Beyond The Soulreaper Chronicles (Far Future, OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by JABrown, Nov 8, 2012.

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  1. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Tagline - @Ceillean, @aalagartassle, @Nightvision91, @Rau_Fang

    Chapter Eight

    The Priest stands beside the altar and stares into the burning fire. Beside him, Senator Palkranin hums absently to himself, his fingers gently caressing a statue of Yun-Shuno. His eldest son stands rigidly by the fire, hands twitching. At the other end of the corridor, the apartment is quiet, the Senator's wife and other children asleep, the servants vanished into their cubbyholes below stairs.

    He wonders how long he has been hiding here. A month? Two? He has lost track, spending an ungodly amount of time locked in tiny cubby holes as the Imperial Knights carry out their endless searches.

    The sound of footsteps echoes in the corridor outside. The Priest rises out of his chair, glancing at the old Senator. His face is as stressed and wrinkled as very old bark, but he is not afraid. His son, though, is almost hopping in place. He is a mere shadow of his father. The Priest wonders what will happen to them when the old man dies.

    He tenses as the door to the temple flies open. Two of his men come stumbling in, cloaks wrapped carefully around their forms to hide their scarred faces and Purifiers' crosses. A younger Yuuzhan Vong hangs between them, covered in soot and ash. His face is blood stained, scar free. Behind them come the other members of the congregation, six Yuuzhan Vong of the Purifier sect. A solemn procession.

    The stink of burnt flesh follows the men in, clinging to the young priest. The Priest sees that he is shuddering. A reaction to the pain. Or shock. No way to tell. Still, it is a sign of how far his people have fallen. Once upon a time, one such as he would have embraced the pain.

    Now, his face is sheethed in sweat, eyes wide and twitching like a mad horse’s. The Priest can smell the fear beneath the sweat, an acrid scent.

    The two priests holding him deposit him in the chair, dropping him like a coil of heavy wiring. The Priest looks to them, sees them nod as in confirmation. Holding back a sigh, he walks over to the other chair, sits down opposite the young priest.

    Lifting a silver chalice, he looks at the way the artificial fire light reflects in it, distoring his own face back at him. Without taking his eyes away from the surface, he asks, “Was it difficult my son?”

    The young priest starts, turning his head as if seeing the Priest for the first time. The Priest sees that he is crying, tears running from his blue eyesacks. Hiccoughing softly through his sobs, the young priest nods.

    Did all go according to plan?”

    The boy tenses, then nods again. “Yes, Supreme Commander.”

    Are you sure?” The Priest allows a hint of steel to creep into his voice.

    Fear passes over the boy’s face like a cloud over the sun at noontime. “There… was a girl.”

    A girl?”

    Yes. She… She used the heathen demon magic to stop the flames. I did everything I could, Supreme Commander, you have to believe me. I tried. I did everything you told me to do. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could have done. Please, I beg of you…”

    So you failed.” The Priest spits the words.

    A flinch. “No,” the younger man gasps. “No. The Gods’ fire was released, Supreme Commander. I swear it. The demon was sent back to hell.”

    I doubt that. You know what he was… what he is! If there was a girl, if there was magic… He could well still be alive.”

    The Priest knows that he lives. The device had been enough to destroy a dozen ships but this man… He was a ghost.

    I...”

    He is still alive.” The Priest stands, working off the anger he feels boiling in his stomach. “How could he have been killed if there was Force magic involved? If the fire did not run its course? All we have achieved is another demonstration of our power. A demonstration that would have been better served in a more public place. These Dregs are… pointless. It is here we must strike. We chose the demon’s lair as a signal to our enemies. That signal was only effective if the demon was destroyed. Now…” He shares a meaningful glance with the Senator. “Questions will be asked.” The Senator nods.

    “Supreme Commander, I…”

    Hush now, child,” the Priest says, his voice dropping to a whisper. He moves round the chair, feels the other priests moving up around them, surrounding the chair in a holy circle. Palkranin joins them, though out of the corner of his eye he sees the son retreat into a corner, looking at them with wide eyes and an open mouth. Good, the Priest decides. Let him understand what he is truly involved in.

    The Priest moves back round to the front of the chair and drops to his knees in front of the younger Yuuzhan Vong. He pulls his cross from beneath his robes, the firelight catching the crescent crossbar and reflecting it up onto the ceiling. He reaches out and takes the boy’s hands in both of his. He grips them, and closes his eyes.

    Come. Pray with me, my son. Pray for forgiveness.”

    The younger Vong tries to pull away, but he holds on to him that much harder. The other priests draw closer, the hems of their garments against the floor reminding him of the sound of snakes. He opens his eyes long enough to see the boy take a shuddering breath and close his eyes as well.

    Lords of the heavens, whose glory shines upon your Children, praise be to thee.”

    The other priests intone the words along with him, a solemn chorus like the deep tolling of church bells. The Priest feels the younger Vong's whole body tremble.

    May thy will come to embrace the people of these mortal worlds, may thy anger walk this mortal coil.”

    The other priests fall to their knees, the rustle of their robes increasing to a constant shushurring. Only two remain standing, the two stood behind the young Vong's chair. The failure keeps his eyes closed and he whispers the holy words through his sobs.

    Please scourge us and hold us accountable for the sins we commit. Allow us to wallow in our filth so as to better appreciate your glory.”

    They grab him from behind. The Vong's eyes open wide and he opens his mouth to scream, but something in the Priest’s own eyes forces him to silence.

    The Priest stands and follows them as they haul him over to the altar. Both priests hold his shoulders, keeping him still. The Priest lays one hand on the boy’s forehead, a gentle, almost tender gesture. The other hand comes up, the knife winking in the firelight.

    And give us the strength to rise above our evil ways, to bring greater glory to your mortal kingdoms. For ever and ever.”

    The knife slashes across the Vong's neck with silent intent. The body tenses, his mouth widens in a silent moan. Blood sprays from his veins, his still pumping heart trying relentlessly to send hot life-giving liquid rushing to his brain. He begins to choke, his body convulsing, spattering the cold stone of the altar in jet black.

    All the while, the Priest continues to stare into his eyes.

    The young priest moves his lips, as if trying to say Grace. His slashed windpipe makes a horrid gurgling sound, his lungs filling with blood as it seeps back down his throat. The Priest removes his hand from his forehead, then slowly closes those empty orbs, pressing his fingers against the blue eyesacks.

    From behind, he hears Palkranin's spawn sobbing softly as all of the priests – and Palkranin himself – intone a solemn, ‘Grace.’
  2. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Tagline - @Ceillean, @aalagartassle, @Nightvision91, @Rau_Fang

    Chapter Nine

    I sat bolt upright, my heart beating as I looked around wildly. I was back in Tess’ rooms, sat next to the fire. I looked down at my hands. I could still feel the Vong’s blood, the sound of that ‘Grace’ echoing in the temple… I felt a shiver run down my back. Not at the priest’s death. I had killed more than enough people in my life. No, what bothered me was why the Vong priest had done it. Out of pure, fanatical devotion to his gods.

    Wiping sweat from my forehead, I fell back in the chair. My eyes slowly cleared of the last haunting images, leaving me staring into the fire. What had happened since that vision? How had that Vong priest come to be in that sewer? I thought back on the scar tissue that disfigured his face, those hollow sockets where his eyes had been. Whoever had killed him had been thorough in making sure no one could ever possibly identify him. Why?

    Tess stepped into my frame of vision. She looked down at me, eyes questioning.

    “He… He was a priest.”

    “Thank you for that insight.”

    “Do you want my help or don’t you?” I snapped. I forced a trembling hand back to my lap. Sithspawn, what was wrong with me? No soul-vision had ever affected me this way before.

    To my surprise, Tess nodded. “I’m sorry. What did you find?”

    “I… Not much. I saw the Vong… I couldn’t get a name from the vision. He’s been dead too long. Everything was… washed out. Like ink drained away in the rain. He was the leader of a group of other Yuuzhan Vong priests. Purifiers. They were hiding. Someone came in, a… another priest. Younger. He was bleeding, covered in soot. They said something about a device, a demonstration. And a girl who used the Force to stop flames.”

    “What else?”

    “This… This priest, the one you have in that room, he killed the first one. Slit his throat while they prayed. There… There was someone else there. Palkranin.”

    “The Senator?” Tess’ eyes widened. “You’re sure it was Senator Palkranin?”

    “The old Senator.” I nodded. The one Langwin had told me had died of the plague. Now I wondered. “The son was there too but he seemed… frightened.” I ran a shaky hand through my hair. It came away dotted with blood. It happens sometimes after certain visions. I bleed from my ears, or nose, or eyes. Or the pores of my head, or hands. Like sweating blood.

    Tess dragged another chair over to sit beside me. She seemed shaken by the revelation. Seeing her worried made me terrified. I had never known her to be anything other than composed.

    "Danil, I need you to be absolutely certain about this. Are you sure that you saw Senator Palkranin with these men?"

    Her intensity scared me even more than her fear. I forced a nod.

    "Yes. I'm sure. Tess, what is it? What's happening? What is this all about?"

    Instead of answering me, she darted to her feet. I followed her with my eyes as she paced the room, from the empty fireplace to the door and back again. Her whole body seemed wrung tight, like a boat screw. As she paced, she muttered to herself, too low for me to hear. The last time I had seen her like this was the night I had broken into the Tower, the night she was arrested for the last time.

    Finally, she spun on her heels and strode back to her chair. Her hands rummaged around in those endless pockets until she pulled out a piece of flimsi. She tossed it to me as she sat down.

    "Read it," she ordered.

    I did as I was told, my eyes never leaving the block letters until I got to the bottom. Only then did I look up, mind racing. "Where did you get this?"

    "One of my little birdies intercepted it a month ago. This is what set me on the Vongs' tracks in the first place. Up until now, I had no way of knowing who wrote it. Now, I do."

    Palkranin, I thought as I looked back at the parchment. It was not long, a few terse sentences. THE GHOST HAS OPENED THE WAY. YUN-YUUZHAN'S FIRE WILL PURIFY THE THREE CROWNS. I HAVE PREPARED A PLACE FOR YOU. A FRIEND.

    "Why didn't you just show me this at first?"

    "What good would it have done you? You might not have seen anything."

    And you didn't want to give up the slightest advantage. After all this time, Tess was still playing her little games with us all. I wondered what else she was hiding from me.

    “I know this name.”

    “Which one?” she asked.

    I pointed to the letter. “The Ghost.”

    “Where did you hear that name?”

    “How much did Talon tell you about my arrest?”

    She shook her head. “Not much. Just that you were arrested for murder and brought to the Tower.”

    “I didn’t kill that man. I woke up and found his body in my bed. I… I reaped him.”

    “You did what?”

    “I didn’t mean to. My gloves were off, I touched him in my sleep. By the time I realised what had happened, it was too late.”

    Tess stood and began to pace again. “Do you think someone put the body there on purpose?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe. The real question is whether it was done to frame me for the murder or…” I trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

    “Or whether the person who put the body there knew about your ability.”

    I nodded. “But that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. When I was arrested, the woman who carried out the arrest accused me of working for a ghost. For the Ghost.” I looked back down at the paper. “I doubt that was a coincidence.”

    Tess stared off into the distance, then came back to sit down.

    "Danil... I need your help."

    I sighed. I had been expecting this. I waited.

    "I am stuck here, in this Tower. I have Talon, but he is not... Well, you. Oh, don't get me wrong, he has his qualities and is a loyal servant. But you had the brains, Danil. I knew I could count on you to find a way."

    "Flattery, Tess? Don't insult my intelligence. Just ask me what you want and get it over with."

    I saw anger flare in her eyes, but she stifled it quickly. The smile never left her face. Her voice, though, became icy.

    "Very well. I want you to infiltrate the Senator's apartments. Find out if the priests are still there. If so, where they are hiding. If not, where they have gone. With your... contacts, it should be easy. In return, I will see you free of the Tower and give you all my help in clearing your name of this preposterous murder charge."

    I feigned taking my time over the request, mulling over my decision. In actual fact, I had made it already, the moment I woke from the soul-vision. I had seen what Purifiers could do, and I did not want that to happen here. Besides, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I needed Tess’ help.

    Tess kept perfectly still while I pretended to think. When I finally nodded my head, she only nodded once herself, as if it had been a foregone conclusion.

    "Good. I'll expect to hear back from you in a couple of days."

    “Wait a minute. How the hell do you expect me to get into Palkranin’s home?”

    She smiled, a familiar twinkle in her eyes. She had always loved this part of the game. “I just so happen to have an invitation to the Senator's leaving party.”

    “Leaving party?”

    “Yes. After the old Senator died, his son announced that he had accepted the Empress's invitation to be her special representative to Nar Shadda.”

    I lifted an eyebrow. Nar Shadda? He must really have pissed the Empress off if she was banishing him to the Hutt's fiefdom.

    “Talon should be preparing the papers as we speak…”

    She trailed off as we heard footsteps on the stairs outside. Hurried footsteps. We both got to our feet just as Talon burst in. He was out of breath, his face paler than I had ever seen.

    “Talon? What is it? What- -“

    “They know he’s escaped,” Talon spoke over her. “They’re combing every floor and every room looking for him. And they’re coming this way.”
    Admiral Volshe and aalagartassle like this.
  3. aalagartassle Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2011
    star 4
    Interesting, on the run from the senator! Vong Purifiers!

    =D=
  4. Ceillean Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 13, 2001
    star 5
    Finally caught up! Totally worth it.

    You have such a wonderful way with words! I'm pretty sure I've said this before but hey. :p I love reading about Danil and you make him so damned interesting. The bits an pieces of his back story are worth an entire story on their own. *hint hint* [face_whistling] This complicated relationship with Tess, he killed the woman he loved -- amazing the man's demons haven't gobbled him up just yet.

    Absolutely looking forward to more and I'm very intrigued what will happen next.

    Keep up this amazing work! [:D]

    p.s. I have a favor to ask, though. Since I'm not on the boards as often as I used to be, would you mind sending me a PM when you update instead of tagging? I get an email once someone sends me private messages.
    Last edited by Ceillean, Aug 31, 2013
  5. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    @aalagartassle - Thanks! Yes, things are getting more complicated for Danil now. Lots of people for him to be on the run from! :)

    @Ceillean - Hi! Thank you so much for the comment! Glad to know you're still enjoying this, the more comments I get the more motivated I am to continue! :)

    I may write a shorter novella size thing after Thieftaker is finished delving into some of Danil's past, not decided yet. However, yes there is a lot to his past that can be delved into! :)

    No problem for the PM, I shall do so forthwith! :)

    Thanks again!
    aalagartassle likes this.
  6. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Tagline - @Ceillean, @aalagartassle, @Nightvision91, @Rau_Fang

    Chapter Nine

    Talon’s words hung in the air for a moment. I cursed quietly and glanced at Tess, who frowned. I could almost see the synapses firing as she tried to think of a way out.

    "How many?"

    "Too many," Talon replied. "At least a full squad. They're being led by a woman."

    ****! "Let me guess. Short? Red-hair?"

    Talon nodded and I suppressed a groan. "DeVare. One of the Minister's new Runners. She's the one who arrested me."

    "A Runner?” Tess glowered at me. “And you didn’t think to mention that?”

    “I didn’t exactly have time.”

    “Can I buy her off?"

    I shook my head. "I doubt it. She doesn't seem like the type."

    "Well then. We'll just have to get you out the old-fashioned way."

    Without breaking her leisurely pace, she headed for the bookcase that we had used earlier on. Selecting the same book, she pulled down on it and stepped back as the hidden door swung open. She looked at me and Talon.

    "Talon, you will have to lead him down to the docking bay. I trust you got the papers I asked you for?"

    He nodded, a frown on his face. "What about you?"

    "I will handle them."

    "DeVare isn't like most of the Minister's agents," I warned her. "You might not be able to handle her as easily as you have in the past."

    "He's right," Talon said. "I should stay, you go."

    "And give up these fine accommodations?" She shook her head. "I can handle a little Runner. If I were to leave openly, though, our dear Empress would have every Force-user in the country on my tracks. Now go."

    Talon looked as though he were going to argue further, but years of serving Tess had taught him when to give up on an argument. I remembered what that was like. I stood up and followed him to the opening. He vanished into the darkness, but I hesitated, looking at Tess.

    "Be careful," I warned her.

    "I always am."

    I stepped past her onto the slippery stairs. Talon had already vanished.

    “Oh and Danil?"

    I turned back to face her. "Remember what we discussed. I want to hear back from you in three days or I swear, I'll help this DeVare woman track you down myself."

    I smiled. "Good to see you again, Tess."

    She smiled back. "And you, my Danil."

    As she stepped back into the room and pushed the book back into place, sending the hidden door swinging shut, I gave her one last wink and then began to make my way down the steps.

    Talon was waiting for me a few steps further down, but as soon as he saw me he turned away. I followed him, trailing my hand along the moist wall to avoid tripping and falling in the dark.

    I lost count of how many floors we passed by the time we heard a scream from above. Both of us shared a wry smile - that hadn't been Tess’ voice. Moments later, though, the silence was broken by the unmistakeable sound of blaster fire.

    "Run!"

    I followed Talon's advice and we raced down the slippery steps, somehow reaching the bottom without breaking our necks. Our flight ended at a door. With the sound of pursuing footsteps growing louder, Talon brandished a keycard he had taken from his pocket on the way down. As soon as the door slid open, he pushed me through and followed me in. He waited for it to slide shut again and then drew a small pocket blaster and began to shoot out the controls.

    I turned to see where we were - a docking bay, much like the one DeVare had brought me to the day before. A small two-man speeder hovered off the durasteel deck. The smell of ozone filled the air.

    "You need an invitation, brother?" Talon snapped me out of my thoughts. "Quit your gawping and get her ready."

    I jumped into action as the door behind us groaned, one or more of the Tower guards firing at it. Jumping up and over the speeder's back end, I leapt into the driving seat and began to key the controls, bringing the engines up to speed.

    Talon finished shooting out the door controls and raced across the bay to a large double door. He input a code into the panel beside it. The doors began to slide open and then they jammed, grinding as the gears froze.

    “Dammit!”

    Talon dropped to his knees and banged his fist against a panel next to the doors. The panel popped open and Talon pried it away, revealing a small opening that led into the maintenance tubes that ran behind the bay doors. Behind me, the door into the bay shook. DeVare’s men were determined.

    "Get ready to go," Talon shouted. Before I could respond, he dropped to his hands and knees, wriggling through the small hole and into the maintenance tube. Moments later, the bay doors began to part. Slowly.

    Precious seconds passed. Sweat soaked my shirt, sending shivers down my spine. The doors continued their progression, so slowly I wondered whether they would actually ever part enough for us to get away. Finally, though, Talon found whatever was blocking them and fixed it. Both doors popped open with a bang, revealing the busy skies of Coruscant beyond. A gust of ionized air blew past me, stinging my nose and throat.

    I twisted around to see Talon’s head appear from inside the maintenance tube. He waved me away.

    "Go!"

    "Not without you."

    "Go, you damned fool! There's no point in us both dying."

    "But..."

    "I’m stuck you idiot. Get out of here."

    I realised that we were running out of time. Scowling, I keyed the accelerator controls, keeping the speed down for now. The speeder slid towards the doors. I turned back.

    "You can still make it!"

    "Here!" He scrambled backwards and grabbed something, dragging it out past his own body. He threw it, underarm. I followed its trajectory as it arced towards me through the air. It landed with a thump in the speeder behind me.

    "What is it?"

    "Your way out!"

    I didn't have time to ask any further. The door finally gave out to the constant bombardment, exploding inwards, followed immediately by two Imperial Guards in their white armour. Talon had manoeuvered his blaster free and as the troopers climbed over the ruined door, he raised it, firing once, twice. The ring of the blaster bolt echoed through the enclosed space and I saw one of the troopers go down, his chest smoking through the shattered plate.

    "He's getting away!"

    I recognised that voice. DeVare. She peered through the shattered door, past three troopers, her eyes boring into mine. I couldn't resist waving a salute at her as I ran my finger up the speeder’s speed controls, sending it jumping out through the doors and into the evening traffic over Coruscant.

    May the Force be with you, I sent silently to Talon. He was going to need it.

    I was away. Somehow, I had escaped. But I wasn’t yet free.

    Once I was free of the Tower, I banked left and up, heading for the nearest line of traffic. I tried to get my bearings, though I had not spent that much time in this part of Coruscant for a very long time. I only had a moment to decide what to do next. DeVare would be after me as soon as she could scramble fighters. Should I try to rise up to the outer atmosphere, lose myself amongst the space stations and floating hulks in the Dregs? The shield stood between me and that route, though, and I could be certain that DeVare would have any ways in and out of the planet watched.

    So the Dregs were a bad idea. The only other option, though, was to find somewhere to abandon the speeder and then try my luck in Freetown. The upper crust would soon be swarming with DeVare and her men. That didn’t leave me a lot of time to get away.

    - Danil!

    Lucan’s shout broke me out of my reverie. I yanked hard on the wheel, angling away as a laser bolt shot past the rear of the speeder. A closed-in speeder, marked with the Imperial Guard insignia, was angling in towards me from the Tower. In fast pursuit.

    I juked the speeder to the other side, narrowly avoiding a collision with an oncoming taxi speeder, then sent my own through a series of evasive turns.

    - Thanks for the heads up.

    - You’re welcome. Now get us out of this.

    I ignored him, diving in and out of the flow of traffic, only just scraping through the small gap between a large shuttle and a descending tug droid dragging a freight of speeder bikes. I dropped down suddenly, avoiding another laser bolt from the pursuing guard ship. I had the distinct impression that DeVare and her Sith compatriot were on that thing.

    - I would just care to remind you that if you die, I die! Again.

    - Relax, I shot back. I know what I’m doing.

    As if to prove my point, I slapped my palm down on the controls, cutting power to the repulsorlifts. The speeder dropped like a stone, plummeting several stories while Lucan screamed in my mind. I closed my eyes and counted to three, then slapped the controls again and jerked the wheel to the left. The speeder lurched, then zipped up through the traffic lanes again, zooming over the top of the guard ship that had tried to pursue us through my crazy stunt.

    - Never. Do that. Again.

    I stifled a laugh. Lucan really hated it when I laughed.

    I was just about to congratulate myself on a fine piece of piloting when the entire speeder shook around me. I lurched in my seat, only just managing to hold the wheel steady as the entire vehicle buckled out of control. I twisted my head around to see a speeder bike descending from one of the traffic lanes above me. A familiar figure with long red hair sat astride it. DeVare had a blaster in her hand, the same blaster she had used to shoot out my engine block.

    Sithspawn!

    The speeder spun out of control. I held on to the controls in a futile attempt to arrest my fall. Diving towards a dark expanse beneath me, the speeder spun, thankfully staying upright. I managed not to scream as I spiralled down.

    I could not see where I was heading. At the last possible second, though, I whispered a spell word, activating one of the Force marks I had inscribed on my chest. Force energy rushed through me and I directed it downwards, creating a counter to the gravity pulling me down to the surface. Enough to turn what would have been a horrific crash into an ugly one.

    The actual landing is a dark blur. When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on what felt like a soft mattress, staring up at the stars. I lifted my head slightly and then collapsed, my head dropping to the cool metal plates.

    Drained, I just lay there. I’m going to stay right here, I thought. Right here is good. Great even.

    - Don’t you dare. Lucan’s voice sounded in my head. You got us in this mess, you'd better get us out of it.

    I groaned through chapped lips. Leave me alone, Lucan.

    - Do you want to die, you bastard? Lucan snarled. ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t. I didn’t survive my own death just to die because you have the stamina of an old woman. Now get up and move.

    - I hate you, I thought back.

    Still, his words got through to me. I forced myself to roll over and then clambered to my hands and knees, wincing at every move I made. Then I took a look around.

    My speeder lay in a tangled mess of metal and flames in the middle of a copse of trees. I blinked at the sight, not quite understanding what I was seeing. Then I turned around and saw a small path spearing through a tunnel of trees and bushes before me, leading to a vast building. The hulking edifice glowed, light emanating from its massive cristalline spires. I gaped at the sight.

    The Imperial Palace lay before me, carved out of moonlight and flame. I could see every window, every door, every balcony and set of steps, illuminated by enough phosporescent panels, glowspheres and electroluminiscent strips to replace every star in the sky above. The well-lit Palpatine Gardens, sprinkled with the bright glitter of starlight on ponds and fountains, surrounded the palace – polished gray-green stone and mirrored crystals. The whole glowed like a Fael castle – trust me, I know what they look like.

    I almost cried. The palace grounds. I had crashed in the ****ing palace grounds.

    Too much light. Making my way to the far wall without being seen would be difficult, if not impossible. The only good thing was that the guards would be just as visible to me.

    - Quit complaining and get out of here, Lucan growled.

    - You should just have let me lie there. Either way I’m going to get killed.

    - If I wanted to get you killed, I would have told you to stay in the Tower with the Black Bitch.

    I dismissed him, concentrating on the grounds again. I could see shadows moving in the darkness, far enough away that they wouldn’t be able to see me. Getting closer, though, attracted by the almighty flames from my crashed speeder.

    There was no point in waiting around for them to get here. Turning away, I began to run away from the palace, towards the outer walls. I stumbled over something, almost falling on my face. I looked down and saw the satchel that Talon had thrown in the speeder. It must have been thrown clear by the explosion.

    At least one thing had gone right. Grabbing it, I ran.

    It felt like miles, but it must have been less. Once I stumbled over a stone, and twice I was forced to press myself against a tree as a trooper passed through the trees a few feet away. Finally, though, I reached the wall of the palace grounds. On the other side lay the city proper and my ticket to Freetown. To safety.

    I moved faster, my eyes darting off into the forest to make sure no one was near. A glowsphere appeared in front of me. A door. Finally. My fears faded. Until I saw a single trooper stood to one side, his helmet moving from side to side as he scanned the darkness around him, a blaster rifle in his hands.

    Sithspit! I crouched down, trying to lose myself amongst the shadows. I studied him – he seemed young and inexperienced, juggling his blaster from one hand to the next every few minutes. That should work to my advantage. They obviously did not consider the door to be an important one and had not had time to move their forces around.

    Closing my eyes, I took a few deep breaths. Opening them again, I waited for him to turn away from me, then rushed forward.

    As I neared him, scuttling like a crab, he began to turn. I abandoned any hope of sneaking up on him and leapt to my feet, throwing myself across the remaining distance. He saw me out of the corner of his eye, spinning round. He tried to bring his rifle up, but I barrelled into him. We both tumbled to the ground.

    An explosion tore through the silence. Dammit! He had managed to get off a shot. The blaster bolt went wild, exploding into the wall behind me. I flailed at his hands, striking him hard enough to send the rifle skittering into the darkness.

    As I struggled with him, I heard distant shouts echo through the grounds. A hand fumbled at my arm, and I lashed out with my elbow, slamming it up into his face. His helmet snapped off, tumbling away, revealing the face of a young man, little more than a boy. I followed up with a fist to his cheek. His breath erupted from his lips. I tried to scramble away. He had wrapped his legs around my middle, though, and he hung on like a limpet to the arse of a boat.

    Squirming, I caught sight of lights approaching through the trees. Sithspawn! The other troopers were almost on us. I had to get free of this fool.

    Turning around, I slapped at his face, hoping to shock him into letting go of me.

    My open palm struck him a glancing blow, once, twice. I felt him go limp. I struggled out from his grasp and stumbled to my feet, my whole body shaking. That’s when I saw the yellow droplets on his lips.

    No, no, no! Shaking slightly, I glanced down at my hand, and saw a tear in my glove. My stomach dropped.

    I had stolen the poor sod’s soul.

    Cursing myself for a fool, I dropped to my knees. Fighting back the urge to retch, I undid his belt and tore the key cards free. As I stood, a sharp crack broke the silence and a blaster bolt tore shards from the stone wall beside me.

    Fumbling with the key cards, I tried two before I found the right one. As the door swished open, I felt something strike me from behind. The impact forced me around just as the guard’s soul engulfed me. I tumbled backwards, my mouth open, the soul engulfing me. I managed to stay on my feet long enough to slap my hand against the pad on the other side, slamming the door back into its frame again.

    As the trooper’s death screams echoed in my head, I turned away from the wall, cradling my injured arm, and started to run.
    Admiral Volshe likes this.
  7. Ceillean Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 13, 2001
    star 5
    Well, one adventure after the next, huh? The Imperial Palace sounds beautiful.

    Wonderful update and as usual, looking forward to more. :D And thanks for that PM! Worked like a charm. [:D]
  8. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Tagline - @Ceillean, @aalagartassle, @Nightvision91, @Rau_Fang, @Admiral Volshe

    Chapter Ten

    I ran.

    I ran from the troopers, I ran from DeVare, I ran from the new voice that screamed in my head. Every time I blinked, I saw a vital image of the poor boy I had just reaped floating in the dark. I felt sick.

    The streets of Freetown were throbbing with life as I scrambled through the side streets and alleyways, trying to keep out of the way of the crowds. The holo screens and glowspheres guttered in the last few moments of night. Every so often, I heard the shouts of angered citizens as droves of stormtroopers scoured the area, looking for me. I kept to the dirty alleys, where metal streets vanished beneath heaps of refuse and rubbish. I slipped once or twice in puddles of Vong-formed life as I passed from darkened alley to dimly lit side street and back again.

    The boy's screams pursued me. He battered at my mind, his soul trying to break free from the prison I had trapped him in. I heard him whimpering and pleading, just looking for a reason, an explanation. Why has this happened to me? What has happened to me? Who has done this to me? I wished I could give him an answer, but I had other things on my mind.

    The sounds of pursuit were ever present, closing in around me like the jaws of a trap. I darted through the streets at random, hoping to throw the troopers off the scent. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. They would have found the dead body – they would be out for blood. I know that I would have been if I were in their shoes. If they caught me, they would kill me and DeVare be damned.

    Darting into an alleyway, I took refuge beneath the arched entrance of a tenement building. The sounds of pursuit drew nearer, and I saw three troopers run past the alley mouth, convinced I had continued down the main street. I collapsed to my haunches, allowing myself a few moments to catch my breath and try to work out what to do next.

    My shoulder flared in pain. Pulling my shirt from the wound, I checked it. The blaster bolt had grazed me, thank the Force. Blood welled through burned flesh, but it didn’t appear life threatening. It should hold out, at least until I got somewhere safer. Where that safe place might be was, of course, another problem entirely.

    I couldn't go home. I hadn’t paid my landlord in three weeks, and I was sure that DeVare would have asked the Minister of Justice for as much information as he could give her. Considering how Gielding felt about me, I was sure he would have supplied her with everything she needed.

    Tess was no longer an option, and I wondered whether she ever would be again. I had a small list of allies, and it was rapidly shortening. There was still Kielley, but getting back up to the Dregs would mean finding a ship or passing through a checkpoint at a departure gate. I wracked my brains, but my thoughts scattered.

    The bag. Casting a quick look around, I deposited it in front of me and pulled the ties open. I smiled. Talon had done a wonderful job. He had created a new identity for me, complete with identichips and a holographic passepartout, which should allow me to travel anywhere I wanted on Coruscant. Of course, to use any of them, I needed to gain access to some supplies. I was going to have to change my appearance and fast.

    Along with the identity documents, I found the invitation to Palkranin’s ball. I was unsurprised to find that it was going to take place at 500 Republica. No self-respecting Senator would live anywhere else.

    Talon and Tess had also provided me with a creditcard with a small fortune on it, a vibroblade and a change of clothes. Another few pieces of good news. I allowed myself a small smile. Good old Tess.

    The papers and the creds gave me a little hope. At worse, I should be able to field a sizeable bribe to get some guard to let me out of the city. Still, I sat there for a moment, my back against the wall of the tenement building, trying to think of a better way out. After a few moments, I realised that I only really had one other option.

    Kit. He had offered to help me in the inn. He had always been there for me in the past. I could count on him. Or at least I used to be able to.

    Mind made up, I snuck a peek around the archway. The alleyway was empty. Hurrying out onto the main street, I took a moment to get my bearings, then turned left, heading back the way I had come. Eyes flickering from building to building and ears pricked for any sign of pursuit, I set off for the theatre district.

    ***

    Getting into the Glory turned out to be easier than I had thought. A huge spherical theatre, the Glory hung on repulsorlifts above a large open square. Stairways hung from doors set in the golden surface, descending to ground level. When I arrived, I found a repulsorsled hovering at the bottom, two Rodian labourers struggling to unload boxes of costumes and props from their seasonal tour of the outlying worlds. I offered my help and minutes later I was in.

    Once inside the Glory itself, I found myself in a small corridor that led to the Hollow, a large open space in the middle of the sphere where the great and good of Coruscant could gather to watch a play.

    One of the members of Senator Palkranin’s Men stood at the door into the Hollow, a checklist in hand. He looked up at me, and waved me towards the stage. Three men, actors, were practicing fencing with what appeared to be pretend lightsabers under the eagle eye of an older actor.

    “Take it through to the tiring house.”

    I nodded as best I could, then continued on my laborious trek towards the stage. The box I had been given seemed to weigh a ton.

    Avoiding everyone’s eyes in case someone recognised me, I headed for rear of the stage, where a set of steps led down and behind into the rear part of the theatre. Known as the tiring house, this was where the players prepared before the play began.

    Bedlam reigned inside. I had been back here once before, not in the Glory but in another theatre, so I knew what to expect. Still, I was taken aback by the sheer level of chaos that surrounded me. What had been an open area had been split into multiple rooms and chambers by setting up moveable forcefields, thus creating a warren of rooms and corridors that could be modified depending on the needs of the troop. People ran in every direction, jumping in and out of costumes. I saw a young boy running after a snarling akk dog, trying desperately to catch the lizard-like creature before it escaped onto the stage. A woman wearing nothing but a pair of men's shorts over her nether regions darted out of a nearby cubicle, not even blushing as I took in her wonders. In fact she grinned at me, winked, then headed towards another chamber.

    Setting the box down in one of the first storage rooms I found, I waited for a few moments and then snuck out.

    I made my way through the insanity slowly, trying to find Kit. He would be in the middle of all of this somewhere, making final preparations for the beginning of the play. His job as fixer also included producing the play, making sure the lines were said at the right time and everyone was where they needed to be when they needed to be. Sounded like fun, actually.

    I heard him before I saw him.

    "...And make sure that you keep a hold of him this time."

    The boy I had seen earlier darted out from one of the makeshift rooms, holding the akk dog in his arms. I grinned as he scampered off, and then headed into the room he had just vacated.

    Kit turned as I stepped inside, his mouth open to ask me what the hell I was doing there. Then he saw me. His eyes widened, his mouth dropping open.

    "Oh Sithspit."

    "I know, I know, I look a mess. Listen, Kit, I --"

    "What the hell are you doing here?" He cut me off, looking around with wide eyes as if afraid we might be seen together. "You shouldn't have come."

    I frowned. "No, Kit, you have to help me. Something has happened and..."

    "No! You have to go." He strode towards me, grabbing me by the arm. "I'll get you out of here. We should be able to before..."

    "Before what, exactly, Kit?"

    Kit froze, stopping dead. I turned my head to see two men – one human, one Ithorian, both huge and muscular – dressed as smugglers stood between me and the corridor. They held blasters in their hands and they were glaring. At me.

    "What's going on here, Kit?" one of them asked. "What exactly do you think you're doing with him?"

    "Listen, Amdrev, both of you, this isn't what it looks like."

    "You're not trying to help this murderer?"

    Murderer?! I looked at Kit. "What's going on?"

    Kit opened his mouth to say something, but something held him back. Closing his eyes, he shook his head and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, his eyes were sad. And cold.

    “Take him.”

    “What?” I spun around in time to see both men rushing me. I backed up, tripped over my own feet and went down, landing hard on my arse. Not the most effective escape in the annals, I’ll grant you.

    Both men were on me before I could even attempt to get back up, reaching down and hauling me to my feet. One of them, the human Kit had called Amdrev, held me with one hand on my arm and the other around my neck, squeezing and pinching my skin as hard as he could. I could only look from one to the other, trying to make sense of what the hell was going on.

    “What do we do with him?” the Ithorian, his face wide as the back of a speeder, asked.

    “Nothing. Not here anyway. We’ll take him out back and get everyone together.”

    Both men nodded. Holding me tight, they dragged me out into the corridor, Kit not far behind.

    The dress rehearsal seemed to have started – there was no one around to see me carried further into the depths of the tiring house. Mere moments later, we stopped in front of a steel door.

    Kit stepped out in front of us, avoiding my eyes, and pulled out a set of keycards. I noticed that his hands were shaking as he fumbled through them. What the hell did he have to be nervous about? I was the one with these two bruisers clutching at my arms. After more fumbling, he found the right card slotted it into the reader.

    A huge meaty hand thrust me forward. I lost my footing. Everything slid past in a blur. I barely had time to glimpse a large table surrounded by chairs before I barrelled into them. Everything crashed to the floor around me. Pain erupted from the wound in my shoulder and I bit back a gasp.

    Before I had time to recover, I felt myself grabbed from behind and pulled to my feet. I stared into the maddened eyes of the one Kit had called Amdrev. He grinned at me, panting. I tried to recoil, more from the smell of his breath than anything else. He didn’t seem to care, lifting me off my feet and throwing me across the room at the near wall. Hard.

    I hit the wall and rebounded, falling over in a mess of arms and legs. By the time I was able to make out up from down, Amdrev was coming for me again. I wobbled to my feet, tried to raise my fists against him, but failed miserably to protect myself. His fist struck my cheek and I flailed backwards, hitting my head against the wall.

    This time, I didn't bother to try and get up. I sprawled there as Amdrev reached down and grabbed me again, hauling me to my feet. Before he could throw me again, though, I heard Kit's voice.

    “Amdrev, stop.”

    He did, though he kept his fist wrapped in the front of my shirt, and turned to glare at Kit.

    “Why are you protecting this murderer?”

    “Stop calling him that!” Kit wiped a hand over his face. “Listen, we don’t know what happened yet. And even if what was said is true, this isn’t the way we deal with it. We’re a family, we make these kind of decisions together.”

    Amdrev hesitated for a moment, then grunted in agreement.

    I had followed the whole conversation as if from a distance, the ringing in my ears making it difficult to concentrate. I felt Amdrev lift me. He hauled me in one swift motion across the room, depositing me in one of the chairs that were still standing.

    Moving behind me, he gripped my wrists, pulling my arms back, and sending pain lancing down my spine.

    "Get some binders,” he ordered the Ithorian.

    The Hammerehead bobbed his head, then turned and ran out.

    Amdrev leaned forward, whispering in my ear.

    “You’re going to regret ever coming back here, murderer. I promise you that.”

    Normally I would have some kind of quick witted reply for him, but at this point I was just happy not to be throwing up.

    Within moments the Ithorian returned, binders in his hand. Two others followed him in, a tall human man with greying hair, rouge on his cheeks and a beard twisted up in a net beneath his chin, and a Twi’lek woman dressed in tight-fitting breeches and a shirt open just enough to hint at hills and wonders – the same woman who had flashed me earlier on.

    While Amdrev wasted no time in clasping the binders around my wrists, the newcomers looked at me and frowned.

    “What is going on here?”

    “This is him,” Amdrev cut in before Kit could respond, pulling the rope tight.

    “Him? Him who?”

    “The man who killed Oaksgrave.”

    Both of them gasped. The man’s frown deepened, while the Twi’lek woman looked at me as though she wanted to cut my throat. I was starting to get a vague inkling of what was going on, and it was making me feel sick.

    “Kit? What is he doing here?”

    “He came to see me,” Kit replied before Amdrev could.

    “What? Why?”

    Kit rolled his eyes. “Don’t act all surprised, Londo. You all knew that Danil was a friend of mine. You saw us talking that night.”

    “And were you planning on telling us about him or just letting him escape?” Amdrev asked.

    “What are you accusing me of?”

    Before Amdrev could answer, the door opened again. Another woman entered, a Bothan whose red fur made a fine counterpoint to her flowing white dress, followed by two Jawas dressed in bright yellow and green clown costumes. When they saw me, though, neither of them were smiling. Lips drawn back in feral growls, they reached for the knives hidden in their wide bottomed trousers.

    I was grateful when Kit stepped between them and me. Not that I was afraid of two little scavengers, of course.

    “Calm down,” he snapped. “Both of you.”

    They did not look at him, glaring at me, but at least their hands moved away from their knives.

    “I could have taken them,” I whispered, not low enough apparently. Amdrev grunted and cuffed me on the back of the head as he went to join join the other members of the troop.

    One of the Jawa’s demanded something in a high pitched squeak.

    “He came to see me,” Kit replied. “I don’t know why.” He turned to look at me. “Now, we… We need to decide what to do with him.”

    The other Jawa’s hands strayed back towards his knife. He squeaked something. From the nod and grin on Amdrev’s face I could imagine what. I was really starting to hate the man.

    “No,” Kit said.

    “But he killed Oaks,” Amdrev burst out. He looked back at me with murder in his eyes. “The bastard murdered our illusionist, I say we kill him.”

    I felt my stomach drop. ****! My suspicions had been right, then. The illusionist. The stupid bugger trapped in my head had been their illusionist. And every single man and woman in this room – apart perhaps for Kit – believed that I had killed him. At best, they would kill me themselves. At worse, they would decide to hand me over to DeVare… and the questionners in the Tower.

    My chances for escape were slim to none. Even if I somehow managed to get free of the binders, overcome the nine people in the room, get out of the theatre without one of the other actors seeing and recognising me, every stormtrooper, Imperial Knight, thieftaker, bounty hunter and Runner in the entire system would be looking for me.

    In a word: I was right and royally buggered.
    aalagartassle and Admiral Volshe like this.
  9. aalagartassle Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2011
    star 4
    Awesome a riveting scene of flight and escape. You captue Danil so well!
    I'll read chpt 10 tomorrow, great work
  10. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Tagline - @Ceillean, @aalagartassle, @Nightvision91, @Rau_Fang, @Admiral Volshe

    Hi guys, just to let you know I've been on holiday for a week, this is my first chance to get access to WIFI. Am off for another week, so should be able to update sometime after that.

    Cheers for the comments!
    aalagartassle likes this.
  11. aalagartassle Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2011
    star 4
    chapter 10, yeah Danil is stuffed, wonder what he is to do?
    Keep it up after the holiday.. enjoy your break!
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