Beyond I, Warrior v. 2 (Post-NJO AU, Tahiri-centric, updated 11/12)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by MasterGhandalf, Jan 2, 2010.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Author's Note: Yes, I'm the same person as the MasterGandalf who first posted this story. Unfortunately, that account died (don't ask) so after checking with the mods, I'm reposting everything in a new thread I can update with the new identity.

    Title: I, Warrior
    Author(s): MasterG(h)andalf
    Timeframe: One year post TUF and AU
    Characters: Tahiri, Corran, Jaina, OCs, various cameos
    Genre: Adventure/Drama
    Keywords: Tahiri, Corran, Jaina, Yuuzhan Vong, Sith, Riina Kwaad, Anakin Solo, Emperor Palpatine, Sith Artifacts, Warrior Caste, Priest Caste, Shamed Ones, Zonoma Sekot, Coruscant, Korriban, Ossus
    Summary: A year after the end of the NJO, Tahiri has an ominious vision and leaves Zonoma Sekot to investigate. Ultimately she must team up with Corran and Jaina to stop a group of ex-Peace Brigade mercenaries hunting Sith artifacts, the Yuuzhan Vong renegades who are behind them, and the mysterious Dark Side adept who is playing them to advance his own goals.
    Notes: Anakin Solo and Tahiri Veila were two of my favorite characters in the New Jedi Order- Anakin was the latter-day Luke in many ways, and Tahiri's courage, spunk, and humor were great fun, and the duality of her Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong nature was fascinating. I was spoiled for Star by Star so Anakin's death didn't hurt as much as it might have (not to say I was happy about it, mind), but I continued to enjoy Tahiri in Force Heretic and The Final Prophecy. Then in TUF she didn't really have a role at all, despite the build-up, and what LOTF did was awful. It wasn't that I didn't think Tahiri could go dark, it was just that it was handled very poorly, regressing this intelligent, strong, complex character into an emotionally needy child.

    So this AU is my attempt to do a post-NJO story focusing on Tahiri, as I felt her character followed logically from Force Heretic and TFP.

    Dramatis Personae

    Hassk- mercenary (male Trandoshan)
    Corran Horn- Jedi Master (male human)
    Keenah- Priestess (female Yuuzhan Vong)
    Akhi Lian- Commander (male Yuuzhan Vong)
    The Master- Dark Side Adept (male unknown)
    Kizin Qel- Master Shaper (male Yuuzhan Vong)
    Jaina Solo- Jedi Knight and starfighter pilot (female human)
    Tahiri Veila- Jedi Knight (female human)
    Ziil- former Shamed One (male Yuuzhan Vong


    Prologue: Dreams in Darkness

    She stands upon the surface of a dead world. It is not truly a desert- she was born and raised in a desert, and knows that even in the empty wastes of Tatooine there is life if you know how to find it. Nor is it like Coruscant, a world covered in technology with little in the way of nature. This world is simply dead, from its barren flats to its grey, cloudy sky, as though something has drained it dry and departed in search of other sustenance. To all of her soul- Tusken Raider, Jedi, Yuuzhan Vong- it is abominable.

    She takes a step forward, and the ground before her opens up. A vast chasm stands where once was featureless barrens, and from it rise the spires of ancient buildings. Temples, tombs, palaces- she doesn?t know what they are, exactly, but they are terrible, clawing the sky as if they would drag it down and soar into infinity. Somehow, it feels as if the buildings are watching her? waiting?

    A figure stands in front of the nearest temple, wrapped head to foot in a filthy black cloak. It turns towards her, and she can see nothing beneath its hood except for the outline of a chin and two piercing yellow eyes. Its feeling in the Force is familiar, but somehow off, like a familiar face distorted by twisted mirror. The figure sees her, and it smiles- and then it looks up to the heavens and raises its arms.

    A vessel descends from the sky. It is not made from durasteel or any other material familiar to the galaxy, but seems carved from coral. She knows that this is an accurate statement- part of her remembers childhood spent on a similar, far larger ship. It hovers over the valley, and then from it descend warriors encased in fearsome spiked armor, their faces tattooed with the symbols of their domain and caste, as wel
  2. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2

    Chapter 1: The Artifact


    Thick clouds obscured the night sky, preventing the stars or moons from illuminating the surface of Cato Neimoidia. This far out from the major cities the jungle was swathed in shadow, and strange sounds echoed through the air. Some of Hassk?s grew glanced around uneasily at one particularly loud and fearsome-sounding shriek, but the Trandoshan himself remained fully focused on his target- the only source of illumination for miles. A short distance from where Hassk?s ship- Scorekeeper?s Talon- had set down rose a tall plateau of rock, and built on its top was the mansion of Gane Faaken, noted art collector and one of the wealthiest Neimoidians on a planet full of them.

    Immediately behind him Hassk heard his slicer, a human woman named Rhona, curse loudly as she swatted at one of the blood-sucking insects that filled the jungle night. ?Quiet, fool!? the Trandoshan hissed at her. ?You?ll give us away!?

    ?It?s one thing for you, Captain,? Rhona snapped back, though she did make an effort to keep her voice low. ?You?ve got scales- you don?t have to worry about these things! What are we even doing here, anyway??

    She?d asked that question several times since they?d landed on this jungle world, and Hassk gave the same answer he?d used each time. ?Our employer wants us to retrieve an item from Faaken?s collection. We will be compensated quite well for enduring this place- assuming that we can endure it. You are free to leave at any time, though you?ll have to find your own transportation offworld. I don?t carry dead weight.? He shot her an expression his species would consider a grin, but that he knew humans found highly unsettling. It had the desired effect.

    ?Fine, fine,? Rhona said, trying not to look at the display of razor-sharp teeth. ?No need to get all worked up.?

    ?Then follow.? Hassk motioned to his crew- Rhona, a pair of burly Nikto, a Rodian, and a male Twi?lek. There was one more- Rosh Hensen, a human and the ship?s pilot- but he remained with the vessel for now. The crew had been together since before the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and had done mercenary work for the Peace Brigade, though they?d never formally joined the collaborator organization. They weren?t as devoted to the ideal of the hunt as a pack of fellow Trandoshans would be, of course, but Hassk had long ago found that devotion to the almighty credit could be just as powerful a motivator- especially in a case like this one, where the prey was not a living being but an object. It wasn?t his preferred type of work, but it was close enough and as long as it paid the bills he wouldn?t complain. The worst part, as always, would be stomaching his employers long enough to actually get paid, but that was far off yet. Hassk?s predatory mind was focused entirely on immediate concerns.

    The crew hurried through the jungle night, and though the strange sounds continued no strange beast leapt out to challenge them. Apparently all of the local predators recognized that more powerful hunters were about, and while a part of Hassk was disappointed that he wouldn?t get at least one pelt out of this, he was professional enough to be grateful for the lack of incident.

    After about fifteen minutes they reached the base of the plateau. At another signal from their captain the crew drew their grappler guns and fired. The thin but strong metal cables shot into the sky, finally latching onto the walls of the mansion above. The crew pulled their triggers again and began to rise up the cliff.

    The blasterfire started as they neared the top. Hassk had been expecting this, just as he expected the pitiful aim. Leave it to a Neimoidian to install the cheapest security system he could get his slimy hands on. The blasters weren?t able to get a good read on six moving targets, and whatever AI was controlling them was apparently to dim to consider shooting at the cables, but Hassk took no chances. He drew his own blaster with his free hand and shot in the directions from which the enemy fire was coming. He was rewarded w
  3. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 2: The Jedi Who Was Shaped

    Tahiri stepped out of her dwelling and allowed her senses to take in the tampasi around her. She?d been living on Zonoma Sekot for more than a year now, but she still found the living world fascinating and invigorating. The Yuuzhan Vong experienced a unique bond with this planet because they had originated on its parent, the original Yuuzhan?tar, but in spite of her shaping that wasn?t what resonated with Tahiri. Instead, it was a combination of the planet?s teeming life and uniquely powerful presence in the Force that reached her, along with something more. Zonoma Sekot reminded her of a lost home- not barren Tatooine, but Yavin 4, where she had trained to become a Jedi- and where she had met Anakin Solo.

    Even the beauty of the Sekotan morning, though, couldn?t banish the darkness that hung over the young Jedi?s thoughts. Her dream last night had been a vision from the Force- she was certain of that. It had been too vivid and powerful to be anything else. The question, as usual with such things, was what it meant. Had she seen something that had already happened, something that might happen in the future, or was it a metaphor rather than literal truth? Though she was usually thankful for her Jedi abilities, Tahiri found herself wishing that in this case the Force had been a little more specific.

    Shaking herself out of her dark thoughts, Tahiri turned away from the tampasi and looked down towards the settlement in the valley. Composed of Zonoma Sekot?s native Ferroans and more open-minded Yuuzhan Vong who wanted to reconnect with their ancient heritage, the settlement was the closest thing Tahiri had to a permanent home. Even then things could be difficult. To the Ferroans and other galactic natives she seemed very much like one of the Yuuzhan Vong, a fact they found disconcerting and off-putting. To the most traditional of the Yuuzhan Vong, she came across as disappointingly human. Most annoying at all, at least from Tahiri?s perspective, were the former members of Nom Anor?s Jeedai Heresy, who had latched on to her as some sort of incarnate goddess and refused to be convinced otherwise.

    As a Jedi, Tahiri was called on to defend those weaker than herself, which meant she felt sympathy for the Shamed Ones? pitiful lives. This had helped her deal with innate prejudice towards the lower castes that came with her persona as a Yuuzhan Vong warrior, but to both parts of her personality the idea that she- or any other Jedi- were divine was absurd. That didn?t stop them from believing it, though.

    Tahiri winced slightly as she noticed a prime example of this attitude coming straight towards her. Ziil was a former Shamed One who had been born into the lowest caste, meaning that he bore none of the markings or modifications that dominated the appearance of most Yuuzhan Vong. As a result he looked far more human than most, though his alien origins were still plainly written in his sloping forehead, flat nose and iron-grey skin. He was close to Tahiri?s age in terms of maturity- though chronologically he was several years older, of course; Yuuzhan Vong lived longer lives than humans, after all- and had been a heretic and rebel during the last few months of the war. Tahiri herself had featured prominently in the mythology of the heretics- after the Twins and Vua Rapuung, the Jeedai-Who-Was-Shaped was regarded as one of their most important figures- and Ziil had devoted himself to her service with all the fanatical passion of his people after he learned that her home on Sekot was near his own.

    Tahiri actually rather liked Ziil- there was something straightforwardly earnest about him that one didn?t often see, among the natives of the galaxy or the Yuuzhan Vong. Unfortunately that didn?t keep his obsessive hero-worship from grating.

    ?One-who-was-shaped!? Ziil called out once he was within shouting distance of the young Jedi. ?We are in need of your wisdom.?

    Tahiri rolled her eyes at that, thankful that the Shamed One couldn?t see from his distance. She didn?t view hersel
  4. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 3: The Will of the Gods

    Hassk?s eyes opened quickly and without warning and he pulled himself into a seated position in his bunk. During his long career as a hunter and later mercenary he?d learned to time his patterns of sleep almost exactly- the fact that he?d awakened meant that he was approaching the rendezvous point, and soon he would have to face his employers.

    Unlike many of his former colleagues in the Peace Brigade, who only cared about credits or saving their own cowardly hides, Hassk felt like he understood the Yuuzhan Vong at least a little. The idea of deities who applauded and rewarded glorious deeds in this life was one which the Trandoshans shared. Still, such understanding gave him little comfort, for he knew that even as the Scorekeeper for whom his ship was named waited in the afterlife to honor great hunters, the alien gods of the Yuuzhan Vong smiled on those who converted or destroyed infidels. His current employers were more willing than most to sully their hands by consorting with the natives of the galaxy, but Hassk still always wondered when he would make the one small wrong move and be torn apart.

    The Trandoshan knew that there were some humans who enjoyed risk. The cold-blooded reptile, however, preferred certainty. He knew of no easy way to extract himself from his current assignment, but if these Vong continued paying well he felt he?d be able to learn to live with it. Eventually.

    Hassk?s reflections were cut short as the comlink built into his cabin?s wall buzzed. ?Captain Hassk,? the pilot Hensen?s voice said, ?we?ve arrived at the rendezvous point. You?d best come up here now, boss.?

    ?I will join you shortly,? Hassk replied. ?Call the Nikto and tell them to bring up the artifact.?

    ?Will do, boss. Hensen out.? Static crackled and the com connection fell silent. Hassk stood and, after glancing momentarily at the weapons and trophies that served him as decoration, he stepped out into the corridor and stalked towards the cockpit.

    When he arrived, Hensen was sitting in his seat and trying to ignore the artifact that rested on the console next to him. They had collected several things like this- relics of the Sith and other ancient cults- for their Vong employers, but that hadn?t made any of them less eerie. Though he never admitted it out loud, Hassk was always very glad to be rid of them.

    Scorekeeper?s Talon hung in orbit above a field of debris that had once been a living world and its moon- Kalarba- destroyed by the Yuuzhan Vong weapon called Yo?Gand?s Core. Hassk?s employers had chosen it as a meeting place both because it was a system where no one with legitimate business had reason to come any more, and because it was a show of what they were capable of when angered. They weren?t here yet, of course, and Hassk tended to suspect that they generally arrived late purely so that he would have a chance to appreciate the view.

    Suddenly the space beyond the debris field seemed to twist as though someone had pulled out an invisible cosmic drain-plug and now infinity was rushing down it. After a second reality snapped back- but it was no longer empty. A lumpy, misshapen vessel that could only be a Yuuzhan Vong coralcraft hovered there.

    ?I?ve seen that thing a dozen times at least,? Hensen muttered, ?but it just doesn?t get any less ugly.?

    ?Quiet,? Hassk hissed. ?Keep your wits about you! Speak like that in her presence and you will die.?

    Hensen swallowed. ?Right,? he muttered under his breath.

    The coralcraft- Hassk didn?t know what specific kind it was, or if it even had a specific kind- drifted closer, and then something seemed to happen on its surface. Now an object was flying towards them through the void, something that looked like a large fruit, though Hassk knew it was in fact something far different from anything the galaxy had ever produced. The ovoid thing slammed into the Talon?s viewport and then seemed to push its way through. It hovered in midair for a moment, and then it began to change. Within moments the villip had reshaped itse
  5. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter Four: Departure

    Shouldering the pack that contained her few possessions, Tahiri stopped to admire the Sekotan vessel perched on the landing pad. Memories of Yavin had been shaped from seed-partners that had bonded with the young Jedi during her stay on Zonoma Sekot, and it was a sleek, seamless fusion of organics and technology. Like Tahiri herself, it drew from disparate parts to become a greater whole, and though she was a fair pilot at best under normal circumstances, the telepathic link she felt with the ship allowed her to execute all but the most complex maneuvers. It made her wonder what Anakin, a truly gifted pilot with a tremendously strong connection to the Force, would have been able to do with the Sekotan technology?

    Tahiri shook her head. She doubted that she would ever escape the pain of Anakin?s loss, but she had learned not to dwell on it or let it dominate her actions. Tuskens, Jedi, Yuuzhan Vong- all believed that death was not a permanent end but that the soul survived in some form in another life. To miss the dead was expected and noble, but to obsess over them was foolish. Tahiri had learned to accept that Anakin was gone but that life continued- that realization more than anything else had given her the strength to prevent becoming dominated by her Yuuzhan Vong side, thereby preventing Anakin?s nightmare vision of her as a Jedi-hunting warmaster. Or so she hoped?

    The young Jedi shook herself again. Now was the time for a new mission, not losing herself in the past. With a final glance at the tampasi that surrounded the landing field, taking in the beauty of the Sekotan ?jungle?, she climbed aboard Memories of Yavin and shut the hatch behind her.

    Every Sekotan vessel was unique, but they all shared general similarities with each other and their distant cousins, the Yuuzhan Vong coralcraft. After stowing her pack in her cabin, Tahiri made her way to the cockpit and seated herself in the pilot?s chair. The control panel was much like the one in the ship she had first traveled to this world in, along with Corran Horn, Nen Yim, the priest Harrar and a disguised Nom Anor. The fact that Memories had been made for Tahiri personally, though, gave her a level of rapport with the ship that Corran, gifted pilot though he was, had never been able to achieve. As she settled herself in front of the controls, the Jedi?s awareness expanded until she could feel the ship as her own body, its quasi-sentient mind working together with her own through the Force.

    A light on the console flashed, and Tahiri activated it with a slight nudge from the Force. A half-meter tall hologram shimmered into being of two figures the young Jedi knew well- Magister Jabitha, leader of the Ferroans and the closest thing Sekot could be said to have to a confidant, and Harrar, High Priest of the Yuuzhan Vong. Tahiri was surprised that the two most influential people on the planet were giving her a sendoff, but realized that she shouldn?t be. Sekot itself had helped put her on this mission- of course its two chief representatives would make sure was safely on her way.

    ?Tahiri,? Jabitha said with a warm smile, ?on Sekot?s behalf we wanted to wish you good luck in your journey and your mission.?

    ?Thanks,? Tahiri said. ?Tell Sekot for me that I?ll find whatever is causing this disturbance in the Force, and I?ll put a stop to it. It probably already knows, but I think it might appreciate the gesture.?

    ?I will tell Sekot,? Jabitha said. ?May the Potentium be with you.? She smiled again and vanished from the hologram. Tahiri shook her head at the use of the term Potentium- the Jedi considered it an outdated, naïve, and rather dangerous view of the Force because it denied the existence of evil, but she knew that the Ferroans were strong believers in it and she accepted the farewell in the spirit it was given.

    Harrar looked up at Tahiri solemnly. ?May Yun-Yammka guide your blade, warrior,? he said in the Yuuzhan Vong language, ?and Yun-Harla lend you her cunning.?

    Part of Tahiri was comforted by the ritual
  6. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 5: An Unexpected Passenger

    She stands alone in the arid wastes of Tatooine, her wrappings ruffled by the hot wind that is blowing towards her. Her traditional Tusken garments protect her from the worst effects of this harsh environment, even as the twin suns burn down overhead. The wind blows more intensely and she turns to face it. In the distance comes a great dark wave- a sandstorm greater than any she has ever seen. Every instinct tells her to find shelter, but her body remains rooted to the spot as the storm crashes over her?

    Now she is on the edge of the jungles of Yavin 4 in the jumpsuit of a Jedi trainee, staring up at the awesome structure that was once the Great Temple of the Massassi and is now Master Skywalker?s academy. She is running from something terrible in the jungle, but she knows that the Masters will protect her- as she reaches the pyramid?s base she can see Master Tionne coming towards her. She stops, panting but knowing that the threat is gone- and then Tionne reaches up and pulls the ooglith masquer from her face, and it is Mezhan Kwaad who beckons with a taloned hand, cruel madness dancing in her eyes?

    Now she is aboard the ancient worldship Baanu Raas in orbit above the world called Myrkr, and she is standing in an embrace with Anakin as they both mouth words too soft to be understood. Then he pulls from her arms and steps back, and as he does so his body begins to smoke and burn, and she can only watch helplessly as he is reduced to ash before her eyes?

    Now she is trapped within her own mind, facing a warrior who is a mirror image of herself save for the fact that she wields her lightsaber in the opposite hand. They duel for what feels like an eternity, neither able to gain an advantage over the other, until she finally through sheer luck manages to impale her lightsaber through her double?s heart, only to scream as they are both dragged down into the dark abyss?

    She falls forever, finally landing on flat, empty ground. She looks up and sees a figure seated on a throne before her, its body wrapped in a dark cloak so that no features are visible. It seems lost within its own thoughts- but then it looks up and sees her. ?You!? it hisses in a voice that is somewhere between a whisper and a rasp, and it stretches out a hand to drag her towards it by sheer force of its will?

    ############

    Tahiri woke suddenly, rubbing her head as she sat up in her bunk aboard Memories of Yavin. Another vision- another highly unpleasant vision. ?What are you trying to tell me?? she asked rather irritably, not expecting an answer. ?If you want me to do something, would it be too much for you to just say it without dragging up a gallery of my least favorite memories?? The Force, of course, made no response.

    Deciding that getting back to sleep would bee unlikely, Tahiri stood and pulled on a robe. Clipping her lightsaber to her belt, she stepped out of her cabin and walked up to the cockpit.

    Memories was semi-sentient and quite capable of flying herself through hyperspace once a destination had been keyed in. After checking the consoles and her Force-bond with the living vessel to make certain that everything was running smoothly, Tahiri settled herself into the pilot?s chair and attempted to meditate so that she could clear any left-over unpleasantness from the vision from her mind. Her shaping, Anakin, Riina- it had been years, but all of those were still painful topics.

    As the Jedi reached out to the Force, she became aware that something was subtly wrong. She wasn?t certain what it was, exactly- the feeling was vague and imprecise, no matter how hard she tried to focus on it, as if the great energy field detected that something was amiss but couldn?t focus on the source.

    Tahiri realized what that meant. ?Of course,? she muttered to herself and shifted her focus to the part of her mind where the memories and identity that had once formed Riina Kwaad resided. Her connection to the Force became muted, while a similar but distinct ability activated- Vongsense. Reachi
  7. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 6: The New Jedi Order

    Hassk?s snout wrinkled as he stepped into the hazy darkness of the cantina. There were dozens of places like this near the spaceport of Atzerri, where illicit spacers could relax after a flight or conduct marginally legal business of their own in the shadows. Personally the Trandoshan found cantinas little more than wasteful distractions, but he knew that most of the underworld- including his own crew- felt differently, so he forced himself to tolerate them.

    Atzerri was one of Talon?s crew?s common places to trade the valuable crystals their Vong employers paid them with, with no questions asked. This particular cantina was one they knew well, and Hassk was able to navigate through the crowd and find Rhona, Hensen, and Skaze sitting at their usual table, a game of sabbacc in progress and drinks on the table before them.

    ?What are you three doing here?? the Trandoshan snarled. ?You were to have returned to the ship a standard hour ago. What is the delay??

    Rhona looked up at him across her cards. ?We?re not sure we?re coming on this one, Captain,? she said. ?After the last mission- well, we?re just not sure we want to go around handling any more you-know-whats.? Even the most hardened of criminals didn?t mention Sith artifacts lightly if they had any experience with them.

    ?And so you desert me?? Hassk asked. ?Coward.?

    ?Realist,? Rhona replied. ?The stuff we?ve been getting for them hasn?t been too dangerous, but this new one they want- it?s one of his. Sorry, but I?ll pass. It?s nothing personal, Captain- we?ll still be here when you get through and are ready to go back to bounty hunting or smuggling. But not for this.?

    ?I did not think you were one to back out when the prize was at hand,? Hassk said, appealing to her vanity.

    Rhona snorted. ?Stang, Captain- I like risk as much as the next girl, but going after something that used to be the Emperor?s? That he probably made? On Coruscant, which is still a mess after the war? I don?t care how much they pay- it?s just not worth it.?

    Hassk was disappointed, but not surprised- he?d been expecting something like this to happen ever since Keenah told him that the next artifact they needed to retrieve was a relic of the late Emperor Palpatine. The Trandoshans hadn?t suffered particularly under his rule- the hunting services that were their primary export had been in great demand under the Imperial regime- but Hassk knew that in most of the galaxy the dead tyrant had been elevated almost to the level of some terrible god. The fact that he had managed to cheat death at least once- even if it had just been a clone- simply added fuel to the fire.

    ?So it is fear of the Emperor that keeps you from this prize,? Hassk mused. ?Understandable. But tell me, which is worse- the retribution of a ghost, evil as he may have been in life, or the retribution of the living??

    ?Are you threatening us, Captain?? Skaze asked in his buzzing Rodian voice. ?I didn?t think you?d stoop to that.?

    ?I wouldn?t threaten even former crew who have served me well,? Hassk said. ?But I was referring to someone else- the ones who hired us.?

    ?Why would they care?? Rhona asked. ?Just as long as you get the job done, they don?t care if three infidels choose to sit it out. How would they even know??

    Haask planted his claws on the table and stared at Rhona with his unblinking eyes. ?They are Vong,? he said, the last word little more than a hiss. ?Do you think I am fond of this new job? No! But I will not risk their wrath. If I fail to retrieve what the Priestess sent me for, they will kill me and everyone associated with me- including you. Remember Sernpidal, Kalarba, Barab- they are not a species inclined to mercy. If a Vong approaches you, you do whatever it takes to stay on his good side. That is the only realistic option.?

    Rhona shuddered, and Skaze and Hensen both looked uneasy. ?You do have a point,? the human male said. ?S?why we signed on with the Brigade during the war, wasn?t it? So we didn?t have to fight them.?

    ?I need all of
  8. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 7: Masters of Light and Darkness

    Keenah stood motionless on the dueling floor aboard Vua?sa?s Rage, eyes closed and head bowed. She was clad only in light garments that wouldn?t hinder her movements, an amphistaff coiled around one bare arm. She breathed deeply, focusing her awareness as she had been taught so that she became aware of the three warriors who stood in a circle around her- and the mightier presence that waited off to the side.

    ?Begin,? the Master ordered.

    Keenah?s eyes snapped open, and in a flash the amphistaff slid into her hand and stiffened into its bladed form, hard enough to deflect an infidel lightsaber and sharp enough to slice through yorik coral. In the heartbeat it took for that to happen, the three warriors lunged, but the priestess was ready for them. Her special senses warned her of the attack seconds before it came, and drawing on her power she leaped easily into the air, the amphistaffs cutting the air harmlessly below her.

    She landed lightly on the other side of the dueling floor and the warriors spun to face her, fanning out as they advanced. Keenah knew they wouldn?t kill her- she was a member of the priest caste and the Master?s favored disciple, after all- but that was their only restriction. The Yuuzhan Vong believed that any lesson worth learning could only be bought through pain.

    One of the warriors suddenly lunged forward, striking out with his amphistaff. Keenah parried with her own weapon and the two lunged back and forth for several moments, easily matched. The warrior was more skilled, but the priestess?s precognition evened the odds, allowing her to anticipate and block his blows far more readily than a normal opponent could. Unfortunately, Keenah made the mistake of focusing all of her will on this one warrior, forgetting the other two. A sharp lance of pain shot down her back as one struck her with his amphistaff, and though she did not cry out she sank to one knee as her three opponents stood over her.

    ?Use your? passion, my student!? the Master rasped from the sidelines. ?That is the source of? your power.?

    ?Passion,? Keenah murmured softly. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the pain of her injury, her pride in her people, her absolute belief in the righteousness of the Yuuzhan Vong cause. Then, when she could contain it no longer, she released it.

    The three warriors were thrown backwards by an invisible wall of force. Keenah leaped to her feet and brought her amphistaff up, coiling it around the weapon of one of her opponents and jerking it from his hands. Her own hand came up and thrust out towards him, and he slammed into the coral wall and lay still. One of the other warriors moved up behind her with the sharp end of his staff pointed at her back, but she sensed his presence and spun around, shooting venom from her amphistaff?s head. The warrior fell back, clutching his eyes and screaming. An eyeful of amphistaff venom, the priestess knew, was pain enough to daunt even one of her race.

    The third warrior stepped in front of her and bowed, amphistaff going limp. ?The duel is yours, Priestess,? he said. ?I know that I cannot defeat you. I offer you my life to claim for the gods.?

    ?I serve the Modeler, warrior,? Keenah said, ?and she commands that the Yuuzhan Vong serve her in life, rather than as sacrifices. Rise, and take your companions to the Shapers, to ensure they suffer no lasting damage that might impair their usefulness to the cause. There are too few of us to spare even a single life now.?

    The warrior bowed his head. ?As you will.? Getting to his feet, he walked over to his unconscious comrade and slung him over one shoulder. Grabbing the blinded warrior by the hand, he departed from the dueling floor.

    Keenah walked over to the edge of the stands and removed her robe from where it hung from a coral spike. Slipping it on, she walked over to the Master. The robed figure sat in the stands on his coral throne, which had been borne here by two burly Shamed Ones who now waited silently to one side. Otherwise, the stan
  9. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 8: Old Wounds

    Scorekeeper?s Talon emerged from hyperspace on the edge of Coruscant?s gravity well and hung there momentarily, its crew taking stock of the devastated former capital-world. Once it had been a world of sprawling cities, with majestic towers soaring high into the atmosphere, covering a surface darker and more savage than that of many wild frontier planets. During the reign of the Yuuzhan Vong it had become a paradise of life gone mad- or so Hassk had heard; he?d never been foolish enough himself to visit the heart of Vong power even when he still ran with the Peace Brigade. Now the planet was caught somewhere between, with Vonglife being cleared away or controlled by the immense World Brain and the ruins of cities poking through, waiting to be refurbished, while a small blockade of Galactic Alliance battlecruisers surrounded it, preventing anyone unauthorized from descending to the surface. Someday it would be the center of the galaxy again; now it merely combined the worst of two cultures.

    And Hassk and his crew were heading right into it.

    ?Hard to believe that used to be the bright center of the universe,? Hensen remarked from the pilot?s seat. ?Even harder to believe we let you talk us into this one, boss.?

    From the door behind them, Rhona snorted. ?I?d agree with you if it weren?t for one thing- our big bosses. Between Coruscant and Vong, I?ll take Coruscant, thanks.?

    ?There?s probably Vong down there too,? Hensen muttered, ?ones who don?t know we?re running errands for their buddies. And worse things than Vong, if all the old scary stories are true.?

    Hassk had had enough. ?Silence, both of you,? he snarled at the humans. ?You know as well as I that stories such as those get blown out of proportion across the generations. Have we not all used planets that were supposedly haunted or cursed as bases before? This is no different. What awaits below are ruins, nothing more or less.?

    It was clear from Hensen and Rhona?s expression?s that they didn?t believe that any more than Hassk himself did. Still, many species enjoyed their comforting fantasies- even Trandoshans, though they were loathe to admit it- and he needed to keep morale as high as was realistically possible if this mission was to succeed.

    The mercenary crew was pulled from their dark thoughts by a signal flaring on the console- they were being hailed by one of the Galactic Alliance warships. Hensen activated the communications array, and a miniature hologram of a Bothan in a GA captain?s uniform appeared in midair. ?This is Captain Yei?lya of the Freedom?s Sacrifice,? he said without preamble. ?You are entering restricted space- identify yourself or turn back.?

    Hensen leaned forward- it was the customary role he took whenever the Talon entered this type of situation; too many stereotypes were associated with Trandoshan captains to allow Hassk to be the spokesman and remain above suspicion. ?This is Captain Jeral Antilles of the Starlit Panther,? the human pilot said, using a common surname from his homeworld of Corellia. ?I?ve got a delivery of supplies for the surface.?

    Yei?lya?s eyes narrowed, and Hassk silently cursed Bothans and their naturally suspicious minds. ?What kind of supplies?? the Alliance captain asked.

    ?Spare parts for construction droids, mostly,? Hensen said, ?and a few packs of antidote for amphistaff venom and a few other Vong poisons that you might run into down there. Now then, I suppose you?ll be needing our clearance code??

    ?Yes,? the Bothan said, eyes still narrowed in distrust. ?Transmit it over presently. Failure to do so will require me to seize and search this vessel.? The nearest warship- obviously Freedom?s Sacrifice- was rotating towards the Talon, making certain the smaller ship was in range of its tractor beams.

    ?No need to get jumpy, Captain!? Hensen said with a great air of affronted dignity. Keying in the code- one of several that Rhona had recently sliced from a database on Denon for situations where guile was more profitable than force- he transmitted it to
  10. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 9: The Jedi Council

    Tahiri breathed deeply and straightened her robes as she stood outside the door to the chamber of the Jedi Council. She knew she shouldn?t be nervous- she?d known most of these people for years, after all- but still, so many powerful Masters gathered together was daunting. And when you added in the Yuuzhan Vong reflex to reverence authority? the young Jedi shook her head, clearing it. She wasn?t on Zonoma Sekot any longer; this was the new center of the Jedi Order, and Riina of Domain Kwaad was as out of place here as a bantha on Coruscant. Tonight, she was just Tahiri.

    Finally, the door hissed open and she stepped inside. The chamber was plain and circular, created in memory of the ancient Jedi Temple that had existed during the Old Republic, with windows that looked out onto the Ossus night. The council members sat around the walls- all Jedi Masters. This was the Masters? Council which dealt with internal Jedi affairs, not the High Council that oversaw Jedi dealings with the Galactic Alliance government. Master Skywalker sat in the chair directly across from the door, with Mara on one side and Kyp Durron on the other. Also present were Cilghal, the Mon Calamari healer, the Barabel hunter Saba Sebatyne, the former Bespin hermit Streen, Kam and Tionne Solusar, and Corran Horn.

    ?Hello, Tahiri,? Master Skywalker said warmly to her as she stepped into the center of the room.

    ?Masters,? she replied with a slight bow, then looked towards Master Skywalker. ?So, do you just want me to tell them what I told you earlier??

    ?I would appreciate that, yes,? he said. ?I?ll add my information to yours when you?re through, but since you came to us- and what you have to tell us comes directly from the Force- I think it would be best to allow you to speak first.?

    ?All right, then,? Tahiri said, and she began to speak, relating her vision of Yuuzhan Vong gathering on Korriban with a familiar-seeming figure that could not be identified. She also told them about how she had shared her vision with Sekot and learned that the living planet too felt that something was amiss, and so she had decided that this was something that the Jedi Order should be made aware of. ?I know better than most how dangerous the Yuuzhan Vong can be,? she finished, ?and I don?t think anyone here needs reminding of what the Sith can do- this whole planet is proof of that. If there?s any possibility of the old guard of the Yuuzhan Vong joining forces with the dark side- even if its just some crazy whose gotten his hands on a holocron- it?s something the Jedi need to deal with before it seriously gets off the ground.?

    ?I think that?s something we can all agree on,? Kyp said, eyes haunted as he no doubt remembered how the specter of Exar Kun had used him as the not-entirely-unwilling tool of its revenge. ?I say that if there is any possibility of this threat becoming reality, we should act now to prevent it.?

    ?Thiz one agreez with that assessment,? Saba hissed, ?but one cannot hunt without knowledge of one?z quarry.? She fixed Tahiri with her penetrating reptilian glare. ?Visionz in the Force are strange things- was there anything in yourz to indicate whether it was something happening then, or during the war, or in some distant future? That knowledge iz key if this Council wishes to pursue it.?

    Tahiri thought back and shook her head. ?Nothing that I can think of that indicated time- but it was all so, I don?t know, strange and fluid. I don?t even know if it really meant that the Yuuzhan Vong were going to Korriban literally, or if it was just symbolic of a union with the Sith. There was a feeling of urgency, though. Whatever?s going to happen, it?s going to happen soon.?

    ?I might be able to help you pin down the trail you?re looking for, Saba,? Master Skywalker said. ?There?s a reason I thought that one Force vision was a matter for the whole council. What Tahiri saw was the latest in a series of clues that?s been bothering me for several months now. Some of you,? here he glanced at Mara, ?are aware that I?
  11. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 10: Rebirth

    Keenah dreams, and remembers:

    She is a child of the priestly caste, born on one of the great worldships that crosses the void between galaxies. Her domain is sworn to the service of Yun-Ne?shel, the Modeler, perhaps the least highly regarded of the Yuuzhan Vong gods. The other castes dismiss Yun-Ne?shel as a weak and foolish goddess, fit only to be worshipped by shapers or children, while true warriors follow Yun-Yammka and Yun-Harla, the Slayer and the Trickster. The child Keenah often wishes that she served one of those mighty gods herself, or that her own goddess was more like them. As she grows older, however, she realizes that because the Modeler is softer and more accepting (relatively speaking) than the other gods, she has a strength they lack- she can adapt where they are stagnant, and can therefore survive where the other gods would die. The young priestess learns to take pride in that, though she keeps such thoughts hidden from those outside her crèche. To over sensitive ears, they might smack of heresy.

    Keenah is on the edge of adulthood when the great war begins, the cleansing that has been so long prepared against the infidels of the galaxy and their abominable machines. The basic training in her crèche complete, she is sent to be an acolyte and apprentice to a high priestess of Yun-Ne?shel. They are charged with studying the doctrines native to the galaxy and revealing their heresies and falsehoods- shaping ideas, even as Yun-Ne?shel?s favored castes shapes the physical matter of life. The war against the infidels is about more than just military strength, Keenah quickly learns- it is a war of beliefs. For it to be won, the infidels must either be converted or destroyed. She is charged with the former task.

    Soon she begins hearing rumors of strange beings among the infidels, beings who wield powers like small gods and yet deny any divinity, who claim to be servants of life and yet shackle themselves to the abomination-users. In time, Keenah is able to put a name to these beings- Jeedai. They fascinate her, for the shapers who study them claim that their powers do not come from machines or from their own bodies, but from something beyond. To the priestess, this can only mean one thing- somehow, they have found a connection to the gods that the Yuuzhan Vong lack. Keenah is called soft, but at heart she is as Yuuzhan Vong as any, and she knows that there is a purpose in this, a purpose that must ultimately benefit her people. The Jeedai are a challenge that has been sent in order to force the Yuuzhan Vong to uncover this new power. She knows that she is skirting closer than ever to heresy with this thought, and yet she takes it to the high priestess she serves, knowing that a single misstep can mean death or, worse, Shame. Surprisingly, however, the high priestess agrees with her. They must investigate the Jeedai and determine from where their powers come, and use that knowledge to bring the infidels to their knees. But they must do so cautiously- if they tip their hands before they are ready, practice heresy with no results, there will be no forgiveness.

    Keenah rejoices when the planet that will become Yuuzhan?tar is taken, for she knows that there she and her mistress are most likely to discover the secrets of the Jeedai. What information that is found there, however, is controlled tightly by Supreme Overlord Shimrra and his court, in which one maverick high priestess and her acolyte have little voice. Still they continue their investigations, redoubling their efforts when the Prophet?s heresy arises among the Shamed Ones and they find themselves in a race. Which Yuuzhan Vong will acquire Jeedai knowledge- the rebellious holy man, or the rightful interpreters of the gods? will? Ultimately, it is Keenah who asks the wrong question at the wrong time, and the knowledge of her heresy comes to an intendant eager for promotion. He turns her over to High Priest Jakan, and the high priestess she serves is brought up as well, for allowing heresy among her students.

    Th
  12. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    I'm glad you're able to repost this -- very curious about the user name thingy. Looking forward to what happens next. =D=
  13. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 11: A Search on Atzerri

    Atzerri wasn?t the most despondent planet Tahiri had ever seen- Eriadu was still the proud holder of that dubious distinction- but it came in close. Looking out the cockpit window as Memories descended towards that murky orb of filthy, slime-filled marshland and cities that were only marginally cleaner, she found herself silently blessing the fact that since her integration, she had become rather more comfortable with footwear. Going barefoot in that mess would be about as smart as marching into a krayt?s lair with a fresh bantha steak hung around your neck.

    ?This is a depressing place, Tahiri Veila,? Ziil observed beside her. ?It reminds me of the older, poorer worldships where my kind were forced to live. Is this a world of Shamed Ones??

    ?You might say that,? Tahiri said. ?This is a planet where the local government is really weak and corrupt, so it winds up a gathering place for all sorts of smugglers, bounty hunters, and criminals in general. I bet it?s been seeing a big upswing in business, too, after the Hutts took a beating during the War. In other words, it?s exactly the kind of place where our thieves would hang out in their downtime.?

    ?And the Jeedai allow worlds like these to exist?? Ziil looked dubious.

    Tahiri snorted. ?It?s not like we have much of a choice. There?s just not enough of us to clean up even one planet like Atzerri, especially since what government there is just wouldn?t be willing to help us take out the people who are paying all their bribes. Besides, criminals are never going to go away, so another world like this one would just pop up sooner or later, and nothing would change. There are some battles you just can?t win.?

    ?I see,? Ziil said, though it was clear from his tone he didn?t- or maybe he just didn?t like the idea of the Jedi being fallible. ?But you do expect to find information here on the ones who trouble your dreams??

    ?More like their errand boys, if I?m looking at things right. But Master Skywalker?s information said that this Captain Hassk and his crew operate off this slimy rock, so if there are leads, we?ll find them here. That?s more Corran?s department than mine, though. He?s ex-CorSec (that?s Corellian Security, sorry)- I may be the Jedi who knows the Yuuzhan Vong, but he?s the one who knows criminals.?

    ?You have much respect for the Slayer of Shedao Shai,? Ziil observed.

    ?Yeah. Corran?s seen and done a lot. He?s not as great a Jedi as Master Skywalker- who is?- but you?re right- I do have a lot of respect for him.? She shook her head and smiled sadly. ?I think me and Anakin almost drove him crazy during the whole Yag?Dhul mess, though. Though you would think that a guy with two kids would?ve been able to handle something like that?? Tahiri?s voice trailed off as memories of that near-disaster played through her mind.

    ?You are both great Jeedai,? Ziil said with absolute conviction. ?The gods watch over you. You will succeed at anything you put your minds to.?

    Tahiri gave a short laugh. ?I?m not a great anything, Ziil- just a girl who?s seen too much and had really bad luck. I wish I had your faith.? She of all people knew that even the greatest Jedi wasn?t infallible- Anakin had been greater than her and had the potential to be greater than Corran or almost any of the other Masters (except maybe his uncle) and it hadn?t saved him in the end.

    The young Jedi shook herself. ?Get a hold of yourself, Tahiri,? she muttered under her breath. ?It?s just a smelly, dirty outlaw planet and a then a chase after some pirates. Nothing to worry about??

    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    She brought Memories down to rest at a docking bay in one of Atzerri?s larger spaceports. From the information Karrde?s people had put together on the mercenary crew, this was one of their favored haunts, though they?d been seen in other spaceports around the planet. Still, this was the place they showed up at most often- if there was anyone who knew where they?d most recently gone, that person was probably he
  14. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Super update and great cliffhanger. I enjoyed Tahiri's POV and thoughts on society and the Jedi, etc. :D Fun to see her and Corran working together. Got tickled at the last line. When do things ever go according to plan? o_O :p

  15. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Master CorSec :p I liked that one.
  16. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 12: The Informant

    Tahiri backed towards Corran, fingering the hilt of her lightsaber nervously as she eyed the gathering crowd. Some of these beings looked like desperate, broken sorts who?d probably lost homes, families, or worlds during the war; others had every appearance of being hardened criminals. She didn?t mind fighting the latter, but seriously didn?t want to fight the former- unfortunately, it didn?t look like she was going to have a choice. The one she really wanted was the human who?d set the whole thing off, but he?d apparently backed away behind the crowd, and with so many pedestrians around picking out an unfamiliar Force-signature would be almost impossible.

    ?Well,? Tahiri said softly to Corran, ?this is your area of expertise. What do two investigators do when they suddenly find themselves the subject of a riot??

    Corran eyed the group with a cool, practiced eye. ?Get out alive and try not to kill anybody,? he said simply. ?Any questions??

    ?Nope. I think I can handle that,? Tahiri said.

    One of the mob, a big man of a species Tahiri didn?t recognize except that he was about two heads too tall to be human and smelled strongly of cheap liquor. ?It was cause? of the Jedi that my brother spent more?n ten years of his life rotting away in a prison cell,? he rumbled. ?I been lookin? forward to returnin? the favor.? Tahiri only gave him an incredulous smile, causing him to narrow his eyes in anger. ?You think I can?t, little girl??

    ?Little girl?? she muttered under her breath. ?You are so going down for that one.? The huge man gave a tremendous shout and charged at her, fists clenched and swinging. Tahiri didn?t even draw her lightsaber- she had the advantage of speed, the Force, and two lifetimes worth of combat training, and that was more than enough to handle this brute. Ducking lightly under his swing, she caught him behind the legs with a Force-assisted grip and pulled, sending him sprawling. Looking up, she could see another group of rioters approaching, and reaching out with her thoughts she grabbed her fallen enemy?s inert body and sent him flying towards them, knocking all of them sprawling.

    Around them, the street dissolved into chaos. Corran was fighting three at a time, his experience making up for the practical nonexistence of his telekinetic abilities; beyond him, the crowds were shoving at each other trying to press forward or get away, while dozens of unrelated brawls had broken out on the side, their instigators having apparently decided that this was an ideal excuse to settle old grudges or just work off some stress. Sighing, Tahiri drew her lightsaber and activated it- the glowing weapon was a powerful sign to any of the rioters that they should keep their distance if they knew what was good for them. The fact that all of them who were nearby widened their eyes and backed up nervously indicated that they hadn?t really thought this particular part of fighting a Jedi through all that well.

    Tahiri scanned the chaos intently, hoping for even a passing glimpse of the human who?d started this chaos. Nothing, nothing? there. He- or someone of very similar height wearing the exact same style of robe- was just disappearing around the corner of an alleyway. He clearly thought that he was going to be able to get away easily and let his dupes handle the two Jedi, and he was about to find that he was sorely mistaken. Tahiri allowed herself a predatory smile. She wanted to find out why he?d set the riot up- something told her that it might just have a connection to the reason they were on this planet in the first place.

    Lightsaber held in front of her, Tahiri began to dart through the crowd. Thanks in large part to the blade, the riot parted to give way for her- no one wanted to get very close to a weapon well-known for being able to slice through almost any substance. Every so often someone would attempt to take her from behind, but warned by the Force, she was able to dodge easily and simply push or kick her attacker back into the crowd, which w
  17. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 13: Into Darkness

    ?Am I the only one this place is seriously giving the creeps to?? Rhona asked, her voice echoing through the underbelly of the Coruscant jungle, seeming to carry on forever.

    ?Quiet!? Hassk snarled at her, motioning savagely with one taloned hand. Though they hadn?t seen signs of anything alive that wasn?t themselves or plant matter since they?d left the ship behind, the Trandoshan doubted that they were truly alone and had no desire to confront whatever abominations the Vong had left behind before he absolutely had to. He was no coward, and had hunted deadly game- both sentient and otherwise- on many worlds, but neither was he suicidal.

    ?Sorry,? Rhona replied in a softer voice, looking around nervously as she held her small blaster at the ready. ?I?m just saying what everyone?s thinking, and you know it, boss.? The other members of the crew nodded in agreement.

    Privately, Hassk felt that they had a point. They?d passed down beneath the surface level of the jungle and had found themselves amidst an eerie world of thin light and deep shadows, roofed by a leafy mat of vegetation that was held up by decaying metal towers. The underbelly of Coruscant looked like it had been abandoned for centuries, rather than years- some gift the Vong had left behind ate away at the technology they found so revolting, and though they were gone from this world now it remained, mindlessly continuing its task. This environment was not natural, but neither was it completely artificial- it was a decaying mix of the two, as though the worst aspects of the galaxy and the Vong had come together here and died, leaving behind only otherworldly ruin. Had he been human, Hassk knew he would have shivered- as it was, he could feel his scales rustling.

    ?Why do we even have to do this, anyway?? Rhona was grumbling, more to hear the sound of her own voice amidst the terrible emptiness than anything. ?If that Vong priestess wants whatever?s down here so bad, why not just put on one of those mask-things of theirs and get it herself? Sure save us the trouble. I think-?

    ?Quiet!? Hassk hissed more forcefully, holding up a hand for silence. He stopped to listen and sniff the air, the rest of the crew piling up on the decaying walkway behind him. He wasn?t sure if what he?d heard had been real? needed to listen without Rhona?s voice interfering? yes, there it was again. Something was moving in the darkness, its claws scraping on steel. ?We are not alone,? the Trandoshan said. ?Weapons out.?

    He could hear the others raising their blasters as he scanned their surroundings, hearing again the scraping- closer this time. For an instant he thought he saw the shadow of something large moving nearby, but it vanished before he could get a good focus on it. ?Show yourself, blast you,? he muttered under his breath.

    Suddenly a horrific screech split the underworld twilight. Hassk looked up in the direction it had come from just in time to see a monstrous creature leap from a balcony above them and come streaking down towards his crew. They jumped back as far as they could on the walkway and it landed in their midst, snarling and then giving another nightmare wail. It moved so fast that it was hard to take in what it was, exactly, except that it was larger than most speeders, was covered in scales and spines, and had a long, lashing tail and far too many eyes for its head.

    The mercenaries stared in shock at the monstrosity for a brief moment, but before it could strike their combat-honed reflexes took over. Raising their blasters, they began to pepper the creature with bolts, causing it to rear back and howl, but none of the blasts could actually penetrate the thick armor. Even the eyes were protected- Hassk tried aiming at them, but whenever a bolt got close to one a thick lid descended, covered in the same stuff that armored the creature?s body.

    Though the blaster bolts were doing no serious damage, they were apparently annoying the creature greatly. Its tail shot out and wrapped itself around the nearest mercenar
  18. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Super action with Tahiri and Corran =D= Fascinating thing about the Vong accent [face_thinking]

    Keenah's portion -- wow! Super buildup to more action and a situation to be handled by the GFFA -- they just have to realize it first [face_worried]

  19. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 14: Recovery

    Tahiri sat on the bed in her cabin aboard Memories, breathing slowly in and out and doing her best to keep herself calm. She'd come close to losing control out there in the city today, and that was something that scared her. She had been trained in two distinct warrior traditions (three, if one counted being raised among the Tusken Raiders as "training"), but while the Yuuzhan Vong called for the unleashing of a warrior's most primal instincts, the Jedi taught- no, more than taught, required- intense self-control. Letting herself get goaded into losing her temper couldn't have good consequences, but with her half-Yuuzhan Vong nature it was something she risked too often. Today was only a shining example of that.

    Once, when Tahiri had still had two distinct personalities fighting for control of her mind, the thing that had scared her most had been the idea that Riina could emerge and seize control at any time. No, though, Riina was part of her, and the thing she had to fear the most was herself.

    "There is no emotion; there is peace," she quoted under her breath. "There is no passion; there is serenity." The ancient words of the Jedi Code helped- a little bit.

    There was the sound of someone softly knocking on the cabin door. "You came straight back to your chamber and sealed yourself inside after returning to the ship," a concerned voice said in Yuuzhan Vong. "I am wondering if something is wrong, Tahiri Veila."

    "Yeah, you could say that, Ziil," Tahiri told him. "And I do appreciate your concern. I just? don't think you can help me."

    "Ah? then it is an issue of the Jeedai?" Ziil asked.

    "Kind of- more like an issue of Tahiri," she said. "That's one of the drawbacks of being basically the only one of my kind- I have problems that other people don't generally have to deal with. I wish Anakin were here," she added softly and in Basic so Ziil wouldn't overhear. "He always seemed to get it. Course, considering what he had hanging over him, that's not so surprising."

    "Then perhaps it would be best if I simply left you to your reflections?" Ziil asked.

    "Yeah," Tahiri said. "I'd appreciate that." She appreciated Ziil'a loyalty and concern, but didn't particularly feel like going over the inner workings of her mind with him, and talk about the Force and the dark side would largely go over his head. After a moment she heard the sound of footsteps receding as he left.

    Abandoning her attempts at meditation, Tahiri threw herself back on her bed and stared up at the ceiling. It was more than just her near loss of control and taking on of Yuuzhan Vong speech patterns and mannerisms at the end of the fight that scared her- she'd nearly lost control before, but had always managed to rein it in (though a rather un-Jedi-like part of her still regretted that she'd never got the chance to make good her threat to slice Nom Anor into various small pieces). No- her fears for years now had largely come back to the vision Anakin had during her shaping.

    It all came down to that- the monster Mezhan Kwaad had tried to make of her, the vision that Anakin had hoped his rescue would avert. Tahiri had once believed that it had. Since her integration, though, she wasn't sure anymore- on the one hand, the process had left her loyalty to her friends, the Jedi, and the galaxy unshaken, but on the other a fusion of Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong could easily be the vision's first step. Now with some unholy alliance between Yuuzhan Vong and Sith looming, that fear intensified. Every apprentice knew the story of the first Anakin's fall, along with other, less infamous example caused by the Sith over the millennia. That the vision about it had come to Tahiri indicated that she would have some role to play in the coming events, but what if it was to be as some dark messiah leading both sides to victory over the Jedi? That was a terrifying thought.

    Tahiri was thankful when her comlink buzzed, pulling her out of her dark thoughts. Sitting up, she pulled it from her belt and held it to her lips. "Tahiri here," she
  20. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    =D=

    Anakin is definitely the perfect one for understanding anything Tahiri is gong through [face_thinking]

    Wistful sigh.
  21. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 15: The Master's Gift

    Tahiri hurried to Memories' cockpit, brushing past a startled Ziil. Seating herself in the pilot's chair, she activated the comm and played the recorded message that Jaina had left her. It seemed to be the same as the one that Corran had described- a quick hello and heads-up that she was in-system, followed by wondering if they'd found anything yet. Tahiri quickly keyed the comm to open a channel to Jaina's X-wing.

    "Is that you, Tahiri?" Anakin's sister's voice crackled over the device a few moments later. "Wow, it's been awhile. How've things been going on Sekot?" There was a pause. "Have you been having any? problems?" Tahiri knew very well what problems Jaina was referring to, and that the older girl's curiosity and concern were both well-founded, considering the role she'd played in resolving the whole business with Riina.

    "Problems?" Tahiri asked, trying to sound as light as possible. "Unless you count some truly awful nightmares and a mission chasing pirates who work for Yuuzhan Vong who may or may not be allied with the Sith, things are fine. What about on your end? How's the last year been on Starfighter Command?"

    There was a distinct sigh from the other end of the comm. "Boring. We've mostly been chasing Vong- sorry, Yuuzhan Vong- renegades and Peace Brigaders around and mopping them up, but since most of the best warriors went down at Ebaq or Coruscant and the Peace Brigade were never that bright on their own, to say that there's not been much excitement would be the understatement of the century. Really, this mission sounds like exactly what I've been needing- something unusual to break up the boredom. So, do you have any leads yet?"

    "Yeah," Tahiri said. "Corran got some information from a broker that he thinks is pretty solid. Looks like our Trandoshan was here just a few days ago, but left to get to his main target. Get this- it's Coruscant."

    "Coruscant?" Jaina asked. "What's he want there? Believe me, I've been planetside down there after we took it back, and the place is a complete mess. Unless this Captain Hassk has decided to quit his life of crime and start selling jungle real-estate, there's not a lot worthwhile there."

    "If he keeps following the same patterns he has been, he's after something Sith," Tahiri said darkly. "Guess the Emperor left a toy behind or something."

    "Sith," Jaina repeated. "And you think he wants to turn this over to the Vong? Seems kind of a funny match to me. Far as I know there was only one Vong who could even use the Force, and from the little chat I had with him he seemed a little too crazy to care about philosophical niceties- mostly he just wanted to kill everything."

    "I know what you mean- but I also know what I've been seeing in my dreams, and you have to admit that apart from maybe Jacen I've got the strongest tie to the Yuuzhan Vong of any Jedi. I don't know what all is going on here, and I'm not sure I want to, but I do know we've got to stop it."

    "Definitely," Jaina agreed. "So, are you ready to head on out, or do you want to wait? This is your show, Tahiri."

    "My show," the young Jedi muttered under her breath, not entirely certain she liked the sound of that. "The longer we wait, the colder the trail gets. One of us can call Corran and tell him we're ready, and then I think we should get a move on. I want to get to Hassk before he gets to whatever he's after."

    "Sounds like a plan. By the way, is that a Sekotan ship you're flying? Congratulations- I always wanted one of those things. Are they really as fast as their supposed to be?"

    Tahiri smiled. "Well, I'm not an expert on ships, but I do like mine. Her name's Memories of Yavin- I thought it was appropriate on a couple of levels."

    "All right then. I'll call up Corran if you like, tell him what's going on. In any case, see you at Coruscant!"

    "And you. Tahiri out." The young Jedi reached up and flipped the comm off, then sent a message to spaceport control telling them to be ready for her to launch. Her Vongsense tingled, and a quic
  22. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    I'm a bit behind but will catch up. Keep the PM's coming. I enjoyed the riot and how Corran and Tahiri handled the situation.:)
  23. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 16: The Underdwellers

    The darkness of the Coruscant underbelly was thick now- even Hassk's night-eyes were having a hard time seeing far ahead of him, and he could only imagine how Rhona and Hensen were managing. They had gone below the level of most of the Vonglife now, and were surrounded on all sides by broken, decaying buildings, the occasional strange plant clinging to the metal, and an oppressive gloom. Everything down here seemed still and dead, but Hassk's instincts told him it was not entirely so. There was life down here, hidden and deadly. He didn't like it one bit.

    The darkness even seemed to have gotten to Rhona, if the absence of her usual complaints was anything to go by. The whole crew was afraid now, even if they didn't quite know why. Hassk's only consolation was that they were still on track to their destination according to the directions he'd memorized, and that they were now close. Good. That meant they could grab what they came for, get out of here, and then hopefully never have to work for or with the Vong ever again.

    His only warning before the silence was broken was that of a slight scrabbling sound from above- not so much like an animal's claws this time, but more like something human-sized adjusting a tight position. The Trandoshan spun towards the noise just in time to see a blaster bolt shoot down from above, and to dodge quickly aside so that it left a scorch-mark in the walkway where he'd been.

    In an instant Hassk was back on his feet, his own blaster raised and firing into the darkness, while behind him his crew did the same. Unfortunately, it didn't appear that any of them actually managed to hit anything- the attackers, who were on their home turf and cloaked by darkness. Finally they ceased firing to conserve power, and then a voice spoke out of the shadows. "You've been warned," it said. "It's the last warning you'll get. You can come with us peacefully, or we'll beat you unconscious and take you anyway. Your choice."

    Hassk's only response was to aim his blaster again and fire in the direction of the voice, and was rewarded with the sound of a scream as the speaker was blasted off his perch and fell into the abyss of the Coruscant underworld. The Trandoshan gave a toothy smile.

    "Think that scared 'em off?" Hensen asked nervously.

    "No. They are probably startled, but if they really have the numbers to take us, one death will not be enough to drive them away." Hassk's grin broadened. "Though that does not mean it wasn't pleasurable."

    Rhona looked around nervously. "Well," she said, "at least these are people, not monsters. They're probably going to kill us, but at least they won't eat us."

    "There are supposed to be tribes of cannibals down here, you know," Hensen pointed out.

    Rhona rolled her eyes. "Yeah- that was exactly what I needed to hear."

    "Quiet, both of you!" Hassk snapped. "They come!" Sure enough, a number of ragged looking beings- mostly humans, but with some other species mixed in- were emerging from around the broken buildings. They outnumbered Hassk's crew at least two to one, perhaps more, and while most were armed with primitive looking improvised weapons, a handful had very modern- and nasty-looking- vibroblades and blasters.

    "So, any idea what these hole-dwellers want?" Skaze asked, leveling his blaster at the nearest one.

    "Presumably to avenge the death of their companion, steal our weaponry, and see if we have a way off this planet," Hassk replied.

    "So what do we do?"

    "Don't miss." As the first of the underdwellers lunged forward, Hassk leveled his blaster and fired off a single shot. The human fell with a smoking hole in his chest, which seemed only to enrage his companions further. The ones with the clubs and vibroblades rushed forward, while the ones with blasters stayed near the back and took aim.

    Hassk's shooting took down two more of the attackers, and he saw his crew's shooting account for a handful as well. Then the onrushing humans slammed into them, and one man's flying kick knocked Hassk's bl
  24. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Great update. Wow! Things are certainly moving along rivetingly with the artifact in a maniac's hands and Hassk's crew and Tahiri's group perhaps about to meet? o_O

    [face_thinking]

  25. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    Chapter 17: Voices of the Dark

    At first Tahiri had wondered exactly how they were going to track down Hassk's crew- their ship was sealed up tight and probably didn't have their destination conveniently mapped out in it anyway, and they'd left no obvious trace of their passing. True, all three Jedi had experience following people, but the Force didn't tell you much when the trail was days old, and neither Tahiri's own early life on Tatooine, Corran's CorSec training, or Jaina's skill with ships seemed likely to produce results in a largely abandoned, ruined city.

    Something was there, however, a presence that beat down on Tahiri's mind from the moment she stepped out of Memories' protective embrace. It wasn't nearby, but in hung in the background like a dark cloud, utterly unlike anything she'd felt during either of her previous visits to Coruscant. This presence didn't feel alive, at least not by any conventional definition of life, but it was active in a way machines and inanimate objects weren't. The closest she'd ever felt too it was the power that inhabited the dark cave on Dagobah.

    "Do you feel that, too?" Tahiri asked Corran and Jaina as she walked towards them, "or am I just imagining things?"

    "You're not," Jaina said, sounding uncharacteristically subdued. "I feel it too. Think it's whatever our friend Hassk is after?"

    "Probably," Corran said. "I don't think it's alive, whatever it is, and two dark side artifacts aren't likely to turn up independently on a planet that until pretty recently was one of the Jedi's main bases of operation. If what we're sensing isn't what the Vong hired Hassk to find, it's probably nearby."

    "Wait a minute," Tahiri pointed out. "This doesn't make a lot of sense. Lots of Jedi used to be on Coruscant all the time- how come nobody ever sensed this? Even during the final battle of the war it wasn't here. Did somebody bring it, or what?"

    "Maybe, but if I had to guess, this is something of Palpatine's, and if anybody knew all about hiding in plain sight, it was him. Somebody must have disturbed it- maybe Hassk, maybe someone who was already here." Corran shook his head. "If that's the case, we need to get moving. It's bad enough if someone who knows what they're doing got their hands on one of the Emperor's toys, but I for one really don't want to see what it would do if it was left to work on its own."

    "Or worse, latches on to someone with just enough potential to be dangerous, and not enough to control themselves," Jaina pointed out. "I just brushed the dark side for a few weeks before I snapped out of it- I don't want to think about what would have happened if I'd had a piece of some dead Sith whispering in my ear. So we follow our senses and see what we find?" The other two Jedi nodded in agreement.

    "Come on, Ziil," Tahiri said in Yuuzhan Vong, turning her head to look at the former heretic. "We're going, and you don't want to be stuck here by yourself." He nodded once, and she turned back around to find Jaina looking at Ziil with an uncertain expression on her face.

    "Tahiri," she said, "why didn't you at least warn me we were going to be having a Yuuzhan Vong along?"

    "I guess I didn't see much reason too," Tahiri said, shrugging. "That's Ziil- he used to be a Shamed One, then one of the Prophet's heretics, and he's harmless." She stepped closer to Jaina and lowered her voice. "Well, being around Jedi he does have something of a tendency to have religious experiences at the drop of a hat, which can be a little annoying, but he's basically a good person- and even if he wasn't, the only weapon he's got is that blaster, which he barely knows how to use. He's nothing to worry about."

    Jaina took a deep breath, nodded, and smiled. "I understand, and if you say he's okay, Tahiri, I trust you. It's just a little unnerving fighting his people for years and then having one of them sprung on me like that."

    "I get where you're coming from, and if this sort of thing comes up again, I probably should say something." Tahiri returned Jaina's smile.

    "Come
Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade