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Saga - Legends AU - Star Wars: The New Sith Order - Update 10/05 - Chapter 19

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by gaarastar58, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, Mara Jade, Ahsoka Tano, Bail Organa + many more!
    Timeframe: 8BBY
    Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure
    Summary:The last hope of the Jedi has been lost. Young LUKE SKYWALKER has fallen into the hands of the Empire. Sent to an Inquisitorial training academy, he struggles to survive alongside a group of stolen children, including MARA JADE. With the discovery of his son, Sith Lord DARTH VADER is thrown into turmoil and begins to question his loyalty to the EMPEROR. Meanwhile, former Jedi Master OBI-WAN KENOBI emerges from hiding to rescue Luke, enlisting the help of Senator BAIL ORGANA to locate the boy before it is too late. The battle to control a new generation for force-users has begun...

    =========================================================================​
    Use this link to jump straight to the bonus short story - Shadow on the Battlefield - to read about how ARC Trooper Fives joins the Rebellion!
    =========================================================================​




    Prologue

    ‘If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.’

    The lightsabers blazed, sizzling where they struck each other, sending sparks flying where they hit anything else. The flashing light danced in the faceplates of the stormtroopers who had gathered to watch the spectacle. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi raised his glowing blue weapon and stared into the face of his opponent. A faint smile appeared at the corner of his mouth and he closed his eyes. Luke Skywalker lifted his red-white blade high and cleaved it downwards into Kenobi’s body. The brown robe crumpled in on itself as the Jedi vanished, becoming one with the force, and Luke was left staring down at the weapon and empty robe, his lightsaber droning in his hand...

    The New Sith Order: Part I - The End of Hope

    Chapter 1

    Wind gusted through the towering star-scrapers of Galactic City, making Darth Vader’s long black cloak whip and snap as he descended the ramp of his lambda-class shuttle and crossed the landing platform. He stood head and shoulders above the double row of white-clad stormtroopers that had assembled for his arrival. Standing beneath the shelter of the doorway the Acolyte bowed to his master. He was a hunched figure in a simple grey robe leaning on a staff.

    ‘Where is he?’ Vader’s voice echoed around the corridor. The Acolyte bowed again and gestured with an arm. Vader swept after him, cloak billowing out behind him as he strode along the passage while the Acolyte scurried after him trying to keep up with the dark lord’s long strides.

    ‘I thought the Overseer would come to meet me,’ said Vader.

    ‘I’m afraid he was indisposed my lord.’

    Vader made a sound that was somewhere between a growl and a snort of laughter. He wasn’t surprised the Overseer had not come. The man was a weakling. Vader would like nothing more than to wrap his artificial fingers around the man’s throat but his Master was insistent that he still had his uses.

    ‘Where did you find the subject?’

    ‘In the outer-rim my lord. The Emperor dispatched me to seek out young force-users to recruit for the academy. I found him on a desert planet named Tatooine.’

    Tatooine. The name jolted Vader but he kept his composure. The Acolyte had an innate talent for picking up the emotions of others and he could not allow that to happen.

    ‘His guardians?’

    ‘They resisted,’ said the Acolyte, his lip curling.

    ‘Have you done as I instructed?’

    ‘Yes my lord, we have kept him segregated from the other initiates.’ A look of confusion passed over the Acolyte’s face. ‘My lord, why is this one so special?’

    Vader didn’t answer. They were approaching the holding area now, where all new initiates were processed to test their suitability for acceptance into the academy. Latent health conditions or poor emotional states were reasons for immediate liquidation. Even if an initiate passed these stringent tests, they would then face the academy itself.

    The initiates were kept in soundproofed holding cells. The Overseer liked to test their ability to cope with sleep deprivation with sirens to keep them awake for days on end. He could deactivate the sound-proofing if one of the initiates broke, so that the others could listen to their mindless screams. Vader stretched out his senses, feeling the small pockets of force energy in the life-forms ahead. They were pitifully weak, little more than flickering candles in the darkness, waiting to be swallowed up. All but one. The being in the final cell radiated energy. It was untamed, raw, but it was powerful. He hadn’t sensed a power like this since…

    ‘How long has he been kept here?’

    ‘Three days my lord. He has shown surprising resilience to the sleep deprivation and starvation. He will be a fine specimen I am sure.’

    Vader turned to look at the Acolyte. ‘Open the cell.’

    The Acolyte hesitated. ‘My lord, the Overseer’s methods are very clear…’

    ‘Open the cell.’

    Bowing, the Acolyte pressed a series of buttons and the door to the cell slid back. A foul stench emerged, a mixture of sweat, faeces, urine and fear. The Acolyte covered his face. Vader stared down at the figure huddled in the middle of the cell. He wore only a pair of stained underwear and his body showed evidence of the brutal beatings that formed part of an initiates processing. The temperature in the cell was freezing, and the boy was shivering uncontrollably.

    ‘Look at me boy.’

    The child looked up. A pair of bloodshot eyes glared up at him from beneath a tangle of blond hair. The boy’s teeth chattered. His fingernails were chipped and broken from scratching at the walls.

    ‘What is your name?’

    The eleven-year-old shifted slightly, dropping his gaze from the dark lord’s mask. Vader felt his breath catch in the back of his throat as he waited for the answer. He wished he could remove his helmet and search the boy’s face with his own eyes instead of the ocular enhanced unit in his helmet. The boy lifted his head and Vader was surprised to see a hint of defiance in his eyes. When he spoke through cracked lips his voice was husky and grating yet there was strength in it.

    ‘My name is Luke Skywalker.’
     
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  2. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Great beginning. The only thing I didn't understand is why is Obi-Wan (apparently) dead and then there's a scroll-style intro that does not indicate that. Were the first two sections supposed to go the other way round or [hl=black] did he somehow fake his own death, by some sort of a Force power yet unheard of[/hl]?

    The part with Luke sweating to the point of reeking almost smelled bad, which is - well - good. My first questions upon having reading this prologue are who this Acolyte may be and if Vader knows Luke is his son...given what would usually happen to young Force-sensitives during the reign of the Empire.

    Definitely following this!
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating =D= I am so chuffed to get an SW/OT style fic. [face_dancing] Excellent and riveting start.
     
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  4. Falcon

    Falcon Chosen One star 10

    Registered:
    Feb 7, 2002
    Acolyte is a dead man for hurting Anakin's son

    more soon
     
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  5. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Thanks for the feedback guys! I've sorted out the scroll so that they hopefully make a bit more sense Ewok Poet The part in italics is a flash-forward to later on in the story.




    Chapter 2

    The cell door opened and cold air spilled over Luke’s back. He drew up his legs, huddling beneath the blanket as though it would make any difference. The stone wall filled his vision, pockmarked with age, a lunar landscape to his young eyes. He wanted to lose himself there, to get lost in those gorges and craters.

    ‘Good morning Luke.’

    Luke never heard the Acolyte enter. He would simply appear, sitting on the only chair, hands resting on his knees. His face, as always, was hidden beneath the cowl of his robe.

    ‘Did you sleep well?’

    The calm voice, serene in its indifference, invoked a shudder from the boy.

    Luke squeezed his eyes shut. ‘No.’

    ‘Pity. Turn around Luke. It’s rude not to look at someone when they are talking to you.’

    Luke stayed where he was. The Acolyte sighed. The door opened and Kolnaas stepped in. Durateel toe-capped boots boomed on the permacrete floor. Hands the size of dinner plates seized Luke’s shoulders and hauled him into a sitting position. He kept his eyes on the floor, unwilling to meet the Acolyte’s tranquil ferocity.

    ‘I can see this is going to be one of our more challenging sessions. It’s disappointing that you still require assistance to cooperate.’ The Acolyte’s foot twitched. Luke flinched. ‘You must understand all of this is for your own good.’

    There was a strange buzzing in the back of Luke’s mind, as though his head was locked in a slowly tightening vice. ‘My own good?’

    ‘Yes. You’re special in ways you don’t understand yet. We will help you to understand yourself.’

    ‘I don’t want to understand. I want to go home.’

    The Acolyte shook his head. ‘This is your home now.’

    Luke raised his eyes and stared into the shadow of the Acolyte’s cowl. ‘This isn’t my home.’

    ‘But you’re safe here. Your gifts make it dangerous for you to be anywhere else. This is the best place for you. This is your home now.’

    Luke dropped his gaze to the floor. So far his sessions with the Acolyte had followed the same pattern and he knew what was coming next.

    ‘Tell me where your home is Luke.’

    Cold air filled Luke’s lungs as he drew in breath. ‘Tatooine. My aunt and uncle’s farm outside Anchorhead.’

    ‘No. This is your home now. Try again.’

    ‘I’ve told you a hundred times.’

    ‘Two hundred and seventeen to be precise. Try again.’

    ‘My home is on Tatooine.’ The buzzing at the back of Luke’s head was growing stronger

    ‘No. This is your home now.’

    ‘It is not.’

    ‘Kolnaas.’

    Pain shot up Luke’s arm. He doubled up, fighting the tears which sprang into his eyes. Kolnaas raised his baton again, this time catching him in the back of the leg, just above the knee. He collapsed to the floor and curled up into a ball. Kolnaas picked him up and shoved him against the bed, digging the baton into his throat to keep his head up. His leg felt numb.

    The Acolyte brushed a speck of dust off the sleeve of his tunic. ‘I don’t enjoy this you know. These sessions are meant to benefit you.’

    Luke spat at him. Kolnaas raised his baton but the Acolyte held up a hand. The outstretched fingers curled into a claw and Luke felt an unseen pressure wrap around his throat. He was dragged into the air by some unseen grip and held there, his legs kicking feebly a foot above the floor. Coloured lights danced in front of his eyes.

    The Acolyte relaxed his hand and his mental hold over Luke vanished. He collapsed to the floor, air rushing back into his starved lungs, tears leaping into his eyes. He slumped to one side, slugging oxygen back into his body.

    ‘Now.’ The Acolyte’s mouth, the only feature visible beneath his hood, stretched into a grotesque facsimile of a smile. ‘Let’s try again.’

    ‘This… is my… home.’

    ‘Well done, although I can see we still have a lot of work to do.’

    The Acolyte got to his feet and gestured to Kolnaas. ‘You can move him back to the dorms for now. We’ll have another session in a few days’ time.’

    Luke lay on the floor, his body shaking. A boot hooked under his body and rolled him onto his back. Kolnaas loomed over him, his head so far off the ground it looked out of proportion with the rest of his body. His smile betrayed genuine pleasure.

    Luke closed his eyes as the baton twitched into the air.
     
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  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow! :eek: [face_nail_biting] Sadistic inquisitors! With Vader's approval? I have a feeling it won't be for long. Vader'll have other plans. [face_thinking]
     
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  7. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    So, these two are going to, if this sentence even makes sense, torture him into becoming a Sith? And they sneak in to mess with his mind...? EEEK.
     
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  8. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Chapter 3

    Luke sat on a bench at the edge of the dining hall. The bruises on his arms and legs were already budding, merging with old ones to form a mottled brown and purple pattern all over his body. A slim Noghri boy wearing identical blue shirt and shorts to his slid onto the bench opposite him. The boy had a nightmarish face in the dim light. His eyes were like small black beetles nestled in a grey-skinned face. Needle-like teeth protruded from his lower jaw. Despite his appearance, Kurukh was the first friend that Luke had made since arriving at the academy a month before.

    ‘How long was I away?’

    Kurukh shrugged, already digging into his meal. ‘Two daysss I think.’

    ‘It felt like longer.’

    ‘Alwaysss doesss.’

    ‘I’ve got a bruise on my back the size of a dinner plate.’

    ‘Kolnaassss?’

    Luke nodded. Of the thirty or so children in the room, Kurukh was closest to his age, just shy of his eleventh birthday.

    ‘They are trying to break usss,’ hissed the Noghri in his rattling voice.

    ‘What do you think happens when they do?’

    ‘I do not know and I do not want to,’ said Kurukh. He looked at the few morsels left on Luke’s plate. ‘Are you going to eat that?’

    With a resigned sigh, Luke pushed his plate over and rubbed a hand through his matted hair, staring around the benches while Kurukh attacked his leftovers. He didn’t like the food here. It had a high glucose content to help the initiates cope with the rigorous training and it was far too sweet for Luke’s taste. He knew he needed to eat but he couldn’t stomach any food. Between the beatings, the sleepless nights and the starvation he was barely a shadow of the boy from Tatooine with the freckles and sun-bleached hair that he had been before the Imperials took him. He shuddered, shutting out the rush of memories that accompanied those thoughts.

    Kurukh was the only thing that had kept him going through it all. The two boys had adjacent bunks in their dorm and they protected each other. The Overseer actively encouraged bullying and a lot of the other initiates picked on Kurukh thinking that he would be an easy target, but the Noghri was incredibly fast and strong for his size and between him and Luke they were mostly okay. It was good to have someone at his side to help him cope with the abuse heaped on them by the students who had been here longer.

    Luke looked up at the flat grey ceiling and the small black dots that were the Overseer’s eyes and ears inside the academy. Privacy didn’t exist here, not even in the toilets or cleansing facilities. Every move they made was watched by Kolnaas and the other wardens. Infractions were swiftly and brutally dealt with. He rubbed his eyes. The glare of the artificial glo-rods stung his eyes in a way the twin suns of Tatooine never had. There were no windows in the walls and Luke had no recollection of arriving at the facility. He suspected they were underground but that was just a guess really. He longed to feel the sun on his skin or a gust of real wind instead of the tasteless filtered air which permeated the facilities halls. He would even by happy to feel the hot sand of the Dune Sea beneath his bare feet, despite the amount of times he had complained to Uncle Owen about how sand got everywhere.

    A siren sounded, signalling the end of lunch and the start of lessons. Luke eased himself to his feet, wincing at the stiffness in his legs and headed towards the door. Kurukh ran a grey tongue over the last few crumbs on his plate and shambled after him. The lessons in the academy were like nothing Luke had ever experienced on Tatooine. There everything had been geared towards survival. Repairing speeder and vaporator parts and reading the tracks of Tusken Raiders. Here the lessons were still focussed around surviving but in a very different way.

    Luke followed a group of other kids into a training room. He looked around at the faces. Like him they had been brought to the academy recently. When Luke had been introduced to the group a month ago there had been sixteen children. Now there were only ten. The initiates who suffered serious injuries or who were judged to be too weak to continue their training by the instructors had been taken away and not heard from again.

    The chief instructor was waiting for them in the training room. He was a Duros, and his glowing red eyes glared down at the group of initiates. His lipless mouth twisted. He had no name, at least not one that the initiates were privileged enough to hear, so they had taken to calling him the Hat because of the absurdly wide-brimmed hat he wore at all times.

    ‘Pair up,’ said the Hat in his gravelly drawl. The initiates scrambled to find a partner. Unlike the games Luke had played as a child, the weakest members of the group were always picked first. They gave you a better chance of winning whatever grim task the Hat had dreamed up for them today. Kurukh was lucky, pairing off with a short boy who, at eight years old, was the youngest in the group. He grinned at the younger boy and flexed his long grey fingers, his claws glittering. Luke gazed around, his heart sinking as he realised that the only partner left was the only person in the room that nobody wanted to be paired with. Mara Jade stepped towards him and flashed a demure smile, flicking her red gold hair over her shoulder.

    ‘Hey Farm Boy,’ she said in a mocking voice.

    Luke glared at her and tried to look intimidating but it was a futile effort. Growing up in the harsh wastes of Tatooine helping his uncle around the farm had hardened him into someone obviously better not messed with, but even though he had two years on Mara and was significantly bigger and heavier he couldn’t keep up with her one-on-one.

    ‘Alright boys and girls,’ said the Hat, looking around at the handful of children. ‘Today we’re gonna work some more on hand-to-hand combat. You all know the rules don’t you?’

    ‘Yes sir,’ they chanted.

    ‘And what are the rules?’

    ‘There are no rules.’

    ‘That’s right. No such thing as a fair fight.’

    Kurukh and the younger boy named Matthyu stepped into the middle of the room. Matthyu dropped into a fighting stance, bouncing on the balls of his feet, his little fists raised. Kurukh rolled his shoulders and let his arms hang loose, swaying slightly on the spot. It was all over in just a few seconds. Matthyu lunged for the short Noghri but he was wound up tight like a spring, his body rigid with tense energy. Kurukh dodged and slammed his palm into the boy’s solar plexus, smashing all the wind from his body. The boy collapsed to the floor and Kurukh leaned over him like a bird of prey.

    The Hat grunted with approval. ‘Finish him.’

    Noghri are not known for their mercy. From the age they can walk they are taught to be warriors and Kurukh showed no mercy now. He whipped a hand down and punched Matthyu in the side of the head. The boy’s head snapped back and he slumped to the floor, instantly unconscious.

    Stepping into the circle, the Hat planted a boot on the insensible boy and turned him over. ‘Remember this boys and girls: you only get one chance in a fight. One mistake is all it takes. Now, pick up this ho-tah and get on with the exercise.’

    The remainder of the lesson continued in the same vein: the initiates taking turns beating the pulp out of each other, with occasional interjections from the Hat giving them useful pointers. He encouraged them to be ruthless at all times. Mara Jade had no trouble with that instruction.

    Luke lay on his back looking up at the ceiling, the imprint of Mara’s foot burning on his chest. He coughed, gasping for air as he rolled over and got unsteadily to his feet. A sharp kick in his stomach sent him sprawling again. Mara stood over him and hooked a strand of hair out of her eyes, a triumphant smile on her face.

    ‘Sorry Farm Boy. Did that hurt?’

    Crimson anger flashed through Luke. He leapt to his feet, aiming a clumsy punch at her. The sudden attack caught her off balance and his knuckles glanced off her cheekbone. Mara swore and twisted around behind her, sweeping his feet out from beneath him and sending him crashing to the floor once more. She raised her fist again but the Hat’s voice cut through the air.

    ‘That’s enough.’ His face wore a faint hint of amusement. ‘Lessons are done for today. Go back to your dorms.’

    The initiates stumbled out of the chamber nursing their bruises. They kept their eyes on the ground, not looking at each other until they reached the dorms. As far as the academy instructors were concerned the initiates were simply numbers, regardless of creed, religion, gender or species, so there was no separation between the sexes when it came to living quarters. This was another alien concept to Luke. On Tatooine boys and girls were kept separate most of the time, the boys learning how to fix broken engines and maintain equipment while the women focussed more on the domestic side of life. During his first few days of incarceration he had explored the facility and discovered that only a single twenty-bunk dorm was in use, although several other empty dorms suggested they would be joined by more initiates at some point. The facility was large enough to house at least a hundred people, Luke guessed.

    He collapsed into his narrow bunk, groaning at the pain in his shoulder blades. He felt a hand on his arm.

    ‘Where does it hurt?’ asked Kurukh.

    ‘All over.’ Luke shot a dark look at Mara, sitting on a bunk on the opposite side of the room. Kurukh turned him around and started pummelling the muscles in his back and shoulders, using a Noghri technique to massage away some of the pain. When he was done, Luke did the same for him. They knew they needed to keep themselves in good shape of they were to stand any chance of surviving. A pulled muscle or sprained wrist was enough to put an initiate out of a fight, and an initiate who couldn’t fight would simply disappear.

    Kurukh squatted down on the edge of his bunk and picked at his teeth with the tip of a glittering claw. Luke sensed he was anxious about something.

    ‘What is it?’

    Kurukh jerked his head towards the bunk where Matthyu was lying. The small boy was holding his head and moaning softly into his pillow. ‘I ssshould not have been ssso hard on him.’

    Luke followed his gaze. ‘You didn’t have any choice. You know what the Hat’s like if he thinks you’re holding back.’

    Kurukh nodded sadly. ‘I wisssh we knew why we are here.’

    Luke rubbed his eyes. The inside of his head felt like it had been doused with the liquid coolant for a moisture vaporator, making his thinking fuzzy and confused. The long days were beginning to take a toll on all of them. He had heard some of the other kids talking about their families. Many believed that someone would be coming to rescue them soon and take them home. Luke knew there was nobody coming for him. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru… he shook his head, trying to shake free of the memory.

    ‘Who cares why we’re here?’ Mara’s voice cut across the room. ‘All that matters is that one of us wins.’

    ‘We should be helping each other more,’ said Luke. ‘That’s the only way any of us are gonna survive this.’

    Mara snorted. ‘Speak for yourself Farm Boy. I’m taking care of just one person: me.’

    The anger rose in Luke again but this time he fought it down. There was nothing to be gained by getting into another confrontation with Mara. It was what she wanted. She believed, not unreasonably, that the instructors were whittling them down slowly until there was only one initiate left, although for what purpose even she didn’t pretend to know. All she did know was that when it was all over she would be the one who came out on top, and she was willing to go to any lengths to ensure she did.

    ‘You hear me Farm Boy?’

    ‘I heard you,’ Luke spat. ‘But you’re wrong. The only way any of us are gonna survive is if we stop trying to fight each other.’

    ‘That’s a nice theory. Let me know how it works out for you,’ said Mara, rolling over in bed and pulling a thin blanket over her shoulders.

    For a moment Luke stared at her, clenching an unclenching his fists. His side was still burning from when she’d kicked him earlier, and he wanted to go over there and give her a taste of her own medicine. He controlled his anger. There would be plenty of opportunities to get his own back, but for now what he needed was rest. He turned away and met Kurukh’s eyes.

    ‘Do you really believe that?’ he said.

    ‘I don’t know.’ Luke leaned in closer and lowered his voice. ‘No matter what some of the others say there isn’t anybody coming to save us. We’re on our own. We stand a much better chance of survival if we stick together. Just because they want to play games with us doesn’t mean we have to play by their rules.’

    ‘What ssshould we do?’

    Luke shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I’m too tired to think. We just need to start helping each other a bit more.’

    Kurukh’s black eyes flickered. Uncoiling from his crouch he got off the bed and crossed to the bunk where Matthyu was now silently sobbing. The small boy gathered himself into a protective ball as the Noghri approached. Kurukh held his hands out palm upwards in the universal gesture of peace. Luke came up behind him and stared down at the tear-stained face of the boy.

    ‘We won’t hurt you,’ he said.

    Matthyu looked warily up at the pair of them for a moment before uncurling and sitting up. Moving around behind him, Kurukh began to knead the boy’s shoulders using his Noghri healing technique. Luke looked around at the frightened, expectant faces around him and took a deep breath.

    ‘We need to start taking care of each other,’ he said. ‘I know the Hat is going to make us fight and there’s nothing we can do about that, but when we’re in here we have to try and, um… collaborate.’

    Collaborate was a big word, and Luke wasn’t actually sure he was using it in the right context, but the meaning behind his words seemed to reach the other initiates. They crowded in, albeit a little reluctantly, wearing cautious expressions on their faces, wary of some trap. It would take time to gain their trust, but Luke knew this was a start. He noticed that a couple of students, including Mara, stayed on their bunks. If they wanted to go it alone that was fine with him.

    ‘What do they want from us?’ asked Matthyu.

    Luke shrugged. ‘I don’t know, but we’ve all had sessions with the Acolyte. He’s trying to make us think this is our home now. Maybe if we start to think of this place as home we’ll start to forget.’

    ‘Forget what?’

    ‘Ourssselvesss,’ hissed Kurukh.

    Matthyu glanced up at Luke. ‘My Poppa is a soldier. He’ll come and get us out. We just need to hold on for a bit.’

    Luke forced a smile. He didn’t believe anybody was coming for them, but he sensed that right now hope of rescue was the only thing keeping some of the younger initiates going. The group broke into excited chattering and for the first time Luke felt like he was in a group of living kids again, and not only their hollow-eyed ghosts. He didn’t know if they were doing the right thing, but it felt good to be fighting back for once.
     
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  9. darth_treyvah

    darth_treyvah Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 26, 2005
    The Hat seems to be one Cad Bane, I presume? If so, it's interesting that they are getting training that is non-Force sensitive as well. Palpatine really does want the best. Will they be circumventing the whole Inquisitor or Dark Acolyte phase and going right into Sith training: those that survive anyway. And, wow, Mara better watch herself: because if Luke falls to his rage in the Force, she will be pulp against the wall ... even if she manages to hold out longer than the others.

    But I like how the children here haven't completely become corrupted yet, but I detect that eventually friends are going to be turned against each other to eliminate attachment. You have captured at least the preliminary of a Sith training centre and I hope that Obi-Wan can find Luke in time: before it's too late. An excellent story so far. I definitely want to see more.
     
  10. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Haha, yes and he'd getting triple his usual rate of course! I remember a scene with Anakin and Mara during the NJO when she talks about using the force as a crutch and how her training involved so much more than force awareness. I think it's Luke that needs to watch out. What Mara lacks in raw power she makes up for with tenacity. As for Obi-Wan, don't worry. He's coming, and he is not happy with Vader :ben::bluesaber:
     
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  11. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    There's something deliciously dystopian in this. The whole sinister concept of turning the prospects into shadows of themselves, apparently not allowing them to wash up, keeping them barely fed...it is so obvious that the Emperor and his pawns have envisioned an eventual bloodbath here and that the one who wins will be kept as an assassin, Inquisitor/Inquisitrix, acolyte or perhaps even the next Sith lord. At this point, I wonder if the facility is more or less empty because the previous generation of inmates slaughtered each other to death until one or two remained. [face_thinking]

    I welcome the idea of Luke being best friends with a Noghri. Kurukh is a very intelligent character and, unlike Mara at this point, he seems to be acting sociopathic tendencies rather than truly, truly exposing them. Of course, in this type of a story, it might turn the other way round at some point, but that's what it looks like now.

    I can see this as a dark and twisted take on the donkey island in Pinocchio, too. Hope that makes sense?
     
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  12. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Chapter 4

    Former Jedi Master Ben Kenobi stood beneath the arch of a pedestrian walkway and stared at the cascade of water sheeting down outside. After spending over a decade in the arid Jundland Wastes of Tatooine the wind and rain-swept climate of Corellia could not be more different. For the first time in ten years he didn’t have abrasive the taste of sand in the back of his throat. Water trickled on either side of the walkway into overflowing gutters, and his desert boots were already soaked. Peering through the curtain of water he could see the lines of airborne speeders flying past. The jolt of leaving the quiet backwater planet where he had spent his self-imposed exile for a world teeming with life had been even more profound than the change in weather. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the oppressive bellow of the millions of minds crammed into Coronet City.

    Wrapping his threadbare robe around himself he paced the length of the archway. Overhead he heard the tramping of feet in the surface walkway and the hum of a tram whizzing past. His contact was late.

    There had been only one man in the galaxy he knew who could help him. As soon as he’d secured transport off Tatooine following Luke’s abduction he had sent an encrypted message to Senator Bail Organa asking for help. Only two people had known about his exile and since Ben had no idea where Master Yoda was, or even if he was still alive, the Alderaanian senator was the only person he could turn to. The coded transmission he had received in return had instructed him to come to Coronet to meet a covert agent working on behalf of the resistance.

    A squad of stormtroopers marched past the archway. Ben drew into the shadows, twitching the hood of his robe a little further over his face. He had seen traces of the Empire’s influence everywhere in Coronet, from the lines of soldiers patrolling the city to the huge propaganda boards encouraging citizens to support their local Imperial forces. He swallowed the sour taste in his mouth. If the Empire was evil, it was an evil of his own creation.

    Remorse twisted in his gut. He could not avoid his share of blame for what was happening to the galaxy and yet he had chosen to hide himself away on the outer rim, only to compound his failure by allowing the Imperials to get their hands on what could very well be the galaxy’s last hope. Yes, he had failed Luke just as much as he had failed Anakin.

    A movement to his left dragged his attention from the past. A shadowy figure wearing one of the hooded rain jackets common on Corellia during the wet season stepped through the wall of water. Ben squinted at him as the figure lowered his hood, revealing the twin lekku that identified him as a Twi’lek. More important however was the sense that Ben felt emanating from the man. He was strong with the Force, and was trained to use it. A tram hummed past, light from its carriages strobing down through drainage grilles in the walkway and throwing shafts of light across the man’s features, and ben felt a stab of recognition.

    ‘Master Kenobi.’

    ‘Jinx?’

    The young man smiled and nodded, and Ben had to cast his mind back to when they had last met. He had helped instruct the young Twi’lek before the start of the Clone Wars but the last time they met must have been… the memory clicked. Jinx had been one of a group of Jedi younglings abducted by Trandoshan slavers, only to be freed by Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano and returned to the Jedi Temple. He had assumed that Jinx, like the rest of the Jedi Order, had been killed in the great Jedi purge which followed the Empire’s establishment.

    ‘It’s good to see you Master Kenobi. I thought you were dead.’

    Closer now, Ben could see that the years had not been kind to the young man. His face was lined with care and a scar stretched in a long diagonal slash across the side of his head, as if he had been clipped by a blaster bolt.

    ‘I nearly was a few times. How did you survive Order 66?’

    ‘I was lucky I guess. I was away from the Temple when it was attacked. I was going to return but then I saw the message you sent out and managed to escape.’

    Ben nodded. He and Yoda had broken into the Jedi temple after the attack to warn surviving Jedi to keep away. It was good to know that their mission had helped some of the Jedi to evade the Emperor’s forces.

    ‘How long have you been with the resistance?’

    ‘Not long.’ Jinx glanced over his shoulder at the entrance to the archway. ‘When I found out you were alive I couldn’t quite believe it. As far as we know, no other members of the High Council survived, and only a handful of Jedi Masters.’

    Ben swallowed. The only other surviving member of the High Council was Yoda, but that was a secret known only to him and Senator Organa. ‘How many Jedi survived?’

    ‘Maybe a few hundred. Most of those that survived the initial attack have been hunted down by Darth Vader.’

    Darth Vader. That name sent a shiver down Ben’s spine that had nothing to do with the cold or the wet. The monster that his former apprentice had become haunted his dreams, the knowledge that he might have been able to prevent Anakin’s fall gnawed at him day and night and had done for eleven years.

    ‘It’s hard to believe he could accomplish such a feat.’

    ‘He had help. Some Jedi have fallen to the dark side and now assist him in his hunt. They call themselves Inquisitors.’ A flicker of emotion passed over Jinx’s face. ‘Those who would not turn were executed.’

    Ben shook his head. For thousands of years the Jedi had been the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, and now thanks to him that had been overturned, plunging the Republic into darkness. There was no punishment to fit the crimes committed by Vader and the Emperor. Many times he had questioned his and Yoda’s decision to choose exile over fighting back, and he had somehow managed to convince himself that they had made the right decision. But somehow that decision was more difficult to stomach when faced with the destruction of the Jedi Order.

    Jinx was staring at him in the dim light, a strange expression on his face. ‘Why did you leave?’ he asked, as if reading Ben’s thoughts.

    ‘Something happened to the Order during the Clone Wars. A darkness overtook us. We became too eager to fight, too eager to interfere. To wage war against the Emperor would have corrupted the souls of the Jedi. I thought it best to retreat and not confront the Empire openly.’

    The lekku hanging down Jinx’s back twitched. ‘You abandoned us.’

    ‘I’m sorry Jinx. I can’t explain everything right now, but my leaving did have a greater purpose.’

    ‘And now you’ve returned?’

    ‘That purpose has been threatened.’

    Jinx bunched his fists. ‘You don’t know what it was like after Order 66. The few of us that were left were always running and hiding, constantly afraid.’ He looked up into Ben’s eyes. ‘I learned that fear could keep me alive and that anger could help me survive when I felt like despairing.’

    A quiet alarm bell began to ring in the back of Ben’s mind. Jinx’s words were eerily similar to the sentiment expressed by Anakin around the time of his fall to the dark side. Trying not to make it too obvious, he eased himself into a combat stance.

    Jinx spread his arms out to the side, his eyes glistening with a pale fire. ‘They didn’t torture me when they took me. I expected them to torture me. Lord Vader was good to me. He helped me, gave me a home and a new purpose.’

    ‘To hunt down the remaining Jedi?’

    ‘The Jedi betrayed me. They snatched me away from my family when I was an infant and coerced me into becoming their willing servant. They brainwashed me into rejecting my most basic emotions and trained me to suppress my feelings. Vader showed me a new way.’

    ‘The dark side.’

    Jinx shook his head. ‘You don’t understand. The dark side puts us in touch with our emotions in a way the Jedi teachings never have. Vader taught me how to accept myself for who I am instead of clinging to the unattainable perfection the High Council preached.’

    Ben looked around, half-expecting to see a squad of stormtroopers appear through the driving rain, aiming their blasters at him. ‘So what happens now?’

    ‘You will come with me. The Lord Vader will want to speak with you. He can help you Obi-Wan. I can see that you are in pain, struggling with your emotions. We can help you to understand yourself.’

    ‘Hmm. I haven’t gone by that name for a long time. I believe I understand just fine. Thank you for the kind offer but I don’t feel like chatting to Darth Vader.’

    Ben took a step away from the Inquisitor. Jinx drew back his jacket, revealing the lightsaber hanging from his belt. Ben eyed it and then opened his robe to reveal his own lightsaber.

    ‘A word of caution young one. I fought in the Clone Wars. I killed General Grievous. I was a member of the Jedi High Council and I defeated Darth Vader in single combat. You draw your weapon at your own peril.’

    Jinx snorted and unlatched his lightsaber from the clip on his belt. ‘I’m sorry it has to be this way.’

    The two men surged forward. Ben’s lightsaber leapt into his hand and his thumb found the activation switch. The brilliant blue-white blade came to life and arced down, smashing with a screech into the red blade of his opponent. Gritting his teeth, Jinx whirled his weapon and launched a series of cuts and slashes against the former Jedi Master.

    Ben fell back from the onslaught. Despite his bravado, he had not wielded a lightsaber in combat since his climactic battle with Anakin over Mustafar and the weapon felt clumsy in his grasp. They exchanged blows for some moments, the lightsabers throwing sparks where they struck each other. Jinx forced him back toward the wall and the slippery drainage channels at the base of the arch. His blade moved back and forth, only just parrying the wild attacks. As if calling out of the past he heard Anakin’s voice calling to him, telling him what he needed to do to win.

    Attack is always the best form of defence Master.

    Gritting his teeth he chopped his lightsaber down again and again, battering at Jinx’s defence. The unexpected shift in tactics caught the Inquisitor off balance and Ben drove him back. Calling the force to himself he thrust his hand out, sending a wave of energy towards Jinx and throwing him back.

    The Inquisitor rolled to his feet and wiped mud out of his eyes. Ben stood with his lightsaber held across his body, ready to either attack or defend. It hissed and spat as droplets of water fell on the blade.

    ‘It doesn’t have to be like this,’ said Ben. ‘Don’t let the Emperor or Vader control you.’

    Jinx snorted and raised his lightsaber high. ‘So I can go back to letting the Jedi control me huh? I’ll never go back to that.’

    ‘So be it,’ said Ben with a sigh.

    Jinx ran at him. Ducking beneath the fizzing red blade, Ben spun around and neatly sliced through the backs of the Inquisitors ankles, instantly severing his hamstrings. Jinx collapsed to the ground with a scream, his lightsaber clattering off into a gutter. Ben stood over him for a moment, weapon humming, before he shut off the blade. Reaching out with the force he summoned Jinx’s lightsaber hilt to his outstretched palm, curling his fingers around the cool metal.

    ‘Goodbye Jinx,’ he said, turning on his heel.

    ‘Wait! You aren’t going to kill me?’

    Ben shook his head. ‘I think when your superiors discover your failure they will deal with you quite harshly.’

    The Twi’lek’s face crumpled. ‘Please Obi-Wan… I don’t want to die… I… take me with you. I can help you, I know things that can help you bring down the Emperor.’

    Ben’s face was hard and cold as a krayt dragon pearl. ‘When you see Vader I want you to give him a message from me. Tell him Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive. Tell him I’m coming for him.’ Spinning on his heel, Ben flicked his hood up and strode out into the downpour, ignoring the wretched screams which followed him. This time he would not make the same mistakes. This time he would destroy Vader, and the Emperor.
     
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  13. Darksnider05

    Darksnider05 Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Jan 13, 2016
    He literally just made the same mistake not killing someone of the Darkside.
     
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  14. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    I really like the descriptive passages. They set the tone and scene so well. Good to see Ben in action. After the prequels and TCW, I am always curious to see or original encounters between Obi-Wan and Anakin (Vader). The original reunion, so to speak, had a very different feel from the way Vader is portrayed in V and VI. So, I am anxious to see your take on these two in an AU. The mere fact Ben says "I'm coming for you" already shows a much more aggressive Ben. Very interesting.

    I also liked how Jinx managed to fool him into thinking he was an ally, only to discover he wasn't.

    Looking forward to the next installment.
     
  15. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Disclaimer: this is where I display some chromestesia, which I have not done in comments to your stories yet. Tell me if it's weird, please.

    Your Coronet is very much like I imagine it myself - a place that is melancolic both for its atmosphere and the events usually taking place there. In my head, it was always a dark blue/violet/greenish city. Hope that makes sense. And while I'm not sure when you wrote this chapter, the vibe I get from it is very, very similar to what I was envisioning when I was writing the prologue of my story that you R/R'd. Sure, this is civilised society, but in terms of stimuli etc...if the paintings of what we wrote were smudged, now, that would be pretty cool!

    Poor Obi-Wan, thinking he created the Empire. If there is such a thing as negative delusions, this is a pretty powerful one at it!

    Still, I am glad that he did not reveal Yoda's location to Jinx. From the very first moment he appeared, I was sure that he was related to the Acolytes from the freakish training camp! And the way he's first describing the dark side the same way those billboards are spreading Imperial propaganda is pretty unexpected. Sure, ot goes down to what a darksider really is about pretty fast, but I totally liked the idea of him initially pretending to be an ally, then trying to recruit and losing his patience only as a last resort. A great way to show that there is some light in the dark side.

    And Obi-Wan gave him the best of the punishments ever. What a coward, that young Inquisitor was, but still...the fate he's in is pretty grim. A great way to show that there is some dark in the light side, and yes, this contradicts @Darksnider05's comment, but it's how I see it.

    Excellent light/dark balance overall.
     
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  16. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Thanks for the feedback and comments guys, they are always appreciated!



    Chapter 5

    Darth Vader stood with his gloved hands clasped behind his back, staring out the viewport of the star destroyer Indomitable. He seemed oblivious to the crew around him making preparations for departure. Below the massive bulk of the star destroyer, the lights of Coruscant blazed in the darkness. From this distance the lights took on regular patterns and shapes, looking for all the world like the delicate innards of some ancient device. Even from orbit he could sense the aura of the billions of lives below and feel their presence in the Force. He let their music wash over him, searching the melee of light and sound for one soul in particular.

    Luke Skywalker.

    A movement to his left distracted him from his connection to the planet below. Cmdr. Ozzel bowed to him respectfully. ‘Lord Vader. That last of our supplies have been loaded and we are ready for departure.’

    Vader continued to stare out of the viewport, making no sign to acknowledge the officer’s report. All of his focus remained on the planet below. The man shifted uncomfortably, and Vader sensed his uneasiness.

    ‘My Lord…’

    ‘Prepare to leave orbit,’ said Vader, turning away from the viewport and looking down at the man. ‘I will be in my chambers. Alert me when we arrive at Carida and not before.’

    Without waiting for a reply he turned on his heel and strode from the bridge, his black cape flowing out behind him. The garment was a needlessly melodramatic addition to his otherwise essential life-support suit. It got in the way during combat situations and was constantly in danger of getting snagged in doors or beneath feet, but it increased his silhouette, making him appear even more intimidating to enemies and allies alike. Crew members averted their eyes as he swept by. Their subservience irked him. He had no time for these spineless underlings.

    His boots rang on the deckplates as he boarded a turbolift. He stood, clenching and unclenching the fingers of his artificial left hand. Over the years he had taken the imperfect prosthesis and armour and improved on its design to give him as much freedom of movement as possible, but still every day the suit frustrated him. His reliance on it, his dependence, fuelled the self-hatred which strengthened his connection to the dark-side.

    It seems in your anger you killed her.

    Vader jerked, unsure for a moment of the voice had been real or just in his mind. The Emperor had been known to communicate with him directly through the Force, but he felt none of the oppressive blackness that usually heralded his masters will encroaching on his mind. No it was simply a memory. The memory of a man long dead.

    He entered his quarters and crossed immediately to the viewport. He hadn’t had time to transfer his pressurised meditation pod aboard the star destroyer, meaning that he would have to remain in his armour for the duration of this mission. That was no problem. The suit was self-sufficient, but even after over a decade he still experienced bouts of claustrophobia. The suit was his cage, a constant reminder of his own weakness.

    Gazing across the darkened curve of the planet, Vader considered his mission. The Emperor had dispatched him to investigate reports of corruption in the Carida system. The Imperial Security Bureau had evidence that the planetary governor was siphoning funds from the Imperial treasury. Vader had read Col. Yularen’s report with distaste. He knew he was being sent on this assignment to get him away from Coruscant. Away from Luke Skywalker. Away from his son.

    Vader turned away from the view. He had no son. The boy down on the planet below was the son of Anakin Skywalker, DNA testing had proved that beyond doubt, but Anakin Skywalker had died on Mustafar. Darth Vader was all that remained.

    She was alive. I felt it!

    He paced the deck, mind whirling, trying to stem the flood of memory welling up within him. For years now he had lived with the knowledge that he had caused the death of his wife and unborn children. Everything good in him had died with them. Palpatine had told him they were dead but now that a son had surfaced Vader didn’t know what to think. Had the other child survived as well? If so where was she?

    Beneath his feet he felt the ship shudder as her sub-light engines came online and began to push the massive ship out of orbit, taking him away from Luke Skywalker. Perhaps the Emperor was right. Perhaps it was best for him to leave and let the Overseer deal with the boy. Raising his head, Vader looked at the viewport for one more look down at Coruscant before the Indomitable jumped to hyperspace. The shock of what he saw made him jerk backwards. For a fraction of a moment the reflection that gazed back at him from the transparasteel had not been the skull-like mask of his helmet. Anakin Skywalker stared back at him, the scar across his right eye the only blemish on his otherwise smooth skin. Vader looked quickly away, holding up a hand to the ocular enhancers in his helmet. When he looked back the vision was gone. His breath rasped through the helmet in short gasps.

    ‘What is happening to me?’

    Reaching out with the force he focussed on a bank of computer terminals nestled against one wall. The computers exploded in a shower of sparks and a screech of electronics. He clenched a fist and the durasteel panels bucked and twisted, crumpling in on themselves as though they were paper. Wisps of smoke rose from the shattered console and Vader gazed with satisfaction at the destruction. He was a Sith Lord, apprentice to the most powerful being in the galaxy. He would not allow Luke Skywalker to weaken him.

    He needed a distraction. Perhaps some time in one of the star destroyer’s training rooms practicing his lightsaber technique would be sufficient to focus his mind. He unclipped the weapon from his belt and inspected it. Heavier and larger than a standard lightsaber design, he had constructed it out of more durable materials to handle the stress of his cybernetic grip. Palpatine had one told him that the Sith had evolved beyond the need for such primitive weapons, only using them to mock the Jedi who would oppose them. Perhaps it was merely a vestige of his Jedi training, but Vader still considered the weapon to be a part of him. His old masters words floated in his mind.

    This weapon is your life.

    Like the weapon in his hand, Vader had forged himself into an extension of the Emperor’s will across the galaxy. He was the sword that smote enemies of the Empire, the hammer blow of the Sith dynasty. Yet still he felt doubt. Had Palpatine known about the children of Anakin Skywalker? Had he purposefully withheld their existence from him?

    Coruscant was now a distant ball rapidly falling astern. Glittering sparks of light swarmed around it as ships moved in and out of orbit. He tightened his grip on his lightsaber. Crossing to a viewscreen mounted in the wall he keyed for the bridge. A moment later an image of Cmdr. Ozzel appeared on the screen.

    ‘Lord Vader?’

    ‘Commander, return the ship to orbit around Coruscant and prepare my shuttle for departure.’

    ‘My Lord, our orders are to…’

    ‘I am aware of our orders commander. Now carry out my instructions or I will find someone who will.’

    ‘Yes Lord Vader.’

    Shutting off the channel he returned to the viewport. He felt the slight rumble as the ship changed course, turning ponderously around to head back towards Coruscant. Vader wanted answers, and he wasn’t going to find any on Carida. The answers he was seeking lay on the planet below.
     
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  17. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Now, that was one creepy, unexpected introspection, if I've ever seen one. This Darth Vader does not strike me as the one we saw in the Original Trilogy, and given what he had done to orchestrate all this, it's - frankly - not much of a surprise!

    There are so many options so as to why he sees a reflection of his former self, and I may be way off, but at this point, it feels more like an unpleasant hallucination, more than it would feel like a vision or a guardian angel type of a thing. The distinction he makes is the total opposite of what he does over the course of The Empire Strikes Back and...this is another reason I adore EUs.

    Let's see what happens next!
     
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  18. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Chapter 6

    ‘How are you feeling Luke?’

    ‘Sore.’ Luke’s shoulders were stiff from days of combat training. He’d pulled a muscle in his ankle and it was agony to stretch his leg out fully.

    ‘The training programme is very demanding.’

    ‘What are you training us for?’ asked Luke, not really expecting an answer. The Acolyte wasn’t given to responding to his questions, but for once he was surprised.

    ‘We are training you so that one day you might reach your full potential.’

    Luke snorted but held his tongue.

    ‘You don’t believe me?’

    ‘I think I could’ve achieved plenty before you brought me and the others here.’

    ‘Ah, you think so? You believe that you could achieve your potential slogging away day after day on your uncle’s farm, trying to eek the last drops of water out of a dead planet. You think that is your destiny?’

    ‘I was happy there.’

    Luke rubbed his arms and drew his knees up to his chest. A pattern of bruises covered him, some from the intense training regimen he and the other initiates were being subjected to and others from the fists and boots of the wardens. It had been almost a relief to be taken for a session with the Acolyte. At least he could lie and get some rest. He blinked, trying to keep his eyes open. For some reason whenever the Acolyte was close he felt a wave of fatigue wash over him, making it hard to think. He shook his head and ground the butt of his hand into his eyes.

    ‘Were you though?’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘Your aunt and uncle never cared about you Luke. All you were to them was an extra pair of hands around the farm. They never wanted you to achieve real maturity. All they cared about was how useful you were to them.’

    ‘That’s not true.’ Luke struggled to get the words out. He felt so tired.

    ‘There were so many times that they held you back. So many times they mistreated you.’

    ‘No…’

    ‘They never had time for your questions. You wanted to know more about your parents and they never told you anything, did they? They never tried to help you understand yourself.’

    Memories flashed through Luke’s mind of all the times Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had ignored his questions or told him as little information as possible about his parents. Unless Luke brought it up in conversation they would act like they had never existed. The images grew clearer whilst other memories, the happy ones, dimmed.

    ‘You know I’m telling the truth Luke. I’ve never lied to you, have I?’

    ‘No… I… I mean…’

    The Acolyte was beside him now, sitting on the bunk with his arm around Luke’s shoulder. A sense of revulsion filled Luke and he tried to pull away but all the strength drained from his body and he fell helplessly into the Acolyte’s arms.

    ‘It’s alright. I’m here to help you.’

    Blackness tickled at the edges of Luke’s vision. He felt as though he was falling into a black chasm. The room spun and he sagged against the Acolyte’s body. The last thing he heard before the darkness claimed him was the calm voice whispering in his ear.

    ‘It’s alright. You’re home now.’

    *

    With a jolt Luke woke up, sitting bolt upright in the medical cot he’d been placed in. Sweat ran down his back and his breath came in great wracking gasps as if he’d surfaced from deep under water.

    ‘Hey Farm Boy.’

    He looked around. Mara was sitting on the edge of a cot nearby, cradling a bandaged wrist. A medical droid bustled in the background, clanking around on spindly legs. Luke steadied his breathing and swung his bare feet onto the cold floor.

    ‘What happened to you?’

    ‘Your Noghri pal nearly broke my wrist,’ she said, holding up her arm. It was the first time that Luke had been alone in a room with her and she surprised him with a smile. ‘He’s damn quick, I’ll give him that.’

    ‘He sure is.’ Luke scratched at his hair. ‘How long was I away for?’

    ‘Three days.’

    Luke froze. It couldn’t possibly have been that long. He cast his mind back, trying to figure out how he’d lost so much time, but his memories blurred and scattered. His confusion must have shown on his face.

    ‘I think it’s the same for all of us. I don’t remember much of my last session,’ said Mara. She looked down at her knees, avoiding his eyes. ‘Do you have the bad dreams too?’

    Slowly Luke nodded his head. He didn’t like looking weak in front of Mara but for once she seemed to have let her guard down. At least she wasn’t trying to kick his head in for once and that was something.

    ‘About your home?’

    A fragment of his nightmare surfaced in Luke’s mind. Uncle Owen’s voice crackled in his ears like burning paper, his words harsh and discordant. He shook the memory away and took a couple of deep, steadying breaths. ‘I don’t want to think about it.’

    ‘Exactly.’ Mara jumped off the side of her bed and padded over to squat at the end of his cot, her eyes shining. ‘They don’t want us thinking about home. They keep us so busy during the day all we can do is fall into our beds at night and the only time we do think about our homes we only think about the bad things, the things we don’t want to remember. It has something to do with our sessions. The Acolyte… he does something to us.’

    ‘Like what?’

    She shrugged. ‘Hey, how should I know? You’re the one who says we should be working together.’

    Luke felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. ‘So are you gonna start helping us then?’

    Mara rolled her eyes. ‘I’ll still kick your ass in combat training, but I reckon the only way we get through this is by sticking together.’
     
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  19. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    For some reason, this reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Burns adopts Bart. Of course, it works in a different way here, but the overall idea is the same. The last thing I would have expected of Mara is to serve as Luke's reality check. A brilliant twist.

    I also love it how you juggle styles in different stories - this one is more simplistic, more raw, yet it works perfectly!
     
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  20. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Haha yes I think Luke has definitely been adopted a bit here. It's interesting how each character seems to have their own style of writing associated with them, and Luke's is by far the most raw and uncomfortable for me to write because of everything he is going through. I'm afraid things won't be looking up for him any time soon!
     
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  21. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Chapter 6

    The spacious corridors of the Royal Palace, with their wide windows overlooking the spires and turrets of Aldera City always filled Bail Organa with a sense of renewed peace that he had never experienced anywhere else. The evening sun reflected down onto the lake, filling the corridor with a pinkish glow tinged with gold. Yet despite the beauty of his home planet, Bail felt overwhelmingly exhausted. Outwardly he gave no sign of it, but he was looking forward to the quiet peace of his study after a day spent negotiating between a triad of squabbling delegates over a trade agreement. He wanted nothing more than to spend a quiet evening with Breha, but she was a continent away hosting a festival, although for the life of him Bail couldn’t recall the details of her trip.

    At his belt his comlink peeped. ‘Senator Organa, I have an incoming communique from Senator Bel Iblis for you.’

    Bail sighed. ‘Very well, I’ll take it in my study.’

    He keyed off the comlink and, with a mental effort, smoothed the frown that had begun to gather on his forehead. He was growing just a little tired of Bel Iblis’s constant calls. It wasn’t enough for the Corellian to constantly waylay him in the senate; he also had to disturb him when he was in the midst of official Alderaanian business. Bail knew full well that Bel Iblis wanted to take a more active role in confronting the Empire, and that he was being frustrated by Bail’s apparent lack of enthusiasm. The Corellian senator simply failed to grasp Bail’s staunch belief in a diplomatic solution. There were other, very good reasons, why Bail didn’t want to be under the Empire’s scrutiny, but those reasons he kept between himself and Breha.

    Entering his study, he closed and locked the outer door and strode through to the spacious inner office. Flimsiplast sheets and datapads were piled on his desk. Normally fastidiously neat and tidy, Bail ignored the mountain of work and pressed a button on the console to rout Bel Iblis’s transmission to his own holoscreen. He was in the act of composing himself to receive the call when he froze. A movement in the shadows behind him caught his attention and his hand strayed towards the concealed blaster pistol beneath his desk.

    ‘There’s no need for that senator.’

    Bail recognised the voice and his body went instantly tense. ‘Obi-Wan.’

    A hooded figure stepped out of the shadows. ‘I haven’t gone by that name for a long time Senator.’

    Bail snatched a look around the office, but Ben held up a placating hand. ‘I located the listening device and disabled it. We can talk freely.’

    ‘You shouldn’t have come.’

    Ben lowered his hood and sank into a chair across the desk. Bail was struck by how old he looked. His thin wispy hair was grey streaked with white and his eyes looked out through cavernous shadows.

    ‘I had no choice. I needed to warn you that your contact on Corellia has been compromised.’

    ‘By sneaking into my private office? In the Royal Palace no less?’

    Ben cocked an eyebrow. ‘It was marginally more fun than sending an encrypted message. Besides, I had a very good reason for coming here in person.’

    It took a moment for this statement to register in Bail’s mind, and a second longer for him to process why Obi-Wan might have left Tatooine in the first place. ‘Luke…?’

    ‘He’s alive. At least I hope he is,’ said Ben. ‘The Empire took him.’

    ‘Do they know…?’

    ‘I don’t believe so. The Empire seems to have taken an interest in young Force-sensitives. I ran into one of their Inquisitors on Corellia.’

    Bail nodded. He had heard of the Inquisitors and the rumours about Force-attuned children disappearing to be trained in the dark side. That Luke might have fallen into the hand of the Sith shook him to his very core.

    ‘When you say ran into one of their Inquisitors…?’

    ‘I didn’t kill him if that’s what you’re getting at.’

    ‘So they know you’re back?’

    A slight smile creased the corner of Ben’s mouth. ‘I made sure of it.’

    Bail lowered himself into his chair, a dozen or more unpleasant scenarios playing in his mind. ‘Is Leia safe?’

    ‘You tell me. It was your agent that was compromised.’

    ‘The Empire has been keeping a close watch on me since the very beginning. Every senator who signed their name on the Petition of Two Thousand has been under scrutiny. Many of the other signatories have been arrested.’

    ‘But not you?’ Ben’s face was clouded.

    ‘I am a stanch supporter of the Senate,’ said Bail, allowing a little ire to creep into his tone. ‘If that means pledging myself to Palpatine and the Empire then that’s what I’m prepared to do. That doesn’t mean I’m on their side.’

    ‘I’ve had a long time to mull things over Senator. I eventually came to the conclusion that the Republic wasn’t worth saving. It might have been Palpatine who finally put an end to it, but democracy betrayed us long before he was around.’

    Bail stared at the man, wondering if he knew what he was saying. Was this the same Jedi who had fought so fiercely to protect the Republic during the Clone Wars? The Master who had been prepared to kill his own best friend to prevent the rise of the Sith? What had the years of isolation done to the noble man that he remembered?

    As if reading his thoughts, Ben smiled a sad smile. ‘It wasn’t only Vader and Sidious, the galaxy itself turned against us.’

    ‘That’s not true.’

    ‘No? Do you really think Palpatine could have destroyed us without at least the taciturn approval of the rest of the galaxy? For a thousand generations we stood for peace and justice, and in return the galaxy stood by and watched as we were exterminated.’

    ‘You can rebuild,’ said Bail, trying to snap Ben out of his melancholia.

    ‘I thought so too until Luke was taken from me,’ said Ben, his shoulders sagging. ‘I realised that I had wasted my time trying to protect him when I could have been helping save lives. I’m the last remaining member of the Jedi High Council and I abandoned the survivors.’

    Bail’s sharp intake of breath was masked by the sound of a door banging open. A young girl ran into the room. She wore a long white dress which was noticeably muddy around the hem and her hair, which must have been a vision of perfection at the start of the day, was all stray frizz and excitement. She raced towards Bail but stopped short when she saw the stranger sitting at the desk.

    ‘I’m sorry to interrupt.’

    ‘It’s alright Leia. This is an old friend of mine.’

    ‘Ben.’ He extended a hand for the girl to shake. Leia took his hand and curtsied, all style and properness in an instant. Clearly growing up as the adoptive daughter of Alderaan’s queen had served her well.

    ‘What can we do for you?’ asked Bail.

    ‘Oh, I wanted you to come and see the sunset. It’s beautiful, and you’ve been stuck indoors all day.’

    Bail laughed. ‘I have indeed. We’ll go out to the balcony. Ben, will you come?’

    Getting slowly to his feet, Ben nodded and followed the pair towards an expansive plasteel window and a sliding door which led to a balcony overlooking the lake. A cool breeze ruffled his air and he filled his lungs with the fresh mountain air of Alderaan. The scene before him could have come straight from a master painter. The dying rays of the sun turned the clouds into a myriad of colours which in turn set the lake ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows.

    With a rush that almost knocked the wind from him, Ben was hit with a vision of a fiery lake, spitting plumes of lava into the air. He staggered and thrust out a hand to the parapet to steady himself as the screaming in his mind started.

    I hate you!

    Bail was at his side, his face full of concern. ‘Are you alright?’

    ‘I’m fine,’ Ben assured him. He smiled at Leia to show here he was okay. ‘It really is a beautiful sunset. It was worth coming outside.’

    She flashed a grin at him that was eerily reminiscent of the one Luke used to wear. He could feel her strength in the force, just as he had sensed it in Luke, although he sensed she was less impulsive and reckless than her brother, no doubt a result of her royal upbringing.

    ‘Leia, why don’t you go and get changed for dinner? You can’t sit down at the table with mud on your dress,’ said Bail. He leant over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. ‘I’ll be down as soon as I can.’

    ‘You always say that,’ she said with a sarcastic roll of her eyes. She scampered off, waving a cheerful goodbye to the two men as she disappeared inside.

    ‘She seems very happy,’ said Ben, moving to stand beside the senator, although he kept his eyes away from the lake.

    ‘We have been blessed to have her,’ responded Bail. ‘She has brought so much joy to Breha and me, and to the whole palace.’ He glanced sideways at Ben. ‘What did you see?’

    ‘Mustafar.’

    ‘Can I ask you something? Why didn’t you kill Vader ten years ago?’

    Ben stared out across the white-capped mountain peaks, his eyes narrowed against the glare of the setting sun. ‘I thought I had. I felt him die. I left him burning on a shore of ash and dust and I felt him slip away.’

    He turned to look at Bail. ‘Anakin died that day. When he crawled out of that lake of fire Vader was all that was left. My actions that day have tormented me. If I hadn’t turned my back on him, if I had reached out one last time and tried to save him perhaps all of this could have been averted. But instead I abandoned him to the dark side.’

    ‘You did what you had to do.’

    Ben turned away from the sunset so that his face fell into shadow. ‘I know that if events had been reversed, if I had fallen under Palpatine’s sway, he would never have left me behind. He would have saved me or died trying. I failed him.’

    Bail placed a hand on the old Jedi’s shoulder. ‘He’s going to be coming for you.’

    Ben’s eyes hardened, taking on a crystalline glint. ‘This time I won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. This time I’m going to kill him.’

    ‘You can’t defeat Vader and the Emperor alone. You’ll need help.’ Bail frowned. ‘There’s someone I think you should meet.’

    ‘Who?’

    ‘An old acquaintance.’
     
    Chyntuck, Kahara, AzureAngel2 and 2 others like this.
  22. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Hi guys, sorry I have not posted in a while, there is plenty more to come and things are just starting to get heated up! Enjoy!


    Chapter 7

    ‘Another unexpected pleasure Lord Vader.’

    Vader stared down into the Acolytes wasted face. The dark side had hollowed the man from the inside out, leaving behind only a fragile shell, a mere receptacle for the Emperor’s will. The man was a worm that Vader could easily crush. He stood with his arms across his chest, cloak drawn back to reveal the lightsaber hanging at his belt.

    ‘It’s so unlike you to take such an interest in one of our pupils.’

    ‘I have my reasons.’

    The Acolyte bobbed his head, knowing better than to probe further. Vader had a low regard for the Inquisitors. They were merely puppets enforcing the Emperor’s will, trained in the force but they could never achieve real power. They lacked the raw ambition required of a true Sith, their conditioning saw to that. Blind fools.

    ‘I wish to speak with the boy. Alone.’

    The Acolyte steepled his fingers in front of him and gazed up at Vader. ‘I’m afraid that will not be possible, my lord. The boy is in the midst of the first stage of psychological reprogramming. To interrupt his development at this stage could be disastrous.’

    ‘You would disobey my command?’

    ‘The Emperor has tasked me with shaping the minds of his new order of disciples,’ said the Acolyte with a wry smile. ‘I obey his will in all things.’

    Vader extended a gloved hand. The Acolyte gasped, clawing at his throat as, in his mind’s eye, Vader exerted pressure on his trachea. ‘I’m sure you are familiar with this technique. It took me many years to perfect. It requires great subtlety and skill with the Force. Too little pressure and the effect is worthless, too much and I might accidently crush your neck.’

    Vader’s fingers twitched and the Acolyte sagged, his face growing red as he struggled to breathe. Lowering his arm, he released his grip and the man dropped to the floor, sucking in great gulps of air and rubbing his neck.

    ‘Do not presume to dictate the Emperor’s will to me. Now, take me to the boy.’

    ‘Y-yes, my lord.’

    Vader followed the Acolyte out of his chamber. Nothing would have pleased him more than to snap the man’s neck, but there were lines even he was not permitted to cross. The training of new Inquisitors involved putting them through extreme physical and mental conditioning, but more importantly than that, it involved influencing them through the Force, bending them to the will of the Emperor. The Acolyte’s skill in this regard was unmatched. It was his task to mould the minds of the children, to twist them until they broke and became nothing more than vessels for the Emperor to use as he saw fit. If Vader wanted answers, he had to get them before the Emperor’s hold over his mind became too strong.

    Luke was waiting for him in a small room separated from the main facility. He looked up in surprise as Vader stepped inside. The boy had lost weight since the mast time he had seen him, and his skin was mottled with bruises from the beatings.

    ‘Leave us,’ he commanded. The Acolyte bowed and left, probably going to report to the Overseer. Vader didn’t care. All that mattered to him was the crouching figure on the cot.

    ‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ he said.

    Luke glared up at him, a suspicious frown on his face. When Vader took a step forward he flinched and backed up to the wall. Too late, he realised that he should have brought something to use as a gesture of trust. Some food, or perhaps something to ease the pain of the boy’s injuries. He sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy. Stepping forwards he sat on the edge of the narrow cot. Luke inched away, keeping close to the wall and as far away as possible.

    ‘Do not fear me Luke,’ he said, realising with a jolt that it was the first time he had spoken his son’s name aloud. ‘I only want to talk.’

    ‘Is he listening?’ Luke’s eyes glanced up at the surveillance cam in the corner of the ceiling.

    Vader focussed on the small device, his mind narrowing as he bent the Force to his will. The camera shattered, showering sparks and a thin wisp of smoke curled from the broken device.

    ‘Not anymore.’

    ‘Did you do that?’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘How?’

    ‘I used the Force.’

    ‘What’s that?’

    ‘An energy field that binds the galaxy together, granting great power to those gifted few who possess the talent to wield it.’

    Luke seemed to digest that for a moment, and Vader sensed that his curiosity was beginning to override his fear. Looking at the boy now, he was startled at the resemblance to Padmé. He had the same inner strength, the same spirit that Anakin had fallen in love with. The boy was staring at him now, his eyes following the angular lines of the armoured life-support suit, absorbing every detail. Once again the urge to remove his helmet, to look at his progeny with his own eyes was overwhelming.

    ‘Why do you wear that mask?’

    Vader was taken aback by the frankness of the question. ‘I was injured in battle.’

    ‘Oh.’

    There was something Vader had to know, a question that had been burning inside him since he first heard the name Luke Skywalker. Now that he was here however, he was afraid to ask.

    ‘Do you remember your parents?’

    A flash of emotion darted across Luke’s face, and Vader felt a spike of tension ripple through the Force. ‘My father died before I was born.’

    ‘And… your mother?’

    ‘She died giving birth to me.’

    A tremor ran through Vader’s body as the hope that had blossomed inside of him with the discovery of his son withered and died. Padmé was dead. The Emperor had not lied. The old hatred snarled in his belly, tearing at his insides. After everything he had done, after everything he had sacrificed, he had not been able to save her. Luke was gazing up at him, and with a shock, Vader felt the touch of the boy’s rudimentary sense stretch out and touch his mind.

    ‘Stop!’ he said, his voice firm. He did not want the boy to see him for what he really was.

    ‘Did… you know my mother?’ asked Luke.

    For a moment Vader hesitated, teetering on the edge of a precipice from which there would be no return. ‘I knew her,’ he said at last. ‘Your mother was very special. She was strong, and brave, and she fought for those who could not help themselves.’ Vader’s words stuck in his throat. He had already said too much. He had his answers. There was no need to stay any longer. And yet he did not move.

    The door to the cell hissed open and the Acolyte stepped in, bowing respectfully to Vader. ‘My lord. The Emperor requests your presence. Immediately.’

    ‘Very well.’ Vader levered himself to his feet and looked down at the boy, who was now looking up at him in confusion. Leaning down, Vader whispered into his ear. ‘You are strong, Luke Skywalker, stronger than you yet know. In time you will come to understand your power.’

    Without warning a phrase surfaced in his mind, one he had not used since Anakin had died. He blurted it out before he could stop himself. ‘Until we meet again, may the Force be with you.’

    *​

    A pair of red-clad royal guards flanked the entrance to the Emperor’s throne room in the Imperial Palace. They stepped aside and bowed as Vader approached and the door slid silently open. The room beyond was brooding and dark, lit by concealed lights around the perimeter of the chamber. A set of shallow steps led to the dais on which the throne itself was situated. The only decoration was an ancient bas-relief depicting a battle between the Jedi and the Sith during the Great Hyperspace War, which had once adorned the wall in the Chancellor’s office before his rise to true power.

    Slowly Vader climbed the steps towards the throne, which was turned away, facing a large viewport from which the Emperor could look out over Galactic City. Over his domain. At the top of the steps he knelt to the ground, bowing his head. The Emperor spoke without turning.

    ‘I seem to recall ordering you to the Carida system Lord Vader.’

    ‘Yes, my master.’

    ‘And yet you remain on Coruscant.’

    ‘I had questions for the boy.’

    ‘For your son?’ The throne turned. The Emperor regarded Vader through yellow-flecked eyes, his wizened face emotionless.

    ‘Yes, my master.’

    ‘I sense you are troubled, Lord Vader. I trust your feelings on this subject are clear?’

    Vader steeled himself. It was always a game between him and Palpatine, as it had been between every Sith master and apprentice since Darth Bane established the rule of two. One to embody the power, the other to crave it. One day it was Vader’s destiny to overthrow the dark lord, but for now they both needed and feared each other in equal measure. In raw power he could overwhelm the Emperor, however Palpatine’s mastery and skill with the Force outmatched his own.

    ‘I wish to take the boy as my apprentice.’

    ‘Do you seek to supplant me?’ There was amusement in Palpatine’s voice. ‘Have you grown tired of me, Lord Vader?’

    ‘One day I will kill you, my master,’ said Vader, allowing a hint of hostility to creep into his voice. ‘But not yet.’

    Palpatine cackled. ‘You have grown strong Lord Vader. Yes, that is the way of the Sith, but I sense your faith has wavered of late. Your thoughts dwell on your past.’

    Vader had to use all of his abilities to keep Palpatine out of his head. It was no easy task. He could feel the dark lord probing, searching for weaknesses in the mental fortress he had built inside his mind.

    ‘The boy is powerful, master. He could be a great asset to us.’

    ‘Perhaps…’ Palpatine’s voice was like ice. ‘And if you should prove unsuccessful at turning him to the dark side?’

    ‘He shall join us or die.’

    ‘Hmm. I wonder if you truly believe your own words, my apprentice.’ Palpatine lapsed into silence, lost in thought. ‘Perhaps you would be interested to know that your old master had resurfaced?’

    ‘Obi-Wan?’ Vader couldn’t help his shock rippling through the Force. ‘He’s alive?’

    ‘Very much so. He defeated one of our Inquisitors on Corellia.’

    ‘Why would he come out of hiding now? Does he have other Jedi with him?’

    ‘Isn’t it obvious? He has been watching over the child, waiting until the day when he could use the boy to destroy us. Now he seeks to recover his prize.’

    Vader nodded. Yes, that was the Jedi way. They used people to achieve their own ends, all the while pretending to embody virtue and justice. Kenobi had taken his son from him, hidden him away, intending to raise him as a weapon against the Sith. Anger burned inside of Vader. Once more his old master sought to betray him, this time using his own flesh and blood.

    ‘I sense you wish to protect the child. If that is so, you will hunt down Kenobi and destroy him.’

    ‘Yes master,’ said Vader, and there could be no disguising the eagerness in his voice. At last he would have the chance to face his old master again.

    ‘Destroy Kenobi. Bring me his lightsaber, and I will consider your request to train your son.’ Palpatine turned the throne back to the window and waved a dismissive hand. ‘Leave me.’

    Vader got to his feet and headed towards the door. He had reached the foot of the steps when the Emperor’s voice floated across the throne room.

    ‘Tread with care Lord Vader. You would not be the first apprentice that I have found unworthy.’

    For a moment Vader stared up at the dais and the throne, his heavy breathing the only sound in the room. Then he turned away, smiling behind the fierce death-mask of his helmet. First he would hunt down Kenobi and then, with Luke Skywalker’s help, the Emperor would meet his fate.

    *​

    Palpatine waited until his apprentice had departed. The horizon of Galactic City gleamed in the dusk, ablaze with miniscule lights. And it was all his. He could feel the city around him, feel it pulsing with life. If he so chose he could reach out and stop that pulse. His influence extended far beyond the confines of Coruscant, stretching across planets and star systems. His will sustained the Empire. Battlegroups and armoured flotillas were as much a part of him as an arm or leg. He wielded absolute power.

    Dooku had not understood. The fallen Jedi had lacked the imagination to see beyond the limits of borders and trade agreements, too intent on the physicality of power to reach his potential. And now Vader would be a failure as well.

    Reaching over he tapped a panel on the arm of his throne. A hatch opened and two royal guards stalked in, dragging a crumpled figure between them. Dumping the inert figure on the floor, one of the red-clad men gave him a swift kick in the ribs. Jinx coughed and rolled over, clutching his chest. His green skin appeared sallow and mottled. Palpatine wrinkled his nose in disgust.

    ‘What use do I have for an Inquisitor who cannot bring down one pitiful Jedi Master?’ he asked.

    Jinx prostrated himself. ‘I swear I will not fail again your majesty. I will hunt down Master Kenobi and destroy him.’

    ‘I have assigned that task to Lord Vader. You are a failure. And I have no use for failures.’

    The two guards grabbed hold of Jinx’s arms. He cried out, struggling against their iron grip.

    ‘Do not worry. I’m not going to kill you,’ said Palpatine, his lip curling.

    From behind Jinx came the snap-hiss of a lightsaber coming to life. A crimson blade arced down and sliced into the Twi’lek, bisecting him from shoulder to hip. Jinx fell to the floor, his eyes staring blankly into space. The guards dragged what was left of him away.

    ‘Well done Overseer.’

    ‘He was my failure, majesty,’ said a soft voice from the shadows. ‘I should have trained him better.’

    ‘He was a weakling,’ said Palpatine. ‘I have no need for weaklings and cowards. Or the disloyal.’

    Palpatine’s throne rotated until he was looking straight at the Overseer. Vader was becoming too unpredictable. Palpatine trusted in his hatred, but like all Sith his hatred would eventually turn inwards upon itself and seek to gain dominance by slaying the master. He was too powerful to be completely subjugated by Palpatine’s will and that made him a dangerous adversary. Control was everything and that which could not be controlled must be eliminated. He gazed into the shadows at the cowled figure of the Overseer. The hatred streaming off him was so palpable he could practically taste it in the air. This was a mind over which he had absolute dominance, one that he had spent decades moulding and twisting into his own image.

    ‘I fear Lord Vader is conflicted,’ he said aloud. ‘This situation with his son and the re-emergence of his master may prove too much for him.’

    ‘Let me destroy Kenobi,’ hissed the voice with venom.

    ‘No. We will give Lord Vader the opportunity to prove himself. It may be that a battle with Kenobi will leave him weakened. When the time is right you will at last have the chance to kill him.’

    ‘I wish only to remain at your side.’

    ‘Very good. Now, lend and old man your arm and help me to my chambers,’ said Palpatine, rising to his feet with mock unsteadiness. The robed figure stepped from the shadows and grasped his arm, supporting him. The nightmarish face of Lord Maul split in a smile.

    ‘I live only to serve you, my master.’


    End of Part I
     
    Chyntuck, Kahara, Ewok Poet and 2 others like this.
  23. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Hi all! Before Part 2 of the New Sith Order arrives I have a special bonus story to share. It links directly with my other short stories, Weak Link and Operation: Knightfall. Don't worry if you haven't read them, this works as a standalone piece with only a few references to my other stories. Check them out if you want, or don't, it's up to you. Please, if you enjoyed the story leave me a like or a comment with some feedback - it makes it a lot easier to keep writing when you know someone is enjoying your work! Thanks for reading!!!



    Shadow on the Battlefield

    ‘The mission… the nightmares… they’re… finally over…’

    Good soldiers follow orders. Good soldiers follow orders. Good soldiers follow orders. Goodsoldiersfolloworders. Goodsoldiersfolloworders. Goodsoldiersfolloworders. Goodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsolderisfollowordersgoodsoldiers…


    The bright lights of the medical bay stung Fives’ eyes. He blinked white spots out of his vision, trying to figure out where he was and how he’d got there. The last thing he remembered…​
    A small explosion went off inside his head as he remembered. He’d been on Coruscant, with General Skywalker and Rex. He’d been trying to tell them, trying to warn them and that’s when he’d been killed. His body gave an involuntary jerk as the memory of pain jolted him. Argent lances of agony had spread across his chest and he remembered looking down and seeing the smoking blaster burn in his chest armour just above his heart.​
    He flexed his fingers and wiggled his toes. He didn’t feel dead. With a groan he tried to sit up but his arms and legs were strapped down. Twisting his head he peered at the chamber around him. Familiar shapes coalesced in his blurry vision, and he recognised the fluid shapes indicative of Kaminoan technology.​
    Kamino. His home, and the last place in the galaxy he wanted to be. He strained his arms, testing the restraints but it was no use, he was too weak. He heard the sound of the chamber door opening and closed his eyes, pretending to be unconscious. He heard the sound of two figures approaching. They were having a conversation and from the soft lilt of her voice, Fives knew at least one of them was a Kaminoan.​
    ‘…the psychosis is most interesting. When we performed a level three scan we discovered abnormal brain patterns we had not predicted.’​
    ‘Is it this that caused the unit to become defective?’ said the second voice.​
    Fives felt his skin go cold and it took an effort not to react to it. He recognised that voice. Soft but unyielding as steel. Admiral Tarkin.​
    ‘We theorize that the unexpected processes are a result of using such a unique template mind. Jango Fett was chosen specifically because of his problem-solving and tactical thinking. That gave his clones a strategic advantage, they are able to adapt to any given situation, grow beyond their original programming.’​
    For a moment Tarkin was silent. ‘So other clones could develop the same defect?’​
    ‘It is not a defect.’ The Kaminoan sounded irritated. ‘This clone’s experiences have shaped his development.’​
    ‘Yes, but that means other clones have the potential to become renegades,’ said Tarkin. ‘That is not something we can afford. Have you finished conducting your tests on this unit?’​
    Fives boiled. He and his brother clones had bled and given their lives across countless worlds for men like Tarkin, who viewed them as nothing more than disposable soldiers. They had been trained to give their lives and follow orders without question.​
    Good soldiers follow orders. Good soldiers follow orders. Good soldiers follow orders. Goodsoldiersfolloworders.Goodsoldiersfolloworders.Goodsoldiersfolloworders.Goodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsoldiersfollowordersgoodsolderisfollowordersgoodsoldiers…
    Fives winced at the sudden flood of raw emotional memory which hit him. He alone out of every clone knew the truth of their existence, the real purpose for their creation. The dark secret which haunted the dream of every clone.​
    ‘ARC-5555?’​
    Tarkin’s voice cut into Fives’ thoughts like a lightsaber through plasteel.​
    ‘I know you’re awake. Open your eyes and look at me.’​
    The bed he was strapped to moved. Fives opened his eyes as bed tilted and he was able to see the rest of the chamber. His gut pinched with fear. It was the same termination chamber where he had once confronted Tarkin, the same chamber where he had sat by and watched Dropkick die.​
    A spindly Kaminoan scientist stood nearby, running her hands over a console which displayed Fives’ vital signs. Her large violet eyes stared at him, blinking slowly. Tarkin stood with his hands behind his back, wearing a uniform Fives didn’t immediately recognise, a bar of coloured rank insignia, and an expression of disgust on his gaunt face.​
    ‘Welcome home ARC-5555,’ said Tarkin with a smile that did not reach his eyes. ‘It’s so good to meet you again.’​
    ‘I wish I could say the same,’ said Fives. His voice was husky and dry, like it hadn’t been used for a while.​
    ‘You should be thanking me. It was on my orders that you were placed in stasis and transferred to Kamino for the surgery which saved your life.’​
    The Kaminoan drifted forward. ‘Your injuries were severe. We had to replace your heart with an artificial unit in order to save you. We wanted to study you, to see what cause you to disobey orders and become a traitor.’​
    ‘I’m not a traitor.’ Fives spat the words at Tarkin. ‘He’s the traitor. You and the Chancellor, you’re planning to betray the Republic and you want to use me and my brothers to help you.’​
    Tarkin shook his head. ‘You simply don’t understand. What we’re doing is for the greater good.’​
    ‘I want to speak to General Shaak Ti. She’ll listen to me.’​
    ‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Master Shaak Ti is no longer in command here. In fact…’ this time Tarkin’s smile lit up his whole face. ‘The Jedi no longer threaten the stability of the galaxy.’​
    It took a moment for the admiral’s words to sink in. Five’s surged forward, pulling against his restraints. ‘You bastard! You did it, didn’t you? You executed protocol 66!’​
    ‘Yes, and I must admit the clones were far more effective than even our most optimistic projections.’​
    ‘You used us.’​
    ‘The clones have played a vital role in ushering a new age of order and prosperity. In time the last remnants of the old Republic will be swept away, leaving room for the Empire to restore peace and justice to the galaxy.’​
    Fives bunched his fists. ‘You’d better hope I never get out of here, cause if I do I’m going to kill you, the Chancellor, and anybody else who gets in my way.’​
    Tarkin’s lip curled. ‘I find that unlikely, however I have witnessed your persistence before and I won’t make the mistake of underestimating you again.’ He turned to the Kaminoan. ‘Terminate him.’​
    The Kaminoan blinked her huge eyes. ‘I have some tests I would like to finish, data that would be impossible to obtain through an autopsy.’​
    ‘Very well, run your tests. I have to return to Coruscant, so I’ll leave this situation in your hands doctor. Until you dispose of the unit I want him under constant guard, understood?’​
    The Kaminoan bowed and followed Tarkin out of the door. Fives tugged at the straps around his wrists and ankles without success. He hung his head, exhausted from the effort. His chest throbbed with pain and his lungs felt tight. It was useless. All his training and experience couldn’t hope to match against the forces arrayed against him. It was all so big, bigger than he could ever imagine and he felt so small and alone. He wished he could see his brothers one last time, but there were all either dead or scattered across the galaxy. Hevy. Droidbait. Cutup. Dropkick. Waxer. Hardcase. They were all gone. Echo, his closest friend, had died saving Tarkin on the Citadel mission, and Tup had died on Kamino, destroyed by a malfunctioning biochip. The chips secretly implanted into every clone were the reason he had ended up in this mess. He had discovered the truth: a conspiracy to destroy the Jedi.​
    He’d tried. He thought if he could just pass on what he’d learned about the dark purpose the clone army had been created for it would be okay. He’d tried to tell Rex and General Skywalker, but they hadn’t believed him and now they were probably dead. Just like all the others. If only he had tried harder…​
    Throwing back his head he screamed. The sound which tore itself from his throat filled the chamber, wild and raw, an outpouring of all his despair and failure. He had lost. After all his efforts he’d lost. That was how it always had been. That was how it always would be.​
    *​
    The Kaminoans kept him alive for days, performing various tests and scans, and he gradually realised that they were excited. He caught snatches of whispered conversations and watched their excited gestures to the analysis of his neural scans. The new patterns which had formed in his brain were something they clearly hadn’t anticipated. They showed that he was becoming more than what he had been programmed to be. This surprised Fives. Only the original Advanced Recon Commando, or ARC, troopers had ever been given the ability to think completely independently and most of them had been killed over the course of the war. ​
    But the Kaminoan’s excitement was not uppermost in Fives’ mind at the moment. He needed to escape. The Kaminoans were beings of extreme intelligence but also extreme arrogance. Fives had hoped they wouldn’t regard him as much of a threat, but they had stuck to Tarkin’s orders and there were always two guards posted at the door and the room was under surveillance. The guards wore white armour similar to that of the clone army and under their helmets Fives suspected they were clones, but they had obviously been ordered not to engage with him, and all his attempts to speak to them had been ignored.​
    After the initial rush of emotion and despair that Fives had experienced when he first awoke, he had managed to calm his mind and approach the situation in the same way he would approach any battle. He had a number of advantages. If he did manage to escape he knew Tipoca City well. Not only had he grown up here but he’d spent a long time stationed here as an instructor during the war and he knew the city intimately, including where there various armouries and hanger bays were. He also knew the procedures used by clone troopers and he knew how to exploit them to his advantage.​
    First however, he needed to escape the termination chamber. It was no use trying to break his restraint bands, they were made of the same durasteel used in stun-cuff construction and in any case they were checked every time the guards changed. He studied the room. There were any number of tools which could be used to cut through the restraints, such as the laser scalpels the Kaminoan’s used to perform autopsies on defective clones or the vibro-saws for cutting through bone, but they were always out of reach.​
    The chamber door opened, admitting a pair of armoured troopers, accompanied by a sergeant wearing a white shoulder pauldron. Fives watched them exchange places with the duty sentries, who then left the room. The sergeant stayed for a moment, looking over at Fives. He threw a glance at a group of Kaminoan scientists were busy studying a data terminal and walked up the steps to the bed where Fives was restrained.​
    Fives watched the trooper, seeing himself reflected in the faceless visor. The sergeant stood in front of him and Fives felt a spark of recognition, which he dismissed just as quickly as a hopeless fantasy. Of course he recognised the trooper, he was another clone after all.​
    The sergeant stared up at his face for a moment, before checking the restraints and moving away, nodding to the two guards as he left, and Fives felt despair creep into the corners of his mind again. He had wanted so much to believe that the trooper was one of his brothers come to rescue him. Maybe even Captain Rex or Commander Cody sneaking into Tipoca City on a daredevil rescue mission.​
    He shook himself. As far as Rex and Cody knew he was dead, gunned down by shock troopers on Coruscant for trying to assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. The idea that he was remembered only as a traitor to the Republic was more than he could bear. Nobody would be coming to help him. If he was going to escape he would need to get himself out of this.​
    The Kaminoans finished reviewing their data and packed up for the night, leaving Fives alone with the two troopers for company. He didn’t bother trying to talk to them. The one and only time that he had the guards had offered to gag him and he didn’t fancy that. He rolled his eyes up to the network of pipes and ducts which webbed the ceiling. One of them must carry coolant or something nasty he could use to flood the chamber and cause enough confusion to escape, but once again he was faced with the fact that he couldn’t move.​
    The termination chamber door slid back and a medical droid trundled in. The guards waved for it to stop.​
    ‘Doctor Tsu wanted me to check on a scan we are performing on the defective unit,’ said the droid in a high-pitched voice. The guard checked its operating number and studied the datacard it was carrying, confirming the droids story, then waved it on.​
    Fives gritted his teeth, he was getting pretty sick of being poked and prodded and studied like a disease under a microscope. The droid approached, extending an arm to download data from the console which monitored Fives’ life signs. A pair of yellow photoreceptors rotated to look at him and a low, crackly voice emerged from the grille which served as the droid’s mouth.​
    You are not alone Fives.’​
    Fives blinked, staring at the droid.​
    You might want to close your eyes.’​
    Looking down, Fives watched the droid open an internal compartment and draw out a small object. Turning around the droid swung its arm, hurling the object at the two troopers standing near the door. Fives recognised the stun-grenade and jammed his eyes shut as it hit the ground between the guards.​
    White light screamed through the cracks in Five’s eyelids and his ears zinged with the sound as the grenade went off. The two troopers tumbled to the floor. It took a few moments for his vison to clear and when it did he saw the medical droid extend and arm and cut through the restraints with a laser-scalpel appendage. Fives tumbled to the floor, hugging his arms close to his body. His limbs felt painful and stiff after being in one position for so long. He looked up at the medical droid, which leaned over and helped him to his feet.​
    ‘Thanks.’​
    We don’t have much time. Can you walk?’​
    Fives didn’t know. He took a few tentative steps, holding onto the console for support. His legs felt weak but they didn’t collapse. ‘I think so. Just don’t ask me to dance.’​
    I don’t think we’d have time for that anyway.’​
    ‘Who are you?’​
    All you need to know is that I’m a friend. I can’t reveal more than that. I recommend you get changed into stormtrooper armour as a disguise. I’ve commandeered this droid and penetrated the Tipoca City main computer, but they may already be on to me so we should get moving.’​
    Fives didn’t waste any time. He stumbled over to where the guards had fallen. He checked their pulses to make sure they were still alive and started pulling off a set of armour. The new stormtrooper armour wasn’t as good at his ARC gear but it would do. He didn’t fancy getting shot again. ​
    He ran a hand over his chest, fingering the micro-surgery scar where his new artificial heart had been implanted. Working quickly he shrugged on the black undersuit and flimsy armour, feeling better as he pulled the helmet over his head. He gathered up a blaster rifle from the unconscious stormtrooper, feeling the weight in his hands. It felt good to hold a weapon again.​
    An alarm split the air, filling the chamber with its wailing urgency. Fives raised his blaster and shot out the security cam. They knew he had escaped. They’d be coming for them. And they were going to get the fight of their lives. This wasn’t the first time he had fought his way through Tipoca City’s wide corridors. The first time had been alongside Echo, Cody and Rex to repel a droid invasion force and the second he’d been fighting to try and save Dropkick, the young clone injured and sent for termination.​
    Both those times had been about saving clone lives, but this time he knew he couldn’t rely on his brothers for help and, much as it pained him, he would probably have to kill them to escape. ​
    He punched the door release and peered out into the corridor. It looked deserted but he knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. He jogged as far as he could before he started to get out of breath. Months spent in stasis had taken their toll of his fitness level. His artificial heart boomed in his chest louder than his biological one ever had.​
    I’ve been able to tap into the stormtrooper comm channel,’ said the voice, speaking through the medical droid. ‘There are three squads converging on this section. We can avoid them if we move quickly.’​
    They started off again, the droid leading the way, Fives forcing himself to walk. He knew it would look more suspicious if he ran. The comm channel buzzed with activity as the stormtroopers found the termination chamber empty and began to fan out to search for him, splitting into two and three-man fire teams. Fives smiled. Just like they did when fighting against clankers. Not only was he an experienced ARC trooper, he had personally overseen the training of many cadres of clone cadets and he knew how to keep a step ahead of them.​
    ‘How did you know I was alive?’ he asked.​
    I didn’t. I thought you were dead. Placing you in stasis and returning you to Kamino was classified at the highest level. Not even the GAR High Command was aware of it. I had to hack through a lot of security protocols to find you.’​
    ‘Have we met?’​
    We have, that’s all I can say. My codename is Voice,’ came the guttural response.​
    ‘A Voice of resistance?’​
    Something like that.’​
    Fives stumbled around a corner, heading towards a hanger bay. He wasn’t much of a pilot but he was sure he’d be able to find something he could fly well enough to get off planet. He skidded around another corner and smacked straight into a stormtrooper walking in the opposite direction.​
    Fives jumped back. ‘The prisoner’s on this level, disguised as a stormtrooper, what’s your operating number?’​
    He didn’t wait for a reply. Using the trooper’s momentary hesitation he lunged, smashing the butt of his rifle into the gap in the stormtroopers armour beneath the chin, crushing his trachea. The trooper slumped to the ground. Fives grabbed him under the shoulders and dragged him into an alcove.​
    I’m using the comm channel to try and create false alarms and direct troops away from the hanger bay,’ said the Voice. ‘But there are bound to be men on duty there.’​
    Fives hefted his rifle. ‘Let’s see how good they do against an ARC trooper.’​
    He encountered no further resistance as he made his way along the spacious walkways towards the bay. A couple of times he glimpsed a squad of troopers ahead but each time the Voice was able to warn him of their approach. Dashing across an intersection he hugged the bulkhead, staring at the hanger bay doors.​
    ‘How many troops inside?’​
    I can’t say for sure. Maybe ten.’​
    Fives swore. ‘Got any more tricks up your sleeve?’​
    Stand by,’ said the Voice. ‘I’m tapping into the environmental controls. I can overload the hanger bay floodlights, hopefully that will disorientate them enough to give you an advantage.’​
    ‘A pretty slim one.’​
    That’s what ARC troopers are used to, right?’​
    Fives grunted. That was right. ARC troopers were chosen for the toughest assignments, taking on jobs that regular clones couldn’t handle. He had been promoted, along with Echo, to ARC trooper after the battle of Kamino and since then he had fought in countless battles, working covertly or supporting regular troops on the front line. The war had shaped him into a deadly tool of destruction.​
    He moved towards the hatch and hovered his hand over the control panel. ‘Ready with your distraction?’​
    On my mark. Three, two, one, MARK!’​
    Fives punched the hatch release and dived into the room. The stormtroopers stationed inside the hanger all had their hands up covering their faceplates, temporarily blinded by the burst of light from the overloaded floods. Fives brought his rifle to his shoulder and let of a controlled burst of blaster fire.​
    Two stormtroopers went down instantly, followed by a third as the blue energy bolts shredded their armour. Fives moved fast, firing and moving, ducking behind cover. The stormtroopers, realising they were under attack, hunkered down behind crates and plasteel cylinders and fired back, their blaster bolts sizzling over Fives’ head. Plucking a grenade from his belt, Five’s hurled it and an explosion ripped through the hanger bay, accompanied by screams as the troopers close to the blast were torn apart.​
    Rising up, Fives took aim and downed another pair of troopers. A blaster bolt glanced off his shoulder plate but despite its apparent flimsiness the stormtrooper armour deflected the blast. Rolling, Fives sent a wild burst of energy bolts towards the enemy and was rewarded by a cry of pain.​
    The firefight didn’t last long. The stormtroopers had numbers on their side but they were outclassed. Fives picked them off one by one. As the last trooper fell to the ground with a smoking hole in his helmet, Fives straightened up and swept the area with his blaster, checking for new targets. He knew he only had a few minutes before more troops showed up and he couldn’t fight the entire garrison.​
    The medical droid scuttled to the hatch and fiddled with the control panel. The door hissed shut. ‘I’ve sealed us in, that should give us a few minutes,’ he said, turning away. Fives scanned the hanger, searching for a ship he was familiar with. His eyes rested for a moment on the V-19 torrent starfighters he had flown during his ARC training, but they lacked the hyperdrive he needed to escape the system.​
    ‘If only there was an Umbaran starfighter,’ he mused, thinking of the time he and two other clones had commandeered a trio of enemy ships to launch a daring raid on a droid supply ship.​
    His gaze finally settled on a streamlined Eta-class shuttle docked a little way down the hanger. It was fast, well-armed and he had flown something similar before. He jogged towards it, mentally running through the process of taking off in a ship this size. A curtain of water cascaded down across the open hanger bay, lit by occasional flashes of lightning from Kamino’s storm-clad sky. He was almost at the boarding ramp when a blaster bolt screamed across the bay.​
    Fives threw himself to the ground, expecting to feel pain. He rolled to a crouch, levelling his blaster and saw the medical droid crumple to the ground, sparks flying from its chest cavity. A single stormtrooper, wearing the white shoulder pauldron of a sergeant, was standing nearby, pointing his rifle at Fives.​
    ‘Don’t move,’ ordered the sergeant. ‘Drop your weapon.’​
    ‘Can’t do that,’ said Fives. ‘You’re gonna have to shoot me.’​
    The sergeant’s blaster twitched. ‘I’m not gonna tell you again.’​
    ‘You don’t want to shoot me brother,’ said Fives. Very slowly he raised a hand and took off his helmet, showing the sergeant his face. ‘We’re family.’​
    The sergeant hesitated for a moment, the barrel of his blaster wavering. Fives stared at him. There was something familiar about the sergeant’s voice, but then of course there would be. Still… although every clone was created to be identical, Fives knew that every member of the clone army developed their own unique traits and personalities. Some even had different eyes colours, and their voices were different too. There was something about this trooper, something familiar.​
    ‘I didn’t believe it when I heard it was you,’ said the sergeant. ‘But I wasn’t that surprised. You always liked to cause trouble, didn’t you Fives?’​
    Fives narrowed his eyes. ‘Jesse? Is that you?’​
    The sergeant lowered his weapon and removed his helmet, revealing the distinctive Republic crest tattooed across his face. Fives found himself staring into a pair of eyes both familiar and alien, eyes haunted by painful memories.​
    ‘Jesse...’​
    The last time Fives had seen his comrade had been just before he accompanied Tup home to Kamino, right before all the trouble started. With the exception of Captain Rex, Jesse was the one clone he'd want at his side in a battle.​
    ‘It’s good to see you Fives.’​
    ‘You too. I never thought I’d see one of the 501st again.’​
    A shadow passed across Jesse's face. ‘Times have changed. The 501st has changed. I’m sorry Fives. I’ve got to bring you in.’​
    Fives felt his grip on his rifle tighten. ‘I can’t let that happen. I know the truth.’​
    Jesse snorted. ‘Protocol 66? Yeah, we found out about that too. It was the 501st that led the assault on the Jedi Temple.’ He dropped his eyes. ‘You were lucky Fives. What we did that night... it was beyond betrayal. It was... I killed children Fives. Kids.’​
    ‘I’m sorry. I tried to warn you. I tried to tell Rex.’​
    ‘I don’t know what happened to Rex, nobody does. He disappeared right before they enacted the protocol, him and Wolfe.’​
    ‘What about General Skywalker?’​
    Jesse's eyes flashed with sudden anger then dulled, as if clouded with despair. ‘He’s gone Fives. All the Jedi are gone.’​
    The dull thud if a shaped charge smote the air. The hanger bay blast doors shook but held. A moment later Fives heard the sound of cutting tools humming against the durasteel barrier.​
    ‘We don’t have much time.’ He turned to Jesse. ‘Come with me.’​
    Jesse shook his head. ‘Don’t you get it? It’s over. We’re finished. They took everything away from us. The only thing I’ve got left is my duty.’​
    ‘Then we’ll take it all back. Come on Jesse, remember when we flew those Umbaran starfighters together? We disobeyed a direct order. We were almost executed but it didn’t matter because we knew it was the right thing to do. You trusted me back then, trust me now.’​
    A faint smile flickered at the edges of Jesse’s mouth. ‘They were good times. Remember Hardcase accidentally blowing up that hanger trying to figure out the controls for his starfighter?’​
    Fives glanced at the hatch, which was starting to smoke from the cracks where the blast plates met. ‘I sure do.’​
    ‘The best times...’ Jesse locked eyes with Fives. ‘Kill me.’​
    ‘What?’​
    ‘I can’t disobey an order. You have to kill me.’​
    ‘You’ve disobeyed orders before.’​
    ‘That was then. Everything’s different now. You don’t understand the hold they have over us.’ Fives noticed that his friend's hands were shaking, as though he was having to physically fight the urge to raise his weapon and fire.​
    ‘Please Fives.’​
    Fives shook his head. After everything that had happened, after all the brothers he’d left behind on the battlefield, he wouldn’t let it happen again. Jesse levelled his rifle and pointed it at Fives' chest.​
    ‘If you don’t do it I’ll kill you.’​
    ‘Jesse...’​
    ‘Do it Fives.’​
    ‘Jesse...’​
    ‘DO IT!’​
    Jesse’s finger tightened on the trigger and in that instant Fives raised his weapon and fired. A single bolt of blue energy sizzled across the hanger and struck Jesse in the chest. For a moment Jesse swayed, looking down at the smoking hole in his armour, and then he sank to his knees and toppled to the floor.​
    Fives caught him as he fell, throwing his weapon aside, and he cradled the dying soldier in his arms. Jesse looked up at him, his face strangely calm.​
    ‘Thank you brother.’​
    ‘I’m sorry.’​
    ‘Don’t be. It’s finally over. I’m glad.’ Jesse’s eyes filmed over. ‘I was there Fives, at the Jedi Temple. There were bodies everywhere, so many little bodies. I shot a boy. He can’t have been older than twelve and I gunned him down. He came out of nowhere. I held him as he died. I held him...’​
    ‘Stay with me Jesse. I’ll get you out of here,’ said Fives. He reached down to unbuckle Jesse’s armour and get a look at the wound but a hand closed around his wrist and pushed him away.​
    ‘It’s over at last. The nightmares.’​
    ‘I remember them.’​
    Jesse shuddered, his back arching with pain. ‘No, for us they weren’t just nightmares. For us... they were...real...’​
    A muffled explosion came from the direction of the blast door. The metal buckled inwards, groaning under the strain. Fives stared down at Jesse’s body, anger building inside of him, raw fury lancing through his body. Once again he had failed to save someone he cared about. Gently he laid Jesse down and rocked back on his heels, his face hot and prickly with pain.​
    With a final shriek of rending metal the blast door fractured, exploding inwards in a rush of smoke and flame. Stormtroopers piled in, weapons held ready, fanning out across the hanger.​
    Fives picked up his blaster. Part of him wanted to stay and fight. He burned with hot vengeful fire. And hate. A blaster bolt hissed past his shoulder, close enough for him to feel its heat on his cheek. He fired off a burst and sprinted towards the shuttle, firing as he ran up the boarding ramp.​
    Blaster bolts skittered over the crafts hull but the shuttles armour could withstand fire from hand blasters just fine. Fives punched the engine prestart and fired up the repulsor lifts. The shuttle whined and lifted into the air, hovering a few metres above the deck. Out the corner of his eye Fives spotted a group of stormtroopers setting up a heavy repeating cannon. Nudging the controls he spun the craft and fired the shuttles laser cannon. A series of small explosions spattered across the hanger deck, annihilating the gun and its crew.​
    With a roar the shuttle flew out of the hanger bay, its wings locking into flight mode and shot towards the clouds. Turbolaser fire strafed the sky, rocking the small craft, but Fives held his course.​
    The garbled sound of the Voice spoke out if the ships community unit. ‘Fives?’​
    ‘Yeah I’m here,’ said Fives, rolling the shuttle to starboard to avoid a line of blue turbolaser bolts. ‘I hope you’ve planned a way out of here for me.’​
    Feeding hyperdrive coordinates to your navigational computer now.’​
    ‘What about the blockade.’​
    Don’t worry about it.’​
    ‘Don’t worry about it?’ said Fives, juking left to avoid another blast from the planetary defence system. They were into the upper atmosphere now, trailing flames as the shuttle climbed towards the stars. Above him Fives made out the unmistakable arrowhead shape of a venator-class cruiser moving to intercept. A second cruiser appeared, moving in on a course to cut off his only means of escape. The shuttle wasn’t heavily armed and its engines weren’t powerful enough to disrupt the cruiser’s tractor beams.​
    ‘If you’re gonna do something it has to be now,’ yelled Fives as the venators closed in.​
    Working on it. Stand by.’​
    ‘They’re getting closer.’​
    Stand by.’​
    ‘They’re getting very close now.’ Fives pictured the gunners tracking his shuttle with their heavy laser cannons. They wouldn’t miss, and he’d be blown out if the sky. His shuttle zipped towards the cruisers, their iron grey hulls growing larger, filling the viewport.​
    You’re clear,’ said the Voice.​
    Fives gasped as all the lights on the cruisers hulls winked out. ‘What the-'​
    I tapped into their power systems and shut down the main reactors,’ said the Voice and even through the filter Fives reckoned he sounded smug.​
    ‘But their systems are supposed to be self-contained.’​
    The Voice gave a derisive snort. ‘There are always back doors. Can’t stop the signal Fives.’​
    Fives pushed the control sticks and the shuttle sailed past the stricken battleships. In the distance, cresting the curve of the planet, he spotted a trio of acclimator assault ships closing in but they were too far away to stop him. Reaching forward, Fives pulled back on the hyperdrive lever and watched as the stars turned to star lines and then to the mottled sky if hyperspace.​
    He sat back in his seat, wincing at the pain of torn muscles he’d been ignoring up until now and thinking about the friend he had left behind. Kamino had been the planet of his birth and his childhood, the only planet in the galaxy the thought of as home. He decided that one way or the other he would never go back. It wasn’t his home anymore. The only home he had known had been his family, his brother clones, and now he didn’t even have them.​
    The Voice broke into his thoughts. ‘I’m sorry about your friend.’​
    ‘Yeah, me too.’ Fives dragged a hand across his eyes. The anger still burned inside of him, the fierce rage which he knew could only be sated by revenge. He thought about Jesse, Dropkick, Echo, Hevy... All his brothers who had given their lives only to be betrayed by the system they had put their faith in. The rage cooled, icy resolve spreading throughout Fives’ body. He would make them pay for what they had done to his family.​
    He glanced at the hyperspace coordinates the Voice had programmed into the navicomputer. ‘Where are we going?’​
    To meet someone else who wants to fight the Empire.’​
    ‘Good. I’m going to hunt them down and I’m going to kill them all.’​
    Fives watched the blurry vortex of hyperspace. The Empire had taken everything from his family. It had betrayed them and stolen their souls by turning them into traitors themselves. And it would die for that. Fives was good at only one thing: being a soldier.​
    And he would bring war to the Empire.​
     
    Chyntuck, Kahara, Ewok Poet and 3 others like this.
  24. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    The New Sith Order: Part II - The Mortal Engine Breaks

    Chapter 8

    The stun cuffs bit into Luke’s wrists. His ribs ached where a stormtrooper had kicked him. Tears formed streaks in the dirt which covered his face. A pair of high black boots crossed his vision, kicking sand into his eyes. He looked up, blinking against the glare of the twin suns. The Imperial officer’s bloated neck bulged over the stiff uniform collar and sweat glistened on his forehead. A white-clad stormtrooper appeared and waved his rifle at Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

    ‘What will we do with them Captain Grammel?’

    The Imperial officer mopped his brow with a handkerchief and glanced at the two moisture farmers who were on their knees, shackled, with stormtroopers standing over them.

    ‘They resisted arrest.’

    The stormtrooper inclined his head and gestured for a soldier wearing a pair of large tanks on his back to step forward. Luke felt himself hoisted into the air as two troopers carried him away from his aunt and uncle. The white-armoured figures also stepped aside as the soldier levelled a long piece of equipment at Owen and Beru.

    Luke screamed as a tongue of flame leapt out towards the only family he had ever known. The fire engulfed the couple, burning their clothes, melting flash and setting their hair alight. Another jet of flame followed. And another. And another. Luke tried to tear himself away from the sight but the stormtroopers held his head and made him watch as his aunt and uncle burned alive. They shrieked and rolled in the sand, trying in vain to smother the sticky flames but it was no use.

    Their faces began to melt.

    *

    ‘Hey, wake up Farm Boy.’

    With a jolt Luke snapped out of his dream. Sweat trickled down his back as if he had really been close to the heat of those flames once more. He looked over to see Mara staring at him.

    ‘We’re nearly there. I need your help with the sensors.’

    The massive bulk of the star destroyer Invincible completely filled the viewport of the small transport. Looking up at the six million ton predator, Luke was struck by the awesome size of the thing. Star destroyers were not only the backbone of the Imperial Navy. They were a symbol of the Empire’s wealth and power. At present the ship was still under construction in orbit around the Kuat Shipyards but it was no less impressive. Support craft and transports swarmed the giant ship like carrion flies. Off in the distance Luke could see three more construction stations, each cradling a star destroyer in various different stages of production.

    He glanced behind him into the crew compartment, where the rest of the eight-man team was getting ready for the mission. Each initiate wore an identical black combat jumpsuit and utility belt equipped with stun grenades, grappling hooks and first aid pouches. Luke’s hand went to his hip, feeling the weight of the holstered blaster there. The initiates checked each other’s suits carefully to make sure the seals were tight before donning a close-fitting helmet. Kurukh flashed a thumbs-up in Luke’s direction to indicate they were set.

    Turning back to the controls, he concentrated on the sensor jamming signal their small craft was transmitting. Although the star destroyer was not yet fully operational security would be tight. Beside him in the pilot’s chair, Mara steered the transport towards the underside of the enormous battleship, searching for the external hatch that was to be their access point.

    ‘There!’ Luke stabbed a finger towards the hull. The hatch had been designed to allow damage control teams’ quick access to the outer hull and it made a far better way in than trying to sneak through the busy hanger bay. Mara manoeuvred the ship close. The star destroyer’s hull had sensors what would detect if another ship locked onto it, so she had to position them a few metres away from the grey metal. She and Luke slipped on their helmets and joined the other initiates in the back. Kurukh and Rash were already unsealing the lower door while Matthyu adjusted the environmental controls so that they wouldn’t all be blown out into space when the outer door was opened.

    One by one the initiates exited the craft and pushed themselves towards the iron grey hull of the star destroyer. The outer-hull sensors might pick up the magnetic mass of a ship but it couldn’t discern eight fragile bodies from the flotsam and floating debris that often clanged against the ship in space. It took only a moment to bypass the security protocols and unseal the external hatch. As soon as they were inside the ship’s artificial gravity pulled them to the deck. Luke dropped to a crouch and surveyed the area. They had run the star destroyer exercise half a dozen times now, and each time the Hat had made it more challenging for them. Kurukh was ahead of him, his blaster drawn, making sure there were no surprises waiting for them.

    Rash hunkered down next to Luke and grinned. ‘That was the easy part.’

    Luke nodded. They were close to the subsidiary reactor here, and he could feel the hum of power coursing through the deck as the dock-workers ran tests on the main power systems. Taking out a vessel of this size was much easier to do from the inside, but it was still a difficult task. He gestured to Rash.

    ‘Take your team and move out.’

    The boy bobbed his head and loped off, followed by Matthyu and Salina, heading towards the main power generator. Petar and Axl would deal with the ship’s communications array while Luke, Mara and Kurukh tackled the main objective.

    They moved out, keeping to the side corridors and service crawl-ways as much as possible. They had spent months memorising the layout of star destroyers and now it paid off as they moved swiftly though the ship, avoiding the various tech crews and droid maintenance workers that were fitting the last of the ship’s systems.

    Luke peered around the corner, knowing that the Hat would have some surprises in store for them. The sadistic instructor enjoyed tormenting his young students and he had made it clear that anyone who did not succeed in their mission would not get a second chance. Motioning to Mara and Kurukh, they scurried across an open corridor and crouched inside an access passage leading to a hallway of empty crew-quarters. A turbolift shaft across the corridor would provide a clear run to their objective, but Luke knew that it was never that easy. During their last mission they had been climbing a lift shaft when battle-droids had ambushed them. The droids had only been firing stun-blasts, but that didn’t help Jax, who had been hit and toppled back into open space, falling several decks. Luke closed his eyes, recalling with horror the audible crunch as Jax’s neck broke.

    Mara tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Hey Farm Boy, you awake?’

    ‘Uh-huh,’ said Luke, dragging himself out of his memories.

    For some reasons that none of the initiates could explain they had all been having flashbacks to bad memories of one sort or another in the past few months, to the point where it was becoming painful to think about their lives before they came to the academy. Luke was certain it had something to do with their strange conversations with the Acolyte. Strangely, while the negative memories from his childhood were so vivid, Luke found his recollections of the conversations vague and fuzzy, almost as though they were happening to somebody else.

    He couldn’t worry about that now though. Keep focussed on the objective, that’s what the Hat constantly told them. He jerked his head at Kurukh and the Noghri dashed across the exposed corridor, Luke and Mara close behind him. They were headed for the conning tower, trying to make their way to the captain’s stateroom where, if they were successful, they would assassinate him and escape. They weren’t going to be killing anyone for real. Usually the Hat had a battle droid stationed in the room acting as a stand in for their target.

    Slipping inside an access crawl way they swarmed up a series of ladders, Luke and Mara struggling to keep up with the athletic Noghri. Luke was about to call out for him to slow down when a bolt of blue energy flashed past his nose. He threw himself behind the scant cover of a power coupling as another stun blast zipped over his shoulder. He’d been lucky. If he hadn’t tilted his head back to call out to Kurukh the blast would have hit him in the side of the head.

    Drawing his blaster he fired two quick shots blindly down the crawl space, trying to drive their attackers into cover. They had to take them out quickly before they raised the alarm. Across the way Mara was flat on the floor, sighting carefully along the barrel of her weapon before firing. There was a dull thud as one of her shots struck its target and Luke saw a white-armoured figure crumple. The second blaster tracked towards Mara and Luke used the opportunity to peek out and put down the second figure.

    The blaster fire abruptly ceased and Luke waited, heart pounding, for the blare of an intruder alarm klaxon. After a few seconds he let his breath out slowly. Mara straightened up.

    ‘Good shot Farm Boy,’ she said. They dragged the bodies into the crawl space where they could be easily concealed. Removing the helmet from one stormtrooper, Mara discovered the chromed head of a combat droid like the ones they trained with back at the academy. They removed the power packs from the droids’ blasters and took their commlinks before moving on, sneaking their way upwards through the ship.

    They had almost reached the bridge when Luke heard the triple clicking signal through his earpiece that told him Rash’s team had completed their objective and were heading back to the ship. Although they had to observe strict comm silence the ships sensors wouldn’t pick up the narrow-band bursts that the initiates used to communicate, putting them down to background radiation or interference from the thousands of active comm channels in the Kuat docks.

    Even on a star destroyer under construction there would always be a few officers on duty on the bridge, so the infiltrators used a narrow ventilation shaft to access the stateroom. The vents were built purposefully small to prevent them from being used in this way but the young initiates were able to worm their way through without too much difficulty. Kurukh was in the lead. Opening a grille he slithered down into the room below, daring his blaster as he landed. Luke and Mara followed. The captain’s quarters were composed of a series of chambers, including a lounge area to entertain fellow officers and visiting VIP’s, a bedroom, servant’s quarters, office and washroom.

    Luke panned his weapon slowly around the lounge area. The last time he had been on the assassination team the Hat had used a droid with a built in stealth-field generator. They had to take their target out before it raised the alarm. Mara waved him in the direction of the office, while she and Kurukh headed towards the bedroom.

    The blaster felt heavy in Luke’s hand as he crossed the room and punched the door to the office open. What he saw inside jolted him so that he nearly dropped it.

    The same bloated face that haunted his nightmares looked up at him, surprise in his small black eyes. Thick lips parted in a gasp of surprise as Luke stepped into the office, his blaster aimed at Captain Grammel’s abundant torso.

    ‘What?’ he said, jowly cheeks quivering as he got to his feet.

    Luke was speechless. He had replayed the death of his aunt and uncle over and over in his head, envisaging ways he could have saved them, ways he could have broken free and helped them escape. And now here he was again, staring at the man who had killed his family.

    Except this time he was holding a blaster.

    ‘Move over there,’ he said, motioning Grammel away from the desk.

    ‘How did you get in here? spluttered the Imperial officer.

    Luke didn’t answer. He stared at the man, his finger on the trigger of his weapon. He heard a quiet voice in the back of his mind. It was the Acolyte.

    He killed your family Luke.

    ‘I know.’

    He deserves to die. Go on. Take your revenge. He doesn’t deserve to live.

    The blaster in Luke’s hands twitched. He felt hot all over, like he was being blasted with all the heat of Tatooine’s twin suns. Droplets of sweat trickled down his sides. He wanted to do it. He wanted to kill Grammel.

    ‘What’s going on?’ He heard Mara’s voice behind him.

    ‘Thisss isss our target I think,’ hissed Kurukh.

    ‘He’s the one who killed my family,’ said Luke. Images were flashing across his mind. A jet of flame. The heat. Uncle Owen’s face melting. His eyes, burning. Aunt Beru’s hair on fire. He wanted to do this. He wanted this. Didn’t he?’

    Grammel’s bulbous face quivered. He was sweating profusely, beads running down his meaty cheeks. He was afraid. Luke felt his finger slacken on the trigger. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t kill a wretched creature like this even if he wanted to. His hatred flowed out of him, replaced with a sense of revulsion and pity. His weapon dipped.

    Grammel chose that moment to dive for his desk. He punched a button and an alarm screamed. Luke gasped, his blaster leaping back up to aim at Grammel but Kurukh was faster. He slid over the desk with reptilian grace, snaked around behind Grammel and snapped his neck before either Luke or Mara could react. The Imperial crashed to the floor, his body convulsing horribly. Kurukh grabbed Luke and shoved him in the direction of the vent.

    ‘Run!’
     
    Chyntuck, Kahara, Ewok Poet and 2 others like this.
  25. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    I've finally caught up reading this. Really like the angle you're taking with this story--it brings a new perspective to the whole galaxy, and it hints at a sooner-turned-back-to-the-light Vader, which I love.

    I really dig the inclusion of Mara Jade (who's also well written and staying true to character), cuz I'm a L/M mushball. You've done a really nice job, bringing a younger Luke into this and showing his internal strife. I hope he keeps resisting the dark side! And Obi Wan! I hope that little snippet before the story started about Luke killing Kenobi wasn't foreshadowing!

    I do like the way you write the action sequences. Great job writing this. Please let me know when you update it!
     
    Kahara and AzureAngel2 like this.