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(L,F&E 61) Be careful what you look for, you might find it...

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 61) Be careful what you look for, you might find it...

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 03:21 AM | #1

Tiana of the Bladeborn sat in her seat and tried not to worry. This was her first, well, not solo assignment, since she wasn’t alone, but her first assignment without a masterblade along. She shook her head minutely, she liked Atara, no question. The Cathar could be a bit on a testy side on occasion, but who couldn’t? But she had never been in the field with Atara or Connar before. And that was probably why Masterblade Leeto had chosen the three of them for this assignment. It was a sign of trust and greater responsibility. Which both humbled Tiana and scared the bejeezus out of her. She checked her belt again, fingers flying in trained patterns over the various pouches attached to it. Comlink, ration bars, lightsaber… Her hands stilled as she touched the cool cylinder. She hated lightsabers.

A lightsaber wielder had killed her entire family and then hunted her when she had run. She had been, what, four, five standard years old? She didn’t know. All she knew was that when the stranger had caught her, which hadn’t taken long, he had held her off the ground with the Force and tormented her by burning her with the tip of his blade. She had surprised him, her anger given form in a wave of Dark Side energy, but then he had laughed. Instead of killing her, he had knocked her unconscious. When she had woken, she had been in chains in a cell. A couple of hours later, a black garbed female Togruta had entered and offered Tiana a choice. Learn to be a Sith or die. Some choice. She hadn’t remembered that before joining the Bladeborn, the memories had been buried deep until she had gone looking for them, with Ona and Mama Lizard’s help. She had just known that she hated lightsabers.

Truth be told, she had enjoyed much of the rest of the learning at the Sith Academy, even if she hadn't known anything about it, even where it was at first. She had learned later was on Korriban. She was always good at using her powers, which gravitated towards telekinetics, but the means of teaching sickened her. She hated having to fight her fellow students, she hated the constant backstabbing, challenge duels with poison or blades or the Force, the no-holds-barred craziness that to this day made her sleep with blade under her pillow. The only way to advance as a Sith student was to do so over the dead bodies of her peers. Her instructors had been relentless, forging the Mon Calamari named Caja into a living weapon, a tool to be used until broken and then discarded. But then, Trugoy had come. She smiled as she remembered.

She had been studying solo in her cell. Its bare rock walls always comforted her. Their stability in such an unstable place had always given her strength. And then, another student had attacked her. That had turned out to be a serious mistake. Caja had always been small for a Mon Calamari and her need for hydration was a weakness. But the years studying in the Academy had taught her many things, body control and strength only two of them. The unfortunate student had found herself pinned against the wall with Caja’s training saber against the arrogant human’s throat. To this day, she wasn’t sure what she would have done if Trugoy hadn’t entered the cell.

The strange small brown alien had offered her another way, a more balanced way and Caja had leaped at the chance. She had left the human student sobbing on the floor of her cell and not looked back. It hadn’t taken long for Caja to face the Trial and become a student Bladeborn. She shivered slightly. She had died and been reborn in some way during that horrific experience. She had literally killed herself, well a copy of herself, to finish the Trial and it had changed her. The name was only the smallest change. Tiana was a name she had heard somewhere as a child. A warrior name, a strong name. And Tiana was both of those.

The only blemish on her record was that she had been on duty when a prisoner named Setsuna Andal had escaped. She had been standing guard when the door behind her had slammed open, casting her into the far wall. She had recovered to find the dangerous Force user coming at her. They had fought, and Setsuna had won. She had expected Setsuna to kill her, instead, the girl had met her eyes and said something odd. She had said ‘No one else dies for me’. Then Tiana had been struck with her own Force pike and knocked unconscious. She had woken in medical with Mama and Trugoy both there as well. She had heard about the fight, and only someone Force blind would have missed the boiling currents that had swept from the assembly hall. It had distracted her from her duty. She had expected to be punished, possibly demoted, she had even been ready to expunge her shame through suicide, but Trugoy had surprised her.

He had stood beside her bed and shaken his head. “Anyone can be taken unaware. We are all mortal, fallible. Learn from it.”

She had. She had applied herself to her studies with a single-mindedness that had drawn both praise and worry from her teachers. On more than one occasion, her teachers had actually pulled her back, worried for her safety or sanity. Long talks with Ona and Mama had finally allowed Tiana to see beyond her shame, to see the reality of what had happened. She as determined to make amends to Setsuna Andal someday. All of the Bladeborn were. But that was neither here nor there. She sighed quietly and finished her equipment check.

Her sword of course was as immaculate as always. She smiled as she saw Connar checking his. This was his first field assignment. He hid his nervousness well, but it was there. She nodded to him and focused on were Atara was sitting at the pilot controls for the shuttle. It was an old ship, a proven design, but old. This particular one had been in service for almost a hundred years, but with careful maintenance and piloting, it was still going strong. G-Wing shuttles were not very comfortable, but the Bladeborn made do. Comfort was a luxury. Luxuries were nice on occasion, but almost always a distraction as well. And distraction for a Bladeborn usually meant death.

“Ma’am?” Tiana’s voice was quiet. One did not distract a pilot while they were flying. But Atara turned around and smiled.

“It’s okay, the autonav is engaged. You know you can call me by name, Tiana.” There was a bite of wicked humor in the Cathar’s words and Tiana smiled. She had to admit, the Cathar was striking. The golden fur was absolutely gorgeous. Her own skin with its mottled splotches of brown on an orange hide, was average for a Mon Calamari.

Tiana smiled again. She liked Atara. The Cathar was totally upfront. Nothing was hidden about her. Sometimes she seemed gruff and anti-social. But Tiana had seen beyond that on a few occasions. She knew what lurked in Atara’s heart. It lurked in her own. And both worked hard to keep it from coming out. But then she frowned.

The Mon Calamari’s voice was thoughtful. “Atara, where are we going to start? It’s a big planet.”

"A very good point, Tiana." Atara nodded. “We are going to go to the Sith base there first, do some research.”

"But..." Tiana stiffened. “You do know how they feel about…” She broke off as Atara nodded.

“Yes, the base commander, a woman named Celine, is as racist as they come." Atara said with a frown. "Which is why Connar will be our front being.” The boy stiffened.

"Me?" His voice was worried. “What? I…” he stopped talking as Atara laid hand on his shoulder. In the cramped confines of the shuttle it was easy for her to reach him.

“Connar, it’s okay." The Cathar said quietly. "We are not hiding this time. We can be who we actually are. Just be yourself. Show no weakness and it will be fine.”

"Wait a moment..." Tiana thought was looking thoughtful. “Celine…”

"Yes." Atara nodded. “You know her.’

Tiana sighed. “Joy…” Celine had been the student she had left crying on the floor of her cell when Trugoy had taken her.

"IT will be okay, Tiana." Atara patted Tiana’s shoulder. “If she as any sense at all, she won’t try anything. We have authorization.”

"Ah..." Tiana shook her head slowly. “The girl I knew would. If she has any brains at all now… I would be very surprised… and she held grudges longer than almost anyone else.” Atara shrugged. In that case, it wouldn't be the first time the Bladeborn changed the leadership of a Sith base. Not even close...
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 03:29 AM | #2
<A day later>

The Mon Calamari Bladeborn wasn’t surprised in the slightest. Tiana stood with Atara behind Connar as he spoke with the Sith commander. The base commander was visibly unnerved by this showing of force. The full armor that the Bladeborn wore was designed to be intimidating as well as protective and it served both functions well. But she and Tara had not donned their helmets. Instead both wore long ceremonial cloaks over the armor. The whole get up was incredibly intimidating, not ornamental at all, pure function given form. And both had their swords within easy reach. Neither had hands on hilts, but not far either.

The base commander was speaking. Tiana hid a wince. The years had not been kind to Celine Ohu. Her face was lined from old scars as well as tension that she tried hard to hide. But she obviously either did not recognize Tiana of the Bladeborn as former student Caja or wasn’t going to be stupid enough to do anything with three of them standing there.

The woman was speaking in a polite tone, but there were undercurrents. “...and I understand you need to find this being. But I cannot spare any personnel at this time.”

"We understand that, Commander Ohu." Connar said with a small nod. “We require no assistance from your base personnel, this is a courtesy to you. It gets so messy when we surprise people.” The commander nodded slowly at that massive understatement. Connar thought for a moment and then nodded as well. “We would like access to your sensor records from two years ago if at all possible.” His tone, while polite, clearly stated that if there was a problem with the request there had better be a very good reason. Tiana carefully did not smile, he was playing the arrogant Sith to the hilt. Not too over the top, and not weak at all.

The Sith commander nodded. “We can oblige you, Bladeborn Connar. I trust you will keep your dogs in line?” A low growl came from Atara and Tiana stayed very still. But she didn’t move her hand from the sword hilt it had sought at the insult.

Connar looked at the woman for several minutes without speaking and she squirmed a bit under his gaze. Finally he spoke slowly as if to a not quite bright child. “I am going to assume that was a slip. That the word you used was not an intentional insult to my battle kin. Which would be exceptionally stupid of you.” His face was impassive, but his tone conveyed disgust. “I hope, for your sake, that it was unintentional.” Somehow the warm Talusian day seemed to chill a few degrees.

"I… " The commander stiffened. “I offer apology, My Lord. It won’t happen again.”

"Good." Connar said with a cold smile. “See that it doesn’t. I am not without patience and we are all servants of the Empire. And anyone can make mistakes. But… make no mistake on this, our patience is not infinite. I at least would be somewhat polite. I would kill you swiftly.” Now the Sith blanched and nodded jerkily.

She seemed to pull herself together and nodded a bit more normally. “If you and… Your companions will follow me, I will take you to our records division.”

Connar nodded. “Thank you commander.” He followed as the woman turned on her heel and stared off. Atara and Tiana followed two steps behind and spread out. They were not in combat, but some things just didn’t change. This could become a hostile situation at the drop of a pin, so they reacted accordingly.

<a few minutes later>

The tension level didn’t drop much at all when they entered the bunker that housed the records division. The troops on guard were nervous and Atara and Tiana stood by, ready to move. Connar didn’t seem to notice and Commander Ohu didn’t either. She led them into the bowels of the bunker and then to a data server room.

The head tech tried to protest. “Ma’am I need the forms…” But the commander cut him off with a glare.

"Idiot..." Ohu’s voice was not much warmer than Connar’s had been outside. “Do you want to explain that to them?” She nodded towards the three still forms behind her and the tech blanched.

But Connar just sighed. “That would be a level five security clearance authorization, a six beta three requisition and a request form nine?” The commander turned an incredulous look at him and he shrugged slightly. “Everything in its place, Commander.” He held out a stack of flimsies to the tech who goggled at him before taking them and looking through them. Connar smiled slightly. “We have our own share of bureaucracy. Better to keep things orderly, it saves cleaning up the mess afterward.”

The commander actually stammered. “Um… Uh… Begging your pardon, but… Why?”

Connar shook his head. “We are not enemies. You are doing your job, we are doing ours. There is no reason we have to be working at cross purposes, is there?”

The commander stared at him. “You are like no Sith I have ever dealt with.”

"Thank you. " Connar said with a small smile. “We are not Sith, we are Bladeborn. We are servants of the Empire, but not Sith.”

The commander shook her head slowly and looked stunned, but then looked at the tech who nodded. His voice was clearer now that he was on known ground. “All is in order Bladeborn, how may I assist?”

"Okay...Two years ago..." Connar nodded. “I need records of sensor logs of the time that Oreana Devich came here.”

The commander was startled into speech. “Orean Devich? The one who killed Darth Creon?” Connar nodded and the commander blew out a deep breath. “I… see…”

"Yes." Connar spoke evenly. “We have been ordered to trace her last days. By the highest authority.” Which was no lie, Trugoy was their highest authority.

"Hmmm...." The commander nodded. “That would have been two years, seven months and three days ago.” Connar looked at her and she shrugged. “I was part of the team that laid the bomb in Creon’s base. We had hoped she would be able to get away, but… I don’t think she planned to. We never found out what Creon was doing.”

"He was plotting against the Emperor." Connar said with a shrug.”From what we have found out from the report she sent in before she came here, it was… complicated. Several Moffs had been suborned, at least three admirals as well. Add to that the blade…” Commander Ohu shivered. Connar’s voice gentled. “You saw it?”

"Yes." She nodded. “I was in the formation when she destroyed it. The scream… It was…” She shivered slightly in memory. Then she stiffened, but Connar just nodded.

"I know." His voice was thoughtful. “To face such a power… Such powers are not trifled with lightly. And they have a distressing habit of backfiring on the user. Which is why we do not count on the Force to win our battles.” The commander looked at him and he smiled thinly. “We use the Force, we just don’t rely on it to the exclusion of all else.”

“Good point.” The commander agreed and then they all turned as the tech finished what he was doing. A series of scanner readouts appeared on the screen.

The tech stared at the screen and his voice was muted. “This can’t be right…”

The commander stared at him and her voice was sharp. “What?”

"Commander..." The tech was keying controls, and shaking his head. “That day’s sensor logs are the same as the day before… See… The time stamp is the same.” He indicated a small caption at the bottom of the screen and indeed, both were identical.

All three Bladeborn stiffened. Connar’s voice was quiet. “How is that possible?”

The tech was shaking his head. “Only someone with Ultra Six clearance or higher would be able to do that. But anyone with that level would have changed the date stamp automatically when they logged out… It’s automatic. Even if they didn’t leave an ID code which most operatives that high would not, the date would have changed.”

Connar stared at the screen, his face impassive. “So someone sliced in, without authorization?”

The tech shook his head, his fingers flying over the controls. “No, sir. No sign of outside intrusions, no sign of anything…wait a moment…” The tech focused on the screen and then his face went slack. “Sir… This is impossible…”

The commander was getting annoyed. “What is?” She asked coldly. Instead of answering the tech brought up a section of the screen. It showed an authorization code. The commander looked at it and blanched. “And what does this mean?”

"Commander..." The tech swallowed. “The logs were changed by someone with your pass codes. Six months ago.”

"What?" The commander blanched as Connar, Atara and Tiana looked at her. “You are right, that is impossible...”

The Bladeborn felt her shock, disbelief and outright fear through the Force and Connar sighed. “So much for a simple investigation…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 03:35 AM | #3
Commander Uho was obviously beyond shocked. Not only was her sense on the force completely devoid of any duplicity, but her face was a scene of dumbfounded disbelief. She snarled at the tech. “Check that again, that has to be a mistake.”

"Connar.." Atara shook her head slightly. “This really is not business of ours. If you do not have the records, say so and we shall go.”

Tiana coughed slightly and Connar and Atara looked at her. She shrugged. “We have an obligation to the Empire, do we not? If we find evidence of such a thing, do we not have a duty to investigate?”

Atara nodded, manifestly against her will. She sighed and waved for Connar to continue, but when they turned back to the commander, the woman’s face was a mask of fury and she was staring at Tiana. If looks could kill, Tiana would have been a smoldering heap on the floor, but the young Bladeborn just shrugged.

"Yes?" Tiana’s voice was noninflected. “Is there a problem commander?”

"You." The commander’s voice was cold. “I should have known. You alien scum…”

Atara sighed. “Commander Uho, whatever might have happened in the past…” She broke off as the commander moved, but then Tiana was in motion. Before the commander could get her saber in hand however, Tiana had her sword at the commander’s throat. Atara barked a command. “Tiana!”

The younger Bladeborn withdrew her blade a hair’s breadth, leaving a thin red line on the woman’s neck that dripped onto her grey tunic. The commander didn’t seem to notice.

Commander Uho just stared at her. “Go ahead, kill me frog. You cost me a month in detention. You do remember what that means, right?” Sith detention usually involved torture as well, time spent as playthings of other students at the best of times and guinea pigs for instructors at other times.

Tiana nodded. “I defended myself from your attack and left.”

The commander snarled. “You ran away. Like calls like I suppose. These dogs I…Urk!” she broke off. Having an armor clad boot slam into your abdomen usually did that. A furry hand picked her up by the throat and held her off the ground, her legs kicking feebly. No one moved as Atara looked the commander in the eye.

Atara held the woman off the ground effortlessly with her left hand around the woman’s neck. While she was not that tall, she was strong. Her voice was almost friendly. Almost. “You seem rather hard of hearing. My companion here said not to say things like that about us. Now I know you are a bigot. But you are not stupid. I am going to assume that your insolent tone was due to the fact that you never realized that someone impersonated you. This can be a large shock, especially at a facility like this one where security is supposed to be paramount.” The woman was clawing fruitlessly at Atara’s hand. “If you don’t keep good security, you suffer a fate similar to the previous facility on this planet.”

The former Sith base on Talus had been utterly destroyed by a strike force from the renegade cruiser Stormhawk. There had been a grand total of three survivors from that base. All badly wounded and left for dead.

Connar sighed and turned to the tech. “So, no records?” The tech stared at him, white faced and shook his head. Connar shrugged. “Okay. See if you can find out who did it. Imperial Intelligence will want to know everything you can come up with.” The tech stared at the base commander whose struggles were weakening now, and then shook himself and sat back down at his console, ostensibly ignoring the sounds from behind him. Connar stepped back to where Atara was standing and shook his head. “Do we have to? It’s so messy?” The tech stiffened at his console, but didn’t turn. Atara and Tiana looked at him and shrugged.

"Yes." Atara nodded, her face sad. “She insulted us. Knowingly, willingly.” She dropped the commander at her feet and the woman gasped loudly for breath. Then she doubled over as the blunt end of a force pike thudded into her ribs. Atara’s voice was as sad as her face. “It doesn’t matter what she thinks, we are the arms of the Emperor, we cannot allow him to be insulted.”

"I..." Commander Uho was staring at Atara now and her face was ashen and her mouth worked for a moment before she could speak. “What?” She managed to choke out.

Tiana answered her. The Mon Calamari’s voice was cold, clear and matter of fact. “Whatever you suffered, you earned. You knew when you attacked me that I was dangerous. You thought you had an edge in the poison you had dosed me with. You failed. The normal penalty for failure is death. I left you alive because I found a better use for my talents. Do not think to lay your guilt on me. Whatever you suffered, I had suffered worse. You have no idea what our training is like.”

"Your call, Tiana." Atara said with a small sigh. “Is the insult worth her life?”

Tiana looked at the commander whose face was a mask again. The woman knew she had stepped over the line, jumped over it actually. Tiana thought hard for a moment and then she shook her head.

“The strong take from the weak." The Mon Calamari said soberly. "But you are not weak Celine Uho. You are what the Empire needs, a true Sith. A loyal one, or as loyal as Sith can be. You have faced adversity and bested it. You have survived and prospered. You are a worthy enemy.” Tiana stepped back and her sword vanished into its sheath.

"You..." Commander Uho stared at her. “What? You would leave me alive? You would show… mercy? You are weak then…”

Connar, Tiana and Atara all snorted in unison. Connar answered. “Mercy? Hardly. You get to explain to Imperial Intelligence how someone used your codes to falsify Imperial records.” With that, he turned to leave. The commander stared at him, her face falling. II had no sense of humor and less mercy when things like that happened.

Atara followed Connar, but Tiana stayed a moment, her eyes on the commander. “You are a worthy foe, Celine Uho. I am going to enjoy our conflicts, I think. If II leaves you alive that is…” Then she was gone.

As they walked back to the shuttle Atara shook her head slowly. “I thought I knew you, Tiana. That was cold blooded.”

"It was." Tiana nodded. “She has potential. She always did. But she never thought beyond the moment, not a great weakness, but it was there. When her poison didn’t work, she should have fled, instead she stayed and fought. She was no weakling, just not as good as she thought she was. She seems to have moved beyond that. We shall see… Either way, the Empire wins. Either they gain a stronger Sith, or they lose a weak one. We are measured by the quality of our enemies after all.”

"Agreed." Atara nodded slowly. “I dislike leaving live enemies behind me. But I can see your point. Okay, lets get to the likely area we pinpointed from the holocron and start looking.” Connar sighed and Atara smiled, a bit maliciously. “A little exercise never killed anyone.”

"Exercise?" Connar scowled. “Twelve square kilometers in rough terrain is a little exercise?”

"Yeah." Atara grinned. “All in a day’s life for a Bladeborn.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 03:40 AM | #4
<Eighteen hours later>

Tiana took another small drink from her water flask. Her armor was subtly different from her companions’. It would protect her from damage of course, but it also had a built in hydration system. The system was designed specifically for her by Jon and Ona. There were not many Mon Calamari in the Sith ranks. Part was the pro human bigotry that many Sith espoused, and part was simple biology. Mon Calamari on the whole were not as strong as humans for the most part. Tiana’s training and her own will to persevere had made sure that she was far above the norm for her species in body strength. But in all things, there were limits.

Mon Calamari were an aquatic species. They had evolved on the ocean world of Dac, and were far more at home in humid environments than in arid, dry environments. This area, while mostly wet, was still far too dry for her skin's liking. Of course it was nowhere near the worst she had been in. Every time she was on Tattooine, even in the clan caves with their constant temperature, she felt like she was in a frying pan. Outside… Without protection, she would be dead in minutes from dehydration and heat.

She sighed and focused her eyes on her walking. Connar was twenty meters to her left and Atara was twenty meters to her right. All three had spent the last half day walking through this area, stopping every so often to check bearings and continue. They had worked out a system, any water bodies they found, she explored –being amphibious had its uses-, and any high dry areas that the trio encountered the others looked over. She tensed as Connar made a hand sign and the three converged silently. They didn’t talk unless absolutely necessary. While it was highly unlikely that this was hostile territory, it was good training, and that was one reason Leeto had sent them. Connar jerked his head forward and Tiana nodded as she saw the small lake. But then she tensed as she saw what must have pulled his scrutiny. The aft end of an escape pod was poking slightly out of the water.

Tiana nodded to the others and stepped forward. She dropped her gear, including her sheathed sword, it wouldn’t work well underwater, and sealed her armor seals so water wouldn’t get in. The helmet she left off, she wouldn’t need it. She turned to the others and nodded. Atara drew her force pike and deactivated it. Electricity underwater was a bad idea, but the pike made an effective spear even without power. And underwater, slashing weapons like swords didn’t do as well as piercing weapons like spears. Tiana pulled a small device from her pack and set it on her arm as well. The small crossbow had only one shot, but it would give her a bit more edge in case she ran into something nasty in the water. And she had four more bolts, even if reloading it underwater would be a royal pain. She checked the action and it clicked reassuringly. The Mon Calamari nodded to the others and Atara handed her the pike. Tiana checked the charge again, just to be sure and nodded. Then she waded into the water.

It was always a pleasant experience, to go underwater again. Even on planets where the water was more mud than water, like this one, she always enjoyed the feeling of the water flowing through her gills. She didn’t do it very often, but since she was the only true aquatic being in the Bladeborn at the moment, she got called on any time water or swimming was involved. And truth be told, Tiana didn’t mind at all, she loved to swim, to lose herself in the graceful floating sensation that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Force. She reached down and hit a concealed switch on her boots and then the other. Both stiffened and a flap elongated from the toes of each, allowing for flippered movement. Not great on land, but very good underwater. For just a moment she savored the feeling and then focused on the task at hand. A quick hand sign and to let the others know she was okay and she was diving towards the dark hole in the side of the escape pod.

As always, her training came to the fore. She didn’t just head in. Anyone who did that deserved to be lunch or squished, or a myriad of other unpleasant things that could happen in a wreck underwater. Instead, she cracked open a chemical light and threw it underhand into the dark maw that gaped in front of her. Nothing attacked it, so she entered cautiously. It was the work of a moment to see that the pod was an imperial design and it was empty. Indeed, it looked as if it had been stripped of all usable technology. Tiana sighed, a trail of bubbles going up as she twisted to leave the pod only to freeze as she came face to face with something out of a horror story.

A large creature with two arms and four legs was looking at her, an inscrutable expression on its face. And for a moment, she thought of the insectoid Bladeborn Ecien, but there was no intelligence in this insect’s eyes and nothing in its force sense except hunger. She nodded slightly as she placed the creature, it was a dalyrake. Dalyrakes were predators that lived on Correllia and the surrounding planets. Equally at home on land or under water, they were dangerous foes to the unprepared. Of course Tiana was not unprepared and she was far larger than normal Dalyrake food. But they were opportunistic as well as territorial and she nodded again as it started to move towards her.

“Oh no you don’t.” She said, or tried to. It didn’t sound anything like Basic underwater, more like ‘O o u do t”

But that didn’t matter as the dalyrake came to an obvious decision –food- and charged. Then it recoiled as her bolt took it in one eye. She couldn’t reload quickly underwater, but it didn’t matter, she raised the force pike. The creature was dead before it got anywhere close however, the potent toxin that coated the tip worked in seconds. But then she flinched. Two other forms were approaching now. Two more dalyrakes, and both were larger than the first. Normally they were solitary hunters, but this must have been a mating ground or maybe a nest. It didn’t matter. She smiled slightly and, instead of fleeing, accelerated towards them.

The two creatures were obviously startled by their prey attacking, but then they split up, forcing her to concentrate on one or the other. She made the choice in an instant, and opened herself to the Force.

As always, she denied the pull of the Dark Side, focusing on the here and now, on defense, not attack. Of course to almost all Sith and many Jedi, the absolute best defense was a strong attack. She increased her speed and strengthened her arms, nothing more. The dalyrakes charged and she met them halfway. The right side Dalyrake swung past, trying to get behind her, and she gave it a solid poke as it passed. It left a trail of dark liquid in the water, but didn’t seem to be hurt. The left side one came in a bit more cautiously. Animals were not stupid, if prey had teeth, they didn’t want to get hurt, just to eat. And this piece of prey’s teeth were sharp. The dalyrake closed for a grab attack, but met the tail end of the force pike upside the head and spun away, stunned. Tiana smiled and the grunted as pain exploded in her back. She spun in the water, holding the pike in front. The other Dalyrake was not hurt badly. She met the insect’s eyes and snarled. The sound was unintelligible underwater, but the creature got the point.

The creature charged and then got another point as Tiana spun the pike in a complicated sequence that was both beautiful and deadly. Before the surprised creature knew what was happening, it was impaled on the sharp end of the force pike. Tiana withdrew the pike and kicked away from the dying dalyrake. It was a good thing she did, because the other one had apparently recovered and charged through the water where she had just been.

For a moment, they danced, Tiana and the dalyrake. It was uncomplicated and brutal. Underwater combat was much like above water combat in many ways. But in some ways, it was very, very different. The shorter ranges and pressure of the water made underwater combat both slower and faster paced. Slower in that long wind ups and heavy strikes were useless, faster paced that with the close range and piercing attacks that usually did a lot of damage when they connected, it was usually over very quickly.

Tiana cried out in victory as she slammed the haft of the pike against the dalyrake’s head only to stare as it seemed unfazed. Most creatures would have been at least stunned by that, but not this one. Then she cried out again as pain erupted across her arm. The creature had managed to get past her guard, she had been sloppy. The pike fell from nerveless fingers and she kicked away from the beast as it tried to follow up on its advantage. She darted away, trying to find where the pike had fallen, trying to keep out of reach of grasping claws and teeth. Then something slammed into her. She had a moment to wonder how the dalyrake had gotten on that side of her before darkness claimed her.


Tiana hadn’t expected to wake up. She had assumed that the dalyrake would eat her, so when she opened her eyes to see a campfire she was dumbfounded. She tried to sit up and groaned quietly. Her back, her arm and her head all hurt.

“Tiana?” Atara’s voice was quiet. Tiana looked across the fire to where she saw the Cathar sitting.

Tiana blinked her large eyes. “What happened? Aw drat, I lost the pike…” She slumped. Atara loved that force pike, it had been with her throughout her training.

Atara shook her head. “No you didn’t.” Tiana stiffened as Atara held up the pike in question. “You had it in your hand when we found you. We found three dalyrake corpses, Tiana, you should have fallen back, brought them to us. Taking them on alone was dumb, you know better.”

Tianan nodded, her face pensive. She had gotten carried away again. It happened, although not regularly anymore. At least she hadn’t been eaten. “Atara… I only killed two of them. I assumed the third hit me. You didn’t save me from my own overeagerness this time?”

Atara smiled at that. She had royally chewed Tiana out the last time that had happened. But then she shook her head. “We found three bodies, two killed by pike, one by a bolt through the eye. Nice shot.”

Tiana shook her head. That made no sense. “Atara, the last one knocked the pike from my hands. I lost it. I didn’t kill that one. I was too busy running for my life.” A Sith might have lied, taken credit, but Bladeborn were not Sith.

Atara blinked. “Hmmm… Well, in the morning we can find out… Oh hello Connar…” the human nodded to both of the females as he sat by the fire, but his face was… odd. Closed off, as if worried. Or scared. “Connar?”

"She didn’t kill the last one." Connar shook his head. “The pike wound would have killed it, but something else did first.” He held up something in the dim light of the small fire and Tiana felt her blood freeze as she saw the metal circle he held carefully in one hand. Thin and razor sharp, it was the kind of disc propelled by a ancient weapon. The kind of weapon her battle brother Blondie preferred, a Masassi Lanvarok. Connar nodded at their expressions.

“Something didn’t feel right. I found this in the thing’s cranium. It died before whoever did this used the pike on it and left the pike in Tiana’s hand. And I didn't find any tracks.”

Tiana slumped back with a sigh. “Oh boy…”
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07.04.2012 , 03:45 AM | #5
<The next morning>

Tiana hurt. The dalyrake that had hit her from behind hadn’t done a lot of damage through her armor, but she had spectacular bruises all across her lower back. And the bite on her arm hurt worse. She had thought that somehow the beast had managed to get past her vambrace, the part of her arm armor that covered her forearm. Actually, when she looked at it, it had several holes punched clean through it. Armor was strong, but dalyrakes had powerful jaws. Her head hurt worse than anything. But she ignored all of that as she followed Atara silently. Pain was a nuisance, she was still functional and that was all that mattered. She was bothered by her lack of control the day before. She had known that dalyrakes were territorial. When she had seen the two new ones coming, she could have fallen back, rejoined her battle kin. That was what she should have done. Instead, she had charged them. Like a Sith in the grip of battle lust. That scared her, a lot. She knew the Dark Side, or at least she had thought she did. If this was the path… Then she would have to walk very carefully indeed now.

Atara hadn’t spoken a word since the night before, her mind was obviously elsewhere as she left Tiana and Connar to clean up the small campsite. Not that there was much to clean. Bladeborn were taught to leave little trace of their presences. It was safer for them that way. They often were tracking targets that knew they were coming, if not when. So essentially the only thing that had to be cleaned was the small fire. It was quickly extinguished and the ashes removed to buried in the small latrine that Connar had dug the night before. None of them were strangers to woodcraft, but Atara was definitely the more experienced. Finally though, the chores were done and Connar and Tiana stood in front of where Atara was sitting.

"We need more information." Atara spoke quietly, but she was easy to hear. “We don’t know who helped Tiana or if the being who killed the Dalyrake did. All we know for sure is that the dalyrake was killed by an ancient weapon, one similar to those carried by warriors of the same race as the one we seek.” She shook her head slowly. “We don’t know if this being, this possible Massassi is an enemy or an ally. Not all of the Massassi served the Sith willingly.” Both Tiana and Connar tensed at that. “We know that most of their race was wiped out when the Jedi overcame Exar Kun at his citadel on Yavin IV. We don’t know if they are all dead. And if so, we don’t know who killed the dalyrake. It might not have been the one we seek.”

Tiana looked at Connar and they both nodded to Atara. But Tiana’s voice was quiet. “There was nothing left in the escape pod. Someone stripped it. No sign of a holocron either. So… search pattern?”

Atara nodded. “Cautiously. We don’t know if this is an ally or an enemy. But we do know several things. 1) We do know that whoever did this was good. One strike with a disc and the dalyrake was dead. 2) He or she did not contact us. That can mean any number of things so speculation is pointless at this time. 3) Whoever did this tried to cover it up by striking with the pike. That means they are probably hiding from someone. Maybe us, maybe the Sith, maybe someone else. I don’t know. So, caution and care. I don’t want to lose any of us to an ambush. But we need to follow our orders. We need to find the holocron, keep it safe. And we need to find out if Kra’tuc is alive. If he is… make no mistake, this was a being that Sith feared. He worked with Oreana, the records I have seen are not clear as to what he did, just that he was feared. We need to find out if he is alive.”

"One more thing..." Atara nodded to TIana and the Mon Calamari continued. “If he threw that disc Atara, then he did it underwater. I don’t know if Blondie could have done that. I know I couldn’t, I am not strong enough.”

"Right." Atara nodded. “Ok, here is the order, I am point, Tiana is second, Connar is tail. Standard signals. We stay in visual contact at all times. If you hear anything or sense anything odd, duck first, investigate second, okay? The Massassi were well known for taking heads off with those discs.”

Both of the younger Bladeborn nodded soberly. Tiana loaded her crossbow and held it loosely in hand as Connar checked his blaster. Atara just hefted her pike and started off, slowly, her eyes roving. A moment later Tiana followed, then a few moments later, Connar started following, his gaze flowing from Atara to Tiana, to the areas behind them. All as silent as the wind in the grass around them.

<Two hours later>

Tiana had always been slightly unnerved by Atara. The Cathar woman was downright uncanny in many respects. And now was no exception. The Cathar prowled through the forest, her head slightly down, but her eyes roving as she tracked scents that Tiana herself couldn’t pick up. There had been no tracks anywhere near where the other two had found Tiana the day before, but Atara had found a partial footprint that didn’t look like any race that Tiana had studied about half a kilometer upstream. And then they had followed as Atara seemed to catch a scent.

They had followed her for almost an hour before the woman raised hand in the signal for a conference, and they found shelter in a small ravine that hid them from casual sight. There was too much undergrowth to be totally certain, but Tiana was fairly sure that the only living things nearby except for them were a small family of lizards. None of which were larger than her hand. Atara spoke softly.

“Something new has been added." The Cathar said with a frown. "And I don’t know what it means.” Tiana stared at her and then at the ground when Atara motioned and then the Mon Calamari nodded silently.

On the ground nearby were clear foot prints, easy to see because they were deep and angled across their line of march. They were clearly human prints and from the size, an immature one.

"A child?" Tiana hissed quietly. “Out here?” There were no settlements anywhere within two hundred kilometers. Might not be a child, humans came in all sizes, but something about the track said whoever it was had been running, and the legs were short.

Atara shrugged and pointed to another track. This one larger and harder to see. As a matter of fact, it was only a partial track, mainly a couple of toe prints. Then Atara angled her head in the direction that the small human had gone. “Whoever we are following is now following the small human.”

"Oh?" Connar asked the question that was on TIana's mind. “To do what?”

"Dunno." Atara said grimly. “Let’s see if we can catch up and ask. But watch out, when someone is running…”

Connar nodded slowly. “…someone or something is usually chasing. Lots of dangers here.”

"Right." Atara nodded. “We pick up the pace, but still watch yourselves. This underbrush is getting thick. Lots of good places for an ambush.”

Tianan nodded and checked her sword, it was secure as always then she followed Atara as the woman loped out of the ravine and started off in the direction that both sets of tracks went. Connar came behind, breathing evenly. Running was nothing new to any of them, not even running into danger. Tiana’s eyes roved as she ran, part of her awareness was on the team, the rest on the surroundings.
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07.04.2012 , 03:53 AM | #6
<Forty minutes later>

Tiana stiffened as Atara froze in place. She felt rather than saw Connar also stop. The Cathar was looking ahead at something and Tiana’s heart seemed to freeze as she heard something. Sobs. She was new to the Bladeborn, but her own past, coupled with the training that all Bladeborn received made her very concerned for children in danger. After all, like her, most of the Bladeborn had been through traumatic issues as children and while almost all had dealt with it and grown up, none of them would ever forget it. Even if Mama and Trugoy hadn’t pressed that children were treasures to be protected, Tiana for one would have investigated. She wasn’t totally sure about Atara’s past, but the way the Cathar was acting now, it wasn’t all rosy either. Connar as well was moving slowly up, his hand on his sword hilt. Tiana moved cautiously up to where Atara was crouching and looked past her.

The Mon Calamari’s heart seemed to fall out of her chest when she saw the being making the noise. It was a child, a little human boy, maybe eight years old. He was lying oddly on the ground and then she realized why. His leg was caught in something and she saw red on it. She would have moved closer, except Atara held up a hand.

The Mon Calamari leaned close and Atara spoke in a voice just above a whisper, whispers carried a lot further than most people thought.

“His leg is caught in what looks like a snare." Atara’s voice was worried. "Maybe a spring trap. But…” She peered around carefully. “I don’t see or sense the other one. Do you?”

Tiana focused herself beyond her emotions and then slowly shook her head. “No. Is he bait?”

Atara scowled and then nodded slowly. “Probably. He did not get out here on his own. Look at what he is wearing…” The two looked at the boy. His clothing, if you could call it that, was basically a shapeless smock that barely covered him enough for modesty purposes. It wouldn’t keep a stiff breeze off of him, let alone weather. “The question is, is he bait for us or for someone else?”

Connar had come up by then. His voice was quiet. “Does it matter?”

Tiana and Atara shared a glance before shaking their heads in unison. It didn’t. Orders were orders, but the Code was clear. Atara moved, but Tiana laid a hand on the furred woman’s shoulder. Tiana’s voice was quiet. “No, you are in command. I go.”

Atara stiffened in instant rebellion, but then sighed and nodded. She was in command, she couldn’t take the risk. Not at this time. She snarled quietly. “Be careful. No heroics. Get close, talk to him, see if you can help. We will be around.”

Tiana nodded. She handed her crossbow to Atara. The Cathar would only get one shot, but she was unlikely to miss. Connar nodded as he too readied his ranged weapon. Blasters might have been inelegant, but they were very efficient and functional. She shared a grim nod with her battle kin and then squared her shoulders, stood up and walked out off concealment.

The boy was so focused on trying to get his leg free from what it was in that he didn’t even see her until she was within three paces of him. He stared at her in shock and who could blame him? Her armor was colored a dark brown, and it was covered in mud and grime from walking, crawling, swimming and running. And she was obviously not human.

The boy gasped and tried to recoil, but then screamed as he pulled on his leg. On closer inspection it was a spring trap, and a large one. It had triggered, but apparently was old and not very strong. From the size and placement, Tiana supposed it was meant for a Humbaba, the four legged nasty spitting creatures that roamed this world and many others, or something of like size. The boy was lucky it hadn’t removed his leg completely. Now that she was close, she could sense something else. The boy had the Force. He wasn't trained, but he was powerful. His fear and pain made him unpredictable, so Tiana was very much on guard.

"Hello." Tiana raised an empty hand slowly. “I won’t hurt you.” The boy stared at her terrified and she shook her head, but didn’t move. “What is your name? Mine is Tiana.”

"I..." The boy stared at her, his eyes almost as large as hers, which took some doing. His mouth worked several times before he managed to speak. “My name is Garth, Ma’am.” He would have said something else, except he tried to move again and bit his lip to keep from crying out.

"Good day, Garth." Tiana said politely. “You are in a bit of trouble, Garth. May I help you?” She had to bite back a grin as the boy stared at her. Whatever he had expected, courtesy probably wasn’t it. “I want to help.” She kept her voice gentle and soothing, and she didn’t move from her spot. Scared kids could react in the darndest ways. Even if they didn't have the Force like this one did.

“Don’t need help!” The boy declared stoutly. But his brave poise was undone by the quaver in his lip.

“Ok, do you mind if I watch then?" Tiana said with a sigh. "I always wondered how a brave boy could get out of a trap like that all by himself.” The boy blinked, that obviously wasn’t the answer he had expected. The boy snarled, thinking she was mocking him but then stiffened when he realized she was serious. He scrambled around trying to find a stick long enough to force the jaws open and Tiana didn’t move from her spot but a large stick just behind him floated from its resting place to just within reach. He didn’t see it move.

“There is a likely stick behind you.” Tiana said quietly.

The boy stiffened, but then turned his head to see the stick. He grabbed it and shoved it into the trap. He tried to force the jaws apart, but he wasn’t strong enough. Tiana watched impassively as he tried and tried to get enough leverage on the trap, but he just couldn’t get it open.

"I can help you." She said gently. “Will you let me?”

"You!" The boy’s head spun around and he brandished the stick at her. “Stay away from me.”

“Look, Garth, I am not your enemy." Tiana shook her head. "I can help. I want to help. Will you let me?” The boy shook his head savagely, but his brave façade was crumbling. Tiana kept her voice quiet and gentle although her soul was being wrenched by the pain the boy was exuding now. “I can help. Why won’t you let me?”

The boy struggled with the trap again for a few minutes before giving up and sagging. Then he looked at Tiana and his eyes held something odd. “The father says anyone who doesn’t look like me is a demon. I can’t take help from demons. I would lose my soul.”

" A demon?" At that Tiana blinked. A demon? She had been called a lot of things, but never that. She snorted. “Not hardly. I am Mon Calamari. I am not from this world, Garth. On my world, people might think you were a demon because of how you look. Not that they likely would. Humans are well known around the galaxy.” But then she nodded slowly. “You have a problem then. Accept help from someone who is different from you or stay in that trap until you die of starvation. I could give you my word that I am not a demon, but then, I might be lying.”

“Demons lie." Garth snapped. "Everyone knows that.”

Tiana nodded sagely as if what the boy was saying made perfect sense to her. Which it didn’t. But she did know a way to get around this, she thought anyway. “Tell me something. Have you ever heard the saying ‘Actions speak louder than words’?”

Garth blinked and nodded dubiously. Then he froze solid as Tiana made a small gesture and the trap that held his leg fell completely apart. No it didn’t fall apart, it flew apart. Pieces went flying into the underbrush. He stared after it and then stiffened as Tiana knelt down beside him.

"Be at peace, Garth." Her voice was quiet and gentle. “I am not a demon.”

"Uh..." His eyes went wide. “Are you an angel then?”

“Not hardly." Tiana said with a snort. "I just have abilities you don’t.” She examined his leg and hissed slightly. “Both of your lower leg bones are broken, young man.”

Garth stared at her, wonder warring with fear in his eyes. “How can you tell that? You haven’t touched me.”

Tiana’s smile was gentle. “Like I say, I have abilities you don’t. Will you let me help you?” The boy nodded slowly and Tiana smiled as she started a gentle examination of the broken leg. She blessed Ona once more for teaching basic healing. One never knew after all when that training would come in handy. Like now. For just a moment she wished she had the gift of healing or that Ona was here, but then she focused herself. She could do this.
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07.04.2012 , 03:59 AM | #7
<Thirty minutes later>

The boy was very brave. He hadn’t cried out at all as she set the broken bones and splinted them. His face was streaked with tears, but he made no sounds. Tina smiled, and kept her touch gentle as she finished tying the splint in place. She had always wondered why the survival packs that Bladeborn carried always held small rolls of tape, but now she knew. If she had been forced to tear the boy’s clothing to make strips, he wouldn’t have had anything left on. She nodded and sat back.

"There." Her tone held satisfaction, “All done.”

Garth looked at her and then at the rough and ready splint on his leg. Then he smiled. “Thank you. I…” He tried to sit up and bit back a scream as he jostled the leg.

"Easy." The Mon Calamari laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Garth. Why are you out here alone?” The boy obviously didn’t want to answer and Tiana didn’t rush him. She looked around at the gathering twilight. “It is going to be a long, cold night. Does your family know where you are?”

She couldn’t have missed the spike of fear in his sense in the Force if she had been a raw recruit. But when he spoke it was even. “I don’t have a family.”

“Garth, please don’t lie to me.” Tiana said softly as she shook her head. He stared at her, very afraid now, and she sighed. “I don’t want to scare you. I want to help you. What’s wrong?”

Garth shook his head and scrambled, trying to get to his feet. Tiana sighed again and levitated a long branch to hang in the air in front of them. He stared wide eyed at it and even more wide eyes when her sword appeared in her hand. She sliced, once, twice and the sword vanished.

His eyes are as wide as mine she chuckled inwardly. But then she took the stick in hand. She had cut it so that it would serve as a crutch.

Tiana held the stick out for him to see. “To help you walk.” She waited until he reached out a tentative hand to touch it and then extended it so he could take it easily. Then she tensed. The sound of a bird was soft, but clearly audible. And it wasn’t a bird native to Talus. Garth seemed oblivious as he examined the stick, but Tiana’s gaze was on the underbrush. Her voice was quiet. “Garth, who was chasing you?”

Garth stared at her and then followed her gaze. His face went still as several shadows stepped out of the brush into easy view. His face was still, but his sense in the Force spoke of sheer terror. The boy shook his head slowly but remained silent. One of the shadows stepped forward.

The human’s face was angry. But his Force sense was… off. Almost predatory? “Get away from my brother, whatever you are.”

Tiana met the being’s gaze with a calm any Jedi would have envied. But inside her mind was whirring. “Whatever I am? I am a Mon Calamari. You on the other hand, are rude. Garth is your brother? I don’t see a resemblance.” Indeed, the newcomer was stocky and dark haired. Garth was lean, almost to the point of emaciation, and a redhead. She looked at Garth but the young man was unconscious, apparently having fainted.

The newcomer snarled again. “Get away from him!” One several of the shadows raised weapon shapes, but if Tiana was worried at all, it was unapparent.

"Idiot." Tiana smiled. No one sane would have called it a friendly smile. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that pointing guns at strangers is a bad idea? You never know who you might run into.” She stretched her neck muscles as if she hadn’t a care in the world. And also giving all of the men a good look at her head and eyes. All of the weapons shifted as the owners stared at her.

“Demon!” The man shouted as he scrambled back, and all the men were staring at her with naked fear on their faces.

"You too?" Tiana scoffed. “That is twice in an hour that someone has called me that. If I were a demon, wouldn’t you all be dead? Wouldn’t he be?” She nodded to where Garth was lying. She sighed. “Really, the nerve of some people. I try to help a child I find in a trap and I get guns pointed at me… What is the galaxy coming to?” She carefully didn’t look at a pair of shadows that were slowly moving in behind the group.

The newcomer spokesbeing stared at her, then at the unconscious boy, and then back at her. “You… You helped him?” Both shadows behind the group froze in place.

"Yes." Tiana shrugged. “His leg was caught in a spring trap and broken. I broke the trap, set and splinted his leg. No more than that.”

The man stared at her, his eyes wide. “Why?” He asked cautiously. “What do you gain?”

Tiana shrugged again. “Nothing really. I try and help children in trouble when I can. So…” Her body language change now from passive to aggressive and every one of the scared group took a step back. “Care to explain why your presence made the boy faint? Or what he is doing out her alone, unarmed and in skimpy clothes. Or would you care to explain the scars he bears?” When she had seen those, marks from a whip on both arms and legs, Tiana’s blood had boiled. But she had been under tight control to keep from scaring Garth any further.

The man smiled coldly. “I don’t see how it’s any business of yours.” He turned to his friends but stopped when Tiana raised a hand.

Tiana’s voice could have frozen a star. “Let me make something perfectly clear. Until and unless you… people… point your weapons at me again, we will continue this discussion rationally. If you attack me or this child under my protection, bad things will happen. Think about it.” She made no threatening movement, did nothing actually, but the night suddenly seemed a lot colder.

The man smiled thinly and raised his hands. She felt him draw on the Force and so was ready when familiar purple current shot out of them. She didn’t draw her blade, just held up a hand and grounded the current harmlessly. It hurt, but she gave no sign of it. He stared at her and she smiled just as thinly as he had.

When she spoke, it was almost in a normal voice. Almost. “Your aim truly stinks. You would have killed a young one under my protection with that blast. You have no idea at all what you are doing.” The man snarled again and threw more lightning at her that she grounded again. All of the others stared from him to her and back, uncertainty on their faces. Now she grinned. “You know, I hadn’t counted before now. But you have seven friends with you. And you are the only one with the Force. That, I am afraid, is too bad.”

The man threw lightning again and stared when she deflected it again seemingly without effort. “Why?” he asked quietly, and she felt his mind trying hers, but her mental barriers were strong.

"Well, you see..." Tiana said with a sigh. “If there were five or less of you armed with such primitive weapons and throwing around such feeble excuses for Force lightning, I would be honorbound to fight using non lethal means. But since there are eight of you, well…”

The man snorted. “Like I am going to let you leave…” He broke off as Tiana laughed.

You… are going to let me… leave? Oh that’s hilarious.” Her voice was amused and mocking. She laughed hard and all of them looked at one another. “Oh no… we might, might let a few of you leave. If any of you are capable of it…” Her blade sang in the air and all of them raised their weapons. But the spokebeing stared at her.

His voice was cautious as he kept his eyes on her. “We?”

Tiana grinned as another voice answered him. “Yes, we.” Atara came out of the night like a ghost, crossbow held steady on her chosen aim point, the speaker’s eye. Connar stood nearby in cover beside a tree, blaster ready. Atara snorted dismissively. “You scum are not worth our time or blades. Drop the weapons, now.”

One of the shadowed forms spun and Connar’s bolt took him in the leg, he fell without a sound. The blaster shot was loud in the stillness of night. Tiana smiled as she saw the realization that they were trapped between her and two complete unknowns dawn on their faces. Tiana’s voice was cool now. “We don’t have all night, people. Either attack and die or drop the weapons and some of you might see the morning.”
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07.04.2012 , 04:05 AM | #8
For a moment, Tiana thought the fools would actually see reason. But then the leader screamed. “Kill them, take the boy!”

Of the six remaining, four of them turned to face Connar and Atara, their weapons came up and fire started seeking the two Bladeborn who ducked for cover. The other two, which included the leader, charged Tiana. Now contrary to popular belief among certain levels of Sith, Bladeborn were not stupid. And there is a difference between honor and stupidity. One of the forms, a female who was spraying the undergrowth with an old blaster carbine, went down with a crossbow bolt through her head and Connar’s blaster found its mark as well, dropping his target in its tracks. The man was still alive however, and screamed as he clutched the large hole on his leg. It was unlikely to kill him but he was out of the battle. And just like that, the odds shifted. But then the other two disappeared into the night as well. Sounds carried, grunts, and the clang of blade on blade as unseen opponents fought.

Tiana had her hands full. The leader of the group was obviously a Force adept of some kind, if not quite bright and poorly trained, he was powerful. He didn’t bother with Force lightning again, since the Mon Calamari had deflected the previous bolts of energy so easily. Instead, he closed in slowly with a shockstick held loosely in hand and was obviously looking for weak spots as the other one came in fast with a metal staff upraised.

In blade handling, Tiana was not in the class of a masterblade of the Bladeborn by any stretch of the imagination, but she was no slouch either and when the staff wielder attacked, she wasn’t where he thought she should be. Her blade licked out and he grunted as she withdrew slightly, the edge of her blade red. The leader attacked and she danced to the side, making him stop to keep from running into the staff wielder. The dark haired man held up an empty hand but when he threw a Force punch, Tiana wasn’t where it went, having jumped clear.

“Stand still, demon!” He snapped.

"Why?" Tiana asked with a smirk.

With that, she darted in and the leader had to backpedal to avoid being disemboweled. His shorter weapon put him at a disadvantage. But then the staff wielder was on her again and she had to withdraw, just a bit. She had marked him, and blood was flowing freely from a gash on his arm, but it was not affecting him, and likely wouldn’t for a while. As the leader moved in again, Tiana took stock. Her two opponents were not used to fighting as a team. Matter of fact neither of them stood like trained fighters, which was odd, very odd. She could hold them off, but… She backpedaled again and defended herself as the staff wielder started a kata. It was sloppy, but no less dangerous, and not just for her. The leader ducked under a wild swing and snarled at his compatriot. And then he rolled away as Tiana moved in. The kata was one she knew well, and there would be a hole in the staff wielder’s defense right about…

She lunged, quick and efficient. Then she withdrew again. The staff wielder looked at her, amazement in his eyes as he tried to figure out what she had done. Then realization dawned as he looked down and red was covering his shirt front. He shook his head, dumbfounded as he absorbed the fact that her blade had sliced his throat. He tried to say something, but his words bubbled and he fell, his eyes going glassy. Tiana turned back to face the leader and stopped cold. He was gone! And so was Garth! Tiana’s scream of rage echoed through the night.

Connar came out of the night, Atara beside him. Both were covered in blood, but none of it seemed to be theirs. Tiana saluted the staff wielder, he had been a worthy foe, if woefully undertrained. Then she cleaned her blade and sheathed it. Her voice was quiet. “He took the boy.”

"Right." Atara nodded. “Then we take him back.”

Tiana shared a grim smile with the other two and they started off. At least the man’s trail was easy to follow. Behind them whimpers came from two places as stillness settled. But only for a moment. Small shadows darted through the night heading for the new meals that now lay strewn around. Low cries for help and gasps of pain came as the animals, ever true to their nature, decided that fresh meat was always better. But the Bladeborn wouldn’t have cared less, even if they hadn’t been long gone. One of the humans lived long enough to see a large shadow flit through the branches above her. As it passed through a shaft of moonlight, part of it was illuminated. Its skin was red and it carried an oddly shaped axe, but then it was gone.

<Two hours later>

Tiana was getting annoyed. This was ridiculous. They had followed the trail of the leader of the group that had tried to ambush her and taken the boy she had tried to help. He wasn’t bothering to hide his trail. He didn’t need to. It led through several dens of animals and had traps scattered about. The animals were no match for three angry Bladeborn, and the traps… Pathetic didn’t begin to describe most of them. But then Atara froze in place and the other two did as well. Atara pointed at the ground in front of her and Tiana stiffened as she saw something that was very out of place. The trigger wires of a modern land mine. Tiana made a questioning gesture and Atara shook her head.

The Cathar’s voice was quiet, but easily audible to the other two. “This is the harder path, which is why he took it. If there is a mine here, there has to be more on the other ways. Walk where I do.”

"Wait." Connar shook his head. “I can disarm it.”

"I know." Atara shook her own head. “So can I. If it’s not trapped, and if it’s the only one. Which it isn’t… see?”

"Wait..." Tiana said as she felt a tremor in the Force. She looked ahead and had to cringe as she saw an entire field of wires ahead of them. She shook her head now. “Did he walk through here? I mean… look there…” She waved slowly to where a footprint was clearly visible right beside a set of mine triggers. There was no way anyone could have walked there without setting the mine off.

Atara blinked and nodded slowly. “Either he had them deactivated, or… “ She sniffed the air and sighed. “Good eyes, Tiana. He didn’t. A false trail.” She snarled quietly. Tiana felt her heart fall, but Atara was looking around. “He was on this trail half a klick back.” Then she smiled evilly. “Why have a minefield in the middle of nowhere?” Tiana stared at her and then her own face became feral.

"Land mines have several uses." Tiana recited form her lessons. “To deny access to an area. To protect a base. To slow down an enemy to allow for defenders time to mount an organized defense.”

"Agreed." Connar smiled as well. “Minefields are useless if they cannot be covered by direct fire. So there has to be a bunker around her somewhere.”

"Well remembered." Atara nodded. “And where there is a bunker, there is usually something for it to protect. Let’s find it. Slow and quiet.” The three Bladeborn moved off into the night, deadly shadows of shadows.

<A few minutes later>

Tiana crouched with Atara and Connar as they scrutinized a part of the hillside. The camouflage was nearly perfect. Only with the Force were they able to determine that two beings were inside the hidden defense structure. Atara looked at the other two and shook her head. She held up hand in a stop gesture and they looked at her. She pointed to herself and then at the bunker. Both of the other two stiffened, but then nodded reluctantly. She was the best of the three at sneaking and close quarter combat. Atara vanished into the night and then Tiana held her breath as the shadow that was Atara moved out into the open. The Cathar was easily visible from the bunker but no outcry came, no shots, no alarm. The shadow moved slowly across the open area and then vanished into the underbrush near the bunker. And then they waited.

After a few minutes of worry, the shadow appeared again and beckoned. Tiana and Connar darted across the open area and into the gloom of the bunker gratefully. Connar spoke softly. “Any problems?”

Atara looked… amused? “Check it out.” Tiana and Connar stepped into the main room of the bunker and froze in disbelief. The heavy weapon mounted to face out was expected, as were the ammo crates nearby. The food and water stores were also to be expected. The array of clothes scattered about and the two nude slumbering forms, a male and a female, curled up in each others arms on a bunk were not. The two Bladeborn turned an pair of incredulous looks on Atara, who shrugged.

“They were like that when I came in. Secure them, we need information. Although what we might get from such love struck fools is up for debate.” Tiana bit back a snicker and she and Connar moved to secure the two lovebirds. Teach them to screw around on guard duty.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 04:15 AM | #9
<A few minutes later>

There were many things about being a Bladeborn that Tiana liked. This was not one of them. But duty came before personal preference. She kept a scowl on her face as Atara waved her clawed fingers bare millimeters from the man’s exposed flesh.

The Cathar had a friendly, for her anyway, smile on her face. All the more horrifying to act the way she did when she was looking friendly. “...and if you don’t tell me what I want to know, well… I might slip a bit and you might very well lose some things you seem to value highly.”

The man, who had so far refused to give his name, glared at the Cathar defiantly. “Do your worst demon.”

"Don’t say that human, please…?" Tiana winced with just the right shade of drama. “It’s so messy…”

Atara turned to face her and winked. Tiana fought to keep a smile off her face as Atara spoke harshly. “If you don’t have the stomach for it, go take care of the other one. Send him in.” Just then a shriek came from the other room and the man’s face turned white.

Tiana nodded and turned to go into the bunker’s other room. Behind her she could hear Atara murmuring things to the human now, things she was glad not to hear from the sense she got from the man through the Force. As she entered the room, she had to smile. The woman sat, tied to a chair near the door. They had put her clothes on first. Her gaze was vacant and she took no notice of the Mon Calamari. Tiana nodded to where Connar sat near the small com system. “Anything?”

"No." Connar shook his head as he stretched a little. “No com messages. And no log either. I guess this is not a popular guard post.”

"For guarding, no." Tiana snorted. “For getting time alone?” Connar snorted and then looked at the woman.

His voice held just a hint of the Force. “You can scream now.” The woman shrieked. A bloodcurdling sound that rose and fell. “Stop.” She stopped as quickly as she had started.

"Atara sent me in." Tiana nodded to him. “She wants you to come in. Be an amoral bastard?”

"I can do that." Connar smiled and then sighed. “You ok with this?”

"Not really." Tiana said as she shook her head. “I don’t like using the Force and for this… It feels wrong.”

"Me too." Connar nodded. “Hold tight to that feeling. It’s when it starts feeling right that you have problems.”

Tiana snorted and moved to beside the chair. She tilted the prisoner’s chin up so the woman was staring her in the eye. “Good morning.” The woman blinked slowly and her eyes focused on Tiana with difficulty. Tiana smiled at her and the woman smiled back a bit vacantly. Tiana sighed and looked at Connar. “How much did you use?”

"I wanted her docile." Connar shrugged. “Enough.”

Drugs had their uses and Connar had been studying with Ona, so he knew what he was doing... But... Tiana sighed again. “Ok, the boss wants you. I can handle the com. And I think I can talk to her.”

Connar nodded and stood up. Tiana took his place by the com. It was a needed post. Any defense station would have to have communications with the main base, wherever that was. And if a defense post suddenly went silent, well, bad things would generally happen. Connar stepped out and before he shut the door, Tiana could hear muted whimpers from outside, but her focus was on the woman.

"Good morning." Tiana smiled gently as she looked the woman over. She was no judge of human standards, but the woman looked full grown and athletic. “What is your name?”

The woman looked at her, and her eyes were a bit off center. Her voice was a bit slurred.“Zui. My name is Zui. I… I shouldn’t talk to… strangers…”

“I know. I understand. It’s okay.” Tiana's voice was gentle. “I would like to ask you some questions. Nothing bad or that will get you in trouble.” She put a bare hint of the Force behind her words.

The power ‘Affect Mind’ was a very potent tool in any Force user’s arsenal of tricks. It was a slippery slope however, from affecting the mind to dominating it. It was incredibly easy for one who was trained in it, to make a person without the Force believe anything the Force user said. Anything could be told to a dominated person and it would be believed or acted upon. Anything from ‘These are not the droids you are looking for’ to ‘Give me all your credits’ to ‘Go jump in that bottomless chasm’. Tiana detested the power, it always made her feel dirty. So she used it as sparingly as she could and fine tuned her control to leave her subjects as much will as she could and still get the job done.

Zui thought about that for a moment and then smiled a bit hesitantly. “I probably shouldn’t. I don’t know you and you have tied me up. I shouldn’t talk to strangers.” She repeated a bit more strongly.

"Good point." Tiana smiled again. “Well, we are only strangers until we have met, right? Zui, my name is Tiana. There we have met.”

Zui smiled a bit. “Hello…” She seemed confused for a moment and then sighed. “I don’t like being tied up.”

“Sorry about that." Tiana apologized. "I will see about making you a bit more comfortable. Did you like what you did last night?” Zui blushed and Tiana snorted. “No, don’t answer that. Of course you did. Do you love him, oh, what was his name…? I can never remember his name…”

“Oh his name is Ros." Zui shook her head. "No, of course I don’t love him. Father Gee said I have to have a baby. So we tried last night. Um… What…?” Zui’s voice was confused. Almost as confused as Tiana felt.

Tiana shook her head slowly. This was strange. It was as if the woman were wide open to suggestion. Some people were, but this was way beyond anything Tiana had sensed before. Wait a moment… Tiana focused on what she felt from Zui, looking deeper inside the woman and what she found chilled her blood. Someone had manipulated the woman’s mind, using the Force. In an odd and recognizable way. Tiana abandoned subterfuge and spoke slowly.

"Zui, I need answers." Her voice was quiet. “Zui, what are you doing here, not here in the bunker, but here in the middle of nowhere?”

Zui met here gaze and her eyes held horror. But her voice was steady. “They needed females.”

Tiana felt her guts clench. “Who did?”

Zui shook her head and was crying, but Tiana moved to crouch beside the chair. “You can’t answer that. I am sorry. Zui… look at me…” The woman shook her head, but Tiana didn’t move, didn’t touch her. “You have been violated, and not just physically, but in your mind. I can help you, but I need your help.”

The girl was shaking now and managed to choke out a word. “Please…”

Tiana nodded slowly. “This is going to hurt.” Zui raised her head and there was determination in her eyes. She nodded and Tiana smiled again. “Good girl.” Tiana’s voice was gentle still.

She laid a flippered hand on Zui’s head. The woman’s eyes rolled back in her head and she screamed loud and long. Tiana withdrew her hand and watched as the woman convulsed. The door opened and Atara came in.

The Cathar looked startled. “Tiana.. what…?”

Tiana nodded, but her focus, her entire being almost was focused on the woman. “She isn’t a guard, she is a slave.” Both of them stiffened as Zui spoke softly.

“Breeding stock. They take girls from outlying farms, like mine. Sometimes they kill everyone, sometimes the girl just disappears.” Both Atara and Tiana stared at her and she slumped. “They said I was one of the lucky ones, some they… they sterilize to become servants. They took me… I… I don’t know how long ago. They took me and … They…” She started to cry and Tiana sat down beside her.

“They made you touch something. A small pyramid that was black and red.” Tiana’s voice was quiet and it wasn’t a question. But Zui nodded. Atara stared from the Mon Calamari to the woman and then her gaze hardened. She nodded and strode back out into the other room.

"I..." Zui met Tiana’s gaze and her eyes were scared now. “I can still feel it, clawing at my mind. Help me…Please…?”

"Oh..." Tiana sighed. “Zui, I don’t know if I can. I am no healer.”

"Then kill me!" Zui stared at the Mon Calamari, and there was determination in her eyes. “I don’t want to be a puppet for that sick twisted scum the rest of my life.”

"If that is your wish..." Tiana nodded slowly. Under the constraints put on her, this woman was strong. “I need information, Zui. And then, if there is no other way, I will make it quick and painless.”

Zui nodded slowly. “Thank you. What do you want to know?”

“I met a boy named Garth in the forest." Tiana said gently. "He was caught in a trap. I helped him but he was snatched by a man who appeared. I chased the man here.’

“Ah, Garth…" Zui smiled bit fondly. "That boy is such a treasure. He is always in trouble because he tries to help us. He said he was going to go for help. The others told him not to, that it was too dangerous, but he was going to try anyway.” She stiffened. “If the Father caught him… He won’t be punished this time. He will be killed…”

“Not if we can help it." Tiana swore. "What can you tell me about this place?”

"I know some." Zui nodded. “From what I have been able to determine, this place was founded three years ago as a sanctuary of sorts. I don’t know what they intended at first, but now it is a slice of hell.” Tiana moved to unbind the woman but stopped as Zui shook her head. “Don’t. I… I am in control for the moment. But I don’t know for how long. I know you can kill me easily, but I don’t want to die. Not without knowing they will be stopped.” Tiana looked the human woman in the eye and nodded slowly.

“Okay." Tiana said dubiously. "I need to know how many people, the layout of this place and where they are likely holding Garth.” She pulled a datapad out of a pouch and made ready to take notes.

“I can do better than that." Zui said sadly. "In the pocket of my smock, you will find a pad of flimsies. Fifty pages in, on the back side of that page, I was trying to resist however I could. I made a map.”

Tiana smiled as she pulled said pad out of the pocket. She looked at it and whistled low. “Nice…” The map was small, but precise and very detailed. It showed a dozen buildings clustered close together as well as several small pictures near the edges. After a moment, Tiana realized the woman had not just mapped the camp, but also the defenses. “How did you do this?”

Zui’s face went hard. “The leaders talk as if I am deaf. I am just a thing, right?” The girl was crying softly again and then she shuddered. “No… I… Listen… Fifty men and women with weapons. Twenty children in a guarded house marked… On the map…”

Tiana held the woman’s head against her shoulder as Zui shivered and cried. She could feel the pain that wracked the woman’s body as Zui fought the compulsions that had bound her. She corrected Zui gently. “Forty two men and women not counting you and the one in the other room. Are any of them… coerced like you?”

“All of us." Zui nodded jerkily. "They will fight if the Father tells them to. They won't be able to help themselves. It’s part of what Father Gee calls the Joining. Only a few gain power from it, but all have to touch… That… that thing… I… Please…” Tiana nodded. Without a word, she held Zui’s head to her shoulder with one gentle hand and her other drew a blade. A quick thrust and Zui stiffened and then relaxed. She smiled at the Mon Calamari. “Thank… you…”

Tiana held the woman until life fled her body and then she unbound the restraints. She moved Zui’s corpse on the bunk and laid it out straight. Then she bowed to it. When she spoke, it was cold and formal. “I will see this obscenity ended, brave human. Thank you for your help.” She reached out slowly and closed the human’s staring eyes.

Atara was holding something that dripped in her claws when Tiana came back into the main room of the bunker. The man. Ros, was shrieking into a makeshift gag and Tiana walked up to him, drew her knife and cut his throat. When she turned back to them, Atara and Connar stared at her in shock, but she just shrugged.

“They know we are here. It’s a cult, and the leader is using the holocron to enslave people. Zui said twenty kids. And that Garth was going to be executed. It will be a trap.” All three of them spun as a rough voice came from outside the bunker.

The voice was amused. “Traps work two ways.” Tiana hadn’t thought she could get any stiffer, but when the huge red skinned form simply flowed over the view slit of the bunker she managed. The Massassi warrior rose to his full height and nodded, his alien face inscrutable. “Greetings, Bladeborn. I am Kra’tuc.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

07.04.2012 , 04:23 AM | #10
Tiana was not sure at all what to make of the newcomer. For one, he was large, but not huge like some people she had met. He radiated assurance as well, both in this body language and in the Force. And the lanvarok that he held in a loose grip was well worn. She nodded slowly. “You killed the dalyrake.”

The Massassi didn’t reply, his gaze was on Atara who returned it in equal measure. Finally, he smiled slightly and nodded to Tiana. “Taking on two at once in their territory was stupid.” There was no emotion in his words but Tiana felt the rebuke as if she had been slapped.

She nodded. “I wasn’t given a choice in the matter.” He looked at her and she sighed. “I should have retreated, drawn them into my companions. But I felt I could handle them. I was wrong.”

Kra’tuc nodded soberly. “Learn from that. Few see all the consequences of their actions beforehand. If I had been anyone else, you would likely be dead. But I have dealt with Bladeborn before. Your guard is weak on the left, watch that. And your form with the pike is interesting.” All kinds of connotations on that. From his tone, interesting meant execrable.

Atara looked from one to the other as Tiana nodded. The Mon Calamari’s voice was respectful.“I will.”

Atara stepped forward. “We seek the Sith holocron that Oreana left with you. The Jedi holocron has been found.”

“Indeed." Kra’tuc sighed. "My mistake comes back to haunt me yet again…” He turned and looked out into the still night. “She trusted me and I failed her. I should have buried the cursed thing, or cast it into a star. But it was all I had left that she had touched. That was selfish. And probably that is how this began.”

Atara looked at him and Connar and Tiana let her talk, after all, she was in command. “What happened? I thought she wanted you out of danger.”

Kra’tuc snorted. “Not hardly.” The he sighed. “We do not have a great deal of time before they realize this post is not here any longer. When they do, they will fort up, as they have done it every time I have attacked them. They have a very defensible main building in the middle of their camp.”

Atara nodded. “So how do we keep them from forting up?” Tiana pulled out the map Zui had shown her and scrutinized it. Indeed, the building in the middle of the compound was marked with heavy weapons and strong walls.

Kra’tuc smiled savagely. “By giving them what they want.”

<An hour later>

Tiana had to admit, she liked the way her appearance was making the locals react. She had her full armor on, but anyone with eyes would be able to see that her helmet was not human head shaped. And Atara’s was worse in some ways. It was almost human looking, if one missed the lower half of her face which was visible under her visor with its long fangs bared in a cruel smile. The guards stayed away from her.

When four shadowed forms had marched up to the gate in the weak dawn’s light and had demanded to speak with the leader of the compound, the guards had been surprised. So much so that it probably would have been simple to kill them without raising an alarm. But then again, how many times did one see a Cathar and Mon Calamari in full armor escorting a bound Massassi warrior? But Connar was doing the talking and he was being moderately offensive.

“Look, I don’t care who you are, or what you are doing here." Connar snapped. "You want to play with yourselves, or play with each other, contemplate your navels or whatever, it is not my business. My business is getting my prisoner here back so I can get paid.” He waved towards the bound Massassi who growled at him. But since Connar was carrying the lanvarok, the guards at the gate smiled. Connar shook his head. “Look, all I want is to use your com system to call a ride.’

The head guard shook his head from behind the gate. “How stupid do you think we are? You and your pets killed a bunch of our people.”

“Your people, all seven of them, decided that they didn’t want to talk, that they wanted to shoot." Connar said coldly. "Which was fine by us. We found a hurt kid in the woods, we didn’t have to help him, but we did anyway. And what do we get for it? We get shot at. One of you idiots actually threw Force lightning at us. Get a grip, morons. We hunt people, we have hunted Sith before. We like to be prepared. Saves on the hospital bills. Now are you going to let us in or not? If not, we should start walking.” The guards didn’t respond and Connar shrugged and turned to go, Atara and Tiana moved the bound Massassi to follow.

"Wait." They paused as one of the guards spoke quickly. “Our leader wishes to speak with you. But you will need to be unarmed.”

"Oh right..." Connar sighed dramatically. “How stupid do you think we are? Oh yeah, walk into your armed camp, filled with people who shot at us, unarmed. Yeah, right. Have fun playing with yourself dimwit…” He started walking and the other three followed. As he walked, he was counting under his breath. Before he reached twelve a new voice called out to him.

“Sir, wait…” Tiana looked back as Connar did. A door had opened in the gate and a different form was standing there. Tiana hid her reactions under years of training. It was the male human they had fought before.

"Why?" Connar snorted. “So you can throw more stupidly weak Force powers at us? Or maybe one of your snipers will get a lucky shot past our armor?”

"We don't have to talk." The man snarled. “We can deny you your prize. You killed seven of our people.” And indeed the snipers on the wall overlooking the gate were not aiming at Tiana, Connar or Atara. They all had beads on Kra’tuc.

"Oh?" Connar smiled. It was not a nice smile. “You sir, are an idiot. Look down.” The man did and froze. Having a live thermal detonator start ticking at your feet will do that to just about anyone. Connar’s voice was soft, but carried easily. “And we have killed nine of your people. The guards you had in the bunker to the north were sloppy to say the least. You may be a fool, we are not. Do not take me for one, moron.”

"Um..." The man at the gate visibly controlled himself. “Our leader would speak with you.”

“Then trot him out here." Connar said with a snort. "I am not going to put myself in your power just to salve your idiotic ego.”

The man shook his head and refused to be baited again. The bomb at his feet might have been a very good reason. “We can come to some kind of arrangement.”

Connar looked from the man to the Massassi and then back. “He is worth a lot to me alive. He is worth nothing dead. You are worth nothing at all to me either alive or dead. Clear?”

The man nodded. “Clear. Your safety is guaranteed. Please…” He motioned to the bomb and it turned off. He reached for it and it started ticking again. He jumped back with an oath.

"You are an idiot." Connar smiled, again it was cold and mocking. “I trust you about as far as you trust me. That is to say, not at all.”

The man smiled and his smile matched Connar’s “I am Samial. It is good we understand each other.”

Connar jerked his head and the pair of females hauled the Massassi around, he made a great show of struggling until Atara slapped him across the head. As they walked in, Connar bent down and picked up the thermal detonator, giving Samiel a wintry smile. Tiana kept her eyes ahead, trying with all her heart not to look at the bodies that decorated the insides of the walls, many of which were small. She followed Connar, who followed Samiel towards the largest building.

Tiana could feel the Force boiling around her as the odd group walked into the large building. Ostensibly, her attention as on her ‘prisoner’, but her eyes were roving, noting guard placement, weapons, stances, and other things that might get her out of this place alive. As she walked she kicked something from her foot and it flew into the shadows of the hall they were in. No one seemed to notice, all of their attention was on the red skinned form that Tiana held onto and the man in front with the thermal detonator. Which had been the whole reason that Connar had accepted the thing from Kra’tuc. None of the three had asked where Kra’tuc had ‘acquired’ the thermal charge.

When Kra’tuc had proposed this insane course of action, all three of the Bladeborn had been initially against it. The risk to them was fairly minimal. The idiots around them were sloppy , barely trained at all. But the risk to Kra’tuc was significant to say the least. Apparently, he was the reason that the compound was so well fortified. Comments he had made suggested that her tried their defenses on a regular basis. And Tiana could imagine that if he caught any of their patrols, that group would not make it back to base. No wonder there had been so many in the group that had come after Garth.

The man leading them, Samiel, led them into a large room and Tiana followed Connar as he stepped into it. As she did, she could feel the Force pressing down on her, she ignored it, focusing her mind on her blade as she had been taught. The thought of the edge, pure and unsullied, kept her mind free from taint or control. It would keep her free for a time, but the less time spent in such a place, the better. There were shadows around the room, forms standing silent, watching, as they entered.

A voice came to them. “Ah, welcome. You would be the visitors who have caused so much havoc in our little world.” The voice was calm, and almost gentle. Almost.

Tiana looked up from the floor to see a human male sitting near a table. Her heart froze as she saw Garth restrained to that table. The boy’s broken leg was bent at an unnatural angle and for a moment, she thought he was dead, but then his chest rose slowly and fell. The man met her gaze and nodded. “Thank you for helping our lost flock member. He is being punished now, but will be fine.” Then he focused on Connar. “There is no need for that.” He waved towards the bomb Connar held.

Connar shrugged. “I think there is.” The Force pressed in on Tiana harder now, but she resisted it. Connar stiffened and slowly, released his hold on the bomb. Samiel, a sadistic smile on his face, made a gesture and the bomb flew from Connar’s hands into the other man’s.

The man at the table smiled. “That is better. Now, come, introduce yourselves. I am Father Gee, leader of this group and you are the ones who have brought me the being who has pained me for the last two years.”

Kra’tuc’s voice was soft when the Massassi spoke up. “You speak of pain, you know nothing of pain. Yet, human.” More than one of the shadows stiffened at the Massassi’s insolent tone.

But the man at the table just laughed. “I won, Massassi, you lost. You should not have trusted so easily.”

Kra’tuc snarled now. “I did not trust. You killed and stole. And for that, you will die.” For a moment, the darkness in Kra’tuc’s voice pushed the other darkness in the room back, but then it rebounded with force. Tiana bit back a gasp as alien tendrils of thought wormed their way into her mind, tried to anyway. Her mental walls were firm and she hoped that Atara and Connar were faring as well. Atara she was sure had solid mental defenses. Connar? She wasn’t so sure of him.

The man who called himself Father Gee laughed. “You insolent creature. I am not the one who is going to die today. Today you join you alien scum friends in death. You didn’t really think I would not anticipate this fool plan of yours?” Around the room shadows started closing in on the quartet. None of the Bladeborn moved and Kra’tuc just laughed.

The Massassi’s voice was cold and clear. “Fool indeed. Who is the more foolish? The fool or the fools who follow him? You and your people will not leave this room alive Apathos.”

Several of the shadowed forms froze at Kra’tuc’s cold words, but the form at the table just laughed again. “You have no power here Massassi. What makes you think your feeble skills are any match for the power of the Dark Side?”

"Apathos..." Kra’tuc, far from cowed, smiled thinly. “I have a better question. What makes you think the power of the Dark Side is any match for our skills?” With that, Tiana and Connar drew their blades, Atara drew her Force pike and Kra’tuc’s bonds simply fell off and his lanvarok flew from Connar’s free hand to Kra’tuc’s. The quartet wasted no time at all on words. They attacked.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here