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(L,F&E 69) Guests, Willing and Otherwise

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 69) Guests, Willing and Otherwise

kalenath's Avatar

08.07.2012 , 02:32 PM | #1
((This starts eight hours after the end of Pieces and just after The Measure of a bad guy))

<Coronet City, Correllia>

It was very quiet in the Imperial intelligence safehouse. The female Twi’lek shook her head as she left the room. The rest of the somewhat eclectic team was sitting, working and waiting for her. They all looked up as she entered the common room and the team leader looked a question at her.

Mi’Ta, agent of Imperial Intelligence, shook her head. “I have done all I can… Boss, I am a combat medic. He needs more.”

"Dang it..." Musano Vorren, imperial Cipher agent, sighed. “Mi’Ta, he is the only person we know of on planet who has even seen our quarry. We were so close. We need to talk to him.”

Mi’Ta sighed as she sat, and then she smiled as the team technician Olandas brought her a steaming cup of caf. “Thank you, Olandas.” She said as she accepted the cup. It had been a long and tiring day. The girl winked at her and Mi’Ta felt a flutter in her gut, but suppressed the feelings with the skill of long practice. She focused on her boss. “Vorren, the blade entered his lower back. It tore the hell out of one of his kidneys, part of his liver and spleen. It also cut his spinal cord. Boss, I don’t know if he is going to wake up. If he does, he will be in incredible pain and likely not very lucid.”

"We need to talk to him." Vorren pursed his lips in thought. “Can you wake him?” He asked finally. “We can keep him doped.”

"No." Mi’Ta shook her head. “If I do, it will kill him. Likely before he can answer any questions. Boss, he needs a hospital, not a makeshift safehouse medical ward.”

"Crap." Vorren shook his head. “Mi’Ta, we need what that man knows.”

"I know, but..." Mi’Ta shook her head. “Boss, I am telling you, I can’t. Maybe a hospital can have him wake, a place with a real dialysis unit as opposed to the contraption I have hooked up. Maybe a full on ICU would have the gear to keep him alive long enough to talk to. Vorren, we don’t. If we wake him, he will die. Quickly.”

Vorren bit his lip, but then shook his head slowly. Mi’Ta was the medical specialist of the team. He could do battlefield medicine. But she was the specialist, the team medic, for a good reason, she had far more training in it than he had. And when one did not listen to professionals, bad things happened. While he had little use for Jedi, the man as not technically an enemy. He was a potential source of information. The agent of Imperial Intelligence was not in the habit of killing people simply because he could. It caused all kinds of problems, not the least of which was questions from all kinds of sources, police, Republic Intelligence, the Jedi… He sighed.

“Mi’Ta… you know we can’t send him to a hospital.” Vorren said sadly as he turned to another member of his team. “Olut, can you do anything?”

"I don't think so." The Sith apprentice shook his head slowly. “If he were awake, there are things I could attempt. But if, as Miss Mi’Ta says, he will die on waking…” There was something odd in his voice.

The team leader looked at the Sith who he had been saddled with. “Olut, problem?”

"Not really." The black robed being smiled slightly. “I truly wish I could have tested myself against the man though. He was good.”

"Crazy Sith." Another voice laughed sourly. “You may wish that all you want. I for one am glad he was unconscious when I arrived. I knew a couple of those guys. They were not lightweights.” The bounty hunter Kunda Gev was decidedly the odd man out in this group. He had been captured and brainwashed to serve the tam and now, he knew it. But the bomb and tracker in his head made running a pointless gesture. “Mi’Ta, what about drugs? I can think of a couple that might work to dull pain enough to talk to him.”

"No." Mi’Ta shook her head. “It’s not the pain, Gev. It’s the fact that his kidney was totaled, his liver is at about half capacity and his spinal cord was cut. Jedi or no, that was a massive systemic shock. I am surprised he didn’t just die. Most beings would have on being hit that hard.”

"Indeed." Olut smiled. “Much as I dislike the Jedi, they are tough. Worthy opponents. But my view is simple, he was a worthy foe. Now he is weak.” And Sith only had one thought for weakness. Purge it.

Vorren thought about that. “Mi’Ta… What are the odds that he is conscious? Aware of what is going on?”

"Are you insane?" The Twi’lek stared at her boss. “Vorren, if he was awake, he would be screaming in pain, Jedi or no. As for aware… I don’t know enough about the Force.”

All eyes turned to Olut, who shrugged. “With the Force, anything is possible. But I do not sense him as being awake. No… I sense disturbances. I sensed the girl near the spaceport yesterday, but then she was gone by the time we arrived.” He sighed. “That girl is seriously sneaky. But… Something else…” His voice broke off and his tone was perplexed now. “Sadness?”

Vorren shared a glance with the rest of the team before speaking. “Olut?”

"Not... near..." The Sith apprentice didn’t look at Vorren, his gaze was far away. “I feel… Oh my …” The other four looked at him but he remained silent.

Finally Vorren spoke. “Olut? What do you sense?”

The Sith met the Imperial agent’s eyes and his were worried. “I don’t know. Something has happened. Something… massive. There is a powerful disturbance in the Force, it feels…sad and angry. So very angry…” Now his voice was dreamy. “So powerful…”

Vorren looked at the other members of his team and his hand was on his blaster. The others were likeise prepared. Sith lived betrayal. And if Olut found a source of power that might speed his advancement up the Sith ranks, he might very well abandon the mission and them. Or worse.

Vorren’s voice was quiet. “Olut.”

The Sith looked at the others and small smile played across his face. “It isn’t here on Correllia, or, I should say, most of it isn’t. It isn’t clear. And right now, it isn’t germane to our mission, is it, agent?” Vorren nodded, his hand still on his blaster. Olut shrugged. “I am committed to the mission, agent. My master’s orders were clear.” But Vorren didn’t move, and no one else did.

Everyone jumped when the secure terminal in the corner beeped. Tech Olandas jumped to her feet and ran to it. She keyed it on and scanned the message that came through, and then she hissed. Her voice was stunned.

“Boss, you need to see this…” The tech said slowly.

"Olandas? What?" Vorren looked at Olut for a moment, then rose and strode to the console. He stared at it and froze. “You have got to be kidding…”

Olandas shook her head. “It’s verified.” She indicated a series of code markers that showed it was indeed an ultra secure Imperial intelligence communication.

Mi’Ta, Gev and Olut all stared at the Imperial agent as his face went white. But then he controlled his features with skill any Jedi or Sith might have envied. Vorren’s voice was professional now.

“Request more information as available, and request clarification." He snapped. Olandas nodded and started typing. "If this is what I think it is, we have an even more massive problem than our Jedi guest.”

"Boss?" Mi’Ta looked at her team leader. “Vorren, what is it?”

Vorren shook his head slowly. “We are ordered to detain any Bladeborn we see, and remand them to Imperial review.” Everyone in the room froze in shock. Basically, catch any Bladeborn they could and send them back to Drumond Kaas for torture and interrogation eventually followed by a painful death. Vorren’s face was ashen now. “That means we have to go after Leeto…”

All eyes were on him now. Hunting a master assassin was never an easy thing. Hunting one who knew they were after him, which he likely did by now…

Olandas made a small noise. “The other teams… they know he is on planet?”

"Yes." Vorren nodded, his face slack. “I kept up my reports.”

"I see..." Olut of all people swallowed audibly. But then of course, he would know more about the Bladeborn than normal people, likely. “They won’t have a chance. But… We have to find the girl, that was an Imperial decree…”

Vorren nodded. “So is this.”

Gev stared at the leader of the team and spoke of all of them. “Flarg me…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.07.2012 , 02:40 PM | #2
<In a dark room, not so very nearby>

“I am sorry, Leeto…” The female voice was kind but the small, green skinned Rodian didn’t look up. “Leeto…”

The deadly master assassin of the Bladeborn didn’t move at all. When the Rodian spoke it was in accentless Basic, quiet and uninflected.

“He made me what I am. He taught me how to fight, how to kil, and more importantly, when to kill and when not to. He gave me a purpose beyond stealing, beyond living hand to mouth. He was our center. No offense to Istara, but it won’t be the same. Nothing will be the same.”

"I know." The female voice was quiet. “It won’t. But that does not change the facts. They know you are on planet. They will come after you.”

"Yeah." Leeto nodded. “I know. Part of me wishes I could just tell them what Istara and Idjit told me. But they wouldn’t believe. I heard it straight from the two of them, and I don’t believe it. Except for the gaping hole in my soul where he was…” The Rodian sighed and changed the subject. “The Jedi, the one who helped Setsuna… what are his chances? From the wounds I saw from the distance…not good.”

The female voice was cautious now. “Leeto…”

Leeto looked up at the shadows, not seeing anything, but knowing he looked his companion in the eye. “He helped one of our protected ones. I would have gone into that building after him, if you hadn’t stopped me. If you hadn’t explained... I would have grabbed Setsuna and fled, and done who knows what more damage to her mental state? Or been killed. Imperial decree or not, Setsuna is family to one of our kin. That makes her kin.” The Rodian bowed his head. “Kin that we have failed. We have to make this right.”

"We can't." The female voice was sad now. “If either of us get anywhere near her, she will detect us, and her mental shields will go right back up. She is fiendishly good at detecting people like us.”

"Indeed." Leeto snorted agreement. “If she actually were an assassin, no one in the galaxy would be safe, from Emperor on down. And I say that professionally.” A snort came from the shadows. Leeto was an assassin, a very good one. He was the Bladeborn’s problem solver. And he usually solved problems on the tips of his specially made daggers although he had numerous other options. “The fact of the matter is, he helped her, when no one else could. We owe him.”

“Be that as it may…” Now the female voice was sharp. “Sneaking into an Imperial Intelligence safehouse does not strike me as a good idea for someone wanted for treason by the Empire. It does not even strike me as sane.”

"True." Leeto smiled as only a Rodian could and his voice was bright and cheery now. “Which is why they won’t expect it.”

"Leeto..." A bark of sharp laughter came from the shadows. “You are crazy. I like you, but…” The concealed being sighed. “Leeto, what about Setsuna?”

"We can do nothing but hope." Leeto blew out a deep breath. “Neither of us is inconspicuous. We will stand out, especially where I think she is going to wind up. If that boy ever manages to get her to make up her mind.”

A sour laugh came from the corner. “Where were you hiding when she hurt herself? I was under that roof overhang, I know you saw me when you walked by the alley entrance. It was all I could do not to drop on those scum and , like you said, ‘scoop her up and run’. I don’t think either the girl or the boy noticed you. So where were you? I assume close.” Now her voice held professional curiosity. It was a good question. Assassins, especially Force sensitive assassins went to a great deal of trouble to hide their intentions. Force stealth, Force camouflage, disguises, all of these would be for naught if a simple mind scan that an apprentice could do would show their intent. So they trained hard to hide their true selves behind walls.

Leeto snickered. “Professional secret.”

"Oh." The female voice laughed. “You were in that sewer weren’t you?” But then her voice turned serious. “What were you going to do if those Sith had found her?”

The Rodian assassin sighed. “You know what I would have done.” He said quietly. He would have killed everything in the alley to save Setsuna. Swiftly, quietly, efficiently and mercilessly. The Rodian was a killer, it was what he did. She knew for a fact that he had assassinated Jedi and Sith before.

His companion sighed. “Yes I do. Well then, Masterblade, how do you recommend we do this?”

"Well..." Leeto shook his head slowly. “They are sure to have the information by now. What if… I asked for a meet, to ‘talk’? How would they react?”

"Before or after they soil their drawers?" The female snorted. “Scared out of their minds probably. Hmmm… They only have five, right? The medic, the tech, the Sith, the leader and the hunter they did something to.”

"FIve that we have seen, two more who stayed with their ship when it left." Leeto nodded. “How many would they leave at the safehouse? If I asked for a meet?”

For a few minutes, the shadows were silent. When the female spoke again it was quiet. “If you are going to the meet, then who is going to grab the Jedi and run?” The Rodain looked at the shadows and some of them seemed to move as if the being concealed in them had recoiled. “Oh no… No, no, no, no, no… Forget it. There is no way I am leaving Setsuna -and you- on planet alone with all these scumbags.”

"Not a problem." Leeto’s voice was very quiet now. “Soon there are going to be a lot less scumbags on this planet.”

The female voice was horrified now. “Leeto…”

Leeto sighed. “I am not looking for death, Ecien. But this is the only way to save that man. He deserves better than to die and be shoved into a recycler by some Imperial goon.” The masterblade’s voice was harsh now. “This is my duty. To help those we can. Setsuna we cannot aid for now. Perhaps soon, perhaps not.”

The silver skinned insect came a little out of the shadows. “Mercy, Masterblade?” Her voice was quiet, non-judgemental. But with the way the Sith felt about mercy, Leeto might have just painted big red bullseye on himself as far as mainstream Sith were concerned. Of course, he already had one of those on him, as a Bladeborn assassin, even before this latest mess.

The cold blooded assassin snorted in laughter. “Hardly. This is pragmatism. I don’t want either Istara or Setsuna mad at me.” He looked the large insect in the eyes. “Tell me true, Ecien, can you do it? Can you get him offworld and to medical care?”

Ecien looked away for a moment before responding. “Even if I do... Leeto, you saw the wound. There may not be anything anyone can do.”

"We have to try." Leeto’s words were cold and hard now. “We owe him, our Order pays its debts. He was hurt protecting one of our protected ones from an attack by our enemies. We owe him.” He repeated quietly.

Ecien sighed, a remarkably human sound from a large arthropod. “Fine, let’s get it done. Where do you want to meet them?”

Leeto nodded. “Someplace public, lots of witnesses, lots of cover.”

Ecien seemed to ponder that. “That mall again?”

"Works for me." Leeto thought about that. “Now to see if they will bite…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.07.2012 , 02:46 PM | #3
The Twi’lek who sat in the ice cream parlor was seemingly engrossed in her sundae. But it was an illusion. She was good at faking what she was feeling, the agent always had been. She was not enjoying the banana split, even though it was good. Mi’Ta was angry, scared and worried. But she knew her duty. Even if this made no sense at all, she knew her duty. The signal they had received had been bounced through so many relays, false tracks and hidden com twists that even Olandas despaired of tracing it to its source. But it could only have come from Leeto, he was the only one who had ever subverted their security so thoroughly. Although WHY the masterblade wanted to meet was a very good question.

“Nothing yet.” A voice spoke in her ear. Vorren’s voice was quiet and professional. It soothed her to know that he was watching. “Teams, report.”

“Team two, in position, nothing.” Came the quick and quiet reply from the other intelligence team leader. When Vorren had discovered the message, he had convened a hasty conference with the other two Intelligence teams on planet. The result of that conference was that one team remained covering the space port in case Setsuna Andal tried to flee –unlikely as that was- and the other two teams were now set up around the proposed meeting place.

Mi’ta sighed as she heard Gev’s unhurried voice. “Team one, in position, nothi-… Wait one…” Mi’Ta tensed and Gev’s voice was sharp now. “Team lead, eyes on target. Exiting refresher.”

Vorren’s voice was sharp as well. “All teams, weapons tight. Hold until we have a clear shot.”

Mi’Ta carefully did not look up. She finished her bite before languidly leaning back and looking around. The parlor was filled with patrons. Lots of witnesses, lots of potential problems and her skin crawled as she saw three children laughing as they ate their own sundaes. For the Bladeborn to pick this place of all places… He knew, she wasn’t sure how she knew, but she knew that he knew he was being watched.

The Rodian sat down across from her and smiled thinly. “Mi’Ta.”

Mi’Ta sighed. “Leeto. Do you surrender?” That had been one possibility actually that they had discussed on the way here. Bladeborn were honorable, in their own way. Ina way, she was glad of the children in the lace. Bladeborn did not endanger children when they would help it. It was a slim advantage, facing such a foe, and she snatched all the advantages she could get. Her heart thumped as Leeto shook his head.

"No." The master assassin sighed. “Before you or any of the others do anything precipitous. I have one thing to say, to you and the team leaders watching. The Bladehome did not destroy the Invictus. We did not destroy the Invictus.”

Mi’Ta blinked at him. “What?” Whatever she had expected him to say, that wasn’t it.

"We were set up." The small, unassuming Rodian shrugged. “Tell your masters what I just said. I don’t expect it to help us. But our enemy will likely move on the Empire as well. Our loyalty was to Trugoy, who served the Empire. Many of us feel that we still serve the Empire, so we give you that. And we will find and destroy the enemy that threatens us. Then and only then will we face Imperial review.”

"That is insane." Mi’Ta shook her head slowly and forced herself to take another bite. Only two or three left in the bowl. “It doesn’t matter. You are not leaving this room, Leeto.”

Leeto’s eyes never left hers but his antennae moved to the side and Mi’Ta felt her blood freeze as the three children were ushered out of the parlor by a human that was obviously their mother, their treat done. When she looked back at him, his eyes were as cold as space itself.

Leeto’s voice was soft, but almost gentle. “You can’t stop me.” Mi’Ta tensed as someone groaned nearby. But then her peripheral vision saw someone collapse nearby. Her scrutiny wa son the assassin though.

Vorren’s voice was scared in her ears. “Mi’Ta, people are collapsing all over the parlor. What the hell is going on?”

Leeto looked at her and she nodded slightly. When she spoke, her voice was admiring. “You leveled the field. No civilians. No witnesses…” She stiffened as something found punched a hole in her right boot. A sting and her leg went numb. She bit back a gasp as her other leg followed suit.

Leeto nodded and his voice was kind. “None of them are dead. Neither are you.”

Vorren’s voice was cold now. “Mi’Ta, I don’t have a shot. What did he do? Anyone have a shot?” A chorus of negatives came from the watchers. “Move in. Mi’Ta hold on, help is on the way. All personnel, move in. But keep the net tight. This being defines slippery.”

Mi”ta opened her mouth and was amazed at how calm her voice was. “What did you use?” The numbness was spreading now, up to her abdomen.

Leeto’s voice was quiet as he took her limp arms in a gentle grasp and laid her on the floor gently. “A derivative of siplus narcuniom, paralytic, non lethal. Rest now, hunter, slayer.”

Mi’Ta’s voice was slurred as she fought unconsciousness. “You won’t get away.”

"No?" Leeto’s voice came from far, far away now. “Watch me.”

A timeless moment later, Mi’ta came back to herself on the floor of a moving airspeeder. Her shoulder stung and something burned in her veins, probably a general spectrum antidote.

Vorren’s voice was quiet. “Mi’Ta?”

She forced her tongue to move. “He didn’t want me dead.” She stared at her boot, which had a clean hole punched in it, and then at her foot which had an angry red mark of an injection site. She looked up into Vorren’s eyes. “You didn’t catch him.” It wasn’t a question.

Vorren sighed. “The other team is still looking, but they have lost two people already, just… vanished.”

Mi’Ta shook her head and then regretted it as the minor throbbing in her head turned to an all out orbital bombardment. “Dead… Won’t be found. Makes no sense, boss. Why would he take such a risk? Just to say what he did?”

"Mi'ta." Vorren bit his lip. “Olandas missed her last check in.”

Mi’ta shook her head. “How long was I out?” She asked carefully, cataloging her body. It was recovering, slowly.

Vorren nodded. “Seven and a half minutes.” The airspeeder jostled as it flew, indicating speed beyond normal traffic laws. But Mi’Ta knew this airspeeder was a ‘borrowed’ ambulance, so no cop was going to pull it over. But then what he had said about Olandas percolated through her still muzzy head.

Mi’ta froze, her guts turning to water. “That is impossible. No matter how good that being is, he can’t be in two places at the same time.”

Vorren sighed. “Something tells me we haven’t seen ‘impossible’ yet…”

Te flight back to the safehouse was only about ten minutes, but to Mi’Ta the time seemed interminable. They pulled into the hidden garage and the team left the vehicle in tactical formation. Mi’Ta was not 100% so she was in the middle. Gev led, his armor would take most blaster fire or even lightsabers to a degree. Speaking of lightsabers, Olut was next in the tactical line, his saber out, but not ignited. He was looking around, obviously scanning with senses none of the others had.

The Sith spoke softly. “I sense Olandas and nothing else. She is odd. She is not in pain, but in great distress.”

Mi’Ta thought about that as she checked her blaster. Her hand wobbled however and she snarled as she stared at it. Then she sighed. “I am too shaky, you need to do this without me, I would hinder.” She stepped out of the lineup and moved to cover the door.

Vorren pated her on the shoulder and assumed his ‘tail end Charlie’ position, covering the team’s back. Without a word, the team moved into the safehouse, carefully clearing each room before moving on. After five nerve wracking minutes, Vorren’s voice called over Mi’ta’s earbud.

The agent’s voice was cold, hard and very, very angry now. “Clear. Come on in. Olandas needs your help.”

Mi’ta nodded and stared into the house. As she did, she saw things that seemed out of place. A door slightly ajar, a scuff on a wall that hadn’t been there when they had left… She stiffened. A hole in the wall? She stared at it, but her need to help Olandas trumped her curiosity. She came into the main room and found the team clustered around the slumped form of the tech. Olandas sat, her head down on her tech table as if sleeping, but a quick check showed the woman’s eyes open and horrified.

Mi’Ta nodded. “Paralytic agent. Let me see…” She pulled out her scanner and started checking the readings against her files of known toxins. While she did that, she gently moved Olandas to the couch and did a full examination. The only thing wrong with the woman was something that looked like an oversized bug bite on her neck. Mi’Ta’s scanner beeped and she nodded. She had the antidote for that. She administered it quickly and Olandas shuddered and went limp. The tech was crying and Mi’Ta blotted the woman’s tears gently.

Vorren’s voice was cold and professional. “Olandas what happened?”

"I..." Olandas shook her head, groaning and covering her eyes. “I didn’t see. I had just checked our ‘guest’. Something stung me and I fell. I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew I was in the chair. And you were bending over me.”

Vorren cursed and moved quickly to the other room, the one Mi’Ta had set up as an impromptu ICU. At the door, he slumped. Mi’Ta came up and looked past him. All the medical gear was shut down, and the critically injured Jedi was nowhere to be seen.

Mi’Ta shook her head slowly. “Leeto planned that, didn’t he? Pull us all out of the safehouse and keep us occupied. So his compatriots, whoever they were could snatch the Jedi? Why?”

"I don't know." Vorren snarled. “When I catch him, I will ask him. Before I shoot him.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.07.2012 , 02:50 PM | #4

He was dreaming, he knew he was. Which was strange, his masters had always told him that Jedi did not dream. It was such an odd dream. He was lying in a bed, and then a shadow fell over him. He couldn’t see what cast the shadow, but he felt fear. A gentle voice soothed his fear and he watched, disinterested as something detached him from… things that were attached to him. He watched without emotion as a form out of some horror holo-vid reached for him and then… he was flying? Or floating? He wasn’t sure. It was very dark, but he wasn’t afraid, that same gentle voice was there with him. Then it was bright and he was lying on something. He hurt. Parts of him. Other parts were numb. He eyes opened and he looked around disinterested. A surgical suite maybe? Harsh lights, sterile trays and medical equipment all around. Gowned and masked forms moved around him, and one moved towards him but he couldn’t summon the energy to be afraid or to speak. Then it all went away. After a timeless moment, it could have been minutes or centuries, he came back to himself. Soft voices could be heard nearby and he focused, trying to make out words.

“He is waking.” Another voice, masculine, one he didn’t know, spoke.

" It’s about time. " A soft female voice spoke. “Michael Jonal, can you hear me?” That was his name, wasn’t it? He wasn’t sure. So much was fuzzy. He was drugged? He had to be. He focused on the voice. “Come on Michael Jonal, talk to me.”

He opened his mouth and a croak came out. He focused on speech and finally managed, after a time, to make an intelligible question. "Who…?”

A soft, maybe furred, hand caressed his brow. “My name is Ona, Michael Jonal. You are out of danger now. And I will see to it that you make a full recovery. Open your eyes.”

Michale Jonal opened his eyes and nodded as he saw a black furred Bothan in a medical tunic standing beside his bed. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Something was wrong though. Something was off. He tried to focus, what had happened? The last thing he remembered was… He stiffened. The last thing he remembered was fighting a group of bounty hunters who had been after…

He jerked. “No! Nomi! I…” He tried to get up, but his body wouldn’t obey him.

“Easy…” The Bothan exclaimed as she held him gently down on the bed. “I just spent eight hours putting you back together. Don’t you dare tear yourself up now.”

The Jedi knight shook his head. “You don’t understand. There is a girl, in danger, I have to…”

Ona’s voice was stern now. “You have to stay in that bed until you can move without tearing the repairs that I have made. Setsuna is alive and as safe as she can be.”

The Jedi in the bed froze. “Who are you?” He asked carefully.

"We are Bladeborn, Michael Jonal." A voice he remembered answered him. Istara Andal spoke softly as she rose from her chair near the door. She had been slumped so far that he hadn’t been able to see her. “Welcome aboard the Bladehome.” He blinked as one of the scariest women he had ever encountered took his cold left hand in both of her warm ones and kissed it. “Thank you for helping my sister, Jedi.”

"Istara..." Michael felt faint. “I… I didn’t. I… I tried, but she was so hurt, so… So…” Words failed him in his muzzy state.

"I know." Istara grimaced as she laid his hand back on the bed gently. “She has been shattered. Her entire being is torn apart, and she feels she cannot trust anyone now. You gave her peace and quiet, care and compassion. You showed her that she was not manipulating you into doing what you did. You gave her time to rest, recover and heal a bit. Well done, Jedi. Well done.” There was honest compassion and gratitude in the woman’s voice and Force sense.

Michael stared at her. “How do you know that?” His voice was off, he put it down to drugs, stress and shock.

"You are good at hiding. But..." Istara smiled a bit sadly. “A very sneaky being had you under observation. However, he knew that he could not approach, Setsuna would not have understood. The fragile trust that you worked so hard to nurture would have been destroyed and the good woman who is my sister might never have had a chance to recover. So instead of interfering with your attempts to help, he went to throw the hunters off the track. He succeeded mostly.”

"She needs help. I can..." Michael stared at Istara, was she crying? “I… Istara… I can help Setsuna. I need to get back. I need to…” He tried to rise again and Istara and the Bothan gently held him down.

"Michael." Istara shook her head, her eyes glistening, but tears were falling. “Michael. Look at yourself with the Force. Your head is fuzzy due to the medications we have you on. Ona had to clone and transplant in a kidney and half a liver. We don’t know if the transplants will take. Her skill is amazing, but there are some things even her talent cannot fix.”

"What?" The Jedi stared at her, and then winced. His body’s complaints were finally seeping through the haze of painkillers. His back felt like it was on fire, his head likewise. But something was wrong. Something was off. His eyes met Istara’s. When he spoke his voice was matter of fact, but underneath lay fear. “I can’t feel my legs.”

"I know." Istara nodded. “I am sorry Michael. The blade that hurt you passed through your spinal column. It was completely severed. And it was some time before we could get you to proper medical care. Maybe there is a therapy that will work. We are looking into various possibilities. And know this, we will find a way. We owe you.”

"No." Michael shook his head, dazed. “You owe me nothing. It is what Jedi do, help others. No matter the cost.” His voice was quiet and unemotional, but Istara could hear the shock and grief buried in his tone, buried until the all consuming control of a Jedi. For now.

"I know." Istara smiled sadly. “It is what we do too when we can. And now, things have changed significantly. So… Rest now, Jedi Knight Michael Jonal. We will find a way to help you. I don’t know if you will be able to walk or fight again. But we will find a way if it exists. I swear it.”

Michael stared at Istara and then at the black furred Bothan. “Healer? Prognosis?” His voice was steady now.

Ona nodded. “The prognosis is good of survival. The damage that was done to all but your spine has been repaired. It needs time to heal, to set, to grow strong again. I am looking into nerve regeneration techniques. We will find a way. If I can walk with no legs…” She tapped one of hers and the ring of metal sounded. “…we will find a way to get your legs to work. You have my word.”

"Uh..." Michael shook his head slowly. “Won’t the Empire be less than happy with you taking a crippled Jedi aboard?”

Ona and Istara shared a glance and then Istara sat down beside Michael’s bed. The Bothan fiddled with the machinery and then quietly left the room. Istara looked… worried. “The Empire… We… We have had some problems. But our honor stands. You were hurt in the service of one of our kin. We will pay our debts.”

Michael was floating now, buoyed up by painkillers and surprise. “What will your grandmaster say?”

"Trugoy is dead." Istara shook her head. “For now, I lead the Bladeborn.”

Michael’s eyes went wide and then he swallowed. But when he spoke, it was calm. “You are right. Things have changed.” Significantly.

Istara nodded. “And not for the better. Rest Michael. Your battles are done for now. No one on this ship will harm you.” Her kind voice was a balm to his soul as he drifted off into sleep again. He knew he felt fear, that he felt grief, shock, worry all of these. But the soft singing that lulled him to sleep was pervasive and gentle.
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08.07.2012 , 03:01 PM | #5
Enough was enough. Michael Jonal had always been an active man and this enforced idleness did not sit well with him. The kindness of the people who he dealt with, Ona and Istara in particular, was welcome after such emotional shocks, but he needed to do something. Anything. He finished the really good breakfast that Ona had brought and shook his head at the healer who cleared the tray away.

"Healer Ona." The Jedi’s voice was quiet, reflective. “I know I shouldn’t move. And I know I should rest more. But… Is there anything I can do? From a bed? I hate to say it, but I am bored.” His voice held a bit of sour humor and Ona smiled at him.

“Well, we don’t want that, Michael Jonal.” The kindly Bothan healer smiled at him. He was utterly amazed that such a pure and uncomplicated soul could exist among darksiders. Not that the Bladeborn he had sensed were totally dark side, they were odd. Ona pursed her lips in thought for a moment, her equine brow furrowing. “There may be something you can do, but… I hesitate to ask.”

"Healer, you saved my life." Michael smiled at the healer who had saved his life, and was striving with all her skill to get his legs to work again. His voice was calm. “You know you can call me Michael. What is the problem?”

"Fair is fair. I am Ona, not Healer Ona then." Ona smiled at him, but then sighed and sat beside his bed. “We are in trouble Michael. I don’t think Istara told you…”

Michael shook his head. “She told me that your grandmaster died. Nothing else.” He broke off as a look of profound pain crossed Ona’s face. The female Bothan shivered for a moment, but then focused with a discipline that any Jedi could only envy. Michael sighed and held out a hand. “I am sorry.”

"Thanks." Ona took his hand in a gentle grip and gave a squeeze. “It was just so pointless. A sniper of all things. He was focusing on helping our trainees, and was thus distracted.” Her lip quivered. “He was dead before he hit the ground. At least he didn’t suffer.”

Michael squeezed the Bothan’s hand back. “What happened?”

"We got complacent is what happened." Ona sighed. “A team of Republic Special Forces infiltrators made it aboard and gassed the ship. Most of us went down in minutes. Non-lethal gas, they wanted prisoners.” Ona’s face was sick now.

"Huh?" Michael shook his head, baffled. “Why would the Republic attack you? Isn’t that kind of… Against the Treaty?”

Ona shook her head. “We don’t know. The prisoners we captured only told us that they were following orders. The one and only prisoner that we captured who knew what was going on… died before we could interrogate him. Some kind of anti-capture protocol I think. They won’t tell me what happened.”

"Well..." Michael sighed. “They likely have a good reason. So what happened? Obviously the Special Forces didn’t win…” He was ambivalent about that. Yes the Republic was what he was sworn to protect, but these people were nice. To him anyway. He could sense danger all around him however, lurking, held at bay, but present.

"No they didn't win." Ona frowned. “Not for lack of trying. But we had a little warning, and allies came to our assistance.” She snorted. “Actually, one of those allies was Istara. And she brought friends. They arrived just before the Republic reinforcements did. They tried to hold the ship, mostly taking prisoners instead of killing. But then everything went to hell, I am told.” Now her face was sad.

Michael stroked her hand gently. “Ona, what happened?”

"I was unconscious." Ona’s gaze was far away. “Trugoy got shot. He had been trying to keep one of our… less than stable allies under control. When he went down, that ally went berserk. He killed every opponent he could see. They say it was like watching water flow, water with a blaster rifle. Deadly poetry in motion. But then, when the armed enemies were all down, he didn’t stop. He killed everyone with a weapon, or who had even possessed a weapon. He shot unconscious beings, defenseless ones. He killed…” She was crying now and Michael grimaced a little as his back muscles protested, but he reached out and patted her head. Ona shook her head. “No, don’t move…”

Michael sighed as he lay back in the bed. “It’s not your fault Ona.”

"That doesn't lessen the pain or guilt." Ona nodded as she checked her scanners. “But... I know, and it isn’t his either. The evil scum who planned this whole thing set him up, set us up.” She shook her head. “I am too empathic for my own good sometimes. Just being around Will makes me… touchy, on edge.”

Michael blinked. “Will?” His eyes went wide. “Will Kalenath?” His voice was hushed now.

Ona nodded sourly. “Yes.” She looked at him. “You know him?”

"Uh..." Michael shook his head. “No, but I was on Tython when he arrived looking for his daughter. And I evacuated a group of younglings from the Enclave because of what he did.”

"Oh." Ona blinked, and her voice was odd as she rose to check something. “Did he really threaten the Jedi Council with a baradium fission bomb?”

Michael nodded. “Yep. Crazy man. At least it worked out in the end. Vandar managed to talk everyone down.” He shivered, just a bit, and then he gasped as pain overwhelmed his control. Ona was back at his side in an instant. She moved a gentle hand under his back and warmth spread from her fingers. It felt…familiar. Very similar to Jedi healing techniques. Michael relaxed as the pain ebbed. His control as good, but things like that were very hard to counter, especially when they came with no warning. “Thank you.”

Ona smiled as she withdrew her hand. “Don’t mention it.” She sighed. “I don’t want to immobilize your lower back. But I may have to.”

Michael grimaced, but then nodded slightly. “Do what you have to do, healer. I… I dislike being a burden.”

Ona shook her head, fondly exasperated. “Who says you are a burden? I… What the…?” The sound of a crash came from outside and the door flew open. A female human in a patient gown ran in, her head and much of her chest covered by bandages. In her hand she held an ignited blue bladed lightsaber. Ona was on her feet in an instant, blade in hand, between her patient and the Jedi. “Stop!” Ona commanded.

Michael stared at the newcomer. Did he know her? He wasn’t sure. Even if he did, half of her face was covered by bandages. The newcomer snarled at Ona, apparently she did not see Michael.

“Get away from me…" The girl snapped. "Let me go!”

Michael stiffened. He did know that voice. “Min…?” He asked quietly. The young woman had been a padawan at the Enclave the last time he had been there, a young but powerful and focused learner.

The hurt girl froze. “Michael…? Michael Jonal…?” She stared from the black furred being to the bed and her visible eye went wide. “What have they done to you?”

"Min..." Michael looked from the back of the Bothan who stood in his defense to the padawan he had met once and sighed. “They saved my life. Min, be calm. There is no need for violence.”

"I..." The female Jedi was shaking slightly. “They… they killed everyone. All… Ki Lom, Juir, Olad, Melan…”

"Easy..." Michael shook his head slowly. “Min, calm. Be at peace. Focus. There is no emotion,…”

"There..." Min relaxed slightly. “There is peace…” She slumped. “I…”

Ona spoke softly, her blade vanishing back into its sheath. “Young lady, you are hurt, you have powerful painkillers in your system. You are not thinking clearly.”

"You..." Min turned her attention back to the healer. “You… You did this to me!” A slow hand moved from the saber hilt, reached up and touched her bandaged head. "What... What have you done to me?" She demanded.

Micheal shook his head. “Ona, please… let me handle this?” The healer didn’t look at him, all her attention was on the girl with the lightsaber. But she stepped a bit out of the way, consciously removing herself from the situation. Michael spoke again, soft, soothing. “Min, its okay. Its okay.”

"No..." The Jedi was shaking her head. “No it’s not. They knew, they sent us here… knowing. They told us it was needed, to defend the Republic. But it was to recover a madman. To…” She swallowed audibly.

"It's okay, Min." Michael’s voice was still that same soft, kind tone. “Min, put away the saber. This is a medical ward, not a battlefield. You are in no danger unless you bring it on yourself.”

"I..." The Padawan was quaking now, obviously scared and exhausted. “They… they killed everyone.” She lowered the saber, but did not deactivate it.

" Min, put your saber away." Michael’s voice held command now. “Search your feelings. What do you feel?” He smiled just a little, he had done a similar thing with Setsuna.

"Feel?" Min’s good eye stared at the man in the bed and then went introspective. She stiffened. “I…”

"Come here, Min." Michael nodded. “Sit, let us talk.” He looked at Ona who looked unhappy. “What do you feel?” He asked again, quietly.

"I feel..." Min was crying. “Anger, fear, hate… I am falling Michael…Help me…” The saber deactivated and hung loose in her hand.

Michael shook his head. “You can help yourself Min. Calm, peace… Will you trust me with the saber?” Min stared at the hilt in her hand and then slumped. She released the hilt, and it flew to land in Michael’s outstretched hand. “Come here, girl…” Ona looked at him and with a small smile, moved away.

Min walked up to Michael’s bed slowly, as if in a daze. “Jedi, help me…” She begged as she held out a quavering hand.

Michael nodded as he took her hand in his. “Come Min, let us seek answers together. There is no emotion, there is peace…”

The female Jedi sat beside his bed, apparently oblivious to Ona watching her like a hawk. She spoke softly. “There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.”

Michael nodded as he focused on the girl. She was hurt very badly, the fact that she could move at all was a testament to her ability with the Force. And sheer desperation. “Be at peace Min, you are not falling. Unless you choose to. You have been badly injured and undergone a traumatic experience. What is worse, you have no idea why.”

"They..." Min was shaking now, as adrenaline left her system. “They told us it was ‘For the Republic’. They…”

"Oh Min..." Michael sighed as he sat back in his bed. “Min, we can work this out. It will not be easy, or quick, but we can work this out.”

Min stared at him and then she smiled sadly. “I… I hope so. I…” Her gaze went far away and he started as she fell. But Ona was there, catching her gently and easing her back into the chair.

“Tough girl.” Ona said quietly as she checked Min’s vitals.

"Yeah." Michael nodded with a sigh. “I think I can help her. What happened to her?”

"Will happened." Ona shook her head as she made the girl as comfortable as she could. “She was shot, and when she fell she hit her head hard enough to cause a skull fracture and internal bleeding. Hence the head bandages. She had a concussion as well. Small wonder she is confused.”

Michael nodded. “Not to mention hurting and scared out of her mind. I think I can help her Ona.”

Ona looked at him and then at the saber that lay beside his hand. She nodded. “I hope you can.”

The door hissed open and Istara stood there, several armored forms were behind her. Istara smiled as she took in the scene. “I should have known better than to worry.”

"Istara?" Ona looked at her. “Anyone hurt?”

"No." Istara shook her head. “The guards didn’t want to hurt her, so they let her run. But in her confusion, she ran here instead of out.”

"Istara." Michael looked at Istara. “It isn’t her fault.”

“I know.” Istara said quietly. “Do you think you can help her?”

Michael looked at the sad form that sat in the chair beside his bed. “I will certainly do my best.” He held up the saber. “Do you want this?”

"Why?" Istara snorted in sour amusement as she dismissed the guards. “It’s yours.”

Michael stared at it, and then at Istara. “You recovered my saber?” Istara nodded. “Thank you.”

Istara smiled again. “Least we could do, just um… try and keep her from breaking anything else please? The medical equipment is so expensive to replace.” Then she turned to go, muttering. “I can’t believe I just said that, I am turning into a bureaucrat…”

"You? Never." Ona snickered at Istara’s tone, but then focused on Michael. "Do you want me to move you to a double room? That way you can be close to her.”

"Good." Michael stroked the slumbering girl’s cheek gently. “Probably for the best. Thank you Ona. I know you could have killed her.”

Ona shrugged. “It’s not her fault. And technically she isn’t a prisoner. She was duped into attacking us, and didn’t HURT anyone. So she is a guest, if an unwilling one. Unless she gives us reason, we won’t chain her up or hurt her further.” The Bothan picked the slumbering form up in gentle arms. “I will move her and be back with a gurney.”

Michael nodded. His mind was whirling. Min had been such a good padawan, what had happened to her? Besides her injuries, there was something else, something more. He had to find out, he knew it was important. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he knew.
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08.07.2012 , 03:10 PM | #6
Michael was sitting reading a rather fascinating text on philosophy quietly when Min woke. He could tell immediately when she did. Her breathing changed in an instant from sleep patterns to a hushed, almost silent pattern. And her sense in the Force was confused. First and foremost she was medicated, but not so much as to be in a stupor this time. Second, she was not restrained. Third, she was lying on a bed in a comfortable room. Not what might be expected as a prisoner of Sith. Not at all.

Michael put the datapad he had been perusing down and spoke softly. “Min?”

The girl’s force sense was shocked, but her voice was calm when she spoke. “Michael Jonal? I… I was not sure if I dreamed talking to you. My dreams have been…strange.” She gasped as she tried to move and he felt pain in her Force sense.

Michael sighed. “Min, don’t move too much. You were badly hurt and the healers around here get steamed when their patient hurt themselves.” He smiled at his understatement. Both Ona and the other healer, Jon, had been less than thrilled with what Min had done to herself in the course of her attempted flight.

Min’s voice shook. “Michael, what? These are… Sith…”

"No they are not." Michael shook his head, and then he sighed again. “Min, do me a favor. Hit the controls for your bed to incline it up. I don’t like talking to the rails.” A small sound, almost a squeak of surprise came from the other bed in the room. The last thing she likely had expected was to find a standard hospital set up. The rails were to keep her from rolling out of the bed while she slept and the controls were for her comfort. The head of that bed inclined up and he could make out Min’s bandaged face. He smiled. “Good to see you, awake that is.”

She smiled back, hesitant. Then she stared around the room. Whatever she had expected, this was not it. Instead of a normal hospital room, antiseptic and sterile, this one was almost homey. It had a painting on one wall of a series of waterfalls, so artfully done she could almost see the water flowing. Another wall had a collage, or mural maybe? It was hard to tell, but the colors were soothing. The décor was more Jedi-like than Sith like, and that was simply odd. A vase with live flowers in it sat on a small table between their beds. A small table sat to one side of the door she could see, two comfortable looking chairs beside it. Another comfortable looking chair sat beside her bed and a similar one sat beside Michael’s. There were medical gear and monitors of course, she could see and feel monitors attached to her. But her confusion grew as she looked around. Michael let her think, remained silent until she was ready to speak.

"I..." Min’s voice was low and uncertain when she spoke. “What is going on? Where are we?”

"Min." Michael nodded and when he spoke his voice was gentle. “We are aboard the ship you tried to capture. The Bladehome. We are guests of the Bladeborn.”

"What?" Min’s face went slack. “But… But they are Sith. Why would they treat my injuries…? Unless…” She stiffened and her Force sense strengthened as she tried to control herself. “I don’t understand.”

"I know." Michael nodded. “The first step towards wisdom is admitting that one does not know something. You have questions. I may have answers or I can work to find the answers. Ask.”

Min’s visible eye lit on him and she inhaled sharply as she saw the brace around his lower body. Ona hadn’t wanted to immobilize his abdomen and legs, but she really hadn’t had a choice, not if they wanted to make sure he didn’t do further damage. The padawan’s voice was sharp now. “What have they done to you?” Her voice held fear, and a hint of anger.

Michael shook his head. “They saved my life, Min. I was hurt very badly. I was attacked by a group of bounty hunters who were after a girl I was protecting. I failed her. I fell, cut across the back by a vibroblade.” The shame in his words startled the padawan. “Such a rookie mistake, I let my guard down for an instant and that bounty hunter took advantage. I have been told my friend is alive. I hope she is okay…” The honest worry in Michael’s voice shook the padawan.

"I...see..." Min shook her head, baffled. “Michael… What is wrong with you? I can sense you, but… It is not as it should be.”

"I am paralyzed." Michael bit his lip before replying. “The vibroblade cut my spine Min. I can’t feel my body from my lower back down.”

Min’s eyes went wide, and then she was crying. “No…”

Michael cursed his inability to move but then he focused on sending reassurance to the padawan. “Min… Min… Look at me…” The Padawan managed to focus on him and Michael shook his head slowly. “I am alive, Min. I shouldn’t be. What these people did saved my life. And they have promised me that no matter what they will try and find a way for me to walk again. But in the end, Min, it doesn’t matter. I am alive. And where there is life, there is hope.”

“Hope?” Min asked sourly. “What hope? Prisoner… I am a prisoner. I have done something terrible, and I…” She was crying again.

Michael sighed. “Min… What happened? Why did you and the others attack this ship?”

Min shook her head. “I don’t know. They never said why. Just that it was needed. I was so proud to be selected. I know Jedi should not feel pride, but I was. To be selected by Melan and Vandar.”

Michael felt his guts, what he could feel of them, freeze. “Vandar selected you for this?” The esteemed Jedi master was a legend among the Jedi and the Republic.

Min nodded, but her sense in the Force solidified as she controlled herself, Michael noticed with approval. “Yes. They said it was a secret mission. A necessary one for the Republic. I had no idea we were attacking a Sith ship of all things. And the things on the ship…”

"Things?" Michael blinked. “Which ship, Min? This one?”

"No." Min slumped. “No. The Invictus, the battleship we were shuttled to, to launch the attack. The…” She shook her head slowly.

"Min? Be calm, you are safe ." Michael stared at the girl. Something in her Force sense spoke of horror. Michael’s voice was very gentle now. “What happened on the Invictus, Min?”

Min shook her head slowly. “Nothing. It was more a feeling. A sense of fear, hate and horror all around. And then… I walked by a couple of crew people and… And they were screaming inside. I tried to talk to them, and it was like talking to droids. I could feel them, inside, clawing, trying to get out, but they couldn’t… they couldn’t… Then Vandar was there. He took me aside and we had a long talk.” She slumped. “I don’t know what to believe any more, Michael.”

"Easy..." Michael shook his head slowly. For such an empathic person to feel such a thing… Just the echoes he felt from her were horrific enough. “Min, trust your feelings. What do you feel?”

Min met his eyes with her unbandaged one. “Sick, scared, and foul... I…”

Michael sighed and tried to sound reassuring. “It will be okay, Min.” He blinked as a recognizable sound was heard. A general quarters alarm. Apparently the Sith used similar alarms on their ships. He sighed. “I think…”

<Bladehome bridge>

"Cole?" Istara darted onto the bridge and found a seat as Cole worked feverishly. “Situation?”

"Imperial recon ships." Cole snarled. “Two of them. We are masked for the moment, but they will pick us up soon. According to doctrine, one is going to come closer. The other will remain at the edge of the gravity well to jump for reinforcements if the first runs into trouble. Damn it, we are too far in the well to jump.” The Bladehome had found a hiding spot near the planet Bakura to make repairs and catch their collective breaths, but its hiding spot was not perfect. Any ship that got close enough would see the ship nestled in a crater on the small moon’s surface. The two frigates were moving now, one was closing quickly on the planet. The other, as Cole has surmised, was hanging back.

The hatch hissed again and Will Kalenath stepped carefully onto the bridge. His steps were unsteady and Istara rose to help him to a seat. He mock snarled at her, but allowed her to help him. He wouldn’t take just anyone’s help, but they shared a bond of sorts. He took in the tactical situation at a glance and nodded. When he spoke it was slow and thoughtful. They had time, if not a lot of it.

“Can you power the guns?” Will asked softly. The Bladehome’s guns were more than powerful enough to take out the frigate.

"The guns?" Cole stared at him as if the man were nuts, which Will certainly was. “What good will that do? We kill the close one and the far one jumps for backup. There has to be a fleet, probably within an hour’s travel from here.”

Will smiled thinly. “Cole, trust me.”

The smuggler stared at the soldier before barking a laugh. “Yeah, right.” Allies they might be, but trust only went so far. Not that Cole really trusted anyone but himself.

"I can understand, but it does make things more complicated." Will looked at Istara. “Istara… Do you trust me?”

Istara looked at the man in battered silver armor. It hadn’t seemed to take any damage during the fight in the hangar bay, but the key word there was seemed. He had been a mess afterward, shot in numerous places. She had been totally amazed when he had shown up in the Assembly hall when she was sworn in as Grandmaster. Then again, he was tough as hell, and did nothing the easy way. he voice was concerned when she spoke. “Will, if it were just me, I would, yes. But I have the responsibility for everyone on this ship now. I can’t.”

"Fair enough." Will nodded and looked away from them both. Under his breath he spoke. "And… Now…’

Cole jerked as his plot changed. “What the hell?”

Istara looked from Will to Cole. “What?” She asked quietly.

"I..." Cole stared from the controls to Will and his face lit up with a slow smile. “I am getting a Republic transponder code. From out near the hyper limit. It is weak enough and directed enough that those Imperial ships won’t have a chance to see it, will they?” This was directed at Will who grinned evilly. Cole shook his head. “Istara don’t take this the wrong way, but if you ever fight this man, do it hand to hand. Do not try to outfox him.”

Istara stared at from one man to the other and her face went hard. “If someone does not tell what is going on here…” Her voice held menace but Will just smiled.

"Your hunters are about to become the hunted." Will shrugged, settling himself in his seat. “You know I made some calls. One of them was for backup.”

Istara stared at him. “How did you know where…? Never mind…” She shook her head. His ability to access supposedly secure computer systems was downright terrifying at time.

Will shook his head. “I didn’t know where we were going. They have been following for some time. You see, they heard about the Invictus and wanted payback, until I told them what really happened. Now they want justice, not revenge.”

"Okay." Cole shook his head. “I think that Imperial recon flight is in trouble then. They will run.”

"They will try." Will shook his head. “Watch.”

All three sets of eyes went to the plot as it changed again. Suddenly a large vessel was present in system. It was twice the size of the Bladehome. And it was distinct. No other ship in the galaxy had the silhouette of a cruiser melded with a carrier. The Stormhawk turned majestically towards the startled Imperial recon ships, which, wisely, fled for their lives. Silent fire screamed from the Stormhawk’s heavy turbolasers and arced towards the Imperial ships. They dodged, evaded, tried to flee. But the Stormhawk was too close. One of the frigates took a blast full on, her shields vanishing in the sheer destructive power of guns more suited to fighting dreadnaughts. The ship staggered in space, part of her hull blackened by the same hit, and then it vanished as two more salvoes went home. When the glare cleared, nothing was left of the frigate but its nose, still arcing through space on the same course, the rest of the ship atomized by the sheer power of the Stormhawk’s guns. Frigates simply did not have the capability to stand off firepower of that magnitude. The other frigate, putting all power to its engines, arced away from the Stormhawk on a varying course avoiding much of the fire that the huge ship sent its way.

"Not bad." Will nodded. “Smart ship handler over there. Trying to get clear of the gravity well to jump. Not that it will help him.”

"Will..." Cole shook his head. “You know they will get a com off.” He looked at Will who didn’t react. “You know they will.”

"So?" Will just shook his head. “Imperial captains know the Stormhawk never stays where she fights. By the time the fleet gets here, she will be long gone.” He nodded, almost to himself. “And… minimum range… Now…”

Cole and Istara watched in awe as the Stormhawk turned to pursue the frigate. And then both had to look away as an incredibly bright flash lit the stars. When it cleared, the frigate was gone, simply gone. Istara’s voice was hushed, almost scared. “What the hell was that?”

"What the...?" Cole shook his head, amazed. He scrutinized his sensors and turned an incredulous stare on Will. “How the flarg did you build a plasma cannon that big? And how the hell do you hit a maneuvering target the size of a frigate at that range with it?”

Will just grinned and then he sobered as the com lit up with an incoming call. “I think it is for you, Istara.”
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08.07.2012 , 03:19 PM | #7
Istara wasn’t scared, per say. After all, she had been aboard the Stormhawk once. She knew they were honorable, in their own way, the same as the Bladeborn were. And while their reputation for being utterly merciless as far as agents of the Empire were concerned was well earned, she also knew they likely wouldn’t blast her and her people out of hand. But this was disconcerting. The communication she had received had been one word. ‘Follow’.

The immense outlaw ship had waited until the Bladehome had powered up before transmitting a series of coordinates. Then it had jumped. Istara had shrugged and ordered Cole to follow, over his strenuous objections. After all, the Stormhawk had just saved their tails and it wasn’t as if they could fight the battlecruiser or run from it. Actually... Outrun the battlecuiser? Sure. Outrun that nasty huge cannon on its front? Unlikely.

The grandmaster of the Bladeborn was trying not to pace around the small bridge as the timer slowly counted down for their hyperspace jump. If only Will was awake. The soldier had collapsed shortly after the communication from the Stormhawk, almost as if his body had known that they were mostly out of danger. Ona and Jon had both been incredibly annoyed with the soldier; the male medic had been swearing to lock the man in the bed this time. She blinked as the intercom lit up.

“Istara…?” Ona’s voice was odd. Not sad, not scared, not… Istara couldn’t quite place the tone.

Istara walked to the intercom, ignoring Cole’s mutters about back seat fliers. “What is up, Ona?”

"Uh..." The hesitation in Ona’s voice had Istara tensing. “I… We need you in medical, Istara.”

"Ona?" Istara blinked. “Is something wrong?”

"Yes, but..." Ona sighed quietly. Her tone was sad now. “Not that we can fix. If you have time, we need you.”

Istara looked at Cole who waved at her. “Git.” The smuggler snarled. “I don’t need you hovering. We have an hour and half according to the data burst we were sent with the coordinates.” He had been less than enthused to jump into hyperspace somewhere he had never been. The Stormhawk was well known for having better charts than almost anyone else. He simply did not trust anyone else’s charts. But they hadn’t had a choice, that recon flight had to have backup nearby, backup that would arrive sooner than later to see what had happened to the recon element. Istara acquiesced, she had been less than polite in pressuring Cole to follow the instructions they had been given. Granted, she didn’t understand all of his worries, she was a sword fighter, not a navigator. But his comment about ‘bouncing too close to a supernova’ had her very worried.

The grandmaster left the bridge and moved into a service corridor. It always amazed her how thoroughly this ship was riddled with passageways. No wonder Trugoy had always managed to pop up in odd places and at odd time. As she moved she shook her head. Something was wrong. She stopped in a small, almost claustrophobic room and hit the lights. Except for a desk with terminal, the room was empty. She moved to the terminal and brought up the security footage for medical, her codes as grandmaster allowed her to do that anywhere on the ship. Small wonder Trugoy had seemed omniscient on this ship. But nothing presented itself. On and Jon were working, Min was awake and talking to Michael, Will was unconscious in… Wait a sec… In the ICU? Istara was out the door in a flash, heading at full Force enhanced speed towards Medical.

As soon as Istara entered Medical, Ona pulled her aside into the Bothan’s small office and shut the door. Ona looked at her friend and slumped.

“We can’t help him.” The healer said sadly.

"Ona?" Istara froze. Whatever she had expected, that wasn’t it. “What? What is wrong with him?”

"I..." Ona sighed as she sat. “I am not totally sure. There is great deal of neural scarring, as if he has taken brain damage. He wasn’t hit in the head, was he? During the fight in the hangar bay?”

Istara shook her head, parsing her memories of that horrific time. She had seen a lot in her life as a Bladeborn, but what that man had done had been bad even by her standards. Killing enemies, sure, but killing unarmed, unconscious ones? And the way he had done it had been utterly terrifying, even to the hard bitten Bladeborn. The only survivor out of the Jedi was Min and she only survived because his blaster had been set for armor piercing. The bolt that should had discharged its energy on impact with her chest, frying her heart and lungs, instead penetrated clean through the girl’s body. Something had been wrong before that with Min, Istara remembered seeing the girl crying. Maybe it had been the fact that all of her friends had been downed so callously. Maybe it had been the fact that Melan had admitted his culpability in what happened to Will’s family? Istara wasn’t sure, and right now, she wouldn’t press.

"No." Istara shook her head slowly. “No he wasn’t. He collapsed right afterward, holding his head. He was… not very lucid at that point.”

"Yeah." Ona’s voice was sad now. “I am not surprised. What surprises me is that he could move at all, or talk. The pain has to be…”

Istara stiffened. “Pain?”

"Yes." Ona nodded and hit a set of controls. The room darkened a bit and a holo appeared in the air over her desk. It was an image of a human brain. “This is a normal human brain.” Ona said quietly and then hit another control. A second holo appeared beside the first. Istara gasped as she saw myriad black spots on the grey matter of the most vital organ in the human body. “This is a scan I did of Will’s.” Ona said unnecessarily. “Less than half an hour ago. He is dying, Istara.”

"No..." Istara felt her eyes burn. She liked Will. Maybe not trusted him, but she liked him. “My god Ona… Is… is there anything we can do?”

"I don't know." Ona bit her lip. “I have asked Ecien and Nana, they are consulting their medics on their homeship, but… Neither is hopeful… I mean, this is brain matter. It doesn’t regenerate.”

"Flarg me." Istara shook her head slowly. “Who knows about this?” Her mind was whirling with thoughts, plans and contingencies, what to do and why.

"You, me, Nana and Ecien." Ona shook her head. “Jon knows I am upset, but not why.”

"Okay." Istara shook her head. “Bring Jon in.” Ona looked at her, but hit a summons on her terminal, leaving the holos going.

A few moments later Jon entered the office, snarling. “I have work to do, girls, what the…” He broke off as he took in the holos. His face went slack as he realized what he was looking at. “Oh my god…”

"Healers..." Istara nodded. “I need your oaths of silence on this, both of you. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I do know he will be a major part of it.”

Ona shook her head slowly. “Istara…” Jon just sat heavily, looking from his mate to the grandmaster.

"I..." Istara looked away from them both. “Ona… I had a vision once. I doubt they told you… It was him, dying. I…” Her voice broke as she fought for control. “I like him; I think he is a good man inside, no matter what he believes. He has had to do horrible things, I know a little about that. If we can help him in any way, I want to try.”

Both of the healers looked at her in silence. Surprisingly Jon spoke first. “He is a dangerous man. But when we needed help, he came, even though we were allied with the Sith, he came. We owe him.”

Istara felt her eyes burn as she reached out to Jon and he took her hand. They both looked at Ona whose fur went wild, but then it relaxed. “We do owe him. If not for him, those Republic scum would have taken some of us. Either they would have died when the battleship blew up or more likely they would be in the hands of whoever destroyed the battleship. And Moreys. You know he survived.”

"Yeah." Istara nodded. “I can wish he had died when the battleship blew up, but… We can’t be that lucky. We never have been.” She held out hand to the Bothan and Ona took it.

Both healers spoke in unison. “By the Code. Soul in steel, we pledge to hold this secret unless given leave by you or him. May our own blades end us if we transgress.”

"Right." Istara took their oaths somberly. “And I swear to you, that if we can find a way to help him, we will.”

A few minutes later, Istara sat by Will’s beside, and sighed. She stiffened as a soft voice spoke.

“I am not going to die now, Istara.” She looked up and the soldier was watching her intently through cracked eyelids.

"You...?" Istara nodded. “You knew… Of course you did. Aw Will, I am sorry. Is there anything I can do…?”

"Yes." Will nodded slightly. “Keep an open mind. Boss is hard, but fair. You remember…”

Istara nodded. She had met the armored man after her and Setsuna’s escape from the Fate Shatter before it exploded. The Stormhawk had rescued the escape pod she had crammed herself and her sister into. It had not been a very amicable meeting. She had been so worried for Setsuna. And Stormhawk Boss had obviously been stressed. Or injured? She wasn’t sure.

“I remember.” She said, her voice a little husky.

Will smiled a little. “It will be okay, Istara. Just… Aw crap I m going to sound like a Jedi. Trust your feelings…”

"What?" Istara couldn’t help it, she chuckled as she waved a finger at him. “You, soldier, are bad.” She said with a laugh.

Will smiled. “Guilty as charged, ma’am. I… I may not be awake when you get where you are going. Whatever you do, do not resist.”

Istara stared at him. “Where are we going Will?”

Will slumped, and she could feel pain in his sense now, even though none of it showed in his tone. “Somewhere safe.” She waited, but he was asleep again. She shook her head as she rose and walked to the door. This just got better and better.

A large bronze chitined form was waiting for her just outside. “Istara…” Nana’s voice was sad.

Istara bowed her head. “You can’t help him.” It wasn’t a question.

Nana shook her own relatively small head in response. “We can make him comfortable, but no more than that. Our healers are researching. But they do not hold hope.”

Istara nodded. “Do what you can for him. I will be on the bridge.”

Nana looked at her closley. “When did you sleep last, Istara?”

Istara took a step back, arms up in a warding gesture. “No sleep hypos, Nana, they need me…”

Nana’s voice was tart. It was always amazing to have such an expressive and human sounding voice from a six foot tall insect. “Like you could stop me? I wasn’t going to. But you do need sleep. At the very least meditate for a while, you need it.”

Istara nodded. “I will. If anything changes…?”

Nana nodded. “If anything changes I will contact you immediately.” Istara nodded and watched as the large bug entered the room behind her, and then she moved off. She could meditate on the bridge and if Cole had a problem with that, tough.

The insect Bladeborn sat beside the critically injured soldier’s bed and sighed quietly. “You are crazy.”

Will’s voice was quiet. “They needed me. Both Idjit and Jainine agreed. If I hadn’t been here, Vandar and Melan would have taken the children, and god knows what would have happened to them. Not that I would have taken either of their words for it. But Istara asked for my help.”

Nana shook her head. “You should not have merged your mind to the armor. When it took damage… So did you. If we remove it now…You will die.”

Will’s voice was still quiet. “I know.”

Nana’s voice was very sad now. “Will… I…”

"Nana." Will spoke softly. “I have known my death was coming for some time, Nana. Not how or why, or when. But I have known. I just hope to leave the galaxy a better place than I found it.”

Nana sighed as she leaned close to the bed, her antennae floating down to touch the soldier on the forehead. “You have. Rest, hero.”

Will’s voice was almost in audible now. “I am no hero, Nana, I just do what has to be done.”

Nana’s voice held a sad smile as she watched the man sink into a troubled sleep. “And what is a hero, Will Kalenath? One who does what must be done to help others, no matter the cost. Rest, no dreams will trouble you while I ward.”
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08.07.2012 , 03:25 PM | #8
Istara took several moments to calm herself after leaving Will’s room. The grandmaster of the Bladeborn was not supposed to ever be out of control. But Istara Sharlina Andal was an intensely emotional being. She had been her whole life. It didn’t help that half of her core personality was almost totally composed of rage. It had been a hell of a shock when she had met herself in a mindscape, but the two had worked out a compromise. Istara was better at dealing with people and Sharlina was better at, well, not nice types of things. Sharlina felt odd now. She felt respect for Will of course, who didn’t? But now the man was weak, vulnerable. In Sith society that meant he was fair game, but… Both sides of Istara’s self agreed that the man was needed. For now. But she had one more stop to make and not a lot of time to do it before they were supposed to arrive at their destination. She stopped at the door to the room the Jedi were in, keyed the intercom and spoke softly.

“Michael?” Istara asked quietly. She wasn’t sure if Min was awake or not, the girl had been through hell.

The Jedi’s voice was calm, but held appreciation. “Istara, we were hoping you would stop by.”

Istara smiled as she opened the door. What greeted her was a surprise. Michael was smiling as he looked at her, but the sad smile on Min’s face was a bit of a shock. The young female Jedi was sitting up in her bed, her head and chest heavily bandaged, but her face, what was visible, was serene and her smile genuine.

“Michael, Min.” Istara said quietly as she found a seat at the table in the specially set up double room. Most rooms in the medical ward were singles, for better access to patents, but this was a special situation.

Min met Istara’s eyes with her unbandaged one and spoke softly. “Grandmaster Istara, I must apologize for my actions.” The youthful Jedi looked away for a moment. “You and yours did nothing to me, and I… I attacked you…”

"No." Istara shook her head slowly. “No you didn’t. The only ones who attacked were the Special Forces team, and some of the marines. You restrained Garth without hurting him or letting the young fool hurt himself. You drew your saber in defense when Trugoy and Will appeared. And truth be told, I would have done a lot more than draw if I had been surprised by those two.” Her voice caught, even now, her feelings on Trugoy were strong, if conflicted. And likely they would be for a long, long time.

Min met her gaze calmly. “You are not a Jedi, Grandmaster Istara. I knew there was trouble. But I had no idea what or why. I believed what the masters told me. To my shame, I did not question.”

"I know." Istara nodded. “It is always harder, to think things through rather than to just obeying. I have made the same mistake myself.” She slumped. “And a lot of people died as a result.”

Both of the Jedi looked at her and then at each other. Michael spoke softly. “Can you discuss it?”

"Well..." Istara nodded slowly. “You know I served the Empire, willingly, gladly, and without reservation.” It wasn’t a question but the Jedi nodded anyway. “I was at Coruscant.” Both of the Jedi tensed. The Sacking of Coruscant and the destruction of the Jedi Temple there were sore spots with the Jedi Order for good reason. Istara shook her head. “I was nowhere near the Temple; I landed with the third wave. We were tasked to take and hold Republic positions along the left flank of the landing. It was… a mess.”

Min was looking at her with shock in her visible eye. It might have been that Istara freely admitted she had been there or that a servant of the Empire might show remorse for the awful things that had happened. But Michael was nodding.

“Large scale urban warfare. Not fun.” The Jedi said sadly.

"Not fun?" Istara snorted humorlessly. “That may be the largest understatement of the year. We were under fire from the moment we landed. We faced Rep air, artillery, snipers, armor… You name it, and it was thrown at us. I started with a battalion. At the end, I had a company. Maybe.” She sighed, lost in memory.

Michael waited for a moment before speaking. “What happened, Istara?”

"What happened?" Istara snorted sourly. “What ever happens around Sith? One of them used my people to gain glory for himself. He couldn’t have cared less if my people were killed. All he wanted was the victory. And he got it, but all of my people died.” She snarled in memory. “So did he a few minutes later. But I know about obeying bad orders Min. Which is why I have looked very carefully at whatever orders I have received since then. ”

"I see." The young female Jedi looked at Istara and then looked away. Her voice was soft when she spoke. “I am the only survivor, aren’t I? From the Jedi?”

"You are." Istara nodded sadly. “We thought the one called Ki Lom was alive, but whatever that device Will used did… When Morey used it… it uh…” She shrugged helplessly. “Ona had never seen anything like it. Poor boy didn’t have a chance.” Istara had gone to check on him, thinking the young Jedi unconscious and had found him not breathing. They had tried to resuscitate him, but unsuccessfully.

"None of us did." Min shook her head. “What was that? It felt…” She shivered a bit. “I got caught in the fringe of the effect when the other used it, and it felt like a million angry fingers clawing at my mind. I was… very unsettled by it.”

"The device?" Istara shook her head. “I have no idea. Neither does anyone else and Will isn’t talking.” She shrugged. “He likes his secrets.”

"Will?" Michael snorted. “Oh yes, he does.” Istara smiled, a wintry expression at him and he shared it.

Min nodded and the bandaged Jedi spoke slowly. “What is my own status then? Obviously you are not going to kill me or you would not have treated my injuries or handled me so carefully when I was incoherent. Is your plan to turn me then?” The Jedi asked calmly.

"Turn you?" The standing red headed woman shook her head. “No. We are making this up as we go. But, I don’t really know how to define your status at the moment. You are not our prisoner, and yet, not our guest. You are hurt, and still need healing, so we cannot have you running around tearing Ona’s repairs. She gets so mad when people do that.” Istara shuddered a little. For such a kindhearted soul, Ona in a rage was to be avoided at all costs.

Min thought about that. “So I am a patient. Confined for my own safety?”

The brown eyed Bladeborn nodded. “That works. This ship would not be safe for you. We, the Bladeborn, have suffered some serious emotional hurts recently. And not all of us have the best control in the galaxy.” She smiled a bit sadly. That was true. “But we are not enemies, Min of the Jedi. For now, you need medical care and we will provide it. Please do not abuse what trust I am giving you.”

"I understand." Min nodded soberly. “I won’t.”

Istara smiled but then looked at her chrono. “Well, I need to go meditate, it has been a stressful day.” She nodded to the others and left the room.

As the door closed, she heard Min’s quiet puzzled voice. “She is not what I expected.” Michael’s answer was cut off by the door. Istara shook her head as she headed for the bridge. She had to meditate. Things were likely to get very complicated soon, and she needed to be clearheaded.
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08.07.2012 , 03:32 PM | #9
Istara came out of her mediation refreshed as always. A quick look around the bridge showed that nothing had changed, they were still in hyperspace. Cole was working on something and looked up as she moved.

"Hey." The fiery haired former smuggler’s voice was soft. “Istara.”

"Right." Istara smiled. “I am awake, Cole. Anything new?” She stretched, she did feel better. She had really needed that meditation after such stressful times. She felt a lot better, calmer, and clearer of mind. Which was the point.

“We are ten minutes out." Cole sighed. "I wish I could learn to do that.” He said wistfully. Seeing people go into meditation shivering, exhausted wrecks and coming out almost aglow with youth and enthusiasm was obviously downright disheartening at times.

"Huh?" Istara looked at him. “You don’t need Ashla to learn to do basic meditation, Cole. Anyone can. Hasn’t anyone ever offered to teach you?”

"Me? No." Cole looked at the woman who had taken Trugoy’s place when he had been killed and shook his head. “I thought it was some secret. You all guard your secrets well.”

"A secret?" Istara thought about that before shaking her head. “Not that I know of. I will ask, but if you want some instruction, I know I or a few others would be happy to instruct you.”

Cole stared at her. “Happy?” His voice was patently dubious. He was not the best of students and Bladeborn were generally not the most patient of teachers. Mama Lizard was an exception, but she was also very busy.

"Come on." Istara smiled, but there was melancholy behind it. “Cole, you are family. You may not wear a brand, or carry a sword, but you and Juli are family.” He stared at her, his mouth ajar. Istara smiled as she rose and walked the short distance across the cramped bridge to where he sat staring at her. She patted his shoulder. “I would be honored to teach you.”

She hadn’t always thought so. When she had woken after… Well, after she had cast herself from the Order and Setsuna had fled, Cole had been the one that the Bladeborn had left in her room to see if she was sane. Cutting one’s brand off was not a rational act after all, and a few times in the Order’s history, the being who had done it had gone completely mad as a result, forcing the Order to take steps. Almost always a quick death had resulted. The Bladeborn were intense, no question. They ate, drank, worked and lived by their Code. And to willingly throw oneself out of the group, to willingly give up everything in the name of honor… It hurt one. It hurt Istara even now. Even after everything that had happpened, she still felt the pain of separation, of loss. She was not technically a member of this Order anymore. And here they had made her grandmaster! She knew this was going to suck in so many ways.

She had thought the orange haired man in dirty coveralls a rude unkempt barbarian when she had first met him. And indeed, the man was rude. He also had lax standards of personal hygiene as evidenced by grime on the shipsuit he wore. But she could not have asked for a better pilot, or a more dedicated worker. The man just would not stop working. She wondered sometimes if it was the fact that he couldn’t, that he had to keep busy or the memories of some of what he had endured started to overwhelm him. She wasn’t going to ask, that was his business.

"Uh..." Cole stared at her, oblivious to her internal discomfiture. The smuggler’s eyes went down. “I… Istara, I don’t know what to say. Trugoy never… I mean, I was just an asset to him. A resource. He was nice to me, but that was all I was, an employee.” When he looked up Istara was utterly shocked to see the hardbitten man’s eyes glistening. “You treat me like a person. Like I matter.”

"What the...?" Istara recoiled in shock. “Of course you matter. Don’t tell me Mama and Ona didn’t treat you right.”

"Well..." Cole slumped. “They did, they tried to. But the grandmaster’s word was law. I half expected him to send Juli away. Like he sent Miriam.” The man bit his lip.

Istara froze. “Miriam?” Her voice was gentle. “The girl who came to the Sitolon homeship with the kids?” She remembered the girl, willowy dark blonde lass with sad hazel eyes. She had been something of a nanny? Istara hadn’t been sure. Something in Cole’s sense was embarrassed so Istara spoke carefully now. “You have an ’understanding’ with her?”

"Yeah." Cole sighed. “We were going to get married, before all this mess.”

Istara blinked and then she was lifting the man out of his chair and embracing him. The smuggler froze in shock.

“Oh Cole that is wonderful news.” She smiled at him. “Well, then we will have to see about getting your bride to be back to you, or you to her.” She set him back down gently and smiled a bit wistfully.

Cole stared at her. Everything he had heard about Sharlina, er Istara now, had said she was grim, utterly without fear, mercy or compassion. “Istara… I…”

"Cole, you know better." Istara shook her head. “Sith as a whole may think love is to be avoided, because it leads to mercy. But we are not Sith, we are Bladeborn. We are different.”

Cole laughed heartily. “I’ll say.”

Istara slapped him gently on the shoulder. “You shut up.” She said humorously, but then she sobered. “I haven’t had a lot of time to meet people that I didn’t know before. But I will say this, you are not working for me, you are working with me. There is a massive difference.”

"I..." Cole stared at her, flabbergasted. “Istara… I… I don’t know what to say.”

"Well..." Istara smiled as she stepped back to her seat. “I am not the best of leaders Cole, matter of fact I suck at it.” Cole shook his head, but Istara continued relentlessly. “If you see me making a mistake, stop me.”

Cole looked at his instruments and then glanced at her. “In public?” He asked slowly.

Istara smiled wryly. “Discretely if you can. We have had enough upheavals around here to last awhile.” But she had to smile at the thought of Cole correcting her on a point protocol in front of a hundred Bladeborn. No, that wouldn’t go over so well.

"I can do that. And I will try for discrete too." Cole nodded. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

"Yeah." Istara grimaced. “Teach me to fly? I… I kind of suck at it…”

Cole stared at her. “You… You can’t fly?” As far as he knew that was a first. Every single Sith or Bladeborn he had ever met could fly. Maybe not well, but all could at least get a ship or airspeeder from point A to point B.

Istara slumped, it was a sore subject with her. “Yeah. I never really needed to. I had shuttles, or pilots, or whatever. The few times I had to fly myself, well… the first time I stole an interceptor and crashed. The second time I used auto pilot all the way and was landed by a tractor beam. The third time I crashed the shuttle I was in.” She concluded sheepishly. "I... can't fly."

"Okay..." Cole was shaking his head slowly. “If I do, we will start with simulators. Less expensive you understand…”

"Oh yes." Istara snorted. “Since I am kind of responsible for all this lot, yes, I understand. The less expensive the better. I never realized just how many financial headaches come with operating a ship, even a small cruiser.”

Cole would have replied, but a chime sounded and he tensed. “One minute.”

Istara nodded and strapped herself in as Cole did. Neither had any idea at all what to expect. The pilot was muttering to himself as he worked. “No idea where, or what… God I hate using other people’s charts… Okay, cutting power to hyperdrive and activating sublight engines…” He flipped a set of switched and the ship shuddered a bit. Istara watched through the viewport as the blue tunnel of hyperspace was replaced by lines. Lines that quickly became points as the ship reverted to real space. But…

Cole stared at his instruments in shock. “Uh, Istara… is this where we were supposed to be?” There was nothing in system, no Stormhawk. Seven planets orbited the blue dwarf star, but it was obvious from a glance that none were habitable.

"I don't know." Istara shook her head slowly. “Your guess is as good as mine. They could be here and we would never even know it. Wait…” Something rang through Ashla and she stiffened. “They are here. But…”

Cole looked at her. “But what?” Then he froze as his sensors beeped. “Aw flarg…” A group of ships came around the planet. Republic forces. A battleship, a carrier, two cruisers and six frigates. Cole shook his head. “They set us up…” His hands started dancing as he worked to get the hyperdrives back online. “Those sons of Murglaks set us up…”

"Wait..." Istara shook her head. Something was off. “Cole… Are they targeting us?”

Cole stiffened in his seat. “Uh… No…” He shook his head baffled as he took in the plot. The com system lit up and he activated it.

A female voice came from the com. “This is the Republic Battleship Courageous to the Sith ship Bladehome. We need to talk.”

Istara felt all the blood leave her face. She knew that voice. It had been the woman from her vision, the one where Will had died. When the grandmaster of the Bladeborn spoke, she barely recognized her own voice. “Yes, yes we do…”
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08.07.2012 , 03:40 PM | #10
Istara was more than a little worried about all of this, but she hid her agitation behind years of control as the Republic shuttle landed in the Bladehome’s hangar bay. It wasn’t like they could actually DO anything, not with ten Republic ships in close proximity. But why had the Stormhawk sent them a system that had a Republic battle group in it? And where WAS the Stormhawk? What the flarg was going on? Istara hoped she would get some answers soon, she itched to do something. Actually, what she wanted to do was hurt someone, but as grandmaster, she was held to a higher standard than the rest of the Bladeborn. So here she was, drawn up, in formal armor in front of a dozen of her kin set up as an honor guard. In fact, these were the dozen of her kin who looked the least intimidating. Mama Lizard and Idjit were elsewhere, specifically because she did not want to escalate things if she could help it. She wanted to fight, she burned to fight. But fighting here and now would solve nothing. Her thoughts broke off as Cole spoke softly to her from his place beside her. She glanced at him and he nodded fractionally.

"Istara." The smuggler’s voice was low, but clearly audible. It was also sour. “Shuttle is positive for two life forms. No stealth systems detected. And at this range we would be able to detect them.”

The man felt uncomfortable through Ashla, with good reason. The former smuggler turned agent wore Bladeborn armor unwillingly. Cole had protested, vehemently, when Istara had insisted he blend in with the group. Eventually, he had acquiesced to her request. But he was very unhappy, and not just about that. He detested the Republic, for whole lot of reasons and he had a number of bounties on his head from Republic sources.

Istara stiffened slightly at his words. Two? Why only two? That made no sense. She cast out with her mind, seeking answers. But then her questing thoughts seemed to hit a brick wall and she stiffened further *** he recognized the feeling. She spoke softly. “Jedi.”

All around her, the tension ramped up a few notches. After all, a Jedi strike force had attacked this ship. Admittedly, it had been composed mostly of Padawans, but still.... The ramp of the shuttle lowered and Istara schooled her features, feeling the Bladeborn around her also hide their uncertainty and worry behind harsh discipline and training. Two figures appeared at the top of the ramp, one a female human with black hair in Republic uniform, the other… Istara’s eyes went wide and she smiled as the mismatched pair stepped down the ramp towards her. She knew this being. All around her, the Bladborn sensed her happiness and reacted with surprise that they hid behind their training, but the tension in the bay vanished as Istara nodded to the pair.

"Istara Sharlina Andal?" The woman in Republic uniform, it bore the rank insignia of a full captain, saluted Istara. “Captain Brun, Republic Navy. Permission to come aboard, Ma’am?”

"Permission granted." Istara nodded slowly. “Welcome aboard the Bladehome, Captain Brun.” Her eyes turned to the other and she smiled, a bit hesitantly. “Hello Nolikas.”

The female Rakata Jedi healer bowed formally to Istara. “Hello, Istara. You are looking well. If…different. I apologize…” She corrected herself. “Grandmaster Istara.” The healer smiled wryly.

Istara had to smile widely at that. She was wearing her silver armor instead of formal robes. She had met the Rakata healer when she had gone to Tython. The Rakata had not trusted her one little bit, and Istara had understood. But eventually, both had worked out their differences and respected each other. Maybe not trusted, but respected. It was very odd to see a Rakata. In fact, Nolikas was the only one that Istara had ever met; the species was rare in the galaxy as a whole.

After the collapse of the Infinite Empire, the Rakata race had retreated to it’s homeworld of Lehon in disarray. Talking with Nolikas had given Istara better insight into what had happened next. Many of the Rakata had hidden in underground enclaves, secluded from the outside world, protected from possible retribution. The Infinite Empire had not been a benevolent government. They had conquered and enslaved much of the known galaxy. Sith records that Istara had seen spoke of the ‘hideous monsters from the stars that gave even Sith Lords pause in cruelty’. But Nolikas was different.

She had been born on Lehon, in a secluded compound isolated from the barbarism that most of the planet had fallen into. And her birth had been heralded as a turning point for the Rakata race, she had the Force, when only one other Rakata since the fall of the Infinite Empire had. But, that other, called ‘The One’, had been a megalomaniac. Wanton and cruel, he had personified the Infinite Empire’s many vices with none of its few virtues, so the Elders, the leaders of the community that Nolikas had been born in, had asked the Jedi to take her, to teach her. The Jedi had found the young Rakata to be exceptionally gifted at healing and had given her a place.

"It's okay." Istara nodded and her voice held gratitude. “No insult taken, Nolikas. I am glad you are here.”

The Rakata nodded and her mouth split in a smile. It was odd, seeing a Rakata smile, but it was clear as well. “It is good to see you again, Istara. But I understand you have injured?”

"Yes." Istara sighed. “Yes, we do. Our healers are attending them but any help would be appreciated. You are in no danger aboard this ship, healer.” Istara put emphasis on the word ‘healer’ and she felt the reaction of the Bladeborn around her. They were all ingrained not to hurt healers, mainly because Ona, their healer, could cut most of them into dogmeat and was not shy about expressing her opinions. Usually with the flat of a blade applied to certain parts of tender anatomy.

Captain Brun shrugged. “She insisted. I was just going to come myself, but once she heard about Will…” Istara looked at the captain, something in the woman’s voice… Captain Brun me the grandmaster’s eyes calmly. “How is he?”

Istara looked at her and nodded. “Alive. For now. We… We have done what we can. I hope you can do more Nolikas.”

"Right." Nolikas nodded, her face solemn. “Take me to him and I will do what I can.”

Istara nodded. “Follow me.” She started off, aware through Ashla that the Jed and the Republic captain were pacing her. She didn’t need to see that the Bladeborn followed, leaving a quartet of guards near the shuttle. Trust only went so far.

Nolikas’ voice was quiet. “What happened?” Her voice was professional, all duty now and Istara fell back on her own training.

“We don’t know.” Istara admitted candidly. Lying to healers was never a good thing. Lying to healers when lives were on the line was just plain stupid. “He went berserk, but…not. It is hard to describe. He was moving, firing, killing so fast that it seemed like a blur. He took hits, but they didn’t seem to do anything. And when it was over, he collapsed. But…” She broke off, unsure how to broach this subject.

Nolikas pressed. “But…?”

"He acted so different." Istara sighed. “He killed unconscious, unarmed, defenseless beings. He shot a girl who was trying to surrender. That is not the man I know.” Her voice was pensive.

"No?" Captain Brun sighed. “It is the man I knew.” Istara looked at her and the captain shook her head. “When I first met him, Will was…well… nuts is probably the only word for it. He was dangerous. And of course being young and dumb I was drawn to the danger like a Correllian darkmoth to a flame. ”

"Oh?" Istara gave the captain a sidelong look. “I take it your relationship was more than just words?”

The captain shrugged. “I wanted it to be. He balked. And then Sharra swooped in and scooped him up. Not that I really mind, now… She was good for him. At the time however….”

Istara smiled a bit sadly. She had known more than her own share of pain in relationships. “I understand. Here we are.” She keyed the door and the strange procession entered the medical bay. Both of the Bladehome’s healers were standing nearby as the group entered. “Ona, Jon, this is Nolikas. She is here to help.”

Ona stared from Istara to the Rakata and her face lit up. “Thank the Force. This way…” She waved towards a door and Nolikas nodded and followed.

"Captain?" Istara smiled as the three healers started conversing in convoluted medical talk as they walked and the grandmaster turned to the captain. “I think we should leave them alone, they get testy when people stand over their shoulders.”

Captain Brun smiled wryly. “Yours too, huh?”

"Yep, ours too." Istara nodded. “Yeah, we do need to talk. Come on, let’s do it somewhere a little more comfortable….” She led the Republic captain into a briefing room and, with a glare at the Bladeborn who would have followed her in, shut the door.

"Right." Captain Brun sat in one of the chairs and nodded. “We have some serious problems.”

"Agreed." Istara sat in another. “We did not destroy the Invictus.”

"I know." Captain Brun nodded. “My immediate superior received a transmission from a special agent right after the ship was destroyed. Which is why I am here.”

Istara nodded slowly. “I had wondered why you didn’t open fire immediately.”

"Well..." Captain Brun nodded. “As far as my crew, and all the agents for various parties aboard, are concerned, I am negotiating the surrender of your ship in my own crazy fashion.”

Istara snorted. This was fairly crazy for a Republic captain in command of a starship. Something she was sure she had heard called a ‘Kirk maneuver’, whatever that was. But then the grandmaster sobered. “I take it that is not why you are here.”

"No." Captain Brun shook her head. “My superiors are aware of the threat posed by these microscopic machines. My orders, from the very top, are to find out what is going on and stop it. We have had some problems however. You took prisoners?” A far question actually, since the Bladeborn’s reputation was such that they rarely, if ever, did.

"Yes." Istara nodded. “Most of them seem to be regular soldiers, marines and medical staff for the most part. Four Special Forces operatives, who we have been forced to sequester quite thoroughly.”

Captain Brun nodded. “I bet.” The Republic officer sighed. “Ok, I am authorized to say this, by the highest level. Do you want to defect?”

"Ah..." Istara froze. Never in her wildest dreams had she expected a Republic officer to say something like that. Not to her. But then she thought hard for several minutes. Finally she met the captain’s eyes and shook her head. “No.”

Captain Brun nodded. “I assume you have reason?”

"I do, good ones." Istara shrugged. “We served the Empire, loyally. This attack, this whole thing was planned. We were supposed to destroy the Invictus and get caught by an Imperial battle group. A basic violation of the Treaty with witnesses. This was intended to drive us from the Empire or have us killed by the Empire. Why?”

"Hmmm." Captain Brun nodded slowly. “Good point. You have any ideas?”

"Uh." Istara looked at her. “Begging your pardon, but why should I trust you?”

"You shouldn’t." Captain Brun nodded. “And I agree, coming over to the Republic would be a bad idea.” Istara stared at her before controlling her expression. “First it would be a media circus and I have seen enough of those. Then it would be… Well, feeding frenzy comes to mind. All sorts and kinds of people would want to get hold of you, and I doubt that your control is good enough when people start throwing rocks and piles of dung at you. The Senate, the military, Republic Intelligence, the Jedi… yuck…” She made a face.

Istara nodded, that made sense. “As to lack of control… Some of us, yes, some of us no. But the main thing is this. We do things the old fashioned way. Many things. When we give our word, we stick to it. We are not Sith.”

"So I have heard." Captain Brun made a sour sound of agreement and her tone was sour. “I wish there were more people like you in the Senate.”

"Oh and make them actually be honest for a change? The mind boggles." Istara smiled. “Well, we are kind of stuck. One question. How did you know to find us here?”

Captain Brun nodded slowly. “A friend of a friend told us that there might be news of a… ‘hawk’ here. Some of us do still support them. And then Nolikas arrived. She surprised the hell out of us.”

Istara stiffened. “She came on her own?”

"That she did." Captain Brun nodded. “She said she was looking for a padawan named Diseree.” The woman sighed. “I liked that plucky kid when I met her.”

"So did I." Istara nodded. “From what little I know, she is safe, for the moment. And I am very glad to see Noikas. But what are we to do now, Captain?”

The raven haired captain smiled evilly. “I have a couple of ideas about that….”
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