Beyond The End of All Light (Post-NJO AU: Anakin Solo, Jacen, Jaina, L/M, H/L, many more) Updated 11/29/14!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by YodaKenobi, Apr 16, 2010.

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  1. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    That post doesn't exactly inspire hope. :p
  2. MasterJediSolo Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2012
    No it does not:(
  3. MasterJediSolo Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2012
    If you're ready, post, if you're not ready, don't post.
    Last edited by MasterJediSolo, Jun 28, 2013
  4. stormtrooptk421 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2012
  5. YodaKenobi VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    Chapter 50: Kyle's Story

    Tesar got a lock on the scoutship's escape vector and we jumped after it without a whole lot of time to consider what we might find on the other side, wanting to follow him before the pilot could make another leap if it was a decoy jump—only, it wasn't. I could tell the moment I saw the coordinates. I suppose since he was in that black ship he didn't think we could track him. But we did.

    And he led us right to it: Zonama Sekot. The Raithians had captured it somehow—don't ask me how; three days later, I still don't know. But there it was, spinning in our transport's canopy the moment we dropped out of hyperspace like it had always been there.

    It wasn't in the Outer Rim or the Unknown Regions. It wasn't buried in Hapes' Transitory Mists or even the Force-forsaken Maw cluster.

    Zonama Sekot was in the Core.

    The Deep Core.

    Hidden in a tangle of mass shadows that would keep the rest of us from detecting it. The blasted thing was right under everyone's noses, holed up in the heart of the damned galaxy.

    The fleet that surrounded her was the largest I've seen since we took Coruscant back from the Vong. Sebatyne spied at least three
    Executor-class Star Destroyer-analogs and countless star destroyers, cruisers, corvettes, frigates, picket ships, interdictors, dreadnoughts, carriers, gunships, and fighters drifting around the planet like a dark asteroid field. All Raithian. Looked as though Jacen had drawn nearly all his forces in to protect Sekot or to keep her prisoner.

    There was no sign of the stealth ship we'd followed into the system, but it was clear he'd alerted his buddies, because no sooner had we emerged from hyperspace than four flights of warbirds detached themselves from the blockade and hustled to intercept us.

    "Get us out of here!" Kirana Ti shouted at Jaden and Lowie.

    "I'm trying!" Jaden looked flustered, his hands frantic and fidgeting around the controls. He turned and yelled at the navigation station. "I need a jump calculation now!"

    Alarms blared inside the cockpit and red lights throbbed on the consoles.

    "I need more time!" Alema hissed. She was scowling down at a constantly shifting stream of equations on the nav computer's glowing display. "The stars are packed too closely together here, and the hyperspace lanes keep shifting!"

    I knew what she meant, of course. Because of the maze of mass shadows and star clusters, navigating through hyperspace in the Deep Core takes real time—not a minute or two, but hours, sometimes days. The further in you go, light speed becomes flat-out impossible.

    "Warbirdz closing fast," Tesar announced from the sensor station. "First flight approachez on your
    three, Jaden."

    I said a word I won't repeat here. Then I grabbed the collar of Jaden's tunic and yanked him out of the pilot's seat to take the yolk myself. Jaden didn't argue.

    Lasers flashed past the canopy as I snatched the flight controls and put the
    Seeker into a steep dive. It wasn't a deft vessel, but the modifications Han and Jaina had made to the drives gave it enough of a punch to slip the net of warbirds and go shooting out beneath them. They looped around to give chase and I opened the throttles, burning ions toward the swarm of Raithian warships.

    "What are you doing?" Kirana Ti asked.

    I said, "What they'll least expect."

    I was weaving between flights of warbirds as they swooped down on us like power-thirsty mynocks. Lowie brought up the transport's forward lasers and started blasting a hole through the waves of enemy fighters. The Wook didn't hit much of anything, but his fire provided an opening for me to sail through. A pair of volleys struck our stern and the transport started to tremble and buck. The lights inside the cockpit flickered for a moment and everything that wasn't bolted down to the deck caromed off the ceiling and then slammed back into the deck as though the ship had been belly-bounced by the universe's fattest Gammorean.

    We came out of the warbird storm finally, a tail of the things growing behind us as more and more of them swung around to give chase. Warships loomed in our canopy from one end to the other. I fed more power to the drives and routed the rest to the
    Seeker's forward shields, then rocketed toward the nearest of the capital ships—a big, star destroyer-sized mammoth of obsidian armor and blood-red drives.

    I heard Tekli's tiny voice squeak from the crash couch in the rear of the cockpit, barely audible above the commotion swirling around us. "Master Katarn? ... Are you certain that is wise?"

    I ignored her and yelled to Alema instead. "Keep working on those jump coordinates!"

    "Should be any minute now," she replied sardonically. "All the panic and jostling has made the calculations much simpler."

    We caught the warship sleeping. Its antifighter guns and turbolaser batteries swung up to pulverize us but they were always a beat too slow. I skirted the massive body of the thing and buzzed its command tower close enough that I could see a few shocked faces on the deck there.

    Rather than trying to put distance between us and making ourselves an easy target, I curled around the base of the superstructure, then made a spiraling dive down its port side, staying close enough that its weapons emplacements could never get a bead on us and anyone else who decided to take a pot shot at the
    Seeker would risk blazing a hole through the warship.

    Warbirds crested the ship's topside but our maneuvering had put some breathing room between us. Two of them fired a few rockets on the
    Seeker—slender, side-winding things with bright pink propellant trails and splayed vectoring fins that manipulated the particle stream. The rockets chased us down the side of the warship while its metal terrain streamed beneath us in a dark blur.

    "Missilz closing on our tail, Master Katarn," Tesar rasped.

    I saw a turbolaser battery nearing our descent and hugged it close enough to peel off one of the missiles, then juked toward a cluster of blue viewports to lose the second and rolled away. Two columns of flame belched from the side of the warship, and I used the raining plasma and debris to cover our escape.

    "How much longer?" I asked Alema as we hurtled away from the injured ship and our swarm of pursuers. Sweat was stinging my eyes and making a cold patch between my shoulder blades.

    "Another twenty? Thirty minutes? How am I supposed to know!"

    "We'll never make it," Jaden said from beside me. The canopy was filled with swelling warships and more starfighters pouring out of their docking bays like fire bugs in the night. Now that they had a clear shot at us, a few of the capital ships started hurling turbolasers at the
    Seeker close enough to make our transport tremble and darken the blast tinting on the transparisteel canopy.

    "You're right," I said.

    Time was running out, and so were my ideas. No longer surprised by our attack run on the first star destroyer-analog, the other warships were sliding into position around us, creating a prison that sealed the
    Seeker between them and the living planet.

    Jaden was frowning gravely over my shoulder. "I don't suppose surrender is an option."

    "You're welcome to try, if you want. Crawl into one of the escape pods and I'll be happy to deploy you as our emissary. Let us know how the negotiations go."

    "Very funny."

    Cannon fire splashed against our topside. Shields flickered. I tried to dive away from the onslaught but by now we were in a cage of turbolasers and warbirds were spiraling around us at every angle. Lowie bulls eyed one starfighter and it cartwheeled away in flames, but there were just too many of them for it to do any real good.

    Without any other options, I pushed the throttles and shot us toward the glowing shell of Sekot's atmosphere, hoping to skim across the edge of the planet's gravity well and attempt a Solo-slingshot that would at least separate us from the Raithian fleet and buy us some time. Before we could even begin to glide across the rim of the living planet's atmosphere, something crashed against our stern so hard it made the entire ship shudder and my teeth rattle inside my skull.

    "What was that?" Kirana Ti demanded, steadying herself against the bulkhead.

    Lowie rawwled the answer: we'd just lost the starboard sublight drive.

    "Well, we've still got the other one," Jaden said, trying, I think, to sound cheerful.

    "Perhaps they intend to capture us after all," Tekli suggested, her tiny voice barely audible above the rumble of the
    Seeker's stressed frame.

    "This one detectz tractor beam engagmentz from the destroyerz flanking our vessel."

    "We pose no threat to them," Necil Krace added. The Raithian Iktotchi seemed surprisingly—
    unsettlingly—calm. "They will choose to detain us alive to learn our identity and intentions before killing us."

    "Well," I said, "let's hope we can abuse their good graces long enough to get out of here."

    I banked hard to port when the
    Seeker felt the first fingers of Sekot's gravity well tugging at its space-beaten hull, pushing the transport hard around the edge of its atmosphere to try and build enough momentum to slip our enemy's tractor beams. There was little chance of that. As we glided across the edge of the planet, though, a gap appeared between a pair of cruisers sliding over to bar our escape, revealing a square of space on the far side of the world and ship field unseen on our arrival.

    That's where we saw it. I'm not sure how to describe the thing. It was a space station, I guess, in orbit around Sekot, but the central globe of it was framed by five or six horizontal fins that cut into its exterior, forming a crown above its northern hemisphere and a long, focused point below its southern pole.

    The design was strange, but that wasn't what made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. In the Force, the thing felt...
    evil... The darkness bled from it like a poison cloud, corrupting the very fabric of the universe around it with its touch.

    "What is that thing." Though Kirana Ti was speaking to me, I could see from her ghost reflection on the forward canopy that her dark eyes were fixed unblinkingly on the dark space station outside.

    "I don't know... but I think we should avoid it."

    By contrast, I realized Zonama Sekot felt almost like a void, as though it was shielding itself in the Force or had changed somehow. As I extended my senses further, I became aware of something else about the system we were in. That there was an ancient darkness there, and a flickering light. A sort of nexus or vergence.

    Wherever the Raithians had led us, it was an old place, and it was no stranger to the Force.

    There was no chance to puzzle over it further. Another blast rang through the
    Seeker and my chest slammed against the controls I'd been holding hard. Everything on the flight deck lurched forward as though we'd been rammed by a damned dreadnought. I didn't need to look at the displays to know what had just happened. The whoop of alarms, flashing damage lights, and sudden loss of response in the flight controls told me everything I needed to know.

    "Stang!" Alema blurted. "That was our other engine, wasn't it?"

    I cut the alarms and Lowie howled mournfully.

    "Kyle..." Whatever Kirana Ti might have wanted to say, I didn't give her a chance to get out. I was afraid I knew what that was too.

    "Everyone get strapped in!" I said over my shoulder, forcing the Dathomiri woman and Jaden to find their seats on the rear crash couches where Necil Krace and Tekli sat, her little feet dangling far above the deck.

    The force of the blast impact pushed our ship into a wide smoking arc toward the planet. I can't recall how it all happened exactly, the
    Seeker pitching and listing against the tug of competing forces, but Sekot's gravity well captured us before the cruisers flanking our transport could ensnare us with their tractor beams. If it was a lucky break, it didn't seem it at the time. Death in a fiery crash was a poor substitute for capture and questioning, even at Raithian hands.

    A shudder ran through the
    Seeker as we hit the first pocket of atmospheric turbulence and there was an unhealthy rattle to the ship's frame, grumbling to me just how much damage it had already taken. From there, everything became a blur. The ship started shaking furiously, the controls vibrating in my hands so hard it hurt to clutch them.

    I abandoned the disabled drives and engaged the maneuvering jets and repulsors, hoping to get whatever control I could over the
    Seeker as Sekot swelled big and green in the viewport. I think I told Lowie to deploy the hatches and drag fins.

    I can't remember.

    We were falling through the clouds, thin streams and puffs of gray rippling by the transparisteel as though it were smoke bleeding from a falling craft. Condensation beaded the canopy in big, wobbly drops. Smoke poured from our crippled drives and heat friction dusted the hull in little tongues of flame.

    The last tufts of cloud vanished sooner than I would have liked, unmasking the world below and just how fast we were plummeting toward it. Night had fallen on this side of the planet, leaving little else visible save an endless sprawl of dark jungle—darker than I remembered—fractured by a few snaking streams, the moonlight shimmer on their trickling waters the only thing differentiating them from the black of the boras' canopy that seemed to have overgrown the rest of the planet.

    Swirling winds buffeted the
    Seeker wildly. I fired the repulsors, feathered power to the maneuvering jets, and oscillated hatch covers open and closed to create drag, trying whatever I could to slow our descent, but by then our momentum was on us and trying to direct that ship was like trying to steer a damned brick.

    We plunged further, faster, and everything blurred together worse than before. There was the splatter of leaves splashing against the ship's underside, the
    thunk of tree limbs battering the hull. Then sharp cracks as we crashed through their canopies and the ground rushed up so fast...


    Day 1


    I don't remember the impact. After that, I don't recall everything going dark either. One second we were falling, and then next I was sitting still and there was motion around me. Only a few seconds had elapsed, I guess... I tried to move and found every centimeter of my body seemed to hurt. The alarms had died along with the ship's motion, the Seeker now lying as still as a tomb. Dirt shrouded the canopy, making it impossible to see outside. To my right, a console sparked. Red emergency lights bloodied everything else in the cockpit.

    I felt Kirana Ti's strong hands on me before I saw her leaning over the pilot's seat, unfastening flight restraints I can't recall buckling. She pulled me from the helm, heaving one of my arms over her shoulders and forcing me to stagger to my feet beside her. I think I cried out or maybe just grunted from the pain of being jostled so badly.

    "We must hurry," she whispered, breathless and steadfast, all typical unflinching determination, steering me toward the rear of the flight deck. I spied Alema and Tesar aiding Jaden through the red gloom in a similar fashion, my former apprentice having not quite made it to his seat in time before the deck shot us all into oblivion. They seemed to be walking funny, like something out of a dream, shuffling sideways like a trotting acklay, and I slowly realized that the deck was canted sharply to starboard. They disappeared through the hatchway and we followed suit, Lowie waiting there to see us through, his big hairy hand coming down on my back in some measure of Wookiee guidance.

    Dust danced in the dark access corridors beyond, their lightless curves and junctions becoming a dizzying maze I couldn't have hoped to negotiate, but kept moving all the same, half-dragged across unseen deck plates littered with jarred detritus and circular hatchway thresholds by Kirana Ti, leading me out of that mess like a lost child. The landing ramp was crushed beneath the
    Seeker's ruin and its port hatch half-pressed into the dirt, forcing us to climb the splintered deck toward the starboard docking hatch, ducking dangling cables spilling from ruptured conduits, an overloaded generator housing's shower of white sparks, and sagging ceilings where bulkhead supports had buckled.

    Up the slope we crawled, breathless and blind, until we reached a round-off in the corridor where a column of pale, dust-moted moonlight beamed weakly through the port bulkhead, shadows shifting and eclipsing it wildly as Tesar hoisted little Tekli up through the open hatchway, then lowered his massive tail for Necil Krace to climb up like a tree trunk out into the chilled night.

    As she neared the rim, a heavy hand that gleamed like mercury came into view, grasping the collar of her tunic and helping to pull her up from the hole. It took a moment for my dazed mind to recognize the laminanium armor of one of two Tendrando Arms Guardian Droids Lando had lent us for the expedition, having emerged from the rear hold at some point during the ruckus to extract us from the
    Seeker's wreckage.

    Jaden and Alema went next, then Lowie gave me a boost up the slanted deck to the hatchway where the cold, waiting hands of 4-8A lifted me through into the night. Kirana Ti and the Wookiee leapt up from the dead ship on my heels. Outside, the night was chilled and teeming with the sickly sweet smell of damp vegetation, a light drizzle having just begun to fall. At first I could only hear the raindrops drumming on the great balloon-shaped leaves of the towering boras. What stars were not blotted out by their canopy were smothered by the slithering ceiling of charcoal-colored clouds moving overhead—not storm clouds, not
    ominous— just dark, like the smoke pouring from the ship's engines, wheeling past the stars and moon, hiding them for all but brief glimpses of ghost white.

    My head was finally starting to clear as I vaulted down from our grounded transport to the soft dirt below, calling on the Force to cushion my fall and hone my senses at once. The
    Seeker lay buried in the dirt, half-cocked at a forty-five degree angle to port like the waning-nightclub-hour's landing job of some Coruscanti socialite, resting at the end of a smoking trench the ship had rutted through tropic earth for at least three kilometers before finally grinding to a stop. A great, yawning slash had been torn through the canopy above, and left the cooling furrow littered with shredded leaves, cracked limbs, and thick trunks: those that hadn't simply been shattered to splinters when the Seeker's body exploded through them were hewn down in a tumble like timber fingers folded over the channel. Buried beneath a layered mound of rolling dirt, the ship's nose and forward canopy were almost completely hidden by the soil it had plowed through, growing into a small mountain by the time the Seeker had finally come to rest.

    Movement near the rear of the ship drew my gaze, where I saw the loading hatch had been braced open wide enough for Alema and Necil Krace to nose our two speeder bikes through the narrow gap. Plasteel supply containers had been belted to the rear of both vehicles, weighing down the slender chassis of each. Once they were clear and circling the crash site to rejoin the rest of us, a thunderclap split through the forest and the compartment door was blown off its hinges like a rocket, hurled out into the swaying boras and cartwheeling away in a smoking ruin. From the smoke billowing out of the
    Seeker's mangled rear compartment, emerged the Raven's Claw, sliding into the night on the rising whine of my ship's repulsors. It had been a tight fit squeezing it into the loading bay before we left Halo, and I watched as the Claw's wings edged out with no more than a meter to gamble on either side. Only when the Raven's Claw pivoted around in a hover and I could see the chrome-plated Death's-head face through the shadowy forward canopy did I realize it was the other droid flying her.

    I glanced up at the sky, expected to see a swarm of warbirds collapsing on us from above, but the Raithian squadrons had either not pursued us down to the surface or were hidden by the layers of black cloud. Either way, I knew they would be here soon.

    Kirana Ti was already issuing commands to 4-1X through the comlink in her hand. I wanted to object when the
    Raven's Claw wheeled around with its nose pointed at the Seeker... This would mean not all of us would be leaving there. The Raven's Claw could only transport three or four people, and that was a tighter fit than it was ever designed for.

    But I knew she was right.

    There was no other way.

    If we didn't want the Raithians searching for us, they had to believe we were dead.

    "Come on." Kirana Ti took me by the arm and led me away with the others into the trees. As soon as we were a safe distance from the
    Seeker, 4-1X discharged a few salvos from the Raven's Claw's laser cannons and fired a concussion missile right into the center of the grounded transport's cockpit. What remained after the explosion and fountaining debris shower was just thick black smoke and the charred shell of the Seeker, its cockpit utterly demolished and a giant crater where its top-half had been.

    I said goodbye to our only way off that rock as the
    Raven's Claw swung about to retrieve us, its landing ramp lowered in the swirling dust while it remained gently listing at a hover four meters above. Kirana Ti and then Tekli vaulted up into the Claw. Stealing another glance at the sky, I saw a scatter of red glimmers that could only be Warbird sublight drives glowing in the night. There was nothing to do but hope the smoke pouring from the Seeker's wreckage would be thick enough to cover our escape and that we could get clear of the area before they spotted us fleeing. Not wasting any more time, I leapt up to the lowered landing ramp and ambled inside my ship.

    "Droid," Kirana Ti ordered 4-1X at the ship's helm. "Get us out of here."

    Lando's war machines are no pilots, but they're programmed to operate some vehicles and can fly well enough to guide a starship on simple repulsors. I slipped past Tekli and Kirana Ti, and fell into the copilot's seat beside the big Tendrando Arms droid. I was tempted to take the controls from the thing, but given how I'd faired the last time I'd wrestled flight controls away from someone, I decided to keep quiet and concentrate on hurting.

    Outside the viewport, I could see Alema and Necil on their speeder bikes setting off. Jaden was riding with the Twi'lek, straddling the seat behind her with his hands placed awkwardly around her waist—a sight that would have normally been amusing, but nothing much seemed particularly funny just then. A pair of heavy
    thunks that reverberated through the hull and made the Raven's Claw wobble on one wing, then the other, told me that Tesar and Lowie had hitched a ride on the exterior of the ship. 4-1X engaged the repulsors, pushing us after the zooming speeder bikes under the cover of smoke and boras.

    Kirana Ti told the droid to do his best to avoid the trees, not wanting to leave a debris trail behind that the Raithians could follow later. A stream cut crookedly through the forest wide enough for the
    Raven's Claw's modest wingspan, and we followed its banks for a few klicks in the darkness, putting as much distance between ourselves and the crash site as we dared. When we felt we had pushed our luck far enough, we found a wide enough space in the forest to put the Claw down beneath some boras and covered the ship with a camo net that would disguise it from anyone passing overhead. Then we humped it a kilometer away and made camp in a denser part of the forest, using the speeder bikes and our supply crates to set up a crude perimeter and unfolding a pair of small duraplast shelters for sleeping.

    It was pitch black by then, and all we could do was wait for daylight and hope the Raithians believed we died in the crash. Kirana Ti set up a guard rotation with the droids using their sensors to detect anything around the perimeter of our camp, and the rest of us crashed for the night while Tekli went from person to person, healing our wounds as best she could.

    When I closed my eyes, I fell asleep immediately.




    By morning I was aware of two problems that had nothing to do with the splitting headache I felt: Jaden seemed to be acting strangely, and Lowbacca even stranger. Jaden's problem, at least, appeared simple enough, but it was the sort that manifests complications down the skylane, usually at especially critical moments, and I prefer to head those kind of collisions off before hand. To put it simply, the boy couldn't stop looking at Alema.

    I noticed it as soon as I stumbled out of my tent into morning light that felt more like a beam drill to my skull. Jaden kept stealing glances at the Twi'lek when she moved about the camp or letting his gaze linger on her when she stretched stiff muscles—both were better than when he flat-out stared at her like he'd been put under some sort of Force-suggestion. I won't say the boy was undressing her with his eyes, because we all know you don't have to look very hard at Alema to accomplish that, but he appeared to have developed more than a passing crush on her in the first couple days of our mission.

    Knowing I couldn't count on Alema to discourage this sort of attention, I decided to keep the two of them apart as much as possible while we were stranded on Sekot. A little embarrassment, I thought, would do Jaden some good too.

    On the fourth occasion I caught him looking longingly at Alema when he should have been repacking supplies into one of the plasteel crates, I squatted down beside him and said in a voice that threatened to rise to the range of the Twi'lek's hearing, "Unless there's a way off this planet written on Alema's backside, I suggest you focus on what you're doing."

    Jaden's face was aflame. "Umm... Sorry, I just sort of zoned out," he replied apologetically, his eyes darting back to Alema to make certain she had not heard.

    I let it go at that, satisfied Jaden was sufficiently chagrined.

    The behavior of our other problem Jedi was something more curious. I heard Lowie's yowling moans ululating at the edge of our camp when I was receiving a quick briefing from Kirana Ti and 4-8A on the night's activity, or lack their of: it seemed the Raithians had not taken the
    Seeker's charred remains at face value, but their search of the area had been half-hearted, and according to the Tendrando Arm's droids' sensors, we were never in any real danger of being discovered. I broke off the discussion at the sound of the Wookiee's mournful howls, and Kirana Ti and I started in their direction.

    We found him near the entrance of the western-most tent we'd erected, stooped slightly but still looking very much like the trunks of the boras towering around us—only hairier. And the Wook wasn't alone. A small audience had gathered in the form of Necil Krace, watching him with that sort of detached curiosity I'd seen on the Iktotchi's tattooed face a little too often. Tekli stood on Tesar's broad shoulders, the Chadra-Fan's little hands buried in Lowie's chest fur and rummaging around like she was picking fleas off him.

    I marched into the small audience clustered about the Wookiee. "What's this all about?"

    Tekli ceased combing through Lowbacca's fur and turned her beady eyes in my direction. There was something absurd about having to crane my neck to look up at her.

    "His wounds trouble him," she said.

    "Lowie was hurt?" I stepped forward, angry no one had told me that he'd been injured in the crash.

    "No, his
    old wounds." Tekli parted a matted tuft of ginger fur to reveal a thumb-sized bald patch of cracked and blackened flesh ringed by hair that had gone as white as snow. Lowie had half a dozen such marks peppered across his lanky body, mementos from the siege of Ossus when Kre'fey's fleet and the Raithians had stormed the Jedi Temple and Academy. As I looked at the circles of old scar tissue, I wondered how in the universe the Wookiee could have survived the attack a year ago.

    I grew suddenly uneasy.

    Suppressing a shiver I felt tickling my spine, I looked away from Lowie, forcing my gaze back up to Tekli. "What do you mean they
    trouble him"

    It was Lowie that answered, rumbling something in his sorrowful warble. I understood him, but Tekli felt the need to translate anyway.

    "He says they itch horribly... down deep below the skin... where he cannot reach."

    I frowned at that, and turned toward Kirana Ti, hoping she had some suggestion, but she appeared as baffled and troubled by it as I was.

    "Perhapz you just need to use your clawz," Tesar sissed, lifting the nasty looking hooks that ended each of his fingers. "This one's scales sometimes drive him mad."

    As is often the case, the Barabel was the only one who found his suggestion amusing.

    After a long silence, Tekli clambered off of Tesar's shoulders and the gathering around the Wookiee dispersed. I let Kirana Ti go on ahead and shortened my stride as I stepped behind one of our two shelters and started through the trees. Tekli caught up with me after only a few paces.

    "So what's really going on?" I asked, ducking beneath a hanging bough lousy with antler-like branches and brittle leaves faded a lifeless purple color. "Is this something Lowie picked up from the planet? Something he got into? Like a spore or something that only effects Wookiees, or effects them quicker than the rest of us?"

    Tekli sounded uncertain when she finally answered, as though each word was something to be selected with great care. "That is what I probably would have assumed. The eco-system has changed here, it does slightly each time Zonama Sekot roams to a new star system, and it might have developed some fungus or vegetation or other life that is disagreeable to a Wookiee's constitution."

    "You
    would have assumed."

    The Chadra-Fan's brow wrinkled and her little snout twitched.

    "Yes, I
    would have assumed that, if the pain wasn't focused on his old wounds."

    I stopped and turned to face her. "So what does that mean?"

    Again Tekli paused, frowning down at the mat of fallen leaves that had been crunching beneath our feet, before turning her tiny eyes back to me.

    "I do not know."




    We sent out scouts on our speeder bikes before midday when the sunlight vanished behind a ceiling of clouds and everything was cool and gray again, with a cold drizzle falling just often enough to make everything wet and miserable. Alema throttled off to explore the seemingly endless Tampasi that covered everything west of our camp, while Kirana Ti followed the stream we'd found north, where the land grew hilly and cratered by sloping valleys. No one had gotten a very good look at the landscape before our smashball-spike in the jungle, so finding out just where we were and what was around us was the most important thing. 4-8A and 4-1X ran scans for any clusters of large life forms that might denote sentient settlements, but had found nothing in the range of their sensors, and there was so far no sign the Yuuzhan Vong had ever lived there.

    While Kirana Ti and Alema were away, the rest of us spent our time going through our supplies and trying to figure out just what we could manage with them. At this point, we had two clear objectives: complete our mission by learning what the Raithians were doing with Zonama Sekot, and then find some way off that rock so we could report back what we'd discovered to the rest of the Jedi Order. I was growing afraid that the second would be more difficult than the first. We still had the
    Raven's Claw tucked away in its camo net, but the thought of sending it away with only a couple of us on board and leaving the rest behind made me sick. I supposed if it came to it, I would have Jaden and Lowie take my ship and hope they found some way through the Raithian blockade and labyrinthine mass shadows to reach the rest of you, but I didn't like their chances, and liked the thought of me piloting the thing even less.

    Our options though, looked bleaker as the day wore on. Were there even any larger ships on Sekot's surface for us to steal? That seemed our best chance. If we could pinch a Raithian vessel, we might be able to slip out of the system unnoticed. But no one had seen any landing fields on the way down, and the droids' sensors were coming up as empty in their search for nearby starships as they were for thinking life forms. Tesar suggested Sekot might still have the seed ships many of us had bonded with during the Vong War, that we might be able to use them to escape. We all knew, though, that solution would get us nowhere: the seed ships could not operate as far from Sekot as we needed to be, and the strange aura around the living planet felt eerie enough that none of us were eager to communicate with her before we had a better idea what exactly was going on.

    I considered sending Lowie and Tesar to see what might be salvaged from the
    Seeker's wreckage, but the risk that the Raithians might have spies stationed there or some other form of surveillance monitoring the site for just such a return kept me from chancing it.

    The day wore on without word from our scouts, gloomy and cold and silent except for the drumming of rain on the boras huge leaves. Shortly after noon, a few layers of cloud peeled away and I could make out a hollow crescent of the space station in orbit around Sekot, just a white ghost of the thing outlined in gray sky. I realized that there was something else I would have to learn before we could leave this place, and with that thought, the air seemed to grow colder.

    A few hours later, the whine of Alema's speeder brought us all out from the shelters or abandoned tasks sorting supplies, and she swung into the camp in a blur that was all legs and flapping headtails. The leaves on the trees were still rustling and her speeder bike had hardly slowed to a stop before she dismounted and bolted toward us all in one graceful motion. She scrambled up a modest slope to the trio of fusion furnaces that defined the center of the camp. The urgency of her movements was almost frightening. She was out of breath and wild-eyed when the distance was closed, though whether the obvious thrill twitching through her was from danger or joy was not immediately clear to me. Her breathless words made it no clearer.

    "There's something you need to see."




    The tracks were stamped through the soft dirt and patches of damp grass in a sparse woodland of malformed boras and slender saplings thirty klicks west of our camp. Each one was as big as Tesar and sunk into the mud as deep as my wrist. Rainwater made little pools where the impression was deepest: along the back heel that passed for the ball of the thing, in the heavy toe joints, and the great blunt punctures where the shield-like nails spiked into the ground.

    "What is it?" Jaden asked, kneeling down to study the massive footprint. We were all standing in a circle around it while the cold rain continued to trickle, taking its time about turning the exposed earth to mud.

    "Rancor," Kirana Ti answered.

    Jaden looked up in surprise. "A rancor? You're sure?"

    "Absolutely."

    No one thought of questioning the Dathomiri further on the matter. Once Kirana Ti had returned from her own search, we'd left the speeder bikes at our camp and followed Alema on a long hike through the forest where we found the tracks waiting for us.

    "This doesn't make any sense?" Tekli said, her voice seeming suddenly too loud in the stillness despite the fact she all but whispered. "What are rancor tracks doing on Zonama Sekot?"

    No one answered for a moment, then Alema's thick headtails twitched and she lifted her eyes from the heavy imprint. "The witch," she said. "That
    Grim woman."

    "Illandra," Tekli supplied.

    "Yes. She said the Raithians were taking the rancors as well as her clanswomen."

    "You mean she was serious?" Jaden asked, looking up at the Twi'lek from where he was still kneeling. "I thought she just made up that business about her rancor being stolen to get us to buy her a new one or something."

    Kirana Ti raised a dark brow. "She wanted us to
    buy her a new rancor?"

    "Maybe. How should I know what sort of games a witch plays?" Jaden bristled defensively, then fell into a sheepish silence that clearly lingered too long for the kid's comfort while the rest of us stared at him.

    "So the Raithians took the Dathomiri's rancors and brought them here," I said finally, attempting to refocus the group. "Why?"

    Kirana Ti shook her head. "I don't know," she said. Her gaze slid over my shoulder to our favorite Iktotchi, who stood nearly as far away from the rest of us as the two Tendrando Arms droids who were patrolling the area at our backs, her eyes staring at the massive footprint but seeming to look at something else a million light years away— probably thinking about what to tattoo on her face next. "This make any sense to you?"

    "No," Necil replied without any discernible consideration.

    Kirana Ti continued to stare at her, but the girl said nothing more. I frowned at her, wondering what she was really thinking.

    Then I turned back to the rancor's watery footprint and shook my head.

    "What the hell is going on here?"





    Day 2


    We tore down the camp before dawn, taking only the supplies we could carry on our backs or lash to the rear of the speeder bikes. Everything else we left beneath the Raven Claw's camo net, where the ship would remain. It pained me to stow her there, not least of all because of how much more ground we could cover flying, but the jungle was just too dense to pilot through, and if we flew above the trees the Raithians were bound to detect us even if they had given up looking.

    The pre-dawn gloom had dissolved to a milky clot on the horizon that passed for sunrise by the time we set off through the jungle in search of the rancor footprints we'd found the evening before. Mostly, we hoofed it ourselves, but Alema and Kirana Ti shuttled us one-by-one on the back of their speeder bikes in turn when they could, a journey made less comfortable by the cumbersome supply-crates now occupying the rear of each.

    Once we arrived at the prints, Kirana Ti took the lead as the only member of our team with any real experience tracking rancors. Tesar followed on her heels, his creepy tongue tasting the air and creepier eyes tracing the infrared spectrum for any residual heat left behind by the beast that might guide us as the tracks began to fade. Lowie trudged behind them, having at least hunted the floors of Kashyyyk in the Wookiees' rite of passage for katarns—the kind without the rugged good looks.

    The Wook plodded through the forest without saying a word that day, so closed off from everyone and quiet that I actually found it more unnerving than his laments the day before. A great sadness seemed to weigh him down almost visibly, a burden Lowie was intent on shouldering alone. Whether he was actually feeling better or not, I can't say, but he brushed off any questions of his condition with a few grunted assurances that he was fine.

    By midday, the rancor tracks had dried up and abandoned us at a clearing of rolling hills without any path to follow. We walked on for a time as a group that way, passing the occasional tree at the crest of a hill or slabs of dark rock thrust up from the damp grass, but finding nothing that could point us in a real direction. Finally, we decided to split up, allowing us to search a wider area for our lost tracks or some other clue to lead us toward what we'd come to find out.

    Alema, Saba, and Lowie branched off to the denser forest southeast; Kirana Ti took Necil Krace due south; and I traveled with Tekli and Jade southwest. 4-8A and 4-1X were charged with the speeder bikes that Lando's clunky droids could only pilot at low speeds, but would scout ahead and behind for threats and travel between the three groups to keep us all abreast of the others' progress. I decided to authorize comlink use before we split. The thought the Raithians might chance upon our short-range burst transmissions scared me less than using the Force in this place when we didn't understand what in the Nine Hells was going on there. Though we didn't really speak of it, we could all feel a
    wrongness to it, something disquieting in the air, and it seemed to me somehow familiar despite the fact Sekot had clearly changed since the last time I'd visited it.

    It would be sometime before I could pinpoint just what it was I was sensing, and by then, it was much too late...




    The moors gave way to a more damp jungle, which gave way to a dark grove where Tekli, Jaden, and I crept carefully. At first glance, the trees appeared dead and bare, but as we drew nearer, I realized that they had leaves as black as night.

    "Very strange, Tekli said. Her snout twitched as she inspected the twisted forms of the mutated boras. "These are not jungle trees. They are unlike any of the boras we've seen or saw four years ago when discovering Zonama Sekot."

    "Or have seen
    anywhere," Jaden replied, looking over his shoulder at the slanted things.

    "True," Tekli agreed. "This is a foul place. Something is transforming it."

    "The Raithians," I suggested. "Or that thing up there," gesturing vaguely to the space station above we could not see through the dense clouds.

    "Perhaps," the Chadra-Fan said cautiously. "Let's not linger here long."

    And we didn't.




    We found the body an hour later. It lay beneath the outstretched arms of a malformed bora, half-decayed and sunk into the mud and rain-beaded grass. A small bed of red flowers had sprouted from what remained of its ribcage, and the few scraps of flesh that clung to the skeleton were trimmed by brown fur.

    Tekli knelt over the corpse, brushing aside the plant overgrowth that threatened to consume it in order to get a better look at its skull. Her little hands found the thick jaw and tilted the thing up, revealing a pair of hollow eyes drilled into a face that was remarkably dog-like, with a prominent snout webbed by cracks and a mouth of sharp fangs.

    "A Bothan," Tekli pronounced, gazing into the empty eyes.

    "A Bothan?" I repeated.

    "Yes. A male from the looks of it."

    "They aren't supposed to be here," Jaden said needlessly, the implications in his words seeming to add to the chill in the air.

    "No, they are not," Tekli agreed without looking up. "And this one has been here for some time—at least a few months. But given the jungle climate, and unpredictable weather, it is difficult to calculate."

    "Can you tell what killed him?"

    She shook her head, still studying the skeleton as Jaden and I crouched down beside her to help examine the thing. "Difficult to say. A broken neck, perhaps? Or something else. There's so little tissue left. If I had the equipment for a proper autopsy..."

    "How he died concerns me a lot less than what in the blazes he was doing here," I said.

    "What about the uniform he's wearing?" Jaden asked. "That might give us some clue as to who he was and how he got here."

    I turned my attention to the stranger's garments. The coveralls had probably once been black, but Zonama Sekot's new sun had bleached it to a rusty brown. What remained of its tattered fibers had fused with the bones in many places from long days of rain and jungle humidity.

    "It looks as though there was an emblem of some kind here." Tekli pointed at the gaping hole in the right shoulder of the uniform. "But it's been torn away. The name tag here on the chest: I can feel the bumps of the letters though the print has faded—but it's a Quarren name, not Bothan."

    "Quarren..." I whispered. "I don't get it."

    "Neither do I, Master Katarn."

    "Jaden—search his pockets."

    "Oh boy—can I?" he asked unenthusiastically. "Nothing," he said when he was finished, giving the ruined uniform another pat. "Unless you count holes as something. A couple ammo packs in his equipment belt along with a rebreather, grappling line, a medpac, and the usual. No comlink. Nothing identifiable."

    I frowned at that. "What are the odds of that, do you think?"

    Both Tekli and Jaden seemed puzzled. "What do you mean?"

    "Nothing in his pockets, no tags. The Quarren name on his chest. I don't think it's coincidence. I think this man didn't want anyone to know who he really was should anything happen to him here—or the people who sent him didn't want it."

    "An assassin, most likely," Jaden reasoned.

    I nodded.

    "If the Bothans found Sekot..." Tekli trailed off. "What does this tell us?"

    I didn't bother answering.




    Neither Kirana Ti nor Alema's party found anything substantial in their searches, so by dusk, we set up camp in a dense woodland of towering trees decorated sparsely by autumn leaves and prepared to spend our third night on Zonama Sekot.




    I couldn't sleep. After a fitful hour of tossing and turning, I finally gave up in frustration and stepped out of my shelter into the cold night air. Most of the jungle looked as though it had an easier time resting than I did, but I saw Kirana Ti standing guard a few meters away in the moonlight with her arms folded, watching the movement of the trees. I started toward her, spotting our Tendrando droids on their patrols along the way.

    "See anything?" When I spoke, I realized it was cold enough to see my breath.

    "No," she answered. "But I certainly feel it."

    I stood beside her, gazing out into the dark. The trees seemed so still.

    "What?"

    "I don't know... Don't you feel it?"

    I nodded. "Since we arrived... And growing worse."

    "I don't like this place."

    "That makes two of us, at least."

    "We should leave as soon as possible."

    "I know."

    "This isn't the same planet anymore. This isn't the Sekot that saved us against the Vong."

    I raised a brow at that. "Then what?"

    Kirana Ti shook her head. "I do not know. But something terrible is about to happen."

    A chill crawled up my spine with her words, because I knew that she was right. For a moment, we just stood there, watching our frosted breaths curl in the moonlight.

    Whatever else might have been said on the matter was lost in the next moment, when we saw a slow, weightless movement among the timbers.

    It was snowing.




    That night I dreamed I had returned to the dark grove we'd found, only now snow crunched beneath my boots and snow was falling, floating, in the cold air as it had before I slept, though it was the gray of daytime. Acting on some impulse that only makes sense in dreams, I approached one of the twisted trees and stared at its crooked, hunched form and strange black leaves. The leaves drew my attention. They were an inky black color, darker than the cinder-like trunk and branches that dangled them.

    I reached out with my hand and touched one.

    When I drew back my hand, long black strings like tar trailed my fingers to the leaf, a sticky, fluid substance that clung to my skin and filled me with fear. It was a darkness so utterly black it seemed it might swallow every light in the galaxy. The inky tendrils seeped into my skin and threaded through my veins, expanding like a dark drop that uncoils into a cloud in a glass of water, and tangled itself around my heart.





    Day 3


    Panic charged the air like an electric current when I awoke, a tang of fear you could almost taste, and I was up and scrambling out of my shelter before I even realized I was doing it. The snow had melted. Outside, the camp was in a state of confusion, with the Jedi darting around in the gloom of Sekot's dawn, and shouts back and forth that I realized I'd been hearing but was only now aware of. I saw Kirana Ti in the center of our camp, gesturing wildly to Saba, and started toward them. Jaden appeared from behind the western-most shelter out of breath and shaking his head.

    "No sign of him," he called to Kirana Ti.

    "You're certain?"

    Jaden nodded.

    "What's going on?" I asked.

    The Dathomiri woman seemed to see me for the first time. Her dark eyes wide and intense. "It's Lowie! He's missing!"

    "What?"

    "He vanished, Kyle. Sometime during the night."

    Alema and Tekli emerged from the trees, both shaking their heads in the same defeated look that Jaden had worn a moment earlier.

    I turned back to the only other Jedi Master. "How could this have happened?"

    "I don't know. We only just realized..."

    "Do we know when?"

    "Lowie had the guard shift after me. He was supposed to wake Jaden after two hours..."

    "Only he never did," Jaden said sheepishly, scratching at his sleep-matted hair.

    "And the droids didn't see anything?"

    "They aren't watching for
    us, Master Katarn," Alema said.

    I didn't like that much, but knew she was right. I looked around at the group. "Where's Necil?"

    "Asleep in her shelter," Jaden said. "I just saw her."

    "No one heard
    anything?"

    All around me shook their heads. "No," Kirana Ti replied. "And there are no signs of a struggle."

    Alema's blue forehead wrinkled like a blumfruit. "What are you saying? That Lowie wasn't taken? You think he just walked off into the jungle?"

    I caught Kirana Ti's gaze and knew she was thinking the same thing as me. "Lowie has what? A four? Five hour head start on us?"

    She nodded. "Something like that."

    Jaden put both hands on the top of his head in disbelief. "Stang, you can't be serious..."

    "Can you imagine someone attacking a Wookiee without at least waking one of us or alerting the droids? Even if they caught him unaware, an unconscious or dead Lowie makes an awfully big load to drag away, and I'm guessing no one's seen a trail like that."

    The kid had no answer for that, the realization starting to sink in. Saba seemed confused in his own way. "Why would our friend leave the pack?"

    "Lowie has been misfiring since we got here. Something's got him all mixed up. I should have tied him to a tree trunk at night and kept him under watch. But I didn't, and now Force only knows where he is."

    Tekli looked as though she was trying hard not to appear frightened. "So what do we do?"

    "Find him." I turned to Saba. "Do you think you can track him?"

    The Barabel tasted the air, considering the question. "Perhapz. But too long has passed to find a trace of his body-heat, and there are no trackz to be seen. A Wookiee is a swift traveler in the treez."

    The boras towering over us were Jawas compared to the wroshyrs on Kashyyyk, and I could pictured a determined Wookiee flying through them with ease.

    "Get up there and see what you can find."

    "This one obeyz," the Barabel sissed, then scaled the nearest trunk with his fat tail swishing behind him.

    I turned to the others. "Wake Necil and pack only what we need for travel. We'll leave the camp here in case Lowie comes back, but we've got to hurry and find him before the Raithians do."




    Furrows that might have been made by Wookiee claws in the boughs of some boras southwest of our camp were found by Saba, and we started off in that direction, hoping we had found Lowie's path. Jaden and Alema took the speeder bikes, sweeping the area in other directions and scouting ahead, while the rest of us followed beneath our Barabel guide, who leapt from bora to bora with a silence and light-footedness that I found a little unsettling. Occasionally Saba would spy a nick in a trunk or a half-stripped branch that had curving scars consistent with marks a fast-traveling Wookiee might leave behind, giving us some reassurance. More often than not, however, we were traveling blind, and as we moved further through the Tampasi, these clues became fewer and farther between, and Saba's confidence in their source became hissing and Barabel mutterings.

    Midmorning saw the end of the trees, and we found ourselves in a narrow clearing that ended even more abruptly in tall cliffs overlooking the ocean. Down below, the gray water was crashing against white rocks, with several broken slabs sticking up from its frothing surface. It was a sheer drop, at least a hundred meters to be dashed against the rocks—the sort of fall that leaves man or Wookiee broken, Jedi or not. Yet something about the way in which some of the cliff-face had been chipped away gave me the chills. I stepped away from the brink.

    Tekli had no insights to offer when I sought her out.

    "There is something gravely wrong with him," she mused. "But I don't think he's sick in the traditional sense."

    "Has he gone mad?"

    The little rat frowned. "I don't know. My feeling remains that whatever is troubling Lowie has something to do with the wounds he suffered on Ossus. Beyond that, I cannot say."

    I walked away, cursing under my breath what a useless group I'd picked for this mission.

    With no idea which direction to head, we waited there in the clearing for Alema and Jaden to return, the ocean mist blowing cold and salty each time the tide struck the rocks below. I sat on the back of my heels, picking at blades of grass and wondering just what we were going to do, knowing that Lowie was probably dead or captured by now, and the Raithians would know we were alive on the planet after all, and come looking for us too...

    I got up and started pacing. After about the fortieth circuit, I stopped and stared at the trees, chewing over the only idea I had left, and finding I didn't much like the taste. I glanced over my shoulder at where Necil Krace was sitting cross-legged in the grass a dozen times before giving in and approaching her. From the way her eyes were closed, I couldn't tell if the Iktotchi was meditating or just enjoying the ocean breeze on her face.

    "Well?" I stopped in front of her, bringing the teenager out of her trance.

    Necil's eyes opened crystal blue and spooky, like she wasn't seeing me at all, or had been struck blind by some display of magnificence known only to creepy Raithian teenagers—which would have been just our luck.

    "Look, your species is supposed to be able to see into the past and future, sometimes in ways not even Jedi can, so if you're picking up anything with those horns of yours that might be useful, I'd really appreciate knowing it."

    The girl nodded as though she was coming to that answer anyway. She stood up and pointed south along the coast, where the shore curve away to the west and more dark jungle stood as still as grave markers. "We go that way."

    I looked at the line of boras and then back at her. "Lowie went through there?"

    Necil shook her head. "I see nothing about your friend. But we go
    that way."

    I didn't care much for that answer, and frowned right back at her for a good minute before Alema and Jaden returned on the bikes, empty-handed, so to speak.

    Away from the rest of the group, I had huddled with Kirana Ti and 4-1X, trying to decide our next move.

    "No tracks, trail in the trees, no sign of a Wookiee anywhere," Kirana Ti said quietly. "I don't think he flew off the cliff, so we can rule out going that way. Of course, he may never even have come this far. Saba was mostly chasing ghosts at the end."

    "Yeah," I agreed, turning to the droid. "And you?"

    "Negative. No signs of the Wookiee, Master Katarn—no sign of any life that size in the area."

    "We should have brought an astromech."

    "My counterpart and I are both equipped with an extensive sensor package, Master Jedi. I can assure you, an astro droid would have done no better."

    I could hear Calrissian's voice pouring through the YVH's vocodor in his best salesman's hustle, and I was afraid the damned thing was about to unveil Tendrando Arms' new product line. "Yeah, yeah, I've heard enough about your package."

    Kirana Ti ignored the exchange. "So what are we doing? Giving up on Lowbacca?"

    "Can't do that."

    "Then what direction do we search now?"

    My eyes drifted south, and I frowned at the forest Necil Krace had told me we would be heading into. Maybe it was because I didn't trust her, or maybe it was because I didn't want her telling me what we were going to do—or maybe it was just the reaction that all men have when hearing they are destined to do a thing, that they
    must, a kind of childish resistance to it, a need to prove it wrong, to prove that a person makes his own choices and controls his own fate—but in that moment, I was determined to go anywhere but south.

    I gestured behind me. "We head back east, see if we can pick up the Wook's trail again."

    Kirana Ti looked dubious, but nodded her assent for lack of any better suggestion.

    Would things have been different if I had done as Necil Krace had said? It's hard to know, but they certainly couldn't have turned out any worse.




    "Another skeeto," Jaden hissed after the sharp clap of his palm slapping his own neck sounded behind me. "I swear these things are eating me alive."

    "They have good taste," Alema responded.

    Though the words were playful, the pair was speaking in low, apprehensive voices behind me as we trekked through the jungle, their eyes sweeping the forest around us like they were waiting for an attack rather than looking at each other. Gray storm clouds had gathered above the Tampasi, adding a light drizzle to our excursion that drummed against the leaves and put us all on edge.

    Kirana Ti led the way in full Dathomiri tracker mode: hunched down low but moving swiftly, occasionally bending down to examine a print in the grass or press her ear against the ground—probably smelling the wind too. Saba was scrabbling up tree trunks with Tekli on his back, both to keep the Chadra-Fan's limited gait from hampering us and also giving us another pair of eyes in the treetops.

    Three days of combing the jungle had left the speeder bikes low on power, so we stashed them in the hollow trunk of a massive bora and continued on foot as a group, the Iktotchi and our two droids bringing up the rear.

    "Funny," Jaden said, though sounding like he barely heard the girl's flirtation at all. "I don't remember the jungle being this inhospitable the last time we were here."

    "A lot has obviously changed," Alema said. "But the insects still never bite me."

    "Why is that?"

    "Because they know I'm dangerous."

    I thought I could hear a smile in her voice this time. My eyes were sweeping the jungle around us though too. I should have told them to stow the chatter, but truth be told, hearing them talk instead of the brooding silence and rainfall around us was calming my nerves too.

    "Or you're using the Force to keep them at bay."

    "Master Katarn forbade us using the Force here, Jaden, except when needed. That would be breaking the rules."

    "I can tell that's a scary thought for you."

    "Terrifying. I always do what I'm told—like you."

    A jibe about me telling Jaden to leave her alone? Alema's ear cones must have been better than I thought. I mention all of this only because, I think, it might help you all understand some of the choices that were made later... I would have stamped out their talk at that point, but Jaden had gone quiet and I didn't need to.

    I kept walking. Up ahead, Kirana Ti was examining a tattered leaf, turning it in what little light was coming through the canopy above. It must have been nothing, because she tossed it aside and resumed her swift pace.

    The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, inexplicably. I pricked up my ears, trying to sharpen my hearing for the sound of movements outside our group.

    All I heard was rain.

    "Don't sulk."

    The voice was Alema's. Almost gentle, almost apologetic. Mostly teasing.

    "I'm not," Jaden bristled behind me. "It's just this jungle. Hot and damp and miserable."

    "Or cold, depending on Sekot's mood."

    "And I'm getting real sick of tramping through it looking for a Wookiee. When we find Lowie, you restrain him and I'll beat the stuffing out of him."

    "How about
    you restrain him and I'll go get Tekli to see if she can sew your arms back on."

    Jaden laughed. "What do
    you think is going on with him anyway?"

    Timber creaked as Alema nudged a branch out of her path. "If he wasn't taken, I suppose Lowbacca just snapped. he had been behaving strangely. Why do you ask?"

    "Well, you know him better than the rest of us. You were on the Myrkr mission with Lowie—"

    "As were Tekli and Saba."

    "—And you were together for several months pretending to be Malig's acolytes."

    "Not exactly." The sound of Alema's footsteps ceased, followed by Jaden's. "
    I was pretending. our friend Lowbacca, on the other hand, had sworn a life-debt to Darth Malig after he saved his life."

    "But he came around later, right? He helped you undermine Jacen on Apollyon and rescue the prisoners?"

    Alema's footfalls resumed. "Eventually. It was not easy to convince him. For a Wookiee to break a life-debt..."

    "Yeah, I imagine that's frowned upon on Kashyyyk."

    "Probably more like 'punished with exile.'"

    "You think that's what cooked his thruster?"

    A pause, as though Alema shrugged. "Who's to say?"

    "Well, I guess I can see why Malig was convinced of Lowie's loyalty, if he really did intend to honor a life-debt. But you were lying the whole time. To Jacen, to Callista, to Malig... How did you fool a Dark Lord of the Sith?"

    There was a sly sort of mirth in Alema's voice and I knew she was smirking. "I can be very persuasive."

    "Quiet!"

    Kirana Ti's command cut through the jungle in a sharp whisper, bringing everyone to a halt. At first, I thought she had grown as tired of Alema and Jaden's chatter as I had. I looked at the Dathomiri though and saw her hand raised to keep us still. And from the intense stare she wore, searching the forest off to our left, I knew it was something far more urgent.

    I hid myself behind the trunk of a bora and tried to follow Kirana Ti's gaze for whatever had startled her.

    I saw nothing.

    Only the lazy movements of trees and the murky light from above dappling the leaves.

    Then those light-dapples
    moved, a kind of rippling motion that was out of sync with the stagnant wind and falling raindrops, something unnatural.

    My blood ran cold. I remembered Kirana Ti and that leaf... I looked over at her, but she was gone. Turning back to where I saw the dim movement, I watched, trying to catch the flicker again, and my hand dropped to the butt of my bryar pistol on my hip.

    "Freeze."

    The voice was muffled and staticy, like the voice of every stormtrooper in the galaxy, and I knew there was a blaster pointed at my head before the light bent and I could make out the shape of the rain-beaded Raithian armor patched in reflected green light.

    "Hands up," the man warned again. When he raised his weapon higher, I glimpsed a silvery thread of light on the barrel of his rifle.

    I hesitated, calculating my odds of drawing my blaster before he could pull the trigger, trying to figure just how slow or stupid this guy was, and didn't care for my chances. Before I could decide, the hiss of a lightsaber cut through the suddenly cold air, and I saw a yellow blade buzz through the Raithian's neck. His head tumbled away like a fumbled smashball, and his body collapsed a moment later. The armor suit flickered to the metallic blue of plasmasteel as whatever refracting circuits are fused into those things shorted out.

    Kirana Ti followed her chop through into a spin and raised her yellow lightsaber to deflect a blaster bolt from a second soldier I hadn't even seen.

    I saw a spray of sparks as the bolt grazed the Raithian's shoulder, frying his armor and revealing him a half dozen meters away. The little sneak managed to keep his footing and raised his blaster carbine to fire again. From above there was a rapid cracking of branches. The poor lout looked up just in time to see a mound of gray scales crashed down on him.

    I won't describe the sound of his bones and armor breaking, but I doubt I will forget it any time soon. As sickening as it was, it seemed to delight Saba, who stood on the man he'd flattened, sissing happily as a shower of red leaves fluttered down around him. "This one crunchez."

    "Is that all of them?" I asked, finally drawing my blaster, my gaze darting around the forest, expecting every leaf to suddenly attack.

    "Doubtful." Kirana Ti kept her lightsaber raised at a high guard. "I sense more further on."

    I reached out with the Force, cursing myself and this twisted planet for not doing so sooner, and perceived a cluster of very alerted presences north of us.

    "Stang."

    "That blast will draw them here," Tekli announced from the Barabel throne she was still perched on.

    "She is right," Alema said. The Twi'lek, Jaden, Necil Krace, and the droids had joined us by then, gathering around the dead men with weapons drawn. "We need to get out of here."

    "Shouldn't we hide them or something?" Jaden asked.

    "There's no time." She grabbed Jaden's wrist and pulled him away.

    "And no point," I explained. "They already know we're here."

    We set off at a dead run due east, hoping to slip whatever net the Raithians were casting. For more than twenty minutes we sprinted through the jungle, panting and sweating and bloody from the scratches of tree fingers, until we reached a meadow that brought us to a halt.

    We heard the whine of repulsors first, and saw the mist of rain the blowing grasses were kicking up. Coming to rest in the clearing was a bulky troop carrier. In the air above, I count five atmospheric fliers, patrol boats from the looks of them, sweeping the area with search lamps.

    Words were said here that I'll omit for the sake of the childrens' ears. The carrier's ramp came down, and with it, two cadres of black-clad commandos and a half dozen sentinel droids.

    "Do you think they found Lowie, or our camp?" Tekli asked.

    "Or the
    Raven's Claw." Kirana Ti added.

    "Come on," I said, turning my back on the whole scene, and leading the way through the jungle, sprinting faster than before.

    It was then that I realized with the Raithians coming from south and east, that we were headed right for the stretch of jungle Necil Krace and said we would go in. I looked over my shoulder at her, and found her staring back at me




    The sun was out by mid afternoon, yellow and hot when it punched through the canopy above. I knew it would make us all the more obvious to the fliers overhead, but each time one passed, we hid beneath the trees and seemed to escape notice. Then we picked ourselves up and continued southwest, our pace reduced to a steady trudge at that point. We were deep in the forest Necil Krace had pointed out by then, and I kept waiting for something to happen.

    When it did, I still wasn't prepared for it.

    The terrain changed from jungle to sparser tree cover and large, moss-covered hunks of rock twice as tall as the Wookiee we'd been searching for, and wider than I could get a grasp of from our vantage. I thought about turning back and heading for better cover, but now I was ready to follow this through, to see what lay to the south, waiting for us.

    At the crest of a hill, I thought I glimpsed the very top of it for the first time, but here the rocks grew taller and the forest denser, so that I lost sight of it quickly and was unsure of what I saw. Then, after another half hour of traveling, we reached a massive clearing where the slabs of dark rock outcroppings ceased and the tree line ended just as abruptly.

    That's where it was.

    It stood in a sprawling field of rolling green meadows, and off to the west, a crooked line of bluffs that curved around the southern face of the thing, overlooking the ocean.

    From there it rose, white and soaring, a great stone tower planted in the heart of an immense round structure of the same masonry.

    The temple.

    It was curved and beautiful, or might have been in another setting, intricately carved like the statuary on Chandrila or Korriban. The citadel itself was at least two hundred meters tall, all made from what appeared to be the white stone I'd seen chipped away from the cliffs along the shore. Around its perimeter was a low wall, no more than a third completed and only on the side facing the meadow to the east, giving us a clear view of the huge staircase and towering doors directly ahead of us.

    Whatever the temple was, there was something great and terrible about it, an energy as evil as that thing we'd encountered in Sekot's orbit, and we all stood staring at it, slack-jawed, for what seemed a long time before anyone managed to utter the question that was on all our minds.

    "What is this?" Jaden whispered.

    The stair was flanked by a pair of Raithians in silver armor holding staffs taller than they were. There were more troops in similar dress carrying blasters, guarding the temple and watching over the slaves: chained Yuuzhan Vong, and members of a dozen other species hammering away at the growing wall, while a pair of collared rancors dragged huge slabs of white rock to the building site.

    Standing on either side of the doors was a pair of figures in dark robes I didn't dare reach out to in the Force, for fear of what I might find.

    "I don't know," I said, "but we have to get out of here."

    I started to back away, when a blaster bolt shot past Kirana Ti's head so close it left one of her black braids smoldering. I whirled around, all seven of us igniting our lightsabers, and saw the Raithian commandos coming through the trees and over the rocks at us, along with chrome sentinel droids wielding warstaffs. The blasterfire brought shouts from the troops around the temple, and we knew that was a dead end anyway, so we dove behind the trees, seeking cover from the energy bolts that were suddenly coming from everywhere. The commandos kept appearing and disappearing, the stealth armor that protected them making them impossible to spot for long.

    I drew my blaster and began deflecting bolts with my lightsaber while taking potshots at our enemies. The YVH droids—whose sensors stink, Lando—moved forward, pouring laser fire into the forest around us from their arm cannons along with mini-rockets and sonic grenades, sending up great plumes of fire.

    I got one shot in the throat of a commando, when I spotted a thermal detonator rolling toward 4-8A's feet. I reached out in the Force to sweep it away, but too late. The droid vanished in a white flash, and the tree I ducked behind exploded into splinters under a barrage of blasterfire. Hot blood ran down my arm where the spray of timber had showered me.

    I stumbled away, disoriented, barely seeing the sentinel droid waddle toward me before I hacked the thing in half. Someone was shouting at me through the smoke. The noises from the temple grew louder, audible above all the other racket. I continued to fight with blaster and lightsaber, batting away enemy fire while adding my own whenever I could, looking for somewhere to take cover. I'd nearly reached a mossy bolder when I felt something hot pierce my right bicep and went down.

    After that, everything became chaos.

    Explosions made the ground shake. Energy bolts streamed all around me. I saw Tesar sweep the legs out from under two commandos while the heavy blaster cannon in his clawed hands
    whumfeded again and again, belching fire at our enemies. I saw Alema vault over a fallen tree and catch one soldier in the chin with a flying kick, before cutting another in half from shoulder to groin with her silver lightsaber.

    The trees toppled. Dirt and rock rubble rained down from the clouds. The temple soldiers arrived behind us, pinning our little group between two forces. And there were Vong. Yuuzhan Vong in full vonduun crab armor. Amphistaffs and coufees. And they were helping the Raithians, Luke. I saw one of them crack Necil across the back with a cudgel and she disappeared beneath a storm of boots. A razor bug got Jaden between the shoulders, but the kid got up and kept fighting. Dammit, he kept fighting...

    There was so much blood and smoke. I had climbed back to my knees, just swinging my blade. My eyes stung from everything in the air and my arm was throbbing. I saw Alema and Kirana Ti fighting back to back, a pile of dead Raithians and mangled droids around them. Saw Saba lift a Yuuzhan Vong warrior off the ground by the throat and hurl him into a line of commandos. A rancor burst through the trees roaring, and Kirana Ti charged, leaping and kicking off a bora's trunk before driving her yellow blade right through the thing's damn chest. Saba's blaster cannon went empty, and he managed to throw it through a soldiers faceplate before he was buried beneath a swarm of Yuuzhan Vong.

    That was when I passed out. I came to a few seconds later, Jaden dragging me to safety and Tekli ripping my sleeve open to try and treat the blaster wound that was killing me. She managed to inject a pain stim in my shoulder, but there was no way to do much else.

    "We've got to get him out of here," I heard Jaden say.

    "Yes," Alema agreed, her blue face a fog to me.

    "Wait, what about the others?" I rasped, trying to stand, but Jaden put a hand on my chest and pushed me back down to the ground.

    "They're gone. Lay still."

    They lifted me a moment later, placing my good arm over Jaden's shoulders so he could help me walk, and I pushed him away after a few strides. "I can walk myself," I cursed.

    "Okay, we've got to run though, okay?"

    "Yeah, I figured." I peered out from the rock we were hiding behind, trying to see what was going on.

    Jaden looked at Alema, and she nodded. "Now!" She said, and we took off, emerging from our cover with lightsabers swinging to protect ourselves. It was 4-1X who provided the real cover though. The droid was hobbling on one leg, his laminanium armor pitted by blaster fire and thud bugs, but unloading all the munitions packed into his body, blazing a hole through the enemy lines that we charged through. The droid went down a moment later, blown to smithereens by a concussion grenade.

    Somewhere along the way, Tekli disappeared. Her little legs just couldn't keep up with us, and she never was much of a fighter... not that kind, anyway. I'm sorry to say I don't know when or how she went, but one moment I looked behind me and she was just gone.

    Alema was one-handing a rifle she'd lifted while still wielding a lightsaber in her left hand, firing a blaster behind us to try and keep our attackers off our backs. But it didn't last. They were coming too fast. Without saying a word, the Twi'lek tossed aside her blaster and stood her ground, meeting the charging crowd of Raithians to give Jaden and I time to sprint away. We were down the hill before Jaden realized.

    "Where's Alema?" he asked, head whipping around.

    "Doing something stupid."

    "Stang! I'm going back!"

    He started off and I grabbed the kid by the arm. "No, listen to me, Jaden. I'll go back for her. You've gotta get back to the
    Raven's Claw—someone has to tell the others what we found here. The Order has to know."

    "I'm not leaving her!" He pushed me away and ran back through the trees.

    I started after him, but then stopped, knowing I had to take my own advice.

    Someone had to survive. Someone had to live to tell about this.

    I wish it hadn't been me...

    I made it back to the place where we'd stashed the speeder bikes with the Raithians on my heels. I picked the one that had the most power left in it and started off, zipping through the trees, using every ounce of strength I had to stay on the bike and every drop of will left in me not to turn around and go back for my teammates. I'd gone less than a kilometer before something hard struck my shoulder and I cartwheeled over the steering vanes. The speeder bike crashed into a tree trunk. I landed hard on my back. The wind was knocked out of me, and I was dizzy from the pain, but I managed to climb back to my feet just in time to reignite my lightsaber and duel the Yuuzhan Vong who came out of the trees at me.

    We fought for what seemed like a lifetime, but was really less than a minute. I left him dead there, along with what little energy I'd had left.

    I don't remember how I made it back to the
    Raven's Claw, but I did somehow, collapsing into the pilot's seat and lifting off immediately. It was nearly dusk as my ship emerged from the trees. Rain was pelting the canopy.

    The
    Claw climbed up into the darkness, and I brought up the coordinates onto the navcomputer, finding myself faced with the same problem we had faced when we leapt into this Force-forsaken system: a shifting tangle of mass shadows that made calculating a jump too time consuming to do in a firefight.

    By then, the patrol boats had caught sight of my ship and were pursuing, and Warbirds came down from space to assist. I put my cannons on auto-fire and concentrated on piloting the
    Claw out of Zonama Sekot's atmosphere. When I was still halfway in the planet's atmosphere, I brought up Alema's half-completed calculations, closed my eyes, and jumped blind into hyperspace.

    I came out near Borleias an hour later.

    It was over.
    Last edited by YodaKenobi, Jun 30, 2013
  6. YodaKenobi VIP

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    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    [Reserved for future edits]

    Having some serious trouble editing this post. Not sure the new boards like a chapter this long, or if it's a formatting thing. Anyway, I might have to break this thing up into two posts, so I'm staking out this reply.

    Edit: Okay, I think it's actually the massive amount of italics. That might have to go bye-bye
    Last edited by YodaKenobi, Jun 29, 2013
    anakin_sal-solo likes this.
  7. stormtrooptk421 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2012
    Dang........ Looks like I need to add a few more names to my "Deceased Jedi" list. :_|
    Last edited by stormtrooptk421, Jun 29, 2013
  8. Durroness Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2002
    star 1
    I read this last night and I was going to reply, but after I was done, I realized that I really just didn't know what to say about it. On one hand, it was so dark and ominous and the fact that Kyle got out at all speaks not only to his badassery, but also to his ability to make a tough decision and see the bigger picture. But on the other hand, how could he just leave them? I mean, sure, it seems like they're probably dead, and even if some of them might be captured, what's he really going to be able to do other than die/get captured himself? But...I just hate both of his options there. I wonder how the survivors will react?

    On another note, I noticed that Kyle said seven hells... was that a slip, or a deliberate ASOIAF reference? Either way, I liked it.

    Glad to see you back, Yobi :)
    YodaKenobi likes this.
  9. JStepp Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 10, 2011
    star 2
    Damn, just remembered you were going to post a new chapter. I have to go to work early tomorrow so I'll have to wait until tomorrow night! Oh well something to look forward too!!
  10. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    I don't think it's entirely out of character for Kyle to do that. After all, he is a Jedi Master, and one of the primary mandates of the Jedi is to put the Order first (and the protection of justice in the galaxy) above all other personal and emotional attachments. So in choosing not to engage in a suicide quest to save team members that in 98% likelihood are already lost, and thus deciding to find a way to return to Luke and the others to report his findings, he is perfectly in keeping with the Jedi Code. Also, Kyle has not normally been shown to be the type of Jedi (unlike Kyp, Anakin, or at times even Luke) to let his emotions lead him into making reckless decisions, so I'm fine with how he's presented here.

    I do agree with you, though, in that I don't think the rest of his team are dead. If I remember correctly, Malig has some sort of device on their space station that harnesses Force-users' energy and I'm pretty sure they're going to be used to power that.
    YodaKenobi likes this.
  11. FORCEBlLADE Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2003
    star 3
    Awesome, man, just awesome.
  12. stormtrooptk421 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2012
    I had forgotten about Malig's space station until I read this. Perhaps they survived after all...
  13. cthugha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 24, 2010
    star 3
    Oh, wow. [face_hypnotized]
    Show Spoiler
    Byss, right?
    YodaKenobi likes this.
  14. Durroness Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2002
    star 1
    Maybe I wasn't very clear- I wasn't critiquing Kyle's in-universe actions. I was just saying that looking in on the situation, I hate both of his options and it kind of left me at a loss for a while. I fully agree that he had an obligation to get out and warn the others if he could. But leaving the others, when they might have been alive... it was just hard for me to accept, even if it was the right call. (And fully agreed on the comparison between him and Kyp or Anakin- Kyle did his duty, even if it felt emotionally wrong.)

    But yes, my assumption is that any of the others that may still be alive will probably be used to power Malig's evil-machine. Which is part of the reason that Kyle leaving them was tough to swallow.
  15. Clone_Cmdr_Wedge Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2006
    star 3
    Boy Yobi, when you say "long post," you don't fool around. Word Perfect clocks this one in at over 31 pages. :p

    I'll admit, I'd be a little surprised if everyone there was killed (especially Lowbacca), but you never know I guess.[face_thinking]

    Also, a base located in the galactic core where abducted (or maybe... collected?[face_mischief] ) people have been taken for some nefarious purpose... why does that sound familiar to me...? Oh well, at least I know some people I should get for this. :p

    Now, for the random thoughts, speculations (which will be put in spoiler tags if someone is that picky):

    Show Spoiler
    1) I really get the feeling that the Reckoner/Star Forge II is Malig's "I win" button. It won't matter one iota what happens to everyone else, if it's completed and he turns it on, he wins (whatever that may be exactly).

    2) Assaulting it is going to be a nightmare. Either we're going to need to get the largest armada ever seen and zerg rush it, or a small team infiltrates it and blows it up from the inside, or maybe a combination of both. Though if you use a massive assault, and take too many casualties, that leaves you open for attack by the Raithians, even if you win (unless Malig has *that much* control over them?).

    3) Malig obvious doesn't need the Reckoner to produce ships if he's got (I'm guessing) at least hundreds of ships around it already, with at least three of them equivalent to SSDs. I seem to recall them saying in KotOR that the Star Forge enhanced dark side power, made it stronger in a person. But why would he want that power? Or rather, what is his *goal* for it? I get the feeling he doesn't want power for the sake of power. He wants to do something with it, but what?

    This part feels a little like I'm throwing stuff at a wall and see what sticks, but maybe it's at least part of the answer. When reading about Kyle's travails through Sekot, I was reminded a little bit of the "Genesis planet" from Star Treks II and III (blasphemy mentioning Star Trek in a Star Wars board, I know, but hear me out!). Through some technobable-science, researchers managed to create a device that could rapidly terraform a planet, even a dead rock, and make it livable in days. Problem was that it also aged rapidly, creating massive shifts in weather and such. Not sure if that's what's going on (truth be told, I sort of doubt it), but it made me wonder if the concept "genesis," or the "power of creation", is what Malig wants with all that power. It kind of ties into Darth Plagueis' technique that I theorized that Malig has (think I even guessed that he "created" Anakin Sr.). Trouble that I'm having is that even if I'm remotely right, and Malig gets his "power of creation" abilities and invokes "A God Am I" I'm still not entirely sure what it's for.
    YodaKenobi likes this.
  16. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    Random thought here, but am I the only one who would love to see Darth Malig confronted by the Eleventh Doctor? :-B


    @Durroness: I agree, it was very sad to watch Kyle have to make that kind of choice--and I suspect there will be repercussions for his decision too. :(

    @Clone_Cmdr_Wedge: Nice thoughts and write-up! =D=
  17. Clone_Cmdr_Wedge Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2006
    star 3
    Thanks Rew. (I still can't get the thought out of my head though that I'm totally wrong, and that YK is laughing, going "Oh man, that's what he thinks is going on?" :p )

    That said, I would be very surprised if I wasn't on to something with most of what I said there... [face_thinking]
  18. YodaKenobi VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    Definitely not laughing at your theories @Clone_Cmdr_Wedge. Your "Malig created Anakin Skywalker" is still my favorite theory ever.




    I'm thinking of reposting all the chapters of this story on the next page or two, 50 posts in a row, and leaving them up until the truncated posts get fix (lol, right?), so that people can read the story or reread things to refresh their memories if interested. I really hate the current format. What do you guys think? Yes? No?
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  19. Durroness Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2002
    star 1
    Yes! I know I could use a bit of a refresh on some details.
  20. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    I think you're secretly laughing at all our theories. ;)
    :p

    I am definitely in favor of a reposting earlier chapters because it seems like Episode IX is going to be out on DVD before the staff gets around to finally restoring the truncated posts. (They all but told me in Comms recently that it's not a priority anytime in the foreseeable future.)

    However, I think reposting 50 (some very lengthy) chapters in a row could be overload in a single thread. Perhaps you could create a document off-site where all your stories could be posted? If you need help editing, I'd be happy to lend a hand--especially if you ever decide to repost your early series (from the NJO era) too, since I remember how roughshod grammatically those were. :p

    If you do decide to go the off-site route, I think you should start with the chapters from this current story, then work backward through LotS, then to the stories before this series.
    YodaKenobi likes this.
  21. stormtrooptk421 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2012
    I know I could use a refresh. I forget why Kyle was even on Zonoma in the first place... :confused:
  22. YodaKenobi VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    That's what I was worried about.
  23. JStepp Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 10, 2011
    star 2
    Wow great chapter. =D= Definitely think this is a Star Forge type of device. Can't wait to catch back up with Jacen, we haven't seen his reaction yet to the Red Wedding I mean, jedi massacre.
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  24. Clone_Cmdr_Wedge Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2006
    star 3
    @YodaKenobi Well, I suppose that means I'm at least on to something. Or at least creative. :p

    As for the rest, I'm pretty much in agreement with Rew. Having an untruncated version of the previous 50-odd chapters (as well as the other stories, maybe?) would be nice, but I'm not sure how feasable that is with this setup. What might be really good though is posting a "story so far" semi-chapter, just summing up the main plot points from this story at least.
  25. YodaKenobi VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    RIP Alema, Jaden, Tekli, Kirana Ti, Saba, Necil Krace :(

    And probably Lowie :(

    Thanks for reading @stormtrooptk421 :D





    Yeah, I felt the same way as I was writing it. Such a tough choice for poor Kyle. But you're right in that going back would have probably done no good. Katarn is half dead anyway from that blaster wound, and even if he was in full health, he's not going to be able to rescue the others from an entire army :( He had to get to Luke and the others and tell them where Sekot was and what was going on. That was the only real hope.

    Sorry to post another downer of a chapter!

    No, certainly not intentional. I was thinking of the Corellian hells, and for whatever reason, I thought it was 7, but it's 9 (fixed now). Totally possible it was ASOIAF influence on my subconscious though, as that turn of phrase certainly shows up more than once in there :)

    Thanks and thanks for reading and replying :D





    Thanks!




    Yeah, the Jedi Code is a ***** sometimes :( And I agree, it is what Kyle is supposed to do in these situations.

    True.

    That's a good point. There may be some hope (if you consider being used as a battery for the Reckoner "hope") :p

    Thanks for reading and replying :D






    Thanks a lot, I'm glad you enjoyed it :D






    I'll have some sort of refresher up before the next post. This one was more of a stand-alone in a lot of ways, so I wasn't as worried about it.






    Excellent guess! Unlike a lot of mysteries in this series though, you'll have the answer to this question in the very next post :D

    Thanks for reading! :)










    Yeah, Jaden was his apprentice, probably like a sort of son to him, he'd have known Kirana Ti a long time, and who doesn't like Tekli? :( Tough call to leave them behind.






    I cut about 2,000 words out of the ending to make the giant battle there more chaotic and less specific :p I thought it dragged to much the way it was and read better with just glimpses of what was going on since Kyle was pretty much delirious with pain at that point.

    Yeah, no bodies, right? So it's possible some or all of them are still alive...

    I'm not quite sure what you're referencing. Is this something I should be familiar with?

    On point 1: An interesting thought. I don't want to say to much, except the actual purpose of the Reckoner no one here has come close to guessing yet. If you look back at it's introduction however, there is a metaphor used that actually reveals it's purpose.

    On 2:The Jedi have no allies left for a massive assault. The Chiss and the Empire took off, the Hapans and the Alliance are on the side of the Raithians. They've only got what few smugglers remain loyal to them like Booster Terrik, and even his Star Destroyer is pretty much out of commission right now :(

    3:Yes, yes, and yes. The Raithians don't need more ships, they don't even really need more men. And THANK YOU for saying that Malig's goal isn't simply to have power. That is one of my biggest complaints about Star Wars villains as a whole, that they want power but it's never really clear for what. I've tried to underline this several times from Malig's point of view, that he wants some power so he can do something. I believe he said "power without purpose is pointless" or something to that effect. Malig absolutely wants to accomplish something specific.

    As for the last bit, does it mean anything to you if I say that I've never seen Star Trek 2 or 3, at least, not when I was old enough to remember them? With the rest of it though, you might just be on to something...

    Thanks for reading and replying, and sharing your theories :D
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