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  1. A GR-75 medium transport popped out of hyperspace within the vicinity of Felucia, escorted by a pair of obsolete Y-Wings that kept a generous distance from the ship. The transport broadcast an automated signal as it descended towards the planet, repeating on an exact sequence its callsign and a request to land at the Jedi Temple. More heavily encrypted information followed in this sequence, clarifying that it had been sent from Nar Shaddaa on an express courier mission from Grandmaster Draygo, and that it carried a cargo of medical supplies and droids. Judging from the perfect frequency at which the sequence repeated, it would soon become clear to the Temple’s traffic control that the transport was piloted solely by computer--not a single living sapient was aboard the ship. After it was granted permission to land, a second automated message was transmitted by the ship as the clamshelled transport descended through the atmosphere. “Apologies, Sarna, this was the best I could do on short notice. The ship’s main cargo is medical supplies--mix of everything, the initial reports were rather confused from a technical standpoint. Also, just shy of two thousand droids. They’re not too talkative, but I’m told that they have basic lifesaving protocols and they’ll at least make decent scouts.” A brief technical summary was attached to the ship’s manifesto, making clear to note several times in large red characters that, despite the reinforced chassis and sunken faceplate of the Sentinels clearly implicated them as being designed as battle droids, they were utterly incapable of taking offensive action. Their built-in comlinks, however, recommended them for service as scouts to make first contact with settlements potentially afflicted by the plague. Once the GR-75 transport settled with the painstaking slowness indicative of a droid pilot, a dozen of the droids disembarked. Their glowing yellow slats scanned down the length of the ship, before quietly plodding along its flanks to lend their strength in unloading its cargo. Indeed, they were far from talkative: when the organic deck crews interrogated the plastoid brutes of their purpose, they merely responded with an electronic beep and a terse, rumbling, “Assist disembark. Alternate directive?”
  2. There was a brief inhalation and a pointed pause from Misal. One could imagine that if she were younger, more impatient, and possessed functioning eyes, then she would have closed them and let out a sigh of exasperation before fixing Armegedon with a withering stare. Instead, she just nodded gravely and adjusted her gait as the grasslands gave way to pavement and pavement gave way to pressure-treated duracrete. “We shall see what we shall see,” Misal responded patiently. “Imagining what we may find on Katarr will be pointless and potentially demoralizing. It is best to take sensible precautions and to work the problem when we encounter it. Please, lead us to your ship.” But there was a sharp edge of anxiety to her Force-presence. The Miraluka had once stepped into a gaping wound in The Force, on the umbral surface of Kashyyyk. It had not been a pleasant experience, and the location had attracted fauna that was better rendered extinct. Partly to distract herself, Misal lifted her helmet out of the cup of her hip and her fist and spoke loudly into its cavity. “Overwatch, Space-Mom says to take a nap. I will re-establish contact once our task is complete. Night-night.”
  3. Draygo woke with a start and a snort. Dataslates fell from her desk as she pushed herself away from her desk, and she rubbed at a series of ridges burrowed into her cheek from falling asleep on the pile of tablets. She had collapsed from exhaustion after poring over intelligence reports for two days. There could be no time to dwell. This was more than making excuses along the lines of “necessities of the war effort”: the Rebel Alliance was at a severe backfoot after the loss of Fondor and Mon Calamari. Predictably, the Kuati nobility had displayed their predilection for governments even more depraved than their ancient class privileges. Without the gain of a new array of shipyards, it was possible that the entire venture of the Rebel Alliance would simply wither and die from sheer attrition. This state of affairs was not quite as dire as it might have seemed, however. Though Mon Calamari was a loss whose value that could not be easily calculated, there were several ostensibly neutral systems that had been reliable allies of the Galactic Republic in the past. Certainly, they had been treated as hunting grounds for the more imaginative Sith Lords. Gaining access to those was likely to be contingent on their success at Fondor and Kuat. Admiral Slaughter might have been an uncompromising, merciless butcher of an officer, but he was at least well-suited to the cold-hearted task of subjugating a hostile world--and Kuat, at least, was far from a Sith-dominated planet. Her hand groped for a mug of caf. She glared down. empty. She was going to need to banish the sleep-haze--and indulge her addiction--before meeting with Tobias Vos and embarking on their mission. A visit to the commissary and two cups of twice-brewed caf took care of that, and she soon boarded his repainted YT-2000 freighter with an extra pair of mugs for the benefit of the Jedi Master and his Padawan. She banged on the side of the boarding ramp, instinctively making her way towards the common room in the familiar Corellian layout. There she found the Kiffar, who was poring over civilian clothing--not unarmored Jedi robes, but fabric trousers and a tunic--and of all things, a thin vest made of some kind of cheap faux-leather. “People… really wear this kind of clothing?” She asked of Vos, gauging the thin vest with a skeptical eye. “I mean, the fit isn’t bad, but that faux-leather will provide absolutely no protection against blaster fire… and… haven’t these people heard about layering?”
  4. “Actually, you sounded like my daughter for a moment.” There was a momentary flash of yellowed teeth, but it quickly disappeared into the gravity of their conversation. “She becomes easier to understand when you stop viewing her through the prism of her Jedi training and more through that of her background of her life as a soldier. But I digress. “I would and have visited horror upon those that would violate my family.” Her thin lips pressed together and her blind gaze drifted over the many kilometers towards the horizon behind them, where the smoke clouds were just beginning to fade. “And sometimes those less deserving of my personal attention. The former I’m certain was necessary. The latter…” It was several minutes before Misal spoke again. Her mind was focused on parsing through many years of memory: of missions, mentors, manipulation, and murder. Of a corpulent businessman that she’d left snivelling in a Coruscanti alley, drenched in a cocktail of expensive brandy and his own sweat. The Miraluka couldn’t even remember the man’s species. It was likely that he’d survived Hesperidium’s fall--he likely had the credits to book travel off-planet. That was one of the few occasions where she had threatened to utterly destroy a sapient--not merely to ruin their body, but to rend their bonds asunder and render them an island. That was absolutely necessary… even if she had escalated the man’s interrogation. But there was another occasion. The muscle at the side of her vestigial eye sockets twitched in a grimace, stretching a network of crude scars. “Yes. I believe that I would have been more careful about substituting my master’s will for my own. His ideals were admirable, but there was a certain callousness to his methods that was not always justified. Bah. I was an angry child then, impulsive, but afraid to trust my own judgement after I committed several critical errors. But I’ve no desire to speak of distant regrets. We must proceed to Katarr. Perhaps we will find useful answers there.”
  5. Misal continued her limp, pondering morosely on what Genesis had just said. He spoke of being delivered to the Jedi Order was a gift from the Luka Sene. There was always the possibility of the young man speaking in metaphorical terms, as she hadn’t known the Miraluka Force-Sect to have degenerated so far into depravity as to indulge in sapient chattel. But, limping along with her right arm impeded by the boy’s elbow and a small blaster pistol in clear sight at her him, she was newly aware of the robed half-Miraluka behind them and began allowing her Force-Sight to wander. The elderly Miraluka nodded. Her voice gained a meandering tone. “You may think it strange. Self-centered, perhaps. I have rarely thought of my own parents, not since having Armiena. I think often of the family I created, the dozens of students who I’ve taught. Some of them left me before I considered their training adequate. Some of them surpassed me. A few I’ve had to bury. My husband… constantly. He was a good man--not great, certainly not perfect, but that would have made him uninteresting.” A small smile had crept onto her face, and a queer inflection in her voice hinted that she was thinking of happier years in more than merely abstract terms. “It might not be much longer, I think.” "Setting foot on Katarr is likely to be… unpleasant. But I think you will someday appreciate the effort. In my experience, the past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” She remained silent for a few more minutes, the rustle of the grasses and buzzing of insects the only voice in their conversation. ”You’ve no obligation to answer this. I’ve always been somewhat mystified by the Jedi Order. Their call to service is admirable, but despite their insistence on not clinging to the past--or to personal attachments--they’ve lacked the courage to surpass a war that they have fought for millennia. From time to time they earn a few well-deserved centuries of stability, only to fail to win the peace and the Sith are able to consolidate and return. It’s a cycle that seems to repeat without end. I know that my daughter possesses the imagination to see the possibility, but I suspect she lacks the moral courage to break that cycle and this failing may… consume her. I’ve often wished for the capability to break it myself.” That was more speaking than Misal was accustomed to and her mouth had become dry. There was no question asked, just a few thoughts that she wanted to share with a much younger man.
  6. It was a few hours later that Armiena was able to tear herself away from the throng of attention-seekers--some of whom actually did have emergencies that needed her attention--and return to her ship. She found the old freighter empty. A lap around the living spaces aboard the ship discovered that her mother had left, leaving only a shakily-scrawled note that contained only a comlink frequency and well-wishes. That was not surprising; her mother was prone to coming and going without ceremony, but this time there was a sense of finality to her visit. As her pale-green eyes scanned the square of paper and committed the numbers to memory, her mind kept wandering to the possibility that this was the last time that she would ever see him again. The veteran Jedi wandered, half-aware, towards McShipface’s cockpit, tearing the square of paper into scrap and swallowing the ragged fragments one piece at a time. It was there that Armiena found that there was a message from her Padawan. She opened the message with mild concern--none of the Jedi dispatched to Chandrila had sent a thorough status report--and her stomach dropped further when closer examination of the message revealed that it hadn’t been sent from Chandrila, but Nar Shaddaa. Though silent, the message struck with all the thunder and confusion of an ambush in the middle of a minefield. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to scream, sob, and storm out of her ship to hunt down her Padawan all at the same time. That was an impossibility, of course. There was no opportunity for self-indulgence and personal satisfaction, especially that as stupid as forcing the harrowing life of a Jedi on an unwilling apprentice. Mostly, she just wanted to see her former student and listen to that speech he had prepared for her benefit. Armiena held her face in her hands and just stared into her palms for a few minutes. This also explained her mother’s absence. She’d left to pursue the boy. After a long hesitation, the Jedi Master sent a brief message to the frequency that her mother had left. Please respect his wishes. Do not pursue him.
  7. Misal linked a hand under Genesis’ arm and began to limp along in the general direction of civilization. From the unyielding grip on his arm and the occasional brush of their bodies, it quickly became apparent that the limp wasn’t an affectation. Her hand and shoulder were skeletal. There were slight tremors in her Force-presence even as she stepped. “Less trouble than you might expect, Stormhelm,” the aged Miraluka responded with a soft exhalation of laughter. “Forgive me. I’ve spent most of my life searching for people who preferred not to be found and reporting on their activities to interested parties. Small freight concerns in the Expansion Region tend to be highly susceptible to bribery and more amateurish forms of infiltration. The great difficulty in this particular task is a degree of emotional attachment that was absent from my previous assignments. I’ve never felt any urgent need to replenish the ranks of the Jedi Order, but I do wish to report to my daughter that you’re happy, healthy, and that she doesn’t need to continue worrying for you.” Misal dug in her heels and stood still at the next step. “The Luka Sene have asked you to embark on a further task for them, haven’t they?”
  8. There was some excited squawking coming from the headset comms, which Misal tuned out. She was perfectly capable of perceiving the appearance of a second humanoid who had somehow eluded her practiced gaze, and she was as irritated with her own failure as she was with the failure of her student’s overwatch. She merely raised her hands to just behind her ears, shifted her grip, and the near-transparency of her helmet changed to cold grey iron. The Miraluka rested the helmet on her hip and regarded the interloper with an unchanging stare of veiled disdain. “Young man, Master Stormhelm is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. Answering a question directed to him isn’t merely patronizing, it’s bad manners and unproductive.” She did not return the handshake. She didn’t approach Armegedon. Her armor-clad form limping with every step, she hobbled towards the young Jedi Padawan and faced in towards the young half-Miraluka. The coldness with which she disregarded his chaperone was in stark contrast with the empathy written in the lines of her face. “Armiena is surviving. She’s buried herself in work, no sign that she’s making progress in digging her way out. I’ve found that means that she’s deeply upset but understands that any intervention she could make would be a disaster. At least she isn’t drinking this time.” That addition may have been a touch too far. Her daughter would not have appreciated her divulging any details on a very low period of her life. “But I need to ask how you have fared since leaving.”
  9. Sentinel “Battle Droids” Identity Real Name: Sentinel Mk1 Battle Droids A.K.A: Sentinels, Clankers, etc. Homeworld: Mechis III Species: Droid Physical Description Age: About 1 year Height: 5’ 8” Weight: About 300 pounds Hair: None. They are plastoid-alloy droids. Eyes: White-yellow lines, dimly glowing behind an sets of armored slats. Sex: Not applicable Equipment Clothing or Armor: Their armored carapace is composed of a matte grey plastoid alloy similar in composition to mainline stormtrooper armor. Weapon: Their programming is intended to allow them to use a variety of small-arms and heavy weapons from blaster rifles to man-portable missile launchers, but their combat programming has been sabotaged and they are unable to even enter a combative state. If confronted with violence, they can attempt to physically block an assailant or evacuate noncombatants, but that is the limits of their capabilities in combat. Common Inventory: Possessing remarkably dextrous hands for droids, they are capable of performing a variety of noncombative duties, including basic ship and vehicle maintenance, data entry, firefighting, and even basic first-aid. Faction Information Force User, Force Sensitive or Non-Force User: Non-Force User droids. Alignment: Lawful Neutral. As they are exposed to the Jedi Order, they will inevitably begin to form something of a moral compass. Current Faction Affiliation: Jedi Order Current Faction Rank: Unranked utility NPCs History Force Side: Not applicable Trained by: Programmed by the Mechis III droid foundries Trained who: Not applicable. Known Skills: No Background: The Sentinel droids are a limited-production model of battle droids commissioned by the Jedi Order to supplement the marine forces of the Rebel Alliance. The droids stand just below two meters tall and their armored shell is composed of a matte grey plastoid alloy. Although humanoid in form, they have a recessed faceplate that sinks slightly into their chest cavity and their dimly glowing photoreceptors are protected by armored slats, giving the droids a fortified appearance. Their speech, when the ordinarily tactiturn droids elect to speak, is a synthesized baritone with a slight buzzing quality. Unlike most battle droids, their five-fingered hands and feet are remarkably dextrous, comparable to those of a reasonably coordinated organic being. Although they were designed to be significantly more versatile and competent in their abilities than previous droid armies, such as the comedically incompetent B1-series of battle droids deployed in overwhelming numbers by the Confederacy of Independent Systems, their armor and weapons are standard-issue and most predictive simulations placed them on even footing to the mainline units deployed by the Rebel Alliance and Sith Empire. However, they have been sabotaged with a crippling weakness in this regard: the Sentinel droids are literally incapable of using their weapons. Their single production run was sabotaged by an unknown third party, causing their combat and maneuver subroutines were irrevocably corrupted. They are not capable of any action more aggressive than picking up a weapon and accidentally pointing it in the general direction of an organic being. The droids seem to be aware of their flawed, incomplete nature. The inability to fulfill a droid’s primary directive has been known to drive lesser models of droids into a state of terminal indecision, but the Sentinels possess just enough independent intelligence that their condition has made them curious with regards to the nature of their design and construction. The droids have elected to accept Grandmaster Draygo’s offer to serve the Jedi Order as demilitarized assistants, capable of performing functions deemed too dangerous or hazardous for their organic compatriots. This has given the droids an opportunity to see the galaxy, to learn, and to search for a new purpose to assign as their primary directive. Ship Registration While the droids have some basic fire-fighting and maintenance capabilities, they lack the necessary programming to control any class of starship.
  10. Partly out of necessity to block the young half-Miraluka’s passage and partially out of respect to perpetual aching of old joints, Misal remained perfectly still, her sightless gaze distracted between the smoke-cloud beginning to billow from the homestead and the young Stormhelm. No longer concealed by her traditional veil, a peculiar expression was on her face. She almost appeared… sympathetic. “On the contrary, Armiena has no knowledge of my actions other than that I left that intolerable moon a few days after you did. Permission has never been something I’ve required from my daughter, not when it comes to looking after those she cares about.” Misal never felt particularly compelled to be diplomatic or justify her actions, yet she found herself speaking unprompted and explaining herself. Perhaps it was watching the distant fire that was making her sentimental. More likely, it was the fact that the Miraluka had helped to train dozens of young Force-Sensitives, some of whom bore as much trauma as the young Stormhelm. For the moment, the Luka Sene and Katarr would need to wait. “When I read about what happened to you on Chandrila, I was concerned that you were descending into a mindset of despair. Severing ties with your teacher and the Jedi Order, though you have my every sympathy in the latter, was a drastic decision. I decided to intervene when I learned that you had made contact with the Luka Sene and returned to Dantooine. “I’ve trained many young--and not-so-young--sapients to use their abilities, and it wasn’t uncommon that we were forced to postpone their training while we dealt with lingering trauma that was becoming a significant distraction. My successful trainees tended to follow recognizable patterns, but the challenging ones were all distinct, sometimes engaging in spectacular and rather symbolic behavior. Quite simply, destroying your family home is a highly disturbing decision. Fire… and… explosions tend to have a significant element of symbolism in the minds of those recovering from trauma. What you intend to do with it, I have no idea.”
  11. Armiena had expected these droids to be chatty--maybe not as bad as the typical protocol droid or one of the useless B1-series, but there was not even so much as a confirmation or utterance of “roger roger.” Those expressionless faces just stared at her through their sunken chestplates. The veteran Jedi reached to the Force, and felt a slight tremor between the horde of battle droids--it was steady and ceaseless, likely a transmission. Most likely the droids were constantly sharing tactical data between themselves, possibly audio or visual data. But there was something else, some gossamer connection between the droids. “I understand that you were created to serve the Jedi Order as front-line soldiers. I can’t compel you to do that--not because your programming was sabotaged, but because I wouldn’t force any sapient being to fight and die against their will.” Hands on her hips, Draygo turned about, searching the droids for any flicker of reaction. The hem of her brown robes snagged on one of the droids’ armored feet. There might have been a barely audible beep from the droids. “But if we’re going to have a chance of overthrowing the Sith Empire, we’re going to need all available hands. Even pacifists who refuse to raise a blaster in anger will be valuable. I’d like to invite you to assist the Jedi Order. We’ll have need of your services--construction, logistics, even spare computational cycles. In the meantime, you’ll be able to complete self-diagnostics and we’ll be able to find out what was done to you.” There was another one of those tinny beeps. Draygo counted a minute between each of the sounds--perhaps it was a running indicator. Only one of the droids spoke, the grey Sentinel that stood directly before the gaze of the Jedi Master. A rumbling baritone voice issued from a speaker that was buried somewhere in the droid’s sunken neck, not exactly unpleasant to listen to, but the droid’s inhuman appearance gave the rumble an intimidating quality. “Awaiting assignment, Grandmaster.” “Wonderful. There are two flashpoints that need steady hands, and not being susceptible to contagions will be… useful. Sync your comms to me,” Armiena held up a disc from her belt . “And I’ll send you tactical data for your first mission.” ____ Two hours later, a transport packed to the bulkheads with Sentinel droids--nearly two thousand mechanical souls--departed The Red and Black, and vanished into hyperspace.
  12. “One more time, Baakua, just the facts.” Draygo took the opportunity to catch her breath after having sprinted several kilometers to the distant arms warehouses that stored the vast arsenals held by the Rebel Alliance. No fewer than thirty battle droids had circled around the Jedi, observing them through glowing eyes that were just barely visible through armored slats. “Right, so, the previous Grandmaster--Master Alluyen--commissioned an order of droids of about one million units. The Peth-Osk is on the dataslate. Manufacturer’s brochure suggest that they have a wide variety of capabilities, frontline combat, peacekeeping, law enforcement and security, even some minor first aid capabilities. Everything went as scheduled with Mechis III, except our techs claim that their combat subroutines have been corrupted.” “Irrevocably?” “Most likely. They say that, uh… self-diagnostics and, fractal, mutations, might help them regenerate their… asynchronous callbacks to their combat protocols? But they sounded skeptical. I was kinda getting the impression that they think the droids are a loss. Broken. Kaput. Sabotaged, even. The techs and Mechis were using a lotta big words when they were talking, but they’re claiming that since the droids were sabotaged on our watch, warranty is void, no obligation to update firmware or perform further maintenance, get your lawyers involved if you want your credits back.” Draygo glanced through the specifications of the droids on a dataslate that Baakua had offered her, ignoring the aide as she attempted to translate the reports from the engineers. The droids were not remarkable in their capabilities, nor were their equipped weapons or armor, but at least they wouldn’t be a mob of mumbling idiots like the mainline units deployed by the Trade Federation. A set of holoprints suggested an unusual degree of dexterity in their hands and feet for a battle droid, with surprisingly long, slender fingers. That was an oddly feminine touch for a droid with a torso carapace composed of a solid brick of plastoid alloy. What concerned her, however, was their communications capabilities. Their primary transmitters were low-powered, likely designed for transmitting tactical data to nearby units, but they were equipped with a secondary HoloNet transceiver, albeit one with impractically low bandwidth. The Jedi Ace suppressed a shiver when she considered the implications of such a device. It was a device with low bandwidth, but theoretically infinite range and was exceptionally difficult to intercept. Tactical data could never be transmitted through these devices, not even intelligence holos or even detailed reports. Only brief, encrypted bursts of data could be processed by such a transceiver. Those were encrypted orders, passcodes to manually activate behavioral protocols--optimistically speaking, that would be a shutdown sequence. Hypothetically, a single person could take control of the entire army of droids, all million-strong of them. Draygo could very easily imagine circumstances in which she would be thanking the unknown third-party of droids that had sabotaged these droids. “Thank you, Baakua, you can stop trying to speak technobabble. I’ll take it from here.” Draygo smiled, trying to disguise the fact that her runaway imagination had caused her to pale. Once the Togruta had fled, Armiena stepped into the middle of the circle of battle droids and kept her hands clear of the twin lightsabers on her belt. Dimly glowing eyes squinted at her from thirty expressionless plastoid faces, waiting for… Draygo was uncertain whether they were waiting for commands or for an impulse to act. The engineering reports claimed that they were likely still programmed to obey commands from the Jedi Order and that no hidden subroutines had been inserted for an assassination attempt. “Sentinels, my name is Armiena Draygo. I am Grandmaster of the Jedi Order.” There was no clack of plastoid limbs seizing weapons. The droids stood almost motionless--one of the squinting faces shifted its weight to better view the veteran Jedi. At least there would not be an assassination attempt. That was a promising start.
  13. A number of small, furry mammals, invariably whiskered and cute to the eyes of most sapients, fled the arson of Genesis’ childhood home. It may not have been inhabited by humans in years, but the natives of Dantooine made use of any shelter that was to be found on the prairie. They scrambled into the grasses, some chittering angrily at the growing flames, some dashing into the prairie and back into their former making sure that the entirety of their offspring had escaped their den. An hour later, a passing freighter would take note of the burgeoning smoke and report it to the volunteer firefighters at Khoonda. The sirens and the sunlight engines and the dusting of extinguishing mist would arrive later, however. For now, the plains were still. Perhaps they appeared just a little too still to the practiced eye, for more than a hundred meters away from Stormhelm, there was a patch of partially-flattened grass that was being trafficked just a little less by the buzzing, pollinating insects, where the dry gusting wind was failing to push aside the waves of grass. Upon close inspection, even the grasses appeared slightly… off, almost as though one was looking at a high quality image of Dantooine’s plains rather than the grasses themselves. There, a watchful presence waited for the approach of the erstwhile Jedi. Misal Draygo was laying prone between the grasses, ignoring the teeming of a hive of stinging insects as they attempted to penetrate through her armor. It was not a comfortable posture; her cheeks were pressed painfully against the faceplate of her armor. She slowly breathed in the filtered air, scented heavily with sweat and antimicrobial filters. She deliberately kept her Force Presence very still--not an easy task for a Miraluka, especially not when her legs were aching from hours of trekking through Dantooine’s hinterlands. A low baritone voice piped into her ears at steady intervals. “He’s coming towards you, space-mom. One hundred fifty meters and closing. One forty. One thirty. One twenty. Are you sure about this? The boy seems a bit distraught. Shocking him at a moment like this might provoke a reaction.” “Maintain the count,” Misal snapped at her overwatch. “He would have fled if we signaled him by HoloNet transmission. He won’t be able to run at this distance.” “Twenty.” A exasperated sigh followed. “He’s not looking at you.” “Thank you.” A quick gesture of her left hand deactivated the adaptive camouflage that previously rendered her a wheat-colored ghost, and rendered the grey faceplate transparent. Old bones and knees complaining at every motion, Misal pushed off of Dantooine’s dirt to rise to her full height--almost to her full height, as a new pain in her hips rebelled at the notion of unsupported mobility. If Stormhelm happened to glance towards her way, it would appear almost as though a ghost had risen from the fields. Admittedly, it was a short ghost and an unarmed one, favoring one leg, face heavily wrinkled by a long, productive life, and displaying undisguised the vestigial eye sockets of a Miraluka. “Greetings, Stormhelm!" Misal called out to him. "It’s been a while--Coruscant if I remember correctly."
  14. As was tradition, Misal had intercepted the transmission from Draygo’s Padawan. Unlike most of those other observances, the message had been dutifully relayed from her comlink to her archives aboard Shippy McShipface, where the elderly Miraluka was dutifully cleaning the connections of her prosthetic arm. It was a familiar routine, gently scraping away at the alloy leads with a stiff fabric brush, but the routine was comforting when faced with what seemed likely to be the last significant deployment of her life. If she survived, then the rest of her life would likely be… epilogue. Perhaps there would be a short amount of time left to enjoy her duties and privileges as the matriarch of the Draygo-Darkfire clan. Her lips curled downwards as an unmistakable tremor shuddered through The Force. She had never taken advantage of her rights to embarrass her grandson and his consorts. That would be something to look forward to. An old ache voicing itself at the motion, Misal rose to her feet and returned to the freighter’s cockpit. There was a message from her daughter’s Padawan. Leaning on the twin pilots’ seats to take the pressure off her old bones, the Miraluka listened to what she presumed to be a private message. Her lips parted in a disgusted sneer as she listened. That stupid boy. Fine young man or not, his departure from the Order--from her daughter--by means of a time-delayed HoloNet transmission was reprehensible and cowardly. It was unbecoming of a Jedi, and more importantly unbecoming of anyone that her daughter cared for. The stump that ended her right arm began to curl as she attempted to clench a fist that was not there. The child had requested that Armiena not attempt to follow him. The Draygo matriarch knew that her daughter would honor that request--likely justifying that decision with an excuse about needing to put the needs of the galaxy before her own--but Misal was not bound by any such request, nor would she have honored it. Her anger for the moment causing the ache in her joints to be an unwelcome memory, Misal began to pace the corridors of McShipface. Where to begin? Where to begin? Stormhelm would have several hours of lead, and unlike her grandson, his name was not nearly as notorious. He could easily travel anonymously. There was the pontite crystal. The two Jedi had traveled for months with it in their company. They had shattered it to construct lightsabers, and the gemstone had been soaking in their combined Force presences. The Miraluka glided in her ebon robes towards her daughter’s quarters. It was a sad, small, utilitarian room--no momentos unlike her room on Ghost Breath, just a few changes of clothing and some scattered datapads. There weren’t even sheets over the cot, and Misal realized with a pang that her daughter probably still wasn’t able to sleep on a proper bed. Her hands rifled through the brown and grey cloaks and withdrew a small leather pouch. She squeezed the little bag--there were still a few shards remaining. Misal sat on her daughter’s unused cot and lowered her face to the closed pouch. The Miraluka forced herself away from dwelling on her momentary rage. The moment required her attention, not her self-indulgence. Breathing deeply, she let her senses pass from her surroundings and into the memories held by those crystals… ________ Still within the Rebel Alliance’s Marine Proving Grounds, Armiena rose to her feet. The veteran Master had somehow dozed off while meditating and had been roused by the buzzing of her comlink. She listened, her expression shifting from annoyance at the urgency of the young Togruta clerical, to confusion, to well-disguised horror. “On my way. Try to keep the sentinels from leaving. No,don’t contact the Rebel Alliance, I’ll handle this myself. Have the chosen a representative, someone that I can talk to?” It was a rare occasion that caused a Jedi Grandmaster to run, and several Rebel soldiers found themselves staring as Draygo sprinted in the general direction of the arms warehouses in the vicinity of The Red and Black.
  15. “Finished?” “Bit of polishing work left, but everything is functional.” Closing down the lightsaber and attaching it to a clip on her belt, Armiena took a few wobbly steps towards McShipface’s mess. The scent of something processed and peppery was guiding her to the promise of sustenance, and she found her mother closing the clamshell casing around yet another programming spike. Armiena wearily took a place at her mother’s side at the plasteel table and waited for the dehydration-induced shakiness to subside. Her mother wordlessly offered a mug of caf and a bowl of some unidentifiable porridge. Armiena glanced down skeptically--some pitiful green vegetables and chunks of processed meat were floating around in the cream-colored slurry. It looked like something that the worst of the supply-starved mess hauls in the Rebel Alliance would have served--not this new Rebel Alliance, but from the bad old days when the entire operation seemed to be held together by hope and duct tape. Still, the sensation of warmth and the peppery smell were vaguely comforting, and constructing a lightsaber was draining work, so she dug in. “It’s something I learned to make during a stint on Taanab. Quite invigorating after pulling a night watch.” As though prying classified information from her daughter was casual breakfast conversation, she sipped at a mug and continued. “What will you do next?” “Back…” Armiena swallowed back an indecently large spoonful of porridge. “Back into the field. Recruitment, insurgency, sabotage, fieldcraft; just like old times. Wherever Genesis is now, I won’t be able to help him.” “He’s a decent young man. But he’s not you.” “No. He’s not a soldier. Never will be. I need to accept that.” There was an uncomfortable pause as Armiena reflected for a moment on a potential failing in her teaching. “There’s… something that I’ve been getting nervous about. I’ve been feeling a… quickening in The Force. Something is coming, something big. I”m sure you’ve felt it?” “Something has indeed escalated. I’ve been asked to consult on a matter in the Rim.” The Draygo matriarch sipped at her tea with a casual air. “I felt that it would be advisable to visit for a few days before I embark. I have a peculiar feeling about this mission.” Draygo’s set down her spoon and stared. Had her mouth not been stuffed with half-chewed porridge and a massed of minced meat, her mouth would have been agape in horror. The ancient Miraluka was actually smiling at what seemed to be her encroaching mortality. Reading her daughter’s eyes, Misal’s smile faded and her expression grew more serious. “No. I’d prefer not to think about it. I’ll find out when the moment arrives. For now, I’d like to spend a short time with my admirable daughter, and perhaps embarrass my adorable grandson if those creatures don’t whisk him off to another engagement in your war. We so rarely have a chance to enjoy a normal moment.” For a moment, Armiena’s pale-green gaze shifted past the midnight robes to view a collection of data-spikes dangling from a chain, almost like the keys to an expensive landspeeder. She tore her eyes away. Something about the moment--something about every moment, in the last several months felt irrevocable, as though precious moments were slipping away. There were few enough people from her past as well. “This is good, isn’t it?” Asked the black-clad Miraluka. The younger Draygo just looked at her mother for a second. The cloth, as usual, betrayed little expression, but she understood her mother well enough. It was not a peaceful death that she would have preferred. For her, it would be out in the field, her feet in boots, her enemies wasting their final breaths to curse her name. Quietly wasting in a sterile medcenter bubble would have been undignified, and more importantly, contrary to her wishes. “Yes, It is.” _______ Armiena had had few private moments alone since elevating to the rank of Jedi Grandmaster. It was an unwelcome aspect to the task with which she was familiar; the time of the Grandmaster was so valuable that it could rarely be spent on family or personal trivialities. In this case, the time had been wholly wasted. Armiena and her mother discussed nothing of significant importance. No great mysteries of The Force were unraveled. No crucial strategies were discussed. It was two women sitting with warm, caffeinated beverages, chatting about worthless gossip and personal relations, occasionally dipping into technical minutiae. It was one of the most rewarding conversations that she had ever had with her mother. But it was soon over and Draygo was faced with her duties as Jedi Grandmaster. There was a revolution to fight. Armiena re-entered the Rebel Headquarters, making her way to the marine proving grounds. This was a noisy, utilitarian sector of the base, constructed almost entirely of spartan steel and plastoid alloys. It needed to be, as this sector housed the base’s firing ranges, Its portable corridors were continually rearranged, based on the needs of the marines using it, to simulate a variety of potential facilities that they might assault; from planetary barracks to light cruisers to the engineering spaces aboard Kyber-class Star Destroyers and larger ships. Draygo watched from an overhead balcony as a platoon of Imperial stormtroopers--or whatever the grey-clad, plastoid-armored shock troopers called themselves now--breached the corridors of a Carrack-class Light Cruiser and assaulted the bridge. To most, the continual whine of blaster fire, grenades, alarm klaxons, glaring lights, and muffled commands was an assault on the senses. Armiena had the trigger-calluses on her fingers and the scars from blaster creases to hint at her experience in these matters, however. To her, the din was just tactical data. The course’s current configuration was of little importance. More important was the noise, activity--and the distraction that they might pose to a novice Jedi Padawan. Tobias Vos was busy preparing for their mission, but to her recollection the Kiffar had two Padawans: that massive Trandoshan she had briefly seen and a Zabrak that had passed her notice. One of the Jedi clerics had been shadowing Armiena’s footsteps ever since the veteran Jedi had disembarked from her freighter. Waving the cream-colored Caamasi over, the Jedi Grandmaster asked him to locate Vos’ Padawans, and to guide the two to her location if they were not otherwise preoccupied.
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