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Raven kept her breathing steady, her deep purple eyes reflecting the red of her sabre as she spin it before her face to swipe away another attack. It was frustrating, she was very much out of her element, and though she had done a lot to keep up her abilities, she was still taxed to her absolute limit keeping the Sith Lord at bay. If only she had accepted the Jedi’s offer of help and training. She kept her cool, letting the emotions fall from her mind, as she drew upon the force to give her help. 

 

The next blow from the Sith lord had a great deal more power behind it and Raven grimaced with the effort to parry the blow. The trick of sword fighting was always to let the opponent waste their energy in rushing blows, and Raven kept with the tactic. Letting the blow glide off her blade with a steep angle. The Sith gestured towards the door at Raven’s back and with an audible crunch, and Raven could feel the anticipatory danger at her back. Tiana had been fond of such tricks, though they had usually been swathes of knives, or dozens of unseeable needles. Raven grunted and let her right leg bend, then push her off to the side. Letting the heavy doors cascade across the floor where she had just been. 

 

The momentary respite from the swordplay allowed Raven time to tap into the force to rejuvenate her strength, and so, taking a high guard, Raven dashed in again. Raining three blows towards Qaela’a upper body, and transitioning into a feinting lunge. Before turning it into a rising attack. She whistled and Knight Cassandra engaged the new troops approaching from the door. Aiming at them with a blast of force energy while Raven summoned the force herself. She had no particular talent in the telekinesis that the Sith used, so she would be giving her all with the lightsabre. Perhaps, if she was lucky, and fast enough, her blade would find a vulnerable area to bite into.  With her blows, she attempted to push the Sith woman onto the fighting Imperial knights. 

 

((2))

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Pretender to the Galactic Throne

Leader of the Rebel Alliance

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There was a beauty to combat well fought and Qaela was quite fond of beauty in all its forms. She loved to watch her students duel because of the intricate ebb and flow of how the fight unfolded. There was a time and a place for everything in battle and opportunities constantly presented themselves and faded away into irrelevance. Take the right opportunities and victory was yours, miss too many and defeat was surely coming.

 

Though one of the two doors had been ripped open, the first group of Troopers had been knocked off balance by the Imperial Knight's telekinetic wave. While fending off Zinthos' latest wave of attacks, Qaela saw opportunities come and go with blinding speeds, taking some and missing on others. For the briefest of flashes, she saw a risky opportunity and decided to take it despite the cost. Again intentionally giving ground to her opponent's aggression, Qaela backed closer to the holoprojector, keeping it to her side with her back still facing the unoccupied benches at the edge of the room. As soon as the ship had entered hyperspace, the imposing image of the Supremely Dark Lord had been cut off leaving only a muted static.

 

She focused her energy elsewhere for a brief moment to tap into the elemental Force and begin a buildup of energy within herself. That moment of inattention allowed one of Zinthos' blows to rake across the Krath leathers she wore and slice into her offhand forearm sending blinding white hot pain that ravaged her entire nervous system. Pain was not always something to be embraced, but Qaela was now a Sith and the Sith thrived upon pain and suffering, even their own. She hissed in pain, but did not cry out.

 

Instead of trying to shunt that pain away, Qaela used it to fuel both her own rising fury and the increasing buildup of the Force that she was managing within her. For a moment, Qaela's own violet eyes met her opponent's similarly pigmented eyes before they morphed into the fiery red and orange hue that frequented a Sith using the raw power of the Dark Side.

 

Though she was quite aware of the potential threat at her flank, she relied on the presence of her five allies to keep the Knights occupied. Her bodyguards would make good use of their superior numbers to keep their opponents contained. Even then, they just needed to handle it for a few moments, after that, it wouldn't matter.

 

The Troopers in the corridor had recovered themselves by now and were filing cautiously into the room to offer supporting fire. While there was a small chance of hitting Qaela or one of her own allies, they weren't able to unleash a true torrent of energy. Even then, they could take careful shots and there mere presence was a threat enough to divide all three Rebel's attention.

 

Qaela used her pain fueled rage to keep her opponent occupied with their lightsaber duel while she continued to build up her own new counter. The occasional blaster shot aimed at Zinthos gave her some additional relief to complete the conjuring. It didn't take long considering the relatively small scale of the storm she was conjuring. She, along with other Nightsisters, were masters at manipulating the primal elemental forces of nature and creating massive storms. In here, it wouldn't take nearly the same energy or focus to accomplish her task.

 

Sensing the next layer of opportunity nearing fruition, Qaela gave a wicked smile devoid of any humor then leaped back two meters, slashing at the holoprojector as she did. By the time she landed and unleashed the pressure that had built up within her, the active projector had already began exploding. Rather than trying to unleash a broadly devastating storm within this contained room, Qaela directed her energy to creating a torrent of wind tinged with telekinesis to guide the explosion from the projector straight at Raven, not particularly caring if there was some small amount of blowback against the armored Troopers several meters behind her. Shrapnel and explosive energy from the projector coupled with Qaela's own Force powers to direct a wave of death at the False Empress.

 

((3))

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Breathe

 

Raven sucked in another lungful of air as she felt her blade nick on the Dathomiri’s leather armour. She could feel the thrill of the blow, even though it did scant damage, the small victory brought her a spike of joy. Feeling that joy she focused on it, letting it fill her mind, no matter how temporary it was. Kirlocca had taught her that much. A crooked smile hooked on the corner of her mouth. She twisted the sabre away to deflect the counter strike from the Dathomiri, and again concentrated on the build. She was ebbing bits of it off slowly into her movements, while building the majority of her strength for whatever finale there would be. She willed her arms and legs to go faster as they fought the battle, her purple eyes staring into Qaela’s and Raven was almost shocked by their sudden change from violet to the twisted red gold. 


Wickedness

 

Though it had been almost a decade since Raven had seen those eyes in person, they bid a familiar tale. One that foretold a swift end to the duel of their red sabres. It was spelled out clearly enough, the woman was engulfing herself in the force for some fatal blow. Bowing to the wickedness in her heart. Evil was building into a storm. 

 

Raven let her dim smile grow full, her eyes remaining their deep shade of purple as she began to draw fully on the joy and love she had felt in her life. Sparse as they may have been, she fed those memories into her mind. The faint sense of danger was growing to its full tide as the storm built inside the Dathomiri. A blaster bolt burned right by her head, but Raven stood fast, concentrating on the fullest danger. A storm was brewing, inside the conference room. There was only one chance really against a storm of wind and death. Raven couldn’t simply conjure a shield, she had no such talent. She would have to make whatever blow the Nightsister tried to give her a glancing and temporary one. Raven concentrated her everything on what came next. 

 

The wicked smile. 

 

Raven pulled her sabre back beside her, her human arm crooked and ready to jab the blade forward and bent her knees. Her fine tuned robotic arm holding the saber from across her body. Qaela leapt and a half second later Raven launched herself after her. She watched the arc of her jump, seeing where she was likely to land and attempting to arrive at the same spot. Unlike the Dathomiri, she did not leap. She dashed. Every step amplified by the force. She pushed the force through her leg muscles, through the bones, through her feet, to the decking, forcing herself to be faster, forcing the dash across the two meters to be a solid one. Every step was an anchor that could not falter. Or they would all die on a Sith Star Destroyer, far from home and the ones they loved. 

 

The buffeting wind hit first, smacking at her back, then the fiery shrapnel that cut through the thin dress uniform tunic  and screeched across the metal of her arm. The fire stung, crisping at her uniform, lighting the threads of the red piping at her shoulder. Igniting a small patch of the uniform at her back. But though painful, the pain could wait, it was only six feet. Only three steps in the course of maybe a second. A three step sprint beside the flaming holo projector. If Raven had to endure ten or more seconds of such a gale it would have been overwhelming. But she was a rock.  

 

She was the Pretender. One of the Leaders of the Rebel alliance. An Empress without a throne. 

 

And as the Nightsister landed, the Pretender lunged and pushed her blade forward.Pushing with her back foot and twisting her entire body behind the blow. Hips, shoulders, arms, empowered by the force in an impaling blow that should it connect, would cut the heart of the storm. 

 

((3))

((Really well fought Travis. A surprise but a real joy.)) 

 

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Pretender to the Galactic Throne

Leader of the Rebel Alliance

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Mordecai was disappointed  that he didn't get to kill the upstart Empress. Even when he was an Imperial  citizen, he'd never liked her. He briefly wondered where his  siblingswere- they'd been stationed on Onderon when the Sith attacked, and the Empress had left them to die, more than likely. He held no illusions that the Sithcared any more for his life than a slave's, but at least his fate was in his hands, not that of beuaracrats and half-addled officers who gained their power though nepotism and ass-kissng. The Dark Lord's orders triumphed any of his own ideas, though. At least for now. 

 

Still, he could kill her guards. He'd been sizing them up since they'd entered, and he was confident. Watching them engage the others, it was clear they were adept at working as a team. he'd need to seperate them. Divide and conquer.

 

Two of the lords and an apprentice rushed Cassandra, lightsabers flaring. The Lords launched a coordinated attack, launching simultaneous blows from the left and the  right, while the apprentice circled behind to flank the Knight.

 

Mordecai drew his own weapons, their blue blades mocking the Jedi. One pilfered from thedefeated form of a Jedi, the other claimed from a Jedi long fallen to the Dark Side. He tested Knight Ismael's defenses with his blades, giving a  light swing in a downwards arc, leaving his second blade open to block if neeeded. The apprentice behind him unleashed a waveof energy, trying to push Ishmael against the far wall

 

((Post 1/3 Mordecai + Honor Guard vs Knight Ishmael and Knight Cassandra))

Edited by Mavanger

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Knight Ismael, and Knight Cassandra’s silver white blades flared in the room, mixing with the pale afterglow of the dimmed projectors and hololamps that hung from the high raftered ceiling. The knights were in their mid thirties, and both had long distinguished careers in the Jedi order before following their Revanchist master Kyrie on the journey to the Imperial Remnant. They had been two of many that had schismed the order, and despite the empresses’ apparant ecumenicism, they held fast to the values that they had carried with them since the massacre on Carida. 

 

Theirs was a lonely vigil, and one they carried with a steel resolve. Their armour bore the markings of the wars that had scarred their empire. They had sworn to protect the empress, and even on this suicide mission, they were determined to purge as many Sith as they could. 

 

Though both were considered masters of their Order, this would be a hard enough fight. The empress, they, were already dead. It was up to the force how many they brought with them.

 

Cassandra engaged the two lords side stepping out of the path of one blow and fiercely parrying the other. She counter struck with a reverse slash, while she summoned the force to guide her movements. She battled them in a constantly revolving circle, taking the single fight instead in order to not get surrounded. She attacked the Lord on her right with furor, a whirling attack of expert blows and repostes. She began to draw upon the force, building it within her. 

 

Ismael brought his long handled sabre into a high guard. The posture of the falcon, in order to attack from height with sweeping, spinning blows. He smiled sadly at the Sith Mordecai as his eyes glimpsed the blue blades. 

 

“Anathema! From what order have you fallen boy?” 

 

His olive skin dimly reflected the bright light of his blade as he parried the single blow. He tested in with a three slash counter, and felt the force move at him. It was a rough and crude gesture, little finesse or training. Power brutally ripped from the force without respect. He let himself be carried gracefully by the wave, and he landed lightly near the wall. He summoned the force as he reached into his side pouch and withdrew a handful of powder. He threw this in front of him where it made an arc on the ground. 

 

“Come dark jedi.” He drew heavily upon the force, letting it fill him to his core. 

 

((1))

 

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Cassandra Vinalian - Exorcist -  Champion for Empress Raven Nasra

 

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Mordeci sneered. Ishmael's question had hit a nerve. The Imperial Knights were a shadow of what could be. Even the Jedi were more concise and true to their belief than these fools. 

 

"In another life, I may have been one of your own. But now I am your foe, and your doom."

 

He parried the first two attacks, moving back and out of the Knight's reach to avoid the third. As the apprentice pushed the Knight back, he charged, and Mordecai ducked behind the aggressive fighter, hidinghis sillouette and his own approach. As the apprentice swung savagely at the Knight's midriff, Mordecai darted out, sending blows from above and below with each of his lightsabers. Once, twice, backstep.

 

The Lords and the other apprentice continued their attacks, brushing off her counter attacks with ease with practised unison. Whenever she opened her defense to strike at one, the other would step in with his own counter. The apprentice merely circled, staying behind her and waiting for a chance to strike. 

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"Do you really reject salvation with such relish?"

 

Ismael’s frown was pitiful as he spun his blade to the high guard as the apprentice darted in. A single strike was easy enough to block, and he took the blow near the hilts as he summoned the force to batter the apprentice’s weapon aside. Counter slash. If it connected, it would bisect the foolish apprentice with ease. Another victim to rage and malice. 

 

Then Mordecai came like a storm of blue blades from his side, and with a push from his leg he was outside the reach of the swinging blades. Their force was powerful however, and he could feel the heat from their tips glance gracefully by. He was no Master like Ismael, but the boy was not without skill. He parried the last one as the boy stepped back. 

 

Right onto the line of powdery chalk. 

 

The force moved heavily as Ismael drew upon it, and with a dip of his hand in the leather satchel, Ismael threw another line of the thick white chalk around him. Connecting the first arc to the second in a wide white circle. He withdrew another handful and  tossed it to his feet. Spattering the tile and his shined black boots with the mixture. 

 

Ismael's eyes narrowed and he began to chant softly to himself.

 

The force began to move within the circle as the Imperial Knight attacked again with his blade. Chalk covered hand coated the pommel with the dust. Twice more he slashed, but never advancing far. Keeping the young man within the white bounds. 

 

Cassandra sparred with the imperial confidence of a Jedi master. Blocking and dodging strikes where she could. She concentrated her blows on the weakest among them. To whittle the numbers down. She drew upon the force to speed her movements as her sabre became a white blur of light. 

 

((2))

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Cassandra Vinalian - Exorcist -  Champion for Empress Raven Nasra

 

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Mordeci had been around sorcerers on Korriban, shaping the force for their dark magics.There was a similar sensation here, the force shaping in an unatural way, though it lacked the dread and anger that filled the Sith homeworld. He pushed forward, launching a wave of force at the Knight followed by a savage flurry of blows one after another with reckless abandon, with the side effect of the powder on the floor becoming possible collateral damage, but the apprentice was not so lucky, falling to Ishmael's blade.

 

On the other front, the second apprentice quickly fell to Cassandra's focused attacks, unable to keep up with the clearly superior fighter. The lords, on the other hand, renewed their attacks with an angered fervor at seeing their apprentices cut down. The first lord swung low, the second swung high from the opposite direction. The first swung to the gut, and the other sweeped for the legs, their strikes aided by the force, made powerful by their anger.

 

((3))

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Totems had originated in the ancient cultures of force users, those that needed a vessel in which to concentrate their energy. Those cultures not developed enough to warrant a large and thriving force order. Instead those ancients had always turned to mysticism and druidry, until the Jedi and their matching rivals the Sith order had chanced upon the galactic stage. Ismael, an experienced Imperial Knight from the light order had hearkened back to that ancient mysticism with his circle of chalk. Exorcism required great power, and a great amount of time. Perhaps he had been foolish to try and establish such a circle, but it still held and contained the power he had imbued into it from the force until it was sundered by Mordecai’s blow with the force. While not fatal to the exorcism itself, the Imperial Knight knew that he would only have one chance left to use that power. The force blow rocked the Imperial knight, sending him skidding a foot or so, before he fell into a defensive stance. Blade up to parry whatever the Sith would bring. He glanced down and saw that he was outside the circle by several inches, while the Sith was inside. 

 

The man’s blows were wicked and full of malice. His heart was impure. He deserved the fire. The Hellfire

 

Ismael deflected the first blow and let the next flurry of hasted blows fall around him. Some were blocked, some were not. But Ismael held his place, he held his peace. Three cuts scored his armour, one of them burning his skin on his abdomen in a painful crash of pain. His lips moved as he chanted a final time. The smile never waning from his face. It took peace to counter Evil.

 

The force moved like fire as the ring erupted into a white conflagration of force fueled destructive energy. The fires of scorching flame that would drag this Sithling to hell. Ismael blocked the last blow, and released the full fury on the force upon the man’s sides and back, while his sabre assailed the front. 

 

Cassandra, was not so lucky, and though she fought well and with much skill, she was waning. She took a blow to her side that though not fatal, slowed her movements. She cursed and called upon the force before releasing it in a wave all around her, to drive the sith back for a moment of reprieve. 

 

((3))

((Thank you for the duel Mav, as always you are an amazing writer. Thank you.))

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Cassandra Vinalian - Exorcist -  Champion for Empress Raven Nasra

 

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Duel Ruling on Raven vs Qaela: I can go into a deeper critique after work, but illness has already delayed progression long enough. Both writers focused tightly on realistic actions in the duel, and Force use was largely kept to supporting actions or with realistic buildup (It wouldn't have hurt to have a bit more build up on the Force Storm, but as a master it still felt within reason for the character given the smaller area). I believe that the deciding factor for me was Raven's decision to switch between light and dark mid duel. While I'm aware that Raven has had training in both sides of the Force, the transition felt too much like flipping a switch, rather than shifting between two opposing methods/mindsets of using the Force.

 

Winner: Qaela 

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Even as Qaela landed after blowing up the holoprojector, she could feel the white hot sting of a lightsaber extended out against her. Pain flared up from her upper left shoulder where the False Empress' lightsaber met resistance from, but eventually overcame the Krath leathers and dug into her body just below her collarbone. She silently thanked Sheog the Glorious for his gift as she had little doubt that without the Force imbued leathers protecting her body, the blow would have been fatal.

 

Despite scoring the blow, the extension proved to be far more costly to Zinthos as it left her unprotected against the storm of Force energy and flames from the blast that Qaela unleashed. The combined blast flung the woman across the room preventing her from pressing the advantage of her lunge. Caught in the fury of the explosion, she was hurled back and slammed into the wall. Force enhanced shrapnel was slowed by her armor, but even the Imperial Knight armor she wore couldn't stop all of it and the impact against the wall sent the Pretender into the blackness of unconsciousness. It was generally immaterial that the first two troopers to enter the room were also caught in the storm and suffered horrible wounds from the same attack: there were always more troopers to replace them.

 

Despite the pain coming from her wounds, Qaela refused to allow them to slow her down. She stalked over to the her unconscious opponent, intent on coming to a quick solution to this particular situation.

Edited by Qaela

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Mavanger (Mordecai) vs. ISB Officers (Imperial Knights Ismael and Cassandra)

 

While Qaela Darksong and her entourage engage Raven Zinthos and several of her bodyguards, Mordecai prevents Ismael and Cassandra from joining the fight and engages them with the assistance of a number of unnamed NPC Sith Lords and apprentices. This was an exceptionally concise duel, with both combatants making limited use of Force powers. While both parties maneuvered skillfully, Mordecai held the advantage throughout most of this fight due to the fact that he was able to keep the Imperial Knights separated as well as making use of simultaneous attacks from multiple angles to strain the defenses of his opponents. For their part, the Imperial Knights did well in neutralizing the attempt in pinning Ismael up against a wall.

 

Where this changed is in the last post. Mordecai seemed to slip into something of a reckless rage in his final post. This is not a disadvantage, as Sith are known to draw upon their passions in melee combat to fuel their power--where this strikes me as a bit jarring is that this was only implemented in the final post without prior set-up. Having Mordecai slip into a berserker-like state over the course of steadily giving into his passions or even just enjoyment of the fight would make this more potent, even for a Sith apprentice.

 

Ismael, during his maneuvers to avoid getting pinned against a wall, lured Mordecai into an exorcism circle. This had been set up over the course of the entire duel, with all three posts used in the initial set up and completion of the ritual. This could have potentially been countered by slashing through the circle or a telekinetic push to throw all those fine particles into Ismael’s face (or even just explicitly maneuvering out of it).

 

The setup and completion of this ritual with the lack of interruption from Mordecai is an insurmountable advantage, and is sure to inflict substantial injury on him.


Although wounded, the Imperial Knights Cassandra and Ismael (ISB Officers) are the winner of this duel and get the next post.

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Ismael caught the sabre of the Sith apprentice on his own and held him there, the static discharge from their tangled sabres filling mixing with the white hot exorcist flames. When he felt the strength of the other man slacken he released him to fall out of the circle against the Imperials red armour. Ismael considered finishing the job with a cut to the back of the man’s head, but other matters were at hand, and apprentices might be valued in the Sith Empire. The empress had been sorely defeated and now the fight would be truly on. Perhaps he could trade this man's life for hers? If not he could at least provide a shield of charred meat to absorb any blaster bolts that made it past Ismael's guard. 

 

Cassandra was wounded with a slash but she countered quickly and left one of the Sith Lords without a head. She spun to confront the next and locked eyes with Ismael. He nodded and so did she. 

 

Ismale kept his sabre at guard as he began to reflect the bolts back towards the Sith troopers, holding the Sith apprentice with a back horribly burned and unconscious, but not dead. He and Cassandra knew their deaths would be soon, as would the empress’s, but they had all prepared for that eventuality. He reflected a pair of bolts then held the blade squarely against the man's exposed neck. 

 

“Dathomiri, many more can die here…”

 

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Cassandra Vinalian - Exorcist -  Champion for Empress Raven Nasra

 

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At the sight of the Imperial Knight trying to hold an apprentice hostage, Qaela could only shrug and smirk. She gestured for the troopers to stop firing simply so she could be heard and the Imperial Knights could focus on her as she took a few steps towards the fallen Zinthos. Her own red lightsaber found itself at the woman's neck in a mimicry of her opponent's move. "Yes, more can die, but there only two in this room with any real importance and I must admit to you that neither of them are on your side of the room."

 

With the brief pause in the fighting, Qaela's two surviving bodyguards had taken to each edge of the room, slowly walking back towards their master and waiting to launch a coordinated attack with her. There was a soft rumble of deck plates as the Herløv finished its initial short hyperspace jump and was now back in realspace. More Troopers streamed towards the combat zone in the heart of their ship, now taking up positions on the other side of the jammed door as well as above and below the holocomms room in case their foes tried to cut to a different deck.

 

With the ship now out of hyperspace, Holonet access was restored. It took the ship a few moments to reestablish contact with the True Emperor, though with the main holoprojector destroyed in the fight, it did take a few more seconds to reestablish a link in one of the smaller secondary projectors.

 

"The Dark Lord did say that the Child Empress had the option to leave alive," Qaela continued contemptuously as more Troopers began to arrive, some with weapons better suited to fighting the Imperial Knight threat. "While you  two and Zinthos will most certainly die if we continue this, it would be annoying and cost me some additional damage and men. Instead, it would be far more amusing to offer a trade. You two release the boy, then kill yourselves with your own lightsabers and I will return the woman you swore to protect to your comrades with no further harm to her. Otherwise, I kill her now and then finish you two off."

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B E N E V O L E N C E

 

 

 

The static adumbration of the Dark Lord manifested once more, even more cryptic as the up-link suffered greatly from the overt damage dealt. A brass laughter chalked through the transmission, sinister with a sweet inflection. Exodus searched through the connectivity, encompassing mentally what it was that he had been deprived of in these dying minutes. The glaring signal from the IM-455 diminished in spurts, obstructions from the moonfall were weeks away from clearing, but this was what he had to work with. The offering Master Qaela spoke of was extremely telling nonetheless, and catching wind of her words was providence enough.

 

"Illustrious keeper of the Darksong. You have bested the prestigious Raven Zinthos in single combat. Impressive.. 

The Empire will hear of this, the Empire will hail your might."

 

What he spoke of rang true, for the mighty Imperial Machine thirsted for champions to liken their beliefs too, Gods of Battle that they swore to in the heat of war. There was an uprising of such men, women and creatures of the dark side. Their abundance fanned the flames of influence throughout the galaxy. "Knights of Nothing. It would seem that purpose has found you in the smallest of spaces, and you have earned your lives in this hour. This trial ends here. The one you have sworn yourselves to.. Her crown has been claimed by the hands of a true sovereign queen, the title Raven once carried is meaningless. She is now no more than a treasonous rebel, beholden to the vanquisher of false empresses. Master Qaela of the Sith Empire has incarnated her claim. Take heed, as I now consent your freedoms, and the life of your master, understand that the young apprentice that now lies before you, will awaken with a vengeance.

 

Your leader has failed in reconciliation, bargain and battle. Leave now, my mercy is at an end." 

 

The holo-projection disconnected immediately after.

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Ismael let out a barking laugh as he let the Sith Apprentice’s unconscious body collapse to the steel decking. He shook his head and beckoned to Cassandra, then his cold grey eyes fell on the Sith Master. They maintained their cool expression until the emperor of the Sith had finished his overlong monologue. 

 

“There is no crown to take, for royalty does not work like attaining rank in the musted pits of Korriban I think. Your emperor sure delights in filling the galaxy with hot air does he not?” He laughed again, a tune of joy on his words. “This rebellion will bring that emperor low, they always do.” He kept his sabre on, but at a low guard. 

 

He bowed formally, thanking her for the fight and pleasure of the slaughter of her Lords. 

 

“Now may I have our empress?” 

 

The young Rebel Alliance leader meanwhile coughed and sputtered into wakefulness below the blade of the Nightsister. Raven grinned a sloppy grin and nodded her head, wincing at the pain from the blow. There was no need for her to be rude to the woman who had bested her after all. 

 

“You fought amazingly Lord Sith. It was a pleasure to flex those muscles again.” She struggled to get up, spitting a mouthful of blood onto the decking. “I say we must arrange another duel when I am more prepared.” It was strange, she had thought to wake up in a clone tank on Nar Shaddaa or in another torture pit instead of like this. 

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Pretender to the Galactic Throne

Leader of the Rebel Alliance

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While the Sith were often accused (and frequently correctly) of running on nothing but emotion and anger, that was not true for all Sith. Qaela used her emotions, pain, and rage when it suited her, but outside of combat, she was typically cool and collected. She had made enough mistakes as a young woman to need to make any more now.

 

As frustrating as it might be to not watch the Imperial Knights battle the option to kill themselves in exchange for their master, she herself ultimately served her own Dark Master and, just as she sprang into action when ordered to kill, she returned to inaction when he commanded it. She wouldn't waste her words bantering uselessly with underlings, but she would address the pretender.

 

"We shall see," she said enigmatically. It was possible, though next time they met she hoped to finish her opponent. Even though she wasn't able to finish off her foes, she wasn't entirely disappointed. The good graces of the Spider were worth more than enemy blood on her blade. Speaking of blades, though, she was going to correct at least one thing. With a gesture of her hand, she summoned Zinthos' lightsaber to her palm and attached it to her belt. "The True Emperor gave you your lives, but you will not leave with a weapon that was made for the Sith." Her eyes, now a mixture of orange and purple as they returned to normalcy, dared any of the Rebels to challenge her and give her the excuse to kill.

 

To her troopers, she said coldly, "Take them to an escape pod, their shuttle is in no state to leave."

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Raven nodded politely, waving a cut, gloved hand to dismiss the acquisition of her old lightsabre. Its long silver handle was marked by years of use, though it had been lovingly cared for over the decade and a half she had had the device. She had lost the fight and like their lives themselves, it had all been a risk that they could have lost. Still they had learned much at the hands of the Sith, and for that Raven was at least grateful. 

 

She bowed to the Sith Master Qaela as did her Imperial Knights. 

 

“Until we meet again Lady of the Sith.” 

 

For Ismael the departure was different. He looked upon the smoking bodies of the Sith lords and apprentices and a flicker of sadness passed over his tanned face. 

 

“I will pray for their souls.” He looked the Lady of the Sith in her purple eyes and inclined his head, tapping his pauldron. “And for yours as well lady.” 

 

And so the Rebel Alliance departed the Sith star destroyer, in an escape pod that was slight and cramped. But they were alive. 

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Qaela and her two remaining bodyguards escorted the Rebels along with a hefty escort of Sith Troopers to the escape pod. The pod, double checked and scrubbed of any potential intel, was then jettisoned into the void between systems around 30 lightyears from Borleias that the Herløv had reverted from hyperspace to. They had enough food and water for a few days as well as a Holocomm distress beacon. Though the thought of how ironic it would be if the escape pod emitted the default Sith Imperial emergency signal and summoned another Sith ship filled Qaela's fancy, she did gruffly remind the Rebels to alter the signal.

 

While the Rebels were being prepared for their departure, medical and repair crews descended upon the communications center to both take care of the wounded and begin dealing with the damage from the fight that had taken place there.

 

As soon as they were off her ship, Qaela ordered the Star Destroyer and its escorting fleet to return to Coruscant and the True Emperor. While the quick preparations were being made, she went to the medical ward where Mordecai was being tended. There wasn't much for her to do on the ship while it was in hyperspace, so she would see to Mordecai's care.

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  • 1 year later...

Several hours later and five minutes before Prism reverted from realspace, Armiena Draygo gave a snort in the pilot’s seat of the Corellian freighter that was best described as “industrial.” The swirling lights of hyperspace danced across her face, but the veteran Jedi was wearing a sleep mask and her rest went undisturbed. Then the alarm buzzer sounded and the sounds of activity were heard all throughout the ship.

 

“No, just a few more minutes,” she stirred and mumbled, not quite willing to interrupt whatever dream was entertaining her sleep. Decades of habit overruled her wishes, however, and she blearily pulled away the mask to face reality.

 

That reality was Borleias: espionage, criminal activity. And if all went as hoped, the beginnings of violent revolution. As the familiar blue-green orb of the tropical world spread out before them and bored-sounding traffic communications came in, to be answered by equally bored-sounding responses, Armiena reflected on the unlikelihood of her return. She had first made contact with the Jedi on the inhospitable oceanic world of Manaan, but Borleias was the closest thing to a homeworld that she had enjoyed. Armiena knew the jungles and hills surrounding the Dojo as well as the city streets of her childhood; she had met most of her friends in the Dojo’s arched halls and wildflower gardens… and now most of those people were dead or missing. Nostalgia had little appeal in the present day.

 

By the time that the YT-2000 freighter entered the Borleian atmosphere and began to deviate significantly from her stated flight plan, it would have disappeared from the civilian sensor arrays and gone slipped from detection. The next thirty minutes that followed were of constant terrain-hugging maneuvers at treetop altitudes, interrupted only by irritable hisses from the Jedi Grandmaster on the two occasions that one of the Rebel engineers dared to offer advice. The twisted jungles eventually thinned as the terrain grew hilly, and Draygo finally admitted the black-furred Togorian into the cockpit probe for suitable landing sites.

 

“What do you think? It’s flat enough. I think I can fit her between those old trees there. The, the tall, rotted ones there.” Armiena took her attention from the controls long enough to point out a pair of tall, blackened trees from which a large flock of birds had taken flight, retreating from the approach of the freighter.

 

A reverberating grumble issued from the Togorian as he consulted the holomaps. “Satisfactory. Suitable caves are fifty meters away. Can stow gear there. Go.”

 

A final minute of delicate flight that was punctuated by the demolition of one of those dying trees ensued, then the YT-2000 freighter was concealed by a proud canopy of jungle. Armiena wiped clammy sweat from her hands and called for Tobias Vos.

 

“Looks like we’ve been undetected so far. Want to signal your… friends? I’ll just need the ship to get to Sihnon.”

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Several minutes later, the construction equipment was removed from Prism and the engineers set to establishing a landing strip. Even as the freighter pulled away from the surface, Draygo caught sight of branches swaying and collapsing as portions of the jungle were cleared to make space for permacrete decks and comms beacons. Some minutes later, once the veteran Jedi punched the sublight engines and took the freighter up to cruising altitude among the clouds, and unwelcome crackle issued from the ship’s communications terminal.

 

“Corellian YT freighter, you’ve deviated from your flight plan. Explain.”

 

“Ah… Sihnon Control, we had a mistiming in ourrepulsorlift array. Had to set down in the Air… yin… yees to recalibrate. Everything seems to be functional, just… make sure the docking bay’s cleared until we’ve settled.” Draygo allowed a trace of nervousness to enter her voice as the peak’s of the capitol city’s horizon silhouetted the horizon. As could be expected for a city of several million, a number of patrol starfighters and a pair of police transports were cruising through the airways. Those vessels were traveling at near-idle speeds, seemingly more intent on putting up an appearance of security than the actual practice.

 

“Very well. You are cleared for landing. Docking Bay 827 is yours. Damage control is standing by.”

 

One of those police transports hounded Prism as it descended towards a multilevel spaceport that towered over a hub of warehouses. Not detecting anything more than idle alertness, Draygo ignored the steady whine of proximity warnings from the freighter’s controls until it settled in the docking bay and the transport buzzed away.

 

“Well, Vos. All is still well.” The veteran Jedi muttered to her copilot and gestured towards a pile of civilian clothing. “If you could… step out for a moment.”

 

A minute of frenzied squirming to change into civilian clothing passed, and Draygo reappeared before her fellow Jedi Master before the ship’s boarding ramp, clutching a sack that contained her mechanic’s jumpsuit. She had cast aside the multilayered robes that she typically favored for an outfit more suitable for the humid, tropical city--a low-necked top, faux-leather vest, and a pair of cropped trousers. With the lightning-scars on her chest visible, even this relatively modest costume revealed far more skin than the Jedi was accustomed to showing and she felt vaguely naked without the familiar presence of a blaster or lightsaber.

 

“Vos, best of luck. If all goes well, I’ll be back by nightfall.”

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As the transport exited hyperspace above Borleias, Genesis shifted in his seat. Last time he had come as an Padawan in league with the Jedi Order. This time he came as a passenger, another faceless name in endless manifestos. Change and time were constants, for both he and the world below, and he was unrecognizable even for his Master. His hair was longer. His form bore scars from his fights. And his demeanor was enlightened, a graceful smile upon his face ever present. He was at peace, both with his future, and his past. Only Armiena remained a question. And it was that very answer that he sought.

 

As his passport was stamped and he entered Sihnon, the Miraluka Hybrid gazed out into the city's proper with both of his sights, honing it's gaze across it's landscape. Armiena would surely feel it's familiar and yet changed presence ever so brief like a gentle breeze across the plains of Dantooine before it disappeared abruptly, a beacon for her to sense should she be here as Misal spoke. And this world was his only clue. He only hoped she recognized the core of his presence beyond the changes he had undergone since his departure nearly two years ago.

 

Stepping outside the Spaceport, his long hair falling across his shoulders and tucked away beneath his headband, he draped his face with his cloak and disappeared into the masses. His gaze within the Force would still linger on the backdrop of the Force, a subtle beacon to his position as he searched for her own. But to most who could feel it, it would resemble the essence of his race, a constant for any Luka Sene to suppress themselves.

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Draygo’s familiarity with Borleias, in hindsight, was somewhat overstated. It was absolutely true that the peninsula around the old Jedi Dojo was practically a second home to her and she was thoroughly familiar with the jungles and mangroves that had been cleared to found the refugee camps. She had even explored the Erciyes Highlands somewhat--spelunking had always been one of her passions, ever since it became so thoroughly important to her as a Jedi. However, she had never spent more than a single day exploring its capitol city of Sihnon, and that was nearly ten years ago.

 

Now she was sitting in a public pavilion just outside the Core Dynamics HoloNet center. It was an ugly conflict of Republic-era public architecture, with its excessive indulgences in open space and ceramics, and the soulless corporate blockiness where the megacorps had built their headquarters. The veteran Jedi munched thoughtlessly on an overstuffed sandwich as she pored over a set of holoprints on her datapad, ignoring the chants of a small but persistent band of protestors. Their grievances seemed to be related to the Sith occupation of their world--although Armiena had yet to see a single unit of the chrome-plated minions that were their typical representatives. Security in the facility was… comprehensive, yet unimaginative and standard: retinal scanners, metal detectors, localized electromagnetic barriers, and the cheap but reliable keycard scanners. All could be circumvented with The Force or an accomplice under the influence of a Mind Trick. A simple hack of Core Dynamics’ less-secure servers made it possible to schedule a simple maintenance session, which would probably handle the alleviate any suspicions and render their staff even more susceptible to influence.

 

It was… distinctly uncomfortable wearing civilian clothing. Realizing that the outfit would be considered slightly revealing even for a planet as Borleias, Armiena had chosen the low-cut top for a purpose--the average civilian (especially males) would likely only remember her for her scars. It was still uncomfortable to watch passerbys attempt to glance down her neckline.

 

Armiena sighed and tossed aside the last remnants of her sandwich. A flock of avians that had been inching closer for the last few minutes instantly set upon it and began bickering amongst themselves for their share. It was time to get to work.

 

And yet… there was a presence in the Force that just revealed itself. It did not inadvertently stumble upon her--its owner had chosen to make themselves known. Armiena knew it well, but she had not expected to see her Padawan ever again.

 

____

 

Ten minutes later, a bored, idle security guard glanced up from their desk in the lobby of Core Dynamics. This guard does not require description--other than being slightly portly, he bore the weary expression of a man who was simultaneously overworked and bored almost to the point of mindlessness. The arrival of a female--especially wearing a jumpsuit and identification tag that designated her as one of the soulless corporate machine’s tech specialists--brightened both his day and his expression. Even though she was pale and wore an expression that was almost equally haggard, the woman was not unpretty--her pale-green eyes and dark hair could even be called striking.

 

Stumbling over the idea of how to begin this interaction with a stranger, the woman spoke first.

 

“Hi. Nikita Trulalis. Here for a software update on the Pyrian system transceivers.”

 

“You’re ah… not scheduled,” the guard stammered. It would have been rude and unreasonable to simply turn her away, and he didn’t want to seem either during what was almost certainly to be the only bright point of his day. “It’s probably a bug on our end.”

 

“Yeah, we’ve been having glitches like mad ever since the Imps showed up in orbit--”

 

“--Nevermind,” the security guard interrupted again, tapping impatiently at his terminal’s screen. “It… it... it’s there.”

 

“Yeah, they’ve been working us to the bone ever since the Imperial fleet arrived in orbit. I… um… have not been to this location before. You wouldn’t mind showing me to the mainframe room?”

 

Why not? It was only common courtesy. It was rare that he was afforded an opportunity to even be helpful to a stranger. He waved the tech over to a retinal scanner and enjoyed the opportunity to glance at her figure as she leaned over to stare into the scanning beam There was a distinctly negatory-sounding buzz buzz, then the routine repeatedly itself again. And again. And…

 

“Trouble?”

 

“Eh…. I have a weird eye condition. I love my mother very, very, very much, but I would have done anything to have not inherited her eyes. Aside from other things, it means that I always need to hit weird angles with scanners… like… there we go.” A green light and cheerful chime rewarded Trulalis’ contortions in front of the scanner, admitting both of the humans into the transceiver facility with the silent hiss of sliding steel doors.

 

Only a few minutes later, Armiena had cajoled the security guard into not only guiding her to the transceiver’s mainframes, but into providing her with a mask and cap that almost completely concealed her identity. “Gotta dig into its guts, it’s sensitive equipment,” she had claimed. The desperate little man had even gone to the extra effort to demand that the other two humans working amongst the mainframes leave the room while she worked. Now, Draygo had total privacy in the warm, dusty room as walked amongst the rows of ceiling-high computers, occasionally jamming a dataspike into an exposed SCOMP-link.

 

So far, this had gone far too easily for her liking.

 

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When he had made his little organization of scoundrel's and swindlers he had made sure to do thorough digging in their backgrounds. Sharv was one of those that had a bumpy history. While there was a bar to clear to work for him, Tobias had specifically recruited Sharv, he was a good check on the fringe in on Boreleias. Granted, he was just a bar tender and cook at a local diner but those individuals were useful in their own right. Explaing this to Pim had only taken a short time, as they waited for Sharv to make a run to his stash spot. While the Deveronian was a scoundrel, he suffered from some mental disorder where he was very particular about his schedule; Tobias was betting even after years of no contact. 

 

After dressing for their roles, Tobias and Pim were waiting for Sharv to drive to his drop point. Tobias was standing in the middle of the path, dressed in a dark robe, his hair tied behind his head, hands clasped behind his back. His regular clothes and cane were stashed in the brush, along with Pims. It had only been an hour before the underground affiliate started to drive up. His companion in the passenger seat slowly rose and aimed a blaster rifle at the unexpected visitor. The thug called out asking Tobias who he was and such- the usual threats. With an illusion in place, Tobias reached up to reveal his face, but as soon as he moved his hands the passenger tightened his finger on the trigger. Pim, right on queue, dropped down and ignited her lightsaber, well- the one her master had given her- and they were all bathed in a red light from the weapon. The tip of the saber pointed at the throat of the gunman. 

 

A casual threat from Pim was all that the alien needed to hear before relaxing his finger off the trigger and looking down to Sharv. Sharvs face paled as he recoginzed the black robed figure in front of him. The hood dropped around his shoulder and Tobias's fake face was easily recognizable to the driver. After a moment of shock, he barked a laugh- and then started to chuckle. "Well... well! I thought you were dead! I haven't heard from you in years!" 

 

Tobias shrugged and used the Force to gently push the companion back into his seat, and Pim hopped off the speeder they were driving. "Indeed. Thats why you continued to collect credits and not report out. So now would be a very good time to catch up."

 

Sharv went rigid for a moment and then relaxed. "I suppose so..." His eyes narrowed; his brain in panic mode as he tried to recall the past three years of intel he had gathered. 

 

Tobias, taking a few steps forward to approach the speeder held up a hand- "Not all at once, don't tax that already overworked brain of yours. I am looking to the future, anyways. You will tell me of the resistance movement here on Boreleias."

 

The bald, horned alien looked confused. "I know nothing of that."

 

Tobias chuckled, "Nonsense, my friend. I've paid you- you know something. I've already bought you. Don't make me regret my investment. Beside, I want to help them." Tobias probed the aliens mind for information, just enough to know that he was lying, and influenced it just enough to make him believe he wanted to spill the beans and help the resistance. "Who do I need to talk to?" 

 

Sharv looked at his friend, with an obviously lost expression on his face. "They'll kill me if I don't tell them."

 

The passenger nodded his head in confirmation of the unspoken question.

 

"This is Marfla Daunge- he is in charge of one of the cells." Sharv said, sheepishly. 

 

Tobias smiled, knowing his false illusion would mimic the movement. "Well, Mr. Daunge, it's a very good thing you did not try to shoot me."

 

The human, Marfla, spoke with a gravelly voice- "And just who are you? And why are you looking for the resistance?"

 

Tobias chuckled, "I am Lord Peregrine, and I want the Sith off Boreleias. So, I was looking to see if we could combine resources and information to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement." A predators smile on his face. 

 

Marfla and Sharv shared a glance at one another, then back to the two black clocked figures they presumed were Sith or Dark Jedi. Then they started to chat and establish an arrangement. The conversation would continue on for a few more minutes, then a sharing of comm codes, then they would meet up later on. Tobias and Pim would return to the spaceport to meet back up with Armenia. The two parties went their separate ways. Tobias had Pim check the transmitters she had placed while Tobias was talking, and after they were deemed working properly, they did return to the space port. 

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One thing that Armiena had passed down to her latest student was the uneasiness of being among other Jedi or even the Order its self. It wasn't to say that he didn't enjoy the social aspect of it not the company, but rather that he simply didn't need it. To walk alone among the masses of everyday life, unknown as the next, seemed to be his walk in life. It had always been that way, but since his tutelage under the recurring Jedi Grandmaster, he had come to enjoy it. Just another face in the crowd, another presence among the flow of the Force, nearly extinguishable from the next. That was how he preferred it.

 

He was a Jedi, however, and he knew his duty. Occasionally he would pass by refugees here and there, inconspicuously dropping a credit in the hand in passing or some medicines if they seemed sick, but nothing seemingly obvious to his true nature. And he did stop once to grab a bite to eat, a cylindrical slab of disguarded processed meat in a warm bun with his choices of condiments. But aside from that, he was just another form shuffling along the bi-ways of Sihnon and held little outward notification. And with his lightsaber lost at Corellia nearly two years ago, he held no Jedi-esque appearence whatsoever.

 

Sihnon, like Hanna City on Chandrila, reminded him of a small compact version of Coruscant. Whereas the latter was a worldwide network of life, Sihnon and Hanna City held a tighter connection with not only the lives that lived within it, but those that lived outside and across the open landscapes. It felt more in tune with it's natural self and less mechanical. Which was why after a few hours of walking, the familiar presence he sought began to flow through him. He smiled briefly beneath his hooded veil. Misal was right. Armiena was here. And he could feel her preoccupied, bringing a soft chuckle with a sigh. She was, after all, mission orientated to say the least.

 

Despite his growth both physical and emotional, he felt anxiety overcome him and he briefly stopped amidst the flow of traffic, forms bumping into him with little regard or notice. Here he was, a few inches taller, a year and a half older, longer hair and more muscular, and he still felt like her child, youthful and displeasing. The thought had been in his subconscious for awhile now, the likelihood of her anger at his sight for leaving and displeasure of seeing him. And only Misal had been the reason he even came to look for her aside from his own guilt. He could feel his fear overcoming his rightousness. And in that solemn moment, he wanted to turn and run.  And yet, he knew that would defeat everything he had overcome. And so he pushed on.

 

*******A few moments later*********

 

When Armiena would leave her destination, a figure leaned upon a nearby building would cautiously make his approach with open arms. Though his presence would give immediate knowledge of who he was, Genesis' looks will have changed drastically. He was over Twenty Years old now, a little bit taller and more masculine built. His hair would be longer, reaching his shoulders and tucked beneath his headband. His lightsaber won't be on him, and his armor resembling Miralukian cloth and lined with Armorweave. And his smirk wouldn't have changed one bit.

 

"So is that standard issue robes now? He would speak jokingly, an aura of caution mixed with maturity and serenity emanating from him as he attempted to hug Armiena. "I gotta say, it kinda fits you."

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Several hundred kilometers away, a squad of combat engineers was hard at work in the Erciyes Highlands, preparing turf and tunnels for use as a landing strip. Every few minutes, dull, bassy whummmmps reverberated through the trees and sent birds scattering as subterranean tunnels were expanded with excavating charges to make room for what would eventually become ammunition and fuel dumps. A pair of the engineers contented themselves with watching permacrete dry and attempting to look busy. Four of the more enterprising engineers, led by their massive Togorian captain, hauled electronics components and other equipment onto their backs and ventured into the hills to establish what would become a small sensor array.

 

____

 

Deep within the headquarters of an interstellar megacorporation, a Jedi Grandmaster had begun to grow overconfident. It had been several minutes since the last time that one of the HoloNet technicians had even bothered to check on her progress, and Draygo had enjoyed free rein of the hundreds of square meters of mainframe computers. To add encouragement for Core Dynamics’ technicians and middle management to not indulge in their natural curiosity as she continue to jam dataspikes into scomp ports, the Jedi Master had begun to sing. This wasn’t the quiet, barely audible mumbling that a craftsman might hum to themselves while lost in a highly-technical task of metallurgy, but the enthusiastic and high-volume bellowing that a military veteran might shout during a running cadence.

 

For all of the many skills that Draygo had learned , learning to sing--at least pleasantly--was not one of them. Her vocal talents were geared almost entirely to having her orders heard by partially-deaf soldiers over the din of blaster fire. Keeping tempo, key, or anywhere remotely close to the true note was an afterthought. Her hair bound by a flimsy mesh-like hat and her face mostly obscured by a breath mask, she nonetheless happily wandered from station to station, having successfully driven away nearly all the occupants of this room through a combination of social engineering and pure obnoxiousness.

 

“Doo--doo-doodeedoodoo doo duh nuh nuh, duh nuh--In a garden of evil baby, don’t you know that I’ll always be true--no, that’s not right, uh, in the garden of evil honey, don’t you know that I always will love you-ooh. Oh, won’t you come with me-ee-ee, and walk this--take my ha-and. Won’t you come with me… and…”

 

By the time that Draygo had started imitating the extended drum solo of this ancient song from her childhood, the few remaining technicians had begun searching for makeshift earplugs or other means to drown out her voice. Two hours later, once the malware routines had embedded themselves into assembly code and were waiting for an external trigger to deliver their covert payloads, most of them had resigned to just waiting for the unwelcome visitor to leave so they could finally get some work done.

 

____

 

A short time later, Armiena had doffed her jumpsuit and bid a forced-friendly farewell to the helpful security guard, who had been so easily influenced with a combination of mild Mind Tricks and more innate talents. The veteran Jedi sighed as she left the climate-controlled building and the hot evening sun reflected on the surface of the pavilion; she detected her Padawan very close by. Did she even the right to still call him that? After two years of hindsight, Armiena had supposed that she was perhaps a uniquely unsuited teacher for him--her talents lay primarily ending lives and convincing others to join her in that struggle, and Genesis was clearly of a less hard-bitten nature. And there was the terrible decision to send the ailing boy to Chandrila, an active war zone and a humanitarian crisis--what seemed to her a rational test at the time, but something had clearly gone horribly wrong there.

 

Stop it. You’ll find out. Have some courage.

 

“Even if it hurts,” the Jedi muttered to herself and slung her pouch over her shoulder. Her eyes widened in a series of confused emotions as the boy--young man, at this point--rounded a corner of one of the other buildings surrounding the pavilion. There was recognition, concern--something bordering on fear crossed her presence for a fraction of a second--but that was erased by shock at seeing just how much her Padawan had aged over two years. The pouch slipped from her fingers and fell to be forgotten. Her pace quickened and she embraced her Padawan--and lifted him about a centimeter off the ground, carrying him backwards for a pair of staggering steps before a complaint from her back demanded that she immediately release him.

 

“Genesis!” As Draygo set her Padawan back on the ground, some unconscious corner of her mind reflected that her would be feeling this mistake for a few days. “It’s been… two years. You look good. How did you even get here?”

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The rush of the moment mixed with the realization that the response wasn't what he had expected, Genesis caught completely off guard by her reaction. Yet, he embraced the welcome, soaking up the moment like a sponge as he was lifted from his footing if only briefly. As she sat him down, Genesis regained his footing and smiled at his Master, his hands softly grasping her biceps as she spoke. It may have been nearly two years since his departure at Chandrila, but this moment made it seem as if it had only felt that way.

 

"I am good Master. Thanks. And your mother kinda told me you were here." He spoke with a semi worried look crossing his face as he briefly scratched at his head. "We kinda bumped into each other on Dantooine. He felt bad about leaving details out, but given that she was currently on a mission, he felt it best that their reunion not hinder the overall objective. Especially considering that Misal would likely make a full recovery. Maybe once they got back to her ship, but not now. 

 

Hands still in contact, Genesis smirked as he opened himself to the Force and let it's current travel through him, a subtle brush and stroke occasionally redirecting it to her ailing back as it flowed into her. Once Genesis was certain it had done it's job, he lowered his hands back to his side. "I'm sorry I worried you. It was never my intent. I needed to find my path, and Chandrila simply showed me how much."

 

Genesis fell silent, the awkwardness of his desire to abruptly explain only hindered by his self control. The boy he was when he left was riddled with self doubt, unable to truly understand his place. But the man standing before her was confident and strong, no longer timid and confused. The serenity in his stance and the calmly gaze that fell upon spoke volumes of what he had learnt in his time away. And though his journey was only truly beginning here and now, his presence stood ready to meet it.

 

"But enough about me." He spoke as he reached down to grab her pouch and sling it over his shoulder. "How have you been?"

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It was always difficult to describe the philosophies behind Jedi training. There was a paradoxical combination of pragmatism with nurturing, of field experience with theory, of serene meditation with personal violence. As much as the ancient Jedi cautioned against forming emotional attachments with any individual, the methods through which they trained their cadets--that intense, personal one-on-one relationship--made it nearly impossible to not form an emotional attachment. And there were the difficulties with the modern crop of Jedi, who almost invariably joined--not inducted--the Order as adults with all the emotional baggage of a normal life.

 

And then there were creatures like Armiena Draygo. It was still worth making an attempt at explaining.

 

“Genesis… if you’re fortunate then you will one day be in the same position. I will never stop worrying. One thing that I’ve had to accept about myself is that I inevitably grow highly attached to my Padawans. I don’t think it would be too much of an exaggeration to describe it as maternal.”

 

Draygo let him take the sack from her shoulder. It was no significant burden, just a change of clothes, several false ID cards, and a small arsenal of dataspikes. From somewhere nearby, there was a barrage of shouts and cries--and terrible music--and she hastily began to move perpendicularly from its point of origin. It would be a short detour from the spaceport.

 

The shouting was growing closer--and somewhat more rhythmic. It was difficult to make out phrases from the confusing echoes that bounced between the walls of the pavilion, but it began to adopt a consistent cadence. It was a protest march, Armiena realized. Sirens were growing closer, but the veteran Jedi relaxed, understanding that none of them were responding to the presence of a detected Jedi saboteur.

 

“The war continues. We gain some and lose some… mostly lose, for the moment. Mon Calamari got overrun, we lost the Eternal Vigilance, but we managed to gain an outpost on Kessel.” For a moment, Draygo’s aquiline expression of hyperalertness faltered and the Jedi Master betrayed how very little sleep she was getting. “At least we’ll never run out of glitterstim. And there’s hints that something is brewing deep in the Outer Rim… but intel out there is rare and invariably of poor quality.. As you can see, the war is my… oh.”

 

Very nearby, there was a spike in alertness as one of the local precinct’s security officers, clad in dark blue and with a hand the ebon pommel on a stun baton, came jogging up. The familiar routine of wandering eyes ensued; a distracted glance down the low neckline that persisted on the writhing, delicate scars that twisted all the way up the side of her neck.. then the human’s hazel eyes lingered on Armiena’s face and widened in surprise. The veteran Jedi braced herself to assault this security officer as she passed--a sharp jab to a kidney and a boot on his comlink would suffice, she decided--but the peacekeeper just stood there, either too surprised or sympathetic to take action.

 

The Force offered no warning of imminent violence. Even as the two Jedi passed, the peacekeeper’s gloved hand strayed slowly from the hilt of his weapon and he just silently mouthed a single word: “Je… di?”

 

Several seconds of hasty walking and a turn down an intersection followed before Draygo trusted herself to cease monitoring that peacekeeper’s Force presence for hints of malice. “Unexpected, but… welcome. The war is currently my life.” Armiena gave a sigh. “What has your path shown you?”

 

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Genesis glowed with a smirk as Armiena mentioned her maternal feelings, the young Padawan fully understanding and knowing what she attempted to describe. After all, his feelings were one and the same for her. He spent most of his life without a family, and since his indoctrination into the Order under her tutelage, he had come to view her and Misal much like a mother and grandmother, a bond much stronger than what a Master and Pupil should develope. And he was alright with it. It was a nice feeling to have that again, to know someone cared enough to worry.

 

"I understand Master. " He spoke, the smirk still evident on his face as he tossed the small satchel over his shoulders and offered her the lead. "I feel very much the same, but opposite, like a son views his mother."

 

The realization that he had just confused himself with his words were quickly overshadowed by the approaching sounds of protest, spiking his level of alertness hesitantly as he gazed in its direction. Peaceful protests were one thing, but the mob rule dictation could easily turn it into a frenzy and that worried him as the two began walking away from the sounds. Dark hearts and desperation had a tendency to turn any protest into chaos and rioting, and Genesis felt the heat of such a thing could easily backfire on whatever mission Armiena was tasking herself with.

 

As Armiena spoke of the war, it was just as he had suspected. The Darkside could not simply exist in contentment. It was hunger, the very same hunger he felt at Katarr, and it was absolute in its cravings. These Sith would be no more than imitations of all that had come before them no matter the differences they claimed. His thoughts briefly turned to Mordecai's words of seduction at Corellia. Each side had their justification, but only one was blind to their cause. If the Jedi didn't persist in this war, the Galaxy could become like Katarr, Corellia, or even Chandrila. They were the only defense for life.

 

Genesis' gaze shot up at Armiena's sudden stop, his gaze catching that of the Officer's own before shooting toward Armiena's. He had come to know his Master well, and although she could easily disable this man before his weapon could make contact, Genesis' simply smiled at the Officer. He knew a sense of welcoming would defuse any confrontation and no one can resist a smile. As they passed, his reward was accurate. Turning back to Armiena, Genesis chuckled under his breath. "Intimidating even in that outfit. We really need to find you a man."

 

"To be honest, my path still remains the same, if only altered slightly. " Genesis replied after his attempt at humor was overlooked. "Katarr still bares the scars of Darth Nihilus, and the Darkside wound he left behind still festers, leaving the rest of the world unable to breath life back into its self, unable to heal and move forward. If the lesson of Katarr is any indication of what the Darkside is, then it needs us to stand against it. I may not be able to take a life, but I can certainly stand to prevent more lives from being lost. The Order needs all it can muster."

 

Genesis looks to his Master as they continue their walk. "If the Order will still have me." After all, the decision was left up to it's current Grandmaster: Her.

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Armiena remained silent for a few minutes, instead focusing on the sounds and feel of the city. There was an undertone to the rhythmic chants from the protest march--it wasn’t just the call-and-response of the amplified voice of a single leader and the roar of the crowd, there was… music. At least, that was what the Jedi Grandmaster gathered from the steady thumping noises that echoed between the glassy towers. Draygo gave a nod; even without laying eyes on the approaching throng, she knew that this was a student protest. They would be convening upon the pavilion that they had just departed, make some noise, perhaps vent their outrage on the responding security precinct, and most likely disperse--possibly with blunt-force encouragement from those same security officers.

 

In a previous life, those would have been her people. Foolish, idealistic, convinced that they could change the galaxy with moral courage without the backing of arms. Their habits were predictable, their effectiveness… debatable, but they hinted at a world that had quickly become resentful of the presence of the Sith. They were no threat to the two Jedi--of little threat to anything at all save a few blocks of glass walls.

 

Draygo snorted at her own internal monologue as they snaked through a corridor of landspeeders that ringed Sihnon’s spaceport. It had only taken a few seconds for her to cease thinking of her Padawan as a former Jedi and once again regard him as one of us.

 

Passing through the security checkpoint was as simple as it had been in the opposite direction. Maroon-clad security personnel from Borleias--not chrome-plated Sith stormtroopers from Onderon--manned the checkpoint, who were more concerned with halting contraband and maintaining a constant flow of traffic than hunting down The Spider’s Most Wanted. Even after a middle-aged guard--probably a former soldier, judging from the spectacular shrapnel scar that ran down one cheek and removed half of her left ear--made direct contact with the two Jedi and squinted in potential recognition, the Jedi Grandmaster merely reached out with The Force and rendered that shocking moment of recognition just slightly beyond the reach of the human’s mind. That security guard was still frowning in their general direction as Draygo and Stormhelm boarded a turbolift and rose to the Docking Bay 827.

 

It was only after those turbolift doors opened to reveal the saucer-like Corellian freighter and the hum of sublight engines on standby that Draygo relaxed. “Yes, you are absolutely welcome. I had actually… hoped for you to be a little bit older when we finished your training. I need to ask--you ran into my mother, didn’t you? On Katarr. What happened?”

 

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