Saga - PT Love, War and the Peace Inbetween (OC, Dooku, later on Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme) Updated 06/28

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ZaraValinor, Aug 1, 2016.

  1. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    I don't own Star Wars. If I did, things would be a lot different.

    Chapter 1:

    The theater hummed with energy of anticipation. Antares San could feel it in her chest. She drank it in, letting it energize her. This was an important performance. Not only were the scouts for the Galactic Dance Troupe but Serenno's own Count Dooku was to be at the performance. Everyone was hoping to impress, to catch an eye, to become important.

    Antares tried to think of it as only another performance She'd seen more than one professional crack under the pressure. She couldn't afford to do that. Fingering the locket at her neck, she bit at her lip as she remembered that she had her mother and brothers to provide for, that her life was no longer her own.

    With a shake of her head, she eased the sudden cramp in her neck, shaking out all of her limbs. She then began running through a serious of stretches, each movement familiar and burned into the memory of her muscles. The ritual felt good, safe. It dispelled any sadness that the locket brought. Inside one leaf of the precious metal was a holo of her father. On the other side, a family photo.

    Limbered, she was ready to get on stage.

    “Here you are, Lady San,” a small Calamarian girl came running up to her with the gravity pearls. She held them up as though she were bestowing an award to Antares.

    “Thank you, Lannala,” she said, taking the carved box that held the pearls. The girl was an intern for the Serenno Troupe. She'd come from Mon Calamari, a student studying with the troupe. Antares had done the same in Alderaan when she'd been her age. It seemed only a short time ago, that she'd been presenting the jewels to the prima donna. Now she was the star of the show.

    She leaned down and kissed the girl on her cheek. The girl laughed and skipped off to get ready. Antares pulled the pearls out of the box and pressed the activator. She closed her eyes, breathing steadily to keep from squirming as they roved over her body to affix to the receptors in her costume. When they were finished she blew out a sigh of relief.

    Arms snaked around her midsection, causing her to jump a little. “Anxious aren't we?” A kiss fell on her cheek. “You're going to be beautiful. Don't worry so much.”

    Turning in his arms, Antares looked at Endrex Kyln. “Aren't you supposed to be in the audience?”

    “Special friend privileges,” he said with a small smile. “Larego let me in.”

    “I'm going to have to talk to him about letting strange men backstage.”

    He was rather boyishly handsome, her special friend. Piercing blue eyes, brown wavy hair, a cheeky smile that made Antares melt in all the right places. He was beaming that smile at her right now. “It's just my luck that your fond of strange men.”

    “I'm supposed to be on stage in a few minutes,” she said. “No matter how fond of you I am, you have to go.”

    She pushed him away with a snort. Embracing the drama of the stage, Endrex put a hand to his heart as though wounded. “She is beauty and light. Yet, she can strike like a serpent.”

    “Begone miscreant,” she replied, laughing.

    He rushed forward, kissing her desperately. For a moment, she was overwhelmed with the scent of him, the feel of his lips. Abruptly, he pulled away leaving her breathless. “Blow their minds, beautiful.”

    She pretended to grab the kiss that he blew her way before disappearing. She shook her head and blew out a long breath, clearing her head. She went to a mirror, looking to make sure nothing had been disturbed in her kiss with Endrex. Her dark hair had been pulled back into an intricate updo, threads of reflective material had been wove through the strands. Matching her hair, her bodysuit was a mixture of dark and light, an exploding supernova.

    This was the last time the 'Dance of Stars' was going to be performed. An antigrav dance that relied upon the opalescent pearls now affixed to her costume. She preferred being on solid ground, but she couldn't deny the beauty of weightlessness. Floating as though she were a star in the vast expanse of space.

    “Lady San, your place, please,” Fandra said, holding out a hand. Antares took it, walking onto the platform. From the stage area above, she could hear the sound of the audience clapping as they announced the performance was ready to begin.

    She clasped her locket, though about her family for a brief moment before letting them go once more. Now. Now was the time to be a star.

    With a deep breath, she gave the nod that signaled the antigrav leap. She twined her arms above her head. There was the whir of the magnetic field and in a breath she was up in through the axis hole and hovering in the middle of the air space, the audience encircling her. She spun faster than humanly possible, a star rotating on its axis.

    She felt the loneliness of a such a creature, the fire and the heat, the distant cold of space. She reached out to her audience, yearning them to feel it with her. The connection of an artist and pallets of light and shadow she painted with.

    Count Dooku chaffed at the necessity of such an appearance. The head of his house staff had informed him – had nearly ordered him – that attending such a performance would be good for his image with the people of Serenno. Since leaving the Jedi and reclaiming his birthright seven years ago, he had remained an enigmatic figure.

    According to the plan of his Master, he'd begun to voice his displeasure with the Republic. He needed the people to trust him, to go through with the plan. The House of Dooku was a long venerable one. He'd played on that legacy for far too long. Now was the time to be a visible figurehead.

    He'd wished it could have been under a difference venue. Politics, diplomacy, feigned as it may have been, would have been his chosen field. Instead, he'd agreed to this art. The media outlets had been going crazy. The returned son. The Jedi who'd returned to bring Serenno back to its height of civility. Apparently, since his parents death, the cousin that had taken his place as ruling head, had been well-meaning but ultimately foolish. Trade had gone down, crime had risen, and the regional Earls had been so desperate that they had welcomed Cristoff Dooku back with open arms.

    He sat with the earls now, shaking hands and smiling with the business men and women who had been invited. He'd made a special invitation to Wat Tambor of the Techno Union, Nute Gunray and Rune Haako of the Trade Federation and San Hill of the Intergalactic Banking Clan. Shu Mai of the Commerce Guild had sent her regrets but had thanked him and would be willing to meet with him at another time.

    With a good portion of the galaxy rich at the performance, the famous had come out in droves. The combination of the two had all the holo-stations out in droves. Dooku had lost count of the hovercams that had crossed his path. He'd been half tempted to destroy them with a wave of his hand. But he wasn't an initiate, he was a Master of both the light and the dark.

    A bell struck in a rhythmic triplet as the announcer called all the patrons to their seats. Dooku took his seat, prepared to meditate through the entire performance. He clapped alongside everyone else as the lights dimmed. He was just beginning to start his breathing exercises when the first dancer appeared. She appeared in a burst of light, springing like a gem suspended in air. Instantly, he felt a connection to the girl, an instant link he hadn't felt with anyone else save for a Jedi or his own current Dark Master.

    He found himself holding his breath as she turned her spin to the side, her body beginning to spin on a angle, her limbs made it look as though she'd turned into the points of a star. Something flitted by, other dancers, floating past like small moons, planets, as the star made its way throughout a galaxy, never holding in one place.

    Dooku's eyes narrowed as the girl started to slow, her body condensing down into a ball. The momentum slowed and slowed until it stopped. Once she was still, the girl stretched, like she was flower just starting to bloom. The former Jedi felt as though he was awakening for the first time. Her movements were elegant, glorious even, but Dooku was more than enchanted, he was mesmerized.

    With pointed toes, she began to walk across the still air, now catching up to the other celestial bodies that she'd previously zoomed past. The moons gathered around her, frolicking in childish delight. She mimicked their childish joy until they moved on, caught in a grasp of another star system.

    Dooku could almost feel her tears as his own as they departed. The sorrow was a weight on his chest as she made her continued walk. This time, a group of planets, this time the joy was different, a dangerous edge, as they spun in an erratic pattern around her. Power engulfed Dooku. A sense of control as the danger began to arrange the planets to her liking.

    The Sith apprentice drank that feeling in, looked at all the patrons as they felt as he felt. As the dancer became the center of a solar system, so did everyone in the theater. Soon, the star released them, the planets taking their own course one by one.

    Again their was the sadness, the aching need.

    Dooku watched as sentient being all began to draw their eyes. He nearly jerked in surprise as he felt wetness begin to trace down his own cheek. His mouth open in awe, he reached a wondering hand up to wipe at the droplet.

    If he could be affected, a trained Jedi and now a Sith apprentice, what else could this girl do?

    She walked alone again, until she was caught by another star. This one a male dancer. The dance became something else together, sensual. The movements were not separate, but intertwined. They became caught in one another's gravity, a binary system.

    Now there was the sense of completion as two equal and complementary forces spun in tandem together. When she leaped further into the air, he was with her, as he pirouetted, she was with him move for move. As a Jedi he had never known love and as a Sith there was only passion. Dooku could only think of his apprentices, even his own Master, Yoda. The times where they had moved in perfect unison, two bodies moving as one in a single purpose.

    He felt as the rest of the audience did as a shadow began to encroach on them. It was a darkness, a maw that began to swallow all that came into its path. The lights that the crew had been bouncing around the set, that represented the far of star systems around the girl, began to swirl and become lost to the darkness. It caught the girl in its grasp. She began to darken. The male binary star pulled at her, taking her place in the darkness.

    Over and over again, they fought to protect each other from the darkness until they became less and less. There was only one option. He felt her heartbreak. The other dancers may have been novices, fumbling newborns next to her brilliance. They separated, their bond torn apart, spinning away from each other and the darkness that had sough to destroy them.

    They ended on opposite ends of the theater, alone, just glowing embers compared to the brightness they'd once embodied. Separated and alone, it felt as though all was lost. Until they saw it, a piece of energy that had managed to splinter from the blackhole. It was a little star, a child now representing that glimmer of hope. The two separated stars that had once danced together began to spin again, returning to their solitary life. Each now content that their sacrifice had created that brilliant child.

    The light darkened until the three were the lights left. And then the male dancer lost his light. Both the child and the girl lamented his loss, in a sudden dive that left the audience gasping. The girl slowly dimmed only leaving the child behind. A child who was now the hope for the universe. The darkness dissipated by his light.

    And then the entire theater was lost as it went dark for a a breath before the house lights turned one. All the dancers were gone. The spherical stage empty. As one the audience rose to its feet, cheering and clapping. The sound threatened to bring the entire theater down. Slowly, deliberately, Dooku rose to his feet. Emotionally shaken, his mind was still alert and avid. He began to make a plot. A plan that his Master need never know.

    “Do you hear that crowd?” Larego crowed, picking up Antares. He spun her around in manic glee. “Oh, I hate to think what this means. But do you know what this means. The Galactic Dance Troupe is sure to snatch you up. I'll have to find a new lead.”

    She joined his laughter through her tears. It was always such an emotional dance. “Maybe they'll want to hire you as their choreographer.”

    “With you and Inseil making my movement transcend art, I have little doubts.” The Twi'lek looked across the way to Antares partner. He was dressed in a similar fashion to Antares, his hair was slicked back and threaded with the silver strands as her own was. She rushed over to him as Larego set her down and was lifted into the air a second time.

    Antares was nearly dizzy as she was passed from each of the troupe members. She was feeling pretty euphoric herself and didn't mind the emphatic treatment. There joy was quickly doubling her own.

    Abruptly, Endrex was in front of her, his arms around her. “Beautiful. There's just not words. I'm going to have to make sure I can do business while we travel through spacelanes.”

    Giving him a quick kiss, she cupped her cheek. “Nothings decided yet,” she said, but she was smiling.

    He turned her around and the breath caught in her chest as she saw the scouts Fandra had pointed out to her earlier. “Oh, yeah,” Endrex taunted jovially. “Then why are they pointing at you and talking with Larego. Go on, lovey. Make them pay through the nose.” He kissed her hair. “I'll drop by your mother's, tell her the good news. Meet me at the house after your done. We'll celebrate. Alderaanian red, I take it.”

    She agreed while he kissed her hand goodbye. Putting a hand to her chest, she fought to keep her calm. This was everything she'd ever dreamed of, everything she'd trained for. She knew Endrex wanted her to milk them for all the money she could, but she knew she'd agree to whatever they offered first. She wouldn't be able to stop herself. How could you not when a dream was coming to fruition.

    It was now quiet in her dressing room. Most of the troupe had gone off for the after party. She now had her contract. A datacard with the details was sitting on vanity. A smile was stuck on her face, a permanent grin she didn't think had waned since she'd landed back on her magnetic pad.

    She'd changed, the grav pearls were back in their box and her face was washed, the silver threads removed from her dark hair. She was dressed in a simple unisuit that she was looking forward to having Endrex remove. Her green eyes fell on the datacard once more, the small deepening. Maybe now, they could be bound to one another. Maybe now, she was ready to let the extra money take care of her mother and brothers and she could start her life with Endrex. He'd waited long enough.

    She jumped when their was a knock on her door. Rolling her eyes at her lapse in her concentration, she called, “It's open.”

    The door rushed open with a whoosh of air. In the mirror she caught the regal stature of Count Dooku himself. Startled, she spun around, tyring to curtsy at the same time. “My Lord,” she stuttered. “I didn't know you were coming.”

    “My apologies for startling you, my dear. I just wanted to meet you in person. Your performance tonight was riveting.”

    “Thank you, Count Dooku,” she said. “I'm glad it pleased you.”

    Gently, he took her hand, holding it up to his chest. “Oh yes, I am very pleased.”

    The smile slipped from Antares face as she felt something dark, greedy, settle into her chest. She tried to step back, but he held on fast. “Please, let go,” she whispered.

    “I'm afraid, that you will have to come with me, Lady San. You just gave the performance of your life. The last one anyone will ever see.”
    Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Off to an intriguing start here! I always love seeing artistic types as the protagonists of SW fanfics, and I like the introduction we get here to Antares as a character—she's beautiful and a talented prima ballerina, yes, but she's got relationships and connections too: she's concerned with providing for her family and for getting her life with her fiancé off to a good start. And we even get a glimpse of the professional relationships she has to Larego (who I guess is the manager or director or somewhat) and her fellow dancer Inseil. This makes Dooku's appearance in her dressing room is such a shock—not just for the sinister, Erik-like designs he undoubtedly has on her ("the last [performance] anyone will ever see"? Eep!), but also because we know that he is pulling her away from people who love her and need her. Your descriptions of her, her costume, and her dance are just fantastic—my breath was taken away just as much as Dooku's was, though I don't have any such sinister plans! :D
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Marvelous description of the dance and of the dancer's skill and connection to friends, family, and the other members of the troupe. =D= I too have an especial fondness for artistic types ;) and am very very protective of them. :D Dooku's intentions aren't "honorable" at all. [face_worried] And Endrex - he's a decent likeable one and deserves happiness as much as Antares. @};-
  4. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Jul 31, 2014
    This is already looking great!

    I have a question. I noticed tat the POV shifts at this point:

    Was that an error, OR is the narrator a character in the story, too? Slightly confused. My assumption is that Antares San is from Alderaan and that the story was originally in first person, but that you changed your mind. The whole analogy with the gravity balls reminds me of the children gathering tennis balls in our world - kinda neat! However, the dance itself is nothing like what we have here and I was throughtfully impressed by how you described it. [face_love]

    And Endrex Kyln is one naughty boy, but perhaps his observation that Antares likes strange men will play a huge part here.

    Now, for Count Dooku. He is treated by his family like some sort of a prodigal son. I guess that a certain amount of an anti-republic statement could be...running in the family. And Antares' dance came at what appeared to be the worst possible moment - surrounded by his future Separatist allies, he sees symbolism AND foresees the future in the whole dance routine. And, being an undercover, slightly paranoid Sith apprentice, he has his own ways of interpreting it and he already wants to get rid of Sidious, or so it seems.

    Aaaand...they meet. The poodo is surely to hit the fan.

    Looking forward to more!
    ZaraValinor and Findswoman like this.
  5. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002

    Thank you. Antares is a different character. I wanted to see if she would work. But she's got so poodoo coming her way.

    Thank you. I love to watch dancing. I wish I had taken classes as a child.

    Yeah, POV shift was an accident. I was bouncing between this and my own work of fiction. That one is first person. I thought I'd caught all the mistakes. Thanks for catching it.

    Dooku has serious training. He's been with the Jedi most of his life. Yet, I don't think Serenno is ready for everything he has to offer.

    Chapter 2:

    Master Cristoff Dooku woke with a start. It was dark and his head ached. There was a particular spot as he reached to the back of his head that was extremely tender and throbbed in a repeated rhythmic pattern. Belatedly, he remembered a sudden blow to the back of his head. They’d been investigating a smuggling ring that had been alluding CorSec and Republic forces. Apparently, he and Qui-Gon had stepped on too many toes.

    He heard a groan behind him, turned in the dark to see if it was his apprentice. “Padawan?”

    Master?” the voice asked in slight confusion.

    Yes,” Dooku said. He reached a hand out and felt his Padawan’s firm shoulder. “Are you well?”

    Well enough,” the seventeen-year-old said, his words ending in a painful hiss. “Where are we?”

    A cell, I imagine,” the Jedi Master said. He began to pat the space in front of him, searching blindly in the dark.

    I hear an energy field,” Qui-Gon pointed out. “I can feel it….and something else. Something desperate, crying out. I fear we were right, Master. They are slavers.”

    Dooku frowned. He’d felt the discordant energy in the Force, but he did not have Qui-Gon’s empathy, his stark connection to the living Force. Too often, it was a distraction to the main goal of their missions. He’d yet to get his Padawan to accept that sometimes they could not help everyone. More often than not, sacrifices needed to be made.

    It also allowed for a connection to others that was just as useful as it was detrimental. With time and training, Qui-Gon would learn to balance to two, would be an incredible Jedi. Until then, Dooku would just have to be patient. If there was one thing his old Jedi master had drilled into him, it was patience.

    Keep your senses attuned, Qui-Gon. I will try to secure our release. Let me know if you sense anyone nearby,” he commanded.

    Qui-Gon shifted into a sitting position, searching out a meditative state. “Yes, Master.”

    Dooku stood and careful picked his way in the darkness. He heard the hum of the energy filed meant to keep them in. Of course, the smugglers had taken their weapons, but a Jedi was never truly disarmed. He felt around, careful to avoid the energy field. It would not do permanent damage, but he’d like to avoid any type of incapacitation and most fields of this sort usually left you numb and half paralyzed.

    Fingers questing over the smooth permecrete he found the control panel. He pulled a multitool from his belt, pried the service plate off. With a finger he felt along the edge, careful not to pull at the wires. He would have to find the power cell and cut the cable without signaling the redundant security overlay. He pulled back rubbed his forehead.

    Master someone is coming,” Qui-Gon informed him.

    Reaching out to the Force, he felt for its will, made his known. Take a deep breath, he let the Force guide his hand a pulled one of the wires. He froze, holding his breath. The energy field cycle off and didn't return.

    Let us leave their hospitality Padawan,” Dooku said. “Which way are they coming from?”

    To the left, Master,” Qui-Gon answered, now at his side. “Should we make introductions.”

    It would be rude not to,” Dooku returned. “Take care of it would you, Padawan?”

    Yes, Master,” Qui-Gon said.

    There was light in that direction. It was dim, hovering over what looked like a bank of security monitors. “They have dark vidcams, Padawan,” he informed.

    He sensed Qui-Gon's acknowledgment. Tracing his path, he could see Qui-Gon's tall outline in the darkness. There was another being, this one almost as tall as his Padawan, with the shoulder width of maturity. This being didn't have the benefit of the backlight. He couldn't see Qui-Gon. It took two quick strikes, one to the abdomen and one to the back of the head before the being was out cold at Qui-Gon's feet.

    Qui-Gon pulled the being into the cell they'd just vacated. He joined Dooku quickly, breathing more harshly than he should of for such a small altercation. Dooku stretched his senses over his Padawan and felt him relax.

    Sorry, Master. The fear here is a little overpowering. It feels as though it is being amplified.”

    Dooku cocked an eyebrow. That was unexpected. “Protect yourself Padawan, I will just have to be extra attentive. See what you can get from the vidscreens. I'll look for our lightsabers.”

    Qui-Gon rushed to screens, bemusedly poking at the keypad. Qui-Gon would always be better with the living than soulless mechanics. Again, it was something he'd have to learn.

    Antares came slowly to consciousness, her eyes blinking at the intense light above her. She tried to sit up, when memory caught up to her sleep-fogged mind, and felt the sudden jolt of the binders at each of her wrists. Wide eyed, her heart tripping in full panic, she tugged at her restraints. Around her, the room was as white and intense as the light. Cold and clinical.

    In one corner sat a life comp, she looked at her wrist again and recognized a vital sign recorder. The steady beep was increasing as her panic rose. Was she in a medics ward? Had she been injured? Rescued? What had happened after the Count had knocked her unconscious? Outside the sound of her vitals, the silence was deafening, unnerving.

    She jumped when the compression door slid open. Dooku came in, dressed in his familiar black tunic and pants with his elaborate brown cape fluttering behind him. He was a commanding presence, but Antares could now see past the courtly man and to the serpent that lay underneath. Behind him, stood a woman dressed in medic whites. She was a cold blooded Falleen her hair tied high on her head. That explained why it felt so warm in here.

    Please, do calm yourself, Lady San,” Count Dooku said into the silence. “We would not want you to hurt yourself or other unduly.”

    Where am I? Why have you kidnapped me?” Antares demanded.

    Dooku stepped forward, but was stopped by a green hand. He narrowed his eyes at the temerity of such an action. “Do not get too close, my lord. We do not know how far the range has widened.”

    Her fear cannot affect me,” Dooku said. “I've learned how to use it.”

    Range?” she questioned. “What are you talking about?”

    The Count leveled his gaze at her. “It is strange that you do not know your own power, my dear. Have you ever heard of an empath?”

    Her brow furrowed in confusion. “The ability to feel the emotions of those around you.”

    Not nearly that simple. It is not just feeling the emotions. It is more than just that. They become your own. Those with the Force have a measure of that ability. You have more than an measure. It is more than that, my dear. You have the power to control those emotions, to turn what you will on others. It furthered your career as a dancer. Now it will help me save the Republic and the Jedi Order.”

    I'm sorry, Count Dooku, I don't understand what your telling me. The Republic and the Jedi Order our fine. I assure you, I do not have any of these powers.” She knew that she may be stretching the truth a little. Dooku himself was raising unrest among the Republic. Many systems were starting to think as Serenno did. That corruption had infected the Senate. Antares had never concerned herself with politics until her chosen planet had begun to be a key point. “That doesn't explain why you've kidnapped me? I'm not a threat.”

    Well, my dear, I'm afraid that your ignorance of this power has made you weak. You only access it when you dance. I need more than that. I need more than you are willing to give.”

    Antares swallowed. Her fear spiking again, the beeping increasing until it sounded like one long signal. “What are you going to do to me?”

    “Master,” Qui-Gon said, feeling his heart drop into his stomach. “You need to take a look at this.” He moved around the comp to see what Qui-Gon had pulled up. “They're not just slaves, Master. Someone has been running experiments. “

    The two Jedi stood side by side as they watched a Falleen press a hypospray to the necks of the prisoners. It was hard to tell how many had been crammed into the room, laying prostrate, tied down to medical bunks, the footage didn't extend to the entire room. It was tight though. Qui-Gon estimated at least 20 different humanoids.

    That was the fear that reached out to him and threatened to squeeze the life out of him. He could only imagine what these people had been through. It took only moments after they'd been drugged to see the effects. Some began to scream, others shoulders jerked, sobbing, while others, others just starred blank-eyed, breathing, heart-beating, but something was missing.

    Antares watched as the Falleen pressed the vile of serum into the hydropsray. Trembling, she watched, every sense hyper extended from adrenaline. She knew if she didn't calm down soon, she was likely to pass out from hyperventilation. Her first major debut she'd passed out. Her instructor had roused her with the most foul smelling concoction. To this day, she still didn't know what had been in it.

    Forcing herself to breath slowly and evenly, she said, “What is that?”
    An old psychotropic drug that was banned on all civilized worlds,” the Falleen answered. “It accesses the parts of the brain that release hormone levels. Primarily, the section that deals with fear.”

    Antares scoffed. It was a watery sound, on the verge of tears. “I don't think you need to worry about that. I'm sufficiently afraid.”

    Oh, but you're still in control, Lady San. I need to see what happens when you are not.”

    She nodded, fighting to keep breathing in and out. In and out. “If you're right. Doesn't that make me more dangerous? A threat to the Jedi and the Republic. It doesn't make sense.”

    The Republic has been decaying for some time. It has struggled along, buoyed by the Force and the Jedi who foolishly sacrifice themselves to the cause. They pay in blood for an unforgiving and uncaring government. I will save them from themselves.”

    Antares wondered at this. It sounded personal. She knew that tone of voice. She wondered who he'd lost.

    Noble,” I gave an hysterical laugh. “How am I going to help you?”

    You are going to bring them to the Dark Side.”

    Dooku watched his young apprentice. The longer he remained close to this terrible experiment the more pale he became. Dooku could feel the dark currents in the Force. It was taking most of his concentration to block out the negative energy. They both needed to leave as quickly as possible. But first...he needed to find their lightsabers.

    He was loath to leave Qui-Gon alone. Yet, getting out of this place would much more difficult without their blades. He looked back at his apprentice, the pale light casting shadows on his angular face. “I'll be back soon. Keep aware. If need be, hide yourself away until I return.”

    Qui-Gon nodded. His eyes stuck on the viewscreens.

    He headed back the way they'd come. Checking the areas that were not blocked by an energy hum. He could check the locked cells later, could rescue the lost souls.

    A door popped open when he stepped before it. He slowly peeped in, his eyes scanning the area in a quick round, picking out all the details. He saw their lightsabers locked behind a weapons cabinet. He double checked that the room was empty. He stepped in cautiously. There was more here than was readily seen. He knew that much. So much these days was cast in shadow. Master Yoda kept hinting towards a coming darkness. Not yet here, but growing. Like bubbles surfacing before the krakana.

    With a wave of his hand he opened the locked cabinet. He grabbed the two lightsabers and stuffed Qui-Gon's into his tunic. He was on his way back when he heard a cry. It was further down the corridor than the cell he and Qui-Gon had been held in. As he waved the door open, he found that this one had been more occupied. In horror, his blue gaze went from each face. The features were all frozen in a twisted mask of terror.

    Dooku put a hand to his mouth, tried to shut his eyes to the macabre scene. The images blazes in his minds eye.

    Do you like my work?”

    He spun to see the Falleen who had been on the vid recordings before, giving the prisoners their dosage. “What work is that?” he ground out between clench teeth.

    Fear. I've studied it a long time. The smell can be quite intoxicating. But you must know that.”

    Dooku shook his head. One time. He'd felt that call, the promise of the Dark Side. Yoda had saved him. He would not let this creature pretend like she knew him. “This isn't work. This is depraved butchery.”

    No, you're right. Work makes it seem so monotonous, so hum drum. Work is something you have to do. But art...that is a labor of love.”

    You are under arrest,” Dooku said. He ignited his blade, part of his willing her to fight.

    Instead, she smiled a knowing smile. “Do not worry, Jedi. I will come willingly. One day you will ask for my help.”

    Antares could do nothing as the Falleen pressed the hypospray to her throat. She felt the injection, the liquid pressing through her skin, entering her blood stream. There was no escape. The skin around her wrists and ankles were raw, bleeding from her fruitless attempts. She watched the Falleen as she pulled away, a satisfied curve on her thin lips.

    Bring in the test subject,” Dooku ordered. I am quite sure we want to be far away when the drug goes into affect.”

    The Falleen nodded and they disappeared behind the sweeping door only to be replaced by a young man, possible close to Antares age. He made her think of Endrex. Was he out looking for her? Could she be found when her own head of government was looking to test and torture her?

    Then the nightmares descended.

    The young man began to scream before she did. But soon they were in tandem. A chorus of a terrified heart. She longed to be unconscious now. With an effort she fought through the terrifying images, finding a little tiny place of solitude. Enough to allow her to think. She exhaled more than she inhaled and soon she welcomed the darkness.
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  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    The concept of Antares as a kind of empath who can access her empathic powers only while dancing is super fascinating. But that makes what Dooku is doing doubly scary—from what I can see he's essentially trying to isolate and magnify the empathy in such a way that (a) she doesn't need to be dancing to use it and so that (b) he can control it and turn it toward his own ends—am I understanding that aright? And at the same time, it looks like he's trying to harness and her channel her raw fear, as if it were some kind of chemical she churns out? If so, then this story is entering some seriously scary territory—especially now that there's a "test subject" in the picture sharing the agony. Major goosebumps! [face_nail_biting]

    And these flashbacks are definitely intriguing—we are getting a look at exactly where and how Dooku learned how to tap into and manipulate fear in this insidious way (and of course the fact that there's a Falleen in both the main story and the flashbacks seems significant).

    Things are really ramping up here—keep it coming! :D
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Ooh, fascinating developments. The flashbacks explain the stuff that's happening now as well as heighten the contrast in Dooku's changed motives and personality. [face_thinking]
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  8. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002

    Dooku is definitely up to no good. I have always had this head cannon for why Dooku fell and this story will explore that a little more. More next. Thank you!

    I've always wanted to explore Dooku more. Thanks for reading.

    Chapter 3:

    Antares couldn't remember where she began and the others ended. There was just a long line of pain and fear. Some of the fears were hers, recalled from childhood. Her fear of heights. The one she'd struggled for months with to perform the first dance to have the players climb upside down to the stage. Of course, the climb had been from two hundred feet in the air. That was an old, familiar trouble. One that she could and had on numerous occasions pushed through. It was strange, having that fear change and thrown back at her.

    Then there was others. Someone had a fear of drowning. The initial fear drug, Mordonine, she later learned, was mixed with glitterstim. The hallucinogenic made all the fears real, vivid. So many times, she would wake to the feeling of water filling her throat, coating her lungs. She would gasp and cough, trying to escape the drowning.

    Another time, she would see a Trandoshan, a man she'd never met before and could not tell any his name. But she would see him blaster incineration by thermal a lightsaber and she would weep uncontrollably for hours. Fear quickly turning to grief, despair.

    The drugs turned her stomach and made it difficult to hold what little food she was given. And she wasn't the only one. The sickness, reverberated, rebounded on each of them. At the direst moment, she felt the death throes of one of her fellow captives. Her mind stretched and snapped as it believed it was dying only to live breath to breath.

    For a long time there was darkness. Sweet utter black. And silence. That was the more satisfying. The quiet. No one elses' thoughts and feelings become alive in her own. She could rest for the first time in what had felt like a season.

    Once again she woke to the white room. This time, a blanket had been draped over her. Her muscles were sore from trembling, from clenching in fear. But as she moved, they were not as painful as they'd been before. Her writs and ankles had been released from the bindings and bandaged. They no longer felt fevered from infection. The unexpected kindness brought tears to her eyes. She laughed at the fact that she could cry at all.

    Tentatively, she swung her legs over the edge of the medical bed. The cool tile welcomed her thin feet. She stood for the first time and waited for this one luxury to be pulled away from her. Her legs wobbled like a newborn Saun colt. The simple action threatened to drain her fragile energy reserves but she continued to stand and to observe. It had been too long since she'd acted and thought for herself.

    Antares, walked towards the wall with awkward steps. She, a dancer who'd been instructed since she could form sentences longer than two words, had trouble putting one foot in front of the other. It seemed unreal. A nightmare she could not shake in her waking hours. She took solace that at least it belonged to her and her alone.

    Vaguely, she wondered what had happened to the others. Those she had shared her ordeal with. She'd felt one die. A brother or sister she had never known but was imbedded in her heart. Should she mourn? Her mind told her yes, but her heart yearned for another emotion, anything other than the dread of the last terrible days.

    As she waited in the silence, it settled on hope. Perhaps the Republic had found her captors, that the Falleen and the Count would finally be held accountable for their crimes. She liked to think that even now they were being taken into custody and in a few minutes the door would swish open, this time inviting her freedom. She tried not to think of her own culpability. They'd used her. And a being was dead.

    But she was being allowed to walk, to think, and to be alone. Antares by nature was a social person, almost needing to be in a group of others, dancing, collaborating, interacting. She never though she would appreciate being alone.

    She reached the door and it swished open at her presence. She paused, half frightened, half exhausted. She hated for this to be a trick. A new form of torture. A promise of hope to be dashed away in mental and physical imprisonment.

    On the precipice of decision, she took a timid step forward. She stood on the threshold now. The waiting place. Neither in her prison but not quite free of it either. It pressed upon her back, pushing and pulling. Another ungainly step forward and she was in a corridor. The building was unfamiliar. It almost had the utilitarian aspect of a warehouse, but there was a precision, a solemnity that didn't mark the lazy patience of a warehouse.

    Her stomach made its abuse known and she yearned for nerf steak in muja sauce. Flatbread and Taccati fish. The continued quiet, though still very welcome, began to feel weighted. As though the hall had ears and was listening for her. She followed down the hall, using the wall as a crutch. Even this little walk was draining muscles that had atrophied from disuse.

    This time another fear struck her heart. What if she could never dance? In her more lucid moments, she'd known that the galactic troupe had most definitely moved on. That her dream had passed away probably never to return. But the thought of never dancing again. That was a fate worse than death. She had to get away.

    There were rooms down the hall, rooms like hers. But they were empty, abandoned. Cold light reaching out to her in translucent, bony fingers of ghosts long gone. She shuddered, the cold pervasive, soaking to her very marrow. She longed to be free, to once again feel the rays of the sun heat her face. She missed her brothers’ smiles, the way her mother ran fingers through her hair, Endrex’s arms around her, the rise and fall of a sweet melody. She had a feeling that she would never know them again.

    The hope flickered and guttered like a storm ridden torch.

    Antares began to believe she was the only one that remained. The others had died or possibly gone mad with the sensations of death. She’d been on the brink herself. She’d felt the madness, had seen it as a comfort and escape of its own. She wasn’t sure what had saved her. Perhaps she was merely too valuable to give up to the prolonged testing. The others…the others were gone. If she could leave now then there wouldn’t have to be anyone else hurt by this ability that was somehow going to save the galaxy.

    She heard footsteps and paused, her breath coming in and out in tiny gasps that sounded too loudly in her ears. In a hurried panic, I glanced around the corridor and dodged into one of the rooms. The soft hiss of the door opening and closing the only mark of her departure. She dropped below the view window. Pressing her back to the door, careful not to shift her weight and signal it open. She closed her eyes, cocking her head to the side and willing her ears to hear every potential threat. She almost scoffed at her own foolishness. Dooku had been a Jedi. Didn’t they have some powers of omniscience? How long could she really hide if he was hunting her?

    She waited with baited breath, she could imagine the vibration of the footsteps as they came and went passed her.

    “It won’t be long before the droids will be here,” a gruff voice said. “We’ve begun unloading the weapons in sector twelve.”

    Weapons? Droids?

    Antares eyes flickered around the sterile room. What was this place? And what did it have to do with her? Unless Dooku wished to destroy an entire galaxy or else drive it to madness. Tears pricked her eyes. She let them fall silently. What had once been her greatest gift had been turned to such ugliness and darkness. Maybe it would have been better to give in to death. She didn’t want to be a tool of destruction.

    The hope was wearing thin the longer she walked the halls, the more labyrinth her prison became. She wasn’t even sure if she was on Serenno or some other land holding of the Count’s.

    It was a while before she felt safe enough to continue roaming the halls. She found shipping containers and wondered if she had moved into sector 12. She touched a one of the shipping crates, wondered if she were strong enough to pry it open. She’d never held a blaster before, though she knew her father had carried one once they’d left Alderaan.

    For several minutes, she pressed the keypad glyphs, hoping to stumble across the right access code. A red light flashed after eight keys, so it had to at least be eight digits. Nine keys, eight digits, she would be here forever.

    She put a shaking hand to her forehead. Everything was too hot and sticky. Was she on a jungle planet? She’d spent a season with a troupe in Car Sean that had the most dripping atmosphere. She felt as though she were constantly drowning on water. The thought brought back another unpleasant memory. Drowning. A fear she’d never had until now.

    Without thinking, she coughed, as though she were once again emerged in a tank she could not escape. She shook her head. With an effort she focused her eyes back on the key pad. Her mind had lost its precision focus, it wondered too easily, distracted by too many dark memories. Endrex’s company had dealt in shipping. Why had she not paid more attention?

    Vaguely, she recalled him mentioning something about wiping shipping crates to reset the locking mechanism. But if he’d explained, she had not fully understood and had tuned it out. She looked around. Shipping crates were made durable, but were notorious for overuse. She could carry one of the smaller ones, climb somewhere high and push it over the edge. If she was lucky, she’d have a blaster or a least something that could be used to distract everyone. She could slip out the front door, once she found it.

    It was the first steps towards hope and that climb was always the hardest.

    Larego had shown her the choreography and she had nearly lost her lunch. She was still on the stage, looking at the intricate netting, rising high into the air. Antares swallowed the lump in her throat. She started the basic movements on the stage, getting down on hands and toes. It was a dance from Archano that had been adapted and adopted by millions of worlds. The Leg Dance. She’d seen it performed by humans before but eventually it was criticized as lacking the articulation and fluidity of the original. Archanoans had eight appendages, each with series of segmented joints that were not limited to the single mechanics of a human.

    She paused, trying to figure how a human body could flip from the crouched position she was currently on and land with her face and belly to the ceiling. She tried it once, throwing her weight on her right hand and foot and pushing away with her left. As she arched over in the air she changed the direction of her right hand, twisting it so that her palm was flat against the floor. Landing her left, she did the same, her midsection bowing outward to the ceiling.

    With a huff, she dropped to the ground. She didn’t need to see the recording to know that the maneuver hadn’t looked beautiful or effortless. Nor had it evoked the stealthy silence of the Archanoans. Her green eyes darted to the netting again. Despite her deep fear, she could see how it would be easier to make such a movement in the air.

    “Why are you lying on the floor?” Endrex asked with a laugh. His steps echoed through the empty stage. “You’re supposed to be in the air.”

    “Why don’t you do it?” she snapped. It was unfair, they’d only known each other for less than a season; he couldn’t possibly understand how much this filled her with dread.

    Endrex’s smirk faded away. He held his hand up in surrender. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” His blue eyes flickered to the mesh above. “Did you fall?” He rushed forward, kneeling by her side.

    She put a hand to his cheek. “No, I didn’t fall. I would have to actually make the climb to fall. And…I’m terrified.”

    “Afraid of heights? Good to know. I won’t be taking you to the Cliffs of Keskeedan any time soon.”

    She sat up, wrapping her arms around her legs and resting her chin on the tops of her knees. “Maybe you should. One quick scare. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. Just the thought of it makes me freeze.”

    Abruptly, he leaped to his feet and offered her a hand. She eyed his hand wearily. He had that mischevious glint in his eye that always promised and adventure. It was one of the reasons she was becoming enamored with him. She’d held herself to such an exact standard, that Endrex’s easy-going mischief made her feel alive, happy and free. “What are you doing?”

    “Come on. I may not have your grace, lovey, but I have had plenty of climbing experience. I’ll be with you every step of the way. Everything is easier when faced together.”

    Antares was alone now, the painstaking climb only endured for the promise of what lay curled in at her side. The shipping loader was an ancient piece of machinery, used to load the heavier crates and equipment that had come into what Antares now thought of as the compound. She’d rigged a makeshift satchel out of cello tape and had affixed the smaller shipping crate to her side. But it was not an easy climb.

    It was basically one lever balanced by a column built into the compounds receiving bay. The column did not have a lot of hand holds and her muscles had already taken more than a beating. But determination and adrenalin can do much and she was adept at using both. She was half way up when her palms began to cramp. Her legs trembled with the effort, her toes digging into the centimeters high grove.

    She looked behind her. If she fell from this height, she would not survive. She had a choice to make. Try to go forward and hopefully make it to the top or head back down before she lost her grip and her life. Antares had not reached her goals in life by backing down when things became difficult. She pulled herself up to the next groove.

    Sweat stung her eyes, made her slim purchase on the column even more precarious. If only she’d had the chalk she used before she danced, keeping the grime of the dance from her. The top was in sight, she could see it, a couple meters ahead. It wouldn’t take much at all. But her body didn’t have much to give.

    A strained sob echoed through the bay as she struggled to keep her hold. Her muscles, her body, her trusted friend, gave out and she fell. Wildly, she reached for the column, felt the promises of bruises as she fell to face to get a grip on it again. She was going to die and it wasn’t the terrible thing she’d thought it would be. It was a different type of escape, one that would end this pain and misery. An escape that would save others from the madness and death. An escape that would end whatever Count Dooku was planning.

    But the unruly plummet began to slow, the high pitched whistle of wind running past her ear dimming to a dull whisper. When she hit the ground it was as though an unseen, clumsy dance partner had dropped her during a routine.

    “It would seem she did not fall the madness as you had feared, Master,” a sultry alto voice said. Antares didn’t recognize it. Her face was pale and white, her head hairless. There were tattooed markings on her forehead, eyes and mouth. She seemed more alien then the Archano that Antares had been thinking about, though she was clearly humanoid.

    “She has shown surprising resilience,” Dooku agreed. “Tell Cethlos that I wish to proceed with experiments.”

    Shaking her head, tears streaming freely from her eyes, Antares was not above begging. “Please, my lord, no. I cannot…more will die…I’m not sure if…,” her pleadings turned quickly to groans and screams as the pale woman grabbed her by an arm and hefted her to her feet. A gesture brought a droid supporting Antares other side.

    “Please,” she moaned. “Please.”

    At that moment, she felt that brief light of hope extinguish. Dooku touched her cheek, his calloused hands matching the emptiness in his face. “Lady San now you know the true nature of the Dark Side. You are almost ready.”

    She screamed as they dragged her away, continued to scream as they left her alone once again in that cell. The cuffs, familiar and cold, slapped her back into place. She longed for the oblivion of unconsciousness but even in that she was shown no kindness.
  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh yoicks! There's really no other word than "torture" to describe what Antares has experienced so far at this mysterious outpost of Dooku's—mental and psychological torture of the highest order, to the point where it has a physical component too (in the hunger, the atrophied muscles, etc.). I too would say she probably has experienced the "true nature of the Dark Side" by now by way of all those other beings' hurt and death and loss—because isn't the Dark Side pretty much the sum total of all hurt and death and loss? It's come pretty darn close to quashing her completely, but it hasn't; her own will and determination are there, and they show themselves in this daring escape attempt of hers, even if it ultimately wasn't successful. (Not sure if the "surprising resilience" will turn out to be a good thing or not!)

    And it's so neat the way her arduous climb to the top of the cargo hold resembles that dance she was trying to learn long ago, though in reverse, since the principal feature of the dance was a downward flip—the opposite of a climb, but still involving overcoming a fear of heights. That shows us that, as though the unspeakable mental torture weren't enough, this situation is also bringing Antares face to face with some of her own very fundamental fears!
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh how I root for Antares! Her struggles, determination are laudable! @};- Enjoyed the flashback also, paralleling as it does her travails and effort. [face_thinking] Dooku is a slime-dog of the worst kind! Gets a sadistic pleasure out of squashing 'Tares like a bug! :eek:
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  11. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002

    I totally agree. The moment you lose hope, you're at risk.

    Yeah, Dooku is a little too happy about his experimentation. I like the nickname. :)
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  12. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Chapter 4:

    Endrex Kyln fidgeted outside of Count Dooku's reception area. He was a business man by necessity, inheriting the shipping company from his father. He enjoyed the profits that running the business gave, the extra time that allowed him. Shipping was a bore, but he didn't mind the attention. It was what had brought him to the theater where he'd met Antares.

    She'd taught him to be more focused, more driven. She'd brought beauty into his life. It was that which had brought him to Count Dooku's palace, despite his distaste for politics. He did not like the idea of taking sides in the Republic's recent disputes. But it had been almost a year since he'd seen Antares last. The planets security force could not find any trace of her. All lines of inquiry had come out empty. In moments, she'd vanished and he was hoping influence from the Count could perhaps keep Antares case alive.

    He rubbed a hand down his face, breathed a ragged sigh. He felt the sharp brush of stubble. He'd forgotten to shave again. There were days where he pushed himself past the worry, the pain, the what-if and conducted business as usual. Then there were the days that he could barely think of anything but Antares. He wandered the streets on foot, took his hovercar and cruised aimlessly.

    Endrex straightened when the droid that had vanished to let Dooku know he was here, came back trundling on a single wheel. “Count Dooku will see you now.”

    He stood hurriedly, brushing at his jacket. He'd ensured that his cleaning droid had washed and pressed the blue jacket, but he couldn't help the nervous gesture.

    The droid led him into the office, a strange mixture of crushed red and blue. As though fire and water had found a way to coexist together without turning into steam. A fiery calm. Liquid passion. The count almost was a shadow in the warring room. His light hair a contrast to the dark suit and cape.

    “Master Kyln,” Dooku said reaching out a hand to the young shipping magnate. “I would say it's a pleasure but for the circumstances. How is Lady San's family? Yourself?”

    Endrex gave a shadow of his usual beaming smile. “We're coping though it has been difficult. I appreciate your time, Count. I know you are a busy man.”

    Dooku's gaze was unnerving. In its intensity Endrex felt stripped and vulnerable. There had always been something about the man that had seemed off. Endrex had put it down to his upbringing. Jedi were enigmatic in the best of situations, having one return to claim his birthright was all but unheard of.

    The Count waved a hand at a chair and Endrex all but collapsed in it. He couldn't understand how he could be so exhausted from sitting and waiting. “Now, what can I do for your Master Kyln?”

    “Truth be told, Count, I'm not sure.”

    Dooku's gaze grew even harder. “As you said, I am a busy man.”

    Endrex swallowed down the sudden lump in his throat. “What I mean to say, sir, is that I need you...your influence.”

    “To what end?” the Count asked.

    “The longer Antares' case stays in the media limelight, the more likely the security force will continue its investigation. The more likely she will be found.” Endrex sat up straighter, leaning towards Count Dooku. “Sir, since you've returned to us, you've become key to many causes and concerns. I beg of you, to keep Antares alive by championing her cause.”

    [i]Master Cristoff Dooku had missed the funeral. The Council had not even had the courtesy to delay the burning ceremony until he could return from Corellia. Qui-Gon was dead, destroyed by a Sith. He knew he should let go of his anger. The anger that built at Qui-Gon for being so foolish, so headstrong, at the council for sending only one master and padawan to investigate evidence of a Sith. But mostly at an ailing government that could not uphold justice.

    The galaxy was cracking, all around him, he could feel the chasms widening. The Order, the Republic, they had stood for a thousand generations. They would stand for a thousand more. At least, that was the surety that the council and the senate stood upon. Their eyes turned from the crumbling foundation beneath them.

    Dooku’s hand clenched. He had done his best, had petitioned the council. Qui-Gon had followed in his footsteps if somewhat differently, challenging the preconceived notion. And now he was dead. Kenobi, for all Qui-Gon's praise, was a puppet of the council. The last vestige of Dooku's legacy was gone. The anger for all its cold burn, did not fill up the hollow that had burrowed into his soul.

    It was that vacuum that left him vulnerable to the insidious serpent.

    “I was sorry to hear of your loss, Master Dooku,” Chancellor Palpatine said.

    The new chancellor had pulled him aside after a senate meeting. For a moment, he thought he was about to be questioned on his outright disgust at the squabbling between the selection committee. He'd seen the frustration on Mace's face during the whole debacle. Half of it due to the senators, the other half had promised a punishing spar with the Master of Vapaad.

    “It was a great loss to us all, Chancellor,” Dooku returned. There was part of him that was beginning to be frightened by his own attitude. He was toeing a dangerous line. Why wasn't he reeling himself in before the waters became to tumultuous?

    The Chancellor sighed. “I wish there was more I could have done. I have a great fear for the Republic, Master Dooku. I must tell you, I'm concerned by the squabbling of the senate. These political coups, the scrapping for power.” The Chancellor shook his head. “It becomes even more disheartening when it costs us the lives of good men and women. Master Jinn was key to saving my planet, Master Dooku. I honor him for his sacrifice. But I would have preferred he need not make it.”

    “Thank you for your sentiment, Chancellor. As Jedi, we know we could meet our deaths at any time. Qui-Gon gave his life willingly.” [i]There is no death, only the Force.[/i]

    He had lost others before, friends, former padawans. The Jedi Code had always been a comfort. Now every word grated against his nerves.

    “My door is always open to you, my friend,” the Chancellor responded. “I appreciate your wisdom Master Dooku.”

    The Jedi Master refrained from snorting, but the Chancellor still knew his thoughts. “It is a wise man who listens to all voices. Especially, the ones of dissent.”[/i]


    Dooku raised an eyebrow at the young man before him. Desperation was painted on Kyln's features. It scented the very air and caused an uneasy tremor in the Force. He felt the irony of the moment. Kyln begging for his help, the man who'd taken Antares San away from him.

    The boy was obviously desperate. It would be wise of Dooku to keep an eye on him and the investigation. So far, the security forces had been as inept and useless as Dooku had expected. But a desperate man can also be dangerous. He had enough money and enough clout to make things very difficult for Dooku. Whether he knew it or not, Endrex Kyln was his enemy and Dooku intended to keep him close. He'd learned his Jedi lessons well. To defeat an enemy, he would make him his friend.

    “I will help you, my friend,” Dooku said. Kyln froze in the middle of his begging. Dooku was surprised that he hadn't dropped down to his knees in pleading. “But perhaps there is something you can do for me as well.”

    “Anything, Count,” Kyln said sharply.

    The Temple was no longer a solace for him. Coruscant with its vipers had long since sunk their fangs into him, leaving his blood poisoned and sickened. The decision to leave had been a slow process but it came upon him all of the sudden. He'd known little else but the Jedi. The writing had been on the wall for so long, he'd refused to acknowledge it for the truth.

    Yoda had come to him, eyes heavy with concern. His words had been heartfelt but ultimately meaningless to Dooku. He'd heard them before, had recited them to himself to try and banish the anger that was building up inside of him. The Jedi, the Code was failing him.

    His old Master had argued with him, had warned Dooku that if he left now, his future was bound by darkness. Laughingly, he assured Yoda that he wouldn't stray. He was an old man himself. He'd lived over seventy years to the light, finding a refuge elsewhere would not destroy his sense of self purpose now.

    Yoda had bid him a sad farewell. He tried to excavate a feeling for the being who had raised him. But a coldness had settled over his heart. His parting words were terse, leaving both sides unfulfilled. Yet, Dooku hadn't had time to reconsider. He'd been forced to explain his decision to Mace Windu and the others of the council.

    Once he set foot out of the Temple, he felt oddly drained. Where would he go? He had nothing to himself, save a satchel of clothing. He had no money, no way to leave the planet he currently despised. There was a reason so few Jedi ever left the order.

    He was surprised to find Chancellor Palpatine's shuttle float down to one of the landing pads. The door opened and the broad-faced man motioned him inside. Dooku hesitated. Of course, his departure would have to be told to the senate as well as its leader. He withheld a sigh. He loathed allowing on more politician direct his steps. But, he needed a ride.

    He reluctantly stepped into the Chancellor's air speeder.

    “Have you come to change my mind as well, Chancellor?” Dooku asked.

    “No, no, my friend. In fact, I've come to offer you an opportunity,” the Chancellor said. “Some might say the timing was willed by the Force.”

    “Timing?” Dooku ran a hand down his face. He was equal parts relieved and annoyed. He'd hoped to get away from the meddling of others in his life.

    “Serenno – your home planet, as I remember – has fallen under hard times. King Accillio has asked for my help. He will not allow his system to fall. One burden can lead to many. I knew that you were under the line of succession. In fact, before you were found by the Jedi, you were to be Count of Serenno. Before I even knew of your intent to leave the order, I promised the King that I would speak to you on his behalf.”

    Dooku straightened, his curiosity piqued. He had vague memories of Serenno, simple things, like the smell of the orchard near the palace, sweet, crisp and refreshing. In the Force, he could recall the sparkle of a diamond earring, the bell like sound of a laugh. These were tiny memories, brought on by events and trials in the Force. Once they had passed he’d put them behind him as any good Jedi would. Now that his life with the Order was at an end, the Chancellor had awakened a yearning he had not known he bore.

    “And what would the King have me do?” Dooku asked.

    “He had hoped to persuade you to reclaim your title. I told him that as a Jedi that would be quite impossible, but that you might be able to give your cousin a helping hand in governance. Seeing as you have now chosen a different path for yourself, perhaps you can be persuaded to reclaim Serenno.”

    Dooku hummed, his mind turning over the events. The coincidence could hardly be counted as luck. The Force could have been moving events to this point. And a title with the planet of Serenno and the ear of the King could help matters when he brought up his concerns regarding the Republic. On the other hand, everything seemed too coordinated, the Chancellor, the King all too willing to give him exactly what he needed, just when he needed it most.

    Politicians on the whole could not be trusted, yet he found he could not set the matter aside. “I’m willing to review the situation. If I am needed, then of course I will help.”

    “Excellent,” the Chancellor all but purred. “That is very good indeed, my friend.

    “What could I do for you, Count?” Endrex asked, eager to tip the scales in his favor.

    “Nothing too troublesome, I hope. I have purchased a number of supplies for Serenno’s security force. Yet, I’m having a hard time getting them shipped. You know the hassle of such purchases. Your expertise would be much appreciated if you could help me expedite their arrival.”

    Endrex blinked, hardly believing his luck. In his heart, he knew he was quite prepared to do any manner of things, both legal and those not so legal, to insure that Antares was found and brought home safely. He could not think that she was dead, though the security force urged him to believe the possibility after a year. It was a relief to know the Count was not preying upon that weakness.

    “If you will have the details sent to me, I will oversee personally that the goods are shipped to you.”

    “Thank you, Master Kyln. I appreciate it. I will have my secretary arrange for a press conference right away.” The Count wrapped an arm around Endrex’s shoulder, a move that didn’t feel quite natural. He began to lead Endrex out of the office. “I was most distressed to learn of her disappearance. She was a most accomplished artist. I saw her perform that night.”

    Endrex had relived that night over and over again. He’d left Antares to negotiate her contract, expecting to meet up with her later for a private celebration. Kalliste San, Antares's mother, had been ecstatic for her daughter, but even more excited to talk about their upcoming nuptials. Kalliste had never doubted Antares's talent, she had had more fear that her daughter would live her life alone.

    He'd visited when she could. Demro and Pholos met him at the door to the house every time. Their eyes looking past him for their sister. It put a strain on his heart each time, stress cracks zig-zagging intricate paths.

    Dooku may have taken advantage of the situation. Endrex knew it could have been far more disastrous. He'd been roped into providing advice. Maybe he'd cut through much of the red tape and deliver Dooku's goods himself. He had more than enough ships and open spacelane permits to much of the galaxy. Kyln Shipping Conglomerate had been around for centuries. There were even jokes that they'd risen the same time as the Republic. Much of Endrex's success, he owed to that legacy.

    He'd owe it much more, if the legacy managed to help him find Antares.
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  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Gosh, the dramatic irony here hurts so good! Endrex has been searching for Antares for a whole year and has no idea that she is really right there in that same palace where he's visiting the count. I wish I could yell out to him and tell him! Of course, given who else is listening, that might cost me my head. :p Of course the count continues to be sleazebaggacious as usual with his little "I was most distressed to learn of her disappearance" act and the rather skeezy arm around the shoulder. I have a bad feeling about this mildly wild-bantha-chase-like errand on which he's sending Endrex—it seems like the whole point behind is either (at best) to get him as far away as possible or (at worst) to eliminate him (cue a particularly well known Admiral Ackbar quote). If I were Endrex, I'd be curious to know just what are the difficulties Dooku is encountering in having this stuff shipped—it seems like he's being deliberately vague about it. Anyway, my fingers are certainly crossed for Endrex, and I hope to goodness he will stay safe! [face_good_luck]
  14. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002

    It is a trap indeed. Poor Endrex. He is walking straight into it. Yes, Dooku is being vague. Thanks for reading.
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  15. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Chapter 5:

    Time stretched and became imperceptible. There was the long, inexorable agony that seemed to last for eternity and there was the blissful empty space of unconsciousness. They vacillated, taking turns like the dance of a primary and its satellites, in her living nightmare. In the beginning, after she had tried to escape, they had left her alone, isolated. She felt the deprivation, but she’d been glad not to suffer the hurts and fears of others. Slowly, one by one, they had brought others into her world. They were careful not to crack her fragile mental state.

    The others, these nameless, faceless people she knew so intimately, they became like family to her. She was the center, the way they all related to one another. After first, they pitied her, this woman who could take their fears and make them her own. But once she turned them against her, once they were brought to the edge of death from the fear and pain and agony, they could only hate her.

    Dooku seemed the most pleased at this time during his experiments. Her cell never changed, the cold white light hung and reflected off the white walls and the durasteel of the medical equipment. When they hated her, it all felt so dark and bleak. Her own anger responded in kind. She hated herself, Dooku, the Falleen and the family that she missed so desperately but had not been able to find and rescue her.

    Eventually, they would all leave her alone, lost to death or she suspected that Dooku conscripted them into whatever he was plotting. Every time a group left her behind, she became more powerful. She could feel and experience so much that it overwhelmed her. If Dooku and the Falleen stopped using her name, she was sure she wouldn’t remember it. She was an amalgamation of so many different beings, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their agonies.

    Their pain had soon become her own.

    The first time Dooku had tied her hand to hand with a man, the first she’d ever seen face to face. He was slack-faced, unconscious. They no longer had to drug her for that sense to expand, especially with the skin contact.

    Her eyes widened when they brought out a vibroshiv. Her fear spiking and transferring to the unconscious man next to her. He had brown wavy hair like Endrex’s. His face was different. Battered and bruised, it was nearly unrecognizable. Did they mean to kill him and make her feel it? Or did they have something else in mind?

    The man shifted, his brow now furrowing in concern as her fear mounted. Dooku usually kept his distance from her, though she rarely caught more than that silt slick, oily presence. Now, it was Dooku and not the Falleen that was bringing the shiv towards them. He took the unconscious man’s free arm and dragged the knife over his exposed skin.

    She screamed as though the wound was her own. She was subjected to all feelings, all hurts around her. This time was different, after a moment, she felt the pain anew, her skin separating. She looked down at her arm, watching as a cut opened up on her own flesh. Blood pooled and trickled from the wound. She blinked, not quite believing what had happened. The man’s arm was repaired, not even a scar marred the skin.

    “How?” she gasped, her voice harsh and ragged. Not for the first time, she began to fear the power that was awakening inside of her.

    Dooku ignored her question and pressed a pad to the gaping wound. There was no use letting his weapon die of blood loss. She knew that was what he was making her into. A weapon She didn’t understand everything, but why else use her power for evil emotions and now dreadful wounds. Could it be reversed? Could he cut her and inflict it on a dozen people, a hundred? More?

    “This wasn't how it was supposed to be,” she gasped. “I was supposed to bring beauty, not pain and suffering.” Gritting her teeth, she glared up at him. Time may have been a fog, there were times she lost herself. At that moment, she was Antares San. And if this was her only, and perhaps last, act of defiance she would have him know who she was. “How dare you turn me into something ugly?”

    His blue eyes sparked like the hottest part of a flame. She was connected to him now. He'd dropped his guard in his anger and that tiny chink had let her growing abilities flow into him. She could feel his emotions. His desperation, his yearning, his lack of hope. It was a terrible thing, understanding this man she hated. In many ways, he felt as caged and tortured as she did. Twice damned because he had chosen his prison.

    “You don't have to do this,” she said. “Just let me go. It can end here. Just let me go.”

    ”Put me down, Padawan,” Dooku said. His eyes closed wearily, his breath hitched in his chest.

    Gently, Qui-Gon lowered him to the marshy ground, leaning him up against a stump of a thick tree. Qui-Gon straightened, casting a searching look through the swamp. The negotiations between the Verns and Kentler people had fallen quickly into war. In the ensuing fight, Dooku had been caught in a thermal detonator blast. His right hand, arm and shoulder had been burned and he had shrapnel impeded in his back. Qui-Gon hadn’t been free from the shrapnel either. The wounds on his face, neck and chest had dried over with dark blood, an evil slash cut through his nose. They needed a bacta tank but first they needed to make it to the spaceport before it was blockaded.

    “We should be safe for a brief rest,” Qui-Gon informed him. He sat on his haunches, peering at Dooku with concern. “How are you feeling?”

    Smiling wanly, Dooku said, “You’re going to have to go on without me, Padawan. I’m only slowing you down. If you can make it to the spaceport, you can come back for me in a ship. I’ve lost complete feeling in my legs.”
    Qui-Gon’s frown morphed to one of defiance. At 22, he was well on his way to knighthood. Dooku had no doubt that he would make a fine, if somewhat eccentric Jedi Knight, but Force was the boy stubborn.

    “Master..,” he tried.

    Dooku cut him off. “No, Padawan. Obey me in this.” Dooku paused to breathe through the pain. Something had lodged close to his spinal cord. He had no doubt that the paralysis was due to the swelling putting pressure at the small of his back. “You must go and quickly.”

    “I’m not leaving you,” Qui-Gon said between clenched teeth.

    “This is a lesson for you,” Dooku huffed. “You must let me go.” It was a lesson they both would need to learn.

    Antares felt Dooku try to disengage. She caught the hem of his tunic, dislodging the gauze from her arm and held fast mentally and physically to the count. “You loved him.”

    Dooku had returned to the Temple with one goal in mind. A Padawan. He’d enjoyed his time as a young knight, being on his own, away from Yoda’s direct influence. It had been more than educational. But the Force was yearning for him to take an apprentice and he’d requested the council give him the space needed for such an endeavor.

    When his ship had docked, he wasn’t surprised to see his old Master, though it was slightly unnerving to see the impish smile and raised pointed ears. That usually signified Yoda at his worst. He’d often wondered how a being 900 years-old, steeped in wisdom, could be so unrepentantly childish at times.

    “Master,” Dooku greeted with a bow.

    “Waiting for you, I have been, Cristoff,” Yoda said, the child-like gleam in his eyes unwavering.

    Dooku repressed a smile. He did not want to encourage his master in his meddling. Even if it brought fond memories to mind. “I can see that. Any particular reason, my old Master?”

    Yoda huffed. “Something to show you, I have.”


    Yoda snapped his gimmerstick against the peremcrete, with a joyful laugh. “Follow me, you will.”

    Now Dooku was worried. He watched for a moment as the little green Master tottered off. “Come, Cristoff, come.”

    He wondered when he’d be able to ignore that command. Today, unfortunately, was not that time. He followed sedately, keeping his suspicions in check. It no doubt had something to do with his request. If Yoda thought he could pick his Padawan for him, he would be gravely disappointed.

    It was nice to be back at Temple, to feel the concentrated light in one single, if enormous building. There were several of his age mates he hoped to see again. But first, his Master must be appeased.

    He was unsurprised that they ended up in one of the training rooms. There were four young initiates, all shooting him surreptitious looks. But it was a fifth initiate, standing in the back that called his attention. He was busy toweling off after what looked like a grueling workout. He was sweat-stained and the rise and fall of his chest came in ragged bursts. He was taller by a head than the other youth in the training room and so slim that he bordered on skeletal with nobly join and awkward limbs. But it was his strength in the Living Force that drew Dooku in. The Jedi Knight was surprised that the boy did not have tubers growing behind his ears, he was so apart of life.

    Dooku maintained his Jedi calm, keeping a tight rein on his emotions. Yoda would meddle and coerce at the best of times, there was no need to encourage him further. Even if the wizened Jedi master was usually right.

    Dooku watched the four initiates, while keeping an eye on the boy in the back, who’d been joined by a girl with green/gold eyes and skin the color of chocolate that merchants were starting to distribute throughout the galaxy. They watched the other initiates spar, pointing out flaws or exception technique. They laughed and smiled. A deep friendship. Hadn’t he just thought about reconnecting with old friends.

    He reached out with his senses. The Force willed his acceptance of this nameless boy and he obeyed.

    Gritting her teeth, Antares turned the course of their connection around. She forced him to see and feel her own torment, those she missed, the memories of her own life. It was the first time she’d actively sought to control this power she feared.

    Antares was still a young child when her father decided to leave the Church of the Force and relocate his small family away from Alderaan and to Serenno. She had feared that would be the end of her dancing dreams, but was relieved when her father had enrolled her in one of the finest institutions in the galaxy.

    She was rarely at home, the study was intense with little time for anything else. But there were holiday breaks. She was to meet her twin brothers today. Demro and Pholos had been born while she’d been in performances, unable to come home. Now was Lunarama, the festival of the moon, the light in the darkness. It was the only celebration that the still continued to practice after leaving Alderaan.

    Her father, his dark eyes glittering suspiciously in the sunlight, was waiting for her at the door. The smile belied the haggard lines of stress on his face and the emotion in his eyes. She paused as she climbed out of the speeder, studying him. She knew he’d missed her, sometimes she thought she could tell what anyone was feeling if she thought about it enough. Now, she knew he worried. Something had happened, something to cause that rotten pit in his stomach to fester.

    While the driver unloaded her bags, she rushed forward and embraced him. Her father had always internalized so much of what he was feeling. Yet, she alone could peel back the barriers he erected around him. She hugged him tightly and felt the brief flare of joy at her home coming.

    “What’s wrong?” she whispered.

    He ran a hand down her cheek. “Nothing to concern yourself with.”

    “Father…,” she began to protest.

    “Come, let’s get your bags. Your brothers are quite excited to be meeting their big sister.”

    She let him draw her back to the speeder and she picked up the satchel that had her practice equipment. Even though she was on a break from the school, she could not let her studies fade. She would practice an hour each in the morning and evening until she returned.

    They came into the house and Antares felt the immediate release of tension in her shoulders. Going away to school had been such an adventure; she hadn’t realized how much she’d missed her home.

    Her mother came in carrying one of the boys, a nanny droid followed closely behind with another. Giggling like the fourteen-year-old girl, she was she rushed forward to hug her mother and to see the babies. Mother leaned forward and kissed her cheek.

    She was home, the feel was warmth and spice, peace. Those three days were imbedded in Antares memory. Even thought she returned home two weeks later, the feeling had not been the same. Her father’s murder had shattered that harmony, had left Antares herself cold and desperate.

    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]Cethlos pulled him away from San, her talons sinking deep into flesh. He was glad for the blood, for the pain that rose, the physical reminder of his existence allowed for the mental connection to break. He took several staggering steps away from both women – human and Falleen. It had been long since anyone had deigned to assault him in such a fashion. He felt stripped and naked. It was a battle to win his composure back. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“I am all they have,” San said, not allowing him the space he needed to escape the devastation of her father’s death or the determination to provide for her mother and brothers. “If you keep me here, you’re a hypocrite. Not better than those you think to defend against.”[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]That sparked the flame of his anger. It allowed him to burn away the remains of her life, her feelings. He straightened, tossed the gauze to the floor and turned back to the women in San’s cell. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“You are needed. All children of the Force must sacrifice themselves for the greater good.”[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]He saw the despair crumple her face. She lay back against the bunk, ignoring the man strapped next to her. There were no tears, he doubted there were any left for her to shed. She didn’t flinch or show any sign of her treatment as Cethlos bandages her arm. Soon, her eyes closed.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“I will be away from some time. There are matters that require my attention on Geonosis.”[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“Will thesssse matterssss bring me what I need?” Cethlos asked. Her words slurred in her greed. “We need to begin to test against Jedi.”
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“If all goes well, I will have all and more than you will need.” He unnecessarily straightened the cuff on his right hand. “Keep me updated on your progress. I believe she is all but ready.”[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“Are you well, Count?” the Falleen asked, noticing the nervous habit.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]“I am progressing, Cethlos. That is all that matters. Though, I will caution you to be careful. She, too, is progressing.”[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT]>
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  16. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    I've commented before on the torture Antares is undergoing, but this chapter is showing it in even greater depth than before, because it's bringing to the fore perhaps the most tortuous aspects of Antares's torture, if that makes sense. One is the fact that experiencing all those other beings' pain and suffering is starting to almost efface her as a separate personality—she barely knows anymore where she ends and they begin, or vice versa. The second, as she herself says, is the way the torture is transforming her from a being of artistry and beauty into one of ugliness—that's a huge act of violence against her very deepest nature. And the third is the way the psychological torture and the self-effacement is taking on physical element, too, as we see in the immensely striking image of the actual, physical wound opening on Antares's own arm. Just... jeepers! :eek:

    Incidentally, given the fact that Endrex does come looking for her in the previous chapter, I am almost tempted to wonder whether the man tied up next to her, with the same sort of wavy hair, might indeed be Endrex himself. [face_thinking] At least if he were there with her, and she became aware of the fact that it was him, perhaps they could offer each other some encouragement and work together to free themselves. But we'll see. Antares is clearly not giving up no matter how badly the torture is sapping her, and it's a good thing that she still has the mental energy to reverse the connection to Dooku and force him to experience some of her past fears and memories—so much so that he is now starting to view her as someone to "be careful" of. Well, serves the creepy old codger right, I'd say! :p
  17. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Thanks so much for reading. Life's been pretty crazy lately but I've so wanted to get back to this story. Dooku is really doing a number on Antares and I wanted her to finally be able to give as good as she gets. And there is something more sinister happening to our poor Endrex.
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  18. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Chapter 6:

    Dooku waited patiently for Ventress to return with their prize. He’d left the beginning of the war to lesser beings. Let the Trade Federation and their tin warriors fight their flesh and bone counterparts. He’d had his hands full with interfering Jedi and the ghosts that Antares San had awoken with just a touch.

    Thoughtlessly, he rubbed against the skin of his wrist. His conversation with Kenobi had been another awakening. His own conversion under his Sith Master had involved Qui-Gon’s death. He’d tried the same pleas, the same knowledge that something was not right in the Republic to lure Kenobi to his side. Yet the boy’s loyalty would not be swayed. Not even telling the truth to twist his thinking had changed Kenobi. Force, there was much potential in him, but the Force had already given him his greatest gift. His words held the power in the Force in them. Dooku was beginning to wonder if there weren’t more Force sensitive beings with exaggerated powers. If something lived slumbering inside him under the discipline of the Jedi and burgeoning skills of the Sith.

    He was brought out of his musings when the door of his office slide open. Ventress sat on the other side of the room, her head bowed but the turn of her lips telling him she’d been successful.

    “Ventress,” he commanded impatient.

    “I’ve brought your Jedi as you instructed, m’lord,” she answered. “Would you like to see him?”

    Dooku stood from his desk and stilled himself. He had not visited San since she’d broken down his barriers and all but had stripped him. He closed his eyes, solidifying those barriers once more. He’d humiliated the Chosen One, taught Kenobi a lesson in true power and had survived Yoda. He would use these victories to strengthen his shields. To keep out that damnable power.

    Ventress led him to the cell the Jedi was being held in. Cethlos was examining him with a droid hovering by. “He’s injured?”

    “Yes,” Ventress answered. “Left to bleed out on the sands of Geonosis by the noble Jedi.” He could not miss her disdain. In fact, he’d encouraged the seed of hate her former Master’s death had planted, watched its black vines wrap around her. “I saved his life.”

    The wicked grin that spread her pale face was anything but altruistic.

    “And now he can repay that debt.”

    Cethlos put a hand to the Jedi’s side. He watched as the man’s back arched off the examining table, his mouth open in a yawning cry of misery. Not even a heartbeat after it began, he heard the familiar sound of Antares San’s pain. Dooku’s eyes grew wide in surprise. He took a step forward, motioning for Cethlos to inspect the area again.

    Again the Jedi cried, with San joining him in near synchronicity.

    “He’s projecting,” he muttered to himself. The Jedi was severally injured, no doubt looking for relief in the Force.
    “And your test subject is receiving,” Ventress responded.

    After San had broken down all his shields, he’d begun to worry he was creating a tool too powerful to control. But while he’d been stripped of all his hard won barriers, he’d been able to put them back in place. While San remained open and vulnerable. She was conduit. In a manner as close to the Force as any being could possibly be. And he’d created her. Through her, he’d be able to turn legions of Jedi to the Dark Side. Make the galaxy the way he’d always thought it should be.

    He was entering this endeavor with his eyes open. Antares San had hid a burgeoning power waiting to be released. Yet that power came in a very fragile human form, easily manipulated and coerced to the designs of a strong will.

    He walked to the com speaker seated inside the observation window, switched it on with a flick of his thumb. “Cethlos. Let us see what it will take to turn this Jedi to the darkness.”

    It was different this time. Antares couldn’t explain how or why. Those were questions that never truly left. They were imprinted like bright lights on a retina, searing, blinding. There was someone else at Dooku’s compound. Someone she could feel in the same way that she had felt Dooku when there were no barriers between them. It was an instantaneous association, like seeing a friend after years of separation. Only Antares could not see him.

    There was a peace about this familiar stranger that set her at ease, despite the fiery darts of pain she could feel in his side. Her knowledge of anatomy and biology was limited to the brief and sporadic lessons her tutors had thought necessary to get by in her chosen profession. With all she did know, she believed he was not long for this world.

    That peace she felt in him, along with anything that was good or full of light, ended when the Falleen brought him into her cell. She felt his concern and her own dread and loathing reverberating off of him. Two dancers working off one another’s emotions. Normally, this added to the performance. Now, Antares could see how it could bring them both crashing to the ground.

    She could still feel his wound. If the Falleen or Dooku brought him any closer, if she touched him, that wound could become her own. Or she could pass it to another. The more she thought about all the pain she could inflict, the more that fear increased. They wouldn’t let her die, no matter how much she longed for it.

    “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” the man moaned, looking at her with clouded grey eyes. “Turn away from your fear.”

    “I’m afraid that would be counter-productive, Jedi Knight,” Dooku called, unseen from the observation window.

    “You know all about fear, don’t you, Count?” she called out, her voice an untuned stringed instrument, discordant and rough. “Why don’t you sit down and we can have a cup of tea? I’ll serve.”

    The Jedi frowned. “What is the point here, Count Dooku? I have no knowledge that you do not already possess.”

    “Ah, but you are the lock and Lady San is the key. I must find a way to open you to true power.”

    Antares closed her eyes, feeling the panic build up once more. A Jedi. Someone who already had a greater connection to life and the Force, the very origins of her own power. The nightmares she’d been living through would be nothing in comparison if the Jedi broke. She only need look at her captors to know what would come. .

    Antares only wished she knew how she had passed through Dooku’s shielding. If she could replicate it again? The Count had been doubly careful since the event. Even now, he refused to come into her cell. At least for once, they had her sitting up. It took most of her strength to keep herself upright.

    She felt it then, a spike of gut-wrenching fear. Someone thought their life was about to end. By the way the Jedi jerked in his own chair, she knew he felt it to. But she felt him shutter out the feeling. Like a canvas blocking out the sun. He still benefited from the light, but blotted out the intensity.

    He leaned against the pain in his side, blinked at her as it increased. “Who is that?”

    “I don’t know,” Antares answered. “I never know names. Sometimes I see them face to face. I don’t know if it’s better or worse. To see or not see.”

    “You’re a prisoner here? Who are you?”

    For the time being, her mind was clear enough to answer. Already, she could feel him, despite his built shielding, she could see the silhouette. She hadn’t become lost to it yet. “Antares San. I was a dancer on Serenno until Dooku found me. “

    They’d bound him to the chair, as she was now, at the wrists and ankles. They’d drugged him, she was pretty sure. His eyes had a hard time focusing. She wondered if it was the same drug they’d pumped through her veins what seemed like another lifetime ago. “My name is Friscan Scyth. Have you seen another woman here? About your age? Her name is Cymbir Vale. She’s my Padawan.”

    “You’ve got to stop talking,” she warned him. “Don’t tell me anything else. If Dooku doesn’t have your Padawan, he soon will. You care for her. I can feel it.” She swallowed, desperately working moisture into her parched mouth. They gave her everything she needed to live through an intravenous tube. It was so long since she could remember the taste of water. “He will use anything and everything at his disposal.”

    The chairs started moving towards one another, sliding along the floor by unseen hands. The Jedi watched this with more concern. “What’s going on?”

    “I’m sorry,” she said. There were no more tears to shed, but she mourned for him. “Many don’t survive. And those who do are never the same. They’re lost, broken, dangerous.” Antares steadied her gaze to where she was sure Dooku lay watching. “It’s the reason we’re here. He wants to remake your order into his own ideal.”

    A young girl was tossed into the room, followed closely behind by a bald woman with frightening tattoos. She moved with the ease and grace of a dancer and all the deathly stealth of a feral Lenc Cat. The girl was young, no less than 8 years in age. One of the Qin’tel from the dark red skin, the texture of dried clay, and the light blue eyes. Those eyes were filled with the tears that Antares wished to shed.

    “No,” the Jedi cried, fighting against the restraints. She didn’t have to touch him, to feel something awaken inside of him. A power that instantly filled Antares, a vessel long made to hold this unique combination of song and dance, that no one could hear or see but she could feel like a warm buzz in her very marrow.

    It felt like dance at its most powerful. Being connected to her partners, to those in the audience. It was different though. The Jedi was desperate, fighting to save the child who was about to be killed right in front of him.

    The pale woman with the frightening visage circled around, two silver cylinders with bent ends held in her hands. Antares hadn’t seen her before but she had felt that anger radiate from the unknown places of the compound.

    “Dooku,” the Jedi called. “You were a Jedi. This is not our way.”

    Antares shook her head. Her teeth bit into her bottom lip in preparation for what was to come. “Whatever he is now, he’s the furthest thing from a Jedi.”

    She’d grown up the first decade of her life as a member of the Church of the Force. Any such child would know that the Jedi were selfless, giving up all to hear the will of the Force and help the galaxy maintain peace and justice. Every emotion Dooku had inside of him had little to do with peace. He’d replaced this was a cold abyss, a grasping ache that couldn’t be filled no matter how much he tried to sate it.

    The Jedi turned his attention to the circling woman. “You don’t have to do this.”

    “What do you fear, Jedi?” the woman asked, her voice a deep bellied hiss.

    “There is no emotion, there is peace.”

    “Is that so?” the woman questioned. There was a burst of compressed energy and a red blade spilled out of the palm of her hand. A lightsaber. But not like any Antares knew the Jedi possessed. The woman put it to the girl’s throat. The child cringed but did not dare make any sudden movements. “Tell us what we want to know and I will not kill her.”

    “It’s a lie,” Antares said. “She’s as good as dead anyway. They will not uphold their end of the bargain, trust me.” How many times had she tried to save those lives she’d invariably broke. Dooku would let her believe it for a while, but would watch her suffer all over again. She had no hope. No reason to believe that this time would be different.

    The Jedi looked from her to the girl. “I cannot just let her die.”

    “You have no control over this. You’re a prisoner. Your only option is to die or to turn into something dark and hateful.”

    The woman’s other blade ignited and she brought it to the other side of the girl’s neck, crossing the two blades. She’d just have to spread her arms apart and the girl would lose her head. The Jedi swallowed, he feet and hands still straining for escape. “A Jedi is taught to release their fears.”

    “Yes,” Dooku’s voice came over the tiny speaker, still deep and commanding despite the tinny sound. “But, I was once one of you myself. No matter the training, none of us are infallible. Tell me, Knight Scyth, what do you fear? You spoke of your Padawan, does your fear rest with her?”

    A sudden spike in his emotions hit Antares. She blinked, not expecting this emotion from a Jedi. It was the same feeling she’d had for Endrex so long ago. She’d almost forgotten how it felt. But his moment of disquiet had reminded her. She’d loved a man so much, she’d wanted to spend her life with him. The memory was followed by the swift stab of loss. How long had it been? Did Endrex even remember her?

    “Hurry, Jedi,” the woman with the lightsabers cautioned. “I grow tired of waiting.”

    The girl sobbed harder, her shoulder shook violently, fighting not to make a sound.

    “No. All right. I’ll tell you the truth. I do not fear death. I fear that I will give in. That I won’t be strong enough to resist.”

    “Resist what, false Jedi?” the woman asked, a carving the edges of her mouth. It wasn’t pleasant, it was sharp and calculating. Antares could feel her twisted joy at pleasing her Master.

    “Don’t,” Antares begged.

    “Please,” the girl sobbed.

    Friscan Scyth let out a stuttered sigh. “My love for her.”

    Antares closed her eyes, she didn’t want to see what was to follow the Jedi’s admission. She could almost hear the sneer in Dooku’s voice. “You fear love? My dear boy, that is precisely what will be the end of your order.”

    “I have my life, my heart and my soul. You are lost, Dooku. The Dark Side will be your end.”

    Antares heard the lightsabers retract. “The girl is yours, Cethlos,” the woman said.

    She knew what would happen next. She’d been through this before. No, Dooku and his pets wouldn’t kill this poor defenseless girl. Antares would. There was a sound of a hydrospray being released against the curve of the girl’s soft neck. She’d barely feel it, not even a pinprick. But then the Falleen would bring the girl to Antares would overwhelm the former dancer. And the fears awoken in the girl would be manifest a 100-fold. She would either die or go mad.

    Briefly, she opened her eyes long enough to look at the Jedi accusingly. “You should have let them kill her.”>
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow! This sure was a doozy of a chapter. We now get a little clearer picture of what it is that Antares is being used for: her empathic powers are serving as a conduit or receiving area of sorts for the fears and dark impulses of captured Jedi like Frisian Scyth. (And boy does Friscan have dark impulses, if he's IN LOVE with his 8-year-old padawan! :eek: ) Ironically, being used as this kind of tool again and again seems to have sapped Antares's own powers of compassion to the point where she can say to Friscan, "You should have let them kill her"—chills! :eek: I can only imagine what Antares will go through once the torture process is begun on the poor little girl. And I hope that she will find a way once again to get through Dooku's mental shields and end this cycle—to that, too, he is the lock and she is the key!
  20. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002

    Yeah. Friscan isn't in love with his 8 year-old padawan. The girl who dies is not Cymbir Vale. But she is just a victim. I'll have make that more clear, revise the chapter. Poor Antares. Thanks for reading!
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  21. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Chapter 7:

    Friscan Scyth couldn’t tear his eyes away as he watched the young girl slowly tear herself apart. He quickly realized his horror was making things worse. He tried releasing the anger, the helplessness to the Force and accept what was being callously done to not only the girl but to the woman who was being used as a tool for torture and murder. But the more he pushed it into the Force, the more he felt it affect Antares San.

    It bounced between them, an echo solidified by her strange ability in the Force. And that reverberation didn’t only torture the girl scratching at an invisible foe on her arms and legs, until they bled. Friscan’s own wrists were wet with his blood as he struggled against the restraints. But it was the utter lassitude in Antares San that frightened him. It budded in his own breast, the desire to give up, to give in.

    By the Force, did he want to. He could hear Dooku telling him what he had to do to be released, to save this girl that was quickly becoming a feral creature.

    Part of it meant giving into the madness, to those selfish desires, to inflict your wants and whims upon the world around regardless of the will of others, let alone the will of the Force. In his meditations, Friscan knew that part of him longed for that reckless abandon. The Code asked for willingness and brought peace, the darkness demanded servitude at left you empty. It was the middle ground that Friscan wondered about, the citizens of the Republic, who loved, and served, and didn’t find themselves given only two choices; nothing and everything or everything and nothing.

    The girl’s death was slow. After a while, her mind shut itself down to protect her. She passed out and then passed on to the Force.

    Tears ran down Friscan’s cheek. He was grateful that Cymbir wasn’t here to witness this. That she wasn’t here to feel what he’d just felt as the girl died, wasn’t here to feel his questions, his doubt.

    Antares San felt wrong, discordant. Not exactly dark, but void of anything that should have been in the living. How long had she endured this type of torture? How long would he be a tool in its implementation? He could feel the Dark Side, Dooku’s and the woman’s who followed him, encroaching on the strange Force-adept. It hadn’t touched San yet, but it was a near thing. Something bright and glimmering yet thin was keeping her sane. Whether that was her own will or something else, Friscan didn’t know.

    As the grief of the death began to ease, the pain in his side increased. He’d taken several blaster bolts there during the conflict on Geonosis. As it returned, he heard San moan. He wondered how much she could feel. The fact that she was empathic was clear, but Friscan had never heard of anyone being able to turn that power around, to inflict as well as ingest.

    When Dooku’s pet came to take him away, he called to the nearly comatose woman. “Don’t give in, don’t give up. We’ll find away together.”

    Her head lulled to the side to look at him, but there was no recognition or acknowledgement in her green gaze.

    The constant pain was enough to drive him mad. It didn’t help that whatever the Falleen gave him kept him connected to the Force but made his thoughts scattered hard to hold onto, like bits of dust caught in a solar wind.

    The Falleen had checked his wound several times, had bandaged it but had done little in the way of actually healing it. There was no bacta, no synthiflesh to keep it from infection. The state of his mind wouldn’t allow him to go into a healing trance. So he slowly healed and suffered the small star burning in his side and the unsettled state of his mind. Vaguely, he wondered if Antares could still feel it.

    Through it all, he watched and waited, thought and planned.

    He didn’t know how long they continued the testing. There was no way to tell when he’d woken up in this nightmare. He felt himself slipping. They didn’t stop the torture to just one person, but many. There were a number of occasions where Friscan’s muscles tightened in an all-encompassing fear without knowing why. It made his side burn all the more and he would hear the many groan under that shared pain. Unfortunately, it didn’t really ease his own ache, if anything it only made it worse. And that fear, the pain, the utter loss he felt from San, made all those negative emotions he’d learned to douse flare with an unquenchable flame.

    If he was going to escape, he would have to do it soon. If not, he feared he would give Dooku what he needed; a Jedi turned to the Dark Side. He was more than ready to shove Dooku’s evil machinations down his throat. Revenge was not the Jedi way.

    For the Jedi there is no emotion, there is peace.

    The Code was a tether he didn’t know how much longer he could hold onto. With first-hand experience, he understood what had beaten down Antares San. What had left her so broken and lost that murder of an innocent child seemed the best possible outcome.

    Friscan was beginning to agree with her. The madness, the death, Antares San went to the very edge. In truth she should have toppled over, but something kept her back, something that Friscan could only describe as love. The woman had an immense capacity for love. She survived, she remained for those she cherished.

    It made him think of Cymbir. His soon-to-be Knighted Padawan. He hoped she was safe and sound at the Temple, not next on the list of those to be persecuted for the designs of the Sith. What he felt for her was forbidden, but for right now it felt like his salvation. He kept it tight, even though he’d already admitted to it. San’s warning may have been too late, but he would not make matters worse by telegraphing it to the world.

    There was some corners of the mind that he could hide his thoughts. He’d tried it with silly, simple things at first. Lightsaber training with his Master, his first successful solo mission, these were memories that brought him a brief respite from the assault of emotions. Good memories to cling to until the death or madness kicked in. And like Antares San, he began to prefer death.

    Friscan was a man of ingenuity, a man of training. The Force was his ally. It wanted this deprivation no more than he did.
    They brought him back to his cell, left him shaking and cold on the floor. He’d overplayed his symptoms. He wanted them to think he was more wounded, more heartsick than he actually felt. Well, that part was probably a lie, but he allowed the overwhelming terror to…well overwhelm him.

    He waited, that sane, calculating part of his mind, listening as footsteps thudded to silence. He was only human, his hearing not impressive in a galaxy of many special beings. But he was a Jedi and connected to all life. At this moment, he really needed that connection. Master Lari had always chastised him for being stubborn, headstrong, too boyishly reliant on what the Force could do for him. Today, this moment, he was release his arrogance and submit.

    And he would see what the Force willed for him.

    He’d read the old Jedi stories in the archives, listened to the holocrons of Jedi long gone, nearly forgotten save in their visual memoriam. He’d heard of such states as he was in now. Depleted beyond all mental, physical and spiritual reserves, Friscan was all but husked out. A perfect vessel for the Force. And without thought, without will, his hand raised and the door that had cycled locked engaged. He heard the hiss of the pressure release.

    His body, sick, infected, tasked beyond the limits of his knowledge, began to rise of its own accord. He would have been surprised if he hadn’t felt the familiar warm glow of the Force. He’d never felt it quite so powerfully as he did now. If it weren’t for the calm that such a release had left him with, he would have though the Force would burn him from the inside out.

    The door was open and he walked through it with ease.

    Normally, he would be careful, hugging the walls, straining to hear any sign of an enemy. But he was beyond self, beyond concern. He was one with the Force and it was almost impossible to feel like Friscan Scyth. Yet at the same time, he felt like his best self.

    He’d never been able to track where Dooku had kept Antares San. It didn’t matter. The Force knew all. He stumbled once. The wound at his side battling against the power of the Force. It would eventually lose whether he lived or died. The Force would prevail.

    Antares woke from the bliss of sleep to the sound of the door opened. She blinked against the light of the hall, a slumped silhouette dark against it. They room was dark, one of the small kindnesses Dooku had allowed her. Oblivion was so much easier in the darkness.

    It shuffled forward in broken steps. Antares watched it with a morbid sense of detachment. This wasn’t necessarily real, it could be a reflection of someone else’s nightmares. A picture in her mind brought on by Dooku’s drugs and the curse that had once brought her so much joy.

    “Antares,” the Jedi’s voice said. It sounded different. She had feared that she had broken him. That Dooku had achieved his goal and that it was only a matter of time before she was unleashed up on the Jedi. “Can you hear me, Antares?”

    “Friscan?” It felt weird to speak his name. She knew him more intimately than she’d known her own brothers but she’d never said his name. “How? You can’t be real. It’s just a trick. One more illusion to break me.”

    She gasped, her hand wanting to pull away as she felt him clasp it. “I’m real. This is very real. We’ve got to get out of here.”

    Swallowing, she let his feelings rush over her. He wasn’t the tidal waves and tsunamis of the others she’d encountered. Everything he felt, everything he thought was so organized, disciplined. For the most part, it made things easier, but anything he did feel could strike her like lightning in its intensity. This was different though, this was smell of the high grass on Serenno, the taste of the wind, the laughter of a child. This was life.

    And she had to reject it.

    She shook her head. “I…I don’t have the strength. I’ve tried to escape before. That’s why they keep me like this.” She raised her hand with the feeding line in it, though she doubted he could see the gesture. “Alive enough to be their conduit, but dead enough not to care.”

    “I cannot leave you like this,” he countered. He brisked his hands against her own. He was so warm. She couldn’t remember the last time, she had felt anything but bone cold. “There must be away.”

    “You have to. I would only slow you down. And they’d be more desperate to stop you if you took me with you. But you must escape, get help.” She tried to grip his hand and it was with all the strength of a newborn.

    Antares knew what she had to do. She didn’t know if it would work. She’d never tried it without the help of the drugs and Cethlos’s instruction. It would hurt. But what was one more ache. Concentrating, she focused on the side wound, the cause of his shuffling steps and the pain that was still there despite the change in him.

    Abruptly, that pain was in her side, though it was hard to tell the difference. When she reached her free hand down, she could feel the charred flesh, the weeping infection. He straightened, his stance strong and hale, further proof that she was gaining more control of her powers.

    “You shouldn’t have done that,” Friscan hissed.

    “Go,” she whispered. “The monitors will soon pick up the change. Cethlos, Asajj, they’ll be here soon. Run, Friscan. Run and get help.”

    She felt his lips press a kiss to her forehead and then his warmth was gone.

    Friscan ran, the Force still his ally, but with his body healed his connection was back to normal. He was a Jedi. The further he got from Antares San, the more he ran and worked and sweated the drugs out of his system, the more his mind cleared. He was surprised to see battle droids patrolling the area.

    Slowing down, he tried to look less like an escaped prisoner and more like a member of the installation. It didn’t help that they’d put him in customary healing tunic and pants and that he was barefoot. Battle droids were notorious for linear processing.

    “Halt,” one of them called.

    Friscan showed that he was unarmed without being too obvious. If he put his hands up, they’d be able to tell he was a prisoner. “What is your factory number?” he demanded. “How dare you question me?”

    The battle droid shared a look with its compatriot. It was an unnerving action, built in to make them seem more sentient. Instead, it showed how truly robotic they were. They couldn’t read each others mind.

    Friscan felt the time tick by. He was supposed to be beyond impatience, he’d learned to accept the will of the Force. Dooku would be on him before he knew it. He didn’t have time to waste. Rolling his eyes, he reached out a hand and called the battle droid’s blaster to him. He fired in two quick bursts, the droids clattering noisily to the floor.

    Dunking into an alcove, he waited for the rest of them to come. He held his blasters, his elbows tucked into his sides, prepared to fire. He trusted the Force, he felt it guide his hands. Soon the platoon of battle droids marched away, seeking further instruction. He continued his blind run, hoping that he would eventually run into docking bay.

    It was several corridors and some tricky dodging before he found what he was looking for. Dooku’s personal solar sailer. Friscan grinned. Once he got past the atmosphere, it would be impossible for Dooku to track him. He’d be free and clear. At least until he came with the council to free Antares San.

    He felt urgency through the Force, like a bell ringing. His time was up. Not releasing his death-like grip on the blasters, he ran for the solar sailer. Once aboard he engaged the ramp and sealed the lock. For a half a moment, he let himself slump against a nearby bulkhead, the blasters now loosely held at the edge of his fingertips. He still didn’t know where he was, but for the moment he was free.

    His thoughts turned to the woman he’d left behind. He feared what would become of her. Yes. Feared. She was dangerous. By the will of the Force, he hoped that he would not be used against the Jedi.

    Before he went to the cockpit, he wondered if anyone could use such power responsibly.
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  22. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Ohmigosh... so close and yet so far away for Antares! Not only have Doomu, the Falleen, and co. taxed her to the end of all her physical, mental, and empathic abilities, they've taken away her will to escape—she's at the point where she's so used to being an empathic pain conduit that it feels comfortable and safe to her, and she turns down Friscan's rescue offer. But not only that—she just used her pain-receiving ability to take his wound upon herself so that he could go free—so wrenching and intense! :eek: I guess it's just a matter of waiting for her now, since she has no initiative of her own anymore; I hope Friscan will make it and be able to warn the Jedi Council; it's encouraging at least that he seems to have a plan. Fingers very crossed indeed! [face_good_luck]
  23. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Yeah, poor Antares and Friscan. Yeah, Friscan is a man of action. But he might find himself deeply changed by what he's been through. Thanks for reading. :)
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  24. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    Chapter 8:

    Endrex Kyln was in the middle of a civil war. It had started innocently enough. He’d agreed to help Count Dooku in shipping food stuffs and other exports from Serenno. The Count had done so much to help in Antares kidnapping. It was the least he could do. Now he was shipping battle droids, troop carrier parts, blasters and thermal detonators to Separatist worlds. His office was riddled with orders. And he hated every moment of it.

    Antares hadn’t been found, no matter how hard he pressed with money or other threats. She was gone. Eventually the security force, Count Dooku and Antares’s own mother had encouraged him to move on. He still made enquires, hired bounty hunters and private investigators. Quickly, they’re investigations went cold. There were no witnesses, no physical evidence, save overturned furniture in her dressing room.

    For the most part he’d relented to their wishes. It had been over three years now. He’d married a member of the banking clan’s daughter only a season ago. In his better moments, he believed he loved Lorana, in his worst, he thought he’d moved on too quickly and that he’d been pressured into a marriage he wasn’t ready for.

    Certainly, his wife wouldn’t be happy to hear he was still spending their fortune to search for his former fiancée. No matter what his friends and colleagues said, he couldn’t just completely give up on hope, give up on her.

    Still, it was hard to love a shadow, a ghost of a memory. Antares had become an ideal instead of a person. He remembered more of her perfections than her temper, her habit of leaving things on the floor. The dreams of traveling with her, watching her dance at night and seeing the galaxy during the day had long since faded.

    Now he had other concerns. A war in which he was part of the engine. His feelings on the war were as complicated and convoluted as his feelings for Lorana. He understood much of the Separatist plight. It had become increasingly more and more difficult to do business within the Republic trade routes. Taxation had hit an all-time high. He’d gone as far as asking smugglers the routes they’d used, but had yet to employ them until the war had broken out. He believed in staying above board and following the letter of the law.

    War burned like a fiery kiln and it forged different things. For Endrex it had turned him into a hard business man that could never quite feel comfortable in his skin. It was why he kept his office stocked with the strongest Corellian whiskey money could buy. It was why he’d married Lorana. He could no longer play at being the dashing young man, frivolous, with a light heart and mind.

    The only person who had made him feel grounded had been kidnapped. As the war raged, he’d desperately clawed for footing, while everyone had told him Antares was gone. Standing from his desk, he crossed over to the bar and looked at the bottle of amber liquid. Corellian whiskey was an acquired taste. The stinging bitterness that was the precursor to a subtle sweetness was usually too harsh on a foundling palate. Endrex had long since cultured his tongue.

    He opened the decanter and took a pull from the bottle. He let the liquid burn.

    It was a long journey back to Coruscant. The solar sailor was not meant for long excursions. He couldn’t count for the days that passed until he found a world he believed was marginally safe. He contacted the Temple, waiting in the shadows until the transport arrived.

    He was relieved when he saw Cymbir descend the loading ramp of the Republic shuttle. She paused at the bottom of the ramp, a ghost of her presence floating over him, searching. He limped out, still halfway jittery from the escape. Her green eyes widened in surprise to see him safe and whole. The scars he bore would be harder for her to see, harder to heal.

    She walked over to him and was surprised when he embraced her. Despite how he felt about her, he’d held himself to the very core of the Code. He’d fought his feelings, her insistence for the last year. She was 22, so close to her trials. He had a duty to her and to himself to act as a Jedi would.

    Antares had changed much about him. Every emotion was close to the surface, crawling on his skin like a line of Bilbber ants, a constant presence that he could not shake off nor ignore. Once he reached the Temple, once he could find his center again, he would be the Jedi he was. For now, he would hold Cymbir close and let the love he felt for her heal his tortured soul.

    “Friscan,” she breathed into his ear. “What happened? Where have you been?”

    He couldn’t recall when she’d started calling him by his first name and not his honorific. At the moment, the remonstration that nagged at the back of his head was silenced. She was here and Dooku hadn’t tortured her and left her a shell of the fiery spirit that was only marginally tamed by Jedi training. Friscan tightened his hold on her.

    “You’re shaking. Are you hurt?”

    He shook his head automatically, but paused after a moment considering. “No, I’m well.”

    “Please don’t lie to me. I can tell you aren’t. Come inside the shuttle. Where’s your lightsaber?”

    His hand went to his hip where the weapon usually hung. His finger brushed the dried and caked blood and puss of his wound, a wound that had been healed in the blink of an eye. “I lost it.”

    Her pretty face was scrunched in concern and he could feel it along the bond they shared. She took him by the hand and led him up the ramp. He was surprised she didn’t go to the cockpit once she sealed the ramp. Instead, she brought them to the small lounge area just before the cockpit.

    “I can’t take you directly back to Coruscant,” she said. She was seated before him, her long golden hair falling over her shoulder, loosed from its customary braid.

    “Why not?” he said on a swallow.

    “We’re at war Friscan, you’ve been missing for nearly a season. In your report to the council, you said you escaped from Count Dooku. You’ve been in the hands of the Sith and an enemy of the Republic. I can’t just take you home.”

    He hunched over, leaning elbows on his knees and running both hands through his hair. ‘You’ve been in the hands of the Sith.’ Antares San was still in the hands of the Sith. He knew exactly what Dooku would do once she was ready to be his ultimate weapon. For the moment, she was still finding ways to defy him, to cling on to the gossamer strands of hope in her life. Her continuation on the light side of the Force was a tenuous thing. She was broken but she was badly beaten and it would only take one more well-placed blow for her to become what Dooku hoped for.

    “I don’t have time for this, Cym,” he ground out. “We can talk here for days before you set course for Coruscant or you can get the ship in the air now and I’ll go through whatever verification you want.”

    She blinked at him, taken aback by his sudden outburst. She quickly covered the hurt with the Jedi calm. “It isn’t what I require, it’s what the Council requires.”

    He scoffed at that. “Now you care.”

    “Is there a particular reason you’re angry at me?” she snapped.

    “You, who claimed to know me, to love me, can you not tell what side I’m firmly fixed on?”

    In one fluid motion, she stood up. This time, there was no hiding the pain on her face. She wasn’t quite a Jedi Knight yet. He’d gone overboard when he struck at her heart and now she was retreating. “You aren’t yourself. Once you’ve had some rest, some time to gather your wits, we’ll continue this conversation. There’s a bunk down that corridor.”

    She started for the cockpit, when icy fear gripped his heart. He couldn’t be left alone, not now. “Cym, don’t leave!”

    She stopped, spinning on her heel to look at him. He blond hair waved at the suddenness of the action. He didn’t know if it as his words or the feral urgency in them. Cymbir slowly approached him, then sat down on the bench next to him. A gesture they hadn’t shared since the early days of her apprenticeship under him. He’d really known her for three years, he was pretty sure he’d loved her for all three of them.

    She cupped his cheek, turned his face so that they met eye to eye. He hadn’t realized he’d been avoiding her gaze. Was he scared of what she would see or what she wouldn’t see? Whatever it was that she encountered in his silver orbs, it brought tears. “Friscan, what happened?”

    Friscan began to cry. Not anything dramatic, like heaving sobs. Just a solid release of emotion. Antares San couldn’t cry. She’d been too emaciated, too numb to half the things they’d put her, and by extension him, through. He’d cry for her. For the victims that had fallen under her power, nameless faces, he’d glimpsed in the darkness.

    Cymbir wrapped him in her embrace again, held him as the silent tears fell. He felt the worry in her. The normal passing between a Master and an apprentice, a Force bond. He’d learned so long ago how to tell the difference between the two. But now, his mind, his very soul had been rewritten. He’d believed he could be a Jedi again, that he could seem Cymbir through to her knighthood, make the memory of their deceased Master proud.
    What good was he to a Padawan, when he was an emotional wreck and she needed to be the strong one?

    “Friscan?” she asked. After a moment, she continued, “I know who you are. This isn’t you.”

    He shook his head against her shoulder at the crook of her neck. She smelled nice, clean, she felt free. “I didn’t turn, Cym. I didn’t turn. But I think they still destroyed me.”

    They punished her, of course.

    The wound she had taken for Friscan Scyth, they forced her to give it to 20 others. They died slow, painful deaths. Taken by infection, the fever eating away at bodies that had no defense against her. Not even the Jedi had stood much of a chance.

    The skin of her side was healed, the festering blaster wound gone. She felt hollowed out. There wasn’t much left. Could she simply just will herself to die. Antares had once tried to take on another person’s death. It hadn’t worked. Cethlos had rendered her unconscious. If they had the drugs in her veins, there wasn’t much she could control.

    A smile peeled back from her lips. She must have looked frightening in the dark of her room. Friscan lived. She could feel a part of him in her head now. Strained and thin, like pulling pieces of cotton fluff apart until it hung by a fiber. They weren’t omniscient She may not allow another person to escape the confines of this perpetual hell, but she had saved one. One amongst the hundreds she’d killed. It didn’t tip the scales, but it made things better. It made the ache less echoing.

    A new Jedi came before her. He was exotic looking. Skin a deep violet hue, that was so close to black that in the dim light she almost mistaken it for being. He had tattoos running in intricate patterns from ear to under his chin and back to his other ear. The tattoo was distorted, worn and lined with time. This wasn’t a young girl or a Jedi Knight. They’d brought a Master to her feet.

    He opened his eyes. They glowed a soft persimmon. “Antares San,” he greeted. His voice was a deep baritone.

    “You know me?” Antares gasped. She reached back along her memory, tried to recall the time before she’d been pushed into this cell as if she’d been buried alive. She couldn’t remember his face.

    “I saw you dance,” he said. “On Serenno. We were both a little younger then, a little less worse for the wear.”

    She looked down at her hands, the binders that had to always be tightened as her muscles faded away. As she looked more like stringy flesh than a human being. Dooku wanted her sick and weak, a putty in his hands. How could he look at her now and see the girl she’d once been? She couldn’t even remember that beautiful creature. Biting her lips, she shook her head. “I don’t remember.”

    He opened his mouth to answer her but he was stopped by a sudden attack of coughing. It was a wet, popping cough that once he was finished left him slumped and exhausted. She’d heard that sound before. The first tour she’d taken with the troupe, they’d stopped off at a children’s hospital on the sanctuary moon of Destin. All the children had been exposed to Plestrian chest fever. It was the first time Antares had danced with a mask.

    Why did their gaunt faces come to easy recall while they happy memories, their laughter and delight at their dance was lost to time?

    Cymbir stood beside her Master as he addressed the Jedi Council. She’d given the appropriate clearances, letting the Council know that her Master had not been compromised. Looking at Friscan now, she couldn’t see the cracks and fissures that his time with Dooku had left. He looked and acted as he always had.

    She hoped she was doing the right thing. She’d forced a promise out of him that he would visit the healing halls as soon as they were finished here. Several times as he slept, she’d casted her thoughts to his mind, feeling the lesions that were just beginning to scar over. With mental fingers, she assured herself that the damage done could be healed.

    Cym had spent the better part of the last season trying to follow up on any word that might lead to Friscan. The council had declared him dead, as all who couldn’t be found after Geonosis were. She hadn’t believed it, had fought the council fervently that she had not felt him die. The Jedi were already stretched, Geonosis had cost them heavily and war had broken out. They’d kept her on active duty, a Padawan without a Master, only because they needed ever able handed Jedi on the field.

    Still, she worried. She’d listened to the torture he’d endured by this woman. She’d even understood his urgency in taking San away from the Sith hands. Cymbir just wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea to send Friscan out to retrieve San, let alone to give her into the hands of the Jedi. She’d already seen the desperation war could wrought even on the supposed calm heads of the Jedi Council.

    “She is innocent in this,” Friscan concluded. “As much a victim as myself and those her power is brought upon.”

    Master Yoda leaned over his gimmer stick, his round eyes falling with direct precision on Friscan. “Master Scyth much pain you have been through. An impartial party you cannot be. Sick and distort you are. Send you on this quest, the Council should not.”

    “I’ve been there before, I know the territory. If we don’t move soon, it is possible that Dooku will relocate her to a compound and all will be lost. Masters of the Council, I beg of you not to take this threat in stride. This isn’t about our lives. That we know will be taken by the will of the Force or no. But this is about the luminosity inside each of us. Each of us have our breaking point, I know I was pressed to the very line of mine. It was only a miracle of the Force that I escaped with my sanity intact. Others will not be so lucky.”

    Cymbir cringed at his choice of words. Jedi overall did not believe in luck, only the Force.

    “You are too close to the matter, Master Scyth,” Master Windu said in his even tone.

    “Send another team with me, then,” Friscan offered. “Someone detached but could follow my instructions. Masters, I know it is not right to fear, but this above else do I fear. Count Dooku will break that poor woman and the galaxy will suffer for it.”

    The seven members of the Council in attendance, exchanged glances. Cymbir understood she did not always fit in with the Council’s idea of the Code. When her first Master, Lari Tysell had died, she’d nearly left the order. She’d been ready to offer her resignation to the Council, when Friscan had entered the scene. He’d shown the compassion she had so desperately sought from her elders. Master Yoda had been there for her first steps into the Force and yet the greatest advice he could share with her was that her Master was one with the Force.

    She knew the words had been meant as a comfort, but they had felt cold against her burning heart.

    “Kenobi and Skywalker are in Temple,” Master Gallia offered.

    Cymbir was a couple years older than Anakin Skywalker, they’d shared a few classes, sparred a few times. She’d found out of all the Jedi, even Friscan, he was one she felt most comfortable with, the one whose thoughts and feelings were as akin to her own. Yet, Master Kenobi was such a Code-bound knight, that she was pretty sure he consulted the Code before he went to the fresher. Anakin would be sympathetic to Friscan’s plight, Kenobi just might send him back prematurely.

    Cymbir held her tongue. She’d learned long ago you didn’t get the Council to see things your way with angry outburst. They listened to obedience for faster than outright rebellion.

    The silent discourse always unnerved her. Couldn’t they ask her and Friscan to leave the Council chambers while they conversed. Instead, they were forced to sit and wait for them to finish.

    “Will they not be needed on the front lines?” Master Windu asked.

    Yoda nodded. “Yes, good team Kenobi and Skywalker make, brash they have become. Maybe a subtler assignment, they need. Hmm?’
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  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    I'd been curious about what had become of Endrex in all this... what a sad and uncomfortable situation for him! And it's driven him to drink, too. :( It's got to be just as uncomfortable for Lorana, I would imagine—at least if she knows anything about who her husband is searching for. But one has to give Endrex a certain amount of kudos for persistence. I am guessing it will eventually pay off.

    Meanwhile, it’s good to see that Cymbir and Friscan have taken decisive action in bringing Antares’s case before the Jedi Council—and it’s great to see that a rescue is being organized in earnest—and with not just any rescuers! :cool: But I too am concerned about the implications that Friscan’s first-hand experience with Antares’s brand of empathy might have. And given the way so many of Antares’s feelings have already been sucked clean out of her, as we saw in the previous chapter… how will she take to being rescued? [face_thinking] Much to think about here, though I certainly wish Friscan and co. well in their attempt! [face_good_luck]