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Beyond - Legends "Shores Yet Untrod" (AU; Kyp, cast of zillions, adventure/humor/etc.)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Onderon1, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    A/N: Yep, I'm back. ;)

    This is the latest in a
    very AU Legends, one where Betsy "Psylocke" Braddock of the X-Men somehow landed on Sernpidal in this timeline's version of Vector Prime, and the Vong War took a generally healthier turn (thus why Chewbacca and Anakin Solo are alive, Padme's alive and remarried to Zekk, and other chaotic happiness :p )

    While there's a lot of ancillary tales - set before and after this one - the three previous major stories are
    Sernpidal's Amethyst, or just how Betsy arrived, and the war up to the Fall of Coruscant: https://boards.theforce.net/threads...ysolos-psylocke-etc-concluded-10-12.50043475/

    Maelstroms, or what happened next, how Anakin survived Myrkr, and just how Jaina ended up with twin sons: https://boards.theforce.net/threads...-t-more-post-sbs-njo-finished-12-27.50042496/

    And
    Songs of Yun-Bantha, with the wedding of Jaina to a most unexpected, but welcome, husband, and the end of the Vong War (don't worry, this is completed also): https://boards.theforce.net/threads...r-njo-psylocke-others-updated-12-10.50046855/

    For how the Jedi praxia were founded that will appear during this story, that tale is here: https://boards.theforce.net/threads...rama-action-pg-13ish-completed-6-30.50045186/

    DISCLAIMER: Everyone here is Disney's, except for any mentions of Guild Wars 2, which belong to ArenaNet, and Rian Solo-Rhysode, who's my OC. Roan Solo-Fel is technically Disney's, at least in that he may or may not be the ancestor of Roan Fel from Legacy (depending on how the timeline goes).

    *******************
    28.1 ABY: Temporary
    Jedi Headquarters,
    Denon, Inner Rim:
    *******************

    The trouble with giving someone like Kyp Durron responsibility to keep him out of trouble was that inevitably - it fell apart.

    Granted, the Irmenian ambassador probably hadn't been the best person to ask Kyp to negotiate supply routes with.

    I shouldn't make fun. Kyp can be responsible - he's just very, very ... iconoclastic, Luke reflected, awaiting his appointment.

    He tried not to yawn; his endurance still wasn't what it should've been, to be honest, after that sand-cursed bite from Shimmrra's amphistaff during the last battle on Coruscant. It was something of a metaphor for the whole galaxy right now.

    We lost so much time - so many lives, and the lives we could've lived, Luke pondered, glancing over at the couch and smiling. Ben dozed there, curled up with his favorite blanket and a stuffed bantha, building blocks scattered across the floor near the couch. He'd wanted to spend time with Dad, and Mara was off taking care of various errands, both family and business.

    At least Ben wants to spend time with me - he's still skittish about the Force, though. I hope someday he can overcome his fear of it. He sensed so much awfulness through the Force during the war, and then, he and Rey and Kylo were hidden away with the other Jedi children at Eclipse, Luke worried, reaching over to gently brush his son's forehead.

    Ben mumbled something, smiling a little in his sleep, and Luke felt relief - then, a rush of someone else's anxiety.

    "Fre-tweep?" Artoo asked softly, and Luke nodded at his old friend to open the door. (There was a reassuring sense of practicality to having an astromech as a secretary, especially one who knew Luke and the Order as well as Artoo - the little droid had a knack for keeping out unwelcome, and uninvited, appointments.)

    Luke sensed the new arrival composing their emotions, and smiled just a bit - this shouldn't be a duty his visitor found onerous.

    If anything, I planned on it being something Kyp will want to do, since it covers more than a few of his favorite things ...

    --------------------------------

    When the message had come down from on high (Octa would've reprimanded Kyp for the use of that phrase, but really, the Order was the Skywalkers' show, and Kyp didn't resent that like he used to), the Deyer-born Jedi Master had been ... wary.

    Relax,
    he'd told himself. You didn't Force-choke that stuffed-shirt snob from Irmenu, even after he spoke proudly about Daala.

    Still - even after Miko, the Dozen, the insanity with Jaina's love life and marriage to Ganner, and the Liberation - Kyp was wary.

    There's just something about Luke Skywalker's quiet disapproval that's worse than being lectured, Kyp admitted, ringing the bell.

    The door slid open, and Kyp nodded to Artoo - the astromech was level-headed, and didn't tend to hold grudges - before giving Luke a perfunctory, if respectful, bow. He started forward, suddenly glad he'd worn boots, when he stepped on hard plastoid.

    "Brick that got away - it's Ben's," Luke said in an unusually quiet voice, nodding toward the couch. Kyp glanced that direction, not entirely surprised to see a blanket-wrapped small figure with a mess of red hair and a stuffed bantha dozing on the couch.

    "And once again, you show your courage. I'd never survive watching a toddler," Kyp quipped softly, Force-levitating the building block to Luke's outstretched hand. The elder Jedi just smiled, and Kyp found a seat across from Luke's desk before nodding.

    "So. Now that I've avoided an interstellar incident with the entire Centrality by the skin of my teeth, what can I do for you, Master?" Kyp asked, risking some of his usual flippancy - Luke seemed to be in a good mood, which was probably good news.

    Luke's smile grew, and he activated his desk's holotank, displaying a galaxy map that rotated slowly. "I've got a long-term project for you, Kyp - one I think you're best suited for. It'll require months away, though, and it's not mandatory - you're a Jedi Master. I'm not going to order anyone around by decree. That's not how the Order should be run," he said, growing more serious.

    Kyp raised an eyebrow; he was flattered, and the idea of a quasi-vacation after the grinder of the Vong War appealed to him.

    Still, he asked, "I appreciate the vote of confidence, but can I have a few more details before I sign the dotted line?"

    Luke chuckled a little - softly, since Ben mumbled again, and Kyp respected his caution. Small children could be terrifying.

    Or maybe that's just
    my issues, and an excuse to keep from facing the reality of Jaina having babies and a husband ...

    Kyp squashed that thought - reopening that line of thinking around Jaina's uncle was the LAST thing he wanted or needed.

    Luke nodded and said, "You recall that early on during the war, we established 10 praxia across the galaxy - some on former Jedi worlds, others on entirely new planets - to prevent the Order's learning and beliefs from being lost again as it was during the Empire's rise. Well, it's time to reconnect with those worlds, and see how they've developed. We could definitely use any new Knights they've produced, as well as make sure that none of the praxia have ... delved into things best left alone, so to speak."

    Kyp raised both eyebrows and nodded; he understood what Luke meant about "months away," now.

    "And with the hyperlanes and Holonet still sketchy, at best, in a lot of places, you need a pilot who can actually get to the praxia - which would be hidden anyway - to check on them," Kyp concluded, as Luke smiled again.

    "Exactly. There's no deadline to this; it could take a long while. But you're one of our best remaining pilots, especially using the Force, and your skill set is diverse enough to deal with a whole variety of challenges. Similarly, we'd like you to send back your astrographic and hyperspace data. In effect, you'll serve as a hyperspace mapper, helping reconnect the hyperlanes - others are doing similar work, but you'll be covering a wide swath of the galaxy. Likewise, reconnecting with the praxia will be critical to the Order going forward, especially establishing a permanent core praxeum on Ossus. Yavin's ... probably not recoverable, and given what we've learned about its past, rebuilding there would be ... ill-advised to repeat," Luke said.

    Kyp blew out a deep breath; it was a mission that needed doing, and he needed a distraction and a change of scenery.

    "Just me, or do you have some grand expedition in mind?" he asked, prepared for either eventuality. He'd been working on his humility and personability ever since Octa had (rightfully) thrown the disaster with the Dozen at Coruscant in his face.

    Luke smiled, shaking his head as he replied, "Somewhere in between. We'd like you to start by escorting the Solusars and a settlement team of students and instructors to Ossus, and meet with Rodian Master Adlusha Kloj. He was assigned to Ossus to work with the Ysanna and begin a praxeum there. After that, however, I'd like you to take a YT-1300 modified for long-distance flight, with a Knight to watch your back - she's one of our most gifted battle meditators -"

    Kyp blinked at that, and Luke stopped to let Kyp ask, "A battle meditation specialist? If this is a stealth op, that seems unwise."

    Luke gave Kyp that look - the one Mara half-exasperatedly termed "Farmboy in the speeder-lights," which could mean anything from Tatooine guile to actual innocence, but when applied to other senior Jedi, usually meant an awkward complication.

    "Aliste Bynar is the sister of Ardea Bynar, who established the Tython praxeum ... and, honestly, Aliste's in need of a bit of polishing, I think is how Tionne described her," Luke replied, smiling with a bit of embarrassment.

    Kyp gave Luke a "stop shoveling the bantha poodoo" look and asked dryly, "She's a 'draw saber and ask questions later' type, and since I finally outgrew that character flaw, you figured I can help get her to look past the training remote, so to speak?"

    Luke's smile was so annoyingly on-target that Kyp wondered if Skywalker had had that same look during his first Death Star run.

    "Well, that, and Aliste does want to see Ardea again. They're fraternal twins - Aliste's better with combat, Ardea's a gifted Consular - and they haven't seen each other since the Yuuzhan Vong War began," Luke said, his smile turning wistful.

    Kyp tried not to roll his eyes, and finally nodded; he'd begged off taking on another Padawan. He'd mostly recovered from Miko's death, but putting up with adolescent drama was still beyond his patience level, so he could (probably) handle a Knight.

    Luke looked relieved, and suggested, "You may want to pick additional crew members - some without the Force. While the mission is semi-secret, at some point, the majority of the praxia will go public. We shouldn't isolate ourselves from the wider public, like the Old Order did."

    Kyp bit back a line about not wanting to be the captain of a ship of neurotics in some Holonet sitcom - Luke had a point.

    "I'll gather a crew - there's a lot of sentients at loose ends with the post-War chaos. If we are heading into trouble, a little extra firepower might be a good idea; Betsy's been making not-so-subtle hints that she'd like to pawn HK-47 off on somebody," Kyp quipped, making notes on his datapad. (The ancient assassin droid was homicidal, but as much with his wit as with weapons.)

    Luke looked a little troubled at that, but managed a smile and pressed a button on his desk. "I'm transmitting the locations of the praxia and the names of the Jedi who established them to your datapad," he said. Kyp nodded, reviewing the data:

    Ardea Bynar: human female Consular from Talravin. Destination: Tython

    Adlusha Kloj, Rodian male Consular from Rodia. Destination: Ossus

    Nali Toleth, Miraluka female Consular from Alpherides. Destination: Ukio

    Ban'torva: Twi'lek female Guardian from Teth. Destination: Socorro

    Taslar: Male Cathar Sentinel from Taris. Destination: Ilum

    Stast Whaphoon: Squib male Sentinel from Skor II. Destination: Vohai

    Make'shalas: Nikto male Guardian from Kintan. Destination: Ast Kikorie

    Bondar: Shard male Sentinel (Iron Knight) from Orax. Destination: Telos

    Dalia Nalju: human female Sentinel from Serenno. Destination: Serenno

    Caro Benvier: Bith female Guardian from Clak'Dor 7. Destination: Utapau

    Kyp tried not to whistle - that was a wide spread of worlds, which was wise for safety's sake, but it spanned the galaxy's length.

    "You really meant it when you said this was going to take me a while," Kyp said, and Luke chuckled without humor.

    "If anyone can handle this, Kyp, it's you. If you can leave as soon as possible, that'll be for the best," he said in a kind tone.

    Kyp repressed a very suspicious urge that the rest of the Masters' Council had urged his rapid departure - it wasn't polite - and managed a smile as he shook Luke's hand. "I'll get started clearing things up so I can go. Who'll be taking my seat on the Masters' Council?" he asked as he and Luke rose.

    "Betsy, actually - her Padawan's focus on archival skills and practical knowledge complement a more centralized course of study. That, and she's a little concerned that having HK-47 around might - scare her apprentice. He's a Zabrak, so I have more faith in him than that, but I have to admit that HK can be ... abrupt," Luke said, looking embarrassed again.

    Kyp shot Luke an arch look and softly accused, "You are trying to get me to get that psycho droid away from the Order!"

    Luke just laughed, but Kyp wasn't angry - if anything, he knew about crazy droid quirks, with his droll astromech, Zero.

    This could be the perfect chance to get rid of that monotone-laden scrapheap once and for all, and get an R-2 unit. They can get obstinate, but better obstinate than quietly deranged, Kyp mused, leaving as Ben stirred and reached for Luke.

    He watched as the older Skywalker mumbled reassurance to the boy, who curled up in his father's arms and glanced shyly at Kyp, before smiling a bit and waving. "'Bye," Ben called.

    "Bye, Ben. Keep your sneaky old man out of trouble, OK?" Kyp replied, cackling at the look of mock offense on Luke's face.

    He sobered as he walked away from Luke's office, plans and details already rolling through his mind ... and one last visit.

    I can face a months-long mission across the galaxy, delving into unknown areas, but I can't face Jaina? That has to stop ...

    ***************

    to be continued ...
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    Kahara likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating multifaceted mission and Kyp is the right one for it on so many levels. I like the varied crew/passengers he'll be taking along. =D=
     
  3. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    WarmNyota: Thanks. :D This is actually a rewrite (with intended completion [face_blush]) of a piece I started years ago, but never completed for various reasons.

    While there'll be definite comparisons to another SW quest - one far more classic - I'm hopeful the various characters will be different enough to set this story apart. For one thing, Kyp isn't suffering from memory problems; just the opposite, in fact, and he's hoping to distract himself.

    We'll see just how well that goes. [face_whistling]

    But, in the meantime, he has a few loose ends to tie up, and his first new crewmember appears. :D

    *********************
    28.1 ABY: Denon,
    Inner Rim:
    *********************

    Kyp looked down, shaking his head at Q9-01 - this was the first of a number of unpleasant things he had to get done today.

    "It's time we went our separate ways. I'm going to exchange you for another astromech droid," he said, looking down at the oddly-shaped mechanic.

    Q-series astromechs had been produced by Industrial Automaton, the same company that produced the R-series astromech line that had proven so popular with pilots and repair techs across the galaxy. Unlike their R-series predecessors, though, the Q-series were a little different, with thinner bodies and a bullet-shaped column rising from the dome that R-series droids had.

    What had really caused the Q-series to fail on the wider market, though, was their tendency to have catastrophic system failures and difficulties in repair. There had been one notable success, a Q-series droid who had belonged to Marcha, a Drall whom the Solos knew in the Corellia system. But that astromech had also had an abrasive personality and a pathological tendency to add on unusual after-market modifications to himself, most unusually a vocabulator.

    Zero-One, on the other hand, was both passive-aggressive and prone to disturbingly insightful personality analysis. That combination, along with Zero-One's philosophical insights, had been more than enough to convince Kyp that he really didn't need to subject himself to such obnoxiousness during his upcoming mission.

    "Freweep-dwee-twoot?" Zero-One asked, his tone somewhere between shock and what sounded almost like pleading.

    Kyp raised an eyebrow as they stood in the turbolift's hatchway, and checked his datapad. The device translated Zero-One's query as, YOU TRULY PLAN TO REPLACE ME WITH ANOTHER ASTROMECH DROID?

    "Yes. You're functioning efficiently, but your quirks are getting on my nerves. This isn't personal - I just don't think we'd get along. My mission coming up is too important for me to have a fight with my astromech droid in some possibly dangerous system," Kyp said, getting in the turbolift.

    Zero-One rolled in after him, chirping somewhat derisively, "Dwoot. Arfre-weet-bweep?"

    Kyp glanced at his datapad, frowning as he read, IT COULD BE POSSIBLE THAT YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR IS DEFICIENT. OR PERHAPS YOU FEAR AN ANALYTICAL RESPONSE TO YOUR ACTIONS AND INSIGHTS?

    "My sense of humor is fine. And as for my actions and insights, I'll rely on my analysis, thank you very much. You're too ... weird for me," Kyp shot back, crossing his arms.

    "BLAAT. Fre-dwooo-preweep-ardeet. Dwoop pretweet ardeet," Zero-One shot back, and Kyp almost didn't want to look at the translation.

    I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose, he admitted - only to himself - and read his datapad.

    AS IN THE PAST, EXPERIENTIAL DATA SUGGESTS YOUR INABILITY TO APPRECIATE SUBTLETY COULD TO CONTINUE TO PLAGUE YOUR INTERACTION WITH ME. PERHAPS YOUR INTENDED ACQUISITION OF ANOTHER ASTROMECH DROID WILL BENEFIT BOTH OF US - OR AT LEAST ONE OF US, Zero-One had said.

    Kyp snorted as the turbolift door opened, and he nodded. "Careful not to say who'll benefit, huh? Fine. Let's go see - hey! Lowbacca!" he called, nodding at the towering Wookiee Jedi Sentinel who was working on a crowd of R-series astromech droids.

    <Master Durron. I hear you're getting ready to go to visit the other praxia? Does your astromech need an upgrade?> the young Wookiee growled in a friendly manner - Kyp had picked up a good understanding of Shyriiwook over the years as he'd hung out with Han and Chewbacca.

    "Actually, I wanted to swap my Q9 droid for an R-series astromech. I was looking for an R2, If you've got one - I need a droid with a good, sizeable astrogation data buffer," Kyp asked.

    The crowd of astromechs turned their domes to look at Kyp, and an R2 with pinkish-orange highlights and a white body rolled forward, chirping happily. Lowbacca smiled a little and said, <This is R2-QP - or just Qewpee. She's a sweetheart, really kind and thoughtful. A little silly, sometimes, but she's fairly new - IA set up a shop here during the war, and she was forged a few months ago.>

    "Tweep? Betweep-dwoop-beet!" the feminine-programmed R2 tweedled, and she extended her gripper claw to let Kyp shake it. He laughed, kindly, and nodded - a droid with some personality, but not too much, was what he was looking for.

    "Good to meet you, Qewpee. Zero-One, I hope you find someone who can appreciate your 'subtlety'' Kyp said, waving Qewpee after him as Lowbacca roared an amused laugh.

    Zero-One gave a mournful chirp, while Qewpee beeped, "Dwooo? Frep-breteweet-dweep-betweep?"

    Kyp checked his datapad and read, Master Kyp? Was Zero-One lazy, or rude? I'm a hard worker - I just get so curious about new places. I haven't seen much of the galaxy, and I want to see all of it, someday.

    I don't
    need a Padawan - I've got an astromech who's a wide-eyed kid, of all things, Kyp thought, repressing a laugh.

    He patted Qewpee's dome and said, "Don't worry, Qewpee. This trip'll let you see parts of the galaxy you haven't imagined."

    "Be-tweep!? Dweeeee!" Qewpee - well, cheered, and Kyp couldn't help but laugh as they headed for the turbolift.

    Well, that was a lot less painful than I'd feared ... now, for the hard part ...

    --------------------------

    He'd put this off for as long as he could - mostly out of pride, but also (admitted only to himself) ... a measure of ...

    Sure, a little fear. But more loss, and hurt, and ... ah, kriffit, Durron, get in there, Kyp told himself.

    He reached for the door chime, glancing down at the affirmative tweedle from his new companion. "Jump in, huh?" he asked.

    "Btweep! Dwee-ptweet-btweep!" chirped Qewpee, and Kyp chuckled; she did have a point, about just going for it.

    Kyp took a deep breath, dropped the Force-mask he'd adopted to keep his presence quiet, and rang the door chime.

    Sudden surprise rang out - Jaina's, Kyp noticed, with relief at her note of welcome, supported by a guarded, but not smothering protectiveness, and two curious, friendly, and strong Force signatures, all of which almost bowled Kyp over.

    I'd heard the rugrats were powerful, but - wow. Hadn't expected them to be so sharp already, Kyp reflected.

    The door slid open, and Ganner raised an eyebrow at Kyp - who echoed the expression, because his former ally was oddly clad, even by Jedi standards - pajama pants, a sleeveless T-shirt, and a robe with stained shoulders. "Kyp," he greeted.

    "Ah - hi. You - might've heard I ... well, I might be away for a while, and I just wanted to wish you and Jaina -" Kyp began.

    The "don't give me shavit" look he got in response neither surprised nor reassured Kyp, but Ganner shrugged. "It's nice of you, but ... we both know why you're really here. She's in the playroom - c'mon in, both of you," he said, waving a hand.

    Playroom ... ? Kyp pondered - he'd occasionally pitched in, helping Kyp and Tionne with the older students at the Yavin Praxeum, but that'd been teaching basic Force and lightsaber skills, or piloting courses. He wasn't used to small kids.

    A particularly bitter part of Kyp's subconscious growled about Imperial injustice in sending him to Kessel when he'd been only 8 standard years old, but he shushed it and centered himself - he didn't want to upset anyone. (And given the number of toys, bottles, and blankets on the floor of Jaina and Ganner's living room, Kyp had to watch where he walked.)

    Jaina and Ganner ... I guess I have to get used to that, Kyp realized, the gut-punch making him take a deep breath. He glanced back over his shoulder, checking on his new astromech - he didn't want to be self-centered, either.

    Qewpee couldn't just roll on carpet, but the little droid did well to waddle after the Jedi, and it took only moments for them to reach a large room with big windows, looking out over the city-world. A rocking-bantha sat in one corner, while a toybox overflowed with stuffed animals and other items.

    And on a blanket, sat a young woman in a simple spacer's coverall, two onesie-clad babies rolling or crawling around her.

    Kyp nodded, stepping aside to let Qewpee waddle in behind him, while he watched Jaina stand, a baby in either arm. The small boys cooed, waving - the black-haired one squealed with glee when Ganner took him from Jaina and made silly noises, then whispered something to Jaina, who nodded and slowly smiled.

    The brown-and-white-haired boy she held looked at Kyp with intense green eyes, before he smiled and hid his face.

    Roan - Jag's son. And the black-haired one is Rian, Ganner's boy, Kyp recalled, waving a little when the twins looked at him again. They seemed curious, and Rian pointed at Qewpee, babbling happily, ending with "Ka-pa!"

    "No, sweetie - that's not Cappie. Cappie's red and white," Jaina gently corrected, ruffling Rian's hair. "That's - ?"

    "This is Qewpee. She's my new astromech," Kyp introduced, and the astromech tweedled happily as Jaina smiled.

    "Nice to meet you, Qewpee. Cappie's recharging, right now, but maybe you can talk with him sometime," Jaina greeted, and Qewpee chirped with appreciation. "Kyp - it's good to see you again. I've got Roan, and Ganner's got Rian."

    Kyp nodded, smiling a little as the babies waved at him - and he savagely repressed a pang of how unfair it all seemed.

    She made her choice, Kyp. Don't be a shebs about all this, he reminded himself, while Ganner glanced at him.

    "I'll leave you two to talk - c'mon, guys, let's go see if Cappie's awake. I'll be just around the corner," Ganner said, taking Roan from Jaina. The boys fussed a bit, but calmed as Ganner sang what Kyp recognized as "Dance, Dance Little Ewok."

    He left, Qewpee trundling after him and the babies, and Kyp managed a smile. "He's - good with them," he said.

    Jaina nodded, sitting on a cushioned nook in one of the windows, and said, "He takes being a dad seriously, but has fun with it, too. And he doesn't care that Roan isn't his own. Ganner treats both boys as his sons - and we love each other."

    She gave Kyp a slightly apologetic, but also strong look, and he nodded. "I can tell," he said, managing a smile.

    Jaina thanked him, then nodded toward the empty seat in the nook, but Kyp held up a hand, his mask crumbling.

    "I ... it's very kind of you. But ... kriff, Jaina, I look at all this, and - I'm sorry. I didn't come here to -" he rambled.

    "Kyp," she said, and he forced himself to look at her, blaming the sun in his eyes for his blurry vision.

    Jaina's smile quavered a bit, but there was a strength supporting it that Kyp doubted had much of Han in it. (He didn't say that, of course - even now, after she'd made peace with Leia, Jaina was fiercely independent.)

    "Some Jedi Master I am," he mumbled. "I come here to wish you well, and all I can do is whine about how I imagine you and me with kids - never mind that I never thought about it before you - well ..."

    "Before I slept with Jag and Ganner on the same night? Hey, you tried to get me to stop obsessing about my pain. I just took a less ... traditional flirtation with the dark side than most Skywalkers," Jaina tried to joke.

    She grew more serious, then, and Kyp sensed her feelings for a moment - sadness, whimsy, but no regret about her sons.

    "You really have grown up - the hard way," Kyp breathed, smiling sadly while Jaina rose from her seat.

    She nodded, picking up a stuffed Ewok, and inhaled its' scent, smiling as Ganner returned with the babies. "It's worth it, though. Some people talk about what they'd do differently - but I wouldn't want a different outcome," she said.

    She took Rian from Ganner, nuzzling her face in his hair as he giggled, then smiled with a little amusement and asked, "Want to hold them?"

    Kyp blinked, glancing behind himself as Qewpee waddled to the doorway, joined by Cappie, Jaina's male-programmed R2. The droids chirped happily, and Rian seemed to whistle to them (or maybe just squeal), as Roan cooed and waved.

    "Well, maybe one. If one squirms, I want to be able to keep him from trying to jump from my arms - I'm not sure I could handle two," Kyp said, half-smiling.

    Ganner gave Kyp a doubting look, but the twinkle in his eyes belied any sting. "It's not that hard," he said, holding out Roan.

    Kyp carefully took the boy from Ganner, making sure to try and hold Roan as he saw Jaina cradling Rian. "Ah - hey, there," Kyp greeted, smiling with relief as Roan cooed at him, curiosity evident in the baby's Force-presence. "Your dad's a great pilot - a little stiff, sometimes, but he had my back more than once. Maybe you'll fly someday?"

    Roan sneezed, giggling, and Kyp couldn't resist grinning at Jaina and Ganner, saying, "He has more personality than Jag."

    "Dwooop-BWAAT," Cappie replied, and Kyp rolled his eyes while Jaina, Ganner, and the babies laughed.

    "Everyone's a critic," he said, handing Roan back to Ganner after a moment. "Thanks, though. I - I hope -"

    Jaina kissed Kyp's cheek, smiling as she replied, "Thanks, Kyp. I hope you'll be safe, too. How long'll you be gone?"

    "Depends on how badly the Vong have mined the hyperlanes," he said, grateful for the change of topic. "But I'm commissioning a pretty sturdy ship, and putting together a crew - Betsy's letting me borrow HK-47, and Luke's insisting I take this hotshot new Knight who's a prodigy with battle meditation. Hope that isn't a sign of an interesting trip."

    Jaina nodded, walking with Kyp to the front door and letting Rian play with a stray lock of her hair. "Already sounds wild," she said, stepping aside to let Qewpee leave the apartment. "Seriously - may the Force be with you, Kyp."

    "And you guys. You're braver than I am ... and for what it's worth? You were a good apprentice, for as short as it lasted," Kyp said, shaking Jaina's free hand. He did the same with Ganner as he caught up, Roan in one arm, and the men nodded.

    Something like respect flashed in Ganner's eyes, while Jaina said, "You weren't a bad teacher, either. Thanks."

    Kyp just bowed to them, leaving before whatever was in his throat made him croak like a Rybet.

    Once the conapt door closed, he walked with Qewpee close behind - she could roll, now that the floor was without carpet - and Kyp managed to say, "That ... went better than I'd planned. Well, as much as I planned."

    "Bwtweep?" Qewpee asked, as much innocence as kindness, and Kyp laughed while he called the turbolift.

    "Fair enough. I didn't really plan. But ... sometimes the craziest decisions end up for the best," he allowed.

    "C'mon, Qewpee. Let's go check my ad for spacers, and meet with this Aliste' Bynar who's impressed Kam and Tionne."

    ***************
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Like Qewpee, just enough personality but not "neurotic" [face_rofl] And the meeting/talk with Ganner and Jaina went very well.. Probably better than Kyp feared. :p =D=
     
  5. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Delightful as always. I'm liking Qewpee.
     
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  6. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Thanks, everyone. :) Qewpee will have a big role going forward; she's one of my favorite OCs, since I think there's never enough positive for positivity's sake kinds of characters ... [face_thinking]

    More, here, with the crew, including the arrival of everyone's favorite snarky assassin droid, and the first hint of the BBEGs (there'll be plenty of adversaries coming, though - Kyp just can't help but seem to draw trouble ... :p)

    ****************
    28.1 ABY:
    Denon, Inner Rim:
    ****************

    "Interrogative: Master, while I am overjoyed to be ordered to serve someone with Master Durron's reputation, will you be all right?"

    Kyp fought the urge to gawk at the seemingly very uncharacteristic display of concern from, of all droids, HK-47 as he and Qewpee watched Betsy Braddock finish checking over the ancient assassin droid.

    The amethyst-haired telepath just smiled, winking at Kyp, and said, "I'll be fine, HK. My duties with the Masters' Council, and teaching my new Padawan, K'urod Var-Tasik, will likely be very boring while you're away. You don't want your neural cluster to degrade from lack of action, now, do you?"

    HK held a hand to his chest in mock (?) horror and replied, "Exclamation: When put that way, Master, I will hasten to depart! If nothing else, traveling with Kyp Durron will ensure plenty of foolhardy meatbags for me to demonstrate my protocols upon."

    Betts ... you REALLY owe me, Kyp thought pointedly at his fellow Jedi and one-time ... well, they'd spent a fun night together.

    He tried not to roll his eyes as Betsy glanced at him and sent telepathically, ~HK saving you from the inevitable unexpected attacks you'll run into will be payment enough, Kyp. Just keep him in as good a shape as you can - and do be careful?~

    All right, all right,
    Kyp thought back, sighing, and Betsy smiled before nodding for HK-47 to approach him. She indulged a happy smile as Qewpee chatted in Binary with Betsy's masculine-programmed R2-N4L, nicknamed Neal, and Kyp chuckled, too.

    Glad Qewpee's making friends. I'd better lay down a few ground rules with HK, though, he thought, staring the old-but-quite-functional assassin droid in the optics as the ancient death-dealer nodded.

    "Statement: Master Durron, I am pleased to join your service. May we accomplish our mission efficiently - and, if necessary, inflict harm upon any meatbags or droids reckless enough to get in our way," HK said, dark satisfaction in his voice.

    Kyp nodded, waving for Qewpee to follow them - they had to finish assembling a flight crew for for the YT-1300 that Kyp'd been assigned for his mapping mission, named the Night Shrike.

    "Look, HK, while I'm glad to have you along for - unforseen problems - I want to make something clear. Do NOT just go sniping or blasting or - otherwise attacking - enemies unless it's obvious they're about to actually attack. Your little stunt back at the Well of the World Brain when you, Betsy and Ganner rescued Jacen and Vergere was ... impressive, but this mission is about stealth and precision. OK?" Kyp emphasized.

    HK nodded, although the flicker of his red optics almost seemed like a wounded blink. "Assurance: Master Durron, I am the very soul of precision. And I assure you, my threat-analysis protocols are quite up to date -" he began.

    A flash of danger-sense filled Kyp's mind, but the assassin droid was faster, whipping out a blaster pistol and sniping a hawkbat.

    Kyp raised an eyebrow at HK, who replied drily, "Conclusion: It was coming at your head at a high velocity, Master."

    "Dwoooo," Qewpee tweedled, drawing a glance from HK as he retracted his blaster back into his forearm.

    "Derision: I do not incinerate 'helpless' wildlife on whims, you sawed-off naif of a mechanic! I'll thank you not to criticize me on combat matters when your Industrial Automaton records state you're barely half a standard year old!" HK-47 snapped back.

    Patience, temperance, compassion ... Kyp reminded himself as his droids - his for the forseeable future - continued to bicker.

    Maybe once I see how the Night Shrike is set up, I'll have better fortune with saner organic crew ...

    --------------------------

    From the outside, the Night Shrike looked like a cleaner, less-battered version of the Millennium Falcon, which bode well.

    However, Kyp could sense an annoyed Force-user aboard, as well as an agitated Force-blind person. He glanced at HK and said, "Stay here and guard the boarding ramp - something's not right aboard. And stick to stun setting, unless it's really necessary?"

    "Exasperation: Yes, Master. I do wish you'd let me come with you, though. If there's a threat, you may need my aid," HK asked.

    "Less threat than mystery, and I don't want them blasted into pieces until and unless it's absolutely necessary," Kyp grumbled, waving Qewpee after him. He wanted the astromech to get used to the Shrike's navicomputer and comm-suite, since they'd be regularly beaming navigational data back to the Alliance.

    "Hello?" Kyp called, walking into the main hold and seeing - well, certainly not what he'd expected.

    A 20-ish human woman with shoulder-length brown hair and a Jedi tunic, pants and boots was staring at a black-flight-suit clad human man about the same age, with close-cropped black hair, slate-grey eyes - and an Imperial emblem on his shoulder.

    The man gave Kyp a curt nod and produced a datachip from his belt, saying, "Master Durron - 1st Lieutenant Nat Moonskimmer, code-ident NO-5-44, 748th - Fang - Squadron, Bastion Theater. My orders are to accompany and aid you on your mapping mission."

    "And my orders are to make sure no one interferes in said mission," the Jedi woman - whom Kyp now recognized - threatened.

    "Knight Bynar, so far, all I'm seeing is an unexpected change in our crew roster - which, I agree, I didn't anticipate either. Getting riled up over it isn't going to help matters, either," Kyp said, drawing a glance of momentary shock from Aliste' Bynar.

    The newly-knighted Jedi composed herself, crossing her hands behind her back in a mimicry of parade rest - and giving Moonskimmer a quick scowl at his equally-quick smirk - while Kyp checked the 'chip on his datapad with growing annoyance:

    Master Durron,

    Galactic Alliance High Command and the Jedi Masters' Council informed us of your impending mission to map the hyperlanes. While we understand you may not
    need a pilot, 1st Lt. Moonskimmer is one of our very best behind the joystick, and not just TIE fighters. He's trained on everything from skyhoppers to freighters.

    Given the importance of restoring safe navigation as far across the galaxy as possible, we wished to offer our assistance. Also, we would view your acceptance of the lieutenant's aid as an expression of intra-governmental cooperation.

    Respectfully,

    Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, Galactic Empire

    Kyp face-palmed; he HATED political shavit, and he'd hoped time away from the Masters' Council would've ended that.

    Take the almost-certain spy on as "help," or insult the Remnant and set off a stink with the politicos ... Kyp reflected.

    He handed the datachip back to Nat and said in a tight voice, "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant - with a few ground rules."

    Moonskimmer snapped to attention, a flash of concern crossing his face as he replied, "Sir - yessir. I've been ordered to be at your disposal."

    "Very good. First, drop the parade ground stuff and tell me plainly - how do you feel about me? And don't hold back," Kyp said.

    Nat looked and felt nonplussed, but stood at parade rest - which prompted Aliste' to fold her arms, a rather petty smirk crossing her face at his discomfort - before replying, "Sir - Master - I'm ... wary of Jedi on the whole. Sure, you're an example of 'Force-user chaos,' but I was a preschooler when Carida happened. I believe Force-users need to serve the public, not the Force."

    Aliste's eyes flashed, but she at least had enough self-control to keep from just spitting whatever diatribe she'd prepared. Kyp still gave her a warning look - Jedi doctrine wouldn't be a good way to handle this.

    Instead, he half-smiled and replied, "So you're a practical man, instead of a navel-gazer? Like the pilots in Twin Suns?"

    Moonskimmer blinked, a little surprised, but nodded as he replied, "Perhaps more disciplined, sir, but yes. I'm mission-oriented."

    "Good. Given how I'm likely going to be herding metaphorical manka cats on this trip, maybe I should leave the piloting to you," Kyp said, savoring the shock both younger people expressed, even for a moment.

    He leaned toward them, frowning as he added, "Let's just make this clear, though - the mission comes first. Whatever hidden agendas you two might be serving - and please, don't waste my time denying them - we're here to reconnect the galaxy. You have philosophical issues, old grudges, whatever, leave them on your bunk when you get up. Are we clear?"

    "Yes, Master Durron," Aliste' said, sounding offended, and Moonskimmer grunted affirmatively, looking almost embarrassed.

    "Good. Lieutenant, this is R2-QP, or just 'Qewpee.' She'll be our primary astrogator and helping to correlate the mapping data. Go with her to the cockpit and start getting used to working with each other. Knight Bynar and I have to have a word in private," Kyp ordered. Moonskimmer saluted, walking with Qewpee, whose friendly chirps drew a faint smile to the Imperial pilot's face.

    Well, maybe that'll work out, Kyp hoped, facing Aliste', who looked about as happy as she felt - not a sabaac player, then.

    "Master, are you certain having an - Imperial aboard a Jedi mission will be - forgive my directness - safe?" she asked.

    "About as safe as having a hot-headed Guardian with battle meditation speciality aboard," Kyp shot back, showing his annoyance.

    Aliste's surprise seemed genuine, and Kyp softened his tone a bit as he continued, "Look, I know you're along to go see your sister - whenever we get to Tython - but let's not pretend that at least someone on the Council thought I needed someone to keep an eye on me. Thing is, Master Skywalker told me you're a little blade-happy. So, let's try to learn from each other?"

    Aliste' blushed and said, "I'll do my best, Master Durron. I'm no longer the headstrong Padawan I was, though - I defeated, and did not slay, Solaath Lah during the Liberation of Coruscant. I've found that battle meditation requires emotional control."

    "Yeah, like not letting a politically-appointed Imperial fighter jockey get under your skin?" Kyp riposted, and Aliste' frowned.

    "The Remnant are a bunch of philosophically-backward savages clinging to an oppressive regime that encourages cruelty. It's a deliberate refutation of the Jedi Code ... but I'll do what I can to get along with the lieutenant," she agreed, and Kyp nodded.

    "I'm not asking you to let everything roll off your back - I won't accept Moonskimmer needling you for needling's sake. But there's a difference between banter and deliberate slurs, and so far, our Imp guest doesn't seem to be looking for a fight. Plus, I admit to some self-interest. If I can convince Bastion that I've changed from my youthful 'DIE, IMPERIALS, DIE!' attitude, maybe we can keep the Remnant off our back as far as threats we have to worry about," Kyp explained.

    Aliste' looked and felt calmer, but blushed when Kyp asked, "Your file said your family is from Talravin ...?"

    Aliste' sighed, nodding as she examined her double-bladed lightsaber. "'Bynar' is just a cover name; we're Shan," she admitted.

    Kyp tried not to laugh, especially when HK-47 boarded the Shrike and Aliste' turned pale, asking, "Is that - the actual - !?"

    "Blunt affirmation: Yes, young Bastila-descendant, it is I, the dreaded HK-47. Please, regale us as your ancestor did, with yet another tired warning of the 'perils of the dark side' and how an assassin droid is an affront to all you stand for," HK snarked.

    Kyp sighed, giving Aliste' a weak smile, and said, "My memory's intact, you're not my type, and there's no Sith to fight."

    -----------------------------
    Somewhere Else:
    -----------------------------

    He rose from his genuflection before the yorik-coral throne, awaiting his master's command.

    "... Durron. One of the most potent, and persistent, jeedai threats," the master rumbled.

    "Go, slave, and do not relent until you bring back Durron's head."

    The hunter just nodded, walking past the gathered warriors and lower-caste Yuuzhan Vong; he had his mission.

    The rest of him just flashed back to cold, and pain, and confusion, and the ringing question:

    Why was I left alone?

    *****************

    to be continued ...
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, @Onderon1 -- WONDERFUL snarkiness but Kyp sure knows how to make things clear and concise from the get-go! [face_love] I like Aliste -- I think Moonskimmer will stick to the mission parameters [face_thinking] but I have no doubt he's a "plant". :p I'm with Kyp, I was hoping he could keep this mission purely scientific/culture-centric and leave the politics out of it. :rolleyes:

    Fascinating and intriguing scene taking place "somewhere else".

    =D=
     
  8. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Well, well. I foresee some interesting interactions among this crew.
     
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  9. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    WarmNyota: Thanks. :) Kyp knows this is going to be hectic enough as it is, so laying down the law early is a must.

    Whether it helps or not is another matter entirely, especially where HK-47 is concerned. :p (He was just too much fun to exclude. :D)

    Aliste' is ... well, I'm trying very hard to split the difference between "Bastila's descendant" and "Bastila expy." There's a fair amount of backstory to be revealed with her - and her sister Arnea, who's actually made an appearance over in Operation Green Sowing, albeit only in one scene - and she has reasons for being so prickly as she is.

    Nat was, originally, going to be a direct descendant of Carth Onasi, but we've already got Bastila's descendant and HK-47 aboard the Shrike. I don't want this 'fic to be a ripoff of KOTOR. [face_blush]

    That said ... Kyp, in many ways, does remind me quite a bit of Revan, in both his force of personality and his redemption arc. But at the same time, Kyp never raised an army to conquer the galaxy, nor does he have the cliche' of memory loss to overcome. This'll be his big (IMHO) reflective "getting his life back in order" arc, facing some stuff that happened in Legends and in this timeline.

    (Just don't expect Kyp to change very much. He'll still be the blister when this is all said and done ... maybe just not quite so annoying.)

    As for his interactions with Mandalorians ... more on that very soon. There's an OC from the first version of this 'fic who's about to return ... ;)

    And the end-scene? Yeah. Lots of stuff going on with our so-far-unidentified hunter. And the Vong, of course - but that'll be a slow burn.

    Cowgirl: You are so, so right. Snark, conflict, a full ship - it's going to get more than a bit crazy, and that's just from the crew. [face_laugh]

    The cast of adversaries is going to get more than a bit ridiculous, as well. Kyp has a long list of foes, and we'll see them soon ... [face_thinking]

    Thanks again, :)
    Onderon1
     
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  10. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    A/N: Apologies this's taken so long to update, but RL's been very busy ... and, tbh, I'd sort of suspected this might take a while. [face_blush]

    ****************
    28.1 ABY: Denon,
    Inner Rim:
    ****************

    While Kyp didn't want to overload the Night Shrike with crew, he'd realized over lunch that a little redundancy might be called for.

    What if something happens to Qewpee? We could use an organic slicer/mechanic to help ensure the data gets stored properly - we'll have to have onboard data-stores, to minimize the risk of transmissions getting jammed and lost, he thought, skimming some of the less public Holonet sites for specialists who had the right mix of availability and flexibility.

    Of course, there was always the issue of working for Kyp Durron - Kyp had to admit he occupied a rather weird social space.

    Too 'pirate-hunter' to be accepted easily by the criminal element. Too Rimkin, and/or 'ex-Sith' to fit in in polite society or the Alliance elite - Winter disdains me, but with that weird polite-condescension thing, which is almost worse than Wedge's honest hatred. Leia's nicer to me after I helped Jaina - or tried to help her, anyway - but there's still that lingering sense that the SkySolos just give me a place to hang out on the holidays because I've outraged most of the rest of the Order's upper ranks. Like Octa ... Octa still resents me for getting most of the Dozen killed over Coruscant, Kyp recalled.

    He sighed with honest sadness as he admitted, Sometimes, I still resent me - hell-o, what DO we have here ...?

    Kyp sat up, examining the entry - Data technician seeking long-term employment, no questions asked - as he glanced around the park he'd decided to dine in. It was fairly quiet, as far as Denon went; mid-day on a Katunda afternoon usually meant most sentients were at work or school, although the rare passerby did give Kyp a curious, or sometimes wary, glance.

    I'll settle for it being wariness of a Jedi, as opposed to 'EEK! KYP DURRON IS LOOSE WITHOUT A HANDLER! RUN!', he joked.

    "Fretweep-betweet?" Qewpee asked - the little droid had insisted Kyp not go alone, and he appreciated her loyalty. Besides, even if she couldn't eat as he did, lunch with a friend was always better.

    Kyp checked his datapad to see Qewpee asking if they were ready to leave - making a note to improve his understanding of Binary, they'd be communicating often enough over the next few months - and smiled as he replied, "Let me just message this data tech and we'll -"

    He hit Send just as the Force flared, and Kyp rolled as a stun blast rippled through where he'd been sitting, as Qewpee shrieked.

    "DURRON! DIE, Jedi DOG!" Kyp heard - hardly original material, his too-often-snarky side shot back - as he rose, igniting his lightsaber - yep, five leather-and-tattoos goons, the kind usually hired as cannon fodder by the crime lords Kyp tended to hunt.

    Except most of those type didn't go for treasonous fashion, Kyp fumed, seeing a specific design on one of the goons' shirts:

    A clawed hand shaking that of a humanoid, seemingly in peaceful coexistence.

    Peace Brigade. It figures bringing the war to a short, sharp end would leave some loose ends, Kyp thought, growing serious.

    His first telekinetic grasp threw the pipe-wielding Aqualish at the front of the attackers back into a rather scabby-looking Ithorian. That left a scarred human with a half-shaved head whose gun hand twitched, and Kyp Force-sped to his side.

    A quick lightsaber-hilt smack to the gunman's head dropped him - Kyp really wasn't looking to kill the morons, since they were either very lucky to stumble across him or they were working for someone he wanted to visit later and get some answers from.

    OK, that's three - oh, of course,
    Kyp thought, rolling his eyes as a Weequay wielding a vibrodagger in either hand lunged -

    And something like a shockball hit Kyp in his back, making him drop his lightsaber as the Weequay closed, grinning.

    "Didn't see that coming, huh, pretty boy?" the fifth thug - a particularly large and ugly Trandoshan - snarled, moving into Kyp's line of sight with a shock-prod. Worse, the Trando had a ysalamir on his backpack, and Kyp really started to worry.

    Explains why I didn't sense him - hey, that's new, Kyp thought, grinning as the Trando howled and danced under a shock of his own.

    "BTEWEEP! DWEEP-DWOOP-PRAAATTT!" Qewpee tweedled - well, somehow menacingly, but Kyp worried for her.

    I appreciate the help, Qewpee, but you're not a battle droid! Kyp wanted to call - he knew the Force power technometry, but with the ysalamir still around, he couldn't access the Force - as the goons spun on the astromech.

    He needn't have worried, as a blaster took out the ysalamir (and injured the Trando) - and a brown flash leapt on the Weequay.

    "Wha - AH - AAAAHHHH! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF ME! AAAHHHH!!!" the Weequay shrieked, as his attacker bit at him.

    Kyp Force-called his lightsaber to his hand, giving a friendly nod to a fast-approaching female blue-skinned Twi'lek, who held a still-smoking blaster pistol. "Korlo! Let him live - we need answers," the Twi'lek called, and the Weequay's attacker nodded.

    Kyp tried very hard not to conjure up stereotypes - or to giggle - as he realized his other rescuer was a brown-furred Ewok.

    "Yub-nub! Ngootch-nub?" the Ewok asked, kicking at the now-unconscious Weequay as Denon Security officers approached.

    "Thanks for the help. You wouldn't happen to be the Mali'yana from the data tech ad, are you?" Kyp asked, shaking the Twi'lek's hand as Qewpee greeted the Ewok, who poked at her politely before they started a fast-paced Ewokese/Binary chat of sorts.

    "I am. You said you're a Jedi - it figures these Peace Brigade scum would want to attack you. But why's a Jedi need a data slicer and her Ewok bodyguard?" Mali'yana asked, smiling as she holstered her blaster.

    She looked like the stereotypical young-adult Twi'lek spacer - pleather vest over a white shirt, data-chips and a tool kit hanging from her belt, sleek black breeches tucked into bantha-hide boots, lekku adorned with the occasional binding - but Kyp could sense an air of accomplishment about her. She had a confidence and skill with a blaster that'd likely be helpful.

    "I'm going on a long-term mapping mission to help put the galaxy back together, and I need someone who can maintain my astromech - and data storage for a LOT of hyperspace data. You'd be helping the galaxy, and I'm sure it'd pay well. The trick is, I don't know how long it'll take," Kyp explained, as the security captain for the shift looked at the scene with confusion.

    Mali'yana raised a brow ridge and smiled, waving around at the spacescrapers. "An ecumenopolis like this has a lot of unemployment and a fair amount of anti-alien bias. Denon's a dead end for me; I've been getting by on droid memory wipe fees and the occasional retrofit. Breaking into the high-end maintenance market's not likely, and the jobs I need Korlo for ... it's not a life I want to get further into. Or drag him into; he's a good guy, and it just feels wrong asking an Ewok to be a partner in ... not-so-legal stuff, y'know?" she said, growing embarrassed.

    Kyp nodded, finally asking, "You're hired - if you can put up with a stuffy Jedi Knight, a homicidal ancient assassin droid, an Imperial pilot I stuck with because of politics ... and, by the way, I'm Kyp Durron. If you want to leave, I won't blame you."

    Mali'yana gave Kyp a seriously? look - until Aliste' and HK-47 ran over, the former with real concern, the latter with an air of "Exclamation: I missed carnage? Master, how COULD you do this without me?!" "Master Durron, are you all right?" Aliste' asked.

    The Twi'lek slicer gave HK a positively fascinated glance, then grinned and shook Kyp's hand. "I'm in," she said.

    Well, that was easier than expected, Kyp thought, smiling honestly for a moment before shifting to his "Why, no, Captain, I don't know this particular bunch of thugs" smile - he'd dealt with security officers before, after all.

    He just hoped it wouldn't become too frequent a necessity on the trip, but part of him suspected that was a foolish wish.

    ****************

    to be continued ...
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2018
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Kyp! :) [face_sigh] =D= Awesome! Great idea to have a back-up slicer @};-
     
  12. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I like our new crewmembers already.
     
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  13. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    WarmNyota: Thanks. :) There'll be a number of other crew members added as things go along - some soon, others along the way - but I'll bring them in slowly, and try to be sure each gets some time to shine. It can't all be Kyp, after all ... :p

    Cowgirl: Thanks, also. :D More with Mali and Korlo's background is in this very update - there's a story there, as well as a hint at some of the bad guys lurking around the galactic corner (just some, though - Kyp draws trouble like a magnet :oops::p).

    And, a bit more with the background of our mysterious Imperial pilot, Nat Moonskimmer ... [face_thinking]

    ****************
    28.1 ABY:
    ****************
    To: Office of Grand Moff/Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, EYES ONLY

    From: Lt. Nat Moonskimmer

    Re: Durron affair update

    Sir -

    In the interest of brevity, I'll merely wish you well and proceed to the report. In your last communique, you asked for more details on my traveling companions and their interactions, both with myself and others.

    It's proven - unique, so far.

    I was anticipating a degree of animosity and mistrust, given my affiliation, but the dynamics aren't so simple. Especially where Jedi Master Durron is concerned. For example ...

    -----------------------------

    After finishing his pre-flight checklist (YT-1300s were fairly simple freighters to prepare for take-off, due to CEC extending their modular design to flight as well as ship assembly), Nat sat in the Night Shrike's passenger lounge to wait for the word to leave.

    The craft, much like the mission, wasn't exactly what he'd expected. Unlike more freight-centered load-outs, the Shrike boasted the YT-1300 passenger package, with two of the cargo holds turned into three-bunk dormitories and a third such dormitory carved into part of the back of the ship.

    A customized addition were several high-density data storage computer cores taking up part of the engine room to store the astrographic data the crew would record during their long journey.

    A little more luxurious than I'd expected, but still practical, Nat allowed, gratefully sipping his caf. R2-QP was monitoring the shipboard functions while they waited for the rest of the crew to finish last-minute preparation, so Nat could take a break; he wasn't used to working with a droid, but "Qewpee" was genuinely pleasant, and not at all biased against Imperials.

    More curious than I'd expect an astromech to be, but the Jedi described her as young, by droid standards. If I have to have a co-pilot, I could do a lot worse, Nat allowed, letting himself enjoy the caf.

    He reluctantly admitted that the Alliance did have more distinctive, if not necessarily better, caf than the Empire - it was better than the one-step-above-stims swill aboard picket ships in the Empire, at least - and nodded as Master Durron walked in.

    ("Master," in this case, was a concession to Durron's rank. Nat didn't detest Durron like some Imperials did; his wariness toward the Deyer-born man was based on mistrust of Force-users as a whole. Nat didn't trust anyone who might mess with his mind.)

    Still, the pilot had to stifle a flash of fear when Durron pulled his lightsaber and ignited it - then tossed a silver sphere upward.

    The remote started to dart about, and Durron focused, deflecting stun-bolts as Nat watched, fascinated. He'd seen one Imperial Knight in his entire time with the Imperial military - despite what New Republic, now Galactic Alliance, military observers might think, the Fels and their relatively-recent Force-using chivalric order weren't necessarily on Admiral Pellaeon's speed-call list.

    Durron's deflections were effective, but choppy - there was rhythm to the Jedi's work, but not the fluid dance of the Imperial Knight, or holos of other Jedi whom Nat had seen in classes at the Prefsbelt Academy. Durron was fighting, not flowing.

    After a few moments, Durron waved the remote to stand down, then seemed to notice Nat had been watching. The older man pocketed the remote and grinned a little, almost in a comradely way, and said, "Pretty obvious I'm in a mood, huh?"

    "Well, if the Force is what lets you sense the bolts so you can deflect them, then ... it seemed like you were resisting the Force. At least, that's how I'd describe it - I'm no expert, obviously, sir," Nat replied, feeling like he was intruding.

    He was surprised when Durron gave a bark of laughter, and nodded, fetching a cup - that floated in mid-air - while he strode to the caf machine and poured himself a drink. "Sometimes, a completely unbiased observer's opinion counts more than all the Jedi Masters in the world, Lieutenant," the Jedi said, sitting about three seats away from Nat at the round table.

    Nat wasn't sure if he should be uncomfortable or heartened - he'd been told to try and fit in as he observed the mission. While the Jedi certainly wouldn't believe him, his orders genuinely were to assist the mapping project, and not interfere in any way.

    Durron leaned back in his seat, stretched a bit, and gave Nat an assessing glance. "You're a little younger than my first apprentice would've been if ... well, you probably read the intel on Helska. Miko Reglia was my first student - probably my last. I trained him to survive, but he ran into odds too great to overcome. Brave to the end, though. A better man than I'll ever be," Durron said, looking into the distance at what Nat guessed was a private demon of some kind.

    I did read about Helska IV. Reglia saved Danni Quee - actually Cherith Fel in deep cover. He died a hero, Nat recalled.

    He sipped his caf, blinking when Durron asked, "Where are you from? What system? You don't have to say if you don't want."

    "No, that's all right," Nat agreed - he did feel comfortable about this, at least. "I'm from Bescane - heavy industry, overpopulation. The Imperial military didn't need to conscript me; better to die on my feet and for what I believe in, than grind away in some dimly-lit factory. My father and older brother worked that way, until ..."

    He didn't have to feign sorrow, remembering what he'd come home to after the Vong had savaged their way through the Empire.

    Nat forced himself to look at Durron, surprised at the expression of compassion in the older man's eyes.

    "I heard about what the Vong did to a lot of the northern Remnant - sorry, Empire. Force of habit. And I saw similar atrocities throughout the galaxy. I don't want the Vong genocided, but you won't convince me that inviting them to 'integrate' into the wider galaxy will ever be a good idea. Not for a few generations, at least," Durron said, his voice going cold at the end.

    He warmed a bit, gently asking, "Did your family make it through? I heard Bescane got hit."

    "My mother, brother, and his family - wife, two children - survived; they fled Bescane early, reached Borosk. My father was part of an attempt at a resistance movement, but ... he was captured. You know how the Vong treated those they considered 'worthy,'" Nat said, not wishing to describe what he'd found in his home city's central square.

    Durron seemed to understand, and just nodded, as they sipped their caf quietly for a time.

    After a bit, Nat's curiosity - and appreciation for the simple decency Durron was showing - got the better of him, and he asked, "They - the old-liners in the Imperial military - talk about you like you're some Force Demon. But in person -"

    Durron's bark of laughter cut him off, but the bitterness this time wasn't directed at Nat, at least.

    "Sure, I'm a person, Moonskimmer - who's done horrible things, as well as a few good ones. I used to think that I could balance the scales if I was the best Jedi I could be - not old-Order stiffness, but crusading. Problem with crusades is that they often get other people killed. And I kept making the same mistakes I'd made before. Assuming that I had all the answers," the Jedi said.

    He finished his caf with one swig and raised an eyebrow at Nat, adding in a quieter tone, "The real reason I'm going on this damn-fool idealistic crusade is because I'm not out to impose my 'answers' on the galaxy. I'm hoping to find some."

    ---------------------------

    ... in short, sir, Durron doesn't seem malevolent, or at least he no longer holds specific animosity for the Empire.

    Others in the crew, however, are more ... direct in their opinions. Jedi Guardian Aliste' Bynar, for one ...

    ---------------------------

    "Frep-tweet btweoop?" Qewpee asked, and Nat nodded - better to let the expert navigator actually navigate, after all.

    "Scholar One to Scholar Flight, this is Knight Bynar. We are ready for the jump to Brentaal, and from there to Columex and Ossus. Please report in," Aliste' said, sitting in the comm suite chair. She'd asked to do something on the initial flight, and Master Durron - who'd taken the co-pilot's seat, more out of official duty than any actual purpose - had agreed.

    "Scholar Two reporting in, Knight Bynar. We're ready to go," said Jedi Master Kam Solusar, who with his wife, Tionne, would be the headmaster at the central Jedi Academy to be established on the ancient Jedi library world of Ossus. They were aboard a massive transport full of settlers, Jedi artifacts and supplies needed to start the recolonization.

    "Scholar Three ready to go," said a tired-sounding Chev, Sothais Saar (Nat had to fight drowsiness just listening to him).

    "Scholar Four reports all green," replied the fourth voice, belonging to the famous Mon Calamari healer Cilghal. While Nat had no particular anti-alien bias - he'd met more than a few Muuns who seemed decent enough - he actively respected medics, and had heard the story of how Cilghal's apprentice, Tekli, had saved the Grand Admiral after Bastion's temporary fall.

    "Ready to jump on your mark, sir," Nat asked Durron, who nodded, and the pilot pushed the hyperlight control forward.

    The Shrike responded smoothly, and Nat allowed himself a slight smile - until he noticed Aliste' staring at him closely.

    She glanced at Durron, who rolled his eyes, and muttered, "You two need to get this worked out. Behave yourselves."

    And with that, he left the two 20-somethings alone, waving Qewpee after him, as Aliste' looked mortified.

    She took a deep breath, glanced at Nat, and frowned, saying, "The problem with Master Durron is, he spites normal Jedi protocol. Which is his right as a Master, but not all Jedi are as ... lenient as he is. You should be more respectful."

    "As opposed to someone who pouts, puts on airs, acts like her higher midichlorian count entitles her to snobbery, and all but spits whenever I'm in the room?" Nat growled - he'd tried to be polite, but every time Aliste' neared him, she was a snot.

    Aliste' looked like she'd been slapped - which, if this had been the Imperial military, would've been light punishment for any lower-ranking soldier giving attitude, depending on whom they mouthed off to. (Physical punishments were officially frowned upon, but some old-school officers hearkened back to the worse "Tarkin Doctrine" days.)

    She looked away, took a deep breath, then actually looked at Nat with something like an apology, and said, "I'm ... sorry."

    "Accepted," Nat muttered, wishing she'd just go away - but he pondered what Durron had said, and sighed, "I'm sorry, too."

    He forced himself to look at Aliste', who at least tried to smile as she said, "You're not a bad pilot - or a bad person. It's just ... I tend to see fights where there may not be any. My training is that of a Jedi warrior, and so I'm wary of threats - and I have certain ideas of how the Order should be viewed. Likewise ... I may be a bit more prideful than I should. I defeated a member of Domain Lah, the former Warmaster's domain, during the Liberation of Coruscant. Perhaps ... it's gone to my head."

    Nat tried not to gape - he hadn't expected Aliste' to open up so much - and he managed a faint smile. "That is all pretty impressive, though. It's just - maybe if you try to be a little more patient with those of us without the Force? We can't see everything you can. It's like some of my fellow TIE pilots acting all superior towards Stormtroopers or Imperial Army - just because they're groundpounders doesn't mean they're any less than us hotshot pilots," he tried to explain.

    Aliste' nodded, blushing just a bit as she replied, "I'll try to keep that in mind. Thank you, Lieutenant - excuse me, please."

    -----------------------

    ... and, so far, things have been more civil between us. I've watched Knight Bynar practice her lightsaber skills - her weapon speciality is the double-bladed lightsaber, which is fairly unique among the New Jedi Order, according to Master Durron.

    One area where I've received less disruption, and more wariness, is in my interaction with our nonhuman crew members ...

    -----------------------

    Between the occasional grav-mine disruption and the sheer distance, the flight from Brentaal to Columex would take considerably longer than the trip from Denon to Brentaal; Qewpee had estimated another couple of days, at best.

    Nat had taken the time to try and familiarize himself more with the Shrike. When he wasn't being shuffled between anonymous, standardized TIEs, he liked to get to know the ship he was serving aboard, and he found himself in the engine room one day.

    "Oh! Lieutenant - hi," greeted the Twi'lek engineer, Mali'yana. She blushed a little purple as Nat nodded to her kindly; he'd seen holos of Twi'leks, of course, but had never met one, and he'd heard blue Twi'leks were relatively rare.

    "Hi, Mali'yana - and Korlo, right?" he greeted the Ewok who was digging around in what looked like a spare power converter. The Ewok waved back, making some kind of friendly-sounding noise, but Mali'yana glanced at Nat as she checked her datapad.

    He smiled, thinking he knew what the problem was, and broached it, saying, "I don't have a problem with aliens -"

    "I knew that! I .... I'm sorry. I'm just not very good at this," Mali'yana admitted, leaning against one of the computer cores.

    She gestured for Nat to sit on one of the supply crates, then sighed and continued, "It's not that you're Imperial, it's ... part of the reason I took this job is because there are neighborhoods on Denon where Twi'leks - any nonhumans - get treated badly. And as a Rutian Twi'lek female ... there's - expectations other species, other sentients put on me ... so I'm jumpy."

    "I really don't mean any harm," Nat offered - it was even true, and Mali'yana managed a faint smile, nodding back.

    "You do seem like a genuinely nice guy. It's just ... I may be on the run. From - criminals. Connected to ... Hutts," she whispered.

    Uh-oh, Nat thought - he really hadn't expected this, and he wasn't sure how much he should put in his report to Bastion.

    He decided to just listen, as Mali'yana sat across from him, and Korlo walked over, patting her shoulder.

    She hugged the Ewok and turned to Nat before saying, "I rescued Korlo from a gang of Hutt-affiliated spice smugglers - they're running a racket on the Triellius Trade Route, and I did a little data-shuffling for them, thinking it was just covering for extra crates of aurodium. These murglaks, though, were running andris - the high-end spice, straight from Kessel. Korlo stowed away on one of their shipments from Svivren, just looking for adventure, but they wanted to hurt him. No way I'd let that happen."

    "But the Triellius is nowhere near Denon - unless they're shipping the drugs to worlds liberated from the Vong?" Nat asked.

    Mali'yana nodded, while Korlo puffed out his chest and yubbed protectively. "Nub. No let thugs hurt Mali," he said.

    Nat tried not to blink - he hadn't thought Ewoks could speak Basic - but Mali'yana smiled as her friend returned to his tinkering. "Svivreni Ewoks aren't necessarily smarter than their Endorian cousins. But they're adapted to city life better - Basic comes pretty easily to them, and they're even faster on learning mechnical skills. Korlo's fighting ability comes in pretty handy, too. We've had each other's backs since we met up on Llanic, and heading Coreward seemed safer than the Rim," she explained.

    Nat blew out a deep breath before saying, "No wonder you wanted this job. But I'm sure Master Durron would understand."

    Mali'yana looked ashamed, but nodded, growing more determined as she stood. "You're right. Better I be honest about it now instead of it coming out at the worst moment. Besides, he seems understanding. He turned his life around," she said.

    ------------------------

    ... as it turned out, Durron had already guessed Mali's story was something like what it turned out to be, and he was totally understanding.

    (Aliste' muttered a little, but she did commend Mali'yana for "seeking the light side," or something, and they get along.)

    In short, sir, so far, things are going relatively positive. There is just one random factor to still consider, as you warned me of.

    Respectfully,

    Lt. Nat Moonskimmer

    --------------------------

    Nat hit Send - he'd long ago learned how to disguise outgoing transmissions in routine data exchanges with space stations - and erased any trace of his communique as the Shrike waited in a holding pattern with the rest of Scholar Flight. They were refueling and resting at the one surviving orbital station above Columex, the savaged surface of which rolled below through the viewport.

    "Declaration: The Yuuzhan Vong were almost admirably thorough in their razing of Columex, I believe," Nat heard.

    He turned around slowly, nodding as the "random factor" the Grand Admiral had warned him of stared back at him.

    "Clarification: Nevertheless, the Yuuzhan Vong die almost as easily as other organic meatbags. Including any who risk compromising this mission with secret missives back to our putative allies," HK-47 emphasized, leaving Nat alone in the cockpit.

    Sithspawn, that droid terrifies me. And to think, my ancestors feared B-1 battle droids? They're nothing compared to HK-47, Nat thought, trying not to sweat.

    Still, soon they'd be at Ossus, and the real mission would begin - mapping deep into the rest of the galaxy.

    We're all doubting a little. That ... almost makes me feel better, Nat admitted, managing a faint smile.

    ******************
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  14. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Nat seems to be a good egg, even if he is secret email pen pals with Admiral Pellaeon. The imperial spying seems nosy more than anything else.
     
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I like Nat's interactions, he's a good listener and has his own losses so can sympathize. [face_thinking] I like how you weave in details of the others' experiences through the dialogue. It's a natural way to do so without weighing down the narrative, even though I do enjoy flashbacks. :)
     
  16. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Cowgirl: You're spot-on; the Remnant - well, most of them, anyhow - really do just want peace, especially after the insanity of the Vong War.

    Of course, nothing lasts forever, and the First Order are lurking in the background (more with them later), but Nat and Gilad are some of the more sensible Imperials in this timeline. :)

    WarmNyota: Thanks. :D There's a fine balance, I've found, between exposition and infodump. Characters need to be relatable, while not too wordy, and I sometimes err on the side of the latter. [face_blush]

    This is a shorter update - Ossus will get a fair amount of focus in the next few chapters, but today was a long day at work, and I had to trudge through snow to get home. :rolleyes:

    Note: This was actually from a previous version of this story, where Kyp was traveling alone for the first few legs of the journey. I've edited this post to updated for this version.

    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Chapter 5: 28.1 ABY: Ysanna Settlement
    near the Ruins of the Jedi Library, Ossus:
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Kark, I'm glad to stretch my legs - even a little ...

    Kyp stepped off the Night Shrike's ramp and ran his fingers through his hair as he said into his comlink, "Qewpee, could you handle the post-flight systems check? I need to get some unrecycled air."

    "Btweet-deet!" the astromech chirped kindly, and Kyp took a deep breath as he looked out across the plain before his sight. It seemed terribly primitive to his eyes.

    The village was a mixture of prefab buildings and huts, with the occasional vicious Ysannan riding beast tied to a post, and the ruins of the ancient Jedi Library rising up in the distance. The ground was a mix of brown and grey dust, fortunately broken by spots of greenery, and the occasional hairless rodent or rough-looking bird flitted by.

    In the street, human children wearing homespun tunics and pants played, kicking a ball around and shouting in a patois of Basic and what Kyp could almost make out as degraded High Galactic. On a wooden sidewalk down either side of the street, adults chatted or started to look at where Scholar Flight had landed.

    But in the Force, there was a riotous rainbow of goodwill, a groundswell of positivity - the Ysanna had obviously sensed someone coming, and they didn't seem at all upset. Even beneath that current of welcome, the planet itself seemed to resonate with Force energy. The Cron Supernova might have ravaged Ossus, but the four millennia since that disaster had clearly helped to bring Ossus back to a livable state.

    Might as well say hi, if everyone's in a good mood, Kyp thought, nodding as Aliste' and Mali'yana followed him off the Shrike. Aliste' looked and felt awed - unsurprising for a young Knight coming to one of the iconic Jedi sites for her first time - while Mali'yana stretched and blinked, assessing the scene with caution.

    "I like it. It's a lot more open than Denon - it feels more peaceful," the Twi'lek said with a smile, while Korlo wandered down the ramp and yubbed a bit before playing with a plant.

    "Don't go too far. There's literally giant frogs that wander around Ossus. For a Jedi, or a prepared spacer, they're not too much of a threat. But to the unwary, they can be a hassle," Kyp advised, remembering his read of the Encyclopedia Galactica before they'd landed.

    He let the others go about their explorations - they weren't kids - and looked back at where the Jedi students, with their families and teachers, were leaving the freighter designated Scholar One.

    Then, Kyp looked over at an interesting mix of approaching sentients.

    As expected, a Ysannan shaman, wearing simple robes and carrying a staff - and a slugthrower rifle slung over one shoulder - approached. The human man's grey hair was somewhat long, while his face bore deep wrinkles from what had to be a hard life, but he was bright and clear in the Force. Kyp made sure to bow politely, and the shaman bowed back.

    Beside him was the being whom Kyp specifically had come looking for on Ossus - a Rodian male in Jedi Knight's robes, who returned Kyp's bow before smiling warmly when Kam and Tionne approached.

    "Master Durron - Masters Solusar. This is a wonderful surprise," Adlusha Kloj said, shaking hands and nodding at the gathering Ysanna. "Shaman Uldis wishes to welcome you."

    The shaman rambled something in that Ysannan patois, and Kyp almost understood what he'd said. Fortunately, Tionne clearly knew Ysannan, because she replied, bringing an enormous, happy smile to the shaman's face, while the crowd applauded. Then, they lifted Kam onto their shoulders for a moment, cheering, while the Jedi teacher smiled with embarrassment before they let him down and clapped him on the back.

    "The Ysanna welcome us - their Jedi brethren - and Kam is a local hero. The tribesmen remember the sacrifices he made years ago, and they're honoring his fulfillment of the promise he and Luke made to someday return," Tionne translated, and Kyp nodded as he let the Solusars and their staff chat with the Ysanna.

    Which leaves me to chat with Master Kloj, Kyp thought, turning to the Rodian as the other Jedi gestured toward one of the benches set along the street. They sat, and Kyp thanked a human boy in Ysannan garb who walked over with a tray that supported three glasses and a pitcher of water.

    "My Padawan, Kleej Anstrod of Dubrillion. He lost his parents in a Yuuzhan Vong attack on his fishing village, and was brought here by a Yuuzhan Vong research team who sought to turn the secrets of the Jedi Library against us," Adlusha explained, taking one of the glasses and motioning for Kleej to sit with him and Kyp. "Kleej, this is Master Kyp Durron."

    The boy's brown eyes widened, and he smiled a little as he shook Kyp's hand. "Wow. Master Durron, the scourge of the Yuuzhan Vong," he said, growing a bit introspective before he sipped his own water.

    Kyp nodded back; the boy looked to be close to 13, his brown hair chopped into a functional crewcut, a Padawan braid trailing over his right shoulder. There was something about the kid's Force-presence, though ... it was a little muted.

    Kleej looked more tired than embarrassed, then, like he expected a question he got a lot, and he sighed. "You sense it, don't you? Some of the Ysanna do, too," he mumbled, letting Kyp see the back of his neck.

    Mother Ocean of Deyer, Kyp exclaimed inwardly, recognizing a knob of yorik coral at the base of Kleej's skull.

    The boy turned back to face Kyp, resignation and a bit of challenge in his expression. "Yeah," Kleej said, without anger.

    Kyp glanced at Adlusha, who merely said, "I respect my apprentice's right to share what he wishes. He is trustworthy."

    "Well ... I didn't mean to grief you. Getting taken by the Vong -" Kyp started to say as he turned back to the apprentice.

    A flash of anger crossed the boy's face, but it faded as he shrugged. "It wasn't like what happened to Tahiri Veila - at least, from what I heard from the NR troops who showed up to help Master Adlusha and the Ysanna," Kleej said.

    He looked at Kyp, then continued, "I dove for molluscs back on Dubrillion, and I know a lot about biology, so one of the Master Shapers protected me from the warriors. She put me to work checking on the villips and skips, swimming and examining them. Then, when I sensed a slave revolt before it happened, she figured out I had the Force, and brought me here with her to learn more about it."

    "But - the coral - didn't it -" Kyp asked, a bit confused.

    Kleej shook his head, smirking a little like Miko had as an apprentice. "The shaper who protected me was the one who invented the less-damaging kind of yorik coral. I can still think for myself. She let me go when the NRDF and Master Adlusha showed up at the damutek. She treated me like I mattered ... I think she kind of thought of me like her own kid," he finished, a little sad.

    Adlusha nodded, adding, "The Master Shaper, Borja Kwaad, did manage to escape in the chaos. But she showed kindness and concern toward Kleej, asking me to protect him, and she only used nonlethal escape techniques when the NRI troops attempted to stop her. The entire encounter was ... oddly peaceful, really."

    Kyp repressed a reply - he'd heard of similar situations, where captives had sympathized with their captors. But it sounded like the shaper had actually shown compassion, of a sort, which was at odds with his experiences with the Vong.

    I suppose this is part of what Luke told me about 'unexpected lessons' along the way on the trip ...

    ******************

    to be continued ...
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I like the vivid details of the welcoming party and the surroundings of the settlement/village. Like the OCs too and their backstory.
     
  18. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    WarmNyota: Thanks - Adlusha and Kleej showed up in the previous version of this, as well as in Operation: Green Sowing. At some point, I want to revisit the "missing time" of Kleej's apprenticeship; I think there's a fairly deep story there.

    For now, however, the tale is Kyp's and Co., including a bit more background with a certain "spoiled Jedi princess's" descendant ... ;)

    *******************************************
    Chapter 6: 28.1 ABY: Jedi Library Ruins,
    Ossus, Outer Rim Territories:
    ********************************************

    The Ysannans' welcoming feast had been far more than Aliste' was used to - she'd tried to adhere to Jedi monasticism and simplicity, which had earned her a fair amount of teasing back at Yavin, but her classmates hadn't known the pressures she was under.

    Whether self-imposed or otherwise. Being a Shan means I have to be cautious about temptations to the dark side ... the almost 23-year-old woman thought, excusing herself from the festivities. The roast beast and vegetables were delicious, but she'd stuck to water; the Masters' Solusar records of Ysannan ale warned that it packed quite a punch for the unprepared.

    Aliste' let herself just soak in the Force-essence of Ossus, reverence and awe filling her as she let the energy field guide her footsteps.

    She blushed as she found herself at the foot of the ancient Jedi Library, but admitted that if it was the Force's will to look around, so be it.

    Be careful, Bynar. Don't confuse your wishes and fangirling for the 'Force's will,' she reminded herself, ducking a low-hanging vine drooping across the entrance to the library's ruins.

    Still, it seemed absurd to come all the way to Ossus and not see what had been the epicenter of Jedi studies for millennia.

    The Force was definitely strong here, not in the same way that a living being with midi-chlorians was, but just from the sheer number of Jedi who had walked the halls. It was like a scent - a little dusty, with a woodlike texture, the scent of paper and ink and electric flashes of insight.

    There were glowglobes hanging from some of the walls, but otherwise the only illumination came in from cracks in the walls and the damaged ceiling. Many of the artifacts - holocrons, scrolls, Force-empowered items - had been removed to Yavin 4 or library worlds by Master Tionne, as well as other Jedi and non-Force-sensitive researchers. But it was known that there were still entire vaults that hadn't been touched, and nobody was quite sure what might be found by undertaking a thorough archaeological dig of the surrounding area.

    And who knows what's been removed over the years and hidden away on other planets. Knight Zekk found the holocron of Qalsneek the Bull on Kamino, the one he's using to train the Paladins of Varykino on Naboo, Aliste' considered, standing in a ray of sunlight and closing her eyes.

    Of the two of the Bynar twin sisters, Aliste' had always been the one of action, dreaming of using her Jedi gifts to fight evil. As she and Ardea had grown, Aliste' had honed her talent into the path of the Jedi Guardian, while Ardea's knack for Force esoterics made her a natural Consular.

    But I'm the one with the gift for battle meditation - and regular meditation is a simpler form of that, Aliste' thought, quieting herself.

    She tried to put her mind at ease, drinking in the years and the events, good and bad. It wasn't all destruction and loss - the Cron Supernova had ravaged Ossus and the library, but it hadn't erased the millennia of study and achievement and building that had preceded it.

    As with the Ysanna, there was a sense of belonging here, of being part of something greater than oneself. But it wasn't demanding, wasn't overpowering - the library didn't exist to judge, but to help guide Jedi.

    There is no ignorance; there is knowledge, Aliste' reminded herself, opening her eyes and smiling with uncomplicated joy.

    Such moments were too few and far between, or at least Aliste' had thought they were. Jedi Guardians had to always be prepared to fight.

    But, instead, was it possible ... she was fighting too hard?

    I do have to watch how judgmental I can be, both of the Force-blind and ... untraditional Jedi. That's another reason why I've been assigned to ensure Master Durron's mission goes smoothly - I'm already coming into contact with a variety of other life-forms, Aliste' admitted.

    It wasn't as if the odd mixture of crew members they'd picked up were deliberately offensive, or even dark. She still didn't entirely trust Lieutenant Moonskimmer - he was Imperial, even if he was decent - and HK-47 was a disaster waiting to happen. But Qewpee, Mali'yana, and Korlo were all kind and helpful (even if the slicer and her Ewok ally were a bit chaotic for Aliste's preference).

    Still, the holocrons and Master Tionne's lessons do indicate being Jedi doesn't have to be a straightjacket, Aliste' thought.

    Inattention to the needs of the galaxy's common sentients had been part of the doom of the Old Jedi Order. And tales of Jedi like Nomi Sunrider, Zayne Carrick and Donal Milthiad spoke to the effectiveness of "nontraditional" Jedi who championed the spirit of the law and not just its letter.

    Perhaps I can hold to Jedi orthodoxy without imposing it - or my expectations of it - on others, Aliste' wondered as she left the library.

    *************************

    To be continued ...
     
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  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Like Aliste's musings and balanced conclusion about sticking to her principles and not judging others. [face_thinking] Very nice details on the ambience of the Library.
     
  20. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    A/N: Apologies for the delay in updating this; RL's been busy. Hopefully, with the new year, I can be better about updates.

    *************************
    Chapter 7:
    28.1 ABY: Ossus,
    near Jedi Library ruins:
    *************************

    Kyp had found his guest room at the Ysanna's inn - his berth aboard the Night Shrike was comfortable enough, but cramped. And the welcoming meal and the accompanying Ysannan ale had knocked him for a loop, Jedi meditative techniques or not.

    VERY good thing I stuck to just one mug. What do they brew that stuff from? he wondered, pulling off his boots and crashing on his bed.

    Sleep quickly rose to claim him - or it would have, were it not for a sudden, nagging sense of danger through the Force.

    Kriffit. Kriffit, kriffit, kriffit, Kyp thought, using a biofeedback technique to quell the pulsing headache he had. It helped moderately, and he was able to extend his Force-sense outward.

    The danger sense didn't come from any Ysanna - this was far more diffuse, and dark, than any of the locals.

    There. Something cloaking itself and lurking around near the library ruins. Perfect - like I needed this after a celebration, Kyp fumed. He did another biofeedback technique, then pulled his boots back on and rose, dialing a specific comlink address.

    "Solusar - Kyp, what's going on?" a rather exhausted-sounding Kam replied, while Kyp slipped into the inn's common room. He gave the smiling innkeeper a friendly nod, doing a Force-sweep of where the Night Shrike's crew might be.

    "Kam, keep close to Scholar One, and don't let any of the colonists wander. I've sensed something skulking near the old library. I trust our hosts, but neither do I think they have the experience to root out whatever this is. And if you can warn their leaders, go ahead and do so - I don't want some innocent Ysannan caught unawares or in a crossfire," Kyp warned as he left the inn.

    Kam grunted in acknowledgment, and a rustle of sound presaged a flowing, gentle female speaker. "We'll warn the colonists and the Ysannans until we hear the all clear, Kyp. Thank you, and be careful," Tionne said, bringing a smile to Kyp's face.

    "Welcome, and you, too, Tionne. I'll call you when I find whatever's setting off my danger sense," Kyp agreed, switching channels. "Qewpee? It's Kyp. I need you to get Aliste' and HK-47 to meet me at the ramp of the Night Shrike."

    The faithful astromech tweedled an affirmative, and Kyp nodded before clicking an acknowledgment, striding toward the library.

    Moonskimmer might be a decent shot, but I'm not going to risk our 'official' pilot - or accusations of sending an Imperial into harm's way needlessly. And Mali'yana's our chief engineer - it'd be stupid to endanger her. Plus, Aliste' is a Guardian, and I haven't seen her in action yet. As for HK-47 ... well, he's an assassin droid. Seems silly not to put him to use, even if he'll need watching, Kyp figured as he caught up with the others at the Shrike's ramp.

    "Master Durron? I'll assume you've sensed the same Force disturbance I have. Something is lurking about out here," Aliste' said, frowning. Kyp nodded, glancing at HK-47, who'd already (and unsurprisingly) powered up a blaster rifle.

    "Declaration: Hunting dark Jedi - my combat protocols are all a-tingle! This takes me back a few millennia. Please let me have the first shot, Master? I do take pride in being the first to defeat some foolish meatbag," HK asked, sounding way too eager.

    "Stun only for now, HK-47. I want a prisoner to interrogate. The good news - such as it is - is that I could sense whatever it is through the Force, so we're not likely dealing with a Yuuzhan Vong infiltrator or scout. Aliste', you go left, and HK-47 and I will go right," Kyp said, leading the party toward the nearest library building.

    He sensed another presence - a non-Force-sensitive, but keenly alert and brave - approach from behind, and looked over his shoulder as Korlo caught up with them. "Yub. Qewpee tell Mali you hunting. Nub. I help," the Ewok stated, hefting an axe and a blaster.

    Aliste' looked and felt bemused, but blinked when Kyp smiled a bit and nodded. "In this sort of situation, Ewok senses might be a good compliment to Force-searching. Korlo, go with Aliste'," he said giving the Knight a "don't argue" look.

    To her credit, Aliste' merely nodded and strode off, allowing Korlo to keep pace with her, while HK-47 followed Kyp. "Query: Master, the Ewok may be a competent enough fighter, but two melee-focused combatants in a party seems limiting," the assassin droid wondered.

    "True, but Korlo is from Svivren, not Endor. I'll bet he's as good with that blaster as he is with the axe. Now, let me concentrate and watch my back," Kyp ordered - he still had a headache, and he was cranky (pettily so, he admitted, but he was in charge).

    Or so I like to tell myself, he thought, blinking and frowning as he sensed something else Force-cloaking itself nearby.

    ----------------------------------

    Aliste' had had to struggle not to give a rejoinder when Master Durron ordered her to bring along this particular ally.

    But I'm trying not to be so superior. And Korlo really is admirably stealthy, far more so than I am, the Knight admitted, smiling a bit as the Ewok slid through the fairly tall grass with barely any sound.

    He held up a paw, pointing with his blaster toward what looked like a shimmering patch of air, and Aliste' nodded, sobering.

    She extended her Force-sense first - no sense in rushing in and risking some needless fight - before a snap-hiss rang out.

    "Korlo, stay back!" Aliste' shouted, igniting her double-bladed yellow lightsaber - she hadn't wanted a fight, but here it was.

    The Force-cloak fell, and a tan-robed figure with a yellow lightsaber blocked Aliste's swing, shouting, "Wait! I'm -"

    "Another Jedi - a Sentinel, no less - and I'm a headstrong fool. My apologies," Aliste' said, standing down and bowing.

    The other Jedi nodded, tossing back her cloak's hood to reveal her as a female Cathar. "No harm done. I'm sorry for sneaking around," the felinoid Jedi said as they shut down their lightsabers. "I'm Karina Taslar. I'm seeking - look out!"

    Both women leapt back - Aliste' igniting her lightsaber - as the shadows revealed a black-cloaked figure with a red blade.

    The intruder's helmet looked rather odd, like some pathetic imitation of Darth Vader's helmet - black, with silver concentric rings around the eye slits, but no particular menace to the mouth. The wearer, however, flourished his blade with skill, and Karina ignited her own lightsaber, giving Aliste' a nod.

    "Foolish children. The Knights of Ren will slowly and thoroughly snuff out Skywalker's heretical attempt to revive the Jedi," the intruder - clad in black armor as well as the helmet, which made Aliste' roll her eyes - taunted in a modulated voice.

    "You're a few years too late, dark-sider. The Jedi will reclaim Ossus ... and you won't be around to see it," Aliste' shot back.

    The "Knight of Ren" tilted his head in what seemed like disbelief. "Such hauteur from one so young. I, Vyxnal Ren, will take pleasure in disabusing you of your foolishness!" he exclaimed, attacking Karina.

    The Cathar's lightsaber form was both fluid and fast, and Aliste' admired her style before joining the fight. Ren, unfortunately, was no slouch - he kept both women at bay with a mix of Force shoves and lightsaber skill.

    "Competent, but still not - AIEYAUGGH!?" he screamed as a brown-furred flash attacked him from the shadows with a warcry.

    Karina blinked in shock as Korlo slashed Vyxnal's left leg, felling the interloper, and straddled the darksider's chest, holding a blaster at the intruder's helmet. "Yub. Surrender," the Ewok commanded, while Master Durron and HK-47 ran over.

    "Whoa! Nice work - Korlo, let this idiot live, at least for now. I want some answers. Knight - I'm Master Kyp Durron," Master Durron greeted Karina, who blinked as Aliste' bound Vyxnal's leg, then cuffed his hands and claimed his lightsaber.

    "Master Durron?! This must be the will of the Force, then. I'm Karina Taslar - once we're away from dangerous ears, I have a favor to ask of you," the Cathar Knight asked, and Master Durron blinked with surprise before grinning.

    "Taslar, huh? I recognize the name. This trip just keeps getting more interesting. Let me ask this murglak a few questions before we turn him over to the Ysanna's custody," he said, and Aliste' none-too-gently hauled the darksider to his feet.

    I didn't want a boring trip, but perhaps a bit of a breather between chaotic meetings would be nice, Aliste' hoped.

    --------------------

    Kyp removed the "Knight of Ren's" helmet - he'd heard some of the back-and-forth as he and HK-47 had raced over - and raised an eyebrow to face a male Umbaran. The pale-skinned man sneered, saying in a strong voice, "Durron. Skywalker's attack nek."

    "Woof woof to you, too, smart-shebs. Now, you can tell me who the 'Knights of Ren' are, and who you're working for, or I can let the Ysanna have you and just turn my back. They might be merciful - they're still on a happy high from Jedi coming back and settling here - or they might take the whole 'sacred defense of Jedi holy ground' thing to its extreme," Kyp suggested.

    "Yub. And I have fork," Korlo added, holding aloft a dining implement that made the Umbaran somehow go more pale.

    "KORLO! We do not actually eat other sentients! It's not the Jedi way!" Aliste' exclaimed with genuine shock.

    "Nub. I no Jedi. Wonder what goes best with Umbaran - topatoes or jogan fruit," Korlo retorted, licking his lips.

    "Supposition: Jogan fruit seems more dessert-like. Might I suggest the topatoes with the meatbag main dish?" HK-47 chimed in.

    "ENOUGH already!" Kyp barked, silencing the banter as he rubbed his temple with one hand. "Force, that ale was strong."

    Karina stepped in between Kyp and the Umbaran, baring her fangs as she accused, "This dark-sider is working with Imperial Remnant agents - unsanctioned ones. I followed him here from Makem Te where he oversaw a kidnapping ring."

    A chill ran down Kyp's spine, clearing away his hangover, and he grabbed the Umbaran's upper arm. "You're a slaver?" he spat.

    "Among other things. But you'll not get anything more from me, Durron - I go to the Force," the Umbaran taunted.

    His eyes rolled back in his head, and Kyp cursed as the Umbaran's Force-presence winked out, while Aliste' gasped.

    Karina examined the Umbaran's mouth, shaking her head as she revealed a broken tooth in his lower jaw. "Poison capsule. And he was my only lead. I used the cloak power to spy on him on Makem Te; he appears to be working with Imperial hardliners calling themselves the First Order. Why they'd want to kidnap human children is a mystery to me," the Cathar explained.

    A security patrol of Ysanna arrived, accompanied by Kam Solusar and Adlusha Kloj, and Kyp turned the dead Umbaran over to his hosts. "We've got a problem," he said, explaining his discovery to the other Jedi before asking Karina, "What now?"

    "I'll need to report to Master Hamner - he assigned me to track the kidnappers. I'll assume he'll order me to return to Coruscant for reassignment," Karina said, walking with Kyp and his party.

    She looked into the night sky with a sad expression and added, "I was hoping to look for my father; his name is Taslar."

    "He's on Ilum. We're headed there at some point, but our mission might take a long while. We could use another Jedi, especially one with your skills," Kyp offered, and Karina lit up with a flash of joy before returning to "standard" Jedi calm.

    "That's - very generous of you, Master Durron. If Master Hamner permits, I'll be glad to join your mission," the Cathar replied.

    ******************

    to be continued ...
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb action and gaining a very valuable ally in Karina. This mission of theirs just added a new layer: [face_thinking] The Knights of Ren and kidnapping is something definitely needs taking care of sooner than later.
    Aliste' is progressing in being able to work tactfully with others. ;) Becoming a true team player.
     
  22. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    [face_laugh] I loved our Ewok friend threatening the Dark Side scumbag with a fork! Even if he was just joking. Or was he?[face_thinking]
     
  23. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    WarmNyota: Thanks - and yes, the Knights of Ren will be among the adversaries Kyp's mission picks up.

    The First Order is still in its infancy at this timeframe, and with the existence of Gilad Pellaeon, the Fels, and other better-behaved Imperials, there'll definitely be a clash of ideologies; this tale is intended to help flesh out the F.O's origin in this timeline. [face_thinking]

    And Aliste's doing better ... for the moment. She'll soon meet someone who challenges her (and others of the crew) in unexpected ways. ;)

    Cowgirl: Korlo's an urban Ewok, so I doubt he's ever actually eaten a Stormtrooper - or dark-sider, in this case. :p

    Plus, it was a perfect segue into a bit of HK's uniquely dark humor (I really shouldn't enjoy writing HK-47 so much, but he can get away with saying things other characters never could [face_blush]).

    I'm hoping to update this again a couple more times before the New Year [face_party], then settle into a more routine update rhythm. [face_praying]:)
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  24. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Well, at least now HK has someone who can appreciate his jokes.
     
  25. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Cowgirl: He does, indeed. :p More with the wider crew next chapter; for right now, this update focuses on Karina's backstory. Similarly, the First Order will go on the backburner for a bit, although they'll turn up sooner than later ...

    *********************
    Chapter 8: 28.1 ABY:
    Jedi Settlement, Ossus:
    *********************

    Kyp stretched - he'd managed to get some real rest after the mess with the "Knight of Ren," but there was still a lingering aftereffect from the Ysannan ale - as he found a seat in the Ysannan inn and ordered breakfast.

    "No, really, I want to pay for it. Please," Kyp insisted as the innkeeper tried to give him a heaping plateful of food for free. The Ysannan man finally accepted a few credits, shaking his head with bemusement, as a slight, female figure walked from the door.

    "Master Durron? I'm sorry if I'm interrupting," Karina Taslar asked, but Kyp just nodded for her to sit across from him (and gave her a few spare pieces of meat and some of the spare pastries; his plate really was overflowing with more food than he could handle).

    The Cathar Knight thanked him, using utensils (Kyp silently reprimanded himself for somehow thinking the felinoid would naturally dine with her hands - he didn't want to seem speciesist) as she dug into her food. "This is wonderful," she said between bites.

    "The Ysanna are great hosts. I was actually hoping to ask you some questions before we leave," Kyp inquired.

    Karina nodded, her vertical pupils adjusting to the flickering candlelight (the inn had a few windows, but they were mostly high and the sunlight was still thin with how early it was). "Of course. You're probably wondering how I even got to Ossus. From Denon, I hitched a ride on a tramp freighter working the Perlemian, then ... well, stowed away. My Force skills do include mind trick, but being trained as a Jedi Sentinel, I prefer cloak to simply not be found. That's how I got to Makem Te," she explained.

    She looked ashamed as she concluded, "I ... appropriated a hyperdrive-capable pleasure craft to chase Vyxnal Ren here. Master Hamner authorized extreme measures if I needed to use them, but it's not something I enjoy doing. It doesn't feel moral."

    Kyp pondered the conundrum, finally saying, "I'd be a hypocrite to judge you for doing what needed doing in a tight spot."

    Karina practically poured gratitude into the Force, thanking the innkeeper as he brought her a mug of water. "That means a lot. It's just ... this is my Knighting mission - technically, I'm still a Padawan, although I fought during the Vong War. I slew a Yuuzhan Vong subaltern during a mission with my former Master, Garek Turis, on Shaum Hii ... Master Garek didn't make it," she said.

    Kyp blinked at that - he hadn't expected to be taking in relative foundlings, but he could hardly deny the girl help, either.

    "Karina ... not to be rude, but how young are you?" he asked, trying not to sound like a grumpy old Master (or Corran).

    Karina sighed, looking at the table as she said, "18 standard years. The Masters Solusar vouched for me to Master Hamner."

    Even so, the losses we took during the Vong War forced a lot of Padawans to be pushed into the field before they were ready. But from Aliste's report, Karina can fight - and Jedi who know cloak are few and far between, Kyp reasoned, finally nodding.

    "I trust Kam, Tionne and Kenth - we might not always agree, Kenth and I especially, but I respect their judgment," he said.

    Karina lit up again, and Kyp tried very hard not to laugh as she composed herself - she was, after all, supposed to be a spy. "Thank you, Master Durron. I'll prove myself worthy of your trust," she said, and Kyp nodded.

    "So, how'd the report back to Master Hamner go, anyway? And is there anything more we know about our not-so-pleasant visitor's friends?" Kyp asked, keeping specifics out of the conversation - even Ossus might have unwelcome listeners.

    Karina concentrated and said, "Master Hamner was pleased with my overall performance. He said a formal Knighting ceremony can come after I've completed helping you with your mission - he authorized me to join you. As for our 'visitor' ... we don't have many specifics. Makem Te has retained a lot of pro-Imperial sympathies, even as far as it is from the Remnant, but we don't believe Grand Admiral Pellaeon supports the illegal activities that we've been tracing. He's too honorable for this."

    She held up a datapad and activated its holoprojector, showing a map of the galaxy with red dots as she frowned. "Each dot is a site where a number of human children - across all age ranges - have vanished. At first, it was believed the disappearances were caused by Praetorite Vong infiltrators. But cross-referencing missing persons cases on each world, it seems some of these slave rings have been going on since shortly after the Battle of Jakku," Karina explained, and Kyp gave a long, low whistle.

    "Right around the same time that murglak Gallius Rax and his faction of hard-core, COMPNOR-style Imps supposedly got blown to space dust. I'm not sure we're looking at slavers, as much as recruiters - similar to the Second Imperium's Dark Jedi shavit from about 5 years ago, but looking for non-Force-sensitives to build up a faction of fanatics," Kyp hypothesized, shaking his head.

    Karina looked understandably worried, but nodded. "That's what Master Hamner - and his contacts in Grand Admiral Pellaeon's administration - also believe. The disapperances slowed or even stopped during the Vong War, but they spiked again a few weeks ago. That's when I was sent to investigate," she said.

    "The timing's no coincidence. Whoever's running this plot had to lay low because of the Vong invasion of the Remnant; any disloyal hard-liners who didn't throw their legitimate troops into the defense of the Remnant would be exposed, and risk weakening the Remnant as a whole. What I don't understand is how these 'Knights of Ren' fit in. I've never heard of them, but that doesn't mean much - the Reborn were whipped up out of thin air, too," Kyp wondered, keeping his voice low.

    Karina shrugged, frustration crossing her face. "Master Hamner cross-referenced Jedi records; he concurred with your belief that they're probably a new dark-side sect. I've been relieved of further active investigative duties in the matter, although if we do come across more activity, I'm authorized to intervene and report what I find," she said, and Kyp nodded.

    They finished their meals, and Kyp asked, "Do you have any other family? If your dad was sent to Ilum to guard it, were you alone on Yavin until you started your apprenticeship?"

    Karina looked embarrassed, making Kyp wonder if he'd pressed too far. She managed a smile, though, and said, "I wasn't really alone - I had my fellow Padawans, and some friends among them. But being Cathar and in the wider galaxy is still rare, even millennia after my species suffered because of the Mandalorians. Cathar Jedi were common once upon a time. It's just ..."

    She looked at the table, her voice low again, as she added, "My mother died in a debris slide on Taris when I was a child. Father and I got out of the swoop bike racing circuit thanks to Master Streen detecting Father's Force-sensitivity, so I was able to spend more time on Yavin than I did in that cesspit of Taris - it's never recovered from the Sith conflicts, not really. I've just ... wanted to make something of myself, to make my father proud, and prove to the galaxy that i'm more than how I look. Probably silly."

    Kyp met her gaze as she looked up; he knew the general story of what she meant. It was a common tale among the young.

    "No sillier than an escaped slave who fell in with a wild crowd, made some bad mistakes, and still struggles to get it right," he said, allowing himself a faint smile as Karina's eyes widened.

    "Welcome to the crew of the Night Shrike, Knight-presumptive Karina Taslar. Let's go knit the galaxy back together."

    **************

    to be continued ...