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Ylesia


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Ruin looked at the Jedi who spoke and said “Hunt Sith.” but followed slowly. 

 

However, after dropping off the bodies, rather unceremoniously, Ruin clenched his fists again and began to look around. 

 

“Scanning and finding. Flying and finding.” 

 

>Understood< Fera replied, looking around as well. >Suitable shuttles found. Uploading information to your HUD.<

 

“Good” Ruin stated. Without a word to anyone around him, Ruin began moving towards a cluster of ships, a mixture of military and civilian. One soldier who stood in the way was shoved aside without care. 

 

“Onderon. Sith there. Hunting Sith on Onderon. Kill and kill.”

 

Fera was silent for a few moments, calculating numerous situations. >Error: Not enough information is known to calculate a successful plan of attack. However, given the lack of information of other possible locations, I must agree with your choice of action. < 

 

“Hunt and kill. Onderon. Jedi Skyshatter’s homeworld.” Ruin kept ranting, not slowing for another soldier’s request of halt. Attention was starting to be drawn to the large droid. "Meet jedi there? Hunting and killing. Finding and completing"

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Captain Kozim, Bith surgeon on attached duty from the medical frigate Merciful Touch, had scarcely left the side of the bacta tank in which Admiral Slaughter was suspended over the last two days. Though his expression was imperturbable to any but a select few of his species that served in the Rebel Alliance (and perhaps a few species that could see further into the infrared), it was becoming clear to the support staff within Fidelity’s medical ward that the toil of the back-to-back surgeries was taking its toll on the surgeon. Hisreports of the Admiral’s condition grew more terse and the estimations of when Slaughter would regain consciousness were pushed further back.

 

At the next change of the foggy, blood-contaminated slurry within the tank for fresh, translucent bacta, the surgeon actually lifted his hands in impatience and blatted a rubbery sound that was akin to a human blowing a raspberry. After two days of watching the surgery attend to this patient without uttering a single nonprofessional word, that brief gesture of irritation caught the assisting droids in a state of silent alarm.

 

One of the droids paused, quietly considered all possible courses of action, and decided to embark on the option that seemed most likely to result in its patient’s speedy recovery and return to duty. It decided to strain its programming to the utmost limits of its capabilities for discretion and contact the Jedi Order’s Circle of Healers.

 

____

 

The bulk of the message was a professional, terse summary of the patient’s present physical condition, injuries sustained, treatment, prognosis… in summary, an abbreviated medical record of the last few days. Unusually for a communique authored by a medical droid, it was prefaced by a diplomatic plea for assistance… authored falsely using the name of a sapient being.

 

After the pleasantries, holographic watermarks, encryption keys and various minutiae of official communication between the military and the Jedi Order, the message finally contained its plea for assistance.

 

The reputation of the Circle of Jedi Healers is that of the finest medical professionals in the known galaxy. They are renowned for their ability to accomplish acts that appear as miraculous to many sapients, to heal those expected to perish and to make a full recovery with astonishing rapidity.

 

Admiral Bruce Slaughter (service number attached, medical summary attached) sustained critical wounds during the defense of Nar Shaddaa. His vital signs have stabilized and he is expected to recover with time and therapy, but the restoration of a just government will require his speedy return to duty. The medical corps of the Rebel Alliance thus requests the assistance of the Circle in restoring Admiral Slaughter to health and service.

 

@Leena Kil

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From the twitching of Keenava’s lekku, there was a lot moving under the surface of the ex-sith lord. Her complicated past would reveal itself in time Sandy knew, and such things should not be picked at, nor should they be exposed in front of an audience. It could take years for the woman to be comfortable enough to expose her pain and work on its healing. But that was what Sandy was for, and she had been through a lot of pain and darkness in her early years as well. 

 

So she gave the black skinned twi’lek a warm smile, and walked with her and Meku to the foot of the Marine’s bed. Where the smell of burned flesh was now nearly overwhelming. 

 

The marine stared up towards the ceiling of the triage tent, his eyes slowly tracing the lines of fabric, counting each thread he could see as he tried to fight against the urge to scream, or to cry out in pain. He was a soldier, and he knew that as such he should bear the pain with grace and dignity. The infernal sounds of crying and begging that echoed down the long tent from other victims turned his stomach. If there was much of a stomach to turn left after his encounter with the Sith. 

 

But his eyes betrayed his fear. His fear of unmanning himself before the end. The fear of not knowing if his family had made it off world. They had lost so many friends at Kuat, even grandpa… and he had not yet repaid the galaxy for what his father had done at…but he did not want to think about that. And if his family had made it out, his son would redeem the family line and the imperial pension board would take care of Lucy. They had to. 

 

He took a deep breath that faltered near its end into a long stream of extremely painful coughs. Each cough causing his torn and burned flesh to grate against destroyed nerves until his coughs ended in a long hiss of pain. His bandages now soaked with the greasy brown of burned and denatured blood. 

 

“Sergeant Alsinon.” 

 

Sandy spoke softly as she walked to his side. Trusting that her two apprentices would listen and observe. If they looked at him through the force, they would see that his life was now measured in seconds and minutes. His internal organs thoroughly destroyed by the rage of the Sith. The man looked up with eyes that could barely see and Sandy reached into the force to guide her words. Flashes of his worry came before her eyes. And she seized at the very root of many. 

 

“You have fought well, and no stain remains of your past.” 

 

His sightless eyes widened.

 

“Now go in peace and joy. Walk again in the sunlight without shame.”

 

Sandy laid her hand softly on his brow. And the man breathed no more. For as much as the Jedi were healers, they were also comforters of the dying. 

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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Vangar set his glass down as his eyes beheld the engraved tube. Instinctively, he knew what it was. “How’d you come by that?” He whispered almost suddenly wary of the Kaleesh before him. Vangar’s eyes moved from the tubular container with its intricate filigree to the diplomat-warrior before him. It held what very well could be considered the last known orders of Empress Raven, a promotion, the continuity of a kingdom, the future of the Galactic Empire and all that remained of it contained within one ancient vial, upon a single parchment. It was a parchment that carried with it the legitimacy of rule and the responsibilities as such. How this man had come to hold it spoke as much of the trust placed in him as did the fact that he now seemed to offer it up.

 

Slowly, almost cautiously, Vangar Longfang reached out, his own clawed hand coming to rest adjacent to @Qessax Jal Todda’s on the tube. “Find the Empress. That is your sacred duty. The Alliance, not just an Empire, needs a leader in this, our time of need.”

 

Vangar remained, talking with Qessax deep into the night. He remained long after the liquor was exhausted and the officers’ mess closed and cleaned for the night. They spoke of their homeworlds and their development, the Imperium, the Rebellion, the last battle and the trials that awaited them in the days, weeks, and months to come. As the two finally parted ways, Vangar clutched the ornamental cylinder in his claws. Just before vanishing into the night, Vangar turned back to Qessax, “I hope to see either you or your brother representing Kalee at the assembly tomorrow afternoon. The galaxy is turning over a new leaf comrade.”

 

————————————-

 

The following afternoon, the sweltering sun shone down through a cloudless sky. The humidity hung heavy in the windless air. It clung to everything. A dozen stone stair steps led to an open stone plaza surrounded by large white stone arches of carved reliefs and twisting brown vines, cultivated into intricate whirls and brilliant blooms of pink and orange. 
 

In the past, legions of troops would have stood at attention to herald the importance of such an event. Not now. Not here. Given the circumstances, the hustle and bustle of crews as they worked to save lives, salvage equipment, and reestablish communications, there was little pomp and circumstance. A single elongated horn gave a long low growl that echoed across the plaza and out into the surrounding encampments of prefabricated shelters, buildings, and makeshift structures. Any who were available were invited to attend the call, having been notified that a memorial service and announcement on the future of the Alliance would be given.

 

As the horn carried across the compound, Vangar, adorned in the trappings of his positions and flanked by a pair of Bespin Wing Guards appeared; as did many others, Imperial governors, planetary rules and representatives, sector overlords, commanders and more, each invited by Vangar or personal messenger. They all assembled together on the raised plaza, many more gathered at the base of the steps anxious to pay their respects and hear what then future may hold for each of them.

 

A portable wooden podium, simple innit’s elegance had been placed centerstage, an amplification system attached to it to accent the natural enhancement of the plaza and to broadcast the assembly throughout the compound for those who may be unable to break away.

 

Men, women, and droids gradually filled the waiting chairs until there was standing room only. After that, they crowded about the fringes. As the long dull wail of the horn faded into silence, so too did the hushed whispers of the crowd. An Imperial Stormtrooper Commander adorned in black stepped up to the podium. “Brothers, sisters. Thank you all for coming.” He slowly gestured behind him to those assembled dignitaries and commanders. His moments betrayed the weightiness of the situation. “We are gathered here today to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, those lost in the line of duty, taken by our enemies into spaces unknown. Those you see behind me are here representing the myriad of militaries who stood shoulder to shoulder with the forces of the Imperium. Each of them will stand and read the names of their lost. None will be forgotten. After each dignitary, we will observe a full minute of silence in honor of those fallen. Many were lost and this may take some time. Duty still calls. If you must come or go, all we ask is that you do so with the reverence such an event deserves.” Stepping back, the commander yielded the podium to the first dignitary, a Corellian high-ranking General adorned in medals and the legendary blood stripe.

 

The grizzled veteran stepped to the podium and one by one began to read the names of every Corellian known to have been lost in the battle. It took well over an hour before he concluded. After the moment of silence, the King of Mon Cal stepped forward with tears in his eyes. Clutching a datapad, the man read off a list of Mon Cal, Quarren, and countless other species who had called their watery world home since the Sith had been repulsed. Each of them were brothers bound by the baptismal ocean waters of Dac.

 

Bothawui, the Jedi, Cathar, Skor II, Fondor, Ryloth, and countless more continued to follow throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Hundreds of thousands of names, families torn apart, no world left unaffected be it by one or ten thousand deaths. People came and went, reporting for duty tours and completing them. Soldiers, sailors, marines, Jedi, Imperial Knights, medics, and more came through. 
 

It was well past midnight when the last name rang out across the Allied compounds. Vangar and countless others had stood, unmoving, for hours; safe for the time he stepped forward to read the names of those lost from Bespin, Nothoiin, Gentes, all the worlds of the Anoat Sector, even a dozen names of smugglers who had called a frigid compound on Hoth home. He then had returned silently to his place, tears glimmering in his reptilian eyes.

 

When the last name had faded from the hot night air, Vangar stepped forward again. Gripping the podium with one hand, he gingerly placed the metallic inlaid scroll tube at the top for all to see.

 

”One life was too many, but each of these died free, died fighting for something they believed in, someone they loved. Do not forget them. Remember them. The fight is not over. Every day, remember those who went before you, who paid the ultimate price. Remember their sacrifice and know that you too may still be called upon to make the same. The Sith menace broke against the ramparts of Nar Shaddaa, shattered into countless pieces against the black emptiness between the stars. It was not without sacrifice. Even now, worlds across the galaxy are casting off the shackles of oppression, still sacrificing in the name of freedom. We support each of these worlds and stand with them. We will continue to take the fight to the Sith wherever they may be found. We will rescue the captured and avenge the fallen. We will ensure a peaceful future for our children and our children’s children. The armies of the Rebel Alliance are devastated. The fleet of the Imperium is decimated. The Jedi are worn thin. We have been strained to our breaking point. No one entity is strong enough to carry the banner of freedom across the cosmos. And so, we will continue to join together in brotherhood and mutual understanding, a belief in freedom for all, the end of slavery, the advancement of life and fulfillment for each living being. A council composed of representatives from each sector and world, appointed from their own traditions, will advise and oversee the governance of the galaxy, safe guarding peace and freedom for all.” Clasping the scroll tube, Vangar held it up in the air.  “Our Empress, Raven, was taken in battle. If she has fallen, her body was never recovered. Even now agents of Imperial Intelligence are working unceasingly to ascertain what has befallen our leader. Until that time, I, Moff Vangar Longfang, by my right as an appointed governor of the Empire, will stand as Crown Regent of the Imperium, and by the consent of my fellow rulers and governors, as  Viceroy of this newly named but longstanding Galactic Alliance. Together, we will stand side by side, Bothan and Zeltron, Rebel, Imperial and Hapan, Cathar and Kaleesh, Human and Nonhuman, all of us. None will be left behind, pushed aside. All lives valued equally. Remember those that came before you. Remember their sacrifices. Carry their memories as you serve those beside you and those yet to come. Together, as one united Galactic Alliance, we can protect each other and end the scourge of injustice that even now lurks int he shadows.”

 

There were many more details on how the galaxy would proceed forward. Already agents of the Alliance were working to assist those seeking freedom and to hunt down, arrest, and purge the remnants of Sith influence the galaxy over. Those were details for another time. What was needed now was reverence, honor, and a path forward. The minds of everyone weighed as heavy as the humid air that soaked their uniforms and clothes. The hour was late and as the ceremony came to a close, the men, women, and droids of the Alliance shuffled out in silence. This was not the place to talk. There would be plenty of that in the mess tents and mead halls of their allies.

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Hours before the assembly, Qessax had come to the conclusion that he needed to do something. While orders stood that he was only to be disturbed in case of importance, his tent flap remained open for anyone to enter. 

 

Not that anyone would want to enter if they glanced inside. It was obvious the Kaleesh was doing something cultural. Inside, several boxes had been stacked up in some form of shrine, surrounded with a few personal items: Pieces of the kaleesh’s clipped claws, a bowl of water, a bowl of ashes, some smoking tinder from a local plant, and Qessax’s personal Lig sword. Atop of this makeshift shrine, his war mask gazed proudly and boldy. 

 

Before the shrine, Qessax knelt, inhaling the fumes from the burning plantlife. While it had no medicinal properties, Qessax had gathered that the Marcan Herb would have a similar effect to the plants that grew back home. It was as close as he could do with the limited resources he had. 

 

Satisfied with the slight euphoric feeling that tingled his senses, Qessax moved on to the next stage of the ritual. Taking the water, Qessax poured some into the bowl of ashes. Following this, Qessax mixed in his own clippings as well as several scales of a shoni swordfish: a gift from his brother before he left. With all the materials in one bowl, Qessax took his knife and used its handle to grind and mix the ingredients into a fine, reddish gray paste. This done, the kaleesh war hunter took the paste and applied it to his own face, making markings that perfectly imitated those on his mask.   

 

“Qymaen jai Sheelal” Qessax growled as he began to beat the ground softly with his fists. Lacking a ritual drum of any kind, and not daring to utilize metal in any way, the hard ground would have to do. Slowly, Qessax continued to beat the ground rhythmically, almost falling into a kind of trance. He was no shaman like his mother or grandmothers. He sadly did not inherit the ability to sense and use the force like most shamans did. But at least he inherited their sense of music to keep in steady time.

 

“Qymaen jai Sheelal” Qessax repeated several times over and over between hummings and several words in Kalee, softly enough to not be a disturbance. While an outsider would look and see some kind of savage or primitive ritual, any kaleesh could tell that Qessax was summoning an ancestor for an audience. The clippings were his bodily connection to his ancestry; The ashes a connection to the great death god who claimed all. And the scales a connection back to home where the spirit dwelled. 

 

Finally, Qessax stopped beating the ground and grabbed handfuls of dirt and began to sprinkle them in front, creating a thin cloud of dust. All stood still for a moment. 

 

“Qymaen, I call you here…” Qessax  growled in his native tongue, a gutteral noise filled with occasional clickings. While doing this, he swayed his body slightly, adding to the feeling that something was witnessing him. In his mind, he may have thought it was the drugs kicking in fully, or perhaps a trick of his own mind. But in his heart, he knew what it was. 

 

“I bring change to our people. It will change all…” Qessax continued. “But i had to deal with your enemies. Those who brought ruin to our people before. Forgive me for this.”

 

Qessax grabbed another handful of dirt and sprinkled it into the air. “Our people can begin to rise again, under one flag. The Toppa tribe, descendants of the Sheelal tribe, descendants of the Lig tribe, descendants of the Great tribe, will soon unite all tribes into one. With it, we can fight together and make all species understand our power. But to do so, i had to bring opportunities to us. And to bring opportunities, i had to bargain with your enemies.”

 

At this, Qessax reached and grabbed the mask and brought to his own face, kissing its forehead. “Understand that all i do, is for our people and for our kind. Stay with me Qymaen…behold the spirit of Kolchak, and witness as I bring our people into their proper place.”

____

Later, Qessax attended the ceremony and listened to the speech by Vangar. While he was wearing his imperial uniform, (still lacking boots), he also wore his brother’s cape and his own mask. Like the  barabel had said, Qessax attended as a representative of Kalee. Ceremonial garb was a necessity. 

 

“Not bad” Qessax commented as he strode next to the lizard, hand on sword at his hip. “How many times did you have to recite that?” Partly a joke, it was a good way for the Kaleesh to show the barabel some respect as one warrior to another. 

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For a moment, Mekuma was shocked. He had been fully expecting Master Sarna to use some kind of amazing Force power or skill and heal the Sergeant, even though he himself could feel his presence in the Force dissipating rapidly. He honestly had not expected Sandy to just help him along to the Mist-Beyond. However, when Meku paused for a moment to contemplate, he realized that was doing the Jedi Master injustice.

Yes, it was true that some people could not be saved, no matter how much one tried. It was a bitter truth, and one difficult to digest for Meku now that he thought about it. He had always had this theatrical notion that Jedi Masters, sufficiently strong and experienced in the Force, could do anything. He had shared such presumptions with the rest of his crèchemates, no doubt. So Sergeant Alsinon's death was a rude, albeit necessary, awakening.

 

And in hindsight, it was wrong of him to mentally dismiss what Master Sarna had done as something insignificant. To be able to ease the most excruciating moments of someone's very existence - the demise of their corporeal form - was no small contribution.

"Emotion, yet peace," he murmured under his breath, gathering his nerves. Deciding to emulate his Master, Mekuma scanned the room through the eyes of the Force. Despite the hard lesson he had just learned, he couldn't get himself to face those patients who had been colour-coded black during triage. Trudging along the gaps between the makeshift medical sleepers and grav-gurneys, Mekuma found a patient with a simple enough injury he knew he could handle easily at his level of experience.

"Hello," he greeted the young girl. A Twi'lek, a Rutian unlike Keenava, and far younger. More or less similar in apparent age to Mekuma himself, she sat on a grav-gurney hovering a few inches off the ground with a sad expression on her face, pressing down on her injury with a dressing. From initial inspection of the holochart hanging off her grav-gurney, the blue-skinned youngling had a muscle-deep laceration under her left eye, about six centimeters long and two wide. She had been given the necessary first-aid and a dose of painkillers, which was she why she sat there, awaiting her turn while the more experienced healers and medical staff attended to sicker patients.

Mekuma's voice caused her to look up at him, revealing brilliant eyes the colour of the sky.

"'oo arre you?" she inquired, blinking curiously. The hoarseness of her voice betrayed the dehydration, her Basic enriched with a Twi'leki accent.

 

"I'm here to help you with your injury, m'lady," Mekuma crouched down on one knee beside her gurney. "Can I see it?"

"But you'rre just a kid," she frowned. "Like me. Can't I get, like, a more experrienced doctorr?"

 

Having expected that, Mekuma laughed. "Aren't you observant? Yes, it's my first day here. Trust me though, I can help you with something as simple as a cut. But if you want, I can probably ask someone else," he glanced over his shoulder to accentuate his point, "It's just that, most of them are busy with sicker patients, so, uh... they'll take a while."

He felt the scrutiny of her gaze on him, her eyes narrowing as she considered him. After a few moments, it had actually begun to make him nervous, and Mekuma thought about leaving; that perhaps she wouldn't consent. Then, suddenly, she nodded, and removed the dressing pad she had been using to press down between her left eye and cheek.

 

"You betterr not mess up my face," she said. "I'm going to be a singerr one day, so I need my charrming good looks as well as my voice."

Mekuma resisted the urge to laugh. The girl definitely had a mirthful presence about her, despite the situation. Instead, he smiled warmly. "Thank you for trusting me. I promise I'll try my best."

Closing his eyes, he focused on the Force. Felt it flowing through him, through his hands, through the girl. He visualized in his mind the source of all life in the galaxy flowing through each and every cell of his patient. Focusing on the cut on her cheek, he brought his right hand up to touch her face. He could feel the cells growing naturally, replicating, beginning the process of laying down the cellular framework to replace the damaged structures.

 

"I'm one with the Force, the Force is with me," he whispered under his breath as he directed his own inner light, the source of his life, through his hand into the girl's cheek. Willing her cells to replicate faster while numbing her pain, boosted by his own lifeforce, his own vitality, his hand began to glow a bit. But, visibly, the cut began to heal: the underlying muscle layer grew first over the bones. Then, dark blue fatty tissue began to grew over it, before the Rutian's pale blue skin began to glove over it all. In a few moments, the laceration on her cheek was gone, as if it was never there. Not even a scar remained.

She giggled a bit. "'ey, zat tickles," bringing her hand to touch her injury subconsciously. Where was moments prior a deep, bloody gash, she felt soft skin. "W'at? It's gone!" she exclaimed, shocked, immediately digging into the pockets of her roughed-up dress and pulling out a small, cracked, hand-held flip mirror which she flipped open to look at her face. "It's rreally gone!" Her blue-grey eyes then found the Nautolan's face. "Zat was amazing! 'ow did you do zat?!"

 

Mekuma couldn't resist his cheeks flushing at the look of wonder in her eyes, nor the urge to take the opportunity to gloat. "W-Well, the Light Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities..." he shrugged as if this was just another day on the job for him (which it arguably was, even if it was his first), though not able to keep the smirk off his face.

"Wow," the Rutian girl gasped in wonder, throwing the dressing she still held in her left hand into the nearest garbage bin before getting off the grav-gurney. "So, I'm frree to go?" she inquired, and Mekuma nodded as he stood up to his full height.

"Are you alright otherwise?" he asked, reaching out through the Force to subtly touch the girl's mind. He could sense her fear, the severe anxiety and uncontrollable flashbacks she still had of the horrors of the war she had just experience. As Master Sarna had just shown him, Meku sent her waves of reassurance, watching as she seemed to visibly relax in his presence. "You don't have to be afraid. Those guys, whoever did that to you, they're gone. You're safe here."

 

The girl, feeling her anxiety melt away, let her shoulders droop, relaxing in the boy's soothing aura. "Zsank you," she said, somewhat shyly, her lekku twitching with traces of delight at the release of her anxiety. She offered the boy her right hand. "My name is Sareen," she said. "Sareen Sinya."

"Mekuma Simka," he answered, taking the proffered hand happily, feeling pleased with himself at having helped her, even if it was with something so relatively minor. He smirked. "Maybe you can thank me with eternal free tickets to your performances when you become a famous singer."

Sareen answered with a delighted giggle.

Edited by Meku Simka
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She caught the blonde Jedi Master’s warm smile and something in the Twi’lek’s mind clicked. She knows more than she’s letting on. It was a comforting thing. It was a gesture of respect that Keenava wasn’t sure she was worthy of, but one that she was thankful for.

 

From the stale air that hung between them after Sandy completed her demonstration, Keenava assumed that it was her and Meku’s turn to follow the Jedi’s example and find someone to treat. This was meant to be a lesson after all. They were meant to follow the instructions and guide someone to peace or treat their wounds… through the force… which was totally something she could do. Right. Easy. 

 

Keenava shuffled a few steps away from the other two, deliberately looking for a simple case to solve, doing her best to still her twitching lekku, because she wasn’t sure she could help. But all the black tag victims looked in a way Keenava knew a simple bandage would not fix. Severe burns, psychosomatic seizures, bouts of hysteria, paralyzation—and those were the lucky ones. Some were hollowed out or simply not there anymore. There was nothing left in their eyes. Without seeing the myriad afflictions through the force, she could still feel the agony swell like a brilliant crescendo to the crown of her head, which pounded with pain every time she tried to dig further. There was a magnitude of care she couldn’t provide, and she knew it.

 

Keenava slumped into a folding chair at the bedside of a patient who looked to be no more than eleven. The patient clutched a stuffed animal tightly to her chest, but her eyes were completely empty. She stared at the ceiling, expressionless, motionless, like someone had robbed her of that spark that all children seemed to have. It was tragic, and Keenava had no idea how to fix it. She sat silently and lowered her face into her hands, wincing as the pain in her head only got stronger. 

 

An older callused hand reached out and patted her on the back. Keenava started abruptly at the intrusion. But when she turned to look, she was greeted by a warm face and two pale blue eyes. A Cerean was standing beside her chair. He was of modest height with a brilliant white beard and a matching tuft of hair atop his coned head. Without asking, or waiting for an answer, the Cerean pulled over another folding chair to sit beside the troubled Twi’lek. 

 

“What seems to be the problem?” He observed, his tone measured and concerned.

 

“What makes you think there’s a problem?” Keenava countered defensively. 

 

“Well, you’ve been muttering to yourself, and your hand has been on your head frequently over the last few minutes. So, either you keep getting the same bug landing on your forehead again and again, or you have a pain in your head, which could potentially stem from some unresolved issue. Now whether that is due to a chemical imbalance or something deeper, I am unsure. Hence the reason why I asked the question.” The Cerean started back without a hint of hesitation; his smile just as big as it had been before.

 

Keenava looked over at Meku and Sandy, as if to confirm they weren’t listening, then let her gaze shift back to the Cerean. Her eyes drifted downward and her lekku seemed to droop a little. “It’s a long story.”

 

“I have time.” The Cerean’s pale blue eyes were open and inquisitive. His body language suggested something of a counselor; it was open and inviting. He made room without physically moving aside, as if to encourage confession without verbally indicating it.

 

Keenava quietly filled the Cerean in on what had happened over the last couple of days down to every detail she could remember. By the end, she was somewhat surprised by how forthcoming she’d been. She looked over at him and cocked an eyebrow. “Do people regularly share their baggage with you?” 

 

The Cerean chuckled, “no. Normally I have to try a little harder. But I like helping people so I don’t mind. Would you be okay if I tried to help you?”

 

Keenava sat in silence for a few moments. She wasn’t really sure what was going on. She was sure she could trust Sandy and the people here, but she wasn’t sure if she could communicate her problems effectively enough, let alone whether or not people would be able to figure out exactly what was wrong. But, at the end of the day, if this person could help her, what did she have to lose? “Alright. Why not?”

 

“Good. First things first. Please join me on the ground.” 

 

The Cerean carefully slipped from his folding chair and sat cross-legged on the ground. Keenava followed suit shortly after and only slightly began to wonder what she’d gotten herself into.

 

“Now,” the Cerean began with an even, practiced tone, “First I want you to close your eyes and breathe. I want you to focus on breathing in and out over and over; in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, as you feel the blood in your body begin to slow, I want you to begin clearing the cobwebs from your mind. I want you to discard every random thought both intrusive and mundane. I want you to empty your mind.”

 

Keenava sat and followed his instructions quietly. She tried to sift through every doubt, regret, and source of shame she’d felt over the last few days. When they were all collected, she dumped them into a metaphorical waste bucket and felt somehow… lighter? 

 

“No-” 

 

“Shhhh… don’t speak for now.” The Cerean’s words were gentle and felt like they were getting farther away.

 

“Second, with your newly emptied mind, I want you to gather everything that you remember about yourself - past and present. I want you to gather everything that you felt, everything that you saw. I want you to gather every sensory experience you can, and I want you to make it all into a comprehensible being. By the end of this I want you to see a reflection of yourself sitting before you in your mind; not a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ one, but simply a reflection of yourself.”

 

Keenava’s brows knit in pain, but she began to see the outline of her former self. Burning ruby eyes looked back at her. Her prosthetic leg glowed in the dim light and her old tattoos rose powerfully to the surface of her skin which was as black as tar. This ‘reflection’ Keenava also carried heavy scarring on her face and body; tendrils of shadow clung to her that the real Keenava had never seen before. Her expression was that of barely contained rage, waiting to spring to the surface. Her fists were at her hips; she was ready to pounce.

 

“I don’t thi-” 

 

“Don’t think, just see. And don’t speak, just listen,” the Cerean said, his voice echoing a warning in her mind.

 

“I trust your comment means that you’ve finished your reflection. Good. It’s time for the hard part. Now  that you’ve created this shadow of yourself, I want you to embrace it.” The Cerean’s words continued to echo ethereally from everywhere around her all at the same time.

 

Keenava’s brows continued to knit together, but this time with incredulity. He wants me to do what? 

 

The real Keenava, keeping her eyes closed, tried to get to all fours and shuffle a little closer. The reflection hissed at her though it didn't move. The reflection was being held back by something Keenava couldn’t see. She tried to shuffle a little more, but the hissing continued. She looked back and forth, trying to find a good angle, but she found nothing. She needed to go all in. Keenava rushed forward, preparing to meet any and all hazard, wincing hard in preparation for something she wasn’t sure of. But nothing came; nothing except a small tingle that traced the outline of Keenava’s right shoulder.

 

“... I want you to tell her that everything will be okay…” 

 

Keenava repeated the instruction and a warm sensation began to bloom in her chest. 

 

“... I want you to tell her that her pain is valid and that she has worked for far too long…”

 

Keenava continued what she was instructed to repeat, and could feel the warm sensation begin to grow, and a weight begin to lift.

 

“... and finally, I want you to let her go. I want you to accept everything she is. Because everything she is, made you who you are today. It doesn’t define you. But denying who you are, and running from yourself isn’t getting you anywhere. I don’t want you to celebrate your shortcomings, but I want you to accept that they happened. I want you to accept who you were and thus who you are. You can only be the sum of your parts, and any less than that is a disservice to you as a person... Now, open your eyes.”

 

Keenava felt herself following the last instructions as if on auto-pilot. And when she opened her eyes, she swore she could see her reflection for the briefest second; it's eyes were streaked with tears, and it wore a smile on it's face that somehow took away from the corrupted  picture she saw before. It looked scared. It looked alone.

 

The Cerean was standing now, looking down at the Twi’lek with a wan smile. “How do you feel?”

 

Keenava’s mouth worked without sound for a few seconds before the tears that had been rimming her eyes began to fall. “H-h-how did you do that?” Keenava mumbled quietly. 

 

“I didn’t do anything.” The Cerean responded, resting a careful hand on her shoulder.

 

“What you discussed with me is something I recognized as a trauma response. Something terrible happened in your past – maybe several things. And even though you had been separated from the feelings that made everything so traumatic, you were still reacting as if you’d been traumatized. You shoved everything away to defend yourself from being vulnerable because it’s that very vulnerability that you were and are afraid of. The many parts of yourself that existed in the past, existed to save you from being vulnerable. And now that you have clarity enough to realize that vulnerability, your subconscious is reflexively protecting you from the world around you. It’s afraid you’re going to regress back to the shadow that you were. That fear was such an intrinsic part of you that it was effectively in every extrinsic part of your life. But what you just did is the first--and hardest--step toward healing, and I’m glad you did it.”

 

Keenava’s chest trembled. She felt a wave of chaos whoosh back into her that felt very familiar. But instead of exploding like she’d done many times before, she held her hand close to her chest and braced. She wasn’t that person anymore. She would not follow that path. This was her choice. 

 

A piece of a puzzle that she didn’t know was missing, snapped into place as Keenava rose to her feet. 

 

“Now, before we conclude this moment my friend, I want to discuss with you something else you mentioned. You mentioned something about having difficulties feeling the force and I wanted to elucidate what I have learned in my not so small time in this galaxy.” The Cerean began in what was obviously a practiced lecture voice. “The force is not some simple collection of energy that one can draw through their body by only one means. The force is in all living things; it is all around us. Sure, the Sith would have you believe that using and harnessing your emotions with the force is the only way to do it. And it certainly is a very powerful way to do it. However, tying yourself so closely to the force with something so inherently yours - like your emotions - can carry a heavy mental and emotional toll. And, depending on how you use the force, you can inflict physical damage upon yourself. When you use the energy of every living thing to destroy and taint, you exact an equal price on yourself that accumulates over time. It is this price that eventually erodes the body and makes it harder to stop. Another way you can channel the force is simply that, by channeling it.”

 

Keenava’s brows creased as she concentrated on the message, but she couldn’t make heads or tails of what he meant by 'channel' it; at least not in a way that differed from Sith practices.

 

“How about this,” the Cerean continued, acknowledging the consternation written across Keenava’s face. “Imagine if you will that you are a river bed that stretches far and wide. Now, imagine that the force is the ocean. What you want to do is let the water from the ocean flow through your river bed and out to the other side. Or, slightly differently put, you’re a dam that controls and shifts the level and direction of the current as it flows down the river bed. Your job isn’t to put your own intensity into it, you simply guide it and shift it to where you need it to go. If you take a deep breath and practice what I’ve described, you’ll find that the force never left you.”

 

Keenava nodded and took a moment to close her eyes and breathe. She tried to imagine a river bed. She tried to imagine fish, and soil, and rocks. Yet instead, she ended up with a large tube. It was not the end she intended, but it was a vessel and would serve the same purpose. Next came the water. The Twi'lek tried to shift her stance and feel the water as it flowed steadily through her imaginary tube. It was hard to imagine what the water felt like as it rushed past her and into the wide-faced opening. But her whole body felt cold. Eventually small effervescent tingling sensations began to tickle her fingertips, and she could feel the air in the room shift. She could hear, smell, see, and feel the world again. Her head wasn’t pounding anymore. She let the feeling spread through her hand and up into her arms. It was a gentle floaty feeling. It was different than she was used to. It felt alien and yet somehow familiar.  

 

A moment of silence passed as she processed everything that had happened.

 

“Thank you doesn’t feel like enough.” Keenava sighed when she could finally manage the words.

 

“And it is not needed. By the way, has anyone ever told you that your purple eyes are lovely?” the Cerean said gently. 

 

She smiled. “No they haven’t. And I don't think I ever properly introduced myself! My name is Keenava.”

 

The Cerean nodded, “Greetings Keenava, my name is Kro’Roene’Givrah, pleased to meet you. I wish you luck in your future endeavors”

 

With a deep bow, Roene turned on his heel and walked to the nearest not black-tagged patient.

 

Keenava shifted her focus to the girl clutching the doll to her chest that lay on a grav-gurney nearby. And, with the force tingling at her fingertips once more, she gently held the young girl’s free hand. She spread warmth from the core of her chest, through the length of her arm, and out the tips of her fingers.

 

She whispered softly, close to the little girl’s silent form. “I’ve lost too little one. But you and I, we need to keep living. They would want that. We need to keep moving forward one step at a time. There are still people who care for you. You’re going to be okay.” 

 

Keenava saw after images of a bigger woman laying sprawled on the ground, and the girl crying at her side. It slid like a spike into her back, but she held fast. She embraced the young girl and turned the hazy specter of the girl to face her, realizing that it was not the little girl but the face of her mother staring back at her. Another bucket of ice hit the core of her brain, but she would not be deterred. “You say to them that I’m going to keep living. If not for them, then for myself.”

 

Her mother’s beatific purple eyes were creased by a deep smile that spread from cheek to cheek. Tears glistened, freshly fallen, across her serene expression.

 

With a start, the little girl woke up and choked for a few seconds before grabbing the Twi’lek back and sobbing uncontrollably. Keenava rested a hand on the girl’s back and lightly cooed, “shhh, it’ll be okay. I’ll stay here as long as you need. Alright?” 

 

The little girl looked up at her, brown eyes glossy and tired, “You promise?” 

 

“I’ll do what I can. I do have other things to do, but right now my mission is to make sure you’re okay. So I get to stay here until you feel better. Doctor’s orders.” Keenava said, a sweet smile spreading across her face. 

 

The little girl smiled a little before leaning against her and tearing up again. 

 

Edited by Keenava Dira

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As the force moved through Sandy Sarna, she let it flow in and out of her like a tide. Relieving the pain of the dying woman beside her. She was swathed in bacta bandages that had bled through in transport, her skin and organs coming apart from deep tissue radiation damage with every jostle of the medical evacuation ship. It had been a turbulent journey, and the young imperial officer cried silent tears that streaked blood red down the side of her face into a congealed mess of her now equally red hair. 

 

The Jedi would not speed the natural death of someone who could not be saved, but they were there to comfort and lead like angels to the gates of hades. She could feel her own tears sliding gently down her tired face. Unimaginably hot as they traced their way to her chin. 

 

Bacta had miraculous powers, moreso when paired with the organic and ancient kolto that was still shipped off of Manaan. But it was not a cure all, and with only so many tanks and supplies, many of the most grievously wounded were given sedatives and left to pass away as peacefully as they could. In that way, as well as many others, the stain of the tragedy of the Nar Shaddaa permeated the force around them. It stuck to the refugees and the wounded like a thick oil, oozing out of their pores with every heaving breath or sobbing cry. 

 

Sandy felt the grip of the young officer strengthen for a moment, her clear gray eyes staring into Sandy’s as she struggled against a dissolving larynx to speak. There was resolve there in her eyes, where minutes before they had been clouded with pain. 

 

“Tell him Serro I still love him.” 

 

Sandy returned the grip with her own. Squeezing the woman’s hand hard as she nodded. 

 

“I will.” 

 

And the young officer smiled once, before her face went slack and she breathed no more. Sandy held the grip for a minute before her other hand reached up and closed the sightless gray eyes that stared without fear into oblivion. One death among the trillions that had perished in the battle of Nar Shaddaa. If ever there was evidence of a tear in the force, a great tragedy that would last a multitude of generations. Spinning a trauma that could last until the last star in the galaxy burned into a shroud of darkness. 

 

It was something to discuss with the council, if anyone of the council still remained alive. She could sense Leena, and even see her, but Draygo she could not feel. Nor could she feel Kirlocca. And for a moment she could feel a rush of emotion as her heart sank for him. He had found someone truly special in the Empress, and now with her death, she could not fathom how he must feel. It would cut her to the core if she lost Aidan. He had been her cornerstone since she was a teenager. So as she stood and tried to wipe away the tiredness of the day, she whispered a prayer for Kirlocca before opening her eyes to look for her apprentices. 

 

They were both assisting in the comfort of the wounded as they should have been. She glanced up to the Roene and gave him a nod of appreciation before gesturing the two apprentices to her. 

 

“I believe it is time that we break for a while, get some food in us and get to know each other before we continue into exhaustion.” 

 

She gestured them to follow her to the sanitation station and from there into the small attached cafeteria which was sparsely populated with exhausted medical staff and a few serving droids that were dishing up food. She grabbed a non discript salad and sat down at one of the empty tables, when they had joined her she gave them each a smile before taking a bite of her food. 

 

“So tell me about yourselves. What brings you here and what are you are trying to become.” 

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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The utter damnation of Nar Shaddaa had been surprising to the Imperial Knights. It had been outside of thought that the Sith would attempt to create a rift in the force like they had by nearly destroying the planet and exterminating the innocent populace. It held echoes of Malachor five, a great crime that had nearly exterminated the Jedi from the face of the galaxy. A crime that had cleaned the house of all the good and trusting jedi that had existed some thousands of years before. And so had the Sith done to them again. In a single strike they had taken the empress, the grandmaster and the lord commander. Leaving the alliance and both orders headless and without purpose. 

 

And to say less the Sith had purposefully destroyed their fleets. They had thrown away their own lives for such a strike, leaving behind an empire that was crumbling into fragmented ruin. It presented a conundrum which he now had to consider. 

 

Why had the Sith left it all behind? Of course this was just based on initial estimates, but with the departures of the Sith Lords, they had left everything behind, burning their ships at Nar Shaddaa and leaving the galaxy defenseless against a resurgent Rebel Alliance. But they had only done so after killing the Empress and destroying Nar Shaddaa. There was a plan that had been set in motion, a plan that sounded preposterous in its utmost, but it set the stage. It set the stage for its crescendo years later. A devious plan that sowed doubt in everyone that gave it thought. An evil mind was at work, and it had turned its eye on the future of the Galactic Alliance. 

 

“No man sows without thought of harvest.” 

 

His father’s words trickled into the back of his mind as he took another turn towards the center of the refugee camp. It would require meditation and much thought to see the specter of the future. And Raphanel hoped that they would identify such a ghost before it was ready to make its fatal blow.  

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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Moments had turned into minutes, minutes into hours, and hours turned into days as Sanguis toured the camp and gave anonymous aid wherever he could. Whether it be fetching bacta patches, or carrying away the dead and deceased, he took the time to focus himself on the here and now rather than the past that threatened to flood his mind. Only in the silence of night amidst the world of dreams did his mind flow into the past and memories of his age flooded his thoughts.

 

Abandonment was not an unusual emotion for the newly decorated Jedi Knight, him having spent the first two decades of his life in lonely solitude. But for the last three decades, he had found solace and peace under his Master, a man he considered his surrogate father. Where the man had chose to disappear to, or where his path led him, Sanguis was unsure. Only that despite his best efforts, his absence echoed in the soul of his former pupil.

 

When a new day dawned upon Ylesia, Sanguis rose from his makeshift hut, a small concoction of boards and fabrics he found scattered amongst the trash. Dusting himself off and wiping away the sleep from his eyes, he winced at the healing scar beneath the armor that covered the portion of his face. Sure, he could use the medicines and compounds he had been fetching for days to have aiding in its healing, but Sanguis had never been one to place himself before others, especially if they needed it more.

 

After a brief meal mostly of a nutrient bar and insta-caf, Sanguis started his day as usual, returning to the triage tent far to the northern outskirts of the encampment. It was a rather obscure distance from his quarters, but he had chosen to distance himself from the others and the trek offered plenty of time to reflect upon his recent rise in rank and where he would go from here as much as preparing himself for the continuous carnage that rolled in from Nar Shadaa.

 

Yes, Nar Shadaa, the place where his life entirely changed.....

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Thirty minutes later, a Barabel Jedi arrived in the medical ward of Fidelity. Dressed in cream-colored robes with an ornate, textured pattern more suited for one of the Old Republic’s librarians than the embedded warriors of the present day, the reptile merely held up her lightsaber to the security guards that flanked the portal to Admiral Slaughter’s suite, who responded with a murmured thanks and opening the sealed blast door.

 

Just within, the surgeon Captain Kozim was not pleased with the presence of the Jedi. Something of a biological supremacist, it had not occurred to the Bith that his own assistant droids could have displayed the creativity and independence to forge medical orders in his own name.

 

“What in the blazes is going on? The Jedi were not summoned–and not required.” The translator unit dangling from the Bith’s chin buzzed irritably.

 

“Undoubtedly. But the galaxy requires that this man returns to service as quickly as possible. A Jedi Healer will be of significant assistance in this man’s recovery. I must be allowed to help.” Despite the fact that Master Zal’s smile was lined with dozens of scalpel-sharp teeth that could exsanguinate a sapient within seconds, the Bith surgeon found himself nodding agreeably with the Jedi Healer’s proposal of collaboration. The Barabel was so reasonable in her request–her supplication, even–to offer assistance, that it was impossible to not offer the stooped reptile a space at the head of the bacta tank.

 

“Yes, you must be allowed to help.” The translator unit buzzed obediently as Bith’s enormous eyes took on a glassy appearance.

 

You may find this a novel experience. Collaboration between Jedi Healers… uh… uh… medicals as brilliant as yourself is unusual. You should probably check the cams in this studio, the recording may be valuable in the future.” Again, the Bith found himself nodding agreeably with this suggestion and proceeded to double-check the many sensors within the bacta tank that were reporting on the Admiral’s vitals, and the holocams throughout the room. There were very few medicos who could boast that they had worked with a Jedi Healer–those recordings would almost certainly yield valuable data.

 

“I–yes, of course. I’d… welcome the… opportunity to work with a Jedi Healer. But this is my patient., If I ask you to do something, you do it.”

 

Master Zal didn’t even respond audibly. The little nod that lowered her face wasn’t for the surgeon, it was for the Healer’s private little ritual as she prepared herself to administer to yet another patient who had been critically wounded at Nar Shaddaa. She opened her arms to place her clawed hands on either side of Admiral Slaughter’s face. The middle-aged soldier’s lines were tense and creased with exhaustion lines–as though he was still managing to grind his teeth despite the fact that he was in a coma induced by hypovolemia and traumatic injury.

 

Admiral Slaughter, wake up. The Republic needs you.

 

____

 

With a gasp that became a cloud of bubbles and a low groan of barely-suppressed pain, Admiral Slaughter woke up. His first thought was that he probably wasn’t dead. He figured that if he was dead, he’d probably be in a clean uniform, or in the company of his deceased wife… instead, he was surrounded by a pink, translucent fluid, wearing shorts that barely covered his anatomy, with cords and sensors placed on his chest, tubes that went into his arms, and a breath mask over his mouth. Reincarnation was probably not a possibility…

 

It was only a few seconds after staring at his own waist that he realize exactly what had changed–his anatomy. His abdomen wasn’t a mess of bloodied dressings, shredded flesh and gore that was being pressed upon by three medics in an attempt to stop his bleeding–it was now smooth, unscarred… and extremely tender flesh. The untested muscles were groaning merely at the effort of breathing.

 

He definitely wasn’t dead, then.

 

Admiral, your breath mask is fitted with a comms unit,” came the buzz of an artificial voice, distorted by the bacta fluid. “We can hear you outside the bacta tank.

 

“Mwhere,” a cloud of bubbles issued around his face as he forcibly exhaled bacta fluid that can crept into his nostrils. His abdominal muscles burned at that effort. “”Mwhere ah I?”

 

“Ylesia. Specifically, you’re in the medical ward of Fidelity.”

 

“Mwhy Yle–eea?”

 

“Rendezvous point for the fleet after Nar Shaddaa. Things were very chaotic after the battle. You’ve missed quite a bit. Moff Vangar Longfang of the Imperial Remnant has declared a new Galactic Alliance–”

 

“‘oo? Mwha? Eh’ ee ow uh dis dang, eh’ ee a unibormmm.”

 

“Admiral, you still have another session ahead of you–and two surgeries for a spinal implant, and physical therapy–”

 

“Ih gan mwaid. ‘Ads amn orher.”

 

____

 

Ten minutes later, he was pulled out of the tank, hosed down and vacuumed of the few stray rivulets of precious bacta that clung to his body. Listening in silence as he was placed in an old-fashioned wheelchair–not even equipped with repulsors, but one outfitted with wheels that required muscle input for locomotion–a pair of medical aides guided his paralyzed legs into a fresh uniform, tightened combat boots around his numb feet, and helped the Admiral don the tunic of an active-duty uniform with a fractal camouflage pattern. The aides even parked his chair in front of a mirror so he could shave. His face was pale from anemia and scarred near his left eye, and his shaking hands inflicted a small nick under his chin, but he would at least be presentable for the politicians and command structure of the... Galactic Alliance, or whatever the coalition was now calling itself.

 

“Now, inform Viceroy @Vangar Longfang that I have returned to duty. I will be on my way groundside to meet him as soon as possible–I can wheel myself, thank you, Master Jedi.”


The Admiral placed his hands on either side of the wheelchair and braced himself for an hour of pain and exertion. As he wheeled himself towards Fidelity’s keel hangar, he thought he heard cheering…

Edited by ObliviousKnight
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(( @MSA))

 

Several light-minutes away from Ylesia, one of the many picket ships that served as a tripwire against the possibility of a Sith invasion detected the reversion of a military vessel from hyperspace. Only seconds after the patrol boat fixed its oversized sensor array on the interloper and angled to intercept the craft, an even more alarming event transpired. The spacecraft, tentatively identified as the CR90 corvette Hastati and registered to the Sith Imperial garrison of Onderon, blew up. It had activated its scuttle charges, instantly venting its atmosphere to vacuum and detonating its engines  The only remains of the vessel that drifted through space were a cloud of glimmering, superheated alloys, a few chunks of bone… and two escape pods that had blasted away from the ship. Both contained multiple life forms, and both had blasted away at sufficient speed and at a vector to avoid interception.

 

One of them was transmitting a Jedi Identify-Friend/Foe recognition code, albeit one that was badly outdated and known to be broken by the Sith Empire. Both landed in the coastal mud flats of the southern continent of the planet, a long distance from the refugee camps… but also in a location where both pods would slowly sink under the gray, cement-like mud. To make matters more urgent, the tide was coming in and both escape pods would eventually run out of their oxygen supply.

 

________

 

“Knight Aequitas!” One of the many non-Force Sensitive support personnel of the Jedi Order came jogging after the Jedi Knight. Captain Xisqis was a Rodian shuttle pilot, momentarily assigned to the many search-and-rescue crews that were probing the various damaged vessels and hulks that were congregating on Ylesia. A translator unit was dangling just under the green-skinned reptiloid’s neck, dutifully converting the squeaks of the pilot’s native language to a carefully enunciated--if robotically dull--unaccented Basic.

 

Xisqis hurriedly introduced himself and his purpose. “Captain Xisqis, search and rescue. We’ve had an unusual development. A pair of escape pods settled in the southern continent in a tidal swamp. We only have a few hours before the tide comes in and extraction gets a lot more difficult. They came from a Sith scout ship, so the higher-ups wanted a Jedi on the team in the event things get interesting. You available?”

 

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The Fiat Lux  entered the system, looking far much more ready and stronger than its actual crew. Beck Pilon stood at the center of the bridge and let out a massive sigh as everything from the jump settled down. Lilla Rurn stood at his side looking at a datapad, running over the notes and other things from the battle. "Only three covered from escape pods needed medical attention. All of the shuttles have been prepare though and are ready for departure to the surface. They just need your command sir." He looked around the bridge for a second, observing the hard working crew in their element. While he wanted all of them to take a break, he knew that not everyone would be able to, as the ship would still need some form of a crew to operate. 

 

"Prioritize the crew that have been serving the longest, along with those recovered in escape pods. Has there been any official word if my presence has been required on the surface?" Almost as soon as he said it, he had hoped that the answer would be no. His crew deserved breaks, and he would rather be the one to let them go versus having to make himself a priority to get off the ship. "... Looks like a meeting already took place, before our arrival- lucky dog. No word has been issued to see commanding officers yet." Beck turned and gave the rebel lieutenant a half smirking smile. "Luck or stubbornness to leave the system until the job was done? I'll let someone else decide that." He turned back to observe the deck, letting out a very small sigh as he finished. "But how long can I hide away from the politics when we brought back one of the bigger remaining ships in the fleet?" 

 

His own face locked eyes on the Fidelity, the MC90 that was almost directly across from the Fiat Lux. He doubted that either commander of the larger vessels would play smaller roles in what's about to happen. The shift in the galaxy. But the main difference between the two Admirals was this; Slaughter was used to the political side of the navy. Pilon was not. Many other Admirals within the imperial Navy held grandeur dreams of controlling aspects of fleets and academies. Never Beck. He preferred his own ship, commanding the Fiat Lux. Nothing else was truly wanted, or needed. He just simply wanted to continue to serve the Empire, which would now look massively different going forward. And he doubted there would be a chance to sit back and remain within the shadows as he always had before. 

 

Lieutenant Rurn touched his shoulder ever slightly. "It may be too bold to say this freely, but since I'm not technically under your command, you're a fantastic Admiral, and one well worth the rank. It's been a pleasure to serve alongside you during the Nar Shaddaa battle. May the Force give you the rest and reward that you deserve."  He only half looked at her, giving a much smaller and weaker smile, with an even less enthusiastic nod. She simply nodded back and then gave a salute and left the bridge to join those headed to the surface. Her words, while comforting, did little for him. He didn't believe in the Force, nor did he care for it. He also didn't care for getting what he deserved or even getting a reward. He simply wanted to remain in his small role, to which he knew he would no longer be able to do going forward. 

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Memories of Nar Shadaa rolled across his mind as he sat outside the triage tent he had been stationing himself to for the last few days.The chaos, the carnage, the pain as much as the suffering. The Jedi teachings never truly prepared one for the truth of war. He sat there in silence, pondering the susceptibility that war claimed on a beings soul, and how easily one could fall to the allure of the darkness within. When a Jedi went to war, they walked a very fine line, and in the midst of it all, could easily falter down the unforgiving path of darkness.

 

He remembered his own brush with the darkness, the savagery he felt against the Sith for the wrath they wrought upon Nar Shadaa, the pain and anguish they inflicted upon its innocent souls without prejudice. Prejudice he could understand. But these Sith sought domination and damnation for the pure sport of it. There was no rhyme or reason to it. They simply wrought it. And he felt his hatred and anger toward them for it, unbridled and raw. And it scared him to death that he almost faltered so easily.

 

Lost so deep in thought, he hadn't recognized his moving toward the edge of an overlook toward the makeshift camp he held in his view below, nor of the Rodian that quickly approached and spoke and he nearly jumped out of his skin as it's words echoed in bland translation. "Knight Æquitas!" It called to him, his elongated ears have never heard the term before as he turned his blue gaze in shock toward the creature in it's approached.

 

Padawan Æquitas had been his term for so long, the substitute of his Knightdom was nearly lost upon his thoughts as the Rodian explained himself blandly through the equipped translator, the unison of his true voice resonating the urgency. He blinked quizzitively, the reality of his Knightdom settling in behind his initial shock as he realized whom the Rodian sought. Inwardly, he realized the truth of his Master's purpose for Knighting him.

 

The Jedi Order was, and had been, in shambles even before this war began, and half of his Apprenticeship. He was one of the few who remembered the Order at the peak of its power, a time when Knights and Padawans fell to their inner darkness like moths to a flame. He had witnessed Dark Lords rise and fall as the Sith hid and re-emerged countless times, and as before, this time felt no different, the seeds of chaos sown and the harvesters retreating until it came time to harvest once again the produce of their crops. This was why he had chosen to walk the path of Jedi Guardian before his Apprenticeship came to an end, to stand against the darkness, and why Nar Shadaa was his greatest lesson.

 

Sanguis removed the bloodied scrubs from his form and let his emerald hair down from its capped visage, as he threw them in the trash and turned back to Captain Xisqis. "I am." He spoke, his voice deep and proud. "Lead the way, Captain."

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((For @MSA))

 

“Well, thank,” the translator cut out for a second. Whether the Rodian was uttering untranslatable profanities or the name of some obscure deity was unclear. “For that. I’ll explain on the way to the shuttle.”

 

As the two set out towards the landing pads at the outskirts of the refugee camp at a slow trot, the squeaking continued hurriedly as the pilot gave a quick briefing of the unusual scenario in Ylesia’s southern continent. “Fleet pickets detected a Sith corvette revert from hyperspace in the outskirts of the system. The corvette launched two escape pods, but it self-destructed seconds afterwards. All we know about those escape pods is that there are humanoids on board and that they settled in the middle of a salt marsh. It’s muddy terrain, basically impossible to get to except on foot or by air. The tide is coming in and they’ll be submerged in a few hours. Again, no idea who or might be on board. Defectors? Spies? Some bioweapon? No way to know without contact. A Jedi would be more useful under the circumstances than a squad of stormtroopers. So command thinks.”

 

At this point, the two had arrived at a LAAT/i gunship that had been repurposed into serving as a medevac shuttle. A medical droid and a Twi’lek medic already occupied half of the passenger compartment with a portable bacta tank. Once the two boarded, the shuttle alighted with the heavy, penetrating whump-whump-whump of antiquated sunlight engines and a wind current that sent a shock through clothing and scattered loose papers across the landing pads.

 

Ylesia, once one adjusted to the short day-night cycle, the atrociously unpredictable weather patterns, and the ever-present humidity, was quite an unremarkable planet. The thirty minutes were filled with scenic views of misty jungles, swamp bogs, storm clouds, and more misty jungles and swamp bogs. The southern continent was similarly unremarkable, except the scenic views of misty jungles were replaced by those of tidal marshes. The whiff of salt and decaying plant matter was perceptible even from a thousand meters above sea level. The Twi’lek medic scratched at her red skin at the mere thought of the millions of mosquitoes–or whatever the local variant of parasitic bloodsuckers happened to be–that assuredly made their home in this ugly landscape.

 

In the distance, two flashes of light repeated every three seconds: those were the escape pods.

 

“Sith escape pods, medical shuttle Aurek-three-two-seven approaching from oh-eight, high. ETA two minutes. Look for red lights, three quick flashes. If you are armed, remove your weapons and collect them in a visible location. I repeat, Sith escape pods…” The monologue continued as the LAAT/i lost altitude and made a lazy circle around the two escape pods.

 

The two escape pods could not have picked a worse location to crash-land. Both were stuck halfway into the muck, their engines protruding from the mud like four stubby fingers. One of the escape pods had rolled over and it appeared that its hatch had become submerged in the mud. Nothing short of a tractor beam or a construction crane was likely to be able extract the pods from the mud–and a construction crane was not going to be able to travel through this cement-like ooze.

 

Another untranslatable squeal followed Captain Xisqis’ circle of the crash site. “I mean, uh, how do you want to approach this, Master Jedi?”

 

Edited by ObliviousKnight

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A prefabricated command center that had sat for so long it had practically become a part of the landscape sat shadowed enshrined in shadows on the outskirts of the Allied command sector of Yselia. It was not a commonly used facility, even in the hubbub of evacuations and establishment of command. Its lack of modernized amenities and distance had relegated the former intelligence warehouse to disuse. The few lights that still worked inside cast long shadows amongst the stacks of outdated reports and briefs. 
 

It was here, deep within aisles of boxes intel files that Vangar sat, a hunched figure adorned in the finest regalia Bespin had to offer. He had just announced his succession of the Empress as head of the Imperial Remnant, the crown regent until such a time as she could be restored or confirmed lost forever; more so, he had taken the bold step to assume command over the entirety of the Galactic Alliance as a whole, the Remnant, the Rebellion, and a dozen or more different groups bound together under a single banner to bring freedom and prosperity across the galaxy. This meeting was a part of that, couriers had carried requests of attendance to the highest ranked commanders, future military leaders, of the Alliance. @Beck Pilon, @Sgt. Slaughter, @Qessax Jal Todda @Queen Namari.

 

There was no fanfare; no open displays of power beyond the select few Wing Guards lurking in the shadows, Vangar’s chosen few to secure the meeting from unwanted eavesdroppers; no broadcast of power. This was a meeting of coordination, of blood-bound brethren to carry forward. It was here that the future of the Alliance and all she encompassed would be forged.

 

Looking around the angular table, Vangar saw the battle worn and haggard faces of men and women who had already seen so much, dedicated so much, lost so much. Each carried with them a zeal, an inexplicable force that carried them forward. He nodded a greeting to each of them as they sat, offering soft greetings and a shook hand where applicable. Small talk filled the room until the last of them had taken their seat. “Thank you all for coming,” he addressed the select group. “The galaxy is exposed. I do not need to tell any of you how exposed that leaves us. You lot are the heroes of the Rebellion, of resistance in the face of absolute detestation. Your galaxy cannot ask any more than each of you have already given, and yet they must. In the void, we must step out and be strong; the strength every man, woman, and child can rely on for prosperity and protection.”

 

He turned to each of them, one by one, “Qessax Jal Todda,” he looked into the reptilian warlike eyes of the Kaleesh, “You were the protégé of Admiral Kolchak and you knew his operation best; well, what one could know of such a thing.  We are looking you to take over where he left off, to be the shadowy eye and hand of this Alliance, to route out agents of the Sith and sin where they hide. To that end, we need to find a new fleet of warships to defend our fledgling governance.”


He turned to the ruler of Naboo, “Queen Anne, your people have suffered greater than many in the galaxy. You know firsthand the atrocities the Sith can inflict on the defenseless. It is worlds like yours that will make the backbone of our defenses, peoples who will never be oppressed again.” He looked from Anne to Qessax, “There are other worlds insulated from the galaxy. Their friendship, their fleets, would be a welcome shield against the unknown.”

 

“Of course,” he turned to the others, “Each world is expected to contribute to the defense of the Alliance, but not at the expense of their own. No world should be left defenseless, but should be expected to contribute to their own welfare and to help their neighbor from their excess. Bruce, no one could ask more than you have given. If you would command the allied forces of our worlds, to see to the aid and defense of any member world by the rest, it would be an honor and sacrifice to all who place their trust in us.”

 

”That is not enough though,” Vangar surveyed the group, “I am no battle lord , but a man of security and business, and even I have heard tales of lost fleets, of craft setting in drydocks the galaxy over. We must find them. Finish them.” Vangar’s eyes fell to Admiral Pilon, “Crew them.”

 

”Beck, your experience is invaluable. The forces of the Imperial Remnant remain the biggest known force in the galaxy, even if it is just a shadow of what it once was. The men look to you, as do I. If you would take your command to the Core, reinvigorate the war college there, and prepare a new generation of sailors, marines, and commanders to stand in the gap against the unknown.”

 

”No one of us can carry this cause alone. It only together, by the will of those who call this galaxy home, those who wish to see it free, that we can serve them to the greatest good for all. What say each of you? I invite your thoughts and opinions. Let us work together side by side to serve.”

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Naboo’s young queen gave a quick curtsy in response to the Barabel’s mentioning of her. She had redressed into the dark brown form fitting fatigues of the Naboo royal starfighter corps, the only thing distinguishing her from the few officers around her was the thin crown of gold that sat lightly upon her head. When it was her turn to speak she took it, standing as tall as she could among the much older crowd of military officers. It was time to use the skills she had honed during her training to become the symbolic queen of the Naboo. 

 

‘Sir Longfang, honorable members of the Alliance, the horrors that the innocents of my planet endured at the hands of the Sith was only an echo of what a hundred planets before us experienced. Even Onderon, which was their beachhead into the core worlds experienced civilizational disaster. Its meager government and monarchy overthrown and murdered. Then too Carida, Kashyyyk, Chandrillia, Coruscant itself, and now Nar Shaddaa. All have faced the utter destruction of the Sith. All have suffered from the utter weakness of the Galactic Alliance and its failure to protect its citizen worlds.” 

 

Her gray eyes scanned the many officers from both the Imperial Remnant and the GA that stared back at her. There would be time to harang the demons of democracy in the future. But it was not yet the time. 

 

“We cannot afford to be so weak again. For the Sith have not gone for good.” 

 

She was speaking mainly from feeling, and there was a part of her that they had not seen the last of the Dark Side. There was no time to rejoice. For the next war would be around the corner.

 

“They drove the knife into our Rebellion, yet they did not spend their utter reserves of strength. Where was their Dark Lord? Was he not a king of shadow and deceit? We must act on the assumption that they will return, and stronger than before. Like a cancer that has not been fully cut out, it will spread and grow again, until it returns from its shadow, unlooked for and stronger than before. Naboo will never again be so weak as we once were. We will be the bulwark of the Galactic South and root out the darkside from our lands. Root and stem.”


Gone was the peaceful democratic monarchy of Naboo. Warlord, and absolute tsarist autocracy would replace it. Strength instead of weakness. A lesson learned in the fires of the Sith. 

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Queen Namari of the Naboo

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Qessax looked at the individuals around him, studying each of them like a trained hunter and like the trained intelligence agent he was. Despite his mask at his side and not on his face, he tried to maintain an imperial look. However, at his heart, he felt like a youngling in a circle of adults. 

 

Qessax studied Admiral Pilon for a bit. He had read the admiral’s file several times. And the thing that his thoughts always came back to was his origin. Clone. His imperial training told him to ignore that fact, but his personal beliefs said something else. How does a clone work in the spiritual world? Are they a rebirth of someone dead? If so, did that mean their soul was no longer bound for eternal life after a glorious death? 

 

Still, the admiral had proved himself, as both his file and Longfang’s confidence showed. 

 

Then there was Slaughter. Out of all the people in the room, he made Qessax a little nervous and the most childlike. Next to Kolchak, he was the next most respected Imperial Qessax believed in. He was also the person who could call Qessax out as well. Kolchak had told the agent to deliver the scroll to Slaughter, and Qessax chose Vangar. 

 

Vanguard had started the meeting. His words rang with Qessax in his soul. Despite his nerves with how Slaughter may react to Qessax, he knew he made the right decision. 

When the young queen began to speak, Qessax smiled slightly. The practically teenager was, in his opinion, over her head. Young and forced into a position of authority and responsibility during a time of crisis. Having to be the face of a people who were going to be struggling for a long time. 

 

Agent Qessax nodded, smile still creeping on his face. She and he shared many similarities in that respect. 

 

You speak like a Kaleesh, great Queen. And as representative of the Kaleesh, the newly united government of Kalee will stand by you. “

 

Qessax stood and faced everyone. “I will do what I can to fill in the shoes that Kolchak has left behind. Most of our network involved with the Sith has been burned. Those on Korriban are dedicated entirely to finding the location of our beloved Empress. However, we have assets available across the galaxy. If the Sith slip up, I promise you, we will find them.”

 

“As for warships…” Qessax had to think for a moment. “I have a lead. My sources in the Umbaran planetary government tells me they have found several ships from the clone wars in the Ghost Nebula. They have officially denied all knowledge of such ships. But I know for a fact that they are taking action to bring a Lucrehulk-class Battleship online. If we do act, a small force may be able to take the ship to a more secure location. The perfect flagship for a new fleet.”

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The summons had come just as Beck thought it might. He knew his role was about to expand, a role that he would much rather not have, but fully understood why it would be given to him. It was never a question for him though, to act upon a want or desire when duty said otherwise. It was apart of his programming. And the years of service had ingrained it so much further. No he sat at a table, only half listening to the speech given. It was moving, or designed to be moving, as all leaders should be. Only time would tell if this Longfang would prove to be the leader needed for this time frame. 

 

His eyes looked up from time to time, even more so when the Barabel spoke directly to one person. His curious nature always loved to read people's faces when they were addressed. For him, the idea of their facial expressions giving away more of what was inside was something of a game to him. The Queen of Naboo, while young in both looks and spirit, showed an eagerness to remain strong. A quality that he found amusing, as was her eye motions. If he had to guess, she lead more with her gut then her head. The Kaleesh was also an interesting person to observe. His eyes focused in, but they rested upon people he found. Deep focus. Yet his words hinted at maybe less focused and more thoughtful. He took a few smaller glances at Slaughter, the only other veteran within the room. He wondered how the man would respond, but then he was addressed by the Barabel. 

 

His own eyes half looked between him and the floor as he pondered upon such a thrust of trust. It was made clear that he was trusted, yet the command given to him was not fully one he expected. The Core? Surely he would have handed that over to Slaughter. Pilon didn't know why he was being given that amount of trust for the Core, or if it was a subtle slap at him, to be more focused on developing the next generation versus being the hunter of the Sith. He wondered how much more action the Core would even see, know that Coruscant and others had been broken. Rebuilding things and patrolling would be the most excitement he would see, and he knew it. But like always, he was made to serve. He slowly nodded his own head and then looked up at Vangar. "At your command, sir."

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Sanguis remained silent over the course of their trek, his elongated ears attentively listening to the Rodian's bland translator interpret his native tongue. On occasion,  his mind would trail off in the archives of his memory, the expanse of his three decades as a Jedi Padawan as vast as a Masters, but limited to experience and encounters. Where most would immediately see threat, Sanguis felt a clear mind and level head would ensure a better outcome with his aid. After all, if Nar Shadaa had taught them any lesson, the Sith of new shot first and worried about consequences after the fact. This tactic felt slightly off.

 

"Command is correct in their nervousness. There are too many unknown variables that could be in play here." Sanguis spoke as the two approached the ship, his hand stroking the armor that covered the scar left upon him by Nar Shadaa. "But harbors no tactics like we encountered on Nar Shadaa. I'm not completely sure if the Sith hold any hand in this occurrence. Still... best to proceed with caution."

 

Climbing aboard the LAAT/I, they made the rest of the journey in the air. His own nervousness was placed away in his mind as his first mission as a Jedi Knight, and since Nar Shadaa began, and instead, Sanguis played out the possibilities in his mind as they ventured away from the camp. If it were infiltrators sent by the Sith, it would mean an Armada wasn't far away, possibly away from scans and patrols that would alert the recovering Alliance. Which would also mean comms would be more susceptible to interception were they to alert their Masters. Given the alertness already portrayed by the Alliance, this would be a pointless endeavor. 

 

If this were defectors, intelligence would be too limited to have already tracked the Alliance to Ylesia unless the Alliance had a hand in providing such information, but that would already have been passed up to command given the level of alert. No. This felt different, too manipulated for standard defectors. And as they drew closer, the Force felt more active and stirred vigorously, suggesting a Force User or at least someone with carnal knowledge of it. While the thought of a Sith had crossed his mind, the Force held no malevolence within its flow. Cautiously, Sanguis stood and braced himself to get a better look at the pods sitting below as they arrived.

 

"Hopefully with a bit of finesse..." Sanguis replied as he reached out into the Force and twisted his form against its current, grasping the two repel cables and guiding himself down to the pods below. As his bare feet landed and slid against the metal of the pods, Sanguis anchored the ship to the first pod before flipping toward the other that had sank its hatch and anchored it as well. "Keep it as sturdy as you can Captain." 

 

With those words spoken, his Emerald saber ignited and he began to cut into the exposed side of the escape pod. His intent was to rescue the trapped first before moving on to the second. Whatever laid beneath would be a revelation for a later time, treating this moment as a rescue and recovery first until more information became available. 

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For the first time in many years, Slaughter was forced to ride a Lambda-class shuttle. There was no way to conveniently lift a wheelchair into his favored LAAT/i. He closed his eyes during the descent to Ylesia, trying to feel… anything. Not in his legs–those were completely numb–but some vibration in the deckplates, turbulence from the notoriously foul Ylesian weather, some reassurance that he was actually in a military transport designed for speed and maneuver, rather than a passenger on a flying pillow. Nothing. He hated the damned shuttle. He had a suspicion that the pilots were deliberately trying to avoid discomforting their passenger with turbulence by taking a circuitous route towards the groundside landing pads.

 

Slaughter tried to not dwell on that unintended slight. There were too many other matters that needed his attention: how to seize the initiative from the Sith Empire after their disastrous “victory” over Nar Shaddaa, this new self-described viceroy of a new self-proclaimed Galactic Alliance, the dwindling survivors of the republic that he had sworn to defend.

 

The shuttle finally gave a light jostle. A muffled whirr of servos and clank of the boarding ramp against duracrete identified that minor jolt as the shuttle settling on the ground. He held a hand up when Master Healer Zal moved to wheel him away; he would show up to this war council on his own power, even if he was late and red-faced and sweaty from the effort.

 

___________

 

He was not late. Admiral Slaughter’s reputation for punctuality and dignity remained untarnished–which was to say that he wheeled in almost exactly the moment that the council began, red-faced, and moist from a mixture of a scattered mist and his own sweat. His appearance, rolling in at roughly the level of the waist of most of the attendees, was exactly as shocking as he had hoped. He recognized one of the bodyguards despite the shadows of the warehouse; the man, a former Republic Talon, gave only the slightest hint of reaction with the widening of his eyes. Slaughter’s hazel eyes drifted away from his old comrade and towards the other commanders who had been summoned to this unlikely warehouse. Of all of them, the only one that he might have known was Admiral Pilon–or perhaps that was another one of the Imperials, from the state dinner at that restaurant in the Upper Levels.

 

Force, even thinking about that made him feel old. He couldn’t even remember the name of the place. It was almost certainly rubble at this point.

 

Slaughter saluted in the Republican fashion, palm facing outwards, and listened. And listened. And tried to ignore the eyes from the unfamiliar Kaleesh.

 

“Very well. Viceroy.” A speech threatened to bubble up to his lips, he managed to hold the temptation until, at last, the former Moff became silent.

 

“Trying to remember the word for what the Sith accomplished at Nar Shaddaa.” His rhetorical abilities left something to be desired. Those were the benefits of an education focused almost entirely on the practical rather than anything approaching the classics. “In order to claim victory in their campaign, they needed to destroy the ability of the Rebel Alliance to make war–decapitate its leadership, inflict irreplaceable losses. They accomplished neither. We’re proof of that. What the galaxy saw when the Sith raped Nar Shaddaa was that we fought them to a standstill–that they wasted the best of their forces on a moon of secondary importance–that they surrendered the space to us.”

 

Slaughter leaned forward, forgetting that his newly-formed abdominal muscles and lifeless legs weren’t quite to the task of keeping him upright. A hand from the Jedi Healer at his side pushed gently against the Admiral’s sternum to force him back into his wheelchair.

 

“The phrase is pyrrhic victory, Admiral.” The Barabel Jedi Master whispered–snarled, really–into his ear.

 

“Pyrrhic victory! Yes." Slaughter's heavy fist slammed the surface of the table. "This is a time for aggression if there ever was one. If we declare our survival to the galaxy–our ascension–the Sith will have significant difficulty maintaining their hold on the population centers of the galaxy. Even more so when our ships enter their systems. At this moment, their empire is wounded and brittle.”

 

Edited by ObliviousKnight
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“Steady. On Ylesia. Sure. I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me… Even if Xisqis began muttering under his breath, the translator unit attached to the Rodian’s collar appeared incapable of modulating volume. It repeated the Rodian’s mantra  as the Jedi Knight lowered himself into the crosswinds, as loudly and carefully enunciated as it had been while briefing the Jedi. The yellow-banded repel cables whipped about in the wind, yet the LAAT/i remained on station, scarcely wavering a meter.

 

It was probably the expected reaction for the passengers within the escape pod to be alarmed at the sight of an emerald lightsaber blade slash through the thin plasteel wall. Instead, all that passed through The Force was a patient ripple of expectation and a peculiar sensation that four Force-Sensitive individuals had just looked up towards the Jedi.Knight.

 

When the patch of plastoid slid away to open up the escape pod, a shock of thin white hair tilted backwards to reveal the spiderweb-lined, eyeless face of Misal Draygo and three humans. All four were wearing plate armor of a strange material that appeared almost transparent--except it was mimicking the texture and color of the cream-white escape pod around them. The parts of it that weren’t cream-white were stained by a mixture of sewage, smoke and blood--a significant amount of blood, in fact. Their boots, greaves, and breastplates were all spattered. Their weapons were at least neatly stacked in a tidy pyramid on top of the escape hatch, even if it was a small arsenal consisting of two carbines that resembled slugthrowers, a number of Sith-issued blaster pistols, and an unreasonably-long marksman’s rifle.

 

“Hm. I was expecting someone else.” The Miraluka attempted to smile brightly, but something in the paper-white skin of her face suggested that she was beyond exhausted. “I am Misal Draygo--yes, her mother. The other escape pod contains a Togorian and a family of four Duros. No wounds in need of immediate attention. We can extract ourselves without difficulty, but those refugees will require assistance.”

 

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Sweat furrowed Æquitas' brow and dripped from his chin as the humidity encompassed his form, his gaze fixated upon the glowing mixture of heat and metal as he cut his way into the plasteel pod, his focus upon time and precision as the swamp bubbled up air and gas mixtures against the pressure of sinking metal. And then with focus in the Force, he peeled away the fold he had cut to reveal the occupancy below.

 

A sigh escaped his lips as his sapphiric eyes fell upon a loosely familiar face below, a face he had seen a few times in passing during returns to the Order. He smiled, offering the elder Miralukian his gloved hand as he dug his bare feet into the grip of skin meeting plasteel. "Yes ma'am, I know who you are." He spoke with a half hearted grunt, aiding the aged mother of the Grandmaster through the gap. "I was Master Æowulf's Padawan, but im not sure we've ever been properly introduced."

 

Turning his gaze toward the other escape pod, and shifting his body over toward it, his mind went back across his three decades within the Order, and the many faces he saw rise and fall across it. Though he looked nearly half his true age, his true age far exceeded most currently active within the Order, Misal's daughter and current Grandmaster included. Though he and Misal likely only were a decade part, any onlooker could not tell the difference. "I'll leave you to it then."

 

With the aid of the Force, Sanguis left across the marsh, using the natural scenery in between leaps to cover the distance, his lack of foot coverings aiding in his grip. As he reached the other pod, he reached down and opened it, revealing the others. With a soft smile, he offered aid to the fearful refugees gathered below, pulling each out as the others began their climb. "Captain, we've got nine friendlies for extraction, including the mother of Master Draygo-Darkfire. Okay everyone, two at a time."

 

As each began their climb, Sanguis remained behind giving aid as he could and keep the pods as stable as he could, each getting easier as two by two ending their climb. When all was said and done, Sanguis lept toward safety and with a single stroke of his blade, cut the cables and freed the ship from its anchor, exhausted both physically and through the Force. Sinking against the LAAT/i's framing, he looked toward the others and gave a reassuring smile. "Let's go home Captain."

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Keenava saw Sandy’s gesture from where she sat. But getting up elicited a sharp draw of breath from the youth that still clung to her. Keenava’s right hand rested atop the young girl’s quaking head, doing what she could to quell the tide of tears peeling down her cheeks. The girl had a lot of emotions to go through and Keenava didn’t want to abandon her. She made a promise.

 

The Twi’lek bent her head, smiling at the girl and a silent moment of tension passed between them as Keenava considered what to do. But she reassured the girl by giving her small hand a squeeze. Then Keenava turned to share a wink with someone nearby, and something seemed to shift in the air a few feet away. A few moments later, Roene, the Cerean that assisted Keenava earlier, appeared from between a row of grav-gurneys and took in the sight with a knowing expression.

 

      “Hello little one,” Roene said with a calm gentle chord to his deep baritone voice. The Cerean’s eyes quickly scanned the young patient’s documents and his face brightened up. “I know someone who is waiting for you in the next tent over. Would you like to come with me?”

 

The little girls’ beautiful blue eyes, filled with glassy tears, addressed the Cerean with all the confidence she could muster. “No one. I have no one. My m-m-mother…”

 

The little girl’s tears redoubled and Roene’s face softened visibly. 

 

      “It’s not your mother. No. But your father has been worried sick. He’s been trying to see you for the past hour. Do you want to go see him?” Roene’s words were careful. He gently placed a hand on the young girl’s shoulder and watched patiently as she leaned into his consolation. 

 

      “My d-dad? He’s still alive?” She said, choking the words through staccato sobs. “I thought I lost him a long time ago.”

 

Roene smiled broadly and bowed his cone head toward her, slightly squeezing her shoulder. 

      “I assure you, your father is alive and well and he’s been looking for you ever since he learned we had you under medical examination.” 

 

The girl’s eyes lit and she looked at Keenava with an apology written across her little face. 

      “I need to go see him. I need to. Will you come with me?” She pleaded, gripping at her sides. 

 

Keenava shook her head softly. 

      “Unfortunately, Master Sarna has requested my presence. But Roene here is a friend of mine. He’ll take care of you. You go see your Dad and I’ll check on you later, okay?” 

 

The little girl’s sad expression deepened with the furrow of her brow, but you could see the acceptance gilding the edges of her face. 

      “I know. Grown up stuff. But you better come see me.” 

 

Keenava smiled. “I will.”

 

With a hop, the girl transferred her hand to Roene and followed him toward the other side of the medical area. Keenava mouthed the words ‘Thank you’ at the Cerean who returned them with ‘you’re welcome’ before disappearing in the din of the heavily populated medical space.

 

Keenava dusted off her cargo pants a moment before accompanying Sandy and Meku. She topped a plate with a smattering of meat-based food and settled at the table just as Sandy hit the two of them with a very loaded question: “So tell me about yourselves. What brings you here and what are you trying to become?” 

 

      “Umm… how much do you really want to know?” Keenava responded. “I don’t know if you really want to hear everything about me. As to who I want to become? That’s… I’m not sure.” 

 

In truth, Keenava just wanted to not be what she’d been before. She wasn’t a stranger to the dark. Many made it clear that they didn’t want her broken mind, and that she needed to hide, and mask herself to everyone. She learned to be ashamed of her mind, and what she’d done. She ran away from her past, and what she once was. She wanted love, but watched as some facsimile of obsession consumed her, and then tried to hide behind the fallout. But she wasn’t going to let anyone break her. There had to be a place for her to just be her, whatever that was.

 

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, gonna send a flood gonna drown 'em out,

I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

 

      “I think it might be safer to say that I used to be a Sith. And that, despite the darkness of my past, I want to be better than I was. I want a chance to live the life that my mother dreamed for my sister and me. Whether that means I become a Jedi and provide a sense of safety and justice to the galaxy, or I learn to control the force from the Jedi so that I’m not a hazard to myself or others, I’m not entirely sure. I just know that I am done with that life.” Keenava intoned after finishing off a small cut of meat.

 

      “As to who I am and what I’ve done. If you want all of that information you’re going to need more time, and a lot more patience.” Keenava smiled a little, but the recollection wasn’t something she was giddy to exchange. "And I got here because Leena gave me a ride."


 

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A smile played across the near-lipless maw of Vangar. His needled smile was more predatory in appearance than pleased, but his intention; however unintentional, was pleased. Listening to these before him, they brought a vigor that he knew they would. Even Pilon, with his single line answer. 
 

The reptilian Crown Regent had to blink several times as he took in the Queen of Naboo. She presented a ferocity of which he was not familiar with in the Naboo people. She was right though, they needed that strength.

 

Nodding, Vangar fished a tabac stick from his coat pocket. Flicking the auto-ignitor, the end of the stick glowed orange, wisps of smoke trailing upwards into the singular light. He took a draw as he listened to Slaughter. when he finished, Vangar interjected. “You are absolutely right. Now is not the time for weakness, but for a show of strength; wether we have it or not. We must regain it and soon. Let us mourn our dead, build monuments to their sacrifice, but not at the expense of the future. The people of this galaxy will look to us. Lets give them something to trust in. Let us all return to our posts and begin to carry the galaxy into a new day, and we will protect that day.”

 

His eyes scanned the group before he offered his final words of encouragement and instruction.


”Find us fleets. If they can function or be brought to function, we will take them. Train crews, sailors, commanders, marines. Command them. Rebuild your worlds. Rebuild the homes of the many who still cling to life. Fortify your worlds, our Alliance. In the meantime, see to it that any remnants of the Sith are found and arrested, their tendrilled hands of darkness purged and pulled from the control of people’s lives. They will not be allowed to control the lives of so many ever again.” Vangar’s voice trailed off. He had little more to see. There was much work to be done and leaders were needed. These here were leaders and they were needed by their people.

 

Pushing his chair back, it scraped against the duracrete floor. The barabel stood, his countenance assertive and astute. “I have every confidence in your leadership. You did not fall before the onslaught of the Sith and you will not falter now. Go and serve.” The lizard’s clawed hand came up in a brisk palm forward salute. “Whatever you need, find it, if you cannot ask the Alliance. We will do what we can.”

 

There was little left to be said. Vangar knew the tremendous tasks he had requested of each of them. He knew that they would need time, time they may not have, to come to terms with this new reality. He trusted that each of them would be up to it and would help lead their galaxy into an era of peace.

 

The hour was late and the morning would come early. If he could catch a few hours of sleep he would. He would need to find someone to speak for the Jedi. They too would be essential in these next steps.

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((@MSA))

The second escape pod contained the Togorian, but Misal’s description had been somewhat vague. Rather than being one of the refugees who had fled from orbital bombardment and something of a bloodbath, the Togorian was a member of the fireteam that had inflicted the carnage. She was a frightfully-tall, heavily muscled specimen of her species, with long black fur that was streaked with white stripes and flakes of gray. A splash of dry blood stained one of her pauldrons, and her armor was similarly spotted with flakes of red.

 

Her weapon was similarly enormous. If Aequitas had much experience with military armaments, he would have recognized it as a portable version of an automatic blaster cannon: one that was typically mounted to light vehicles.

 

The Togorian was also purring. She gave a long blink when the escape pod’s hatch was blown open by the Jedi. Her ears twitched when one of the two Duros children stopped scratching them and pointed at the lightsaber at their rescuer’s waist. The dull reverberations of the felinoid’s purrs faded and the brilliant green eyes snapped to Aequitas’ blue.

 

“Jedi. It’s a relief to have you come. I am Sarrah,” The felinoid greeted the Jedi with heavily-accented, but otherwise serviceable Basic. “The little ones are Guldaim and Hulo. Memsai, Jedel; you and yours are finally…” The Togorian paused, trying to form enormous canines that were not well adapted to pronouncing Basic. “Not in danger.”

 

The Togorian helped with securing the Duros refugees into their harnesses, chuckling with delight when Guldaim tried to reach out to continue the ear scritches. As their forms were lifted away towards the LAAT/i, just in time to avoid sinking under the incoming tide, Aequitas might have noticed that nearly the entire party consisted of Force-Sensitives: all four members of Misal Draygo’s fireteam were trained Force Users, and three of the Duros family had some latent potential. When Sarrah and the Jedi were finally on board, with the Duros family secured and being looked over by the medics, Misal gathered the Force Users into a huddle of armor and robes.

 

“You all performed well.” She murmured, exhausted but undeniably pleased with the outcome of their mission. “That was a long, difficult mission, but we’re all alive and undetected. It’s difficult to argue with that. Mister Aequitas, I would appreciate it if you would guide me to whatever facilities the Jedi are maintaining here. I have sensitive information that should be in the hands of your Council.”

 

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Out of everyone’s words at the meeting, it was Slaughter’s that resonated with the Kaleesh the most. Perhaps it was his Kaleesh heritage that was chanting out, or maybe the Queen of Naboo’s loss and the losses at Nar Shaddaa made revenge sound more appealing now than ever. 

 

Whatever it was, Qessax knew he had a duty to fulfill these people’s desire for a swift and powerful attack. And if the Empress was still alive, there was one perfect place to target. 

 

“Gentlemen” Qessax stood and dismissed himself after Vangar had concluded the meeting. Quickly turning, he found his personal astromech and got to work.  If any of them needed his attention, they could easily find him.

 

“Get me all information on our Korriban agents. Even the ones who have been burned and forced into hiding. Every single asset. Compile them into a list for our agents.” 

 

Qessax’s blood was rushing a bit more now. Excitement was growing in his heart. He remembered the reason why he liked this job more then anything. He was a warhunter at heart, and warhunters planned for invasions and attacks. While this invasion would be different then a typical one, insurrection against the Sith was another form of invasion. 

 

“And get me every single agent available on the planet. All hands on deck. We have two missions of vital importance, and I will not be understaffed for them.” Qessax growled. The astromech whistled and got to work, transmitting the message to all the other droids planeside. 
 

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Talyn took a long drag of the cigar he was chewing on as he made his approach towards Ylesia. He look was grim, one that knew the right was far from over...in fact he knew despite appearances it was only just beginning. The real fight. He had seen the enemy, walked along them and knew that such fanaticism would not be so easily silenced. How he wished Kolchak were here, he was certain he would have a few choice words for the situation.

 

He hoped the rumours he had heard were not true, that his old friend, his mentor had not perished as was claimed. He was making the approach when the priority message came through, all agents were to return to the fold for debriefing and reassignment. At least those who were burnt like he was. And yet he knew he had to see for himself if what he heard was true, besides he had vital intelligence to deliver.

 

Intelligence he could only deliver to Kolchak's replacement if he had perished as was indicated by this message. It informed him that Korriban was to be the next target, and it was for this reason he returned, his intelligence concerned the red planet and recent developments there. 

 

Sending the required information for approval to enter, his imperial transmission code to confirm who he was and who he worked for he was soon sent below. Upon landing at one of the many landing pads, Talyn quickly made his way towards someone in authority who might be able to direct him towards Kolchak's replacement. 

 

 "Excuse me, sorry to interrupt. I'm Imperial Intelligence, Agent Talyn Orin, a old friend of Kolchak, I was told report to his replacement following his disappearance. I have vital intelligence that can only be given directly and face to face. For his eyes only so to speak. If you can direct me I would appreciate it, tell him it concerns Korriban and that I knew Kolchak."

 

 

((Feel free to direct Talyn to Qessax))

Edited by Talyn Orin
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Qessax was busy directing everything that was being sent to him with a fervor that matched his species. He felt partially at home here, directing and planning various operations like a seasoned hunter would plot out a great muumuu hunt. Qessax wished his brother was still here so he could joke how similar the two were. Planning around herding groups, mating seasons, tribal lands and weather patterns were not that far different from factoring in political machinations, sexual desires, governmental sanctions and celestial distances. 

 

However, the difference between the two was scope, and Qessax was starting to get a headache from handling the vastness of it all. 

 

"Excuse me, sorry to interrupt. I'm Imperial Intelligence Agent Talyn Orin, a old friend of Kolchak, I was told report to his replacement following his disappearance. 

 

Qessax turned and faced the man. The name was very familiar. In all of his files about Korriban, his name popped up a lot.

 

“Agent Orin” Qessax nodded, passing his datapad to his personal astromech/secretary droid as he introduced himself. “Agent Qessax. Good to meet you. Kolchak spoke highly of you”

 

Qessac felt a little out of place. The more people he met in this place, the more he felt his youthful age. 

 

“This way.”

 

The best was a little odd. In a section of the prefabricated base, a small holopad table was reserved specifically for him. The area was fenced off, with about 10 feet of area, with three security droids making sure only cleared personnel could enter.

 

“You’ll find it good to know that Kolchak died well” Qessax commented as he began to power up the holotable, bringing up an image of Korriban. His personal astromech had followed and was inserting several datapads into the computer. “Died fighting to the end. Even rammed his ship into the enemy like a mad Reek.”

 

Qessax stood opposed to Talyn Orin. With his own mask off and at his hip, his lack of years showed, but he refused to let that be his defining trait as he kept his yellow eyes stern and focused. 

 

“Tell me what you have on Korriban.”

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The next morning Vangar rolled from his bunk before the dawn.  It was a precious solace of silence before the din of a galaxy in turmoil engulfed his every waking moment once again. Days of coordination and reestablishment of alliances old and new, the drafting of new charters and outlining of overarching agreements that bound the totality of the universe into an outlook of good while still allowing each world, people, and culture the freedom to direct their own paths. It really was too much for one man to handle. Vangar knew that and even as he stood in the heavy humid pre-dawn air, his  body moving through the katas of his craft for the umpteenth time, his mind was not in it.


There was the Council of Governors, Imperial Moffs and planetary or sector rulers ranging from elected officials to warlords; amongst them the galaxy was divided into more palatable chunks. The day to day governance and establishment of order left to the forces of each overseer and their already established chains of command. Each was supplemented by the Alliance where need may call. And the needs right now were greater than ever.

 

Vangar’s clawed hands moved in a waterfall of continuous motion, each extension a fluid riposte of attack and defense. Practiced over a lifetime, developed in caves of Barab and perfected in the skies of Bespin, it came as natural to the newfound leader of the Alliance as did breathing.

 

The Alliance itself was the binding glue that would hold it all together. Carried by the remaining might of the Imperial Remnant and her forces, they would continued to trod forward with the purpose of the Rebellion as a path and the morals of the true Jedi as a guiding light. Forged together. It was this Alliance that needed strengthening, for even as they stood strong together as survivors, another onslaught like that on Nar Shaddaa they would not be able to withstand. So many pieces of unsecured line flopped in the wind of this, the sailing wreckage that they truly were; and yet, they were still seaworthy and ready to fight until the end. With each day more lines were secured and sails and breaches mended. Each day they grew stronger. The memorial to commemorate the dead and honor the sacrifices, the appointment of the Governor’s Council, the establishment of Imperial Intelligence already continuing their work in the shadows, the meeting last night to discuss their military mindsets; each was a step.

 

Vangar’s feet slid just above the ground, his weight carefully shifting between them as easily as his body flowed through the maneuvers. A step here, a feint and twist, rocking back to parry, in tandem with his body, the Barabel flowed like a leaf dancing slowly upon the currents of a soft spring breeze as he beat down the grass beneath his bare heels.

 

As the sun began to peak through the trees, the Crown Regent brought his practices to a close, the call of a morning bird in the distance signaling the awakening of the camp of both refugees and politicos alike. With bis body temperature raised and now warmed by the rays of the morning sun, Vangar Longfang returned to the early morning hustle of deliveries and preparations. Surely by now, he had to be awake.

 

The Empress had been the head of the Imperial Knights, a faction that Vangar would be the first to admit he did not fully understand. Having parted paths with the Jedi sometime in the past, they maintained many similar ideals, following the paths of good. With her missing in action and presumably killed, they too were left without a leader and until the Empress could be found or her desth confirmed would likely remain in a situation sinilar to his own; a ruler in all but title. The Crown Regent of the Imperial Remnant, Chairman of the Board of Governord, Moff of the Anoat Sector and more, Vangar would have to conduct himself in a way worthy of a title he did not carry.

 

The dining hall was large, set up to provide a continuous line of meals to those evacuated and unable to be fed elsewhere. In the first moments of the day only a few huddled over their morning caf contemplating their lives and what was to come. Each sat alone as far apart as one could within the still cool confines of the hall.

 

It was here, that Vangar Longfang, unadorned in his official splendor, the splendor of Bespin and beyond, but draped in a  casual robe not unlike those worn by the Jedi when they trained but free of any such affiliations, poured himself a cup of streaming nearly black caf from an industrial-sized contraption.

 

”Contispex,” Vangar hissed kindly as the smaller towering man, @Raphanel appeared in the line beside him. “I am glad to see that you and your order have survived. Come, join me, won’t you?” He offered the steaming mug of caf to the Chandrillian moving to pour another for himself before making his way towards a vacant table with no one else around.

 

Sliding his large form onto the bench was not an easy task, but with his knees bent upwards the Barabel managed. Cupping the warm mug in his hands, Vangar offered what was an attempt at a warm smile, lipless as it were to the Lord Commander. “How is it you fair my good sir? We have all endured great hardship, and yet we must continue to endure. The loss of so many Knights cuts me deeply. To be cut down as they stood in the gap, each a sunbeam against a storm.” He shook his head heavily. “Like the Jedi, your wisdom and guidance is coveted by many, but none more so than I and our newfound sense of brotherhood.”

 

Pausing, Vangar blew on his caf, steam rolling upwards to shroud his eyes for a moment as he regarded the de facto leader of the Imperial Knights, defenders of the Imperium.

 

———————————————

 

Elsewhere on the planet, as the morning began to progress, a lithe Zabrak messanger clad in nondescript, and if truth would have it, rather dirty coveralls that stank of hyperfuel ran up to @Tilt07. The man was clearly out of breath, but did his best to remain standing and not double over. “Sir,” he panted. “Director Qessax, successor to Grand Moff Kolchak in Imperial Intelligence has requested that you proceed with all haste to his location. Your Alliance needs you.” Before Tilt and company could even respond, the man pressed a GPS locator beacon into the man’s hand and turned and hurried away.

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