Dawn of Defiance: Buffalo NY

Bariss Bane

To get to Master Denia we have to go through this entire spire, in other words past the Inquisitor Training Ground, through the Prisoner Detention/Interrogation/Torture Center, into and out of Draco’s personal quarters, and then to the top of the spire where we are hopelessly open to air support fire. Even against those odds I was surprised to notice the openness of everyone to a “covert plan”, a plan that we had all the pieces to.

Exiting the turbolift onto the Inquisitor Training Floor were two Sith Inquisitors followed by two Jedi in bindercuffs and Cad Bane bringing up the rear to make sure the Jedi didn’t do anything about their situation. They go down the hall to the open training ground in such a fashion until the Inquisitor Master on the other end of the training grounds yells, “Halt! What are you doing here!?”
The Sith Inquisitor leading the Jedi answers, “Taking these two up to be Interrogated,” a sickening smile on his lips the only part of his face showing from behind his hood.
“You don’t need both,” replies the Inquisitor Master.

“I get paid by each Jedi, and Draco has my pay,” interrupts Cad Bane from the back of the entering group.

The Inquisitor Master turns his attention to the bounty hunter, “Well then, how about something different? I’ll double your payment for every one of my students you deal with,” goading Cade Bane to action from his greed.

Cad Bane looks at the four trainees on the lower ground, “Kill or wound?”

“Hahahaha, getting soft in your old age…?” the Inquisitor Master notices too late that the bounty hunter used the dialogue to keep his LL-30’s hidden before he brought both barrels to bare, firing two shots past the Jedi prisoners and other two Sith Inquisitors, against one trainee nearly killing him.

The four move into groups of two, the most agile of the group using their lightsaber to create several arcs making a mesh of light to ward off more blaster bolts. Their strategy seems to work when Bane’s next bolt is unable to hit the same trainee as before, but the second shot kills the wounded trainee and both groups abandon the maneuver. The one trainee by himself tries to do a running jump onto the wall and into melee combat but more blaster bolts force him down to the stairs up to Cad Bane, meanwhile the other two move out of their group and each take different cover.

“So much for teamwork,” thinks Cad Bane, “now it’s a free for all with each waiting to see how successful the other will be. They’ll probably kill the one who does me in to prove their worth. Good, such will make this much easier.”

As the lone trainee makes his way on the stairs to the bounty hunter another trainee exits out of cover and makes a dash to the same point with both of the trainees just out of sight of Bane with a wall in between them.

With a movement honed by experience Cad Bane rolls a thermal detonator over to where he can see the part of the level path between one set of stairs and the other that is one meter from the two holding their ground till the opportune moment to strike. As the explosion rips into both trainees Bane tosses a concussion grenade to the same spot knowing that while it’s destructive radius is less than the thermal that the trainees are close and the concussions radius is enough to overwhelm what is left of the dark apprentices lives. Their existences snuffed out the bounty hunter looks to the pillar that the remaining dark apprentice and says to the Inquisitor Master, “How about if I kill that one in a…entertaining way I get more credits?”

“We keep to the deal, and see what you can make out of him.”

The trainee throwing caution to the wall charges the stairs towards his prey only to be met by the wrist mounted flame-thrower that is spewing its fiery wrath all over his body catching his robes and keeping him aflame. Less than a second hesitation is all he gives to his burning body as he raises two more steps and is met by a new burst of flame melting most of his face but not his furor, “This will not stop me, I EMBRACE THE PAIN!”

Cad just looks at him past his upraised arm, “Okay,” and finishes off the flaming human with a third fire attack then turns to the Inquisitor Master, “My credits are now Two Hundred Thousand times eight. I’ll be taking my One point Six Million credits.”

The Inquisitor takes out a cylinder of credits and places it on the altar behind him, “I’ll pay you ten times the original, Two Million Credits, if you can kill me. It will be an honor onto this training ground when I kill…” the Inquisitor doesn’t finish his sentence before Bane sends out an anti-vehicle rocket from his wrist launcher and blaster bolt from his other hand holding a LL-30. The Inquisitor flings his hand and corresponding rocket to a nearby wall and absorbs the blaster bolt in his other outstretched hand, “the Infamous Cad Bane!” he summersaults off of his raised position and takes cover as he cautiously moves through the lower training grounds to Cad Bane’s elevated position, passing the four witnesses sitting off the side of the previous bloodbath.

The Inquisitor exits out from behind a column and roars with the Force. Invisible waves slam against Bane’s mind:

Screams of a Duros family divided into two electrified cages. A darkened figure laughing at their torment feeding off of it and using the fear to paralyze me, there’s no hope. I can’t rescue my family from this nightmare; I’m bleeding out on my knees, I can’t breathe much less raise my blaster, and no one can make it in time to save any of us. I’ve failed them. I’ve failed my family when they need me the most. All that I’ve done, for nothing. The pain I’ve endured, for nothing. The skills that I’ve learned, for nothing. This can’t be…after everything this can’t be how it ends…I can’t allow this to happen…this won’t end here, I will not die here, I will live on long after I murder this man, this thing, and dance on his CORPSE!

“AHHHHHH!” screams Cad Bane throwing his anger and renewed blaster bolts against the Force Illusion of Fear shattering it and the Inquisitor’s strategy of an easy victory. The Inquisitor shields himself from some of the blaster onslaught with issuing the Force into the floor blowing it up in front of him, but even then one bolt gets through. Trying to close the gap the Inquisitor suffers fire from Banes nearly empty flame thrower, as the darkened and yet aflame man rounded the stairs to cut his challenge in two Bane activates his jet-boots and flies onto the lower training ground in front of a waist high energy barricade. It is then that the Inquisitor realizes that he will not be victorious fighting in the conventional sith manner that he has to fight as the bounty hunter would to close the gap, he enters into one of the cannon turret command centers that surround the training zone and aims the crosshairs to center on Bane. The cannon fires, a green bolt the dimensions of a wookies’s arm exits from the cannon and flies to Cad’s head and Bane, using a technique of watching the barrel just before it’s pulled by the act of firing and so knowing where the bolt’s trajectory will lead, leans back and turns his head clearing the path of the cannon bolt milliseconds ahead of the deadly beam of plasma.

Then Bane flies back to where he was on the same level with the Inquisitor knowing he can’t hide from the cannon except to where it can’t fire and readies his last breath of fire for when the Inquisitor rushes him. The Inquisitor surges past Banes flame thrower and makes three slices that would have cut Bane’s legs, right arm, and head off. Bane uses his right leg to kick the Inquisitor’s left hand away from Cad’s legs, Bane then blasts with his left hand the Inquisitor’s right lightsaber hand forcing the Inquisitor to alter his attack slightly to avoid the blaster but then also to avoid Cad’s right arm, lastly Bane crouches to avoid the beheading attack meant for his neck. All this happening as the Inquisitor is still on fire from when he was first hit by Cad’s flamethrower and through shear hatred has the Inquisitor not put out the flames thus outwardly showing the inside flame that has been burning his soul for years.

Seeing his attacks fail the Inquisitor forms the Force into lightning that he unleashes onto the bounty hunter. As the electricity envelops him Bane hears the screams of those Duros being tortured in their electric cages and when compared to that hell what is his own suffering now? Simply it is nothing. The Inquisitor’s Dark Side fueled Force Lightning dwindles as his hatred is outdone by his opponent, and he is hit by blaster fire. The fight continues but the Inquisitor is slowing, his attacks even when they do hit only graze Bane and Cad continues to chip away the dark figure until the man is only a burning husk on the ground unconscious its life slipping away.

“Let him burn.”
“I don’t torture people.”
“Things aren’t people.”
“There’s still something left of him.”
“Not at that at this point.”
“I doubt that too,” Bariss Gigrig levels both barrels of his LL-30’s to the Inquisitor’s skull, “but I’m not him. I’m me,” he shoots both barrels into the Inquisitor killing him before the fire. The fire shortly burns out and Bariss takes from the Inquisitor his two lightsabers as trophies, walks over to the credit stick and verifies the 2 Million Credits he just earned. Just before Bariss reunites with his group of disguised friends he makes a recording of the battle from the local security system for the floor and decides to study it for later, “I’m going to need to know how to kill these Inquisitors more efficiently to earn far more credits.”

View
Dusk of Defiance
An epilogue for Kelyn.

I just noticed that the ship has a log. Of course, I knew it did. Every ship does, but I’d never used the Spelljammer’s. And so, as this is a new beginning for me, I’ll use it. I’ve just got to make sure to keep it private and not push it to my Worldpress blog. I didn’t even know I had a Worldpress blog. What the frack is a “blog?”

§ § §

Bariss and I spent a few weeks running Adria and Bella through a crash course in piloting — thankfully without the “crash” part. Basic handling at first, but they quickly became bored with what amounted to zero-g ballet, so we caved and began some starter combat drills. Both picked up a handful of useful maneuvers. Adria nearly shot me out of the sky several times, and I think she may have given Bariss a scorch or two on his fresh paint-job, although he insisted it was just the shoddy workmanship of those damned Alderaan bay-monkeys.

I’m not a typical father. I don’t know how others deal with the loss of a child. For me, it meant trying to forget. It didn’t work— I’d never been able to exorcise the ghost of their souls visiting my daydreams and haunting my nightmares. However, the details did fade away, and I’m not even sure how old they are. Bella still had that chubby innocence to her— the part burnt off when we realize how much we forgot to enjoy when we were kids.

Adria wasn’t a kid anymore. As a father, I regretted it. As a father and a man, I noticed it, and I noticed others noticing it. Certain other pupils, in particular.

Fortunately, due to my growing notoriety, when she mentioned who her father was to some eager suitor, the poor kid would blanch to some pale species-appropriate hue and back away stammering. I’d slip my fingers from the trigger guard of my blaster and give him a little “pchoo” hand gesture as he ran off. I thought this would annoy Adria, but she seemed to derive a harmlessly cruel pleasure from it, and rather than wonder at the cause of that, I just smiled to myself and thought, “That’s my girl.”

Bella was still a girl. Not just a girl. In the words of my father, she was a “Langolass”— a tom-boy who was all-girl. So was Adria, but there was a more pronounced darkness in the elder sibling. Bella seemed to take everything in stride. Adria’s birth and infancy were tough, so we doted on Bella when she was a babe. I’m not sure how much those not-quite-human early years matter later in life, but she became so secure in the love and protection of her mother and father that, even after she’d lost one, then the other, then was yanked out and into that dark clan of Drac—

Anyway, the thick blood of our brood is all that kept her — them, all of us — from going mad.

Not that being “mad” is such a bad thing if the baying is kept at bay. That’s how Adria seemed, and I felt now that I favored her because she seemed so much more like me. I’m not far gone enough to know that ain’t exactly a good thing, but it feels good to a father, because however fracked up she gets, she knows it’s something (or “something-like”) what her dad’s probably been through, and that we can lean on each other.

For as long as we’re together.

Maybe that Jedi/Force poo-doo will keep us together even when we’re at opposite ends of the galaxy. Surely, she has more “faith” than I. Tor insists it’s not faith or belief, but that the “Force” exists regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it. It’s not a game I’m interested in playing, but if I were, those lil’ deities coursing through our veins can only grant us odds.

Bariss had some tasks to manage, and I was to meet with Tor and Tull for a crash course of another sort, so before heading into the deep mountains outside the capitol city, we stopped by the hangar bay. Bariss had his head under the bonnet of his fighter, but as he heard us approaching, he rose and clanged his melon-sized skull against the hood. Still, even as he rubbed his smooth green pate and winced, there was a suggestion of an impish grin brightening his lip-less visage.

“Girls!”

Adria and Bella rushed to him, grabbing his legs and hugging him tightly. Yeah, they were both still girls. Part of them, at least.

Bariss wore a full-on grin now. I cocked an eyebrow and asked, “What’re you up to, kid?”

I’d swear the red eyes of the Duros captain flashed almost human for a moment. He seemed downright giddy.

“Oh, nothing.” He shuffled his feet in a pantomime of innocence as she girls backed away and gazed up at him.

“Spill it, Unka-Bear!”

I laughed at the formidable ace-pilot. Bariss Gigrig, the scourge of the Imperial fleet, hated that diminutive appellation — or hated himself for loving it. He’d lost his family, too. Maybe seeing the girls back with me sparked some hope of reuniting with his own blood.

Behind Bariss rose a crinkled spread of syntheweave draped over a mass about twice the size of his ship. He turned, grabbed the corner of the tarp, and flung it away with a dramatic flourish. The girls watched it flutter across the bay, then snapped their heads back to the gleaming examples of starcraft mastery their “Unka-Bear” had revealed.

“Our own— are they ours?”

They were. I knew he’d planned it. I’d paid as much as he’d let me, but he’d insisted on final say in the design. They were indeed beautiful: twin Incom Z-95 Headhunters. They weren’t stock, and I had an intuition that Khalik must have worked some of his mechanical magic on them between shifts rebuilding the rebel flagship /Resurgence/. If he’d heard about them, that gear-head genius wouldn’t have been able to resist applying his peerless tweaks and artful chrome.

Bariss walked over to where the girls were running their hands over the shining metal, ooh-ing and aah-ing. He knelt between them, between the bows of both ships, and pointed.

He noted clusters of Durese syllabograms on the bows of the Headhunters. “That one is «Leshef», and the other is «Lona». Charismatic and wise. You’ve both got plenty of each. Probably from your father, although I think you’ve got him beat on the charisma.” He turned toward me and winked. “—and probably in the wisdom hold, as well.”

The girls giggled and gave him another hug.

He seemed… happy. Hell, so was I. Everyone was. I figure we all get a free “happy” now and then, right?

I walked over, pulling the girls into the crooks of my arms and ruffling their hair. “Thank Unka-Bear, girls.” Bariss tried to cringe at the moniker, but could only manage another of those weird lip-less Duros grins. The girls harmonized a literal “Thank you”, although they’d already shown how much it meant to them. Their gleeful appreciation of both the starships and their mentor/friend was good enough for me, but I figure I should teach them the ropes of society — where words often mean more than deeds.

They don’t have to believe it, but they should know how to work it.

“Sorry, Bariss, but we’ve gotta go. Tor and Tull are waiting uphill. We’re hikin’, huh, girls?”

The girls smiled and nodded. They were excited about the trek.

Bariss sensed something. I hadn’t even decided to do what he seemed to know I would. It doesn’t take “Force sensitivity” for a friend to be more aware of your feelings than yourself.

I extended my hand to meet his, then pulled him toward me and slapped him on the back. As we parted, he said, with only a hint of irony: “You’re in control. You make the rules now.”

I nodded slightly and turned to leave. With my back to him I replied, “Goodbye… brother.”

Before the girls and I exited the bay doors, I took a final glance back at him, but his head was already under the engine hood.

§ § §

We took a row-boat from Aldera across the lake, the spires of the palace gleaming golden-orange in the warm morning sun. Once we reached the other side, we suited up and climbed the rugged cliff of the caldera that had formed the lake. It wasn’t an especially difficult climb, although Bella did lose her grip at one point. She squeaked a cry of alarm. I turned, but saw only that she /appeared/ to be gliding gently back, through mid-air, onto the cliff face. I turned to Adria. Her eyes were closed in concentration. She opened them, noticed my gaze, and we both smiled.

By mid-afternoon we’d made good progress into the thick wilderness outside the caldera and crested a ridge, over which we heard a cadence of grunts and focus-howls, then the abrupt rise of one furry and one scaled creature erupting across the horizon, each flipping and gliding, then approaching each other as blades of light sprung from the furry one’s saber, and glowing claws hummed out from the scaled creature’s fist. As they sparred, the air crackled as with midsummer lightning.

Tull and Tor, in all their preternaturally athletic glory.

They were like ghosts on wires— floating, bouncing, spinning, flipping. It would have been impressive enough for the comparatively lithe form of a stock humanoid such as myself, but to see these “alien” creatures, to see a Barabel and a Camaasi performing these fantastic feats, defying the very gravity beneath them, was breathtaking. I heard the girls gasp as they shirked off their packs and ran toward the two sparring Jedi.

Tor snuggled them against his fur. I grinned and waved at them, walking slowly toward the circle. They ran toward Tull, and he swung them up over his shoulders and spun them around as they giggled uncontrollably. A few months ago, I might have presented blaster and blade out of fatherly concern, but I trusted him as myself now. Barabel are not known for their raw intellect, and perhaps Tull possesses even less than the average, but raw intellect only brings one so far. He has strength, courage, loyalty, and honor that ken deeper than the mechanistic intellectual calculation and collation of facts.

Tor walked to me and we embraced as Tull wrestled with the girls. I snuffed at the musk of which his fur was redolent: Corellian whiskey.

“You should bottle your sweat and sell it as smuggler cologne.” He laughed, and I continued: “Well, I guess we’re all done here, huh? Galaxy saved?”

He knew there was more for him and he must have known that it was not for me— nor my girls. And that latter knowledge brought a sad twist of his snout where there may have been a polite grin. He did manage a precarious smile.

“Close, but rebellion isn’t a grenade. We have much to do before we rest.”

“If we can ever rest.”

His face slumped somber. He knew. And, at that moment, so did I. This was not my fight and bloodthirsty as I may have been (or am)— vengeance is not worth the price of one’s children.

Maybe it’s not worth anything.

§ § §

The girls spent most of their time with Tull during our “retreat.” Oddly, considering her more advanced knowledge of “the Force”, Adria seemed the slack pupil in these exercises, while Bella shined. At first it was just a spark, but as Tull tossed the husks of adversity on her with each morning’s exercises, that spark flickered, burst, and bloomed into a strangely cogent fireball of elemental power. She seemed to simple absorb all Tull knew.

When Adria sparred with Tull, there were frequent bursts of rage— enough that I was fearful. I knew Tor was, as well. He would watch with a presentation of sublime calm, but he would know before anyone. He would hear that spirit-banshee scream before any of us, and he would tense as a Jedi does. That is, not like any human would. You wouldn’t notice it untrained, but there was an intense aura of vigilance. Not anything as visually obvious as his fur prickling in a wave over his body, or as a human would grit his teeth and clench his fists— but as emotionally evident as anything in your life had ever been.

He was ready.

He was the guardian of his “Good”.

He was a rogue protector of the innocent, and a savior of the honor so quickly draining from the galaxy.

He was a Jedi.

§ § §

Tull was smart enough to know his limits. He gave them everything he could. In those few weeks, he chiseled them into the martial likeness of himself. Tor might have described it as Tull having given them the bloody memnis of being bred from the Barabian warrens. They would fight now as if they had fought since emerging from the womb.

I often refer to Tull as “smart enough” or in other relative terms of whatever the frack “intelligence” means. I don’t mean that. He and I had a rough beginning. His companionship with Tor, well, hard and embarrassing as it is to admit— I was jealous. But, as for his intellect— who cares? It’s like saying someone is less than another because of their eye color— or lack of visual organs altogether.

Beyond the aforementioned strength, courage, loyalty, honor — Tull is possessed of an unmatched martial wit.

Tor’s sessions were starkly different.

I had participated in both (and have the bruises and flash-fused fractures to prove it), and they were equally intense. However, rather than being a whirlwind of hyperdimensional limbs, Tor’s sessions were akin to some corporate retreat for Coruscant nobility. No— I can’t say that. It wasn’t such overpriced pap and nonsense. Nonsense to some, perhaps— but deep truth to anyone with the soul to listen.

I’m no “believer”, but as Tor has told me— the Force is just “there”. It isn’t a matter of me believing in it. “The Force believes in me.”

It had sounded hokey— well, it still sounds hokey. No match for a blaster at your side. Right?

Perhaps, but when he spoke to the girls— it was as if to children, but not as if they were children. Tull joined us every night for these “meditations”. It was as if Tor was speaking in every language that ever was (save for Sith!)— but not only that, but to every person who was there. Though his eyes would mostly gaze at the fire crackling under the perfect midnight velvet of Alderaan, he would pass amongst us, with this… I can’t describe it.

I can tell you I miss that gaze, because when he looked at us then— well, when he looked at me, I felt such peace. “Peace” in a sense far from the pedestrian abuse of the term, and not accurately described by my inadequate skills as a raconteur.

It was a sudden and almost overwhelming sense of calm, but there was fire. There was an inferno propelling his every word to us. There were holocausts raging around us as his delicately metered speech wove itself between and around all of us— holocausts present seemingly only to provide and emphasize these entwining wisps of smoke.

Seemingly.

As sublimely at peace as he seemed, he was fighting back those raging horrors— and they weren’t some vague or metaphorical terror.

It wasn’t the Emperor reaching across the galaxy to threaten us.

It wasn’t Draco.

It was Adria.

§ § §

It was our last day. The sky was brilliant gold. The clouds were pink tufts of candy floss. It was ridiculously beautiful.

Until Tor came to me.

I was rousing the girls from their bags, helping them get dressed and packed, brushing their teeth with my finger— wetted from a kettle of water over the fire. I laughed as I gleefully performed all those rote, mundane domestic chores I’d missed for all those years.

When I thought they were dead.

Tor laughed as he entered the circle of our early fire. I turned.

“What? Gotta keep ’em gleaming.”

Tor curled back the lips of his snout and slurped his tongue over his pointed rows of teeth.

“Yes, but in such an uncivilized way?” He winked, then turned to the girls.

“Adria, Bella— could you pack up while I talk to your father?”

My neck nearly snapped as I watched them whip to attention and respond in unison: “Yes, master.”

As they went to work, I shook my head and grinned at Tor. “Master. Great. You’ve taken my girls!” He laughed, then put his arm around my shoulders and led me down the path toward the main camp. I was joking about the “master” stuff. I appreciated their respect for the peerless teacher/father Tor had been to them over the past moontide. I held no grudges. We’d camped apart to afford myself more time alone with the girls.

Maybe to prepare them for the decision I’d made.

Tor stopped at his camp’s fire and sat on a downed trunk. I sat across from him, the fire still casting something of a more intense glow in the early morning.

Tor stared at the embers dancing at the base of the flames. He didn’t raise his head.

“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”

I didn’t answer. I was poking the fire, stirring the dark ashes under the brilliant flame.

“Kelyn—”

He hesitated. I knew he wasn’t going to give me a speech about the rebellion and its importance to all sentient life, nor question my ability to raise and shape my daughters into women of whom he would be proud to have been called “master”, nor launch a remonstrative lecture of my past bloodthirsty escapades.

The “difficulties” we’d had through the course of our acquaintance had come close to precipitating mutual murder, but the scars of that metaphysical sparring had hardened into a mutual understanding of each other. On some issues, in purely metric terms, he differed with me more than he did the Emperor, but— at the very least— we tried to understand each other, and often we did. There was a respect that was not always verbalized, and quite often the verbal resolution inhabited a spectrum of profanity that would make a xeno-linguist blush— mostly from myself, but Tor wasn’t above his own distinct flavor of “colorful” metaphor.

In any case, although we disagreed on the higher levels, we knew that the disagreements were not due to some behavioral deficiency in either of us, but because our ethical frameworks were built on fundamentally different foundations. If we had the same roots, the same base beliefs, the same cores, we would have been twins.

We each respected the honor of the other, as if it mirrored our own.

Tor still hadn’t spoken. As he raised his head and we looked at each other, I stopped tweaking the fire, tossed the stick aside, and broke the silence:

“I know.”

We rose, embraced in silence, and I went back to my girls.

We did not speak again.

Yes, it was a beautiful morning.

A beautiful dawn.

But dawn— it is only the beginning of the day.

§ § §

The girls grumbled as they rose from their bunks. Funny how, days before, they’d snapped to complete wakefulness when Tull or Tor but gave a quick, sharp clap near their bedrolls.

I’d tied up loose ends with Senator Organa. He’d agreed not to say anything to the others until they asked— and they wouldn’t ask until they’d finished their mission. I had a hard enough time getting an audience with him, but I had to tell him in person. I wanted him to understand that I wasn’t abandoning him or the rebellion, but that it wasn’t my fight. He didn’t, but his political training had gifted him with the intuition of when someone’s mind was set. Besides— I’d done too much for the “cause” with no (direct) compensation for him to legitimately complain of my “early” retirement.

I arranged to have any items of importance secured from all but the authorized persons. I’d had Bariss’s ships offloaded. I’d even had the cybernetic fittings in the Spelljammer med-bay removed for installation into whatever they were going to call the new Resurgence. Doc Carson would make better use of them.

He’d agreed to cover for me. He’d tell them I had business to attend to before participating in the mission. That was true. If they pressed further, well, as I said— Bail is a politician. He’d brusquely dismiss their relatively trivial inquiries when the fate of the galaxy was at stake, and they’d shut up and catch the train.

He thanked me.

I … I appreciated it, and it made me feel … guilty.

For a moment.

I grinned and gave a mock-salute, then, to my own surprise, recited some half-remembered verse:

—In peace, nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
We must stiffen the sinews, summon the blood,
and disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage.

He smiled solemnly, then replied with a sharp salute.

Before leaving, I remembered the Corellian smuggler and Wookiee that Bariss and I had spoke with on Tatooine, and told him to ask Bariss for their contact info. “Solo” didn’t seem like a team player, but neither was I when first signing on for this fight.

§ § §

I was helping Bella gather her things, slipping on the robe Tor had made for her. He wasn’t much of a tailor, but she insisted on wearing it. I was smiling at the thought when I heard Adria behind me.

“I’m staying, Dad.”

I turned, face wrinkled. She noticed my change, and I realized that I had gone from “daddy” to “dad” and would soon become “father”. I was growing old. My girls were growing up. Life was moving. Only death is still.

“What? Honey?”

“I’m staying.”

She looked so … old. I would say “mature”, but no— she seemed old. Physically, she was a beautiful young woman, but those blue-grey eyes could scarcely contain the legion shifting reflections of millenia. I— I couldn’t, I didn’t— I didn’t know what to say.

How do you tell your daughter— who had been inducted into the fire of the primordial Sith— the origins of the light and the darkness— oh… how do you say “No” to someone who is not only “older” than you, but has become ageless?

“O— OK.”

She smiled back at me. I couldn’t. I tried. I wanted to. I wanted to reassure her that her father— that her “daddy” would always be there for her, with her, across the universe.

I couldn’t.

Bella walked wordlessly to her sister and they embraced in silence. They smiled to each other, then Bella grabbed her sparse wardrobe and comfortable mementos, took my hand, and guided me toward the door.

I followed my youngest as a protocol droid would its programmed ward, but with my head cocked back, gazing at Adria. Would I ever see her again? Will she—

«Will you be alright?»

She smiled.

«I love you, Adria.»

I started to cry.

She smiled. I can’t describe it in any more detail. It was just as words laid it out:

She smiled.

And it made me feel … at peace. Her smile was there, unchanged, as the door to the apartment snapped shut with a whoosh of finality.

It was— it has been— the last I saw of her, but I know— I know she is well. I haven’t seen her, but she’s with me. We’re all with each other.

My resurrected family. Ashes to angels. Everlasting.

We surround each other.

We infuse each other.

We bind our galaxy together.

§ § §

Bella sat near the prow of the Spelljammer, staring at Alderaan below us. Without turning, still faintly smiling through the viewscape, she spoke in a sort of droning monotone with a slithering hiss woven through it:

Nu nulis j’us.

Without thinking, eyes still ahead, guiding us to a clear jump, I answered:

Bella Nu nuli—

I clamped my mouth shut. What? What was th— that— that sound? Why?

Suddenly, she was looking up at me. Placid, sweet, but— somehow wrong.

A poisoned innocence.

A shadow of horror passed over my face. She was gazing at me as a daughter does a father— searching for that acknowledgement of faith from the one who brought her into this damned galaxy. I forced a smile that was visibly uneasy, but sincere. She smiled back, then returned to watching the planet below— lazily revolving in its place in the cosmos.

My hand gripped the throttle and drew back slowly. The bodily recognition of being shifted into hyperspace was more acute this time as half my “self” was left a split second behind, then quickly snapped back to the present. The blue-green glow of Alderaan poured hyper-dimensionally into itself, then smoothed into a diffuse pool of colorless light that suddenly froze, then shattered into infinite shards of starfire as we made the jump.

I whispered, nigh-inaudibly, to myself:

Bella nu nulis j’us.

Then…

Adria nu nulis j’us.

It’s hard for us, of flesh and blood, to extricate ourselves from the temporal and intangible. We can— we can release the past. We can release ourselves from it.

But the past?

Sometimes the past won’t let go of us.

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Bariss Down Time Pt2

The plan’s working, we’re well hidden in the comet’s tail and now we have a better idea of the enemy’s plan. Three Chiss dreadnaughts are between an ice belt, protecting them from a direct assault, and a black hole, making sure that nothing the size of a capital ship could/would go past the ice belt, thus ensuring that all of us coming into this with the Spelljammer as the biggest vessel a good idea, as if we planned that far ahead. Tor and Kelyn think up a plan while commlink silence is broken by the other scoundrel negotiator, Baldr. Negotiation doesn’t seem bad for once Princess Leia is shown being tortured … it’s fake, has to be.
“That’s real,” Khalik adds after a quick check.
“Not vidshop,” adds Daze.
“Bring my daughter back, I don’t care how!” Senator Organa’s voice blares into my head.
Wakamancha Chiss! I’m too far away to get there fast enough to help with normal speed but a small jump will do, just outside the ice belt.

Deflecting another Chiss blaster cannon bolt into the last populated hangar destroyed the remaining Chiss starfighters in reserve, now only a few are left. The adrenaline’s practically gone and yeah these guys are efficient, it’s just that…all they have are numbers. Hm, wait wasn’t I here for something…someone…Princess Leia!

The trip back to Alderaan is nothing as expected, the princess is taking her new parts in stride, our prisoner is safe, even from me, and I’m repairing Tris from a rookie’s lucky shot on her. It’s also a bit confusing as to why Carson hands me a rubber glove to “scan” Admiral Thrawn, it’s as if he wants me to put my hand up his…is that security camera focusing on us?

Handing Princess Leia back to her father is going rather, well. Senator Organa is relieved that she seems mentally sound while Princess Leia shows off her new strength by damaging stone with no harm done to her. I’m surprised the senator is so calm about handling Thrawn, the man directly charged with harming our princess, in a peaceful manner. Looking upon Senator Organa I’m sure that he wouldn’t fall to using torture on anyone. Such is more of a reason to protect him, and others like him, from monsters like Thrawn and Draco.

Six months of being grounded while we wait for the galaxy to forget, at least a little, about our group. Baldr is in his element on Alderaan, he’s living in a politician’s world talking to anyone and everyone. Carson mostly stays near the palace or the Spelljammer’s medlab, he seems more recluse these days and I hear odd things from Tull about his behavior. Khalik I lose track of easily, as far as I know he’s somewhere in the Outer Rim creating a new Resurgence. I’m still waiting on a reply from him about possibly coming over and flying Tris or a new companion. Tull and Tor are in the mountains training like the monks they are. Daze is doing something somewhere not near me and I’m good with that. I do not see Tommy these days except when I train with the rebel commandos. Kelyn and his daughters I see every day, Kelyn and I share the notion that his daughters should know how to pilot everything from a speeder bike to a heavy freighter. I even suggested to Kelyn that he get them two Z-95’s soon so they can learn one on one how pilot starfighters as well as keep them maintained and even modify their spacecraft as they go forward and figure out their preferences. A Z-95 Headhunter is the perfect starter for any good pilot.

A few months in and Kelyn’s daughters are shaping up to be damn good pilots, they’ve got their act together enough to not need me. This works since I’ve finally gotten word back from Khalik that work on the new Resurgence has moved forward enough for me to travel out there, while I go to the shipyard and physically train new rebel pilots Kelyn and his family will train under Master Tor. I’m not one for the Force, but Mappo definitively used it to his advantage in becoming the pilot he is now. I don’t doubt that Kelyn will help guide his daughters down the same Force path.

I walk into the Spelljammer’s medlab and stand next to Carson as he’s bent over his desk on the other side of the room as I hold a familiar box of cybernetics.
“Hey Carson, I need you to put this in me.”
Carson looks up from his work, a quizzical look on his face. He stands up, taking the box and starts to rummage through the contents.
“What is this…”, he pulls out an external tube, “where did you get this?”
“From Exovar back when we had the time. I nearly died being force choked before on the Resurgence and would greatly appreciate you putting all this in me so I can’t be choked to death because some guy in black looks at me weird.”
“You don’t even know what this does do you?”
“It should prevent me from being force choked, and help out with breathing in a vacuum if I happen to not be wearing my helmet that day.”
“God Bariss, are you even thinking?”
“Hey! I could get this done in some hotel room by a random guy. I just prefer it done by you, but if you’re not willing.”
I go to take the box out of Carson’s hands. His grip tightens on it. We lock eyes, and have an understanding.

“Okay Bariss, the external wear can be taken off and put back on but be careful doing so. If you take if off or put it on wrong you’re going to notice in a bad way.”
“As long as I can and the internal stuff is working.”

0500: Wake up.
0530: Breakfast
0600: Train new recruits.
0900: Train intermediary recruits in front of new recruits.
1200: Lunch
1230: Calisthenics
1300: Train veteran recruits in front of intermediary and new recruits.
1500: Classes dismissed to maintenance and other classes. Train with commandos.
1800: Dinner
1830: Stretch off commando training.
1900: Maintenance of Tris, Happiness 2.0, weapons and gear.
2100: Read status of recruits in other classes, update my notes to teacher’s pool.
2300: Sleep

Six months are nearly done, and I’ve nearly trained all one hundred and ten of my students to the proper level needed for combat. All they need now is experience against the enemy, in bite size chunks so I don’t lose many of them, and they’ll be far superior to those pilots the empire puts in space. The new Resurgence is also about done, all that is left is her new name and a proper celebration carried about with everyone present. From what I hear Baldr, Carson, Tull, Tor, Kelyn, Tommy, and Daze are all coming to the naming ceremony.

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A Tale Called Tull Part 19
To Train a Tull

Tull’s hands slammed into the durasteel flooring, pulling half the area in front of him up into a supplementary shield as blaster fire pounded around him and his friends. Wizard sat on the floor cross legged with his eyes closed, building energy. Tull put his own body in front of Wizard and the rest of his friends as blaster fire was traded back and forth. Tull’s body was repeatedly hammered by concussive force, burning his scales and body. He took wounds that would have felled lesser men, and kept standing, protecting his friends. Then Wizard’s eyes opened, and the enemy was gone.

- – -

The mountains of Alderaan were a place of peace and beauty. Never in Tull’s life had he been in such a place as the small mountain retreat the senator had lent to Wizard for training. From Barab I, to the slave pits, to the countless battles in space, Tull’s whole life had been pain, fear, and death. Finally, he had found what it meant to be at peace. To be safe.

The air was always crisp and cool with that smell of leaves, sun, and soil. Tull sat on the open ground covered by a canopy of great trees and meditated. Tull could not touch the force as Wizard could, but Wizard had taught him much of the Jedi and the force. All things in the Galaxy were connected by the force. Tull, Wizard, the trees, the stars, the earth, people, plants, creatures, friends, enemies, the good, the bad, all were surrounded, bonded, and pierced by the force. All were one among the force, so though Tull could not reach out and touch the force, he knew it reached out and touched him. Peace and serenity. These six months would become one of Tull’s fondest memories.

“Tull my dear friend, I believe it is time we practiced our blade work,” Wizard smiled as he stood over the meditating Barabel.

“You have more to show Tull?” he said opening his eyes and finding even siting down he did not have to look up far to see the standing Caamasi’s face.

“I believe you have more to show me my friend.”

- – -

Wizard had been sitting before the small fire pit for more than three days now in a state of meditation, focusing his will into what he called his Holocron. He did not eat, he did not sleep, he did not relieve himself, he did nothing but sit and meditate.

In the mornings Tull would run. He figured around the mountain was about 4 miles and usually did three revolutions before returning to the retreat. After, he would build his muscles, keep them strong, by pulling smaller trees from root and then replanting them elsewhere. He would hand stand and push his body up repeatedly with just his arms, focusing on remaining upright as he pushed his heavy form up and down in the air. Sometimes he would move the large boulders around the area, but often it would bring memories of his slavery in Dool Arena and he could not continue the exercise.

Tull would train with his lightsaber and saber claws as well, and always he would meditate throughout the day. Through it all – as the Barabel fortified his mind, body, and skills – Wizard sat and did not move. At night Tull would build a fire before the Jedi Master and make dinner enough for two, so that Wizard could eat if he were to awaken suddenly. More often than not Tull would eat both meals and still be hungry. That too was part of his training.

The night of the fifth day as Tull was just finishing the cooking Wizard opened his eyes, smiled, and said, “It is ready Tull, my Holocron can now be made.”

- – -

About two months after they had first come to the retreat a small speeder had arrived bearing four people, two men and two girls. Carson Man with Kelyn Captain and his daughters had come to train in the ways of the force, to find truth in questions only Wizard could answer.

Wizard would spend much time talking with them all over the next several weeks, teaching them to reach and touch the living force, to move small things at first and to feel the world around them. In this Tull was useless to help and in these moments of training Tull would often feel envy at his lack of force sensitivity. At these times Tull would meditate the hardest to push these thoughts away. Envy could lead to anger, which would lead to hate, which would take him into the arms of the Dark Side he had been trying to escape since meeting Wizard those many months ago. Tull would meditate and Wizard would teach.

The girls had been in the hands of Sith Inquisitors for a long time and their minds were a jumble of confusion and misbelief in the force. In this Tull could assist Wizard in leading the girls on the right path. The philosophy of the Jedi was something Tull knew and believed with all his heart, in this he could help the young humans just as well as Wizard.

However, Lightsaber training was where Tull really shown. Kelyn Captain was an adept blade already so he picked the lessons up quickly. Carson Man was a pacifist, so he learned only as much as he needed to not kill himself while using a lightsaber. The girls were a whole different animal. Willing to learn and already with a working knowledge of lightsaber forms. The girls fought with anger and passion, and Tull needed to teach them serenity in the middle of battle, no easy feat.

The girls would attack Tull with their training sabers, screaming passion, and as calm as anything Tull would sweep them off their feet or into one another. He didn’t need to use his size and strength, his speed and calm were enough to offset the redeemed girls trying at a higher calling. Over time they would calm themselves and fight with something close to peace.

As the group of force sensitives and Tull practiced dueling, patience, and the ways of the force Tull could see Wizard with an ever slight smile on his face, one Tull shared. This new Jedi Order would be nothing like the last, but they would be Jedi none the less.

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A Bridge to a New Path

This place gives me the creeps, and it doesn’t help that Khalik seems freaked out and Tor is alert about some Force stuff. I really, really, don’t need to be Force Choked again.

We continue down the dark cave into a clearing with a bridge and funky looking water…that probably isn’t water, and a bridge? Really? I heard all I needed to know about bridges in a Force Corrupted place from Tor and Tull when they were after Draco, fracking hell. We line up: Tull, Khalik, myself, Tor, etc. I have my new Commando Sniper Rifle at the ready, as if it’ll help against the Force, as we move onto the bridge. Literally from nowhere a heavy mist blankets the bridge as well as all of Tull and half of Khalik. No more than a second later I hear Tull roar followed by a splash in the water-ish liquid under us. Khalik dives in, which means that the splash was Tull and whatever took him out is now in front of me somewhere hidden in this fog. I turn facing Tor, “Did you see that?”.

Tor’s face remains alert, but he does not ready himself for battle, he just looks forward as if Tull was safe and no threat exists. Wary I step forward, forward, look back to see no one and turn forward to see a…door. A door at the end of a bridge, a door which I didn’t see before when there wasn’t a heavy mist around. Abyss.

I get to the door, it’s a normal sealed door for a freighter or any other transport ship for that matter. Definitively shouldn’t be here. I touch the keypad and the door opens to a cockpit, the visible stars aren’t familiar and that brings a feeling I haven’t felt in a while, a feeling of dread. I feel my death in this cockpit. I will not go quietly, I shoot a round into the main window to the galaxy and my shot is deflected by a small green line. Ah poodoo it’s a lightsaber.

“Do that you should not.”
“Fear death do you?”
“Can not avoid, death can you.”

I look down and see a small statured, green skinned, cane wielding, Jedi.

A small crack starts at the point in another duraplas window where the blaster bolt was redirected

“Think you better than others hmmm. Think you not die?”
“Into fight you fly, no fear.”

“I’m not better. … I was just having fun.”

Laughter from an unseen source

“You not better. You die. Die we all will.”

The small crack expands, the window begins to break

Waves of ice break against me as he coldness of space invades the cockpit, my arms and legs become numb and heavy. The darkness of space envelopes me, bone chilling cold, struggling in vain as I’m drowning in…water? I barely get to the surface and see the other side of the bridge in front of me. Once I beach myself on the ground I see Khalik over Tull, a massive hole in Tull’s chest. More of our party is fished out of the “water” and they explain their visions while crossing that karking bridge. All the while my conversation with Khalik echo’s in my mind.

I can’t always be a pilot, and while I don’t believe it, I can’t be the best and I can’t take that limitation.

I’m going to die, sooner rather than later if I keep charging in. I need to plan, but only one person had plans that survived contact with an enemy. Cad Bane.

Chuba doompa, dopa-maskey kung! I despise the man still…but he was effective.

Hmm.

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Truth in the Mists
Carson's Log 2/15/13

Carson tentatively stepped out onto the bridge after watching his comrades charge forward into the mists. This didn’t feel right. Carson wasn’t sure how, or why. Come to think of it, ever since they began the descent it hadn’t felt right.
He stepped out onto the bridge and suddenly he was standing before a crowd of thousands. The doctor was speechless. The massive crowd cheered in honor of a nameless deed he couldn’t have fathomed.

He heard a thud and looked down at his feet.

“Identify…” A voice spoke.

He recognized that voice. A chill shot through him. Darkness followed it.

He turned to face the speaker.

Emperor Palpatines haggard face stared back at him.
“What?” Carson asked, unsure of what was even happening. This made no sense, and yet it was so very real.

He picked up what was at his feet… a severed head. Carson almost threw it off the balcony in horror when he realized both who it was and watched as the head spoke. “Please… kill me.” it pleaded.

It was Maya.

Carson stood, mouth agape.

“I don’t… I don’t understand.”
IDENTIFY CAUSE OF DEATH.” the sith lord spoke.
“Decapitation?” Carson muttered.

The Sith Jedi cackled. “I choked her… with the force… FOR BEING A TRAITOR TO THE EMPIRE!” he boomed. The crowd ate it up, roaring in celebration. Celebration of the deaths of his friends. Celebration in his being exiled, hunted and facing certain death at every turn. Celebrating the slaughter of nameless aliens being put to death, or worse, for the Empire’s twisted needs.
Rage welled up within him, but he forced himself to keep a calm demeanor.
“A Jedi must control his emotions to feel the Force in all things.” he heard Tor say.
He looked down at the still quivering head with fear, as Rosie’s face now stared back at him, mouthing the same, pleading words. "Please…kill me. "

He pushed back tears. He wanted to vomit. Emotion had to wait. He pushed it all down, numbing himself. He turned back to the Emperor.
“The only traitor I see here….” he spoke with a newfound confidence “Is you.”

It seemed as if his entire life had led up until this moment.

“Lord Vader…” he commanded. “Deal with this traitorous pig.”
Suddenly, Vader slashed out at the head with his lightsaber, as it now resembled Padme.
The two Sith Lords shot massive waves of lightning at each other, the waves colliding in a cacaophonus blast of light and sound. So immense was the transfer of energy that the building began to collapse.

Carson felt the balcony giving way and quickly scanned for an exit. A roaming camera droid was his only option. He ran towards it and jumped, reaching out with everything he had.

Hands touched durasteel… then slipped. He was in freefall.

He watched the ground rushing up to break him.

He couldn’t help but smile, knowing he would leave the empire in ruins as he felt the iron fence spear through his chest.

Then it all went black.

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Carsons Log 2213

(I wrote this one right after our last session and meant to rewrite it/ edit it. Never got around to it, so I figure I’ll post it here in it’s original form since I don’t know what else I want to do with it.)

Carson slipped into the well furnished room that Senator Organna had set him and his allies up in. His mind had been spinning lately, wondering whether any action he took was the correct one. He turned to Tor for solace. The young Camaasi’s comments were always insightful, and if the embattled doctor needed one thing, it was sanctuary from the emotions and feelings that swam through his head daily. He found Tor standing on the balcony, looking out into the skyline. A vibrant mix of blue and orange hues greeted the pair.
“Tor, I was wondering if you had a moment to talk.”
“For you, my friend, I always have time.” Tor responded pleasantly.
Carson breathed out a sigh as he leaned against the ancient stone railing.
“You recall Aurra Sing, the bounty hunter?”
“Yes, I believe I recall you saying that you encountered her again in your travels.” Tor added.
“Well, yes. Cad Baine, he had Barris’ family and we were trying to rescue them. Aurra had ambushed us from behind. I swore a path of non-violence, and yet, when she took aim at Barris’ and our allies, I let loose with the very same poison she had tried to kill us with.”
“As I’m sure you recall, it’s quite virile. Instantly begins to eat away the tissue, almost like an acid. Within a minute, any limb it is set into will be completely dead with no hope of repair. I watched her body instantly succumb to this poison. The look on her face…” Carson trailed off, overrun by memory. He composed himself again. “I swore an oath to not harm anyone again… and yet I had no problem pulling the trigger that day. We let her go because we felt there was a chance of redemption, and still she was there ready to destroy us in cold-blood.”
“You want to know if the decision you made was the correct one?” Tor interrupted, his eyes closed, hands folded in thought, his mind brought into a razor sharp focus on the moment.
Carson nodded. “Yeah…”
“We have to live with our actions regardless of whether they are right or wrong. You’ve seen me tread some dark paths, but those actions are a part of me, just as yours are part of you. They shape our character and, in the end,make us who we are.” Tor added, resting hand reassuringly on Carson’s shoulder.
“You are a good man, Carson. We’ve all come far since we began this journey together. Each of us is coming into our own. I think you’re finding who you are. The force guides all of us in anything we do. The light side and the dark side can both pull us in directions, sometimes directions we never anticipated going.”
“That’s the thing,” Carson added “I don’t know where the light side begins and where the dark side ends anymore. It’s clouded, shrouded and hazy, as if I’m stumbling through the dark and hoping to find the right path.”
“We must listen to our hearts, feel the force flowing through us. If we give ourselves to the flow of the force, the light side will guide us. It ebbs and flows through everyone. Even in Aurra Sing. There is good in all people, Carson. I know you see that. The force will guide you if you let it.”
Carson smiled, looking out over the skyline with the jedi.
“When we were on Coruscant, we were abducted by a detective by the name of “Holmes” I believe. Well, he and his men actually saved our lives, although they were more interested in the bounty on our heads than our well-being. We had to fight our way out…"
Carson paused, replaying the events. “We were able to capture him, eventually. And I overheard some of the others discussing torture, to try and glean some information from him.” Carson shook his head as he continued. “I- I couldn’t let that happen. Not anymore. So, when no one was around, I took off the binder cuffs and released him into the night. I fear my stance on the matter is ruining my relationship with our friends…”
Tor continued to stand, gazing into the distance. “Don’t worry, Carson. They are… good people. We’ve all suffered at the hands of the empire. We’re all concerned for our safety. Trust yourself to make good decisions and the others will follow. Have no fear and let the Force guide you. You are a man of principles, Carson. Have faith in yourself, and in the will of the Force.” Tor said, watching the sunset on yet another planet, the temparate wind not different from the last planet, or the planet before that.
“We are doing the right thing. Never lose sight of that and never lose sight of your values.”
Tor smiled. The Jedi was right. He needed to act, and not acting at all would cause more harm than good in many situations. If he didn’t act medically to help a patient, they would certainly die. To the best of his ability, he had to try.
“Thanks Tor. I truly appreciate your wise counsel.” Carson added as he turned to leave.
The sunset turned a deep purple, with a fiery orange cresting the horizon as it slowly sank.
Carson couldn’t help but see a parallel between the sunset and he and his allies. Sometimes they sank into dark places, but while drifting through shadows, they would still be a beacon in the darkness, and in the end, they would arise from it.
The dinner bell echoed throughout the palace as Senator Organna called the group down to share in their dinner.

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Carsons Log
"What's the worst that could happen?"

Carson sat at the spacious workbench, finally getting the chance to run through the cybernetic surgery equipment he had found during their travels. It was nice to finally have some time to go through all of it, without the hustle and bustle of his comrades on board. Khalik was taking a similar respite across the retrofitted cargo bay, modifying some of his equipment for combat use. The young Jedi had come far in his training, and in general. Truly, they all had. Carson had simply been a physician trying to get home when this all started. Now, he toed the line between good and evil daily. Visions of Aurra Sing, her body almost instantly necrotizing came to mind.Those horrors were caused by his hand, after he’d sworn never to harm another being again. Was it justified? The party nearly unanimously agreed. He’d never have forgiven himself if he’d let her die. Even releasing the investigator they had captured on Coruscant had damaged his relations with his comrades. ‘Well, no one ever said the high road was easy.’ Carson thought as a cybernetic fist ran through a test cycle, checking its’ range of motion.
Carson was broken from his deep thought by his personal commlink. A hologram shot up out of his datapad, showing him Baldr and the others, apparently at one of the most prestigious clubs on the planet. The hologram was almost blinding with brightness.
“Doc, can these be taken out?” Baldr asked.
Carson paused before responding, not quite believing what he was hearing, seeing party guests sporting implanted sunglasses on their foreheads.
“Look, we need to get these goggles to make a good impression. Should we get them done here? Can you take them out?”
“From where? Why do you ‘need’ them?” Carson added.
Baldr got a bit frustrated. “Just answer the question, Doc…”
“You really should get those done someplace more thorough than a night club.”
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Baldr added. “Okay, we’ll see you later.”
“You aren’t actually getting this done…” Carson trailed off. Baldr had already ended the communication. Carson sighed, trying to turn back to his work. He couldn’t help but think of just how his friends were getting these goggles implanted. He kept envisioning a Toydarian black market dealer, in a dark alleyway. Somehow, he couldn’t stop seeing Baldr’s grinning face waiting for the knife.
Somehow, he wouldn’t have it any other way, he thought as his head lightly hit the desk in frustration.

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A Tale Called Tull Part 18
The Force

The Zabrak female was quite a sight in her tight black clothing and red hair tied back in a sharp pony tail behind her frontal spikes. Her form was slim and attractive and even Tull’s reptilian blood couldn’t help but heat from the woman’s appearance. When she ignited her red saber and came at Tull he knew she was a blade master of no small note. Tull launched at her with his shorter but quicker saber claws. The woman kept swinging her blade in a wide arc keeping Tull at bay enough where he couldn’t get near her body. She was skilled indeed.

The woman pressed her attack constantly, but Tull was able to turn aside every blow that came at him, catching her red blade on his yellow claw blades. The woman was a better sword than Tull, more honed and trained, but the woman was small and Tull had nearly three hundred pounds on her tiny frame. Every attack from him pushed her further and further back. This would end with one of them making a mistake, and then one of them would die. This Zabrak was a Sith, filled with anger, rage, and the dark side, but Tull couldn’t help but admire her blade work. Few people in the galaxy could stand before Tull Raine and live, that this woman was giving him so much trouble filled Tull with a deep respect for the woman.

Over their comm beads Tull heard the call from one of their allies on the Resurgence, they were flying a star ship through the remaining interior of the Resurgence itself. Just as the comm went off Tull could hear metal tearing on metal and he knew the ship would be upon them soon. Tull took a quick look at the Sith and at Padawan Khalic, realizing a stray bit of shrapnel would tear them apart. Tull lunged in close and grabbed the woman’s sword arm as he deactivated his blades, causing her arm to twist and deactivate her own. Tull whipped her own arm around her and pulled her body close to his while simultaneously pulling Padawan Khalic near him and pushing both Zabraks down to the ground, shielding them with his own body.

As the ship came hurtling through the interior to end on their floor red hot metal sheared off through the hallways all around Tull and the two Zabraks. Tull could feel burning metal dig into his back and all up and down his legs. Tull’s armored skin was hard enough that the metal just lodged in his outer layer of skin. Painful, but not deadly. Had he not covered the two Zabraks the metal would have likely sheared them into pieces.

Standing up Tull left Padawan Khalic on the ground as he spun the red haired woman around in his huge hands. She gave him a look of utter confusion as she rested in his massive grip. He could have snapped her spine with a squeeze if he so chose. Instead, as Tull felt the Resurgence going into its death throws, Tull tossed the woman into the turbolift she had recently exited and slammed the express button to the nearest hanger bay. As the door slid closed the woman sat on the turbolift’s floor with her mouth agape.

Good luck Sith Beauty, Tull hopes to see you again and show you a better life like Tull has found.

Tull knew he had done what a Jedi should.

- – -

As Tull and Wizard finished their lightsaber training both of them were breathing heavily. Tull had managed to get many more hits on Wizard than Wizard had gotten on him and while in a true battle the Force would lead Wizard to a victory over Tull it was clear to both of them that Tull had surpassed Wizard as a duelist. This meant that Tull was quickly climbing the ranks as one of the more skilled lightsaber duelists left in the Galaxy. It was, after all, a dying art.

As Wizard called Tull over he sat down on the ground in a meditative pose. Tull sat next to him as his friend smiled. “Tull my friend, I know that while you are one of the truest Jedi I have ever met, you hold some resentment that you have no connection to the Force.”

Tull looked into his lap for a second before looking back at his friend’s fur lined eyes, “Tull wishes often he could do the things you, Padawan Khalic, and Knight Moppo can do, but Tull does not let these feelings go beyond day dreams. Wishing for things that can never be makes us angry when we don’t get them, and Tull knows the dark path we can fall down Wizard. Tull may not be a Wizard, but he is a Jedi none the less. Tull knows that in his heart, so that is all Tull needs.”

Wizard got the small smile on his face he so often got when they talked of the Jedi or the Galaxy or life. Tull had quickly learned it meant that Tull had said the right thing. Tull was glad to see his friend smile again. Their talk of the deaths on Bespin had been hard on them, especially Wizard who relived things by simply remembering them. Tull had wanted to be angry at Wizard all the time after discovering the truth, but in his friend’s presence the anger melted into compassion and understanding. Tull was not innocent of evil himself, yet he found redemption. So too had Wizard, and to Tull nothing was more powerful than redemption.

The Sith Beauty flashed through his mind before he pushed her deep back inside himself and started counting his training regimen. Tull had found that simply counting the regimen could keep simple mental probes out of a person’s mind. Even though Wizard had not tried such since his first weeks with Tull the Barabel still wished the Sith Beauty to remain secret. She was his duty as a Jedi to worry about, and Wizard did not need more stress on his mind.

“Well Tull, just the same, let me show you something. Meditate with me.” Tull closed his eyes and began the meditations he did in the morning when he awoke and at night before he slept. For a force user these meditations would calm the mind and prepare it for the trials of duty. They did the same for Tull, though in a more philosophical way than those who could manipulate the force. After a time Tull started to feel something touching at him, or perhaps him touching at something. Something new and different.

“Open your eyes Tull,” came Wizard’s voice from what seemed far away.

As Tull opened his eyes it was like seeing a whole new world, as if he had gone his whole life without seeing color and suddenly awoke to find he now knew the colors of the rainbow splintered into their million different shades. The world seemed both brighter and sharper, as if everything had been in a haze before and it had suddenly cleared. Tull could feel pulses around him, like a fan’s wind blowing on his face, but emanating from the people around him. It all felt like the time Wizard had guided his mind among the floating Taun Taun dolls, but multiplied by a thousand. Tull could feel the strength in Padawan Khalic through the ship, the sharp energy coming from Carson Mann, and Wizard himself was like the flaring of a sun.

Tull’s breath started to come more rapidly and he felt as if he was going to faint from the overload of it all. If Wizard lived every day like this Tull could not imagine the pain and chaos he must feel in combat.

Wizard reached his hands out and grasped Tull’s shoulders, “Easy my friend, I am here and you are safe. Let me show you the Force.”

Over the next several hours the two spent much time touching the force and changing it in small ways. Wizard explained that this awakening would be by no mean permanent, but that if anyone deserved the joys of touching the living force it was Tull. Near the end of the training Wizard helped Tull to direct his mind to lift a small wooden cube. Wizard helped greatly and before long Tull found himself actually moving the little cube with his mind. All of a sudden Wizard removed his help and Tull was lifting the small cube alone. Tull put every inch of his being into the small cube and found he could keep it afloat and even turn it slightly. Tull had often lifted a dead weight of near a thousand pounds in the Dool Arena training rings. This small wooden cube felt three times as heavy as anything he encountered in his training.

After a time the cube floated to the ground under Tull’s control and the Barabel let out a huge sigh of relief and exertion. “Wizard, does it. . .does it always hurt that bad?” Tull asked thinking of the times Tull had seen Wizard lift thousands of pounds with the force alone.

“Every time Tull. Every time,” Wizard said with a wistful look. “Now Tull, we focus our selves and end with meditation.” As the two focused their minds Tull found his slipping away from him and he was suddenly in a different time and place.

Tull saw his Egg Father Shell screaming on the floor of a prison cell, getting prodded by Daze as her cruel master laughed behind them. Tull felt as if he could reach out and touch them. He smelled the burning flesh.

Suddenly Tull was pulled away to a ring he knew well, Dool Arena. In it was Tull himself fighting for his life against a monster of a warrior. Khule Zin was a freak of nature by any standards standing at three meters tall and six hundred pounds, dwarfing even the huge Tull. Khule was a Cathar, but many believed he had mutated in the womb and ended up the freakish beast he was compared to his normally sleek and lithe species. Khule’s fur was a dark black and his claws near on six inches. As Tull slammed everything he had into the cat beast he was picked up by the mighty Khule and smashed into the ground. Tull remembered that hit shattering nearly ever bone in his legs. The great cat beast leered his searing gold eyes at Tull as he clamped down on the lizard’s shoulder with his massive jaws and flung him around like a play thing. Tull had nearly died in the fight and spent the best part of the next month being bathed in bacta when his owners could find it. It was the worst fight he had ever had, and the last one he ever lost. Tull had never again fought Khule Zin in the ring.

Again Tull was pulled away and found himself in a small alcove in what must have been a huge library. Around him people in Jedi robes walked here and there as a female Barabel Jedi was having a quiet but heated argument with a young human male, also in Jedi clothing. He wore a small braid on a close cut head of hair.

The female Barabel keeping telling the young man the same thing, “You aren’t ready. The Order is being too reckless with young Jedi, trying to make Knights out of children. They will get you killed if they send you to the front.”

The man scoffed at the Barabel, “You are a fool. All you do is walk around here with your visions. They’re the only reason any one bothered to train a primitive like you as a Jedi in the first place. I’m a better Knight now than you could ever hope to be.” The young man said as he stormed off.

The Barabel Jedi got a sad look on her face and whispered, “Good luck my Padawan. This One had to leave another so he can someday find his place in the galaxy, so perhaps now This One must do the same for you. Trust in the friends you’ll make, and maybe you can start the path he will someday help finish.”

Just as Tull reached out to touch the woman he was whisked away to see Kelyn Captain pull a young girl out of a trough of water. She was dead.

Finally Tull returned to the here and now and found himself once again out of breath. “Tull had a vision Wizard! Many!”

Wizard nodded and said, “That is good Tull. The force moves on its own, it wished to show you something today. Keep what you wish to yourself if you so choose. They were meant for you.”

Tull nodded back and got a large toothy smile on his face, “Thank you Wizard. Tull is truly a Jedi Wizard now, no one can deny that. Thank you, this is the greatest day of Tull’s life.”

And so it was, for a time.

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Dazed and Confused Part Five

My Cruel Fate

As we finally finished the first fight, I heard men yelling, but I did not know from were. I hacked into the computer’s system and finally seen it, the Rebels were getting ready to fight. It was bad enough that we just got out of one fight… now another? This is too much for one little droid to handle, but I must keep fighting!

So, doing what I do best, I started typing away. I could feel Darth Rosie shuffling around inside me. She has been a good comrade. Anyways, I locked all the doors that I possibly could to keep out the stormtroopers. Then I got over the intercom and told the men to do as I say, or they will die. And of course, being the wimps they are, they all peed their pants and cried to their mommies.

“Do I have to do EVERYTHING for the Rebels?” I yell over the intercom. I just was tired of fighting. Almost immediately, men started dying, and they failed to listen. I decided that I needed to get to a better computer to access more controls. I was able to separate troopers though, which was the only good thing about it. After that, I had to get down and dirty. As Khalik and Charley, the only rebel who’s name I knew, fought off about 20 troopers by themselves, Tull and all the other rebels were taking on the rest. I was giving orders, but the men were too stupid to move to where they needed to. PLUS, they were dying very fast. Khalik launched a grenade and so did I. We were able to kill all the troopers but one, and that’s were Darth Rosie became helpful, I was able to use her as a distraction so that I could shoot the Trooper. It was successful. And later on, we finished him off.

When we were down to troopers being spread out, I was finally able to lock all the troopers in with us. I knew they were going to die quickly. Poor Khalik though, he couldn’t hear anything because of something he did. So I came to the rescue. I pretended I was a cleaning droid and got Darth Rosie back inside me. I casually stroll into the room, almost right next to Khalik, and armed my catapult. The troopers seemed shocked by this. It was a frag grenade, attached to a knife. Finally, I launched it. Into the air the knife went flying, with almost cutting precision. Luckily, the knife impaled one of the troopers right in the heart. Killing them instantly. The grenade finished off the rest of them with ease. In the next room, the was a lone trooper trying to escape, Khalik shot him, which did not kill him, so I went up to him and hit him right where it hurt using my Power Prybar. And well, somehow… that killed him!

I disguised myself again, but this time as Darth Rosie’s personal petbot. Khalik opened the door and threw in a grenade, causing two of the Storm Troopers to take critical hits. The third one did not get hit by any of the shrapnel. I walked up to one of the troopers, and then suddenly, Darth Rosie was clawing at his face and even got through his armor! It was a very strange sight, and I was concerned for my cat’s safety. Suddenly, the trooper threw himself forward, right onto Darth Rosie… killing her.

People bot was not happy with his decision. “Leave him to me!” I yell to Tull and Khalik, “I will take revenge for Darth Rosie’s death!” And I felt something. Something telling me that to take pure revenge, I must kill the Emperor. Finally the two storm troopers are killed. And I stare at the only one that is still alive. I use my little hand to take out my knife, and I slowly move to the bleeding man on floor, and I almost tell myself not to, but I did it anyways. In one swift movement, I take my knife and plunged it into his heart, then pulling the knife towards his stomach.

Then I weeped.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion… and a bunch of astrodroids appear, but we swiftly realized that they are the one’s who cause the explosion and that they must be stopped before they destroy the whole ship, because I was the only one small enough, I took to the air vent. I followed them until I suddenly overheated…

I thought I still knew where they were going, and I suddenly found myself falling…

BAM!

Recording in real time

I’m in a garbage compactor… Wait?! Why am I in a garbage compactor?! I look up just in time to see red lasers bar off what seem to be my only escape. Now I am scared. I start hearing the sounds of crunching metal and swiftly I realized that if I didn’t devise a plan soon, I am going to be crushed… I am not ready to because someone’s new microwave! I am already a toaster!! So I did the first thing that came to mind, SCREAM!!

I yell over the means of communication, but I felt like Tull was not listening, but I knew Khalik heard me. So I overrided Tull’s attempts and yell, “SAVE ME!!! PLEASE!! I AM ABOUT TO BE CRUSHED AND I HAVE NO WAY OF GETTING OUT.” And I panicked. I could not turn it off via computer because of the LACK OF ONE. I would not be able to do it manually either.

As the machine was only inches away from crushing me, I came up with one more idea. I manage to find the frequency that cleaning droids were using and sent out a frantic S.O.S.

Khalik was trying to save me.. but all he was hearing was my increasing screams and crushing metal… That is all that anyone could hear, and as I felt my metal being crushed, all I could do was panic and hope that someone heard me. As I look at the caving in walls and lasers about to cut into me, I just thought about everything wrong that I ever ever done, and I realized something. I deserved this kind of death, the slow and painful, dreading death. Where you know that no matter what you think to do will help, will only kill you. I was accepting of this, and if I surv-

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