Run-on Story 6
The Return to Mizar
Gui Sun Paan
Gui Sun Paan looked at the clock. It was just 0700 hours, and time get up. All night, the newly promoted Kensei had visions of what might have been happening to Xar. Something about that Warlord named Zalaria told Paan that she was just as evil as Rex perceived her to be. He knew that to risk coming for Xar again, would put his life, and the lives of his fellow Jedi on the line, but he owed Xar. The young Jedi quickly made his way to the Grand Master's Chambers. "Good morning, General Paan. Lord Misnera has been expecting you." the guard's voice was loud, but otherwise pleasant. Paan walked in the door and found
out through the window at the bustling city of
"Master Misnera?" he asked.
"Ahh, Gui Sun. I've been meaning to talk to you."
"Yes, my master. I know. I sensed it."
"Excellent. Anyway, how many ships can Black Ops spare?"
"Enough. The Anglestar, and the Lord Keto are ready, as well as the CRV's Dragonfire, and Black Widow, and the Marauder Corvette Warchild."
"Excellent. Let's walk then. I want you to tell me about these dreams you've been having.
"It's the same every night, master. I see Xar getting thrown across this huge room by that Warlord, and there's nothing he can do. Icis was right. She's much worse than Kronos."
"Can you tell where they are?"
"Not exactly, master. I sense his presence somewhere toward the Rim though. Perhaps we ought to go there."
"It's dangerous, going into unexplored territory. Do you have some way around that problem?"
"Indeed, Master. But maybe we should ask the Diktat about that."
“I see. Very well.” After a moment of deliberation, Alyx opened a channel to Tralaria, the capital of the NI. After several moments, the line went through to the Diktat's office.
"Misnera, you say Paan here has a plan to get Xar out?" Dogar had always been skeptical of Paan (and with good reason).
"Yes. I'll let him explain. Gui?"
"Let me guess Paan. You're just gonna waltz in, scare the AD's pants off with your super-strength and incredible force power, and save Xar in time for him to thank you profusely and promote you again," Dogar said in the surly tone he tended to take with Paan.
"On the contrary, Admiral. I believe our goal should be to try and move in secret, long enough to get close and examine each system. The Black Ops ships can cloak, and we're using a more effective way of seeing when a ship is cloaked, something we found from Imperial records. Each ship contains a series of three probe droids flying round it. These droids are a smaller version, used to relay information to each of the ships about what lies in front of them. Also, they are enhanced with the same anti-radar coating as the Anglestar. It's unlikely the AD concentrated in the area will think to scan for cloaked ships. I'll make a fair bet the AD would probably just send ships to assist their other ships, if we were able to draw them away." Paan's plan was complex, yet simple at the same time. It could work, if Xar was actually willing to come back. But Alyx knew he didn’t. It was time to drop the news.
"Paan, I read Xar’s message. He knows where he’s going and what he’s doing. He doesn’t want to come back. If we try to bring him here against his will, we’ll just be wasting our time. And even if we did force him back against his will, he’d just run off again. We’re not going to be able to hold him back.”
Paan’s jaw dropped open at that. “He doesn’t want to come back? But sir,” he countered. “What if he’s under the influence of that enemy Warlord? Shouldn’t we do something?”
Alyx shook his head. “The sad fact is, I’m afraid, there’s nothing we can do about it. Xar’s too powerful to keep in check all the time here, and we don’t even know where he is. Besides, we don’t have the resources to mount a big offensive right now.”
Dogar chimed in. “We're just trying to recover from the devastation we took from attacking Mizar. I'm struggling to maintain my position, Paan. Not to mention that both Maarek Stele and Admiral Nico are missing in action. We're trying to get a search team together there, as well. Unfortunate that several of your most valuable members have all left at once, but if Xar doesn't care enough about the NI to stay, then we can't expend useful resources trying to bring him back. And with that, I have to go. There are… issues here I have to attend to. I’m sorry," the interim Diktat said, his voice softening as the connection closed.
"I understand his position," Alyx said, "And I concur. Although your plan is laudable, it can’t be used to get Xar out. However, there is someone else we have to to get out of enemy territory.”
Alyx looked at him squarely. “Dogar just said it. Nico.”
Realization dawned on the younger Jedi’s face.
“Nico’s alive. I know it.” Alyx’s voice was dead serious. “And he’s in the Mizar system. Use your plan, Paan. But use it to get Nico out of there.”
Paan’s eyes narrowed as he considered the new Grand Master’s words. “You’re right, of course, master. I’ll get Nico out.”
“We may not have much time. I’m counting on you.”
"We'll be able to leave in a few days," Gui Sun said.
"Right. Let me know when you're ready."
Command Dock, Moro Shipyards
The comm unit blasted it's alert through the room, causing the occupant of the bunk located next to it to jump straight up, cracking his head on the low overhead. Cursing and grumbling, his questing fingers finally found and pressed the "Accept" button.
"Wha-, what is it?"
" Jinx? This is Misnera. I need you here in Vectur. How fast can you make it to Varnus?" The Grand Master of the Jedi Division was not sector-famous for his greetings. Even through the distortion provided by three scramble/de-scramble units, the harriness and fatigue came through the speaker. Jinx looked at the wall chronometer and gingerly felt the growing lump on his head.
" By all that makes the Sith unholy, Master Misnera, you could've waited for another hour, I'm sure. It's 0330 hours here. What's so important?"
" No, Jinx, it can't wait. You need to get here ASAP. It's EXTREMELY important. It's about Xar and Nico." That chased the last vestiges of sleep from Jinx's mind. The former Grand Master and one of the Division’s best leaders were both missing in action, one by choice and the other by battle.
" Alright. Call it four and a half hours from now." Misnera sounded relieved.
" Thanks Jinx. I'll see you then. Come straight to the Grand Chamber." The link closed, and Jinx lay back for a minute before opening another comm link.
" Kevil? Get my X-Wing prepped for immediate travel. Five day overnight pack in the cargo compartment. I want to be spaceside in half an hour." With that, another busy day started for the Magistrate of the Moro System.
Crusader Omega Kira watched the growing debate from his seat with a small amount of alarm. The Grand Chamber of the Palace had been designed by some being with an extreme sense of where the power should be. Up front, the seats for the Jedi Council flanked the large ebony throne reserved for the Grand Master. In the first ranks of chairs were where Jedi Paladins, Adepts, and Masters sat. House Council members also had seats there, regardless of rank. Beyond that were numerous rows of low stone benches where Templars and Crusaders sat. While the room had never been filled to capacity, it was even emptier after the devastating battles of Varnus and Mizar. He watched from his seat in the front section as the Crusaders and Templars split themselves into two factions. One faction, much the larger, was more hawk-like, and wanted to drop everything, charge into AD space and kill everything they could find. They were also opposed to Misnera's ascendance of the throne. Opposing them were a much smaller crowd, led by the Crusader Attrid Xoan. Omega noticed with interest the presence of two outsiders in the chamber. Knight Rynn Mariel and the boy, Derek, had both managed to gain entry to the chamber, and stood in flanking positions behind Attrid. Based on their views, Omega had already dubbed Attrid's group the Protectors, and the others the Avengers. Shouts were just beginning to ring out when a booming voice from the entryway stopped everything.
" QUIET!! Is this the way the leaders of our Order comport themselves?" Jinx stood in the doorway, and it took a moment for Omega to notice the difference in appearance he had gained after Mizar. Then he caught. Unlike the other House Vortigern members, Jinx wore no house patch. Instead, he wore a patch that depicted a white, ghostly creature. Underneath, the patch bore the legend "Mortigena". Jinx looked around, and spoke again. "Now, what's this all about?"
The leader of the "Avengers", a Crusader who only responded to the name of "Nova", stared defiantly at the older Jedi. Like most of his following, Nova had been one of the first group to pass through the accelerated training program. Omega had no doubts that if it weren't for the appearance of the Altarin'Dakor, Nova would still be a Guardian. As it was, he was feeling his oats, fingering his lightsaber has he threw glances between Jinx and the Protectors.
" Paladin, it is good to see you again." Jinx gave a tight, humorless smile in response to the false greeting. " We were in the midst of a debate on whether or not to censure Crusader Xoan for breaking the rules of this chamber by bringing two outsiders in." Nova pointed an accusing finger at the big Jedi and his two friends. Jinx merely glanced over at them, then back at Nova.
" They stay."
" What?! The compendium clearly states that no Jedi not of a House Council, and under the rank of Templar, may gain entry to this hall. Xoan has clearly violated that by bringing Knight Mariel in here, and doubly so by bringing that...boy, in here." The distaste in Nova's voice was clearly audible to all present. In response, Jinx began striding down the aisle to his seat, motioning for Attrid, Rynn, and Derek to follow.
" Crusader, both Knight Mariel and Derek have a specific reason for being here. Rynn was the last person to speak with Grand Master Xar before he left, besides Dean Novitaar, who has also left. And I do not believe you have any grounds to challenge Derek's presence, for did he not surpass you in your Trial of Rank?" Nova's face burned red at the mention of his humiliation, and he closed his hand around his lightsaber's hilt. Before he could draw, Jinx spun about and moved his hand slightly. There was an audible crack throughout the chamber, and Nova looked in amazement at his lightsaber, which had lost it's focusing crystals and power pack, which were lying in the aisle, a few steps away. He looked at Jinx, his face contorted in rage.
" You bastard!! That was my personal weapon, which I strove to build over a month. No man may dishonor me or mine without paying for it!!" Jinx merely looked disinterested.
" Beware, pup, or I may just cut the coin from your hide. With all your power and skill with the Force, you should be able to build another one in, oh, say a week?" The mockery was evident in Jinx' voice. Nova did not get the chance to respond, however, as a side door opened on the dais in the front of the room, and the shadow council began to file in. Jinx turned and found his seat, next to the boy, Derek, who was gazing around him in rapt fascination. Omega, a few seats away, was able to hear the quick exchange.
" Wow, Mister! Does all this stuff work? What does it do?" The seats in the fore section of the chamber were in semi-independent booths, and had briefing pads, mini-holoprojectors, and other various gadgets built in. Jinx motioned to a few, and the boys face glowed.
" Yes, Derek, they all work. Just, whatever you do, don't press that big red button over there." Of course, Derek pushed it. Immediately, a low computer-generated voice came out.
" Hello, Derek. How may I serve you?" It was almost too much for the boy. He nearly started giggling, but then stopped as the current Grand master, Alyx Misnera, entered the chamber. After taking his seat, he motioned for everyone else do the same. Giving a last glance around, Jinx saw Omega, and offered a quick 'hi' sign, then whispered quickly to him.
" I grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. Kids always do the opposite of what you tell them." Omega sat back with a grin, and noticed Adept Kiz Thrakus doing the same. A quick glance around the chamber told the butcher's tale. All of House Vortigern's Council was present, including Jinx. House Ar'Kell had only been able to send Lothair Vykk. Omega himself was representing House Auroras, and he also saw Master Amason present as well. From House Castellan, he saw none. Their numbers had been decimated by the Battle of Mizar, as they had contributed the most Jedi to the fleet. Up front, Misnera began speaking.
" Greetings, Jedi. We are here today to discuss a matter of grave concern. Our Kensei, Paladin Gui Sun Paan Vortigern, has proposed sending a mission to find Master Nico. How many of you will join him?"
Gui Sun Paan
Gui Sun Paan spoke up.
"Just for reference, Jinx. I was the last person to speak with Xar before he left. And I have had a horrible feeling in my stomach since. Anyway, Master Nico mentored me, and I owe it to him to do this. The Black Ops Fleet will use its cloaking ability, to search as many of the systems in AD territory as possible. As for communication while cloaked, the tracker droids will each have an ultra thin retractable COMM mast. Each of the three droids centered around each ship, will briefly poke through the cloaking field, about once every 5 seconds, to relay information about where the ships are going, as well as what the make up of the systems are. They should be able to tell if we find Nico's ship." Paan's plan had changed but had the same complexity, and simplicity it had before.
"The only question I have is when you can be ready to go." Misnera was calmer now.
"I can be ready tomorrow, my master. I would like to take my leave of Oriana. We will probably be getting married after I return. And she mentioned she had something important to tell me as well." Paan was always a bit sensitive when it came to Oriana, he loved her so.
"As you wish. This council meeting is hereby adjourned. We will reconvene tomorrow morning. Jinx, I suggest you stay here on Varnus. You will be needed." Misnera looked relieved to have said that.
"As you wish, my lord." said Jinx.
::Two hours later in Gui Sun Paan's Quarters::
Oriana Ciorin was getting morning sickness every day for about the last 4 weeks. She wanted to tell her future husband, but she didn't want to worry him, when he had just taken a tough position. Oriana herself, a strong Jedi Knight, was scared about being pregnant, let alone with twins. Gui Sun walked in looking upbeat. Oriana thought it best to tell him now, when he was feeling good. Paan kissed her, and then spoke.
"I'm leaving to go find Master Nico tomorrow. I hope to be back relatively soon though. What was it you needed to tell me?" he asked.
Oriana took a deep breath, and then laid it out for him.
"I'm pregnant, Gui. I have been for about a month now." she smiled at her fiance's reaction. Gui Sun Paan gave a delighted grin.
"Do we know what...." Oriana cut him off.
"Twins. A boy and a girl. But don’t worry about that right now. Go find Master Nico. I'll be ok." Paan nodded as she said that. He knew how strong Oriana was.
"As you wish. When I come back, I think it will be time for us to get married." he said.
Oriana simply nodded. Paan then changed into his standard duty uniform, and made his way to the hangar where, the Black Ops fleet was being prepared for its most important mission yet.
Grand Master's Chambers,
Following the Meeting
Misnera took the Grand Master's prerogative, and arrived last. He took stock of the people in the room. Gui Sun Paan, Jinx Skipper, Kiz Thrakus, and Mathis Organa. He sighed. Most all of the surviving Jedi Council staff. He looked down on his desk, trying to find the words with which to start, when the door burst open.
" Hey, am I too late?" Omega walked in, and saluted Grand Master Misnera.
" Sir, I request that I be allowed to join Paan's search for Nico. I served with Nico during the search for Kurt, and I believe that I would be of great assistance to the search party." Paan looked interested, so Misnera waved him in. Once everyone had taken their seats again, he began.
" Most of you know the game plan. Paladin Paan will take the Black Ops Fleet into Mizar and surrounding systems, in an effort to find Nico. Omega will accompany him, to do any duties needed. Anyone else besides Jinx want to go?" There were none. "
Okay then. Paan, you may go now, and prepare your fleet for departure. You may take any Jedi you feel you need, within reason. Go now, and May the Force be With You." Those words, which Paan had previously always considered as the words of the enemy came surprisingly easy to him now that the core member had completely changed their philosophy to the ‘True Force’. It had been a hard, long transition for the command staff, but the rewards had been more than worth it. Fortunately, all the younger Jedi, including those recruited after the NI’s founding, had been taught the True Force exclusively. All the better for them.
With a bow and a salute, Paan and Omega left the office, on their way to issue orders to their fleet.
Gui Sun Paan
::1000 the next morning. Main palace hangar::
Gui Sun Paan looked from the balcony at the five ships that would be going on this most dangerous journey. With him was his fiancé Oriana Ciorin, who had insisted upon coming with him here, to take her final leave of her favorite Jedi. As always, Oriana looked beautiful, and had not yet shown any noticeable signs of pregnancy. Paan always marveled at her beauty, ever since he first laid eyes on her on Corellia. Paan never cared to remember the circumstances under which he'd gone there, but he was certainly glad he did go. Paan held Oriana with one arm, and ran a comforting finger through her golden brown hair.
Suddenly the newest member of Black Ops appeared. Lt Colonel, and Jedi Knight, Vykk, would be going along to give Paan as much information as he could about Mizar and it's surrounding systems. He spoke up.
"Sir, I am ready with all files, on the Mizar system. I do not think we will be able to penetrate the third world. I sense that it is too heavily guarded." Vykk was smart, and also well attuned to the Force.
"I know, Vykk. I can't sense Master Nico on the planet itself."
"I'd picked up a couple of large blips near that planet that blew up, but they were organic in origin. It may have been a few of those dead spiders that were on there." Vykk had not remembered Darklon or the Zelduk that inhabited it.
"Yes, Zelduk, from the destroyed planet Darklon. I sense him more toward the star itself. Not near enough that he's in any danger from the gravity of Mizar, but certainly not out of the woods. We'll find him." At that moment, Oriana spun around and looked Paan in the eyes.
"Listen, Gui. You take care of yourself, understand? I don't want my children to be without a father." she said, crying.
"Don't you worry about me. I've got lots of people with me. I promise you, I will be back. And when I do get back we're getting married." He kissed her one last time.
"Go. I'll be ok. I'll try to contact you on the Holonet from the Moro Shipyards." Oriana nodded and then blew him a kiss.
Paan took the lift down to the hangar and made his way to the hangar of the Anglestar. The Blackhound, Paan's modified X-Wing was all safe and sound. Paan made his way up to the bridge where he was met by all officers, except Jinx, who had made a last minute trip back to the shipyards of Moro. Sornan, who had been on leave was happy to see his friend again.
"I trust you had a good time, Sorn. It must have been rather nice." Paan said
"Yes indeed, sir. It was. I heard about your medal, by the way. Congratulations." Paan looked over at Dunt, the Operations Officer.
"Everything set, Colonel?" he asked.
"Just about, Paan. We should be ready to take off in about 15 minutes." Dunt controlled almost every part of the ship, save for where it was going.
"Good. And the rest of the fleet?" Paan asked.
"All ships reporting that they are ready to go." said the novice.
"Excellent. Then lets get going." Paan sat down in the Commodore’s chair and got on the line to the Grand Master.
"Everything is ready, Master. A few more checks to do here on the Anglestar and we ought to be ready. We'll stop off at the Moro Shipyards to pick up Paladin Jinx." Paan reported.
"Good. Be careful Paan. I'm taking an awful risk letting you do this. You better not let me down." Misnera had a serious expression on his face.
"I won't, Alyx. You can count on me. If Nico is out there, I'll find him." With that, the Anglestar fired up her massive engines and exited the hangar, followed by the Lord Keto, and the three Corvettes. It would take a few hours to get to Moro.
The Modified Frigate Anglestar and her sister, the Imperial dungeon ship Lord Keto along with their three escorts exited hyperspace a safe distance from the main planet of the Moro System. Jinx was waiting for them in a shuttle nearby. Jinx's deep voice came over the comm channel.
"Good to see you again, Paan. You know, Nico was on the Dark Lightning. He got off before it was destroyed I'm sure." Paan nodded.
"Me too, Jinx. Are you all set to go? You may board the Anglestar when ready." Paan was stunned, but not surprised at Jinx's answer.
"No, Paan. Your old baby, the Starhound is ready to go. Amleth is going to take the captain’s chair, and I'll be his first mate" he told Paan.
"As you wish. Prepare for coordinates to the Mizar system. And I hope that you have someway of fooling the enemy. The Starhound doesn't have a cloaking device you know." Paan was worried that the first ship he'd ever purchased might be destroyed. But he had confidence in Jinx's abilities.
"We're gonna use a fake transmission code. That ought to fool them for awhile." Jinx replied
"Good. See you there, then." Paan closed the connection.
All of a sudden, as he closed the connection with Jinx, he could almost hear Xar. The dreams were back again. This time he was in immense pain, and Paan could not only hear him cry out, but someone evil, laughing. Paan could sense that Xar had not reached his destination yet, but that when he did, he would be in grave danger. Paan shook off the vision, and concentrated on finding his comrade. Nico was counting on him. The 6 ships all jumped into hyperspace. It was now or never. These assembled Jedi would have to face their greatest fears, and hope that they could find Nico, their seemingly fallen comrade. Something in Paan, however, told him that his former master was not dead.
"Captain, why haven't we left on our final leg yet?" Paan was nervous. They were currently one system out from Mizar, performing final system checks. The Anglestar's captain glanced over his screens before replying.
" The Starhound hasn't replied in yet. Strange, the sensors show that her hangar shields are down..." Then, a single ship blasted out of the Starhound. Visual sensors quickly locked on and showed it to be an X-Wing. Seconds later, the comm unit came to life.
" This is Scout One, calling HideAway One. Come in, HideAway One." After getting a nod from Paan, the communications Ensign okayed the link.
" This is HideAway One. Go ahead, Scout One. What's the problem?"
" HideAway, I have to go back to Varnus. Something's come up. The Quaestor has command of HeavenDog Alpha. Good hunting, HideAway." With that, the X-Wing re-orientated itself, and shot off into hyperspace. Paan turned to look at Omega.
" Any idea what that was about?" The man shook his head
" No clue." Then, another ship came out of hyperspace, almost on top of them, and the fleet went into battle mode. Cloaking devices went into action, guns were trained, and missiles ready. Then, and only then, did the sensor officer's calls allowed to reach Paan's consciousness.
" Sir, sensors read the ship as a standard bulk freighter, cargo unclassified, IFF reads the Jedi Division." Paan breathed a little easier. So far, so good.
" Have the Starhound take her alongside. Rout all communications through to us as well." Within the next minute, as orders were exchanged and links opened, the freighter pulled alongside of the Frigate Starhound. The ship's captain, a bright, cheerful looking woman in a standard gray Moro Shipyards uniform, hailed across the void. " Tally-ho, friend. This is Captain Bella Ranyesc of the freighter Invisible Duckling, with supplies from the Moro Shipyards for the Black Ops fleet. Permission to dock, Starhound?" Omega started chuckling.
" Invisible Duckling, eh? Always knew that Jinx had a quacked sense of humor." That started Vykk going.
" That freighter's so old, it looks like it's held together with spit and duct tape." Paan covered his eyes with one hand. It was going to be a long trip.
" I just hope his "supplies and upgrades" are all they're ‘quacked’ up to be." Paan couldn't take it anymore.
" Guys, cut it out! You're about to drive me daffy with all the duck jokes!" Wrong words to say. They were still laughing about it as they made their way from the bridge. Paan was exasperated. These were the guys he had picked to rescue Nico?
"Where did they want to stay, before they jump into the Mizar System?", the black cloaked man asked.
"I don't know, Sir", the young Initiate replied. "I'm only an Initiate and don't know what the leaders want to do."
'Damn!' the man thought.
"I thank you Initiate for your answered, and train on!"
"Thank you, Sir!", replied the young man, as Neres Warjan, Leader of House Castellan, ended the transmission.
The homecoming was full of bad news, he thought. First Xar disappears, then the others want to fly into the system of the Altarin'Dakor.
And all that over only one women! Xar must be crazy, or in love.
"Love! A word without background," Neres said to himself. He must do something and he knew what.
"Hangar, prepare my ship for take-off", he said into his commlink. "I want it ready in one hour."
He got all he thought he would need for the trip. Blaster, Lightsaber, backpack with rations and ammo for his blaster.
As he moved into the Hangar, he saw the 'Lone Wolf', his Black painted Firespray-class Ship.
"Sir, why you fly alone and not with some more people?" the mechanic asked.
"Because the most of the House are in medical treatment, are wounded or are dead, and I don't want to loose any more, okay?"
"It was only a question", the mechanic replied. "Good luck, Sir."
Neres sat down in his pilot chair and started the engines. The well-known sound of the engines gives him the feeling he was immortal.
As he flew out of the hangar, he saw some of the mechanic wave to him with the feeling that he may never come back from this journey.
'Well, do you want to live forever', was Neres' last thought, as he jumped into hyperspace, en route to the Mizar System.
Gui Sun Paan
The Anglestar was the first to exit hyperspace, into the dark expanse of the Mizar system. Then just a few seconds later, came the other five ships. Paan gave the order to cloak quickly.
"All ships prepare to engage cloaking fields. Deploy all tracker droids on my mark." Paan's order was loud and clear. Each ship cloaked and sent out its tracker droids to relay information. Paan could sense not only evil but also that Nico was nearby. Where Nico was, he wasn't sure exactly, but Paan's Jedi instincts told him that he had to be somewhere in this system. Paan could only hope that it was inconspicuous, and that his friend hadn't been caught. Just then Dunt noticed a blip on the sensor.
"Sir? I've picked something up on the sensors. It's a faint signal, like a distress beacon." he said.
"Can you tell where it's coming from exactly?" Paan asked.
"No sir. But it appears to be a call for help on a coded frequency. Perhaps I could sort it out." Dunt punched up buttons and was able to sort out a garbled message from Nico.
To anyone who can hear this message. This is the shuttle Escape 1. We are currently hiding out in an abandoned asteroid base. Please send help. We do not know how long we can... OH NO! They're too strong!
Paan knew he had to do something. It was conceivable that Nico was in serious trouble. Paan looked to his operations officer again.
“Paan, this is a trap,” Vykk’s voice came over the link.
"It doesn’t matter. Dunt, try to find Nico. If he's in trouble we need to help him ASAP."
Suddenly Paan knew. The young Jedi could sense the exact position of the asteroid. Almost as if the Jedi Master was calling to him through the Force.
--Somewhere in the Ixion System--
"Are the plans ready to go?" Asked a rather large, dark haired man.
"They're ready, and we shouldn't have much trouble getting to the shipyards," replied the other man.
Kasei began pacing the floor impatiently. "We need to get going now, Am."
"Almost ready, Thrakus is still on Varnus because of the meeting, but I've ordered him back here to hold things until I can get back." Amason replied.
As soon as the meeting on Varnus was over, Amason and Kasei had headed back to House Aurora's home system of Ixion, to prepare their plans and equipment for travel to the NI shipyards at Moro, where they were to supervise the design, construction, and testing of their ships being built. The Light War Cruiser (LWC) Majestic was the first of the Majestic-class cruisers, and now they were going to build five more for the NI.
"I've contacted Jinx. He said he'd be gone by the time we arrived, but to go ahead with the construction" Amason announced, "I hope they find Xar… things are going crazy without him. I have to give it to Alyx though, for managing all this chaos and keeping everyone in line."
"Well, let's be going."
The two men made their way to the docking platform of the station where the Majestic was docked. Amason still couldn't believe that his idea, long thought impossible, was a reality now.
"She's a beauty isn't she?" Amason said, gazing at the large ship in the viewport.
"Aye...that she is, Am" Replied Kasei. "Let's get moving."
After boarding the Majestic, a course was set for the Moro shipyards. The ship moved away from the shipyards, cloaked, and blasted into hyperspace...
The alarm clock he had set woke him up. Neres opened his eyes and yawned loudly. "Wow, next time I'll sleep in my bed," he mumbled, as he orientated where he was, and sat down right in the pilot's chair.
He looked on the chrono, and it showed, that he would come out of hyperspace in about two minutes. Enough time for his fast checklist. He checked the shields, weapons, the sensors. All in green.
As he looks again on the chrono, there was only ten seconds left. He took the handle of the hyperdrive in his hands.
5 seconds. Hmmm, he felt, that something was wrong.
4 seconds. Maybe a wrong destination?
3 seconds. Nope, can't be, he verified it 3 times that he wouldn't fly into a black hole or something.
2 seconds. He'll see it in about one second.
0 seconds left.
He pulled the handle to him, and came out of hyperspace... and flew directly into an asteroid field.
His eyes widened, as he saw it. He reacted first, as a little rock crashed into his right wing.
"My ship!" he yelled, and raised his shields. He looked at the computer, and it told him that his right wing was lightly damaged.
Should be no problem at all, but in the wings are also the repulsorlifts, and those are heavy damaged. The landing without it can be extremely dangerous.
"Nice, out of hyperspace into an asteroid field, what else can happen?" he asked himself, as he tried to avoid the bigger rocks.
He looked at the navigation computer. It showed him that here should be a planet. Yet Neres understood. "I forgot to update my NavComp, therefore I got this feeling," he told himself, to calm him down.
Here there was the planet Darklon, which was destroyed during the rescue of Grand Master Xar. But now there only was an asteroid field.
He saw a very big rock, and he knew that it was a part of the Planet, evidence that no one should be given so much power to destroy a whole Planet.
Neres turned his ship toward it with the intention that he could land there and can try to repair the wing and the repulsorlift in it. He didn't think that the others are already here, but he would send out a message where he is, if he can.
The landing was the most cursed he ever made. As he changed from the sublight drives to the repulsorlifts, he nearly crashed into the surface, because he forgot that his right repulsor was heavily damaged, so he had to reduce the energy from the left one to land on the rock so as not to damage any more things on his ship.
As Neres landed on the destroyed planet, he took a deep breath, and sat in his chair for a few minutes.
"I made it,” he said. "Now the repair!" He went to his cabin and took out a black EVA suit. He put it on and took his utility belt with the tools on it, and opened the hatch from the ship. The atmosphere went out, and he moved on to the damaged wing.
"That's the worst vacation I've ever dreamed of. To land on a rock that nobody really knows, to repair my own ship and to survive the da,y" he said, as he began to repair the repulsorlift.
Gui Sun Paan
The asteroid that Gui Sun Paan was sure held Nico loomed into view. It was a large asteroid, so if Nico was still alive, he could hide out, assuming of course he held off the enemy attack in the message. Paan nodded for Sornan to come over to his commodore’s chair. Someone had to take the con while Paan and a few others went to look for Nico.
"Sorn, I need you to take the con. Dunt, Vykk, Amleth, and I, will go and try to find Nico."
Sornan nodded. "All right. Be careful, though. I doubt you'll make it out of that asteroid with out a fight. We've also picked up enemy ships heading our way. You won’t have more than half an hour." The Jedi Guardian's face twisted with worry. Paan nodded, and then headed off the bridge. Sornan was right, and Paan knew it. The Altarin’Dakor would probably find him before he got Nico off the asteroid. Paan hopped into the Blackhound, and left the Anglestar's hangar, followed closely by the shuttle carrying his four fellow Jedi. About ten minutes later the group landed on the asteroid where Nico's transmission had originated. Paan looked around, trying to sense where Nico was. Suddenly he saw through the Force, a room, down the hall from the hangar. Paan alerted the others.
"Guys, follow me. I've found Nico. Just watch yourselves. If the AD find us, we're in big trouble. We're gonna have to be ready to get the hell out of here."
Then went into the small hangar and then through a small airlock door, waiting for it to cycle. A dimly-lit corridor greeted them.
“I can’t believe this is so easy,” Vykk said beside him.
“Be ready for anything,” Paan ordered.
The group walked down to the room where he felt Nico being held. The door opened easily enough, but the man inside caused a gasp among the group. He was there. The Jedi was on top of a table against the wall, his arms lashed tightly behind him to braces in the wall. His robes were tattered, and stained blood covered much of the tabletop.
Acting quickly, Paan pulled out his lightsaber, set the blade for its shortest length, and cut the man's wrists loose. Then he and Amleth helped support the man as he began to regain consciousness.
"Paan… the last… person… I expected… to see," Nico's voice was raspy, and slurred from weakness.
"I owe you, Master Nico. You mentored me, and got me started here. 'Bout time I returned the favor." Paan smiled.
"How in Palpatine's name did you end up like this?" Amleth asked, dismayed.
"Long…story," Nico managed coarsely. He took a drink of water from a flask Vykk offered before continuing. "I made it here… but they found me. I haven't been… awake much, but I know they've been… doing something… to me... You shouldn't have… come. I'm too dangerous… to you."
"Nonsense," Paan interjected. "We're getting you out of here."
Just then Dunt and Vykk both jerked back, strange expressions coming on their faces. They looked horrified at Paan, but Vykk spoke first.
"Sir, I sense an AD Jedi in the immediate vicinity. I think we'd best GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE FAST." Vykk was scared, and Paan could see it.
"Vykk, take Master Nico, and get him to the shuttle. Dunt, Amleth, you go with him. This was my idea, and therefore I have to fight this enemy Jedi alone, no matter what happens to me." Paan was the most determined he'd ever been in his life. Amleth shook his head at Paan.
"Master, you can't fight one of them on your own. You'll die. Let me help." Amleth frowned as Paan shook his head.
"Amleth, don't worry about me. I'm strong, and no matter what happens, I'll be back. Your primary concern is Master Nico. NOW GET TO THAT SHIP."
Paan didn't mean to yell, but he didn't want the Templar to get hurt with him. He watched them leave, then moved back into the main hallway in silence.
The Jedicon finally approached the corridor, striding his way up slowly and confidently. The markings on the Jedicon's face looked different than any tattoos Paan had seen before. Paan had seen the markings of many clans of warriors throughout the galaxy, but those of the Altarin'Dakor were more elaborate. No time to think about that now, the young Paladin thought.
Paan instinctively reached for his lightsaber, but then noticed the Jedicon had no visible weapons. Gui Sun had been working on trying to control his force lightning power. Misnera had taught it to him at this rank, because of Paan's concentration, but he still had yet to successfully control a blast. That didn't matter now, as much of a risk as it was, he would have to try. Paan conjured up all his concentration, and fired a blast of Force lightning at the Jedicon, staggering him back, but leaving him seemingly unhurt. Umm... uh oh. Not good, thought Paan. Paan tried a wave of Force this time trying to keep the enemy at bay, but to no avail. He was just too strong. Then the Jedicon drew a small cylindrical handle, out of which a shaft of energy shot out of one side.
A lightsaber! Paan thought, instinctively igniting his saber. The Jedicon's blade cut at Paan from all angles, but Paan's control of the lightsaber allowed him to block several attack. Not for long, however. One close strike cut a thin slash across Paan's side, the same side Ronin had cut. In pain, Paan staggered back. The young Jedi warrior was losing, and suddenly became afraid of dying. Just then a voice called out to him through the Force. The voice of Grand Master Misnera. Paan, use the force. Let go, and trust me. Stretch out with your feelings, and you can do this. Call for someone to help. Misnera's voice was enough to keep Paan from feeling the pain, but he still needed some help. Through the force, Paan contacted the only other Jedi who could possibly help him Nico, hear me. I need your help again.
Unfortunately, only silence answered him. Stepping back, Paan settled himself to fight again, knowing that the next exchange would mean his death. Then, just as the Jedicon began to move, Amleth jumped into the corridor beside him, lightsaber extended.
"Looks like you could use a little help after all," the man said.
"Thanks, but we can discuss that later," Paan answered, hissing in pain from his cut. "We've got to buy ourselves enough time to get off this rock." The two Jedi fought furiously against the Jedicon, attacking him both at once. At first, the Altarin'Dakor held his own against the two Jedi. But finally, Paan noticed a brief second in which the Jedicon's guard dropped. Pushing his blade out of the way with his saber, Paan sent a powerful kick into the enemy that send him crashing back against the wall, finally sliding unconscious to the floor.
"Let's go, before he wakes up. I'll get to the Blackhound." Paan said. Amleth nodded and ran as fast as he could toward the shuttle, while Paan hopped into the Blackhound and flew back toward the Anglestar. Both Jedi knew it wasn't over. The AD knew they were there, and their ships were probably scant moments away. "Dammit, Jinx. Where the hell are you?" Paan said as the Blackhound entered the hangar.
" Dammit Jinx, where the Sith have you been?" Misnera was in rare form, itching to tear something apart with his hands, never mind his powers. The current object of his wrath stood in a wrinkled jumpsuit, obviously just in from a multi-day journey in a snubfighter. Despite the inherent dangers of doing so, Jinx brushed off Misnera's question and staggered into a chair. "Sir, this is important. It's about the AD. They're the ones-" Unable to control himself anymore, Misnera spun and grabbed the larger man by the throat, lifting him out of the chair. Jinx had a shocked look on his face that bled through the haggardness.
" I AM THE GRAND MASTER OF THIS SOCIETY! WHEN I ASK A QUESTION, YOU WILL ANSWER ME!" Before Misnera could drop him back to the floor, Jinx made a slight motion with his hands, and was free. He rubbed his neck for a moment, then with much effort, drew himself into a position akin to attention.
" Sir, Paladin Skipper reporting with important news about the Altarin'Dakor. I had a flash of something while I was on the bridge of the Starhound, something, I don't know what. But I made this connection. The man that was controlling Kreggs and the other Centurions in the temple on Kyshran, he called himself a Jedicon. That means the Altarin'Dakor have found another way into this galaxy, other than Epsilon Sector. I opened myself to the Force, and let it guide me away from the fleet in my X-Wing. I ended up in the Vargon Death Cloud again." Jinx paused, letting his breath catch back up to his words. " I didn't find any Titans, but I found a couple of their escort ships. I want to take a team of Jedi back there and wipe them out. I'll borrow a couple of ships from the Intruder Wing, it'll be fast and simple." Misnera sat back at his desk, still fuming.
" Request denied, on these grounds. Just before you arrived, I received a vision from Paan. He's found Nico, but they're in trouble. Take your team and ships, and go to Mizar. Get our people out of their first. Then you can do your thing." Jinx saluted, then turned and ran from the office. On the way, he passed an orderly. Grabbing him, he issued his orders.
" Get on the loudspeaker. Inform Crusaders Xoan and Nova, Knight Mariel, and these others to meet me on the north landing pad in ten minutes. Do it, now, don't think." Quickly, he rattled off the names of five Knights he knew were in Black Ops training, and had been left behind. Then, he ran to the hangars, to supervise the prepping of his fighter and the shuttle sitting nearby. The rescue was under way.
Gui Sun Paan
"Dunt, get us the HELL out of here." Paan saw the two AD cruisers following the Anglestar and the rest of the ships. Dunt fired up the engines and made calculations for the jump to Moro, but that was going to take time.
"Master, the cruisers are in firing range, and the Warchild is right in the way," said Dunt. Paan could only look on as the beam cannon opened up. The blast ripped through the Marauder Corvette like it were a piece of paper. The front section of the smaller craft broke off and exploded, while the back section kept on going forward for about 30 seconds before it too, exploded. But the enemy wasn't done yet. The second cruiser's blast cut holes in the Anglestar, Lord Keto, and Starhound. Most of the blast was absorbed by the Parabolic Hull barriers, but not enough that the Starhound and Lord Keto weren't damaged. Paan nearly choked Dunt.
"Come on Stone! Get us the hell out of here." He turned to look out the viewscreen, seeing the approaching cruisers. Further on, he could see the third planet of Mizar, an impenetrable fortress they hadn't even been able to get close to. The massive body of the Titan was still there. I wonder why it’s not attacking, Paan wondered. This is almost too easy...
"All ships follow the Anglestar to the following coordinates." Dunt said, as he sent the coordinates to all of the remaining ships' navicomputers.
The Lord Keto made the jump first, followed by the Starhound, the Anglestar, and the two remaining corvettes. Seemingly free from the enemy's wrath, the group entered the Moro system 1.5 hours later. But their hopes were dashed as the two enemy ships de-cloaked in front of them, their superior speed allowing them to arrive in front of the Jedi vessels.
"Oh man, looks like somebody got ambitious, they've followed us! Jinx, get that damn fleet together and help us! The Starhound is already at 50% shields." Paan was yelling, and did not realize it. Jinx finally answered over the comm. "I'm with you, Paan. Half my fleet has jumped in, and we're ready to drive that monstrosity out of the Moro system."
Paan was relieved, but still nervous. If the fleet could not repel the cruisers the AD could easily gain control of Moro. But Paan knew it wasn't possible. The fleet HAD to repel the enemy...
" All fighters, come about to heading one-nine-seven, parallel to the system's plane. Form up by squads when you get there. 432nd in front, 91st behind them. 56th and 94th Pursuit Groups, grab the flanks." Suiting actions to words, Jinx snapped his X-Wing into a sharp dive and roll, ending up at the rendezvous point. As his fighters gathered around him, he took a glance at the stat-board. Furthest out ahead was Paan's fleet, moderately damaged by the look of it. Squadrons were pouring out of the frigates as fast as they could launch them. Closer to Jinx were the two AD capital ships. Thank the stars they weren't Titans. Then came Jinx' fighter wing, eight squadrons and himself, off of the three capital ships to their rear, the IWS Fletcher (an Assault Frigate), and a pair of MC-60's, the IWS Traktion and Triumphant. Even further back, ships were still getting under way and launched from the shipyards. They would make their way into the battle piecemeal. Jinx opened his comm again.
" Fletcher, this is Fighter One. We are in position. Suggest you angle for the portside cruiser. I'll radio to the other fleet and tell them to get the other."
" Roger that, One. The magician's have a "No Joy" so far." Jinx bit back a curse. His team of Jedi were on the auxiliary bridge of the Fletcher, doing their best to break through the Force barrier the AD ships always seemed to have. So far, there was no luck.
" Great, looks like we'll have to do this the old fashioned way, then." He switched comm channels to the one normally employed by Black Ops. " This is Fighter One to Darklings. Come in, Darklings." The voice he heard in response wasn't one he had expected.
" Fighter One, this is Darklings. Jinx, this is Nico. No time to talk. We need you to hit the cruiser to your starboard as hard as you can, and as fast as you can. We'll take that one, if you're friends will take the other."
" Admiral, good to hear your voice again, sir. You took the words right out of my mouth. Rolling in now." He switched back to the main fighter channels, just in time to hear his squadron commanders checking in.
" Wombats report 16 animals ready to search and
destroy." The 432d Fighter Squadron had 16 E-Wing class starfighters on their lists, straight from the factory,
having been pirated from a
" Snake-eaters here. Our babies are ready for dinner." The 91st Bomb Squadron flew ten Missile Boats, and were feared throughout the sector for their ferocious dive-bombing attacks and accuracy with their heavy rockets.
" Wolf Pack reports ready to kill something." The 56th Pursuit Group flew a mix of X-Wings, A-Wings, and F-Wings in three squadrons, for a total of 34 fighters. They had established quite a reputation over Varnus and Moro, downing close to four enemy fighters for every one they lost. Except for AD ships. Still, it was impressive when compared with the stats of all squadrons in the New Imperium.
" The Flying Circus has all three rings operational." The 94th Pursuit Group was a transplant, flying TIE Avengers and eight precious TIE Defenders off of the Triumphant. Their Star Destroyer had been destroyed at Mizar, and they were reassigned to the Triumphant, who had lost its fighter wing. Space was cramped for the 48 fighters, but they managed it well. Jinx did a final systems check of his own, making sure all weapons and systems were operating correctly, before replying.
" Here's the deal, folks. We're going to be hitting the big boy to starboard, then swinging around and engaging the fighters. Snake-Eaters and Wombats will form a column, hitting the cruiser in sequence, then making a sharp cut over to unload on the other cruiser before dealing with the fighters. Wolfpack and Circus, you guys need to keep them off of us for that time."
Then, Jinx noticed a discrepancy on his tactical screen. The cruisers had launched close to two hundred fighters, but only about 150 or so were on the sensor board. As the realization hit, he felt his gut go cold. "All fighters, arm and fire two missiles. Be prepared to engage auto destruct on my command. Fire!" Two hundred and eighteen missiles and torpedoes shot across the void. When they were ten kilometers from the visible fighters, Jinx gave the order to detonate. As their small explosions filled the void, a strange thing happened. More, larger explosions joined them, and out of some of them, fighters appeared out of nowhere, some trailing debris and fire. " Wolfpack and Circus, break and attack! Strike groups, stay on target." As the six squads broke from their formation and hurled themselves at the approaching fighters, the two cruisers began opening up with their lasers and mass driver cannons. Thankfully, the horrendous beam weapons remained silent. His force split, the E-Wings remaining on level with the cruiser, the Missile Boats going high. Then, they were at the point of no return, and the flak got intense.
" Yeah! They nailed the bastard!" The sensor officers scream caused nearly the whole bridge to erupt in jubilation. Amleth Uiara looked up form his screen in time to see the explosions getting bigger around the AD cruiser. The jubilation was cut short when the cruiser fired its beam weapon, catching five E-Wing's in it's blast. They simply melted away, devoid of explosions. The sensor officer was amazed. " No way. They hit him with all they had, and barely made a dent." The comm channel began filling with messages.
" This is Wombat five, assuming command of the
squadron. We are
" Wombat Five, this Fighter One. I copy that last, and sorry about the bust. We'll get a few for you." As Amleth watched the screen, the eight remaining Missile Boats rippled-fire their remaining rockets at the other cruiser, before forming back up on Jinx. Less than half the rockets made it through to the target. Amelth shook his head. It would be a long fight.
The arrival of the 91st Squadron into the growing furball was announced by a salvo of missiles that knocked down over twenty AD fighters. Then, all hell broke loose and it was every pilot for himself. TIE Avengers ran through the fight, letting fly with quad laser fire almost indiscriminately. Nimble A-Wings made short passes on their targets, before breaking and flying away at impossible angles and speeds. The X-Wings had gotten the worst of the fight, by far, having only four left out of 14 fighters that started the fight. These pilots paired up and fought as wing pairs, targeting one fighter between them and hammering it until its hull collapsed. F-Wings skidded and slid through clouds of enemy fighters, cutting loose every few seconds with an awesome burst from their pair of rapid-fire cannons. The TIE Defenders paired up, much as the X-Wings had; using their superior weaponry and beam weapons to devastating effect. One fighter would engage an Altarin'Dakor fighter in its tractor beam, then both would fire their lasers in quad mode, quickly destroying the fighter. Through it all, two fighters flew and fought without fear of being hit by either side. One was an Altarin'Dakor fighter design code-named Stiletto-Charlie. The other was the black X-Wing. As chance, or the Force, would have it, these two craft finally met up right in the middle of the dogfight. Both craft maneuvered around, attempting to get the kill shot, but having to settle for glancing blows to strong shields. Jinx grimaced. This guy was good. His fighter shook from an especially close blast, and before the shaking was over, Jinx reefed the X-Wing into the tightest turn he had ever managed. With his Inertial Compensator set to only about half, the g-forces generated form the turn mashed his face into a ghoulish grin. The gambit worked out, however, as Jinx was able to score a solid hit to his enemies stern with all four of his lasers and two of his four ion cannons. Jinx was satisfied to see some armor bubble off of the exotic craft's hull. His comm unit crackled, and a strange voice came across.
" A good shot, I commend you. You almost fight well enough to be considered an equal. I ask of you your name, so that I may tell my superiors of your exploits once I finally shoot you down." Jinx shook his head. That voice was annoying in that it broke through his concentration a little bit. He decided to see if his voice would do the same for the other pilot. " Uh-uh. You speak Basic well. My turf, you go first." There was an amused chuckle, and the fighter in front of Jinx broke sharply to the right, going almost perpendicular to its previous line of flight.
" Very well. I am the Jedicon Valtoris, servant of Mordachus, slayer of the false Jedi." Jinx shook his head. It was almost too good to be true.
" I am Jedi Paladin Jinx Vortigern, Crown prince Jacob Skipper of Renatasia, slayer of Mordachus." He fired as he completed the last phrase, again catching Valtoris just over the engines. More armor bubbled off. Valtoris suddenly disappeared from Jinx view, leveling out from the sudden loop on Jinx' tail. When his voice came back, it was more sinister, not as mocking as it had been before.
" You would do well to avoid voicing such blasphemy, Jinx Vortigern. Were it not for the fact that you fight like a cornered Mortigena, I would call all my fighters to attack you for your false boasts. As it is, I will satisfy myself with killing you slowly." Valtoris fired, hitting Jinx cleanly on the upper port S-foil, taking off the laser cannon at the wingtip. Jinx tried his last gambit, chopping all power to his port engines, sending his fighter into a tight spin, igniting them again as he completed one turn.
Valtoris, surprised by the maneuver, shot past Jinx, who dropped into his wake and fired again, scouring away the last of the armor over Valtoris' engines.
" Who said they were false? I compliment you on your skill, but, as they say, close, but no..." Then Jinx saw a sight that chilled his bones, then ignited a cold fury in his stomach. Two AD fighters trailed a TIE Defender, toying with the Defender, firing slightly damaging shots each time. Almost without thinking, he armed and fired his two remaining torpedoes at the pair of fighters. Both hit, and one fighter caroomed into the other, destroying them both. Unfortunately, in that instant, Valtoris completed another loop, and was now in the 'kill' spot, above and behind Jinx. He fired once, at the combined set of four Mass Drivers burned through the armor and hull of the X-Wing's nose, destroying all four of the ion cannons and the torpedo launching mechanisms housed there. Then, he transmitted again.
" An laudable effort at helping one of your friends, but it will cost you dearly. I dare not let one such as you live. You fought well, but it is now time to say good-bye." Jinx closed his eyes, waiting for the fatal strike, and so missed the big entrance...
Jinx opened his eyes again as he heard the Jedicon's gasp come over the commlink. He gave a cry of his own as he saw the massive bulk of a Star Destroyer place itself directly in front of him as it emerged from hyperspace. He saw the Jedicon on his radar pull up and away, as he slammed his own stick forward, sending his damaged X-wing into a steep dive. The hull of the ISD spun by in front of him, then suddenly gave way to clear space.
That was too close, he thought. He checked his rear screens, seeing them empty, then a thought hit him. Valtoris had pulled up, so he was probably passing over the hull just as Jinx was going underneath. Which meant that the Jedicon had lost sight of him. Putting a hand on his throttle control, he fired the reverse thrusters hard, slowing his forwarded momentum. A second later, the AD fighter flashed by overhead, coming out directly in Jinx's sights. The Jedi smiled as he centered his crosshairs over the unprotected rear of the craft and cut loose with his remaining three lasers. His beams scored a direct hit into the starboard engine, melting its housing and sending a gout of flame out the rear of the craft. The fighter pulled away sharply, then fell into a wild spin up and to Jinx's port side.
"Not bad, outlander," Valtoris' strained voice said. "You have the luck of a one-armed Crinn. But I'm far from finished."
"I think you are," Jinx shot back icily. "Take a look. The tables have turned, my friend." He looked back at the new arrival with a broad smile. As he did so, a new voice came over the comm waves.
"This Gaius Adonai, Commodore of the ISD Stormwatch, here to assist. All NI craft, pull back. We've got something special planned for these Altarin'Dakor."
"Never thought I'd be so happy to hear your voice, sir," Jinx responded, keying his own commlink. "Thanks for the save."
Then his attention came back to the present as the enemy starfighter began to swivel around in front of him. Jinx knew he couldn't survive a head to head run against the ship, not with its array of mass drivers. "Don't think the appearance of one petty ship is going to change the outcome of this fight," the Jedicon's stern voice called out. "My master may hold as much sway as others, but my victory over you will bring much honor to the Shok'Thola, Mordachus."
"Stop the charade," Jinx shot back. "Mordachus is dead. I killed him two hundred years ago. I burned him to a crisp!"
"What?" Valtoris' voice took on a new, sharper tone. "You can't possibly be that one... But either way, Mordachus is still alive. You cannot kill a Shok'Thola." His fighter's port engine kicked in, turning the fighter around toward Jinx once more. "And now, Jinx Vortigern, your life ends."
"I don't think so," Jinx said, firing again. The trio of lasers shot from his wingtips, streaking out and catching the enemy fighter right across its cockpit. He watched as, in an instant, the front was melted away, and then suddenly the whole fighter exploded. The fighter’s mass driver blast, amazingly, missed him by almost two meters. A slight miscalculation, otherwise Jinx would be as dead as the Jedicon was now.
As the expanding ball of gas faded, Jinx breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, at the same time, a terrible thought pervaded his mind. Valtoris had said that Mordachus was still alive. From the tone of his voice, there was no question that he believed it. How could that be possible? Jinx had killed the Warlord himself, and it'd taken a century to get over that experience. Now, he faced the thought that his most hated foe was still alive and maliciously plotting against the NI. What does this mean? he wondered to himself.
His thoughts were interrupted as another familiar voice broke through. "This is CEO Amason from the Moro Shipyards. All NI vessels, move away from the Altarin'Dakor cruisers. Get as far away as possible, right now!"
Turning his ship back toward the planet, Jinx noticed a new sight. Five of them, in fact, several hundred kilometers away, near the shipyards. Each ship was built around a long, cylindrical object, spreading out at the rear and sharp at the front. Even though the ships weren't fully complete, they already cruised gracefully through space toward the battle area. Jinx knew what they were, for he'd been there when Amason had arrived, to oversee the production of the new Majestic-class Cruisers. Built around a gigantic mass driver, they were the NI's newest weapon against the Altarin'Dakor. It was the most beautiful sight he'd seen in a long time.
The NI ships moved quickly away from the two AD cruisers, pursued hotly by the remaining swarm of enemy fighters. As the cruisers continued moving in-system, oblivious to what was about to occur, the five nearly completed cruisers pulled to a halt.
From his position onboard the bridge of the Scimitar, Walt Amason smiled.
"All ships, synchronize firing solutions. Target the port cruiser." He watched the crosshairs that were painted over the enemy ship, and felt a chilling rush of exhilaration at what was about to occur. The first test of the Majestic had been against a pirate outpost. They had been completely obliterated. The Majestic-class cruisers were not cheap, but they were worth every credit. The Altarin'Dakor wouldn't even know what hit them...
"Fire," he ordered.
Five massive shots blasted out of the ships' barrels, each traveling fast enough to break a planet's orbit and strong enough to wipe out an entire city. The fifty-meter-wide projectiles flashed across space, nearly invisible, speeding towards the enemy ships too fast for them to avoid. Space provided no friction to the shots as they traveled the hundreds of kilometers to target. Then, in the blink of an eye, the projectiles came upon their target.
The shots hit the cruiser from the side, passing right through the shield and shattering the heavy armor plating on the outside. Unabated, they continued on through the ship, bursting out the other side, all in the space of an instant. Explosions blossomed out from inside the ship, flying out the holes in the ship, combining with each other in a huge chain reaction. The flames seemed to consume the entire ship, and then the core went, blowing the cruiser apart as a massive shockwave expanded outward, consuming a handful of fighters that hadn't gotten clear.
The chaos that erupted sent the enemy into an uproar, but they didn't have enough time to recover from the surprise. "Re-target on the other ship and fire at will," Amason said smoothly.
Another round shot from the front of each ship, sending another projectile flying through space toward the second ship. The other cruiser, apparently seeing the tides of battle reversed, began to turn away from the planet, turning its bow toward deep space. Unfortunately for them, they didn't have enough time. The second round of shots hit the ship in sequence, first tearing through the aft of the ship, detonating its engines, then bursting open the middle and front of the ship. The expanding explosions took the vessel apart in segments, consuming the ship and combining into one massive ball of fire.
"I'd say that's another successful test," Amason said wryly, as the bridge of the Scimitar erupted in jubilation. "Signal all the fleet. Let's mop up here and get the word out. Today marks the turning point in our war against the Altarin'Dakor..."
Gui Sun Paan
Paan looked on in utter shock as the Altarin Da'kor cruiser exploded. He immediately called Amason over the commlink.
"Am! What in the name of Palpatine was that?" he asked.
"Meet the Majestic class cruiser, Gui Sun. Designed by myself and Kasei." Amason replied. Paan blinked. Kasei? Paan thought he'd been executed by the Hutts.
"Kasei? But I thought....." Kasei's voice interrupted Paan.
"Nope. They tried to, Paan. But they didn't. He escaped before they could." the CEO said.
"Well I'm glad to see that he's alive. I'm sorry I had to lie about my identity in Phoenix Technologies. That ship is amazing guys. It may well be the ship we need to destroy these AD." Paan was still in awe.
"Looks like we've taught the AD a lesson here they won't soon forget. We're done here. You guys can return to Varnus; I've got to put the Majestics back in dry-dock for final construction. We're lucky they were finished enough to help out. But I think my lease has run out," he said, laughing.
Jinx nursed his carbonated, caffeinated beverage as he waited for the others to join him. That Jedicon, Valtoris, had said Mordachus was alive. But how could that be? Jinx had killed the being two hundreds years ago, immolating him in a ball of fire. And yet, the feelings he was getting from the Force seemed to say that the Jedicon was telling the truth. This little bit of paradox tore at Jinx' mind, threatening to drive him mad. He looked up as the door whisked open, and a quartet of familiar faces entered the room. Paan and Nico looked exhausted, Nico especially so, while Gaius and Amason were both near ebullience. As they got their drinks and walked over to the corner table, Paan called ahead in greeting.
" Jinx! Great to see that you're all right, especially after watching that fight. Man, that AD was good, wasn't he?" Jinx took another sip of his drink.
" Yeah, sure, Gui, whatever." Confusion written over his face, Paan took the seat nearest Jinx, who had all but barricaded himself in the corner of the room.
" What is it, Jinx? I mean, sure, you all took some serious losses, but look on the bright side! We annihilated an AD battle force, while only losing a single cap-ship of our own. And now, with Amason's new ships, we stand a real chance against the Altarin'Dakor. Why are you so down all of the sudden? We brought so much glory to the House today that I would doubt if anyone will ever contest our right to holding the name Vortigern." Jinx crumpled up the now empty can in his hands, then threw it in a perfect arc into a nearby trash receptacle.
" I don't want it, Paan. Take the name, take the glory, I don't care. Something else has happened here, and I no longer wish to be associated with the House, lest my fall bring it down with me." With that, he got up from the table and walked out. Paan turned in confusion to the other officers and questioned them.
" Was it something I said?"
Bridge, One hour later
" I have the bridge."
" Roger that. The Commodore has the bridge, the First Officer has the Conn. Communications, play that message back on the main speakers." As Gaius settled into his command chair, his command staff paused in their work to listen to the message.
" Attention any New Imperium Vessels In the vicinity of the Mizar system. I am Jedi Crusader Neres Warjan, Lothair of House Castellan. My ship is badly damaged, and I am stranded on an asteroid, near to a facility crawling with the Altarin'Dakor. Please send help. I repeat, I am Jedi Crusader Neres War..." Then there was the sound of blaster fire, and some screaming, then the comm unit clicked.
" We just received that fifteen minutes ago, sir. Our specialists have verified that the speaker was Crusader Warjan, and its origination point was in the Mizar system." Gaius felt a presence nearby and turned to se Jinx standing there. Amason and Nico were behind him.
" Gaius, let me borrow a fighter and an Assault Transport. We've got to go in their and get Neres out." Strangely enough, Jinx' voice was entirely flat, and devoid of emotion. Amason watched him curiously. Something during his dogfight with the Altarin'Dakor had changed him drastically from the generally upbeat man he was before into this. Amason spoke up.
" I'll provide the craft, Jinx. If you have a team you want to use, then We'll go in there with the Majestic and pull Neres out."
Jinx turned and looked at the Jedi master.
" Let's go."
Enroute to the Mizar system
" Remember, folks. No pitched battle. If it moves, and it doesn't look like Neres, kill it. This is to be a bounce mission. In and out. Clear?" The eight Jedi echoed the last word. Jinx looked them over and couldn't help but feel a little bit of pride. All of them were armed with lightsabers, and most had supplemented those with blasters. Nova had donned web gear and was now checking the multitudes of grenades hanging from his body. Attrid Xoan had a Force whip on his belt, and Rynn Mariel turned on each of her three light weapons in sequence, making sure they all worked. Jinx himself was armed only with his lightsaber and a single throwing lightstar. If he ended up needing to use his powers to conjure up a Force weapon, then the mission was as good as a failure anyway. He heard a weapon behind him, and turned to see Amason standing there, armed to the teeth and in combat fatigues.
" You thought you could sneak off without me, eh? Fat chance. So, how is this going to work?"
" I'll be flying cover in whatever fighter you decide to give me. You and the other Jedi will get on the transport, and head down to the facility. Once you're down and in, I'll land and join you. Once on the ground, we split into teams and go after Neres. Kill all, leave none." Amason nodded.
" Sounds good. Oh, and here's your fighter." He turned and pointed. Jinx's eyes widened slightly.
" A TIE Avatar, eh? You trust me that much?"
"I've got to say, it's good to see you again brother," the Grand Master said, the relief clear in his voice. The two Jedi walked through the corridors of one of the Palace's less-traveled wings, their Jedi robes swaying around their heels.
"Thanks, Alyx," Nico responded, rubbing his eyes with his fingers. He still looked a little worse for wear. There were rings under his eyes, and his skin was still a little pale. "It's good to even be alive. I thought I’d never see Nareni again. I… didn’t tell her anything."
"I know," Alyx said, stopping and turning to the balcony beside them. The sun was setting behind them, and already night sounds were coming out from the enclosed garden below. "I studied the logs of the Mizar battle. I know you were there as the Dark Lightning was about to go... I can't imagine what that must have been like."
"Heh. Imagine then, after that, spending a week in the company of the Altarin'Dakor. I don't envy Xar at all... I... I don't think I'm the same person anymore, Alyx."
"So how did you survive?" Alyx inquired, staring out into the fading darkness. "What'd they do to you?"
"I can still remember that minute so clearly," Nico said, his voice distant. "The ship was coming apart all around us. I remember it all as clear as if it just happened. We activated the self-destruct. There's no delay on a Star Destroyer's destruct, you know. Then, just as the flames came for me, it was like a different person took over..." He paused, turning to look at the Grand Master. "I think I used Corporeal Translocation," he said.
"But isn't that a dark side power?" Alyx asked, arching an eyebrow. "I didn't think we'd found a True Force equivalent for that, yet..."
"I don't know," Nico answered. "I just did it. I stretched out, found a habitable spot in the remains of Mizar's second planet." He gave a short, mirthless laugh. "Not the best choice for a vacation spot."
"It was an abandoned mining base. Who knows how old. They found me there," Nico said quietly. "I don't know how, I don't know if they called me there. Everything from that point is a blur. Beings came in and out several times during the time I was there. They did some things to me... I don't remember what, it's probably better that way."
"I'm sorry, my friend," Alyx whispered, nodding. "We should have gotten to you sooner. We weren’t sure if you were alive, but… We should have tried."
"Not your fault," Nico assured him. He reached out and gripped the balcony railing. "I'm scared though, Alyx. Again, I can't remember specifically what they did to me. And I still have no clue what led me there in the first place. I think most of them were gone by the time you arrived. That Jedicon was just a guard... There was someone there, someone important... If I only remembered who..."
"It's all right, don't push yourself," Alyx said, resting a hand on his friend's arm. "I'm sure it'll come back in time. We can work on some memory restoration methods after you've rested. Which is exactly what you need to do right now."
The man nodded. "All right. But I'll eventually get inside this mental block, and we'll make the Altarin'Dakor pay... for everything they've done."
"That we will," Alyx assured him.
"So little chance for us to rest," Nico sighed. "This is so far from over... I guess we need to look for Xar, now. Again."
"Not this time," Alyx said softly, shaking his head. "I don't think he wants to be found..."
"We can't abandon him," Nico protested. "You owe him more than anyone here. You're one of his own people."
"I know that," Alyx said, clenching his jaw. "But there's a level in which you have to respect someone's own choices and decisions. I don't think we've seen the last of Xar. In a way, we have something in the way of a progress report on him."
"What do you mean?"
"We had several alien ships jump into NI space yesterday," Alyx told him. "From the direction of the Rim, across the Rift. Several different species. They came seeking asylum, describing being driven out by what we only assume are the Altarin'Dakor. They said they'd been trapped in the Rift, that someone had come in, someone with fantastic abilities, and rescued them." He gave a low chuckle. "Five'll get you ten, that's our Xar. If that's true, he's half the way across."
"The Force is strong with him," Nico agreed. "I can't believe that we'd never see him again. There's something about him, something he possesses that seems to draw anyone around him. He can't be gone for good."
"I hope you're right, my friend," Alyx nodded.
Nico turned to look at the Grand Master, his expression serious. "Thank you for rescuing me, Alyx," he said. The room was almost dark now, bathing the two men's faces in shadow.
"Anything," Alyx nodded, giving a small grin, "for a friend."
* * *
The creature raised the goblet of wine to his lips, relishing the new sensation of the yeasty liquid pouring down his gullet as he drank. He lowered the cup, his vision swirling for a moment in front of him. He looked down at his other hand, clenched his fist. He was still getting used to having a human body. Though a pale comparison to his original form, it possessed certain new... pleasures... to discover. The creature smiled. A nearby door opened, and he turned to see the Jedicon enter, bowing his head low to the floor.
The Jedicon obeyed, pushing himself up, revealing the wicked tattoos spreading out form his eyes and mouth. His eyes remained on the floor. "My lord, our mission is complete. The outlander is back on his homeworld, as you commanded. The insertion process was perfectly initiated." His mouth twisted in the briefest of smiles. "They will suspect nothing. Everything is now prepared for your command."
"Excellent," the creature said, smiling. He rose, and moved to stand in front of the Altarin'Dakor warrior. "That mortal tried to kill me. Yet unknowingly, he freed me instead. To that, I owe him. And I will take great pleasure in his demise." The feeling of exhilaration, of once again inhabiting a body, was almost intoxicating in its sweet simplicity. "You have done well," he commended the Jedicon.
Then, reaching out with his free hand, he gripped the man by the throat and lifted him up. The sweet sound of his vertebrae cracking was music to the creature's ears, as was his sense of the man's life force and spirit as it escaped his dying body.
When the Jedicon's spasms had ended, he thrust it across the room against the wall, sad that the experience had ended so quickly. His mood darkening, he turned to make his way from the room, passing by a wall-mounted mirror as he did so. The human reflection was all but revolting to him, but it would serve his purposes well enough. The hair was growing back, the facial markings that had been burned off weren't visible anymore. He smiled again, draining the last of the goblet's contents.
Yes, the body of the former, loyal Jedicon known as Rofel would serve well enough indeed. None of the others knew of his existence. For the time being, he was an anomaly, a shadow moving through the undercurrents, subtlety altering events according to his choosing. And when the time finally came to reveal himself... Yes, that would be a glorious day indeed...
Gui Sun Paan
Back at the
Noticing Misnera and Nico talking, Gui Sun Paan caught up with them. The young Kensai was not sure if Alyx had known about the destruction of the Warchild. Nevertheless, Paan did know that he would be a hero now, a hero because he'd had the courage to take on the worst enemy possible to get his friend out of danger. Just as Paan was about to speak, Misnera spoke first.
"Gui, I cannot say how very impressed I am with you. Your leadership in this mission was unparalleled. Had you not set up the plan, I don't think Nico would have been found. And don't worry, I know about the Warchild." Misnera smiled at Paan.
"Thank you master. I only did it because I could not live with the fact that Nico was gone. I still get the nasty unsettling feeling in my stomach when I think what Xar must be going through. But I cannot think of that right now. Oriana and I are getting married tomorrow. And I would be honored to have you and Nico attend." Paan said. Misnera nodded quickly.
"The both of us will definitely attend." Alyx said, as Paan nodded and headed off.
The Next Morning, at the Great Hall
The ceremony then began. As Oriana Ciorin walked down the aisle, she looked beautiful. It was as if the wedding dress brought out every good part of her features, and enhanced her smile. No words needed to be said. Dr. James Fernel, the Palace Chaplain, and the same one who had married Thrakus and Lorien, was ready to perform the ceremony.
"We are gathered here, by the will of the Force, to unite these two Jedi, in matrimony. Anyone who wishes to tell the gathered why these two should not be married, let him speak now." Fernel began.
"Gui Sun Paan, Do you take Oriana Ciorin to be your wife, forever, by the will of the Force? Will you defend her, in danger. Take care of her in sickness and in health?"
"I do, and I will." Paan said.
"Oriana Ciorin, will you do all these same things for Gui Sun?"
"I do, and I will" Oriana said.
"Then there is nothing more to say. I now pronounce you Husband and Wife."
Paan kissed his new wife and looked into her eyes. He didn't have to ask if she was happy. The eyes told him. And right there, he knew. He would be with her forever. Their twins would become Jedi, when they were born. Both of them already knew the names. Qui Lin, and Sulyn. After Paan's mother and father.
" Yeah, Jinx, I think I do. Don't disappoint me." Amason chuckled, and turning, made his way to the assault craft, the other Jedi following him. Jinx ran to his fighter, and began the preflight sequence. In five minutes, they were in space. The Avatar handled like a dream, and Jinx took advantage of the lack of enemy craft to perform several barrel rolls and other stunts, getting a feel for the fighter. Nothing like a TIE Defender, of course, but quite nice... He watched as the shuttle landed in the station's hangar bay, and then two minutes later, received a double-click on his comm system, the signal that all was clear. He brought the fighter in for a perfect three point landing, then shut the engines off and popped the canopy.
They were there, in the same abandoned mining complex where they had found Nico. Now Neres was there, somewhere, under enemy guard perhaps. The Jedi were all assembled, ready to move. Jinx spoke up.
" Alright folks, here's where it gets fun. We'll split into two teams. Am, take three Knights and Atridd Xoan with you. Keep your commlinks set to the standard Black Ops frequency, and keep your eyes peeled for anything dangerous. First team to find Neres, report in, and both teams will back track here. May the Force be with you." With that, both teams took off, down opposing tunnels. Into the darkness they went...
The attack came out of nowhere. Jinx and his crew were still running around the tunnels when two swords cleaved through one helpless Knight. Jinx and Nova turned and drew their lightsabers, viewing their attackers for the first time. It was a pair of insectoid looking foot soldiers. They vaguely resembled erect-walking scorpions, and clutched swords in their upper-arms. As the Jedi watched, a pair of smaller creatures scuttled from behind the foot-soldiers and set upon the Knight's corpse, devouring it in seconds. Sickened and revolted by the scene, Jinx threw his arm out in a wide motion, and all four creatures were vaporized in a blast of energy. The Jedi pressed on, with Jinx at the point and Nova running behind, periodically turning to check behind them. The next attack came from the side and front. Jinx turned to the side first, sweeping his lightsaber in an arc that bisected another scorpion-like creature from hip to its upper shoulders. In the time it took to do this, however, another creature, this one canoid-looking, darted in from the front and stabbed Jinx through the right rib cage with his sword. Jinx staggered back in shock, and Rynn took his place, first slicing through the soldiers arm, then its neck. Another Knight was lowering Jinx to the ground. Rynn was over to check him out.
" This doesn't look good, Nova. My guess is that the blade pierced his lung, and possibly nicked an artery on the way out. We need to get back to the shuttle, now." Jinx reached up and grabbed her by the arm. His breath was wheezing, and his voice was faint.
" We...don't...leave...here...without...Neres." Rynn looked at him. Jinx was pale, and blood was seeping out of both his chest and his back, but he used her as support as he stood back up. One of the Knights, who was trained as a combat medic, stepped forward with an irrigation bulb and a pair of synthflesh patches. Jinx pulled his shirt up to allow him to apply the bandages. Rynn and Nova exchanged glances as they saw the amount of scar-tracery that adorned the man's torso. After a moment, the Knight stepped back.
" This is only temporary. If we don't get you to a full medical facility within a couple of hours, your situation will be very grave indeed." Jinx merely looked at him, then stumbled off down another set of passageways. The others had no choice but to follow. They battled through four more attacks before they reached the next intersection.
Somewhere in the complex
" My Lord! Take a look at this!" The technician's cry summoned the Jedicon to his console like a vrelker's thrashing summoned hungry hawkbats. The technician traced two lines on his screen with his fingers. " One group has taken this route, and is almost at the brig now."
" Do not disturb them. If they want the pitiful weakling we tossed in there, let them have him."
" Aye sir. Now, this other group has taken a different route, and is approaching our position rapidly." The Jedicon stood up abruptly in confusion.
" Have we not been sending our troops against them?"
" Yes sir, we have. We've killed one and severely wounded another. But that’s the funny thing. The one we wounded seems to be doing most of the fighting."
" Give me the nearest holocam viewer." Another technician punched a few buttons, then offered his console to the Jedicon. He watched as another squad of five soldiers made a frontal attack. The female cut one in half, while one of the males was alternately swinging his lightsaber and cutting loose with blasts of Force energy. Within fifteen seconds they had destroyed the attack. Another group of soldiers attacked from the rear in that moment, cutting down another of the Jedi, but were quickly decimated by the combined lightsaber action of the two remaining rear-guard Jedi. The Jedicon swore, and zoomed in on the Jedi in the front. The female was batting loose strands of hair from her face, while the male was holding his side and leaning against the wall. After a few moments, he pushed off the wall and continued forward.
" This one is quite strong in the Force. How long before they reach us here?"
" Less than a minute, Lord Forfigd."
" Very well. Tell all of our remaining troops to stand down. I am going out to face them alone." The Jedicon moved away from the consoles and triggered the door. In the distance, and coming closer fast, he could see the glow of lightsabers. He drew his own weapon and waited, while the door behind him slid shut.
There had been no attacks for about a minute now, and Rynn was starting to worry. This was the longest break they'd had, so she was wondering what was ahead of them now. Jinx slowed from his maniacal pace, and Nova nearly bumped into him from behind.
" Why are we stopping?" Before Jinx could answer, there was an ominous snap-hiss in front of them, following closely by a second. Two blue spears of light came into existence before them.
" So, the infidels have come for their comrades. How touching." The voice was full of sarcasm, but no body could yet be seen. In the weak light thrown off by the lightstaff, a hand and part of an arm could be seen extending back into the shadows. The staff moved, touching first one wall, then the other. The two torchs blazed to life once the energy blades touched them. The Jedi could see their opponent now. His body and the right side of his face were regular human figures, almost handsome even. The left side of his face, however, was decidedly canoid in appearance. His mouth curled into a sadistic smile. " Unfortunately, you will not succeed." Jinx placed himself at the fore. His lightsaber was held in a relaxed cross-body guard, in front of his legs. The Jedicon took in his obviously fatigued posture, and the lax way he held his lightsaber, and crooked a surprised eyebrow. " So this is your champion, eh? A wounded warrior, come against a Jedicon of Mordachus. You truly are a pitiful order." He punctuated his remark by lunging at Jinx with a staff end. Before it was even within medium striking range, Jinx batted it aside with a quick sweep of his lightsaber, which immediately returned to its former position.
" You know, for a supposedly powerful and aloof race of beings, you Jedicon are extremely talkative. I’m surprised you’ve learned so much Basic." As the others began backing up, Jinx and the Jedicon circled. Occasionally a blade would dart, and be immediately parried by another.
" Oh, and what drew you to that conclusion?" There was a quick flurry of strikes exchanged. The smell of ozone was almost unbearable. Nova noticed that their energy blades were a little bit fuzzy, the photons making them up were being driven into a hyper frenzy by the power bouncing between the two warriors at the end of the wall.
" It was only yesterday that Valtoris complemented me on my flying skills, comparing me to "a cornered Mortigena". That was right before I killed him." The Jedicon let out a short laugh as he stepped back, gathering his energy for another attack.
" Valtoris was a vain fool. Were I not about to kill you, I would thank you for killing him for me." He charged again. This time, there was no letting up. Three lightsaber blades flashed and collided in the semi-darkness. Jinx brought his left hand up to join his right on the lightsaber hilt, and used the added power to make short power strokes, striving to put the Jedicon on the defensive. The Jedicon parried the strokes with a minor amount of difficulty, and followed his parries with a short punch to Jinx' ribs. The punch landed squarely on the patch of synflesh covering the sword wound. Jinx dropped to his knees and the lightsaber fell out of his grasp. One hand reached up to fill his chest. Jinx coughed once, and spat out a fine mist of blood.
The Jedicon stood over Jinx, and closed down one end of his lightstaff. " Nice try, infidel, but feel free to die now. And know that once you are dead, I will hunt down your companions one by one, and kill them as well. Perhaps I'll start with the g--"
He was interrupted by a dual blast of energy from further down the hall. The two blasts burst against the Jedicon's chest, throwing back against the door at the end of the hallway. He fell limply to the floor, and the lightstaff rolled out of his hands.
Amason and Attrid Xoan sprinted down the hall, skidding to a halt by Jinx. Attrid grabbed the Jedi's lightsaber, then helped Amason pull Jinx to his feet. Jinx sagged heavily against Amason, and mumbled something.
" What was that?"
" Don't worry Jinx, we aren't going to. We've got Neres, and we're headed back now. We've got to get you to a med ward, and quickly my friend." Jinx managed a few stumbling steps, then lost his balance and fell into Amason.
" You do that, Walt. You do that." He fell into unconsciousness, forcing Amason to pick him up and carry him across his shoulders.
Two days later, on Varnus
" He's coming out of his coma now. Please, let us handle this." Paan and Misnera allowed themselves to be herded out of the way by the doctors, headed by Vannik, chief medical officer. Across the room from them, Jinx' inert form laid on a hospital gurney, having recently come out of surgery. An orderly administered a drug into the IV line, and Jinx rose half off the bed as a scream cut loose from his mind. Forewarned, the three Jedi were able to protect the doctors from the effects of the blast, using their own powers. As soon as possible, a doctor stood by the bedside.
" Can you tell me your name, sir?" Jinx shot wild glances around the room, checking everything out before answering.
" I am the Jinx Mortigena Mordachus, Crown Prince Jacob Skipper of Renatasia; General in the Intruder Wing, Jedi Paladin in the Society of Shadows."
" Very good. Welcome back to the land of the living, Jacob Skipper. You're on Varnus, your mission to Mizar was a success. You were severely injured during your mission. How do you feel?" Jinx looked over and focused on the three Jedi.
" Ask them, they're Jedi. They can tell you." With that, Jinx laid back, closed his eyes, and fell into a deep sleep.
Same time, somewhere in the AD Territories
" Yes my lord, they managed to get away, despite our efforts otherwise." Forfigd knelt in his master's chambers, delivering his report of the incidents of the past few days. The other being in the room paced back and forth across the marble floor.
" They killed a company of troops, ransacked a base, and destroyed one of our patrol fleets, and in return we got a small capital ship, a few fighters, and two half-trained Jedi. You disappoint me, Forfigd. You and your brother, Valtoris, both have disappointed me."
" Yes, Lord Mordachus.”
“Furthermore,” the Shok’Thola continued, “I have yet to understand why they came into the system at all. Why risk everything to attack one of our small research outposts? What was there?”
“My lord, they
rescued one of their own, it seems. There was an enemy held there, apparently
after the infidels’ failed attack on
The Warlord’s expression twisted in confusion. “Why was I was not aware of this? Something was going on in that base without my permission! You will find out what is was, Forfigd!”
“Yes, my lord. And, if I may…” He continued at the Warlord’s impatient nod. “I have other news as well. The Jedi I fought said he had killed Valtoris in fighter combat. This is his picture, which we captured off the base's security holocams." Forfigd held up a disk in his hand. Mordachus grabbed it and strode over to the desk terminal. He swore and took a half step back when he saw the image displayed.
" It can't be! What sort of trickery is this?"
How could the infidel who had burned him to death two hundred years ago still be alive?
Unfortunately, the reply didn't come from Forfigd. For as Mordachus turned to his servant, Forfigd was already dead. He stood there, straight as ever, but his eyes stared blankly out at nothing. Then he toppled straight forward, falling face-first onto the floor with a loud thud, pushed over by a hand of Death.
"No trickery," the figure standing behind Forfigd spoke in a deep, smooth voice. The being moved forward, coming into the light, and Mordachus' eyes widened in recognition. The figure was clad in elaborate, silvery armor, and his uncovered head revealed his features, a beautiful face, baleful blue eyes, and straight snow-white hair that fell down behind his back.
"St... Strife..." Mordachus stuttered in shock and fear. He took a step back, his skin turning a pallid white.
"Your time has come, Mordachus," Strife warned, pulling out a long, thin cylindrical object and holding it out in front of him. "You stepped out of your place, interfering at Mizar. It is not your post to command, nor is any of this are of space. You are not powerful enough to assume it.” His voice was cold, and silky smooth as it pronounced the Warlord’s doom. “Your meddling has resulted only in more embarrasement. Now your failure is made complete." His hand clamped down on the handle, and Mordachus flinched as the hypersaber's three-meter blade shot out to one side, filling the room with purple-white light. The weapon roared and hissed; it was, literally, eager for battle.
A stuttering breath came from Mordachus; he knew he was about to die. He knew he couldn't defeat Strife. Nevertheless, he'd have no choice but to fight back. Strife narrowed his eyes, giving a half-smile.
"If you think you can win," he told Mordachus, "I'll make it fair. You can have the first strike. Anything you wish... One free attack." Then he set his stance, lowering his body, and waited.
Impossible; did he mean it? For an instant, Mordachus' fear vanished. His face broke into a wicked smile of his own, as he understood what Strife was letting him do. His confidence growing, he decided to take Strife's offer. For a moment, the two men stood as statues, Mordachus preparing his strike, while Strife held his three-meter blade out to one side.
Then with a scream as he gathered all his energies, Mordachus stepped up and thrust his hands forward, sending out an invisible blast of death, intended to strip Strife of his very soul.
In that instant, Strife was gone. The air blurred as he moved; side-stepping the attack, he took two massive steps, flew around to the side and swung his blade in one mighty swipe, cleaving Mordachus in half above the waist and the desk behind him as well. He’d lied.
For an instant, Mordachus stood in place, a grunt of pain escaping his lips, then the two halves separated and collapsed to the floor.
Strife turned back toward the severed body, his long white hair whipping around him. Mordachus' face was painted with shock, but his eyes turned up, finding Strife's. He wouldn't die, not permanently. But Strife knew how to make it permanent.
Mordachus stared up, wide-eyed, at the visage of death above him. His body was gone below the ribs, the rest of it lying nearby. The wound had cauterized, and with his last breaths, he pleaded up at Strife for mercy.
"Please... spare... me..." he whispered.
Then Strife reached out through the Force, for that point that only Shok'Thola knew existed, that special point that existed between this dimension and the other. Then with a silent, knifelike strike, he severed the Connection. Instantly the life drained out of his victim, Mordachus exhaling his final breath, as his severed body went still.
Strife de-activated the hypersaber, shaking his head. A horrible way to die. Again he swore never to die it. He started to turn away... Then, suddenly, he spun back toward the corpse, enraged.
"Fool!" he shouted, extending one hand, fingers together, palm flat out toward the remains. A blast of energy shot out from his hand, reaching out to envelop the remains of Mordachus. A blast of light shot up from the spot, incinerating what was left of the Warlord, filling the room with light and a gust of wind.
Strife turned away again, walking silently from the room. Behind him, a smoking crater left no sign of what had once been the Shok'Thola, Mordachus.
A day later, Varnus
" The conquering hero awakens!" The short laugh from Paan chased the last vestiges of sleep from Jinx' mind. He looked over at the younger man.
" Sonny boy, when you get to be as old as I am, you appreciate sleep, and grab it any time you can." Jinx looked him over, and noticed two new things. " So, now it's Mister Gui Sun Paan, eh? Congratulations on your wedding, my friend. I trust the honeymoon will be a long one?"
" What, so that you can take my job while I'm gone? Not likely, Jinx." Both men shared a chuckle.
" What's this I see? Has the stripling finally out-ranked me?" Paan grinned with obvious pride.
" Yep. I'm now a Jedi Adept, as a result of our last mission. They have some sort of award planned for you as well, but I don't know what." Jinx shrugged.
" Bah, who needs 'em? I have a system to take care of. Medals and such don't mean that much anymore."
" True enough. Well, I gotta go; got a meeting with Grand Master and Master Nico in ten minutes. Get some rest, and heal quickly. I foresee lots of action in our futures." They shook hands, and Paan left the ward. Rynn Mariel made her way into the room, and the look on her face forestalled Jinx' greeting.
" What's wrong? What happened?"
" We need to talk, sir."
Jinx motioned towards the chair.
" Please, sit." Rynn sat, and began speaking without preamble.
" I didn't know who else to talk to. Nova and Atridd are both still on the Majestic, out at Moro, guarding the border. And Grand Master Kerensky’s off somewhere, the gods know where. Derek and you are the only other people I can think of to trust, and Derek is too young for something like this. So, I had to come to you." Jinx nodded, remaining silent. " Back during the battle at Moro, I felt something, something new. When we trying to break through the Altarin'Dakor's Force shielding. It was like their energy picked up a power boost from somewhere. Did you feel it?"
" No, but I have to admit, I wasn't relying on the Force much at that point in time. I was leaving the hard work to you folks on the Fletcher." His wry grin prompted a small smile from Rynn.
" Well their power level seemed like it had been given a boost, and it stayed that way for the longest time. It was like that all the way through our raid in Mizar, when you were hurt in battle, and then, when we got back here to Varnus, something even stranger happened. There was a short spike in their energy, then it dropped back down to the level it had been before Moro. I can't fathom why it would do something like that, and it scares me."
" Whoa, back up a minute. You said that you kept "feeling their energy level". Explain that."
" I don't know how! It's like I've been connected to some other plane of the Force, one I can't contact or use, but that I can watch." Jinx stared off through the wall opposite his bed.
" I see. Don't talk to anyone else about this. No one. Do you understand?” She nodded. “Good. As soon as I can get a doctor to release me from this damn hospital, you and I are going to go chat with Grand Master Misnera. I think you've been given a gift, and that gift could very well be an advantage that we can use against the Altarin'Dakor. Hand me that commlink, will you?" As Rynn leaned over to grab the commlink, a piece of paper fell out of her hand, and onto the bed sheets. Jinx grabbed it. "What's this?"
" They have all of us Jedi being tested for some reason. They have these scanner things, and the techs say that it allows them to see what our ability to use the Force is. They gave each of us a slip of paper with our level on it, as well as a list of what power level they expect each training level to be minimally at. They also said something about our power levels being able to increase as we increase our training and knowledge." Jinx read it over.
" Well, it looks like for your training level, you're doing pretty well. Even for the next training level, you would be respectable in your abilities." Rynn blushed with embarrassment. She grabbed Jinx's medical chart from the foot of his bed.
" Yes, well, I still have some training to finish before I can be called a Crusader. I see here that you aren't exactly pitiful compared to you training level, yourself. 9358 out 7000. Good job."
" Well, there is something to be said about 'on the job training'. Umm, can I have the commlink now, please?"
" Oh, right." Rynn handed him the device, and in return he handed back her paper. " Well, if there's nothing else you need to tell me or anything like that, I'll be going now. Thanks for listening."
" Nodre, Knight Mariel. It was my pleasure. I would suggest that you go work on your lightsaber skills and stamina. You seemed to start running out of energy after a few attacks, back at Mizar." She gave him a puzzled look.
" It's High Renatasian. Literally, it's "There is no need for thanks.". If you ever want to impress some of the Renatasian refugees over on Ravick, when you are parting company, say "Meglof". It means "May the Gods smile upon your journey.". It'll show them you respect their customs and culture."
" When would I want to impress them?"
" Oh, I don't know. Say your on leave, and meet one you think would make a fine, err, friend, or something like that. Using some of their phrases would probably improve your chances." She looked out the door, then back again. As she slipped out of the ward, Jinx heard a single word spoken at a whisper.