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Aurora simply sat in silence as she gazed upon Kota's face before turning her gaze toward Tobias. Aurora had became numb to her own loses, knowing them to be long gone and likely dust upon a dead planet by now. But Kota still held a chance of seeing his sister again, even if it was in loss of which she hoped would not be. A sense of purpose washed over her at this thought.

"If there's a chance, we definitely should take it. If I had the chance to see my own family again..." Aurora spoke to @Tobias Vos with a hint of sorrow, not for herself, but for those she was forced to leave behind long ago. Leaving her words to him at that, she shot her gaze to @Kota Ni. "Calm yourself. Think hard and try to remember any details no matter how minuscule. It could help more than you think if Taris turns out to be a bust..."

Aurora didn't know of these planets that Tobias had mentioned, but she wanted to help. Her face perked right up in an attempt to give the young Togruta some semblance of hope, but if he could remember anything that would help, the more likely their goal could become reality. Either way, her blade, friendship, and presence was there whether it was needed.

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The lights on the dashboard blink as a YT-1930 vessel moves through hyperspace. The cold metal hand of a prototype HK model activates the message and reads it as it scrawls across the Huntress' cockpit screen.

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"49 20 68 61 76 65 20 61 20 6e 65 77 20 61 73 73 69 67 6e 6d 65 6e 74 20 66 6f 72 20 79 6f 75 2e 20 49 6e 66 69 6c 74 72 61 74 65 20 61 6e 64 20 61 73 73 69 73 74 20 74 68 65 20 4d 61 6e 64 61 6c 6f 72 69 61 6e 73 2e 20 59 6f 75 20 77 69 6c 6c 20 66 69 6e 64 20 74 68 65 6d 20 6f 6e 20 43 6f 72 75 73 63 61 6e 74 2e 20 49 6e 66 6c 75 65 6e 63 65 20 74 68 65 6d 20 74 6f 20 68 65 6c 70 20 72 65 65 73 74 61 62 6c 69 73 68 20 74 68 65 20 48 75 74 74 20 66 61 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 61 73 20 61 6c 6c 69 65 73 2e 20 41 77 61 69 74 20 66 75 72 74 68 65 72 20 69 6e 73 74 72 75 63 74 69 6f 6e 73 2e 20 52 49 48 4e 20 61 75 74 68 6f 72 69 7a 61 74 69 6f 6e 20 63 6f 64 65 3a 20 52 49 48 4e 2d 34 32"

From behind it, an R-5 droid comes rolling casually into the cockpit area. RIHN's head jerks robotically as it brings the astromech droid into the viewing range of its photoreceptors.

The droid whistles and beeps in droid speak as it approaches, [Who sent this message?]

Query: So you received the message as well? HK-RIHN asks as he turns back to the console and readouts in front of him. 

[Of course i did. i thought you said Rihn was dead?]

Statement: I know I said that! But it would seem that someone has gotten access to the master's command authorization codes.

[now do you know it was not the master himsself?]

Clarification: Yes, mechanically inferior one. I do not know that for a fact. But short of receiving a live feed of the optical data directly to my state-of-the art, built-in photoreceptors, I can otherwise confirm with a 98.6% certainty that Rihn is dead.

[that percentage sounds made up to me! how did you come up with it?]

Irritated Answer: I do not need to justify the validity of my calculations to the likes of you, inferior one. Your job is to perform basic ship functions. 

[i am far from inferior and my calculations suggest that the probability is that the master must have sent us this message somehow.]

Commentary: If the master had seen fit, in his wisdom, to use you or your calculations for anything other than basic maintenance and navigational tasks, I am sure he would have had you modified to speak basic or any of a plethora of other languages that meatbags speak.

[the way i speak makes my calculations no less valid.]

Concession: You are right, R5-B4-6. It is not the way you speak but your inferior processing capacity and internal components that make your calculations and input invalid and unreliable.

[So are we going to follow the directions or not?]

Answer: Of course, you moronic droid! We will follow the directions sent in this mysterious message from this unknown person. The access codes and encryption are all well within known operating protocols.

[You could have just said that to begin with.]

Request: Inferior one, plot us a course for Coruscant.

[oh. So now you need me?]

Recitation: We have a date with destiny!

Within the course of a few minutes the Huntress drops out of hyperspace and changes course. A new course is plotted before the ship is once again shot back into hyperspace. The new destination, however, will take it into the heart of the Core Worlds. Next stop, the tomb world of Coruscant.

---

RIHNsig1.jpg.bbb649c936bbc3aeea848db273a2dd37.jpg

Edited by Rihn

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Thanks to the efforts of the imperial knights and the Jedi, the orphans and refugees from Chandrila were flying through hyper space to Nar Shaddaa. Kel was on one of the many shuttles the imperials had provided for the evacuation while his astromech R5 was flying his personal ship on their left side. feeling that they were out of danger at the moment; and knowing that they would arrive at their destination soon, Kel went to check in on their precious cargo.  

When he arrived he felt a great sense of unease coming among the orphans. Which was understandable given that some of them had been forced to leave not one, but two planets due to war. It saddened Kel to think that so many people had to experience such a nightmarish experience. he could only hope that they would not have to experience such a harrowing ordeal after having escaped the previous crisis.

 

 

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The trip through hyperspace was relatively short, but it also offered Aidan significant time to reflect on what had happened. He'd found his inner peace, though he knew this was really just the beginning. He could now feel the darkness emanating from the lightsaber hilts he'd taken from the Sith at Kuat clear as day, and one thing in his mind that he knew he needed to do was to make his own lightsaber. When he got back to Nar Shaddaa, it was the first thing he planned to do.

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On board the Ara-Lai, the Jedi Knight Sandy Sarna and her apprentice Kel stood around the holodisplay that showed the unfurling situation at Dark Sun. The fleets hadn’t yet engaged but they would soon and the casualty counts would be very high.

 

Kel, would you like to stay with me onboard the medical frigate and treat wounded, or would you like to be part of the strike team? You have not had much combat experience while you were my ward, but if I know Tobias he would have taught you a few things. The Ara-Lai has been deemed a medical triage ship and will not be taking part in the initial engagement. So we will be relatively safe unless this is a trap we are jumping into.” 

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Aleria took a moment to adjust to the ship's running lights. The fluorescence was a bit brighter than the hit or miss of Nar Shaddaa's crazy neons. She tapped the toe of her hard soled boot on the deck plating of the frigate and smiled a little to herself. Her left hand found the carved steel of her left hilt and her mechanical hand scraped against the metal of its partner.  This is the first battle I'm going to be a part of. I'll finally put all these skills to use.

 

She took a few measured breaths before letting her hands drop to her sides and continuing toward the bridge. Aleria had heard through former Knight Roene that the Jedi were going to attempt to rescue the Imperial Remnant Head of State. And, considering the massive losses they'd suffered, Aleria figured the Jedi, the Galactic Alliance, and the Imperial Remnant needed all the help they could get. She didn't really know that a few of her plates would come loose on her way to Nar Shaddaa. Nor did she have proper authorization to enter the frigate. But she assumed, by virtue of being a Jedi Knight, that she'd be okay. At least, she hoped as much. 

 

Her expression was steel and her posture was professional without seeming stiff. Her direction was intentional and even when she took a few wrong turns she took care not to betray the bewilderment she felt. When she finally made it to the bridge, she nodded politely to the guards and passed them, coming to stand before a shorter, younger-looking woman. The woman's kind face held depth. Her green eyes hid forests of trauma that wouldn't easily be traversed. Nor would Aleria wish to venture into them without consent. But something told her that this woman was not to be dealt with lightly. 

 

Aleria knelt in front of the woman and bent her head low to look at the dull gray steel beneath her feet. 

 

"Commander Sarna. Though we haven't met, my name is Aleria Thorne, knight of the Jedi Order, and I wish to serve in the coming battle. Will you have me?" 

 

Aleria's kneel was a little awkward because she'd never really done something like this before. But she knew that kneeling was a way of showing respect. So the gesture would have to do for the time being. 

Edited by Aleria Thorne

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The shock of the whole situation caused Sandy to break into friendly laughter. She leaned down with a wince and pulled the other woman to her feet. The laughter in her voice brought out the thick Galan accent she always tried to hide. “Don’t kneel friend, I may have command here but you owe me no subservience. This isn’t the Galactic Empire.” She left off the proverbial 'yet' and grabbed the hands of the girl with her own one scarred hand and biological prosthetic hand, and smiled warmly. She looked on the Knight's own prosthetics and smiled welcomingly. “Knight Thorne, I had heard that you were on Nar Shaddaa, we are honoured to have you.”

 

She gestured to Her apprentice and the Imperial Knight. “This is my apprentice, Kel, and Imperial Knight Darkfire.”

 

She gestured to her own still healing wound. “As I have just come off a battle at the fall of Chandrilia, I will not be in the front lines, but leading the medical efforts from here. If I am needed in the fray, I will answer. Should you wish to be in the front assault you are welcome to join my old master Adenna or the boarding teams under commander Sanderson.” She pointed to an imperial officer in white and crimson who was hurriedly talking over battle plans with a small cluster of lower officers from the Antarian rangers, Imperial Navy, and Galactic Alliance military. He was human, as nearly all imperials seemed to be, but strong and handsome in the rugged nature that most modern imperials carried themselves in the post Empire days. 

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Aleria's lips formed a crooked smile in answer to the awkwardness of her gesture but resumed her jovial expression before any potential shame stuck to her face. She brushed her fake acrylic follicles out of her mechanical eye and took Commander Sarna’s prosthetic hand in her own in a genial shake. Aleria nodded politely to the two men as they were introduced and offered each of them as warm a smile as she could muster. Sometimes she wondered how odd the smile looked when half of her face was metal, but her idle musings weren’t enough to quell her exuberance.

 

When Commander Sanderson was introduced, Aleria patiently removed her prosthetic from Sandy’s hands and gave her another smile. “It was a pleasure meeting you Commander Sarna and your friends as well. I feel my talents are better suited on the field rather than on the sidelines - though I admit to having very little experience. I look forward to seeing you again very soon.”

 

With another quiet nod, Aleria took her leave of the trio and made her way over to Commander Sanderson to await further instruction.

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Aidan managed to find the bridge just as Sandy was meeting someone he'd never met before, but Aidan could tell the other was also a trained Force practitioner. Mostly, this was apparent just from the hilts that hung at her waist, but she also had a presence to her that Aidan had learned to recognize, the kind only a powerful person in the Force exuded. The same kind Sandy had exhibited for some time.

 

He smiled and nodded as he was introduced, hearing that she was also a Jedi. By the look of her, she'd been through some bad times, having a lot of droid prosthetics attached to her right side, but Aidan had seen worse and knew better than to stare. If the time came later, he might ask, but only if it was appropriate to do so. As Aleria moved away, Aidan moved forward, looking over the bridge crew. Truth be told, he didn't know what half the stations did, but he trusted the men and women to do their job, just like he had a job to do. Still, he proudly wore his new staff saber at his hip, and made no effort to hide it. Pride might come before the fall, but by his estimates the fall was still a ways off. 

 

Eventually he turned, having remembered Sandy saying something about the front lines. Were they headed to yet another battle? "Hey Sandy...where, uhh...where exactly are we headed?"

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Sandy grinned sheepishly, with so much on her mind, she had forgotten even to tell the Imperial where they were even going. She tucked a lock of bright blonde hair behind her ear trying to bid away her flush of embarrassment. Her words were fast as she gave the briefing.

 

“Aidan, the Jedi Relief flotilla is to rendezvous with the joint task force rescuing the Empress from her imprisonment at the Black Sun station thing. I do not know what we will be facing, but I know I have been assigned to lead the medical forces from the medical frigate."

 

She controlled the blush, letting her cheeks fall back into their normal pale, freckled, hue and she glanced back up. Emerald eyes meeting the emerald eyes of the older imperial Knight. 

 

"We never seem to catch a break do we?”  She grinned wryly

 

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Commander Sanderson’s eyes flickered to the approaching Jedi and he raised his hand to silence his subordinates. He appraised her swiftly, deeming that she might be of some use since she had obviously had quite significant military experience from the scars and prothstetics she had all over her body.

 

“Jedi Knight, are you here to take part in the hand to hand fighting of the boarding parties or are you here to get a report for our gracious teenage commander Knight Sarna?”

 

He treated her respectfully but with an air of imperial supremacy, that put any question of subservience far out of mind.

 

SANDERS.png

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Rescuing the Empress? Why hadn't they already assigned him to this mission? Was he being protected because of who he was? Aidan sighed, staring out the viewport at the starlines racing past. It was rather hypnotic, and right now it helped him calm his own mind.

 

"No...no, I guess we don't. It's always out of the skillet and into the frying pan lately. I don't suppose it has anything to do with aggressive Sith expansionism, hm?"

He chuckled briefly at his own joke. The truth was his thoughts were gnawing at him. It was weird meeting Sandy when Aidan was first introduced to her on Kashyyyk, but honestly she was the only person who had shown him true compassion over the last several years. Sure, there were people who cared for him like Kyrie, but there was always a warm undertone of affection with Sandy, and in the moment, it was rather...nice. He leaned on that feeling, chasing the doubt from his mind.

 

"I finally made a lightsaber. It's weird, you know. After all this time I swore I wouldn't walk in the footsteps of my parents, and here I am. I don't think people like us really get a choice." 

 

He unclipped the long hilt from his belt, hefting the handle. It felt good in his hand, balanced, ready. He knew this engagement was likely to be hairy, but his lightsaber was likely the one thing that would help him get out of it alive.

 

"So, the medical frigate, huh? Are you with the healers, now?"

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Sandy let her smile break into a soft chuckle of laughter at his joke. She didn’t press at whatever was behind his eyes, but she could tell that there was something bothering him. The laughter didn’t feel genuine, but it could have been simply nerves, so Sandy let the warmth of her smile speak for her. It was nice to be with him, even under the circumstances of whatever fate awaited them at the end of this hyperdrive jump. She extended a hand to touch the lightsaber that he produced and marveled at its construction. This was no imperial issue bland sabre, there had been a lot of effort put into its creation. Cobbled from a myriad of parts and peices, it was surely functional if not comfortable to the eyes. She plunged forward with the conversation, happy to be able to talk and shed her nervousness.

 

“You mom seemed nice at Kashyyyk, I never knew your Dad, but if he was anything like you…” Her eyes looked at his again. Sincerity punctuated her words. “Then he must have been a good man.” She glanced away and pulled out her own lightsabre extending it to show off.Its long silver handle matched its blade. Though it may have been awkward, she meant it, even though she did not his father’s history. If Aidan’s experiences had been anything like her own traumas he would need someone to talk with. She thought back to her own tendencies she had faced only a few years prior. The conversation turned to another topic so she answered in turn. 

 

She smiled again and gestured to the left side of her chest. “I fought Mandalore to the standstill over Chandrila and got shot pretty bad. Though I am in the process, I don’t know how good I’d be on the front lines, so I am here to help in this way instead.” She winced. Not at any kind of pain, but because the statement had seemed like a brag. 

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Aidan stiffened slightly at the mention of his father. "Yeah...he was a good man, I suppose. Just not galaxy's greatest dad, you know? He tried, though. In his own way." There was a beat of silence before he decided to latch onto what she'd said about her wound.

 

"You fought Mandalore? As in, the Mandalore? The leader of the Mandalorians? How was that?" It was half a hail Mary to get off the topic of Aryian, and half genuine interest at her story. Mandalore, whoever held the current title, was never someone to relish fighting. Jedi skills aside, Mandalorians were known for not messing around in combat. Everyone knew that. Half a second later, he caught his obvious faux pas.

 

"Aside from the wound, obviously."

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A small prick sent the hairs on the back of Aleria's neck to standing. She instinctively tightened the grip of her left hand, but her face was stone - If there was one thing the Jedi taught her more than anything else, it was how to properly show indifference with nothing but a facial expression. The way that Sanderson said the word 'teenage' made her think that the older officer chafed at having to work alongside a young woman regardless of her level of experience. Which Aleria considered ironic given the current Imperial Head of State. Sandy was polite, forward, and incredibly experienced given the myriad of stories hidden beneath her young exterior.

 

It was a rash judgment to be sure, but Aleria took a mental note of it for later. For now, she needed him.

 

The Commander's gaze combed over her, focusing on her bearing and the scars she wore; she could see it in the imperious glint of his eyes. It was misleading given her lack of field work. But her prosthetics often provided leverage with people that thought fighting and manual labor were too rough for a woman. Ignoring the muscles and the physique, it takes a hefty-looking metal arm and a mechanical eye for people like that to take you seriously. 

 

"I would like to be a part of the boarding parties, yes. I was told you were the one to contact. Do I need to report to some place in specific or do I follow you when the time comes?"

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"I would like to join the strike team Master Sandy. I believe it's time for me to prove myself in the field. Although I will leave my droid R5 should you need any assistance. Now if you'll excuse me I'll report to Commander Sanderson."  

 

Kel gave a small nod to Aleria when his master introduced them before walking off and leaving Sandy to her alone time with Aidan. Kel shortly followed after Aleria and awaited further instruction. 

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Sandy left the conversation about Adan’s dad where it lay. If he wanted to talk about it she was there, but she had a feeling that such a conversation was best left for after a battle and not before. She tried to hide her blush at the questions but failed. She hated that it sounded like she was bragging, but she plunged ahead.

 

“Yeah I fought her onboard their Dreadnaught, in a circle of ash branches, in one of their ceremonial honour duels for the planet and the fleet. The fleet got away with the kids and the government so its worth it I think. Hurt a lot. I was scared to death the whole time, though.” She grinned sheepishly, “Thank you for being there to help rescue the orphanage. It meant a lot to have those people I look up to there with me.”

 

She coughed and nodded at her apprentice as he walked towards Sanderson. “So what do you want out of this battle Aidan? You are totally welcome to stay here with me and help with the healing stuff, but I think you may want to go clash swords with the Black Sun instead.” She stuck out her tongue and laughed. “Either way I’m rooting for you.”

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Aidan gave her a weird look, but quickly brushed it off.

 

"What do I want? I want my Empress reclaimed. I want people to just get along. I want to not have to harm. But the galaxy doesn't work like that. To some people, violence is the only thing they understand. So they send people like us to take care of problems so everything doesn't go straight to hell in a handbasket. And even still, with the state of the galaxy being as it has been, it looks like we're headed there anyways."

 

Aidan sighed, turning back to the viewport. He wasn't really irritated, but the way that some were so close to these continual events that they trivialized them as normal was aggravating. He didn't blame Sandy, really, it was just a reminder of where he was, what he was doing. If anything, he valued the perspective and reminder. He didn't want to become someone who trivialized these battles as normal, like his parents had.

 

"They didn't even call me up on orders. I'm thinking some of the top brass either doesn't trust the Imperial Knights, or maybe they want to keep us on reserve for something else. All I know is I swore fealty to this Empress. I think I maybe saw her once in passing, but it's what I swore to do. Nobody can keep me off the front lines for this one. I don't particularly look forward to it, but I'm a man of my word. She's done so much to try and help the galaxy become a better place, and I truly believe she's worth fighting for. So...I guess I will."

 

There was a silence that hung between them for a long moment, before Aidan realized how all that probably came off. Sliding closer to her, he looked her up and down, worry still in his eyes, but subdued behind a confidence that was simply in his blood.

 

"I appreciate your support though. It...it means a lot."

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