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Forceblind


Quifand's Avatar


Quifand
01.27.2013 , 11:30 PM | #1
Hey, this is my first attempt at a fan-fic, hope you like it. Don't be afraid to say how much you like it! Or how much you hate it, but you know what, lets try to steer away from the latter. Enjoy!

Forceblind


SETTING: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

THE TREATY of Coruscant has been signed. The galaxy takes a breath, enjoying this frail peace. The Jedi, after losing both the Jedi Temple and the trust of the Republic, flee to Tython, their ancestral home, to train a new generation of Jedi to fight the coming war. But not all Jedi agree with this path. Many have fled the Order to make their own path in the world.

Far from the front lines of the now delayed war, on the planet Draethos, an exiled Sith Lord, known only as the Master, waits, patiently, plotting his own war against the galaxy.

The Master’s agents, experts in deception and manipulation of the mind, scour both Republic and Imperial space for the Chosen, force-sensitive children the Master had dreamt of, and bring them to his care. To be trained to be one of the most dangerous forces the galaxy has ever seen. An army to serve the Master.

Deep within Republic space, on the planet Corellia, one of the Master’s most trusted agents carefully makes his way across the city-scape to a small home in one of Corellia’s oldest districts. There wait two of the Chosen, blissfully unaware of the turn their lives are soon to take…





PROLOGUE: So it all begins…

A KNOCK on the door brought Ben out of bed. He waved his wife down, seeing her move to wake up as well, but she shook her head at his concern and moved to get up anyway. Ben rolled his eyes, his wife was, as ever, determined, but that was why he loved her. As he walked over to the door, tying a loose maroon robe around his waist, Ben saw his old friend, Javiin, with whom Ben shared the house, walking over, having not even bothered with a robe and wearing only his boldly blazoned Frog-Dog boxers. Ben shook his head at his friend’s attire.

“You know they haven’t won a match in weeks, right?” Ben asked humorously.

“It’s the devotion that counts.” Javiin replied proudly.

Ben just shook his head, “Go back to bed,” He said, chuckling, “I’ve got this.”

“What, and miss showing them all this?” Javiin asked, gesturing towards his boxers with what was obviously sarcasm. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Ben chuckled and started towards the door again, “What, the visitor in the middle of the night, or the chance to embarrass me?”

“Oh, definitely both. You know how I love meeting people, randomly, in the middle of the night.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Glad to.”

The unknown visitor knocked once again on the door, still that same patient slow knock as before with no noticeable increase in speed or decrease in patience. Ben, reaching the door, depressed the control and watched as the durasteel plate that made up his door slide up into the wall and reveal the late night visitor.

The first thing Ben noticed about him was the robe. It was made of up browns and tans and was folded with perfection. The second thing he noticed was the lightsaber at the man’s side. That was when Ben’s heart sank. There was only one reason a Jedi, for who else would have a saber, would visit their home. He was there for the kids.
Ben knew there were other possibilities, but he knew, with a deep certainty, that he was right. Turning his head to look at Javiin, he saw on his face that his friend was thinking along the same lines.

The Jedi looked over the two of them, seemingly unconcerned by Javiin’s lack of proper attire.

“May I come in?” The Jedi asked, all grim serenity.

Ben and Javiin looked at each other. Javiin glared daggers at Ben, then at the Jedi, his message was clear; no, we're not going to let him in. Ben sighed, and lifted his hands up slightly in what was almost a gesture of defeat. Javiin, though he hated the idea, understood what Ben meant; do we even have a choice?

“Only for a moment,” Ben said, restraint creeping into his voice. Ben waved the Jedi in, and, after the Jedi had passed into the house, waved Javiin over and whispered, “Get the kids out of here.”

Javiin nodded and walked away, smiling at the Jedi and explaining how he was going to put on some clothing, leaving Ben alone with the Jedi.

The Jedi turned to Ben, looking at him with piercing yellow eyes. Ben shivered slightly and pulled his maroon robe tighter around him. Something felt... wrong about this Jedi.

"May I take your robe?" Ben asked, extending his hand in a polite gesture. Honestly Ben didn't care if the Jedi said yes or no, he just wanted to give Javiin time to get the kids out.

"No, thank you," The Jedi responded, looking around the room slowly, as if searching for something hidden there. "This will not take very long."

"What will not take very long?" Ben's head snapped to the side at that, looking towards the new speaker. It was Rana, Ben's wife. She was standing, arms crossed, at the doorway to their room. She had dressed in a loose robe, colored with an assortment of greens and blues, but her eyes didn't match the cool, calm colors she had dressed herself in. No, her eyes burned like coals, and Ben could guess that she had come to the same conclusion Javiin and he had; that the Jedi was there for the children.

"The Trial, of course." The Jedi said, tilting his head to the side in curiosity. "Your children, and that of the other family that live here, Javiin and Miranda, are very special. They have the Force within them, and I am here to take them to where people with their abilities belong… But why the hostility? You should be honored, they will become great Jedi." The Jedi was entirely devoid of emotion, except for a light undertone of what was almost sarcasm in his voice. Like the Jedi knew how his words sounded, but just didn't care. Like the Jedi wanted to egg on Rana and Ben.

"No, I am not honored," Rana said bitterly. Ben began to move towards her, he knew his wife, and when she got this angry, well, she wouldn't think about what she was diving into. "They are my children, and not just mine. They are Miranda's children too! Not yours! Not the Jedi's! You can't just take them from us!"

The Jedi bowed his head slightly, though whether out of respect or annoyance, Ben wasn't sure. He guessed it was the latter. "Actually," The Jedi said, an underlying threat in his words, "I can."

Rana's eyes flashed in anger and she moved to snap back, but Ben got to her first. His firm hand on her arm and a soft, but stern look stayed Rana's anger. "Just let me handle this." Ben whispered to her, smiling reassuringly.

"We can respect that, Master Jedi," Ben said, turning to look the Jedi in the eye. Ben's eyes narrowed slightly when he saw the Jedi's expression. The Jedi looked almost... irritated. Was it at the conflict from Rana, or at Ben's defusing of the situation? Ben didn't know.

"But," Ben continued, "We would ask that don't continue with this 'Trial' until Javiin and his wife are here. If this concerns their children as well, then they should be involved."

"Of course. Then I will wait, but not too long, I hope." The Jedi said, and this time Ben thought he heard something resembling a threat in those last few words.

"Thank you for your patience, Master Jedi. Rana, could you go check on Miranda and Javiin, please?" Ben gave his wife a look of pleading as he said that. She glared back; knowing why Ben was sending her away, but complied, leaving Ben alone with the Jedi.

The Jedi, having no more need for Ben until everyone else was there, was walking around the room, seeming almost to be studying his surroundings. Ben wondered about that, was the Jedi actually curious about what was in their home, or did he just want to ignore Ben? Regardless, Ben thought, he is still here, and he still wants the kids. Ben closed his eyes and breathed, trying to think. Javiin had had enough time to get the kids out, surely? If so then, what were they going to tell the Jedi? That the children simply weren't there?

Shaking his head, Ben threw out the thought. Javiin had probably thought up a story already, there was nothing to worry about. Throwing a brief glance at the Jedi, now studying a picture of the two families, Ben had a horrible thought. What if he was searching for the children right now? Using his mind to scan the house? Ben knew little of the Force, but it seemed like a reasonable skill for a Force-user to have.

"So, what is your name?" The question, aimed at the Jedi, caught him off balance. As Ben had intended it to. The Jedi, pretending to look at some poorly taken photo of the families, had been reaching out with the Force, trying to track down the children, and hadn’t expected any conversation. There had never been any conversation any other time he had done this. Families just stayed silent, though whether out of fear or respect, he did not know, but could guess.

“Goll,” Goll Pantarn responded, looking curiously at the man asking the question.

“Goll?” Ben asked, sounding a little confused, “That’s an odd name for a human. Seems more like a Zabrak name… respectfully, Master Jedi.” Ben added the last bit in a rush, hoping not to offend the Jedi with a lack of conduct.

Goll chuckled at that, “What makes you think I’m human?”

“Uh…” Ben was taken aback by that. Looking more closely at the Jedi, he noticed how low the hood came over the Jedi’s face, and the small bumps in the fabric at the top of the Jedi’s head.

Goll pulled down the hood, letting it lay along his back, and Ben could see the distinctive Zabrak spikes running along the top of his head.

“Oh, my apologies, Master Goll, I did not mean to offend.” Ben said, bowing and trying his best to put a very sincere note of apology into his voice. Though he didn’t quite know why, Ben felt there was something off about the Jedi. Something that seemed like it would snap if he didn’t play things right.

Goll chuckled again at Ben’s antics. “No worries, friend,” Goll said, a certain kind of sickly smooth tone in his voice, “And please, no more ‘Master Jedi’, Goll will do just fine.” He punctuated this with a smile; like a wolf baring its teeth.

Ben drew breath to respond, though he wasn’t quite sure where the conversation could go from there, but Javiin came into the room before he could speak a word.

“There,” Javiin said, loudly, running his hands down his body. “That’s better.” He was dressed in tight-fitting spacer’s gear; with a utility belt; a rugged and torn jacket; a pair of spacer’s overalls and a blaster holster at his side. The blaster sat there in its holster, an old A-300 Sonic Needler, the design resembling a centuries old weapon once used by the Corellians called a ‘revolver’. Javiin’s mentor, an aging spacer from before the Great War, had given it to him years ago while on his death-bed. But Ben knew the weapon was just for show, Javiin had never actually fired it, much less threatened someone with it.

Goll looked at Javiin with little interest, and then past him. “And the women?” Goll asked, emotionless once more, it seemed his earlier moment of humor had evaporated faster than water in the Tatooine desert.

Ben looked at Javiin, a pleading light in his eye. Javiin gave him a grin back, and took a breath.
“Not coming, wanted to say goodbye to the kids. We’re staying here to discuss what exactly is going to happen here with all this ‘Trial’ nonsense.” Javiin said, confidently. He had thumbs stuck in the pockets of his overalls and was leaning against the back wall lazily. Ben sighed in relief. Javiin’s response and entrance had been cocky and smooth, he obviously had a plan and all Ben could do was to go with it.

“Very well,” The Jedi said, now irritated again. He obviously thought that this was all taking up far too much time. “What do you wish to know?” The Jedi asked, placing his hands behind his back and facing the two men.

Ben and Javiin looked at each other, shrugged, then turned back to the Jedi.

“What is this ‘Trial’ and why do you need our children?” Javiin asked, pointing towards the Jedi defiantly to put emphasis on the word “you”, while the other hand lay aggressively on the holster of his weapon.

The Jedi didn’t seem to notice Javiin’s threats, blunt as they were, or, if he did, he chose to ignore them. “The Trial is, in it of itself, a simple thing,” The Jedi began, his tone condescending, “I give each child this simple device, called a holocron, and, if it reacts, then your child is a Force user.” As the Jedi said this, a strange triangular object floated up from beneath the Jedi’s robes to hover, spinning slowly, in the space between the men and the Jedi. The Jedi gestured to the object, identifying it as the holocron he had mentioned.

Javiin and Ben stared at the holocron for what felt like minutes, but were only seconds. The object gave off a faint blue glow as it rotated, slowly, in the air. It seemed to be made up of a thousand colors and a million layers, only of which a few Javiin and Ben could see. Finally, the pair broke off, shaking their heads slightly as if to cure some mild lapse in thought. Ben, however, was slower to break off.

“Alright,” Javiin said, the confidence in his voice slightly unfocused, “But why does that give you the authority to take our children?”

“Not merely me,” The Jedi said, with an air of obviously false humility, “The whole Republic needs your children to fight among the ranks of the Jedi, to repel the Sith. The Great War has taken a tremendous toll on our numbers. They will be heroes, Javiin, heroes. You should let them go.” As the Jedi said this, he waved his hand in an odd gesture, “As should you, Ben.”

Ben instantly regretted his earlier decisions. He had been acting so foolish! Their children would be great heroes! Why should Javiin and him stand in the way of that? Ben smiled and chuckled softly at his own foolishness.
“Apologies, Goll, I don’t know what I was thinking. You’re right, the kids would be better off with you, they would be heroes!” Ben was smiling, years of stress falling away from his face in seconds; he was feeling a blissful peace he hadn’t felt in years. Javiin, though, was staring at Ben in horror, mouth ajar as he tried to find words.

“Good,” Goll said, “It’s good that you’ve seen the light, Ben. I knew you would. Javiin, what about you? Wouldn’t you agree that this is for the best? After all, Ben agrees…” Goll waved his hand again as he said that, and Ben felt another wave of bliss fall over him. The Master was pleased, Ben thought, all reason or loyalty flushed from his system.

“Ben!” Javiin exclaimed, backing up, his voice strained. “What are you thinking? They are our children! Snap out of it, buddy!”

“Hmm,” Goll mused, “You are devoted, aren’t you? And a strong mind as well… perhaps I just need to try a little harder.” The Jedi was rubbing his chin, curiously, a look of thought on his face. One of the few emotions he had shown.

“What are you talking about? What is going on?” Javiin asked frantically, pulling out his blaster and aiming for Goll, “Tell me what is going on!” Javiin yelled, a fire in his eyes.

“No, none of that now,” Goll said calmly, and the blaster flew out of Javiin’s hand and floated into the air in front of him, spinning to aim towards his chest. Javiin froze. “Hmm,” Goll continued to muse, studying Javiin as if he were some feral animal he had found on the side of the road. “Only a few of the Forceblind could withstand that particular Force technique, you could be an interesting study, if only to discover what gives you such immunity. Ben, what do you think?”

Goll added it as an aside, not as if he truly valued Ben’s response, but was merely curious to hear what he said. Ben smiled eagerly at the chance to please his Master, his mind still in a deep haze. “I… We… think we should kill him, no, no!” Ben felt a sudden clarity as the mist in his mind cleared and he saw what was going on. The sorcery the Jedi was using on him. “No! Not kill, not kill, save!” Quickly, Ben stepped across the room to his friend, snatching the gun out of the air and turning it on the Jedi. “I’ll save my friend.” Ben said defiantly.

Then the fog came back, but not like it had been before, blissful and sweet. It came as a storm does, angry and deadly. Ben gave a quick shout, dropping the blaster and falling to his knees as Goll took away Ben’s mind and made it his own.

“No, but Master does not want to save, Master wants to kill.” Ben began to mutter hurriedly to himself, his hands and his head shaking. “But we… we… no, I, I will save… I will… save… I… we… we… we will listen to Master.” Javiin looked on in horror as his friend lost his mind in a matter of seconds.

When Ben stood back up a few moments later, the blaster in his hand aimed at Javiin, not Goll, Javiin saw only emptiness in his eyes. Ben, all he had ever been, was gone.

“A weak mind.” Goll said, studying Ben, “They do have their uses, but you… you, Javiin, you have no use to me.”

Goll was walking back and forth now, motions irritated and angry. He was different now from the collected Jedi that had walked in a few minutes ago, Javiin thought. No, Javiin stopped himself, Goll hadn’t changed, he’d simply stopped lying.

“You might have been of some use, if you had only given in. If you had just let me take control of that worthless organ you call a brain.” Goll continued. “You Forceblind will never learn, will you? All you do is rebel and resist and fight. As sand before a storm. You are nothing in comparison to me. Your kind are worthless, and don't even know it. Yet you still don’t back down. Fools, you’ll get what’s coming, soon enough.” After a short pause, as if to let his words sink in, Goll strode away, sending his final words over his shoulder as he left.

"Ben, kill him."

Javiin turned to Ben, staring deep into the empty eyes, and tried to plead with the friend he believed to be somewhere in there. “Ben, don’t do this, it’s me, Javiin, your best frien-"

Javiin didn’t even get to finish pleading before the husk known as Ben pulled the trigger and ended Javiin’s life. There was no final words, no dramatic death, Javiin simply fell, chest smoking, and gurgled out his last breaths in pitiful agony. Task complete, it, Ben, just stood there, no purpose in life, waiting for its Master to give it a new set of orders.

----------


Goll, walking through the rest of the house, the holocron floating behind him like a loyal puppy, sighed in irritation. This was supposed to be a quick in and out, but had digressed into problem after problem. Goll rolled his eyes; there wouldn’t have been a problem if the Forceblind hadn’t resisted his control. Why they didn’t know their place, Goll would never know. A quick pain flashed through his head and Goll paused to assess himself. He was weak, too weak. As must as Goll enjoyed taking the minds of others for his own, it took too much out of him. He wouldn’t be able to do anything like what he had just done for a while yet.

Feeling within the Force, Goll sensed that too much time had passed already, and resolved not to bother conversing with the other Forceblinds that lived here. Goll smiled at that, happy to give himself a reason to kill the other Forceblinds. Their mere presence insulted him.

After a minute or so, Goll found the other two Forceblinds, trying to shove a young girl down some sort of hole in the ground. The lid was rusted and appeared very old, the smell permeating from it a noxious odor. Goll’s eyes snapped open as his mind placed the strange hole in the ground, a sewer entrance. That baffled Goll. For a moment, he wondered why the entrance to a sewer would be in the middle of a house. Then he shrugged off the question, more likely than not they just built over it, or renovated an above-ground sewer station.

The two Forceblind's actions became more frantic as they noticed Goll, pushing with renewed force and yelling now at the young girl, trying to get her to move. They had obviously heard the shot Ben had taken at Javiin, and feared the worst. The girl was no more than two or three years old, and was standing a foot or two away from the entrance to the sewer, crying fiercely and yelling "No" with a childhood lisp. But for some strange reason, the two Forceblind woman, pushing as hard as they could, could not get the child to move an inch. Goll watched for a moment, morbidly curious, and finally figured out why they couldn't get the girl down. Around the girl, visible only to the Chosen, not to any of the Forceblind scum, was a light blue aura. The Force. The little girl already had enough strength with the Force to hold herself in place against the strength of two Forceblind women.

Impressed, Goll finally took action, using the Force and reaching out to the two women. Still tired from the mental control he had exhibited earlier, Goll opted to snap the necks of the two women instead. A simple and efficient method. Two simultaneous pops echoed through the room. The women's bodies fell to the ground a second later, lifeless and empty.

The young girl stopped crying and looked around, curiously, at the two bodies next to her. She ran over to one of them, obviously her mother, and began to shake it vigorously with both the Force and her hands. When the lifeless shell didn't respond, the girl began to cry again, sobbing into her dead mother's clothing.

"It's alright," Goll said softly, reaching out to the girl, "She wasn't really your mother. She stole you from your true family." That was one of the stock lies Goll had for these situations. If the child thought their real parents were still alive, it was possible to keep them from hysterics long enough for any journey back to his Master.

The girl, sobbing, looked at Goll uncomprehending and Goll groaned inwardly. She either didn't understand the words coming from his mouth, or was too in shock to respond. Goll guessed it was the former, which was a very common problem when dealing with kids this age. Sighing, Goll went down on one knee and held out his hand to the girl, being careful to keep his words simple, "Come with me." He said, quietly, adding a little bit of Force to his words to convince the girl.

She shook her head and shoved her face back into her mother's clothing, sobbing once more. Shaking his head, Goll reaching inside his robe and pulled out a small injector. Goll hated having to resort to this, but he was not allowed to bring the child out by force. He had to do it in a safe and secure manner, the standard operating procedure his Master liked him to run under. Though Goll understood why, he still hated having to do it. Didn't feel right, resorting to these simple machines the Forceblind had created to serve them. A true Jedi should need no mechanical help, just the Force and his lightsaber. Simple as that.

Reaching out, Goll injected the small child in the neck, and, a few seconds later, she fell to the floor, unconscious. Satisfied, Goll stood up and moved to the sewer entrance, feeling outward through the Force. He had been sent for two children, yet only one was here. The second one had to have already left through the sewers. Feeling with the Force, Goll felt the boy's passage through the tunnels, but also felt that the trail was already fairly cold, the child’s signature weak and faded. The child must have begun moving very soon after Goll had arrived. Goll gave a frustrated grunt, and then weighed his options. He could return with this one girl, obviously very powerful already in the Force, or chase after the second one and risk being caught and losing both.

With no small amount of difficulty, Goll came to a decision. Picking up the girl and walking out the front door, Goll set the girl down and closed the door behind him manually, refusing to use the control panel. Reaching out with the Force, Goll mentally locked the door from inside and broke the lock, crushing the circuits in the board and making sure to do the same with the override before the door’s safety features reopened the door on the sudden loss of power breaking the circuits had provided. Satisfied that the door could not be opened easily, Goll picked up the girl once more, lightly caressing her sleeping features, and left into the night, heading back to his ship on the other side of the small town and leaving the second child behind.

----------


Hours later, after Goll had left the planet, a small boy, between two to three years of age, pulled himself up through the sewer entrance inside the house. Such a feat would have been difficult for a normal boy this one’s age, but this one was, albeit unconsciously, using the Force to augment and increase his strength. He saw the bodies on the floor, but did not recognize his mother, as her clothing had fell in such a way that it concealed her features and moved past them with the ignorance of children. The boy continued to walk through the house, calling for his mother and father, until he reached the living room. The creature once known as Ben still stood there, waiting for orders that would never come, from a Master who would never return.

"Hi!" The little boy yelled enthusiastically, waving at the husk of a man. Naturally, it didn't respond. The little boy shrugged, now disinterested, and continued to walk around. That was when he saw his father, laying on the ground, the hole in his chest having stopped smoking hours ago.

"Dada!" The boy cried, running to his late father's side. As a little girl had done in the house only hours earlier, he pushed and shoved and shook his father every way he could, trying to wake him, before giving in to tears and sobbing into his father's clothes. A few hours later, still sobbing slightly, the little boy remembered what his dad had told him to do if something bad ever happened.

Walking over to the comm system, the boy punched in the emergency code. Within a few seconds he was in contact with the planetary authorities as they asked the child what had happened.

Within a few minutes he was being comforted by a warm, nice security officer as the boy watched the husk known as Ben be tackled and arrested for murder while his father was taken away and put in a bag. The boy asked where his dad was going, why he couldn't go with him, and the officer comforting him looked very sad, and deflected the boy’s question by offering him a lollipop. Naturally, the boy took the candy and forgot about his father for a while.

Within a few hours, the boy was sitting at the security station clutching the only thing the officers had let him keep of his late father's, the A-300 Sonic Needler, power pack emptied and weapon useless. Staring at the weapon, sitting polished and greased in the boy's hand, the boy tried to comprehend what was going on, his young mind not able to grasp the tragedy that had just befallen him. Little did he know that his life had just been changed forever.

----------


Star systems away, on a desolate planet known as Draethos, a girl sat in a cave, staring at a glowing triangular object in her hand, the holocron Goll had carried, and tried to understand what was happening.
Goll watched the girl; in particular the strong reaction the holocron had at her touch, and sighed, thinking in frustration about the boy he'd left.

"Master, let me apologize again, I should have brought the boy as well, I didn't…"

His Master cut him off, a shadow in the corner of the cave, hungry red eyes watching the girl. "It does not matter," the Master said in a withering voice, "There is a reason for everything, my young apprentice. The Force wanted us to only have the girl, and I will not question it. She is among the strongest of the Chosen; I have no doubt of that. She is worth at least a dozen of the other recruits.”

Goll nodded, reassured by his Master’s words. “Thank you, Master, for your forgiveness.”

The Master nodded slowly and waved away Goll, a surprisingly quick motion from a limb appearing so aged and frail. Goll bowed respectfully and left the cave, walking out into the daylight.

For several more minutes the Master watched the girl as she stared, transfixed, at the holocron before her. He saw her presence in the Force, the blue aura around her frame growing brighter the more she stared into the holocron, and knew.

The Master spoke once more, voice not loud enough for anyone to hear, nothing but a faint whisper.

“And so it all begins…”

Quifand's Avatar


Quifand
01.28.2013 , 10:57 PM | #2
CHAPTER 1: The Crime of the Century

A LIGHT Correllian rain fell over the memorial. It had been put up a while back, in memory of the three people slaughtered by a mentally ill man twenty years ago and the young girl who’d mysteriously vanished that day. It had been tragic, but, over time, forgotten. Twenty years gives a lot of time to forget. One person had yet to forget, however.

Rain pouring off his shoulders, the twenty-four year old man known as Coran stood before the monument, staring at a name hovering in the air before him. It was a holographic monument, alternating between the four faces; two women, a man, and a young girl, each accompanied by a name that had been lost that day twenty years ago.

Exactly twenty years ago, Coran thought, tightening his fist angrily, hate coursing through his veins. He wasn’t sure who he was angry at; his parents for leaving him? Ben for killing them? The girl for leaving him alone in his pain?

It had been so long, Coran wasn’t sure why he still came. Why he still mourned them. Everyone else had moved on, so why couldn’t he?

Of course, Coran knew exactly why he couldn’t move on, why he couldn’t forget that image, so burned into his mind. His father, eyes lifeless, a hole gaping in his chest, and the sick smell of seared flesh around him. As he focused on that image, his hand shuddered slightly, going to the blaster holstered at his side. His father’s old A-300. But something wasn’t right. Something… felt wrong about it all. The hole in the chest, the lifeless eyes, no, it wasn’t any of that. Something was wrong about the murder of his father, of his mother. But Coran just didn’t know what. Some feeling, some sixth sense was telling Coran, had always been telling Coran, that this whole event was… wrong. Wasn’t what he had been told. But for the life of it, he couldn’t figure out why.

Coran cried out briefly in frustration, bringing his hand down on the holographic terminal emitting the memorial. The hologram shuddered briefly, pausing on an image of his father, and then continued the rotation.

“I swear, I’m going to find out what really happened.” Coran muttered hoarsely. Rain fell down his cheek, running from his eyes almost like tears.

Still silent in his mourning, a beep filled the silence. A moment later, the beep came again, almost more urgent this time. Coran sighed, stood, and turned his back on the memorial. Pulling his holocom from his jacket, Coran thumbed the ‘answer’ button.

“Coran, you all set? We’re waiting on you.” It was Kaarn, an old friend of Coran’s, a Bothan who was incredibly skilled with hacking. They had met years ago, in a juvenile detention center. They had become close friends after discovering that both of them were orphans, out on the street, and soon, they had become leaders of their own little band of thieves, all children left out on the streets.

“Yea, all set,” Coran said grimly, slinging a worn leather bag over his shoulder. “Meet at the rendezvous?”

The tiny image of Kaarn’s face shook its head. “No, they made several changes to security. I want everyone to meet up back here so we can reconvene and decide our course of action.”

“Alright, sounds good, be there in a few.” Coran flicked off the holo, not giving Kaarn enough time to respond. He had seen his friend’s look. Kaarn knew Coran had been at the memorial again, and Coran didn’t really feel like being chewed out for not letting go once more. Coran seemed to be the only one in their thieving band who hadn’t come to grips with their parent’s deaths.

Placing the holocom back in his jacket, Coran tightened the leather strap around his shoulder and took off at a light jog into the rain. He didn’t have to run, but it sure felt good.


----------


“Where is he?” Alia asked, annoyed, directing the question at Kaarn. Kaarn, unconcerned, continued scrawling notes on a thin sheet of flimsiplast, additions to his already extensive infil and exfil plan.

“Relax, he’ll be here,” Kaarn said distractedly, examining a point on a diagram of a standard Republic shuttle bay with intensity. Alia rolled her eyes at Kaarn’s obvious disregard and huffed lightly, impatient.

She let her eyes wander around the sewer junction their little band called “home”. It was rather ugly, honestly. It was a small circular room, with four large round entrances to four of the main Correllian pipelines taking up the vast majority of the wall space. The constant pools of water at their feet kept the atmosphere humid. In winter it could get cold as hell, though. What walls they had were stained from years of water, and most of the comfort items; a couch, a few chairs, and a table, were stained as well. Their cots, hung from support beams at the very top of the junction, were the only things that didn’t get soaked when the sewers flooded. Still, didn’t making sleeping in them any easier. Alia couldn’t recall how many times she’d hit her head on the ceiling, close as it was, while waking up. Certainly one time too many.

Gurkgren and Michael, the other two members of the band, were up their now, talking about something or another. Probably guns, like usual. Alia rolled her eyes, she had never though much of those two. Gurkgren, because he was a larger Trandoshan and the sight of him freaked her out and Michael… well she just didn’t trust him.

Gurkgren, though, as much as she couldn’t stand the sight of him, was someone she could respect. Kaarn and Coran had found him on the streets, before they had found Michael or Alia, and saved his life from a xenophobic citizen who’d had a little too much to drink. Gurkgren had sworn his life to them, some form of a life-debt that many aliens seemed to have. It didn’t matter too much to Alia, all she knew is that Gurkgren was big, strong, and could kill just about anything. So he was good muscle for their little thieving band. Alia could respect that.

Michael, on the other hand, Alia had trouble respecting. A school friend of Coran’s who’d dropped out and moved away from his parents to have a “more interesting life”; he’d only made it by with his incredibly smooth tongue. Michael would brag about how he’d once convinced a Cor-sec officer to let him go because it was the “right” thing to do, and how he held the record for seducing a woman. The men would often brag about this nonsense, the women they’d dated and how they’d flirted. It was all in good fun, Alia understood, but the way Michael talked about it all was sickeningly familiar to her the men in her past.

Alia had been stuck on the streets for years before Coran and Kaarn had found her. She couldn’t remember most of what had happened to her, she had blocked most of it out, but she had been manipulated and used by men to no end. Honestly, when she’d told Kaarn and Coran about how she’d survived, they’d seemed shocked no man had killed her in their passions. Alia had wondered the same thing many times, but had never found an answer.

That was why she’d never trusted Michael, not fully. Michael, although he seemed nice, had the same look in his eye as she had seen in the dozens of men who’d exploited her over the years. The greed, the hunger that showed they would do anything to get what they wanted. She just couldn’t let that happen to her, not again.

But Coran, Coran and Kaarn, they were different. They had the same rough, mistrusting edges anyone growing up on the streets had. But they had this sense of purpose, of meaning to their strides. Like they had some reason they did this all. Like there was some greater purpose driving them. Coran, she knew what his purpose was, to find the girl who’d gone missing all those years ago. He had never directly said it, but whenever he described his memory of that night, he always seemed to imply that the girl knew what had happened. No one had the heart to tell him that, although what happened was a tragedy, they didn’t see any true foul play involved.

Kaarn though, Alia still didn’t know what drove him. He was quiet most of the time, except for some sarcastic quips during their ops to ease the tension. She’d also never discovered how Kaarn had learned how to hack, slice, and plan so effectively. In all honesty, the furry Bothan was an enigma to her, one only Coran had seemed to crack. Coran was the only one Kaarn had ever opened up around; the only one he seemed to be able to talk to easily.

That was the odd thing about Coran, Alia thought. He had this aura, this air to him. When he talked to you, you felt as though you could trust him with anything. Everyone else in the band, crew, whatever people called them, simply put his air to Coran’s charisma. But Alia… she just knew that there was something else going on. But, much like Coran and his parent’s deaths, she couldn’t put her finger on it.

A splashing came from the south most sewer entrance. Alia sighed in what she hoped was annoyance, but was actually relief. It had to be Coran. Jogging into the room, chest heaving, came Coran, soaked to the bone. Everyone turned, alarmed, to face him.

“Who’s following you?” Michael asked, hurriedly, sliding down from his cot to the ground, landing lightly on his toes. For there could only be one reason Coran would be running.

Coran looked slightly confused. “What do you mean? No one is following me.”

“Then why were you running?” This came from Alia.

“Felt like it.” Came the response as Coran shrugged lightly.

“Ugh…” The group moaned slightly, the sudden weight of panic falling from their shoulders. Alia went over and slapped Coran hard across the face.

“Ah! What was that for?”

“For nearly scaring me to death, that’s what.”

Coran opened his mouth to reply, but Kaarn broke the potential argument up. “Shut up.” He said, his hair bristling, “We need to get to work or else we’re going to miss our opportunity.”

That shut up Alia and Coran very quickly. Alia shook her head slightly. That had been rash and stupid, provoking Coran like that, but she had been worried about him… she stopped that train of thought in its tracks. She had to keep herself aloof.

“Sorry,” Alia offered, hand out in apology, “Just been a little stressed, waiting here to go and all…”

Coran smiled and shook his head, “No need, and its fine. I’ve been a little stressed too.” He turned back to face Kaarn, but Alia noticed how he hadn’t blamed the stress of waiting. No, he had something else on his mind.

“Alright, Kaarn,” Coran said, slinging his bag over one of the assorted chairs they had laying around and grabbing a seat. “What happened?”

Kaarn looked around the room before he began, making sure everyone had a seat and was paying very close attention, then he hit a button on his computer and their old holographic emitter whirred furiously, powering up. Within a few seconds a flickering blue image was floating in front of them.

“Remember the original plan?” Kaarn asked passively, and the group nodded and muttered affirmations, “Get in the Council building, swipe the override codes from the emergency evacuation crews, and then hit the bank, using the codes to override the security terminal, using their emergency measures against them, right? Well, security got upped, just like I told you. Some recent surveillance by our drones,” The drones were one of Kaarn’s inventions, holonet recorders hacked to only respond to Kaarn’s signals, “showed an increase in the number of guards stationed here at the Council building. They are expecting an important guest, so they want to make sure nothing happens.” As Kaarn said this, he flipped through a few images taken by the drones. They showed patrols from a month ago, seven men to each one, to now, where nine men were in each patrol and the patrols moved through sentry paths much faster.

Each member of the group, except perhaps Gurkgren, could see the dangers this would lead to. More patrols passing by meant more chances their presence would be noticed and more guards meant less chance of getting away.

Mouth twisted in concentration, Alia piped up, “Kaarn… I hate to point this out, but our infil plan accounts for this.” She continued, warily, as if trying to offend Kaarn, “I was going to use the pass you forged for me to get inside. So long as that pass holds up and they haven’t cleaned out the system, the only time I have to look suspicious is in the Emergency Measures offices. Your pics there show that the patrols don’t move through that area any more often than they already do. I could still pull this off fairly easily.”

The group nodded affirmation, now that Alia had pointed it out, they could see that their plan could still go off without a hitch.

“In fact,” Alia said, eyes narrowed as she thought through the logistics, “Cor-sec has been tight this year, and they would have to pull men away from somewhere else to increase their patrol sizes at the Council building. The bank might just have less security…”

“Entirely right.” Kaarn said, crossing his arms.

The other four people looked at each other curiously, somewhat confused. It was Coran who spoke what they were all thinking.

“So why is this a problem?”

Kaarn smiled, showing his teeth, “That is just it, it isn’t a problem. It’s an opportunity.”

“How this?” Gurkgren asked in heavily accented Basic.

Turning to Coran, Kaarn asked, “Why did we come up with this plan, why are we stealing all this money? What was the point behind it?”

Coran shook his head, “Kaarn, you know why we do this. We give some to help out the other kids out on the street and the rest goes into supplies and gear. You do most of the accounting here, you know where it goes. Why are you asking?”

Now the group was looking at Kaarn sadly, confused as to what he was trying to say.

“Because we aren’t going anywhere,” Kaarn said, the slightest tone of anger creeping into his voice, “We have no purpose. We just steal and do nothing with what we earn. You know what I mean Coran!”

Coran’s mouth opened slightly and he half-heartedly shrugged, unaware of what Kaarn was talking about, “What are you-“

Kaarn cut him off, “Don’t do that! We all know you all want to find her! That girl who went missing twenty years ago! And you know what I want to do... what I need to do..." Kaarn trailed off, leaving the rest of his though unsaid.

Alia cocked her head at this. So her instincts had been right, Kaarn did have some other, greater motivation. But that still didn’t answer what, exactly, that motivation was.

“Yes,” Coran said, not meeting Kaarn’s eyes, “I know what you are talking about, but I don’t see what this has to do with what we are doing now?” Coran turned to look Kaarn in the eyes as he spoke, trying to understand his friend.
“A ship.” Kaarn blurted out. Four sets of eyes looked at him curiously. “That’s what we need.” Kaarn pleaded. “With a ship, we can leave this planet, go across the galaxy, and we won’t have to limit ourselves to stealing from Cor-sec.” Everyone nodded at this, understanding his reasoning, liking the idea. Alia was thinking about how much more comfortable life aboard a ship would be. Maybe they’d even have beds. But Coran still seemed skeptical, even if he now understood.

“Alright then,” Coran obliged, “We’ll start saving for a ship, but I still don’t see what this has to do with the current plan.”

“I want to change the plan,” Kaarn said, and then, seeing Coran take a breath, started talking before Coran could. "I intercepted a transmission a few days back, high-grade encryption, but I piggybacked the Correllian decrypters to figure it out. The Council is going to have a very important visitor in a couple of hours, and they are pulling out all the stops for them, which is our opportunity."

“Look,” He said, hitting a few keys and bringing up a new map. This Alia recognized as the map of the spaceport Kaarn had been looking at earlier. “In two hours, the Council’s visitor will arrive via this docking bay.” He gestured towards one docking bay C6, set away from the majority of the spaceport as a special landing bay for VIPs. “Then, for some reason I was unable to discern, two full squads of soldiers will escort the visitor to the Council building, where he will meet with the Council. The docking bay will be lightly guarded during this period, as so many people will be escorting the visitor. They will be working with a skeleton crew. We play this right and we can get right past them to the ship.”

The room, if you could call it that, was absolutely silent. Alia looked around, and she saw the gleam in Michael’s and Gurkgren’s eyes. They were sold on Kaarn’s idea. But Coran was still not convinced.

“Kaarn…” Coran said weakly, “This doesn’t seem too well planned out, I’m sorry, but it’s true. We don’t know who is coming, whether they have their own guards or not, the kind of ship they’re coming in… we could die doing this.”
Alia had to agree, Coran made some good points. He had always been rather level-headed. But Kaarn wasn’t meeting Coran’s eyes, and Alia got the sense he was holding something back.

“Actually,” Kaarn spoke hesitantly, “I do know all of that… I just didn’t want to tell you.”

“Why?”

Kaarn sighed, “The visitor is a Sith Lord named Darth Arctis. She is coming here to talk with the Council about joining the Empire.”

The room slipped into a deathly silence. No one there considered themselves true patriots, but this idea scared them. The Council wouldn’t have invited the Sith to talk unless they were seriously considering accepting the terms. Corellia, their home, could be lost to the Sith. It wasn’t a pleasant idea.

Having given them time to absorb that, Kaarn continued. “She will be flying in on a Fury-class interceptor. I already hacked the Cor-sec databanks and extracted the standard codes we used during the Great War to hack ships of that particular make.” Kaarn paused, uncertain, then continued, “If she is coming here, she obviously believes that the Council will agree to whatever terms he provides, so she won’t expect resistance. He should have no personal guard, and if he does, they will follow him to the Council.”

It was a good idea, a thought out plan. They were all sold. Alia, though she hated to think her Corellia might go over to the Empire, was willing to go along with the plan. They were all nodding and on the verge of unanimous agreement when Coran spoke.

“How will we escape? A Sith ship, flying unexplained from the surface? We could easily be shot down.” That pulled everyone back as they thought about this. As they realized how close death would be if they executed this plan.
“Yea, about that…” Kaarn said sheepishly, smiling. “I never told you guys. I’ve been thinking about getting a ship and leaving for a long time. Oddly, I never thought about just buying a ship, always just stealing one. So, for the past five years or so I’ve been working on a hack.” Kaarn pulled up a complicated series of numbers on the hologram, letting the computer cycle through them. “It should, when applied, cut the power to any weapons systems on any ships out there connected to the central mainframe. They will all be connected to the mainframe, its standard operating procedure when they orbit any allied planet, so, when I start this baby up, their weapons’ systems will all go dark for a few minutes, giving us ample time to get into hyperspace.”

Coran smiled and laughed as Kaarn finished his speech. “You never were one to come up with a bad plan,” he said, shaking his head, “Sorry I ever doubted you.”

“Does that mean you agree?” Kaarn asked, and the whole group looked at Coran. They thought of Coran as their leader, he had always looked out for them and, honestly, not one of them could imagine going along with Kaarn’s plan without Coran’s say-so.

“Yea, I’m in,” Coran said, and the room exploded in a quick succession of cheers. “But I have to ask,” Coran continued, going over to Kaarn’s side, “Who did you have to slice into to develop this hack of yours?”

Kaarn smiled sheepishly, “The Republic military…” and smiles were exchanged all around.

“I could’ve done that,” Michael said, jokingly, and the group laughed, not quite realizing the amount of skill Kaarn had displayed, hacking the military.

“So how much time is left before they are scheduled to arrive?” Alia asked, still smiling, but letting her professionalism shine through.

“An hour and forty-two minutes.” Kaarn said, checking his chrono.

“Let’s get to work then,” Came Coran’s enthusiastic reply, “High time we got ourselves a ship!” After a quick cheer, the group delved into the dull topics of logistics and details, each person, or lizard, memorizing their role, all professional once more.

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Syart
01.29.2013 , 02:16 PM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by Quifand View Post
Hey, this is my first attempt at a fan-fic, hope you like it. Don't be afraid to say how much you like it! Or how much you hate it, but you know what, lets try to steer away from the latter. Enjoy!
I'm hooked, want to know what happens next
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Quifand
01.29.2013 , 06:05 PM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by Syart View Post
I'm hooked, want to know what happens next
Thanks! Always nice to hear positive reinforcement! I'll have up more soon.
Forceblind

Know who I am? Really? Well, I didn't see that coming...

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Quifand
02.03.2013 , 11:08 AM | #5
CHAPTER 2: Truths


DEEP WITHIN the caves of the planet Draethos, a woman, of around twenty four years of age, sat, a light blue aura surrounding her form. Deep in a meditative trance, she began to sink her mind deep into the Force, letting the current of the Force, like waves, envelop her. Slowly, but steadily, as she sunk deeply into the Force, the assortment of boulders placed around her began to lift into the air.

Floating there, the boulders began a slow orbit of the woman, responding to the waves of Force energy she gave off. Faster and faster they spun, creating a breeze that tousled the woman’s hair. Quickly, the boulders became a blur in the air, moving so fast as to be almost invisible.

The woman, subconsciously aware of the boulders around her, let her mind go blank, knowing, feeling, thinking, nothing. There was only the Force, only the steady wave, the steady pulse of the Force. It was like a heartbeat, controlling the life of everything. The life of every person, the existence of every object. She sunk herself into that truth.

Then the hand steadied itself on her shoulder.

“Natalya?” Goll Pantarn asked, his hand on her shoulder. Natalya’s eyes flickered open and the boulders crashed to the ground thunderously, devoid of their telekinetic life. Goll didn’t move a muscle, aware, but uncaring of the dangerous boulders falling behind him.

“Yes?” Natalya queried, looking up at Goll, an almost annoyed look on her face.

“You were expected at training almost an hour ago.” It was a statement, a fact, but Natalya could hear the underlying question there. Why weren’t you there?

Natalya shook her head in annoyance, “Goll, you know better.” She said, trying to take a commanding tone with him. “I’m stronger than any of the others, by leaps and bounds. I don’t need to waste my time training with them.” She put as much of her anger and frustration into her words, but, as she said them, she could hear how hollow they sounded. How stupid and childish.

“So you consider yourself too good to train with them.” Goll said. Again, it was a statement, but there was still a question lying beneath.

“No, no, I-“ Natalya started, realizing where Goll was going.

“No, you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t have said so.” His eyes seemed to bore into hers. “Perhaps you need a reminder about how much you still need to learn.”

Panicked, Natalya tried to stop Goll, tried to apologize, but she was too late.

The world went black.

Then came the light. From an invisible horizon, the light came, illuminating a place all too familiar to Natalya. An endless stretch of nothing but void. Nothing but the light. Perhaps the ancients had some other name for it, perhaps they even knew what it was, but Natalya knew it only as the Void, the existence her mind held in the vast reaches of the Force.

It was hard exactly to explain what the Void was. It was nothing, yet everything. It was a perception of the Force, but not hers. It was the arena where minds dueled, where only the mental existed, and the physical meant nothing. But it was not her Void, it was not the perception she held of the Force. Whenever she entered the Void of her own accord there was life. There was an endless ocean of blue, pulsating and moving as did the Force. Whenever she forced herself upon another mind, they would see her perception, her ocean, and join her there.

But this empty Void. This empty space of light. This was not hers, it was Goll’s. She had been in here only a select few times before, as Goll was truly one of the only others among the Chosen who could match her raw strength in the Force. So he, more often than not, would be her punisher, being one of the few who could trump her. It had been some time since she'd last seen him, but she still recognized it easily.

Staring into the Void before her, she wondered, for what was not the first time, why Goll saw the Force in such a way. Why he saw only this bright nothing.

“You are distracted.” The voice boomed from around her, from seemingly everywhere and nowhere at once. It was Goll’s voice. Searching the bright space frantically, she found his form, standing, stock still, what seemed like miles and miles away, the only evidence of his presence a black speck in the bright nothing of the Void.
Then, in a blink of an eye, he was in front of her, a shining yellow blade flashing towards her torso. She barely managed to step out of the way, feeling the weight of her body slowing her down. Standing before her, blade held limp at his side, Goll shook his head slowly.

“How many times must we go over this?” He asked, in a patient voice. “Why apply worldly limits to the imagination? To the Force? The Force itself created this limited galaxy we call our own, these shells we call our bodies. Why should we apply such limiting factors when, here, we exist within the Force itself? There are no limits here.”
As if to prove his point, Goll’s body faded into mist and flowed into the air, creating a glistening shimmer of light. And then he placed his hand on her shoulder, and Natalya turned, to see Goll behind her.

“There are no limits, except those we imagine.” Goll said calmly, and the bright nothing around them seemed to waver, then break.

The world fell to darkness. But now, it was not a pure darkness, it was a damp, dank darkness, one corrupted by miniscule reflections of light. Natalya took a deep breath and felt air rushing through her lungs, and knew she was back. Goll’s hand was still on her shoulder.

She brushed it off, unsettled by the faint warmth of the Zabrak’s hand, and stood quickly, running her hands over the creases in her dusty robes. Then she sighed, and took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry,” Natalya said earnestly, “I shouldn’t have done what I did.”

Goll examined her carefully, and Natalya could feel the vague presence of his mind floating near hers, scrutinizing her for the truth.

“Do not worry,” Goll replied, face breaking into a smile, “It is forgiven.”

Natalya bowed her head to Goll in thanks, a gesture of respect here among the Chosen.

“Now,” Goll continued, “Since you have already missed the majority of your lessons I will have to catch you up on what you missed.”

Bowing, Natalya agreed that, yes, that was the best course of action, all the while rolling her eyes in annoyance.
Goll was now walking around the room Natalya had chosen for her meditation, examining it carefully. “Yes,” He said finally, “This should work.” Then, with nothing more than a wave of his hand, Goll sent the boulders out of the cave, scattering them like mice.

“Take a seat,” Goll said, falling into a meditative stance and gesturing to the space in front of him. Natalya obliged.
“Our order,” Goll began, letting his voice shift from merely a physical sound to a mental thought, an idea, which he communicated to Natalya, forming a frail mental link between the two. “Is based on what?”

“The Force”

“Yes, but that is the simple answer. What is the complex one?”

“Perfection? Becoming one with the Force?”

“Half-true. Growing closer to the Force is always a great goal, but it is not the true tenant of our order.”

“Why?”

“Because, young one, we were chosen specifically by the Force to be its conduit into this world. We are already incredibly close to the Force, and though it is important to strengthen that connection, more pressing matters demand our attention.”

“But, that’s not what I was taught.” Natalya’s side of the mental link began to shudder precariously as she thought about Goll’s question, uncertain. “I’ve always been taught that we were to seek perfection, that perfect entity within the Force. That’s what we were all taught.” Natalya spoke, now, ignoring the mental connection between Goll and herself. As she said ‘we’ she gestured widely, referring to the dozens and dozens of the other Chosen who existed there.

Goll ended the mental link and stood, towering over Natalya. “As I said before, that is only half-true. You were not taught wrong, you simply were not taught all.” Goll applied a faint wisp of the Force to his words, attempting to placate the woman in front of him.

“What, then? What is the key tenant of this order?”

“Perfection.” Goll stated, simply.

“You just told me I was wrong! How is that suddenly right?” Natalya stood, now, matching Goll’s height and looking him in the eye. Goll never moved, but he noted the ferocity in her eyes, and how quick she was to anger.

With a sudden surge within the Force, Goll forced his mind into Natalya’s once more, creating the connection again and forcing the memory of her answer back to the surface, so Natalya could hear her exact words.
“Perfection? Becoming one with the Force?”

“Again, only half-true.” The words were not said now, only thought, forcing themselves upon Natalya’s mind. “We do not seek perfection within ourselves, but, rather of the galaxy itself.”

Realization dawned on Natalya, as the pieces fit together then. “Oh…” She muttered, lowly, and Goll mentally reassured her, stroking her consciousness lightly with waves of acceptance and pleasantness.

“Have you never wondered as to the presence of the slaves we keep?” Natalya knew of what Goll spoke of. Manning the simple day-to-day faculties in their Order’s cavernous compound were an army of slaves, devoid of life or awareness, following any order they were given.

“I-I, never thought about it,” This time, Natalya kept her words non-verbal, supplementing the mental connection with some of her own strength.

Sighing sadly, a great gesture on Goll’s part, he though momentarily on the naivety that was forced upon their recruits. It was a sad, but necessary, requirement, but one that Goll felt students as gifted as Natalya need not be restricted by. “They are the Forceblind, the jealous beings who exist outside of the Force. I’m sure you’ve heard of them before.” As Goll thought this, he visualized the images he kept stored of Forceblind men, the Republic and Imperial "soldiers" that mindlessly slaughtered each other on orders from a higher stupidity and sent them along their link as well.

With a gasp, Natalya scanned the images and words sent to her, her knowledge conflicting with what she was being told. "But... but, no, that's not right. The slaves we keep aren't like that, they aren't murderers!" She said this desperately, her beliefs and what she was being told conflicting.

"No, the slaves we have here are nothing but animals. They were Forceblind once, yes. They were once murderers, yes. But then we got ahold of them. And we made their minds our own. They are not Forceblind, they are nothing, husks of the forms they once were. Do you understand?"

"Yes, yes-- but what does it have to do with perfection?"

"The world, as it was created by the Force, is perfect. The Forceblind are the creatures that came and corrupted it. That is this Order's purpose; to cleanse the galaxy of the Forceblind."

"But that's slaughter, murder; we'd be just as bad as they are!"

"The end justifies the means, young one."

Natalya fell silent, absorbing all that Goll had told her. Goll knew it was a lot to take in, the truths of their Order, but he also knew she would be able to accomplish the task. The tenants taught en masse were not so different from the truths Goll had just uttered, just less extreme.

"I suppose it makes sense…" Natalya muttered, her side of the mental link vanishing.

"Good," Goll replied, nodding in satisfaction. "That is all for today, I will give you time to meditate on what I have said. Now return to your quarters, and be sure to be at training tomorrow morning. They shared a cautious smile with each other at that, and Natalya stood, bowed, and left.

Goll stood for a while after she had left, deep in thought. That woman was more important than anyone realized, he knew, and so did the Master. So why was she being taught the front banner propaganda? It was a waste of her obvious skill in the Force, Goll knew. Going back and forth between his conflicted thoughts, Goll finally grunted and gave in. If anyone knew the answer, it would be the Master, and if anyone could change things, it would be, again, the Master.


----------



The Master was in meditation. Swallowed by the sheer vastness of the darkness he inhabited, the Master lay, on his back, and projected his web before him, ever-patient, waiting for the vibrations to come and tell him where his prey had fallen. For hours, days, even weeks, the Master would sit at this meditation, kept alive by the Force, and let the galaxy turn. Then, the vibrations came.

But not from where was expected, but from the depths of his own Order's dark halls. The Master knew not what had happened, nor what the effects would be, but he did know that it was important. Examining that part of his vast web closely, the Master almost didn't notice Goll enter the small cave.

"Master?" Came the voice, pulling the Master from his deep meditation. Without standing, the Master felt the room around him, the ripples it gave off in the Force and saw with his mental eye the towering figure of Goll at the entrance to the cave.

"Yes?" Came the reply, the Master's voice croaking from a lack of moisture.

"I have questions."

A cackle came from the old man's throat, echoing eerily around the cave. "So you always have, Goll. What is it you wish to know?"

"The woman, Natalya, why are we repressing her? She cannot perform to her full potential while being told the false propaganda we spout. Nor can she do so while competing with students far below her own ability. She learns in a day what they learn in years."

Ah, the Master thought, realization dawning, this was the vibration he had felt. This would need to be handled carefully. "The Force has not yet told me different about her training."

"But…" Goll managed, head shaking, both part angry at what seemed foolish to him, and obedient to the Force.

"But, you are not wrong," The Master continued, now understanding why the Force had sent him the vibration, and what it wanted him to do. "The woman needs a higher form of training, yes, but no master existed for her before. Not the right one, anyway."

"You mean me, don't you?"

The Master smiled, revealing a broad grin that was invisible in the gloom of the cave. "That is why I like you, Goll. You are more perceptive than you seem. Yes, you are the master the woman needs."

Goll wasn't sure what to make of this development, but he understood orders, even when given as indirectly as the Master preferred. Still, though, he wanted to be sure. Bowing down to one knee before the prone form of the Master, Goll asked quietly, "What is thy bidding, my Master?"

Hesitating for only a moment, the Master replied, "Take the woman with you to the planet Ilum. There exist the origins of our Order, as I have told you before. Show them to her, teach her the dark mysteries of the mind, and craft her into a weapon far more dangerous than any of the others. Teach her of the galaxy as well, it will do us no good if she is as naive about things as a child. Then, put her through the Trials. If she passes, and I will know if she does, then return here and perhaps all will be ready by then."

"Ready, Master?"

"Goll, do not act as if you do not know what I speak of. The perfection of the galaxy. And you know as well as I how close at hand it is."

"Dangerous words, Master, both the Republic and Empire are growing their armies, preparing for war. Is it so wise to strike our foes while they are both at their strongest?"

"Do not fear, Goll. I feel something is coming. Something powerful. A great ripple in the balance of the Force. Even now I can feel the effects of its coming. This… event… when it comes will be our call to strike."

"Yes, Master."

"Then leave me, you have work. We shall speak again when you are successful."

Without a word, Goll left, leaving the Master to his plans, and set off.

There was work to be done.

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Quifand
02.08.2013 , 10:13 PM | #6
CHAPTER 3: Unexpected Turns

"THAT'S IT?" Michael asked, slightly stunned. "It's that simple?"

"Simple plans are usually the best ones," Coran replied, though the look on his face said he was rather skeptical as well.

"Would you guys stop questioning my plans?" Kaarn asked irritably, crossing his arms and letting his fur tremble slightly.

"We sorry. But life-blood important. Should be cautious when so close to spilling it." The accented Basic came from the cots above, where Gurkgren was lying comfortably.

"He means that we're all just a little wary," Coran said, trying to smooth over Gurkgren's blunt approach. "The stakes are rather high this time."

"Well, if my opinion means anything, I like the plan." This was Alia, who'd always felt that simple plans were the best. Mainly because they gave her room to improvise.

"Mean little." Gurkgren grunted, shrugging in what was almost an apologetic air towards Alia.

"Gee, thanks," Came the sarcastic reply from Alia, with what was both venom and humor. But, glancing over at Coran she saw the steer look he was giving her, and knew what it meant. Don't. Not wanting to cause problems, Alia decided to make sure Gurkgren knew she was kidding, in the most obvious way possible.

"Kidding, Gurkgren,"

"No understand 'kidding', but still forgiven." With that, Gurkgren hissed lowly in what Alia had come to know as his form of a laugh.

"Alright, alright," Coran said, raising his voice so everyone would listen, "We still have a good thirty minutes left until the ship arrives, so let’s get packing. Once we leave we're never coming back, so grab whatever you want to keep."

For their little band, that was an easy request. Aside from the tools of their trade, no one really had any personal items. Living on the streets, they'd never truly grown up with anywhere to call home, and Michael, the odd one out, had no wish to remember his home. So it was that anything personal or special they had was usually one of their tools or weapons.

Alia, who'd been on the streets longer than anyone else and, even after all these years, was still paranoid, had her bag already packed and was just retrieving it when she saw Coran talking quietly and intensely with Kaarn over by the holo.

She saw Kaarn gesturing in what seemed like anger and Coran trying to placate him. Their apparent argument went on for a few seconds, incredibly quietly, and then Coran grabbed his stuff and left through the tunnel he had come through just an hour or so earlier.

She tried to hold back her curiosity, but she had never been good at that and before she knew it she was walking over to Kaarn, gear slung over her shoulder.

"Where did he go?" She asked, roughly, reaching out a hand towards Kaarn.

"Where do you think?" Kaarn replied bitterly, shaking his head, "Back to the memorial. He just won't let it go! He's still deluding himself over his parent’s deaths. It's not healthy, and…" Kaarn took a breath, throwing his hands up exasperatedly, then, suddenly, his anger reignited. "And damn it, he won't listen to me!"

Kaarn sat down. "At least with computers, machines, I can fix them, the problem is always right there... tangible... fixable. But people… people just don't understand when something’s wrong." It was clear this was not the first time Kaarn and Coran had argued over this, Alia could tell. It was a testament to their friendship that they were still friends after stuff like this.

"You have a way with computers," Alia said, soothingly, "But I'm better with people, let me talk to him, alright?" She wasn't sure why she offered, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

"Then don't just stand here." Kaarn said quietly, "Go after him."

Alia turned and made to leave out the tunnel. Gurkgren and Michael looked at her curiously, but were not too concerned, they had bigger problems. Like which weapon would be most useful to bring along.

"Hey, Alia," Kaarn said quickly as she made to leave, "Thanks… and don’t be late.”


"Will do," She said, and left.


----------


The rain was still coming down. Coran hadn’t noticed it before, but it had begun to seep through his jacket. Shivering slightly as he began to feel the cold settle in, Coran fumed.

“Why the hell wouldn’t he just let me go?” Coran muttered furiously, referring to Kaarn and their argument only a few minutes ago. He, having already packed, had gone to Kaarn and told him that he was going to make his last goodbyes. Coran had thought it would be an innocent enough request, but Kaarn, usually reserved and joking, had snapped when Coran told him. He’d gone on about how they needed to let go, and how he Coran couldn’t keep living like this.

Coran kept telling himself he didn’t know where this anger had come from, but he knew he was lying. He knew exactly where that anger had stemmed from. This had not been the first time they had argued over this matter; Coran’s reluctance to let go. In fact, it had been a conflicting topic for several years now. They had just never resolved it.

Kaarn just needs to accept my mourning, Coran thought, and just leave me be. I’m right, and he is wrong! Only after Coran had thought this did he realize how stupid it was.

“No!” Coran yelled, slightly louder than he should have. “Shut up, shut up, and get out of my head!” The cry was loud, but felt small in the consuming torrent of rain around Coran.

“Leave me in peace!” It was cathartic, a way for Coran to get out all the pent up frustration and sadness inside him. Little did he know someone would actually reply.

“We won’t.” Spinning around, gun appearing in his hand, Coran faced the speaker behind him. It was Alia, arms bare and shivering in the rain. Upon seeing her, Coran groaned and holstered his weapon before turning away from her, sending a brief disregard over his shoulder.

“Leave me alone, Alia, I want to be alone.”

“No. You don’t have that privilege, not anymore.” Coran stopped, her words having an impairing effect.

“What do you mean?” Came the reply, directed at Alia. She tried to look Coran in the eye to answer him, but saw only his hunched back, slick with rain.

Walking over, Alia put her hand on Coran’s shoulder and turned him to face her. He kept his face down, as if ashamed, and Alia could see his face was slick with rain. Or perhaps it was tears, she liked to think. “You are our leader, Coran. That means you have our respect, trust, and loyalty, but it also means we will be there when you need us, even if you don’t want us there.”

“I don’t”

“And I don’t care.” His eyes came up at that, and met hers.

“Alia, please, just leave me be.”

“No. I’m not going to let you stand out here and let yourself wallow in pity. I’m staying.”

“Fine.” The face turned away at that, and Alia found herself staring, aimlessly, at the spot where Coran’s eyes had been a moment before. The two figures stayed there, completely still, completely silent, as if listening to a symphony composed for them by the rain; drips and drops illustrating tension words could not.

They stayed like that for several minutes, until Coran broke the silence.

“I’ve just never had anybody… anybody to watch out for me.” Wisely, Alia did not respond, simply nodded and kept silent, waiting for Coran to say more. “You guys, I know you mean well, but I’ll always be your leader. I'll always be in charge of you, telling you what to do... doesn't just work the other way.” This was stupid logic, Alia thought, but, somehow, she understood it.

“And it’s all so pointless!” Coran burst into a fit of anger, slamming his fist into a nearby wall tremendously. “This all is just so pointless! We do all this crap, plan all these karking ops but still no matter what I do, they are still dead, still dead. Every damn night…” He trailed off, muttering his last words to himself hysterically.

Lowering her eyes slightly, Alia saw her own ghosts, her own long dead parents flash before her eyes. She knew how Coran felt, she knew what he meant. Those ghosts, they didn't leave you, not ever.

“I know what you mean." She started, hesitantly, "I can still see my parent’s faces, every night. And I still cry myself to sleep thinking about them, every night.”

A silence fell over them as Coran took in this new information. “I’m sorry, Alia, I didn’t know…” He said hesitantly, as if unsure quite what to say.

“Of course you didn’t know. No one knows. Except you.”

Coran had turned around now, and was trying to look Alia in the eye, but she would meet his gaze. Oh no, she thought, stang, just stop talking, stop talking. But she didn’t. “Because I trust you, Coran. Only you.”

“Alia…” Coran said, quietly, lost for words.

“Just shut up, alright? I’m not done.” She took a deep breath, and then continued, “You mean more to us, to me, than you know. It hurts me to see you destroy yourself like this, to go out and grieve nonstop. To care more about your dead parents than us! Than me! I need you to be there, alright?” Alia, with embarrassment, noticed how she’d moved from “we” and “us”, to “I”, and hoped Coran hadn’t noticed the same thing.

“Alright,” Coran said quietly.

“Ok,” Alia replied, even softer, and then fell silent. The pair just stood there, awkwardly, silently, until Coran broke the silence.

“Here, you’re freezing, take my jacket” Alia blushed slightly at Coran’s concern, and almost told him she wasn’t cold, but decided against it.

“So,” Coran continued, rubbing his hands together, “Let’s get out of here. We have work to do.”

"And, Alia?"

"Yea?"

"Thanks."

The pair walked off into the rain, back the way they’d come. Coran felt a weight lift off his shoulders, if only slightly. He’d taken his first steps towards leaving behind his past. And it felt... good.

Little did he know that his past was harder to leave behind than most.

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Quifand
02.10.2013 , 05:23 PM | #7
CHAPTER 4: Leaving

“YOU SKIPPED practice, and got chewed out for it, didn’t you? I knew it!” Katie, one of Natalya’s oldest friends, cried out in jest.

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.” Natalya said smugly, smiling back at Katie. Katie shook her head vigorously before she replied.

“No, you did. Otherwise you’d be complaining about Drall’s speeches again. He gave one this morning to your class, or so I heard, something about the ‘power of words.’” Katie said mockingly, knowing her old friend too well.

“Seriously?” Moaned Natalya, giving up on her act, “That old fart needs to give up already. Maybe die and spare us the agony of listening to him.”

“Ha! I knew it! You did skip practice, didn’t you?” Excited now, Katie boisterous energy caused several nearby objects in the corridor they were walking down to levitate into the air slightly.

“Calm down Katie, you’re doing it again.”

Katie spun around and glared at the offending objects, and they quickly crashed down to earth, as if fearing her wrath.

“But, yea, I did.”

“Oohh…” Katie said mischievously, looking at her friend. “Who did they send to bring you back? Was it Tryce? Or maybe Jon?” Natalya laughed and shook her head at her friend. Jon and Tryce were two of the younger, and more attractive, elders at the compound. They were young, for elders; the teachers of their order, twenty eight and twenty six respectively. But Natalya herself was only twenty four, and the age difference there was small enough to be easily ignored.

“No, they sent Goll. One of the big-name seekers, remember? The one who found me?”

Seekers were the agents of the Master, men and woman who scoured the galaxy for both the Chosen and ancient secrets to bring back.

“Oh, him? He’s a withered old husk, I’m sorry for you Natalya, it must have been awful.”

“Not too bad actually, though he smelt like old… y’know, I’d think you’d know my answer by now? This is, what, the seventh or eighth time this year I left and Goll brought me back. Shouldn’t you know what I’m going to say by now?

Katie smiled at her friend and laughed, “Of course I do. But so little happens around here it’s nice to hear your story again, even if it is the same old one.”

Natalya was about to comment on that, but Katie cut her off. “Here we are.”

Looking up, Natalya realized that, yes; they had made it back to their dormitories. She was slightly disturbed that she hadn’t realized how far they’d walked, but shrugged off the feeling quickly.

“Home sweet home,” she muttered before following Katie inside the wing.


----------



Meanwhile, in the upper levels of the compound, Goll was walking, determined, to the hanger bay, a small slip of parchment, an authorization for a ship from the Master, in his hand.

Upon reaching the bay, he slipped quietly in, striding across the massive room to the staircase at the back, which led up to the docking control. As he strode, Goll examined the ships their Order had collected over the years, trying to determine which one would best fit his requirements. There was a Defender class Republic transport, which Goll quickly dismissed as too… lavish.

The X-780B Phantom, one of the rarest finds they had, having stolen it from an Imperial Intelligence prototyping site, met the same fate as the Defender, that of being too lavish.

Goll paused for a moment when he reached one of their several Fury class Imperial Interceptors before he found a word to describe his distaste for the ship.

Overrated. Yes, that was it.

It was only when Goll saw the D5-Mantis Patrol Craft covered in scrap parts in a corner that he decided. It was perfect. Unassuming. It almost looked like a hunter, a great bird of prey, and it was just magnificent.

Of course the dock officer completely disagreed with Goll’s assessment of the ship, but when he heard Goll planned to take it, and use it, then he was completely on board. Ships were a rare commodity, and the one form of technology created by the Forceblind that Goll could stand. No one here in the compound liked to give out ships easily, so when the dock-officer saw him taking the piece of crap, he was more than happy to let him have it. After all, even a skilled mechanic wielding the power of the Force cannot fix everything.


----------


Natalya was meditating on her bed, Katie giving her the latest gossip, the different couples and romances going on within the Order, when Goll came in.

It was an awkward scene, the tall, broad, Zabrak towering over the two women, dressed in their own lounge wear. It was almost comical, except for the horrified expressions on the faces of the two women. Though, Goll though, in retrospect, they had probably thought he was coming to punish them.

“Natalya,” Goll graveled lowly, “I have news from the Master.”

The two woman, conditioned through the years, automatically slipped to the floor and fell to their knees, bowing in the presence of the Master’s wishes. For, in their Order, he was everything.

“You may rise, such deference is unnecessary.” Goll said, irritated. He’d spent so much time away from the compound that he’d forgotten some of the customs. Especially the irritating ones.

“What does the Master order?” Natalya asked, head bowed like Katie, still showing deference even though told not to.

Goll was about to order them to raise their heads, but decided against it, rolling his eyes. Sometimes, he thought to himself, sometimes I question my place here.

“You, Natalya,” Goll said, pointing to her to reiterate his point, though the action was useless. “Are to pack your bags and come with me. Your training is to be continued elsewhere.”

“What?” Natalya blurted, forgetting deference and looking up, straight at Goll. “What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said.”

“And what does that mean?”

Goll looked at her curiously, and then decided to ignore her question. “You’ll have time to prepare and say goodbye. Meet me at the docking bays in three hours and we will depart.”

Goll, uncomfortable with the response to his statements, walked out after he said this, unsure of quite what to do.

A few minutes later, the woman were still sitting there, dumbfounded.

“He can’t do that, can he?” Katie asked quietly.

“I guess he can…” Natalya said, mutely, “I should probably pack,”

“No!” Katie remarked, “You can’t just go! You’re my friend!”

“I’m sorry, Katie…” Natalya said, quietly, moving to pack her stuff.

Katie, watching her friend resign herself to the inevitable, scoffed lightly. She, for one, would not stand for this. Striding out of the room, resolve set, the objects nearby floated for a moment, given life by Katie’s fury, and then crashed down, shattering on the ground.

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Quifand
02.14.2013 , 12:39 AM | #8
CHAPTER 5: New Players

“MY LORD, May I ask what exactly the operation is?” The young Imperial captain Lucian Ardun asked, trying his best to keep his calm, even though that was becoming progressively more difficult.

Darth Arctis, one of the members of the Dark Council, whose authority was second to only the Emperor himself, rolled her eyes. The captain was determined, she’d give him that. But that still didn’t mean she was going to indulge the young captain. No, she would make her apprentice do it.

“Please direct all questions to my apprentice and leave me in peace… captain.” Arctis said, coldly and quietly, somehow managing to make Ardun’s title sound like an insult. Before Ardun could respond, the Darth mentally shut the door in his face, nearly slicing off his nose.

A quiet chuckle came from behind Ardun at this; “Looks like she’s giving you the cold shoulder, boss,”

“Oh, can it, Xavier,” Ardun said, walking away from the closed door, his second-in-command, Jack Xavier, right on his heels.

“Come on, sir, you have to admit that was good.” Xavier said, increasing his pace to walk side-by-side with Ardun.

“I don’t find making puns about a Darth’s name very funny. You know what they do to people, don’t you? I heard one executed an officer because he looked funny. That’s all. This is serious.” Ardun replied, moving slightly ahead of Xavier and leading him towards the rear of the vessel they were on, where the Darth’s apprentice, Lord Vain, was quartered.

“Can’t be all bad. After all, they got us stationed on this nice cushy op running numbers. Nice break from the whole galaxy-spanning war and all.” Flashing a grin, Xavier wiggled his eyebrows at Ardun, and Ardun couldn’t help but smile. Xavier had to be the only soldier Ardun had ever met who enjoyed cushy jobs. Or at least admitted that he did.

“I don’t know,” Ardun replied, “It’s all too cloak and dagger. If they wanted us just running numbers, then why won’t they tell us what it is for? And you don’t send a Dark Council member to oversee something this low priority. In fact, they wouldn’t send us for something this low priority either. I mean think about it.” Taking a breath and looking over at Xavier, Ardun saw a look of serious contemplation on his face.

“You have a point.” Xavier admitted. “It is a bit much to send a Special Forces group like ours out on this kind of duty.” Ardun, Xavier, and the four other members that made up their group had been wandering Imperial space for the past two months collecting random, seemingly spur-of-the-moment, readings and data. “Want me to do a little investigating of my own, boss?” Xavier asked callously, as though he was offering to pick up some milk from the store.

Ardun didn’t reply, but made a slicing gesture across his throat, pointing towards a door in front of them. Xavier frowned for a second, but quickly got the message and shut up.

“Wait here,” Ardun said quietly, motioning to the side of the door. Xavier took up the position, his hand going unconsciously to the sidearm he wore on his thigh. Ardun straightened his back, smoothed his clothes, and then made to knock at the door.

“Enter,” Came a smooth, chilling voice. Ardun stopped. He hadn’t even knocked yet.

“Um... Yes, ma’am” Ardun hit the switch and the door slid open to give him access. But Ardun still didn’t step forward. Mainly because he couldn’t see anything. The room was pitch black, none of the corridor lights seeming to offer any illumination.

“I said ’Enter’. Would you defy my orders?” The threat was clear. Ardun stepped inside the darkness. The door slid shut behind him.

All went silent. It was as if he had stepped into another world, Ardun thought, trying to find some sort of bearings. But the task was futile. There was nothing at all to be seen.

“Ma’am?” Ardun called out softly, feeling fear grip his stomach.

“I am a lord. Address me as such!” The voice cried, the tone rippling anger.

“Yes, my lord.” Ardun said, trying to bow, but finding it difficult when he couldn’t see the ground.

“Better. Why are you here?”

“Your Master, Darth Arctis, instructed me to direct any questions to you.”

Ardun could have sworn he heard the voice sigh. “Of course she did.” As the voice spoke those words, the darkness seemed to fall away. Within a few moments, Ardun could see again. The room was not dissimilar to any other on the ship. A bed, desk, and closet, combined with a little floor space. Simple, Spartan, and easy to keep clean. Just like the Imperial military liked it. The difference with this room was that there was a Sith Lord standing in front of him.
Looking up slightly to get a view of this mysterious apprentice, whom the crew had never even seen get on the ship, Ardun let out a small gasp. A short, brown, pixie-cut hairstyle accented yellow eyes and a magnificent smile. Below that she wore a tight-leather jumpsuit, similar to the covert ops gear Ardun and his team would wear. Light, practical, flexible, with the added benefit of showing off her curves. On her feet, she wore a pair of light boots, with, surprisingly, no heels. Ardun had thought it a requirement that female Sith had to wear heels. He was glad to be proven wrong.

“I don’t suppose my Master even told you my name, did she? Of course she didn’t- infernal woman.” Not even realizing that she had been talking, Ardun shook his head and tried to focus. “Well, did she?”

“Um…” Ardun said, unsure as to the question, ”No, my lord.” Came the bluff.

The Sith made some sort of displeased hissing noise, then spoke, “Fine then, what question did my Master delegate me to answering?” The Sith spoke to Ardun as if he were an especially irritating scab that she was desperate to be rid of.

“The nature of this mission, my lord. The men and I were wondering-“

“No,” The Sith snapped, “You don’t wonder, you don’t think. You follow orders. Now leave, your question has been answered.”

Sighing, Ardun stood and left the room, hearing the door slam behind him. These Sith really seemed to enjoy doing that.

“Well?” Xavier asked, falling in line behind Ardun as they began going towards the cargo bay, where the rest of the squad was holed up.

“We need to stop thinking, apparently.”

“Seriously, boss? And you let them get away with that kind of answer? What’s up with you?” Xavier swung Ardun around to look him in the eyes. “You aren’t the same boss that dragged my stupid head away from the massacre on Taris, or took that sniper round for me on Alderaan! That guy would have put the Sithy into a headlock and asked them to give up the karking info!”

Unable to look up, Ardun stared unfeeling at his shoes. “It’s these Sith, Xavier.... I never told you, did I?”

“What?”

“My father never died in battle. He was executed by a Sith after a huge victory, one of the Empire’s greatest, because he didn’t follow the plan. Because he saved thousands of lives by defying a Sith’s suicide run. Because he asked for the karking answer!! That’s why, Xavier, alright?” His voice had grown steadily louder the more he had spoken, until it was almost a yell.

“Sorry… sir.” Xavier said, turning and walking away towards the cargo bay.

Even knowing he should apologize for snapping like that, Ardun chose to stay silent, following Xavier to the cargo bay.

Xavier, thankfully, didn’t slam the door in Ardun’s face as he came through.

“What did they say?” The older, more experienced voice of Vaughn, the squad medic, grunted.

“Nothing, apparently…” Xavier grumbled, picking up his gun, a custom job, and beginning to dismantle it.

Glaring at Xavier, Ardun did his best to make it sound the best he could. “They said we are on a need to know basis and that-“

“We don’t need to know? Figures,” Nicholas, the demolitions expert, muttered sarcastically. “Pay up, Vaughn.”

Vaughn rolled his eyes and threw a credit chip at Nicholas. Laughing to himself, Nicholas spoke, “Shouldn’t have made that bet, old man.”

“And maybe I shouldn’t have patched up your eye on Mustafar,” Vaughn quipped, his tongue remarkably agile given his age.

“Shut it, you two.” Ardun yelled, drawing their attention, finally pulled out of his stupor. “We still have work to do. Vaughn, go collect the readings from the southern sensors. Nicholas, help him out, and keep the chatter to a minimum, would you?”

“Yes sir,” Vaughn said, getting to his feet and stretching.

“Shutting up, sir,” Nicholas said sarcastically, venom in his voice.

Simply shaking his head in annoyance, Ardun waved the two out of the room. “We need to put a reign on Nicholas’ tongue. He’s too much of a smart-*** for his own good.”

Xavier, still working on his weapon, didn’t reply. Ardun glared at him for a second or so, then blew out an irritated sigh. “Xavier.”

“Sir?”

“That’s all; just ‘sir’?”

“Yes, sir,”

“Fine, go out and find Alex for me. I need to talk to him.”

“Yes, sir,” Then Xavier left the room, leaving Ardun alone with his thoughts.

“Eck,” Ardun muttered, sitting against the wall. This operation was just getting better and better. All because of those cursed Sith. Oh, did he hate Sith. They were a blight on the Empire, as far as he was concerned, a nasty, backstabbing, evil, maleficent, disgusting, corrupting, awful-

“Sir, is there a reason you wanted us alone?” Came a small voice from near Ardun. Ardun jumped up, blaster in hand, panicked.

“Who? What?” He said, looking for the source of the voice.

Then, in the corner of the room, where a small section had been blocked off with some linens to give that squad member some privacy, Jane, the squad’s new rookie, came walking out.

“Sir? Don’t you remember me?” Jane asked, crossing her arms and looking, annoyed, towards Ardun.

“Stang, Jane, don’t do that.” Ardun gasped, putting away his weapon.

“Do what?”

“That- never mind.”

“So, was there a reason you wanted us alone?”

“No, sorry, didn’t know you were in here. But, while I have you, go check on the northern sensor; see if anything has been picked up.”

“Yes, sir,” Jane responded enthusiastically, heading out the door. Ardun watched her retreating form and wondered how she was fitting in. Jane, the new recruit, was subject to the usual hazing newbies experienced, along with an additional amount because of her gender. With Vaughn as old and serious as he was, Ardun doubted they would make much of a connection. No, she was too radical.

Nicholas was, well, Nicholas, and though he had probably hit on her dozens of times by now, Ardun couldn’t see much friendship happening there. At least not for a while.

Xavier was always a possibility, Ardun mused, and the two had similar personalities. They might get along well.

Then there was Alex, their eccentric genius. Ardun twisted the thought around in his mind for a moment before dismissing it. Alex was brilliant, yes, funny, yes, but he also had just enough crazy that people could never really understand him. So, maybe not someone Jane would fit in with too well. She probably would have trouble even understanding him.

Sometimes even Ardun had trouble talking to him, but, given Alex’s history, Ardun was fine with that. Alex had been on the fast track towards great fame in the military, in fact, in the Empire, until a Jedi had gone into his mind, attempting to stop him from doing something or another. While no one knew exactly what had gone on in their minds, the general consensus was that Alex had parried the Jedi’s mental assault and had been working his way into the Jedi’s mind when the Jedi was shot down. The proximity to the dying mind had put Alex in a mental hospital for several months before he had recovered enough to do field work. But he was knocked off his fast track and sent to Special Force instead; the dumping ground for brilliant failures.

“Sir,” Ardun heard from behind him, snapping him from his train of thought. Turning on his heel, Ardun saw Xavier leaning on the wall, Alex standing next to him, arguing fiercely with his small droid companion. Alex had built the little droid after his incident, so it was as deranged as he was. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem, as no one could understand what it said, since it spoke only in Huttese, the native language of the Hutts.

“Thanks, Xavier.” Then, after a moment’s hesitation, Ardun decided to send Xavier off. He was still angry, might not be best he heard what Ardun needed to talk with Alex about. “Hey, Xavier, go to the northern sensor for me, make sure Jane is doing what she should be, I need to talk to Alex alone.”

With only the shadow of a question in his eyes, Xavier nodded and left without a word. Ardun shook his head and made a mental note to sort things out with Xavier. Xavier had always had a bad habit of shutting down when he was even the slightest bit angry. That was why he’d sent him off to check on Jane, in the hopes she’d be able to talk to him. Enthusiastic recruits could often have a good effect.

“Eu chutta, mubaba tu kata,” Alex said conversationally to his droid. The droid, nicknamed “Sparky” by the squad due to his occasional habit of shooting sparks from his circuits, responded in kind, with something that sounded sarcastic, even though Ardun personally doubted droids could be sarcastic.

“Alex?” Ardun said softly, trying to get his attention.

Alex spun around and seemed to just notice Ardun for the first time, “Oh, Boss! Good to see, knee, tree, three, tea, pea, free. Did you have something to, sue, lou, new, q.” Ardun stopped Alex before he could go any further. When Alex had been commissioned into his squad, he had been told about his symptoms. No details, just enough to know how to deal with him. They had told him Alex could go off like this, be unable to talk unless he rhymed, and in that case it was best to keep him quiet.

Ardun had heard of mental disorders similar to that, but when he had mentioned this to the doctors they had disregarded him. Apparently his symptoms were, as a result of their cause, directly influenced by the Force. They would be unlike anything ever seen before.

This is why Ardun had always wondered why they had sent Alex back into the field. It seemed so dangerous, so reckless. If Alex had an incident during a firefight, everyone could get killed. But then, that fit just fine with standard Sith experiments. Throw a bomb amidst the men and watch what happens.

“Alright Alex, listen up now,” Ardun said, leaning close. Alex’s mouth opened as if to speak, but Ardun stopped him. “No, don’t talk, listen. I have something I need you to do…”


----------

Xavier was angry. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite sure why. Sure, Ardun had ticked him off, sure, the stupid assignment was starting to grate on him, but that was no reason to just suddenly snap, Xavier scolded himself. “Ugh,” He muttered, rubbing his hand over his forehead. He’d have to see about working things out with the captain. It was a bad idea to have your two commanding officers giving each other the cold shoulder.

As Xavier approached the southern sensors, he saw the figure of Jane off in the corner, recording readings into the ship’s systems. She was attractive, certainly, but it had been a long time since Xavier had, well, had feelings for someone else. And that “someone else” had left some pretty deep scars.

Besides, Xavier told himself, it was for the best. All things considered, taking the wrong step would lead to being discharged from the military, from his status in the Empire, and would probably get him killed, knowing what the Sith did with loose ends. So, for the best, Xavier thought, even though he knew he didn’t mean it.

“How goes it?” Probed Xavier; leaning casually on the guard rail near Jane and staring out the viewport into the vast space beyond.

“Oh, sir,” Jane said, surprised, turning around and snapping to attention, “Sensor readings are almost fully recorded, sir.”

Laughing a little to himself, Xavier turned to look at Jane, “At ease, soldier, no need for formalities here. Haven’t you learned that yet?”

“With respect, sir, I do not believe that is a good lesson to learn. Besides, I have acted so for several months aboard this ship without any problems, which begs the question; why is it so concerning now?”

Again, Xavier had to laugh to himself. This woman could see right through him. “Because, you’re one of us now, well and true. And because I need someone to talk to; and I would prefer it if that person would stop calling me ‘sir’”

“Oh,” Jane said, a little taken aback, “Well, sorry sir, no wait.... sorry... umm, what do I call you?”

“Call me Jack. Xavier can be a bit of mouthful sometimes.”

“Ok, si-, Jack,”

“See, you’re getting better already,”

“So, Jack,” Jane said, standing rigidly beside him, “What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“Eh,” Xavier, or, Jack, shrugged, “Dunno, I’ll think of something. In the meantime, anything you have to say?”

“No, Jack,”

Sighing heavily, Jack rolled onto his back, put his hands behind his head, and looked up at Jane from his prone position on the ground. “No? Really? Not even one question about Nicholas’s ability to annoy everyone? Not even about Alex? I’m impressed. I asked Ardun all those questions and more when I joined up.”

Looking straight at her, Jack saw Jane’s brows furrow and her lips mouth the word ‘Ardun’ and he couldn’t resist rolling his eyes. Of course she hadn’t learned the Captain’s name yet.

“Ardun is the Captain,” Jack explained quickly.

“Ah,” She said, and that was all she said. They stayed quiet for a moment, until Jack, of course, decided to break the silence.

“Fine then, if you won’t ask a question I’ll have to do so for you.” Jack said, sitting up.

“Wait, what do you-“Jane began, before Jack cut her off.

“Nope, I ask the questions now, you had your chance. Alright then,” Jack said, rolling his elbows and cracking his knuckles. Then, in a rather poor approximation of Jane’s voice, he said, “Oh, sir, might I ask why Nicholas can be such a twit?” Switching back to his regular voice, Jack grinned at Jane, and then answered, “Oh, Jane, I’m glad you asked. It’s a simple answer really. Nicholas can be such a twit because he works with explosives, and you have to have a few wires loose to do that kind of work.”

Jane looked almost confused. “Si- Jack, that answer makes no sense, loose wires and-“

“Just let it go and laugh a little, huh? I mean, what’s being a soldier about if you can’t mock everyone else? Not like we do anything else.”

“It’s about working for the greater good, sir.” Jane said angrily, putting emphasis on the word ‘sir’.

“Greater good?” Jack mocked. “There is no such thing. We’re only here to die when our wonderful Sith overseer deems the time right.” He spat, sarcasm bleeding from his voice. “There is no good in what we do,”

“I’m sorry, but no. You are wrong, sir. Good soldiers die, good men, die every day protecting this Empire. That is not something to mock! Sir!” Jane started walking away, and she was almost to the doors when Xavier spoke again.

“Shut up.”

Jane snapped around, “Excuse me? I will not shut up, sir.”

“Do you even know what you’re talking about?” Xavier asked wondrously, standing up and moving towards her.
“Yes, sir,” She said again, once more emphasizing her use of the word ‘sir’. “I know exactly what I am talking about.” And with that, she was gone.

Closing the door to the northern senor room behind Jane, Jack sighed.

“Just keep messing everything up, don’t I?” He muttered to himself. Then, slowly, he moved back to the sensors, there was still work to do.


----------


Ardun was watching Alex work when he heard, rather than saw Jane stride passionately by the entrance to the cargo bay. He could practically feel the anger coming off her.

“Guess I’d better deal with this,” He muttered, moving over to Alex. “Alex, I’ll be back, ok?” But Alex didn’t hear him, so lost was he in his work. Shrugging lightly, Ardun left in search of Jane.

He found her in the mess hall, grabbing an early lunch. Ardun walked over and sat across the table from her, saying nothing.

Eventually, after a few minutes, Jane spoke; “What is it, sir?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Ardun said quietly, looking at Jane as she looked away, focusing on her food.

They stayed silent for a few more minutes, until Jane stopped eating, putting her fork down by her unfinished food. That was when Ardun knew she was ready to talk.

“Does he ever take anything seriously?”

Ardun didn’t need an explanation. He knew exactly who she was referring to; after all, who else could it be?

“Yes,”

“Then what? Because he just... I don't know... he just insulted... everything! Everything I believed...” She trailed off, realizing how naïve that sounded.

“Everything? Impressive.”

“Well, maybe not everything…” Jane said, moving away her food and putting her head on the table.

“You know,” Ardun said, tapping on the table to get her to raise her head. “I find your first comment to be somewhat surprising. Because Xavier does take this very seriously. In his own way.”

“With respect, sir, I find that hard to believe.”

“Ah, using ‘sir’ again. You must be feeling better. And you never gave him a chance to explain, did you?”

“Well…” Jane sighed, “No, I didn’t. Sir.”

“Then let me tell you a story. Come on.” Ardun said, gesturing to the door. Jane, always the soldier, obeyed, following Ardun to the comm room. Once they reached there, Ardun pulled a small holochip from his pocket. A trinket he always kept on him. Inserting it into the terminal, the whole room sparkled with a familiar blue light.

The chip contained a video Ardun had saved from the massacre at Taris, when he’d first met Xavier. When he’d rescued him from among the hundreds of corpses.

But he didn’t tell Jane that, he just let her watch as the blue haze turned into tangible footage, scenes played out from Ardun’s armor cam. Even though he had the video memorized, Ardun still watched it, as if trying to find some secret forgiveness hidden inside.

“-lieutenant, we’ve got hostiles on the ground. I repeat, the LZ is hot, be advised.” That was Cenusa, one of Ardun’s old commanding officers, back from when he was younger. He had been feeding him the last field report from Xavier’s platoon; the 107th. They had called for evac, and Ardun’s squad had been sent in with a fleet of low-atmo gunships to comply.

“Copy that, sir” Ardun heard himself say, the voice much younger, much more naïve. Then the young Ardun proceeded to give out orders to the rest of the squad, all fresh faced recruits, just like him. As the gunship reached the evac point, Ardun looked away as the men dropped from the ship into the field of bodies. The stench had permeated even their helmet seals, and Ardun could still smell it. The bodies were Imperial, Republic, Rakghoul, Pirate… anything, really, that could die…

None of them had faced the monsters that inhabited Taris before. None of them were prepared for the Rakghouls. Horrifying beasts they were, great green apes with unseen eyes and slick flesh. But that wasn’t the worst part. No… the screams were the worst part…

Even hearing the sound from the terminal behind him made him shudder, even though it had been several years since. In a few seconds, he heard another scream. The human scream. As he heard each scream, Ardun checked another name off his mental list, noting another death, another fallen soldier.

Ardun could hear Jane’s gasps as she watched the carnage unfold. Ardun couldn’t bring himself to watch the slaughter, the massacre, the bloodied ground, and the mutilated corpses. Then, he heard Xavier’s voice, heard their first conversation, weaved with curses and yelling. It felt like hours, but then it was over. Xavier and Ardun, the only two survivors, speeding away, a fleet of gunships sending off suppressing fire behind them.

Ardun shut off the terminal. “I hope this makes things a little clearer.”

Jane didn’t move, didn’t speak. Just stood, staring.

“I’ll leave you be.” Ardun said, leaving the room and closing the door behind him. He’d let everything sink in, and then talk to her later. As Ardun pieced together what he would say, what he would tell her, the ship’s internal comm system activated.

“Captain,” Barked Darth Arctis’s voice, “To the bridge, now.”

Sighing, Ardun made his way to the bridge, where Darth Arctis waited impatiently.

A minute or so later, when Ardun walked onto the bridge, the Darth glared at him briefly before speaking, a sharp cold phrase, “You’re late,” She said, gesturing for him to sit down.

“Apologies, my lord,” Ardun said, taking a seat as the Darth stood up.

She didn’t even seem to notice Ardun’s apology, simply moving into what she wanted to say. “You are to gather your men and my apprentice in the cargo bay for a briefing. We should be making the jump to hyperspace any second now and I want to go over your instructions, understood?” As she spoke, the ship lurched horribly. Looking out the glass panes behind him, Ardun saw the star lines appear, the signature of a hyperspace jump, and let his brow furrow slightly with worry.

“My lord, if you don’t mind me asking, where are we going?”

Darth Arctis smiled, a ugly, horrible thing, and spoke softly, “Why, to Corellia, dear Captain, we have an appointment we shouldn’t miss.”

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Quifand
02.15.2013 , 12:37 AM | #9
CHAPTER 6: Plots

CURIOUSLY, MICHAEL watched Alia leave their hideout through his peripheral vision, but quickly shrugged it off. It was of no concern to him, not at the present anyway.

“What you think?” Gurkgren asked him, holding a high velocity sniper rifle in his hand, quizzically.

“It’ll work just fine, Gurk,” Michael lied, feeling a headache start to come on. It was ironic, almost. After the first few weeks with the band, he had adjusted to everything nicely. It had been a smooth integration. However, now that he was reaching the end, it had become difficult again.

Sighing, Michael rubbed his temples and thought about the one thing that always cheered him up. The promotion he would receive when he finally ended his time undercover and arrested this particular band of thieves. That thought, of course, dredged up his rather memories of being assigned this task in the first place.

It had been around eight years ago when, Michael, a rising star in the Cor-sec ranks, had been taken aside to partake in a special job. Naturally, Michael had been ecstatic to start. Little did he know just how much undercover work he’d be facing.

“This group,” His CO, John Holmes, had said to him so many years ago, “Is probably the most skilled group of thieves I have encountered in my time at Cor-sec. And they are nothing more than teenagers.” The CO had laughed tremendously at that, as if it were some bad joke. “They leave no trace, don’t seem to spend any of the marked bills we’ve used, and have managed to incapacitate anyone who finds them. We’re in a bind, Michael, but I think you can help.”

“How, sir?”

His CO had pulled a file from his desk and had quickly flipped through it. “We recently identified the ringleader, not that it helps much, but on scanning his file, I noticed that you two had gone to school together.” Pulling out a picture of Coran, his CO had shown it to Michael. “Look familiar?”

“Yes, sir,”

“Good, because you’re going to be their new playmate.”

So had begun a long five months of rigorous training and study. Before Michael had known it, he was saying his goodbyes and hitting the road. Within a week he’d found the ring. Within a month he was their newest recruit. By the time Alia joined the group a year or so later, Michael found himself in too deep.

It wasn’t that he felt a connection to them, not really. Michael had always been cold-hearted, and this was merely an extension of that. No, it was the sheer closeness between them all. You couldn’t do anything without everyone knowing about it. Michael had found himself at a loss. He couldn’t contact his handlers, and they couldn’t contact him. The whole point of going undercover had just been rendered moot.

So, Michael waited, patiently, for his chance. Once or twice, he been able to get word out about an incoming heist, but they still, miraculously, managed to evade capture. Until now. A few months ago, when warning Cor-sec about another impending heist during a lucky break he’d caught, Michael had received word from his CO.

Execute Plan 6

Plan 6, one of 22 contingency plans Michael had been required to memorize before going undercover, was simple. Michael was to break cover, and arrest or kill all possible targets. It was the plan most often executed by Cor-sec, mainly when deep cover missions had gone on too long and Cor-sec wanted to pull the plug. For the past two weeks, Michael had waited for his chance, but hadn’t found it. Until now.

The coming heist would be the perfect chance to deal with this particular group. Michael had planned it all out while Kaarn had explained his plan. It would be clean and effective. Each member of the group was alone at some point in time in the mission. Michael would simply take them down one by one until it was all done.

The perfect plan, Michael thought.

“How this?” Gurkgren asked again, holding up a Mer-Sonn tech laser guided thermal missile launcher.

“There are no words, Gurk,” Michael said, telling the full and honest truth.

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Quifand
02.17.2013 , 09:54 AM | #10
CHAPTER 7: Briefed

“WE ARE assembled, my lord,” Ardun said, standing at attention in front of his squad, Xavier just to his right. The apprentice, still wearing the same tight clothing as before, stood in the far side of the cargo bay, leaning against a wall and sighing, as if bored.

“Was that necessary, Captain?” Darth Arctis purred, annoyed, as she came into the cargo bay. “I mean, I am not daft, am I? It is obvious you are assembled.” The last words came out with a certain malice Ardun was unprepared for.

“No my-“ Ardun began, but Darth Arctis cut him off; by throwing him into the wall with the Force. Gasping for breath, Ardun slowly came back up to his feet.

“Don’t ever insult me again, Lieutenant.” The Darth said, slamming Ardun into the wall again, for good measure.

“Lieutenant? My lord? Ardun is a Captain, not a lieutenant.” Xavier asked, trying to keep his face calm in face of the injustice before him.

“Not anymore, Captain.” Arctis replied, meeting Xavier’s look with a dangerous glare of her own.

“I… understand, my lord.” Said Xavier slowly, unable to keep his eyes from drifting down to Ardun, still pulling himself back onto his feet.

“Wonderful,” The Darth said, smiling wickedly and moving into the center of the bay, where she could command full attention; as if that would be a problem for her.

“Now,” The Darth began, gesturing vaguely as she began her speech, “This will be a fairly simple… operation,” She spoke “operation” as though it were some vile idea. “I will take this… squad-”
Again, the Darth seemed hesitant to use any military terms, as if afraid it would lower her intelligence. “-with me as more of an appearance than anything. I will speak to the Council. I will win Corellia. Then we will be done. Simple, as I said.” The Darth let out a breath and began to walk back out of the cargo bay. The soldiers, still standing at attention, exchanged varied looks of confusion.

“My lord?” Xavier spoke, stepping out of place in line to get the Darth’s attention.

“Oh, what now?” The Darth said, rolling her eyes, “Haven’t I already given you enough information?”

“My lord,” Xavier pleaded, “We only ask for some details so we know how to plan more effective-“

“Shut up,” The Darth said passively, leaving the cargo bay, “Apprentice!” She cried over her shoulder as she walked down the hall, “Humor the soldiers, would you?”

The full squad turned to face the apprentice, still leaning in the corner.

“Seriously?” The apprentice muttered, pulling herself up from her position at the wall. “Fine then.”

They stood there for a moment, Xavier keeping his mouth shut while he waited for the apprentice to address his question and the apprentice not feeling an urge to speak, having not paid any attention to her master’s briefing a few moment ago.

“My lord?” Xavier began to ask, about to follow up when the apprentice let out a loud disgusted sigh of annoyance.

“My lord this, my lord that, do you even know my name?” The apprentice asked, gesturing out vaguely, as if hoping someone would answer.

“It’s Lord Vain, correct?” Ardun asked as Vaughn helped him to his feet.

The Sith, Lord Vain, paused for a second, staring curiously at Ardun. “Yes,” She said softly, “How did you know that?”

Ardun pushed away Vaughn, getting unsteadily to his feet, “I do my research, besides, you made quite an impact at the academy on-“ Ardun settled into a quick fit of coughing, spraying blood like a fine mist in front of him.

“That’s not good,” Vaughn muttered, pulling his first aid supplies out of his pockets and moving to Ardun, “Must have hit the wall harder than I thought.”

“I’m fine,” Ardun protested, pushing Vaughn away, but Xavier overrided Ardun’s protests.

“No way, lieutenant. Let Vaughn take a look at you.” Xavier said, smiling to himself a little bit.

“Very funny,” Ardun coughed, “Don’t let all that authority go to your head.”

Xavier was about to retort back, the rift in their relationship bridged, when Lord Vain came striding over. “Step aside,” She spoke to Vaughn as she kneeled next to Ardun. “I’ve taught myself some healing techniques, I should be able to fix this.”

Vaughn, after glancing quickly at both Ardun and Xavier, stepped back.

“This may take a few minutes,” Lord Vain said, still looking at Ardun with some form of awe, “So ask your questions.”

“Yes, my lord,” Xavier said, unconsciously standing at attention. “Will the entire squad be going with Darth Arctis? It would be more prudent to send less with the highly trained Sith and leave the majority of our force here in case an evac is needed.”

Lord Vain nodded slowly as she listened to Xavier speak, and then checked a small chrono she wore on her forearm before replying, “There is only about ten minutes left until we enter Correllian space. It will be an additional fifteen minutes or so before we touch down and finally get moving. The Captain, or lieutenant, or whatever here,” She gestured to Ardun, “Will not be fully recovered by then. I will stay behind with him as your guard. Take the rest of your squad with my master.”

“Are you sure, my lord?” Xavier asked, feeling as though this Sith would as least be reasonable enough to question, “I can leave our medic behind to let you go with your master.”

Vain scoffed loudly, “You think I want to go with her? No, no, I hate my master, I’ll stay behind. Besides, I have a few questions for him.” She pointed at Ardun, who didn’t notice, as he was deep under the effect of the healing trance Vain had induced.

“Understood, my lord.” Xavier said before proceeding with his next question, “What exactly will we be doing, out in the field?”

Vain didn’t even look up, “Nothing. As long as the negotiations,” Vain said sarcastically, “go well you won’t even have to draw your weapon. If they don’t go well… well you’ll either be taken prisoner or killed on the spot; take your pick.”

“Um… understood, my lord.” Looking back and forth between his squad mates, wide-eyed, Xavier motioned towards the far corner of the room, where their equipment was stashed.

The squad moved over, all taking careful glances back to where Vain kneeled over Ardun, before Xavier spoke up. “Alright, guys, gear up. Take anything you want, looks like we don’t have much to do but look pretty.”

“Or die,” Nicholas muttered, as he grabbed a set of heavy charges and began strapping them onto his body for later use.

“Shut up,” Jane said, irritated, as she checked the sights on an assault rifle.

Vaughn didn’t move, but watched his fellows gear up, as if in a daze, before finally speaking what was on his mind. “Seriously? We’re just going to go along with this?”

“What do you mean, Vaughn?” Xavier asked, preparing to intervene.

“Leave Ardun with a Sith!” He whispered harshly, “Who wants to ask him questions! We can’t do that!”

“We are going to.” Xavier said, putting a firm hand on Vaughn shoulder, “We are going to have to, unless you want to fight your way through two Sith and perhaps all of Corellia’s defenders to escape. So, we don’t really have a choice right now.”

Vaughn closed his eyes, as if visualizing it, “Stang,” He muttered, “You’re right…”

“Just hurry up, alright?” Xavier said, moving back to finish gearing up, “We don’t have long before we touch down.”

“Yes, sir” Vaughn answered, moving over to his own personal box of supplies; which contained the majority of their medical equipment.

“Sir?” Alex asked, toying with a stripped down comlink, “Do you see that?” Alex, who was speaking to Xavier, was pointing towards the front of the ship. Xavier sighed deeply, he saw nothing whatsoever.

“No, Alex, I don’t, what is it?”

Alex lowered his arm and resumed working on the comlink, quickly fixing the broken device. “Blue, blue light, pure. Soon… the light will come, the conduit. It’s going to intervene. It wants to fix the black spot.”

“Alex…” Xavier said slowly, “I understand, but, we need to focus right now, alright?”

“Ok,” Alex nodded, throwing the completed comlink at Jane. She swiftly caught it and strapped it onto her armor. “Not a problem. It won’t be near us, but Ardun should know. The light will shine on him, and the Sith too.”

Ah, Xavier thought, years of old psychological training coming in, “Don’t worry,” Xavier reassured, “I’m worried about Ardun too.”

The ship shook and the passengers braced themselves as the ship broke from hyperspace. “Alright, men!” Xavier shouted, his voice becoming mechanical as he put on his helmet, “Get to the landing port, let’s move out!”

Vain watched them leave, slowly, and then stared down at Ardun, curiously, “How did you know about me?” She muttered to herself, mind racing.