Title: FOG Author: cthugha Characters: tons of OCs, some of which will turn out to be / interact with Legends or movie characters eventually Genre: Mystery, Drama... whatever LOST was Timeline: ANH-ROTJ, with flashbacks to various eras before that Summary: A passenger ship crashes on a mysterious planet. While they're trying to survive and get help, the survivors gradually realize how both their pasts and their destinies are intertwined... Notes: I've always wanted to write a Star Wars version of LOST, so here it is. While a lot of the premise, cast and story beats are taken directly from LOST, it will go into decidedly Star Wars-y directions and take quite a few turns that are different from the show. (I also hope to provide a more satisfying ending -- in any case I've planned out the resolution to all of the major mysteries from the beginning, and I have a long list of the show's failings that I'll be trying to avoid.) Expect about a chapter per week for the next few weeks, not sure yet how my schedule is going to be later in the year. 1.1: Jax Jax Veshok, ISB Mission log, informal 35:3:6 The good news: Target #2 (the woman) is alive and accounted for. The bad news: we are trapped in a crashed ship that is quickly sinking into a swamp on some uncharted planet, and as far as I can tell no one in the Galaxy has any idea where we are. I was not awake during the crash itself. The last thing I heard was the unscheduled reentry alarm and a voice telling everyone to strap in; then I must have blacked out, perhaps from sudden depressurization. When I opened my eyes again, I thought I had gone blind. Everything was grey and blurry, some places brighter than others but nothing to focus on, and my head was pounding like crazy. Patting myself, I realized that I was still in my seat, but hanging rather than sitting. Either I was upside down or gravity was; in any case, the safety harness was all that kept me from crashing headfirst into what used to be the ceiling of the passenger cabin. With that insight, I was finally able to identify some of the blurry shapes in front of me. Many of the other passengers in the cabin had not been so lucky; I saw at least three humanoid figures sprawled below or tangled up in impossible positions near me. On the other side of the aisle, a group of seats had been ripped free and smashed against the ceiling, killing everyone in them. When the fog cleared for a moment, I could see them more clearly than I would have liked, until a new cloud of cold, sticky moisture came drifting in from a bright spot up ahead. The seats directly across from me, where Targets #1 and #2 had been sitting, were empty. And then there were the sounds. I may be undercover as a washed-out ex-trooper, but I am still an officer of the Empire, with all the duties and obligations toward our citizens that brings. So as soon as I had worked myself free of the crash webbing and found my footing on the uneven surface below, I made my way toward the plaintive noise that came from somewhere up ahead and to the side, in the direction of the light. It sounded like a mix between a baby porcine and a badly distorted synthesizer; when I came closer, the smell told me all I needed to know. It was a Hutt, the smallest Hutt I’d ever seen, who was trapped between two girders that had been dislodged during the crash. I had not realized there was a Hutt aboard the Lady of the Rim, though with Tatooine’s criminal profile I ought not to have been surprised. Unfortunately I also saw no way to help it, as even a juvenile Hutt is much too heavy for me to lift. So I told it I would be back as soon as possible, then moved on toward what had to be a tear in the hull of the ship through which the light came in. It was from there that the thick fog came wafting in, obscuring anything more than a few centimeters up ahead. As I neared the tear in the hull, I heard the sounds of footsteps from outside, as well as a growling noise that sounded distinctly dangerous. So I pulled my holdout blaster, which I had been allowed to keep at check-in thanks to the ISB waiver in my documents, and approached slowly. It was there that a human voice startled me, speaking out of the shadows to my left. “You need to get me out," the voice said. "Oh, and you'll want to drop that blaster." Peering through the fog, I saw a man hanging from his seat just like I had, only that his crash webbing had caught on the armrests, leaving his arms pinned in place. He seemed to pose no danger at first glance, but his demeanor - and his heavily tattooed face - made me wary. "And why would I do that?" I said cautiously. "Because you do not want to face whatever is out there on your own," he said. "And the blaster won't help you." Spoiler: CLASSIFIED, E-LEVEL CLEARANCE ONLY To complement my officer-track training within the Imperial Security Bureau, I received instruction by members of the Inquisitorius on the matter of recognizing - and, in some limited ways, defending against - attempts at Force-based manipulation. It is my professional opinion that the passenger trapped in that seat, who later gave his name as "Nash" to others, was a Force user who deliberately tried to influence my decisions. For this reason, I felt and still feel justified in refusing him assistance, especially in light of later events. In keeping with ISB doctrine, I also classified him as a person of interest, to be observed and investigated as far as mission parameters allow. Leaving the man behind, I made my way to the tear in the hull and climbed out. The fog was still thick there, butThe fog was a little lighter up there, but I could still see only a few meters in all directions. I was looking at what had been the bottom of the Lady of the Rim, a wide expanse of deck plating spattered with mud and ripped open in some place, exposing ducts and wires. My seat had been in the starboard midsection of the ship, where RimTours puts its local passengers to keep them apart from the wealthier cruise guests, so I ought to have seen a network of girders holding the sublight drives to my right; but the drives and their superstructure were gone, sheared away except for a few struts bent at angles that spoke to the violence of the crash. I saw the source of the growling as well, a massive furry creature kneeling on the deck and tearing at the plates. With some relief, I recognized it as a Wookiee, a sentient creature who had most likely been a passenger on the ship rather than some native monster. It was trying to free another of its kind who was stuck in a narrow hole in the hull; as I looked on, it succeeded, pulling the second, larger Wookiee out with another roar that would have frightened anyone who did not know the context. Having had some experience with Wookiees, I carefully approached the pair. “There are people still trapped belowdecks,” I told them, enunciating clearly. (Most Wookiees off Kashyyyk understand Basic, though they lack the necessary anatomy to speak it.) “Please help free them.” That set off a debate between the two, with the bigger pulling the smaller one away from me and both gesturing wildly. I tried to get a better grasp of my surroundings while waiting for them to come to their senses, which is why the smaller of the two - a female, I suppose - was able to surprise me by reaching for my blaster with one of her long arms and yanking it out of my hand before I could react. I yelled at her, but she threw it away with a growl so that it vanished in the fog. I heard it clatter to the deck, then slide away. To my renewed surprise, however, the female did not attack me any further; instead she made for the tear in the hull I had pointed out earlier and climbed in, presumably to free the surviving passengers. With an exasperated howl, the other Wookiee followed. Just then the damp breeze picked up a little, blowing away some of the fog, and I saw that I was not alone on the ship's belly. Near the middle of the expanse of tortured metal, a group of survivors had congregated around a particularly wide gap, where the hull had collapsed in a way that it sloped down into the ruined interior like a ramp. Making my way towards them, I caught my first glimpse of the place we had crashed in: tall, overgrown trees stretching their crowns above the fog, with giant branches reaching for the ship like tentacles. I did not waste any time dwelling on the view, however. Target #2 was with the group, a little aloof from the others, who were clustered around a figure on the ground. "Are you a doctor?" someone asked me - a Twi'lek female in loose freight-worker's fatigues whose name I later learned was Nooma. I said I was not, but agreed to take a look at the elderly human male lying supine on the deck, grinning madly despite the bloody scrapes crisscrossing his face and chest. He seemed to take a perverse pleasure in the pain he was feeling, but appeared to be healthy enough otherwise; and indeed, when the entire ship groaned and tilted a moment later, just a little but enough to cause nearly everyone to lose their footing, he sat up and steadied himself against my shoulder under his own power. "We should go back inside," he told me, loud enough for the others to hear. "All of us." "I don't think so, old man," the grating voice of the man with the tattooed face sounded from behind me. Turning around, I saw that the Wookiees had managed to free the Hutt as well, who was gliding towards us on his sluglike belly. "This ship is sinking. But you do you, if drowning in mud is your idea of a good time." The wounded man pushed himself up, using my shoulder for leverage. "You would not know," he said calmly, "but there's a storm coming. And it's not one we're likely to survive out here." It turned out he was right. Nooma was the first to see it, a wavefront of dark clouds rolling our way above the jungle, lit from inside by flashes of lightning. People started muttering and arguing, so I took charge. With some help from Nooma and the wounded man, I managed to set everyone in motion - all except Nash, who pulled his tattooed face into a smirk and sauntered off by himself. Target #2 was resistant at first, staring into the distance without moving or communicating, but eventually I got her down the makeshift ramp as well. And not a moment too soon, because just as we joined the others inside the first bolts of lightning struck the ship, making the hull crackle and glow with electricity. I hastily pushed everyone a little further in before pausing to take stock in the harsh flickering light from outside. There was a droid among the survivors, a silver RA-7 unit with a circular repulsor panel welded to its hips in place of legs. I sent it to scout for passages and stable places, then led the remaining sentients further away from the gap as rain began pouring in from outside. Soon water was sloshing around our feet (and the Huttling's belly), and since the droid had not returned, I made the call to move everyone to the galley. On cruise ships the size of the Lady of the Rim, the galley usually has its own air filtration and life support systems, both for safety reasons and to keep the cooking smells out of the passenger sections. I explained as much to the other survivors, and together we set out to climb through the wreckage. The galley was two levels up - now down - from the floor we were on and almost exactly in the center of the ship, which raised my hopes that it could have been spared the worst of the damage. On our way there we encountered Nash again, who was busy looting the storage compartments - as well as some of the corpses, I realized with disgust. I should have shot him then and there, but my priority was getting the others to safety. The galley, it turned out, was indeed mostly intact; even some of the kitchen droids were still working there, struggling to clean up the mess caused by the crash. The lights were on, which provided a welcome change of mood from the gloomy exterior. Some other survivors had already gathered there, presumably attracted by the light; these included a grievously wounded man, a frightened Bith, a Kuati noblewoman and her telbun companion, both swaddled in absurdly elaborate robes, as well as a Mandalorian in full armor who was busying himself with the galley's computer system. I took care of the dying man first, showing a reluctant Nooma how to staunch his bleeding and put pressure on the wound in his side. While I was looking and asking around for a medpack, the telbun approached me, pointing warily at the Mandalorian's armored back. "Isn't he dangerous?" he asked quietly. "He might be wiring the ship to blow." "Not all Mandalorians are criminals," I responded, but approached him anyway. Any Mandalorian is a force to be reckoned with, so I wanted to be on the safe side. "I assume you know what you're doing?" I asked. "I'm trying to get into the ship's mainframe," he said, never turning away from the terminal in front of him. "To find out what happened to us. Are you part of the crew?" "No." I looked around, but saw no one who fit the bill; living crew were notoriously sparse on the cheaper levels, where most of the service work was done by droids. "The most important question would be whether help is coming, and if so, how soon." "Agreed," he grunted, so I left him to his work. Turning back, I was accosted by the Kuati lady herself. "Are you not going to arrest him?" she asked. "Why would I?" "You are an Imperial officer…" "I am not," I lied, determined to preserve my alibi for this mission. "And this man is no danger." Putting aside the question of how she had guessed my background for the moment, I pushed past her to get back to the dying man… only to find him dead, and Nooma over him with bloody hands. "What happened?" I asked. "He just… he stopped breathing and went all rigid," she said, her lekku writhing as she cried. "I don't… I didn't…" Just then the echo of a blaster shot from far away sounded through the open hatch, immediately followed by an anguished scream. Bewildered, I made my way past the rest of the survivors and stepped out of the galley into the corridor. The scream went on, broken by little gasps; and here I clearly heard that it was coming from below. Someone was trapped deeper inside the ship. And they were fighting. By a superficial calculus of risk reduction and mission priorities, I ought to have ignored the screams. I should have stayed in the galley, helped the Mandalorian find out more about our predicament, dressed the scrapes of the man we had found on the deck and kept an eye on Target #2. I chose to investigate instead - perhaps simply out of misplaced empathy or curiosity, perhaps out of a sense of knowing too little about the entire situation to stay in one place. Time will tell whether I chose wrong. Nooma wanted to come along, but I refused her. "Keep them calm," I told her. "Help the others. And lend me your flashlight, please." She nodded but hesitated. "Nash is still out there," she said. "Nash?" "The guy with the facial tattoos…" "Oh." I instinctively reached for my blaster, then remembered the Wookiee female yanking it from my hand. "I'll be careful," I said, sweeping the corridor with the flashlight instead, and left. Getting down was simple enough: thanks to Imperial safety standards, every commercial vessel of this size has emergency stairwells in addition to turbolifts. As expected, the lifts had shut down, either from lack of power or because of a breach further down in the shaft; but the bottom of the stairs provided a good-enough ramp to navigate. I paused on every floor, listening. The screams gave way to yelling, then to sobs, but there was no more blaster fire. The ship around me seemed to be in pain as well, its creaks and groans punctuated by the occasional sound of something snapping, breaking or collapsing. It was moving too, not so much swaying as shifting minutely over time as it was slowly being swallowed by the swamp. I had travelled perhaps six levels down, encountering only death and stillness on the way, when a Wookiee's roar followed by very human curses lent new urgency to my progress. The yelling went on for long enough to guide me there, down one more level and some way toward the side of the ship. This part of the ship was a good deal more spacious than the cramped bottom levels I had travelled in, and the emergency lights were still on here. I found the Wookiees in the ruins of an elegantly furnished dining room, where they were locked in a standoff with Nash, whose hand was bleeding, and a Neimoidian who had taken cover behind an upturned table. When I entered the scene, another being poked its head up behind the shattered remains of a liquor shelf: the hybrid RA-7 droid I had sent out to look for shelter. "I found a stable place," it spoke into the momentary silence. "It's seven levels up and this way." "The galley?" I asked. "Yes, it even has its own life-support system…" "Shut up, Stumpy," Nash growled, nursing his injured hand. "We know." "I just came from there," I said. "And I would like to return as soon as possible. So what's the matter here, and can we please just get it settled?" "He shot my son!" the Neimoidian whined, pointing an accusing finger at Nash. The occasional whimpers, I realized, were not coming from him but from a second, smaller alien behind the table. Nash rolled his eyes. "She stole my blaster!" he said, tilting his tattooed head towards the female Wookiee. "And shredded my hand in the process." The Wookiee female roared in protest, only for her partner to cut in and pull her aside with a low growl. "Probably for the better," I said, making my way through the atrium to the Neimoidians' hiding place. While I felt reassured knowing that the man didn't have a blaster any more, I remained wary, remembering the way he'd tried to get into my head before. "How bad is it?" The boy was sitting on the ground, pressing a piece of cloth against a wound in the side of his head. So at least he was conscious, if in pain. "What happened here?" I asked his father. "I'll tell you what happened," Nash's voice rang out. "Those two attacked me, and then they called their Wookiees on me." The Wookiee female roared what I supposed was an objection. "We thought you were one of them!" the Neimoidian said. "Boy darts out from the shadows, flings a broken bottle at my face," Nash continued, sauntering closer. "What am I supposed to do, not defend myself?" "Hold on a moment," I said. "What do you mean, one of them?" The Neimoidian looked at his son, who seemed to feel it and whimpered again. "Did you see anyone on your way here?" he asked me. "Anyone - even dead bodies?" I thought back. "Not on this level." Or any of the previous ones below the galley, in fact. I had assumed the Mandalorian had gathered everyone who had survived there, and frankly I had not been looking out for corpses. "Why?" "They're gone. Someone took them." Nash groaned. "So I look like a corpse-stealing monster, huh? Is it because of the tattoos?" He bent to look over the table at the kid. "Maybe you should stop telling him horror stories, bubble head." I did my best to ignore him. "Did you see that happen?" I asked. "Were you threatened? Are we in danger here?" The Neimoidian let his head sway from side to side. "I don't know! But you should see for yourself. They cut them out of their seats - they cut their way through the side of the ship…" Nash snorted. "No wonder your kid gets panic attacks," he said. "Listen, I don't want to interrupt your story time here. Can I leave without your furry bodyguards here ripping any more skin off me?" "They're not…" the Neimoidian started to say, but I talked over him, addressing the Wookiees directly. "Escort him to the galley, please," I said. "Don't let him get away." "Oh great," Nash groaned, rolling his eyes. "And take them too," I added when l saw the female approaching. "Can you carry the boy?" "I can carry him myself," the Neimoidian said quickly, scooping his son up in his arms. "But will you look?" he asked me, his voice trembling with urgency. "They were there - Bnie says…" He broke off. "Just look, please?" "I will," I promised. What he said sounded unsettling enough to warrant investigation. "Go with the Wookiees and ask for Nooma; she should have found a medpack by now. And keep…" Then something happened. I don't know what it was, but I was not the only one who felt it. Next to me, Nash winced so hard the Wookiee female thought he was trying to escape and grabbed his collar with a furry fist. As for myself, I suddenly felt disoriented in a way that is hard to describe. The closest I can get is a feeling of deep disillusionment, as when one catches a revered mentor in a despicable act; or walking on thin ice without realizing it before your foot breaks through. "What's wrong?" the Neimoidian asked. "I don't know. You should go. Quickly." The Wookiee growled in agreement - the male one, this time, who had always held back so far - and even Nash grunted his assent. "Let's get out of here." "I'll stay and investigate," I told the Neimoidian again, even though I felt like clouds of nameless dread were billowing up around me. "Now hurry!" They left, all of them, and I was alone. The only thing that moved besides myself, as I slowly picked my way through the wreckage, was the spot of light from my flashlight dancing ahead of me, over broken furniture, spilled food, pieces of luggage and machinery… but no people, no one trapped and wounded, not even a severed limb. There was blood, though, and there were signs of sentient activity after the crash: rubble pushed aside, boxes opened, tufts of hair strewn about like after a fierce struggle. The Wookiees could not have done all of this in the time they were down here, and neither could Nash or the Neimoidians. I dearly missed my blaster now, and looked out for something else to use as a weapon. I found an armrest that had broken free and swung it with the jagged end forward experimentally. It was better than nothing, but deep inside I knew it would not help against whoever did this. I should have turned back then and fled back up into the galley. I should have gathered everyone, told them to arm themselves, posted sentries and fortified the entrances. But I had to know more; I had to see for myself. A wide double door led from the atrium into the seating area. I had not looked at the passenger manifest for the Lady of the Rim in detail, but by my estimate this section should have held somewhere between thirty and eighty people. I was walking on what had been a high ceiling, between decorative light fixtures and ventilation fans, looking up at the rows of seats above my head. Many of them had been occupied, that much was obvious. Now they were empty, the crash webbings hanging from them like dark ghosts, swaying slightly as the ship tilted some more. They had been cut open, I realized, just as the Neimoidian had said. They cut them from their seats… I looked at the floor. I could see the floor now, I noticed, without pointing my flashlight at it; light was seeping in from somewhere up ahead. There were more puddles of blood… and streaks too, drag marks, where someone had pulled the bodies. Away from me, toward the side of the ship, where the faint light originated. Grabbing my makeshift club harder, I advanced. The light was stronger behind the next partition, making the blood on the ground look red instead of black. There were still no people, but there was a huge jagged gap in the wall, looking like it had been ripped by a huge branch during the crash, then propped open with pieces of wreckage and wood. I walked towards it, my anticipation building. Standing in the gash, I looked out over the scenery outside. The storm had passed as quickly as it had come. The ship's mutilated flank stretched to either side of me, and on the far side of a strip of splintered wood and scorched vines the jungle towered above me, dark and brooding and woven through with streaks of fog rising out of the soggy ground. Someone had built a makeshift bridge out of two massive tree trunks connecting the gap in the hull to a mossy rock a little further down. I knew it was a bridge because there was blood on it. As I looked on, one of the tree trunks lost its balance and slid off the hull, broke through the mess of splintered wood below and landed in the swamp with a splash. The ship creaked in reply and tilted further. When I looked down, my feet were less than four meters above the surface of the swamp, and closing. In a few minutes this level would be flooded, and the rest of the ship soon after that. - When I looked up, there was a pillar of black smoke rising above the jungle canopy. Out there was the enemy. In here was certain death. I had to make a choice. I ran.