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Nok led the way through the luxury yacht, bringing his new master to the ship's gym. Originally furnished as a casino for guests, Nok had had the room renovated into his personal workout space. Weights, a shower, mats, and gleaming workout devices littered one side of the large room, while bare space for calisthenics and sparring occupied the rest. One of the ship's cleaning droids was in the process of polishing one of the devices when the pair entered.

 

"Out," Nok ordered, the droid immediately moving to comply.

 

He took a moment to stretch, feeling the wounds on his shoulder and back stretching and sending sharp lances of pain across his body. He grimaced, but kept his face turned away from Darth Akheron.

 

The perception of power is power, the perception of control is control. He would not show weakness.

 

"If you want to start with something physical, I think you'll find me a bit higher than a beginner's level. I've had training..."

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Letting go his tantalizing kiss upon the beast that had charged forth for him, he slung her into a near by corner where her form slumped into unconciousness as his gazed turned toward his Master. The battle still lingering upon his mind, he felt ecstatic, his heart fluttering with unspoken delight. He had felt their fear, their pain, their rage, their sins, and it tugged at him, as if begging to be embraced, touched, and nurtured. It was encompassing, and he felt the need to take it in breaths.

 

"Death is but a burden, my Master." Milenko spoke, a hint of despair and disappointment echoing within his tone, his gaze shifting down upon the lightsaber he had claimed during the battle of Onderon before returning his eyes to Sheog, a smile returning to his face as his thoughts lingering back toward the next words he spoke. "It was the moments before death that I found the most exhilarating. The greed I felt within them, the sins of mortality, as they grasped to their feeble attempts to survive and grow victorious. I only wish I could have plucked such beautiful flowers myself."

 

And there was a darkening truth to his words. He was growing ever so more boldly in his persona of Mammon, watching as the darkness within the hearts of even the most enlightened beings shown its presence right before their demise and wishing they could have blossomed even more before being plucked from existence. It was satisfying to know that even the light possessed such darkness, and that if given the right circumstances, could blossom even more brightly than the light that once took its place.

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It was impossible for the hard, scaly face of a Trandoshan to show as much expression as the faces of the soft-skins, but the face of the bounty hunter-turned-Crusader was twisted and scrunched into an almost human expression, worthy of the great stages of Coruscant or Trandosha. It bore a mixture of confusion, surprise and something else entirely as Borsk pondered the last statement made by the Blood Prince. He had heard stories of the legendary.. appetites of the famous criminal, but perhaps those stories had been underrated.

 

"Are, are you saying you'd... prefer her dead? I mean, dead as opposed to alive? I guess the Empress would probably try and bite, if she yet lived."

 

Realizing he might have said to much, Borsk stopped quickly, his face regaining its normal passive scowl. Perhaps the interests of the Blood Prince ran toward the deviant, as well as the prolific. However, the business of the Vigo was not his concern, and he could do whatever he wished, should the Empress be captured dead or alive.

 

"I am with you, my Lord."

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There was nothing but an eye roll from Zalis as Delta attempted to discourage her from harassing the crew. He’s tense and needs a good kriffing. It was the only thing she could think of to keep her from getting too mad at him. She understood why he said it, as it most likely wasn’t helping to crew, so she walked away from them and instead towards Delta and the Trandoshan, who appeared along for a ride with them. She heard the last part of what Delta told the Trandoshan, and the response from the bounty hunter.

 

“Twenty only Delta, the funds aren’t quite there for twenty-five. Although, I will let you have access to the laborites on Ord Mantell to test out whatever you want if twenty is too low for you.”

 

She said the last part directed towards the Trandoshan bounty hunter. And she thought upon it more of what Delta had declared before she responded fully to the situation.

 

“Although… I think if a high value target was acquired alive… Twenty-five could be arranged for the information and usefulness I could get out of them.”

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The great mountain of filth breathed in a blubbery breath, gazing upon his apprentice as he spoke. The princeling was a prime example of the melting pot of emotions that a upper-middle-class upbringing allowed. An obsession with death and immortality with a handle of its psychology.

 

<>

 

The Large Hutt leaned forward, eyeing his apprentice warily

 

<

 

Sheog watched as a line of captives were dragged in, tasting their fear upon the recycled air. It was palpable, a heartbeat that resounded in his hunger. He dragged his staff across the tiles, showering the air with sparks.

 

...Now for the obscene enjoyment…

 

His words began again, but seemed distant.

 

<

 

The Force moved around them, captured in the rhythm of fear. A deeper terror writhed in the air, turning it to freezing chill. The Hutt gave the fate of the fear to the princeling, to wield as he would. Would the man be able to discern between wickedness and evil?

 

<

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King Kheldar vos Correlli said:
Sheog, I have to ask, overkill much?
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Topaz let out an appreciative whistle as they approached Nebula’s Glory. There was no denying; it was a beautiful ship. As they led Mouse out of the Minx and up the boarding ramp of the SoroSuub yacht, they allowed their paw to trail the detailing found along the railing and the access panels.

 

“Well, it looks like I was right about traveling in style. Is this real Menkooro whiskey?” They picked up the golden bottle and held it up to the light. It sparkled warmly in the Nebula’s lights. Topaz set the drink down and moved on to one of the panels indicating the status of many parts of the ship. “Modified resonator coils; you’ve really done the extra work where it matters. I must say, I’m impressed.”

 

Mouse beeped an affirmative. Topaz eyed the bunks, trying to mentally match each bedroll to the presumed occupant. The impeccable bunk most likely belonged to the reclusive Ruby, while the disheveled pile of blankets could probably be attributed to Sapphire. A small corner with a charging port looked just about the right size for a BB unit. These women lived closely, and comfortably with each other. It was almost claustrophobic.

 

“I see that you have very thoroughly established living arrangements,” they remarked. “I would be loathe to disturb the status quo. Perhaps there is a way we can use our ships together; I can assure you that my belongings need not impose on your well-ordered living space.”

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Karys almost laughed, it appeared in many ways the two were alike. At least at one point he had been. Arrogant, prideful and boastful of his ability, Nok would soon learn just how inadequate he really was and how little his proported training would mean in a fight against a force user. Yes it would be of some use...but that was only half of it.

 

The Massassi spoke as he gripped what appeared to be akin to a bo staff and passed Nok Morliss a similar weapon, one not intended to kill but injure.

 

“Perhaps that is true, perhaps not we shall soon see. However I have a suspicion the type of training you speak of was not intended towards the targets you shall face on Kuat or the multitude of enemies the Sith shall face. None of what you have been taught I fathom was ever in preparation for what is to come, nothing in this galaxy can prepare you for a battle against a force user or can adequately prepare you for the feats those touched by the force can do. The training I shall give you will prepare you for this and to expect the unexpected. My goal for now is to school you and teach you in the art of adapting and how to use your emotions as fuel to touch the Dark. Just as you did with that soldier.

 

It is a proven fact that, not one battle will ever be the same with a force user....when facing such a foe one must improvise, adapt and overcome however possible. I shall teach you to do just this and also how to begin the first steps to the Dark spectrum of the force. How to harvest your negative thoughts and emotions and use them as a focus. As a weapon. Your emotions are the key to unlocking your potential and removing the advantages of your enemy in your favour. But to unlock that first step you first need to develop a specific mindset, you need to open your eyes to see beyond what you think you know. For everything is just a sugar coated topping, there lies another world beneath it. A hidden galaxy of possibilities.

 

To touch the force, truly touch it. One must focus, breath and think not in terms of what is front of them but rather what lays beyond. Think of nothing but the hatred, rage, pain you feel. Perhaps it is a business associate who wronged you in a last life or the loss of a parent. Whichever it is deep inside, within you use it. Pull that to the surface and embrace those emotions. Focus on nothing but that emotion you feel or emotions...and block out the outside world. Simply...breath and focus on that point of origin and let it out.

 

Try it now. As I strike, see if you can elicit a reaction of the force to counter. One not born of instinct or gut reaction, but one born of sheer will. Your will and focus, your intent a d attempt to push me away or pull the staff from me. To think of it one way, think of yourself as a spider at the middle of a great web, and that upon tugging of a single strand of multiple separate strands, you might pull in prey. In this way the force is similar, use this mindset and the force will become easier to access and control.”

 

With that Karys twirled the staff clockwise before jumping forward in what seemed a blink of an eye, the staff held high and ready to give Nok Morliss another lump to his already lumpy head.

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''There are others of my kind...those who see themselves as lions among sheep as I do. As kings--superior to man in every way. Why, then, should we be confined to darkness? Why should we fear man.'' - Darth Lucifer

 

I survived the Great JNet Outage of 2012

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THWACK

 

Nok opened his eyes to the mat floor of his gym. Blood coated his tongue and teeth like slime, and his head felt as if someone had inflated it and stuffed it with cotton.

 

So fast. His eyes had barely registered a blur before he'd found himself on the ground. He couldn't recall falling...

 

Sputtering, he struggled to pull himself to his hands and knees. His limbs betrayed him and slipped away, plunging his face back into the mat, the taste of sweat and dirt mixing with the coppery tang of blood in his mouth. The gym swam, tilting and spinning like a room in freefall, and Nok's stomach lurched for a nauseous moment.

 

Emotion...focus...fuel...pain... His new master's words blurred together in his mind, leaving only impressions of the meaning behind them, though pain stood out in stark contrast as a reality he understood at the moment.

 

Emotion... Dead in the cold and dark Fear...he felt fear.

 

NO! No fear! Control...I must control...

 

Rage. Yes. Rage that this vision would dare dictate my death. That it would dare deny me what I take with my own hands. That it would deny me all...

 

Nok's mind flashed to that moment as the soldier died at his feet. That moment of eternity within. A black expanse containing the universe that declared a cold death his fate, containing Nok himself, yet contained inside him. All of creation. All of him. All his.

 

My sovereign desolation...

 

He needed that. He ached for that. There was his strength, his purpose, his focus. That moment of perfection. It pulled at him now even though he couldn't feel it, like a song in the fog he couldn't quite hear.

 

Focus on nothing but that emotion he says

 

Nok did. He banished the fear, balling it up, binding it and walling it away. Such a familiar action now. And then he let the need grow. He fueled it, pouring his rage at his own weakness into it, swelling the emotion from desire to craving. Then he bloated the craving into pure, crystallized desperation. It spread through him, every tendon and bone in his body yearning for that connection. Yearning for the Force.

 

The Force wasn't a power, though it was powerful. It wasn't fate, though it dictated the course of galaxies. It wasn't life, though it existed inseparably within the living. It was everything. And it would be his.

 

The cotton stuffing his head dissolved like powder beneath a flood. Nok staggered to his feet, staff held loosely in his hand. The room tilted but didn't whirl as before. The blurry form of his master came into focus.

 

Nok looked Darth Akheron in the eye.

 

"Alright Master..."

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Four years ago.

 

Nok landed on his back, head slamming into the durasteel grating of the access tunnel for the old space station. He scrambled to his feet, but what had struck him had already moved off, silent as ever.

 

"So you're just going to beat me up?! What the hell do I pay you for?!"

 

No response. Nok slowly turned, eyes searching the shadowed corridors around him for any sign of...anything.

 

"Mistress Rill?"

 

Weeks earlier, when Nok had hired Masters Miwak and Rakha and Mistress Kida to act as his personal self-defense trainers, they'd softballed him and given him an intense but ultimately unoriginal series of exercises and lessons. Satisfactory, but Nok hadn't hired them for "satisfactory". He'd demanded they earn the money he was paying them by giving him a true noghri training regimen, the training that let the ferocious hunters down beasts capable of killing squadrons and earned them a reputation of fear from all who might oppose them. At first, he'd thought they'd quit on the spot. But then they'd come to him. They said they'd do as he asked, but only if he hired one more trainer. When Nok had asked why he needed another trainer when he had them to teach him grace, weapons, and martial combat, they'd simply replied that Mistress Rill was one of the best for teaching the final topic.

 

Survival.

 

Something struck him from behind, and Nok tumbled forward into the bulkhead, banging his skull and collapsing to the floor with a ringing in his ears.

 

Where WAS she?!

 

"I've barely begun my training! How am I supposed to compete with you?!" Nok clutched at his knees as he forced himself up.

 

"You're not."

 

Nok whirled towards the voice, but found only an empty corridor.

 

"This ends when you ask me to end it. And when you do, I go back to Honoghr. You don't pay me. I just leave."

 

Nok tried to follow the voice, but it seemed to come from everywhere he wasn't looking. Something like a club or foot struck the back of his knee, and Nok stumbled to all fours.

 

"Will you give up?"

 

Nok glared into the shadows.

 

Dead in the cold and dark

 

No. He wouldn't give up.

 

Dropping himself into the combat stance he'd only learned a week before, he slowly turned in place.

 

"Alright Mistress Rill..."

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Nok held his master's gaze.

 

"...let's try that again."

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Karys considered Nok's actions as he fell to the ground, it appeared that although he had listened as expected turning the words into action was not so easy. He had anticipated the first few attempts would end in failure such was how it always was. Again he spoke out.

 

This time he considered another approach.

 

“You are close but still lack. However, it was expected the first attempt would not go entirely as planned, no-one ever accomplishes any technique with the force in one go. It takes time and practice as much as any martial form or learning a new trick. That said there are ways in which one may create a stronger connection and create easier access...ways that might focus your emotions and open your eyes to the force.

 

One such technique I find affective is this. Take the emotions you felt, at failing, losing control and all that you felt in the brief moments before you fell and close your eyes. Then breathe, do nothing but focus those emotions, what you might do to those who oppose you, what you want to do if you see them and simply breathe. Then open your eyes. Do this now, tell me what you see, what you feel, and then we shall try combat once more this time after applying this technique. “

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''There are others of my kind...those who see themselves as lions among sheep as I do. As kings--superior to man in every way. Why, then, should we be confined to darkness? Why should we fear man.'' - Darth Lucifer

 

I survived the Great JNet Outage of 2012

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Milenko simply gazed at the captives as they were brought forth before he and his Master, his Master's words dancing upon the air as they lingered upon the taste of fear and despair as he took them in. However, a grin still remained upon his youthful face, his forefinger and thumb rubbing his stubble chin as he awaited his Master to finish. Perhaps his words came out wrong, or perhaps they were taken out of context, but it was far from what Milenko had meant.

 

"Forgive me, my Master, but you've taken my words wrongly." Milenko spoke, his tone hinting toward something more sinister. Stepping away from his Master, Milenko walked before the captives, eyeing each of the individuals one by one, before turning his gaze back toward his Master, his green eyes glowing with delight. "A demonstration?

 

Kneeling before a woman of her mid twenties or so, Milenko could almost taste the fear about her. But there was something else, something he knew everyone was capable, and it reeked around her. Running his fingers through her hair, Milenko spoke, his tone soft, almost caring as he gently tried to calm her even as she flinched. "Tell me, do you have family?"

 

"Yes." She shakingly replied, fear rebounding as she thought the worst in his questioning, yet Milenko only smiled and stroked her cheek. "Do not worry. I'm sure they are safe." Milenko replied as he began to stand up, proposing the same question to the rest, and all replied with certainty. "Do you all wish to see them again? He questioned, and again got the answer he was seeking. There was a method to his madness, and as his gaze once again returned to meet that of his Master's, he was sure the Hutt had figured it out. With a subtle grin, he motioned for the six captives to be unshackled as he, One, and Three moved toward the front.

 

"Likely against my better judgement as well as my Masters wishes, I will spare one of you from your impending Death. Milenko spoke, a mixture of overwhelming fear and a hint of hope erupting from the group as he simply gazed on, curious as to what Sheog was thinking of his little demonstration. It wasn't so much about snuffing out life, but rather bringing out the darkness in others. "Either kill each other until one remains, or chose the one yourselves, it matters not. I'll leave that decision to you all."

 

Let us reap what we sow.

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Nok heard his master's words, closed his eyes, and concentrated.

 

What had he felt before Darth Akheron had struck him down? Nothing much. The sith had moved so fast he'd not really comprehended what had happened. What had he felt after though?

 

Rage, frustration, nausea. And need, that need he'd used to clear his mind and stand up again. Nok let it fill him again. He wanted that connection to everything.

 

But that wasn't what his master asked him to do. Nok squashed the emotion, driving it out, and focusing again on his master's words.

 

what you might do to those who oppose you

 

Nok thought back to his competitors. He certainly had enough of them. The lesser ones, the hounds snapping at his heels, had been killed or driven off by Nok's single-minded campaign. As he thought of them he felt...disgust. Conniving desk monkeys, entitled brats who'd schemed their way to power and hid under the shoes of others stronger than them. Spitting and laughing behind droids and bodyguards, playing dress-up in palaces they couldn't afford. They'd looked down on Nok, and when it became clear he might be a threat they'd conspired against him at every opportunity. Tossing legal claims into his path, or poaching his best underlings, or even publicly lambasting him out of spite. Nok had shrugged off each threat, but they kept coming, like a swarm of buzzing, tedious insects. Eventually, Nok chose to cut through the distraction and hindrances...with a knife. As competitor after competitor disappeared, others backed off, or became so engrossed in cramming down the scraps Nok's hitmen left in their wake that they hardly paid attention to the young businessman.

 

What had Nok felt before he decided to end those distractions? Irritation? No, he'd been irritated, but that day he'd finally crossed the line. Disdain? Closer, but not quite.

 

Hatred. Yes. He'd hated those slugs.

 

Nok thought to all those he hated. A dozen different faces came to mind immediately. The CEO of Offworld. The lawyer from Coruscant putting together that class-action lawsuit against Nok's branch company Chem Corp. The ithorian activist driving out Nok's agricultural interests on Dantooine. Irritations by themselves, but they took time to deal with, and Nok's growing empire was forced to swat them away again and again. He hated them, he knew that.

 

He let go of his composure, let the hatred flow through him. He imagined butchering each one, imagined them scrambling away while they tried to ply him with the precious words they spread about like a hutt's slime. He vividly pictured each one bleeding out on the floor of his palace, red spreading over the tile as each one was finally...finally silenced. The hatred and the joy balled up in his chest, a sun under his skin. It burned and it warmed, and Nok breathed in and out, fanning the fire.

 

He opened his eyes and looked at his master. His master still stood before him, but...

 

"You're different. You radiate. The air warps around you, and I feel pressure coming off you. I feel hot and cold, and alive."

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Karys smiled for perhaps the first time at Nok Morliss, and for good reason. It appeared at last he was starting to understand...to see that there was no escaping the Dark just as one could not escape their shadow or the setting of night. He was starting to truly feel the Dark as well.

 

The Massassi explained as such.

 

”Very good, you are finally beginning to see the truth of the galaxy. That feeling you feel, that heat and cold both at once...the feeling of being alive, that is the Dark of the Force. That ice and fire is how it feels when you access it, at least to some. It varies person to person what exactly is felt but it is more or less the same thing. That feeling you feel is the very thing you seek to be part of, and now you are for the first time. But you still have yet more to learn...but this is progress at least.

 

You say I am different, that I radiate and the air warps around me, that you feel a pressure. What kind of pressure do you feel? In what way do I radiate and warp the air? Explain what you feel. I ask since it is important to know the difference impressions force users give off in the Force. To know the difference between a master or an apprentice, not making the distinction could mean the difference between your life and death. Tell me and then use what I just taught you to stretch out in the Force.

 

Like I said before. Think more of yourself as a great spider who sits on a huge invisible web, what happens if you start pulling certain strands of the web and direct it at bringing in large prey? Think of the staff as your prey, and it has got stuck on that web. Now think about wrapping that prey in those strands of silken invisible web and pull your 'prey' towards you. Try this now, at the moment without combat after your initial assignment. Prove to me you were both listening and understand that which I am attempting to impart upon you.”

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''There are others of my kind...those who see themselves as lions among sheep as I do. As kings--superior to man in every way. Why, then, should we be confined to darkness? Why should we fear man.'' - Darth Lucifer

 

I survived the Great JNet Outage of 2012

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The Hutt slid from his dias, choosing to move instead of be still. He was like a placid lake, serene through insanity, with malice and evil lurking beneath the surface. The Hutt himself was drawn to his apprentice’s actions, to assess their greater meaning. The captives, an arrangement of soldiers and civilians were an interesting lot, each with their own drives. Their own horrors and nightmares. His words were in ancient Sith, but brought with translation to Milenko’s ears.

 

<

 

The massive Hutt towered over one of the unshackled teenagers and smiled at the girl. Her body trembled with fear and apprehension. He could the pheromones of terror in the recycled air. He touched her forehead with a greasy finger, smudging the remnants of makeup that badly concealed acne.

 

<<Wickedness is reveling in death, squandering tools to sadistic pleasure. It is what made our empire weak in the histories...>>

 

The girl slowly stood, her sweat tangled auburn hair falling in bunches about her face. Curtains falling to mark the end of a play. She faced the other captives, her back hunched, her small muscles bunching and unbunching as her shallow breaths shook her body.

 

<

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King Kheldar vos Correlli said:
Sheog, I have to ask, overkill much?
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Nok nodded, and reached out with his hand. He closed his fingers on air, as if gripping the staff. He imagined the web his master spoke of, the black, the Force stretching out around him and through him. He pictured it as lines, infinitely thin yet strong, wrapping around the staff, Darth Akheron, the ship, and spreading out into space to the billions of worlds of the galaxy. In his mind, he reached for the web and plucked at it.

 

And felt nothing.

 

Nok grimaced, and carefully constructed the image again from scratch, his hand stupidly clutching the air like street performer. This time he imagined a network of lines, shifting and breathing like a living thing.

 

And again nothing.

 

Gritting his teeth, he clenched his fist and fed his frustration. He could feel the Force, it was there! It swelled and shifted as his emotions churned it, making him think of an ocean beneath his feet. Yet when he tried to grasp it, it moved like oil through his hands. Nok could float, but he couldn't swim.

 

The dark side is about passion. Intention. Action.

 

Nok reached out and directed his curdling fury at the staff itself, trying to hate it and immediately feeling foolish for hating a piece of wood. He gritted his teeth until it hurt, but the pain only swirled the currents and threads of the Force more. He knew he should be able to grasp the Force, push it and pull it with his mind, but his "hands" couldn't seem to find the weave.

 

With nothing else to try, Nok constructed another mental image, this time paying careful attention to his own position within the web. He recalled an arachnor he'd once seen at a competitors food development company. The massive 2 meter high spiders had fed on fungi as a part of their diet, and Nok's fellow neimoidian entrepreneur had brought in several of the creatures along with their preferred fungus to see if he could cultivate the fungus into a new snack for Neimoidia. Apparantly the spiders and the fungi had shared a symbiotic relationship and were necessary for cultivation. Nok grinned at the memory, along with the memory of sneaking back in to let the creatures out of their cages. That had been one of his earliest acts of sabotage, and probably his clumsiest, but damn had it been entertaining.

 

The arachnors as he recalled wove huge, intricate webs coated in some the stickiest fluid imaginable. Nok had considered engineering a synthetic version for commerical use, but had forgotten about it among other projects. He should look back into that. But the image that had stayed with him was the spider moving across it's web. Never entangling itself, its body unfolded and pulled itself along leisurely. The instant something touched the web (like one of the panicked lab techs who'd made a wrong turn) the spider froze, before slowly turning and moving towards the disturbance in its domain. Graceful beyond anything Nok could hope to achieve, the arachnor would wrap its food in more of the web, its deliberate pace contrasting with the frantic struggle.

 

Taking the mental image of the spider's body and placing his own mind within it, Nok tentatively reached for the strands of the Force. Yet still, nothing. Nok tamped down his exasperation, and again thought of the arachnor. It hadn't hesitated, hadn't felt at its web like a child crawling on the ground. It had taken its web and simply moved it, like a part of itself. Nok reached again for the Force, but this time he did not hesitate or look for a sensation. He expected the Force to be there just as he expected the ground under his feet every time he stepped.

 

Something brushed his mind, quivering.

 

Nok's eyes flew open. Indescribable. He had sensed the Force before, but now he had touched it. Like touching time, or embracing a planet, it couldn't be adequately described. But he had done it!

 

He didn't look at the staff. His crude eyes wouldn't serve him here. He instead stared into space and again reached for the Force, believing that it would be there. And again, it was. Shivering and dancing across his will like a feather on his palm, he couldn't grip it without losing it. Instead, he bled his frustration and sudden pride into it, rather than letting it directionlessly swirl around him.

 

Across from him, the staff jerked. Not enough to come to Nok.

 

But it moved.

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Milenko simply sat in silence as the horde of prisoners looked upon one another in horror at first, then toward the Auburn haired girl the girl had touched, her fear dissipating almost instantly. Her gaze fell upon the others, and despite Milenko's disappointment in her fear leaving her form, the rate of the others accelerated exponentially, tantalizing his taste for what it lacked. A smile remained upon his face as he looked on, One and Three readying themselves should Milenko's answer go awry.

 

"Now choose!" Milenko ordered, the Auburn haired girl the first to rush forward, the others following quickly in turn, just as he predicted. He knew they would not attack him despite One and Three's doubts. They wanted to live, every last one of them. And Milenko was an unknown, even while in the company of his brethren. There was no way they would chance risking his anger if there stood a chance of survival, even if for only one. This was what he counted on, the nature of humanity, the essence of any sentient being, the will to live. All you needed was to present was a favorable outcome, and like sheep, they would follow his will.

 

The sight was grotesque, unarmed beings pitted against one another in combat, forced to use their most primal means of combat. Fear, will, motivation, anger, hatred... a melting pot of primordial basis that every living creature possessed, and like animals, the clung to these weapons like blades and blasters as they attempted to tear one another apart and be the sole survivor. However, despite lacking fear, the auburn hair girl excelled only momentarily before a stronger emotion of a stronger being overpowered her own lacking, and that was anger. The girl that Milenko had spoken to just moments before, snapped the girls neck with a hardened look upon her face and no remorse within her heart.

 

It was nature. It was the basic principles that had driven so many sentient races ever forward in the evolutionary chain. It was greed. For greed held power over many domains, not just monetary. Greed could encompass others, even self preservation, as was this very case. It simply held the need to cause the betterment of one by taking away from another. And as the girl, her blonde hair stained with blood, took down another as her teeth tore the flesh from the man's throat, the truth was self evident. And Milenko reveled in this solemn truth as he took in the sights, sounds, and smell of what he was creating.

 

Like a beast of untamed power, the blonde fought with the viscosity of a rancor, doing all she could to be the sole survivor. But this was not her day either, for as the last three standing attacked one another, a man of Onderonian origin gouged her eyes out before smashing her and the other man's head together, sending both to the blood pool filled floor. With haste, he went after the stronger man, snapping his neck in joint hold before turning toward the weaker female, her mind meshed from the bashing and unable to stand. His eyes spoke softly of sorrow as he finished her, but his heart spoke of survival, a wife and kids swirling his mind as hope filled his soul. And as he stood and faced Milenko, he was forever changed.

 

Milenko waved his glove, One and Three approaching the Onderonian man and dragging him out of sight, Milenko's word as good as any. He would be freed, but not in the way the man had thought. Shoved into a escape pod with a few days rations, it was ejected with only one destination, the world below. Turning toward his Master, Milenko gazed with a more serious tone, kneeling before the great Hutt. "The difference is that, like good, evil has purpose."

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Karys observed, noting Nok's actions and how he chose to touch the Force. It appeared he was indeed taking the lesson to heart but was still struggling to adequately touch the force as expected, and then he felt it. The staff jerked slightly, moving in his fingers as if someone were trying to tug it away.

 

This elicited another smile as the Massassi spoke out.

 

“Good, good...you are learning. You are close now, ever so close to touching the force, indeed you have touched it. You can feel it even now can you not? Formless, shapeless and yet it exists. Latch onto those feelings you felt and continue to feel, those that allowed you to touch the force and move this staff ever so slightly. Hold onto that feeling and pull. Do not act on instinct or compulsion, think only of your need to have the staff, that want of it.

 

Wrap the invisible threads around it and enforce your will upon it. Focus your passion, your anger, your hate and suffering and rip the staff from me. Use not your eyes but expand your mind outward, out into the vastness of space and look beyond it. See the unseen, view that which is without form, that which is yours to control and take command of it. Strengthen that hold you felt and have, take the staff as if it were upon a line of cable or rope and you were pulling it towards you. Take control of your fate, your destiny and become who you were born to be. Let no-one and nothing bar you from it.”

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''There are others of my kind...those who see themselves as lions among sheep as I do. As kings--superior to man in every way. Why, then, should we be confined to darkness? Why should we fear man.'' - Darth Lucifer

 

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...See the unseen, view that which is without form, that which is yours to control and take command of it...

 

Nok lowered his hands and lifted his head upward. The ceiling of the gym blurred as he let his eyes lose focus. He had dribbled his passion into the Force a moment ago, afraid of losing the connection. Not this time.

 

Nok reached out with all his mind, extending his awareness to that expanse that was the Force. He did not brush against it as he had before. No gentle push or controlled pull. He clutched at it, wrenching it with his will. For the briefest of moments, Nok had the impression of unraveling, as the Force flowed out of him just as it flowed through him, unspooling him into the churning void. The moment passed like a dizzy spell, and the Force all around him twisted. He shook the web, he was the web. Distantly, he heard the sounds of exercise equipment rattling across the floor, weights falling off shelves, the ripping noise of mats tearing. That didn't matter. This, this feeling, this control...This mattered.

 

Standing at the eye of the swirling storm, Nok found the staff.

 

Dead in the cold and dark

 

Not afraid

 

Dead in the cold and dark

 

Not afraid!

 

Dead in the cold and dark

 

"NOT AFRAID!" Nok screamed.

 

A sharp, deep crack cut through the noise as the staff shattered in two and pieces flew past Nok to clatter against the opposite wall.

 

Nok stared down at the shattered remains of the staff, breathing hard, lips pressed into a thin, harsh line. He stretched out his hand, and one piece shot towards him. With a loud slap it struck his palm and he clutched it, pain tingling across the now bruised skin.

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Karys observed, silent at first and simply watching Nok for any sign of movement, feeling out in the force to see if he was indeed doing as instructed. At first there was nothing but a vague impression...but that soon became something more. The vague impression soon became a physical response as he felt the staff move.

 

This time truly move.

 

The force wrapped around the object and pulled it free from his hands, sending it crashing into two halves at the opposite end of the room. Much to the Massassi's amusement. It wasn't entirely what he had in mind or envisioned but it would suffice for now. With more training and time Nok would soon perfect the technique, of that he was certain.

 

He heard Nok shout something out, something that caught his attention. It appeared Nok Morliss had a hidden fear...something he was afraid of. This drew his curiosity, he would ask about it some time for now it presented an opportunity, another lesson from which Nok would learn.

 

“Ah but you are afraid. I can feel the fear drip from you like a tap leaking fluid...fear not of me however. But of something else, good. Use that fear you feel, make it your strength. You accomplished the first step now lets see if you can do as you have again, this time in combat as I said. Let us see if you can call upon the force to pull a staff without having to think on it. Let us see if you can use your emotions, your fear and your hate to call the force to you and bend it to your will on the fly.

 

For in combat one rarely has time to think, you must act on reflex. Instinct and muscle memory. You must act with the force without having to think. It should be as second nature to you. That said there is another technique closely related to this. Telekinesis. The ability to move or manipulate objects with your mind no matter the size. For in the force as with other such similar abilities, one when sufficiently skilled and trained, the size, weight, distance, and mass of a targeted object does not matter. One can lift something as small as a piece of fruit to a starfighter, given enough time and focus. Just as it can also be used to manipulate liquids or to dispel gaseous liquids, or manipulate or to dispel such substances as well. With telekinesis many things which before seemed impossible, become possible.

 

Attempt both in the flow of combat as appropriate. Remember trust in your instincts, in your feelings and emotions. Trust in the Dark, and let it empower you. Let your fear and hatred flow through you. Empower the Dark and let it empower you in turn, in symbiosis.”

 

With that Karys offered a brief demonstration, pulling another staff from the rack using telekinesis. Illustrating his point as he entered an offensive combat stance, approaching without the force he begun his attack. Twirling the staff and attempting to smash it against his head again or sweep his legs if it failed. Yet all the while he hoped his apprentice stalled his movements by stealing the weapon from him.

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''There are others of my kind...those who see themselves as lions among sheep as I do. As kings--superior to man in every way. Why, then, should we be confined to darkness? Why should we fear man.'' - Darth Lucifer

 

I survived the Great JNet Outage of 2012

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nok listened as his master spoke, his mind still reeling from what he had done. The weights, the mats...he had done that. Not intentionally, but he had done that. The Force had moved under his touch. Under his...fear.

 

With telekinesis many things which before seemed impossible, become possible. He repeated his master's words in his mind. Like grasping the universe, he added silently.

 

As Darth Akheron lunged forward, Nok raised his hand and again found the staff in the swirling energies as his emotions stirred the Force into motion. Again, Nok had the brief sensation of his essence bleeding out into the Force, becoming one with the storm. Again he accepted it, and-

 

Nok's senses brushed against something. A counter-current. No, not simply a current. A storm that dwarfed his own, a well of emotion and power so black and deep as to seem like a black hole.

 

His master.

 

With a surge of white panic, the unraveling of his mind into the Force turned twisted and gnarled like threads in the hands of a toddler. Nok withdrew into himself with a snap, instinct telling him to withdraw from this thing before him, this entity of destruction and power.

 

The next thing Nok knew, he was on the ground, head throbbing once again.

 

He slammed his fist into the mat. Weak. He'd broken his own rule. He'd withdrawn and chosen not to fight when he could. He'd let his fear rule him. Nok had no issue with a tactical withdrawal, with using trickery or underhanded methods to win. But this...he'd simply fled from his master's presence.

 

As Nok, stood up, the tinny voice of one of his droids broke over the intercom:

 

"We will be arriving at Kuat shortly. Please prepare for landing."

 

Nok shook his head. "Apologies master. I need to prepare our meetings and landing procedures. We will continue this...later. If you're amenable..."

 

[sTORYLINE CONTINUES ON KUAT]

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  • 3 weeks later...

A few hours later, Skye woke up much refreshed to what she'd been when her head had hit the pillow. It wasn't nearly enough though it would do for now. She had a report to make to Darex and one to Andon. To that end, she began formulating her messages reporting on what had happened at Onderon. Once she had them recorded, she sent them off. She could only hope that they had heard something regarding Jaina by the time they got her report. She also mentioned to Darex that she was taking Jackson to Corellia to train him. The message to Andon was more somber, just mentioning that she had not heard what had happened to his wife, nor if she were still with them or if she'd become one with the Force.

 

Messages sent she headed down to the Galley to make dinner. She enjoyed cooking, especially when it was for someone other than just herself. It wasn't long before she had a hearty stew simmering away, as well as some fresh crusty buns cooking in the oven. The aroma of the meal wafted through the ship, the Jedi Master knowing that she wouldn't have to call her Padawan to come and eat - he'd be drawn to the galley by the mouth watering smell of the stew and bread. Once it was ready she began serving up, hoping that Jackson had a good appetite.

 

Comm. to Grandmaster Darex Trevelian from Master Skye Organa

 

 

Darex,

 

As you have most likely heard by now, the battle to free Onderon from the Sith went badly. I have attached a file with the report of what went on. I have troubling news as well. Jedi Master Jaina Skywalker is missing. I do not know what became of her, if she lives or if she has become one with the Force. Her unit was decimated by the Sith. Being surrounded by the wounded, I couldn't focus to find her. I do hope that by the time you receive this that there is some favorable news on what happened with her.

 

I am going to take my Padawan to Corellia to train. You know the location. Please let me know if you need me for anything.

 

Love Skye

[report attached]

 

 

Comm to Andon Colos from Skye Organa

 

 

Andon,

 

I hope that by the time you receive this there will be some new information come to light. As it is, Jaina went missing during the battle for Onderon. I am unsure of what happened to her. The Sith decimated the unit that Jaina was with. I was surrounded by wounded and couldn't sense her. I am sorry to give you this news Andon. I'm hoping that she is still with us and just not able to reach us through the Force.

 

You and Jaina are in my thoughts.

Skye

 

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The escape to the vast emptiness of Space left Jackson immeasurably relieved, though still highly grateful for the distraction of flight sims and instructions. Losing himself in one of his most enjoyed pasttimes was, as it turned out, a fantastic way to distract himself from crushing weight of savage nihilism. Even if he had to relearn a lot of aspects of flying, as ships tended to handle differently in space than they did while constrained to an atmosphere and gravity. He had also never flown anything larger than a small cargo speeder meant for delivering shipments of scrap to processing facilities back home, and it was taking some time getting used to the relative size of such a comparatively large craft.

 

By the time the Padawan was ready to give in and take a break he felt that he had made pretty good progress thus far, for having been training through a sim. General spatial awareness had gone up quite a bit and he had more or less gotten the hang of casual flight. He wouldn't be doing any obstacle races, and he was probably screwed if it came down to a dogfight, but that would come in time. Preferably after a few long sessions of actual flight. It just wasn't the same when he was doing it in a sim.

 

After taking a quick trip to the 'fresher to get cleaned up Jack decided to check up with his host. She was up and about now, if the smell wafting through the sterile coridors was any indication, and he wanted to be prepared for any changes or training regimens she decided to put him through. So, after making a quick stop to check on the repairs he made in the cargo bay oh so long ago, Jackson made his way towards the galley. The sight of food was a welcome one, given his strict diet of ration bars over the past few days, and he made quick work of his portion.

 

But not, of course, greeting Skye. "Did you have a good rest, master Skye?" He asked after sitting down. She felt like she was a little more energetic than she was when they had boarded, but operating on vague feelings about people was much less reliable than it was about machinery and electronics. With machines he could diagnose issues and fix things easily enough, even if he didn't have the right tools sometimes. But with people, it was different. He knew how he operated, how his heart pumped and how his lungs fed his blood, what his personal levels of energy and strain were and what things affected those. With other people though, he had no clue. Everyone he had seen and probed so far had been so vastly different from one another, that it was like taking a step down some stairs only to find that the platform you were looking for was much lower than expected. Plants, at least, were somewhat consistent with others of the same kind.

 

"How long will it take us to get to Corellia?" Jackson asked after shaking himself out of his thoughts. Dwelling on his failures with people would do him no good.

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Skye looked up as Jackson came into the galley, a smile upon her face as she placed bowls and utensils on the table, then the buns and stew pot, indicating for him to serve himself how much he'd like. "Enough for now," she answered his question regarding getting enough rest, as she served hers up. "Feel free to have seconds if you like. It's there to have." For a while the only sounds was that of the pair eating.

 

"It'll take 3 days to get to Corellia. One protocol I always use is to make several random hyperspace jumps so that it makes it more difficult to track where we've come from. It is a lesson I learned back when the Sith were actively hunting Jedi. You will notice a huge difference from Coruscant when we get to Corellia. The Forest Retreat is on the point of a teardrop shaped lake. All you will see above ground is a log cabin, everything else is underground, including the hanger. We took a lot of precautions and so far we've been lucky to keep it secluded and private." The Healer gathered up the empty plates and put them in the dishwasher. "So how are you going with the piloting? Once you're feeling confident with the sim's, we'll take Serenity for a spin so you can get some practice."

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Jackson nodded as he scarfed down his second helping, abeit somewhat slower than the vacuum treatment he gave to his first. He was quite familiar with doubling back and taking odd routes when traveling to different places, he had often needed to do the same when he was living in the undercity. Sometimes skirmishes would break out in particularly hot areas, or mechanical/electrical elements of the city would fail and cause a blockage somewhere along the way. Of course, the detours he made were always through maintenance tunnels and empty pipe systems.

 

"I'm getting better, I think." He answered, "it's not quite the same as flying a speeder but it's close enough that I can manage normal maneuvers and casual flying now. Most of my trouble is with the size difference and maneuverability, but I think once I'm behind the actual controls I'll start getting better faster. The sims are nice and all, but it's throwing me off a little not being able to really feel out the ship while I'm in there."

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Skye listened to Jackson as he mentioned not being able to feel the ship while in the sims. "Yes, it certainly sounds like you have an affinity for machines. I can surmise that you subconsciously tap into the force when you pilot a speeder or when you work on machines. When we get to Corellia we will test that theory out with the speeder first, then with Serenity later.”

 

The Healer finished her dinner and gathered up the empty plates, placing them in the dishwasher. She then placed what remained of the stew into the chiller. “If you’re hungry at any time feel free to grab something to eat.” One thing her Padawan would discover is that he’d never have to go hungry. There was always food in the pantry - and the hydroponics unit too. She would teach him how to prepare and cook the different foods.

 

“How are you going with your mental exercises and meditation?” Skye motioned for him to come with her as she led the way to the hold and took out the training saber, handing it too him. “Once you are proficient with Form 1 we will move onto another of the Forms. I use a combination of Forms III and IV. Before we begin though I want you to try something.” She indicated for him to sit on the floor facing her, as she gracefully sat down herself. She took out a credit chip and placed it on the floor between them. “This is an exercise that my Master got me to do back when I was first starting out. Once you are confident with this we shall move onto larger objects.” Skye pointed to the chip. “I want you to open your mind to mine and follow what I am about to do.” She waited for her Padawan to do so before she “showed” him how to lift the credit chip. It rose from the floor and floated between them for a moment before sinking back to the floor. “Now you try. Take your time.”

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Jackson followed along after the galley was cleared, and took the offered training saber in his hands. He lifted and tested the weight, comparing it to his stun baton while he spoke with Skye. "I think I'm doing okay with the exercises, visualizing everything is helping me understand a lot better than I used to. Even with the uh, the lightsaber stuff. I've mostly been using my baton to practice the forms though, so I'll probably be a little bit off because of the weight differences."

 

He took a seat near his master then, and sceptically looked at the chit for a few moments. Even after watching Skye lift it he had no real idea on how to do the same thing. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, then drifted into his mindscape. It was different now that he had more experience with entering and visualizing the metaphysical space. The big ball of wires still sat in the center of his outline, only now he could also see a vague outline where Skye was. Everything else was just an aftertaste of static, an essence of metalic chaff and flare. At least he knew roughly where the chit was, so he could try to feel it out manually.

 

Not long after he slipped out of his trance abruptly, recoiling as he felt a physical smack to his forehead. He fumbled as he opened his eyes and got his bearings, and rubbed the square mark on his head as he looked around. Skye was still in her spot, but the credit chit had disappeared. His head swiveled around for a moment before he found the thing in his lap, where it had fallen after apparently smacking him in the face. He grumbled as he picked the thing up and tossed it back to its original spot, before trying again. He knew where it was and had a vague sense of what vector and how much force to apply now, he could probably do it. Without hitting himself in the forehead. Probably.

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It was a challenge to keep a straight face though Skye kept a serene expression on her face when she was inwardly amused at where Jackson had sent the chip. Still she couldn't help but say, "Just as well we started with something small. I was tempted to get you to start with the lightsaber." She allowed a slight smile to grace her face before the expression smoothed out once more. It had been interesting back when she had been learning to use the Force so many years before. There had been so many amusing things she had done when learning from Master Tares Vortex. She would let Jackson practice a little more with this exercise before sparring with him.

 

While she observed her Padawan her mind wandered a little, wondering how Darla was getting on. Skye would also have to check in with Darex again and see what was happening. She had the impression that something big had happened since they had left Coruscant. She wondered if they had closed in on Faust yet or if he'd pulled another of his stunts. With that in mind she used her implant to contact i-Nine and Flitter, instructing them to check the news to do with Coruscant since that was where he had been when she'd left to go to Onderon. With the message sent to the droids she turned her attention back to Jackson...

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After a few dozen attempts the best that Jackson could really do was bounce the credit chit into the air a few times in a row, or weakly push it around on the floor. If he tried to be gentle with the thing it just shivered and moved a tiny bit, but the moment he tried to up the ante to any tangible degree the thing shot up into the air like he had smacked it from below. It was like he was using an analog switch that only had two settings, idle power and then full throttle. He would have to either learn how to use his two default settings as they were, or change them to better suit his needs in both the present and the future. He would have to work on that later, when he had some free time.

 

For now though, he had hit his head against the chit long enough. Trying to adjust a non-adjustable output was exacerbating his headache, and if he was going to hurt he'd rather be hurting from a good workout or sparring session than from attempting to sort out the nature of an intangible and scientifically only vaguely explainable phenomenon that might as well just be brushed off with a short 'It's space magic. Deal with it.'

 

So he opened his eyes and scratched at the back of his head, yawning quietly before getting to his feet. "I'll try to work on that later. Think I've gotta do some weird stuff with my head."

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Skye observed silently as Jackson practiced. She knew he’d get the hang of it in his own time. What she saw here showed his potential. When he said he’d work on it later, the Healer gave a nod of her head in assent. “You will get better with time and practice.” Giving her Padawan a smile she followed suit, standing and moving towards a cabinet to get two of the simulation headsets, before moving to the centre of the hold. She handed Jackson one of the headsets and placed hers on, the pads going just behind the ears. As if on queue, Flitter entered the hold and floated over to a panel, ready to activate the simulator when Skye indicated for it.

 

“For starters I’d like you to run through the basics, then I’ll add in elements to make our sparring session a little more interesting.” Her eyes sparkled with anticipation. She would be curious to see how he would handle some of the sim elements thrown in. She had used the holo-simulator numerous times for training, though the simulator she had on Corellia was more elaborate than the one in her ship. It did, after all, have more space to use.

 

Skye took her saber from her hip and dialed down the setting to match the training saber Jackson had. She ignited the amethyst blade with it’s customary *snap-hiss* and stood, holding it loosely waiting for her Padawan to ready himself. She would let him make the first move.

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Jackson eyed the helmet he was given for a few moments, before taking a breath and slipping it over the top of his head with one hand. Once it was on he tested the weight of his still-not-heavy-enough training saber, and flicked it on. He was getting more familiar with the basic form one stance and movements now, after having practiced them nearly religiously in the aftermath following Onderon. It felt less unnatural to him now, and just a hair less awkward than it was when he started out.

 

He still hadn't really put it into practice in a practical situation or sparring however, so this was a good opportunity to absolutely fail at it and muck everything up. The movements he had been instructed in and practiced were all wild and made to be unpredictable, one of the more notable aspects of Shii-Cho, which meshed well with how he handled his stun baton and also did not mesh well.

 

His first sweep, an undercut bearing down on the base of Skye's saber, was lacking in leverage and power compared to a shorter heavier instrument. The lack of any disabling measure on contact was also less than ideal, as typically on hit he could expect a brief moment to draw back and make a follow-up attack. It meant that he could use the recoil of his first attack to build momentum for the second, and then the third, and so on and so forth without needing to worry about retaliation. It was a nasty way to beat someone down, but when someone pulled you into an alley or behind some sort of visual cover and tried to stab you then being fair was the last thing on your mind.

 

Just using vertical and horizontal and vertical sweeps was strange, and going out of your way to disarm a dangerous opponent instead of outright disabling or ending them seemed like a recipe for disaster, using an ancient code as an excuse to keep your conscious clean at the cost of potentially lethal backlash. Still, that was what he was learning. When he was able to hold his own he could branch out and try other options, but for now this would have to do.

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Hyperspace whizzed and zipped by Kayle and Query as they hurtled along towards some unknown fixed point that Query had indicated was a flickering glimmer of hope for the preservation of their combined mass sums of knowledge. Having never even left Kuat since being activated, the usually talkative Kayle fell silent, entranced by the whirling streaks of celestial bodies as the tiny craft hurtled ever onward in silence.

 

Sometime later, Kayle was not sure how long; having entered some sort of trance until the ship automatically came streaking out of hyperspace. The celestial streaks silently screeched to a stop, forming up as pinpricks of starlight on the vast empty void of space.

 

Vast. Empty. The TIE Interceptor hummed quietly as the scanners picked up a distant item floating in the darkness; only visible by the shadow it cast over the starry sky behind it.

 

Turning her head to look at Query, she pointed, ”Look Query, it seems that . . .that thing there is where your beacon is coming from. I am an expert in all manner of Imperial creations. Scans do not seem to ID it as anything of Imperial or Kuati make. In fact, on board computers do not seem to register it as anything more than floating space debris of unidentified manufacture. Still,” she tapped the screen in front of her, ”I wonder how long it has been floating there. It certainly does not look like a recent parking job. But still, it just seems odd.” Turning back to look at Query she spoke, her sing-song voice dropping to a more monotone level, ”Why would there be a single life sign aboard?”

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