in the lounge several times over.”

“Well…” Rick thought for a second, and then he sighed. “Alright, Gardogga, I’ll do this last job for you. But that’s it – I’m going straight.”

“Yes, yes,” the Hutt smiled. “We’ll see how long that lasts. I’ll have some men load up the spice onto your ship. I assume it’s still in your usual docking bay?”

“You know me too well,” Rick smiled.

He bowed respectfully to the Hutt, no less egotistical than others of his race, and walked out.

Mentally, he kicked himself in the cargo hold twice. Of course it was going to be an illegal substance transportation. What else did crime lords deal in? And the Empire had already got itself dug into Calpronica’s system of imports and exports. It was going to be extremely difficult to get this job done and still be alive to reap the benefits. He had quit the smuggling business for a reason.

But he needed the money. Big time. There were other debts to be paid, and creditors that were far worse than any Hutt.

Rick groaned. Slugs, smugglers, thugs, officers, sharks… He really needed to find better friends.
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi