Begeren Colony Forum

Roleplay => Holocrons and Info Nodes => Topic started by: Hawking on 08/20/14, 11:34:31 PM

Title: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 08/20/14, 11:34:31 PM
[OOC]: I am long overdue doing this. Got tired of dealing with a dozen threads, thought I'd let them all converge into one central place ala Orell, Aolanni and a few others. KEEP EYES HERE.

Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 09/08/14, 12:41:31 AM
It was as the woman's skull impacted the desk with a sickening thud, followed by an equally disconcerting crunch that Lethash figured out that he had problems with his cohort's methods. The ferocious stare and disturbing silence that accompanied the forceful movement only helped to bring the point home- Carvur's hatred was as absolute as it as terrifying.

Telann'a D'Turialle's secretary, the one who had sassed Lethash so astutely, again met the desk at a distance too close for comfort, her face metamorphosing rapidly from human to indistinguishable mess, her strangled cries cut off with every reunion with the furniture.

Thud.

There was a time when Jedi Knight Kell Winters would have stepped in to do something about this, to alleviate the woman's suffering, but that time was long passed. He was no longer a Jedi Sentinel, and no longer in the business of attempting to save everyone he saw in peril. Ever since he had taken the moniker of Lethash, he'd accepted that there'd be certain sides of the job that he'd simply have to acknowledge, the suffering of innocents being one of them. Carvur had no such reservations. The woman was yanked backwards, woozy and dazed, her face coated in a layer of blood and busted bone.

"Vhere is D'Turialle?" Carvur's guttural and gravelly growl met Lethash's ears, the usually near-silent Sith practically spitting the words at the ruined visage of the secretary. Lethash shifted his weight, arms crossed, the hood of his grey spiked body armour on his head. His cybernetic eye whirled, trying to ascertain data on the bloody faced woman, but unsurprisingly gaining no matches. Generally speaking, their face had to be reasonably intact for the scan to yield results. The Echani tapped his foot, briefly glancing at the rest of the room, noting the dozen cut up and sliced upon bodies strewn around the lobby, their blood congealing into one sickening pool. Carvur was thorough, of that he had no doubt. The big Sith's warblade was slung across his back, and glistened with a coat of sanguine. He leered at the young woman, who was clearly on the verge of death, and worse yet, seemingly unable to respond to the question.

Thud.

Her head hit the desk again, and Lethash calmly resisted the urge to wince. This woman had been a pain to him, had sassed him and delayed diplomatic efforts. This, however, seemed...extreme. They hadn't been explicitly ordered to butcher the populace of the tower, and yet, Carvur had wasted no time. The furious amber gaze of Lexicanus's former apprentice swept the woman once more, her form quivering and dazed.

Thud.

She fell limp, unconscious. Carvur held her by the neck with one had, staring into the bloody mess of her face.
"Carvur, she's 'ad enough. Leave her, she's no threa' to you." Lethash said calmly, eyeing the other Sith. Such a waste. Had Lethash been here 5 minutes earlier, this whole thing would be done with, and Zythia would still have the stability of the D'Turialle family. Somehow, Lethash doubted the line would be quite the same after they were done here.

Carvur's head turned to stare at Lethash, eyes glowing, his face expressionless, iron grip still fastened around the woman's throat. "You feel sympathy?" Lethash stood, gazing back at his partner, if Carvur could be called as such. 
"No, bu', does she need to di-"

Snap.

The woman's body hung limp, the glistening and unmistakable white of bone appearing through the side of her neck, blood spraying in a small shower. Lethash closed his mouth, sighing quietly. Carvur blinked, looking back at the dead woman, before throwing her body aside like a ragdoll, her purpose to him fufilled. She hit the ground with a final thud.

Wasting no time, Carvur stepped over or on the fallen forms of the lobby staff and security, pulling his slate grey hood up over his scruffy and unkept black hair. Lethash gazed at the fallen secretary with a frown, the seemingly random taking of her life not making total sense to him. The Sith goal was to chase power and freedom, but for an organization that was all about efficiency in that goal, the senseless killing was still yet to resonate with him. He glanced up to see Carvur standing in the elevator, fists clenched, gaze deadlocked forward. Lethash carefully stepped over the bodies, objectively analyzing Carvur's actions, a frown adorning his scarred face.

"She vill be on zhe top floor." Carvur stated, looking at Lethash, eyes raging. Lord Lethash looked back calmly, silver-grey irises meeting pulsating amber. "Lead on, Lord Carvur." He replied coolly. If the reply satisfied Carvur, he didn't make any visible signs telling to or against, his expressionless face merely returned to the now closed elevator door. It seemed there was to be a deal more killing before this night was out. The Echani again sighed, eyes locked forward.

Up we go...
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 09/15/14, 05:33:05 AM
"Ah, Miss Attano, back already, are we?"
"Not in the mood for it, Ren."
"Please, take a seat, remember your breathing exercises."
"Don't make me hit you. You cried like a child last time."
"Those were tears of joy, we made a significant breakthrough. What's troubling you, Kesstral?"
"My boss is dead."
"Pardon me?"
"Boss. Va'ara. Dead. No more. Not breathing. Gone from the eyes of man."
"...That must be hard for you, Kesstral. She was a friend of yours, no?"
"She was. My boss, too, and Pehn's wife. I doubt he'll show it, but he'll take it hard."

Kesstral Attano sat awkwardly on the shrink's velvety couch, the supple red furniture as modern as it was comfortable. Across from her sat Doctor Ren Dallek, the psychiatrist Kyri Orell had set her up with some months ago, who was passively scribbling on a notepad, glancing up at the concerned looking Twi'lek every few seconds. His greying hair and somewhat friendly face complimented his choice in clothing; simple, relaxed and reassuring, the three tenants of effective psychiatric work. He sat the notepad on his lap, crossing one leg over the other while folding his fingers together calmly. "Do you know of the circumstances surrounding her passing?"

Kesstral fidgeted, as she often did sitting in this office. She wasn't allowed weaponry or gadgets, so, instead, she elected to flip a credit chit nervously, a frown creasing her pretty yet scarred features. "She died saving a couple thousand refugees, apparently. It wasn't a whole lot more specific." Doctor Dallek raised an eyebrow, taking another note. "I see, I'm very sorry for your loss. I would comment on the unusual direction your life has taken, but I believe a recording of those words would be infinitely more effective, given the number of times I've uttered that phrase in your presence." Kesstral narrowed her eyes slightly. "I will hit you. You've heard my stories, and should know better." Dallek remained impassive, smiling quietly at Kesstral. "How are you feeling right now, Miss Attano?" Kesstral groaned, rolling her eyes impatiently. "Can't I just go? I only got two months of medical leave, every session with you is from my wallet now."

"Miss Attano, you're one of the richest...entrepreneurs that has ever lived."
"Oh, right."
"I'll ask you again, how are you feeling?"
"Angry, I guess. Sad, like I want to hit something..."
Doctor Dallek reached behind his chair, procuring a plush droid, before tossing it at Kesstral. The Twi'lek, an expert in close quarters fighting and various martial arts, lazily slapped aside the droid as it spiraled toward her, giving it a momentary distrustful glance, before looking back to the shrink. "She was happy. Cheery. Unflappable. Damn woman couldn't sit still while people were being oppressed anywhere in the galaxy...looks like it finally got to her." Kesstral's voice softened, sounding distant. The doctor scribbled another few notes, gaining a brief look of ire from Kesstral. "She was one of the ones that helped you get medical attention after the...incident with the Sith Cult, yes?" "Yeah. She and Pehn dragged my bleeding ass into a kolto tank. I doubt I'd be around if not for her. This is all under patient-doctor confidentiality, right?" "Indeed. Please, talk freely."

Kesstral glanced away for a moment. "I dunno, doc...doesn't seem fair." Dallek placed a fist under his chin, watching the Twi'lek curiously. "The universe is a harsh place, Miss Attano. Bad things happen to good people." She sighed. "Still...for someone to give so much...she didn't deserve that. Wasn't much older than myself. And Pehn...hell...I don't even know how he'll take it." "It's important that you're there for him, Kesstral. Support is vital in the recovery effort. He was there for you, as was Miss Orell, was he not?" She nodded. "He was. Always has been. Still can't get my kriffing head around why. Bad things happen to good people, you said. I'm not a good person, how did I luck out with all of these people and all of this money and...well, kriffing everything, and Va'ara died on some space station in butt-kriff nowhere?"

The doctor gazed at her for a long while, as if wondering how to answer. Kesstral continued to fidget with the credit chit, before sighing. "I suppose we're done for today...I'd best get back to work..." She picked her black hat up off the couch, flicking the currency chit at the shrink, who caught it almost passively, eyes not leaving the Twi'lek. "I wouldn't be so critical of yourself, Miss Attano. You've done more good than you think." Kesstral shrugged. "Tell that to the occupants of the graves I've dug. Bye, doc." She offered Doctor Dallek a two fingered salute in farewell, before leaving the room. The shrink sighed, leant back in his chair and began to count up the credits from today's session. Business was good.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 10/25/14, 09:07:00 PM
[retcon]
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 10/28/14, 04:02:40 AM
Once again, the Sith had overstepped themselves and begun making Captain Ralakan Walker's life difficult. In a general setting, losing a squad to security detail wasn't an item for concern, it was routine. However, losing a squad for the purpose of protecting a certain NCO from being kidnapped again by one of the most dangerous Sith in the galaxy was another matter entirely.

Kebaliya Celleas lived in luxury for a Marine Sergeant, owning a swanky multi-story apartment in Kaas City decorated with fine art and the other staples of nobility, Ralakan was nearly certain he'd spotted a servant or two scurrying around somewhere too. The sight was strange to him, almost foreign. For as long as he could remember he'd lived ergonomically, practically and perhaps humbly, making do with what he had. From the slums of Dromund Fels, to the barracks on Dromund Kaas, to the relative comfort of Imperial Navy vessels to the numerous foxholes he'd inhabited, Ralakan Walker had never once in his life lived anywhere others might deem homely.

My home is with my men. He mused as he did another sweep, on his way to check in with the men on duty, ensuring that neither Thrax nor his agents had snuck in and wreaked havoc. Figures. The minute I start making preparations to get us back on the lines to fight the war, more internal problems rears their head... He wouldn't openly admit it, but he was sick of the power plays. Sick of the schemes. Sick of the infighting, and above all, sick of him and his men getting caught up in the politics of an order he wanted no place nor part in. Opinion is contagious. Optimism, pessimism, anger, hope and fear all spread faster from the head down than any other direction. He reminded himself. Far too often he'd let the strain get to him, let his emotions get the better of him, and subsequently let them affect his work. Lives had been lost because he hadn't been in control. That wasn't going to happen again.

"Corporal Evans, what's up?"
"Evening, skipper," The young human offered Ralakan a salute, which the Miraluka curtly returned immediately. "Quiet, thusfar. If Darth Thrax has gotten in here, we haven't seen him, sir."
"I'll take that as reassurance. I've been trying to get Darth Magius or Lexicanus on the horn regarding the matter, but, no luck thusfar." Ralakan scratched at the thick stubble covering his chin. "Until I hear back from them, continue what you're doing."
"Aye aye, Captain." The corporal replied, saluting him.
Ralakan offered him a half-smile, returning the salute, before making for the elevator.

Thrax wouldn't let a squad of marines keep him from Celleas, if he really wanted her, but at least it'd give us an indication. He thought, frowning, as the elevator descended. OpSec meant that the whole matter was hush-hush, but questions would still be asked, and may yet widen the already significant girth in the trust-gap between the Marines and the Sith if they were to find out that their own people were now being individually targeted by Sith. The lift pinged as it hit ground floor, and Ralakan stepped out into the harsh lashing rain of the Sith capital, his fatigues rapidly dampening as he traversed the distance to the shuttle that would return him to the XoXaan, lightning crackling overhead, soon followed by it's rumbling counterpart. The 2nd Battalion was due back to the front shortly, to fight the war and do their duty for family and Empire. The only question was when.

And where.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 12/03/14, 04:34:25 AM
Despite the overwhelming odds, tomorrow had came.
They'd fought like hell throughout the night.
The acrid smell of spent plasma was stuck to the air alongside the pungent odors of scorched flesh and chemicals, and smoke drifted yet into the pale pink dawn atop the hill in great wafts. The luminescent golden-red orb that was the star at the center of the Endrophi system creeped ever so slightly upwards, slowly removing the darkness of night from Endrophi III, more commonly known as "Hell's Breadbasket" to the men and women of the Republic Army. An otherwise picturesque world devoid of any advanced sentient life, Endrophi III could well have been a grand agricultural world had the war not reached it before the farmers had. What was once rolling fields and forests were now splintered treelines and deeply entrenched hills, all steeped in about a foot of mud.

(http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070901140958/callofduty/images/6/6d/Mp_hill400.jpg)

The surviving forests spread off endlessly, rising only to various outcroppings and raises in the land, all of which had been tenaciously dug into by both Imperial and Republic forces. This particular hill, known as it's designation, 366 or "The Point", still tentatively but firmly held the white and blue insignia of the Republic on it's crest, despite the best efforts of the Imperial war machine. The almost peaceful silence of dawn was punctuated by the distant, near quiet echoing booms of artillery as it fired at some near-away target.  The dead from both sides lay where they'd fallen. The husks of a half-dozen Imperial hovertanks smoldered lifelessly, broken down over the defensive line, the last embers flickering out from their burnt carcasses. There was a serenity to the morning, a silent reminder to those still breathing that they were still alive, despite the near day long engagement some 6 hours previously. 

The mud splattered beneath Master Sergeant Vazzily Delone's grey-white armoured boots as he walked the perimeter. His immense autocannon was slung across his back, the heavy service sidearm blaster he kept firmly grasped in his hand. His armour was bespeckled by dirt, mud and scorchmarks from where shots had connected or made near-misses. He swept the perimeter carefully but professionally, checking every fortification for damage, ignoring the gnawing feeling of fatigue that tug at his body. Sleep was for the dead. The black and red armoured form of an Imperial Grenadier caught Delone's eye as he blinked back sleep from his one good eye, his helmet and cybernetics rapidly scanning the body. Deceased. The man's body was caught up in a bushel of barbed wire, it appeared that he'd been caught on the obstruction and shot to pieces during the attack. The Sergeant's hands wrapped around the dead Imperial, attempting to dislodge him from the wire. Figures. He reflected passively, grunting quietly with annoyance as he fails to pull the man's body free. Another set of gauntlets grasped the dead Imperial, helping to heave the dead man off the wire.

"Captain." Delone grunts, the dead Imperial hitting the ground ungracefully, landing in the thick mud with a thump. The NCO looked up from the dead man to the armoured form of Captain Ryles Shatari expectantly. She took a moment to right herself, brushing mud from her visor, before returning his helmeted gaze. "How're you holding up, Delone?" "Alive, sir. Hell of a night." Ryles nods reassuringly. "Your platoon adjusting?" "We only had the kid for a few months. He had a good head on those shoulders. But he was green, he should never have been out here." "But you're alright to take the platoon over from Lieutenant Vastano?" "I am, sir. He won't be needing it anymore."
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 12/18/14, 07:09:05 AM
"I have a right to the truth! I know that you took her, to do...whatever the hell it is that you do to them to make them like you. I knew that my little girl was special. She was always bright, always brilliant in everything she did. And then you came and took her away. For the gods's sake, she was just a child! What kind of bastards are you? Claiming to be the champions of peace and defenders of the innocent while stealing children and doing things to them? To make those poor kids into one of...you?"

Jedi Knight Arlatha Shatari was caught off-guard by the man's comments. It had been made abundantly clear to her when she took this upon herself that she'd be entering a region in which anti-force sentiment was the norm, but the sheer venom in this man's voice unsettled her. She recomposed herself, sweating profoundly beneath her heavy brown robes as she stood in the blistering sun of the Perdani system, a thin layer of fine dust coating her boots as she strategically readjusted her footing into a more neutral position. She squinted, her jade green eyes narrowing slightly as she looked over the man. "Staffan, if I may call you Staff-" "You may not." "Very well, Mr Ariax, I understand your pain and concern in the ma-" "Do you?"

Staffan Ariax was a man in his late middle ages, likely in his 60s, with eyes as grey as slate and features as set as marble. Those very eyes were trained on Arlatha, spewing cynical disbelief and disgust. The face of a man who had lost his daughter now not once, but twice. The young Knight kept her face taut but diplomatic as she had been conditioned to do, doing her best to conceal the dismay building inside of herself. There is no emotion. "...I do, Mr Ariax. Serla was a close friend and mentor to me, and not a day goes by where I don't reflect on her teachings or impact to my life and my order." As soon as the last few words left her mouth, she realized she'd made a mistake. "Kriff your order! Your people kidnapped my daughter and forced her to become one of you freaks! She renounced any hope of a normal life, any hope of what she would have wanted. You brainwashed her into serving your Republic, and now look where she ended up!" His voice cracked in the last few syllables, his eyes growing moist, despite the depraving dry heat surrounding them. Arlatha attempted a gentle, diplomatic tone. "I am sure Serla would have volunteered given the option, Mr Ariax. She was an incredible Jedi, one who's virtues and bravery will be long remembered."

He stared Arlatha down, a single tear rolling down his ruddy features, the disgust not leaving his gaze. "Is that my consolation for my daughter's death? She died a good Jedi? Why couldn't she have died a good mother or grandmother, surrounded by loved ones? By family and friends after living a full life?" Arlatha hesitated for a moment, auburn hair swaying, tone pensive but still gentle. "...She was, Staffan. We were her family, she died protecting us. I thought it would be the right thing to do to come here and allow you the chance to grieve and remember." He looked right through her. "I did my grieving, Jedi. I did my searching and my journey for answers as to what happened to my little girl...and now she's dead. At least you had the blasted courtesy to tell me that much. Can I see her grave?" Arlatha's hesitant reaction must have told more than she intended. There is no chaos. Staffan's eyes narrowed even further. "...She has a grave, yes?" "Yes-yes, she does." "I trust I will not like this answer." "She died aboard a Sith vessel, Mr Ariax...I am...afraid there was...little left of her when we recovered her...we placed her ashes in her lightsaber and spaced it, allowing her spirit to continue to explore the universe, even after becoming one with the force. We thought it was what she would have wanted." In truth, Knight Serla Ariax had been slain attempting to confront a powerful Sith Lord aboard an Imperial stealth vessel that was in Republic space. The Sith had spaced her body, or what was left of it. Staffan said nothing, brow lowered, his gaze burning a hole through a nearby rock. Arlatha shifted awkwardly. She wasn't quite sure how to act, and the code offered reassurance but little guidance in the matter.

"...I see. I only wish my wife had lived long enough to receive this closure. I have searched for decades for my girl, Jedi. I now need search no longer. I suggest you leave." Arlatha offered him a low bow, before going to say something, anything. No words reached her lips, so she instead opted to turn and make back across the village toward a speeder that would take her to her ship. Staffan's words played over in her head. Is this what it was like for the parents of Jedi? She had never known anything else. Her father was serving and continued to serve within the Order, and she had never known her mother. Whenever she'd asked her father about her, he'd merely reply that she had been someone very dear to him, and that ever meeting her had been both his best and worst mistake. Arlatha hopped in behind the controls, powering up the bike to return her to her ship.

Is this the price of service?
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 12/25/14, 03:09:15 PM
Holy stolen wifi, Batman! I'm away currently! But, given the momentous car-trips I've had the pleasure of being exposed to, I've had plenty of time to write, and write I have. This will be the first of a few going up. Wall of text warning!



Captain Ralakan Walker of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Imperial Marine Division wrestled with his cufflinks. The small, black buttons seemed to lack either the drive or the ability to slot themselves into the respective incisions on the fabric adorning his wrists, he reflected as his fingers attempted to coerce the little bastards into doing just that. A few seconds later he found purchase, and slid the first of the two renegade buttons into its accompanying hole. Moments later, the button’s sibling followed suit, and any remaining resistance crushed. Campaign ribbons and decorations came afterwards, the brightly coloured fabrics and silvery metals adorning the Miraluka’s chest contrasting sharply to the stark white of his marine dress uniform. Whilst usually loathe to allow the decorations out of their case, stopping them from carrying out their important duty of gathering dust and staying out of mind, tonight was a special occasion.

The black gloves followed soon, slotting themselves onto Ralakan’s hands with expert care. He flexed his fingers, satisfied, the gloves being an appropriately snug fit. It had been months since he’d last donned his dress whites, and yet he carried himself, and them, with an almost weary sense of quiet pride. The Miraluka briefly attempted to flatten his rebellious hair, failed, and simply placed his matching peaked white cap on top of his head.  Someone had left a mirror in the Captain’s office, no doubt meaning well. Ralakan took a moment to appreciate the peace and quiet, resting astride his desk. The quiet pattering of the Kaasian rain was the only sound that met his ears, giving him a brief few minutes to collect his thoughts before his date arrived. Of course, date wasn’t necessarily the most accurate of terms, not that it had stopped his fellows from ribbing him mercilessly about it. “Putting the two of them up on a podium and allowing us mere mortals to bask in their glory. Sounds about right.” Lorraine  had joked in his usual jovial-yet-sardonic fashion. Despite the deflections with humour, Ralakan was under no illusions that, as per usual, Sergeant Lorraine had been dead on. Why else would the brass have so rigidly requested their attendance? The chickenshit continues. Ralakan thought dryly.

A knock on the door to his office roused him from his thoughts. He stood, compulsively brushing down the front of his uniform again, a thousand angry comments from veteran drill Sergeants coming back to him. “Enter.” The door swung open quietly, revealing the smartly dressed and smartly postured form of a woman. She bore the same crisp white uniform as Ralakan, adorned with a startling amount of ribbons and decoration, the various colours reflecting a different campaign or achievement. Corellia, Balmorra, Hoth, Oricon, Naval Service and Warfare, and the Crimson Glory with four spearheads, representing an instance in which this woman had been wounded in the field of combat. The bars on her breast designated her as a Captain, and her shoulder bore the gold and black Nexu of the 5th Imperial Marine regiment. However, two things drew the eyes more than any other on this particular woman’s form; the gold, black and red medallion of the Imperial Medal of Valour displayed proudly on her chest, and her piercing yet strangely warm ice-blue eyes.

She crossed her arms as the stood in the doorway, offering Ralakan a smile. “I had heard reports of a blind, ginger eskimo escaping from Hoth and shoring up in CentCom. Quite a bounty on your head. Janitors are raising all manner of cain.” Her voice was posh and proper, high-class Imperial, but warm and fraternal, familiar.
Ralakan offered her a nod, getting to his feet. “Well, you can confirm these rumours as you see fit, although I imagine the brass might get a little upset if I’m taken away by the cleaning staff before we have a chance to make our great public appearance.” Ralakan’s own Republic-based accent, acquired from growing up with all manner of lowborn scum, refugees and deserters on Dromund Fels, couldn’t have been more of a contrast.  He extended his hand, which she took firmly. “Pleasure to see you again, Beth.” “You too, Stretch.”

Within minutes, the two were on a turbolift to the ground floor of the building. Outside, the festivities were getting underway for the greatest annual event held in the Empire, the Life Day parades. Partly to boost patriotism, partly to reinforce morale, and mostly as a display of power, the parades were attended by hundreds of thousands of Imperials, both civilians and military, to watch the Imperial war machine flaunt itself in full view of the galaxy, as a reminder, and indeed a promise, of the ruin it was capable of unleashing on the enemies of the Emperor. This year was to be an interesting one. With the disappearance and subsequent less-than-popular reappearance of the Emperor and general shakiness of the war effort, including numerous shake-ups across the military and government, the Ministry of War suddenly found itself in the precarious position of needing to reassure the populace that the war was still a tenable option, and that the Empire’s victory was only a short matter of time away. For the first time ever, alien personnel would be marching alongside their human counterparts, as would the Sith, leading the troops in a display of unity. Ralakan felt a pang of discontent as he descended, Captain Bethany Regus beside him. Things are far from good out there. Between the Republic, Dread Masters, Hutts and Revanites, it’s a damned miracle any of us are even drawing breath at the end of the year. And yet the ministry continues to broadcast lies to the rest of the Empire under the banner of propaganda, all the while complaining about lack of transparency in the public. In any other scenario, it would have been farcical.

Regus, ever the empath, must have picked up on his internal griping. Or perhaps he was frowning more than usual, as was his habit nowadays. She elbowed him lightly. “Smile, Captain. You’ve got a reputation to uphold and fans to appease.” He snorted. “They’re here to see you just as much as me.” Ever since the Ministry of War had limited the doling out of Imperial Medals of Valour to one per regiment , the recipients had enjoyed, or at least been expected to enjoy, something akin to standing in the limelight of the people. Hence why those who were able to come, baring posthumous awards or other such hamperings, had been cordially “invited” to attend the proceedings. The people need hope more than ever. Hell, they’ve been through a rough year as it is. There’s still a great deal of the population adjusting to the Alien Initiatives, accepting their service and citizenship, let alone being expected to hail them as heroes. It dawned on him that he’d referred to aliens as “them” again. We. I’m still as much non-human as they are.

After a few minutes, the turbolift’s doors opened to the rainswept streets of Kaas City, cordoned off for the parades. Ralakan was more than happy to follow Bethany’s lead, losing themselves in the vast ocean of men and women in uniform. The fact that we could get such a turnout is impressive in itself, given the need to prioritise resources. Fighter and bomber craft swooped overhead, leaving fantastic and tantalizing firework displays in their wake. The awe-inspiring and mammoth forms of Imperial Dreadnaughts in low atmosphere dwarfed the displays, showcasing the might of Imperial production, in no due part to the millions, if not billions of slaves kept for the armaments and engineering industries. The grey behemoths coasted silently in the atmosphere, their distinctive jack-knifing front prongs visible through the thick storm clouds that covered the Imperial capital.

Perhaps more impressive was the unmistakable sound of tens of thousands of boots moving in tandem, marching and singing.(Funnily enough, similarly to the tunes of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GD0FHEXHbc) Entire divisions of Imperial soldiers moved in an endless stream of black and red, punctuated only by the immense, lumbering forms of Hovertanks. They marched with a pride and purpose that was inspiring, flying banners and unit insignia. It was hard not to be caught in the emotion of the moment, the fervour was overwhelming. The crowds roared as the men continued to march, aircraft flying overhead. It was all wonderfully patriotic, and Ralakan was quite sure that the Minister of War would be quite pleased with the turnout. The crowd’s roars turned near hysterical when the first rank of Sith marched past, lightsabers lit and held aloft, the brilliant crimsons and reds of the blades sizzling in the rain. The dark heroes of the Empire. Saviours and conquerors both, wearing thick black robes, armour and masks, everything of the mythical stories told to children.

Ralakan followed Bethany upwards into what appeared to be a booth of sorts, specifically reserved for the use of people such as himself, strategically raised to be in full public view. Heroes of the Empire. A number of other soldiers, admirals and generals were seated already, each one of them bearing the Imperial Medal of Valour. Had it not been for the medal, it would have been a stretch of the imagination to link the men and women present. Nearly all human, but as varied as they came. Old, young, male, female, tall, short, Army, Navy, Marine, Armoured. The two Marines took a seat at the eastern extremity of the booth, watching the parade with passing interest. The final success of the move, Ralakan reflected, was the magnificent Army orchestra that the brass had assembled on a raised platform at the center of the main road. From there, speaker systems broadcast their songs of patriotism and victory to the assembled crowd. If the boys on the line could see this… He thought, snorting quietly.

After a few minutes of polite small-talk with the other medal-bearers present about how they’d come across their medallions, what a load of bullshit this parade was and the general chickenshit of the military, Beth yawned and looked at Ralakan, who was watching the first of the Navy personnel begin their turn in the limelight, the famous First Fleet marching past. “What a way to spend life day. The Empire is one big, loving, interconnected family, I suppose. I’d still rather be off my face in a bar with the lads, though.” She joked, although Ralakan suspected her phrase held more weight than she let on. He’d know Bethany Regus since Officer Candidacy school, and the two had grown close. She had been one of the few other cadets not to vilify him on sight, recognising him as a competent, if not unsure, prospective officer. This, in itself, was odd. Coupled with the fact that she was the daughter of now Grand Moff Ilyran Regus, a known humanocentrist and a driving force behind the reversal of the Alien Initiatives, it was downright strange. 



He snorted. “That’s the idea, yeah. It’s been a rough year for the Empire, but hell if I know how a parade is going to reinforce their morale. Seems to be working though.” Beth nodded, checking that her dark hair was still smartly tied in a bun with a few probing fingers. Satisfied that it was, she replied. “Victories are what the people need, but they seem to be in short supply right at the moment. Corellia was a debacle, we’ve been kicked off of Balmorra, although I suppose things are improving. Oricon and the situation with the Revanites was a joint solution, if not a temporary one, with the ‘Pubs. I suppose we needed to remind the people that we are still a capable military power in our own right.” Ralakan nodded, trailing the series of medals on her chest. She spoke about these campaigns not from stories but from experience. Corellia, the nightmare Stalingrad-esque world of close quarters fighting in rubble had been her home for nearly a year. “And that’s where we come in.” “…And that’s where we come in.” She finished. Living heroes were preferable to martyrs. The Empire was plentiful in martyrs.

The parade continued outside, even as talk had subsided within the medal holder’s booth. “…You never did tell me why you joined the Marines, Beth.” Ralakan inquired, tightening his gloves. “Didn’t I? Oh, how very forgetful of me. Going senile at 27, my word.” She chuckled. Ralakan watched her curiously. “You’re the daughter of one of the brass’s favourite commanders. You could have chosen anywhere to serve, or not at all. You definitely had safer options open to you. I guess I’m just surprised you didn’t follow in your father’s footsteps and join the Navy. With the tuition you could have had at your fingertips, despite your ability to destroy anything you touch, I’m sure you would have made a great Admiral.” Beth’s eyes trailed from him, settling upwards and outwards, looking at one of the Harrower-class Dreadnaughts in low orbit.

“Dad certainly would have liked me too. He pressed hard for it, even forced me at one point. But, you know me. I was having none of it.” She paused. “…I had been on a thousand ships throughout my childhood. Dad would often take me to the bridges and sweep his hands outwards, across the deck, and he would say “This is your birthright, dear daughter.” I would reply “The deck?” He always seemed to take some odd form of enjoyment from my childish…naivetés. He would smile to me, lean down and gesture further, to the windows, and the void of space. “No, my child. The galaxy.” All appropriately pompous, mind you, but it was never his assurances or his crews that made me look forward to my visits to those ships. It was the Marines aboard. They would always give me chocolate or some such when I visited. Often hats or helmets or jackets. And they would always smile.” Her voice softened slightly, growing distant. “Dad’s crews were like droids. Automatic, staring forward, never talking out of turn. Not them. The Marines were…alive. They would laugh and joke and cry, and now I understand why. The rifleman’s curse of mortality is a much less tepid affair than that of the Navy. They knew that every day was a new risk, every day brought new dangers and experiences and brought them closer to the brink. But by the Emperor’s grace, they made the most of what they have. They knew that their time was limited, so they lived. I didn’t want to serve with droids, Ralakan. I wanted a challenge, I wanted some freedom, but most of all, I wanted to serve with them.  And now here we are, and I’m still using that story as an excuse to bum my senior NCOs out of grog.” She flashed Ralakan a sly smile and laughed. He could sense the emotion emanating from the woman. He couldn’t see them, but he could tell that her eyes were watering.

He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Certainly kicks the hell out of my story. Was your father upset?” She smiled. “Was he. He raised hell, yelling and threatening, but in the end he saw reason. I suppose he was just glad that I joined the military at all. I can make a mean sculpture, Stretch, I could have made a killing as an architect.” Ralakan laughed quietly, retracting his hand. “I’m sure.” The Marines had come and gone in the march, now it was the turn of the supply troops and rear echelon types. Beth stood, brushing herself down. “I don’t know about you, Captain, but I think I’d prefer to disappear to a cantina than sit around here for another few hours.” Ralakan also stood. “Agreed. Let’s go before we get ourselves arrested for insolence or disruption of a public event or whatever other reasons the MPs could lock us up for.” The two excused themselves, following the stairs down from the booth to re-emerge into the crowds. No-one turned to look at them, which Ralakan was grateful for. He was tired of signing autographs and being forced to peacock around in the Imperial media. The two continued on, walking through the heart of the Imperial city, making a bee-line for the Nexus Room cantina.

Within minutes they were seated at a table in one of the darkened corners of the cantina, sipping on whatever was on tap and remising on the old days. Beth leaned back in her chair, sighing. “We’re too young to be talking like this. I feel like I should have a bunch of kids running around nearby, or a nice house, or something to showcase the fact that I’ve “made it”.” “Well, with the average age of our troops, we’re basically ancient.” Ralakan replied. The average Imperial Marine was a little over 22. Life expectancy was a one in five per operation. Manpower was not a problem that the Empire faced, if it had one thing, it was reserves of patriotic young men and women ready to fight and die. Ralakan had done the maths, hoping it would bring some sort of reassurance. Beth smiled, raising her glass. “The old breed. Happy life-day, Captain Walker.” Ralakan returned the gesture, their glasses meeting with a chink. “Here’s hoping we’re around to see another.”

He decided they would be.   
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 01/01/15, 03:59:52 AM
@Aolanni (http://begerencolony.org/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=735)



The hair on the back of the former Jedi Kell Winters’s neck stood on end. His cybernetic eye whirred as it automatically scanned the floor on a variety of spectrums. Visible light, of which there was not a whole lot due to the darkness of the Zythian midnight, followed by ultraviolet, followed in turn by thermal. Nothing. Lethash crept forward, closing the door to the turbolift with the utmost care, making only the slightest of sounds. It had been a long time since he’d been afraid, but fear crept up on him like a spectre. You’re a Sith. Star’ acting like it. He felt the cybernetics in his chest cavity adjust to his tight breathing. As taugh’ as kriffin’ piano wire… The only light on the “indentured living” floor was the quiet purring crackle of the torches in the atrium, casting an eerie glow as it flickered, the shadows stretching and dancing across the ground. Something instinctual drew Lethash toward the flame, the natural urge to remain close to the warmth and safety of the fire nearly overpowering. Nearly.

The steady pattering of rain outside had given way to a violent deluge, the rain literally pouring down as if a jug had been upended, carried by screaming gale force winds across the Zythian landscape. Lethash’s skin crawled, feeling deeply unsettled. Nonetheless, he continued forward, placing one foot very slowly after the other, head on a swivel. He had his grey hood up, reducing the obvious visibility of his snowy white Echani hair, lightsabers gripped in both hand, not activated but fingers tracing the activation matrix nervously. A fork of lightning flashed outside, momentarily illuminating the floor nightmarishly, giving Lethash the briefest of views of the prison level. Shattered glass coated the ground, the curtains of the destroyed window flapping as though possessed, rain pouring in through the open orifice. The carpet was ripped apart, long scars cut into the wall as though by a beast. One of the floor’s automated doors was half-destroyed, continuously attempting to close with a horrible clunk.  Sparks flew from the door, briefly exposing the long, ragged grooves carved into the metal.  He paused after a few meters, again scanning for any signs of movement.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been Lethash’s job. It had been weeks since he’d stepped into the tower, let alone the floor that was holding Knight Aolanni Vaek. Whatever had happened here had spooked the guards, indeed Lethash had found no sign of the soldiers who had made the panicked call to him in the dead of the night. He remained perfectly still, listening, the words of the guards playing through his head. Poor bastards were so ou’ of it tha’ they were barely coherent. He could see why. It was like something out of a bad horror holovid. The security scan had revealed that Aolanni’s door was securely shut. The prisoner was safe. But by process of elimination, that left whatever had done this roaming the floor indiscriminately. Lethash crept forward another few steps, head low, his cybernetic eye whirling quietly as it compensated for the low light. Another fork of lightning illuminated the floor for a brief instant, the flash of light once again exposing the nightmarish state of the level. Lethash felt the ice-cold rain lance into his neck as he stepped out to peek around the corner, the equally frosty wind cutting into the exposed flesh of his face. He ignored it, eyes scanning the rest of the floor quickly, adrenaline flowing.  Part of him knew what he expected to find, but part of him continued to tick away at the various possibilities that lay before him, chiefly amongst them being the question that had been weighing on his mind for the past fortnight. Where the hell is Darth Lexicanus?

The Pureblood had seemingly vanished without a trace.  Lethash had seen nothing of the Sith for weeks, indeed the last time he’d seen the Serpent of Zythia in the flesh was after his talk with Knight Vaek. Lexicanus had said little and less, merely intoning that Lethash had done his job admirably and was to be commended, before disappearing to speak with Thrax. The thought alone of the elusive Sith made his skin crawl. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was that was unsettling, but when those golden orbs settled on you, the sensation was akin to what the folk of superstition equated to someone treading on your grave. Probably jus’ the wind. Lightning flashed again, bringing Lethash back into the present. He flexed his fingers, gripping his lightsabers, before he stepped around the corner again.

For a few moments, there was only the darkness and the misty vapour of his breath, the cyborg Sith’s breathing faster than he would care to admit. “You are afraid, Knight Winters? Your code lies. There is emotion. There is anger and there is fear. You were born with these emotions, rule them, break them to your will and let them fuel you in return.”  Those lessons seemed so long ago now, and never more distant than in the windswept, gutted tower he found himself standing in.

Flash.

A figure.

Tall.

Hulking.

Standing in front of Aolanni’s door.

Silent.

Flash.

Black robes.

Hooded.

Muscular.

Arms crossed.

Silent.

Still.

Flash.

Amber eyes.

Staring.

Glowing.

Hatred.

Fury.

Carvur.



Lethash blinked with his one good eye, momentarily shocked. His cybernetic eye whirred quietly, and he wished more than ever before that it was silent. He stopped breathing. His limbs froze in place. The silhouette of the hulking Sith stood motionless. The faint glow of his vehement eyes penetrated the gloom, turning from the door to sweep the room silently, as a predator searches for prey. Another foot on my grave. His eyes paused over Lethash. The Echani Sith’s voice caught in his throat, his thumbs sliding ever so silently to the activation matrices on his lightsabers. He felt like a child confronted with a household intruder when home alone. But he was no child. In any other time, Carvur may have been a pet. An attack dog.  A Sith. But right now, he was a Lovecraftian horror. Inhuman, unblinking, unbowed and unchecked. His gaze returned to the door, his body soon following suit. A gloved hand slammed into the door, splaying into a hand that traced a gentle line down the metal, as if searching for fault lines. Carvur made not a sound.

He’ll kill her.
He’ll wait here all night until he finds a way in, and he’ll kill her.
She’s done the one thing he couldn’ abide. She’s denied him.


The thoughts filtered through his head like machinegun fire. He had to act. If she died, Lexicanus and Thrax would both be down a valuable asset. It would be on his head. There would be no chance of mercy.

Even if there was, I doub’ their brand of mercy would be preferable to a quick death.

Not to say that death by Carvur’s hand was any more appealing. He was strong, merciless and raised to be nothing less than brutally lethal…but killable.

But that wasn’t it. Aolanni had shown him kindness. Patience. And if that bastard got in there…

He made his choice.

“Lord Carvur.”

The eyes found him.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 02/09/15, 12:00:29 AM
[retcon]
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 02/23/15, 01:18:39 AM
As it turned out, taking two weeks had been entirely out of the question.

The rainy season had washed over the planet, already pockmarked by craters, foot-deep mud now making up the majority of the mountainous landscape, nigh impassible in some places. The sun had all but disappeared, the lashing rain doing it's best to wash the thick, conglomerate mud from the black and red durasteel plated armour of the Imperial Marines. The treads of the heavy Imperial tanks struggled against the all-encompassing brown muck, spinning and churning the mud. The weary Marines trudged along-side the armour, moving slowly, each step causing them to sink shin-deep into the mud with a muttered curse. Ralakan had come to hate this planet a long time ago, and on every return trip, it seemed to give him a new reason. Balmorra was now resembling Flanders Fields.

Ralakan was at the head the column, doing his best to keep his senses roaming for anything ahead in the shattered cliffs to their north. The squelch of his boots as they sunk into the mud was barely audible over the monsoonal rain, but he gritted his teeth nonetheless, the sensation beginning to grate on him. The BRRRRRRRRTTTT of the Imperial Tank to his rear began to get closer, whatever they'd done to get themselves out of this particular ditch had worked, it'd seem. Won't help them with the next one. Damn.

 His comm crackled to life. The Marines had been forced to rely on their radios once audible communication became impossible. A burly, strong but friendly voice met his ears. "Ah, fer kriff's sake...[Squelch, squelch, squelch]...the hell are these Pubs still doing 'ere, Skip? Colour me surprised that the bastards 'aven't drowned in their bloody foxholes." Ralakan chuckled quietly, struggling against the mud once more. The cliffs rose up on either side of him, forming a near perfect valley. Unsurprisingly, topography dictated that the rain could only go one place here, which so happened to be smack-bang in the middle. "They've been assigned to stop the Imperial barbarians such as yourself from reaching their field HQ in the village, Lorraine." The Sergeant chuckled heartily. "Righ', keep forgetting that. I 'ave been keen to satiate my bloodlust on some poor unsuspecting Republic POWs, sir." Ralakan shook his head quietly, holding back a laugh as he suddenly sunk knee-deep into the mud. "Kriff!"

"Everything alright, Skipper?"
Ralakan grumbled, slinging his rifle as he attempted to free himself from the quagmire, tugging his leg out. "Yeah, I'm alright...hell. Lorraine, jump up on the nearest tank, tell the commander that they'll need to find another way around, there's no way they're getting the armour through this mud. Last thing we need is our MBTs getting destroyed by whatever Republic garrison finds them stuck in this quagmire." The Major heard Lorraine's static infused grumble. "Bastard of a bloody place...roger that, sir. Give me a few seconds." Ralakan shivered as he waited, the usually immaculate self-regulating temperature adjusting systems of the Marine's BDU being entirely ineffective against the freezing rains. He exchanged nods with a squad as it filtered past, the weary Marines trudging onwards.
"Skip."
"Major."
"Sir."
"Skip."
"Keep at it, guys."
"Yessir."
"Bastard of a place, aye Skip?"
"Not going soft on me, are you, Corporal?"
"Living the high life, Major."

Ralakan took another look around, fatigue whittling away at him like water on a riverstone, slowly but surely. "Lorraine?" His comm crackled back to life. "One sec, Skip- Alright, you listen 'ere mate, if you don't go around, your tanks are buggered, and then we're buggered because you muppets couldn't see sense and kriffin' move." Ralakan smiled under his helmet, teeth chattering. Lorraine certainly had a way with words. There was silence for a few seconds. "...Yeah, well, kriff your orders, this comes righ' down from Major Walker, and I sugges' you carry ou' his orders before he puts a shot into your tank that would blow even your bloody adrenaline junkie mind." The Miraluka could almost see Lorraine's smug grin. "Righ', good chap. Get a move on. Alright, Skip, problem's resolved." Ralakan unslung his rifle again, shaking it briefly to attempt to dislodge the water that had seeped into every nook and cranny. "Thanks, Waric, should make our lives easier in the long-term. Catch up with your platoon, you've got point as we move in." "Roger that, sir." The comm blinked off, and Ralakan sighed, beginning the tiresome walk into the spire-like mountains, following his men.

Some hours later...

Water dripped off the barrel of Ralakan's rifle like a low pressure hose. He was crouched behind the "rim" of the bowl-like defilade of outcropped rocks that ringed the system defended towns below. They would be no doubt beautiful in peace-time, crested high above the sweeping planes of Balmorra, nestled in the mountainous alps, an escape for the wealthy aristocrats in the Balmorran arms industry, or for even wealthier off-world tourists. The rest of the 2nd Battalion was assembled in similar locations, the lashing rain and darkened skies providing perfect concealment for their approach. No doubt the Republic knew they were coming, but where and when was another matter entirely. The tanks had eventually lumbered their way up, and had paired off two to a company. Lightning flashed overhead, illuminating the steel behemoths like mythical monsters, the turrets rotated to face in the direction of the town. The tanks would be useless if they attempted to stay mobile with the mud as it was, and as such, Ralakan had ordered them to take position along the ridge, to provide support and fire on the towns. Ralakan crouched in the mud, shivering alongside another two dozen Marines, looking at his the inbuilt digital watch on his wrist. He sighed, looking up at the black and red visored helmets around him. "Time to get moving." A number of them nodded, some others simply electing to stand and unsling their rifles. The Major keyed his comms. "All units, move to contact. Let's kick the Pubs out of these cute little towns. I know for damn sure I'd rather them be out in this cold than us." 

All across the ridgeline, black and red ghosts stood up and started moving stealthily down the slope toward the silhouettes of the buildings, trudging silently through the mud, a chorus of thunder cracking over head to complement their advance. Ralakan got up and began moving alongside the other Imperial soldiers. Never a complaint from any of them...

A flare shot up from the town.
Red.
White.
It hovered.
The Imperials continued moving, shadows flickering across the landscape.

And then suddenly, the ground began exploding.
Thunder struck and the Earth itself shook as huge gouts of mud and dirt began to mushroom upwards, the acrid smell of plasma hanging in the air.
"Shit! That's some serious firepower!" A voice broke in over the comm. Ralakan gritted his teeth, waving his free hand, motioning for the Marines to get a move on. "Get the hell out of the open, they've got us zeroed in! That's plasma artillery!" The blue muzzle flash of Republic blasters exploded out of the town as the Imperials began to close in, the sapphire bolts slamming into men and mud alike. Various black and red armoured forms flopped into the mud, killed where they ran seemingly at random, hit by blaster fire or shrapnel. Screams cut into the night. A shell exploded next to Ralakan, causing the Miraluka to stumble, almost falling face-first into the mud, pieces of burning hot metal pinging harmlessly off of his armour, the largest of the shards embedding in the thick mud. "Shit! Kriff..." His ears rang, but he moved on. A sound not unlike the tearing of cloth echoed across the valley. Republic Machine guns. "Keep moving! Stop and you're dead, let's go, Marines!" He called out, regaining his footing and restarting the tumultuous charge across the ground.

A cry erupted from the line as the Marines closed the distance, charging into the town. Roofs and windows were blown apart as the tanks started firing, taking out emplacements that would cause the infantry trouble. Red and black met white and blue as the Imperials flooded the town, slamming into the first line of defence in brutal hand to hand fighting. Ralakan slammed himself into the corner of an outlying building, sticking his head around, rifle raised as a white-armoured figure ran into view. He pulled the trigger. His rifle rocked back, and the figure slumped into the mud, a smoking hole evident on his torso. The Miraluka looked back into the field, seeing the remainder of the 2nd Battalion catching up to their comrades. "Move, move, move! Get in the town!" The artillery continued to pound the mud, churning into an even deeper quagmire, evidently not wanting to drop rounds any closer to the town.

The top floor of a huge multi-story hotel exploded violently, rubble cascading downwards and slamming into the mud with a series of plops. Voices cried out from all over the town, both Republic and Imperial. "Pour it on them, troopers! Throw these Imperial bastards back off our kriffing world!" "Move it, Marines!" "Top floor!" "Pubs in the open!" "Imperials on that left block!" Ralakan moved down along a back-street, a series of silhouettes rapidly moving in the other direction. "Fall back to the next phase line, FALL BACK!" The Miraluka keyed his comms once again. "Republic Troops are falling back, keep up the pressure, boys and girls, let's send them out with their tails between their legs." He continued moving, the rain lashing against the smoking ruins of the buildings, unable to put out the chemically ignited fires that burned in the darkness. The pavement makes a nice change from those fields... He lamented as he moved, rifle up, his footsteps being mirrored by a dozen other Imperial soldiers following him through the town.

Minutes passed without incident. The artillery fire had subsided for the most part, and only the distant statico of fire could be heard coming from the neighboring towns further down the road network. The Marines halted their charge, slowing down to a cautious walk. Ralakan took point, Sergeant Lorraine following just behind him. "Smell that, Skip?" Lorraine inquired, the gargantuan 6'4 Marine's voice echoed through the now suspiciously emptied streets. "Yeah, smells strangely like plasma and a trap." The Miraluka replied coolly, head on a swivel. Blaster fire erupted en-masse, the flashing discharges of the rifle fire illuminating the streets like strobe lighting, not blue, but rather a cold, blood red.  THWAK, THWAK, THWAK, THWAK! The Marines instinctively flopped, hugging the dirt to avoid the suspected incoming fire. Lorraine cursed, then suddenly paused. "...Not at us. The hell?" Ralakan stayed down for a few moments, then quietly motioned for the Marines to rise back up. He gripped his rifle as he rose, moving forward again, fingers dancing along the grip. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, blood pumping in his ears, adrenaline coursing. Another round of blaster fire, longer than the first. THWAK THWAK THWAK THWAK THWAK THWAK!

Ralakan kept moving cautiously. "...Town square should be right around this corner." He murmured, tapping two fingers to the side of his helmet.

He could feel...something.

Death. Lots of it.

He spun around the corner, rifle up, just in time to see a Republic soldier lose his head. THWAK!
The man fell limp at the feet of a figure, surrounded by dozens of similarly dressed armoured forms. At their feet were corpses, all wearing white and blue. The entire surviving Republic garrison. Ralakan heard Lorraine and the others freeze dead in their tracks. "No kriffin' way...there weren't meant to be any other units in the AO..." The figure who had just killed the Republic soldier looked up at Ralakan. The man wore a terrifying bone-white helmet made to resemble a skull, and state of the art armour painted a deep sanguine. In his hand he held a steaming blaster pistol, rain dripping from it's red-hot barrel. The man spun the pistol and slid it away as though it were nothing, and moved toward Ralakan. The Marines held their ground, aware that the rest of the Battalion would be here in a matter of minutes regardless. Ralakan heard Lorraine snarl. "Kriffin' CG bastards. We were ordered to take any survivors prisoner...Major, what in the Force's good kriffing name are these lunatics doing here?" Ralakan stood firm as the skull-faced soldier made his way over, not breaking his gaze. "I don't know, Sergeant. I suspect we're about to find out." The man came to a stop a few meters away from Ralakan, a number of his comrades following suit, standing still, watching the Marines for the slightest sign of hesitation.

"Ah, Major, looks like we've had to do your job for you. A shame, really, I've heard so much about you and your little unit." The man spoke, a finely postured, upper class Imperial accent. He stripped off his helmet, apparently not fazed by the lashing rain. Hard brown eyes, a small goatee and short black hair met the open air, all quickly saturated by the downpour. "Colonel Remus Attencourt, Imperial Crimson Guard, commanding officer of the Empire's 42nd Infantry Division, 1st Regiment." He smiled.

About as genuine as their reason for being here, I'm sure. Ralakan nodded. "I hope you're not expecting a salute." Attencourt eyed the Miraluka coldly. "Evidently not, Major, although I believe it would be a fine courtesy to your betters, especially one who has alleviated you of the burden of recapturing this town." Ralakan clenched his fingers to his rifle. "What are you doing here, Colonel?" The Crimson Guard officer crossed his arms. "As I said, Major, your job here is done." "No, I'm afraid it's not, Colonel. We were ordered to take and hold this town against counterattacks, and to take prisoners for command." Attencourt flicked an iota of mud from the Crimson Guard insignia on his armour's collar, radiating smugness. "Orders change, Major. My men and I are here on the direct orders of Darth Lachris." "I wasn't told you were to be here, Colonel, or about any change in orders." "No doubt your inability to listen, Major...perhaps no surprise. Your blood is impure, after all..." A number of Marines behind Ralakan shifted, and the Miraluka could sense their anger. The 2nd Battalion, while predominantly human, still retained a large number of alien personnel within it's ranks. Ralakan clenched his jaw. "Perhaps so, Colonel...but I have heavy armour in the area and could have fired upon you and your men due to your inability to communicate your kriffing intentions."

The Colonel smirked. "I do hope that wasn't a threat, Major Walker. A poster boy you may be, but there are many in the Empire who see you as a disgrace to our tradition, whom believe you should be slaving away in a mine, or perhaps sent to Korriban for...reeducation. Perhaps best not to give them any excuse, chap?" Ralakan growled. "Listen, Colonel, I will have to ask you to leave, or I'll be forced to commandeer any surviving Republic troops by force." The Colonel laughed, rain dripping from his whiskers to patter on the muddy, shattered pavement. "I'm afraid you'll not find any, Major. And perhaps you should consider biting that filthy tongue before I order one of my men to cut it out. Such an offensive tone...and uncouth an accent."

Lorraine stepped forward, the giant dwarfing the shorter Colonel. "I invite you to try, you kriffin' bigot." Ralakan reached out with a gauntleted hand, pulling Lorraine back. The Colonel eyed the big Marine down, saying nothing, before looking to Ralakan, voice cold and venomous, eyes hard. "Transport is...unavailable due to the weather, Major. You and your men will have to march back to the foward operating base on foot I'm afraid." Ralakan balled his hand into a fist. "We have wounded, Colonel! They'll never make it back in these conditions, we're short on medical supplies as is!" Attencourt shrugged, placing his skull-faced helmet back on. "This is war, Major, people die. Perhaps that will remind you to be more courteous to your superiors in future, you filthy alien."

Colonel Remus Attencourt then promptly spun on his heel, gestured to his lackeys and marched off to police the remaining corpses. Republic soldiers cried for mercy as they were dragged out of the buildings one by one and shot, while Ralakan looked on in disgust. Lorraine threw his rifle to the ground in revulsion. "Fucking son of a hutt...he's just condemned our wounded to death. Kriffin' CG, who's bloody side are they on?" Ralakan turned around, gesturing for the Marines to follow him. "Let's get the hell out of here. We've got a long march back, but the tankers might be able to help us with our wounded. Christensen, radio the FOB, tell them we'll need some help getting out of here."

"Why do you think they were here, Skip?"
"A warning, probably. More likely to scare the rebels."
"Reckon command will be pissed about the prisoners, sir?"
"More than likely. Not a whole lot they can do about it. The CG's upper echelons hold a lot of political power."
"Mmm...bastards."
"Bastards." He reaffirmed.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 03/21/15, 11:03:32 PM
Zythia, several months earlier…

Carvur’s eyes said everything that his mouth abdicated, the burning amber brimming with silent rage, like a caged predator. He turned, backlit by the lashing winds, footsteps accompanied by the crunch of the shattered glass that covered the floor. The wind howled, the torn curtains fluttering violently, the ragged material flapping like they were possessed. Rain continued to pour in through the shattered window, the air seeming to drop degrees in temperature in an instant. He advanced, staring forward. Force, he looks bigger. How the hell did tha’ happen?  Lethash stood his ground, meeting the other Sith’s gaze in the dark enclosures of the Scarred Tower’s “indentured living” floor. Carvur’s sword was missing, Lethash noted, replaced with a vicious looking hilt at his hip, wooden handled with exposed augments, and segments of metal, including two blades atop the crossguard. Carvur, however, made no move to reach for the savage looking instrument, merely flexing his fingers, balling them into and back out of a fist, continuing his indefatigable advance toward the Echani cyborg.
Lethash stood firm. “You won’t be able  to ge’ away with killing her, Carvur.” Carvur continued forward, closing to within a few meters. “If you kill her, Lexicanus will kill you.” He stopped, staring directly into Lethash’s face. Lethash was close enough to smell the odour emanating from him, partly sweat, partly the coppery smell of blood, partly…something else that Lethash couldn’t quite place. In all his time working alongside the hulking Lord, Lethash had never been this close to him. His eyes took on a new, terrible visage when this close. They lacked the depth of normal, organic eyes. There were no visible veins, no nerves, just the pupil, black as sin, and the blazing, glowing orange of the iris. There was no expression on his face. There didn’t need to be. His eyes told the whole story. Pure, unadulterated, inhuman fury. Carvur snorted like a bull. “He is wrong to place his trust in you.” Lethash smiled grimly. “He is.”

Carvur’s fist flew out, his other hand darting to his belt. Lethash ducked, arms crossing across his torso, each hand grasping ahold of a lightsaber as Carvur’s fist splintered a hole in the plaster wall. He hits like a sledgehammer. Lethash ducked sideways, feet crunching the wet, shattered glass. He thumbed the activation matrixes on his lightsabers, the twin blades bursting forth, the sun-orange light illuminating the room. Carvur snapped his own blade on, a deep, midnight purple, sticking it out with a hand as he turned again to face Lethash, carving a line of glowing slag into the wall. Consequences be damned, this bastard isn’t leaving this tower.  Lethash decided. The universe could certainly carry on without Carvur’s brutality. Carvur stood still, falling into the aggressive stance of a Juyo practioner. Of course he is…almos’ like he was engineered for Form VII… Lethash thought grimly as he fell into his own Jar’Kai stance, bracing himself, both physically and mentally.

"The Force bends to you, Knight Winters, it serves you." He pre-emptively lashed out with a hand, lightning streaming from his fingers, wracking Carvur’s body, illuminating the floor in blue-purple light. Carvur staggered momentarily, his armour taking most of the brunt of the hit, and Lethash saw his saber-arm flinch momentarily, twitching for the briefest of instants from the lightning coursing through his muscles. And yet he continued forward irrepressibly, recomposing himself, smoke rising from the blackened metal of his robes. With a sudden, shocking violence, Carvur surged forward, catching Lethash by surprise with a crushing punch to the gut. The Echani lurched forward, the air entirely knocked out of him by the brutal blow, staggering to catch his footing, gasping for air, suppressing the natural urge to panic. Possibly internal bleeding. He spun, still short of air momentarily, the cybernetics around his lungs quickly activating to regulate airflow, returning his breath to him within a few seconds, but still too slow to help with the next offensive.

Carvur slammed into Lethash again, this time with a shoulder, before spinning, continuing the momentum of the shoulder charge, saber soaring down toward Lethash, humming violently. Lethash barely managed to dodge the crushing blow, ducking aside, to meet Carvur’s now exposed flank. The blades of Lethash’s lightsabers flashed as they cut upwards, each one leaving a glowing slash across Carvur’s torso. The big Sith didn’t react verbally, merely pushing outward with a palm, sending Lethash back a few meters, his repulsion halted by a wall, now possessing a freshly made Lethash-shaped dent in the metal. "The Force kneels to you, break it, make it serve."

Lethash fed on his own buried emotion as he stepped forward from the wall, growling, using  the pain of his injuries, the need to protect Aolanni, but most of all, the hatred he’d come to reserve exclusively for Carvur to force himself forward once again, blades held aloft. Thunder rumbled, and the sky split open, lighting flashing over the dystopian Zythian cityscape as Lethash lunged…

DROMUND KAAS, DAYS AFTER MAGIUS’S PROCLAMATION

The four of them walked quietly down the main hallway of the Imperial Citadel in Kaas City, boots rapping against the polished black floors. The usual hub-bub of the center of Imperial Might was unusually withdrawn today, the sound of the heavy rain outside and the quiet discussions of Sith, aristocrats and members of the military being the only audible sounds. The quartet moved quickly, gazes forward, brows lowered and the seriousness of their predicament etched on their features. Lord Lethash of the Emperor’s Tenebrous Gospel took the front and center, bedecked in a set of black robes, accented with burnished gold armour plating. The usually diplomatic, dry humoured Sith spoke not a word.

Just behind him walked three figures dressed in dazzling white and gold, chests adorned with medals, shoulders bearing the patch of the 1st Imperial Marine Division, a black background with a white I upon a field of stars. Standing abreast to each other walked First Sergeant Waric Lorraine, Major Ralakan Walker and Captain Bethany Regus. Lorraine’s hazel-eyed gaze was locked forward, the mountainous man not having shaved his thick black stubble, the equally dark Mohawk on his scalp also remaining, standing amidst the otherwise buzz-cut hair like a hill. Ralakan walked swiftly, face clean shaven, auburn hair combed to something more aesthetically pleasant than its usually rebellious posture. Bethany, as usual, emanated strength, her ice-blue eyes also firmly set on the grand doors ahead of them. Lord Lethash continued walking, not slowing his pace. “If there you’re having second thoughts, now’s the time.” Lorraine snorted. “None.” Ralakan didn’t reply, his position already quite clear. Bethany didn’t break stride, replying with her usual well-mannered, practised tone. “None, my lord.”

This could go badly. They were all aware that this was a possibility. Yet not one of them blanched as they reached the grand doors, the regal black and red of the emblem of the Sith Empire meeting their faces. It had to be done, and there was no others to do it. Lethash placed his hands palm-in-palm behind his back as the doors hissed open. Was probably overdue a catch-up, at any rate… He thought dryly, glancing backward to the marines, offering them a solemn nod. Lorraine returned the nod with a cheeky half-grin, Ralakan returned it confidently, Bethany with her usual poise. Glad to see their loyalties were withou’ question.  He stepped in through the portal, the marines following him, just as the huge, armoured figure stepped back from a holographic projection of the galactic map, the static blue illuminating the immense, dark room. The armoured figure turned to face Lethash, placing his immense hands palm-in-palm behind his own back, radiating sheer power. This was the man who would push the Empire to do or die, and he was expecting them.

“Lord Lethash. I had been anticipating your arrival.”

“Darth Marr.”
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 05/14/15, 05:16:16 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9IHsKgaMsg

He didn't want to go back.
No sane person would, whilst under their own power. Committing oneself to such madness voluntarily was a designated sign of either the brave or the stupid.

He had been afraid before stepping up to push the envelope of inter-service relations at the Necare Estate, indeed, he had never expected to walk out of the prestigious establishment in one piece.

He had been scared before entering Darth Marr's office to discuss how best to annihilate a fanatical cult, well aware of the consequences of failure.

He had feared for both the safety of himself and his men after standing up to the Crimson Guard on their home turf, leading to 5 of his Marines' early deaths.

But for Balmorra, there was a special sense of dread. Every time his mind drifted back to that hellhole his throat grew dry, a knot formed in his gut, and he begun to feel light-headed. Even once the immediate nightmares of the shock, violence and inhuman stress subsided, there was always the vague, haunting dreams that chilled him to his bones. The battered memories of hearing those fateful words, and being forced to relay them himself. "Gather your kit, boys, we're moving out." 

There was no feeling in the world equal to that dread. A man can endure even the most terrible of fear while his adrenaline is pumping, but, the sense of foreboding grimness is overpowering. To return to the meat-grinder is to forget the respite of the brief reprieve, and to be re-indulged into a world of overwhelming law-of-averages, of fatigue and of filth and fear. Such conditions break even the strongest of men, it was a fortunate thing that the Empire had plenty of men to spare.

The Second Battalion, First Regiment, First Imperial Marine Division would not be so lucky.


DROMUND KAAS, 3 WEEKS TO D-DAY

"C'mon Neely, you're gonna have to move faster than that if you want to survive!"

The young Marine ducked and darted through the undergrowth and torrential rain of Dromund Kaas, feet slipping and sliding on the muddy slopes, trying to keep up with his skipper. "Major," He panted as he ran, grunting as he nearly rolled his ankle in a treacherous pothole. "Are there even trees on Balmorra, sir?" Neely noted with dissatisfaction that the officer couldn't even grant the private a few moments of reprieve to answer his question. "You should know from your documents, Private. Familiarization with the planet's environment to the detail." Neely hopped a log, following Major Walker's boot-prints. A flop and a muttered curse to his rear indicated that Janovic had failed to note said log, and was now enjoying a visor full of mud.

The column of red-and-black armoured figures snaked through the jungle single file, full combat gear on, lead by their intrepid Major on combat training in preparation for the coming offensive. None of them knew the full story yet, but Major Walker's unusually cryptic responses on the matter had many of the senior NCOs and officers on edge. Private Neely himself had simply made the same assumption the other enlisted men had. This was going to be the big one.

After a few exhausting hours of maneuvers in the jungles of Kaas, the Marines had returned to their new home, aboard the Rancorous, to get some rest and continue their study in preparation for the coming campaign. Neely was himself a relative newcomer to his company, and to the Battalion as a whole, being assigned as a replacement only a month prior. Adjusting to the unit's activities during their time off the line had been pressing enough, but now the young man found himself gripped by the infectious, intoxicating whirl of nervous, excited activity that preceded deployment. Men and women from all different walks fluttered through the decks. Something always appeared to be happening. The black and reds of the Marines were interspersed with the greys of the 603rd Fighter Wing, the blues of the Naval staff, and occasionally the deep blacks of the mysterious Naval Special Recon Commandos.

Weapon drills were daily, deployment drills ever other day, with theory lessons occurring just as regularly. The Rancorous itself had been performing a number of gunnery drills on asteroids and other targets, much to the delight of the Marines, who often gathered to watch the immense turbolasers of the Dreadnaught blast apart a variety of spaceborne targets. Another favourite activity of the Marines was to sneak off their assigned decks to talk to the Naval personnel aboard the ship, whom they found to be quite amicable and friendly, for the most part. The Navy mess often welcomed these officially wayward Marines in for a sneaky meal and a chat, wishing them good luck on the ground. Whilst Neely would usually reply to such well-wishing with the trademarked Imperial Marine light-hearted quip in response, he was sure they all felt an overriding sense of dread at the prospect, even from such simple reminders. They were going into the unknown, and the young Marine had conflicted thoughts on the matter. On some level, he was sure he would make it. On another, he was sure he would die. Perhaps mostly, he wasn't sure, which was the most anxiety-inducing conclusion of them all.

The older guys often gave advice like "Keep your head down and your ears pricked, and you'll come out okay." or "Eat dirt, and you won't taste blood." All jovially, but, Neely could tell that they were dreading the deployment as much as he was, perhaps more than he was. They knew what to expect. More oft than not, Neely found himself glancing at the calender, looking for how many days he had left in the safety of the ship. The general feeling of excitement was building toward D-Day, and he almost wished it would hurry up, if not to kill the overwhelming anticipation. He had voiced these concerns to his company commander, Captain Regus. She had smiled and laughed good naturedly, telling him not to rush what precious little time he had left of warm meals, showers and a good place to sleep. Neely had conceded her point and thanked her, still not sure what to expect.

As the young Private Davis Neely of Company F, 20 years of age, born on Dromund Fels, lay his head down to sleep, he was not aware that he would only live to see 23 more nights. He was not aware that he would be killed on the opening day of the offensive, nor that so many more of his comrades would be killed either.  To the older men in his company, he would be just another nameless replacement that had become a statistic faster than he had become a friend.


Such was the conflict on Balmorra that was yet to come, such was the nature of the dread that preceded it, and such were the memories that followed it.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 06/25/15, 04:20:55 AM
(http://i.imgur.com/foC0weZ.jpg)
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 08/07/15, 06:39:40 AM
August 7th, D-Day + 22 (Week 3 of Operation: Northern Wind)

Never before had he seen the Republic fight so fanatically.
Maybe they knew their were cornered.
Maybe they knew that their defensive positions were strong.
Or, maybe, they just really fucking hated the Imperials.

When it rains on Balmorra, it pours. Major Ralakan Walker gloomily reflected as he trudged up yet another hill, mud sinking up to his shins, rain pattering down on his exposed face and head. This one, thankfully, wouldn't be leading to the deaths of any Marines tonight. The Republic forces, having seen the four companies of Ralakan's 2nd Battalion sweep the ridge opposite them, had wisely decided to withdraw in the dead of night to another strong point some ways back, abdicating to leave the hill to the Imperials. Ralakan had dispersed the Battalion, having E and F companies secure the rest of the ridge line on either side of the main hill, while D held the abandoned Republic positions.

Ralakan cursed quietly as his boot got stuck in the quagmire once more, the rain pattering down incessantly on the muddy incline. Discarded blaster ammunition packs, food wrappers and excrement littered the hillside, but, still the Marines had produced their entrenching tools, little more than mud caked shovels at this point, and begun the tedious task of digging foxholes once again. Digging foxholes had once held a meditative value for Ralakan, but, that time was now long past. I estimate we've dug a couple hundred tonnes of soil already. Could make our own hill with all the dirt.

A slew of Marines were now doing just that as Ralakan reached the summit, rain washing down his dinked and scratched black-and-reds. The concrete bunkers that adorned the top of the hill had already been claimed by the first guys to the top. Since Hill 212, Ralakan had instigated a rotation policy. Every four hills, you'd be all but promised a relatively warm, dry place for the night, until you inevitably packed up and set off for the next ridge-line. Tonight, it was not his turn. Bastard of a place.

Fatigue whittled away at him like water eroding a riverstone as he returned to his own foxhole that he shared with Lorraine. A small, wooden sign had been hammered into the semi-solid surface, upon which read, crudely scrawled into the wood; "Battalion CP, kriff off unless underwear model." Lorraine's handywork, Ralakan reflected with a small smile. The rain continued to pour down, forming a small puddle at the bottom of the foxhole. Ralakan gazed down into it, a frown creasing his features.
"Great." He muttered. Four times he'd been to this world, and every time he came back, it found a new way to deserve his vitriol.

"Shit!" A loud curse went up from close by, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a Marine slipping and sliding on his now extremely muddy rear end into the disgusting, murky surface water of his foxhole.
"You're brave to be hitting the pool at this time of night, Coop." Ralakan called out, thankful that his voice was holding out. His throat was red raw and anxiety ate away at him, but, it seemed that at least for now, lines of communication were to remain open.
"You're a funny man, Skipper." Came the sarcastic reply. The sun had already set, and the moon, as per usual was stuck behind a thick layer of cloud and fog. Silence fell across the line, interspersed with the odd, distant statico burst of machine gun fire, or the low thump of artillery impact. The deep blue flashes of Republic tracer fire flew up into the sky, chasing away aircraft that weren't coming in the first place.

The hours crept by, all sense of time diminishing into the darkness and the cold. Leadership was solitary work at the best of times, but, here, in the darkness, gazing out over the valley, Ralakan Walker felt like the loneliest man in the universe. Sleep had been a rare commodity. Some nights he stole a few hours, on others he was awake or in combat. One night he'd spent totally unnerved, feeling the force signatures of the dead stand up and roam the battlefields in some sort of waking nightmare. He shifted his weight in the foxhole, feeling the cold mud seeping between the seams of his armour. Definitely the worst part of feeling the Force...you can never be sure if that sort of thing is a dream or not. He thought grimly, fingers tapping silently on his rifle.

The Force...

He sat in total stillness and silence for an undiscernible time, merely listening out for any signs of Republic intrusion. The bastards had taken to crawling up to the marines's foxholes at night, where they would slit the throats of the unaware, or pull the pins from the grenades of the sleeping. He felt drunk with fatigue, his senses feeling as though they were underwater. But they had trained long and hard for this campaign, and night was no longer a stranger to him. A man could easily go mad with too much of this. Ralakan paused, suddenly becoming starkly aware of just how alone he really was. His unit was his family, but even they had biological roots to return to. Siblings to think about, parents to write to, husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, children of their own to occupy their thoughts. What did he have? Painful memories of the past, a tired awareness of the present, and some plans for the near future. Perhaps that was an exaggeration. Or was it? He had Lorraine and Bethany, Noran and Kebaliya, Rix...but...there'd been others, now long dead or gone. He'd not heard from Lakesh for quite a time. He wondered if Audaine could forgive him, if she ever found out about his involvement in Reithan's capture. Could he forgive himself?

Taken by the Sith...

His train of thought was interrupted as a dark, armoured figured slid down into the foxhole with a grunt. "Bugger."
Ralakan looked away from the valley, where he had been staring off into space. "Waric." He greeted the figure. The Marine stripped off his helmet, the rain immediately dampening his shaved black hair and thick black beard. First Sergeant Waric Lorraine came from a military family, but, the big fellow still reminded him of a mountain man, some sort of lumberjack or miner. "Skip," Lorraine returned with a nod, barely visible in the gloom. "Just finished having a talk with some of the POWs we picked up, infiltrators tha' we clapped in irons a few nights back."

Ralakan didn't immediately reply, allowing Lorraine to continue. "Kriffers seemed awfully disorganised, couldn't bloody tell their own lads from some of ours. Still no sign of higher leadership." Lorraine sounded frustrated, exhaling sharply. "Hell, sir, nothing we didn't already know. Seems like the Pubs 'ere as as in the dark as we are, even more so than our last visit to their scenic world. Lovely place. Can't say I'd want to take Harriet here, though. She's not a huge fan of the cold." Ralakan smiled beneath his helmet. He'd only met the famous Harriet Lorraine once, when she'd shown up alongside her mountain of a husband during the Life Day Parades. She was a short, pretty looking thing with flaming red hair and an equally fiery disposition, he recalled. "Never know, might be some prime real estate in these hills. Get a mansion set up on your NCO salary, got plenty of foxholes you could convert into pools for when Lorraine Jr. isn't busy terrorizing the neighbors." Lorraine chuckled heartily, as was his usual style. "Ah, I think the neighbors have had more than enough Lorraine for the time being, may as well give them a break."

The two sat in comfortable silence, the rain continuing to fall. Lorraine leaned back against the side of the foxhole, eyeing Ralakan. "You're quieter than usual. Everything alrigh'?" Ralakan was quiet for a few moments. He curled and uncurled his fingers, rapping them against his rifle in a rare display of hesitation. I'm sure he knows how I'm feeling, always did read me like a book. "...No, actually." Ralakan said finally. It had started about a week before. First it had been nothing perceivable, and, like many problems of it's ilk, had only made itself starkly apparent long after anything could be done about it. Lorraine listened. He was excellent at listening.

"Remember back to last week, when we executed the maneuver to encircle Ridge 42, forced the surrender of the entire garrison in the tunnel system?" Lorraine nodded. "I do." "Yeah. Well, I started having some...feelings-" "I'm sure she feels the same way, it's perfectly normal, if not a jus' a tad inappropriate righ' now. Talk to her after we're back to somewhere with central heating and without the noxious bogs of shit." Lorraine interjected cheekily. He smiled, but, Ralakan knew that the deflection was intentional. They'd discussed this before, and, evidently, were now both still worried about it. "...it's coming back, isn't it?" The Sergeant asked, his voice tightening, almost unnoticeable. Almost.
Ralakan eventually nodded. He saw no point in denying it, let alone to his best friend. "It is. Knowing that the other squad was down there? As much as I would like to say it was my soldiery intuition...I could feel them." Lorraine put his fingers together, drumming on his knuckles. "Mmm..."

 Ralakan was silent again for a long few moments. "When the Ministry of War gave me my own special podium with accompanying special title, I wasn't happy. I'd never asked for it, certainly never deserved it. I still maintain that nothing good came of it." "But..." "But, it kept me out of the reach of the Sith. It meant that I was too valuable for them to figure out whether or not I'd survive Korriban. It meant I'd be able to stay with the men, which was all I could have asked for." He inhaled sharply and swallowed. "But...I'm old news, Waric. Ministry still has my face on some posters, despite my protesting. I don't want the fame, and I don't want the attention, there are people far more deserving of it than I am. But...my story is getting old. The Ministry will find someone to replace me, and soon. And when that happens, I'll be free pickings for any Sith who decide that my connection to the Force is strong enough to justify a trip to the Academy on Korriban. Not only for the sake of adding another name to their kriffing roster, but, certified Imperial Heroes make for the best Sith. I doubt the Ministry themselves could dream up a better continuation of my life to sell to the public." "And your connection is...strengthening, somehow?" "Yeah. I don't know how or why, but, it's certainly looking that way." The two fell back into silence for a few, long moments. Somewhere in the valley below, a very brave native bird sang a mournful tune.

"I'd rather die than become of them." Ralakan stated simply, looking away, listening to the birdsong in the Balmorran midnight. He was almost sure that Lorraine could detect the fear lining his face. And fear it was. Fear in combat was one thing, never knowing if you'd live to see the next 5 minutes, let alone until the next day. But the thought of going to Korriban, the thought of being twisted and corrupted and broken into Sith, filled him with wild, desperate revulsion and disgust. He fought the war for the Empire, but, with friends like the Sith, who needed enemies in the form of the Republic? Lorraine nodded, voice seeping disgust. "I know. We all do, every one of us that served under those Tenebrous Gospel lunatics. Those bastards killed more of our own, more than killed 'em, than we lost in combat during our tenure with them." Ralakan nodded, sighing. "I know. I took the numbers, sent the letters. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to tell the families of my Marines that their son or daughter had been roasted alive inside their armour for failing to obey a suicidal order from a Sith."

"So, what are you going to do?"
"Keep fighting, little other option. We win here, I can worry about it later."
"Scared of what the future holds, Skip?"
"Terrified, Waric. Terrified."
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 08/12/15, 06:20:49 PM
Captain Bethany Regus of the Imperial Marines swore in a very unladylike manner.
It was, however, a thoughtful and well constructed string of vulgarity, barely audible, but nonetheless poetic in its delivery. Or, at least, it would have been, had she not been interrupted by the crash of an artillery shell that landed nearby, throwing her head over heels into a nearby dugout. Strangely, her first thought as she lay in the cold mud was Thank the Force that was fragmentation. If that had been plasma artillery, the splash would have melted her armour, skin, muscle and flesh down to the bone.

The rain pattered down on her exposed face, lighter than the last few days, for all the good it did. Bethany took a moment to appreciate how dark Balmorra got during the night, the thick layer of cloud allowing no sign of the moon nor stars. Wait a second, exposed face. Beth’s gloved hands immediately went to her face, panic sweeping her momentarily. Everything was still there. She craned her neck downwards, seeing if her limbs and innards were still where they were meant to be. They were. “Last time I attempt to sleep without my bloody helmet…” She muttered to herself, laying in the cold soil for a few moments longer.

“Cap’n Regus?” came a voice. Beth blinked. Right, not dead. She hefted herself to her feet, waving a hand above her head, clearing her throat and doing her best to sound on top of the situation. “I’m alright, Sergeant. Anyone wounded?” He shook his head. “No ma’am.” Incredibly lucky. Again. Casualty figures are well below the expected figures...one could wonder how long that luck will hold out. Beth coughed, clearing her lungs of the smoke. “Good. Any sign of a Republic counterattack? Though they’d be lunatics to attempt it.”
“Just a platoon of heroes, Skip. They got some new holes for their trouble. Must have been rear echelon types, one of ‘em had larger tits than you do, must have been scoffing all the Republic rations.”
Beth laughed. The thinly-skinned didn’t last long in the marines. “Yes, edible until the end of time, I’m sure. Must have been as hard as rocks, I’m surprised his gut could handle it.”
“Thank you, Ministry of Logistics…” The Sergeant murmured absently as he peeled off to return to his position, overlooking yet another valley.

The shelling from the Republic ended as abruptly as it had begun. Evidently, they were trying to conserve ammunition and maximise casualties. Beth took a moment to smile. “Well, that’s another shell wasted.” She wondered how long their luck would hold out.

Beth turned her torso, glancing over her shoulder. She held her rifle one handed, the thick leather strap dangling in the ice cold Balmorran wind. The Republic concrete bunkers had been left more or less intact, floodlights illuminating the entrances. They had certainly suffered damage, indeed the concrete that had been blasted off still lay in the mud, but, the Marines were more than happy to merely remove the Republic from within. A roof was a roof, after all. She had to hand it to the Republic engineers, they had constructed a hell of a defence network. The Republic troops had lived and died underground, in extensive tunnel networks that opened up to multiple firing positions, hardpoints and bunkers. Their quarters were underground. Stone cold, grey, concrete boxes that they were expected to stay in for years.

She smiled as she gazed at the bunker, pride welling in her breast. We’re hitting perhaps one of the strongest Republic military hardpoints in the galaxy, and we’re tearing through it like it was wet paper. And tearing through it they were. Moff Keriak had dictated that the Imperials take one ridge per week. By Beth’s calculations, they had it at 1.7 to every 7 standard Kaasian days. Casualty figures were well below expected, supplies were plentiful, and morale was high. And yet...she couldn’t shake the feeling that they were living on borrowed time. How much longer until Republic reinforcements arrived? Until the Republic got a competent General? Perhaps they were massing on the planes on the other side of the Beckett Line, ready to crush the Imperials in a bottleneck? “Ralakan was right...I really do overthink a lot of this stuff.” She muttered aloud. Would ceasing her worries assuage her fears?

Beth sighed, taking a seat on a rocky outcropping. To the east of the ridge her company currently occupied was the immense, landlocked Sarak Sea. The 1st Marine Division had been charged with holding and advancing along the farthest east flank of the Imperial advance, but only now did she see the sea they now ran parallel to. The pink of dawn had begun to appear in the east, reflecting gorgeously in the water, the magenta tinge reminding her of the paraphernalia her parents had draped her in as a child. She was just as quickly reminded as to why her relationship with her parents was estranged at best. She wondered how her younger sisters were, what they were up to.

Suddenly, she heard a clanging, and the sound of a scuffle. A few scuffles. Grunts, yelps and curses came out of the pre-dawn darkness. Beth frowned, rising to her feet, leaving her helmet resting on the rock. Screams. Her pulse quickened in an instant, and she unslung her rifle. “Sitrep, sentries!” She called out into the dark. No response immediately found her. Her blood chilled as she stared into the gloom. “Sentries, sitrep!” She yelled. A number of Marines had slowly taken up firing positions astride her, fingers hovering by their triggers. It was just as Beth realised how exposed she had left herself that the first bolt missed her head by less than an inch. The radiant heat of the round warmed her numb face as it passed for a fraction of an instant, far faster than she could react. Fire erupted from the Marine line, the green bolts lighting up the gloom like a laser show. White and red armoured figures were illuminated as though by strobe lighting, jittering from place to place like a slideshow, advancing toward the marines. They were everywhere.

Beth flopped, flattening herself as the air was suddenly filled with violence. The blue rounds of the Republic blasters and the green of the Imperial blasters flew overhead, the epicenter of which was right above where she lay. Strangely, she wasn’t afraid. No more than a person under fire could be. Laying in the muck reminded her of the live fire training exercises they’d ran back at Camp Nik. All she could think of was the moment fire had erupted from the Republic line...unusual fire discipline. The white and red markings, too, suggested that these were no rear echelon or even main-line troopers. Then who the hell were they?

“Captain! Are you hit?”
Beth rolled in the mud, sliding herself behind a nearby low rock for cover. “I’m alright.” Was about the best reply she could provide.
Twice today. She took a moment to thank whatever deity was looking out for her.
Or whoever’s listening. Beth peeked over the slight rise in front of her. The Republic troopers moved with a trained fluidity, and were extremely well coordinated. They knew each other very well, it would seem. Men who trained as and with conscripts didn’t have the level of unconscious trust and “sixth-sense” of the elite infantry. The white-and-red armoured spectres were everywhere. In-front, behind and astride the lines. Counting them was impossible thanks to the visibility. Judging by the green bolts flashing overhead, her men were giving her covering fire. Covering fire...right. She immediately pushed herself to her feet, hand sinking into the wet soil momentarily, before she spun on her heel and ran back behind her marines, giving them a clear line of fire.

“Who the bloody hell are these guys, ma’am? Intel said there were three army groups stationed on the Beckett Line, none of which had these SpecFor buggers!” One helmeted Marine called out, firing aggressively from a kneeling position.
“They might have been here on exercises!” She called back, drawing a bead on a Republic trooper as he darted to and from cover. Well trained, they’re not running in the open like the other units we’ve seen… she noted. Her rifle kicked back in her arms as she squeezed the trigger, the satisfying thump being more felt than heard. The man she’d been leading had chosen a very poor time to dart out of cover, and had received a new hole in his torso for his effort. He fell screaming, twitched in the mud, and lay limp.
“Enemy neutralized!” Beth called out. Their pattern of attack was too random, too skittish, to be an assault. This was a raid. Then why were they pushing against the lines? Unless they were a distracti-

It was at that moment that the entire hillside was illuminated in an instant, and a massive boom shook the very earth they stood on. Fire erupted from the nearby bunker that been used as an ammo dump, the plume of flame going some twenty meters in the air. A dozen Marines who were unfortunate enough to be right next to the bunker were killed instantly by the explosion, and a dozen more screamed as they were set on fire in an instant, or as the shrapnel from the blast found its mark. Beth froze, startled. She felt the warmth of the blast on her cold skin. Some of the Marines had already recovered from the initial shock, and had continued fighting at the Republic Special Forces, who were now in the process of melting away into what little darkness remained of the early morning. Evidently, they’d had no choice but to leave their dead and wounded behind.

Within minutes, as the last shots were fired, they were gone. Bethany Regus stood by the crackling flames of the bunker, helping to police the bodies of the dead. The other Marines were in the process of searching the enemy dead and wounded, trying to find anyone still alive enough to have a chat. She sighed, “I should have seen it coming. They don’t put those shells needlessly to waste.” She murmured quietly to herself, thinking back on the incoming artillery that had knocked her on her ass not 20 minutes before. She’d survived a tour on Hoth, nearly a year of non-stop combat on the nightmare world of Corellia, one tour on Balmorra, and the duration of the horrorshow that had been the Dread War on Oricon. She’d been wounded in action four times, and had knocked on Death’s door frequently enough that he’d had to buy and install a doorbell. And yet, she had trouble shaking the feeling that this world would be the end of her. She suddenly felt very tired, and sat down on a still smoking piece of concrete that had landed in the thick mud. She was a professional soldier, daughter of one of the Empire’s most revered Moffs. This war was her family’s legacy. She wondered when the name Regus would become synonymous with something other than combat, death and destruction. Beth glanced around, realising that her helmet was still MIA. Realising it was now likely buried beneath 30 centimeters of mud, she sighed, and keyed her wrist-mounted comms.

“Forn actual to Battalion, Forn actual to Battalion, over.”
“This is Battalion, what’s going on, Beth? I heard that blast from here.” Major Ralakan Walker’s voice came in, riddled with static, but mostly discernible.
“Republic raiding party, likely special forces, platoon sized element, sir.”
The line was quiet for a few moments. She liked his considered silences, she’d known the man for 10 years. It always came off as endearing.
“Third report I’ve heard of SpecFor troops in the AO in the last few hours alone...alright. I’ll get on the horn to Colonel Numair’s flyboys, weather might be clear enough for a few hours for them to do some aerial recon.” He paused. “Are you alright, Beth?”
“Not a scratch.” She replied, doing her best to sound cheery. The success was nebulous.
“Not what I meant, I know it’d take two of your dad’s fleets to finally rid the galaxy of you, you’re tough as nails. How are you feeling?”
“I’m...yeah. I’ll be alright. We’ll have time to talk when we take Hill 246, assuming you still want the whole battalion to hit it, sir.”
“Yeah, that’s the plan.” He paused, the line going quiet again for a few moments. “Hang tough, Beth. Remember Life Day? Still got that deal to uphold.”
She smiled. “Understood, sir.”
The radio clicked off, and she sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the steam rise as the rain met the flames.

“Cap’n Regus? We’ve got a live one. No’ too forthcoming though, seems a bi’ lockjawed. I’m sure he’d love to have a cha’ with you, though, ma’am.”
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 09/13/15, 10:11:58 PM
(http://i.imgur.com/lw1qTkN.jpg)
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 09/30/15, 05:32:00 PM
Shadren V, Dorian's Palace

"Hawking Shatari is dead."
Darth Lethash didn't believe him.
"You'll have to forgive my impertinence, Hunter, but I can't take your word for tha'."

It's not that he strictly refused to believe the Mandalorian, indeed, Lethash was rational and a firm believer in using multiple sources to confirm suspicions, as open minded a Sith as you were liable to find anywhere. But he knew his former friend. He was a tough man to kill. The gold armoured Mandalorian in question crossed his arms, the black, reflective T shaped visor reflecting the brilliant golds and purples of the sunset, concealing the man's expression. Lethash could read his body language well enough to get the idea.
"Then you can take it or leave it as you will, my lord." He replied, expression and tone entirely unreadable.
The black and purple robed form of the Miraluka standing beside Lethash shifted slightly as Voltis readjusted his weight. Officially under Darth Mavesh, and indeed his apprentice, Lethash had borrowed the diplomatic alien learner, formerly under the fanatical Crimson Guard general Darth Thaydis, to be his assistant in Dorian's absence. He was proving to be quite the asset.

"Can the informants provide evidence to back up your statement, Mandalorian?" Lethash inquired, readjusting himself on the seat, placing a fist under his jaw, eyeing the Bes'kar clad mercenary. He had recently hired on the Mandalorian as an enforcer of sorts, a "fixer". Quite the higher up from a respected clan, too. Have yet to ask what caused him to depart so rapidly from Concord Dawn...
"They can, my lord. They saw the bodies."
"Bodies?"
"Of the healers, who had been attending to him. His Force flu spread to the other jetti who had been keeping him alive. Guess he was tougher than they were to survive for that long."

Voltis politely cleared his throat. "If I may, Hunter...how do the bodies of the healers definitively provide evidence of this Jedi's death?"
"No healers, no healing." The Mandalorian, Kal'tracyn, replied simply. Lethash, formerly of diplomatic nature himself, somewhat admired the Mandalorian's ability to hold utter contempt for minced words. He spoke little, and rarely without being prompted.
"He's locked away in a remote villa in the Tythonian wilderness, now entirely unattended. Say what you will about the jetti, but they're certainly not stupid. They'll only throw a select amount of their healers at this problem before they cut their losses and isolate him, let him die out where he won't be a danger to the rest of them. Looks like his credit has expired." He finished dryly.
Voltis nodded. "But what of the Jedi belief in compassion? Or their dwindling ranks? If this Master is valuable to them, surely they would be inclined to take the risk to save his life?"
"Do not be so sure." Lethash commented somewhat bitterly. "The Jedi are just as willing to abandon their own as the Sith. For benevolent knights of peace, they can be rather cold hearted."

An uncomfortable silence fell over the grand hall.
The Mandalorian shifted his weight expectantly, casting a glance from behind his helmet to the robed Miraluka, who was standing bolt still.
Lethash sat in silence, gazing off across the vast, planes of Shadren V's expansive southern continent, visible from the open air balcony of the upmost level of the royal palace. It seemed to go on forever.
"Thank you, Hunter, Apprentice Voltis, you may take your leave." He said finally, after several further long moments of deliberation.
"Very well, my lord." Kal'tracyn replied, offering the Sith a nod. His golden bes'kar glinted in the sun as he turned on his heel, the cape strapped to his shoulder flapping in the breeze as the Mandalorian left. He was never far away.
Voltis simply bowed, the veil over his eyes offering as little insight into his feelings on the matter as his expression.

Within moments, Lethash was alone once more. He didn't move for a long while.
So, Hawking was dead.
So far as details went, the story was sparse, even amongst the Jedi themselves, or so the informants would have him believe.
Lethash felt no satisfaction from the news, nor elation, nor even strictly sadness. The Jedi had been his partner, his fellow and his friend.
But even he was unable, or unwilling, to clear my name in the eyes of the Council.
And now he was dead. Not in battle, nor of advanced age, nor of simple accident(not that simple accidents befell Jedi Masters regularly), but of abandonment by his own, being left to die of an ancient plague alone and in isolation.
The Sith sighed, running a finger down the cybernetics that coated his face. Hawking had had a Padawan, by all accounts. Lethash wondered if she was to be treated any better.
Case closed, I suppose.
He had hoped to see, or perhaps confront, his old friend one last time. It seemed now he wouldn't get the chance.

But, the universe and the Force moved on, and stagnation was an unforgivable sin for a Sith to make. Perhaps he had been removed from the war and the universe for too long. Lethash stood, black and gold robes standing in stark contrast to the marble and sandy ochres of Dorian's palace.
Peace is a lie. He reminded himself as he checked his belt, ensuring the beautiful silver hilts of his two lightsabers were secure.

Time to get to work.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 01/04/16, 02:30:56 AM
One year after the Eternal Empire's invasion...

Aspasia swore quietly as she cradled her bloody arm.
If the Jedi attending her had heard her cursing, he gave no indication. The man merely tutted, lowering himself so that his eyes were in line with the long cut that adorned the girl's forearm. Not that said girl was content with being labelled as such anymore, now sitting at the respectable age of 12. Or, 12 and a half, as she repeatedly insisted.
The artificial lights in the Custodian's Watch seemed dim in comparison to the blazing sun of the world the Jedi had just returned from, Aspasia reflected. Her eyes still hadn't fully adjusted.
"Ow!" She clenched her jaw as pain lanced through her arm and shoulder.
"I did warn you, Initiate. This is a serious laceration, it was hardly going to be without pai-" The healer began. He was a portly man, a Mirialan, by all appearances. His tone suggested he was under the suspicion that she'd brought the injury on herself, just like all the others that had asked.
"It wasn't my fault! That bloody thing jumped up at me-"
"I hear it came off second best."
"Well, yeah..."
"You must have quite a right hook." The healer commented offhandedly. His bedside manner was well practiced, if nothing else.
Aspasia eyed him coolly. Sudden compliments. That meant-
"OUCH!" She saw a flash of silver, followed by a dark thread. "Is that a-"
"Needle? Yes, just so. We're a bit short on resources for our more advanced medical systems, and the senior healers are-"
"Yeah, I know," Aspasia replied grumpily, averting her gaze from her arm. She wiggled her butt backwards, shifting her weight on the cold steel bunk. "Ye told me already, remember? In a meeting."
"Mmmhm. I'm glad you'll listen to me, even if you seem less inclined to listen to the Knights who have the pleasure of being responsible for you planet-side."
"Mmm." Aspasia grumbled. She didn't bother trying to defend herself. She had pushed it, and she knew it.

A few minutes later she was on her way again, pattering barefoot on the cool steel walkways of the Watch's crew deck. She had stopped being dazzled by the cool blue lights of the corridors quite some time ago. The tapestries, crystals, banners, plants and other decorations had likewise lost their magic.
Living aboard a vessel that was forever on the run had lost its appeal. Aspasia had thought it would be endless excitement. It certainly had been in the early days, for the first few months, at least. There had been an edge of fear with every jump. Every planetfall had been thrilling, the negotiations tense, the missions swift. She had seen things that had blown her mind. New tastes, smells, sights and sounds that she had never thought she would see. A lot of it had been cool, very cool.

She blinked, emerging from her thoughts, finding herself standing in the intersection between the entrance to the  mission deck and the crew quarters, staring at a tapestry like a total dolt.
"Ow." She murmured, chancing a glance at her arm.
You must be strong, for you must lend your strength to others. She recalled the words of her class's teacher, one Master Darandan. She remembered the blank look on Mical's face as he'd been asked to give his thoughts on the statement. She'd decided he was okay. She was three years older than him, and they hadn't gotten on for the longest time, but, things were different when your social pool was as limited as hers was.
She had plenty of friends. Few in her class, truth be told, but she'd made friends elsewhere.
Miller Turlim was cool, even if she hated his smug grin sometimes. He was a friend of Master Shatari's, apparently. Knight Dassalya, too, even if the Mirialan reminded her, strangely, of her mother.
Dassalya's Padawan, Abethul, was more to Aspasia's liking. She wasn't much older than Aspasia herself, and she always seemed willing to chat, which Aspasia found equally odd and inspiring.
Knight Qardaak, Merrant, Knight Telline...even Master Farworlder.
Aspasia shrugged to herself. 'Spose there's worse people to be stuck on a big ship with. Wonder what Ashton woulda made of them...

She found herself wandering the corridors aimlessly. She had nowhere she needed to be for a few hours yet, and didn't much feel like inhabiting the archives or the shared quarters that all the initiates lived in. She found herself less and less able to connect with her peers. They were all three or four years her junior, and no matter how much she tried, she just couldn't talk to them. Not for long, anyway. 'coz they're kids. She reminded herself. She supposed she was, too. To the standards set down by the Republic and the Jedi, she was still very much a child, she had noticed. Back on Maguire, she would have been on the cusp of womanhood. Her train of thought was interrupted by the thumb of white-golden hair that fell across her eyes. She went to brush it away in frustration with her injured arm, and immediately swore loudly as the pain swept over her again.
"Stupid...bloody..." She muttered, before blowing the intruding fringe off of her face with a small huff, her eyes darting around to make sure she hadn't been heard. There was hell to pay for public expressions of anger at something so trivial.
Left...clear.
Right...clear.


Bzzzzzz.......WHUMP!
Suddenly she was on the ground.
Stars filled her vision, and her head swam.
Had she tripped over her robes? Gods, she hoped not, she'd made herself look like enough of a fool-
Oh, hyperspace.
She rolled onto her back and groaned.
Really, 'Spasia? Again? Its not that hard...look at a bloody clock, remember the jump schedule. She lay there for a time, uninspired to rise to her feet.
She wondered how Zarasmina was. She hadn't heard from the Padawan that had saved her life in close to a year. No-one had, to her knowledge. Last she had heard, Mina was still working on that case with the Ladies. Aspasia failed to see why, what with the silver, shark like Eternal Fleet and attached Empire providing a larger problem for the Republic. The Witches wouldn't be going anywhere, and neither would Zarasmina's master. He was dead, any doubt of that had been erased months ago.

Eventually, she fished around beside her on the wall for a handhold, and pulled herself back up. Aspasia glanced downward, taking the first good look at her injured arm. She'd been avoiding it. Less so because of the blood (Gods knew she had seen enough of that back on Maguire, it no longer phased her), but because of the guilt it elicited. The disapproving face of a variety of Jedi floated to the forefront of her mind, each one dispensing a bollocking for an infraction she had committed. Perhaps the excuse that she-hadn't-known-any-better had flown for a few months, but by now, even Aspasia herself would admit that she had crossed the line on a number of occasions. She couldn't quite put a finger on why. She'd always been headstrong, if she was totally honest. Her father had always referred to her as "his little Spitfire", just as often endearingly as disparagingly.
Maybe this was the result.
First comes the wounds...then maybe you'll really mess up.
I won't get kicked out of the Jedi. I can't. Not after Maguire.
They won't kick you out? I dunno...
I won't let myself be kicked out. She resolved.
It was all she'd wanted. All she still wanted. She could still see the brilliant blue of Zarasmina's lightsaber on Maguire, could still feel the heat it emitted as it, and the girl who wielded it, saved her life time and again. The steel she had seen in the Padawan's eyes, the compassion she'd seen in the eyes of the Jedi she'd met later...
I am a Jedi. Aspasia reassured herself, looking up from her injured arm.

"Initiate? Aspasia! You're ten minutes late for your lesson!" A booming voice echoed down the corridor.
Aspasia swore quietly.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 03/06/16, 08:53:12 PM
They came for them at midnight.

Pale moonlight shone through the open window, casting long shadows across their bedroom for the monsters to hide in. At the foot of her straw bed, in the gloom beneath Ashton's bed, beside the mantlepiece, but most of all in corner, where the shade was darkest. Aspasia wasn't stupid, she knew there were no creatures of the night in the dark of their room. The beasts were outside.
"No, please- My Lord, she's not- No, NO!" A man's voice, desperate and distant. A woman's sobbing. Aspasia shuddered, pulling her thin woolen blanket up to her eyes.
"On your feet, Triteki. ON YOUR FUCKIN' FEET!" A different man's voice, not desperate and afraid like the last. It was loud and gruff. A soldier. Ashton was still asleep. He'd always been able to do that, she'd never known how. She watched her brother's chest rise and fall slowly, trying to distract herself from what was happening only a few houses over.
"You look at me when I'm talking to you, you disgusting little mutant. Lord Moore has decreed that all Triteki are to be rounded up, and face due..."
The door to her room creaked open.
Her blood ran cold, and her heart stopped in her chest.
They're here for you now, you and Ashton. This isn't fair, I'm only 11, why don't they take Sarah, or Lani, or-

"Aspasia? Ashton?" Came a familiar, soothing voice.
Aspasia dared not sit up. Her breath quickened, blood pounding in her temples. Ashton murmured in his sleep, slowly rousing, a strange frown evident on his face.
"Young ones? Are you alright?" A dark figure entered the room, the door parting with a creak.
"...Da?" Ashton croaked, sitting up slowly.
You're a coward, 'Spasia.
The sound of wood splintering shattered the cold silence of the night, and a chilling scream went up from somewhere in the village, the wind carrying the echo far into the distance. Aspasia's gaze darted to the open window, the curtains fluttering like melancholy spectres in the breeze. She caught Ashton staring too, before they were both drawn back to the familiar figure that had entered the room. The infiltrator had drawn a match, exposing the concerned face of their father. Shadows danced across his features, the orange flame of the candle he now held illuminating a face that seemed to have more wrinkles on it by the day. Aspasia suspected not all of them were a result of old age. He had trimmed his lengthy greying beard. He never did that, unless it was for...

"Da, the screams of those people...the soldiers n' guards, they're..." Ashton blurted out, whispering loudly. Aspasia gazed across at him, but his face was murky, as though she couldn't quite make out his features. His hair was the same colour as her own, as white-golden as the sun itself, and his eyes were blue...but...
"I know, son." Their father replied quietly.
The year had gone so fast that Aspasia had forgotten. It had all been going so well, she'd rode and played in the summer, she'd learned her father's medicine techniques in the autumn, sat by the hearth and listened to his stories in the winter...but now came spring.
Now came the rains.
Now came the harvests.
Not new life...but death.

"It's the first day of Spring, my dears...the lunar cycle of the ladies."
Another scream from outside.
Aspasia gulped. She and Ashton exchanged glances. They were twins, and not all language between them was verbal.
"The...the Exodus..." Aspasia croaked.
"I know, sweetling. I know. Just try and go back to sleep..."
How many friends would she lose this year? She'd lost 3 last year, 2 the year before that, and her mother the year before that.
But she was safe. She and Ashton were safe, her father had promised that. They were the only kids in the village that were needed, he'd told them. Ashton would be a healer or a warrior, the best Maguire had ever seen, and she was to run the estate and find a husband.

Aspasia lay her head down on her pillow, pulling her blanket up around her, trying to stop her teeth from chattering. The temperature must have been well below zero, but that wasn't why she was shaking. Fear insidiously clawed its way up from her gut to her throat, settling there as a lump that refused to budge. She had never felt so cold. Ashton was asleep again in minutes, but still, her father remained at the end of her bed.
She felt time pass. The shadows stretched and bent immaterially. 
There was silence for a long, long time.
That's it, that's all they're takin' this year.
She almost believed it, too.

Thump.
Thump.
Thump.
Thump.


The sound of a drum.
It was close.
Aspasia frowned. REALLY close...weird. They normally play that to signal the arrival of the town's Lord. But it was far, far too early for Lord Moore to be up. Perhaps he was ill?
Aspasia sat up, confused...and then saw her father's face. Ashton, too, had woken again and was looking at the elderly village healer.
The look on his features was one she'd never seen before, and would never forget. Sheer, unabated terror.
"Da?" Aspasia asked hurriedly. She hopped up from her bed, and craned her head to nervously look out the window. They were on the second story, but she could still make out the ambient orange flicker of torches below.
"Get away from the window, Aspasia." Her father commanded quickly, a tone to his voice that was totally alien to her.
"Da, we're safe, right? You said we were safe, you promised we-"
"I don't know, sweetie. Lord Moore and his men are outside, they could be here for any reason."
Lord Moore's beaked face swam into her mind, all sharp angles and cold grey eyes.
Ashton hopped up from his bed, joining his father by the door. He only reached his old man's shoulders, but was evidently doing his best to be brave.
"He can't send us, father, he needs you. And you'll die before you let 'im take us, right? That's what you said to ma."
Aspasia gulped as the sound of the drums stopped.
"No-one is going to die tonight, son." Their father replied calmly, smiling down at his son.
He was lying, Aspasia knew. People had already died, and many more were about to. The Exodus was always preceded by the Night of Knives.
Ashton stuck his chin out solemnly, as he was known to do.  "If worst comes to worst, Da, 'Spasia and I will be okay on our own. Won't we, Spazzie?"
Aspasia nodded meekly. "Yeah."
Her Da smiled. "Too much of your mother in the both of ye...and I don't just mean the gift in your blood."

"HEALER CULLEN!"
Aspasia's father wheeled around slowly, freezing in place, facing the door.
"HEALER CULLEN!" Came the yell again. It was the angry voice from before. The soldier. "You and your Triteki children are to be down here in one minute, to be presented to his eminence Lord Moore! Should ye fail to comply, you will be punished!"
"Father..." Ashton asked blankly, turning as white as a sheet.
Aspasia felt the colour drain from her own face, and her vision tunneled.
"Get dressed. Now." Their father instructed, barreling out of their bedroom, rushing for his own.
Aspasia and Ashton looked at each other blankly, before madly stumbling over toward the dresser, blindly throwing on whatever clothing they could find in the darkness.
"We're dead." Aspasia gasped as she popped herself into a loose fitting dress that had been her mothers.
"We'll be okay." Ashton replied with as much courage as one could muster under the circumstances. Aspasia wished she could share his faith.

"TWENTY SECONDS, HEALER CULLEN!"
Aspasia and Ashton dashed down the stairs after their father, fear of what lay outside outclassed by the fear of what would happen if they stayed inside the house. They threw themselves out into the cold air, wooden door slamming shut behind them. Aspasia's gaze was leveled downwards, staring at the mud on her feet. She wiggled her toes, for what may have been the last time. The thought chilled her to her core.
She didn't hear what the soldier said initially, her brain disconnected from her senses. She felt as though she was dreaming. Finally, she looked up. In front of her stood a tall, hawkish man bedecked in furs and velvets. He wore a simple crown of iron on his balding head, but the true mark of his station came from his eyes. They were cold and grey, and indicated a total lack of time for anything and anyone. He was flanked on all sides by a phalanx of his guards dressed in black and red, bearing spears and other wicked implements of violence. Ashton stood beside her, totally silent. Her father stepped forward, clearing his throat nervously.
"My lord...to what do I owe the pleasure on this fine night?"
Moore eyed the man coldly, folding his hands behind his back. "You are well aware of why we stand before you, Healer Cullen."
Aspasia's gut lurched, and she quietly fiddled with a lock of golden hair that had fallen down over her forehead.
Her father laughed, voice strained. "Then I fear you must take me for a man of frightful foolishness or incompetent memory, my lord. I do not recall you mentioning any such visit."
Moore glanced to his nearest guardsman, the man who had been doing the yelling. "Monroe, remind Healer Cullen of his place. And then take his Triteki Children and put them with the others. His occupation will not shelter his mutant offspawn any longer."
The guards, Ashton, and her father all moved at once...

Everything exploded in an orgy of blood and violence.
Aspasia saw her father beaten down by the haft of a dozen swords, felt herself tugged away like a ragdoll, saw the flames of the torches reflected in Moore's cold eyes.
The world fell away, morphing and shifting. Faces and voices flashed past, screams and howls.

She saw the children, hundreds of them, all near naked and shivering and afraid.
She felt the violent, icy winds as they walked hundreds of miles for the forest.
She layed her hands on the stone cold corpses of the others as they died, one by one.
She heard the voices of the other Triteki in the forest; "The cave...it's safe...we need to go down...it calls to us..."
She heard Ashton, too, saving her, time and time again..."They're down there, Aspasia. The Ladies. They're down there, and they're hungry."
They learned the forest's secrets, resisted its lures, for so long...

And then the Jedi came.
She saw the dark haired man fight, saw him fall.
She saw the dark haired girl ride, felt Zarasmina's hand pull her onto the Dray.
She saw Ashton fall as he ran to catch up, tripping and burning in the fire that consumed everything, his blue eyes full of panic and fear, pleading to Aspasia to save him.
She saw the bloody spear that protruded from her father's back, saw the villagers butcher one another, saw the blood run in the streets, saw the smoke choking the horizon, saw the blade that was to end her life flash toward her...


Aspasia woke up screaming, tears stinging her eyes. She scrambled backwards, smacking her head on the bulkhead behind her sleeping quarters. She desperately clawed at her chest, hysterically searching for where the blade went in. She could feel it. The pain, the coldness, the terror, all lodged squarely in her heart.
They were dead, all of them-
You're on the Watch. You're on the Watch. You're on the Watch. She repeated in her head, looking around herself wildly, trying to calm down, still not quite believing it.
"You're on the Watch. Maguire is far away. They're all dead," She breathed quickly to herself. "It was just a nightmare....it was just a bloody nightmare, 'Spasia..."

Except it wasn't. She knew it wasn't. The Force allowed one to relive memories with perfect clarity in their sleep, intertwining the future and the past. It was no dream, but a promise.
She was going back. She had to go back. Every day she put it off, Maguire clawed its way back into her heart and her head, trying to drag her down into the abyss alongside itself.
Her breathing came back to her, shuddering and taught. Aspasia buried her face in her palms.
"Gods..."

(http://i.imgur.com/oK2JKsR.png)
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 03/20/16, 04:44:31 AM
Coruscant, Five and a Half Years after the signing of the Zakuul-Republic Treaty...

The chair was awfully uncomfortable.
It was all harsh angles and flat surfaces, utilitarian, not designer. It was, more likely than not, designed specifically to leave the person sitting in it feeling uncomfortable. Sergeant Lena Reuven, however, was not so easily cowed.

Conventional wisdom states that it is supremely difficult to win an argument with an intelligent person, but impossible to win an argument with a dumb one. The man sitting opposite her was living proof of the maxim, as she was slowly and rudely discovering. He was a spindle of a man, willowy and and slim, and unfortunately wearing the bars of a Captain in the Republic Army. Had he worked for the bars he wore, perhaps today would be going very differently.
“Now, Lena-”
“Sergeant.” Lena corrected stiffly, offering the man a thin smile.
“Right, Lena, we’ve known each other for quite a while, correct?” The man, a certain Captain Finnigan Dornier, inquired. He was bubbly and chipper, but not in an endearing way. Every word he spoke further reinforced both his inexperience and his superiority complex. The sandy mop of hair on his head seemed out of place, as though it had been unceremoniously lumped on his head and left there. His high, nasal, boyish voice did little but distract whomever he was talking down to on any given day.

“I suppose we have, sir, yes.” Lena replied patiently, sky blue eyes scanning the room.
The newly built barracks was nice, she noted. Sterile, unfriendly and utilitarian, but nice. Dornier had decorated the walls with Republic wartime posters and famous holoimages from the last two wars, as if in an effort to convince himself that he was supposed to be here.
If one were to look out of the window, one would be greeted with the imposing mountain of the Republic Senate, only a few blocks away. It was real estate worth killing for.
“Of course, we’ve not always seen eye to eye,” Dornier continued, offering Lena the most forced laugh she had ever heard in her 26 years of life, “But you have the respect of the company, Sergeant Lena. And you’re a smart woman...”
She suspected the comment was intended to enflame. She remained silent, but looked at Mac out of the corner of her eye, watching him shift, half opening his mouth to comment, before wisely deciding to close his mouth once again. He was seated beside her, also bedecked in the brown fatigues of the Republic Army, his normally scrappy beard trimmed into something more presentable.
“...which is why I’m sure your act of insubordination today was merely a misunderstanding, Lena. Am I correct?”
Lena remained silent.
Sergeant Mackenzie “Mac” Ellis gazed at her, clenching his jaw, before turning to regard Dornier. His turn to answer.
“Insubordination is a bit...harsh, don’t you think, Captain?” He said slowly, prompting the officer as though speaking to a child.
“I don’t know how long you’ve been in the Republic Armed Forces, Mackenzie, but, what Lena did today could be considered treasonous.” Dornier replied, leaning back in his fluffy leather chair, pouting slightly. His continued use of their first names irked Lena, but she also found it somewhat amusing that the man reprimanding them for disobeying code and conduct was so freely ignoring it himself.
“Sergeant…” Mac corrected quietly to himself, closing his eyes and wrinkling his nose in obvious frustration.
“I know the two of you come from the “Old Army” and have been thick as thieves for years, but, you serve under me now.” Dornier reminded them, steepling his fingers. His sleeves fell away to his elbows, the uniform he wore obviously a size too big. “And I expect only the best from my troopers. Our new supervisors saw fit to keep the Republic Armed Forces 99th Infantry Division intact due to meritorious actions against both the Empire and against the Eternal Empire in open battle, even in defeat. I may only run a company of this fine unit, but I intend to show them that keeping the 99th running was not a mistake.”
The meritorious action that the Captain mentioned equated to little more than surviving, by Lena’s reckoning.
“And, Lena, that means that I want every one of my troopers to play by the book, serve with honour, and do their comrades proud as a team player. To do that...you need to obey when your officer gives you a command.”
She wondered if it was possible for him to speak in something other than cliche, or whatever he’d heard sports personalities say in interviews.

Lena cleared her throat, and leaned forward, making sure not to blink. She steepled her fingers, laying her hands on the table between herself and Dornier.
“Now, sir, I feel the need to remind you that I followed your orders to the letter.” She said tactfully, not raising her voice.
Dornier went red in the face, eyes narrowing. He reminded Lena of the womp rats she’d chased around on her farm during her youth, before she’d learned that they made for good target practice.
“No, Lena, I told you to-”
“Sergeant. And yes, I know. You told me to lead the troops on a PT run.”
“Not. To. The. Red. Light. District.” Dornier squeaked stiffly, nearly tripping over his words.
Lena shrugged. “It was a solid twenty clicks there, sir. I figured they needed some rest.”
“Half of them came back-”
Mac leaned across the table, interceding on Lena’s behalf, with his usually perfect timing.
“Drunk?”
“Yes.” Dornier sniped back, black with rage.
“No sir, I can personally vouch for-”
“The Zakuulian emissary himself was visiting the barracks for inspection, Sergeant Ellis. What if he’d seen-”
“But he didn’t, sir. And the troops weren’t-”
“SILENCE!” Captain Dornier yelled shrilly.
Mac and Lena exchanged glances, and then fell silent.
Don’t laugh. It’s not that funny. You laugh, he’ll hang you out to dry.
“I will not tolerate back talk in my company, Sergeant Ellis!”
Mac gazed at him silently.
“The Eternal Empire has given us a very good deal, Troopers. The Republic is still here, her fleets still stand, as do her armies, which have never been better trained or-”
“Better lead, sir?” Lena asked quietly, a thin smile on her face.
The comment caught Dornier off-guard. His brow wavered, and Lena knew that she had him.
“Well, yes, Lena. I’m glad you think so.” He replied seriously, head slowly bobbing up and down in what approximated an empathetic nod.
She smiled again, but said nothing, letting the silence hang.

Captain Dornier cleared his throat, and attempted to straighten his moppish mess of hair.
“Now, troopers, I’m glad we could iron this out. But, you need to understand that I can’t let the two of you off easily.” He warned, wagging a thin, bony finger at the two soldiers. “I have no option but to write you both an official reprimand, and give you both a warning. I won’t tolerate soldiers who can’t follow orders, understood?”
Lena held back a smile. “Yes sir, understood.”
Mac nodded. “Understood, Captain.”
“Good...good.” Dornier humped a few random sheets together and tapped them on the table, clearing his throat as he did so.
“Is that all, sir?” Mac prompted gently.
“Oh, yes. You can go.”
Mac stood up, brushing himself down. Lena moved to follow, she didn’t want to be here for a moment longer than necessar-
“Sergeant Rueven?”
Damnit.
“Sir?”
“Take a seat. You can go, Mackenzie.”
Lena exchanged glances with Mac. He offered her the wink of a liberated man.
“See you downstairs in thirty.”

“Mmmhmm.” Lena turned back to face Dornier, crossing one leg over the other. She folded her hands in her lap expectantly, hoping to rush the little weasel along.
He stared at her awkwardly for a few moments, a strange half-smile on his face, watery blue eyes scanning over every nook and cranny of her features.
“I’ve always liked that stud.” He said finally, breaking the silence in such a way that she wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He spoke in reference to the small silver nose stud she wore on her right nostril, a souvenir from a boy back home, one who was now long dead.
“Thank you, sir.” Lena replied testily.
The captain had either missed the tone to her voice or decided to ignore it, and continued on. “Now, I’ve got some news for you...but, first...” He clasped his hands and leaned in, just like the civvies at the bars liked to do, “I wanted to ask you about your service on Balmorra. Tell me about it.”
“Which campaign, sir? I served a few tours on Balmor-”
“The most recent one, before Zakuul.”
“Ah.”
“You sound bitter, Lena.” Dornier cooed, looking perplexed.
“Well, not to sugarcoat it, sir...but we got our hides whooped. I lost a lot of friends.”
“Mmm...how many of...you are still serving? Those who were there, during Operation Stranglehold.”
It was now Lena’s turn to be caught off-guard. She hid it better than he had, but, the comment struck her as odd. It was as though he simultaneously knew both more and less than he was letting on.
“Couldn’t count them on one hand, Captain, but, not many. Myself, Mac, Shady- uh, Tee-Sarge Jensen, Lieutenant Walker, Corporal Clark, Corporal Ilyushin…” She trailed off when she realised he wasn’t listening. His eyes were fixed on her.
“You knew General Stravka, right, Sergeant?”
Sergeant. Not Lena.
“...Yes, sir. She was from Carthias, same as me.”
“Small world.”
“More than you might think, Captain…” She replied cautiously. Where was he going with this?
“Hahahahaha!” He exploded in laughter, clapping his hands together.  “I’m just messing with you, Sergeant. I do have news for you, though.”
Lena stared at him with the cold, practiced, laser like gaze of the non-commissioned officer, able to freeze a wayward private in his tracks from two miles.
“I suggest you get the point, Captain.” She said bluntly.
“Mmm...it’s about your brother.”
Her blood froze. Balmorra…
“I-”
“No no. Tell me about it. Polarion.”
“150,000 Republic troops, myself included, attacked over three miles of open ground and across a river against a position fortified by a 10,000 man crack Imperial division, without air support and with limited armour, while the Imperials had both in ample supply.” She said flatly.
“Right out of the history book.” Dornier replied dryly, sounding bored. He pointed his index finger at her.
“I want to hear about the experience. You outnumbered them by over ten to one, you’d shelled them for three days straight prior to the attack…”
Lena felt her blood rise. This asshole wanted the narrative. He wanted his grand war story.
“‘And then when we were routed. We threw everything we had into the meat grinder, because Stravka was dead and her replacements were incompetent and pressed for time. We made a frontal, head on attack, right into the Nexu’s jaws. And, shockingly, we got chewed up, Captain.”
She realised she was hissing, and made a mental note to avoid it in future. As of right now, she  couldn’t give a damn about looking bad.
“92,336 killed or died of wounds, a further 3,000 and something wounded...many others captured...but not you. You and your unit made it out. Guess that makes you pretty lucky, huh, Lena?” He mused.
Lena curled her hand into a fist.
“Not that the Imperials did much better. Records say that the First Marine Division nearly got wiped out...the famous, Imperial Hero Ralakan Walker and his buddies only just made it out, same as you, part of the lucky few.”

Surely this was more than him regurgitating a few numbers. The dulcet tones, the condescending edge...she was regurgitating information he already knew.
“You were there, weren’t you?” Lena asked, biting her lip, calming herself down.
“A mystery for another time, Lena.” Dornier replied airily, nasal voice disseminating any air of enigma that his phrase may have elicited.
“What about Stefan-”
“Your brother? I’ve decided I don’t want to tell you. Not yet, anyway. You didn’t follow my orders, and you should feel the ramifications of your actions. Think of it as a learning experience. Are we clear?”

She stood, brushing down her oak brown uniform.
Dornier reached over to shake her hand. “Good, wouldn’t want us to part on bad term-”
She punched him.
The brutal jab caught him right in the jaw, eliciting an ear splitting crack. The little man crumpled, shocked into silence, toppling from his chair and hitting the floor with a thud. Lena didn’t stick around to watch him fall. She spun on her heel, composed herself, and strode out into the hallway. Dornier’s moans of pain trailed her as she walked.

The nearest speeder was five minutes away, the closest bar another four atop that.
If she was going to cop hell, she was going to do it while as drunk as possible...not that alcohol agreed with her overmuch. Or at all, really.
Time to see who was faster, her squadmates, or the military police.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 06/10/16, 07:30:43 PM
BELSMUTH II
VALEFOR EXPEDITIONARY FORCE CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS FACILITY - "FORT WHITLAM"
FIVE YEARS, NINE MONTHS AFTER THE ZAKUUL-IMPERIAL TREATY

(http://i.imgur.com/6XNpDDp.jpg)

The snow was light today.
The flakes danced on the breeze as they fell toward the earth, coming to land on the buzzing sea of black and gold figures below. The alpine spring air was crisp and clean, refreshing and rejuvenating, but also electrified. The buzz of excitement hang thickly, every man and woman drinking deeply from the ambient energy. Nervous smiles were cast to one another, winks and quiet jokes, anxious comments and easy reassurances. Today was the day. For four years they had trained, the first of their class. Despite himself, Colonel Ralakan Walker felt the butterflies dance in his stomach. He had been to his fair share of pre-operational orations during his 15 years of military service (He'd given many himself), but nearly every one of those had been underscored by a feeling of unease and euphemism. The objectives laid out had been grandly postured and decisively taken out of strategic context, leaving the nebulous political goals of the Imperial war machine on the side-lines. Today, it seemed, was a new day.

They had been assembled division by division on the immense landing pad of Whitlam Base, preparing to embark to the the fleet above. The navy sat in low orbit above the heads of the newly minted soldiers. The great grey and silver jackknifing hulks of the Terminus destroyers and Harrower dreadnaughts that had been "liberated" from various formerly Imperial naval units and shipyards during Zakuul's invasion sat alongside a variety of other craft, local designs from the conquered territories that now made up the Valefor's League of states. The mass of ships, however, paled in comparison to the colossal black behemoth that dwarfed even the mightiest Imperial vessel in the sky. The Vepar "Super" Harrower, assembled at the shipyards above Shadren V itself, crowning glory and pinnacle of the Valefor's efforts. It was often said in the Valefor's territories that so long as the Vepar's heart beat, so did the heart of the League. Ralakan saw no reason to disagree with the sentiment.

Ralakan himself stood in the front row of the immense group of troops and material, freshly shaven and trimmed, wearing the black and gold body armour of the Valefor Expeditionary Force. His helmet was cradled under one arm. Going to be enjoying the luxury of recycled and filtered air for the next two weeks, no substitute for the real thing. He surmised. Best to enjoy the fresh scents of the Belsmuth alps whilst he could. They were currently some kilometer and a half above sea level, standing on a grand metal palisade built into the side of a mountain, intended to accommodate landing destroyers. Were one to walk in a straight line in any given direction, they would be met with open air, and a drop some several hundred meters down into the forested valleys below. Ralakan shifted his weight to the other foot and let out a quiet sigh, anxiously anticipating the "something" to come. Said "something" was to be their official mission statement. The entire Expeditionary Force had been mobilized, all 250,000 men and women from across the territories drawn up and ordered to report for immediate preparation. The transports had been travelling to and from the fleet for the last few days, like a giant escalator leading to the heavens, ferrying troops and material to a destination hitherto unknown.

The troops bustled and chatted, white noise, perhaps. Friends exchanged promises, optimists forecasted successes,  pessimists offered their grim predictions, and the veteran NCOs dispersed smacks to the backs of heads. They were untested, Ralakan reflected. Exceptionally trained, but untested. It was an achievement that they were here at all. The tattered remnants of the units that had fled Imperial space to take refuge in the relative security of the Valefor's territories had all been coming apart at the seems. The 1st Marine Division had numbered only 1,100 of it's original 10,000, the various Imperial Army divisions not much better. One unit had been surviving on a single contingent of infantry no larger than 200 bodies, the rest being cooks, clerks and support staff. It had been nicknamed "Task Force Typewriter". The navy had been little better, the ships in poor shape and manned by exhausted skeleton crews. Fighter wings were crippled. Logistical systems had been non-existent, and the threat of a Zakuulian pursuit had been a boogeyman that had been a very real, very persistent fear that had hung over the heads of everyone. In realistic terms, the exhausted and discordant Imperials had not been fit to guard the pantry from ravenous children, let alone several isolated sectors from marauders, rogue Republic units, or from the finest automated fleet in the galaxy under Arcann.  Darth Lethash had ordered that the old insignia be abandoned, old protocols and channels wiped, old modus operandi dispensed with. These Imperial units had died with the old Empire, he had declared, but they could be reborn as something stronger, something better. The Valefor was comprised of an intricate set of diplomatic ties between a variety of system states, all helmed by Sith Warlords who ultimately answered to the council helmed by Darth Lethash. Each of these Warlords had their own military forces, naturally, but would now be required to provide men and material for a new, united force that was to be the mailed fist of the League. Intended to fight as a conventional military force, but also as a means of keeping unruly Warlords in line, the Valefor Expeditionary Force was born from the hodge-podge ashes of the old Imperial military.

Ralakan glanced about himself. The men and women surrounding him were predominantly human, owing to the demographics of the region. The Belsmuth sector and surrounding systems had been an Imperial backwater, mostly agrarian or industrial, as their accents testified. The stiff upper lip of the Dromund Kaasian aristocracy was now few and far between, unfamiliar to the ears, as was the working class drawl of Dromund Kaas, Dromund Fels and Ziost's middle and lower classes. The strong Imperial accents still survived amongst the veteran officers and NCOs who had fought in the last war, and was often audible during moments of severe chastisement to a bumbling lesser. He reflected quietly. Few fighting men had been drawn from here for the Imperial military, or at least for the Marine Corps, so far as he could remember. Many of those around him currently had been drafted, to fill the severely depleted rosters. It had certainly taken some getting used to. For the first year he had been constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting to see Lorraine, Reinel or Regus, but was more oft than not greeted instead by a wide eyed and confused looking young man or woman clutching a rifle like a farming implement. They came from a dozen worlds across Valefor space. Some spoke tongues other than Basic, or had complexions and colourings that had been rare back in the Empire. But, we're all fighting for the same home, now, whether we were born into it or adopted it.

"Soldiers of the VEF, eyes front! Your Lord Commander addresses you!" Someone shouted out.
Ralakan glanced back to the front, where the imposing figure of an Echani stood atop a parked transport. His hair was the colour of the snow that fell from above, cybernetics marred his features, and he wore a billowing crimson cape attached to his black body armour. Two silver lightsabers hung from his belt. Excited whispering broke out amongst the ranks. A few of the newer men whispered questions to their Colonel.
"Colonel Walker, sir, is that the High Warlord?"
"Correct, Corporal."
"Bloody hell."
Ralakan smiled. Some astutely noted that this man cut a magnificent figure, silhouetted by the alpine ranges behind him. This was certainly not the first time Ralakan had seen Darth Lethash, but, he did concede that ever since taking the role of High Warlord, the Sith had undergone something of a personal redesign. His voice echoed across the vast open space of the landing pad, no doubt making use of the Force to enhance his oratory ability.

"You come from many different worlds, from many more different nations, and from incalculably more individual homes. You may have once named yourself a Crendian, a Dromund Kaasian, a farmer or an Imperial commando. As of this moment, you are those things no longer. As of this moment, you are a soldier of the Valefor's hegemony, a peacekeeper of our territories, and an enforcer of our will. But ten years ago, the very mountain you stood on was uninhabited. As of five years ago, the planet on which you stand was but a backwater. You have built Belsmuth II into the finest military bastion in the outer rim. As it was reborn, so were you. We entered this crucible as a thousand divided entities, but exited it as a interlinked chain of iron. The last vestiges of the old, false Empire have been burned away, and in its ashes, we have built something better. Your families are richer than they have ever been. None struggle for food or work. They are safer. None worry for the raiders that once reaved these worlds. This was your work. Whether you once named yourself Imperial or otherwise, you have built this League, and now you must fight to protect what you have built. The way of life you have constructed is under threat from enemies internal and external, and now, we fight to defend it."

Nice speech. Ralakan noted, pursing his lips. Lethash wasn't wrong, however. Ralakan had never felt truly comfortable fighting for the Empire. He had been a cog in an infinitely greater wheel that was killing for the wrong reasons. He'd kept fighting only for the sake of the other cogs. He wasn't naive, the Valefor was run by a council of warmongering Sith, but things were better. Non-Sith had the ability to voice their opinions in a way that the Empire had never allowed, and what Lethash had said about the economic and cultural success of the League was, as far as he could tell, true. For the first time in many years, he'd had peace of mind regarding the safety of his own family, for his wife and two new children, as strange a concept as that was.
But what's the rub? You don't mobilize the full strength of a united military force only to commend them on their ability to not get wiped off the map.

Lethash's voice turned cool and serious. "The neighbouring Demetras sector is a grave threat to our security. Their systems are in uproar. Revolutions and civil wars explode across their worlds. This sector was a peaceful one, make no mistake, but should they codify in favour of the false Empire, Republic or Eternal Empire, our borders will be direly threatened. Our worlds will come next, and our enemies will need only step across the minuscule gap between our sectors. Order must be restored to the sector. The old regimes have fallen, and the slate is now clean for new masters to engrave their will. And thus, I turn to you, troopers. We must liberate these peoples and induct them into our League, for our mutual securities. Success in this campaign will bring prosperity to our peoples, and to theirs. You will have the full support of the Valefor's resources, and that of the forces under the command of her Warlords. Time is of the essence."

Ralakan watched in silence, contemplating the rhetoric. It made sense. Unstable neighbours made for an awkward neighbourhood, and the Valefor did not have the raw strength of the Republic or Empire. What he was less sure about was the concept of "liberation". This would be called an intervention or a liberation, but the local peoples would view it as invasion the second the great hulks of the Valefor's navy appeared in their skies. It would be a war for hearts and minds as much as it was for ground. Doubt we'll be the most popular kids in class after this. Ralakan went to scratch his beard as he oft did when troubled, only to find the smooth surface of his face.

Lethash placed his hands palm-in-palm behind his back, looking down upon the legions in front of him with austerity. "You will embark to the fleet in the coming hours, and Operation Thunderbolt is to commence in two weeks. I will be giving this campaign my personal oversight." That comment elicited a number of whispers throughout the crowd. The veterans amongst the crowd did not break their gaze, but Ralakan could almost hear their brows lowering. Darth Lethash was a shrewd tactician and an accomplished negotiator, but the prospect of a Sith dictating this endeavor did little to ease Ralakan's conscience.
"Fortune be with you, troopers, and may the Force serve you."

The Vepar loomed in the sky like a bird of prey, and thus, it had begun.

(http://i.imgur.com/XjYGH3c.jpg)
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 07/27/16, 07:38:05 PM
Conventional wisdom states that if one's body cannot tolerate alcohol, one should probably not attempt to get trashed after a day in which everything had been predestined from the start to be a total shitshow.

Sergeant Lena Rueven, however, was nothing if not persistent. She was not normally a foul tempered woman. Indeed, her buddies and those under her command often noted that she was one of the few people that stayed consistently zen and rock-like both in the field and when off-duty, only raising her voice when the ambient volume reached peak levels. Today, however, she glared down at the bottle on the counter, fiddling with it, silently taking out all of her frustration on the glass implement with the force of a thousand thunderously passive aggressive volcanoes. The neon lights of the Coruscanti bar made it difficult to tell the time of day or night, but Lena figured she'd been out for longer than intended. To complicate matters she was still clad in the brown off-duty uniform of the Republic Army's non-commissioned ranks that she was wearing as she had wordlessly stormed from the barracks in the Judicial sector into the open air of Coruscant.

The luminescent glow of the neon lights had started to hurt her eyes. With it had come a pounding headache that refused to abate, having encroached on her like a spectre, strangely coinciding with the starting point of the evening's drinking endeavors. The bar, a smaller venue in the Old Market district, was not hotly occupied. It was a week night, and as was the norm since Zakuul had assumed control, curfew was in effect. A few layabouts and aliens of ambiguous cultural background were yet huddled around tables or drooped across bars, but Lena sat alone on a stool, silently cursing her head, Lieutenant Dornier, Zakuul, Saresh, but mostly herself for attempting to ingest alcohol. She shifted her weight, resting her head on her upturned hand, dark brown hair flopping loosely with the movement. Maybe closing her eyes would help to stop the pounding in her skull.
Nope.
Damn.
She could almost see her father, dressed in his comical overalls, grimy jeans and work boots, offering her a wry remark about the wisdom of her actions. Something like; "Nice to see you makin' friends, honey." or "Who needs enemies when you've got buddies like these?" No doubt he'd see it as some sort of hokey farm wisdom.

Lena's eyes perked up as she heard the familiar rhythmic beats of boots marching in unison, the steady pat-pat-pat-pat echoing off of the durasteel walkways outside. Slowly, she turned around on the bar stool.
If those boots belong to members of the Military Police, she was in trouble. Or was she? This was her first offence, so far as she knew. She'd fought valiantly and nobly for her Republic across Balmorra and a few other lesser known systems, and as far as Lena was aware, her file had never been laid on the desk of anyone she ought to be concerned about. Not that many of those people represented the Republic anymore. If the good God was listening, he took mercy on her, and the boots continued on into the distance.

The God her people had venerated, however, had not been merciful to the Republic. Whilst her world, a small agricultural breadbasket of little note called Carthias, had only been added to the grand collection of free planetary states some few generations earlier, it hadn't been safeguarded from the onslaught of the Eternal Empire of Zakuul and its fleets. Lena and her millions of comrades had fought desperately against the Zakuulians all the way back to the Core Words. As exhausted as they had been after a number of major campaigns against the Empire under Saresh, there was still hope amongst the troops that things could be turned around. But things had quickly deteriorated, until it was clear even to the noblest of optimists (whom Lena counted herself amongst), that this was not to be a winnable conflict.
And even now, some time after the Republic's capitulation, the battles were still being lost. They were not battles fought between millions of men and women, however, but rather between jaded Republic NCOs and the new caste of officers, most of whom got their commission by brown nosing their nearest Zakuulian official. By Lena's estimations, the two made for the bitterest of adversaries. Until today, she had merely watched on with passing interest, continuing to do her job to the best of her abilities, not that Zakuul made that easy, either.

A pang of pain and nausea made itself apparent in her gut, and Lena groaned inadvertently, garnering the attention of the bartender. It appeared her stomach had joined in open rebellion. She frowned.
"Goddamnit."
The bartender, an elderly human fellow, meandered over at the sound of her voice.
"Strange accent on you, trooper. Everything alright?" He asked, tone gruff but familiar, much like that of a well versed grandparent.
"Yes, fine. Dandy." Lena replied, and offered the man a strained smile and a thumbs-up.
His cool grey eyes seemed unconvinced, but still held a mirth to them that Lena found surprising. He stooped over the bar, leaning in. The Sergeant half expected the old man to throw out his back in the process.
"Now," He looked at her shoulders, scanning for insignia, "Sergeant, I don't mean to alarm you, or to turn away good business when I see it, but it appears you'll soon be in no state to return to your barracks. I've not seen you around here before, but, you seem like a good girl. I'd hate for you to be welcomed by the nightly patrols like they welcome forks in their underwear."
Lena smiled wryly.  "Specific example."
The bartender winked. "I figure there must be something stuck up their hind quarters nowadays, and if not an assortment of silverware...well, your guess is as good as mine. My my...what this place was like not even 5 years ago. There was electricity in the air and spirit in the people...now, well..."
"Now we have Zakuul." Lena replied quietly.
"Now we have Zakuul." The bartender echoed.
An easy silence hung in the air for a few moments as Lena and the bartender exchanged weary smiles.



The air was surprisingly crisp in the Coruscanti night.
The boulevards, speederports and walkways of the Old Market sector were nearly derelict. This place had once been a major hub of the region’s nightlife, but now the vibrant street lights illuminated only empty durasteel passageways. Lena walked the quiet sector aimlessly for a time, occasionally taking a sharp turn or detour to avoid catching the eye of a patrol, Zakuulian or otherwise. The fresh air had helped clear her head, at the very least. She had never really acted the rebel before, and now that she had tried it on, she had decided that it didn’t really fit her.
Lena dug her hands into her pockets as she walked through a merchant arcade, kicking absently at the litter that had begun to congeal on the street outside of the various closed shops that dotted the area. The Zakuulians had promised the Republic unity, and in a bitter twist of fate, had succeeded. The Republic credit had dropped by magnitudes, the economy gutted alongside the military. Everyone was slowly reaching the same point of desperate poverty, it seemed.
Lena paused in front of one shop, a bakery she’d once bought a cup of caf from. The windows were shuttered over haphazardly, attempting to cover the clearly shattered glass. The door had been bolted closed, a faded piece of laminated paper stuck to the steel of the entrance, proclaiming it unfit for service or some such.
More likely the proprietor had a disagreement with the local authority. Lena reflected solemnly, sky blue eyes scanning the building up and down. She’d seen what happened to those who spoke out too loudly about the new regime, especially within the military. Their leash was shorter, and was getting shorter by the day.

She set off again, glancing up at the flickering street lights as she went. History and her general knowledge of the area told her that it was a lingering remnant of the last force to occupy Coruscant. The Works beneath this sector was severely damaged by Sith bombardment during the sacking, which marked the end of the Great War. It may as well have been a thousand years ago. To the people still living here, whose ships now dotted the sky was evidently inconsequential. They’d suffered through over a generation of war already, and at least Zakuul seemed somewhat interested in repairing Coruscant’s infrastructure. Her thoughts wandered in tandem with her feet and her eyes as she took her surroundings. The arcade soon gave way to a sweeping mezzanine that offered a stunning view of the Coruscant cityscape. Lena found herself standing by the railing, gazing off into the endless lights. She sighed, and hooked a foot through one of the horizontal beams, leaning on the steel support heavily. She slid a carton of military cigarettes from her breast pocket, fingers dancing across the thin white cylinders, before arbitrarily selecting one.
It met her lips like an old friend, hanging there limply whilst she lit it. Within moments, the smoke was filling her lungs.

The great democracy was still there, in some form or another. Coruscant still stood, as did the majority of the Republic worlds. Zakuul had little need of examples in that respect, only a few worlds had felt the full fury of their war machine. But the people had lost faith. The war against their ancestral enemy, the Sith Empire, had been all but won. And then Zakuul showed up. Cooler heads failed to prevail, and then millions died in fruitless campaigns. Saresh had thrown bodies at Arcann, hoping her wall of corpses would keep out the invaders. Sufficed to say, the harder they’d pushed, the more constricting the fingers around their throat had become.
And the Jedi. The mystical robed heroes, paragons of virtue, defenders of the innocent.
Where had they gone?
Lena didn’t know. They were sworn to protect the Republic. Does that include protecting it from itself?
Many, many Jedi had been killed alongside the soldiers. Their numbers had dwindled and withered, until they’d all but disappeared. One of Lena’s comrades had grimly joked, towards the end, that seeing a Jedi in the wild was like seeing a Krayt Dragon. Eventually, they stopped seeing them all together. Maybe they’d disappeared to join this rumoured “Alliance”, fighting for galactic freedom against Zakuul? Lena scoffed quietly. A nice dream...hard to say if it’s anything more. She glanced up, a sad half-smile on her face. The cigarette hung limply, trailing smoke laziliy into the crisp night air. Her eyes took in the gleaming lights and buzz of Coruscant, but all she saw was a broken, defeated world, full of broken, defeated people. The bartender had been right. The spirit had been bled from the Republic.

Slowly, as she stared out into the heart of the Republic, the realization dawned on her.
There’s nothing for me here, not anymore.
Lena exhaled, long and deeply. She plucked the cigarette from her mouth, and callously flicked it off the edge.
Where had the Jedi gone? Was this alliance a real, tangible thing? And, more importantly, were they hiring?
Sergeant Lena Reuven had no idea, but she intended to find out.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 01/15/18, 02:08:32 PM
He’d looked for her.

High, low, near, far; she’d eluded him all the way. Sometimes he’d been close (he’d seen her on the far side of a crowd, once), and other times the trail had stopped cold and dead. But he trusted the Force; it had created a bond between he and Zarasmina that extended beyond the words they’d spoken to begin the apprenticeship, as it did with all students and masters of the Jedi. No matter how thin the thread of that bond may have seemed at times, Master Hawking Shatari had never doubted that it would finally lead him and his Padawan back together again. The universe, however, was a rather big and random place that tended to do as it saw fit as part of fulfilling the Force’s greater plan, and as such was not a particularly conducive place for one man searching for his (formerly) teenaged student.

::


Hawking flopped into the pilot’s seat of his too big and too empty Corvette, the Aurochs. The angry looking security forces were barrelling into the dusty private hanger with their weapons raised, but Hawking wasn’t bothered. He flipped a switch, raising the boarding ramp mounted in the ship’s underbelly, which elicited a chorus of swearing in thick, nigh indecipherable Huttese from the rabble below. A blaster bolt slammed into his viewport, fizzling away against the hardened plexiglass. The good Hutts, he’d learned today, had long memories for their friends, and even longer memories for their enemies. The planet his search had lead him to, a delightful hellhole called Diyu, was full of slaves and criminals who lacked a sense of humour. None of them had lacked a sense of humour more than the head honcho, a particularly slimy Hutt called Geero who had a thing for young slave girls. Word on the street had been that he was haemorrhaging “cattle”; someone had been working from the inside to help slaves get off-world. Hawking had come dressed in some “liberated” fine dress wear, putting on the airs of a private royal buyer. As he’d found out, however, tuxedos did not make for good fighting gear. Worst of all, he reflected flatly as he begun to prime the engines, his bowtie hadn’t survived the adventure.
A series of beeps from behind him distracted him from his grumbling. Hawking craned his neck over the back of the seat. “Hello Teeseven.” Hawking said with a smile. The diminutive astromech droid lazily rolled in through the doorway to the cockpit, beeping what the Jedi took to be the droid equivalent of a grunt.
“[Bearded Jedi = alive. T7 Emotions and Logic Core readout = mild surprise, mild relief.]”
“Good to see you too.” Hawking muttered. More blaster shots pinged off the viewscreen as he double checked that his ailerons hadn’t been ripped off by that Gundark after all.
Neither of them said anything for a long few moments. Hawking heard the mooks beneath him trying to bash away at his landing stalks with the butts of their rifles. The less intrepid security personnel continued shooting.
“[Bearded Jedi = Found leads on Z?]” T7 beeped, rolling himself over to regard Hawking with a penetrating glare from his red optical lens. Hawking paused, wondering if he should bother sugar coating it for the droid.
“No. Nothing.” He admitted, offering the droid a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, buddy. She wasn’t here, and I didn’t find anything out from the slaves or the slavers that we didn’t already know.”
T7 beeped sadly. He had belonged to Zarasmina. Or maybe they’d belonged to each other? Hawking had been shocked when he’d returned to find T7 still with the ship. The droid would have followed her anywhere.

There was a sudden bang from across the far side of the hangar. Hawking glanced up from his instruments.
“Ah. Speaking of the slaves…” He said with a smile. The Hutt goons stopped shooting at his ship. Nice of them. Whooping and hollering echoed off the walls of the hangar, audible even inside the cockpit. A sea of people of all shapes, sizes and species dressed in brown surged through the door. Blasterfire streaked out from the crowd. Ah, so they had found the armoury. Hawking heard a series of girlish screams, and glanced at the Aurochs’ proximity cameras. The security guards had dropped their weapons and were running around like headless chickens.
“Probably time we make our exit.”
“[Slaves = free. Geophysical location of Hutt criminal elements = ?]”
“Not our problem,” Hawking smiled, “I just let them out and had a few quiet words with them. Geero is in for quite the evening.” Hawking keyed the engines. The Corvette lifted off the ground and lazily turned around, the nose pointing out of the hangar towards the star filled sky that lay above the harsh dunes of the planet.
“Still haven’t quite fixed the starboard traversal thrusters, huh?” He inquired, glancing at the camera to check whether they were firing. A Hutt goon accidentally tripped and disappeared off the sheer drop outside the hangar in an attempt to grab onto the Aurochs’ retracting landing stalks. The rest of the security force had been rounded up and secured in a shipping container. Hawking had made sure to impart onto the leader of the revolt that most of the mooks were just hired guns and wouldn’t be too interested in dying for Geero. He hoped the slaves would remember that.
“[Task difficulty magnitude = 8.5x without Z.]” The droid retorted.
“Spot on.” Hawking murmured in reply, hitting the thrusters. The Defender Corvette streaked out of the hangar and turned starside. Diyu had been a bust, like every other world before it. Maybe he needed to vet his information better. And yet, every lead he had said she was in Hutt Space.
“All yours, Teeseven,” He said as he spun around in the chair to get up, “stay the course for now. I’m going to make some calls and meditate, figure out our next move.” The droid beeped a flat, unenthusiastic reply as he plugged into the central flight systems. He hadn’t been the same since she’d gone. Hawking knew how he felt.

He wandered the ship aimlessly for a time, trying to get all the information straight in his head. The bathroom held no answers, nor did the meeting room. The holoroom had long been silent (an emitter of that size was too easy to track), and his own quarters had laid largely untouched for half a decade now. The ornaments, souvenirs and other exciting things that adorned his walls had once been milestones for him; all taken from battlefields and strange far flung worlds and ancient ruins. Now, they were mundane, barely more than curios fit for sale at a strange stall in a Nar Shaddaa market, perhaps. Of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen, at least 7 of these things had the potential to decimate entire populations, but-

He ran a hand through his hair. He had valued the quiet of his ship, for a long time. It made thinking easy. In a galaxy torn apart by warfare, it was a peaceful place. But now the war he’d grown up with was done. Replaced with another, which had in turn been replaced with another, which had in turn given way to total subjugation of the galaxy, which had then, finally, ended with the uneasy period of calm they now found themselves in. But it wasn’t victory. In some ways it was even more of a challenge. Tython was devastated, the Order shattered and scattered. The few remaining Jedi could have been anywhere. The whispers he’d heard indicated that many were still hiding; some in the wilderness of fringe worlds, others in the impossibly big crowds of megacities. And yet…he’d abandoned the ones he could locate. The Custodum Enclave. Hawking sighed. That was going to be an awkward reunion. He’d told himself that he was doing the right thing, that more Jedi needed to be found and returned to the fold lest the Order collapse. He’d start with his own student, to prove he could do it, and to make finding the others easier…stupid. Iaera wouldn’t have a bar of that. Maybe it was time to admit he’d been lost in his own hubris.

And yet, Zarasmina was out there. The Force told him that for certain. She was alive, although severely lost. But lost where? Certainly no more lost than he himself felt now. No, if he knew his Padawan, she’d be right in the thick of it. She wouldn’t let something as pesky as total collapse of the civilized galactic order get in the way of helping people who needed help, whether they wanted said help or not. Maybe it was time to check out Lead Whynot, so named due to his belief that had he not found Zarasmina by the time this place looked likely, that was the only thing left to say. It was a tragic place. In truth now half a place, after the planet had shaken itself apart. Between the plight of its original inhabitants in the old war, and now the overwhelming burden placed on its already shattered surface by the hopeless refugees of the new war, it was a place that seemed to attract suffering. Hawking paused on the cold steel bulkheads of the Corvette, and then spun on his heel, heading for the cockpit with new determination. It was just the kind of place you might find a Jedi.

“Teeseven, plot us a course for Makeb.”
The droid seemed unimpressed. “[Makeb = structurally unsound. Value since extraction of isotope5 reserves = little. Calculated likelihood of encountering Z = 0.0054%. Bearded Jedi = sure of planned action?]”
Hell, why not? 
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 02/03/18, 04:39:43 AM
The man with the unusual name rubbed his temples in frustration.

The body stayed where it had fallen, still smoking. It had started to smell. It was getting its smell all over the place.
Soon, the entire alley would be consumed by its stench, and the local population would probably be forced out by the raw rankness of the scent. Standard for Nar Shaddaa. He'd liked this place, once, before he realised that the foul smells that belonged to the world had a nasty habit of sticking to clothes, too.

This wasn't how this was supposed to go. The idiot who had just played an instrumental hand in creating this new, frustrating corpse stood over it, and was now attempting to stonewall the unusually named man. Poorly.
"To clarify, you don't know who shot him. No idea in the foggiest."
"Nope."
"Are you sure?"
"Yep."
"You're holding a blaster with clear signs of recent plasma discharge."
"That's a lighter."
"What?"
"Y'know, for lightin-"
"Yes, yes, I know what a lighter is. I've never seen one that looks like that."
"It's new."
"You shot him."

The idiot's eyes grew wide.
"I did not."
"Yes you did. You clearly just did."
"You didn't see it."
"No, but I was right around the corner, interrogating your frien- ugh."
"What are you, some kinda rozzer?"
"And if I am?"
"Then I know my rights, and I know I don't have to talk to you."
"You're not even an Imperial citizen...not that Imperial citizens have those rights," The man said in exasperation to the idiot, "and even if you were, and even if they did, they still wouldn't apply. I'm not law enforcement."
"I think I technically still am, or somefin'. Did the laws change when those fellows in the big white ships creamed the military, booted our behinds and took the Sith to the cleaners? I dunno. Nobody does, with all the stuff goin' on. If you're not some cop, then who are ya?"
"I'm low on patience, pleasure to meet you."
"Right, Mr Lo, I've had quite enough of your questioning, this is a public space and is subject to protections, I will not be harassed-"

A blaster appeared in the man's hand, sleek and black. The idiot's tirade of half-construed legal cliches instantly turned into word salad, and then incoherent noises, and then finally silence.
"That corpse was a source, one that I liked. I'd appreciate an apology."
"A source, ey? So you're not a rozzer, what are ya, some kinda spook-"
"Yes. Exactly. Congratulations, I will now present you with your Imperially certified genius card, which entitles you to specially marked speeder parking in Kaas city, or the bits that aren't covered in rubble anyway, and a free drink the next time you visit the Nexus Room cantina."
"Fantasti-"

Bang.
Thud.


Two frustrating corpses, freshly fallen in the neon lights of the Smuggler's Moon. Some things never changed. The man with the strange name felt a headache begin to form at the back of his head. This was going to be a lot of paperwork. Nobody ever mentioned that part of field agency. You were accountable. For everything. The Navy hadn't been like that, and the Navy Commandos definitely hadn't been like that.

Maybe he was in the wrong job. No, of course not. He was good at this. Damn good.

The man sighed. Sadly, the corpses couldn't simply be left here. Somebody would see them, and probably scream or something, and then complain, which would find its way up the chain, probably to him. Someone was going to have to clean this up.

"Amanaki, this is Boogie, I'm going to need some street cleaners. Yes, send the burly ones, please. The packages are rather big, we'll need some muscle to move them. Yes. Right. Right. I hardly think that's fai...oh, come o-...fine.  I'm well aware of what the Sphere has mandate- yes. YES. I know. The Hutts are more than welcome to choke on their Mantellian spice weasel-alright. Alright. Secure channel, I'm aware. You're at the Dancer's Palace? Drinking what? With who?"
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 02/18/18, 03:48:05 PM
(( https://youtu.be/B5SbVN2wY6o?t=38m36s ))

She missed nature, sometimes.

Coruscant was nice. It was a marvel of engineering and home to trillions. It housed the Enclave she called home, the people she was duty bound to protect, and the titanic industry that made her life amongst the stars possible. But it had no trees of its own, no mountains, no rivers. The Coruscanti skyline cut an amazing figure during the day, and a truly unforgettable one at night…but sometimes she longed for a simple black sky pinpricked by distant suns, unblemished by the unceasing pollution of light that came with the greatest city of them all. It was hard to think in this place, sometimes. You never felt alone, surrounded by so many people and so much activity, but Aspasia had never done her best thinking around other people anyway. Quite the opposite, really. So when the opportunity had come to get away for a bit, she’d taken it without a second thought.

::

The girl sat on the deck of the modified freighter-turned-luxury vessel, lounging on a chair that had once been the most comfortable in the fleet, or so the pre-flight instructions had insisted. It was stained, now, and had evidently been chewed on by something. The padding was spilling out in certain places, and it had a must to it that was impossible to ignore, but she’d sat on worse, and was grateful for the opportunity to take a load off. The wormhole of hyperspace rushed past through the ship’s frontal viewport. The dials around her pulsated light from their LED fittings slowly and serenely, autopilot engaged. Aspasia wasn’t here to fly the ship, nor was she here to keep the company of a crew, or even a captain. It was an automated ship in need of supervision, manned only by a crew of government owned droids, running senatorial business to…somewhere. She didn’t often ask where. A volunteer had been needed, so she’d volunteered. She’d even worn her robes; brown and loose fitting as they were. Badge of office. She mused to herself. The grand, flowing outer layer of her robe lay draped across the chair behind her. It had been enough for the Senator in question, he’d wanted a Jedi, and hadn’t stopped to ask about rank or responsibility. A Padawan was as good as a Master, she supposed. Of course, the Jedi would likely see that differently, as would her Master. Masters. She hadn’t specifically told them she’d be going out to do this. Nor had she the last 3 or 4 times. 

“Ughhhhh.” She groaned. Ye came all the way out here to think, idiot. So think. Reflect. Don’t go runnin’ from your feelings. She kicked a leg up on the console, being careful not to let the twin lightsabers in her lap spill onto the bulkhead below. Still half-constructed, there were plenty of ports yet uncovered, and this ship was dusty as hell. She didn’t want to think, not about that. Not about the searing disappointment she was sure she’d seen in Ran-del’s eyes, not about how wrong she’d been about Sibyl-ko, not about the frustrating amount of sense Iirim had talked. Certainly not about Master Hawking Shatari and the conversation Iirim had calmly-but-firmly suggested she have with him. And most absolutely not about how she’d been acting recently and how completely, undeniably awful she was at being a Jedi. Being young was hard, they’d said. Being a Jedi was hard, they’d said. But bein’ a young Jedi… She groaned again, and rubbed her eyes in frustration. “You’re your own worst enemy, Spazzie.” She mumbled to herself. You should be better at this. You’ve been taught to be better at this. You know better than this. So why can’t I get it together?. Why indeed.

“Ugh.” She kicked her feet up and off the console, where her boots thunked to the floor. She carefully slid her lightsabers back onto her belt, and then yanked her boots free of her feet. The bulkhead was cold beneath her toes. Time for a walk.

::

The corridors of the ship were narrow and lined with tall, elegant plexiglass windows. She’d forgotten the name of the vessel, and only half remembered the intended mission and destination of the craft (something about retrieving a personal assistant’s “personal items” from the Senator’s private station), but she was glad to have the escape. It was different out here. The cool bulkheads and steady hum of the engine weren’t quite a substitute for grass beneath her feet and the sun above her head, but it was quiet, and most importantly, straightforward. There were no moral dilemmas to confront out here, just peace.

Aspasia wandered the corridors aimlessly for a time, sticking her head into random rooms and compartments, looking intently for nothingness and finding it in spades. She hopped onto the Senator’s couch. She poked his pillow. She briefly considered drawing a moustache on the grand, incredibly poorly crafted portrait of him that lay in the central hold of the vessel. The droids had no interest in her. Some of them beeped at her, but binary remained foreign to her ears.

Why was she such a screw up? I was gettin’ better at all this. She lamented as she perused the Senator’s bookshelf. He owned thirty-seven copies of his own autobiography, and had autographed all of them. She should have been happy. She’d flown the other day for the first time. She’d investigated the hold of a mysterious shipwreck near Coruscant, and potentially saved lives. She’d met an ancient machine. And then killed it. No. We killed it. And it asked for it. Literally. She corrected herself glumly. She hadn’t been thinking that way when she’d met it though. She’d been afraid. Machines, she had learned, were smart. But that one had feelings, and held concepts of philosophy that even some organics had trouble understanding. It had been designed for war but lost its taste for it, it had come to understand the harm it was doing, and it had wanted out. That was terrifying. And to make matters worse, it had been Iirim’s droid that had ultimately euthanised it. No, she’d seen a threat, and would probably have moved to take it out had Ran-del not stopped her.

The thought made her burn with shame, even alone, even days after the fact. He’d been disappointed, she’d known it. Maybe she’d never been the most lateral thinker, but she wasn’t dumb…but letting her fear rule her like that? Like she had been for a while now? That was dumb. Real dumb. It hadn’t been the first time, either. She’d lost count of the people who’d told her to believe in herself in recent times. They’d also said she was young, and shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Nobody was perfect, some had said. Jedi make mistakes too, others had said. Her mind drifted back to the conversation she’d had with Iirim, as she left the Senator’s library in search of his movie room. Maybe he’d have Captain Blitzer.

“Do ye worry for our souls?” She repeated to herself, letting her voice echo throughout the halls of the ship. She’d asked that of Iirim. A Jedi harnessed incredible power and incredible responsibilities. Our decision makin’ has to be flawless. She ruminated. The Order had entrusted her with those powers. They’d trained her for this, given her license to do good as she saw fit within the confines of their philosophies and the Code. The Force had a plan, she was not the director of the show, merely a piece to be guided in the grand orchestration. Or something.
“Soooooo,” She uttered as she wandered, voice singing a dry melody, “who messed up when the Jedi burned down my kriffin’ home?” She spun on her heel, pirouetting like a dancer, hands outstretched, fingers cutting through the cool, artificial air. She’d asked that of Iirim too, although a little more politely. Aspasia found herself standing in the central atrium of the ship. It was a large room, but surprisingly bare of the ostentatious trinkets the Senator had lying around elsewhere. A large window crested the top of the room, letting the brilliant light of hyperspace flow in to illuminate the centre floor. She danced her way over, bare feet skipping and hopping. Her mind wandered too.
“Whose mistake was it when my brother died instead of me? Was that the Force? Or was that the Jedi? Doesn’t seem like a very Jedi thing to do, but I ‘spose the Force doesn’t make mistakes.” She asked of her assembled crowd of nobody. “My Masters think I should let go o’ that. You’re one with the Force now, Ashton, they say.” She explained. “Of course they weren’t there, and I’m not sure how much they believed of my story. Probably not the bit about ye getting’ eaten by those monsters, and stoppin’ ye from joinin’ with the Force. Or maybe you did.” She sighed, and ran a hand through her hair, standing in the shimmering blue and white light of hyperspace. “Be nice if ye answered me one of these days, y’know. I miss you. Thought I saw you on Ossus, too, when I found my crystals. Our crystals, I ‘spose. Think one was waitin’ for you. Doesn’t like to be activated when the other isn’t.”

She received no answer.

“Not like you to shut up for so long. Seven years? Unheard of.” She joked, smiling sadly to herself. “There’s a girl at the Enclave now, by the way. She sounds a bit like us. We had a go at each other, ye’d like her. Apparently Maguire wasn’t just known as properly evil only to us, turns out these people are our cousins or somethin’, and were convinced that home was some sorta demon backwater…guess they were right.” She laughed, her voice echoing down the hallways.
“Ugh. What are you doin’, ‘Spasia.” She sat, flopping down under the skylight.
“Saying to yourself what you should probably have been working through with your fellows in the Order, Padawan. Assuming you want to ever get past this block.” The voice echoed out from nearby, catching Aspasia completely by surprise. She shot up from the floor, alarmed.
“AGH- What- who-? Master Shatari?”

And so it was.
Master Hawking Shatari appeared in the light of the central atrium, appearing from around a corner. He wore a simple tan tunic, his lightsaber hanging from his belt. She hated it when the Masters did that, and really hated when they were smug about it. Aspasia sighed. “Hi, Master. Sorry. Didn’t realise there was anyone else on the ship.”
Hawking smiled, jade green eyes meeting her own. She didn’t trust them, not entirely, but they’d seen the galaxy a hundred times over. They beheld her, considered her.
“I’m sure there’s a lesson in there about attuning yourself to Sense.”
Aspasia cleared her throat. “Right. Aye. Sorry, Master, I ‘spose I was…uh…distracted.”
“So you sounded. Please, sit.” Hawking wasted no time himself, sinking into a cross-legged position. He patted the floor beside him. Looks like she’d be having that conversation after all.
She sat, flopping slightly more ceremoniously to the floor this time. “Excuse the bluntness, Master, but what are ye doin’ on the ship?”
“Catching a ride. I have business in the sector, all that secret squirrel stuff that Master Farworlder and I have been embarking on. It’ll make a great holo someday. It so happened I knew the Senator, and heard there’d be a certain errant Padawan on security today.” He replied wryly. Aspasia had no idea if he was joking or not. She never did, nor did she like being the butt of his jokes. He was too familiar for someone who’d been gone for years, and for the man who’d come to Maguire.
“Right.” She replied coolly, avoiding his gaze.
Hawking was quiet for a few moments, but not uncomfortably so. She disliked that, too.
“You’re carrying a lot, Aspasia.” He said finally.
“Perceptive, Master, aye.” 
“Please, there’s no need to be hostile. I think we’re overdue a chat, don’t you?”
Aspasia sighed. Grow up, Spazzie. How many times do Ran-del and Miller need to hit you over the head before you embrace common courtesy? He was right. He wasn’t her enemy.
“I…do, Master Shatari, yes.” She replied slowly.
Hawking turned his gaze upwards, looking out at the currents of hyperspace.
“Your introduction to our ways has been…well, a tornado as opposed to the regular light breeze we prefer to induct people with. The Force has embraced you quickly. Probably a bit too quickly.”
“The Force, Master? Or the Order?” She inquired, blowing a strand of hair from her face. She felt him looking at her.
“The Force, Padawan. Your transition into the Order has been exemplary, by all accounts. Given the pressure you’ve faced and the adversity inherent in emerging from where you did…you are on the Path to becoming an excellent knight, Aspasia. I believe that. But learning to listen to and understand the Force is a lifelong endeavour-”
“Ah. So you’ve been keepin’ tabs, then? Easier to do that from a distance, I guess. Or were you happy with the hand ye played, starting me off on the Path? Pluckin’ me onto that Drey while everythin’ was burning around us?” She said quietly. She regretted the words even as she spoke them. She barely knew the man, and he had saved her life, even if it had come at a terrible cost. But no, maybe she needed to work through this. Honesty was the best policy.
Hawking frowned lightly.
“I kept my distance for a few reasons, Padawan. Maybe I was incorrect in doing that, but-“
“You were the first Jedi I ever saw. You and Zarasmina,” Aspasia interjected coolly, “you were nearly dead, everything was on fire, and it was your student offerin’ me her hand and a way out of the mess her master had made. I didn’t forget that.”
Hawking said nothing, merely studying her impassively.
“That’s not to say I’ve got a grudge or anythin’ against you,” Aspasia said quickly as she realised how she was sounding, “but…Master Shatari…ye killed my planet. My brother, my Da, everyone. Even if you didn’t mean to, and it didn’t sound like you did…that’s what happened. And I swore my life to servin’ the Order you represented, even after seein’ that, because you saved me. But…how am I ‘sposed to reconcile that? Can I reconcile that?”
The light played across his features, and Aspasia swore she saw his eyes glint, just so.
“Do you know where I went, Aspasia? When I disappeared from the Watch.”
She didn’t. Nobody had. “No, why?”
“I left to find Zarasmina. Perhaps I’ve worded that differently in recent times, but that was the crux of it. My student was, and is, out there. I took an oath to teach her and protect her, that’s true. She’s the future of the Order, that’s also true. But so are you. And from what you’ve said, and how you’ve felt, and from how I left Zarasmina on Maguire…”
Aspasia’s eyes widened slightly. That selfish bastard.
“…you’re tryin’ to make amends.” She said slowly, in disbelief. “You know you messed up on Maguire, and so you’re tryin’ to, what, apologise? To who?”
“To-“
“To yourself!” She interrupted, getting to her feet. “Do you even care about what you did to me? How hard you’ve made my trainin’? The doubt and the pain I’ve felt? I’ve been carryin’ all that for…years! I came to peace with it right up until you came back-and now you’re tryin’ to save face? You’re responsible for my induction, Master, but to bring on someone with all that shite bubblin’ under the surface…I’m a fallen Jedi waitin’ to happen!” The words tumbled out of her mouth, half articulated and emotional.
Hawking stood, slowly and quietly. He looked down at her. Aspasia shrunk, just a bit. Had he always been that tall?
“Maguire was my fault. Your brother’s death was my fault. Zarasmina disappearing was my fault. But your induction to this Order was not a fault, Aspasia, and it was not an accident. Are you the first?”
“What?”
“Are you the first Jedi to have lost someone? To have lost everything?”
“Well, no, I don’t think so, but-“
“But what?”
“But…” Aspasia floundered for words. She felt tired, and confused, and just a little bit like crying.
He put his hand on her shoulder gently. His palm was warm. “You’ve lost, you’ve suffered, and you’ve sacrificed. Such is the life of a Jedi. But you’ve given, and you’ve gained, too. I heard about the mission you undertook just recently, how many lives do you think you saved?”
“I…dunno.” She hadn’t stopped to think about it.
“If the mission report is accurate, that fleet AI still had access to the vast majority of its systems and suites. Coruscant was only a hop and a skip away. We don’t know for certain, but it could yet have caused serious damage.”
“That wasn’t me. That was Ran-del, and Sibyl, and Iirim-“ She retorted, before being cut off.
“But it was you too. You were there. You saw, you spoke, you acted, and you learned. You’re learning every day. Our way is not one that’s mastered overnight. As hideous as that cliché is, and as frequently as I’m sure you’ve heard it, it’s true. Your challenges have been arduous, but you have the strength to see them through. You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, so she said nothing.
“I am sorry for my role in what transpired on your planet, Aspasia. I am, truly. I spent four years considering my role in that disaster as I recuperated. My body suffered as your planet did. I wondered how I could be so idiotic, how my decision making could have been so poor, how I could have been so thoughtless and callous and rash. But what I have never questioned is why we were there. We went to save a generation of Force-users who were being persecuted and killed. The Force led us there, and the Force led you from there. It was your destiny to serve its will and help others, even if you couldn’t help the people you loved.”
He exhaled, letting his hand return to his side.
“You haven’t disappointed the Force, yet, Aspasia. If you had, it probably would have conjured a lightning bolt from the aether to smite you down. Your Masters know that, and I think you know that. I think they also know how much you despise being talked at, as I just have, so perhaps I’ll leave it there. But know that you’re a fine student, Aspasia, and a woman with a good heart. As much as I hate to admit it, the duty of the students is to supersede and improve upon the failings of their teachers. I presented you with a hell of a failing, and you’ve been improving upon my mistake ever since.” He smiled.
“I…just…” She grasped at the air, looking for the words, “…miss him, Master. My brother. The Order is my family now, but…I wish he’d been here to see it. All of it.”
Hawking’s eyes drifted down to regard the twin lightsabers on her belt. He quirked an eyebrow. “Must I say it?”
Her eyes trailed down likewise. She’d spent a lot of time around the crystals that languished within those housings in recent weeks. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence after all that she’d found two. What was she saying? Of course it wasn’t. The Force didn’t work that way. She smiled.
“Don’t think you do.”

::

He left shortly after that, leaving her to her thoughts. They had talked a little more about the details of that fateful mission; of what he’d found. There wasn’t a whole lot she hadn’t heard from others, but it was nice to hear it in his words, and especially to hear about what he’d thought of Maguire. He talked about the meditation at the crack of dawn, about the beauty of the forests, and the way the moon had gleamed on the fjords. He mentioned the hospitality of the townfolk, and the simple “charms” of Maguirish food.

That had helped, Aspasia thought as she reclaimed her robe and her boots from the cockpit. It had been a selfish doubt, all this time, to assume that the Jedi had blundered in and destroyed something thoughtlessly. That was not the Jedi way. A Jedi appreciates the nature of all things, Miller had once told her. So maybe things really had been that bad, and maybe, like that droid, it had been a necessary mercy. It wasn’t the best option, Hawking had said that himself, but it also had not been the worst.

Aspasia sighed, and moved to sit down again as the ship shunted out of hyperspace. She was used to it now, but that deceleration from lightspeed had once kicked the small girl from that small, strange world on her ass every single time. The metallic grey and neon pink visage of the luxury orbital station came into view, slowly orbiting a world of brilliant greens and deep blues. It looked pathetic next to the planet, really, and Aspasia found herself wondering why anyone would bother staring down at such a gorgeous planetscape when they could walk its surface.

She hummed to herself for the next half-hour as the droids did their thing, retrieving whatever sensitive material the Senator had lied about reclaiming. She suspected it was underwear. The planet rotated slowly beneath her, teeming with life.
I’m ready. She realised. I think I’m finally ready to go back. Hawking had suggested as much. It was the final piece of the puzzle for the closure she sought. She didn’t know what she would find there, and neither had he, but they’d agreed that should she truly wish to finally move on from the ghosts of her homeworld, she should probably visit the graves. To be a Jedi was a journey, Ran-del had told her, albeit in a more flowery, poetic and emphatic fashion, as was his style. To walk the Path was to do so in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. There is peace, She recounted to herself.

In a galaxy torn apart by war, strife and loss, that didn’t sound so bad to her.
“Peace.” She murmured.
Time to go find some.

::
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 04/18/18, 06:36:45 AM
@blingdenston (http://begerencolony.org/index.php?action=profile;u=783)

(https://dfep0xlbws1ys.cloudfront.net/thumbsb0/8a/b08adbcd39af212addf14b5ab2bbe276.jpg?response-cache-control=max-age=2628000)

"What's that?"
"Dunno. Some tapestry Knight Qardaak and his Padawan brought back from some mission. Came with a map."
"What kinda map?"
"Dunno. Didn't ask. Looked old, got told not to accidentally drool on it. Stupid archival duty."
"Wizard painting though, wonder where it's from. Looks old, and what kinda fabric is that-"
"Yeah...she didn't like looking at it, kept avoiding it."
"Who?"
"The Padawan."
"Weird. She threatened to punch me for cutting in front of her while in line for rice back on the Watch. Wonder why she's afraid of a picture. What's her name again?"
"Something foreign, but screw her, she was always too rough during sparring. And she was older than all of us!"
"Maybe we should sneak it into her quarters, put it up above her bed. See who's tough then."
"Nah, I've been assigned to the archives for long enough already. You feel free though."
"She's been looking pale, though, hasn't she?"
"Who?"
"The Padawan."
"Yeah, I guess she has."
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 05/28/18, 07:56:01 AM
"Aspasia! Padawan Maguire!"

Reading time was over, it seemed. Aspasia sighed and closed the book she'd been attempting to get through, yet another ancient and crumbling tome with a whimsical, flatulent writer who seemed more interested in putting together incomprehensible sentences than expounding anything useful to her. The sound of bare feet pattering rapidly through the aisles grew louder as the source of the voices closed in on her. She rubbed her eyes, feeling tired. They hurt. The fluorescent lamp she'd been reading by continued to bare down on her furiously, totally unphased by the dark night sky of Coruscant that lay beyond the thin windows of the archives.
But are they thick enough to contain this kriffin' brick? She pondered, hefting the dusty tome in her hand. Probably. It was disintegrating in her hand as is. Not that it had been of any use. Just like all the others, it had mentioned Maguire exactly twice. Both references had been in passing, and one, she was pretty sure, had been a typo.

Aspasia glanced up, weary, as a pair of young teen boys blasted around the corner.
"Gods above, slow down! The Archivist may not be here but ye know she's got cameras set up. And even if she didn't, she'd somehow figure it out anyway." Aspasia hissed as the boys slid to an awkward and uncontrolled halt in front of her. The excitement that had been etched on their faces vanished immediately, replaced by solemnness. They fixed her with a look.
"Are you threatening to dob on us, Padawan?" Asked the smaller one, a scruffy human called Adem who'd been plucked from the lower levels of Coruscant. His tone was somewhere between puppy dog and mafioso, and his face couldn't seemingly decide whether he was trying to plead or intimidate either.
"And if I am? You pair of ratbags could use a few more months in here. I was stuck here for-"
"A year, or whatever, we know." Replied the other, a tall and proud Kiffar boy called Caiyo. He wore his hair like Master Vos, and conspicuously lowered his voice to a deeply unconvincing macho growl whenever the older Kiffar was around.
Aspasia crossed her arms and put on her best high-and-mighty Master voice. "And look at me now. My time in these hallowed halls taught me patience, virtue and humility. Somethin' that you two could use."
They stared at her until she gave in and cracked up. They joined her, their laughter echoing around the cavernous space.
She recomposed herself, grin still etched on her face. "What've ye got for me, o minions of mine?"
"Well, firstly, think we need to renegotiate the whole 'minion' thing,' Adem started, 'it's demeaning. And illegal. It's basically the same thing as slavery. The only servitude we do is service to the Force. For the Force. Or whatever. Also slavery is illegal.'
"Not in my archives." Aspasia growled jokingly.
"Not your archives. Just because you've slept on half the books and kissed that one boy down here when you were a kid doesn't mean they're yours."
"Allegedly." Aspasia replied, clearing her throat.
Rat bastards. Never should have told them that.
The pair exchanged a look, suppressed a fresh bout of laughter, and then returned their gazes to her.
"Got some news for your master, figured we'd tell you first."
Ah.
"Right. Glad you're both loyal enough to not do the right thing and go above my head-"

"They're too boneheaded for that." Came a voice, rich and warm, echoing from behind the boys. A girl walked in, dark of skin and with thick braided hair. The boys grinned, and Aspasia smiled.
"Evenin', Luk, just chastisin' our proteges. Apparently they've got somethin' interesting to tell me."
Padawan Lukhanyo Imawe strode over as she usually did, quietly and with the grace of a nexu, all poise and total, easy confidence. She was a fresh transplant to the Enclave, having arrived with her Master. They'd been all over the galaxy since the war against Zakuul and subsequent cleaning up, apparently, but had decided to return to the fold when they'd heard that the Custodum was making overtures to reintegrate with the Republic. Aspasia liked her, it was nice change of pace to have someone her age around again.
"Cool, I heard the racing around and assumed they were breaking things again. Go on then, don't let me interrupt." She cracked a smile, and Aspasia laughed.
"That was one time. And it was worth breaking. That Maguire stuff was creepy as hell. No offence, Spazzie, but that carving was in my damn dreams-" Caiyo protested.
"None taken. Believe me." Aspasia replied, smile faltering slightly. "Is that what this is about?"

Caiyo and Adem pursed their lips in unison and glanced at each other.
"Uh. Sorta. Guess we have two things."
Lukhanyo watched the pair with amusement, before her gaze settled on Aspasia. She said nothing. Aspasia smiled again, but felt uneasy. There'd been a recurring pit in her stomach these last few weeks, but she hadn't been able to put her finger on the what or why.
"Suspense is killin' me, boys."
They exchanged looks, and then spoke at the same time.
"The scans from the droid came back, it found heat signatures. We think there's something alive down on Maguire."
"We think the SIS is spying on the Enclave with senatorial and military backing."
What?
"What?"
"See? Told you I should go first, she's gone all pale again-"
"She's always pale, and Master Hantso taught us to get to the point first, but to soften it-"
"You think that was softening it?"
They continued bickering, hissing at each other.
"Boys, boys-" Aspasia protested in vain, attempting to get their attention without having to throw a book at them.
"You may need to repeat yourselves, gents, we're getting a bit old and hard of hearing." Lukhanyo interjected calmly, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. The boys shut up immediately.
How does she do that?

"You first, Adem."
"Right. Uh. Life on Maguire. We picked up positive thermal readings in the woodlands on the southern continent right before the probe got sucked into the nebula and eaten or whatever. Council wants someone to investigate. Uh. Carefully, after what happened last time."
Aspasia blinked, and felt herself exhale dramatically. She felt as though she'd just been slugged in the stomach by a heavyweight boxer, the wind knocked out of her.
"See? You killed her. Definitely pale. Nicely done, kathshit."
"Language." Lukhanyo interjected. Caiyo rolled his eyes and looked to retort, but instead fell silent.
"Spazzie? Y'hear me?"
"Aye. Yeah. Just...bit to digest. They want us to investigate? Me?"
"Well, you and your master, and whoever else wants to go, yeah. You know the place." Adem replied flippantly, looking pleased with himself. "Dunno why you're looking so grim about it. Not everyone gets to go to haunted planets, could be...uh...enlightening."
Stupid heart, stop racing. Been thinking about this for ages anyway, was only a matter of time. She breathed, and collected herself.
"Right. Maguire. Noted, thanks Adem."
Lukhanyo shot her a searching gaze, cocking an eyebrow. Aspasia ignored her, and turned to Caiyo.
"And you, Vos Jr., what's this other pressin' business?"
She saw his eyes light up at the mention of the name Vos.
"Oh, you know, the usual." He replied gruffly.
"I don't, that's why I'm askin'. And why you were in a rush to tell me."
"I heard some Shadows who are here on loan expressing some concerns about the SIS and military presence in the Enclave and on the Watch. They reckon we're being spied on. Council agrees."

That didn't surprise her, and certainly didn't knock the wind from her body. She'd felt the eyes. They all had. Ever since the Watch had been 'given' a delegation from the SIS and Republic Military, things had been different. The Jedi weren't distrustful by nature, quite the opposite, and the current times dictated that they work with their Republic allies to the best of their ability...but she'd heard some of the Masters expressing their concerns, just quietly. The garrison was getting nosy, and unfamiliar faces had started popping up in places they weren't necessarily welcome to be.
Not that we can say anything about it. They'd look secretive, opaque and elusive if they raised a stink. She'd never understood until recently why people didn't trust the Jedi. Aspasia didn't subscribe to that viewpoint (how could she, now?) but she was beginning to see why some folks felt that way. The last thing they needed was the public hearing from some jacked up senator that the Jedi had hijacked a Republic war vessel and refused to hand it back-
"Aspasia?" Lukhanyo's soft voice interrupted her line of thinking, and Aspasia snapped back to reality.
"Sorry. Processin'. Right. Military and SIS spyin' on us, what else is new?"
"That's the kicker. They thought it was just some bad edds or something in the departments who were getting a bit too curious-"
"Bad eggs, Cai." Adem corrected.
"Whatever. They think it could be a team now. Like a coalition of snobs from the government, spies and soldiers who have been put together to keep an eye on us. Because we're that dangerous and awesome."
Aspasia exchanged glances with Lukhanyo, wary.
" 'Spose we are, aye. But remember, boys, they're our people too. We're sworn to protect 'em."
"Someone tell them that." Adem deadpanned.
"We're trying, Adem." Lukhanyo replied with a frown. "There's a lot out there you haven't seen yet. You'll get your chance soon."
"Not if they're confined to the archives for spillin' secrets to Padawans who don't have clearance." Aspasia replied wryly. Lukhanyo shot her a vaguely disapproving look. Aspasia shrunk a little.
"But...uh...thanks, boys. I'll pass word along, and let the powers that be know ye did a good job delivering the message. Might get you out of here and doin' somethin' interesting sooner rather than later."
That seemed to reassure them. The two exchanged grins.
"Just doing what we do, Padawan." Caiyo replied coolly, before offering her a lazy bow and zooming off around the corner again.
Adem sighed, shook his head and regarded her. "Please don't bring back another tapestry. We filed the first one away under lock and key but I can still see it in my mind."
"Yeah."
He offered her a nod, and then stomped off to track down his compatriot, slinging obscenities.

Aspasia scratched her neck awkwardly as silence fell between the two Padawans. Lukhanyo looked at her, smiling slightly.
"You handle them well."
Aspasia couldn't help herself but laughing. "Hah! You're...jokin', right? They tear around like a pair of cats in a holobooth, bloody miracle nothing is destroyed on a daily basis. That's not even mentioning the swearing, filing things in the wrong place, dropping things, falling asleep..."
"Familiar story, from what I hear. Not so different to a fiery little blonde girl who was constantly assigned to and from the archives in her yore."
Aspasia waved her off, cracking a crooked half-smile.
"Different enough. They're a lot less stupid."
"Nobody thinks you're stupid, Aspasia, certainly not the Masters and Knights. On the contrary. I've heard they're looking at speeding up your training, they're impressed with your progress. Might not be too long until you're knighted." Lukhanyo grinned. She was charismatic, that girl, but something about her still rubbed Aspasia the wrong way.
"Representin' the Enclave's Knights, huh? Nah. Not yet. That'd mean I'd have to be takin' on the responsibilities of talkin' to the public and helping with recruitment. I'm happy to wait a few years, maybe until the whole PR disaster blows over."
"Could be waiting a while. And the Order needs capable servants. As I hear it, you're more than ready."
"You're a flatterer, Imawe." Aspasia replied dryly, smile slowly fading. Lukhanyo's brown-orange eyes met her own amber-gold, studying her. Aspasia felt an odd chill race down her spine.
"Just a realist. Think we're a bit devoid of numbers currently, and we're the next cabs off the rank. Same thing happened during the Great War, and that was the generation that gave us Master Farworlder, Master Shatari and Master Jalth. We'll show 'em up, somehow. Maybe we could all have two lightsabers instead of one or something."
Aspasia chuckled, but the pit in her gut returned.
"Aye. Maybe. Or use...force pikes or somethin'."
"Hah! Yeah, maybe."

Silence reigned for a long few moments, before Lukhanyo thumbed over her shoulder.
"Alright. Better get going before my master puts out another all-points bulletin. Get yourself some sleep, Aspasia, you look tired. I'd recommend an actual bed."
"Right, way ahead of you." Aspasia replied with a yawn. Lukhanyo offered her a two-fingered salute in farewell, which Aspasia mirrored.
Weird. I knew Jedi from beyond the Enclave were different, but...weird. Still. Jedi were Jedi in this day and age, as divided and strange as things were.

Maybe that was enough.
::
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 11/18/19, 06:26:49 AM
((I never got around to finishing the stories of any of my characters, even though life has moved on and my time with the game has long since come to an end. One in particular seemed improper to leave hanging. It was fun to dive back in, for old times' sake! Thank you to everyone that made these characters and this community a joy to inhabit for those many, many hours. Particular thanks to @blingdenston (http://www.begerencolony.org/index.php?action=profile;u=783) , who turned this Irish space brat in particular from a 2 dimensional, cliche, cardboard cutout into a 2.5 dimensional digital teenaged space monk with his wonderful writing of Hyse, Pehn and Ran-del. I'm sorry we never got to reach this ending in game, my friend, and I hope you don't mind some tasteful inserting of your characters into what I've written below. If they're dead, please let me know and I'll replace them with the first guy I see on the fleet.))

((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtOvEDGVaBM))



She'd fallen for the oldest trick in the book.

"Of course he wasn't going to walk in with you," Aspasia Maguire muttered to herself, "why did you believe him? He stopped holdin' your hand years ago." Still, here she stood alone, waiting in front of the grand golden doors for destiny to come knocking. The colossal doors glowed, lit by the midday sun that streamed in through the tall, ornate windows that lined the corridor. It was a beautiful summer's day. The temple halls were warm without being stuffy, and teemed with life without being crowded. She had never seen it more full. People from every corner of the galaxy flowed from room to room. They were almost all young, and dressed to the last in brown robes. The next generation of Jedi.
They smile a lot more than my bunch did, she reflected wryly, quickly finding herself smiling too. Of course, they were entering the Order under decidedly less desperate circumstances. They're lucky. She wondered how long the smiles would last. There was, after all, still a war on. It didn't feel like it today.

She fiddled with her Padawan's braid, checking for the umpteenth time that it was properly kept. Shockingly, it hasn't changed in the past five minutes. What are you nervous for? This is all you've ever wanted. It's time. A tingle ran down her spine, and Aspasia felt giddy. The years had gone quickly. The Trials...well, less so, but they were in the rear view mirror all the same. It was time. She was ready.

The golden doors rumbled, and began to open outwards. The butterflies in her stomach exploded. Beyond the crack in the door was the Temple's atrium, not that she could see it. The vast circular room was dark. Unmistakable, however, were the figures dressed in brown. They had formed a ring, their backs towards the wall, hooded faces looking inwards to where she would kneel in a moments time. Each of them held the silver hilts of their lightsabers against their chests. She knew Ran-del would be beneath one of the hoods, though she couldn't tell which. She wondered who else. Hell, she probably knew two thirds of the-

"Padawan. We are ready for you. Please, step forward."

Huh. No shakin' legs. Also no squealin'. So far, so good, Jedi. She'd imagined this moment from the minute she'd first seen the brilliant blue of Zarasmina's lightsaber on that dark night, all those years ago. Yet, she'd never imagined feeling quite this calm. No, that's no surprise. Why would it be? You're home. The cool, familiar breeze danced across her back, encouraging her onwards. Best not to keep them waiting, she was the first of a few to be stepping into that chamber today. She had no more questions, and no more doubts. Time for the Order to make their most regrettable error of the last decade. And so, with a smile on her face, Aspasia followed her feet as they led her inwards. The doors closed behind her, and the room was suddenly lit up by a dazzling rainbow of blues, greens, yellows, purples and oranges. A familiar voice began speaking. She could feel him smiling, even if she couldn't see it. The words were the same that had been spoken in this room for generations, but each and every time they were uttered, they signified the beginning of something new. She recited them in turn.

Moments later her perfectly kept braid lay at her feet, a thin finger of smoke wafting lazily from the little bundle of hair that represented her old life, and it was done. The old room and the old words had again born something new.

"Stand, Aspasia Maguire, Knight of the Jedi Order, and defender of the Republic. The Force is now your ally, companion, and guiding star, forever and always. Your apprenticeship has ended, Jedi. Now, the greatest lessons in your journey begin."

Forever and always.
That sounded about right. But, perhaps she'd always known that. Only now did she believe it. Aspasia felt the lightest she had in years.
"Masters?"
"Yes, Aspasia?"
"Permission to cut these proceedings short?"
"I see your new office has you asking permission, a remarkable change of pace already. For what reason? There are still yet traditions we must observe."
"There's work to be done, Masters, the galaxy is in a hundred pieces. Again. I was hopin' that my new beginning might involve helping to pick up some of those pieces."
This time she saw the smiles.
"As you wish, Knight Maguire. May the Force be with you."

::

The great golden doors creaked open once more, flooding the darkened room with sunlight. The village girl who had been plucked from the fire stepped forward, took a final, fleeting glance back, and then walked out of the chamber. She had duties now. Responsibilities she couldn't have fathomed even a year ago. There was no going back - her life was service and sacrifice from this moment onwards. Should she feel this relaxed, this at peace? Maybe the enormity would hit her later. Or maybe she was just finally beginning to understand now.

"We know that life is sacred...but we believe that it is worth it to lay down ours in service to all life." She murmured to herself as she made her way out of the temple and into the warm, muggy summer air. Master Hyse had taught her those words, all those years ago, as Master Yarwin's body had been farewelled on the banks of Tython's great waters. Her body would join his, one day, just as her spirit would join his when it returned to the Force. That wasn't theoretical anymore, that was the life she had chosen.

She looked up at Hyse, nodding with youthful conviction. "A lot of people died just so I could even be here...is that why the Sith hate us, Master? Because we're not afraid of death, but death is everythin' to them? Like...they expect us to just give up, if they kill enough of us?"

"The dark side is seductive. It tells you that you are right to think of yourself first; it tells you that the thrill of evil and conquest is a universal truth, rather than an atavistic dead end. I cannot speak to the Sith's hate, for I do not know it...but I can say this: the Sith are driven by hate and fear, and no one has ever faced and defeated the Sith more often than the Jedi."


That was her responsibility now; to fight for peace, to defeat the Sith, and to protect the innocent lives that had been placed in her hands for the remainder of her time in this galaxy.

Right. Well. How do you actually go about doing that?

Time to go and find out.
Title: Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
Post by: Hawking on 07/28/20, 02:12:15 AM
(( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzmdfOh6su4 ))



His father had been a soldier once.

So had his mother. They'd never discussed it, not really. He'd suspected and he'd asked, of course, as kids did. Where had his dad learned to use the blaster rifle, or to start a fire with basically nothing, and how had he put up that tent so quickly? What did the symbols in black ink on his bicep mean? Where'd they come from? What about the scars? His parents had always quietly replied that they'd tell him everything one day. Today, Waric had decided he'd get to the bottom of the mystery.

His boots were muddy, but he supposed that it wasn't so bad. He liked being outdoors. His dad did too - he was always out doing something around the property. Besides, how could you hate being out here on a day like this? The sun was warm and friendly, casting a golden light that ran the length of the still coastline. The brilliant blue of the ocean was calm, waves gently lapping against the stony beaches that separated the verdant green fields from the vast expanse of the water. Ahead of them in the distance a mountain rose up, seemingly out of nowhere. His schoolteacher had told Waric that it was actually a volcano, one of many. All dormant. Apparently. They had a good view of it from their property, Waric noted. He'd attempted to draw it a few times from his window, without success. It was, in his experience, too tempting to draw the mountain exploding and spilling lava everywhere. His sister's drawings had been more realistic, but that was boring.

"It's not exploding today, Waric."
Waric blinked, finding himself standing still, blankly staring up at the distant silhouette of the great peak.
"Be cool if it did."
"Cheery." His dad had stopped ahead of him, and had turned around to look at him. His father was a tall man, with tanned skin and a lean frame. A loose red beard, complete with salt-and-pepper, adorned his face. His wavy, reddy-blond hair had been caught by the wind and was currently flopping around as though it were possessed. There seemed to be more grey in it by the day. He snorted. "We'd be right in the blast zone, you know."
"Whatever. Lava's slow."
"Sure. Pyroclastic flow isn't. Hot volcanic gasses flying at you at 700 kilometres an hour. Don't underestimate nature." His dad teased.
"At least I'd be able to see where I'm running."
"Ooh, ouch." His father put a hand to the fabric that covered his eye sockets, rubbing it in mock vulnerability. It wasn't much more than a cut of red cloth. It was a weekend, though, Waric surmised. Wouldn't want to get mud on one of his good ones. The young man grinned back at his father.
"Are we nearly there, or what?"
"You're the one with eyes, you tell me." The gap in the fence from last time was still there. A dirt path snaked upwards through the autumn trees to a ridge. That was where the outlook was, wasn't it?


His father turned. Mud splattered his jeans and flannel shirt as he squeezed past the sunken fence post and started up the hill. Waric noticed how stiff he looked. Dad's a fit guy, but man, he looks sore some days.
"I think so. We haven't been up here in forever."
"You and Laki have been busy with school. Your mother and I understand that."
"Yeah, but I actually like the hikes up here." That was one thing he and his father had in common. The air was different up here; fresher, cleaner. The smells of the forest carried on the breeze, and the sounds of the birds and insects always made him feel fuzzy in a way he couldn't quite explain. It was almost like he could feel them.
"Don't get too excited. We're still under very strict orders. What are we here for, trooper?" His father asked dryly, adopting a rasping tone like the tough drill sergeants from the holos.
"Everwhites. Nicest ones we can find. Fit and proper flowers for the kitchen table, so that our guests tonight don't think we're barbarians, sir."
"Good man. Let's proceed."
Go on, ask him. Waric's breath tightened in his chest, just for a moment. Nah. Not yet.

::

They were successful by early afternoon. Waric twiddled the stems of the flowers between his fingers. He sat on a log that had been there for as long as he could remember, gazing out across the wide Wamaraki valley. A road snaked along between the mighty trunks of the trees, occasionally sneaking into view from behind the canopy of brilliant oranges and autumn reds. He knew town was that way - school, his friends, the markets. His father was digging around inside of the tough leather rucksack he'd been wearing on his back, in search of lunch. Sandwiches, of course, made to specification with lethal accuracy by his mother. And with love. A few minutes later the two sat in comfortable silence, gratefully munching down. Waric watched him eat. His father had always been a quick eater, as though the meal was just another item off the checklist before he was needed elsewhere. Waric could see his mind ticking along to other things even as his mouth rapidly consumed the bread.
Go on. Just be cool about it. He'll understand.
"So..." He started, mouth still mostly full of bread.
"So." His father replied, having swallowed the last of his sandwich. He'd never spoken with his mouth full as far as Waric could recollect.
"Which...uh...which side?"
"East side. Town's that way. You can also tell by the sun, if you-"
"I know that. I meant...which side did you..." His father raised an eyebrow, slowly crumpling the paper bag his sandwich had been in.
Help me out here.
His father took a deep breath. "Ah. Which side did I fight for, is that what you wanted to ask?"
Waric froze, suddenly nervous. He hadn't been expecting that tone.
"Yeah, I just...I mean, you did fight, didn't you? You were a soldier? I know we're not from here. You and mum came from somewhere, and I guess...I dunno."
His father's face was neutral. "Have the kids at school been asking? Or your teacher?"
Only a little. Others have parents who were soldiers too! "I...uh...maybe? Nothing serious. You guys just...never talked about it. Just curious." He replied quickly, the words tumbling out. Idiot. I should have shut up.

After what felt like an eternity, his dad smiled. "Yeah, Waric. I was a soldier. I was a marine. Long time ago now. Your mother was too."
Waric wasn't sure what to say. He wasn't surprised, but...
"Cool...but...what kind of soldier? For who?"
Again, his father inhaled. "I...fought for the Sith Empire. At least for a while. I was an officer. I...hmmm...retired, as a Colonel. I'd prefer you keep that quiet."
But...
"They're...the bad guys, dad. We live in the Republic." Waric replied. His emotions whirled within him. A swirling mix of disbelief, confusion, and something else gnawed at him. His father looked up, the blank fabric of his mask staring right at Waric.
"Yeah. They were." He replied, finally.
"Then...what...why..." The words wouldn't come. He felt anger, white hot, mixing with confusion. How could his dad have fought for the Empire? This must be a trick.
"I didn't do it for the Empire. I definitely didn't do it for the Emperor or the Sith." His father breathed in, deeply. His features twitched, and his body had visibly tightened. He's more nervous than I am, Waric thought in disbelief. He could feel the image of his father changing even as he spoke. How could he look at him after this? This wasn't fair. Hey, you asked.
"I was a poor kid, Waric. My parents were gone when I was even younger than you are now, and I had nothing growing up on Dromund Fels. It was either the military, or the slum gangs. I got lucky. I was one of the first aliens the Imperial military took. It was...a way out, I guess."
"Maybe you should have stayed poor." Waric replied quietly. His father gazed at him from behind his mask for a long few heartbeats.
"Yeah. Maybe I should have." There was something new in his voice now. Pain, and bitterness, like ashes in his mouth.
"Did you hate it? What they made you do?"
"I did. Nearly every day. But I'll always love the men and women who did it with me."
Mum. He felt sick, but doubts nagged at him. His father wasn't an evil man, and his mother wasn't an evil woman...were they? But the Empire was evil. His head spun.
"Then...why are we...?"
"Here? We left. Your mother, myself, the few left from our unit who had survived an awful battle from before Zakuul invaded. We defected. We'd...killed enough. Lost enough. The Republic cut us a deal."
"But doesn't that mean you betrayed your people?"
His father's jaw tightened. Waric saw him flex his fingers, cupping his right hand with his left.
"You said you loved them - but you left them." Waric said carefully.

((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyZi_6Av_1o))

The silence was no longer comfortable.
"I did, yeah."
"Betrayed the Empire?"
"No. As you said, I left them. I could never betray the Empire."
"Why?"
"Because I never owed it a damn thing to begin with."
"But you-"
His father stood. Suddenly, his hands were on Waric's shoulders, and his father's face was close to his. Waric froze. He traced his father's weatherbeaten features, noticing nicks and wrinkles that he never had before.
"If we'd stayed there..." His father exhaled quietly.
"You would never have been born. I'd never have been able to be with your mother. If, by some miracle, you had been born, the Sith would have taken you away to Korriban. Or, more likely, I'd have killed them for trying, and you'd be in the slums without a family, like I was."
Waric blanched. His mind raced, and he felt tears forming in his eyes. He could feel his father's turmoil. This is so hard for him.
"I left for you. For Laki. So we could have this life together, away from the war. And so that you would never have to do what I did. Ever." Maybe sensing his son's tenseness, the Miraluka released him, and stood back up. He exhaled again. His voice was quiet and hoarse. "I'm sorry, buddy. I know this is hard to hear. Don't feel you need to forgive me.  I just wanted you to understa-"

Waric hugged him silently. Ralakan put his arms around his son, and hugged him back, wordless.

A long few moments passed.

"C'mon. The flowers need water. Your mom will be pissed if they're wilting. Time to go home."



'Because we're both drowning, and the only difference between us is, I know when to grab hold of something.'

Wonder what you'd say if you could see me now, Lakesh? Probably stick your tongue out, and make that face. I wish I'd been able to grab hold of you that night. But you're not dead. You're too good for them, and it wasn't nearly dramatic enough, you're still out there.

Stay safe, songbird. I hope you fly home one day.