Beyond Shark Kibble: The Datapad of Student ISBTECH 815761 - New Post 8-3-14

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Kahara, Jan 12, 2012.

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  1. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    * Format has been fixed for the new boards, so older posts are not truncated if anyone wants to start reading.

    Title: Shark Kibble: The Datapad of Student ISBTECH 815761

    Author: Kahara

    Timeframe: Beyond the Saga, starting 22 ABY

    Characters: OC’s (Lydia Shelvay, Inder Barrett, Xenon Bramer, Tamir Zelenus, Aika Lesedi, Jarl Ombyrne, various), minor canon characters (Elena and Corwin Shelvay, Antinnis Tremayne, various)

    Genre: Diary Challenge, General, Adventure, Imperials with Personalities, Non-Jedi who Do Stuff that Matters, Jedi who Got Over Themselves Already (I’m looking at you, Caedus), Mysterious Things Happening, Excessive Worldbuilding with Obscure EU Trivia, It’s Not a Family Reunion If Nobody Loses a Limb, Where Is the Plot Going and Why Are We in this Handbasket?

    Keywords: EU, OC

    Summary: This is a diary told from the viewpoint of Lydia Shelvay, a young woman from one of the most obscure Outer Rim backwaters of the Imperial Remnant. She seeks to join the Second Imperium as a technician for their growing intelligence organization, but her journey to the last holdouts of the Empire leads to some uncomfortable discoveries. Not the least of which regards the presence of unsuspected objects of much too centipede-like origin in her brain. Worse yet, she finds that some of the mysteries of her new world are inextricably linked to her family’s troubled secret history. And don’t even get her started on the thing with the sharks…

    Notes: This was inspired by the Dear Diary Challenge in the Resource Forum, though the character whose viewpoint I decided to write has been in my writing files for a while now. The story is centered on original characters and non-major canon characters, since all of my plot bunnies seem to gallop off in that direction sooner or later. If you recognize them, they’re not mine. If you don’t, they may still be from canonical Star Wars sources. This is what comes of too many hours browsing Wookieepedia.

    Since her character is fairly obscure and only appears in one source, I wanted to make a note that Elena Shelvay comes from the Star Wars RPG book Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim, written by Simon Smith and Eric S. Trautmann. She’s not an OC, just relatively unknown.

    The calendar system Lydia uses for her entries is based on that of the Galactic Empire, which I am assuming members of the Imperial Remnant continued to use. Since there don't seem to be any sources on exactly how dates were written by the Imperials, I've made it up. Year dates are given in BE (Before Empire) and AE (after the formation of the Empire.) 41 AE is equivalent to 22 years after the Battle of Yavin.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    This datapad belongs to Lydia Shelvay, soon to be Student ISBTECH 815761 at the University of Karkaryss. If found, please return to the lost and found at the students’ quarters on campus. Or not, since I’m not much of a diary person.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    41 AE, Month 1, Day 15

    After searching through the small pack full of random odds and ends I threw together at 4:00 in the morning, I found this half-busted old datapad and decided to start a journal. I can’t say there was any planning behind bringing this thing along, given that I packed all the essentials yesterday morning. The only real reason for gathering random junk was that I couldn’t sleep and needed something to do. There was little point in trying to go back to sleep, since the kelele birds and squarriks were making a prize-winning racket outside the window. It’s like they knew this was their last chance to inflict insomnia on me. I spent hours laying awake and listening to the early morning creatures crow, shriek, and warble away, knowing that I was going to miss even this.

    Shullia has been my homeworld since I was a baby, though I was born on the SSD Imperishable. Long story short, having the Rebellion blow up a vital chunk of the government that one worked for tends to alter one’s plans for maternity leave. Mum was lucky enough to have a true friend in Captain Tancred, who made sure that she and I were safely deposited planetside in an Imperial-friendly system. Since she worked for the ISB before everything went to the Ninth Circle in a handbasket, it wasn’t exactly possible for her to settle down in New Republic territory with a brand-new kid. Elena Shelvay was not as notorious of a name as Ysanne Isard, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have enemies among the Rebels.

    I don’t know if she missed being near the center of civilization while we were living out here. There was always work for her to do, since Shullia is pretty much in the middle of one of the last scattered Outer Rim territories that are still Imperial. She was an agent of all trades, dealing with everything from arranging food production contracts with the Deep Core to keeping the New Republic’s nose out of classified business (not that there’s ever been a lot of that on Shullia.) Maybe it wasn’t what she always wanted out of life, and it’s kind of strange to think about that, but I know she loved this planet.

    She’d take me out on long walks through the blue-green fields of nisu grain and into the wooded hill country nearby. Out there, she always seemed different. Not as though she were another person, but more relaxed and happy. Where she was always vigilant and diplomatic around other people, when we were out among the trees that constant mask of perfection disappeared. She smiled more and laughed like most people laugh, embarrassing unpredictable snorts and all. You’d never catch her sounding like that in public, where she was always pleasant but cool and controlled.

    Any time I had a question about the living things of the fields and forests, she had some kind of an answer. Mum grew up on Galtea, which is a long way from Shullia, but it was a farm world and she learned all about the plants and animals that lived there. She was the one who showed me how to find slitherbugs and other creepy-crawlies under rocks and rotting logs (a choice she may have come to regret a few times, since it took a while for me to learn to leave things where I found them.) Of course, she never let me forget the time I discovered the drakemoths when I was six years old. In my defense, they’re not exactly your standard backyard bugs. Anything that looks that much like a miniature gundark with wings is a bit startling to find inside a flower.

    It wasn’t so much my being surprised by a weird-looking creature, or even my letting out an undignified yelp, but the fact that I managed to backpedal through a patch of slimy marshweeds and land in the mud among a colony of frogs would be immortalized in story to visitors for years. Mum came over quickly to check on me, helping me back to my feet and picking the last few persistent frogs out of my hair. After the usual litany of “are you hurt” and so on, she guided me over to a mossy rock and sat beside me. I was undoubtedly a tearstreaked, runny-nosed mess by this point. She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and waited. Even if Mum did tell other parts of the story over and over, she never mentioned that bit of it.

    When I had calmed down, she asked me, “So, what happened there? You sounded scared, but all I could see was that you tripped and fell backward.” Though I now think she must have been a little amused at my bedraggled and be-frogged state, her inflection was as serious as if she were discussing trade routes with an ambassador.

    “The flower had a big bug thing in it. Like a spider and a lizard, and a butterfly, and a bee, and a… I dunno. It was weird-looking.” I traced patterns in the moss, trying to put my thoughts together.

    “Don’t know, not dunno, Lydia”, she said automatically. Six-year-old grammar was one of the banes of Mum’s existence back then. She leaned over to see my moss art, adding a cartoonish kelele bird to edge of the tree I’d sketched. I could tell what kind it was supposed to be, because no other bird on Shullia has such a ridiculously-long and strangely-shaped tail. “Can you show me where you found the bug?” Short stubby wings were added to the bird.

    I didn’t really want to see that creature again, but I nodded and led her over to a patch of yellow-orange flowers. “It was in the flower.” I chewed on my lip a little. “It kinda looked like the Molator from the story holos at the library.”

    “You know those give you nightmares.” She sighed the sigh of a woman who had fought a long-running, losing battle against my need to scare myself silly. “If you didn’t read those things you wouldn’t be seeing terentateks and glooths in the shrubbery.”

    Mum crouched down by one of the flowers, carefully brushing the petals aside with a stick. “Hmm.” It sounded like an I-told-you-so sort of “hmm.” A slight crooked smile crept onto her face. She withdrew the stick, drawing out a creature just like the one I had seen before. It crawled up and down, fluttering its green-striped wings in the late afternoon light.

    Having had some warning this time, I was more disgusted and intrigued than afraid. I moved closer to look at the insect. “It won’t sting you?” Suspiciously, I pointed at the creature’s wasp-like tail.

    “Not at all, but you have to be very careful not to touch it’s wings. They are fragile and the bug can’t fly if its wings are hurt.” She gradually tipped the insect into her hand, letting it walk off the stick and into her palm. “This is a drakemoth, Lydia. We had these on Galtea, too. Not the same exact kind, but many animals from different planets are related.”

    My eyes were fixed on the insect’s shimmering exoskeleton. Mum seemed totally oblivious to the creepiness of its appearance. “They look like they do because it makes the predators afraid to eat them. There’s another type of animal that looks a little bit like this, but it could actually hurt you. We called that kind a mothdrake, since it looks more like a moth or butterfly but is actually a venomous lizard. If a mothdrake stings or bites you, the wound will usually swell up and hurt for several days. Drakemoths, on the other hand, are harmless. They look like a mothdrake with an even nastier stinger, but they’re really just a moth. All they eat is nectar. They can’t bite or sting you.”

    With her other hand, Mum tucked a strand of golden hair back behind her ear. Her deep blue eyes took on a faraway look. “There was a story on Galtea about Flichter the Green Moth and Gath the Dragon-Lizard. Of course, Gath was nowhere near as famous of a fighter as his fire-breathing cousin Pyrrhus of the Stinking Nostrils, nor as great of a tracker and hunter as Umbra the Grayish-Brown. But he was proud and believed himself to be the most handsome and clever of all dragon-lizards. Every morning, he sharpened the scales of his spine ridge with a stone from the river and dipped his claws in muckweed to make them just the right shade of yellow-green…”

    I curled up as best I could beside her, my worries more or less forgotten. It wasn’t very often that Mum told the stories of her homeland, but I had always loved them. The animal characters, magicians, and forever-quarreling trees of Galtean folklore never failed to captivate my imagination. The Shullian countryside seemed to bring the stories out of her without the tension that usually accompanied mentions of her old home.

    By the time the afternoon was fading, I was able to hold the drakemoth in my hand without fear, marveling at the soft tickling sensation of its tiny feet on my skin. Mum and I made it back home by the riverside trail just as the last of the sunset light disappeared, and I nearly fell asleep on the couch before muddy clothing could be exchanged for dry pajamas. Even if the frogs in my hair were embarrassing, if we’re being honest, that was as close to a perfect day as I could imagine at that age.

    I miss her and I’m not going to stop living in the past unless I can get away from Shullia. For the last two years, I’ve been trying to go back to a “normal life.” Zain took care of me for the first few weeks, and I’ve been staying with our Grannan neighbors, the Meurics (they always have room for one more, so long as you don’t mind farm work and a plentitude of toddlers running around.) My friends are going to miss me, I know that. Going to Karkaryss is something I need to do now, while I have the chance. Having a family friend in Captain Tancred, who was able to deal with the bureaucratic mess in order to allow my attendance at the University of Karkaryss, provided the impetus for me to get moving. The university is in the Deep Core. It’s one of the few top-notch educational facilities left to what the New Republic people call the “Imperial Remnant.”

    If there is one thing that the invasion two years ago should have taught us, it is that we need to be able to defend our world. Shullia is located in a supposedly obscure and insignificant region bordering the Parmic sector, largely surrounded by New Republic territory. That doesn’t mean that we are safe from the many threats that are allowed to run wild on the Outer Rim, as we should have realized sooner. All it took was a pirate fleet (and not even an especially big one) to almost bring the whole Neredda system to its knees. If my mother hadn’t been there, if she hadn’t had the training from her days with the Imperial Security Bureau, we’d probably all be enslaved or dead by now. And I guess I take it personally, because there was no fleet of Star Destroyers and definitely no help from the New Republic when we came under fire. All we had was a shoddy local defense fleet and an ex-ISB agent who knew her stuff.

    Maybe I’m biased, but I tend to think the latter was more important in the end. Trying to fight off Vastag Slone’s pirates with a brute force attack would never have worked. It was Mum who knew how to organize a local resistance to drive back the pirates, and she was the one who led a team to infiltrate and destroy Slone’s fleet. Every time I go over these events, I keep trying to find some way, some strategy that would have placed her somewhere else and had everything turn out all right. It wouldn’t change anything now, though, and that road leads nowhere. The one thing that I can’t ignore is that the Neredda system’s victory was largely due to one person. And she’s gone, and there’s nothing left at home that doesn’t remind me of her.

    So I’m recording all of this on an ancient datapad in the cramped quarters of a Sigma-class shuttle that has seen much better days. We’re talking about days when the Max Rebo Band was music for people under forty. The shuttle is a bit scratched-up and worn out, though it’s still spaceworthy – I hope so, anyway. I’m not sure I like recording all of my thoughts like this. It reminds me of why I’m leaving Shullia so far behind, instead of taking up farming like a sane person. Still, it’s not like there is a lot else to do here. Most of the ship has been modified to be used for cargo, so there aren’t many other passengers. The main pastimes of the last several hours have been reading, sleeping, and reading some more.

    Before I left home, my friend Vera told me I was going to her ultimate nightmare, a planet full of almost nothing but shark-infested waters. That isn’t exactly true. Karkaryss has a number of island mountain ranges. In the past couple of decades, its cities have been expanded to hover over the water on a combination of repulsorlifts and anchored frameworks. The Second Imperium has invested a lot of money into making it a technological center and they’ve done a decent job too, according to Captain Tancred. There are sharks, but by this point I’m looking forward to them.
    Last edited by Kahara, Aug 3, 2014
    darksideyesplease and Tarsier like this.
  2. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    This is off to a wonderful start! I really like the OC and you did a great job of giving a lot of background in a little bit of space. I'm excited to see where you go with this!
  3. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far!


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 17

    This is only the third day in transit and I’d be climbing the walls if the ceiling wasn’t a foot above my head. There isn’t much space to wander around on the Draigon. The only other person who is ever around is the shuttle pilot Captain Barrett, who seems to think that I will break the ship if I leave my quarters for more than a minute.

    Every morning, I sneak to the ship’s refrigeration unit and rummage for some food for the day. Passengers aren’t encouraged to bring their own meals, since there are apparently concerns over agricultural pests. Getting food from the refrigeration unit is what I am supposed to do, but Barrett doesn’t always seem to remember that. In fact, I don’t think he always recalls that there are other people on the ship. We both probably removed a few years from each other’s lives today.

    I was fighting my usual battle with the locking mechanism on the refrigeration unit’s door (which looked to have been rewired, possibly by an astromech droid with severe issues.) A sudden thunking noise made me spin around. I reflexively reached for my blaster — which was now absent, left in the ship’s locker upon boarding. Someone made a squeak like a puffershrill deflating. Since Barrett isn’t writing this journal, I’m blaming the sound on him. It could have been him, it really could have. He was flattened against the doorway, looking like he’d just walked into a nest of gundarks. A large metallic box lay on the floor where he’d dropped it.

    A flicker of recognition appeared in his eyes. He scowled and pointed at me accusingly. “You again! Sheltie.” He fluttered his arms in frustration, as if to shoo me away. “What the the Emperor’s gray and ghostly underpants are you doin’ to my ship, girl?”

    Blanching a little at the disrespect to the late Emperor, I was nearly at a loss for words. My mother would have had me washing my mouth out with soap over such a comment — and not with the nicer purple kind (tangy, with a slight minty aftertaste that really wasn’t so bad) but the sour yellow variety that made me wince just from smelling it. Dealing with Barrett’s paranoid suspicions over the last couple of days had begun to make me feel pretty defensive and persecuted. I crossed my arms and drew up to my full height. It would be nice if I had inherited the tall genes from either side of the family.

    “Captain Barrett,” I began, keeping my voice as calm and even as possible, “there are few things that I want less than to tamper with your ship.” This is very true. I fear the consequences of tangling with the insane mechanical workings of this shuttle.

    Barrett squinted at me, still unwilling to relent. “Don’t you mess with the workings, Sheltie. Wrong circuit goes out an’ they can get in.”

    Oh, this is just perfect, I thought. We were hurtling through the abyss of hyperspace with this bastion of sanity in charge of keeping the shuttle in one piece. Doomed, doomed, doomed. I’d seen this holovid before.

    Dutifully, expecting the worst, I inquired, “They?”

    He shook his fist, a gleam of fanaticism lighting his eyes.

    Well, poodoo. Clearly, it was the beginning of the end.

    “The squark-chewin’ mynocks!” The exclamation was accompanied by an impressive spit-spray that I would have been just as happy to miss. “Little rust-brained creeps. They get in and they feed on everything.” He twirled around, raising his arms. Barrett was really getting into this speech. “They’ll eat the wires, the navigation system, the hyperdrive, everything! First trip I did when I was starting out, it was a luxury liner with over 400 passengers heading to Byss. Mynocks got in, chewed up the wiring for the sonics. No sonic showers for two weeks.” He halted, letting that sink in.

    It sounded pretty bad, I had to admit. None too fresh. However, it was a relief that Barrett was at least worried about something real. Mynocks can be a problem for spacecraft.

    “No sonic showers for two weeks, and then they got into the sound system. Messed it up something awful. Do you know the band The Emperor’s New Clothes?” He stared off into space with a haunted look.

    “Certainly, the student band played one of their songs at our graduation from secondary school.” Maybe he was finally calming down. Maybe I could break away and slink off to my quarters now.

    Barrett shook his head frantically. “You don’t know it that well. I. Know. Every. Line. Of. Every. Song.” He shivers. “All of their albums played constantly. Full volume. Ten days.”

    Poor Barrett. Now I really did feel sorry for him. Pop music can be a terrible weapon.

    Without warning, he grabbed me by the shoulders. “You can’t let them in! No more mynocks, Sheltie!” He shook me, looking downright panicked. I extracted myself from his hold, taking some care to hand his limbs back to him in working order. It’s a good thing that several people taught me some basic self-defense over the years. I wouldn’t have wanted to actually hurt Barrett, who now seemed more paranoid than intentionally menacing.

    Striving to make my voice more soothing, I said, “All I am doing here is gathering some food for the day, in keeping with the shipboard rules.” A small twinge of remaining annoyance inspired me to add, “And my surname is Shelvay. It is definitely not Sheltie, Shelly, Smelter, or Shellfish.”

    Barrett appeared to still be processing the fact that I had herded him away like an unruly nerf. Not my problem, but he’d been badly startled by finding me here. Better to make peace with him, if at all possible.

    “I’m sorry that my presence here surprised you. After I get some rations, I’ll head back to my quarters. No mynocks, I promise.” Maintaining eye contact, I did my best to look as trustworthy and non-mynock-abetting as possible. “In fact, I could get my food at the same time every day, if that makes it less surprising for you. It’s 8:45 now. If I show up at that time, it won’t be unpredictable, right?”

    He wrinkled his forehead, rolling that thought around. “All right,” he said, sounding doubtful. “Have a… nice day? Shelway.”

    Close enough, at least he was trying now. Barrett picked up his toolbox and walked away, stopping briefly by the door. “The ‘fridge key’s under the box of blue cacti.” So convenient of him to mention that after three days.

    And there is Captain Barrett for you. I feel accomplished for making it back to my room before letting my head hit the wall. This is going to be a long two weeks.


    Notes:

    Well, over a year after posting I happened to notice that Lydia's ponderings on the taste of soap were an accidental reference to the movie A Christmas Story. Thankfully not the same line for line! Every time I find something like this, I wonder how many others I didn't catch. [face_worried] After some thought, I'm just going to note it and leave it in as an homage.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    darksideyesplease likes this.
  4. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Great update!

    What the the Emperor?s gray and ghostly underpants...
    I love this quip!

    Captain Barrett is very funny. Mynocks getting into the sound system[face_laugh] And I like the way Lydia handles him.

    Looking forward to more!
  5. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    I could have sworn that I'd seen something like that phrase somewhere in the EU, but Google reveals nothing, so it's probably just my twisted reworking of the "Emperor's black bones" curse from the X-wing books. Thanks for the comments, it's fun to get feedback (especially on such an odd story based on OCs and lesser-known canon characters.)


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    41 AE, Month 1, Day 19

    Eight more days to go before the Draigon arrives on Karkaryss. My truce with Barrett seems to be holding, which makes for one less headache. On the other hand, I’m not sure what to think of the situation with the other passengers. Regular disappearances of food from the refrigeration unit are really the only signs I have seen of other people being on the ship. Barrett and I would have to be eating seven meals a day for it to be consumed that fast. Whoever it is seems to prefer their privacy. I can’t imagine that Barrett’s grumpiness would actually intimidate someone into avoiding all contact with other people on the ship. I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit of a hermit myself, but it’s not only because of him. It’s also because these other people are so intentionally invisible that I wouldn’t have bothered to suspect they were there if not for the food vanishing. Whenever they leave their quarters, they move so quietly that I have never heard them. My attempts to say hello using the internal comm system in my quarters met with no signs of life. To be honest, it’s becoming a little unnerving. Hopefully, they’re just dedicated students catching up on last minute work.

    Lacking any current assignments, I’ve been working on a few projects and reading up on what I can find about the Deep Core worlds. Many of the Second Imperium’s strongholds have little information outside of basic terrain and population statistics. Even those facts are often decades out of date, particularly in the areas where hyperspace routes were affected by the destruction of Byss. Of course, the planet I’m most interested in right now is Karkaryss, my home for the next couple of years. I’m in a little more luck researching that, since they have been advertising their technological industries on Shullia. Lately, there seems to be a real push on their part to draw more students and settlers.

    The advertising datachip from Karkaryss University contains some impressive vid images. The basic form of the university resembles a spiny jellyfish, with spiderweb-like thin connecting lines (possibly hallways or some kind of transportation system) running between over two dozen towers. A dark mass of tangled structures drifts below the waves, looking more than slightly like slow-moving tentacles. According to the caption of one of the images, the entire thing is eight kilometers across. That makes it bigger than Turmalin, the island on Neredda where our class from school camped two years ago. It must be an impressive sight in person.

    Unlike most of the cities and installations developed on Karkaryss, the university is not anchored to a landmass and instead uses repulsorlifts and “advanced new technologies” (whatever those may be) to stay afloat. My guess is that the tentacle-like things help to propel it along. Every piece of the main structure has an unusual blue-green tinge. I doubt that the color comes from paint, since the Imperial-sponsored buildings on Shullia are all more or less the same shade of light gray.

    Although I have serious reasons for going, I have to admit that curiosity has me itching to explore and learn about the university. It has such a mysterious and complex appearance. A person could probably wander for weeks without seeing everything, though I suppose large parts of it are probably restricted. Whatever systems keep it all from sinking would have to be heavily protected. Still, from the map it looks like students are expected to visit most of the towers. Three are labeled as students’ quarters, while many of the others seem to be set aside for the classes and activities of different departments. Some of the names are obvious, including the ones that are highlighted for Tech students like myself. It’s not hard to guess what they study at the Information Networks Center or the Surveillance Technology Applications building.

    On the other hand, there are a couple of acronyms (CIMTPR-263 may mean something to the mapmakers, but it doesn’t to the rest of the Galaxy) and names that are vague or just plain odd. A set of four linked buildings is simply labeled the Blue Complex, with no added explanation. Another building is called the Center for the Research of Metaphysical Biology. Vera, Rhajani and Chelii grabbed onto that name the first time they saw it. We had all been making up explanations for nearly a month by the time I left home. Our favorite choices for the building’s true purpose were:

    1. Drug-sniffing barracle training center. A noble social project intended to give undead feline squid-monsters a useful role in law enforcement. (It’s unclear who started this one, it just kind of happened.)

    2. Containment facility for the Galaxy’s first sentient case of the hiccups. It's contagious, naturally. (That one was mine. There are few things that fill me with more rage than hiccups that won’t go away.)

    3. Testing for a sprayable Jedi repellent. (Yes, please. Not only could I stop worrying about my scumrat Jedi uncle showing up some day, but maybe it would work on my Inquisitorial parental unit as well. Not that I see Inquisitor Tremayne all that often, but our few meetings have been stunning achievements in awkwardness (on my part, at least.) It would have been nice to have something that I could spritz in his face and halt the ranting. “I… don’t actually need to talk to you about my obsessive grudge against your mother’s estranged sibling.” That sounds glorious.)

    4. Specialized genetic engineering project for clone troopers that can turn into space ships in every color of the rainbow. (Chelii was strongly encouraged not to consume half her body weight in sugar before watching a marathon of Magic Agent Sparkledancer. Ever again. As a matter of Shullian planetary security.)

    5. Droid army composed of Force-sensitive silicon-based life forms placed inside battle droids. (That was Rhajani’s idea, the rest of us take no responsibility. She gets so into her technological theories, sometimes she gets a bit carried away.)

    6. The reincarnation of Garik Loran. (Chelii went through a period of severe mourning when she was nine and found out that he was long dead.)

    7. Berserker Ewoks. (Vera swore up and down that the New Republic has a secret X-wing squadron composed of genetically-engineered Ewok assassins. She really shouldn’t have tried to match Chelii’s sugar consumption.)

    8. All of the remaining Imperial Force adepts cooperating in an attempt to channel the spirit of Grand Admiral Thrawn, possibly through the universal power of music. (Courtesy of Meuric Chelii Enterprises: Disturbing the rest of the dead since 23 AE. Personally, I need a brain purge from the mental sound-image of my father and his coworkers singing. Some things should never happen.)

    9. Time machine construction facility. (Anyone who has ever watched holos on the subject knows that this is a bad idea. We will all end up related to the Skywalkers and the universe will implode. That’s why you can’t fix your problems with time travel.)

    10. Nothing. It’s all a trick to mess with the heads of incoming students. (If I had a credit for every time a new student at school on Shullia came up to me asking how to find the teleport hub, I could retire right now. I’d be bored stiff for the rest of my days, but I could do it.)

    The shuttle will be making its first refueling stop on Dachat today. Dachat is a Core World by location, but there are not many permanent residents. Unlike most of its neighbors, the planet’s major cities were never rebuilt after the Clone Wars. The few settlements left serve as a rest stop and refueling point for passing cargo ships. Dachat will be the last stop before we begin moving into the Deep Core regions of the Galaxy. The hyperspace routes to our destination are roundabout, consisting of a series of twisting pathways leading into the Deep Core. The journey would have been much faster before the Byss Run was destroyed. As it is, the routes the Draigon will follow are the most reliable ones found since the disaster – and they are still quite mysterious, even unreliable at times.

    The realization of just how remote our location will be is more than a little disturbing. If something goes wrong with the shuttle, I don’t think we can count on being found. And that’s if we don’t fly through a star in the hyperlanes that wasn’t there before (entirely possible, if you believe the stories people tell about these places.) However, I’m looking forward to learning more as we travel. It’s a unique chance to see a corner of the Galaxy that few people ever bother to consider. We’re also going to be taking on more passengers on Dachat before heading onward, so maybe I’ll find some less secretive guests to talk to. I can only hope.


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    Notes:

    The Inquisitor Tremayne referred to is this not-so-charming individual , who appeared in Galaxy Guide 9 by Simon Smith and Eric S. Trautmann and also in the short story the Longest Fall by Patricia A. Jackson. He was also an antagonist in some of the webcomics published on Hyperspace. There are references elsewhere as well. I’m pretty sure that I first found a summary of his character in one of the Star Wars character encyclopedias.

    The “scumrat Jedi uncle” Lydia mentions is Corwin Shelvay, who mainly appears in Galaxy Guide 9. He, Inquisitor Tremayne, and Elena Shelvay are among a number of interlinked characters found in the book, which I ended up buying out of curiosity based on the entries in Wookieepedia. While most of these characters haven’t gotten much attention (or any, in some cases) in the EU since the RPG book where they first appeared, they seem like interesting fodder for fan fiction.

    Regarding Lydia’s family, Corwin and Elena are established as siblings in canon. There’s no canonical evidence of a relationship between Tremayne and Elena, much less of them having any children. That story element exists mainly for the purpose of giving their OC offspring a migraine-inducing, drama-infested family tree. Lydia has a skewed view of her family history due to her upbringing. Not everything she says about her family members can be taken literally, particularly if it’s about Corwin. Lydia hasn’t met him in person and learned about him solely through the accounts of her parents. They had reasons for not being the most reliable narrators on the subject.

    Barracles are mythical monsters. Everyone on Shullia believes Garik Loran is dead because his survival isn’t common knowledge. The rumors about Ewok assassins came to them through garbled accounts of Wraith Squadron’s antics.

    They all know very little about the Empire’s Force-users, although Lydia herself has picked up on some tidbits through observation. Being an agricultural world in a small Imperial territory more or less surrounded by the New Republic, Shullia has been isolated from the few Imperial factions that still have Darksiders in power. There just isn’t much there that is of interest to the more ambitious groups.

    Rhajani’s thoroughly-dismissed theory about the Force-sensitive droid army has similarities to the Iron Knights, silicon-based Jedi Purge survivors who appear in Star Wars Missions 14: The Monsters of Dweem by Dave Wolverton and in various sources that expand their background. They are fairly obscure and seem unusual though not impossible for the Star Wars universe. Rhajani has no reason to know about the Iron Knights, but her technology-obsessed mind happened to run in an eerily similar direction.

    Members of the Grannan species normally place the family name first and personal name last, so Chelii’s full name is Meuric Chelii.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
  6. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    I must say I'm impressed with the amount of research you put into this. It really fleshes out the story and shows how the characters fit into the larger galaxy.

    Lydia and her friends have some very entertaining theories! Sprayable Jedi repellent could certainly come in handy for some. :)

    Now I'm intrigued about the other passengers and I'm excited to learn more about the university. Keep up the great work!
  7. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Thank you. :) Researching for this has been fun, though I’m afraid I tend to focus on more intriguing topics and then end up neglecting others. Jedi repellent would probably be very popular in certain corners of the SW universe. Less of a nuisance to transport and care for than ysalamiri.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 20

    Well, that will teach me to be careful what I wish for! Yesterday afternoon was memorable, for lack of a better word. I have a feeling that it won’t make sense until four years from now, if ever. It’s not as though I don’t know when the meaning of my surroundings is flying over my head. Others taught me well enough that I can at least recognize the sound of important cues as they zoom past. That doesn’t give me the knowledge to figure them out yet. Good thing I’m primarily into the more techy side of things and can leave the more intense cloak and dagger stuff to others (except for when it suddenly falls on me, apparently.) Since I actually have things to do today, I’ll be splitting up this entry and adding to it when there is time.

    Not too long after making my last journal entry yesterday, I got a call through the comm system from Barrett. I knew it had to be urgent, since he isn’t the kind of person to use technology when he can yell down the hall instead.

    “Shelway!”

    Hoping this had nothing to do with mynocks, I responded, “Yes, Captain Barrett. Is something wrong?”

    “Not yet. You have first aid training?” Background noise filtered through and I could hear typing, electronic beeps, and clanks as well as the rustling of flimsiplast sheets. It sounded like he was doing spring cleaning while rewiring the ship. An alarm blared and was suddenly cut off. “Don’t pay that any mind. But do you at least know one end of a medpac from the other?”

    “…Yes. I wasn’t a medical student or anything like that, but they did teach us some basics. And I helped patch up blaster wounds and so on during the invasion on Shullia a couple of years ago.” Not one of my favorite memories, but maybe it would be helpful.

    “That’ll have to do.” He muttered something that I couldn’t hear clearly through the static. “There’s a high possibility that one of the people we’re gonna pick up on Dachat is injured. Probably a pretty bad wound. I’ve gotta stay with the ship and get the fuel taken care of, and Inquisitor Antilles has other things to do.” Inquisitor, what? Sure, my father and a few of his people are still around somewhere, but they’re not that common. “So you’ll go with Bramer and Zelenus until they split off to do their thing. Get the injured person stabilized and bring ‘em back in one piece.” Barrett sounded irritated. Suprisingly coherent, too. “Go to the cargo bay and I’ll meet you there. The tanks and bacta kits can be tricky to handle, so I’ll show you the fundamentals. Doubt you’ve seen much of this stuff lately out on the Rim.” Bacta kits didn’t sound familiar, though I had heard of bacta patches being used by the New Republic. On Shullia, we didn’t use bacta except for in cases of life-threatening injury. Sometimes the hospitals barely had enough to cover those instances. Did he really mean what I thought he meant, that there were whole bacta tanks on the Draigon? Perhaps medical supplies were part of the regular cargo.

    In the cargo bay, Barrett was already there and hauling out supplies by the time that I arrived. “Okay, there you are. Gonna have to be faster than that on Karkaryss.” Though I tried not to show it, I was a bit spooked by how present and aware he seemed. After I’d gotten used to his nearly-delusional mannerisms over the last few days, his focused attention was a sharp contrast. Direct eye contact revealed that he had unusual eyes, one iris a brown-splotched hazel color and one entirely green. “Shut your jaw and come take a look at the bacta kit here.” Busted! Usually people don’t notice when I observe something about them. Feeling sheepish, I examined the kit, which was of a design that I had never seen. Instead of being contained inside a carrying case like a regular medkit, it consisted of a large bag-like section full of bacta with various smaller bags and mechanical appliances attached.

    Barrett turned the contraption over, revealing a harness-like set of carrying straps. “Carrying these is pretty simple. You just put your arms through the straps and carry it on your back like a regular carry pack. Material’s tear-resistant, but try not to fall on it just in case.” He frowned a little. “Could be a bit heavy if you’re not used to it, I suppose. Let’s see you try it.”

    That part went well enough. Pitching in at the Meurics’ farm involved all kinds of glamorous activities that most people would prefer to avoid, like weeding out snapgrass from the nisu fields and carrying foul-tempered nerf calves (they’re only adorable when you don’t have to deal with them personally, as I soon learned.) And those were the “easy” jobs considered reasonable for a medium-sized human girl like myself. The bacta kit wasn’t especially light, being a lot like a huge package of water weight-wise, but I was already used to carrying heavier things. Fortunately, the kit would also be hidden inside a suitcase part of the time, so I wouldn’t have to carry it through the whole mission.

    Then we started on the complicated end of things, which was the proper way to apply the kit to a living, bleeding person. As it turned out, the extra bags were smaller packets of bacta and solution connected to the main bag. These were for missing limbs, head injuries, and other wonders that I had been just as happy not see for the last couple of years. Anything not in the stomach-and-torso region that the main bag adhered to after activation would need a packet instead. Packets could also be disconnected to use if the person had minor or localized injuries, though Barrett said this was unlikely. How reassuring. The technological items included a medical rebreather, a monitoring device that kept track of the vital signs, a resealing device that would allow the bag to be fastened around the patient after opening (a bit like a vest, if by vest one meant “life-preserving amoeba”), and a tool for patching slightly less hideous wounds with a quick-drying synthflesh mixture that would keep them from bleeding out. Getting the bacta bag secured around the injured person while keeping most of the bacta was important. As Barrett said, “Otherwise all you’ve done is pourin’ a bluish mess over a red one.” A clumsy splash of bacta wouldn’t be enough if the wounds were severe. There was no way to easily practice using the kit without wasting bacta, so I did my best to memorize every step of the process.

    Half an hour later, it was nearly time for planetfall. Zelenus and Bramer finally made an appearance. Both were wearing ordinary, slightly weathered-looking civilian clothing. They appeared to be my own age if not a bit younger.

    “Xenon Bramer. I’m in my second year at Karkaryss and studying in the Internal Security department.” The first one shook my hand formally and spoke with a very Coruscanti accent (which didn’t necessarily mean that was his homeworld; after all, my mother was regularly mistaken for a Coruscant native.) Bramer held a very strict, Imperial posture and had an unemotional expression that was probably not too different from my own. He was incredibly nervous. Sometimes disciplined serenity is what it appears to be and sometimes it’s merely a cover. There are subtle signs that you learn to pick up on if you live with someone who has any kind of Imperial training. Bramer’s dark skin and blue-green eyes reminded me of the Quian settlers on Shullia, although his close-cropped hair was a deeper shade of brown. His eyes never stopped scanning the room, taking in every detail. “This is Tamir Zelenus, ” he said, gesturing towards his companion, with about the same tone that he might have said “this is a blemish on my nose, I do hope you don’t mind.”

    Zelenus leaned slightly against the wall, looking as though he had just rolled out of bed and wished to return there as soon as possible. He blinked drowsily in the artificial light, his waxy complexion and unsteady posture making him appear ill. Though he seemed to be trying to achieve an attentive pose, he didn’t come near succeeding.

    “He’s a tech student,” Bramer added, as if that was the only explanation needed. Typical, I would have to pick the department with a great reputation.

    “Nice to meet you both. My name is Lydia Shelvay. I’ll be starting my first year with a technology specialization once we get to the university. Right now they have me bringing med supplies for the team on Dachat.”

    “Better you than me,” Zelenus said. “Looking at blood makes me want to hurl. And guts, I hate guts. They look like jelly –”

    Bramer cut him off, saying, “Thank you, Zelenus. I’ve heard what you think they look like. Shelvay probably knows too if they’re letting her do this. Moving on.”

    At that point, the conversation turned to our missions for the day. While I would be meeting a small group of people in a maintenance section of the refueling station at 6:15 PM and administering the bacta kit to their injured companion, Bramer and Zelenus would separate from me and go off to do their separate jobs. Bramer’s was too classified to share – or, I suspected, he just enjoyed playing it that way. Zelenus was going to deal with the security cameras and help to ensure that we weren’t spotted on our way back to the shuttle.

    Although the two were still students and had no actual rank, I was to follow their instructions due to my presumed inexperience. That didn’t bother me, since I had virtually no idea what was going on outside of my own tasks. The prospect of getting to leave the confines of the Draigon did a lot more to lift my mood than the engine cleaner that Zelenus was passing off as caf. There was a bit of adrenaline flowing in my veins by the time we landed, but not as bad as it would have been when I was younger. I wouldn’t say that I was totally unbothered by the prospect of literally holding someone’s life in my hands, but it’s not as though I had never faced that before. At least this time the medical supplies were more advanced than engine tape (which does work sometimes, but it’s pretty ugly and not exactly the most sanitary way keep someone from bleeding to death.)

    We got our first glimpse of Dachat after exiting the shuttle. Although it was evening by the standard time used on the Draigon, the season and location on planet meant that it was still nearly as bright as midday. Though I had only seen a few worlds outside of Shullia, this one was not going on my list of favorites by any stretch of the imagination. The combined refueling station and spaceport was ground-based, set in the middle of a vast, arid scrubland. Most of the surrounding vegetation was grayish-green in color and looked as dry as paper. The remains of one of the former great cities slumped on the horizon, the great craters in the ground and the toppled structures looking tiny due to the distance. The harsh sunlight beaming down from Dachat’s star didn’t suit the grim sight. It also made it more difficult for all of us to move unnoticed, since some artistic soul had decided to make the station walls out of transparisteel. Lacking the opportunity to lurk honestly, we played the part of tourists headed for Coruscant. I had some time to kill before the set meeting and the others were on a similar schedule for the time being.

    Zelenus became quite entertaining now that he had apparently finished with naptime. Once we left the docking bay, he decided that it was time to start making our cover believable, which for him entailed making us into the most obnoxious tourists possible. He made a production out of dragging Bramer and I over to a souvenir stand and proceeded to gush over the overpriced fluorescent merchandise.

    “Look, Deliya, they’ve got those lumi-plumies you’re always collecting!” He poked an orange atrocity that seemed to combine several features of the animal kingdom into a neon-lighted serpentine shape. Luminescent, glittering replications of feathers, scales, and fins dangled from its furry surface. To say that it was hideous would be doing the average hideous thing a terrible injustice. “Remember how you were looking for an orange one at the last stop?” Gentle, kindly, nurturing Guardians of the Harvest. My disbelief must have looked like admiration from a certain point of view, because the chirpy Omwati saleswoman immediately offered to let me try on the abomination.

    Doing a twirl in front of the stand’s convenient mirror and summoning every ounce of sugary-sweetness I could gather, I said, “How lovely, this would go perfectly with that dress I bought on Chandrila.” Gag me with an ysalamir. The lumi-plumi (shudder) was a shade of neon orange that went beyond violent and into eye-gouging territory, while the tacky decorations included every shade of the rainbow. It was possibly the most hellish accessory I had ever had the misfortune of seeing, and I’d seen some doozies at the embassy on Shullia. Trying not to clench my jaw too obviously, I unwrapped the lumi-plumi from my shoulders and petted it like a baby pittin. “So soft too, see?” I handed the monstrosity over to Zelenus with a sappy smile. This was going to require a really special revenge at a time when he least expected it. He winked at me while he turned away from the saleswoman’s view. All right, so his lack of self-preservation instincts was a little amusing. But if he thought that was going to save his hide…

    Say farewell to your caf supply, I motioned in Thomorkan sign language, hoping that he had learned it as well.

    “It’s very nice,” he said with the uninterested tone of a male being asked for his opinion on female clothing. As if the whole thing had not been entirely his fault. Stab straight for the heart, don’t you?, he signed.

    You’d better start believing it, I told him. I paid for the lumi-plumi, suddenly not so grateful for the store of New Republic credits that we had been given.

    Finally showing some common sense, Zelenus switched over to tormenting Bramer instead. “Let’s see what they have for shirts!” He nearly bounced over to the shirt rack and Bramer followed after, barely hiding his dismay. Bramer shifted impatiently as Zelenus plowed through the shirt rack, zeroing in on the worst of the worst specimens. I struggled with the need to get on with the mission myself, beginning to worry that I would be late if we dithered around much longer. Not that I couldn’t see Zelenus’s point about blending in little, but impulsivity won out this time.

    Elbowing him in the ribs just a little while inspecting an unspeakable neon pink hat, I signed, Hurry it up just a little. Bramer took advantage of Zelenus’s moment of distraction to retrieve one of the least garish shirts and flip the credits over to the saleswoman.

    “There, this one’s my, uh, favorite podracer.” He pulled the oversized shirt over his head very quickly, probably trying to outrun his wits before they could tell him what it actually looked like. The bright yellow shirt featured a design of a purple podcraft with a cartoon driver of unidentifiable species waving gleefully from the pilot’s seat. The sparkly Aurebesh print underneath said: SLUIS VAN SPECIALTY POD SHOP: REVERSING THE POLARITY OF THE NEUTRON FLOW SINCE 1200 BBY.

    Zelenus nodded seriously. “Oh, that is a good choice. Nice graphics.” Only if one was already blinded by the color scheme.

    Much to my delighted horror, he grabbed the terrible pink slime hat and purchased it in one fell swoop, setting it on his head proudly. It was a really bad hat. The glistening synthetic goop trails made it look even worse than the dreaded lumi-plumi. Not to mention that that shade of pink did nothing for his pastiness – or nothing good, at any rate. Well, at least I couldn’t say that he wasn’t willing to take what he dished out.

    Having accomplished our disguises, we straggled off looking more like a radioactive circus troupe than would-be Imperial agents. Zelenus and Bramer disappeared into the crowd. I checked my chronometer, finding that there was still plenty of time to reach the meeting point. The main problem would be to avoid looking suspicious if anybody noticed me wandering where I shouldn’t. After a near-traffic accident involving my lumi-plumi and an oblivious tourist’s antlered hat, the answer became clear. I grabbed a flimsiplast map from the first information desk I could find and proceeded to walk around aimlessly, glancing at it now and then. Eventually I reached my goal, though not without dodging a few people’s efforts to help (most of them well-intentioned with the exception of one who would be busy applying a bone-knitter to his foot for the forseeable future.)

    I reached the meeting place before anyone else, although the dimensions of the maintenance tunnels required me to abandon the suitcase and carry the bacta kit for several minutes before reaching the right location. After twelve minutes of waiting, I began to wonder if the map Barrett had shown me was accurate and whether some very confused people were waiting for me half a mile away. However, sounds of movement gradually became louder and there was an increase in the sense of others’ presence that sometimes comes to me (nowhere near as accurately as it would for someone with real powers, but I’m considered “Force-attuned” by some people’s standards.) An ominous mechanical noise was followed by the sound of running footsteps, much closer now. There was also a sound of… retching?

    “That turbolift isn’t meant for people, you numbskull!”

    “Hush up,” called another voice. “We’re almost there.”

    An eerie bellow worthy of a swamp wyrm sounded in the distance.

    “Oh, shavooh. Run, run, run, run, run!” The call ended on a note of hyperventilated panic.

    Ever since Barrett’s call, I had been trying to suppress the thought. Optimism is better for one’s blood pressure. Also, the ear of fate seems to listen for any slip-ups. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold it back any longer. I just plain had a bad feeling about this, in a major way. Very, very bad.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    darksideyesplease likes this.
  8. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    I really don't understand why more people aren't reading this. You are a very good writer, Kahara.

    I like the new characters, the banter between them is great! Zelenus has an interesting sense of humor, with his pink slime hat. :D

    I'm eagerly awaiting the next update!
  9. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Dialogue is more difficult than the rest for me, so I'm glad you found the conversations interesting. Writing Zelenus was fun. He turned out to have a more mischievous side than I had originally planned. Thank you for the kind comments.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 20

    Now that I’ve finished [being kicked and dragged across the ship like an acklay’s chew toy] demonstrating my combat skills to Junior Inquisitor Lesedi, I intend to [curl up in the fetal position and whimper in pain] continue writing down more of yesterday’s events.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Since the approaching group sounded like they were in trouble, I left the bacta supplies in a corner and began to move towards the voices. The bacta kit could be retrieved later and might only get in my way if there was fighting. The medical tools and a smaller bacta bag went into the pockets of my jacket since they were more manageable. It didn’t take long to find the noise-makers. Not wanting to alert them if they weren’t the ones I was supposed to meet, I tried to observe from the shadows as they rounded the corner. That proved to be a bad idea.

    “Ouch,” I gasped, struggling to get back the breath that had been knocked out of me on impact. The newcomers loomed over me, suddenly only a few feet away. Before I could process what had just happened, I was hoisted off the floor again and found myself face-to-face with a very irritable-looking man. He was only inches away and as the memory, speech, and death-prevention portions of my brain struggled to do something very important, the useless observations department focused on his eyes. They were dark around the edges, but each had an orange-yellow cloud of specks around the pupil. The bright spots seemed to move as I watched and the movement was hypnotic, almost like looking into a flame.

    My head ached, reminding me of the cold headaches that I used to get. Those headaches had always started with my dreams, back when I could remember them. Okay, that was fine. I knew what to do with the cold headaches. There had been so many spacers and tourists passing through the crowded parts of the station. All I needed to do was to remember that feeling, the there-ness of them all around me. Just that, nothing else. I wasn’t here. Just the crowds. Nobody home here. Out there, so many people rushing by, looking for their next transport, needing fuel for their ships, wanting to buy a meal or a datacard, or even a hideous souvenir. So much motion and noise, while here there was only quiet. There was something about yellow eyes. Uh oh. Air would be nice. There wasn’t any air? Very yellow eyes. Only one color. Must have seen them wrong. Trick of the light. There were words and numbers that someone might need. Those were important. Words. Cold. Head hurt. Needed words.

    Breathing. That was better. Maybe someone was willing to see reason. No, wait. They were busy talking. Probably just distracted. Shavooh, with feeling. Where was a stun grenade when you needed one? I had my blaster, but good luck reaching that when you're floating in the air.

    “… shields. This is not what we were informed to expect.” Twenties or thirties, male, an accent that I couldn’t place.

    “Do you think she might be working with the Rebels, Inquisitor?” Younger male. Coruscanti, maybe.

    Rebels! That “she” better not be me. I angrily twitched my feet. If I ever got to solid ground again, they were going to hear about this. Except that there were those yellow eyes. So maybe not.

    I am NOT a Rebel, I struggled to think as loudly as possible. Force-users were mind-readers, right? Right now I couldn’t remember if I had ever seen or heard of one receiving someone’s exact word-for-word thoughts. Most that I had met acted like they knew everything about everyone’s business. However, I knew for a fact that Isander made mistakes. I didn't want to end up as a black mark on Inquisitor Somebody’s resume.

    Thinking at the yellow-eyed man seemed to get his attention. He quickly turned back in my direction and stared at me. My headache returned and increased. It felt like there were hailstones dancing inside my brain, but then the pain lessened. The hold that kept me in the air was released and I stumbled slightly as my feet hit the ground.

    Drawing a deep breath, I said, “I came here from the shuttle. The code that I was supposed to give is Theta 471 Kalsunor.”

    Yellow Eyes nodded slightly in recognition, but still watched me with a narrow gaze.

    “Khar Shian 805,” he answered with the code that Barrett had told me to expect. “We asked for medical assistance. Where are the supplies?”

    Given how he had first greeted me, I wasn’t sure whether to be glad that these were the people on my side or not. On one hand, I was supposedly with allies. On the other, living on a shuttle with Yellow Eyes around didn’t sound pleasant.

    “I left the large bacta bag a short distance away and only brought the smaller tools with me. It sounded like there was some sort of immediate danger and the bacta kit was slowing me down.” Although that had seemed like a perfectly reasonable decision at the time, Yellow Eyes’s disapproving expression became grimmer.

    “What kind of idiot taught you – never mind. Apparently your telekinetic skills are pathetic.”

    I was sure that those were supposed to be fighting words. Too bad that I could not have cared less. At the moment, I was a lot more concerned with remaining among the living. Still remembering the roar that had worried me before, I worked up the courage to ask, “Are you being pursued?”

    “Not at the moment. That creature is dead.” Yellow Eyes looked self-satisfied. He brushed at a spot on his dark coat and his hand became covered in drying blood and something glittery. Leave it to a Force-user to be preening when he’s splashed with gore. Smugness seems to come with the territory.

    “Alopex, you and Odon will take the shark kibble,” he looked at me disdainfully, “with you and treat Isurus’s injuries before you move him to the shuttle. I need to dispose of the evidence,” he said, moving away into a side tunnel.

    I had been preoccupied with Yellow Eyes and my impending doom up until then, so it was the first time that I really got a look at the rest of the Force-user’s companions. Alopex and Odon – I couldn’t be sure which was which – both looked about my age. The first one I noticed was a tall human man with a stony expression. He had some sort of weapon in his left hand, though it was mostly hidden by the sleeve of his cloak. The pieces of metal that I could see didn’t look like a typical holdout blaster. There were too many sharp points in odd places. The other standing individual was a willowy, brown-haired girl who carried the injured man with no sign of effort.

    Isurus did not look like an easy cargo, though he had probably started out the day heavier than he was now. Now that I had a better view of him, I got the uneasy feeling that it might be too late for him. He wasn’t dead yet, but that was about the best thing that I could say. Since Yellow Eyes had time to give me the third degree, I had begun to suspect that Isurus’s injuries were not critical. Apparently, I had misjudged the situation. Isurus had visible burns on his face and arms where they were uncovered and the makeshift wrapping over his abdomen was stained with blood. His right leg was missing from somewhere below the knee and the wound had been hastily bandaged. He looked barely conscious.

    Between the grayish skin tone and the sense of fading presence that seemed to wrap around him, he reminded me all too much of several people who didn’t make it after being wounded in the invasion. Domitilla’s brother Gordian was the only one that badly injured that I had cared for on my own. There were too many severely injured people that day due to a skirmish with Slone’s pirates. It was impossible for the more experienced volunteers to oversee all of the wounded. Gordian died in less than an hour. Amets Grania, the local veterinarian (and the best doctor we had available at the time), came to help before the end. She claimed that there was nothing more that I could have done for him, but I’m not sure if that was the truth or just her way of comforting me. Like nearly everyone else there, I had only the first aid training learned in school to start with and learned what I could out of necessity when disaster struck.

    Removing the medical supplies from my pockets, I asked the woman holding Isurus, “Can you lay him down on the floor? He’s probably gone into shock,” I said, guessing based on his appearance. “I’d like to get his some of his wounds sealed and put this bacta packet on his leg before I do anything else.” She set him down and watched with detached interest as I placed the medical monitor on his wrist.

    His breathing and pulse were too fast, according to the readout. That only reinforced my feeling that moving him any further wasn’t going to help matters. I tried to think of how to retrieve the rest of the supplies without leaving Isurus alone. For now, I placed the medical rebreather on his face. That would at least keep his breathing easier and more regulated. Trying be as gentle as possible, I unwrapped the cloth from his leg. Isurus flinched and made a faint sound of pain as the bandage was removed.

    The tall man quietly said, “I’ll go and find the rest of the bacta. She won’t be difficult to backtrack.” I would have told him which way to go, but he had already disappeared and so I turned back to treating Isurus.

    Looking at the leg wound, I winced in sympathy. The messy cut was clearly the work of a vibro-bladed weapon of some sort, probably one of the larger vibro-swords since it looked like the result of a sweeping blow rather than a targeted stab. From personal experience, I knew that any wound created by a vibro-blade that shattered the bone was unbearably painful, especially because the unstable vibrations of the blade as it passed through caused bone shards to dig in to the surrounding flesh. Moving as fast as I could manage carefully, I removed as many obvious shards as I could before opening and attaching the bacta packet. Isurus would still have pieces of bone in his leg that would need removal after the rest had healed, unfortunately. Only a medical droid or doctor would be able to fix that for him.

    The abdominal wound was possibly the most serious. However, the bleeding appeared to have reduced some time ago. I did not want to worsen it by accident and felt that it should wait for the larger bacta bag.

    Using the synthflesh spray tool, I was able to patch the burns on his face and hands. Pushing sweat-soaked pale hair away from his forehead, I laid my hand on an unburned patch of skin and could feel that it was too cool to the touch. Worried that there might be more injuries unseen, I asked the brown-haired woman, “Do you know if he has any more burns or wounds? I’d rather not remove clothing and risk jarring his other wounds if it’s not necessary.”

    She placed her hand on his shoulder and regarded him with an even more distant look. Then she shook her head negatively. “He has a burn on his back, but to reach it you would have to lay him on his stomach. It’s not as bad as this,” she said, pointing at the abdominal wound.

    A soft thud on the floor next to me announced the tall man’s return with the bacta bag. Given how easily he slipped away before, it was less than surprising that he had reappeared so suddenly.

    As I opened the bag and prepared to move Isurus in order to wrap it around him, I said, “Thank you. I apologize for not asking before, but is there a form of address that I need to use with both of you?” Social concerns had slipped my mind up until now due to Isurus’s need for treatment.

    The tall man didn’t respond. The brown-haired woman made a dismissive gesture. “Not when we’re planetside. On the shuttle or in friendly territory there would be more of a need for formalities. For now, Odon is his name and mine is Alopex.”

    I applied and resealed the bacta bag as gently as I could manage, but it was clearly painful for Isurus, who tensed and grimaced at every move. Luckily, the process went off without a hitch otherwise. His fragile state worried me, since we still needed to transport him back to the shuttle. At least the bacta would help to keep his problems from worsening.

    Once the bacta bag was secured, Alopex scooped up Isurus and headed off into one of the righthand maintenance paths. It felt like a narrow space, but had a high enough ceiling that only Odon had to crouch slightly to walk. He walked beside me and seemed a little amused at my obvious confusion that Alopex was the one carrying the injured party. “Telekinesis helps,” he murmured after a while. I filed that for later reference, not quite feeling ready to believe my eyes yet.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    More later, since I need to be at the cargo bay in a few minutes. My muscles hate me, but it feels so much better to be busy again. The inactivity at the start of this trip was unbearable.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
  10. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Intriguing update. I'm not sure what's going on with the new characters, but I'm looking forward to finding out! :)
  11. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    41 AE, Month 1, Day 20

    Now that my tasks are over for the day, I have some more time for writing. Although my attempts at keeping a diary never lasted long before, it’s been helpful in organizing my thoughts over the last few days. I am going to have to start deleting my entries after I type them. Not that there is anything in here that I would consider particularly interesting, but Inquisitor Ombyrne might have an unfortunate reaction to my nicknaming him Yellow Eyes. From what I’ve seen so far, Bramer and Lesedi both strike me as being a lot like my mother’s descriptions of her younger self – very eager to live up to an impossible standard of perfection and having an unfortunate tendency to interpret words and actions as anti-Imperial. Odon speaks little of his own opinions and I’m not clear on what makes him tick. Inquisitor Antilles is a complete unknown and Zelenus is nearly as mysterious simply because he seems so different from the other students. I can’t imagine Captain Barrett showing much curiosity about anyone’s writings, but then he’s surprised me more than once. There is also a possibility that there are more unknown passengers on board the Draigon, though there can’t be more than one or two. Given how many people are around now and how little I know about most of them, it seems wiser not to keep this journal in a permanent form.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Within a few minutes, Alopex stopped in front of a nondescript door. Odon did something to the keypad (I couldn’t see exactly what, since Isurus’s body was blocking the view) and managed to open the door. Inside the room was a maintenance hoversled much like several that I had seen on my way through the station and a pile of mechanics’ uniforms. Bringing Isurus over to the hoversled, Alopex opened the lid of the machine’s main compartment. The usual large stash of tools and supplies had been removed, leaving just enough room for a passenger. Inconspicuous holes had been made in the compartment in order to let some oxygen circulate. After settling Isurus into the hoversled, Alopex used some kind of tape which I didn’t remember ever seeing before to fasten his body in place. The tape seemed to carry a faint charge of some kind, sparking slightly, which made me wonder if it was uncomfortable to touch. However, it made sense that a strong enough tape might keep Isurus from rolling over inside the hoversled and further injuring himself.

    While Alopex was dealing with Isurus, Odon went over to the uniforms and put one on over the close-fitting dark clothes he already wore. He gestured me towards the pile, indicating that I too should find a uniform. It took a little while, since I was apparently shorter than most of the maintenance staff members whose spare uniforms Odon and Alopex had borrowed. Finding a uniform that was only a little too large, I removed my jacket and put the suit on over my other clothes.

    I was a little bit startled to see the discarded jacket levitate and swoop over to land in the hoversled compartment beside Isurus when Alopex waved her hand. It was a good place to keep it out of the way and avoid leaving behind evidence, but I had never before met a female Force-user, much less one that could obviously use telekinesis.

    Actually, I never even saw evidence of any women in the Inquisitorius with one possible exception, a short woman in her fifties or sixties that I had glimpsed from a distance long ago (and that one had been doing nothing out of the ordinary except for willingly chatting with Loam Redge; it was the maroon cloak and the design of the clothes visible underneath that made me suspect she was an Inquisitor herself.)

    While Alopex changed into her maintenance worker disguise, Odon took the opportunity to fill me in on the plan for getting Isurus to the shuttle.

    “The other students that you met on the way here will be making a distraction which should keep us from being stopped on the way. Since we had to make such a mess,” he said, scowling a little. “We may need to fake an emergency to get through if someone has raised the alarm. Let Alopex and I do most of the talking and make sure you only look nervous if we do so as well.”

    I nodded and said “Yes, I understand”, since he didn’t seem to require much response. He was already busy with his next job by the time he was done talking. Some kind of handheld device that he was consulting was the focus of most of his eye contact and attention.

    It was somewhat difficult not to laugh at the cliché-ness of the situation. Smuggling people around in maintenance hoversleds is a common trick in spy holoflicks and I could hardly believe that anyone had ever actually used that method. On the other hand, if it worked for us then I wouldn’t complain.

    Once the lid on the storage compartment was closed, we all headed out of the maintenance area and towards the parking area where the shuttle waited. The hoversled was controlled by whatever device Odon was carrying, though it also seemed to move on autopilot at times, which usually sent it off in the wrong direction. By the time we made it past the souvenir stands, he was giving both hoversled and remote control device narrow-eyed stares that would curdle a Wookiee’s blood.

    As we neared the docking bay, I noticed that the lights were flickering. It hardly darkened the environment thanks to the sunlight streaming in through the transparisteel walls, but it seemed to distract people, especially the station employees. The internal comms and computer systems were experiencing errors too if all of the people messing with wires and muttering obscenities at the holoscreens of their work stations were any indication. We were ignored, since everyone else was busy with their own technical problems.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    While I had hoped to finish more writing, the truth is that I am flat out tired. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up to today tomorrow. More training in the morning. I’m afraid I might have to be eternally grateful to Zelenus for convincing Lesedi not to sign me up for lightsaber dueling. After all, I can afford to be benevolent since I now have incriminating holos of him in that horrible pink hat. He'll never figure out where I hid them.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
  12. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Will you be continuing this? I'd love to read more!

    One request if you do though - could you make the font a bit bigger? :)

    Please tag me with any updates!
  13. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3


    Yes, I've got a new update to post later tonight. Actually, I'm very happy to hear that anybody remembers this story existed, since it dropped out of sight for so long. :) The whole move-the-boards thing derailed my motivation for writing last year, but I'm entering the Diary challenge again for 2013 since they okayed it on the info thread.

    I can certainly edit the text size, no problem! If you (or other readers) still have problems with the readability of the text (size, font, etc.) please let me know. It can be a little tricky to figure out how all these new options display on other people's computers.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jan 18, 2013
  14. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    41 AE, Month 1, Day 21

    Good news: Zelenus shared some dry ration bars so I don’t have to fight with the ‘fridge for every single meal (even when I tried the key, it didn’t work very well.) Bad news: These ration bars taste exactly the way dead granite slugs smell.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Okay, so we were ungracefully trooping through the spaceport with a not-at-all-suspicious hoversled that said “HEAARRGJLLLawweiiiieee” every time Odon had to hit the brake to avoid a pedestrian.

    Odon affected a pitiful hacking cough that ensured the other travelers kept their distance. Well, except for the wizened Yarin grove-mother who insisted on giving him a leafwork bag of herbal tea and seemed inclined to adopt him right out of the herd. I could see Alopex staring a laser-hole right through the tree woman’s forehead and felt (or imagined?) the static that seems to gather in my spine when Force-users do their thing. The Yarin seemed entirely unaffected. I wondered if all that static flowed around her like water currents around a rock or if it just ceased to exist where she began. Fortunately, Odon was able to ease her worry by promising to drink the tea twice daily and she departed. We were probably only half as relieved as the slouching grand-seedlings who ambled along in her wake. The poor kids were cleary embarrassed – they had been trying to hide in the spaceport’s potted greenery plantings during the whole encounter.

    We nearly reached the Draigon without any more incidents. Most of the people passing through were focused on their own travels and further distracted by the malfunctioning computers and machines throughout the spaceport. A cluster of real technicians passed us by without a glance, hot on the heels of a customs inspection droid which was emitting an ear-splitting squall as it galloped through the crowd with a pair of fluffy trousers over its head and mismatched socks on each of its eight limbs. “Not this malarky again,” one of the techs grumbled as they dodged through the crowd. Again. Really. Sometimes you don’t even want to know.

    A movement near one of the parked spaceships caught my eye. It was Mr. Creepy of the recently-stomped foot. He glared at me sullenly and I could hear his voice rise as he whined into his comlink. Blech. Apparently he had the nerve to report me to security for “unprovoked violence.” Trying to corner lost teenagers in the spaceport apparently wasn’t provocation in his book. Suppressing a grimace, I silently awarded him extra creep points in addition to his already-earned total.

    I turned to signal to my companions, but Alopex was already murmuring something in Odon’s ear that made him pick up the pace. We were nearly running flat out to keep up with the hoversled when the Draigon came into view. The shuttle’s boarding ramp descended and Bramer swiftly came down to meet us with a large mesh-net object draped over his shoulder. Odon maneuvered the hoversled to a point between one of the outer wings and main body of the shuttle. While blocking the view of passerby as much as possible, Bramer and Alopex began removing tools from the outer compartments of the hoversled as though they were intending to work on the ship. I took the netting when Bramer passed it over. There was a sudden commotion off to the left, but the others deliberately ignored it, so I did the same. Odon keyed open the inner compartment of the hoversled and removed the binding tape with a tool that I did not recognize. He then laid Isurus down on the netting (which I had at least managed to guess the purpose of; it wasn’t so very different from the crash webbing used in vehicles and would make a reasonable tool for carrying a person-sized object.) Abandoning the hoversled on the ground, the four of us carted Isurus into the ship in the improvised hammock.

    We had barely cleared the door when the ship’s engines fired for takeoff. Yellow Eyes and Zelenus were waiting inside, the former looking none too pleased with what he saw. He seemed to make a point of looming beside Bramer and I as we transferred Isurus into one of the bacta tanks in the cargo bay. I did my best not to show it, but my skin was crawling. Being around Force-users makes me nervous, even when they weren’t just choking me twenty minutes ago. It’s like running into a massiff spider out in the forest. Sure, it will probably turn around and vanish into the bush after a second, but in that first moment when you’re looking into those glittering compound eyes and you know it’s looking right back in turn, time just stops. There’s something all too wild and hungry that fills up the space and steals the warmth from your blood. My hands were steady, but only because the reflex of taking care of people in emergencies is pretty engrained from all those weeks during the invasion.

    Even though we managed to get him into the tank and hooked up to the machines properly, I had little faith that Isurus would make it. The other few times I had seen people in bacta, they appeared almost restful in spite of their injuries. Isurus reminded me less of them and more of the winterbird that Chelii and I found preserved in the ice down by the Meurics’ pond last spring. It was like a perfect, tiny model of a bird, but its wings were twisted and broken. Maybe they broke when the bird fell into the icy water, or maybe it destroyed its own wings trying to beat its way through to the surface. I remembered thinking it was terribly unfair, even though it probably wasn’t reasonable to feel that way. How many pleasant ways could the life of a wild bird end? Sooner or later, it would have become ill, starved, or ended up as the dinner of some other animal. Looking at Isurus’s gray-white face through the bacta fluid, all I could think of was the feeble excuse that I had spoken over the bird, Things shouldn’t die in the wrong place. As though that could change a thing.

    After the bacta tank was set up, it had to be returned to its chamber. Zelenus and Bramer did this part, since it was entirely unfamiliar to me. Normally bacta tanks are kept in a free-standing, upright position, but the eight kept on the Draigon had apparently been modified to rest flat inside of rectangular chambers bolted to the floor. I guessed that this was an adaptation to the demands of traveling in a small ship with relatively weak inertial compensators. The added stability would help to keep the tank from shifting too much and further injuring any patients.

    Zelenus and Bramer then went to report to Yellow Eyes, and I followed and did my best to imitate their posture. What seemed vague to me about the hierarchy in place here was clearly well-known to them. I followed the baseline assumption that I was at the bottom of the pecking order and watched anxiously for cues, hoping that I could remain silent and avoid showing my ignorance of just what in the stars was supposed to be happening. The last thing I wanted was any more of Yellow Eyes’ attention. Even though it was an accident, the fact that I had gotten security called on me made me fear that I was in for a very bad day. Fortunately, he seemed to consider me beneath his notice, not even looking in my direction. My companions were not faring as well, and one in particular seemed to be in the hot seat.

    “Bramer.”

    A slight tensing in Bramer’s jaw was the only sign he gave of the flinch that I am pretty sure all three of us were feeling. I silently gave thanks that we had at least managed to ditch our more embarrassing disguises in favor of the tech outfits.

    “Would you care to explain why you and Zelenus managed to turn a simple retrieval mission into a slapstick routine in a matter of minutes? Do I honestly need to explain to you how appalled I am at the fact that a mechanical appliance was the most effective and discreet member of your little pickup team?” He favored Bramer with a sulfuric glare of contempt. I barely resisted the urge to step backwards, even though I was only on the far edge of the line of fire.

    At that point, Zelenus did flinch and I barely stopped myself from turning around to look at him like a passerby gaping at a hovercar accident. His hand flew to his throat and for an instant I was afraid that Yellow Eyes was trying out his little choking trick again, but then I saw a spindly black shadow emerging from the collar of Zelenus’s civilian disguise. It wasn’t until the shadow slowed down, perching on the blond-haired student’s shoulder, that I could see it was a droid and not some sort of animal. Its body was defined by a labyrinth of minute articulated joints with a few small processors nested here and there among the delicately interwoven metal pieces. The entire droid was only about the size of a half-grown mau kitten.

    Though I’m primarily into programming and slicing, the fantastic craftsmanship made me crave a chance to examine the little machine more closely. Preferably while it was in a deactivated state. For a small droid, it had a rather intimidating demeanor, and Zelenus did not seem reassured when it settled into a mantis-like posture with two sharp-looking elaborate legs held in an upraised position.

    Bramer swallowed but remained stone still. “Inquisitor Ombyrne, I apologize for the inconvenience caused by the system malfunctions. The technicians on Dachat updated their security since last time and the slicing triggered new traps in the computer. There was no time to reprogram the security cams, so I used the datachip with the roulette virus.”

    So that was why the spaceport’s electronics had gone on the blink. It was clearly the work of someone in our party, that much did not surprise me, but I had thought that it might be an ion generator of some sort. Roulette viruses are known to most teenagers (any past uses of which Rhajani and I will utterly deny, particularly in connection with the purple-custard-in-the-cafeteria-mystery-meat incident – which was at least 75% her fault, by the way.) They are normally used to infect relatively simple computer-driven machines and cause repeated occurrences of random malfunctions. However, I had rarely heard of their use outside of juvenile pranking contexts. The unpredictability and limited range of most roulette viruses normally makes them of limited use to people hoping to avoid notice or to cause mass destruction.

    Ombyrne still seemed unwilling to give any quarter based on Bramer’s explanation. “You caused a fiasco that drew the attention of the entire spaceport.” The static was back, a faint sandpaper-hiss of spiking electricity. My stomach was beginning to churn with worry. If things went bad… Inquisitor Tremayne once went through at least five subordinates and two unlucky bystanders in the course of one visit to my homeworld. That happened only a couple of weeks after the destruction of Byss and the death of the reborn Emperor, so I assumed that was an unusual level of violence brought on by a severe bad mood. Still, it did not bode well for us.

    “I understand, Inquisitor. The new programming was outside of the range that the normal failsafe measures cover. Once I review the data recordings of where the process went wrong, I will add extra precautions to the usual procedure for any more slicing attempts.” The unspoken thing which surprised me was that Bramer made no reference to Zelenus, who had been his backup for the mission. Not that I had necessarily expected him to throw the other student under the hoverbus, but it made me re-evaluate his earlier signs of disapproval.

    Maybe it was just the high-strung first impression he had made in my mind, but I honestly would not have thought Bramer had it in him. In his place, I was not sure if I could have strung two words together. Okay, so that wasn’t strictly true. I knew that I could be a regular fountain of words when in enough trouble, and even fairly convincing. But I didn’t think I would have come out of that conversation alive.

    Bramer somehow did. Ombyrne paused for a few heart-stopping seconds, but then the lines on his forehead smoothed and the yellow fire seemed to drain from his eyes.

    “Send a copy of all the revisions to me by noon tomorrow.” The Inquisitor lifted his right arm quickly and I again had to restrain myself from cringing away. The odd droid on Zelenus’s shoulder leapt with the grace of a tiny nexu and landed on Ombyrne’s arm. “Remember that this is all going on your record, and I am not inclined to be generous,” he growled, making sure to give each of us a menacing stare before he turned and marched away.

    It was such a comfort to know that we would all be sharing a transport with this happy person for another week. There was just no way that could go wrong, was there? I wondered if I could just hide in the maintenance closet the whole time. Nope, no way. Captain Barrett would know and have an absolute fit. There are hazards and then there are hazards.

    Zelenus pulled me aside while Bramer left to work on his project. “Junior Inquisitor Lesedi – that would be Alopex, who you met earlier – said to tell you to wait for her here in the cargo bay. Apparently she went over your records and decided that the standardized skill tests weren’t extensive enough for determining your placement in the Tech program. It’s a pretty common issue when students come from the Outer Rim territories. They ran some extra tests for me too.”

    He rolled his eyes just a little and I nodded sympathetically. Imperials who were born in the Core before the New Republic took over tend to look down on the rest of us, even as they become more scarce with passing years. I met a number of them when I attended high school in Tulekahju back home. Many students whose parents were from the Core assumed that the rest of us were ignorant hicks, regardless of our actual intelligence or achievements. Though I never tried to emphasize my background (after all, I wanted to make friends, not scare everyone away), I’ll admit that I got a certain guilty vindictive pleasure from the reactions of such students if and when they found out exactly who my parents were. They tended to become studiously polite from that point forward. However, they also avoided me like the Iridian plague. Hence my not mentioning the subject very often.

    Although he continued talking (it seemed to be a humorous story about his first days as a student, but I soon lost track), Zelenus began a second conversation in Thomorkan sign. Be careful of Lesedi. Actually, Bramer too. And a lot of the other students. If you’re from an obscure outlying system like mine, you probably grew up in a less… traditional environment than many of them.

    He was beginning to worry me a little. The sign he had used meant “traditional”, but it was often used to describe a strict religious tradition. Not knowing him well, I was unsure whether he was hinting that the subjects of his description were fanatical, or that I was the one in violation of a strong taboo. Zelenus stopped signing and rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. Sorry, he eventually continued. Look. You’re fine, Bramer and Lesedi are fine, everybody is fine, all right? Not intending to say anything bad about any of us. It’s just a difference of culture. They may not be okay with things that you take for granted.

    Like what? I replied, still wondering if I should be offended. Just because I came from a Rimworld didn’t mean I had been raised in a barn, after all! Within walking distance of several barns, certainly, but not in one.

    I only wanted to tell you because it was difficult for me when I first came to Karkaryss. From what I’ve seen so far, I think you may have a bit of the same problem.

    Which is? I asked with decreasing patience.

    Zelenus shrugged uncomfortably. Mostly it’s that you may have a rare condition known as a sense of humor. No, I mean it, he signed when I looked at him doubtfully. Not that humor is forbidden or something. It’s just that it’s more – not sure how to put this into Thomorkan. Puns work. Funny stories sometimes work. Depends on the story. But the kind of humor where you look at things and mix them around in your head and come up with something so strange that it’s funny, or funny because it’s true in a way? I can see you doing that, just from the way you seemed to react to the game with the costumes on Dachat. Anyway, sometimes that really upsets them – the kind of upset where you end up in the brig or worse. His expression went from serious to something bordering on grim. Some of them think you aren’t loyal to the Empire if you don’t have every obscure tenet of the New Order memorized perfectly.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure I have that covered, I responded. My mother was in the ISB. If she didn’t have me study an Imperial philosophy backwards and forwards since I was knee-high, it probably doesn’t exist. Never mind that Mum’s take on said philosophies probably would have scandalized some of their creators. The fact remained that those ideas were her foundation and she had made more than certain to pass them on. Even if it drove us both to distraction.

    And the thing that really worries me for you is your curiosity. I know there is a lot here that you don’t understand or have never seen, but don’t let anyone see that if you can help it. Study what you’re supposed to study and stay out of the rest as much as you can.

    Now you sound like a cheap horror holofilm. I should disregard your sage advice and go off to investigate the haunted derelict starship. While wearing impractical shoes, I told him. My expression might have been a few degrees too defensive. But I won’t. At least, not on purpose. Look, I understand about things needing to be left alone. Mum had about a third of the house that I wasn’t allowed in because there might be classified information. Locked away several times over and guarded by traps within traps, if I knew her at all. I can learn to get by here. It just will take a little time.

    Zelenus was beginning to look exasperated. In hindsight, I feel bad about that. He did not deserve the blame for my fear that I was going barvy for running off to nearly-uncharted space when I could have stayed on Shullia and raised Fallowan Spitting Eopies for the rest of my life. I suppose it was more of a sore point for me than I realized.

    It’s your funeral, he said, followed by a sign that stood for “washing my hands of this.”

    I promise not to do anything stupid, I replied and hoped that I had not alienated him too badly since he seemed to be one of the only remotely friendly people on the ship.

    He rubbed the back of his neck and breathed out as though he had a mild ache. I’m holding you to that. We Tech students have to stick together – after all, for some reason the architects put our quarters right between Enforcement Operations and Internal Security, not to mention piling Investigations and a satellite branch of the Junior Inquisitorius on top of us – and worse yet, next to each other – on the next floor up. Why they didn’t stick us in the tower with Analysis is something I will never fathom. But there you have it, home sweet home, right between a rock and a hard place and the sharks. Zelenus smiled ruefully. I’m afraid you won’t see much of me while we’re traveling since I have a mild intolerance for hyperspace. Better to just sleep through it as much as possible. Try not to impress our esteemed fellow student with your temper and maybe we’ll make it to landing.

    We transitioned into meaningless small talk and said goodbye. Several minutes passed as I waited anxiously before Lesedi arrived to administer my doom.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Speaking of which, there is a rather nasty imprint of a boot on my rib cage that needs salving again, and my right shoulder needs to be treated with some muscle-soothing gel if I don’t want to be lurching around like an armless gundark by tomorrow. On the bright side, I’m not dead yet!
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    Tarsier likes this.
  15. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Thanks for the PM. :) Another great update! I love all the details you include - like the Yarin grove-mother, and the bird in the ice. And I really like this line: There’s something all too wild and hungry that fills up the space and steals the warmth from your blood.

    I'm liking Zelenus more all the time!

    Great work! Looking froward to more!
  16. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    AN: This entry turned out to be longer than usual, so I’m posting it in two parts. Part 2 will go up next week.

    @Tarsier: Thanks. :) It’s fun to include some of those little details that make the Star Wars universe so quirky. Let me know if the tag worked, I can't seem to find a guide on how to use them.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 22

    Oww. Shoulder has checked out and was last seen running for the next star system. Refrigerator unit is unwilling to open and rations still taste like processed granite slugs. Shipmates are busy, antisocial, comatose, or trying to kill me with push-ups and obscure weapons. Good sleep is next to impossible between sore muscles, stress about my upcoming introduction to Karkaryss (only five days left), and nagging worry about Isurus. I really hope I didn’t botch his care to the point that he won’t recover. There hasn’t been any news one way or the other and I suppose there is no way to know until we can offload him at a real medical facility.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Lesedi eventually arrived with a datapad and a light carrying case. She acknowledged my salute and greeting calmly. To my relief, she seemed less agitated than Ombyrne and brought no foreboding sense of approaching thunder. Leading me over to a small cluster of built-in benches at the edge of the cargo bay, she had me sit down beside her at arm’s length and placed the datapad between us. Then she scared the living daylights out of me by bringing out a hypo-syringe from the case.

    Now, I have an extremely limited knowledge of exactly what Inquisitors and other professional interrogators do in their day-to-day work, but even so, it’s pretty well understood by everyone that going for the needles is a Very Bad Sign in flashing lights. Lesedi undoubtedly noticed the tensing of my shoulders and hitch in my breathing before I could stop it. I possibly redeemed myself slightly by not wigging out and trying to escape (not that there would be anywhere to go to on a shuttle like this!) Things were not looking good, but I would handle this like a real, genuine, certified agent of the Empire. A real, genuine, certified agent of the Empire having a mild asthma attack, perhaps. I decided to treat the whole thing as normally as possible and held out my arm as if for a shot at the doctor’s office.

    The needle itself barely twinged, though I was surprised to notice that Lesedi was using it to draw blood into a small capsule rather than injecting anything. She then transferred the capsule to a handheld machine and examined the readout it produced. Maybe this was some kind of immune system test? Lesedi picked up the datapad and entered something that I could not see, since the screen was turned away from me. Looking back and forth between the datapad and machine, she scrunched her brow and made a faint tongue-clicking noise. Whatever she saw did not seem to be what she had expected.

    “Do you remember when the last time was that you had your midi-chlorian levels tested?” Now that was something I had not thought about in years. I was below the cutoff for Force-sensitivity, so why was she even looking?

    “Five years ago. I was tested at birth with a Force detector too, with about the same results. A little closer to the mark than average but not Force-sensitive. The only reason I got tested again was because a relative questioned the findings of the original test.”

    “That would have been Grand Inquisitor Tremayne, correct?” It just goes to show how out of touch I am with news about my father’s side of the family. I hadn’t even known that he was promoted again. Somebody must have given a vibro-shiv backslap to some of the higher-ups in the last few years.

    I shook my head. “No, it was my half-brother’s son, Isander Brin.” There was a hint of recognition in Lesedi’s brown eyes and I wondered if they were acquaintances, but she said nothing. “He’s Force-sensitive, trained from early on, and he was one of the students that Inquisitor Tremayne brought with him when he visited Shullia that year. For some reason, Isander kept sensing what he thought was a Force-sensitive and eventually traced it to me. After testing, they decided that I was not and he had been picking up on some kind of feedback due to our common genetic background. Apparently that isn’t uncommon in younger Force-sensitives.”

    The Junior Inquisitor looked at me with a speculative tilt to her head. “That must have been very disappointing for you.”

    Not really. I was twelve at the time and would have walked through fire if Mum told me it was my duty to the Empire. Nevertheless, leaving my home to train with the Inquisitors was an honor that my younger self wanted slightly less than that of having to fight a starving krayt dragon to the death. In addition, at that time I had not been entirely sure that they accepted female recruits at all. One occasionally heard some rather gruesome rumors about what might happen if the Inquisitors found a Force-sensitive that they did not want to train. There was no way I was going to say any of that to Lesedi, though.

    I settled for an answer that was hopefully more diplomatic. “Well, I knew about the earlier test, so I had never had any ambitions in that area. Mostly, I just was confused about why there would be a need to double-check at all.”

    There was something knowing about Lesedi’s expression and I had a feeling that my concerns on the matter were not as well hidden as I had intended. However, she did not comment on my motivation or appear to take offense.

    “The way the Force functions in individuals near the borderline of sensitivity tends to be erratic”, she said. “Re-testing with different equipment sometimes yields a higher or lower count, especially if there has been a change in the subject’s health. Do you know if there were any recent illnesses before your previous tests?”

    I thought about it for a minute. “My mother never said anything about my having any health issues as a newborn, so I don’t think so for the first test. The second one, yes. I was infected with Shownarri Fungus and had to have a brain abcess removed in Month 4 of that year, which would have been about … twelve weeks before the test.”

    That was a nightmare. Somehow the Amets family’s well became infested with the fungus that year. They shared some of their produce (washed in the contaminated water) with the neighbors, which meant the fungus ended up being spread for miles around and dozens of people were infected. It was fortunate that nobody died. I came closer to it than I like to consider.

    At first, it seemed like the antibiotics had worked and resolved the problem within a few days. A couple of weeks later, the infection returned with a vengeance. I have never been so miserably ill in my life, before or since. By nightfall, I was battling with a vicious fever, horrible aches and pains, cold sweat, and nausea so bad that I couldn’t keep down water. Events seemed dreamlike and I kept passing out. Mum didn’t even wait for morning before packing me into the hovercar and taking me to the hospital in Tulekahju. The next few weeks after that are fuzzy in my memory, which is probably for the best since I was disoriented, frustrated, and scared in my few moments of almost-clarity. Fortunately, the surgery to remove the abcess went well. I came out of it with a bad haircut but no lasting effects other than an interesting scar (which I only got to show off for a little while before my hair grew back over it.) No permanent harm done, but not one of my favorite childhood memories. Brain-eating fungus. Ick.

    “The immune system effects of the infection could certainly have influenced the difference between your childhood test scores,” said Lesedi. Difference? I hadn’t been aware that there was one. Inquisitor Tremayne had not mentioned any such thing. I wondered what she was leading towards as she entered some notes into the datapad. “And, as I mentioned before, the equipment used can affect the outcome. There tends to be a slight mismatch between the results of Force detectors and blood tests. Generally, the Force detectors are not as accurate.” No surprise there. The single Force detector that I knew of on Shullia was kept in the Tulekahju Hospital and was considered nearly useless by the staff since it had fits every time a Zeltron came within miles of the hospital. It was such a lost cause that no one had even tried to recalibrate it in years.

    “However, there is a large discrepancy between both of your earlier tests and the sample that I just tested,” said Lesedi. She turned the datapad around so that I could see the display. On the screen was a graph with each estimated midi-chlorian count mapped out. The first two were only a little different, the second showing a slightly lower count than the first. But today’s reading was much higher. Nowhere near the 4,000 mark that would make things really hard to explain, but definitely odd when compared with the others.

    “That’s nearly 250 points higher than the last test. Is that even possible?” I asked, looking at the Junior Inquisitor in bewilderment.

    She did not reply immediately and I was unsure how to respond to the gap in conversation. There was nothing that I would have normally considered threatening about her posture or expression. In fact, she reminded me of the counselor that Vera talked me into seeing last year for all of one session (during which we covered the fact that I was fine, thank you, at varying levels of volume.) Lesedi had the same demeanor that made you want to confide in her, a relaxed but attentive pose and amiable look that gave away no sense of judgment. Her expression exuded warmth and curiosity. My earlier conversation with Zelenus and his warning about her nudged at the back of my mind. He certainly believed that there could be wrong answers here, and I wondered what those wrong answers were. What was Lesedi looking for and what did she expect to find?

    “It seems that it is possible, since the evidence is here in front of us. The Force detector used to test you at birth might have been defective, but I can personally vouch that the Grand Inquisitor is extremely particular about the maintenance of his scanners.” Understatement of the year, no doubt. Inquisitor Tremayne has always struck me as a man who is unusually particular about everything, down to the most minute of issues. If he were a less unnerving person, I might consider him to be a little compulsive. As it is, I’m not sure there is a proper Basic word for what he is, though “terrifying” is a good start.

    I nodded, not knowing quite what to say. Lesedi leaned forward and placed her hand lightly on my shoulder. I was not sure whether that was meant to be a soothing gesture or a reminder of her control over the situation, but I deliberately breathed in and concentrated on relaxing. If there was one thing that Mum drilled into my head at every opportunity (well, along with such things as “pay attention to your surroundings”, “always check the power pack on your blaster”, and “don’t forget your coat, it might rain again”) it was “never let people see when you are nervous.” Of course, I never mastered it to the extent that she had, but the ghost of the old reflex remains.

    Gesturing at the datapad, Lesedi said, “Although your count is not on the level of a Force-user, the fluctuations in readings are unusual. A closer examination of the phenomenon might provide some insight to the workings of the Force in atypical individuals. We will get a complete workup on your health when you go through quarantine, naturally, but currently we are limited to the technology on board. As well as a basic med-scan, there are some simple tests that should help to define what we are looking at here.” Oh boy. The medical “we.” I grimly pictured spending the rest of my life as a lab vervikk, but pushed that train of thought away. It was possible that whatever condition I had would soon prove to be something simple and uninteresting.

    Thankfully, the tests that Lesedi ran were not really unpleasant. Many of them resembled the ones that I had been given for a few years after my brain surgery, just to check that everything was functioning normally (inasmuch as the inside of my head has ever been “normal.”) These were for basic things – checking how well I could remember chunks of information, what pitches I could hear, or how quickly my eyes tracked a light. I didn’t much care for Lesedi’s version of a balance test, which involved me trying to stand upright on a fast-moving platform that hovered on repulsorlifts and tilted at random. This was even harder than it looked and I was beginning to feel nauseous – not to mention sore in the knees and elbows – by the time Lesedi got whatever information she was seeking. Whoever decided to put some padding on the cargo bay floor has very likely saved me from more broken bones than I can count.

    There were a few very odd tests, ones where I had to try to guess where an image would appear on the datapad screen or which of several shapes Lesedi was viewing from the other side. I can only imagine that this was meant to measure whatever hint of Force senses I might posess. One of the tidbits of information I remember hearing when I was re-tested a few years ago is that people in the “Force-attuned” range (well below being able to use it, but closer to that level than average) can sometimes develop a hint of Force perception. I suppose that is why we are called “attuned.” To the best of my knowledge, I am about as psychic as duracrete gravel unless there are Force-users around, at which point I sometimes get that uncomfortable static effect.

    Lesedi’s unruffled expression told me nothing about how my performance might compare to what was expected. The only thing that she reacted to was when she reversed the shapes exercise and tried to guess what I was seeing. Within a few minutes, she shook her head and turned off the datapad. “You are not deliberately blocking.” There was a mild question in her tone.

    “No, I’m not trying to do anything like that,” I said. However, the conversation had reminded me of an old memory and I added, “But Isander reported that he ran into some sort of barrier when he tried to read my emotions. Grand Inquisitor Tremayne mentioned that there was something unclear about the impressions that he sensed as well, but said that it probably had to do with the brain surgery.” At least I remembered his new title. If he picks up any more High Mighty Magnificents, he’s going to need another Star Destroyer to accommodate them all.

    Lesedi looked thoughtful but only said, “That is… very strange. I will be interested to see what the medcenter has to say when we arrive.” So will I. And then maybe the issue can finally be over and done with.

    After the prep time and mission on Dachat, which had then been followed by nearly four hours of attempting to go over my perceptive abilities with a fine-toothed comb, I was tired and ready to drop. It turned out that there were also some standardized tests that I needed to take for Karkaryss, but to my relief Lesedi seemed to recognize that I needed a break and dismissed me.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Notes:

    Information on midi-chlorians was suppressed during the Emperor’s reign, but this story assumes that their existence has become less secret since then. Lydia has heard of them because the subject came up when she was re-tested for Force potential.

    The Force detectors mentioned are gadgets of Imperial design that are used to identify Force-sensitives. Unlike the blood tests (ex: the one Qui-Gon does to find Anakin’s count in TPM), they work on proximity rather than needing a sample.

    Vervikks are rat-like animals.

    Zeltrons are one of several species that have specific Force-related senses or abilities but not (usually) full-blown Jedi potential.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    Tarsier likes this.
  17. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Oh, so Lydia might be slightly Force-attuned - very interesting! That brain fungus sounds pretty awful.

    And thanks for introducing me to vervikks, I may have to use them sometime. :)

    Great update!
  18. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Wookieepedia introduced me to the idea of some people in SW being Force-attuned rather than outright Force-sensitive, which I think is an interesting idea. And then there are the species like the Zeltrons, which are Force-sensitive but only for a limited set of senses/skills. Though I think it could be taken too far (not every character who is a good pilot/survives a dangerous situation/is good with people should have to be explained away as partially Force-sensitive), it’s fun to play with how that would manifest in different characters.

    Before researching for the last chapter, I did not know that you could get an abcess in the brain from fungus. The more you know, the more you start to wish you didn’t… If anything, the way I described it here sounds like the mild end of possible symptoms. Yikes.

    Vervikks sound like rats on steroids, so there are probably plenty of ways you could use them. There’s always a ship that needs crashing somewhere. ;) They’d probably be rife in places like the Coruscant underworld too.



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------



    (41 AE, Month 1, Day 22 – Part 2)

    The Draigon exited hyperspace for a few moments yesterday, which I think was probably due to being stopped at an Interdictor checkpoint. We’re now past the outermost boundaries and beginning to approach the more inhabited fringes of the Deep Core. The Draigon will be making planetfall tomorrow for a few hours, though I’m scheduled to remain with the ship. It is a little disappointing, since I am starting to long for a change of scenery again, but at least there will be time for me to catch up with my extra studies.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I slept like the dead the night after Dachat. If my alarm had not been set, I might have slept right through the next day for good measure. As it was, I crawled out of bed “bright” and so-very-early the next morning and took my tests. There were a few things that I struggled with (especially the political knowledge test, which had a number of questions relating to local astrography and politics in the Deep Core), but most of the material was not too difficult. The technological tests were more extensive than the ones we received back home, but I always did quite a bit of technology research out of class and it paid off.

    Once that was finished, Lesedi took me back to the cargo bay to assess my physical fitness and fighting skills. It seemed strange that this would fall under her responsibility, but then again maybe evaluating new students was part of her normal duties. Let’s just say that it was a good thing that I had not been leading the life of a couch keebada on Shullia. Whatever their other expertise may be, Inquisitor trainees apparently can do things to the garden variety push-up or crunch that have got to be illegal under any planetary system’s rules of warfare.

    And as for the fighting, well – I have never been so grateful to Ahnjai Rahmma for the hours he spent sparring with me. It used to leave me so discouraged and angry that Mum insisted on that, since I was not a felinoid and would never be able to really learn his combat style. My short human limbs and less-flexible spine just could not begin to imitate the movements of a being who was built more along the lines of a Corellian sand panther. Surely between Mum and Zain and the self-defense teachers at school, there was no need to have Ahnjai wipe the floor with me on a tri-weekly basis. Funny how you learn the value of your experiences later.

    It wasn’t until the invasion that I really understood what I had learned from those lessons – the ability to dodge blows at lightning speed (far faster than anything a more human-like teacher could have thrown at me), the necessity to get back up immediately no matter how winded I might be, and (the most difficult of all) how to lose badly and still hold myself together. That last lesson stood me in good stead during Lesedi’s evaluation because I lost quite thoroughly every time I fought her. Armed, unarmed, it hardly mattered. If that had been me from a few years ago, I may very well have lost my temper completely and done something unwise. Pity nobody knows where Ahnjai is these days, since I owe him a five-star nerfsteak and a wholehearted apology for being such a reluctant student.

    At any rate, I survived, and have continued to survive the additional sparring sessions of the last couple of days. Lesedi wears her pleasant attitude like an Enso’s coolth suit. It never comes off, even when she’s turning me into paste. I almost wish she would yell once in a while. I’m used to being yelled at when I fight. Mum was a champion yeller, Ahnjai sounded like the return of the Great Nexu of Entropy, Zain had barked himself hoarse at generations of the Imperial Exploration Corps, and I think the physical education and martial arts teachers at school had to pass a volume test to even qualify. With Lesedi, I don’t know quite where I stand. Every move I make is observed with the same bright-eyed interest, whether it fails or succeeds.

    The Draigon is stocked with a nearly endless supply of training weapons. Some of them seem more reasonable than others – the practicality of a vibro-ax is a bit questionable for most people. Nevertheless, Lesedi has had me try nearly all of the weapons at least briefly. She even had me try out some sort of low-powered lightsaber. That was interesting, if very frustrating. The blade is completely weightless. It sounds good when you’ve been struggling to heft a vibro-ax for the last forty minutes, until you realize how ridiculously difficult it is to maintain control over the direction of the weapon.

    Given the amount of minor burns that I managed to give myself within a couple of hours of solo practice, I think it is safe to say that Zelenus saved my bacon (at least temporarily) by diverting Lesedi’s attention. She was planning to have me try dueling with her that afternoon. Judging from what an accidental bump can do, a solid hit from one of those half-baked lightsabers wouldn’t kill you but would make you wish it had. Luckily for me, Zelenus came in to talk to Lesedi during lunch. He looked like death warmed over, frozen, and warmed over again. It must be a pain to have that kind of reaction to hyperspace travel. They were at a distance, so I didn’t catch exactly what he said to her. She nodded reluctantly and called me over.

    “There have been some new developments that I need to look into, so I’m going to have to turn your practice over to the other students for a few days,” she said with sincere regret. Of course, she would much rather have spent the day turning me into well-done barbecue.

    I tried not to look overly relieved as I handed over my training weapon. At least there would be a few days’ reprieve.

    On the way back to my room, Zelenus caught up to me. “Here, you need to review this,” he said, handing me a datachip. “It’s the recordings from the security cams on Dachat. We review the recordings to make sure of the accuracy of the reports and analyze where our performance could improve. Stars know there’s always something. Umm, I’m afraid there’s a lot to do since we took you along before you could be processed as a new student.” Sadly, he wasn’t joking. I was up so late that night out of determination to finish all the details, it was early ship’s-morning by the time I gave in and slept. On the other hand, I managed to save some holo captures of Zelenus with his unique hat, which I think was well worth the effort.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    For the last couple days Bramer has been keeping me running from dawn until dusk – not that you can tell the difference on a ship, which is starting to really mess with my sense of time. I need to adapt to the physical training regimen if I’m going to make a smooth transition into the University, but there are some academic materials that require attention as well. Mostly I have to study the specifics on the Second Imperium and its formation, which is information that was unavailable at home.

    Shullia and the other worlds of the Neredda system belong to the Nebula Command, a title which sounds much more impressive than the reality. Along with the Adrastú and Salkarú systems, the Neredda system is located in a hard-to-navigate area sandwiched between the Torch Nebula and the edge of the Parmic sector. The Torch Nebula is a spectacular diffuse nebula with a mainly violet-red coloration and deep indigo-blue swirling highlights. Its beauty draws tourists to admire the view from Shownar over in the Parmic, but it also messes with starships’ sensors something awful in the systems that are nearer to all that pretty glowing gas and dust.

    Although there are over a dozen inhabited worlds in the Nebula Command, the total population is still not very high by galactic standards. Our autonomy from the New Republic and trading clout with the rest of the Imperial groups is mainly dependent on the Nebula Fleet’s control of the usable hyperspace routes. There is little incentive to risk traveling the spacelanes unless you have the exact coordinates of the best routes and the proper identification to show at the Interdictor checkpoints. Needless to say, the coordinates are not given out to just anybody (and if I ever find out who gave the coordinates to those Hutt-slime pirates, they had better give up on the known galaxy and start making for Companion Cresh.)

    There has sometimes been talk of joining the Bastion-centered Empire, but issues of practicality have kept the Nebula Command worlds from strengthening their alliance to any other offshoot of the Empire. One problem is the New Republic’s possible reaction. All the abnormalities created by the Torch Nebula make us somewhat difficult to attack from outside, but things could still get ugly fast if they suddenly perceived our little backwater as a serious threat. Another spanner in the works is the issue of being separated from outside administrators by long distances due to our inconvenient location. Communication between the outside and the Nebula systems is spotty at best. Altogether, the situation adds up to one big headache every time the governors and sub-governors get to talking.

    It is an awkward position from which to deal with Imperials outside the Nebula systems and there has been some tension with the Second Imperium in particular for the last couple of years. Pellaeon’s diplomats insist that the Imperium is a non-legitimate rogue faction. Meanwhile, those from the Second Imperium take verbal potshots at the Imperials from Bastion and claim that they have shown weakness by making a peace treaty with the New Republic. I can see both sides but mostly admire my mother for not pistol-whipping the ambassadors upside the head with her holdout blaster. It must have been tough. Anyway, the Nebula systems haven’t been privy to much detailed information on the Second Imperium due to the political mess and thus I have some catching up to do when it comes to local history. Oh well, who needs sleep?



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Notes:

    The keebada is some sort of fruit that Hutts enjoy rather than a potato-type vegetable. All the potato-counterparts seem to have bland names.

    Ahnjai Rahmma is yet another character from Galaxy Guide 9. He was Inquisitor Tremayne’s reluctant-but-indebted bodyguard somewhere around the Rebellion era. How he ended up working for Elena instead and where he disappeared to some time ago is a mystery to Lydia.

    Members of the Enso species are adapted to extreme cold and have to wear coolth suits to survive in warmer climates.

    Companion Cresh is the most distant of the three satellite galaxies orbiting the main Star Wars galaxy.

    The situation of the Imperial factions that existed after Endor is complicated since nearly all considered themselves to represent the real Empire, but the two groups from canon that are mentioned here are the main Imperial Remnant run by Pellaeon and the Second Imperium .
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    Tarsier likes this.
  19. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    I don't think I've said this before, but I love the voice of your OC!

    I really like the descriptions of her training, and what she thinks if the most important lesson - how to lose badly and still hold myself together.

    The keebada, coolth suits, and Companion Cresh - I love learning all these neat details from your story! I really am impressed with the research you put into this, and I appreciate the notes at the end of each section. :)

    Keep up the great work!
  20. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Thanks so much, the feedback really helps to encourage my writing on this. Glad you like the research links, since the details are fun to incorporate.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 23

    Countdown to getting out of this cramped shuttle: only 4 days! On the other hand, I’ll be spending another two weeks in quarantine once we arrive. They’re serious about preventing offworld diseases from making it to Karkaryss. The Outer Rim has a reputation for spawning viruses and bacteria that Coreworlders are unusually vulnerable to – though I have to add that we Rimworlders are often even worse off immunity-wise, coming from more isolated planets with lower populations. Most of my immunizations have already been done, but there will probably be a few more for local illnesses.

    There will also likely be some last-minute processing and questions and of course, the inevitable paperwork. Though I already attended some interviews with their recruiters before leaving home, the Second Imperium will probably want things double-checked. Due to my being from the Nebula Command rather than their own systems, it will probably take a while to straighten things out. Still, two weeks should be more than enough time. The quarantine center has a nice exercise area according to Bramer, so at least I won’t have to spend the whole time going stir-crazy like I was early in the flight. At any rate, I can’t wait to get through all of that and start attending classes. So close and yet so far.

    As I mentioned earlier, I’ve mostly been training with Bramer for the last couple of days. First thing in the morning, we start with stretches and calisthenics. Then we progress to practicing various exercises and fighting moves that are taught at Karkaryss, mainly focusing on the ones that I struggled with during my tests. A lot of the combat moves are influenced by Teräs Käsi, which is a fighting style that I had never heard of before this week. There is something familiar about some of the strikes and stances, which remind me of moves that I saw my mother practicing. For whatever reason (probably because I was too inexperienced back then), she never taught me how to do them myself, so they are still new to me in practice. A few of the instructors on Karkaryss are trained in Teräs Käsi and have developed a fighting style combining its basics with those of the more standard Imperial unarmed combat methods.

    I still get trounced most of the time, though not as regularly as with Lesedi. Bramer is a second-year student twice my size and has had a fair amount of physical training by now. On the other hand, he isn’t an Inquisitor in training. The “normal” students don’t specialize in combat skills to the extent that Lesedi seems to have done. Bramer is no more comfortable with the vibro-ax or the zhaboka than I am. He is well-practiced in the areas that are emphasized in his courses, such as unarmed combat and target shooting.

    Speaking of target practice, we usually end the morning with a session. Obviously, we can’t use real blasters on a small ship for fear of all sorts of disasters, but there are holoblasters linked into a projector system that also creates holotargets. The computer in the system records all our hits and misses. It also tracks reaction time and compares performance to previous sessions. Mum had a similar setup installed at home, though she had also done some pretty heavy tinkering of her own.

    The routine has been that we train together in the morning, while in the afternoon I do various exercises before going back to my quarters to study the new materials Bramer gave me (a stack of datacards all loaded to the brim with Second Imperium background information.) Bramer usually wanders off with datapad in hand after lunch, already absorbed in tweaking the code to some program or other. He says he is doing an additional sub-specialization with the Tech department, which sounds like it would make for a very busy schedule when combined with a full load of main courses. No wonder he seems wired all the time; the poor guy practically lives on caff.

    It’s pretty much me and Bramer most of the time. I have seen no trace of Inquisitor Ombyrne since leaving Dachat, nor has the mysterious Inquisitor Antilles surfaced. That’s fine by me – Lesedi seems all right in her way, but one of her is more than enough. She showed up for a brief sparring session yesterday morning, but most of her time is occupied with whatever information she was given the other day. Zelenus rarely stumbles out of his quarters and looks as nauseous and tired as ever when he does, so we have not talked much. At first Bramer was going to have him take on some of the exercise and sparring, but he soon decided that Zelenus would be more of a hindrance than a help in his exhausted state. Odon has made himself scarce as well, though today I did see him practicing in the cargo bay around noon.

    At first I didn’t notice him, since I was distracted with blocking Bramer’s strikes and trying to get past his guard. Something at the edge of my vision began flickering and I dodged around my sparring partner, trying to get a better view. Even though it was just a practice session, there was no guarantee that Bramer hadn’t drafted someone else in to catch me off guard if they could. No sense in allowing a new student to lack alertness.

    However, from my new vantage point I could see that the newcomer was at the far end of the cargo bay and making no moves in our direction. Instead, he was busy obliterating a series of holotargets using an arm-mounted weapon that shot a series of tiny metal plates sparkling with static. Rather than continuing onward from the targets to hit the wall, the disc-shaped items immediately morphed in shape to something more like a rounded triangular wedge and spun back to reconnect with the launching device.

    Though I was fascinated, there was no opportunity to observe more until Bramer and I stopped for a brief water break some time later. I could see no obvious means by which the odd weapon was fired and had to assume that it was responsive to slight muscle movements or to signals from some sort of neural implant. Either way, the target sequence he had chosen required a staggering level of accuracy and speed. As he moved to aim at one of the holotargets, I finally identified the man as Odon. From a distance it could just as easily have been Inquisitor Ombyrne, who was of a similar height and build. However, the dark hair and rectangular jawline gave him away.

    Now that I recognized him, I remembered the peculiar not-a-blaster weapon that I had noticed on his arm during the retrieval on Dachat. A clearer view left me no wiser as to what the weapon might actually be called. Whatever it was, Odon was far beyond skilled with it. Where Lesedi fought with predatory cleverness and brutal strikes, and Bramer and I bore the marks of our different brands of self-defense training in our no-nonsense movements, Odon was clearly an artist. He twisted, ducked, leapt and dodged with the easy grace of an ilakari playing in a mountain stream. One could think that he was sacrificing practicality in favor of display – and yet every shot he made connected perfectly.

    Shaking my head in astonishment, I turned to Bramer and asked, “So, is he a Force-user too? What is that weapon he’s using?”

    “Not that I know about, and nothing I’ve ever heard of.” He took another drink from his canteen and when he looked up again it was with a concerned expression. “Honestly, I thought Tamir was exaggerating. But no, you really do have a knack for finding the wrong things to be curious about. Of all the people…”

    Bramer returned the canteen to his carry pack, moving with ritualistic precision. Swear to the Celestials, everything that man owns is kept immaculate. It’s like he was abandoned in the wilderness and raised to adulthood by a band of roving feral drill sergeants.

    “You know of Ysanne Isard, right?” he asked in a low voice. “Keep in mind that it might be a load of bantha feathers, but rumor has it that Triaen Odon is her cousin. One of them, anyway. Not sure if I give it credit or not; on the one hand there is definitely a passing resemblance to the other Isards, but on the other hand it’s never been officially confirmed in my hearing. He’s in the Enforcement Operations department and has not been in many of my classes, so I don’t know much about his story.”

    Bramer paused and shifted position on the bench, leaning back and crossing his arms over one knee. Something in his eyes didn’t match his brief smile, instead speaking of distance and unpleasant memories. “Like I said, it’s unconfirmed. People pass around quite a few complete falsehoods, especially about the students who aren’t known as members of important families. There was a mini-aristocracy in the Deep Core during the old days. It’s not as much of a force to be reckoned with anymore, but the young ones still resent talented outsiders and the locals still love a good gossip. All I do know is that his score in weapons training is second only to that of some of the Junior Inquisitors.”

    “Oh.” I blinked. There was definitely some kind of resentment in the older student’s attitude towards the local aristos, but I didn’t grudge him that. After my educational career in Tulekahju, I probably featured on the “assassinate if we ever get Great Uncle Poobah’s inheritance” lists of at least a dozen members of various planets’ exiled minor nobility. Some of them could be a real pain in the afterburners. At home, Vera was pretty well the only person corresponding to that category who I would trust to watch my back – and she only counted if you were (unlike our largely Rhinnalian, Tepasi and Eriaduan crop of annoyances) willing to count a Human/Sephi hybrid. However, it was a detail in Bramer’s phrasing that caught my ear and left me nearly speechless.

    “Oh stars…” I whispered. Bramer watched my lack of composure, seeming torn between amusement and anxiety. “Are you really saying… there are more of them?” My imagination conjured up a – I’m not sure what you would call it, maybe a pack, a pride, a murder? – of Ysannes and I shuddered at the idea.

    Though I never had the pleasure of meeting her personally, I heard plenty about old Iceheart from my mother. Being the director of Imperial Intelligence didn’t win her any love from the Imperial Security Bureau. From what Mum described, the two groups had overlapping responsibilities and worked together but nearly always held each other in suspicion. Still, the level of detail and sheer resentment always made me think there might have been some kind of personal feud between her and Isard.

    It wasn’t like Mum to speak ill of her current or former superiors in the Imperial government. And if she did, it wasn’t what I would call scathing criticism. Just for comparison purposes, she considered Darth Vader to be “harsh but fair” (do I really need to say more?), Governor Xacall to be “unpleasant” (he very nearly halved the population of the Salkarú system before he was executed), Abran Balfour to be “somewhat lacking in security-consciousness” (the Rebels stole his undies – twice), and Osvald Teshik to be “slightly jittery” (others say he was suffering from advanced Cybernetic Psychosis.) Mum never said a bad word about Armand Isard, Ysanne’s father and predecessor in the Directorship. In fact, she didn’t even seem grudging in her respect for the man.

    So it did stick in my mind that she referred to Ysanne by phrases such as “bloodsucking, Maw-spawned sociopath” and “venomous, paranoid kraytling with the soul of a kouhun.” This was coming from a woman who had been known to bring presumably grown-up Moffs to the verge of tears just by giving them the evil eye. Okay, so the Moff was Balfour. The point still stands. To make that kind of an impression on my mother, Isard must have been pretty frightening.

    “Okay, bad question. I had no idea,” I said with emphasis. Though I would have loved to ask about what was up with the passenger list for this ship (at last count we had a reclusive shuttle captain, myself, two Inquisitors, an injured mystery man, a possible Isard, and two other relatively inexperienced students out and about in the galaxy), I held back. After all, even I knew better than that. We moved back to more neutral topics such as the quarantine process that I will soon be going through and various facts about new student life. Bramer was kind enough to warn me of a few of the common pitfalls awaiting my first few days. Only time will tell if some of said warnings were pranks in themselves, but I think he was being honest.

    Some of it was common-sense advice, such as to rest up during quarantine so that I wouldn’t be entirely sleep-deprived while adjusting to my classes and homework. Other tips made me do a double-take.

    “Since you’re doing Tech, it’s possible you’ll end up doing some training in the aquatic section of the Blue Complex. While I’m sure you wouldn’t do this, for the medics’ sake I have to say it: don’t flip out over the sharks.”

    “Right.” I looked at him skeptically and prepared for the punchline. It didn’t come.

    Bramer said, “The lower levels are filled with water to simulate undersea conditions. If you happen to study monitoring techniques for underwater vehicles like I do, you will have to practice how to dive and how to set them on the target craft. To make the environment more realistic, there is a semi-permeable force field leading to the ocean. Various species of animals and plants are allowed to enter the training facility. It helps us learn to recognize and deal with some of the less dangerous distractions we might encounter in the water.”

    “Like sharks,” I said, laughing with disbelief.

    He smiled. “You should have started earlier, then you would get to see some of the really interesting things that got in before they set the species parameters. There was a lancer shrimp that got in as a larva. It grew overnight and nearly tore apart the whole place before the facility security officers brought it down. It seemed like it took nearly half an hour of peppering that thing with plasma before it finally gave up the ghost. Now that’s scary!”

    “You were there?”

    “Oh yes. First time in the water. My poor trainer had to just about drag me back in after things quieted down. Really, it’s always the things you don’t expect that will get you. The only person who has ever died in an exercise just happened to brush against a tiny little invertebrate that was horribly toxic. The sharks they let come in are either too small to do much damage or are not very aggressive towards humans. The thing is, if you panic and flail around right in their faces and your hand happens to end up in their mouth – well, nobody can fix stupid, you see?” He shrugged.

    “I realize you don’t seem particularly airheaded, but people get strange around large animals sometimes,” Bramer said. “Especially sharks. Most people take it well after they make it through their first few dives and realize they aren’t going to be eaten by anything. But there’s always one who can’t handle it. Either they have full-blown panic attacks or they underestimate the animals and try to antagonize them. One of the medics is a good friend of mine and I have to listen to him rant every time the newbies get nibbled. So please, for my sake and his, don’t do it. The “shark kibble” nickname for new students is supposed to be figurative, not literal!”

    I swallowed and nodded, agreeing in a slightly hoarse voice. “Okay, no kibble for me. Thanks.” Right. Swimming with sharks. Big sharks. Vera would love this, and by love this I mean that she would run away screaming. And I would not blame her one bit. So why am I excited for it? I think my confinement in this flying srideeni can is messing with more than my sense of time.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Notes:

    Teräs Käsi is a martial art that originated with the Followers of Palawa and was practiced by at least some Imperials such as Arden Lyn and Nova Stihl .

    The zhaboka is a traditional Zabrak weapon that resembles the double-bladed lightsaber wielded by Darth Maul but has regular metal blades.

    Holotargets are three-dimensional images like the holograms used for communication, but are tweaked to be used for combat training purposes.

    The ilakari is not a canon species, but its name is based on the rakali, a slightly otter-like swimming rodent from Australia. The rakali is also known as the Australian Water Rat.

    The Celestials were a long-vanished spacefaring civilization believed to be responsible for various bizarre phenomena such as the artificially-constructed Corellian system.

    Abran Balfour was a Moff during the Rebellion era. Elena Shelvay had been sent to watch him because he was so deeply incompetent and lackadaisical about the Rebel activity in his sector that he was actually suspected of treason. There was a popular song about his antics. And yes, the Rebels somehow got a hold of his underpants.

    Osvald Teshik was one of the Imperial Grand Admirals. He suffered massive injuries in battle and ended up with a mostly cybernetic body. There is no clear evidence in canon that he had Cybernetic Psychosis (a psychological illness experienced by some cyborgs), but he did report having mystical visions of the galaxy’s past and future.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    Tarsier likes this.
  21. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Great update!

    I love how you came up with the ilakari. And I love the part about the sharks and other underwater creatures. I can't wait for Lydia to meet them for real!

    This was an excellent little detail about Bramer: Bramer returned the canteen to his carry pack, moving with ritualistic precision. Swear to the Celestials, everything that man owns is kept immaculate. It’s like he was abandoned in the wilderness and raised to adulthood by a band of roving feral drill sergeants.


    Looking forward to more!
  22. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Thank you, I’m glad you liked the description of Bramer. He’s an interesting one to write, since (like Lydia and several others) he has a fair amount of sketched-out history, but keeps developing new facets as the actual fanfic is written. As for the creatures, there will soon be plenty of them (and plenty strange ones.) [face_alien] But there will be a few more incidents on the way…


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 24

    Nearly fell out of bed during a night terror (or whatever it is that I get) at an uncivilized hour and now I can’t sleep. Blargh. I had been hoping that those were over for good. It’s been months since the last one. They started some time around all the mess that happened two years ago. The weeks around the invasion were a blur punctuated by outstanding bad events. There was no time to notice how I was sleeping until the aftermath. I didn’t really understand why I was exhausted all the time until Zain pointed out that I lunged halfway out of bed screaming at least once on an average night. Normally, I fell back asleep and forgot everything by morning.

    I’m fairly sure they’re night terrors and not nightmares. There’s no real imagery or anything associated with them that I can recall. What there is is a lot of flailing and yelling, according to any unfortunate bleary-eyed witnesses the next day. Also, for some reason I stopped having dreams of any kind a long time ago. I can’t remember a clear dream or nightmare of any kind from the last several years. It’s funny, because I used to get terrible nightmares all the time. They were always those “being chased” dreams, the ones where you can’t move fast enough and something is right behind you. But I could never see what was chasing me, even if I managed to turn around. Or I could see it, but what I saw didn’t make sense. It wasn’t a figure or shape that you could see.

    Instead, everything would look completely normal and the other people in the dream would be going about their business while this thing hovered within meters of them. It was like a hole in the fabric of reality. I’ll admit that sounds like something from one of those ridiculous spec-fic time travel holonovels that Rhajani and I used to read. However, there was nothing silly about this thing. It felt malicious and gave off such unrelenting cold that I would often wake up with a headache, feeling as though the iciness of its presence had somehow invaded my skull. Sometimes there seemed to be more than one of the dream things but I thought of them as pieces of a unit – like colony insects in a hive or the blades of a single snapgrass plant.

    Eesh, I haven’t thought about that in forever. There are a lot of things I miss about the old days back home, but that one can go fly with the nerfs. Nasty as the night terrors are, at least I don’t have to remember much about them. Usually it’s possible to go back to sleep, though tonight I’m having trouble. Too much anxiety about all the new changes in my life. Maybe that’s why I had the night terror in the first place. Or it could be because of all the times I’ve stayed up late doing paperwork or studying this week. In which case, I suppose when I get settled in on Karkaryss I had better buy everyone who sleeps near me earplugs. And crash-pad the floor. Joy.

    We must be landing for the expedition that some of the other passengers are going to undertake. I can hear and feel the vibrations that come from the shuttle entering a planet’s atmosphere. I’m not sure exactly where we are, since it’s not something anyone needed to tell me. Based on the time we’ve been traveling and the places we’ve already passed through, it could be Hakassi or Thoadeye. Thoadeye sounds like an interesting place with all the elaborate fashions and bizarre droids.

    The Draigon’s engines are quiet now. We’re planetside somewhere. There was supposed to be a landing late yesterday. The shuttle must have taken a longer detour. One thing I really hate about these sleep disturbances, regardless of what they are, is how vulnerable they make me feel. Most of the time, I’m thrilled and eager to be heading into the unknown. But after the unpleasant awakening, I feel off-kilter and it’s very difficult to keep from imagining the most childish and fearful scenarios. We could be in the middle of a crowded city or alone on an uninhabited rock. I don’t know who is leaving the ship or when they will be back. It’s hard not to imagine that anyone or anything could be waiting outside, or even trying to get in. The slightest little noises keep making me jump.

    I think I’ll pull out the datacards and start studying the information on Thoadeye. No sleeping is going to get done here. It’s not even “night” anymore, it’s nearly “morning”!


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Notes:

    The night terrors Lydia describes are based on the real-world sleep disorder of the same name.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
  23. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Great descriptions of Lydia's night terrors and nightmares! I especially like the description of her uneasiness after she wakes up.

    As always, looking forward to more!
  24. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    Tarsier: Thanks for the comments, as always. :)

    Regarding the update schedule, I just wanted to let anyone reading know that I do intend to keep going with the story, but my writing time and ability to concentrate tend to be pretty sporadic. So the slow updates don't mean I'm quitting, but it may be a while between posts. This entry will hopefully have a part two soon (three and four as well probably, since the events include a fair-sized chunk of story.)


    41 AE, Month 1, Day 26 – Part 1

    Dear, rusty, malfunctioning datapad: I feel about as frazzled as your flickering screen looks and your current misbehavior has brought me to the verge of a rewiring spree, so shape up or be shipped out in itty bitty components!

    On the bright side, we’re arriving on Karkaryss tomorrow. On the not-so-bright side, given recent events I may be shipped out in itty bitty components myself unless the Tech admins decide that I can shape up. In my inexperience, I’ve made a rather big mess of things for which I was not prepared.

    When I wrote my last entry on the 24th, I had no idea how right and how wrong my fears would turn out to be.

    Though I had decided to forgo attempting to sleep and just study, the images of formally-dressed merchants in fancy jewel-studded makeup began to swim before my eyes. Recordings of a woman reciting poetry in the old Thoadeye dialect of Basic blurred and the words lost all meaning. I woke up feeling refreshed and much more confident. This was in spite of the keypad grid on my cheek from falling asleep face first on the datapad. It would be a good day. Time for my morning workout. I checked the chronometer. All right. Evening workout. Sleep schedule, what sleep schedule?

    As I pulled on my exercise shoes, it dawned on me that there was no sound at all besides the faint whisper of air flowing from the recyclers. A ship at rest with the engines off makes little noise, but there are still always some processes going on in the background. Fainter sounds than the air system, which had covered the lack of the others. I felt a prickle of last night’s worry returning. The chronometer was working and so was the datapad. Neither was connected into the primary brains of the Draigon, however.

    It still seemed like pure silliness, but I began moving much more quietly and carefully. The blunt stunblade from under my pillow went in one pocket and the small repair kit from my luggage went in the other. Instead of trying the normal release mechanism for the door, I used my repair tools to open the maintenance panel and gradually release the magseal. I felt like a nine-year-old pretending to be a detective again. How my mother and I both survived my tendency to mangle household technology while trying to imitate my favorite holonovel heroes is a real mystery.

    After resecuring the maintenance panel as though nothing had happened (if there was no emergency, hopefully this would avoid anyone noticing the tampering until I could fix it), I slid the thin but sturdy stunblade in between the door and wall and used it to ease the door sideways until I could push with my hands. A lot of trouble to go to just to avoid the telltale whoosh and clank of the automatic door opening. It deserved some kind of award – or maybe an anti-award for past, current, and future troublemakers.

    Peering out into the hallway, I could see that something was definitely wrong. The usual hospital-bright lighting had completely gone out and the only flickers visible were from the digital readouts associated with the air system. Ordinarily, someone should be attempting to restart the systems. And given the elderly state of the shuttle, there should be quite a bit of noise involved. Unless he had left the ship, I ought to at least be able to hear Captain Barrett cursing out the Draigon’s circuits. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make out so much as a whisper. My pulse was racing. I gently slid the door shut again to avoid making the light from my quarters any more obvious and went through my pack again, cringing every time the assorted debris clinked during the search. Score! I had brought a night-visor. What I had thought I would need it for I have no idea, but it was a relief to see it.

    Sliding the door open in a darkened room with the night-visor on was a little bit difficult. The visor was a cheap item intended for nighttime activities outdoors where there would be some amount of ambient light. Although the chronometer provided enough of a glow to work by, it was only by a small margin. I crept out into the hallway, feeling much less ridiculous but a lot more scared than I had been a few minutes ago.

    My most primitive and claustrophobic instincts screamed at me to head straight for the exit, fry the lock, and tear off down the loading ramp no matter what might be outside. It had to be better than hanging around in a dark, silent, possibly infiltrated ship. There could be barracles in there. Well, not really. No self-respecting barracle would sneak onboard such an austere, modern form of transport. Ancient crumbling castles with overhanging fog and mynocks in the rafters were more their speed – and there was no way any ship operated by Inder Barrett would host a mynock rookery! If I repeated that enough times, surely I would come to believe it.

    Barracles or not, running off was not a good idea – at least, not without checking the ship first. Leaving might become the only option depending on what I found, but jumping ship into the outside world could end badly if there were unfriendly observers. The other, equally disturbing risk that came to mind was that one of the other passengers might be unconscious or otherwise injured somewhere onboard and needing attention.

    There was absolute quiet as I cautiously approached the pilot’s section of the shuttle. Still no sign of Barrett. If things were following the same pattern as the stop on Dachat, he should probably be around somewhere. I hoped he was all right. He was as weird as a Hutt on stilts and his attitude ranged from gruff to flat-out antisocial, but I felt my throat close up a bit at the thought of finding him dead in a corner. My memory has too many vivid snapshots of what it’s like to see someone I know dead – even if I barely knew them, even if I outright disliked them. Some people say you get used to that if you see it enough, some say you don’t. We were lucky that the invasion ended quickly (though it hardly seemed lucky or quick at the time) and I never really found out which was true of me. I suspect the second thing is more likely than the first.

    To my relief and confusion, there was nothing in the pilot’s section. No sign of struggle, no evidence of a hurried exit, nothing. Perhaps he had left to find something for repairs and I was worried for nothing. Still, I didn’t quite believe that.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 1, 2014
    Tarsier likes this.
  25. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Ack, cliffhanger!

    Love the paragraph where Lydia is worried about Barrett.

    Very nice update.
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