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Aziza Kalahari

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Aziza Kalahari last won the day on February 5

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  1. He didn't understand, and Aziza wasn't going to try to explain further. Clearly his experience had not been hers, and it was an impossible distance to relate from. She was about to attempt to change the subject when he accepted the datapad and read it, then chucked it back at her with scorn. A dagger of pain, sharp and unexpected, pierced her heart at his words, and she was caught so off-guard that she fumbled the datapad and barely recovered it before it plummeted into the bog. Amadeus doesn't want to teach me any longer? Had she done something wrong, something to offend him? Had she failed to meet his expectations, and he had tried to pawn her off on this Ryu without doing her the courtesy of explaining why? She had learned so much from him, and grown so much, even over the course of only a few weeks, and to be discarded like an old garment hurt--more than she wanted to admit or would have expected. It wasn't as if they had really known each other very well. But she had respected him, and this felt like a small betrayal. Betrayal is the way of the Sith, a voice whispered deep in her soul. She raised her chin. Ryu had settled more deliberately into a fighting stance, and he told her in no uncertain terms that he wouldn't train her. Well, she wasn't surprised. He didn't see how the power she had wielded on Carajam was insignificant compared to the power that Amadeus had shown her how to unlock within her, and how the only thing that mattered to her now was gaining more of it. "I will not give up just because you say so," she replied, her voice hard, her posture tensing as she raised her own arms into a defensive position. "I will learn the power you wield, and strive to one day be your equal." She held the tension for a moment, then released it deliberately, letting her arms drift back down to her sides. "If you refuse to teach me, I'll find someone else who will." She started to turn away, but unsure how he would react, she kept herself vigilant in case his reaction was to throw the punch he appeared to be readying.
  2. The man's tone suddenly grew mocking, and Aziza's eyebrows registered her surprise. "You misunderstand me, sir. Let me put it another way. The Sith have a code, the first line of which states that peace is a lie, there is only passion. I've spent long meditating on that phrase, and come to see that no matter what I may or may not have had back home, I was living in a state of passivity, of peace. It is unacceptable for me to live a lie." She wanted to continue, but the repairman jumped back in. Her polite smile grew cold, but she said no more. As they came in sight of a low building, the man suddenly spun around, dropping into a casually defensive pose. Aziza subconsciously adopted a similar one, her training in Teras Kasi kicking in instinctually as the man raised his arms--and then revealed he was the man she had come to Onderon to find. A flicker of annoyance shot through her for him taking her on a wild nerf chase through the jungle, but was quickly replaced by curiosity. Why had he felt the need to hide his identity from her, a complete stranger? But his words answered her unspoken question, and a ripple of disgust ran through her. Amadeus had warned her that the Sith Order was full of betrayal and infighting despite the Dark Lord's firm rule; clearly, that was what Ryu had expected, although what he had done to deserve assassination was unclear to Aziza. "Kill you? Why would I--?" she sighed. "Never mind. No, my Lord Ryu, I am exactly who I have said that I am." She inclined a head towards him respectfully, though she didn't take her eyes off him. "I bear a message for you from Lord Amadeus. I know not what he wants of or from you, only that the message was to be delivered to you or, failing your appearance, to the Dark Lord." She met his gaze and paused, choosing her words carefully, knowing not what this unpredictable man would do next. "I expect to be remade. Other than that, you're right, I am not prepared. But sometimes you have to leap off a cliff without knowing if there is a repulsorfield at the bottom. If that makes me a fool, well," she shrugged, "I suppose I will fail." Her hand drifted to the pouch slung diagonally across her shoulder. "May I present you with the datapad from Lord Amadeus?"
  3. She shrugged. "It's a risk, of course. All things worth pursuing require risk. I know not if I am up to the challenge or not, but I will try. And if I die trying, then I prove that I was weak. Perhaps that will be little comfort for the dead, but never have I felt comfortable simply being. Always I wish to strive to be more than I was before." She stepped in something that squelched. Wrinkling her nose, she hopped up onto the same fallen log Ryu was on and scraped her boot against it. "On my planet, I had risen as high as I could. I had power, wealth, and prestige. But I was stagnating. I had reached the top and found I had no where else to climb. So when I discovered I was Force-sensitive, there was no hesitation in me." She observed the leeches on his legs and hopped back down into the quagmire, choosing her steps more carefully to avoid attracting the same pests as they continued. "Some would call it foolishness, but I could not bear staying still and wasting away. A ceiling of transparisteel is a torment, for it allows you to see how far you may yet climb while utterly preventing you from reaching those lofty heights." Aziza shrugged again. "I suppose that is a roundabout answer to your question: I am willing to risk everything to bind myself in service to the Sith because I believe that through them, I can shatter that transparisteel ceiling and become more than I could have dreamed of becoming if I had stayed on Carajam." Her lips quirked. "And you? What path led you to refresher repair? What choices led you to become who you are today? What risks have you taken, and were they worth it?"
  4. "Learn from them," she replied lightly, her eyebrows lifted as her mouth hinted at a smile. It was partially façade--being out in the middle of a marsh with a man who possibly wasn't all there on a strange world was beyond the boundaries of propriety. But she also knew that nothing was gained without risk, and this appeared to be a risk worth taking. She thought for a moment of what Amadeus had told her: that sometimes the Force would point beings down certain paths, and it was up to them to choose to walk on them or not. She wished she knew if this was one of those times. She pushed away her musings and continued, her tone graceful and warm. "The Sith are naturally untrustworthy, but not, I hope, unpredictable. There's an old saying where I am from that essentially posits that you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest; I would imagine that in an order infamous for violence and power-grabbing, you can generally trust its members to be infamous of the same. Indeed, in my brief experience I have already seen infighting. It's a shame, but I suppose a natural consequence of the desires the Orders' members have." She glanced over at him. "And you? How long have you worked for them? Are you involved otherwise beyond installing refreshers?"
  5. Apparently this man was no Sith after all, though Aziza noted his sudden change of subject away from the statue and on to business. His body language read as confused and nervous, though it was unclear why. She decided to take him at his word, for she had not given him any reason to lie to her. "I am on foot as you see, Mr. Thundersun," she returned politely, "however, I am certain that transport will be easy to acquire. I thank you for your assistance in this matter; you have already helped me accomplish half of my mission in the space of a mere few minutes." She glanced down the street. A few blocks away she had passed an airtaxi stand, and now she spied it again. "Come," she invited, and led the way to the stand. Once there, the airtaxi driver took one look at her companion and immediately ushered the two of them in, a carefully neutral expression on his face designed, Aziza could determine, to hide awe and anxiety. Her suspicions were confirmed: her companion was more than a mere refresher contractor. It was likely instead that he was a Sith Lord. Why he was choosing to hide his identity was a mystery, but not truly her concern. His business was his own, and if he felt that involved hiding from Aziza who he was, then she'd oblige him by asking no further questions.
  6. Panic appeared to set in as the strange man practically stumbled forward to the same statue that had previously caught the attention of Aziza. She observed as he stared at it, then clutched his forehead in apparent pain. He spun back at her and began to pile her with a sudden rash of queries. "My name is Aziza Kalahari," she replied, her tone gentle but firm. "I was sent here to Onderon by my teacher on a two-fold quest--to verify the rumors of the return of one Sith Lord called Kakuto Ryu, and if they be true, to deliver a message to him." She glanced between the statue and the man. "As for the statue, perhaps the likeness is poor and I am mistaken, but it appears to be you, or at least a relation of yours. Is it not?" The statue lacked a nameplate, and Aziza knew nothing more than what her eyes told her. She was unsure why the man was addressing her in the first place, but she hoped that by speaking with him, she would gain a lead on her quest.
  7. As Aziza made her way through the compound of the Sith with ease, surprise mingled with a strange sense of what might be termed derision. Long had she heard of the renown of the Sith, how fierce their fervor in battle, how intricate the webs of their plots. But now she found herself in the heart of their Empire, and she wandered unopposed and unchallenged. What was to stop a foe of the Empire from doing the same? Perhaps the Sith had grown confident in their power and could easily ascertain friend from foe by the merest glance, but even if that were true, she knew the potential of simple security checks and forces, and the power of procedure. The paved road she was walking was lined with statues, and she found her eyes drawn to one in particular. The being appeared to be the same species as Amadeus, tall and pale, though this Sith Lord boasted a jagged scar running through an empty eye socket. Indeed, the being bore the signs of many battles, including a prosthetic arm that wielded a warhammer of immense size. She pushed on, stopping only to ask servants and passersby if they could direct her to her quarry. Few were able to give her satisfaction, and she ended up mostly turning down streets on a whim. Eventually, her feet carried her to a hospital. Before she could decide whether to enter or turn aside, several figures emerged. First, a short dark-furred Cathar who moved with the lithe grace of a warrior and gave her a nod as she passed. She was followed by several men, mostly haggard-looking soldiers who nevertheless held themselves proudly. The one who appeared to be their captain gave her a nod of acknowledgement, and she nodded in return. Following them came another man, tall but haggard, with a strange haunted look. He was actively avoiding her gaze, and it took Aziza a moment before she recognized him as the same man whose statue lined the avenue behind her. Puzzled at his evasion, she took a step toward him. "My lord? Are you unwell?"
  8. It had taken a long two weeks for Aziza to arrive at her destination. The voyage necessitated three transport transfers, and stops at twice as many spaceports. There had been nothing she could do about the delays, so she had not let them frustrate her; nevertheless, she was quietly relieved to reach the temperate jungle world. At least, it's galactic database profile had claimed it was a temperate jungle world. As her final transport approached the surface, all she could see was torn up soil, destroyed jungles, massive chains, and a floating sphere of some sort that defied normal technology. The city of Iziz was ringed in a massive wall; partly defensive, she assumed, casting a critical eye over it, and partly for intimidation factor. The database profile had spoken of a long and bloody history of a strong and proud people; it would therefore necessitate that for this to be the modern seat of the Sith Empire, a heavy hand would be needed. In the center of the city, she spotted an immense palace: her ultimate destination. She doubted not that it would be difficult to gain the audience she had come for, but persistence and patience were not the anathema to her that they were to so many others. Once the ship had landed, she set out, carrying nothing but her small satchel, clothed in a simple black traveling dress, and turned her feet towards her goal: finding the truth behind the rumors of Master Kakuto Ryu's return.
  9. By the fourth day, Aziza found herself with limited supply and a shadow of self-doubt that refused to lighten. She trusted her teacher, and he had sent her off-world, ergo there must logically be a way off this dust ball. The shadow, however, whispered that she had failed, that she had gone the wrong direction, that she would die insignificant in the wastes before her journey had barely begun. As the sun set, she sheltered in the crevice of a rock. There was little point turning around; her only option was to continue in the direction her instincts told her to go. Amadeus had emphasized trusting those instincts, but she was still new to the ways of the Force, and couldn't avoid the concern that this had been too much too fast. As the stars began to come out one by one, however, she took a deep breath. She embraced her fear; it would keep her going. She refused to die out here. She trusted what she had been taught, and that meant she would find a way off--or not. And if that came, it would come. She slept well, and set off the next morning just as the sky was beginning to turn pink. She rode all day, drinking the last of her water sometime around noon. Fatigue and dehydration combined into a throbbing behind her eyes and at the base of her skull, and she almost didn't notice the winking of silver in the sky above her. Adrenaline shot through her, and she slowed the speeder to a crawl to better verify what her eyes had seen. She grinned. It was certainly a ship in the atmosphere. She traced the arc of its flight, marking where it landed--in a valley approximately 100 klicks from her current location. Triumphant, she kicked the bike back into gear and sped through the desert. --- The landing area had turned out to be a small spaceport outside what appeared to be a Sith outpost. The signature on the datapad she had been given was enough to verify her credentials, and bought her passage on a ship--not more than a cargo hauler, but she was grateful for anything. And so it was that she stood at the viewport, sipping a hydration packet and watching Korriban shrink behind her.
  10. Amadeus’ answers were quite satisfactory, revealing neither naivety nor arrogance, both of which Aziza would have despaired to discover. His personal experience was disheartening but unsurprising given his analysis of the Order, and Aziza found herself accustomed to the reality of the picture he painted with little difficulty. As silence fell between them, she found her thoughts turning back to the lines of the Sith Code. When he had first presented it to her, she had determined to carefully and fully ponder it line by line, for the deceptively simple formula seemingly hinted at deeper truths she felt critical to understanding the philosophy to which she now ascribed. Now she repeated the phrases over to herself. Peace is a lie. The first phrase had caused her no small amount of deliberation. Most of her life had been spent, ostensibly, in the pursuit of peace. But she had gradually come to realize that peace had not been the true goal, but security. The empire of her father had been for the purpose of gaining and maintaining power, and power, she saw now, served the need in her father’s psyche for security. And while security was an acceptable goal, it was not hers. With that uncovered, peace itself in this context she came to understand as being held in contempt for the lack of movement and growth it implied. Many beings claimed to desire peace, but if they achieved it, would certainly regret it and resent it as time progressed. Aziza wrestled, however, with the idea that peace was a lie. There were those cultures and civilizations that claimed to have gained peace, and didn’t galactic history point to the thousand years of peace in the Old Republic as a time of great gain in the areas of philosophy, exploration, and science? A full day was spent in the recesses of her mind wrestling on the topic. Finally, she realized that she had been perhaps taking the line out of context; when contrasted with passion, as it was in the Code, the conflict faded. The opposite of passion was inward self-centered passivity. The ancient Sith hadn’t referred to outward peace, but passivity as compared to passion. Passivity is a lie, there is only passion--this she understood. Amadeus had already begun to speak about how the key to harnessing the Force was through passion. Passion, indeed, was the only way anything in the galaxy was accomplished. There was no reward without risk, and things truly worth risking for were always intertwined with passion. Even the most calculating of the most logical species had things they cared to achieve. The key to the Force, it seemed, was discovering what passions one could use to most effect. So what do I want? The question was the next logical one in the progression of her thoughts, but it was one she was still unsure of the complete answer to. She desired power and influence, she desired to be part of something larger than herself, and she desired to excel, to be the best she possibly could be and to achieve every ounce of potential inside her. But she continued to challenge herself with the question, determined to dig deep to uncover passions of which she was not herself aware. Through passion, I gain strength. On the surface, this was what her Teacher had begun to show her. But she wondered if it went deeper. Emotions were tempestuous animals, seemingly domesticated but capable of lashing out unpredictably. If controlled and harnessed, they could indeed grant one strength. But if held on too tightly of a leash, it led to tense straightjacketed self-control. The key, it appeared, was a middle ground: one of understanding and accepting one’s passions, letting them play out and not ignoring them, while retaining mastery of oneself. This too, Aziza understood. Mastery of oneself was a key tenet in Teras Kasi, and while she still had much growth to do in this area, she was not a novice at managing her emotions. Through strength, I gain power. Amadeus’ instruction on the rise of the Sith Order shed bright illumination on this third precept. This appeared to be a core belief, and one she had already seen taken to heart. Through power, I gain victory--victory, she assumed, meaning the attainment of all of one’s desires, varied as they may be. Through victory, my chains are broken. She wondered at the fact that all Sith openly acknowledged a sense of being captive, and found herself intensely curious to discover what chains members of the Sith Order felt themselves bound with and when they achieved the level of victory to know their chains had indeed been broken. She was too new to the path to be able to see what name hers bore, though she looked forward to the discovery. As she stood at the railing now, finishing the dregs of her tea, she raised a delicate eyebrow and spoke for the first time in a few long minutes. “Through victory, my chains are broken,” she repeated aloud. “What chains are you seeking to break in yourself, Teacher?” ___ Time, space and moments crawled forward beneath these rocks, as if a slow draw of ambient music that played to the tune of reflection between Aziza and Amadeus. The peace that the two were surrendered to, offered them the mind to study on words parted, words shared and words understood from the generations in which they were etched upon stone. Lord Hyperion spent his hours awake, yet sedated by thought and meditation. An uncommon sight for most harvesters of the dark side, he watched his apprentice with his mind's eye, searching her surface emotions as she walked the substructures, re-discovering her journey with herself against the law of the Sith. Her curiosity was always rewarded with direction, and as if he could predict when she would resurface with another question, he remained ready and accessible as best as he could. This was his lesson as much as it was hers, for his selfishness had cost him the lives of those that he had once cared for. Not the crew-for-hire he cared little for, no. His negligence had buried a friend, turned loved ones into murderers and nearly ended him before he could make a name for himself. These were people with faces that had once smiled with delight, wrapped their fingers within his own, or promised to remain with him forever. These were the memories that haunted him here in the silence, nudging him whenever the temptation of sleep came to tease his tired soul. Standing there, against the railing, he could feel himself submitting to the heavy weight of.. "Through victory, my chains are broken." She spoke the words as if she had just truly broken her chains. "Impossible," he thought while he blinked away the traces of sleep that crept on him. His silken white hair brushed from his face as he coughed into the back of his hand slowly, stirring awake unseen. Her question followed eagerly, curiosity abundant in the purr of her voice. "The chains of loss, Aziza." Hyperion said this as plainly as he could, the hesitation that was once there to admit such things, fell apart. "I cannot unsee their faces. The people I have killed, the people I have loved, and the people I hate. I carry them with me wherever I go, and I cannot shake them from me." Amadeus hinted at a sound of impossible after all, but he did not and would not explain it so. "I know I have done what is necessary, and these obstacles or tragedies have grown me and have made me aware of the cruelty of the universe. The Jedi would have us hide from these emotions, curl away from them in fear. I am not afraid to look inside of that closet, Aziza. The skeletons there wait for me. They know nothing of what I have become, but they forsake me either way." Hyperion placed a heavy hand upon her shoulder, reassuringly. "The chains of loss weigh upon my body like the gravity of two moons, but like all else. The power I seek will make sense of this pain, this I am sure of. Because those that hunt for it like the King that leads us wolves, we will make it right." He lifted his arm of blended alloy, and pocketed both hands inside his pockets, shrugging and knowing a deeper truth to what he spoke. "These laws that we live by, it is both different and the same for each one of us. Exodus has shown us this, and has unified our vision forward. Some chains cannot and will not be broken alone, the foolish have tried. Aziza, breaker of chains, do you have what it takes to become more?" She paused, raising her eyes to meet his. “I cannot guarantee success, Teacher. To do so would be arrogant. Many, I am sure, have failed to walk this path to completion. But I pledge dedication, perseverance, and exertion. I am committed and shall not be swayed from this path I am setting out upon, come what may.” The moment stretched, and then she lowered her eyes, suddenly feeling uncharacteristically self-conscious. Turning her back on the red vista, she moved to head back inside. It was getting late, and she wanted a meal before the evening advanced much further. "..We will see." Hyperion spoke under his breath, nearly glowering as the menacing whisper went unnoticed. His eyes scanned the landscape at large, and began to pick at a curiosity he held since they had found the outpost. "When would death claim me?" -- Well after meals were spent and the hours to digest had crawled ahead, creatures of the night cooed loudly just outside their walls to usher in the wild nature of nightfall. Time was never used the same in any of the days since their arrival; meditation, study and training had come naturally and followed no spoken order. However, as the days grew, so too did their scheduled collaboration. At this hour, Hyperion found himself meditating within the training circle, waiting for the very familiar patter of Aziza’s approach. He didn’t have to wait long; she had become as accustomed to their strange schedule as he, and aware in the back of her mind as a faint but persistent buzz when he was awaiting her presence. Without comment, she took her place across from him, her manner open, curious to hear what he had to teach her next. "You're well rested I hope," Hyperion opened his eyes to look over the student, speaking in a soft and sedated voice. "Apprentice— In the lives we were given, we are either predator or prey. The choice is really just that simple. Inexperience and fear will slick your boots like fresh mud, and run panic through your bones. What happened on that ship, penned us as the obvious prey. That disgusts me. At any moment, a blade or a claw could have found purchase and upended the odds of our survival.. We must be better." Hyperion had been conditioned for war, and the spilling of blood was something he enjoyed, more than Aziza would be able to guess at. The dance of battle filled him with a purpose unlike anything else these worlds could ever give. "There is an arms cache behind the sliding wall. Make a decision on your weapon preference. It will become an extension of you. Let us begin." --- Pleasantries exchanged, the duty of culture and refinement, contrasted, to an inexperienced eye, quickly by the ferocity and rage of combat. But it was a false dichotomy, for battle itself held a grace and artistry that only the perceptive or seasoned could discern. Aziza was no stranger to combat training, but the array of weapons that appeared before her as the doors to the cache slid open was immense. Her temptation was to choose a weapon she was familiar with, and her fingers grazed the cold metal of an electrostaff with reverence. But before she picked it up, she paused, seeking a direction for not who she had been, but who she was becoming. After a moment, she reversed the direction of her hand and scooped up several small throwing daggers. These she tucked to easy access in her belt, and then armed her other hand with a long coiled whip. So armed, she triggered the cache doors to close and turned back to her teacher. “I am ready.” The next several hours were filled with instruction. Repetition is the mother of expertise, and Aziza practiced the forms Amadeus showed her over and over again. The basics of using the whip involved getting it to wrap around objects or persons, and much of her practice involved cracking it out and attempting to wrap it around various objects set up throughout the room. Once she managed to wrap one up, she would tug it off to the side and occasionally throw a dagger at it with her free hand. It was slow going, but Aziza wasn’t discouraged; it took patience to master anything, and she had plenty of that to spare. Dawn was starting to color the horizon when they finally quit. Weary, sore, and marked with painful welts from the times when the whip had turned back on her, she coiled it slowly and made her way back to the cache to return it. “You never told me how those beasts that attacked us knew where to find us and who you were,” she said quietly. “Or why they reacted so violently to your presence.” "I wondered when you'd question that," Hyperion spoke the words with a bit of unease in his undertone. The pair had grown closer over the length of time in isolation, mired in preparation and practice but only scratching the surface of who they really were. Hyperion pulled a datapad from his cloak and threw it to Aziza. "I need you to take this to Onderon, personally. Do this for me and I will share with you the secrets of Hyperion. The name, the mantle and just how my death will play out. On your journey, become more and return to me prepared for a battle unlike anything you've seen on your homeworld. Rumors are, that Master Ryu has returned. If this is true, find him before he is killed. If these rumors are false, then seek audience with the Dark Lord. This is your first test, Aziza. You will now enter the fray." Hyperion turned on a heel and began to leave the room. "Leave now. May you conquer the force before you." And with that, Hyperion slipped into the shadows. She accepted the datapad without comment and left to head to the room she had been using as her sleeping chambers. She felt slightly unsure whether this was a brush off or an opportunity, but after a moment, decided it was the latter. Gathering up her few belongings--nothing more than a salvaged charging port for her comlink and a threadbare but serviceable black cloak discovered in a long-abandoned closet--she returned to the weapons training room and armed herself with a blaster, a dagger, and the whip she had commenced to become proficient with. Her final stop was the kitchenette, where she loaded herself with a large pack of provisions and water. She had no idea where the nearest spaceport would be, and Amadeus had given her no guidance on the subject, so she wanted to be prepared for the likely eventuality that she would be searching the barren wastes of this harsh climate for several days at least. Reaching the garage bay, she loaded her pack onto one of the speeder bikes. Making sure it was fueled up, she mounted, and a few moments later, sped off into the dawn light of the red desert of Korriban.
  11. The area became a swamp of contention. Blades, blasters and bullets ate at steel and flesh until those that wielded weapons were fewer and fewer. Some lay lifeless, others wailed at the excessiveness of their deep wounds, screaming for a help that would never come. The scene became horror painted in red and black without the transparency of shed light to reveal how dreadful this place had become. Over what felt like hours, just two were all that remained alive. Sensibly, it had been a fraction of that time, and the action erupted immeasurably quick. The brutality spent in mere moments, would stamp itself as a memory of survival for their journey to come. The mercenaries were dead, and the last of the abominations had been put down. “We must leave.” Hyperion heaved his words laboriously, numbing emotionally from the pain that his injuries racked him with. The red of his tunic was steepened in sweat and blood, but the darkness of the broken ship hid the wear and tear that had overcome him in waves. “If the speeders survived the crash, we can move across the sands and far from this place. "You can walk?” The sand-knotted winds seemed to screech even louder as the question came about. She reached behind her, picking up a spear-like weapon one of the abominations had been wielding. Using it as a crutch, she struggled to her feet, blood draining from her face and her eyes crossing a little before she gritted her teeth. “I must,” she replied simply. Without hesitation, she reached down and grabbed the blaster rifle from one of the mercenaries’ bodies and slung it over her body, then retrieved the dagger from the corpse of the abomination it had killed. They made their way towards where the wreckage of the speeder bay would have been and quickly uncovered the bikes. The Force was with them, for only one of them had been damaged, leaving three others that a few flipped switches revealed as operational. Aziza carefully mounted one of the bikes and hit the ignition, running through a quick test of all the systems to ensure there was no invisible damage. “Green lights across the board,” she reported after a moment. “I’m going to have trouble with the altitude controls,” she indicated to the pedals and her mangled foot, now hanging uselessly at a bizarre angle, “but we’ll at least be able to get out of this wreck.” "Ride slow, ride north. I'll trail in case the winds try to take you." He knew he would have to patch her sooner than later, or her wounds would take her far from her journey. His own were quickly becoming a nuisance; his shoulder had hyper-extended sometime between lashes and spear maneuvering, and there were deep gashes sewn by filthy claws all over his back. The burn of his open flesh stung as he shifted awkwardly between downed bodies, exhaustion tickled his lower back as he perched himself upon the 74-Z, throttling through the systems. The speeders were rugged, finished in a rude varnish of oily matte-black, and bare bones besides the protective coverings on operational pieces. Visored helmets coated in the same neutral color pallet suspended from above them, hanging from ruptured steel plates in the ceiling of the ship. Hyperion tore them from their binds with his command of the force and rested one into the hands of his apprentice. He moved to lift his own helmet over his head, and found a new injury in the form of his ribs on the left side. Were they broken too? "Check, check." His voice poured through his own embedded communication systems inside of his helmet, sounding raspy and mechanical. They would need coordination to cross these hungry dunes. When he looked up, he saw that she was watching him wince with a knowing look in her eye, but she made no comment as she gunned the engine to life. It sputtered for a moment, then settled into a purring roar that was punctuated by a high-pitched squeal as she sped away. They traveled for a few hours; the exact time was difficult to tell. The light of the system’s sun filtered only weakly through the sandstorm. The helmets protected their faces from the worst of the scouring, but the sand wormed its way through the joints and crevices nonetheless, leaving both Carajamnian and Arkanian with stinging eyes and dry dusty mouths. Finally, they came to the edge of a crack in the ground, a rough valley of etched sandstone walls carved by a long-extinct river. The descent brought them out of the worst of the storm, and they paused briefly to shake built-up sand out of the engines. Aziza glanced up at the dark red sky. “Any chance of telling how long we have until dusk?” she rasped, her vocal cords rough and her mouth dry. “Quarter rotation, maybe less” He spoke harshly as he coughed up phlegm, the dryness of his throat bothered his breathing. Exhaustion and dehydration were settling in fast and he tried to distract his mind from that. It could be a few hours until the skies darkened, perhaps less than that, but when it happened, it would happen fast. The shadows would become stretched and hardened, giving freedom to the creatures of the night. Their brief reprieve was a moment to gather. As they did so, Hyperion ran his eyes over his apprentice, understanding now that she would not falter to her wounds and that her strength would be a hallmark in her journey forward. “Come. If memory serves, there should be an old observation post nearby.” Hyperion scratched his helmet and throttled the speeder forward, pointing to a small opening barely visible against the long sandstone walls. Lord and apprentice rushed the quick mile before staying their speed in front of what appeared to be an earthwork of stone. The smooth black-stone finish, was a wall of ten by ten, cut into a large foursquare. Hieroglyphics were narrowly visible, but etched symmetrically across the eternally-polished bulkhead. They were written in High-Sith, more or less coined and carved by the slaves that worked these lands in the past. Hyperion disengaged his speeder, powering down the machine into a sleep-mode of sorts, eyes still locked onto the mysterious wall. He ran a hand over it smoothly, fumbling to find the words. “I—I’m unfamiliar with the written linguistics,” the pitch in his voice made it obvious that he was less referring to his apprentice, and more surprised that this was something unknown to him. “A soothsayer watched these parts, but how..” As his words trailed, the lines on the onyx slab hummed low, now sizzling with a faint orange glow. A long groan, both earthy and deep, rumbled from beneath their feet. The foursquare shook as it came undone, rocking debris from the arrangement it was installed from, peeling backwards into the recesses of the sandstone walls. A hollow amalgamation of rock and metal greeted them, accompanied by a neutral yawn of sound as life and wind rushed back into the observation post. The sight that greeted them went almost unremarked by the two injured, dehydrated, and exhausted humanoids, but enough of their wits remained to make a quick survey. It was laid out like a tower, several stories tall and roughly dodecahedral. The ground floor had a garage for housing transport, and contained one dilapidated landspeeder and some saddles for an unspecified type of pack animal; the rest of the floor was several desks with computer terminals. One whined softly and flickered slowly to life as Aziza turned it on, disturbing a fine layer of dust the same color as the sand outside. By unspoken consent they took the turbolift up to the second floor. It contained a small kitchen, stocked with little but water and field rations, but the two castaways eagerly took the opportunity to begin to re-hydrate their bodies. Once they had each downed a liter or so of water, they continued to explore, Aziza munching on a ration pack. They discovered some sleeping quarters, an open padded room used for exercise, and a small medbay--stocked with only the basics, and no medical droid, but it would be enough. The third floor contained terminals in charge of a damaged communications array, an armory, and a wide empty room with nothing but an altar in the center with a wide stone bowl on it. The room seemed cold. The ever-present dark stone etched with hieroglyphs that ran throughout the temple was more intricate here, and the number of hieroglyphs increased. The entire tour of the tower took only a few minutes, and they found themselves returning to the medbay. Aziza was barely functional, and Amadeus didn’t look much better. They groggily pawed through the medical supplies, found what they needed, and set to work patching each other up. Half an hour later, they dropped into the blackness of sleep.
  12. Everything was pain and death and red. Aziza lost herself in the battle, firing over and over again. Their enemies seemed endless, and time appeared to cease its relentless march forward. Two Arkanians fell, slaughtered mercilessly by the attackers, and Aziza gritted her teeth. Their chances of survival were falling. But Amadeus was wielding a whip with one hand, and lightning with the other. The air crackled with electricity. Her blaster, finally drained of its power, sputtered. Without hesitation, she flicked the setting to overload what was left of the tibanna gas chamber and tossed it overhand into a knot of three abominations. Her improvised bomb exploded with a satisfying jolt, sending pieces of red flesh flying. Instantly, the blade Amadeus had given her was in her hands, as during the pause in her covering fire, one enemy had slipped through the line. Its teeth were at her throat, bearing her down as she fought to keep her life. The hot breath on her face stank of all things foul. Repulsed, she rolled and came to a knee, then slashed out. The blade met the soft skin of the neck, and her opponent fell with a gurgle. The haze lifted for a moment, and the world snapped back into focus. There were suddenly only three opponents left. The Selonian was engaged with one in hand-to-hand combat, both of their weapons lost in the scuffle, while the other two were hanging back, wary of approaching Amadeus’ whip. As she watched, however, one of those was changing targets, determined to finish off Shi Bere and end the Selonian’s threat. Before he could do so much as take two steps in her direction, however, he fell as Aziza’s thrown blade penetrated his eye socket and lodged itself deep in his brain. Aziza was, for the moment, unarmed; she only hoped she had made the right decision and that her allies would be able to finish off the last two opponents.
  13. Their attackers were large, red, and bulbous. The dim light did not much allow Aziza to determine further details, the viciousness of their attack leaving little room for what other observations she could glean. Blasterfire lit up the interior, and she added her own to the mix. Their enemies’ thick hides allowed them to shrug off all but the most accurate hits, at least until multiple deadly beams of energy had soaked through. Trusting the mercenaries to handle the front line, Aziza focused on those who had been toward the back of the group, firing as quickly as she could. One she managed to hit in the eye, and it fell immediately, but the others took more time. The blaster sizzled in her hands, threatening to overheat, but she couldn’t afford to stop. And then the creatures reached their perimeter. Aziza ducked behind her barricade as a new stream of blasterfire targeted her, ducking out to resume fire only when she heard a pause. Briefly, she glimpsed one of the Arkanians go down. For the moment, they were holding their ground, but she knew that if the fight was not finished in the next few minutes, they could not hope to prevail.
  14. The feral? The instruction left Aziza utterly perplexed and rather shocked. There wasn't time now to dwell on it, however, so she put it out of mind. Perhaps he meant only to encourage me look to our survival and put aside other distractions. That was an instruction she could indeed comprehend. Unfortunately, she knew that with her injury she was a liability to the group, so she looked to put herself in a position where she'd do the least harm. Amadeus, it appeared, was curiously defaulting to her command, and therefore the mercenaries would as well, though she had not proven herself to any of them. Wishing she had a more reliable crew--she didn't trust anyone whose loyalty could be bought with credits, and she knew precious little about her new teacher--she gave some quick direction. The Nikto and Selonian she put on either end, with an Arkanian backing them each up, one each facing the two directions in which they heard their enemies approaching. Amadeus she left to the center of the group. Quietly, she commandeered one of the Nikto's spare blasters, and ducked behind a large piece of debris that was serving as the hypotenuse of their rough triangle formation. The debris came up to her chest, and she could remain upright by leaning against it. It would also serve as a line of defense should they need to fall back. The dagger Amadeus had pressed into her hand she laid carefully on the durasteel ledge, ready to be snatched up in a moment. She rather hoped it wouldn't come to that though; she could not put any weight on her leg, and knew that if faced with melee combat she would likely become victim to the enemies' weapons. In all, it was a sad defense, but all that they could do. The pain from her wounds receded and she put herself in a clear-headed state of battle readiness. She raised her blaster, letting it rest on the debris wall. Gokukara, protect us.
  15. Aziza grimaced at the lack of a stimpack, but accepted the fabric Amadeus offered. She knelt down and bound her ankle tightly, noting that it was likely broken and not just sprained. The world was becoming clearer, though it was still spinning, but that concerned her less than her master's alert nervousness. His enemies were close. How he knew it, she was unsure, but she trusted he knew their habits. She had just risen again when several others appeared from the wreckage. She was immediately on guard, but a second quick glance at their dirty and bedraggled appearance showed that they were crew. There were two Arkanians, a Nikto, and a towering brown-furred Selonian. In their wake came the butler droid she had spoken with earlier. The Selonian growled out a question, and Aziza blinked, blaming her concussion on what she thought she had heard the female say. Kill who? Me? That isn't right, is it? She pushed the disquiet aside. "It's important for us to be prepared for when your enemies arrive," she stated quietly, attempting to think through the dizziness. "What type of forces are arrayed against us? What would give us the tactical advantage?"
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