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Nar Shaddaa

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Pleasantries, well-wishes, salutes--at least between the men-at-arms--and then departure to the Fidelity. The meeting could have been more productive--most likely would have been, if Draygo hadn’t derailed the proceedings with her personal crusade against collateral damage. By the time that Slaughter had returned to the Galactic Alliance’s surviving MC90 Cruiser, his second wind had worn away and the weariness of weeks of constant action had begun to seep in. He began to doze intermittently on the shuttle.

 

“Slap me,” he murmured when the forward jolt of the gunship’s landing had roused him from sleep.

 

“Sir?”

 

“I mean it, soldier. Put some shoulder into it.”

 

The marine happened to have been wearing plastoid gauntlets, but nonetheless obeyed the command. The slap spun Slaughter around and the stout Admiral was pitched to the deck of the shuttle. Pressing a hand to his stinging cheek as he picked himself up from the deck, the Admiral saw blood on the tips of his fingers and knew that the blow would leave a mark for some hours. That was fine; the pain would keep him awake for at least a few more hours and the rush of adrenaline would make that precious time more useful.

 

“Thank you, soldier. I’ll be in my office.”

 

___

 

When Admiral Slaughter arrived at his office--more accurately, the office of the captain of the Fidelity--some anonymous yeoman had already fetched a pair of canteens of insta-caf. Slaughter nodded in approval--that was two liters of liquid energy. Slaughter summoned his staff and settled down for a long night of analyzing engineers reports--or a long morning, he wasn’t entirely sure what time it was.

 

All over Nar Shaddaa, hundreds of Alliance surveyors were scouring the moon for potentially suitable sites for the nerve center of the joint Imperial-Alliance coalition. Even as he scanned reports of potential sites with regards to their infrastructure, security status, modernity, proximity to potential military resources, cultural value, (not least important) cost, and a hundred other critical variables, yeomans and junior officers filed into the room with armfuls of dataslates. The little grey tablets piled up and the miniature columns began to spread to fill the room. Eventually, the tiny office began to resemble the hideout of a crazed librarian with a hoarding problem, and they had to carefully step around the room to avoid toppling over one of the piles.

 

The abridged transcript of their committee could be summarized as follows:

 

“No. No. No. Its in the middle of a residential block--if that gets hit… No. What the stang are you thinking? No. Damn. Out of caf. Ensign, could you--thanks. No. No. That area is a warzone, look at the murders per cap. At least it would be training for our men. Eh, put it in the maybes. No. No. Too expensive. No. Where is that Ensign? Nah, its on the opposite side of the moon from the shipyards. No. No. There’s a tribe of Jawas fifty klicks away--are you serious? No. No. No. No… give me that dataslate again.”

 

It was another hour of carefully reading, re-reading, shouting at his similarly exhausted staff officers about the merits and downsides of the site in question--mostly downsides, he would later acknowledge in hindsight. It was an abandoned Hutt casino, rendered defunct by the collapse of the more legitimate enterprises of the repulsive invertebrates at the height of the Empire. Decades of being picked over by scavengers had stripped it of virtually anything useful and reduced the structure into a husk of republican glory, but that was ironically useful to the Galactic Alliance--their engineers would have needed to remove all of that obsolete and substandard wiring. Besides, the structure was remarkably inexpensive, as it had been condemned and slated to be demolished by construction droids.

 

He sent the terse message to the Captain leading the survey.

 

Yes. Exactly what we need. It’s perfect. Do whatever it takes to purchase it. And the surrounding neighborhoods. 


The Admiral then sent communiques to several officers to further investigate The Red and Black and secure it, lest his engineers were about to stumble upon a nest of rakghouls or something even worse. Ten minutes later, he collapsed, his short-shaven head buried under a pile of forgotten data slates. The snoring could be heard from outside the office.

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"No. I don't mind..." Mjan said with a chuckle as his gaze met first with Nia, the young hopeful withdrawn but inquisitive. It was a good quality to possess, curiosity often led many out of their shell of shyness and presented topics for open discussion without realization. With a bow of his head in presentation, Mjan finished his sentence. "I am Kissai, of the Tsis... or Sith in basic... species."

 

As he spoke this, his gaze shot toward Beth with sorrow filled eyes as her realization, if she hadn't already, would likely rub suppressed memories in a horror filled manner. He was not proud of his heritage, especially the little known fact of his Adas bloodline, but he had long ago accepted who he was for better or worse. And as a former Sorcerer of Tund, the darkness that plagued his species had slowly been displaced over the generations since their exile. It existed, but they had long fought to suppress it, and with the aid of the lightside, Mjan had managed to nearly rid himself completely of it.

 

"Well met Kel Koon." Mjan spoke in return, quickly adjusting his gaze from the Lieutenant toward the other Jedi in an attempt to levy the tension he felt mentioning his species. Quickly searching his satchel, he pulled forth a few herbs for pain and a small container of salve made from roots he had gathered during his time on Borleias. "Its not much, but the healing properties are outstanding. I found that by increasing the natural flow of the Force through the roots, I was able to enhance not only the soothing capabilities, but increase its healing potency as well by mixing mud to act as a bonding agent."

 

Mjan found himself intrigued by the two, Kel's presence nearly mimicking his own even as a mere Padawan, and Nia's presence though untapped, presenting grand skill in healing even as a Hopeful. Handing over the herbs and salve, Mjan laid his pike staff to the side and took a seat. "Forgive my intrusion. I have socialized much with other Jedi since I was taken on as Master Aira's Padawan and was thrust into combat at Dark Sun shortly after my Knighting. My Captain over there felt it would do me some good to introduce myself while we were stationed here."

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As Ban left, Kari sat alone in silence. Like he, she had felt the pull of the Force and what direction it had led to. But rather than follow it in person, she decided to meditate upon and let her mind flow upon it's current and see it through the will of the Force rather than her own eyes. When she felt the presence of Tobias, it didn't quite surprise her. Even when she had met him at the Conclave, he seemed a tad wreckless and brash. But to her, it was good qualities for a Jedi Master to possess.

 

Letting her mind follow the swirling vortex that surrounded him and that of the Imperial Knights, she found herself unable to agree with their methods nor their intent, but she was Je'daii. It was the Je'daii way to stay out of the affairs of others, only intervening if it meant to tip the scales of Balance, and what they were doing held little consequences. Still, a part of her felt pity for the Jedi Master, a mere mortal just like she was and incapable of true balance between both light and dark. And in truth, it felt a tad bit like a witch hunt more than repercussions for the crimes that were discussed previously upstairs. While it was true that he needed to answer for his misjudgment, the Alliance needed everyone they could muster for what seemingly laid ahead.

 

Slightly disgusted, she withdrew her mind from the ongoings and returned. She understood the need for balance more than most, both upon the Galaxy and within one's self. But she felt these Imperial Knights corrupted the idea and were pushing to police a person's morals. That didnt sit well with her. It was a dangerous game to play. Shaking her head, she turned her gaze to the approaching Ban in his own return.

 

"Its a long story to tell." She attempted to jest as she focused on the task ahead and away from what she witnessed. "I'll tell you on the way if you'd like, or just give you footnotes if you'd rather."

 

With that said, she motioned for both Ghost and Ban to follow her to her ship. It wasn't that she was in a rush to get started, bit more that she was in a rush to get away from the Imperial Knights lurking about before they decided that her beliefs were unworthy. In silence, she sighed. Admiral Slaughter was going to have his hands full bringing all of these Factions together under one united banner, and just in luck, she had been sent to help him do so.

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As the meeting winded down, Mythos followed Slaughter. Even with his wounds, the towering Shistavanen had little trouble keeping up with stout Commanding Officer as they reached the transport and left behind the Mystics and their fleet. On the trip to the Fidelity, Mythos moved the artificial limb about, the phantom pains of the limb no longer there merely masked by the presence of the metallic one. How could he have been so weak to have fallen for such trickery? Mythos shook the thought from his head. He knew deep down that he was lucky to be alive as most Sith rarely freed their prisoners.

 

Once aboard the Fidelity, Mythos turned to head to command and make his report, but a glimmer of a shadow from the corner of his eye sparked his interest. He had been seeing them since he awoke aboard the medical frigate, but paid little heed until now. Had he been freed only to be followed? It was a solid question with a possible answer, but it had only been shadows he glanced. There was no smell, no sound, just hauntings as his senses seemed almost dull to its presence unlike everything else. Curious, he turned and headed toward its direction.

 

"Everything okay Marshal?" A voice questioned when he gazed down a separate corridor, nothing but Alliance personnel about after the recent battle. Turning his gaze to the Ensign's location, Mythos spoke. "Must still be the anesthesia wearing off. Thought I saw something." The Ensign looked around and down the corridor as well to confirm before he turned back to the Marshal. "Nothing there sir. Probably just need more rest. I'll let Admiral Slaughter know." Shaking his head, Mythos agreed and departed. As he did, the Ensign sent a message up the chain of command to @Sgt. Slaughter and alerted him of Mythos' rest. 

 

Admiral Slaughter, Marshal Mythos has yet to fully recover from his injuries and appears to be having some minor reactions to the anesthesia he was placed under with. Sent him to his quarters for more rest, but he should be fine in the next twenty four to forty eight hours. - Ensign Delgosso

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"On the way is fine. I like long stories. Makes life interesting, you know?"

Ban followed Kari to her ship, ready to leave. He'd spent enough time here and almost put his foot ankle deep in it more than once, and he'd been here less than an hour. Better to get going and be productive.

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Alekseyev stayed utterly silent as he listened to the monologue of the Grandmaster. She had interesting and modern views on the force. They were not his views, he had seen the force work wonders of redemption and destruction through only the slightest whim of a master or lord. It gave its strongest and most destructive powers to those that would lean into the pursuit of power and passion. The force was in some senses symbiotic, but its temptation was that of power and malice. Much as with her lover, Alekseyev let his mind be carried with hers, looking through every word that she said for the tinge of heresy and darkness that could be there. When he found the dark ley lines of passions he lay them before him in the circle. Connecting every shadow to rings in the circle. Laying them out to be bare and naked before the inquisitive light. Hate, Anger, Lust. Powerful dark emotions that boiled, suppressed below the surface.. He was about to speak for her to continue when another voice spoke. Battering at his concentration like a stiff wind. 

 

She speaks her truth! 

 

And she did, it was not much further apart from the Knight’s own teachings. 

 

Temptation is the natural order of any mortal being 

 

The voice was calm and inaudible. Coming only through both of their connections to the force. It was a voice that carried with it a weariness of a man at the end of his life, and an accent that dated the voice back to the days of Revan and the old republic. A time in which the force was commanded by the Sith and Jedi in their ancient battles that rocked the galaxy more than even the current lords of the Sith could even dream. The time of the Exorcists, the time of Il-Andon Rorik, to whom the voice belonged. He had been there when Kyrie and Xae-Lin flow walked into the past and with his Holocron present before Alekseyev and Adenna he was here as well. 

 

Temptation is Human. It is the will fighting against its conscience. The Darkside lies in surrendering to that temptation. To destroy darkness is not to commit oneself to the darkness itself. Serenity and the denial of love is the abandonment of the fullness of good. The concern lies in if you harbour those temptations, if you turn them into fantasy and play with them in the darkest watches of the night. 

 

Alekseyev let the force flow through him, drawing on that voice, focusing on it and connecting it to the circle. The circle and its runes began to glow in earnest as he connected them all through the force. Lines laying over lines, passion over anger, light over dark. 

 

The voice spoke again, sounding as if he stood between them, directed at the Jedi Grandmaster. 

 

Pursue not this crusade with relish or lust for revenge . For it will cause much longsuffering.  Pursue it because it is right.

 

There was a pause

 

Darkness must be vanquished. But it will cost you everything.

 

Alekseyev let his concentration relax. The Inquisition had reached its logical conclusion and the holocron would speak no more. 

 

“There is no will of evil in you grandmaster, though the opportunity lurks. Our causes are not altogether separate, we both wish to destroy the Sith. While also not committing egregious errors that have happened in the past.” 

 

He stood, and offered her a hand up. 

 

“I cannot advise you on your path, but many of us would be glad to work hand in hand with the Jedi order once again.” 


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Beth let the smile drip off her face like hot caf as the watched a Rebe- Galactic Alliance officer head their way, carrying of all things a pike staff. She nodded her thanks to the two Jedi and saluted the incoming alliance pilot before extending her non injured hand in greeting. Her imperial flight suit would tell this red faced man all he would need about her combat experience. The Imperials had been fighting the Sith since before the Galactic Alliance had gotten its lazy ass in gear. She did not care the slightest what species he was, even though he seemed ashamed. 

 

“Beth Andromina, Templar squadron commander, formerly of Carida, then Kuat, then here. Sith eh? A good one looks like it. Seems like everyone but myself is a jedi around here, but you are on safe ground. Not need to haul a vibropike around. Might scare the non commissioned officers into shooting someone.” Her laugh was kind, though very tired. “X-Caliber squadron? Never heard of it, from the name I assume you fly X-wings?” 

 

It was a friendly jab that only pilots would make to each other, though it might come off hostile to the younger jedi. 

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Sandy suppressed the wholesome feeling of pride in Aidan as he talked about dealing with his trauma and turned it into a smile in return to Aidan’s glance. Then she looked back at the blaster on the table and picked up an energy magazine for it and fiddled away, trying not to be too awkward while she waited for their intimate conversation to end.

 

She hoped this would help him, she hoped that a connection with his parents would start to heal the wounds he carried so heavily.

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Adenna accepted the offered hand and rose to her feet. The Force levels in the room began to dispel and return to normal. Despite the relative shortness of the experience, she was drained. Even so, she was inwardly pleased at the results. Though she had been confident that she would pass the trials, there was a very small amount of her that was concerned that there was a lingering taint from Jidai Geki that might still need purging. She was relieved that it seemed her inner demons had been removed and all that she faced were the normal temptations experienced by everyone.

 

She was also pleased at the openness of at least these men to working with the Jedi Order once more. Their cynicism was quite evident in her recent interactions with various members of the Imperial Knights in how they viewed the Jedi Order with disdain and skepticism. When they first left the Order, she had thought that it was only a bad thing as it divided able warriors who could oppose the Sith, but she understood it when faced with Jedi leadership that refused to fight against evil. That was not the case now and it would never be for as long as she was the Grandmaster. It was time to heal that rift and bring back all those who served the Light under one unified banner to oppose the Dark that the Sith championed.

 

She nodded in acceptance of the Inquisitor's words. "It is my desire to bring the Imperial Knights back within the Jedi Order so that we may fight our common enemy as one unified force. Divided, we are both weaker and the Darkness is made stronger. This is something that I wish to remedy so that we, like the Galactic Alliance and Imperial Remnant, might become one once more. I understand and respect the unique nature of the oaths you take, so I would happily make accommodations to preserve the Knight's teachings and traditions. Speak to your leaders and relay what you have learned here, then tell them that I wish to meet with them to see if we can come to an agreement that would add the strength and discipline of the Imperial Knights to the history and resources of the Jedi Order."

 

The Grandmaster bowed briefly to the Imperial Knights, collected her lightsaber, and exited the room with purpose in her steps. She couldn't control how the Imperial Knights took her message, but she had made the first move to bridge the gap and end the schism that exists between them.

 

It had cost her dearly in the form of Tobias, but her personal sacrifices were necessary for the betterment of the Jedi Order and, on a wider scope, the Galaxy in general. She had lost her right hand, but her hopes were that it would gain her an army of battle hardened warriors ready to stand against the Darkness and do what was necessary. Perhaps, in time, even Tobias could be redeemed and rehabilitated to return to the fight once more, though she suspected he had his own plans to wage the war against the Sith.

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Draygo had been withdrawing into herself after the loss of Coruscant. And then, with experiencing the aftershock of the deaths of billions, the fragmentation of the Galactic Alliance, and the loss of so many of her friends, Armiena had been shunning contact with others. That emotional armor allowed her to attack the seemingly insurmountable crises with increasing ruthlessness, but the gradual chipping away at her defenses with time had nearly resulted in an explosive release of frustration at Dark Sun.

 

And with the mental touch of her son, those defenses finally gave way and the storm that was her spirit finally flooded over. There was sincerity in his touch: not just love for his family, but also pain at the fact that he had never quite been able to bond properly with his father. She hadn’t expected the glowing regard that her son held for her, even after the many mistakes that she had made over the years. She held on tight, and her shoulders shook with silent tears.

 

When Armiena could finally bring herself to extract herself from the hug, tears were flowing freely from her pale-green eyes.

 

“He… was a good man.” Draygo looked off to the side and her eyes focused on something a kilometer away. It may have merely been the dull ache in her shoulder from the healing dislocation, but it physically hurt to force herself to speak of Aryian in the past tense. “Sometimes difficult to understand, bit too comfortable with his own mortality for my liking,” her lips twitched in a weak attempt at a smile. “But… he was better than I sometimes gave him credit for. I wish I could see him again.

 

“He loved us, even if it was sometimes difficult for him to express it.”

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I nodded my head in the direction of the Jedi that had been spending time with Master Armiena's son, as well as Aiden, before exiting the room. Despite having been summoned, I felt my presence here was a bit intruding, so I opted out of the encounter. In truth, it was just good to see her smile after hearing stories of her son. 

 

Just outside, I found an ammunitions crate to prop up on, taking a small device I had acquired back on Borleias out of my pocket and placing its comms into my ear as a ambiance melody began to play through its connection. The Doctors back on Borleias used these inexpensive devices to help calm their nerves and steady their hands, and while meditation would likely do the same for me, I felt it best if I couldn't hear the on going conversation between the two taking place. As much as it was intrusive, it was also rude of me to eavesdrop.

 

On occasion, my glance would wander back to them, but for the most part, I delved into small meditations while I enjoyed the sounds of waves upon sandy shores and the chirping of forest birds resounding within my ears. When Master Armiena was ready to introduce me or have me follow her, she would let me know. Until then, I kept up with my studies within the Force.

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"Yeah...maybe he did."

It was a tender topic, one Aidan still wasn't comfortable having a full conversation on. At least, not here and now. He took a deep breath, turning back to Sandy and the makeshift firing range. 

"Sooo...you're actually probably far better at this than even I am. Got any pointers from a pro? Unless, of course," Aidan glanced over at Genesis, suddenly realizing his mother was still an important asset to many other people here, "you know, unless you're a little busy. In which case, we should, um...plan to spend some time together soon. I mean, I'd like that." This visit was evidence to why Aidan hadn't held anything against her even after all this time when he usually got to spend about five to ten minutes with her per meetup. She actually gave a damn enough to come and check in on him when she could. 

 

But in the very back of his mind, Aidan hoped she would stay for a bit, and maybe show all three of them some things she'd learned from her travels, and maybe a story or two to add character to everything. It might be asking too much, but there was always the hope. And whether Aidan realized it or not, that hope was something that allowed him to break through his own darkness several times.

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Nia took a moment. She'd never heard of the Sith species, only the faction. Though, she supposed, it could have been possible that she'd read bout the  Sith species and simply assumed it was the galactic power. Regardless, she held no grudge againsty the man for being born. To do so would be unbecoming, to say the least, and cruel of her. And so she stepped forward, offering her hand. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Master Sadow. It's rare for me to meet so many new people at once, so you'll have to excuse me for my... awkwardness, for lack of a better word."

 

It was clear she'd toched a nerve. She wasn't good at reading people, but even she didn't miss that look he gave the pilot. Raw nerves and dead relatives rarely mixed well,but her quick response helped put Nia at ease. It seemed she'd been jumping to conclusions.

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Kari nodded her head in acceptance, reaching her hand up and lowering the ramp. It was time they leave. Once at the helm, preflight conditions were met, her ship cleared for take off. Once she had her heading, her ship cleared traffic and entered hyperspace. 

 

"First things first." She spoke as she turned to Ban, her voice yelling past the Kosai toward the droid that had resumed his duties. "Ghost! Activate protocol Delta-Romeo-Alpha-India-November!"

 

Within moments, the T3 unit powered down and Kari placed the ship onto autopilot. With that, she motioned for Ban to follow and she walked toward the droid. "I wonder what other surprises we'll find in the little bugger."

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"Templar Squadron eh?" Mjan spoke with a glimmer in his eye. "You guys have been making quite a name for yourselves. I heard of you guys before I even joined the Jedi Fleet during my tutelage under Master Aira. It's a honor Commander."

 

Grabbing his pikestave, Mjan presented it to her, letting the Force flow throw its contents as the two ends spun out of place and hovered, revealing the cylindrical outline of his lightsaber before he briefly activated the amber blades. "A Jedi is never without his or her weapon, but it gives the reasonable appearence of a unorthadox walking or combat staff for most." Mjan deactivated it and let the parts return. With that, he winked.

 

His gaze shifted toward Rose and the others and chuckled. "You'd be right in the assumption, my own X-Wing being the former Captain's who perished over Onderon. But I was only recently transferred into it during the battle at Dark Sun. I suppose they thought it sounded cool, but they're truly devoted to their mission, so you may hear of us more and more in the coming war."

 

Just then Nia spoke up, causing Mjan to shift his gaze back toward the young hopeful with a smile. "Please, Mjan." He requested as he placed his hand over his chest and bowed. "There's no need for apologies. When I first joined the Jedi, I was constantly nervous over my race. Still can be, though for different reasons. You will fall in when the right time comes, and will blossom in your own way."

 

His gaze shifting about, having noticed that the two were alone without their trainers, he poised a question in general concern. "Where are your Masters, Nia, Kel? Though these may be safe grounds, it's not wise to stray too far from them."

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Kel watched in fascination as Mjan grabbed his pike stave, used the force to reveal its true nature, and activated the amber blades of his light saber. Kel was a bit of a gearhead and held an appreciation for new forms of technology like ships and many forms of blasters and lightsabers people designed. Even simple weapons like knives held a certain elegance to his eye. The concealed nature of the stave was also appealing. While Kel's own lightsaber pistol would appear to anyone as a weapon its outward appearance could be easily mistaken as a common blaster. So while looking potentially threatening, it still allowed him to maintain an element of surprise. 

 

Kel was broken out of his momentary ogling when Mjan asked where their masters were. "My master was one of the Jedi called into conference with the Empress. I'm sure the meeting is done by now, so she must be around here somewhere. As for Nia, She's a hopeful who's just arrived here. She has yet to find a master or construct a Lightsaber of her own. The one she's carrying now belonged to her Father. I assisted her in repairing it, but without a crystal to call her own, she can't use it." 

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A full smile stretched across her thin lips and Sandy Sarna let a grin follow it. Aidan’s journey and interaction with his mother had filled her with joy. She bowed low to the Jedi Master and indicated the blaster rifle on the makeshift bench. If the Jedi wished to show and teach her, Sandy would be grateful. But for now Sandy was just merely content in seeing Aidan overcome one of his biggest struggles. It would come back, trauma always did, but Sandy was confident in Aidan Darkfire. Smiled at him and then looked away again towards the range, not wanting him to catch the flash of other emotions she had suppressed.

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Wiping away the wetness from her eyes, Armiena turned to find that her apprentice had just left the hangar. 

 

“I have some time… where did Genesis go--this might have been useful for him. May I?”

 

With some hesitation, Armiena shrugged out of the sling that was holding her left arm captive. The shoulder nagged with pain and her jaw clenched for a moment, but she revealed no further sign of the complaining injury as she stretched it out in a slow rotation. Instead, the veteran Jedi placed her hands on the blaster carbine and turned it over with drilled efficiency, checking the power cell and the chamber for a live charge. It was, in fact, loaded, but the safety was engaged and the weapon pointed down-range.

 

“BlasTech E-11.” She let out a little sigh. “Cold-weather pattern. Duranium reinforcement on the magazine feed and barrel, less prone to expansion in extreme temperatures. Versatile weapon, even if I prefer something a little heavier. Not much that I can tell you that someone who went through Imperial training wouldn’t already know, but for practical advice…” The veteran Jedi tucked the carbine under her arm and approached the makeshift rifle range. With practiced ease, her metal hand swung the folding stock back and squared it against her shoulder; she took a half-step backwards and lowered her center of gravity a handful of centimeters.

 

“Stance and breath control are critical.” Armiena’s breath had slowed to a robotic rhythm and she peered down sights with eyes that blinked with unnerving slowness. “Square your shoulders and wrists to absorb the recoil, especially if you’re going full-auto for suppressing fire. Make your first shot on the exhale; but in a firefight where you’re moving around and yelling, don’t forget to breath, no matter what.” Armiena deliberately withheld her next breath and rushed through her speech to demonstrate; her hands began to tremble from the prolonged effort of holding the weapon.

 

“Speaking of suppressing fire: the stun setting can be quite useful. Even a gaze with a stun blast canbedebilitating and speaking as a Jeditheyaredamneddifficulttodeflect.”

 

A long inhalation followed. Draygo waited for her arms to stop wavering, then deliberately sent a round streaking downrange.

 

She missed completely. So did her second and third attempts, the crimson bolts passing cleanly underneath the circumference of the remote and diffusing harmlessly into a pink glow against the magcon field. The inaccuracy, at least, was consistent.

 

“A moment. Actually, you might find this useful.” Armiena frowned and began to field-strip the weapon and led Sarna through the process of inspecting its major components. Every part of the weapon, however, was pristinely maintained as though the weapon had arrived directly from the armorer’s workshop; the plasma injectors were completely clear of obstructions; the delicate cartridges that housed the focusing crystals were perfectly aligned and betrayed no cracks or even smudges; even the magazine leads had been cleaned and shone with a faint polish.

 

The rifle was perfectly maintained. The same, Armiena realized, could not be said for her own body. As she walked Sarna through the process of assembling the rifle, the veteran Jedi realized that her right hand and wrist were both exposed metal, lacking about five millimeters of synthflesh that normally masked the skeletal chassis of a prosthetic.

 

“The problem seems to be the operator.” Draygo held up her hand. “The metal slipped on that composite grip… maybe a millimeter--not much, but enough to push the barrel down a little and make my shots go low. I’ll need to practice and get used to that.”

 

The veteran Jedi gave a fourth attempt, this time without any of the self-assured polish that she earlier displayed and taking conscious, deliberate effort with her trigger pull. This time, she was rewarded with a grazing strike against the targeting remote; sparks erupted from its side and the globe scattered to the left by a meter before returning to its earlier position.

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Aidan was silent the whole time, cherishing the moment. Even when she missed, he wrote it off, knowing it was common among weapons you first pick up. Aidan had zeroed the weapon to himself before Sandy had even arrived, so the fact that Armiena could still hit the target using manual windage on a non-zeroed weapon after so few shots was a testament to her raw experience. Even when she field stripped the weapon, she did it faster and far more efficiently than Aidan ever had, especially with some of the latches holding the barrel's heat shield in place. Those were notoriously tricky, using a ring lock that was known to stick, almost as if the engineer who designed the weapon had three hands.

 

But as she fired the final shot, Aidan realized she'd called attention to her hand, or rather the prosthetic that now replaced her hand. Staring at it, he motioned for Armiena to stop firing while calling attention to the metal hand.

 

"When...did that happen?" His voice conveyed slight concern, but at the same time, it was one of those things that was done and over with. It was more knee jerk protective emotions than anything else.

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"How long before we run out of air?" A deep voice asked in the seat of a dark cockpit, small lights dimly painted a scaly lizard-like face, tired and worn of a seemingly tough day. 

 

From behind, clinking and clicking sounded throughout the hull of the freighter, blaster burns scuttled about the inside of the ship told of heavy battle fired inside the hull. A bright screen lit up, another scaly face revealed itself in the light wincing at it's brightness. After adjusting it's eyes, the face spoke in a males voice, both disappointment and disparity filled it's tone. 

 

"Two hours... give or take. Our heating coils are fried beyond belief and the motherboard is scrapped... And that's only the beginning of our problem." 

 

The body in the cockpit seat turned and looked at the figure kneeling beside an open floor panel, wires and cables attached to a flat-screened device, "Tell me." 

 

Sighing, the second figure said, "Well, our engine is shot, took a good blaster bolt to the thrusters; which we were lucky it survived till now but we lost most our fuel with a whopping 2.3% left. No way to fly or even guide the ship, most wires are fried as well as the long range scanners and communications save for the long range distress beacon. Heating coil again is out meaning we'll either suffocate first or freeze later." 

 

"We're dead then." Another voice, more gruff and distorted shouted from the opposite end of the hull.

 

The first figure sat back down, "Romulus, anyway we can get heat going despite the coils?" 

 

After a time of clicking, the second figure, Romulus, replied, "Wellll... Yes. I'll have to take a helmet and rip out it's wires, convert and reengineer-"

 

"All I need is a yes." The first cut off, clearly aggravated. 

 

Vox, chieftain of the War Pack or simply, "The Pact," was Nudono Trandoshan, a hardy and dangerous folk in close relations to the traditional Trandoshan race everyone is familar with. Nudono weren't known at all in the Galaxy only staying secluded in the reaches of the wilds of Trandosha. It wouldn't take a genius to figure out why they weren't well known either; they had a hatred toward every race. Although hatred isn't the correct word, it certainly wasn't a far off one. But with very little options, Vox initiated a long range distress beacon, hoping anyone picked up.

 

Though it was faint, it was still something. However having an Imperial Freighter wasn't the best thing either. A month ago, when their first ship crashed the Pact hijacked the freighter in of the trap that had been set. Granted Vox listened to his intuition, many of his people died in that crash, many survivors freezing on the Arctic planet. Only seven of them remained now, for now. 

 

Giving an amused huff, Vox mused when he began to drift off into sleep, swearing up and down in his failing mind that he saw a planet. As he drifted, immediately Romulus punched the chieftain in the face, finally hearing the plea of the smaller Nudono. It was gibberish at first, but as he stirred Vox saw a blurry orb... Two blurry orbs. On instant his eyes snapped fully open as he punched himself in the jaw, looking up with anger and surprise. The former was quick to fade as the latter turned into glee. 

 

"Finally!" Vox thought, standing upright as he stared at a planet and moon. It was then he remembered their comms were destroyed, but nonetheless! This was a moment of joy! 

 

"Tell everyone to prepare their gear, we might have a chance now." Vox ordered, Romulus quickly rushing to the back and hollering orders. 

 

This whole journey, this entire set of events seemed to be picking up again. The chieftain thanked Divine for this day. Hopefully, conflict won't follow. He couldn't stress though, they were in control of an Imperial ship with little to no changes, it's banners and symbols still paraded the outside plates. Shame if the ship was scrapped, it actually served a good purpose... But he hoped his pack wasn't scrapped either, knowing many pirates and those who would take advantage of the opportunity. 

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Beth let a blush crawl up her tired face and a pang of guilt for making fun of the Jedi stung her at the same time. She took the pike stave and gave it a lookover before returning it to the red faced man. 

 

“I have a feeling that we will all be flying X-Wings before the game is up. The GA and the Jedi lost a lot of good people over Onderon, I am so sorry.” 

 

It was with that line that Beth could feel the reason for this rebel alliance finally strike a spark. Both sides had suffered horribly at the hands of the New Sith Empire. And now it was up to the survivors to make a last effort. 

 

She spoke again, extending her hand again to the Sithari Jedi Knight. 

 

“I look forward to flying beside you. It's inevitable that the Starfighter commands get conjoined into one, so who knows, maybe X-caliber and Templar might fly together someday.” 

 

She looked at the Kel Dor her eyebrows raising. 

 

“If you are looking for the bright blond headed girl, she is probably with the imperial knights on floor seven like she usually is. But I haven’t seen her today.” 

 

A message popped up on the datapad attached to her belt and the vibrations caused Beth to glance at it absentmindedly. There was a call for Templars to head to briefing room one. 


 

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Mjan's hand reached up and began stroking the tendrils that hung from his chin, similar to a human stroking the hair of his beard, as Kel provided answers. He knew Nia's plight all too well, her reasons having turned to Kel becoming obvious, especially his mentioning her Father's lightsaber. He smiled most kindly to the young Nautolan.

 

"I see." He spoke to the two. "Following in your Father's footsteps and becoming a Jedi?" Mjan questioned inquisitively, his gaze fixated on Nia alone now. "If you have no objections, as a Knight within the Order, I can take you on as my Padawan. But that would require you to join X-Caliber Squadron as well."

 

As he waited for her answer, allowing the thought to truly be processed, Mjan turned to Beth.

 

"Onderon was before my time, but I appreciate the sentiment all the same and return it as well." Mjan spoke as he placed the sheathed stave back to his side with his hand upon the grip, noticing the sorrow that filled the pilot's own eyes. He may not have been there, but he could tell she had been, or atleast knew more about it than he did. Extending his hand and accepting her's. "I look forward to the day that we see who's Squadron is the better."

 

Mjan spoke in jest in his last statement, but as he did, Captain Rose made her approach and Mjan turned his head as her voice whispered in his ear, Beth talking to Kel about his Master as this transpired. He turned back, his gaze shifting straight to Beth. "Maybe sooner than we thought. Better check your Orders."

 

With that, Mjan turned back to Nia. It was time for his departure, and he hoped she would accompany him. But only she could choose this path. He only hoped she had reached a conclusion that was of her own volition and not one pressed upon her by him, her hopes, or time itself. "Have you reached a decision Nia?"

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As Kel explained Nia's position, she stood silently behind him. In truth, while she'd been moderately comfortable in onversations in Glee Ansem's oceans, she was finding it harder to read people and know the impact her words were having. In the water, she could sense one's emotions through her tendrils. It helped her take on a more natural flow in discussions. Here above the water, however, she had trouble. It was still possible to read people, but much harder. She had to focus, and she found that doing so mid-sentence often drew strange looks. She shuddered to think what it would be like in the vacuum of space.

 

At Mjan's offer, however, her eyes widened. She hadn't exected that. She figured there'd be some sort of ceremony, something more official. But if this was all it took...

 

The only thing that cused her to hesitate was that she'd never flown... anything before. Not a speeder, not a shuttle, and certainly not a fighter. She was thankful when he moved on to another topic. She didn't need to read the air to know he was giving her time to think. She could finaly begin. The journey wouldn't be how she'd expected, to be sure, but when was one's path ever what they expected? Still, she felt it important to state her concerns.

 

"I would be honored, Master Mjan. I'm inexperienced, however. I've never flown anything in my life. I'm not sure how useful I'll be in a starfighter right now. I would be honored if you taught me how, though. Please don't take my hesitation for lack of interest."

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The Jedi master made firing and aiming look easy even if she missed the first few rounds. There was always an adjustment to using a new weapon. Sandy herself couldn’t have done better so she didn’t smirk or laugh, but simply smiled and nodded her appreciation as she watched the woman tear the blaster carbine down and show her how to put it back together. Sandy repeated the process herself, though much slower with a great amount of getting stuck on the small parts. She sat back and watched the jedi master continue to fire until Aidan exclaimed about her hand. Sandy watched quietly as she did not want to interfere in the moment. She was a jedi healer, and if she was needed she was there. But it was not her place to barge into an emotional moment between mother and son. 

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Briggs was flying through the galaxy when he noticed he was low on supplies. He sighed and veered to his left approaching  a planet. He flew into the planets atmosphere and slowly made his way towards the surface near a city. When he eventually landed he put his holsters on and put his DC-17 blasters in them as he stood up and made his way to the exit. He pressed a button and a mechanical whine came along with a beautiful sunshine. He looked out at the planet for a second taking it in before heading out towards the city. As he got there he was met with many people rustling around trying to find their way to wherever they could be going. He made his way to some kind of market area, “Why does there have to be so many people” he whispered to himself as he made his way through the maze that was the city’s market.

 

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