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Before - Legends Sith Politics: The Game Gets Dangerous

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by PlanetSmasher, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    This story takes place in The Old Republic Era. This is a very dark story.

    Title: Sith Politics: The Game Gets Dangerous

    Author(s): PlanetSmasher

    Timeframe: The Old Republic Era, about 300 years after Revan

    Characters: The main character in this story is Shahn Lunn, AKA Darth Virulous, Andronikos Revel, Yehw'reh'nomai, and Darth Nox.

    Genre: Sci-Fi, Suspense, Thriller,

    Keywords: Vengeance, Power Struggles, Betrayal, Political Intrigue

    Summary: Darth Nox's Newest apprentice is on a mission for her master. Follow her down the Path to Darkness. Meanwhile, Andronikos Revel and Yehw'reh'nomai have a chance encounter. Will their meeting lead to love? Or maybe not?

    This is the sequel to my original fanfic, "Sith Politics: Fun and Games." This story begins about two weeks after the first one ends. You can find the first story on page 10 of the web forum (as of 10 Feb 18) (It's WAAAAAY AFTER 10 Feb 18! So, you might need to search for the story deep in the pages of this web site... LOL). Although you don't need to read the first story, reading it will answer a lot of questions, as this story sometimes refers to events that occurred in the first story.

    I hope you will enjoy the sequel. As always, please leave comments on what you read. Let me know what you think.

    Thanks.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    A Casual Drink With A Tough Girl​


    Andronikos Revel sat at the bar of a very exclusive club on Nar Shaddaa. He'd just finished transferring nearly two trillion credits into Darth Nox's accounts on Dromund Kaas, and fired off a text message to his employer.

    "Boss, I just wired your cut of the take. You should see a deposit of two trillion credits. We had a really great payday! The military hardware sold fast and netted us a really nice chunk of credits. Not shabby at all. It brought in about one percent of our take. The antiques made a really good showing, netting us about twenty percent of our grand total.

    "The gem stones were all snapped up within minutes of being introduced by the auctioneer. That got us another fifteen percent of gross. The art, though! Once the authenticity of the art was verified by three independent and very reputable assessors, the bidding went through the roof! It netted us way more than anything I had imagined. We got our remaining sixty four percent of our gross take from that.

    "Everything sold! Nothing was left over. Military gear brings in good credits, but nothing like gems, antiques and ancient art. If we ever raid anyone like that again, I'll remember not to waste cargo space on military hardware.

    "The grand total for this haul was just over twelve trillion credits. Thanks for letting me loot the place, Boss. It really was a really great payday!"

    Andronikos took another sip of his Hutt's Vile Brew ale, a favorite on Nar Shaddaa, when a Chiss woman took a seat on the bar stool next to his.

    Smiling, she asked, "What are you drinking?"

    He told her, and she ordered one for herself. Andronikos took a close look at her. She was tall, his height, athletically built – not steroidally overdone, but femininely muscularly toned.

    Andronikos thought, "Damn! Her face is cute!"

    He really felt this way despite the old and faded jagged scar on her left cheek.

    Besides the scar, something else about her face made him think, "She's a tough girl!" Giving a friendly smile of his own, he told her, "You look like a tough girl. I like tough girls."

    The Chiss woman smiled back, saying, "You look kind of dangerous, yourself." Laughing, she added, "I like dangerous guys."

    Andronikos laughed and said, "Well, you're in luck. I'm as dangerous as they come."

    He laughed as though he had told a joke. She laughed with him.

    Andronikos asked, "What's such a fine looking woman like you doing in a dump like this?"

    She reminded him, "This is actually a very respectable club. You know?"

    Andronikos laughed, telling her, "Oh, yeah. That's right. I'm not used to high class joints like this." He added quickly, "That was a joke."

    He asked, "What's your name?"

    "Call me Wrehn," she smiled, looking deeply into his eyes.

    "All right, Wrehn. I'm Andronikos." Then, he asked, "What kind of work do you do, Wrehn?"

    Wrehn told him, "I move freight. I own a freighter." She asked him, "What about you?"

    Andronikos told her, "I'm a pirate." Then he quipped, "I steal freight."

    The look she gave him made him laugh out loud.

    He told her, "Don't worry. I'm semi retired, and I don't go after small fry." Showing off, he added, "I just auctioned off the last of my latest haul – twelve trillion credits. That's in Hutt currency."

    Wrehn whistled and observed aloud, "Damn. I'm in the wrong business." To herself she thought, "He's got to be exaggerating!" Then she reasoned to herself, "Or maybe not. His bounty is Sixty two million credits in Republic space, and thirty five million in Imperial space."

    Looking around, she asked, "Are your crew around? I don't see anyone who looks ‘pirate-like,’ besides you, that is."

    Andronikos told her, "I hired mercenaries. I paid them off already. They're gone."

    Just as Wrehn was about to entice him into following her out of the club, Andronikos asked, "I wanna show off. Do you wanna see my ship?"

    Wrehn gave him a sidelong look and said, "You don't waste any time, do you?"

    Andronikos asked, "You don't wanna see my ship? I'm really proud of her. I had some people go in and fix the deck. I had wood floors put in, but the cargo marred the surface. They got the surfaces fixed and covered with a transparent scratch resistant protective cover."

    Wrehn told Andronikos, "That's not enough. You have to put heavy foam shipping pads down to protect the surface of the scratch resistant protective cover from shipping crates and the like, especially loading droids. Those covers aren't so scratch resistant as you'd think."

    Andronikos thought, "She sounds like she knows what she's talking about." Aloud, he said, "Heavy foam shipping pads. Got it."

    Wrehn said coyly, "I don't know about going to a pirate's ship...." Then flirtatiously, she suggested, "Why don't you come to my ship?"

    Andronikos smiled wryly, telling her, "Look at who's not wasting any time..."

    The two laughed at the observation.

    Wrehn said in her defense, "I just finished a long shipping run, and have been so lonely. I could use a real stiff one."

    Andronikos purposefully misunderstood her, flagging the bartender down.

    "Barkeep, get the lady a stiff shot of..." He interrupted himself to ask her deadpan, "Is Duros Whiskey good for you?"

    Wrehn got a real laugh out of that and grabbed his hand, urging Andronikos, "Come on!"

    Wrehn's crew was positioned outside of the club. The plan was to ambush him just as he exited the establishment. Andronikos was wanted, dead. His personal holo-transmitter sounded just as he got on his feet. He pulled his hand free of hers and went for his communicator.

    He apologized, "Sorry. I gotta take this call."

    He pushed the button on the device, and up sprang the holographic image of Darth Nox. Wrehn's eyes went wide. Andronikos spoke to the dark lord's image.

    "Hey, Boss! Your timing couldn't be better. I was gonna call you. Did you get the message? Did you check to see that you got your cut?"

    Darth Nox ignored Andronikos’ comments and questions, ordering, "Bring my ship, immediately. I must travel."

    Wrehn just happened to be standing right next to Andronikos when he connected the call.

    Nox, seeing Wrehn's image asked, "Yehw'reh'nomai, are you working with my servant?"

    Nox looked at Andronikos' image and commented, "She is a very capable bounty hunter. She is costly! However, her services are worth the prices she demands."

    Andronikos replied very darkly, "Thanks for the tip, Boss."

    Nox immediately surmised what the situation was, and spoke very coldly to Wrehn.

    "Who hired you to kill or capture my servant?"

    Wrehn, disgusted at how horribly things were turning out, answered bluntly, "To kill."

    She looked down at the blaster pointed at her exposed belly button.

    Andronikos told her, "I'm not gonna take this personally with you. I know it's just business. So, let’s make a new deal, a new business arrangement. Yeah?"

    Nox interjected, "Yehw'reh'nomai, understand that as far as I am concerned there can only be one class of people who would put a price on my servant's head, and that class of people are my enemies."

    Wrehn remained silent, staring at the blaster pistol leveled at her stomach.

    Nox continued, "I'm inclined to take any attack on my people very personally."

    Andronikos gave a grim smile that had no effect of alleviating the frost around his eyes.

    He said, "Come on, Wrehn. Let's make a deal." Then, as realization hit him, and without taking his eyes off of Wrehn, he asked Nox, "Boss, did you call her Yehw'reh'nomai?"

    Nox replied, "That's her name."

    Andronikos' smiled changed a little as he thought about the irony playing out before him.

    He told Wrehn, "I saw your tag carved on the launch pad on Korriban."

    Wrehn, believing her life would end very soon nodded once, her eyes still on the blaster, and spoke in a strained voice, "Yeah. I did a job there for your boss."

    She gulped back a sob, willing herself to keep a tough exterior.

    Andronikos had heard about her job for his boss on Korriban on the gossip shows. He nodded, arching his eyebrows, quite impressed.

    “You actually faced down a pissed off Sith and took him down like it was nothing.” He asked rhetorically, "That really was you?" He added, "Then I better be extra careful. It means you're real good at your work – shipping freight."

    Andronikos spoke as though trying to reason with a difficult customer, "Wrehn, if you're not willing to make a deal with me, then I gotta kill you. I can tell my boss likes you." Tilting his head towards the holo-transmitter that he'd set on the bar top between them, he added, "He didn't tell me to kill you and be done with it, and he made the effort to give you a chance to make nice with him." He asked her, "What do you say? Can we do business together?"

    Wrehn’s holo-transceiver vibrated on her hip attached to her belt. It was a signal from her team that they were inside and ready to take Andronikos out. They became alerted to trouble, when Wrehn’s bio readings became elevated indicating that she was in distress.

    Wrehn stood too close to him, however. If they fired, she would get caught in the bolt blast. She took the opportunity to warn off her crew. Wrehn spoke cryptically as though thinking to herself aloud.

    "I can’t finish the job and get my thirty five million. If I try it, I’ll end up on the run from the whole Sith Empire. Or I could cut a deal and let Darth Nox take out my client for this job. I won’t get paid, but I won’t have to be on the run forever. Those are my choices.” She paused, as though thinking it over, and then asked herself aloud, “What to do? What to do?”

    Andronikos became slightly startled, as two people seemed to suddenly materialize from nowhere, a heavily armored cybernetically enhanced female human and a heavily armored human male. The male said something in the Mando language. Wrehn started to regain her composure now that her people were there to back her up.

    She said to Andronikos, “It looks like we can do business.”

    Andronikos asked, “Boss?”

    Nox demanded, “Who hired you to kill my servant?”

    Wrehn spoke to the cybernetically implanted female, “Mako, bring up the contract, and put the datapad on the bar top where he could see it.”

    Mako, replied in surprise, “Boss, if we reveal our client, It’ll ruin our reputation!”

    Wrehn replied, “Yeah. You’re right, Mako. It’s better to get chased all over the galaxy for the rest of our lives by the Republic for killing the Chancellor, and by Darth Nox for killing his man.”

    A Deveronian male had walked into the club unnoticed until he spoke, “We have enough problems with the Republic wanting our heads. I think that’s enough pressure already. We don’t need the Sith Empire chasing us around, too. Give them the contract, Mako.”

    The heavily armored human male spoke in the Mando language again, and then said, “That means, ‘honor is everything, but becomes foolishness in the face of poor judgment.’ I think Yehw’reh’nomai is right, Mako.”

    Stubbornly, Mako told Wrehn, we should charge something for this!”

    Andronikos replied with puzzlement in his tone, “We’re offering you your lives, and not getting on Darth Nox’s bad side.”

    Wrehn spoke tersely, “Mako, give them the damned contract.”

    Reluctantly Mako complied, setting the datapad with the relevant contract displayed on its screen on the bar top next to Andronikos’ holo-transmitter. That’s when she saw that Andronikos had a concealable blaster pointed at Wrehn’s exposed midsection. When she turned to look into Andronikos’ face, she saw nothing but murder in his eyes.

    As Mako withdrew from the bar, she told her employer and friend, “Sorry for giving you a hard time, Wrehn.”

    Wrehn said, “Don’t sweat it. We’re just doing business.”

    Mako knew the others hadn’t seen his gun either. It was a compact blaster. His hand covered most of it, and he held it close to his side. However, from behind him, it just looked as though Andronikos was simply leaning on the bar.

    Andronikos looked at the datapad and shook his head at what he saw.

    He said to Nox, “You’re not gonna believe this, Boss. Or maybe you will.”

    Nox replied tersely, “I’m at the end of my patience, Andronikos. Spit it out.”

    Andronikos told him, “Darth Acina.”

    Nox demanded, “Yehw’reh’nomai, how old is that contract?!”

    Wrehn answered, “About two weeks old.”

    Nox told her, “Acina and I have been in a feud. I destroyed Acina. She is no longer on the Dark Council. There is no one left who will honor that contract.”

    Andronikos told Wrehn, “Look it up. It’s galaxy wide news.”

    Mako embarrassedly admitted, “Uh, Wrehn. I don’t know how I missed it, but it’s true.” She added, “The bounty is still in effect, but it’s rated as dubious, Boss.”

    Meanwhile, Darth Nox had ordered his droid, “Put me in contact with Darth Zash. Hurry!”

    Zash had actually answered the call. She was very curious about what Nox would want to talk to her about.

    She spoke teasingly, “My dear Darth Nox, what an unexpected pleasure to hear from you! What could you possibly want from me?”

    Nox spoke furiously, telling Zash, “I don’t know what kind of game you think you’re playing here, but if you don’t want to share Acina’s fate, then you had better cancel that bounty you put on my servant’s head!” He added menacingly, “I swear, if Andronikos is killed because of this, I’ll not rest until you lie in ruins!”

    Zash was taken aback as Nox added, “I had better not find that others in my powerbase have been targeted in this manner. I will make you pay dearly, Zash!”

    Zash was shaken, but she hid her surprise, and spoke with deep displeasure in her tone, “Your tone is most unwelcome, Darth Nox. I can understand your concern that your people have been targeted, but what evidence do you...”

    Nox cut her off, speaking through clenched teeth, “The Sphere of Technology is the client! Acina is no longer ruler of that sphere. That leaves you!”

    Zash said, “I’ll look into it.”

    Zash cut the connection.

    Nox smiled, thinking smugly to himself, “Now I won’t owe her any favors.

    He knew it wasn’t Zash, but putting her on the spot like that made it seem as though he blamed her for the situation. In fact, Zash had considered that Nox had already been involved in two Kaggaths, and that he’d won both feuds, destroying completely both of his enemies, Darth Thanaton and Darth Acina, in the process. Fearing his power in the face of her weakness - Nox had destroyed much of Acina’s powerbase, leaving very little for Zash to inherit - she opted to clear the matter up quickly.

    Mako exclaimed, expressing her shock, “The bounty just got yanked!”

    Wrehn asked, “What about the Republic’s bounty on him?”

    Andronikos’ eyes squinted, making him appear to Wrehn more menacing than before.

    Mako replied, “It’s still up.”

    Wrehn said, “O.K., gang. This job’s a wash. He’s not worth getting a dark lord all worked up over this.

    Andronikos’ eyes still had murder in them, and his back up blaster was still pointed at her mid section.

    Wrehn told him, “The Republic hates us. They’re not going to pay us for any jobs we do for them.”

    Andronikos slid the data pad towards Wrehn and said, “Show me.”

    Wrehn brought up the bounty on she and her crew’s heads and cursed.

    “The blasted nerf turds just doubled it!”

    She pushed the datapad back towards Andronikos.

    He looked at it and exclaimed in disbelief, “Two billion?!” Then he ordered, “Tell your crew to get lost.”

    Wrehn snarled, “To hell with that! We’re all getting lost.”

    Andronikos told her, “You’re my insurance. Don’t make me have to cash in on the policy.”

    Wrehn gritted her teeth and growled out, “Gang, guns out! Now!”

    Andronikos found himself the target of two blaster rifles and a blaster pistol.

    Wrehn reiterated, “You’re not a bounty head anymore in the Sith Empire. I’m leaving with my gang, or we get mutually ashed.”

    Andronikos’ back up blaster vanished into his coat sleeve. He turned to face the bar and picked up his drink, taking a sip.

    Wrehn, wasting no time, grabbed the datapad off the bar top and got the hell out with her crew following her out. She promptly made her way to an alleyway where another of her crew, a Houk, waited with their speeder.

    The Houk asked, “What’d I miss?”

    The Deveronian quipped, “Wrehn ran. Bounty chased her off.”

    The Houk laughed at the joke. Wrehn’s reaction was not entirely unexpected. She reached into the front passenger side of the speeder and pulled out her blaster, which she’d left behind for this job.

    Pointing it at the Houk, she menaced, “Stop laughing, Skadge.”

    The Houk stopped laughing. Wrehn turned to face the Deveronian.

    He had already ducked around the corner of a building at the end of the alley, and shouted into the alley from around the corner, “It was a joke! Take it easy, Wrehn! Come on!”

    Wrehn shouted furiously, “I did not rum from no scummy pirate! I did not want to piss his boss off! There’s a huge blasted difference!”

    Skadge, confused, asked, “Wait! Wrehn really ran? Or did the bounty just get away?”

    Mako answered flippantly, “With her tail between her legs.”

    Wrehn slammed the blaster onto the alley pavement as Skadge let loose a long raucous round of laughter.

    The human male in heavy Mandalorian armor added, “We had the bounty dead to rights, but it turned out the bounty works for Darth Nox.”

    As Skadge recovered from his laughing fit, he asked, “So what, Torian?”

    Mako replied taking practicality into account, “We’re already wanted – dead – by the Republic for two billion credits.” Interrupting herself, she added, “It was just doubled to two billion.” Then she continued her original train of thought, concluding, “Why have the whole Sith Empire chasing after us, too?”

    Skadge asked, “I thought you said it was Darth Nox?”

    Mako replied, “Yeah, The whole Sith Empire.”

    After some reflection, Skadge asked, “What’s wrong with that?” Then he observed, “It just means we have more skulls to crush and bodies to pummel into paste.”

    Wrehn snapped, “Shut the hell up, all of you! Get your carcasses into the damned speeder. We’re getting the hell off of this moon!” Then she bellowed, “Gault, get your ass over here, unless you wanna get left behind!”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Andronikos was furious. He was furious at the tough Chiss woman with the pretty face for tricking him. He was furious at himself for letting his guard down so completely. Andronikos had to face reality. He had to revise this idea of his about being safe in Hutt Space.

    I knew Hutt Space was harsh and unforgiving, but I ain’t been on Nar Shaddaa for two weeks!” He told himself.

    Andronikos was a proud man, so it hurt his pride to think, “Dammit! I’m a tough guy! Why do I gotta hire bodyguards?!
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
  2. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Shahn Lunn’s New Name​


    Wearing civilian business attire, Darth Virulous sat in her seat aboard a small passenger starship operated by a regional space carrier, Duros Mid-Rim Spacelines. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of Coruscant Spaceways.

    She flew aboard Darth Nox’s starship to Nar Shaddaa. There she booked a flight to Tatooine from the Smuggler’s Moon, as Nar Shaddaa was affectionately referred to by every facet of criminal and legitimate enterprise.

    As the passengers began to rise from their seats to reclaim their belongings from the overhead bins, she recalled how quickly she’d picked up a tail as she stood at the ticket counter for her flight to Tatooine. Her thoughts went back to Nox’s starship and her conversation with its captain.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Andronikos stood before Nox’s newest apprentice, as she sat in repose in one of the luxuriously over-stuffed lounge chairs in the common crew space.

    He asked her, “Uh, can I still call you Shahn, or do you prefer your new name?”

    Sitting in one of the overstuffed lounge chairs in the common crew space, she turned her eyes downward as she took on an introspective expression.

    With a pang of regret, she thought to herself, “I’ll miss my old name. It was such a beautiful name.

    In fact it was her grandmother’s name, and her great grandmother’s before her.

    She vowed to herself, “If I ever give birth to a daughter, I will give my child that name.

    She hated her new name, but her new name was part of her title. It was a representation of what Darth Nox saw in her which, in a twisted sort of way, was complimentary.

    Andronikos’ Mandalorian mercenaries supervised their rented heavy duty work droids as they unloaded their looted cargo from Nox’s ship.

    Andronikos took on a worried expression as he shouted at one of the droids, “Hey! Numb nuts! Watch what the hell you’re doing! That’s a control panel your walking that crate into!”

    After thinking it through, she looked up into the semi retired pirate’s eyes, as he returned his attention to her, and told him, “Darth Nox would become terribly displeased if I allowed it.”

    Andronikos replied, completely understanding where she was coming from, “No sense pissing off the boss if you don’t have to. Yeah?” He could see the pain in her expression, when he concluded, “Darth Virulous it is.”

    He could see that she was distracted. He kind of took a liking to her, since she wasn’t ‘all high and mighty’ with the way she treated him.

    Andronikos, was oddly forgiving of the fact that she tried to kill him a couple of weeks ago, before their battle aboard that space station.

    Looking at the demure and petite Sith lord, he blamed himself for her reaction, thinking, “I was stupid enough to openly insinuate that she killed Xalek – right in front of the boss.

    He asked her, “Let me give you some advice, eh? It’s good traveling advice. O.K.?”

    Virulous nodded her head once, giving her consent and thinking, “He’s so rough, but he’s so handsome. I wish I hadn’t tried to kill him.

    Andronikos took a seat across from her. After settling in to the exquisite embrace of the luxurious lounge chair, he began his speech. He started by telling her the obvious.

    “You’re in Hutt Space, and soon you’ll be in the Outer Rim, in neutral territory.”

    Then he got to the point.

    “The place is crawling with enemies of the empire, bounty hunters, Jedi – yeah, Jedi – Republic agents, you name it. They’re all outside of this Imperial starship.” He emphasized that last part, and then went on, repeating it for added emphasis, “The moment you walk down the ramp of this Imperial starship, you’ll have a target painted on your back.

    “Pay attention at all times to everyone around you, droids too. Even if you think it’ll get the boss in a crappy mood, use your old name, or use a fake name. Nothing attracts Jedi like going around telling everyone you’re a Sith lord.

    “Also, hide your Sith clothes and armor. Wear regular clothes until you get to your destination. I know it sounds kind of cheap, but if you want to get to your destination quickly, then you don’t want to get in a fight every three meters. You know what I mean? But keep your weapon with you at all times, and carry a blaster as a back up.”

    Virulous gave a funny look at the suggestion she carry a blaster pistol, but then she considered that she’d been armed with one for years in her service as an officer in the Imperial Reclamation Service.

    Andronikos offered a few more words, saying, “I heard what you done in The Citadel. So, I know you can take care of yourself, but watch your back anyway. Also, when you get done over there, hire an independent starship operator to fly you back to Nar Shaddaa before switching to an Imperial operated spaceline passenger carrier. Don’t fly on any spaceliners from Tatooine. Those’ll be full of Republic agents and Jedi looking to ambush you when the ship gets into space. The rest, you can take care of. Got any questions? Need anything else?”

    Virulous observed with a wry grin, “You’re not a Sith, yet you give advice as if you had personal experience as one.”

    Andronikos replied, “It comes with experience from traveling around with the Boss. He never listens to anything I say though, and he’d always get in a scrap. Hardheaded, I guess. Or maybe he just likes to fight all the time. And then there’s the part where I’m a pirate with a bounty on my head. So, I developed a few tricks on how to look over my shoulder for trouble.”

    Virulous, again introspective, observed, “I’ve traveled to many worlds, but it’s always been in Imperial Space. Even when my dead master, Darth Silthar, traveled to Tatooine and left me alone, in my very early twenties, on Yavin 4 to excavate an old shrine buried in a millennia’s worth of soil and vegetation, it was in Imperial Space that I was left alone.”

    Looking across the coffee table, straight into Andronikos’ eyes, she confessed, “This is the first time in my life, I’ve been outside of Imperial Space, and I’ve always traveled on Imperial Navy starships. Thanks for your advice. I’d never considered any of this before. I didn’t need to before.”

    Andronikos had merely replied, “Well, Darth Virulous, good luck to you.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Following Andronikos’ advice, she flew economy class. Virulous rose from her seat and retrieved her carry on luggage from the overhead bin. She made her way down the isle of the passenger cabin to make her way to the starship’s exit. She did as Andronikos suggested and stayed in her seat, until everyone had debarked.

    Three passengers remained behind as well, a man and two women. Virulous could sense their tense emotions. They immediately got up to exit the starship with her. The three passengers were still in the isle, several rows behind her, when Virulous entered the airlock.

    She used The Force to speed her way out of the airlock, down the ramp, and under the starship, hiding behind one of the ship’s landing struts. There, she used The Force to blend in with her surroundings, and to mask her presence from perception.

    It wasn’t quite as effective as Force Shroud was which depended on Force Persuasion to directly affect individuals that entered an area and kept them ignorant of a Force user’s presence, even if standing next to the Force user. However, the technique she currently employed was effective as long as individuals did not get too close. It was as good as or better than photoflexing camouflaging technology used by some of the galaxy’s elite military forces able to afford such technologies.

    The three passengers ran down the ramp, frantically searching around for her. Virulous, very quietly, very carefully set her luggage down onto the tarmac of the spaceport. Then, as she straightened, she carefully retrieved her lightsaber from under her suit jacket.

    The two women ran off to the terminal while the man stayed behind, searching under the ship. Virulous waited until the two women were well on their way to to the spaceport terminal, before she used The Force to speed to where the man searched a landing strut well under the starship. She knocked him over from behind and pinned him to the tarmac using The Force.

    In her grey pants suit and low heals, she squatted beside the man, she pointed the inactive lightsaber hilt at his face.

    Virulous asked him, “Why are you following me?” Then she told him, “Honest answers means you live longer.”

    He lied, “I’m a customs official. We are investigating an illicit spice trafficking ring. We was tipped off that you was a courier. It looks like we was tricked. We didn’t know you was a Jedi.”

    Virulous’ smile failed to reach her eyes as she informed the man, “And now you lose some of your lifespan.”

    The man, watching her grimace with concentration, felt his life force leaving him and began to panic. He tried to get up to run, but The Force kept him firmly pinned to the tarmac. One of the women, returning to the scene, saw their subject squatting next to her partner – laid out on the tarmac.

    She called to her other team mate, the other woman, on her audio only short range transmitter, and then pulled out her concealable compact blaster pistol. She approached quickly but cautiously, aiming her weapon at Virulous.

    Virulous told the man, smiling mirthlessly, “Here comes one of your playmates.”

    She lifted her arm and pointed her hand at the woman. Virulous blasted the woman with a bolt of Force Lightning. The woman collapsed to the tarmac, shaking uncontrollably.

    Virulous told the man, “She’ll live, maybe. Now, how about you?”

    The man felt his life draining from him again.

    He pleaded, “Alright! I’ll tell you!”

    Virulous halted her attack and waited for him to talk.

    He told her, “We’re bounty hunters. You were seen getting off an Imperial starship. You were followed to a hotel. We picked up the contract and met up with the guy who hired us and gave us our instructions.

    He’s a Republic agent. He told us just to follow you and to tell the local Republic agents where you went, when you got there. That’s it! That’s the truth!”

    And it was the truth. Virulous could sense his relief when she smiled again, this time convincingly, as she told him, “You see? Now you get to stay alive.”

    She gently rested her hand on his shoulder and asked, “Was that so hard?”

    Just as he was about to reply, Virulous killed him using the technique she’d learned from Zash when she was eavesdropping on Nox and Zash in their meeting on Korriban following a session of the Dark Council. She stood up and walked to her suit case. Picking it up, she turned to walk from under the starship. Walking passed the woman bounty hunter laid out on the tarmac, Virulous found that she lay still and dead.

    Passing through the gate, she entered the departure lounge, and walked to the terminal droid and checked in. Clearing customs was simple. Merely walking past sniffers assured she was not transporting any illegal spice.

    Virulous hailed a taxi at the spaceport driveway. It was operated by a Kubaz male. He drove her to a hotel not far from the spaceport. Her Imperial credit card was worthless, so she had to pay using physical Hutt currency.

    In the hotel lobby, Virulous walked into a clothing store which was among the other shops conveniently located for travelers, and had clothes made for her tiny stature. She checked into a room at the hotel counter.

    Virulous told the concierge, “I’m having some clothes made for me at the tailor shop, there.” She pointed at the store. Then she instructed the human girl at the counter, “Have my new clothes delivered to my room.”

    The young concierge smiled, looking down at Virulous’ small stature and replied, “Of course, Ms. Shahn Lunn. I’ll be happy to take care of that for you.”

    Virulous walked up the stairs to the second level and walked to her room. She couldn’t locate the second woman who’d been following her. She couldn’t sense her presence either. Virulous decided that either she’d run away, or that she’d hid herself rather well while following her to her hotel.

    A short while later Virulous stepped out of the fresher. She was drying herself off with a towel when a chime sounded, indicating someone was at the door to her room. Virulous wrapped herself with the towel, then reached for her opened suitcase. Her smooth chrome plated lightsaber lifted out of the suitcase and glided into her hand.

    She demanded, “Who is it?!”

    A male voice replied, “Room service, ma’am. I’m here to deliver your new clothes.”

    Virulous ordered, “Come in!”

    The male voice announced, “Coming in!”

    The door slid open and a young man entered her room. He saw a petite woman, her wet, long black hair running straight down her back. He was too far back to see the few strands of gray hair among the black. She stood wrapped in a white bath towel, her legs exposed and bare foot. She held a smooth silver metal tube shaped object in her hand. The young man immediately got the wrong idea, becoming sexually aroused.

    He blushed, smiling a bit too brightly, and asked, “Where do you want me to put these, ma’am?”

    Virulous pointed at the table on which her opened suitcase sat, in which her sabrestaff and body armor were kept. The young man walked to the table and set her new clothing on it.

    He saw her sabrestaff hilt and thought to himself, “This one’s even longer! Heck! I’m right here! She don’t need all this stuff!

    Virulous was amused by the young man’s reactions, which she sensed through The Force. He turned about and asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

    Virulous told him, “No. That is all.” Then she added, pointing to another table, “You may take your tip from there.”

    The young man walked to that table and was stunned to find a very large sum of money on it. It was probably two month’s pay, for him.

    He asked, as he turned to face her, “How much may I take…….., ma’am?”

    Virulous had unwrapped the towel from around her body, holding the towel behind her by the corners.

    Smiling coyly, she asked playfully, “Do you like what you see?”

    The young man nodded his enthusiastic appreciation for what he saw and answered, “Yes. I like it very much, ma’am.”

    She dropped the towel behind her and turned slowly about, and asked, “Is here anything wrong with what you see?”

    The young man shook his head side to side and replied, “No, ma’am. There’s nothing wrong with you. You look real nice.”

    Virulous was thirty four years old, but despite her age, kept athletically fit. Being an officer in the Imperial Army, she kept physically fit in accordance to military regulations. Being a Sith lord, she trained her marshal skills, keeping very her lightsaber skills honed. For Sith, being able to fend off attacks and being able to kill one’s foes required a great deal of discipline.

    When she had turned about and faced the young man again, she found that he was inching closer to her. She extended her arm towards him with her palm facing him. He stopped.

    Virulous told him, “You have earned a nice tip. It’s behind you on the table stand.”

    He was obviously disappointed as he turned away from her to claim his tip reward.

    Virulous told him, “Take it all. I want you to have it.”

    As he picked up the Hutt cash, the young man told her, “My name’s Doogen Trey. If you need me for anything, ask for me by name. His face reddened even more as he declared, “I suppose I could do better than your little droids.”

    Virulous was confused, and it showed on her face until Doogen pointedly looked at the lightsaber hilt still in her hand.

    She held back her laughter, thinking, “Is that what he thought this was?!

    She told him, teasingly, “Doogen Trey. I’ll keep that in mind.”

    Doogen nodded his head, as he exited her room, saying, “Please enjoy your stay, ma’am.”

    The door slid open, as he passed through, and then quickly slid shut behind him. Then he was gone.

    Virulous laughed in a low tone. She feared the doors and walls were thin, and didn’t want the young man to hear her laughter. She didn’t want to hurt his pride.

    She began to dress, starting with her briefs and sports bra, and then a slip. Virulous donned her body armor over her slip. It didn’t offer the same protection as her normal medium grade armor, but light body armor was concealable and better than no armor at all.

    Next she donned her leg guards, which protected her thighs, and then her vambraces, protecting her forearms. Over her armor, Virulous put on her newly tailored desert clothing. It consisted of an off white, very loose fitting leggings, she donned brown leather boots, with thin shin guards attached and hidden under the loose fitting leggings. Then she slipped on an off white long sleeved, loose fitting tunic that went down to her knees, a sand colored hooded outer robe, and an off white head scarf, which she used to cover her face up to her eyes.

    Underneath her hooded robe, which she wrapped around herself and held in place with a sand colored sash, she wore her utility belt. Her lightsaber and sabrestaff were both attached to her belt, and hidden from view under her outer robe.

    She looked around in the room making sure she didn’t leave anything important behind. The grey pants suit and low heals she’d worn on her travels to Tatooine from Nar Shaddaa were left crumpled on the floor, and her emptied travel case lay open on the table.

    Virulous reread the mission profile on her encrypted datapad. She was to meet with a local, one of Keeper’s assets. After pulling the sand hood of her sand colored robe over her head, she walked to the window and peeked outside from the edges of the curtains.

    She then pulled the curtains to one side and opened the window. It felt to her as though she had opened a hot oven. She was pleased with what she saw. Not only did her window open to the narrow back alley, but the building across the alley was a one story building.

    Climbing through the window, Virulous used The Force to leap to the roof of the building across the alleyway. Tatooine’s twin stars immediately beat down on her. Crouching low, she turned about and used The Force to shut her window and pull the curtain closed.

    Tatooine’s stars were both high in the sky, one star at the ten O’clock position, and the other at the one O’clock position. The twin stars orbited around one another, even as the planet orbited around both stars.

    The stars also changed positions in the sky, depending on the season. Sometimes they appeared very near each other, at times seeming to merge into one. In those cases, one star was nearest to Tatooine, appearing larger than usual, while the other was very far way, seeming much smaller. At other times, like today, the stars were far apart in the sky, seeming about the same size.

    Virulous dashed across the roof and found a place to jump down between two utility closets attached to the building’s exterior. The sand street was narrow and almost empty, except for a few dewback riding beasts tied to hitching posts towards the end of the side street.

    Near the end of the narrow dead end street, taking cover behind one of the riding beasts, she watched as the local constabulary forces rushed the hotel she’d just left.

    Virulous thought to herself, “The law around here is quite lax. Did they just realize they had two bodies at the spaceport?” She laughed quietly at herself, thinking, “What? Do I want them to do a good job and catch me?
     
  3. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Mr. Tranit's Very Special Guest​


    Virulous exited the narrow sandy side street and walked south on the wider rough-cut stone paved boulevard. The hot yet light Tatooine winds blew a light dusting of sand down the wide road in the early afternoon. She blended in with the thin noon crowds as she made her way towards the town square. The people were dressed similarly as she, with their faces heavily veiled deep within their hoods pulled over their heads.

    At the town square was an open air bazaar, with large triangular tarps suspended high overhead on very long poles or anchored with cables to the roof tops of multi-storied buildings, providing shade while not completely blocking out the sky’s light. The tarps’ arrangement also permitted the hot desert winds to breeze through so that the air would not become stagnant underneath. The crowds at the bazaar were markedly thicker.

    Vendors were calling to passersby to come sample their goods. Vendors and shoppers haggled over prices and argued over the quality of the goods being offered for sale. Laborers rushed to and fro carrying baskets, sacks, crates, and casks filled with all manner of goods and wares.

    Virulous pushed her way through the crowds and found herself in front of a low domed building with a wide entrance at the southern edge of the town square. Two Gamorrean guards armed with wood clubs stood guard at the entrance. When she attempted to enter, one of the guards grunted and squealed at her, blocking her path.

    She asked, “Is this Thieves’ Den?”

    The porcine guard towering over her, nearly twice her height, grunted and squealed at her again, this time shoving her away from the entrance. Virulous recovered from staggering back and rushed forward. Grabbing the Gamorrean by the arm, she used The Force to assist with flipping him over her shoulder, slamming him onto his back and knocking the wind out of him.

    Virulous turned to face the other guard, expecting him to attack. He was overcome with his porcine laughter at his partner’s easy defeat at the hands of what he mistook as a very tall Jawa. He waved her in, still laughing, slapping his knee and pointing at his comrade who struggled to regain his feet. She walked into the vestibule and found herself at the top of a stone staircase which she proceeded to descend. At the bottom of the stairs, in an anteroom, a Bith greeted her.

    In its mid-high pitched warbling voice, it said to her, “You are small. Are you also female?”

    Virulous, already on edge, replied testily, “So what if I am?”

    The Bith replied, “Only when the moon shines on both sides with the light of two suns is the darkness hidden within.”

    Virulous’ heart began to beat with a sudden surge of excitement. This was the pass phrase she was to listen for. This was Keeper’s asset.

    She replied, “Only fools can enjoy daylight with no night, work with no play, love with no hatred, and truth without deception.”

    The Bith told her, “Enjoy a drink at the central bar. It’s on the house.”

    Virulous became confused. She was sure that after reciting the counter phrase that she’d get the info she was after. Instead, she was directed to the bar to enjoy a drink. She began to worry she was being set up for betrayal.

    Beyond the anteroom and past a narrow passageway, at the entrance to the next room, Virulous swept her eyes across the not too dimly lit bar room looking for any signs of a trap or of betrayal. The place was seedy, stinking of stale ale and spilt liquor. However, nothing she saw with her eyes nor felt through The Force alerted her of foul play afoot.

    The patrons kept their voices low as they held their conversations. At one corner was a jukebox playing a song in a style she’d never heard before, but its slow paced, not so flashy and quiet style gave her the impression of it being an old fashioned song.

    As she started to make her way to the bar, she noticed the ratty rug on the hopelessly scuffed wood floor. Over the years, the sand abraded the worn wood floors as the patrons moved about in the bar room.

    She thought, “What a dingy hole in a wall!” Then reflecting that the bar was subterranean, she amended, “Well, hole in the ground.

    At the bar, Virulous called on the barkeep. He nodded her way indicating he’d be there when he finished serving another patron. Virulous pulled back her hood and peeled down her scarf. She looked up at a big bright monitor screen suspended on the wall above the shelves of various bottles of spirituous liquids.

    Virulous gave an ironic snort and chuckle at what she saw. Her face was displayed next to text, written in Galactic Standard Basic, indicating she was wanted for questioning in connection with two deaths at the spaceport. Several individuals of various species started to gather around her, laughing. Virulous, cursing under her breath, grabbed her sabrestaff from under her outer robe and placed it on the bar in front of her.

    In contrast to the rest of the establishment, the bar was somewhat brightly lit. Behind the bar, the mirror mounted on the wall, behind the shelves filled with bottles of spirits, gave her a chance to count how many were gathering behind her.

    Eight,” she thought to herself, her heart pounding in anticipation and fear of the coming confrontation.

    Recognizing the fear growing within her, Virulous sharply criticized herself, thinking, “I am the apprentice of Darth Nox, Dark Lord of The Sith! I cannot bring him shame!

    Some of the thugs quickly left the group upon seeing her weapon resting on the bar top before her.

    That she felt fear of these ordinary thugs angered her. She used her anger to fuel her power in The Force, and to fuel her hatred.

    Virulous made herself hate the thugs, whom she’d never met, thinking, “That leaves five fools to deal with.

    The barkeep approached, looking first at the monitor and then at her.

    He asked, laughing merrily, “What would you like to drink, Miss Wanted?”

    This angered her further. She realized they didn’t take her seriously, she was the butt of their joke, and the fools behind her laughed at the joke. They laughed at her.

    Her voice low and smooth, Virulous asked the barkeep, “What would happen if I were to kill those fools standing behind me? Will they stop laughing at me?”

    The fools laughed even harder, as the barkeep replied, “Order a drink, and I’ll answer you.”

    Virulous’ anger flared as the men around her began to crowd around her. Her face became creased with hatred as one of the thugs, a Kubaz, put his hand on her shoulder. He was in the middle of saying something when he suddenly staggered backwards and fell onto his back like a plank of wood – dead.

    The four remaining thugs became agitated and confused. They didn’t see her do anything, yet one of their buddies had just dropped dead in front of them.

    One of the thugs, an Ithorian, demanded in his bass guttural grunting language, “What have you done?!”

    Virulous didn’t move, but realization of what Virulous was had finally struck him, when he finally noticed her weapon on the bar in front of her. He mistakenly thought, “Jedi!” as he turned to flee, but he did not even take his third step, before he stumbled face forward onto his long, extended muzzle – dead.

    The remaining three thugs, still not understanding how their friends were falling dead, took no further chances. They began to draw their blaster pistols. However, before they could point their weapons at Virulous’ back, she had already grabbed and activated her sabrestaff and was already cutting the first thug down, before they could register that she had zipped past behind them and was attacking them from behind. She quickly cut the last two down, one right after the other.

    To the other patrons of Thieves’ Den, watching the commotion, it appeared as though she had flashed through the three of them, as though she were a ghost, with a bright red whirling and buzzing display that lasted for only an instant, before the three seemed to collapse to the floor together – dead.

    Virulous scanned the remaining patrons in the pub. The patrons effected not to notice anything amiss. They returned to their sabacc games and to their lewd laughter at their lewd stories. Virulous deactivated her sabrestaff and returned it to the bar top as she resumed her seat. She glared at the now visibly shaken barkeep.

    In the same low smooth tone she used before, she told him, “You have only one chance to remain among the living – only one chance.”

    The bartender, his lips quivering, gulped. Unable to speak, he merely nodded his head to show he was listening.

    Virulous told him, “I came here to meet with someone. That someone is supposed to give me some information. I want that someone here, now.”

    The barkeep nodded his head again, then turned to the shelves of bottled spirits behind him and pushed a button under one of the shelves. A few moments later, the Bith from before walked into the bar and stopped in his tracks, looking at the carnage on the pub’s floor. He shouted angrily, something unintelligible.

    Then rebuking his bartender and staff, in his mid-high pitched warbling voice, ordered, “And get this rubbish off of my floor! Look at my rug! My rug is stained!”

    Never mind that the rug was worn through in places to the rough, sand abraded, wood floor beneath the already filthy rug. The Bith turned his attention to Virulous. She looked as though she would kill him.

    The Bith said to her, “I am deeply sorry! My foolish staff could not follow directions to the floor if I shot them in the head!”

    Then he noticed that Virulous did not have a drink in her hand nor on the bar in front of her. He did see her weapon, however.

    He asked the barkeep, “Why isn’t my very special guest enjoying a drink?”

    The barkeep looked as though he would start weeping.

    The Bith asked, “Why has my very special guest not been served?” Then he demanded, “Explain this!”

    Virulous started to get the idea that the Bith was her contact, after all.

    The bartender pleaded, “Mr. Tranit…,” pointing above the shelves of bottled spirituous liquids, at the monitor on the wall which still displayed Virulous’ image, he explained, “I didn’t know that your very special guest was a bounty mark.”

    Pointing at the severed corpses on the floor, now being removed by the other staff, he added, “Those bounty hunters were all over her before I figured out that she was your very special guest. I’m so very...”

    Mr. Tranit barked, “Silence!” After a pause, he said, “Those apologies belong to my very special guest.”

    He nodded towards Virulous, indicating that the barkeep should apologize to her.

    The barkeep pleaded, “Ms. Very Special Guest, I am so very sorry for giving you such terrible customer service. How can I make it up to you?”

    Virulous wanted to be taken seriously. She wanted to make a deep impression on everyone in the pub, especially to the Bith.

    She asked herself, “What would Darth Nox do to show he wanted to be taken seriously?” She thought she knew the answer, and said aloud, “Give me your life.” After a short pause, she added, “That should make up for your poor service to me.”

    Mr. Tranit clapped his hands twice and waved one of them towards the bartender. Two goons came out of the wood works. They hopped over the bar and grabbed the poor barkeep, forcing him to his knees. One of the goons produced a compact blaster pistol and aimed it at the bartender’s head.

    Virulous shouted, “Wait!”

    The goons stopped.

    Virulous told the goons, “I said I want him to give me his life.”

    The goons looked at each other, and then at Mr. Tranit.

    Mr. Tranit asked, Virulous, “You want us to give him a blaster?”

    Virulous replied, “Yes, that or a knife.”

    Mr. Tranit waved his hand at his goons, nodding his approval.

    The barkeep pleaded, “NO! PLEASE!”

    He seemed to be struggling against himself as he reached for the pistol. The goons both stepped back as the barkeep begged and cried, all the while pointing the blaster pistol at his own temple.

    Virulous, her face twisted by hatred and fury, rasped at the barkeep, “This is for laughing at me!”

    The barkeep’s head burst into a cloud of vaporized blood, flesh and bone, while the bar sink suddenly had a hole blown into it with the remaining energy from the blaster bolt. The two goons’ eyes widened and their mouths fell agape as they looked alternately at the barkeep’s corps and at Virulous’ hate filled visage. Mr. Tranit watched in the reflection of the bar mirror, as the barkeep’s body slumped down and began pouring out its blood onto the floor from what was left of his head.

    Virulous turned to the Bith and quite plainly lied, telling him, “That just put me into a very good mood.”

    Her face showed nothing but fury and hatred, but she was also trying to control her breathing to hide how much this display had taken out of her. Her considerable efforts to control the barkeep, as he pointed the weapon at himself, taxed her enormously. However, to Mr. Tranit it looked as though she was readying herself to commit more of this terrible carnage.

    Unknown to Mr. Tranit, Virulous was at that moment greatly conflicted. She felt terrible revulsion for what she’d done. It was an exceptional act of cruelty that she’d perpetrated. However, the seductive power of the Dark Side had been increasing within her, and it frightened and excited her. She wanted more of this power, but she could see plainly that she was becoming a dark fiend because of it.

    Ever since she’d met Darth Nox, she found herself committing worse and worse atrocities. She worried about Dark Side corruption marring her appearance. Virulous was seeing a dermatologist to repair the remaining scars on her skin from Darth Nox’s lightning attack which had left so many electrical burns on her body.

    Mr. Tranit sat on the second bar stool over from Virulous and ordered one of the goons, “Fix me a drink, and one for my very special guest.” Turning to look over his shoulder, he declared, raising his voice to be heard, “The bar is closed. Come back tomorrow.”

    As the patrons obediently shuffled out of Thieves’ Den, Virulous warned Mr. Tranit, “I’m not in the mood to waste time on pleasantries. Just tell me where they are, so that I can complete my mission.”

    Mr. Tranit asked, “What name may I call you?”

    She answered, “Darth Virulous.”

    Mr. Tranit waited until the last of the patrons had left the room, taking a sip from the drink placed in front of him, before telling her, “Darth Virulous, I will be frank with you. I am a crime boss. I have built my little piece of the criminal empire known as The Exchange Gang.

    “I’m not one of those fools who thought they could anger a ruler of the Sith Empire and get away with it, but I am a leader, albeit a minor one, within this organization. When you complete your mission, a very large power vacuum will be left. There will be infighting for years to come while we sort ourselves out.”

    Virulous sighed impatiently and growled out, “Get to the point.”

    Mr. Tranit got to the point, telling her. “Not only do I want to survive this upheaval, but I want to emerge on top, or near the top actually. To that end, I have added a few extra targets to your list.”

    He lifted his hand, forestalling Virulous’ coming objections as he continued his pitch.

    “The target list is divided into two sections, your dark councilor’s targets and my targets. You will notice that my targets have numbers next to them. This is how much I will pay for each one you’ve eliminated.

    “Of course I will not ask you to do this extra work without proper compensation. Also, I am not expecting you to execute my part of the mission. I know you are here on Darth Nox’s behalf, and I don’t want to attract his attention.

    “You could get paid, by me, to do the extra work while pointing out to Darth Nox that you’ve killed a few extra along the way. You win twice, with money from me and recognition from your superior. What do say?”

    Virulous looked at the target list. There were three names on Darth Nox’s part of the list, and six names on Mr. Tranit’s part of the list. She realized that he meant to pay her two million four hundred thousand credits.

    She thought to herself, “Four hundred thousand for each one of these on his list. That’s over four times as much money that I have now, just for taking out one target!

    Virulous had spent several tens of thousands of credits on armor. She’d spent twenty thousand on her black with red accents armor, but Darth Nox had ruined it with his Force Lightning attack at the Citadel when he’d almost killed her. She spent thirty thousand on her new set of armor, but for this mission, she had on a different set of armor, and had spent eight thousand seven hundred on it.

    Virulous was left with just under ninety thousand credits in her financial account. Virulous had to reflect that she was poor. She knew that among Sith, modest means was a sign of weakness. She was strong in The Force. She served Darth Nox directly, meaning she had great influence and held a very high status, but she had no more wealth than an ordinary Imperial military officer.

    Virulous told Mr. Tranit, “Do not attempt to cheat me.”

    Mr. Tranit replied as though the thought had never occurred to him and that it surprised him that someone would think that of him.

    “What? Oh no! Of course not, Darth Virulous!” He pointed at the datapad with the list, and continued, “I do not wish to meet the same end those nine will meet at your hands. I will pay you promptly and properly.”

    Mr. Tranit tapped a few icons on the datapad’s screen, unlocking the contents and making it accessible to his very special guest. The locations of each target appeared, along with the floor plans of each target scene. He passed it back to Virulous.

    “All of the information you will need to accomplish your mission is here, Darth Virulous.”

    Virulous picked up the datapad and secured it in a compartment of her utility belt. She wrapped her face with her head scarf, pulled the hood of her sand colored robe over her head, and then stood to leave.

    Mr. Tranit spoke as though what he wanted to say might be irritating to her, “Darth Virulous, if I may point out a small detail?”

    Virulous was a hair from losing her patience, and snapped at the Bith, “What is it?!”

    He replied, “It may be of small consequence, but your robes are covered in blood. You might stand out a bit out there. Shall I have a new robe brought to you?”

    Virulous replied darkly, “These robes will be covered in much more blood before this day is done. I will return here. Have my money ready for me.”

    She walked out of the bar, making her way to the staircase going up to the surface and to the exit.

    Mr. Tranit clapped his hands twice and demanded, “Where is my management team? The accountant, too, I want her here.”

    Looking at the corps of his retired barkeep, and recalling how strange that she could force him to commit suicide, Mr. Tranit was determined to pay Virulous as promised. He saw no opportunities to get out of paying – as was his usual practice. He needed to hire a new bartender, and recruit new thugs to replace the ones he’d sent to test Virulous.

    Mr. Tranit, looking at the monitor screen above the bottled spirits on the shelves, thought, “Thank the Stars, she did not suspect I was behind this mess.

    Virulous’ image was still displayed, with the notice that she was wanted for questioning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  4. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Virulous, Unleashed.​


    Mr. Tranit’s six rivals worked together in two warehouses situated next to each other on a large parcel of land about five kilometers from the edge of town. Along with the two large structures were several small out buildings used as storage sheds for various materials, items, tools, and a small workshop. The structures in the compound were all surrounded by a four meter tall fence. The six rivals held their offices in the two warehouses.

    Virulous had decided to take them out, first. She used The Force to speed her way from behind a large rock to the fence, which she then leapt over. Landing on her feet, on the hard packed sand, she dashed to the nearest out building. Crouching low, she crept around the corner and surveyed the wide open huge warehouse entrance. She could see all the way through to the opposite end of the warehouse to its other wide open entrance.

    Virulous was surprised at the apparent lack of security, until she realized that the workers were all armed. Everyone packed a blaster pistol. Yet, everyone was working. None were paying close enough attention to their surroundings. Taking advantage of this, she zipped to the side of the warehouse, just around the corner from the main entrance.

    She used The Force to mask her presence, taking advantage of shadows, ducking behind crates, and hiding around corners, to finally arrive at the bottom of a staircase inside the first warehouse. She climbed up the two flights of stairs to reach the second level. According to Mr. Tranit’s information, that was where some of the administrative and business offices were located. Virulous expected to find some of her targets there.

    The second level offices were all located on one side of the warehouse with a catwalk giving access to the office doors. Virulous looked down at the workers through the bars of the guardrail at the edge of the catwalk. When she was satisfied that none of the workers below were any of her marks, she turned her attention to the catwalk and the office doors alongside it.

    The first door Virulous came to was opened. She walked by it quickly, looking inside as she passed. It was a small conference room with a round table and a few chairs around it. Three men were inside, seated at the table, holding a meeting. She instantly recognized two of the men from the images in Mr. Tranit’s datapad. The third man had his back to the door, so she could not identify him.

    Virulous stopped at the side of the door and prepared herself. She chose to arm herself with her chrome plated lightsaber. It was a gift from her previous master, Darth Silthar. She closed her eyes and took in a breath.

    Virulous exhaled. Rounding the door frame, she rushed into the room igniting her lightsaber. She decapitated the man with his back to the door, as she leaped onto the conference table, piercing the chest of the man sitting at the table to her right with her weapon, while blasting the third man on her left with a bolt of Force Lightning. His chair tipped backwards as though he’d been knocked back. Virulous quietly got down from the table and pierced his chest with her bright red lightsaber as he lay on the floor shaking uncontrollably from the electrical shock.

    It was over very quickly, and quiet had returned to the conference room when she deactivated her weapon. Virulous looked at the face on the decapitated head on the floor and determined that the man who’d had his back to the door was indeed on her target list. She then quietly made her way to the doorway, edging closer to the door frame so that she could peek outside the room. It seemed no one on the warehouse floor below had heard her lightsaber nor the crack of her Force Lightning bolt.

    She thought excitedly to herself, “That’s a million two hundred thousand credits, already!” Then she thought angrily, “That blasted Mr. Tranit had better not try to cheat me! He’d better pay!

    Although no one on the warehouse floor seemed to have noticed the commotion, the door to the office next door made a noise as it opened, and the sound of someone approaching from that door towards the conference room made Virulous’ heart leap. By the sounds the shoes made, she determined that it was a woman that approached.

    The woman called out, as she neared the conference room door, concern in her tone, “What’s all the racket, boys? You rough housing in there?”

    Just as the woman stood at the threshold, Virulous pivoted from the side of the doorway and, reaching up, grabbed the taller woman’s throat. Using The Force to assist, she yanked her into the room while crushing the woman’s larynx, again using The Force.

    The woman crashed onto the body of one of the dead men on the floor. Unable to scream, she flailed her arms and legs, pounding and kicking the floor with the heels of her feet and with her balled up fists when she wasn’t clutching at her collapsed trachea. Virulous became alarmed at all of the noise the woman was making, fearing anyone working in the warehouse below the office floor would hear.

    She used a Dark Force technique that severed the woman’s mind from her body. The woman lay still, with her arms and legs left in odd angles. The Sith lord quickly turned her attention to the doorway as she inched her way to the door frame.

    Virulous was too busy trying to determine whether anyone had heard the racket the woman had made to notice the fury in the woman’s eyes drilling through her back as she peeked outside the door. She was too overcome with worry, whether anyone else was approaching, to notice the woman’s tears as she slowly faded away. The woman watched as the hooded stranger left the conference room. She suffocated, passed out, and died shortly thereafter.

    Virulous walked down the catwalk to the office from which the woman had emerged. There was no one else there. She searched each office until she’d reached the last one. They were all empty of office workers. Virulous looked down at the warehouse floor, giving the warehouse workers another look as she searched for her next target.

    She saw no one else on her target list and thought, “Maybe they’re in the next warehouse.”She used The Force to ease her descent, as she jumped down to the dusty resicrete floor below. She spun about and found a couple of stacks of crates behind her underneath the catwalk and the offices above. She quickly ducked between the crates. After ensuring the area was clear, she made her way to the wide open warehouse door at the opposite end of the building from where she’d entered. Exiting the first warehouse, she made her way to the other structure, using The Force to quickly dash to the next building.

    Virulous stopped just at the edge of the large open doorway of the second warehouse. Using The Force, she sensed the interior for anyone near the entryway. Sensing no conscious being nearby, she button hooked her way into the warehouse and tripped over the legs of a worker who was taking a nap, seated just inside the entryway.

    The worker was startled awake, giving a short yelp. Virulous scrambled to her hands and knees and hurriedly crawled to the angrily protesting worker. She placed her hand on his shoulder and used the technique she’d learned from Darth Zash. However, in her haste, she failed to execute the technique properly.

    The worker howled quite loudly in pain, but very briefly. He slumped down to his side, moaning in agony. After her attack, he was too weak to move about or to call for help, but his initial cry of pain had caught the ears of others in the warehouse.

    Angry at her failure to keep silent, she simply zapped him with Force Lightning, ending his misery forever. Virulous, crouching, ran towards the stairs leading to the catwalk and second level offices in the second warehouse.

    As she made her way up the stairs, she heard the voices of men and women shouting in alarm from outside the warehouse. Just as Virulous reached the top of the stairs, someone shouted for help where she’d left the worker at the warehouse entrance. Some of the office doors opened, with worried office workers stepping out to look down at the warehouse floor as they looked for the source of the commotion.

    One of those office workers was her mark. As luck would have it, he was at the far end of the catwalk. Virulous decided the time for subtlety was past. It was time for brute power.

    Virulous grasped her sabrestaff and ignited both ends of it. She ran down the catwalk, cutting everyone down that she passed on her way to her target.

    He took out a blaster pistol and began shooting at Virulous. She deflected some of the blaster bolts with her sabrestaff, and took an opportunity to activate her shield generator during a pause between blaster bolt shots. The man turned and ran to the far end of the catwalk towards the stairs at the other end. Virulous blasted him with a bolt of Force Lightning.

    She ran to where he’d fallen on his face. He was trying to crawl away. Workers on the warehouse floor began to shoot at her from below. She wasted no time, impaling him through his spine to pierce his heart.

    Virulous ran back the way she’d come and entered his office, shutting the door behind her. The angry shouts in the warehouse had increased, along with the screams of shock and grief, as the friends of the dead came across their severed corpses on the catwalk.

    Virulous deactivated her sabrestaff, securing it to her belt. She turned around as she switched to her lightsaber and froze momentarily in her tracks as she made eye contact with a woman, sitting at her desk, also frozen in fear.

    Virulous quickly realized the woman was not on her target list.

    She demanded of the woman, “Where is your blaster?!”

    The woman, hearing her Imperial accented Basic, realized the attacker in her office was not a Jedi, but one of the dreaded Sith.

    Her lips quivering, and tears pouring from her eyes, she pointed a very shaky finger on an unsteady hand towards the wall opposite from her desk. The woman choked back a sob, not knowing what her fate would be.

    Virulous turned her gaze to the wall and saw, hanging from a hook on the wall, a utility belt with a small holster containing a compact blaster pistol.

    Virulous, deciding the woman was not a threat, told her, “The Stars favor you today. I will spare you so that you may live to tell the story of how you survived being in the presence of a rampaging Sith lord seeking vengeance in the name of Darth Nox.”

    She laughed at her own silly declaration as she proceeded to make her way to the office window. Using The Force to force it open, Virulous leapt out through the window and landed on the sandy ground, two stories below.

    Using The Force, Virulous ran as fast as she could towards the tall fence that marked the edge of their property.

    Leaping over the fence she continued to make her escape, thinking excitedly to herself as she ran, “One million six hundred thousand credits! Easy!” Then fearing being cheated, she fumed angrily, “He’d better pay!” Finally, introspectively as she critiqued her own performance, she thought aloud, “Four out of six isn’t bad.

    In her excitement, she’d forgotten the eight she’d killed to get at those four.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    It was early evening. One of Tatooine’s suns had set. The temperature had dropped considerably, making the environment much more tolerable.

    Virulous had ridden her stolen speeder bike to a ranch a hundred and twenty kilometers outside of town. She climbed up a moisture vaporator tower and used her, also stolen, macrobinoculars to scan the low domes and out buildings that made up the entrance to the subterranean home of one of the leaders of the Exchange Gang on Tatooine. Armed guards were posted sparsely on the surface of the estate.

    Virulous was glad to have taken a bath and change her clothing. The stink of her blood soaked robes was attracting too many flying insect pests and was starting to become unbearable. She’d broken into the home of a vaporator farm house, Force Persuading the family into letting her bathe, supply her with fresh clothing, and feed her.

    She lifted the macrobinoculars from a work bench and stole the speeder bike from their workshop as she left. It wouldn’t be until the father of the household had reviewed the security footage with his family a day later, that they would recall what had happened to them the day before.

    Virulous wanted to execute the final stage of her mission in the dead of night. She’d become excited that the teenaged daughter had black robes in her wardrobe and availed herself of them. Wanting to blend into the darkness of night, she sought to avoid light colored clothing. Of course, she ended up regretting leaving the farmhouse with the twin suns still up. It was decidedly much hotter in black robes than her light colored clothing had been.

    Virulous looked forward to Tatooine’s second star to set and to dip below the horizon. The teenager had told her that the temperatures could drop to an astoundingly cold 29 degrees Celsius after the second sun had set and, that in the wee hours, the temperature could bottom out to an unbearably freezing 24 degrees Celsius.

    She laughed as she thought, “I look forward to the freezing temperatures.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Eight hours after the second star had set, in the wee hours of the morning, Virulous luxuriated in the balmy weather of Tatooine’s early morning hours. She looked through the crystal clear dry air at the early morning sky which dimly lit up the sands with its multitude of stars.

    Using The Force to mask her presence, she approached the villa, crouching low and ducking behind the vaporators that dotted the landscape around the villa. She dashed to a parked speeder, unnaturally fast, then crept around it until she caught sight of a sentry who stood guard at a side entrance of one of the low domes, which she believed led to stairs which descended to the subterranean villa.

    Virulous concentrated, focusing her thoughts, her force of will, and the power of The Force to cause the sentry to become struck by unrelenting drowsiness. The sentry began to shake his head. He stomped his feet, pacing to and fro. He sat at the side of the door jerking his head back up, each time he nodded off. Finally, he gave in and simply lay on his side and went to sleep.

    This was the first time she had ever attempted this Force Persuasion variant. So, she took out her datapad and whispered in her notes, describing what she’d done, how she’d done it, and the successful results of her impromptu experiment.

    Virulous returned her datapad to its place in her utility belt and then crept silently to the sleeping guard. She inspected the door mechanism and fount it required a palm print to release the locks on the door controls. She was overcome with incredulity, knowing the effort she’d expended to remain silent was wasted. This time, she wanted to try NOT leaving a trail of murder and mayhem in her wake like she’d done at the other two homes of the Exchange Gang leaders her master had ordered killed.

    Virulous crouched beside the sleeping man. Pointing her lightsaber hilt at the forehead of the sleeping guard’s head, she activated her weapon, instantly killing him. Immediately after, she severed his hand, just above his wrist, and deactivated her weapon.

    Her eyes had been adjusted to the dark, so the bright red beam of her lightsaber left glowing spots in her eyes.

    Virulous thought in extreme annoyance, “If it’s not one damned thing, then it’s another!

    She felt revulsion as she picked up the severed hand, careful not to touch the bloody end where the wrist would have been. It was still warm in her hand. She had to straighten out the fingers to get it to lay flat on the palm reader.

    The panel lit up, with a touch pad grid displayed on the palm reader screen. Virulous became deeply annoyed at the palm reader, pointing accusingly at it. She tossed the severed hand behind her over her shoulder. Shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders in frustration, she kicked at the sandy ground.

    Virulous fumed, muttering under her breath, “I have to enter a damned code, too!?

    She thought about all of the trouble she had gone through to silently enter the villa. Unlike other homes in Tatooine’s rural desert homes with the sunken open pit courtyard, this home was completely subterranean. Only the low resicrete domes, which were the entrances showed above the sands of the vast flat desert landscape.

    Virulous sighed and said aloud to herself, “So much for a stealthy infiltration.”

    She ignited her lightsaber and began to cut into the durasteel door. She was surprised with how thin the metal was. The bright red beam easily plunged into the door and made quick work of the thin half inch plate metal door.

    Virulous used The Force to yank the wreckage of the door out of the dome and tossed it behind her. She wasted no time entering the dome. Then quickly, but cautiously, she descended the stairs into the home of the third and final Exchange Gang boss involved in the bombing attack of Darth Nox’s home on Dromund Kaas.

    She reached her hand to the inner door controls at the bottom of the stairs and froze. Her instincts screamed out at her to get out.

    Virulous turned and ran up the stairs, thinking, “All of the noise I made getting in and no alarms?!

    Just as she reached the top of the stairs, the door below her was blown apart by a powerful explosive. The blast wave blew her out of the doorway at the top of the stairs and sent her flying, tumbling into the air. Virulous used The Force to propel herself further out and away from the compound. It was all she could do to escape the ambush set for her.

    The concussive force of the blast wave nearly knocked all the wind out of her. Virulous barely thought enough to roll as she crashed onto the top of a small dune of loose sand. She groaned in pain as she rolled to a stop on her side.

    She reached to her utility belt and struggled to get out a kolto injector. She jabbed her thigh with it – twice, administering two doses.

    I’ve got to run,” she thought to herself.

    She knew the security forces had to be searching for her. She didn’t wait for the kolto to start numbing the pain.

    Get up, woman!” She growled at herself.

    Virulous used The Force to help pick herself up. Then she began to limp and stumble her way away from the villa, and into the open desert.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  5. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Just A Little Misunderstanding​


    Andronikos had checked out of his upscale hotel suite and hired a taxi droid to take him to the private hanger where his ship was berthed. He had talked himself out of hiring bodyguards.

    Andronikos thought disgustedly at himself, "What am I, a blasted amateur?! I just got to wake my ass up and start payin' attention again!" Still rankled about how close he was to getting killed, he thought furiously, "She's dead! I don't care if the boss likes her. I'm taking her out!"

    Andronikos thought about hiring the Mandalorian team he'd used to help him loot the Arcanum during Darth Nox's invasion and occupation of the station.

    "Those mercs were pretty good, but I wonder how they’ll stack up against her team? Her team wasn’t too shabby, without being in your face about being good." He thought about her accomplishments. “She took out the Republic’s chancellor, and she took out a Sith on Korriban.” He considered, "I might have to hire a bigger team."

    Andronikos' taxi droid came to a stop. He scanned his credit card on the card reader and paid his fare, leaving a nice tip for the taxi droid.

    The taxi thanked him, “I thank you for your generosity, favored passenger!”

    Andronikos didn’t reply as he exited the taxi.

    The taxi droid’s trunk lid opened. A robotic arm unloaded Andronikos’ suitcase from its trunk and set it down onto the metal plated roadway.

    Andronikos told his suitcase droid, "Let's go."

    As he walked into the spaceport concourse, his suitcase droid followed him. Andronikos walked to the launch office and stepped to the counter.

    He called to a clerk, "Hey, there! I'm going to launch. I'm requesting a launch slot - the soonest."

    The clerk told Andronikos, "Sure. Just make your request to the droid like everyone else does."

    That irritated the semi retired pirate. He smiled at the clerk and motioned with his hand to get closer. The clerk had heard it all, every excuse given by pilots requesting immediate or near immediate launch slots.

    The clerk leaned on the counter to get closer to Andronikos. He was curious to hear what excuse Andronikos would use.

    Andronikos' smile vanished, replaced with a scowl. Also appearing, as if by magic, was a blaster pistol barrel – centimeters from the clerk's nose.

    Andronikos told the clerk, "You see, my boss is a dark lord on the Dark Council over at the Sith Empire. And he wants his ship, now." Andronikos asked, "You follow me?"

    The clerk was visibly shaken, but he kept his cool and replied honestly, telling the pirate, "I was born and raised on Nar Shaddaa. I don't know any of that stuff."

    Andronikos replied, "Well, O.K. I'll keep it simple for you. I'll let you pick. Yeah?"

    The clerk nodded agreement.

    Andronikos offered his first choice, telling the clerk, "One, I can blast your face all over the counter, here, walk to my ship and just take off. Or you can get me the next launch slot, and keep your head." After letting the clerk think it over a bit, he asked, "So, what'll it be?"

    The clerk told Andronikos, "I have to make a few calls to make it happen."

    Andronikos holstered his blaster pistol, smiling and telling the clerk, "You see? I knew we could work things out. My ship's berthed in hanger 127, partition Cresh (127-C)."

    The clerk walked to his desk in his office and contacted the launch facilities security chief.

    He told the security chief, as soon as his image came up, "I've got this crazy nut case in my lobby pointing blasters in my face and demanding an immediate launch slot! His ship is berthed in hanger 127, section Cresh."

    The security chief tapped in the registration info into his computer. His brow furrowed.

    Then returning his attention to the clerk, he asked, "Did you look up what ship it is and who the owner of that ship is?"

    The clerk became quite irritated and demanded, "What does that matter?!" Then he added, "The blasted pile of turds pointed a blaster at my face! What are you gonna do about that?!"

    The security chief quietly regarded the clerk before confirming, "So, you didn't check?"

    To the shock and dismay of the launch scheduling clerk, the security chief said, "I strongly recommend you let this slide. Just give him the next launch slot and bump everyone down one slot."

    Anywhere else, anyone in the clerk's shoes would have been outraged, but this wasn't anywhere else. This was Nar Shaddaa.

    The clerk asked, "How important is he?"

    The security chief told him, "His boss could start a war here, if he wanted. He's one of the rulers of the Sith Empire."

    In fact, the Sith Empire had already established a presence on the Smuggler's Moon, Nar Shaddaa, and on the planet this moon orbited, Hutta. The Hutts were forced to invite the Galactic Republic to Nar Shaddaa and on Hutta as well, in order to keep the Sith Empire in check. The Hutts carefully maintained their neutrality and carefully played the Sith Empire against the Galactic Republic.

    Neither side wanted to push the Hutts over to the side of their enemy, so both sides waged a quiet war against the other, sabotage, assassinations, blackmail, and bribery, everything except open combat. The Hutts turned a blind eye to all of it, accepting the bribes of both opposing parties.

    The launch schedule clerk walked back to the counter, approaching Andronikos with a big customer service smile on his face. He handed the semi retired pirate an envelope containing gift certificates for gambling tokens at one of Nar Shaddaa’s most exclusive hotel casinos and one night’s stay at said, hotel casino.

    He told Andronikos, “I sincerely hope your stay on our moon was both fruitful and most enjoyable. Please, return again, and enjoy this gift on your next visit.”

    Andronikos, peeking in the blank envelope raised an eyebrow in appreciation of what he saw inside, exclaiming, “Whoa! Nice!” Then, looking at the clerk with a smile of his own, he pocketed the envelope and asked, “When can I launch?”

    The clerk, giving his best customer service smile, replied, “Mr. Revel, you’re cleared to launch at any time. Please, fly safely.”

    Andronikos left a nice fat tip on the counter, telling the clerk, “Now that’s what I call service! Thanks!”

    The semi retired pirate turned and left the office on his way to his hanger and his ship.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Andronikos’ ship was at the far end of the hanger, just over a mile away. He had to walk past two other ships to get to it. His suitcase droid followed behind him.

    The first ship he walked past was quiet and still, the crew apparently not on board. As he approached the next ship, he could see plenty of activity in and behind it. Freight was being driven up onto its over sized ramp, which Andronikos could tell also served as the ship’s rear hatch.

    A design like that could allow for oversized freight to be loaded into light freighters with huge cargo bays, but if not properly maintained could let the ship’s atmosphere seep out.

    The ship had no landing gear. Instead it had four very sturdy hard points that protruded as shallow, wide, conical mounds on the belly of the ship’s outer hull. The ship’s belly was only centimeters from the hanger deck, allowing for a shallower ramp that made it easy to load heavy cargo into the cavernous cargo bay. With its belly so close to the hanger deck, and no landing gear, it meant that the cargo bay could be cavernous.

    This also meant a tremendous savings in weight, as well as space, since the ship had no landing gear, no related landing gear machinery, and no tanks full of hydraulic fluids to operate said landing gear. Finally, the ship’s three huge engines were externally mounted on swiveling and pivoting engine mounts. Although, one of the engines tucked itself into the bottom of the ship’s hull when landing, the other two remained outside of the ship’s hull at all times. This design is what really opened up the ship’s interior for huge cargo capacities, despite its small external size.

    Andronikos walked about fifty meters from the bottom of the ramp, behind the three story tall light freighter, getting a real good look at the huge brightly lit interior. One of the crew had just started down the wide ramp and froze in her tracks. Andronikos slowed to a halt, in utter surprise.

    He thought incredulously, “I can’t believe it! It’s actually her!

    The Chiss bounty hunter had changed out of her skimpy dress, and into her heavy Mandalorian armor. She didn’t wear her helmet, so Andronikos could see her face and her hair, quite clearly. It was her.

    Damn! She’s hot!” Shaking his head, he reminded himself, “Too bad I want her dead.

    Before he could take a step towards her ship, the bounty hunter walked briskly down the ramp and made her way to where he had come to a stop, behind her ship.

    Coming to a stop about five meters from where he stood, Wrehn told him, “I wish I’d never seen your bounty. If I had known you worked for him, I never would have gone near you.”

    Andronikos gave a sly smile and asked, “Are you saying you’re sorry?”

    Wrehn laughed mirthlessly, replying, “Sorry? It’s just work. I’m never sorry when I get paid for my work. I sure get pissed when I’m shorted out on my pay, though.” Laughing ruefully, she added, “I’m a pro. I don’t let anything bother me…,” then with feeling, “but this job was the worst!”

    Her ironic smile vanished, replaced with a furious scowl.

    She told him, “I’ve never had to turn and run from anyone – ever. But I had to run from you.”

    Andronikos was perplexed by her demeanor and remarked, “Damn! For someone who’s a pro and all of that, and who don’t take crap personally, you sure seem to be making it a big personal deal.”

    Wrehn declared forcefully, “I am Mandalorian! I have a reputation that I’ve made, and that am proud of, and that I need to protect.” Then she contradicted herself when she told him, “I want you to know that I didn’t run from you. Your bounty was rescinded, and there wasn’t a need to hunt you anymore. That’s all.”

    Andronikos teased, “My boss had a lot to do with you not needing to hunt me, too. Don’t forget.”

    He said that, implying that she had run from Nox.

    Wrehn replied snarkily, “Yes. Thanks for reminding me that your boss saved your hide.”

    That stung Andronikos. It was true. He’d be dead if Darth Nox hadn’t intervened. It hurt his pride that he had to be protected. However, unlike the Mandalorian bounty hunter, Yehw’reh’nomai, he didn’t wear his emotions pinned to the collar of his coat for all to see – if it didn’t suit him.

    He merely smiled, telling her, “Can I help it that I have friends in high places?”

    Wrehn told him pointedly, “My crew laughed at me, Andronikos. I can’t let it stand, even if it pisses off Darth Nox.”

    She watched as Andronikos’ mocking smile waned.

    Good,” Wrehn thought, “I got his attention.

    Wrehn began stepping to one side and began creating distance between them, as she told him, “I know all about you. I make it a point to study my bounties, to plan my hunts.”

    Andronikos kept silent but his hand was down at his side. Under his coat, strapped to his thigh was his primary blaster pistol. His hand twitched, and he mentally kicked himself for it.

    Wrehn saw his hand twitch and noticed the strap around his thigh, partially exposed under his opened long leather coat.

    She thought, “Good. He’s packing heat.

    Wrehn told him, “I know you want to kill me. You have this thing about not resting until someone you want dead – is dead. And I can’t let my crew keep cracking jokes about me running away from a hunt.”

    Andronikos noticed that her crew was all watching quietly from within the ship’s cargo hold and none of them had their guns out.

    The situation hit him and he blurted out with stupefied incredulity, “Are you challenging me to a duel?!”

    Wrehn stopped when she was about ten meters from where Andronikos stood.

    She answered plainly, “Yeah.”

    Andronikos laughed as though it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, slapping his thigh as he bent over laughing. His hand snapped to his blaster pistol. He drew, pointed, and shot.

    Wrehn threw herself, rolling to the side as she drew both of her blaster pistols. She ended up on a knee, both pistols aimed at the pirate. He ran to the side and fired another shot, as Wrehn began unloading both blasters at him.

    A blaster bolt crossed in front of Wrehn. Instinctively, she activated her jet pack and shot up into the air as she twisted to face Andronikos’ suitcase droid. Wrehn rained down a storm of blaster fire from both over powered weapons, striking the droid a few times.

    As she descended to the landing pad, she fired off a mini guided rocket from her personal mini rocket launcher attached to her right armored vambrace. As soon as the rocket left her vambrace launcher, she rolled to one side and turned towards the last place she had seen Andronikos.

    Andronikos had been shooting at her, but his shots missed because of how much Wrehn kept moving, rolling to the side, and then shooting up into the air. He found an opening when she turned her attention to his droid. He ran up behind her to close the distance, but she had already descended and threw herself into another roll.

    As the suitcase droid skidded across the launch pad, after getting blasted by the guided mini rocket, the Mandalorian bounty hunter rolled and turned to face him. She pointed her other arm at him as he fired repeatedly at her. Some shots missed, but those that hit were negated by her personal high energy shield generator.

    Wrehn’s blasters had over heated and temporarily shut down as CO2 cartridges vented cooling gas through the blasters’ energy bolt generators. She pointed her left arm at the pirate and blasted him with her portable one shot flame thrower.

    Andronikos turned and ran to the side as he ripped off his coat, throwing it to the launch pad. He dropped his blaster pistol as he removed his burning duster. He drew a vibroknife from his belt at the small of his back and activating the knife, charged at Wrehn in the attack while also shooting his concealable back up pistol attached to a special holster strapped to his wrist.

    Wrehn’s pistols both chirped, indicating they had cooled sufficiently to resume operation in single shot mode. She pointed her right hand blaster pistol at the pirate and shot.

    Andronikos fell, screaming in agony. He’d been shot on the thigh. His leg was nearly severed and had terrible burns.

    Wrehn ran to where he’d fallen and stepped on his right arm. Then she ripped his mini blaster pistol from his hand and tossed it to the side. She then kicked the vibroknife, which he’d dropped as he fell to the launch pad, out of his reach.

    The knife clattered away. It continued to give its high pitched hum where it had come to a rest. She holstered her weapons, and taking a kolto injector form a utility compartment on her belt, she administered four doses to him.

    Andronikos’ screams and vile cursing subsided as the kolto mercifully deadened the pain. He felt absolutely woozy from the massive dose of the pain killers.

    He smirked and spoke ironically, “Thanks for the pain killers. Though I suppose it’s the least you could do after you shot my leg off.”

    Wrehn replied, “My honor is restored. I don’t have to kill you, but I am going to kill you anyway.”

    She drew her right blaster and pointed it at his face.

    When Andronikos stopped smirking, Wrehn added, “I don’t have to anger your boss. I’d be happy with letting you go, but only if you swear not to come after me and my crew. If I even think you sent anyone after us, I’m gonna hunt you down and finish where I left off.”

    Andronikos spoke bitterly, reminding her, “Or you could cash in on the price the Republic has for my head.”

    Wrehn kept her blaster pointed at Andronikos’ face and shaking her head in the negative, reminded him, “They ain’t gonna pay us. They put a price on our heads, bigger than the one on yours, and I don’t do charity work. I want to get paid for every job I do.”

    Andronikos laughed at himself for a thought that ran through his mind.

    He told Wrehn, “I told you that I had a thing for cute tough chicks.” After a pause, he told her, “Right now you’re so damned hot!” After a very brief pause, he added, “I’d invite you to my ship if we weren’t trying to kill each other.”

    He laughed, but Wrehn stuck to business, telling him, “Do I have your word, or do I have to deal with your boss for smearing your head all over the launch deck?”

    Andronikos reflected, “Damn! She killed the Republic’s chancellor and has the whole Galactic Republic after ‘em. She ain’t really that worried about what Nox, would think.

    He told her grudgingly, his pride nearly getting in the way, “Fine. I’ll forget about you. I won’t send anyone after you, either.”

    Wrehn instantly holstered her blaster and began to walk to her ship. Andronikos called to her, and Wrehn stopped, turning to face him.

    Wearing a lopsided grin, partly from the effects of the high dose of kolto and partly because he know he was being silly, he asked her, “If we ever meet again, have dinner and a few drinks with me, yeah?”

    Wrehn burst into laughter. She enjoyed a moment of real humor at his absurd dinner invitation. She turned again to return to the ship.

    Andronikos persisted, “You really are my type, babe. You’re beautiful, strong, and not afraid of anything.”

    Wrehn turned to give him a smile, but said nothing as she resumed her march back to her ship.

    She thought to herself, as she walked up the ramp at the back of her freighter, “I really hope I don’t ever run into him again.” Shaking her head, smiling at the surreality of the moment, “What?! Did he forget that I shot his leg almost clean off?!

    Watching as she ascended the ramp, with a fleeting sliver of hope, Andronikos thought, “She didn’t say no…

    When Wrehn had gone out of view, he looked about wondering, “How am I gonna get back to my ship?” Then he thought, “Back to the ship?! What the hell am I gonna do about my leg?!” Then with realization hitting him, “Blast! I’m bleeding out!

    That’s when he spotted the security team approaching him where he lay.

    The security team leader, approaching the pirate where he lay, asked, “What happened here?” Without waiting for an answer, he told one of his security crew, “Get medical rescue here – now, quick.”

    Returning his attention to Andronikos, he listened to Andronikos explain, “I was doing tricks with my blaster and accidentally shot off my leg.”

    The security team leader had been looking around at the blaster scorch marks on the launch deck, Andronikos’ burned up leather duster in a heap, nearby, and at his singed clothing and hair, and then at the destroyed suitcase droid some meters away.

    He asked Andronikos, “So, you don’t want us to arrest her?”

    He and his team had actually been waiting for the duel to end before approaching. They’d witnessed much of the fight, starting from when Wrehn blasted her opponent’s suitcase droid with her guided mini rocket. Andronikos didn’t want Yehw’reh’nomai thinking that he’d broken his word and sent the security team after her.

    He told the security team leader, “It was just a little misunderstanding, nothing to sweat over.”

    After verifying that a medical rescue team was on its way, the security team leader walked to the back of Wrehn’s freighter. Wrehn was on the ramp leaning against a crate, which was to be brought into the ship, with her arms folded across her chest. She wore a dour expression as she watched the security official approach.

    The security team leader fixed Wrehn with an appraising look as he neared the ramp, and thought to himself, “She’s still pretty worked up. I better be careful how I talk to her.” Coming to a stop halfway up the ramp, he jerked a thumb over his shoulder pointing at Andronikos and asked her, “So, what was all that about?”

    Wrehn started with the truth, but then concluded with a lie, telling him, “I’m Mandalorian. He said he wanted me to be his mate. I told him if he defeats me, he could have me.” Briefly pointing at the defeated pirate, she concluded, “He was not worthy.”

    The team leader, fighting hard not to laugh in her face at the obvious lie, nodded his head as though he totally got where she was coming from.

    He accepted her lie, saying, “Alright then.” Then he asked, “I’m not gonna get anymore calls about defeated suitors, am I?”

    Wrehn told him, “Not many are foolish enough to court a Mando woman without being prepared.”

    The security team leader stifled a chortle and quickly wiped the smirk from his face, as he told her, “No more trouble, please.”

    With that, he turned about and made his way back to his waiting team and Andronikos, just as the medical rescue team arrived to save Andronikos’ life. As he came to a stop to where his team stood around watching the medical rescue team work, they began to load Andronikos onto a hover gurney, and then into the emergency medical rescue transport speeder. The emergency medical rescue transport speeder dashed off to the nearest emergency medical center, several stories below in the building they were in.

    Torian Cadera, a Mandalorian male, asked Wrehn, “You sure it was wise to let him live?”

    Wrehn spun on Torian, snarling at him, “Get your sorry ass back to work!”

    Without another word, he returned to his inventory task. The others in the cargo hold didn’t want to be similarly scolded or harangued, so they dispersed, making themselves scarce.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  6. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    I'm going to assume that first piece, was a story, in and off itself.

    Very good and enticing read.

    Am I right in thinking that everyone except the Mando', got named?

    Good tactics and flirtation; nice twists - I understood the Chiss' gal's reluctance to board a pirate's ship, but was surprised to see she had a kill squad outside!

    I liked that they could monitor her stress levels, and deploy covertly inside the club to assist.

    Andronikus has quite the poker face. People saw murder in his eyes, but when we had his POV, that wasn't what was present.

    Darth Nox' concern for his underling was touching, and that was some good reputation-building for Wrehn and Nox.

    Overall, a good story.
     
    PlanetSmasher likes this.
  7. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Thank you very much for your review! I'm glad that you liked it! Except that, this is Chapter 1 of the sequel to "Sith Politics: Fun and Games."

    You will see more of Wrehn, Andronikos and company. I hope I will keep your attention for the remaining chapters.
     
  8. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Warning: Graphically descriptive violence, and very disturbing scenes, in this chapter. I hope that doesn't stop you from reading the rest of this story, however... As always, your thoughts are very appreciated.

    _________________________________________________________________________​

    What Gifts To Please A Dark Lord​


    Virulous Force Persuaded another moisture farm family to take her in and to help treat her burns and other injuries. She’d spent a month with them, recovering. On the day she left, she repaid their kindness with four thousand credits – Imperial.

    The family was happy she had recovered, and extremely happy she had repaid their kindness, even if it was with Imperial credits. They saw her off, waving at her as she rode away on her stolen speeder bike. They didn’t know the speeder was stolen, even though it was reported on the local news broadcasts with images of the speeder bike in question. The fact that Virulous was a very small human female, and that a very small human female was sought in connection with several murders, never even clicked.

    It never occurred to them to ask where she had come from, or why she was on Tatooine, considering her Imperial accent. Neither did they make the connection with their own deteriorating health and her remarkably quick recovery. However, now that she was gone, their health would also begin to make a recovery, and over the course of a few days they would start to ask questions of each other about her and about why they were so trusting of her.

    Thus, reprovisioned and partially recovered, Virulous made a second attempt at her final target. This time, she arrived at the Exchange Gang’s leader’s residence at Tatooine’s second star’s apogee in the sky above. The first star was already at its mid afternoon position in the sky. It was very hot. It was so hot that not even the droids had been permitted outside to conduct their routine maintenance activities.

    Back at the family’s moisture farm, the wife and two of their four daughters had made new robes for Virulous to wear. These were off white. That saved her from some of the heat produced by the twin stars. She was grateful for the new robes.

    Virulous hadn’t realized how badly damaged her black robes had been until one of the farmer’s three sons pointed it out and suggested the girls make her some new clothes. Her robes were badly burned. Many holes were torn into them as shrapnel from the exploding durasteel door shredded their way through them.

    Virulous surmised that her life had likely been saved by her body armor even though she used light duty, flexible armor. She still suffered from many cuts on her skin where her armor protected her, but the armor had prevented the shrapnel from penetrating deep into her body. She still had a few lacerations on the unprotected parts of her arms and legs but, luckily, those were not life threatening.

    Her sorrow and fury came, however, from the extensive burns she suffered on her face and head, her beautiful long black hair was badly singed, exposing parts of her heat blistered scalp. Virulous lamented that she’d lost her beauty. She felt she was now a monstrosity, a pitiable woman who would never be able to find love.

    Instead of weeping and mourning her loss, however, she seethed in hatred, fury, and an ever growing thirst for vengeance. The Dark Side of The Force had strengthened its grip on Virulous. Her Dark Side power grew with her grief and her fury. Virulous was also terribly miserable in the oppressive heat of the Tatooine desert. The only positive thing about the climate was that at least it was a dry heat. She was absolutely irritable.

    Virulous, however, also understood perfectly well that these injuries were not just the result of fire and shrapnel. They were the effects of Dark Side corruption, a consequence for recklessly using the power of the Dark Side of The Force. Some mistakenly believed that Dark Side corruption resulted only in premature aging, declining health and, in some cases, insanity. Virulous understood that Dark Side corruption also manifested in physical injuries and disfigurement. It was the price for using such power recklessly and for relying, too much, on such power.

    However, she defiantly vowed to herself, “I’m not going to let it do this to me! I’m going to find a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon to fix this.

    She walked right up to the dome stained with the smoke from the fire that resulted from the explosive used to booby trap the door at the bottom of the stairwell. They had repaired the durasteel door, replacing the one she’d cut apart with her lightsaber. In her fury, she reached her hands towards the sliding metal door and used The Force to rip it from its tracks. She angrily swung her arms to the side, causing the twisted metal door to go flying several tens of meters to the side.

    The interior lighting had not been repaired. Standing outside, in Tatooine’s sun blasted landscape, it seemed as though she were peering into a bottomless black void. Entering the void of the low dome, Virulous took note that the soot stained walls, ceiling and stairs is what made the stairwell seem so dark. She wrinkled her nose at the air in the stairwell, which smelled burnt with the overpowering stink of an old house fire.

    She ignited her lightsaber which lit the stairs, walls, and ceiling immediately near her as she seemingly descended into the abyss. At the bottom of the stairs, she found that the door had not been replaced, exposing the foyer which was also charred and filled with the debris of incinerated and shattered furnishings and wall tapestries. A fire warped door at the far end of the foyer sealed this room, separating it from the rest of the residence.

    Virulous concentrated, allowing all of her grief and rage to fill her with the power of the Dark Side. The door frame and the interior wall had already been weakened by the bomb blast and the resulting fire that consumed the foyer and the stairwell leading to the surface. So, when she blasted the door with Force Push, the door buckled, the door frame bent out of shape, and the wall crumbled into rubble. All of it went hurtling into the next room at ballistic speeds, killing several guards and damaging several light duty service droids which had been reprogrammed with light duty security protocols.

    Virulous immediately blasted the survivors with Force Lightning, stunning many of the survivors. She leapt into the anteroom, and using her lightsaber, she killed the stunned survivors and destroyed those few droids which still functioned. Silence fell in the anteroom, with only her weapon humming its menacing song of death.

    A door cracked open and a grenade sailed into the anteroom. She used The Force to force the door back open and, using The Force again, swept the grenade back through the door. As the door slid shut again, the grenade exploded, killing several guards in that room.

    Despite using The Force to hold the door in place, the grenade blast pushed the door into the anteroom, sending the door crashing at her feet. Virulous, greatly startled, skipped back a couple of steps. Greatly shaken by the near miss, she considered herself very lucky that she had the presence of mind to hold the door in place, using The Force, in the face of the grenade’s blast wave.

    With her bright red lightsaber humming its promises of death, she stepped through the doorway into the next room. Surveying the carnage inside, Virulous was surprised to see so many survivors. She secured her lightsaber, attaching it to her utility belt, and drew her sabrestaff, igniting both ends.

    She began killing the guards who’d survived the grenade blast but had the wind knocked out of them. The guards, struggling to get to their feet, disoriented and confused tried to escape, but they were easy prey for her blood lust. After the slaughter, she deactivated her sabrestaff, secured it to her utility belt, and retrieved her lightsaber, igniting it. Virulous laughed darkly at a passing fancy, and spoke to her angrily humming lightsaber.

    “I know you wanted to burn through them. I’ll let you get the next bunch.”

    Virulous searched the three other rooms connected to that central room. The remaining three rooms turned out to be anterooms which led to foyers which led to the domed stairwells which exited to the surface. She had found no other guards or droids in any of those rooms. Returning to the circular central room, she deactivated her lightsaber as she searched about and realized that one part of the curved wall had a floor to ceiling tapestry adorning it.

    She used her free hand to feel the curved wall through the extra wide tapestry and felt a door frame behind it. Ripping the tapestry from the wall, Virulous exposed another sliding door. She examined the door and found it had a simple contact switch to open it. Out of an abundance of caution, she went to one of the undamaged anterooms, and from there used The Force to activate the contact switch. The door slid open without incident.

    She paused, listening for the sounds of guards or droids ascending the stairs in the stairwell which was revealed when the door opened. Virulous quickly approached the open sliding door, stepping over the bodies and stepping on the red tapestry. She stood to the side of the open doorway. Peeking around the door frame, she saw that the gently curving stairwell was empty of anyone.

    She held her deactivated lightsaber hilt at the ready as she carefully, quietly, descended the curved stairs. Virulous shivered as she neared the bottom of the stairs. It was quite cool here so far below the blistering heat of Tatooine’s desert surface.

    She tried the contact switch, without effect. She tried using The Force to slide the door on its tracks, but the door was solidly wedged in place. The door was locked. Again, Virulous gathered her power, and used The Force to blast the door off of its tracks, out of its frame, and into the chamber on the other side.

    This time, she wasn’t met by blaster fire. She swept the room with her eyes and found a lone man, her target, seated quietly in the room. At the side of the main family room, at the doorway of another chamber, stood a woman, and behind her were her two small children.

    The children began to whimper. The woman shushed them and shepherded them to their beds, shutting the door behind her. Thus, the man was left alone to face the wrath of a Sith lord. At that moment, he bitterly regretted letting his greed and the promise of so much wealth get the best of him. He’d heard of how powerful Sith were, and also how ruthlessly and relentlessly they sought vengeance. Here was the proof of it. It shocked him that the Sith lord was so small. He wondered if the Sith was an adolescent youth.

    Her target spoke as Virulous entered the family residence, igniting her lightsaber as she walked.

    “You are persistent, and your persistence has yielded you complete victory. With my death, the leadership of The Exchange Gang on Tatooine will be eliminated.”

    He paused to hear what the Sith lord would say, but she kept silent.

    He told her, “You’ve killed much of the mid-tier leadership as well.”

    Virulous pulled back the white hood of her robe and then pulled the white scarf down from her face. She felt a pang of hurt, in her gut, at the way the man’s eyes changed as he looked at her disfigurement.

    She reminded herself, “I will see a plastic surgeon about this!

    The man remarked, “So, you were hurt by the blast.”

    Before she could respond, she heard the muted voices of the children crying and begging their mother to let them go to their father from behind the sliding door to the children’s room.

    Virulous turned her head to the children’s door and sneered nastily, “They will suffer much when they see their father dead.”

    Had her target remained silent, the idea would never had occurred to her, but he spoke.

    “They have nothing to do with this. I’m the one who made the decision to accept this contract. I’m the one you want.”

    Turning her head to look at her prey, Virulous replied, “Of course they’re innocent. You are my target...”

    Virulous paused a long moment as she regarded the final target on her master’s list, thinking, “This could make a very fine gift for the dark lord!

    She told him, “The dark lord’s two children were also innocent. They had nothing to do with anything, either. Yet, you killed them when you attacked his home.”

    Returning her eyes to the closed door of the children’s room, she speculated, “My master may become greatly pleased if he hears of your suffering, watching the deaths of your children before your end.”

    The man pleaded, “You can let my family escape into exile, and simply tell your master that’s what happened. He will be equally pleased.”

    He could see from the startled look in her eyes, as she returned her gaze to him, that the very idea frightened her.

    Virulous told him, “There is a very real danger of being discovered in a lie. He can delve into your very soul and feel what you’re thinking. The risk is too great. I’d rather not lie to Darth Nox.”

    In desperation, the man leapt into the attack. Activating a vibroknife, he lunged at Virulous, his singing blade aimed at her chest.

    Virulous deftly stepped to her left, swinging her lightsaber in an upward arc that sliced the knife wielding man’s right hand off at the wrist. Then swinging downward, she cut off his out stretched left forearm just below the elbow. She then swept her weapon low, cutting his right foot off just above the ankle. He collapsed to his knees, screaming and cursing at Virulous as she rushed to the children’s room.

    He screamed out a warning, “She’s coming for the kids!”

    A blaster bolt exploded on the door from the inside of the room. The children’s mother, thought to shoot through the door at Virulous, but the blast only served Virulous’ purposes. With the door blown off its tracks and blasted to the floor and out of her way, she reached with her hand and blasted the woman, fighting to defend her children, with Force Lightning. The woman fell forward, violently convulsing on the floor.

    Virulous ran into the room and found the two children huddled in a corner in terrible shock. They watched in horror as she pierced their mother in the back with her weapon. Virulous then easily Force Persuaded the children to run into the family room.

    On seeing him, the Children ran to their Father, now lying on his back and facing the children’s room. They had come to a stop, standing before their stricken father, again in accordance to Virulous’ will.

    With tears streaming, he pleaded, “How can you be so heartless? These are only children. Spare them!”

    Virulous was struck with terrible guilt. She hated herself for what she was doing, but she burned through her guilt as she spoke with venom on her tongue, “Imagine all of the families your gang has killed throughout your criminal empire! Now you are seeing things through the eyes of your victims!”

    She immediately swung her weapon, first one way, and then the other, decapitating each child. Then she pierced the abdomen of her target, letting him feel the agonizing fire of her weapon, once again, before deactivating it.

    He screamed in agony, but his eyes were on the lifeless bodies of his children, tears gushing from them.

    She stepped around the dead and the dying as she made her way to the stairs. She intended to leave him to die slowly. Virulous was most unsteady on her feet, staggering as she walked to the doorway leading to the gently curved stairwell.

    Her target implored her, in a hoarse voice, “Kill me. Kill me, please. Don’t leave me like this.”

    Virulous, unable to take anymore guilt, self disgust, and self hatred turned about and, reaching to the man with both of her hands, used a Dark Force ritual that drained the life force of the man until he died. She turned about and stumbled her way up the stairs, leaning against the wall, for support.

    At the top of the stairs, she stepped into the upper central chamber and leaned against the wall. She felt nauseous, and her head spun as the power of the Dark Side flowed through her as it had never done before.

    She bent to her hands and knees and vomited on the floor, thinking, “This power! This power! This is the power my dark lord enjoys!

    When her stomach had finally settled down, she covered her ruined face with the scarf, and covered her scorched scalp with the hood of her robe. She got back onto her feet, and proceeded to the anteroom and the stairwell that led to Tatooine’s sun-blasted desert.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Virulous rode many hours from her target’s residence and had finally returned to the outskirts of Anchorhead after the setting of one of Tatooine's suns in the early evening. She found a small clothier shop and bought herself some new clothing. She paid a ridiculous sum in Imperial credits, not wanting to attract attention to herself, she hoped the over payment would buy the silence of the shop owner about a very short woman in bloody robes visiting her shop.

    Virulous was still wanted for questioning in connection to the spaceport killings, and now she was wanted in connection to the massacre at the Tatoo Trade Goods Distribution warehouse earlier in the month. Only a handful knew that business was a front for one of the Exchange Gang’s distribution centers of illicit contraband.

    Her bounty had gone up from fifteen thousand credits, to half a million credits. Virulous smiled wryly, thinking about the bounty on her head.

    The Exchange Gang has a lot of sway on Tatooine. Do they not? Wait until I report this to Darth Nox. He will not be pleased.

    She made her way, carefully, back to the bazaar. The streets had been swept by a terrible wave of gang violence, as the Exchange Gang leaders, as well as the leaders of rival gangs, fought to fill in the power vacuum she had created. Virulous was deeply pleased with the chaotic impact she had on the planet wherever the Exchange Gang held sway on Tatooine. To her, it meant she had demonstrated her power to change a world, and thus the potential to change the galaxy.

    It had been a month since she’d last seen him. He sat quietly behind four heavily armored and heavily armed gangsters who kept careful guard at the doors of the cantina, all protected by a polarized ray shield. Virulous could see that he was visibly shocked at seeing her, as if he didn’t expect to ever see her again. It didn’t matter that her head was hooded and that her face was veiled, he instantly knew it was her from her diminutive stature.

    Without any hesitation, Mr. Tranit commanded, “Let her pass. She is my most very important guest.”

    The two had made their way down to the bar room.

    There, Mr. Tranit commanded the newly hired barkeep, an Advosec, “Make my most very important guest and me a drink.”

    He looked around at the tables in the bar room until he found his accountant, and gesturing with his hand, signaled for her to bring the payment. He pointed at Virulous, so that the accountant would know who to present the credits to. The accountant put her fork down, she was on dinner break, and dashed to the back offices of the cantina to retrieve a case full of Hutt currency.

    The Advosec set two drinks down on the bar in front of Mr. Tranit and Darth Virulous. The two sat with an empty stool between them. Mr. Tranit picked up his drink and held it up to Virulous and toasted her.

    “To my very good friend and business partner, to a successfully completed business arrangement, and to your continued success in your other endeavors, I thank you, Darth Virulous.”

    He gulped down his drink and set the emptied glass down. Virulous, her veiled face hidden deep within the sand colored hood of her robes, watched Mr. Tranit, as he spoke, and then drank. She had not even touched her drink glass. The accountant arrived at that moment, and set the case full of Hutt currency, on its side, between them on the bar.

    The Bith turned the case so that the code pad faced him. Entering a code he opened the case, which exposed the Hutt currency he did not think he would need to part with. He slid the opened case to Virulous. She didn’t need to count it. She knew it was one million six hundred thousand Hutt credits.

    Virulous asked, “Why not simply credit my account with the proper amount? I don’t like carrying such large sums of physical currency.”

    Without another word, the Bith produced a datapad. He punched in the proper amount, in Hutt currency, and set the datapad onto the bar, sliding it towards Virulous. She agreed with the amount, and tapped her credit card on the datapad. The agreed upon amount was successfully transferred to her account, automatically converted from Hutt currency to Imperial currency, which translated to one million seven hundred and eighty five thousand credits.

    Peering at the Bith through her veil beneath the folds of her hood, Virulous thanked the Bith gangster.

    “Thank you for keeping your end of our bargain.”

    She’d gotten paid for four out of six gangsters on Mr. Tranit’s list, which she slaughtered on her first day of mayhem and chaos. She then shocked him with the bad news.

    “My master, Darth Nox, will be dissatisfied when I return and report there are still Exchange Gang leaders left alive. He’ll likely reprimand me, quite severely, for not completing my task. He’ll likely send me back here to finish the job.”

    Mr. Tranit was taken aback. He began to worry greatly, that he’d been betrayed. However, he was a crime boss. He could not show weakness before his subordinates, especially in his own headquarters.

    He said, as though challenging Virulous, “Well...You could start here, right now.”

    His enforcers braced themselves for a fight. Virulous pulled her hood back and pulled her scarf down. As she finally picked up her drink, the gangsters and Mr. Tranit became shocked at what had befallen the once beautiful woman. She took a sip from her very strong drink, and set it down again.

    Turning to face the Bith crime boss, she gave him her disfigured smile and said in a patently insincere tone, “But I like you too much, Mr. Tranit.” Mr. Tranit could easily tell that was a lie, as she added with equal insincerity, “I want to help my very good friend and business partner to escape Darth Nox’s wrath.

    Mr. Tranit realized just how tough this woman was, how hard her heart was, and he learned just how reckless this woman was. He also realized that he would have to do much to soothe Darth Nox to survive the dark lord’s fury.

    He ordered the barkeep, “Another round.”

    As the Advosec fulfilled Mr. Tranit’s request, the crime boss’ enforcers wound down, relaxing their stances and quietly sighing their relief. They were there, a month before, witnessing Virulous’ lighting quick slaughter of the hapless bounty hunters who’d provoked her at this very bar, and word of her slaughter of the Exchange gang’s leadership had gotten out. It was very big news. They knew the Sith lord who sat in their midst was the real deal.

    Mr. Tranit asked, skeptically, “What are you suggesting, Darth Virulous?”

    She told him, quite pointedly, “Truly, Darth Nox will not be satisfied if I return to him with a half finished assignment.” She picked up her drink and took another sip, setting it down on the bar again, adding, “However, if you were to send him a very nice letter, sent on high grade flimsyplast, written by a highly skilled calligrapher, and if in this missive, you were to express your most profound apologies and regrets for what your foolish and now dead leaders did to him. Then, if in your missive you promised to rid Tatooine and the galaxy, of those profoundly despicable vermin who so coldheartedly brought harm to those most dear to him...”

    Mr. Tranit realized that Virulous was actually dictating an apology letter that he should send to Darth Nox. The Bith crime boss looked over his shoulder to a table behind where he sat. He saw that one of his administrators was taking notes. He subtly nodded his approval before returning his attention to Virulous.

    She finished dictating the letter of apology and said, “That in itself should be enough to get him to listen. Next come gifts.”

    Mr. Tranit, unsurprised, asked, “Gifts?”

    Virulous replied, “Of course! Nothing sends across the feeling of sincerity like a very thoughtful gift.”

    As she picked up her drink to take another sip, Mr. Tranit asked, “What sorts of gifts does Darth Nox like?”

    Virulous had finished her drink and set the emptied glass down. The barkeep immediately refreshed it.

    After some thought, she confessed, “It really is difficult to pick out gifts for a man who rules half the galaxy. Isn’t it?” She exaggerated a little. Nox did not rule alone. He sat in a council of twelve who administered the Sith Empire alongside him in the Sith Emperor’s name.

    The Bith crime boss laughed politely, agreeing, “It is never easy. Something you find genuinely interesting may be considered mundane by another.”

    Virulous suggested, “Slaves. You can never have too many slaves. Especially highly skilled slaves, like accountants, or even building engineers.” Then she added, “Money always makes a good gift.”

    Turning to the Bith, she added, “It would make it especially easy for me to sell him on the idea of forgiving the rest of your organization if I could tell him – as the messenger, that this is the first of many gifts that you’ll send to him.”

    Mr. Tranit had been lifting his drink to his lips, but stopped on hearing that part. Turning to face Virulous, he could see that behind her burn scared facade that she was not smiling.

    She told him, “A yearly gift on the anniversary of the attack on his estate which resulted in the deaths of his two children. Every year on the anniversary of the attack, he’ll think of his children, and he’ll want vengeance, but your timely gifts will ease his anger.”

    The Bith bluntly asked, “An annual tribute, then?”

    Virulous nodded, and told him how much, “At least ten million credits each year, or a gift of five or six skilled slaves.”

    The Bith thought, “That’s expensive!

    Virulous could see his doubts, and told him, “Frankly, I don’t want to come back to this planet again. I have had enough of this place and have already paid a terrible price.” She pointed at her face to make her point. She added, “If I have to come back here again, I’m going to bring the Imperial Navy and Army with me, and I will wipe this place clean.”

    The Bith gangster, realizing that was the alternative, shrugged his shoulders thinking, “It’s probably cheaper than fighting the Sith Empire.” Aloud, he said, “I truly hope he will accept my paltry gifts.”

    Virulous told him, “Quick! Find a calligrapher! Get that letter written! I want to be on a starship with your letter and the first of your many gifts to him, before the day is done.” She added, almost as an afterthought, “I’m wanted by the authorities, so I imagine I can’t simply book a flight out of the spaceport.”

    Mr. Tranit reassured her, “Do not be concerned. It is an easy matter for me to arrange passage for you to your desired destination.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  9. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    A Major Incident​


    Darth Virulous concealed her face with her scarf and wore her hood so that it hid her veiled face. She knelt with her head bowed and prepared to deliver her report to her master via holo.

    Before she could speak, Darth Nox’s holographic image told her, “It’s been over a month since you left for your mission. I thought you’d gotten yourself killed.”

    His tone seemed peevish to her.

    Virulous replied, “I have completed my mission, Dark Lord. I’m ready to report...”

    Nox interrupted, “Give me your report in person. Until then, travel to Nar Shaddaa. Meet with my servant, Andronikos Revel. He’s had his leg nearly blown off, and I worry he’ll be assassinated.”

    Hearing those words hurt Virulous.

    She thought angrily, “He wasn’t worried when he thought me dead, but he worries over a pirate scum!” Aloud, she replied dutifully, “Yes, Master. I’ll see to it he is safe.”

    Nox cut the connection.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Four days later, Virulous walked to a taxi outside of a spaceport on Nar Shaddaa. She mounted a taxi operated by a villainous looking Devaronian.

    She told the taxi operator, “Take me to the hospital center at Felban The Hutt Market District.”

    The driver asked, “Which hospital, lady? There are at least a hundred of ‘em in that building alone.”

    She asked, “How many spaceports in that building?”

    He told her, “Just one.”

    “Then I want the hospital center near that spaceport.”

    “You got it, lady. Settle in for a long ride, we’re eight buildings over.”

    Nearly two hours later, the taxi finally entered the Felban The Hutt Market District, but they were still quite a ways away from their final destination. Felban The Hutt Market District was a gigantic building with three hundred subterranean levels, nine hundred stories above ground, thirty kilometers long and twenty eight kilometers wide, and with many dozens of spires that stood anywhere from an additional three hundred to eight hundred stories above the roof of the behemoth megastructure.

    There were many stock exchanges, banks, and the headquarters of several hundred corporations, each with businesses scattered in at least a hundred star systems across the galaxy. Also housed within this gigantic super-building were several auction houses. Andronikos had used a few of these auction houses to sell off his loot. There were several hundred shopping districts, entertainment districts, hotels and casinos numbering in the hundreds. The megastructure even had its own small spaceport.

    The common residential districts were all located in the first three hundred stories above ground. To the Nar Shaddaa locals who lived there, it may as well have been underground, since the building had no windows that looked outside of the nine hundred story structure. The exception for residences or businesses, with windows and their breath taking vistas, were the super luxury homes and office suites in the behemoth spires which rose above the roof of the main building.

    The main building structure was built right against other buildings which had been built right up against each of its four sides. From high above, it looked as though Nar Shaddaa’s surface was one continuous rooftop, with a few roofs higher than others, and with enormous spires rising up from the roofs of the mega-buildings from horizon to horizon.

    Inside Felban The Hutt Market District, on each thirty meter story, the roadways, express ways, walkways, and turbolifts connecting the many thousands of businesses, hotels, residential districts, etc were like a neural network, facilitating fast, smooth, and easy travel within the building. The interconnecting roads between buildings, however, were not as numerous, nor easy to traverse. They tended to be bottlenecks congested with heavy commercial traffic delivering goods from building to building as businesses conducted commerce from one building to the next.

    Adding to the congestion was a need to stop to pay the tolls required to cross from one building to the next. These delays were part of the reason for the long taxi ride and, of course, the tolls would also be added to Virulous’ taxi fare. Taxes and tariffs on shipped goods were also assessed at the boundaries between buildings.

    As with most buildings on Nar Shaddaa, Felban The Hutt Market District had its own power generation plants, sewage treatment facilities, water purification facilities, air recycling and climate control facilities, and many other utilitarian facilities. These were all located in the three hundred subterranean levels, and mostly paid for with the collected taxes and tariffs from the inter-building commerce.

    Nar Shaddaa imported certain gasses to maintain its atmospheric pressure at the upper levels of the highest building structures. They used force fields, and air movers which held in the atmosphere while allowing speeders and ships to pass through, much like the gigantic starships with their huge hanger bays. The air movers kept the atmosphere at the same pressure at all subterranean level and at each story above ground of each building and spire. Even so, some of it’s atmosphere was lost to outer space, which was why atmospheric gasses were a regular import for the Smuggler’s Moon. They had a moon-wide “air tax” to pay for it.

    Andronikos was in a hospital located in one of the spires that towered above the monolithic megastructure. It was located on the three hundred and thirty seventh story of the spire, four hundred stories below the spaceport where his ship was currently berthed. Virulous’ taxi exited the building through the roof, continuing to ascend steeply, spiraling around a gigantic spire until it was almost halfway up.

    The taxi finally entered the spire and began to navigate the local boulevards and streets, passing many sub-buildings and sub-structures along the way, until it finally reached the hospital, an hour after entering the Felban The Hutt Market District building. Virulous exited the taxi. As the happy – paid – Devaronian drove his taxi away, she stretched her muscles to get the kinks out before proceeding to enter the ten story hospital sub-building.

    Virulous wore new vestments and armor fashioned, at a tailor shop at the spaceport, to her specifications, before seeking the taxi port. She wore a black hooded robe made with a heavy fabric that reached to her ankles, with long sleeves that flared slightly at the wrists.

    Underneath the robe, she wore a black flexible medium grade armored synthetic fabric tunic with a tall collar that protected and hid her burn scared throat and neck. This armored tunic had flexible armored sleeves that ended at her elbows. She wore vambraces and armored gloves, both of the same material as the tunic, and both with small armored plates which added protection for her forearms and the backs of her hands.

    She wore flexible medium grade armored leggings, also made with the specialized armored fabric, augmented with metal armored plates that were formed to fit around the front and outer sides of her thighs, and she wore tall boots with metal armored plate shin guards. Her black armor had bright red accents and lines which made her robe and armor look quite striking. Virulous also wore a black, light weight, rigid armored face mask under her hood, with bright red markings designed to present a menacing visage.

    Two burly guards stood watch outside of Andronikos’ hospital room. They attempted to stop Virulous from entering. She waved her hand at them. They both immediately, wordlessly stepped aside and let her pass.

    Andronikos became instantly alert the moment his door began to hiss open. He prepared to fight to the death whoever it was that entered the room. His new cybernetic leg still gave him problems. It needed adjustments, and his wound where his new leg attached to his hip still hurt. He had difficulty operating his leg.

    Andronikos’ adrenaline shot through the roof, and his fight or flight instincts told him he didn’t have a chance, but fight anyway. The cloaked, masked and hooded figure spoke.

    “Andronikos. Good, you’re alive.”

    She didn’t sound genuinely pleased about that fact, however, but Andronikos felt instant relief when he recognized her voice. It bothered him, though, that she wore a mask. Andronikos felt that it was out of character for her. He tried sounding upbeat when he spoke to her.

    “Hey! Shah… I mean, Darth Virulous. That’s some scary mask you got on. You trying out a new look?”

    Virulous answered in a cold and hardened tone, “Darth Nox has sent me to keep you safe.”

    Andronikos had learned the hard way not to anger her.

    He thought to himself, “Hell, I already lost a leg to one pissed off broad. I don’t need to lose my other leg, or worse.” Aloud, he asked, “You gonna bust me out?”

    Brusquely, Virulous asked, “Why are there guards outside of your room?”

    Disgust at his predicament thwarted his upbeat demeanor and took over his tone of voice, and the expression on his face darkened as he told her, “The diplomatic service for the Galactic Republic got wind I was here. They asked the Hutts to hold onto me for them to pick up. They got people coming to get me. I thought you was them when you walked in.”

    Virulous became alarmed and asked with urgency in her tone, “And the dark lord’s ship?!”

    Andronikos looked like a beaten Akk dog when he replied in an equally beaten tone, “Impounded. The Hutts are gonna give them the ship as evidence of piracy in deep space.”

    Virulous became incensed. Andronikos started to feel the darkness emanating from her.

    He felt a bit of dread, as he thought, “Crap! She’s changed! She’s becoming more like the boss, just what I need!

    Virulous turned about, facing the door, and commanded, “Get in here!

    The door hissed open, and the two guards entered the room. They looked at one another in shocked surprise, as they both wondered how the masked hooded figure had gotten past them both. They were both sure they had sent her away.

    Andronikos wondered, “How’d they hear her through the shut door? I know these rooms are sound proofed.

    Virulous demanded, “Summon your commander here. Now!”

    The guards weren’t human. One was a Gamorrean and the other was a Weequay. They stood, towering over her diminutive form, scowling at her.

    The Gamorrean began squealing and grunting at her, as it demanded of her, “How you come in?!”

    Virulous lightly shoved the brute, as she angrily shouted, “Silence!”

    The beastly brute fell over backwards, dead, slamming onto the floor with a resounding crash of girth and armor.

    The Weequay immediately knelt by his partner’s side and shouted at Virulous, “Waatyu do?!”

    Virulous menacingly told the Weequay, “If you want to die like your friend did, then ask me another question.”

    The Weequay realized for the first time that he was dealing with one of those strange religious fanatics with ‘the powers.’ He stood and faced her again, not knowing what to do.

    Virulous ordered him again, “Summon your commander!”

    The Weequay nodded his acquiescence, and called over his audio only transceiver, “Need baakkop! Need waach commaander! Beeg trobbell! Gorkie die!!”

    Andronikos rolled his eyes and was about to speak, but kept silent when Virulous suddenly turned about to glower at him through her mask.

    Andronikos thought to himself, “She’s really in a bad mood today. I better be nice to her.

    The Weequay’s audio only communicator squawked, “This is the watch commander. What is your status, Doopkah?”

    Doopkah replied, “In room with pirate. Gorkie died. Doopkah not died.”

    Virulous told the Weequay, “Tell your commander to get over here. Now!”

    The Weequay did as he was told and spoke into his transmitter.

    “Waatch Commaander, come here. Talk to angry religious crazy wit the powers.

    Andronikos thought of the Weequay, “Poor choice of words, bub,” but nothing happened to the security official.

    A long silence followed, during which they awaited the watch commander’s arrival. After what seemed to Andronikos like forever, someone gave a polite tap on the door.

    Virulous commanded, “Enter!”

    The door slid open and in walked another Weequay, the watch commander. Behind him entered a Jedi in heavy white plate armor underneath drab brown robes. His hood was pulled back, revealing brown locks down to his shoulders and a full beard and thick mustache.

    Virulous furiously told the Weequay, “I didn’t tell you to come alone, but that didn’t mean you could bring a Jedi with you!”

    Unlike his Weequay subordinate, the Weequay watch commander spoke excellent Basic, albeit with a decidedly un-Imperial accent.

    The watch commander replied, “I didn’t bring him. He insisted on coming with me.” Pointing at Andronikos, he added, “That fella is his prisoner, and he wanted to be sure nothin’ happened to him.”

    Virulous told the watch commander, “The situation in which you find yourself could very well lead to war between the Hutts and the Sith Empire.”

    The Weequay kept his pazaak face on, but Virulous felt his anxiety grow. He realized for the first time that he stood between a Jedi fanatic and an angry Sith lord.

    She told him, “The man behind me is the personal pilot and protocol agent of Darth Nox, a very prominent member of the Dark Council. The ship which you’ve impounded belongs to the dark lord, and your Hutts are about to hand both to the Galactic Republic – to this Jedi.”

    The watch commander didn’t respond to Virulous directly. He merely took out his holo-communicator and dialed up the major incident commander.

    The holographic image of a male Twi’lek came up.

    Also speaking in un-Imperial accented Basic, the Twi’lek said, “Grann, this had better be good.”

    Grann replied, “I’m stuck in the middle of a major inter-empire political crisis that can actually blow up into a military conflict.” To be sure the Twi’lek got the point, he added, “Talden, this is way the hell above my pay grade. I need help, here.”

    The Jedi spoke, “You don’t need help. A Jedi is right here to assist to restore order.”

    Grann said, “Hey… I got a Jedi right...” He interrupted himself and angrily shouted at the Jedi, “Like hell I do! Get your sorry butt out of here! Now! I don’t need no Jedi trying to start any trouble!” Giving the Jedi an angry glare, he told the major incident commander, “I think he tried to pull one of them mind tricks on me, Talden.”

    The major incident commander’s holographic image told the Jedi, “Master Jedi, please return to the Galactic Republic’s consulate. I don’t need your presence.”

    The Jedi reasoned, “It would be a major problem for you, if you do not hand this wanted terrorist to the Galactic Republic to face justice.”

    Talden replied, “It would be a major problem for the Galactic Republic, if you cause a major intra-galactic incident, here in Hutt space.”

    The Jedi calmly and respectfully nodded his head towards the holographic image of the Twi’lek and left the hospital room without another word.

    Virulous told the major incident commander’s holographic image, “I don’t trust him. Be sure he doesn’t try to steal Darth Nox’s starship.”

    Watch Commander Grann got on his audio only communicator and issued orders.

    “Urdarii, take your team to hanger 127 – Cresh (127 – C). Keep everyone away from the Imperial Navy starship parked there, and I mean everyone. Don’t let anyone or anything near that ship. Got it?”

    The voice emanating from Grann’s communicator replied, “Yes, Sir! Got it!”

    As though it had finally occurred to him, the Twi’lek’s holographic image asked with some incredulity, “Darth Nox? Did you say, Darth Nox, as in the Dark Council? That Darth Nox?”

    Virulous replied testily, “There is only one Darth Nox.”

    A little over a month before Virulous had left Dromund Kaas on her mission to destroy the leadership of The Exchange Gang on Tatooine, Darth Nox made galactic news when he proclaimed his victory over his hated enemy, Darth Acina, in a monumental power struggle between the two rivals. Talden had finally remembered the dark lord’s name from the news event. Nox had captured a space station belonging to his enemy.

    The major incident commander shook his head in disbelief at the magnitude of the mess that landed on his lap, as he realized Nox wasn’t some ordinary Sith lord. He was one of the twelve rulers of the Sith Empire.

    Meanwhile, Virulous demanded, “I want you to provide safe passage for me and my charge to my master’s ship.”

    The Twi’lek told the Weequay, “Grann take care of it with your team. Pull out all the stops for this one.”

    The Weequay replied, “You got it, Commander.”

    Virulous turned about and ordered Andronikos, “On your feet. We’re going.”

    Andronikos, bristling at her tone, let her have a piece of his mind.

    “Don’t order me around. You’re not my boss.”

    Virulous used The Force to close his airway. Andronikos began to suffocate. He could do nothing to get air into or out of his lungs. Virulous had shut his epiglottis tight, and wouldn’t let it open. She watched as Andronikos dropped to his knees, clutching at his throat with both hands, and watched as his mouth fell agape in a vain attempt to take in a breath.

    After watching him struggle for a short while, she spoke darkly, telling him, “Anything could happen to you between this hospital room and the ship, especially with that Jedi sticking his nose in our business. Be careful, Andronikos. The dark lord is not here to protect you, this time.”

    Andronikos was on the floor writhing, clutching at his throat, his skin starting to turn purple. She released his epiglottis, allowing him to breathe again. He coughed, and choked, and gagged as he struggled to get air into his lungs again.

    One Weequay whispered, not quietly enough, to the other, “Yusee? She has the powers!

    Grann, looking at the corpse of one of his subordinates, lying dead on the floor, slowly nodded agreement, thinking to himself, “This job is getting crazier by the minute. If we’re not careful, someone else is gonna get killed.

    Virulous decided to ignore the Weequay’s remarks, instead focusing on Andronikos as he finally began to pick himself up from the floor.

    Andronikos, finally recovering his breath, looked at Virulous with resentment in his eyes, but he remained silent, thinking to himself, “When the hell am I ever gonna learn to keep my damned mouth shut?!

    He sat on the side of his hospital bed to put on his boots. He had a strange sensation when he slipped his right cybernetic foot and leg into his boot, as though his mind had found itself in unfamiliar environs.

    The sensors embedded throughout the prosthetic limb sent sensory data to his brain through its connections with his nervous system, but his brain registered these sensory inputs as a completely foreign sensation. He groused to himself.

    Damned leg still needs adjustments.

    Andronikos told Grann, “I want my blasters back.”

    Grann replied, “I’ll give them back to you at the ship.”

    The Twi’lek’s holographic image said, “I’m gonna meet you at the ship. I wanna be sure nothing goes wrong.”

    He cut the connection, and his image was gone. Grann got on his audio only communicator and called for additional security forces to report to the hanger, adding, “And get the blaster pistols and other property for detainee Aurek two nine Usk Mem forty seven (A29UM47). Bring those with you to the hanger, Dye’dya.”

    Dye’dya replied, “Understood, sir.”

    Grann convinced Darth Virulous to give his people a few minutes to get to the ship first, to secure the area before moving out. After about a quarter hour, the watch commander, the security team he’d brought with him waiting outside the room, the diminutive masked Sith lord, and the semi retired pirate all walked out of the hospital.

    They exited into the cavernous network of corridors that made up the streets, walkways, ramps and turbolifts of the gargantuan building which made it feel more like a three dimensional cityscape. A train of speeders waited for them. The security escort and their charge boarded the vehicles, with the speeders immediately departing and speeding down the wide corridor roadway for the building spire’s outer wall.

    The train of closed cab speeders exited the three hundred fortieth story of the enormous seven hundred fifty story spire and climbed steeply up into the thin high altitude atmosphere, spiraling around the giant tower as they ascended. As usual, traffic was heavy but moved quickly and smoothly.

    Andronikos admired the early evening dusk view of the many thousands of towering spires out to the distant horizon in all directions, with their many hundreds of thousands of windows, lit from the luxury homes or corporate offices within.

    In less than a quarter hour, they were re-entering the spire, near the top, where the small spaceport was housed in the top twelve stories of the behemoth tower. The train of speeders dashed into a traffic feeder system which brought them to a massive taxi port.

    At the taxi port, thousands of passengers coming to or leaving the spaceport alighted from or clambered onto waiting taxis. The train of security speeders did not stop there, instead proceeding to a heavy cargo loading area. This allowed them to park their speeders only a very short distance from hanger bay 127, proper.

    The security detail all debarked and immediately scanned their surroundings before signaling it was safe for their charges to exit their vehicle. Darth Virulous exited first, followed by Andronikos. The security procession walked briskly from the loading bay to the hanger bay. Nox’s ship was at the far end of the hanger bay several berthing stalls away.

    Hutt security forces showed a heavy presence and were throwing their weight around, inspecting everyone they encountered in and around the hanger bay. There was also a large team of the security forces forming a perimeter around Nox’s ship. Nothing was left to chance.

    Andronikos immediately took note that Wrehn’s ship was gone, another ship was in its place, and reflected that he’d been cooped up in the hospital for a month. The other ship was still parked in its berthing stall. Andronikos cursed at his cybernetic leg, as it was not as smoothly responsive as the real thing. He missed his natural leg.

    Andronikos realized he’d have to make up some kind of story to explain how he’d lost his leg. He didn’t want it to be known he’d been bested by woman. Never mind that she was a professional bounty hunter responsible for bagging the previous Galactic Republic chancellor despite all of the chancellor’s security.

    Andronikos thought of Wrehn, “Damn, could she fight!

    He’d been following behind Virulous the entire time and nearly tripped over her as she jerked to a sudden halt, looking about wildly while drawing and igniting her lightsaber. Andronikos hopped back a few paces to give Virulous’ lightsaber some space.

    He too, began to look about his surroundings, cursing his luck for being unarmed at a time like this.

    Damn! If only I had my blasters!

    Virulous suddenly spun around and looked up, just in time to see the Jedi coming down in his attack. She didn’t have time to do anything except to leap backwards to escape the strike of his weapon. In doing so, she’d become separated from Andronikos.

    As soon as the Jedi landed, he spun about to face the pirate and, pointing his free hand at Andronikos, palm outward, said, “Sleep.”

    Andronikos was completely taken off guard. He was struck with a sudden and heavy wave of sleepiness. He sank to his hands and knees, finding himself battling to stay awake.

    Meanwhile, the Jedi had turned to face Virulous and executed a massive Force Push attack that sent her light frame flying across the cavernous hanger like a leaf in a wind storm. He Force Leapt after her with his bright green lightsaber ablaze, poised over his head and ready to strike. As he neared to where Virulous had crashed onto and tumbled across the hanger deck, he began to swing his weapon downward.

    Virulous’ still raw injuries and still healing burn scars, had become aggravated from the abuse the Jedi had subjected her to. Added to the pain of her reopened scars and re-injured wounds, the Force Push attack caused her entire front to sting so much that it felt like a terrible burn from a blast of superheated steam. Crashing onto and tumbling across the deck abused her bones and joints, but she suffered no fractures.

    Yet, Virulous willed herself to her feet and used The Force to speed herself away from where the Jedi would land. However, the Jedi would not let her escape so easily. He threw his lightsaber at her.

    Virulous turned at the last moment and swatted the green beamed lightsaber down with her own red beamed weapon, but the green beam of her enemy’s weapon struck the shin guard of her armored boot, cutting into the guard before bouncing off. Although the shin guard had done its job and protected her shin from direct contact with the saber beam, the impossibly high temperature of the beam passed through what remained of her shin guard and gave her shin a terrible burn.

    Virulous fell onto her back side, screaming from the intense pain. The Jedi stretched his hand forward and his weapon returned to his hand. He walked to where Virulous struggled to regain her feet.

    He said as he neared her, “You are unable to continue the fight. You are beaten. There is no need to die uselessly. Stand down and allow me to take the criminal terrorist prisoner.”

    Virulous reached her free hand towards the Jedi. The Jedi felt his life force leaving him. He quickly broke her grip on his life and then blasted her with another Force Push attack. Virulous crashed onto the launch deck in a pile.

    The Jedi shook his head in disappointment, asking himself aloud, “Why do the Sith always insist on fighting to the death against impossible odds?

    He raised his weapon over his head, but as he brought his weapon down to strike, he suddenly jumped straight up into the air, using The Force to propel himself many meters above the deck. He then used Force Push to propel himself backwards. The Jedi converted his tumbling into backwards somersaults, landing steadily on his feet several meters back from where Virulous lay unconscious.

    The Jedi looked at where he’d stood a moment before. A Sith lord stood nearby where Virulous lay unconscious. The Sith stood where the Jedi’s back was turned.

    He thought to himself, “Thank The Force I listen to my instincts. Where did he come from? Was he here the whole time?

    Ironically, his instincts were still screaming at him to start running, but he ignored them this time.

    The Jedi began to wonder why the Sith lord just stood there, staring. At last, the Jedi paid heed to his instincts, as a feeling of impending doom overcame him. He turned to the right and dashed forward as fast as The Force would allow him.

    He ran about thirty paces, then stopped and turned to look at the place he’d last seen the Sith lord, near the unconscious female Sith. The Sith was not there. The Jedi swiveled his head until he found the Sith, standing at the spot he’d just fled. Again the Sith had gotten behind him. The Jedi had escaped death from behind twice, at the hands of this mysterious Sith lord.

    For the first time, the Sith lord spoke, telling the Jedi, “Your instincts serve you well. That’s twice you have narrowly escaped getting skewered through the back with my sabrestaff. You should thank The Force that it has given you the opportunity to escape with your life, while you still can.”

    Again, the Jedi’s instincts screamed at him, “RUN!!

    The Jedi Master finally realized who the Sith lord was, and immediately understood he was outmatched.

    The Jedi, nodding his head politely towards Darth Nox, turned to flee, but he ran into his foe’s sabrestaff beam instead. Again, The Force allowed the Jedi to stop quickly, and then to jump back away from his enemy’s weapon. The tip of the Nox’s deep red sabrestaff pierced the Jedi’s heavy plate armored cuirass, and while not touching the Jedi’s belly, it scorched the Jedi’s skin, even as his clothing caught fire beneath his armor.

    The Jedi Master jumped further back, then turned towards the administrative offices of the hanger deck and ran as fast as The Force would let him. He used The Force, as he ran, to snuff out the flames of his burning clothing.

    Nox deactivated his sabrestaff and strolled casually to where Virulous lay in a heap. He came to a stop where she lay and looked down at her. Virulous, regaining consciousness, opened her eyes to look up at the disgust and disappointment plastered all over her master’s face.

    As she untangled herself and struggled to regain her feet, she spoke, but her voice cracked.

    “Forgive m... Forgive me, Master. I have brought you shame.”

    Darth Nox chided her, “That Jedi was child’s play! This is something you should have had no trouble dealing with at all. What in damnation happened to you?!”

    Virulous was overcome with humiliation and shame. She believed she was outmatched.

    She offered what she felt were her excuses, “I have suffered many burns from one of my attacks on Tatooine, and have not yet recovered, Dark Lord.”

    Finally realizing she hid her face behind a mask, he asked brusquely, “Why are you wearing a mask?” Then he demanded, “Remove your mask!”

    Through The Force, he felt her suddenly increased anxiety as she begged, “Do not look on my face, Dark Lord.”

    “Remove your mask!” He commanded a second time.

    Virulous wept silently as she peeled back her hood and removed the armored mask from her face. She feared Nox would not only look down on her, but that he would despise her when he saw her disfigurement.

    Nox saw that her pearly white skin was replaced with red, blistered flesh, bleeding and leaking clear liquid as well. Her once beautiful waist length hair was singed nearly gone, and left only in wiry brittle patches here and there on her blistered and bleeding scalp.

    Darth Nox was taken aback by what he saw. He hadn’t expected to see that she had suffered so much. Although he was deeply shocked, he hid his surprise, brusquely telling her, “You may replace your mask.” Then, thinking that he’d have his servant, the pirate, help his nearly ruined apprentice into the ship, he shouted, “Andronikos!”

    The semi-retired pirate heard Nox’s voice through the fog of sleep and snapped awake, as he imagined that an evil specter was after his soul. He found himself face down on the launch deck.

    Andronikos thought, “What a bad dream.”

    Then he heard Nox’s voice a second time.

    “Andronikos! Prepare the ship! I’m ready to depart!”

    Andronikos rose quickly, but unsteadily to his feet, wincing from the pain in his hip from his newly attached cybernetic prosthetic leg. He limped his way to the Fury-class interceptor and the ring of Hutt security protecting Nox’s ship. As he walked, he heard a metallic clip clop sound approaching him from behind.

    He turned to look behind himself and saw it was Darth Nox’s ship droid, 2V-R8. The droid had heard Nox’s command to get the ship ready for flight and had come out from hiding at the hanger entrance in anticipation of Andronikos’ commands to prep the ship.

    Andronikos ordered, “Scan the ship’s logs. Look for evidence of tampering, sabotage, stowaways, or any other anomaly. Immediately report any anomalies.”

    As the droid responded, “Yes, Captain,” Andronikos turned to face forward and watched as Nox and Virulous spoke to a Twi’lek, accompanied by Grann and his security detail.

    Grann had ordered his team to scatter and to get away as the Jedi and the Sith fought. He’d decided to stay out of their fight. The Major Incident Commander had met up with Grann during the conflict, and only began to approach Darth Nox after the fighting had ended with the Jedi’s flight from the battle.

    The Twi’lek had approached Darth Nox and bowing deeply and speaking politely, introduced himself.

    “I am Talden Wik. I’m the major incident commander for this sector. I bring you greetings from his greatness, Felban The Hutt. He wishes a small moment of your time to convey his most sincere words of regret to you directly. Will you grant him a moment of your valuable time, honored, most august dark lord of Sith?”

    Darth Nox told Talden Wik, “Tell your master the next time I have to come here to protect what is mine, I will do this to him.” Nox pointed a finger at Talden, blasting him with a blinding bolt of Force Lightning, instantly killing him.

    The Twi’lek, who’d fallen backwards, lay dead. His clothing and the flesh on his chest smoldered where the lightning had struck. Nox turned to menacingly glare at the security detail that had accompanied the dead Twi’lek.

    After recovering from the shock of what he’d witnessed from the unexpected attack, Grann told Darth Nox, “Most honored visitor, I will be sure your message is passed on directly to his greatness, Felban The Hutt.”

    Nox turned and walked briskly to his ship with a limping Virulous laboring to keep up with him. Grann realized Nox would encounter the security team protecting the ship, and frantically waved them off. The team protecting the ship had seen what had befallen the major incident commander. They quickly moved away from Nox’s ship, as signaled by their watch commander, Grann.

    As Andronikos watched the Twi’lek fall backwards after the blinding light, accompanied by the loud crack, 2V-R8 began its report.

    “Captain, no anomalies have been detected. All systems show no signs of tampering. The ship’s security logs show that no attempts have been made to access the ship. The...”

    Andronikos, anxious to get the ship opened up before his employer got there, interrupted and ordered the droid, “R8, quick. Pre-flight the ship and get it ready to fly.”

    None of the quickly departing security forces attempted to stop Andronikos as he opened a small access panel with a heavily encrypted electronic key. He stuck his hand into the opening exposed by the retreating panel cover. After a moment, during which his hand had been scanned, the ramp silently came down until it came to a rest, with a clack, on the hanger deck. He closed and locked the access panel again, then hurriedly hobbled up the ramp with the ship droid trailing behind him.

    On the same encrypted electronic key was a keypad. He punched in a five digit code. A green back-lit screen came to life next to the airlock hatch. Andronikos entered a different code on the keypad displayed on the digital touch screen display next to the airlock.

    The sound of the ship’s engines winding up greeted Andronikos’ ears just in time for Darth Nox to walk through the now opened airlock, ahead of Andronikos and the droid, with Virulous laboring up the ramp behind the droid.

    Just after Andronikos stepped through the airlock, Darth Nox ordered, “Join the Imperial Navy task force waiting for me in orbit.”

    Andronikos was just glad that he’d gotten the ship opened up in time for his boss to enter unimpeded.

    He replied, “Sure, Boss.” Then he asked, “What’s their designation?”

    Nox told him, “Task Force 4782.”

    Andronikos answered, “Task Force 4782. You got it, Boss.”
     
  10. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Medical Leave​


    Virulous was aboard Nox’s ship long enough to be taken from Nar Shaddaa to the flagship of Task Force 4782. She limped down the ramp of her master’s Fury-class interceptor, parked within the cavernous hanger bay of an Imperial warship. Limping across the expansive black, mirror polished hanger deck of the Harrower-class dreadnought, the Ruiner, she made her way, painfully, to a waiting long range Imperial light transport starship.

    As usual, the noisy hanger bay was full of activity. Imperial logistics soldiers loaded or unloaded cargo from supply transporters. Platoons of Imperial troops, standing down from possible deployment to support Darth Nox on the Smugglers’ Moon, marched off of dropships to return to their shipboard barracks. Pilots and their crews inspected their respective transport shuttles and starships as part of their preflight routines. Meanwhile, several droids roamed the hanger bay, forever working to keep the deck clean and in its highly polished state.

    At the bottom of the ramp of the transport, she turned about to look at Nox’s ship just in time to watch as it passed through the force field barrier, which held in the atmosphere, as it exited the hanger bay to go who knew where in the galaxy. She felt pangs of hurt and regret, believing she was being discarded. She used these feelings of regret and abandonment to fuel her anger and her growing hatred.

    Virulous was startled at the hatred growing within her, and asked herself, “What is it that I hate so much?” Unbidden was an answer she did not welcome but found hard to refute.

    Nox.

    She thought back to part of her conversation with her master on the flight up from Nar Shaddaa.

    At the start of her conversation with her master, Darth Nox had ordered Virulous, “You will travel to Manaan and get yourself fixed up. You’re a mess and of no use to me in your current state. Do not return to me until you can walk about without the need to hide your face.”

    Darth Nox’s gruff and callous manner had hurt and demoralized Virulous greatly.

    As she watched her master’s ship accelerate away and vanish from view outside of the hanger bay, her resentment for him grew as she furiously thought, “Just how does he think I came to be in this state?! The ungrateful dog!” Tears escaped her eyes behind her armored mask despite her best efforts to will them not to leave.

    Drowned out by the noise of a busy hanger bay, she lamented in a very tiny voice, “I became like this for your sake, my lord.”

    As she turned about and ascended the ramp of the long range personnel transport ship, it occurred to her that the substance of Nox’s orders boiled down to this, “Get your health back and take whatever time you need to recover before you return to work.

    This thought took the edge off of her hatred and conflicted her emotions. Virulous didn’t know what to think or feel anymore. Her head seemed to spin, as confusion took rein of her thoughts.

    Upon limping through the airlock at the top of the ramp of the VIP personnel transport starship, Virulous ordered the officer who greeted her, “Take me to Manaan.”

    The officer snapped to attention and saluted, replying crisply, “Yes, Lord!”

    The young officer, rigidly holding his salute, watched as the slight and very small masked woman, shrouded by her dark hooded robes, shuffled past him and into the ship. He observed as a protocol droid introduced itself to the mysterious passenger.

    “My lord, I am protocol droid YF23-PR78. I shall attend to your needs while you travel aboard this starship. If my lord will follow me, I shall take you to your quarters. I think you shall find these accommodations more than just adequate, my lord. If there is anything my lord requires, I am more than prepared to….”

    Virulous followed the chatty droid, but didn’t really hear anything it was telling her. Her mind was occupied with other matters.

    Is this how he expresses his concern? Is this how he shows kindness? Well, he doesn’t need to disguise his kindness under such a cruel facade! I know my place. I know his power, and I know my limits.” She asked herself, “Why is he showing such kindnesses to me? Why does he care about my well being?How does he really feel about me?” She became startled when she asked herself, “Am I lying to myself?! It led her to ask, “How do I feel about him?” Then she reminded herself, “He is a ruthless ruler. He has no love for anything. He is filled with only one ambition and only cares that I can help him to achieve that ambition.

    Virulous forcibly stopped herself from further speculation. She felt she was starting to wander into the realm of treason as another thought, unbidden, forced its way into her consciousness, “He means to unseat the Emperor. Will I useful to him then?

    Virulous sat on a lounge chair in her suite, oblivious to anything the droid was telling her. In the end, the droid walked to its alcove and waited for her call. Virulous was lost in thought, going back to the events and conversation she had with Darth Nox during the short flight to the Ruiner’s hanger bay.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Virulous became worried Nox had found her a burden to him, and she felt shame as she evaluated her own worth to her master, judging herself a weakling.

    She embarrassedly told the dark lord, “My Lord, forgive me but I do not have the means to afford medical treatment on Manaan. I will seek treatment at the Imperial Army Hospital on Dromund Kaas, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox scoffed at the notion, telling her, “I’ll be mocked if my apprentice cannot afford better care than those butchers on Dromund Kaas can provide! Do you mean to shame me?! Go to Manaan! I’ll see to the costs. You can repay me at a later time.”

    Virulous felt belittled and worried her master might be tiring of her weakness.

    She considered his scared face and scalp, neck and throat and thought, “He wears his scars like badges of honor. Does he expect me to accept my disfigurement in the same way?” Defiantly, she thought, “I will not!

    Nox’s Fury-class interceptor continued its climb into an ever higher orbit as it chased after Task Force 4782. The task force, itself, was accelerating into a higher orbit as it prepared to leave Nar Shaddaa, Hutta’s moon, and Hutta, the capital of Hutt Space and the seat of Hutt power and economic influence over much of the galaxy.

    Sitting in one of the super comfortable lounge chairs in the common crew space, Nox commanded Virulous, “Report to me your progress on Tatooine.”

    Virulous, who’d been standing and in pain, bowed her hooded head towards him, reporting from behind her mask, “Dark Lord, I slew the vermin! I got all three heads of the three crime groups of The Exchange Gang on Tatooine, eight of their twenty lieutenants, and several of their thug followers.”

    Virulous could see from his lack of reaction that Nox was not particularly impressed, but his eyes seemed to light up a little when she told him, “This has sparked a power struggle amongst their survivors. They are killing one another for supremacy over what is left of their criminal enterprise. Even as they fight over dominance, amongst themselves, their rivals steal what was once theirs.”

    Nox nodded acceptance of the ruin that she had visited on them, but said nothing else.

    Then she told him, “Dark Lord, there is one among them who has worked in cooperation with one of your agents. He provided me with the information that made my success possible.”

    From her utility belt, Virulous produced a data pad, a metallic cylinder and a holographic recorder. She stepped forward and placed all three on the caff table in front of Nox’s seat, then stepped back again.

    She said, “One is a gift of ten million credits. It is a tribute to you, Dark Lord. The other is his message, honoring you, and the third is a hand written letter of apology.”

    Nox looked at the items but did not move to pick any of them up, nor did he move to examine any of the items. Instead he called on his ship droid.

    “R8! Get over here! Inspect these devices for traps!”

    The droid came rushing from the control bridge, leaving Andronikos to take control of the ship. Nox waved a hand towards the items, indicating to the droid which items to inspect. Virulous cursed her own stupidity for not thinking of the possibility that that Bith mynock leech could have sent her merrily on her way, carrying explosive traps to her lord. She waited in apprehension for 2V-R8’s pronouncement.

    The droid announced, “These devices have no traps, explosives, nor embedded spy tech, Master. They are safe to handle and to operate.”

    Nox could tell from the way her body had tensed, that the thought of traps had not occurred to her before then.

    He told her, dead pan, “I’m certain you had already inspected them before bringing them into my presence, but I make it a habit to check for traps regardless.”

    Virulous remained silent. She dared not confess her failure to check for traps, but she dared not lie to her lord, either.

    Nox smiled inside at her honesty, thinking of Virulous, “How quaintly naive.

    Instead of discussing the possibility of traps, Virulous told her master, “Dark Lord, one of the three Exchange leaders was foolish enough to hide in a fortified dungeon of a home with his wife and two children.”

    Nox’s eyes sharpened; he sat straighter, asking, “What happened to them?”

    Virulous replied soberly, “I slew them as he watched. He suffered greatly, Master, begging for the lives of his children.”

    Darth Nox leaned back, smiling.

    He nodded his satisfaction, telling her, “You have done well, Darth Virulous. Hearing this news gladdens me. At least you have done one thing right.”

    Virulous became incensed, her voice tremored as she replied, “You are too generous with your praise, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox smiled, thinking, “Ha! This is the closest she’s come to expressing her anger at me. She still fears me.” Aloud, he told his ship droid, “2V-R8, tell Andronikos to land in the hanger bay of the Ruiner. Tell them to have a transport ready to take Darth Virulous to Manaan.”

    The droid replied, “Right away, Master.”

    Then, off it went to the control bridge to complete its task.

    Nox bent forward in his seat and, picking up one of the devices from the caff table before him, activated it. It was the holo-recorder. The holographic image of a Bith appeared and the message began to play.

    The Bith bowed deeply at the waist. One arm tucked across his mid section while the other swept out from his side.

    He straightened up and spoke, saying, “Most excellent and august dark lord of Sith. I am privileged to be permitted an opportunity to give you my most sincerest and most humble apologies for the crimes committed against you and yours by my former, and now justifiably dead, leaders. What fools they were!

    “To actually believe they could raise their hands against someone as powerful as you and actually believe they could get away with it! But now their hubris has attracted your ire and your wrath. We have all suffered greatly under your mighty and unmerciful blows!

    “Your agent of death has paused from her bloody feast of carnage and has given those of us who have, thus far, survived your incinerating wrath an opportunity to prostrate ourselves before you and to beg for an end to your wrathful vengeance. None of my colleagues have answered my call! Those fools believe that your wrath has abated and are carrying on, squabbling amongst themselves to vie for what scraps of power remain in the wake of your fury. Those fools!

    “I am not so short sighted as they! I am not so foolish as they! I know your wrath has not abated! I send to you gifts, peace offerings, oh mighty dark lord!”

    Nox watched the image of the Bith prostrate himself, groveling before Darth Nox. Nox paused the message, laughing.

    He found it comical, telling Virulous, “He’s talking as though I were a Hutt! This is how the small time gangsters grovel to a Hutt when they’re going to ask for something.”

    He laughed some more at the ludicrous nature of the message.

    Virulous became worried, telling her lord, “Dark Lord, please do not send me back there. It was a terrible experience for me.”

    As his ship entered the hanger bay of the flagship, one of three Harrower-class dreadnoughts in the task force, he told her, “When you have returned to me whole, from Manaan, I will send you into the fire once more. I want to see how strong you’ve become.”

    He could see her shoulders stoop and her head drop ever so slightly. He could tell from her body language that it pained her greatly to imagine that she would be sent back to Tatooine.

    Nox told her, “Your experience has given you pain. But it has also, potentially, given you more power and control of the Dark Side of The Force.”

    Virulous remained silent. Nox looked at her appraisingly. He felt the bump of the ship landing in the hanger bay.

    He asked her, “How did it feel when you killed those children while he watched?”

    Virulous replied, her regret and guilt plainly evident in her tone, “I hope I will never have to do such a terrible thing again, but….”

    When her silence threatened to remain, Nox prompted her, “But?”

    Virulous’ voice tremored again, but this time it was from the thrill she felt as she relived the moment the Dark Side nearly overwhelmed her.

    “But the power of The Force flowed through me like a raging river. The darkness threatened to wash away my mind! I could barely walk or see straight, but I felt like I could move mountains, Dark Lord!”

    Nox told her, “That power is still with you, Darth Virulous. However, you cannot call on it fully with your body so broken. When you return to me from Manaan, I want to see what you can do.”

    Andronikos called over the ship’s public address system, “We’re in the Ruiner, debark as you like.”

    Nox told Virulous, “Go now.”

    Virulous bowed to her master, then wordlessly turned about and left his presence and the ship.

    Nox thought with a little concern, “She does not embrace her new found dark power. I must nurture her hatred and help her cast away her aversion to do the very worst without any remorse.

    Nox had forgotten his own battles with guilt and remorse when he had accidentally killed his wife, Ashara Zavros, in a dispute he had with her just over a half year before. A few months later, the Exchange Gang, at Darth Acina’s behest, destroyed one of his estates and killed his two children in the attack. At the time, he had used his grief for their loss to plunge himself even deeper into the Dark Side, thus increasing his power in The Force.

    However, guilt and self hatred assailed his conscience because he took advantage of the situation precisely to gain dark power. The guilt and self hatred that he felt, for his vile use of his family’s tragedy, also fueled his power in the Dark Side of The Force. He had gained tremendous power, but at a cost to his sanity. Nox found himself descending into madness.

    The powerful emotions of love for his wife and children, grief for their loss, guilt for having had some part in their deaths, and a deepening hatred of self, for allowing himself to defile their memories with his search for dark power all threatened to ruin his psyche. Nox had decided to preserve his sanity and no longer defile the memory of his beloved wife and children. In the end, he vowed to himself to find another path to dark power, all because of remorse.
     
  11. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    A Fuel Shortage​



    Darth Nox worried over his secret research getting stolen. So, four years ago, he had a deep space station commissioned and built. Construction of the space station was completed two years later, but he hadn’t begun moving his most sensitive research projects to it until a year after that. When the station had become fully operational, with his secrets safely stored aboard, he had the station moved to a starless dust filled region on the outer edge of the galaxy.

    Having learned from his top agent, Keeper, how easily he and his assistant, Watcher Two, had located the Emperor’s secret space station, the Arcanum, Darth Nox decided to replace all of his military security forces with his own private security organization. It was staffed with handpicked security professionals from all over the Empire. Keeper organized the security screening and vetting process himself, ensuring the hired security professionals would be reliable and could be trusted to keep secrets.

    Keeper and his executive officer, Watcher Two, had also gone back to the Imperial Military Personnel Records Section at The Citadel in Kaas City, Dromund Kaas. They went through the personnel service records of every Imperial soldier who’d ever served, at one time or another, on Darth Nox’s space station.

    In their service records, Keeper and Watcher Two altered the space station’s designation number and the station’s coordinates to make it seem the Imperial soldiers served aboard another space station at another location. In this way, the existence and location of Nox’s space station was effectively purged from military records.

    Following the major incident on Nar Shaddaa, Darth Nox had secluded himself aboard his space station. It was nowhere near as big as the emperor’s space station, nor was it equipped with stealth technology, but the galaxy was big, and no one was looking for his space station.

    Nox was confident that his research was safely hidden from his enemies and rivals. He believed that so long as his research was not disclosed to his rivals nor stolen by his enemies on the Dark Council, that he would ultimately hold a great advantage over them. He believed the knowledge his research could yield would cement his place as the most powerful Sith in the galaxy, after the Sith Emperor.

    Nearly ten years before, when Nox was known as Kallig, Lord of The Sith, his old master, Darth Zash, had tried to use a Dark Force ritual to commandeer Nox’s body. It was a ritual to steal another’s body in order to extend her life. However, Nox’s servant, Khem Val, thwarted her plans when he interfered with the ritual. Unexpectedly, she ended up sharing Khem Val’s body, instead.

    During times when she controlled the Dashade’s body, pushing the Dashade’s consciousness into the realm of the subconscious, Darth Zash had worked out a deal to give Lord Kallig all of her hidden libraries of ancient Dark Force rituals. In exchange, Kallig would aid her to eject Khem Val’s consciousness from his body, granting her complete control of it.

    During his murder trial before the Dark Council on Korriban, Kallig had hid from them the truth of what had actually happened to his master. He didn’t want anyone learning the nature of her ritual, so he failed to tell them that her conscious mind had been transferred into the Dashade’s body. The Dark Council only saw her dead body, so they believed he’d simply killed her.

    He presented, to the Dark Council, evidence of the preparations she had made for her ritual to kill him. His claim of self defense was plausible enough, so the Dark Council looked the other way. The Dark Council awarded him Zash’s powerbase and all of her wealth and real estate, while also turning Kallig over to Darth Thanaton, to replace Zash as his subordinate. Shortly after his trial, he traveled to Taris.

    On Taris, in a warehouse filled with antiquities, was the device he was to use to eject Khem Val’s mind. However, Kallig had betrayed Zash, ejecting her consciousness and trapping her mind in the ancient technological prison, instead. In this way, he repaid Khem Val’s selflessness when the Dashade saved his life from his master.

    Nearly ten years later, Darth Nox was one of twelve rulers on the Dark Council when he had freed his old master from her technological prison, after a monumental search for the device in Taris’ ruined cityscape, another fact he hid from his fellow dark counselors. The prison was a devise created by an ancient and all but forgotten race, the Rakata of the almost mythical Infinite Empire more than twenty thousand years in the ancientest past.

    These devices were vanishingly rare, with only two known to have been discovered, and both Rakata mind traps were in the possession of the Sith Empire, and both of them were held as closely guarded secrets, hidden in the bowels of The Citadel within Darth Nox’s domain, the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge. To all the galaxy, Darth Zash was dead, and had been dead for the last ten years.

    So, when Nox presented Zash’s consciousness, in the body of a Jedi, to the Dark Council, they assumed, and he let them assume, that he had somehow discovered and used a Dark Force ritual that brought Zash back to life. They believed that he had brought her consciousness back from beyond The Force and put it into the body of a Jedi.

    The whole thing was a ruse, smoke and mirrors. It gave him great power and influence over his rivals, so long as they believed he had this power to bring back the dead. The power he held over his fellow dark counselors was an illusion, however, an illusion he knew would not last forever.

    However, the research Nox conducted, this time, was going to lead him to real power, power that could not be resisted by any other, except by Sith Emperor Vitiate.

    Several centuries ago, Emperor Vitiate had been careful to hide his secrets in his space station, the Arcanum, but he did not know that his rivals, a thousand years before, had already stolen his secrets, making copies of his works and conducting their own research.

    Emperor Vitiate had ruthlessly eliminated his enemies, and those who foolishly believed themselves his equal. Centuries later, Vitiate had discovered the thefts, but he knew that everything decayed with time. He believed his secrets were safe. However, he had not anticipated that his dead enemies had taken careful steps to preserve their hidden works based on his stolen research, and he greatly underestimated the effectiveness of the Imperial Reclamation Service, which had found and dug up those works a thousand years later.

    As does everything else in the grips of time, the long centuries had swallowed up the facts, names, events, heroic deeds, infamous crimes, and the many monuments erected to their memory. Time swallowed up the histories of the most powerful, the most notable actors of an all but forgotten ancient era. The ancient histories of great battles fought between Sith, against Jedi, in the conquest of empires had all become myths and legends over the passing centuries.

    Records were lost or destroyed and all reliable memory of those ancientest of times had been all but erased from galactic civilization’s memory. The only remaining constant, the only remaining proof, the only thing that lent credence to the myths and legends that had managed to persist through the murkiness of the passing centuries was Vitiate.

    There was no doubt of the fact that he had ruled the Sith Empire for over one thousand three hundred years. Somehow, the emperor had learned to bypass the natural order of the cycle of life and death. For as long as he ruled over the Sith Empire, the emperor had ignored death.

    Death had found itself unable to enforce its right to take life from a living entity. Death found itself confounded by the one named Vitiate.

    Darth Nox was in search of Vitiate’s secrets of immortality. He wanted to be able to ignore Death, too. So, he unceasingly pursued the secrets of the forgotten ancient past, looking for more clues leading to more of Vitiate’s secrets.

    A year after his murder trial on Korriban, Lord Kallig defeated his new master, Darth Thanaton, in a duel to the death before the Dark Councilors in the council chamber, and succeeded him to the Dark Council. The Dark Council named him Darth Nox, Dark Lord over the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge.

    In so doing, he had found himself in possession of fragments of Vitiate’s research, and the research of Vitiate’s long dead rivals. Much of his work over the years, since ascending to the Dark Council, initially involved the breaking of codes used to obfuscate the meanings of words and phrases of the long dead language of the ancient Sith Race of Korriban.

    Once he had overcome those hurdles, Nox had to wrap his head around the concepts being described by the ancient Sith lords who had authored the archaic research. That took years more to accomplish. After nine years of research, Darth Nox believed himself ready to conduct his first practical experiment.

    He had spent many hours in meditation, filling himself with the power of the Dark Side of The Force. His mind was focused with fury, and his heart was filled with unyielding hatred. Darth Nox, who’d been kneeling, rose to his feet.

    He approached a laboratory table with a large tub bolted to it. The tub was half filled with a slurry of mud, large slabs of raw flesh that still had the bones, fur covered hide, and other tissue still dripping with blood of a recently slaughtered creature, a tukata. Tukata are wild beasts which live and hunt in packs and which are found natively on Korriban.

    The muddy slurry was also brimming full of microbial life forms. The slurry concoction stank strongly of rot. Darth Nox picked up a clay tablet that he had made. The clay in the tablet was very porous and infused with a certain mixture of elements in very precisely measured quantities. He had inscribed the tablet in the ancient dead language of his ancestors, the pure-blooded red-skinned Sith who originally inhabited the planet, Korriban.

    He placed the tablet in the tub at one side of it, and watched it sink into the slurry as the water in the slurry soaked into the porous tablet. Nox reached his hands towards the slab of flesh at the center of the tub and projected his malice and hatred, his fury and his murderous intent at it. The Dark Side of The Force carried his dark and malign thoughts and feelings to the slab of flesh and bones in the slurry.

    The tukata flesh in the slurry began to writhe and pulsate as though it were some sort of worm. It began to change its nature, taking on a new form. Fur covered tentacles poked out of the slurry in the tub and began to snake around as though seeking escape from the tub.

    Darth Nox spoke maliciously to the forming creature, “Vile wretch! Know your place! Be still and remain in your filth until I am done with you!”

    The tentacles froze, seemingly on hearing his voice. Then as though understanding speech, jerked back into the slurry, as though hiding from a terrible threat.

    Just as Nox was about to imbue the still forming creature with his malign aura, an overhead announcement was made by a droid, “Dark Lord, Darth Marr insists on speaking to you immediately. Shall I pass the call to you?”

    Nox furiously halted his experiment and immediately killed the partially formed creature in its tub, blasting it with Force Lightning.

    Nox shouted at the droid via the intercom, “I said, NO INTERRUPTIONS!”

    The droid’s voice returned through the speakers, “I’m deeply sorry, Dark Lord. However, Darth Marr stated it was a most urgent matter that could not wait. Shall I disconnect the call?”

    Nox shouted with disgust in his tone, “I’ll take the damned call in my office!”

    With that, he exited his laboratory and, after making his way through a labyrinth of hallways and turbolifts, finally entered his office.

    As he sat in his chair behind his desk, he ordered, “Connect the call.”

    As soon as Darth Marr’s image appeared, Darth Nox spoke darkly, telling the caller, “Marr, this had better be worth the interruption to my work.”

    Marr replied flatly, “We are losing the war with the Galactic Republic.”

    Darth Nox shifted in his seat and turned his head to the side with a look of shock on his face.

    Turning back to face Marr’s holographic image over his desk, Nox asked, “Did I mishear you? Did you say we – the Sith Empire is losing the war with our enemy?”

    Marr replied, “The Republic’s tactics of concentrating their attacks at our fueling ports, fuel mines, and their threats against third party fuel exporters has worked to strand our navy. With our fuel supply greatly reduced, our navy cannot conduct operations at the pace required to cement our control over areas we have already conquered.

    To conserve fuel, I have been pulling our fleets out of action, keeping them hidden and safe. I have left enough of our forces to defend Imperial territories, but we cannot hold much of our war gains.”

    Nox asked angrily, “So, who have you chosen as your successor when you are voted out of the Dark Council?!”

    Marr, clearly angered by the threat to his position on the Dark Council, worked to control his tone, but his anger shone through regardless.

    “I have a plan! A plan to reverse this set back, and to return us to the path to victory!”

    Regaining his composure, he told Nox, “We are set back because of our lack of fuel. It is a serious matter with real implications if we cannot correct it. However, I have found a solution.”

    Alarm bells started going off in Nox’s head, as he recalled Moff Pyron’s report to him about the fleet being hidden in deep space.

    Nox asked himself, “Have we been short of fuel for the fleet since that far back?!

    Moff Valion Pyron had reported that Darth Marr was hiding the fleet a few months ago when Nox had been in the midst of a blood feud against the disgraced Darth Acina.

    Nox sat up straight and said pointedly, “If you have a solution, then carry it out.” Then he asked, “Why do you need to tell me?”

    Marr replied, “My hands are full with the war effort. I cannot split my time and my abilities between the two problems. The war requires my full attention.”

    Nox asked angrily, “Why me, then? Couldn’t you have asked any of the others? What about Zash, Mortis, or Ravage?”

    Marr replied, “Mortis is busy putting down rebellions, Ravage is too blunt to rely on a problem that requires subtlety, and Zash is still consolidating her hold on her sphere of influence. That leaves you.” Marr added grudgingly, “You are also, my first choice, Nox. You are strong, have a strong powerbase, and understand subtlety. The need for a small, quiet, yet very strong presence is required.”

    Nox asked incredulously, “Small, quiet, yet strong presence?! Are you telling me I can’t bring troops?”

    Marr replied, “I will provide you with four black ops teams, a reinforced company of regular infantry, and a team of operators to help with the administration of your operation and with the execution of your plans. Of course, I expect you’ll bring in your own top talent, but it is necessary to keep a very small foot print for my solution to work.”

    Leaning back in his chair, Nox asked as suspicion of plots and traps began to nag at the back of his mind, “So. What is this solution?”

    Marr began his briefing, telling Nox, “The Hutts have used strong arm tactics to actually take over an independent and neutral world in the Outer Rim near Hutt Space. Makeb is the world in question.

    “Their interest in the planet only just recently surfaced when a local mining company discovered a very rare material. It is reportedly being called Isotope Five. Since the Hutts have taken over, they have ramped up mining for this rare material.

    “My scientists tell me, based on their studies of the sample which I had obtained for their study, that with modifications to the reactors powering our starships, a very small amount of Isotope Five will power the ship for nearly its entire life of service. Imagine a Navy of ships, fueled once, and never needing to be refueled again.”

    Nox said, “It would give our fleets an enormous strategic advantage over our enemies.”

    Marr said, “You shall meet with my assets on my ship. I shall provide transport to Makeb from my ship. Your teams shall locate and recover all of the Hutt’s mined stockpiles of the Isotope Five for our fleets.”

    Nox replied, by way of a thinly veiled criticism, “I will see to this. You be sure we stop losing the war.”

    Marr replied testily, “I have a solution for that, too.”

    Marr’s holographic image was gone.

    Darth Nox wondered to himself aloud, “How is it that the Republic knew completely where and how to cut us off from our fuel? Why were such important resources at our facilities throughout the galaxy so poorly defended?

    Darth Nox dialed a frequency. A moment later, Andronikos Revel’s holographic image appeared above Nox’s desk.

    Andronikos greeted his employer, “Hey, Boss! What do you have going?”

    Darth Nox asked, “Have you found it difficult to fuel the ship?”

    Andronikos did a double take and then laughed.

    Still laughing, he asked, “Someone finally got the nuts to tell the Dark Council about the fuel shortage?”

    Nox, dead serious asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

    Andronikos stopped laughing and answered dead level seriously, “I already got my fill of lightning for the few times you got mad at stuff I’ve told you before. That new apprentice of yours tried taking me out that time, too.” He added as though remembering at the last moment, “And I got my leg shot, clean off for getting my ass saved by you.” He added as an afterthought, “Thanks for saving my ass, by the way.”

    Into the silence that followed, Andronikos added, “I already live on the edge of excitement and danger. No sense taking a swim in it, if I don’t have to.”

    Nox chuckled, almost mirthlessly, as he observed, “It’s your love of wealth and status, your ambition, too. Those outweigh any fear you have of me, of anything. Nox nodded approvingly, adding, “It’s one of the things I like about you, Andronikos. The day you finally decide to leave my service will be the day I lose such a capable man.”

    Compliments from Nox were rare.

    Andronikos was touched by it, but he merely told his employer, “I got a ways to go before I’ll think of retiring. Don’t worry, Boss. You’ll be the first I’ll tell when I decide to retire – after I’m long gone.”

    Nox became slightly amused by his ship commander’s half serious joke, yet the smile he gave never reached his eyes. Nox’s smiles very rarely ever reached his eyes.

    He told the semi-retired pirate, “I would appreciate the courtesy.” Then getting to business, he told his subordinate, “In the meantime, find Darth Virulous. The last I knew, she was on Manaan getting treatment for her injuries. It’s been three months. She must be healed up by now. Meet me on Nar Shaddaa with Virulous.”

    Andronikos commented, “That sounds like work. You want me to find Khem, too?”

    Nox thought a moment, then replied, “Yes, and hire thirty exceptional and trust worthy Mandalorians. I’m going to need them for personal security.”

    Andronikos whistled and commented, “Whoa! That sounds serious! Can I get my own crew and stick around to pick up the pieces?”

    Nox replied, “Not this time, Andronikos. I’ll think of something else for you to do, however.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  12. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    I re-wrote much of the previous chapter, "A Fuel Shortage," after I realized that I had made some very big mistakes in continuity. The story of how Zash and Khem Val became enemies, why Nox hated Zash so much, yet risking her treachery to use her power (from the previous story) was not properly represented the way I had originally written the chapter. So, I re-wrote it.

    I also added back story to Nox's experience, to explain why he's doing what he's doing and hinting to what his ultimate ambitions are.

    I'm sorry, for turning in a half-done chapter. I hope you'll forgive me if I humbly ask you to give it another look.

    I'm now at work on the next chapter and, this time, I will be sure it's right before I release it. As always, I welcome your comments (although you've all been pretty quiet - I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm gonna keep on writing. I hope you don't mind.)...
     
  13. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I can't speak for anybody else, but in my case quiet is a good thing. Still enjoying the Sithly shenanigans. Keep it up.
     
    PlanetSmasher likes this.
  14. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Business On Nar Shaddaa​


    Darth Nox traveled to Nar Shaddaa from his secret space station to meet with the executives who ran his business interests on the Smuggler’s Moon. Transformative Technologies was a manufacturing firm which produced several vital components for the Imperial Navy’s super weapon. It was a steady significant source of his personal wealth. He liked to keep abreast of business matters, checking in periodically.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Over ten years ago, before he’d ever traveled to Taris and subsequently met Ashara Zavros, his late wife and reluctant Sith apprentice, he had come to Nar Shaddaa to procure an ancient relic that once belonged to Tulac Hord, a Sith lord who made his mark in Sith Empire history three hundred years before.

    At the time, he was the apprentice of Darth Zash. The relic he’d brought to her held dark knowledge she required for her research. In essence, she was recreating and replicating Tulac Hord’s research for extending one’s life, but Nox did not know this at the time.

    While on his task, Nox, then known as Kallig, defeated a Sith lord who had built up a cult of followers. Kallig took control of the cult from the dead Sith lord for himself. He also completed his task of taking the relic from the Sith Lord’s possession for his master.

    At the end of his mission on Nar Shaddaa, Kallig had returned to Zash, on Dromund Kaas, to present her with Tulac Hord’s holocron which contained the ancient Sith lord’s many research secrets. Zash had surprised Kallig when she congratulated him on securing the cult of followers for himself. Kallig had never told his master about his dealings with the cultists beyond the fact that a few of the disaffected and ostracized members helped him to obtain the holocron. This made him realize that he was being watched.

    Over a period of many months, Kallig transformed his cult of mindless followers into a well organized crime ring with the help of Andronikos Revel, whom he’d met a year before on Tatooine.

    His crime ring conducted itself in many criminal enterprises which included blackmail, intimidation, and money laundering, in addition to the trafficking of illicit materials from time to time. These activities helped to increase his organization’s influence and criminal territory.

    Then one day, while on Dromund Kaas assisting Darth Zash to prepare for one of Tulac Hord’s archaic rituals, his master tried to take over control of his body… After his murder trial, he was placed under the leadership of Darth Thanaton, taking Zash’s place as Thanaton’s subordinate, but not as his apprentice.

    Nox would have been content with that, except that Darth Thanaton attempted to have him killed – several times. Thanaton feared Nox’s growing power and wanted to be rid of a potential rival. Because of this, Kallig didn’t have the time to devote to his cult of followers turned crime ring. He turned operational control over to two of his lieutenants.

    Facetiously, he told them, “I’m in the middle of a duel with my dead master’s master. He should have taken me as his apprentice, but it seems I’ve inherited Thanaton’s grudge against my dead master along with all of her other worldly possessions.”

    Kallig paused to let them laugh and, dutifully, they laughed as expected.

    Then he told them, “I’m going to let you two run things for a while, while I deal with Thanaton. I expect monthly reports, and I expect to see my credits grow.”

    His two lieutenants replied.

    First, the human male, Destris Veran, promised, “Don’t worry, Lord Kallig. We won’t let you down.”

    Then the human female, Rylee Dray, assured Kallig, telling him, “My lord, we’ll also keep your front operations looking squeaky clean. People will still get medical treatment, so the money we launder through the free clinic will look like legitimate donations.”

    With concern tinting his tone, Kallig told her, “See about getting actual donors to help fund the medical clinic. I don’t want to have to use too many of my laundered credits to run it.”

    She replied, “Get actual donors. Got it.”

    Several months later, Kallig’s drawn out duel with Thanaton had reached a point where the military began to take sides. Thanaton had killed their big weapons research project, and one of the high ranking military officials took exception to this. Valion Pyron, a very powerful moff in the Imperial military hierarchy, taking advantage of the rift between Darth Thanaton and his subordinate Lord Kallig, got Kallig to sign off on the continuation of the research and development of their super weapon. With that, Kallig secured the backing of the military, provided he pulled off a successful test of the ship-mounted super weapon.

    When Moff Valion Pyron approached Kallig, it was not only to offer the support of the military against Thanaton, but to ask that Lord Kallig secure technologies being developed by a small startup firm which Kallig owned via his crime ring. During a shakeup of a group of investors which had borrowed money from Lord Kallig’s crime ring, his criminal organization had somehow ended up owning the majority stake of a start up technology manufacturing firm, holding eighty percent of the shares.

    Lord Kallig was shocked to hear this news. He hadn’t known about this acquisition. He began to wonder how much else his lieutenants had been keeping from him.

    When Lord Kallig returned to Nar Shaddaa, he found himself surprised that not only had his criminal organization really flourished beyond what he’d been told in reports, but that it had also become the target of a rival criminal organization which saw his operation as easy pickings. Lord Kallig had gone on a rampage, wrecking and ruining the rival gangsters’ operations and killing a significant number of their thuggish members, over a period of several weeks, until the leaders called for terms for peace. Kallig had agreed to meet with the leadership of the rival gang to work out a peace deal.

    Kallig had attended the negotiations with Khem Val and Andronikos Revel backing him up.

    The rival gang leaders numbered five remaining, and each of them had brought two body guards with them.

    Their leader announced, “We’re all here. Let’s introduce ourselves.”

    Kallig agreed, saying, “That’s a good idea. I’ll start. I am Kallig, Lord of the Sith. Then rhetorically, he asked, answering his own question, “Do you know why we are gathered here? It is to discuss peace.” Asking another rhetorical question, which he again answered, he said, “And do you know the first tenet of the Sith Code? Peace is a lie.”

    Where upon he drew and activated his sabrestaff, leaping into the attack, while Andronikos and Khem Val stood back to watch the mayhem. Having betrayed their trust and slaughtering them all, he made them into an example for all other potential rival gangs with ideas of moving in on his operations.

    Later that day, he called to task his lieutenants for withholding information from him, including the fact that they were under attack by rival gangs.

    Kallig killed them both and appointed new lieutenants to take over operations. He warned the new leaders.

    “Don’t make the same mistake of thinking you can steal from me and get away with it. And don’t keep me in the dark if a rival tries to move in on my enterprise. When that happens, I have to take action quickly to protect what’s mine. Am I clear?”

    His two newly appointed lieutenants nodded somberly, replying, “Yes, Lord Kallig.”

    They were shocked at how casually Nox had killed both of their predecessors – who were well liked. After scolding them and pointing out their errors, it seemed that he was done teaching them a lesson, until he suddenly decapitated the two with his lightsaber, one right after the other. No one saw that coming at all. Their bodies lay in spreading pools of blood as he conducted business with his newly appointed lieutenants.

    However, as he conducted his meeting with his new leaders, it immediately became apparent to Kallig that his lieutenants, running his criminal gang, were woefully inadequate to run the technology business. At stake was a potential defense contract, certainly worth hundreds of billions of credits over several years, to supply custom made components manufactured by his company.

    He decided to split off the technology business from the criminal enterprise, recruiting and hiring professional industrialists and business men to ramp up the company’s operations and to increase the pace of research and development of the specialized components.

    Several months later, Lord Kallig had been invited by Moff Valion Pyron to witness the test firing of the Imperial Navy’s new Super Weapon, code named, Silencer. Coincidentally, another task force of Imperial warships was ambushed by a Galactic Republic naval group with numerical superiority in the next sector.

    The three moffs in attendance began to debate amongst themselves about the matter.

    Moff Pyron urged Lord Kallig, “We must complete the test firing, or we will lose our opportunity to win funding from the Dark Council for the weapon system.”

    Moff Dolus remarked, “Well, we can’t leave an ally to die. It would be tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    Moff Graham noted, “That’s the Carnage, Darth Achelon’s ship.” Turning to Kallig, he asked, “You do know that Darth Achelon serves Darth Thanaton, don’t you, my lord?” Then he advised, “Let him die.”

    Kallig was slightly stunned on hearing Graham’s suggestion, reflecting, “There are four Imperial warships out there with thousands of Imperial soldiers and ship’s crews aboard. Don’t we need every one of them for the war effort?”

    Dolus spoke up, “Exactly so, my lord! We can’t let our allies down!”

    Pyron shook his head with disappointment, telling the young Sith lord, “Lord Kallig, if we miss this opportunity to test the weapon, then all of our efforts will be for naught.”

    Kallig announced to the moffs, “Then we shall do both. We shall save valuable Imperial naval assets, and test the weapon. There are a whole lot of Republic warships that we can test the weapon on in the next sector.”

    Graham and Dolus both looked at Pyron, expecting him to explain things, and he did.

    “Lord Kallig, we’ve never fired the weapon before. We don’t know if…”

    Kallig interrupted, “Moff Pyron, you didn’t call me all the way out here, more than twelve sectors away from my important work, to test a weapon that has a high probability of not working. Did you?”

    “The weapon will work, my lord, but we don’t know what the energy throughput is, yet. It may fire successfully but only end up scorching the paint off of the enemy’s hulls.”

    Resolutely, Kallig ordered, “Tell the Carnage to withdraw out of our field of fire. We will flank the enemy and engage them.”

    Pyron stomped his boot, snapping to attention with the two other moffs joining him, and replied, “Yes, Lord!”

    Kallig kept his pazaak face on, but he was shocked at the moffs’ response to his order. He didn’t expect such deferential obedience to him from such high ranking military officials. But he liked it. He liked it a lot. Kallig was legitimately a bona fide actual lord over Sith. Several weeks before Darth Zash had attempted to take control of his body, she had elevated him above ordinary Sith, granting him the title, Lord of The Sith.

    However, because of his ongoing Kaggath with Darth Thanaton, he’d been viewed as a rogue. His title barely gave his words weight in official circles. Having moffs treat him with such respect was intoxicating to him. It made him crave such deferential treatment even more.

    Lord Kallig swore to himself again, for the umpteenth time, “I will destroy Thanaton, and force the Sith to recognize my power!

    Moff Pyron spoke to the admiral in command of the task force participating in the weapon system test.

    “Admiral Karamon, you shall direct your ships to enter sector wesk fifty seven dash krill six twenty four dash dorn two five two (W57-K624-D252). There, you shall relieve the 3027th Task Force, currently under ambush by Galactic Republic naval forces. As Task Force 3027 disengages the enemy to withdraw from our field of fire, you shall use the Silencer weapon system, mounted on the Doombringer, to engage and destroy the enemy. The dreadnaught Ruiner, its destroyer escort, and your own destroyer escort, shall supplement the Doombringer’s firepower as needed.”

    Admiral Karamon snapped to attention. Stomping his boot, he barked out, “Yes, Moff!”

    Kallig, Pyron, Dolus, and Graham stood quietly and watched as Admiral Karamon held an impromptu conference with the captains of the two dreadnaught warships and the captains of their six destroyer escorts, giving them their orders. They watched as the admiral coordinated with the executive officer, an admiral, of Task Force 3027 on precisely when to maneuver out of the field of fire to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

    The Doombringer, the Ruiner, and their six heavy destroyer escorts traveled for an hour in hyperspace, exiting hyperspace precisely fifty thousand meters from the enemy formation’s rear. Kallig watched the huge display monitor as the Carnage and two of its three escort destroyers shot away into hyperspace, the third heavy destroyer escort ship had been disabled, rendered unable to move. The Republic ships numbering nine, three super battle cruisers and six heavy destroyers, concentrated their fires on the lone crippled Imperial Terminus-class destroyer even as they maneuvered to face the newly arrived Imperial warships.

    The Doombringer’s captain had been issuing commands, readying the Silencer super weapon to fire. Kallig and the three moffs intently watched the battle on the huge display monitor as the weapon was readied for firing. They were surprised by how very quickly the weapon built up its charge, less than twenty seconds.

    A few moments later, an engineer involved in the development of the new weapon system rushed into the control bridge and made a beeline to the ship’s captain. Kallig couldn’t hear what was being said, but he could tell by the captain’s expression that it was not something the captain wanted to hear. Yet, the captain gave a single curt nod, as though approving something. The engineer ran off.

    The captain then announced, as the engineer exited the command bridge, “Moff Pyron, we’ll have to fire the weapon continuously and shift targets to discharge the energy build up. The energy regulator has gone off line and the system is continuously building up a charge without let up. We will overload and blow up if we do not discharge this excess power. I will attempt to target as many enemy ships as possible until the charge has been exhausted, after that, we’ll have to rely on conventional weaponry to complete the counter ambush.”

    Moff Pyron replied, “Very well, carry on.”

    Kallig asked, “How much of a charge have we built up to?”

    Pyron nodded at the captain, giving him leave to address the Sith lord.

    The captain snapped to attention and spoke, “Captain Brance Tokk, commanding officer of the Doombringer, my lord. We are, as of the report given me by the systems development lead engineer, at two hundred and thirty eight percent and rising. If my lord will excuse me, I must issue orders to the targeting team.”

    Kallig replied, “Carry on, then.”

    “Thank you, my lord.” Then, “Weapons Officer, target the ships from left to right, for two seconds each. Sweep the beam across each target, and do not interrupt the discharge of the weapon. The weapon system must be completely discharged.”

    The weapons officer proceeded to reprogram the targeting parameters as he replied, “Yes, Captain!”

    Moff Pyron told Admiral Karamon, “Order the task force to prepare for a prolonged engagement.”

    “Understood, Moff!”

    “Then contact the Carnage and ask them to return to the fray.”

    “Yes, Moff!”

    The weapons officer called out, “Target parameters have been completed. Ready to fire on your command, Captain!”

    The captain ordered, “Commence firing!”

    The triangular Harrower-class dreadnaught has a split bow. In between the split bow, recessed about a third of the length of the ship back from the tip of the split bow, is a humongous two level hanger bay. On the Doombringer, the two level hanger bay had been converted into the machinery room for the enormous Silencer super weapon. The Silencer’s muzzle was a giant ring, three hundred meters in diameter, which created a magnetic field used to focus the energy beam when the enormous energies were discharged. It was called the focusing ring.

    At the forward most tips of the split bow was another magnetic ring which was mounted on gimbals. This was the targeting ring. It swiveled in order to direct the weapon’s energy beam at the target. The targeting ring swiveled from its neutral forward facing position, with its aperture swiveling to target the left most enemy ship.

    Nearly simultaneous to the captain’s order to commence firing, Admiral Karamon ordered, “Task Force, ATTACK!!”

    The Silencer began its programmed firing profile. Starting with the leftmost ship in the enemy’s formation, staying on target for two seconds before the continually discharging energy beam was swept to its next target by the ships targeting computer. The Silencer’s energy beam was deep red. It was almost gossamer in its appearance as one could see the stars tinted red through the dimly lit energy beam.

    It turned out that two seconds of continuous fire was overkill. After the first second of firing, the next second of energy discharge was wasted on a rapidly expanding cloud of debris. At the end of twenty two seconds the beam continued to fire, but all nine enemy ships had already been destroyed. The area they had once occupied had become a dangerous field of giant shrapnel that could shred a fighter in an instant, and cause significant damage to the hulls of any warship that dared to pass through the ever expanding debris field.

    Absolute silence reigned in the control bridge of the Doombringer. Kallig looked around the bridge, as the moffs stood in stupefied silence. The ship’s captain and his weapons officer looked at the targeting information at the weapon control console, whispering to each other about the information they were trying to interpret. Meanwhile the Silencer continued discharging its rapidly recharging power banks until the engineers were finally able to disengage and power down the charging generator.

    Kallig looked at the tactical plotting board at the side of the of the bridge and noticed that none of the Imperial warships were moving, except for the Carnage and its two remaining heavy destroyer escorts, as they reentered the battle field, dropping out of hyperspace.

    Kallig demanded, “What’s happening here? Why aren’t the ships of the task force attacking?!”

    Moff Pyron turned to Kallig with a very grave expression on his face.

    He spoke somberly, “My Lord. We have, singlehanded, destroyed the entire enemy task force.”

    Kallig was mystified. He couldn’t believe it.

    Incredulous, he said, “We won. We won and the Silencer worked! Yet everyone here is behaving as though we were at a wake!”

    Moff Pyron said, “I’ve never presided over a battle where we nearly instantaneously killed eighty to a hundred thousand ships’ crews and ground troops in less than twenty seconds, Lord Kallig.”

    Kallig became angry on hearing this from the moff.

    He said, “We are at war, Moff Pyron. Have you forgotten? It’s either us, or it’s them! We have a new weapon system that will help to end the war much sooner – in victory for us! Countless Imperial lives will be saved, and if the enemy have the good sense to surrender after a few beatings with this new weapon, then it’ll result in their lives being saved, too. Do not forget, that over an hour ago, you were willing to sacrifice four Imperial warships and their nearly forty thousand ship crews and ground troops, to test the weapon!”

    Moff Pyron was brought up, short on that last statement. His anger began to rise until he realized the truth of it.

    He told Kallig, “My lord, you are quite correct. I apologize for my moment of weakness. Next time, I will work hard to prevent the loss of Imperial troops and ships and work feverishly to increase the slaughter of Republic forces.”

    Kallig wasn’t sure what to make of that comment, whether the moff was speaking facetiously. He merely nodded his acknowledgement.

    Following the successful test firing of the new prototype super weapon system – against enemy ships – and following the successful rescue of most of Darth Achelon’s naval task force (the crippled destroyer was a loss, but the surviving crews and troops aboard had been rescued), the Imperial Navy had a much easier time selling the new weapon system to the Dark Council.

    In light of the surprisingly short and one-sided battle, thanks to the Silencer, the Dark Council voted to approve production of the new weapon system to be retrofitted into some of the existing Harrower-class dreadnought warships, this, over the loud objections of Darth Thanaton, citing costs.

    Future versions of the Harrower-class warship would be built with the weapon system natively integrated into them. With this, Lord Kallig returned to the Dark Council’s notice, which also began to recognize his power, as Thanaton seemed to be having trouble eliminating him.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Nine years later, Nox sat in the board room listening to the CEO’s report. His technologies business was successful. It continued to manufacture the components, which had to be replaced after only a few dozen firings of the weapon system because of the intense energy that coursed through those parts, wearing them down quickly. Additionally, the company had developed new technological products with civilian applications. These technologies enjoyed a respectable share of the civilian markets, both in Hutt space and in Sith Imperial space.

    However, Transformative Technologies had several serious issues to contend with. The problems the executives were encountering stemmed from breaches in their computer security across their networks. On several occasions, attempts had been made to slice into their computer systems to steal information. However, these slicing attacks were successfully thwarted by the business’ cybersecurity section. Additionally, attempts had also been made by actual thieves to break into the facilities, after hours, to commit sabotage and or theft.

    A security consultant the executives of Transformative Technologies had hired suggested that the S.I.S., the Galactic Republic’s spy organization, may have been behind the attempted breaches in security. The Neimoidian female security consultant demonstrated how she believed the S.I.S. was carrying out their slicing operations.

    Transformative Technologies’ computer network systems manager told Nox, “The holo-net security consultant showed me that by accessing the physical holo-net hardware through which our data flows, thirty stories below in the central network hub, the S.I.S. have been connecting directly to our lines to access our networks.”

    Darth Nox turned to his CEO and told him, “Get Mulaboo on. I want to talk to him.”

    Veld Ming Terrek nodded to his secretary.

    Shortly thereafter, the holographic image of a male Twi’lek appeared above the conference table.

    “Offices of the mighty and regal Mulaboo The Hutt. Who calls?”

    The CEO answered, “I’m Veld Ming Terrek, CEO of Transformative Technologies. The sole owner of Transformative Technologies is here with me. He wishes to speak with Mulaboo The Hutt.”

    The Twi’lek asked, “And? What is this sole owner’s name?”

    The CEO answered plainly, “Darth Nox, Dark Lord of The Sith and a ruler on the Sith Empire’s Dark Council.”

    The Twi’lek, initially startled, quickly recovered his cool as he replied, “I will tell his most resplendent and august mogul of this most auspicious caller. Please bear with me as I announce Darth Nox to Mulaboo The Hutt.”

    Word of Darth Nox’s previous visit to Nar Shaddaa, only three months prior, had gotten around to the Hutts and was still fresh in their minds. None of the Hutts wanted to provoke the Sith Empire anymore than had already been done. The top Hutt moguls were still very sore at the Jedi Council and at the Galactic Republic for the trouble which the Hutts had very narrowly averted with the very warlike Sith Empire. The Hutts had expelled several dozen Galactic Republic diplomats and Jedi representatives, ordering the closing of a Jedi enclave on Nar Shaddaa as punishment for the stunt that nearly put them in jeopardy with the Sith Empire.

    Very shortly thereafter, the image of a corpulent slug-like creature, adorned with tattoos and jewelry, appeared. He spoke through his interpreter. Listening to the Hutt’s deep, guttural Huttese translated into Huttese accented Basic was grating on Darth Nox’s nerves, but he put up with it for the sake of conducting business.

    Mulaboo The Hutt said, “The infamous and most famous of all Sith lords in our times! I am honored to speak to a personage such as you. I am pleased to be involved in many business arrangements with you, both through your private business enterprises and through your official governmental operations. I hope that your presence here signals new opportunities for us to enter into new business arrangements. How can I be of service?”

    Nox reciprocated with a wordy greeting of his own, but to the Hutt mogul’s chagrin, Nox’s greeting was filled with disparaging observations which, based on Hutt culture was offensive to the Hutt mogul.

    “Mulaboo, most notable mogul, I am pleased to be greeted in such a warm manner. It gives me confidence that you truly appreciate my business. However, I have cause to be much less than happy with some of the services provided at the facilities I have been leasing from you.”

    With this, in accordance to Hutt custom, Mulaboo The Hutt and Darth Nox set the tone and scope of the coming dialogue.

    Mulaboo The Hutt, feigning shock and dismay, replied, “Hearing of your dissatisfaction troubles me greatly. I am chagrined to learn that we have fallen short and have failed to meet your expectations. Please tell me precisely how we’ve failed, so that we can make things right.”

    Darth Nox knew the Hutt would immediately deny fault and deflect responsibility back at Nox’s people, which Nox would then have to follow up with detailed specifics of how the Hutt was at fault. However, Nox was not going to follow the full dance routine with the Hutt. He was going to get right to the point. He knew it would anger the Hutt, but Nox did not have a lot of time to waste on Hutt niceties and Hutt manners to get the concessions he needed from them.

    Nox said pointedly, “SIS agents are successfully slicing into my computers at my businesses and at the Sith Empire’s facilities. We know the SIS is bribing your holo-net administrators to gain physical access to our lines. This needs to stop immediately.

    “If you cannot make it stop, I will move my private businesses out of your facilities, and I will order all Imperial diplomatic services, and other Imperial government assets, to move out of your building. I will take all of our business to your rival, Felban The Hutt.”

    All told, Nox’s businesses and the Sith Empire’s official presence made up fully twenty percent of Mulaboo’s occupancies.

    Nox wasn’t done, however, adding, “We pay an additional percentage on our leases for security. Yet thieves find it incredibly simple to slip past your security forces and routinely break into my businesses.”

    To drive the point home while further embarrassing the Hutt mogul, Nox added, “I hope those are not your own security forces that are proving to be systemically corrupt. I hope these failures are third party contracted security services that are failing both you and me. If so, then it would be a simple matter for you to replace them. For thieves to so easily bypass so many guards can only mean they sleep at their posts, or are so easily bribed to look the other way. Perhaps they are not adequately paid for their work.”

    The Hutt mogul, so very offended and so thoroughly humiliated, forgot himself and spoke to Nox in very good Galactic Republic accented Basic. Doing so betrayed his frustration at having been told so very bluntly by a tenant, although a very important tenant, about the short comings of his facilities’ services.

    The Hutt said, tersely, “I will investigate this problem.”

    Nox pointedly replied, “Good. I hope it will lead to improved services. I am pleased that we could find a solution that will yield favorable results for both of our interests.”

    The Hutt mogul cut the connection.

    Nox immediately turned to his CEO and said, “Veld, stay on top of this. If you don’t see an immediate improvement, or if you see an elevated rate of attacks, report it to me immediately.”

    The CEO replied, “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox asked, “Is there anything else that I need to know about?”

    Veld Ming Terrek, CEO of Transformative Technologies, answered the sole owner of Transformative Technologies, “Actually, there is something I’d like you to consider. As a recap, please be assured Transformative Technologies is doing very well. We have developed new tech that has opened new avenues for growth.

    “With that in mind, please note that we will eventually outgrow these facilities. We will hit a wall in product output as our need to ramp up production becomes ever more hampered by the physical constraints of our present manufacturing center. I would like leave, to buy real estate to build a larger manufacturing facility to move into.”

    Incredulous, Nox asked, “Have you any idea what real estate costs on Nar Shaddaa, or on Hutta for that matter?!”

    CEO Veld Ming replied, “I was thinking, Quesh, Makeb, Ziost, or even Dromund Kaas. However, I would like to avoid relocating to Imperial space, if possible.”

    Nox, felt a sudden surge of anger, fear, and disapproval from the executives of Transformative Technologies seated at the conference table with him.

    He asked, “Avoid Imperial Space? Why?” Nox quickly added, “And for reasons I will not state, stay away from Makeb.”

    The CEO of Transformative Technologies, replied, “Aside from the components we manufacture for the Imperial Navy, our new line of products have non-military uses, and it would be profitable to be able to do business with all markets, not just those aligned with the Empire.”

    Nox shook his head slowly side to side in utter amazement. He was honestly shocked at what his CEO suggested. He was taken by such surprise that he burst into loud laughter, looking at the faces of the corporate executives seated around the table with him. Their angry faces were aimed at the CEO.

    They knew of his ideas of opening new markets for their business. However, to suggest potentially treasonous behavior to a dark lord put all of their necks on the line, not just Veld’s neck.

    When he stopped laughing, Nox said, “I can’t believe you are asking a dark lord, seated on the Dark Council, to knowingly trade with an enemy with whom we are at war.”

    CEO Veld Ming Terrek replied calmly and in a businesslike manner, “Businesses in Hutt space are neutral and are much freer to do business with whomever pays.”

    Nox, deeply impressed, could feel Veld’s internal struggle to hold his fear in check, even as he exuded a facade of false confidence. Veld began to fear that he had made a terrible miscalculation.

    Despite his growing fears, Veld Ming added as though it was a bonus, “Plus we will be selling products that only have civilian applications to those other markets.”

    Nox explained, “The difficulty lies in that I – a dark lord on the Dark Council – am the sole owner of this business. It’ll look very bad for me, politically. I can’t chance that.”

    The executives of Transformative Technologies nodded their heads vehemently in agreement with the dark lord.

    He won the executives’ approval when he added, “If Transformative Technologies sold these civilian application only components to non-Imperial traders – not aligned with the enemy, then I would be satisfied with that.” However, he surprised them all when he added, “I am too busy to notice if these wholly unrelated businesses, which I do not own, and which I have no control over, unscrupulously distributed the civilian only application components to Republic scum – while in Hutt controlled space.

    “I am not responsible for where unrelated third – and fourth – party businesses sell goods that I manufacture. If they get caught, it’s their problem.” He added, “Of course, these third and fourth party businesses, which I have no control over, would need to hide the fact that the manufacturer is based in the Sith Empire. The Republic would likely confiscate such goods.”

    Using this dialogue, Nox conveyed – without actually saying it, how to set up third and fourth party buyers who could do business in Republic space from Hutt space, without directly connecting Nox’s business to those transactions, and how to hide this fact from the Republic. Nox did not convey to his corporate executives that he’d already been selling art and other goods in Republic space, for years, through third party art dealers.

    With that, the CEO replied, “In that case, I think we can settle on Quesh. It’s still in Hutt space, so it would be easier to hide the fact that we are an Imperial aligned business. We can sell our goods to dealers in Imperial space and in Hutt space. It’s their business where in the galaxy our goods are ultimately distributed.”

    Darth Nox simply said, “Keep me informed.”

    He rose to his feet, as did everyone else at the table. Nox walked out of the boardroom. Even before the doors slid completely shut, he could hear the angry execs shouting their questions at Veld Ming Terrek, the CEO of Transformative Technologies. The doors slid shut cutting off their angry voices. Nox laughed at their consternation, deciding to give the CEO a large bonus and pay increase.

    Just as he reached the reception lobby outside of the executive office suite, he spotted a diminutive figure dressed in dark red robes with black accents. The lone figure wore a black mask with red accents underneath a hood, which was pulled over her head.

    The individual quickly rose from where she’d been sitting. Nox could see the breast plate armor was formed to accommodate the female form. She knelt before Nox.

    The very short female spoke, “Dark Lord, you honor me greatly by summoning me. I am ready to serve. What is your will, Dark Lord?”

    Nox replied, “Let me see your face, Darth Virulous.”

    He felt no emotions emanate from her as she pulled back her hood and removed her armored mask. Her face was an emotionless mask. Her eyes were cast down. Despite how well she masked her feelings with The Force and with a sabacc face, Nox knew she had to be apprehensive at the least.

    But Nox nodded with approval at what he saw. He stepped closer to inspect her hair and scalp. He took note of the fragrance of her shampoo, and became excited and aroused by it.

    Nox quickly stepped back, attempting to hide his feelings as he told Virulous, “The physicians of Manaan are renowned for their medical prowess. They have lived up to their reputation. It is as though no harm had ever befallen you.”

    Nox could see relief show on her face very briefly as he added, “It was money very well spent.”

    Virulous replied, “Thank you, Dark Lord. I swear I shall repay my debt to you.”

    Nox spoke magnanimously, saying, “It is your reward for a job very well done, both on Tatooine, and on Nar Shaddaa. Despite your very poor state, you succeeded in keeping that Jedi away from my servant, and protected my ship until my arrival.”

    Nox added hurriedly, because he did not want to be perceived as getting soft, “If you had suffered no injuries and were beaten by that Jedi, it would have been an embarrassment. Your terrible wounds though, gave you a terrible handicap that he was too weak to fully exploit. It was his failure.”

    Virulous was not sure how to accept his seemingly grudging praise, so she simply replied, “You honor me greatly, Dark Lord. Thank you.”

    Nox was embarrassed at himself for becoming flustered, and it angered him.

    He spoke gruffly, “We have work. Follow me. I will brief you on the ship.”

    Khem Val had been standing quietly in the corner of the reception room observing the interaction between the two.

    He asked himself, “What has she done to trouble my master so?
     
  15. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    I'll be posting two chapters, because they're both pretty short.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________​


    A Tense Conference​

    In the navigator's seat, Andronikos navigated Nox’s starship to a place in deep space, actually far outside of the galaxy proper. Andronikos, looking out the main canopy, was stunned at the strange view of the galaxy. He was transfixed by its sheer scale and beauty. His ship was above the disk of the galaxy and considerably beyond the Outer Rim. He had an angled top down view of the enormous spiral galaxy that he’d never seen before in all of his years flying through space.

    The semi retired pirate thought out loud, “That’s just gorgeous.”

    He had navigated the ship through a series of hyperspace jumps, over a period of several long days. Andronikos went to work on the calculations for their final jump, while the ship coasted through space with that pretty view of the entire galaxy outside of the main canopy. It was an especially difficult flight, because there were no navigation beacons to help make sure he was on course. He was manually double checking both the navigation computer’s and 2V-R8’s hyperspace jump calculations to be sure there were no errors.

    The ship droid, trying to be helpful, said, “Captain, you could save several minutes by relying on a comparison between my calculations and that of the navigation computer. If you are concerned over accuracy, there is a far higher likelihood that any errors in calculations will be yours.”

    Andronikos told the droid, “Come closer, R8.”

    The droid stood closer to Andronikos, seated at the navigation station. The pirate lifted himself partially from his seat and reached behind the droid’s neck, pushing a button, thus deactivating the droid.

    Letting himself sink back into his seat, he ordered the droid, “Now, calculate that hyperspace jump again.”

    Of course, there was no response from the droid.

    Andronikos told the powered down machine, “You see? That’s why.”

    When the ship dropped out of hyperspace from its final jump, it was far higher above the galaxy, over the Mid-Rim region. The ship was directly over the spiral galaxy but not centered over it. However Andronikos didn’t get to enjoy the view, as he found himself shocked to find his ship approaching a massive fleet of Imperial warships.

    There were literally many thousands of ships showing on his scanners. Most were support ships, of every kind, running supplies between the massive warships or conducting large maintenance operations on them. The actual fighting warships made about a third of the total number of the ships swarming around a massive deep space station undergoing the final phases of its construction.

    Andronikos became smug as he announced to Nox, who sat behind him in the commander’s seat, a few moments before the ship dropped out of hyperspace, “On time, on target, and of course – on course. Here we are, Boss.” Then he observed, “Look at the size of that fleet! How is it these guys aren’t fighting? What’re they waiting for, a cordial invitation to a dance at the brawl?”

    Almost immediately after Andronikos’ remarks, the ship came under heavy scrutiny. It was aggressively scanned, locked on targeting computers, and maneuvered against by several flights of rapidly approaching fighter craft and a single raid shuttle, used in boarding operations against hostile ships. Meanwhile, the fleet flight control officer challenged Nox’s ship on local audio only communications.

    “Unidentified ship, state your flight ID number!”

    Andronikos replied, “This is flight three Dorn, dash eight two four, dash Forn Dorn seven, dash two Cresh Leth seven (3D-824-FD7-2CL7).”

    The flight control officer shouted, “Unidentified ship, halt in place, prepare to be boarded!”

    As Andronikos began slowing the ship to come to a stop, he told Nox, “Boss, it looks we’re not welcome, here. They’re gonna board the ship.”

    Darth Nox put on his head phones and mike, as he told Andronikos, “Be ready to get us out of here.” Then he spoke on the audio only channel, “Marr! You ack dog! This is a trap you’ve devised to kill me! Isn’t it?! I’ll make you pay for this outrage!”

    Darth Marr came on immediately, “Darth Nox, this is not a trap. If it were, my fleet would have already disintegrated your ship. You are well within range of my destroyers’ cannons and they are not firing. Do not fault the officers for being diligent in their duties.”

    Nox looked skeptical, but remained silent.

    Marr came back on, telling Nox, “Let us speak face to face. The matter I must discuss with you is known to only a very few, and the details must remain secret.”

    Nox told his rival, “I’m not going alone, Marr. I’ll meet you with my servants.”

    Marr replied, “Very well, bring as many servants as you’d like.”

    Nox told Andronikos, “Take us inside Darth Marr’s flagship.”

    Andronikos kept his thoughts to himself, “We should just bug out!” Aloud, he asked for instructions, “This is 3D-824-FD7-2CL7. Request permission to approach and to dock with flagship. Need approach and landing instructions.”

    Andronikos accelerated the ship from a dead stop and made course corrections in order to approach the flagship. Less than an hour later, Nox was walking down the ramp of his ship with Khem Val preceding him and Virulous at his right side. Andronikos remained on the ship with 2V – R8, reactivated and ready to launch the ship at a moment’s notice.

    Darth Marr was in the landing bay waiting for Nox’s arrival. He was flanked by two Sith attendants. Khem Val dropped back to Nox’s right side, forcing Virulous to switch to Nox’s left side. She took offense, but kept silent.

    Darth Marr suddenly walked towards the side of the landing bay, leaving his attendants behind. Nox and his attendants halted in their steps. He looked in the direction Marr walked and found he was headed to a pilots’ ready room with a wall of permaglass. Through the permaglass, one could see the five rows of chairs bolted to the deck and a large display board on one of the walls in front of the chairs. The room was empty of personnel.

    Nox told his subordinates, “Stay here. If Marr and I start to battle, then go about destroying everything that enters this landing bay. If we start fighting, you can eat all that you wish, Khem.”

    Khem Val replied, “I hope he will give my master a reason to do battle, so that I may feast.”

    Nox answered, “I hope not. That would...” Then he changed his mind, saying, “Actually, that would be convenient for me.”

    Virulous spoke fervently.

    “If he betrays you, I shall avenge his insult a thousand fold my dark lord!”

    Nox nodded his acknowledgment, and then proceeded to follow Marr to the glass walled conference room.

    The glass door slid shut behind Nox, shutting out the noise of the busy hanger bay. Nox settled to stand at the end of the conference room nearest the door he’d entered, leaving the other end of it to Marr who was already in the room waiting. Marr stood in the isle between the first row of seats and the thick permaglass wall. Nox stood at the opposite end of the room, between the last row of seats and the permaglass wall. Both Sith stood a moment, sizing up the other.

    His patience expended, Nox spoke irritably, telling Marr, “I am here. Tell me what your plan is!”

    Marr, clearly reining in his anger, replied testily, “I was about to tell you that the Hutts have quietly taken control of Makeb.” Regaining his composure, he continued more calmly, adding, “Since then, they have been mining it of its isotope five. Your mission is to quietly infiltrate the planet, locate their stockpile, and capture it for the empire.

    “The idea is to do so without attracting the Republic’s notice. We cannot afford to let the Republic know that we are there to take control of that stockpile.”

    Darth Nox reflected aloud, his voice subdued, “Then it is true. What you told me is true. We are losing this war.”

    Nox shook his head slowly in disbelief.

    Casting his gaze downward and looking introspectively, he added, “If only Darth Vengean had not been assassinated. He was leading the empire to victory.” Returning his gaze towards Marr, he added accusingly, “Then you took over.”

    Marr shouted angrily, “True! I took over leading a war effort that started out well! Unfortunately, Darth Vengean’s brilliant surprise offensive did not have a follow up plan for defending our conquests! He literally started the war without a plan for defending our conquests and did not plan for the long term defense of our winnings! He had no plan for winning this poorly thought out adventure!”

    Marr furiously slammed the side of his armored gloved fist onto the 2 inch thick permaglass wall beside him, unintentionally using The Force when he did, so the permaglass shattered into thousands of pieces. Suddenly the noise of a busy hanger deck flooded the pilots’ ready room.

    Lowering his arm, Marr stared at the small sea of glass fragments that had scattered onto the floor of the conference room and which had also spilled out onto the hanger deck. When Marr had shattered the tough-as-durasteel permaglass, Nox’s heart had leapt into his throat and his hand had flashed onto his sabrestaff, grasping it but not detaching it from his utility belt. He thought he’d gone too far and pushed Marr into a raging attack. However, the moment had passed with nothing else coming from it.

    In the landing bay, both Khem Val and Virulous were startled into drawing and activating their weapons, but neither of them moved. Marr’s attendants had similarly reacted. Both Marr’s and Nox’s people traded nervous glances at each other and at the two dark lords of Sith in the pilot’s ready room.

    When it became apparent that the two dark lords would not join in battle, their attendants began to deactivate their weapons one by one, starting with one of Marr’s people, followed by Virulous, then Marr’s other attendant. Khem Val, however, was Khem Val. He was slightly disappointed that nothing had come of the outburst, stubbornly keeping his weapon activated and at the ready.

    As Nox released his weapon, he thought of Marr, “He is so stubbornly reserved!” Studying his rival’s armored cybernetic mask beneath his hooded cloak, and wondering if he would ever get to see the man’s face behind the mask, he thought, “One day, after I kill him, I’ll have a look.

    Returning his gaze to Nox, Marr acknowledged, “Now falls to me the task of pulling the Sith Empire out of this mess, but it is an undertaking that is too large for one man alone. It requires the minds and resources of all of us on the Dark Council.”

    Marr shook his head in disbelief, adding, “Amazingly, only a small fraction of the Dark Council care enough to do something about it. It’s a wonder the dark councilors who couldn’t be bothered to do anything have even bothered to give me any resources at all.”

    Nox shook his head in disbelieving amazement, as he thought, “I can’t believe this. I’m on the losing side. The Empire will be destroyed!

    Then fury overtook him as the implications for what that meant for his own ambitions became apparent. He felt cheated and frustrated.

    Nox shouted at himself, “I cannot be on the losing side! I cannot lose! I refuse to lose!”

    Marr seized on that and replied, “Then let us set aside our rivalry and focus our power on the matter of not losing this war.”

    Nox tacitly agreed to the truce, asking, “What other assets can you provide, besides what you have already promised on our last conference call? And how do I get this isotope five off world?”

    Marr replied, “Remember, we must maintain a small presence on Makeb to hide our activities there. You have enough for that. Once you have control of the isotope five, and communicate this to me, I shall send a naval task force to conduct a planetary raid.

    “Imperial troops shall quickly reinforce your position, and then load the isotope five onto cargo ships to bring it to the fleet before the Republic can interfere. The isotope five shall then be brought to the space station, under construction, to refine the new fuel, and to refit our ships’ reactor cores, starting with our dreadnoughts.”

    Nox thought, “Ah! That’s why he’s building that station all the way out here.

    Nox gave Marr a dubious look, as he replied unconvincingly, “Yes. I’m sure that’ll work.”

    Marr gave Nox an appraising look, but Nox could not see it through his mask.

    Nox began to wonder why Marr stared until he spoke, telling him, “Darth Nox, I say this to you, not because I lack confidence in you.”

    Marr thought of Nox’s war record. Darth Nox, when he was known as Lord Kallig, had conquered the planets of Balmora and Corellia. While temporarily working for Darth Gravus, he had ripped Taris from Republic control when he ruthlessly sabotaged their efforts to resettle the ruined world.

    Most recently, Nox had crushed the Republic’s covert effort to retake Taris, and he conquered a deep space station from a Dark Council rival, Acina. In Marr’s mind, there was no doubt that Darth Nox was a warrior and a conqueror. Then there was that matter of Nox bringing Darth Zash back from beyond The Force. Even Emperor Vitiate acknowledged Nox’s power before the Dark Council.

    Marr told Nox, “Darth Nox, I told you once before, if we do not secure this stockpile of isotope five to fuel our Navy, then we shall witness the end of our empire. I approached you to undertake this task, because I believe you represent our best hope for success.”

    Nox was flummoxed at what he heard Marr say. His shock showed on his face.

    He asked rhetorically, while giving a back-handed compliment in return, “Praise?! Praise from my most potent rival?”

    Annoyed, Marr replied, testily, “I do not dole out such praise lightly, Darth Nox.”

    Nox made a casual observation, “With circumstances, such as they are, you’d think Emperor Vitiate would get his hands dirty to protect his empire.”

    Marr found Nox’s irreverent comment telling. He had been wondering about the Sith Emperor’s silence, too. The Emperor’s Hand, Voice, and Wrath had all fallen silent as well. Marr’s agents, operating secretly on Tython, had reported rumors circulating among the heathen Jedi of their assassins making two attempts at killing the Sith Emperor, with the second attempt ending in success. However, those were only rumors. There was no evidence – except for the Emperor’s silence.

    Marr, answered carefully, only saying, “One would think.” Then he concluded the meeting, telling Nox, “Your team is already on the ground setting up a base of operations. If you had not undertaken this task, then it would have been me, but I have already told you, I cannot lead the war effort and this operation, both, and be effective at either.”

    Nox replied, “Then I had better get started.”

    Without another word, both Marr and Nox turned to walk out of the conference room, stepping through the broken permaglass frame, their boots crunching on the broken glass. Marr turned to walk into the bowels of his flagship, his attendants rushing to catch up to him, while Nox walked back towards Virulous and Khem Val. It had been the intention of both dark lords to leave the other in his wake, but neither Sith was left behind in the room. Both had walked out, together.

    Nox thought disgustedly, “Another tie!” Then he began to wonder, “Why hasn’t the Emperor even said a single word? He’s going to lose his empire!

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________​


    Mass Graves​


    It was late morning, nearly midday, a week after his meeting with Darth Marr, when Darth Nox walked down the ramp of a compact stealth starship used to insert and extract Black Ops teams in to and out from deep behind enemy lines. He was trailed by Darth Virulous and Khem Val.

    They walked from a hastily built landing pad in the thin woods down a dirt path to a small warehouse complex outside of a small village. Darth Nox observed several dozen medium duty droids, presumably confiscated from the locals, filling in what looked to him to be mass graves.

    He shook his head, frustrated that things seemed to be starting off on the wrong foot, thinking, “Our presence is not to be felt, yet here we are creating a huge footprint!

    As the dark lord approached the warehouse complex from the woods, two light infantry troops guarding the warehouse entrance snapped to attention.

    Nox asked one of the troops, “Who is in charge here, and where can I find him?”

    The soldier whom Nox addressed spoke, “My lord...”

    Khem Val grabbed his vibrosword from its bracket on the back of his armored cuirass and, activating it, swung the weapon smartly until the point of his weapon snapped to a stop centimeters from the soldiers face.

    His weapon menaced the soldier with its high pitched warbling hum, while the Dashade spoke menacingly at the startled soldier.

    “Worm! You address, Darth Nox, a dark lord of the Sith! If you do not wish to become my excrement, then address him properly!”

    The soldier dressed in the charcoal gray uniform and the charcoal gray can-helm of the light infantry, stood even straighter and shouted, “Yes lord!” Then addressing Darth Nox, shouted, “Darth Nox, dark lord of the Sith, Katha Niar is in command, but she’s away! Lord Cytharat is in charge while she’s gone, Dark Lord of The Sith, Sir!!

    Darth Nox told the soldier, “You may address me as Dark Lord.”

    Khem Val deactivated his weapon and returned it to its bracket, as he followed Darth Nox into the building.

    The soldier shouted his reply, “Yes, Dark Lord!”

    Virulous stopped long enough to tell the soldier, “It isn’t necessary to shout at the top of your lungs all of the time.”

    The soldier replied normally, but crisply, “Yes, my lord.”

    Virulous ducked into the building, walking quickly to catch up to Nox and Khem Val.

    When the other soldier was sure that the Sith were out of hearing range, he chortled and spoke just loud enough for his comrade to hear.

    “You’re lucky that monster didn’t make you into his excrement.” Then he asked, “What kind of threat is that? What is that suppose to even mean?”

    His friend replied, “I don’t know about that excrement comment, but his vibrosword in my face was a real enough threat for me.”

    The two soldiers shared a couple of low chuckles, together. They had no idea that Khem Val was actually speaking literally, never having seen nor even heard of the very rare and nearly extinct Dashade in either of their lives.

    Meanwhile, Virulous had caught up to her lord and found a Sith Pureblood kneeling before him. He addressed her master.

    “Dark Lord! You honor us all with your presence!”

    Darth Nox, seeing the age of this Sith lord was surprised that he was not in command. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. He had a look about him that said he was a seasoned veteran, but Nox couldn’t help but think that something was off.

    Nox spoke about this, saying, “When I’d heard from the troops posted at the door, that a Sith lord was ‘in charge while the non-Sith commander was away, I expected to see a brand new scrappy Sith, fresh from the academy.”

    Lord Cytharat became humiliated, but he kept his temper as he humiliatingly explained to Nox, “Dark Lord, it is true. I am a Lord of The Sith and not in command of this operation.”

    Darth Nox became embarrassed on hearing this. There were non-Sith in the room, and to have a Sith lord, a lord over other Sith at that - confess, in the presence of these non-Sith, to being so weak that he was placed under the command of a non-Sith was too degrading. To make matters worse, Lord Cytharat was a Sith Pureblood, just like Nox. This fact further compounded Nox’s embarrassment of the situation.

    Nox asked, “How is it that the fate of the Sith Empire rests in the balance, and Darth Marr thinks to assign a weakling to my team?” Shaking his head in disbelief, Nox added, “This is a disgrace. Does Marr mean to mock me?”

    Lord Cytharat, from the depths of disgrace, spoke.

    “Dark Lord, I am not weak. I was once the apprentice of Darth Malgus, the betrayer. I did not follow him in his rebellion, but in those days, I was too weak to stop him.”

    Lord Cytharat, too ashamed to look Darth Nox in the eye, told the dark lord, “Later, I learned it was you who slew that betrayer.”

    He tried to speak in a business-like tone, but ended up sounding more ashamed as he told Darth Nox, “Darth Marr has been testing my allegiance to the true Sith Emperor, Vitiate.”

    Darth Nox nodded his comprehension when Lord Cytharat explained, “Darth Marr trusts me to accomplish my tasks, but he does not wish to honor me by assigning me leadership status.”

    Nox agreed, telling Cytharat, “Nor should he. As you are now, you are an embarrassment. You have forgotten the Sith Code.” Nox shook his head at the abject failure that knelt before him, adding, I can’t fathom why Marr would suffer your existence, unless he sees something worth salvaging, but I don’t see it.”

    Cytharat found himself sinking ever deeper into the depths of shame and humiliation, yet he found a very dim ray of hope, when Nox next said, “Perhaps after this mission you’ll have shown me whether it is worth the effort to salvage you.”

    Just then, Nox heard a woman’s voice behind him. He turned about and saw the woman dressed in the uniform of an Imperial logistics bureaucrat.

    Darth Nox didn’t like being interrupted. He snapped at her, “What do you want?! Spill it!”

    The woman, so taken aback and so thoroughly startled, couldn’t seem to decide whether to remain standing, snapping to attention, or to kneel like everyone else in the room. After a few false starts, she finally dropped to her hands and knees.

    Then she repeated herself, shouting much as the soldier at the door had earlier, “Dark Lord! I am Katha Niar!” She added, “I commanded this operation until your arrival! I am ready to give you a full report, Dark Lord!”

    Darth Nox had become irritable and snapped at her again, “You’re not even a military officer!” Shaking his head in utter disappointment, he spoke with disgust tinging his words, “Very well, get us to your office and begin your briefing! Hurry, I haven’t got all day!”

    Katha Niar’s voice began shaking with her growing fear. Darth Nox’s noxious aura was threatening to drive her to tears. It was already having a markedly negative effect on the non-Sith in the room. Darth Virulous and Lord Cytharat had used The Force to guard themselves from Nox’s aura, and Khem Val was simply immune to it, but the non-Force using soldiers and technicians in the warehouse felt crushed under Nox’s malign aura.

    Katha fearfully told him, “Dark Lord, I don’t have an office. I work here with...”

    Darth Nox, having lost his patience, shouted at her, “Be silent!”

    Turning to Virulous, Nox commanded, “Get everyone back to work. Find out what it is that they do, and then determine if what they are doing is a waste of time.”

    Nox didn’t wait for his apprentice’s reply as he ordered, “Katha Niar! Cytharat! Follow me!”

    Darth Nox walked out of the warehouse building and returned to the woods down the dirt path he’d used to get to the warehouse. He stopped at one of the earthen berms, which he believed was a mass grave. Nox halted, spun about to face the two, and found Khem Val standing behind the woman and the disgraced Sith lord.

    Nox asked the two, “Why are there mass graves, here?”

    Just then, the ground began to shake. As the seconds wore on, the shaking became worse. A loud ear splitting crack announced the demise of one of the larger trees in the woods some distance away, as its thick trunk sheared in two, toppling the tree. Nox used The Force to remain attached to the ground so that he would not be flung about. He watched as the others were bounced around. The trees’ large boughs swayed up and down, as though they were waving frantically.”

    Khem Val, the disgraced Sith, and the woman were thrown off of their feet. They grabbed onto whatever they could, that was rooted to the ground. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the ground quake subsided. Despite using The Force to keep from getting knocked about, Nox was still badly affected by the violent shaking.

    He said aloud, to no one in particular, “I hope that hurt our enemies more than it hurt us.”

    Khem Val said with amazement in his tone, “My master, I have found an enemy that I cannot defeat! It is the monster that shook this world!”

    Katha Niar said, “Dark Lord, the ground quakes are one of our problems.”

    Nox looked at her, expectantly. However, she remained silent after that.

    After a while, Nox objected loudly, “You make that sound as though it is a common occurrence, here! Please, say I’ve mistaken your meaning!”

    Katha Niar replied in a tone that made it seem all was lost.

    “Dark Lord, in the week that we have been here, we got a lot of work done. We have learned three very important things, one, the location of the isotope five stockpile: two, what the stockpile had been used for, and thirdly, the cause of these massive ground quakes.”

    Nox shook his head, already sensing that he was about to get a very bad answer.

    He asked, “What did the Hutts do with the stockpile of isotope five?”

    Katha Niar looked down at the ground and shook her head sorrowfully, telling Nox the worst.

    “They converted nearly all of it into a solid fuel state that we cannot use. They chemically converted it all into an oxide and mixed it into a ceramic-like material. They placed the cylindrical pellets into thin metal tubes, making them into rods. The rods were then used to fuel reactors which power their new war droids which are equipped with antimatter particle beam blaster cannons.”

    Nox asked, “Can we take the fuel from the droids and convert it all back again?”

    Katha Niar, still looking at the ground, shook her head in the negative, replying, “No, Dark Lord. When the reactors in the war droids were started up, the fuel changed its characteristics and became something else. It isn’t isotope five anymore.”

    Darth Nox said, “Secrecy will work against us. We must mine isotope five for ourselves. We must take control of the mines.”

    Katha Niar still looking at Nox’s feet with a look of defeat on her face shook her head, then said, “Dark Lord, the ground quakes have been getting worse and more frequent because of the instability caused to the planet’s core during the mining process. At some point, soon, the core will destabilize. The mantel will become turbulent, causing the crust to fold into the mantel. The planet will destroy itself. We do not have enough time to mine the isotope five before this happens.”

    Nox thought to himself, “So, this is Marr’s game! He saw his efforts failing. He passes it on to me, and I get left holding the bag when it all goes bad!

    Nox asked, “Do the Hutts know about this impending destruction?”

    Katha Niar answered, “Yes, Dark Lord. It is why they hurry their operations to evacuate the planet with their droids and the little remaining isotope five in their stockpile.”

    Lord Cytharat finally spoke, but reticently, telling Nox, “Dark Lord, if we can draw the mercenaries away from the mines, we can begin to mine the isotope five for ourselves, as you have said. Although Katha Niar has good reason not to present you this option, I find that I cannot deny you the chance to at least consider it.”

    Nox said, “I thought there wasn’t time enough to mine the isotope. What am I not being told?”

    Lord Cytharat replied, “Our scientists believe the planet’s core can be stabilized, and...”

    Nox interrupted, “I want to hear this from the scientists. I’ll have questions.”

    Lord Cytharat replied, “I’ll summon them, Dark Lord.” Then he said, “The locals have risen up against the mercenaries who had once been contracted by their local government to protect them. However, after overthrowing the local government, the Hutts now control the mercenary army, which has mostly quelled the rebellion. The mercenaries have an advantage in armored tank units, while the locals have no means to fight back against the tank units deployed to suppress them.”

    Nox asked, “Why should I care about the local uprising?”

    Cytharat replied, “Dark Lord, I think the rebellion can be used to tie up the mercenary forces – which are already stretched thinly, allowing us freedom of movement to do what is needed.”

    Darth Nox got out his personal holo-transmitter and dialed up Andronikos. Although capable of hyperwave transmissions across the galaxy, there was a lot of interference from the natural forces of space. Andronikos’ holographic image was distorted, and flickered on and off, his words sometimes being cut off during his transmission from Nar Shaddaa.

    “...oss, what can … do for you?”

    Nox told him, “I need enough weapons and munitions to equip a large rebel army, all portable weapons, no big ticket items. The rebels will need portable anti-armor and anti-air weapons. I want it all smuggled onto Makeb using non-Imperial ships – get the rebels a mix of Imperial, Republic, and other faction specific weapons – with a larger portion of those weapons originating from the Republic.”

    Then after thinking about it for a moment, he said, “You pay for it with the money you’ve been skimming from me all of these years. I’ll pay you back – with interest.”

    Andronikos kept silent, clearly not liking that last part. Nox quickly typed something into his datapad and then uploaded it to Andronikos. After several re-transmissions, the complete document was finally received by Andronikos’ holo-transiever. It was an official Dark Council document, authorizing and detailing a weapons procurement contract made in the name of the Dark Council, via Darth Nox and Darth Marr. Andronikos read the terms.

    The Dark Council shall reimburse Andronikos Revel for the total costs of arms procurement and shipping costs to Makeb. Reimbursement to be made with twenty five percent interest.” It was signed, “This transaction is officially sanctioned by Darth Nox with Darth Marr concurring.

    Andronikos’ demeanor had changed after reading the contract.

    He asked, “Whe... do you wa... your ...aster rifles and ...ther gear?”

    Nox replied, “As soon as you get them, ship them. There is no need to have it done in one big shipment. However, I need enough to equip a battalion of rebels with each shipment.”

    Andronikos replied in a business-like tone, “You’ve got a deal, Boss.”

    Nox cut the connection, then turning to Katha Niar, said, “Find out who the rebellion leadership is. Arrange a meeting but do not tell them I am Sith. I am an Imperial representative, here to gift weapons with which to overthrow their Hutt oppressors.”

    Katha Niar bowed her head, acknowledging her orders, but said, “Dark Lord, if we do this the Republic will learn of our presence, here.”

    Nox replied, “Yes, but not our true purpose.”

    Katha Niar asked, “Then, Dark Lord, what is our false purpose?”

    Darth Nox replied, “To crush Hutt imperial ambitions and to be a constant thorn in the Republic’s side.”

    Katha Niar bowed her head again, saying, “As you say, Dark Lord. I will make the arrangements for your meeting and plant the seeds of falsehood in their minds.”

    Lord Cytharat and Katha Niar began to turn about to carry out their tasks, but the dark lord said, “Wait.” Then he ordered, “Now. Tell me about these mass graves.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  16. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    It has been a VERY long time since I last posted.… I hope you guys don't mind that I've come back to pick up where I left off. I'm going to post four chapters. They're each very short chapters, but together, make up a decent amount of reading.… I sure hope you'll enjoy the chapters... Please, don't be afraid to give me your comments. I look forward them.

    Thank you

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    An Accidental Fire​

    Six weeks earlier, sitting at his tiny metal desk in his tiny office, which he shared with his four subordinate company commanders, Major Trent Ordensk read his orders. He commanded the 2931st Light Infantry Battalion of the 977th Lt Inf Regiment of the 326th Lt Inf Division. This unit was based out of General Werren Pollard Imperial Army Base, in Derthmoor prefecture, on planet Ziost. Within the battalion, the troops called themselves the 31st Battalion, 77th Regiment, or the 31st / 77th.

    This unit was currently deployed on ship and taking part in security patrols with the 459th Imperial Naval Battle Group, which consisted of six Harrower-class dreadnoughts, eighteen Terminus-class destroyers, and nine Gage-class troop transports. Each Gage-class transporter was loaded with a division of infantry reinforced with a heavy war droid regiment and a heavy self propelled artillery droid regiment and all of their attending logistical support units.

    Major Trent Ordensk’s orders told him to load his battalion onto four of the much smaller Juggernaut-class troop carriers, which were berthed in landing bays within the gargantuan Gage-class troop ship, and which were being modified with stealth-field generators for this mission. His orders stated that he must take a full load of supplies and munitions for thirty days of sustained combat. He became convinced that he would likely face heavy enemy resistance after reading that an entire company of heavy war droids and their handlers would be attached to his battalion.

    That’s a lot of firepower!

    His orders stated that his tiny fleet of four transporters would link up with three Terminous-class destroyers, acting as escorts, thus forming Special Naval Task Force 12.

    Three Terminous-class destroyers to escort four measly Juggernauts?! That’s overkill!

    Sometime after that, he would be given his mission. The rest of his orders told him which communications maintenance unit to get his communications gear from, what frequency channels and encryption keys to use, and which medical aid unit would join his battalion, including how many medical droids the medical unit would bring with them.

    That’s a lot of medical support. They may as well give me a field hospital.

    Major Ordensk was pleased with the generous support being given him. It looked like he would be getting into a major action soon, and he appreciated all the help he could get. However, there were a few major discrepancies with his orders. He saw them as important problems which needed to be addressed, so he decided to discuss them with his superior commander. In Officer Country, Trent Ordensk walked out of his tiny office and made his way down the passageway, two hundred meters, to his regimental commander’s quarters and touched the door chime switch.

    Colonel Frey Brakk commanded, “Enter!”

    Major Trent Ordensk entered and announced himself, “Major Ordensk reporting, Colonel.”

    Colonel Brakk, looking as though he expected trouble from his subordinate, asked with a hard edge in his tone, “What is it, Major?”

    “These orders sound like I’m going somewhere hot – real hot, but it’s got no mention of naval gun fire support, close fighter ship support, artillery. There’s no mention of combat resupply support and nothing about reinforcements, either. These orders are incomplete, Sir.”

    Colonel Brakk’s expression changed ever so slightly as he realized that Major Trent Ordensk had not come to complain to him, but that his subordinate had not yet grasped the nature of his orders. He didn’t want to lie to his friend and decided not to mince his words.

    “You aren’t getting any of those things, Major Ordensk.” Then he asked, “Did your orders tell you what unit will relieve you in the field, when you’re coming back?”

    Major Ordensk turned his head to the side, making a face that showed his disgust. He shook his head in deep anger as his features expressed his realization of the situation.

    When he recovered his composure, he returned his gaze to his commander and, snapping to attention, saluted smartly, telling his superior, “It’s been a real pleasure working with you, Colonel. I’ve learned a lot from you.”

    Colonel Brakk stood from behind his desk, walked around to the front of it and, snapping to attention, returned the major’s salute. Then he extended his hand towards his friend. Major Ordensk took and shook his friend’s hand.

    Colonel Brakk’s tone was somber but firm, as he explained what the major already knew, “Orders like these are randomly issued. There is nothing any of us can do when we get them. I’m deeply sorry, Trent.”

    Major Ordensk nodded curtly, replying, “I know, Frey.”

    “You’re dismissed Major.”

    With determination in his tone, Major Ordensk said, “We’ll give them a wound they’ll never forget, Sir.”

    Then he turned about and marched out of his commander’s quarters, thinking to himself, “Why didn’t suicide mission occur to me?! We’re being used as a diversionary force!” Angrily, he concluded, “We’re being thrown away to distract the enemy from some other battle!

    Four weeks later, Special Task Force 12 traveled to the Tatoo Star Cluster, a cluster of twenty six stars which included the Tatoo Binary Star System with the only planet within the star cluster capable of sustaining life and which was famous for being a den of pirates and other less than savory inhabitants, Tatooine.

    In the Tatoo Star Cluster, Special Task Force 12 was dissolved, with the destroyer escort traveling to the Tatoo Binary Star System to visit Tatooine for a few days before returning to the 459th Imperial Naval Battle Group. Meanwhile, the four modified Juggernaut-class troop transports had activated their stealth-field generators, and made their way to Hutt Space. It was then that Major Trent Ordensk received his mission.

    The ship’s captain, also commanding the four ship transport group, called the major to his quarters. Major Ordensk walked, from his quarters, six meters down the passageway in Officers Country, to the commander’s door and touched the door chime switch.

    The ship’s captain called out, “Enter.”

    The ship captain, a naval officer, was actually the same grade in rank as the major. He waved his hand to a chair beside a small table in the captain’s quarters.

    Trent Ordensk sat in the offered chair, thinking, “What is Randin going to complain to me about this time?

    The two thousand troops of his battalion and the four hundred troops of the support units attached to his command were all crammed into the four ships, together with all of their equipment and supplies. Discipline was difficult to maintain in the four crowded ships. The Juggernaut-class troop transports were designed to accommodate four hundred troops with their equipment and supplies, but they were each packed tight with six hundred troops, their gear and their supplies. Life aboard the smaller transports was nearly intolerable for the overcrowded Imperial soldiers.

    So, he was mildly surprised that instead of getting another earful about his men getting into another brawl with the ships’ crews or of his men breaking something on one of the four ships, Commander Grett Randin wordlessly walked to a wall safe and opened it. Commander Randin took an object out of the safe then shut the safe again. The object was sealed in heavy metal foil with anti-tamper evident markings all over it.

    He set the mystery object on the table in front of the major and told him, “You can’t leave, whatever that is, in here. You have to take it with you, including the foil wrapper.”

    Major Ordensk, feeling his exhaustion, spoke flatly, “Thanks, Grett.”

    Commander Grett Randin, equally exhausted replied just as flatly, “Yeah sure, Trent.”

    Then he walked out of his quarters, leaving Trent Ordensk alone. Ordensk went to work to tear the metal foil open to get to the object inside. The foil was tough to tear open, but he finally got it done with the aid of a folding pocket knife. Inside the tough metal foil packet was a smooth, stainless, flat metal rectangular box. After figuring out how to open the box, he found a datapad inside. Taking the datapad out of its metal case, he activated the datapad and retrieved his mission statement.

    He was to select a location and establish a secret base of operations on a planet called Makeb. He’d never heard of Makeb, but it was in Hutt Space, so he imagined it would be full of gangs and gang activity, not to mention crooked Hutt businesses.

    He wondered to himself, “What could the Sith Empire possibly want from this world?

    That information was not provided in the mission statement. His mission was to select the location for the base, establish it, maintain security and, while maintaining utter secrecy, wait for a special operations team to arrive. The special operations team would be the ones to actually conduct the main mission, which also wasn’t explained in his mission statement.

    After establishing the secret base, his battalion’s main mission would continue to be to provide security and to maintain the secrecy of their presence on Makeb. However, in addition to his prior responsibilities, his unit would also perform any missions given him by the special operations team leader.

    Trent thought skeptically, “So, I’ve got to turn over overall command to whoever shows up? Whoever it is better know what the hell he’s doing...

    There was an encyclopedia of information about Makeb. After skimming through it, he decided there was too much there to read in one sitting, so he decided to revisit that section later, to give it a more thorough reading. The only guidance his mission statement gave him was to ensure the secret base was located within operational range of any Hutt controlled commercial operations.

    Trent Ordensk, incredulous, thought to himself, “Please, don’t tell me we are risking life and limb to find out what business opportunities the Hutts are pursuing!

    After a moment to clear his mind, and to think things through, he decided that couldn’t possibly be the case.

    Maybe we’ll be stealing some new tech from the Hutts, to give us an edge over the Republic? Or maybe we’re going to take out a secret training facility for Republic backed terrorists?

    He didn’t know how close to the truth he was.

    After thinking more carefully, Trent told himself, “I need to stop speculating. For now, all I need to know is that the Empire just wants us within striking range of wherever it is the Hutts are on this planet.

    The first paragraphs of the encyclopedia told him, that the Hutts had only recently established a presence on Makeb.

    Facetiously, he told himself, “There’s likely to be only two or three Hutts on world. All I have to do is search the entire planet to figure out where on the planet they each decided to build their respective palaces. Then pick one and establish a base within striking distance, all without getting caught. Easy!

    His orders authorized him to draft any aid, from his naval escorts, without revealing his mission to establish a secret base on Makeb. Major Trent Ordensk wracked his brain for five minutes trying to decide what help he could ask Commander Grett Randin that wouldn’t give away the fact that he was to establish a secret base on the planet.

    He laughed at himself, when he realized, “Grett and the other three ship commanders are going to know that I’m going to establish a freaking base on the freaking planet when they unload my battalion and all of our gear on world. How am I supposed to keep all of that a secret from them?!

    He got up from the chair, returning the datapad to its case and shutting the case tight. Rather quickly, the case became hot to the touch. It threatened to burn his fingers, so he dropped it onto the table. The table’s surface was made of a combustible material that almost immediately began to smolder.

    He immediately cast about for a pressurized fire suppression canister. He found it near the door. Grabbing the fire suppression canister, he turned back towards the table and found a fire enthusiastically burning where the once smooth and silvery – but now warped and brightly glowing red box sat. He activated the fire suppression canister, aiming it at the ruined metal box. Even as he attacked the fire, he watched it go from a bright red to an even brighter yellow. He fought the fire frantically, as he watched the glowing box expeditiously burn its way down, into the flaming table top, threatening to fall through onto the floor.

    In a near panic, Trent Ordensk shouted at himself, “Damn! That was fast!”

    After a short but frantic battle to put out the rowdy flames, the completely warped and ruined box had darkened from an enthusiastically energetic yellow, to a bright red that continued to darken until it stopped glowing altogether, turning a sleek stainless metal box into a dark, mottled gray and warped mess, burrowed halfway through the now ruined table top.

    Despite the fact that he had quickly put out the small, but wild and quickly growing fire, the fire detection sensor in the captain’s quarters had activated, causing the ship’s crew to respond to their fire fighting stations. A fire suppression team had arrived and, opening the door, began to enter the Captain’s quarters. Commander Grett Randin, with a look of great concern, stood behind the fire suppression team, peering into the room from the passageway.

    Inside the room, Trent was hunched down to stay below the smoke. He wore a stricken look of great embarrassment, as he explained, “Grett, I had no idea it would do this! Accept my deepest apologies!”

    Commander Randin, with some consternation, demanded, “Do what, man?!”

    Trent quickly exited the smoke-filled captain’s quarters, to allow the fire suppression team to get to work.

    The moment he stepped into the passageway, he hurriedly explained, “As soon as I returned the datapad to the metal case, the damned thing got so hot, I had to let go of it. I dropped it back onto the table. It had gotten so hot and melted so fast, that I didn’t even have time to blink a second time! Before I realized it, the damned table was already on fire!” Shrugging and holding up the expended fire suppression canister, he added lamely, “I put the fire out, though.”

    Randin shook his head slowly, disbelief plastered all over his face.

    “It’s bad enough that your men keep breaking things on my ships, but you too? That was my favorite table!

    Ordensk pleaded, “Grett, I didn’t know it would do that!”

    Unable to contain himself, Grett Randin burst into laughter.

    Neither did I, or I wouldn’t have given you that thing in my quarters!”

    His laughter subsided as he reflected, “I’ve never heard of anything like this before.” Before Ordensk could offer his renewed apologies, Randin added, “Well, now I know. Next time I have to give one of those things out, I’ll give it in the air lock in a heavy metal can with thermal resistant insulation lining the bottom of it.”

    Trent got to business, while stating the obvious, “We need to discuss the mission, but I seem to have made a mess in your quarters, so we can’t speak here.”

    Just then, the executive officer burst out of his quarters, still activating the fasteners of his tunic, and rushed the three meters to the captain’s quarters, joining the commander and the major.

    He peered into the room, and saw that the fire had already been extinguished.

    He turned to his commanding officer and in a very serious tone, demanded, “What did I tell you about cooking in your quarters?!”

    Ignoring his executive officer, Commander Randin told the fire suppression team leader, “Get the chief in here. I want to be sure the fire is out, clean out the fire suppression powder and the smoke residue, and get me a new table.”

    The fire suppression team leader replied crisply, “As you say, Commander.”

    Turning to face his executive officer, Commander Grett Randin announced, “I need your quarters, X. O.” Pointing at Trent, standing beside him, he added, “He and I must converse, but my quarters are in a bit of a mess.”

    The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Harrol Ottor, arched his eyebrows and imperiously demanded, “And how do I know you aren’t planning to set a torch to my quarters?”

    Commander Randin pointed at Major Ordensk, again with his thumb, declaring, “It wasn’t me. He’s the miscreant who set fire to my quarters. He smells of smoke and is holding the incriminating fire suppression canister which was used to put out the flames. Do take note, X.O., I do not smell of smoke.”

    Trent rolled his eyes at their exchange but looked embarrassed, nevertheless. Seeing the look on Trent’s face, Lieutenant Commander Ottor realized there was an opportunity there. He leaned forward and sniffed at Commander Randin. He then sniffed at Ordensk and took on a look of shocked surprise as he stepped back.

    He declared with amazement in his tone, “By the Emperor’s thousand years, he does smell of smoke!”

    Trent cast his face downward as his shoulders slumped. He shook his head slowly, and spoke tiredly, “Yes. Yes. I get it, have your laughs.”

    Unable to contain his mirth any longer, Harrol burst into laughter, telling his commanding officer, “Very well, then. Go on ahead and use my quarters.” Turning to Trent, he added facetiously, “Only, try not to set fire to it. Is that a promise, miscreant?

    He laughed again as he stepped around the other two officers and stood before the opened door.

    He peered inside the smoked-out quarters, declaring, “Well! Now I’ve got to see the damage for myself!” Seeing Major Ordensk’s jaded expression, Lieutenant Commander Ottor added, “It’s to prepare for the written safety report. There was a fire aboard an Imperial Naval vessel, and we’ve got to explain why it happened.” He added, accusatorially, “I’ll check in with you, later, to get the correct spelling of your name.”

    Trent opened his mouth to spell out his name, but Randin quickly cut in.

    “I’ll give you the correct spelling later, Harrol. Right now, we’ve got business.”

    Harrol Ottor, laughing merrily, stepped into his commanding officer’s quarters to start his accidental fire investigation.

    Grett glanced at Trent and nodded towards the X.O.’s door. The two walked the few meters to Harrol Ottor’s door and entered the room. Randin gave the go ahead as soon as the door slid shut.

    Trent got to the point.

    “You need to land my battalion, with all of our gear, onto the surface of a planet in Hutt Space called Makeb. You need to land us close enough to areas showing a Hutt presence, and you need to do this without letting local Makebi security forces, local populations, or anyone else on Makeb find out about it. Then, just as stealthily as you drop off my battalion and our gear, you need to leave Makeb space and head back to Tatooine to rejoin Special Task Group 12.”

    Grett’s face became more and more serious as the gravity of his orders struck him.

    He asked, “I’m not sticking around to pick you up when you’re done? When do I come back to get you?”

    “I don’t believe anyone is expecting us to be retrieved.”

    Grett didn’t know what to say to a man he’d already thought of as a friend, who was decidedly on a one-way mission.

    He decided to adopt a professional demeanor, merely replying, “Let’s get to work, then.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    Misery​

    The morale of the troops and of the specialized personnel Darth Marr had assigned to Darth Nox for this operation had plummeted. When Darth Nox found out why, he laughed at them. The troops felt terrible guilt for the slaughter of so many scores of unarmed civilians. They grumbled amongst themselves, blaming the woman they’d nicknamed “Death’s Mistress,” for the slaughter they were forced to perpetrate.

    Major Trent Ordensk kept a professional demeanor at all times when dealing with her but, deep inside, he utterly detested her. He and Commander Grett Randin had painstakingly selected their landing sight. After the ships had left, he coordinated with his subordinate company commanders to carefully, quietly, move their troops through the thick temperate forest, arriving to a site he felt was as close to the village as was possible without being discovered by the locals.

    The site he had chosen was three days forced march, through heavy forests and rough terrain, from any population center. It was far enough way to avoid most nature hikers, campers, and hunters, but close enough to allow him to send out long range scouting patrols to the outskirts of the nearest village.

    Their objective, a Hutt owned industrial center was a day’s march beyond the village, meaning that any long range patrol operations would need to march for four days before reaching their target. Five days after he had established the camp, the special operations team he was expecting had arrived. Against his strongest protestations the civilian administrator who’d taken command from him, had ordered the camp moved to within a day’s march from the nearest village. She felt the encampment was ridiculously situated too far way.

    Just as he’d feared, some young men from the village, who’d been hunting small game, stumbled across his men as they were setting up camp. The three youngsters were immediately captured. Early that afternoon, as troops were preparing to march back to the site he had originally chosen, one of the adolescent men had escaped.

    His troops were unable to recapture him before he’d reached his speeder bike to call for help. The troops were forced to kill him as he dialed the emergency help frequency from the speeder bike’s built-in holo-transceiver. To deactivate the communications device on the speeder, they had to shoot it from a distance, otherwise they would have gotten in the device’s field of view, and their image would have been broadcast for the recipient of the call to see.

    The troops knew that help would be coming from the village. The sergeant, leading the squad that had chased the youth down, sent two of his troops back to the camp to report the situation to their platoon leader, and to request additional forces. Before his troops had shot up the holo-transceiver, the sergeant had seen the holographic image of a uniformed official projected above the handle bars.

    Five hours later, four marked speeders slowed to a crawl as they approached the three speeder bikes parked on the side of the unpaved road. The speeders came to a stop. The doors opened and eight armed constables exited the speeders. They approached the young man’s shot up speeder and saw his corps lying beside his bike.

    As the eight law enforcement officials cautiously approached the last few meters to the dead youth, a big ruckus from further down the road caught their attention. A huge droid tore out of the brush and trees and onto the dirt road, on the same side of the road the speeders were parked, and began firing its blaster cannons on the law men's four speeders parked several meters behind them, destroying their vehicles one after the other.

    The lawmen each activated their personal shield generators, and then began firing their blaster pistols at the Imperial war droid. Immediately thereafter, the squad of Imperial soldiers opened up from the opposite side of the road of the parked speeder bikes. Police issued blaster pistols were no match for the powerful Imperial military blaster rifles. In mere seconds, their shield generators were depleted, and they soon fell to the merciless storm of blaster bolts.

    Major Trent Ordensk was filled with fury, but he worked hard to restrain himself as he presented his report to the mission commander.

    “The youth was killed, but not before he dialed for help from his speeder bike. My men tell me they shot him before he could speak, but his death and undoubtedly the sounds of blaster rifles shooting, was broadcast to the local constabulary force. They responded in force, eight constables in four speeders. My men reinforced their position with a heavy war droid and established an ambush. The eight law men and their four speeders were destroyed.

    Currently, my troops are dragging the bodies and their destroyed vehicles off of the road and into the bush. I have no doubt that the youths and the law men will be missed. I fear the villagers will call for aid from neighboring villages. With a village as small as the one the young men and the constables had come from, I’m guessing that those eight were their entire constabulary force. It will not be very long before the bodies and the destroyed vehicles will be found.”

    Katha Niar sat with her elbows on her desk, her face buried in the palms of her hands, and her head slowly shaking side to side. Lord Cytharat stood silently beside her desk, his face an impenetrable mask that refused to give away what he thought of the situation.

    Major Ordensk added, “We shouldn’t have moved so close to the village, but going deeper into the forest now will be pointless. In a few hours, there will likely be a large search effort made for them.”

    Katha Niar gulped back her fear. They hadn’t even started the mission, and already, they were about to be discovered.

    She felt revulsion even as she forced the words out of her mouth, barely audible.

    “Destroy the village.”

    “Excuse me, ma’am?”

    “Kill everyone in the village. No survivors. Do it before they sense the missing constables and the youths.”

    For the first time, the Sith lord exposed some of what he thought, when he nodded his approval of the order.

    Ordensk asked, “And the prisoners?”

    Her voice was husky, “Them, too. No witnesses.”

    The major betrayed the anxiety he felt when he removed his officers cap and combed his fingers through his hair before replacing his cap.

    “That might buy us a few days before their silence will start to raise questions from other villages.”

    Katha merely nodded her acknowledgment of the major’s assessment.

    He stomped his boot and shouted, “Yes, Ma’am!”

    He turned about to carry out his task.

    The operation lasted ten hours. Four local field transmission cancellers were stealthily deployed around the four corners of the village. No communications signals would be able to leave, nor be received while their holo-transceiver frequencies were jammed. After a perimeter had been established around the village, the war droids moved swiftly into town, destroying any occupied vehicles, and destroying targets of opportunity – pedestrians.

    The people, in a panic, ran into any building they could flee into, and hid from the war droids’ murderous fire. Many hundreds of people tried calling the constabulary, but there was no holo-communications service. Others attempted to call friends or family at nearby villages, but their calls could not get through.

    Soon after, the troops began to go house to house, building to building, rounding up the villagers. There was a large amount of confusion amongst the villagers. Many of them mistook the Imperials as the Regulator mercenary army working for the Hutts on Makeb.

    “Hutt tail kissing scum!” Some had shouted at the Imperial soldiers.

    The people were all taken to the village center, and held in a hasty field prison established in a park in the center of town.

    Any villagers that managed to escape, or evade capture, were shot dead by war droids patrolling the streets, or the Imperial troops set on the perimeter around the village. When it was assured that all of the villagers had been gathered, they were marched three hundred at a time to the edge of town, where captured work droids were used to dig mass graves. The villagers were massacred at the graves, and the work droids neatly arranged the dead in the deep trenches, so that the capacity of each trench would be maximized.

    Throughout the night and into the early morning hours, Major Ordensk worked his troops hard, driving them like slaves to hide the wreckage of speeders, removing them from the streets and from the sides of buildings where some of them had crashed, and moving them into garages and parking structures. Imperial soldiers commandeered commercial transport speeders to recover bodies from the streets and the outskirts of town and transported the bodies to the graves.

    His troops were exhausted, but he kept them working, driving them as he established the new camp site at the edge of town, in the woods. That afternoon, as his company commanders reported to him the progress of the work done to hide their horrific crimes, he reflected, for the first time in his distinguished seven year career, that he hated being an Imperial Army officer.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    The troops of the 31st / 77th had set their encampment, in tents, hidden in the woods between the outskirts of town and the warehouse complex outside of town, which Katha Niar used as her headquarters. However, Darth Nox had ordered the troops and specialized civilian personnel to take up residence in the now vacated homes of the dead. Additionally, he ordered them to set up operations in the various shops and offices in the small town’s tiny commercial district.

    However, the personal effects of the mass execution victims, their clothing, toys, family holographic images, etc, haunted the men and women now working for the dark lord. Nox had ordered all of the troops to dress in the clothing found in the homes of their victims. Many of the troops could not bring themselves to do it. Though it irritated him to do so, Darth Nox found it necessary to address the troops.

    “Darth Marr gave very explicit orders to keep out of sight. Yet, you were discovered. It would not do to let the failure of your discovery be compounded by letting your presence be reported to the local officials.

    “To keep in compliance with Darth Marr’s directive, you took very harsh and necessary measures to keep your presence concealed. You massacred and buried the local townsfolk.”

    Nox swept his eyes across the light infantry troops, black ops specialists, and specialized civilian operatives assigned to support his mission on Makeb. The Force allowed him to feel their abject guilt and self loathing. Nox worried greatly that, in their current state of mind, they would end up failing him and failing his mission, but he knew that attempting to minimize their crimes would only cause their morale to plunge even lower.

    Nox thought, “I must keep them focused. I must keep them from wallowing in their guilt or they will become useless to me!

    He continued his speech, telling them, “However, this leaves all of us with another very serious problem. A village without people in it is also suspicious and can attract the attention of the Hutts and their minions. You must occupy these homes and wear the locals’ clothing to hide the massacre – at least until we’ve accomplished our mission.”

    Katha Niar spoke out of turn, interrupting Nox’s talk.

    “Dark Lord, what do we do about incoming holo-calls from relatives of the deceased, or their visitors?”

    Nox, rankled by her interruption, spoke tersely.

    “You should have thought of that before you gave the order!” Mentally kicking himself, he continued in a more civil tone, “Don’t answer the calls.” Then he added, “And don’t place any calls on their holo-transmitters, either. That would be another way to announce our presence here.” He added, callously, “Dig another mass grave and dump the bodies of any visitors that come to town in it, until we’ve accomplished our mission and leave this world.”

    Darth Nox returned his gaze to his forces assembled in the warehouse and told them in a stern tone, as he felt their self loathing grow, “Orbital observation must not detect a town without people in it! Before the end of this day, you will all be quartered in these houses and running operations from those commercial buildings and wearing the local civilian attire! Is that clear?!”

    The light infantry soldiers and the Black Ops team members all reflexively shouted, “Yes, sir!”

    In contrast to the civilian operatives, who answered in subdued tones, “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    As A World Dies​

    Major Trent Ordensk had been tasked to assign housing to the Imperial personnel as decreed by the dark lord. The major started by taking inventory of residential and commercial structures in the village. He then began to assign housing based on how close those were to the village’s business district in the village center. The town was quite small, with a population of just under four thousand inhabitants.

    The special operations team members were assigned housing near the larger of the two business districts closest to the village center. He assigned them the business district’s four two story professional office buildings from which they were to conduct their operations.

    He assigned the four Black Operations teams housing near the warehouse complex at the far edge of the village, near the mass graves. This gave Black Ops access to a place they could use to prepare for and launch operations, and it also gave them the cover of the forest, which abutted the edge of the village on that side of town.

    The remainder of the housing was divided amongst his own battalion. Officers all lived together, near the village center, nearby the special operations team. This gave his subordinate officers access to the village council building, where they could plan and coordinate security patrols, and other military operations. The council building became Ordensk’s battalion headquarters.

    He assigned his battalion medical support section the medical clinic in the smaller of the two business districts on the opposite side of the village center. His supply unit was tasked with taking over the shops, and restaurants and pubs and making them functional supply, repair, and mess facilities, to feed the troops.

    He ordered all Imperial personnel to turn in all food, found in the residences, over to the supply officer. That food would be used first, to feed the Imperial personnel, before turning to their field rations as a food source.

    It was a lot of work, but it was all done before Makeb’s star had set that evening. Lord Cytharat had delivered the progress report to Darth Nox.

    The dark lord merely replied, “Good.”

    In the parking lots of the restaurants and adjoining shops, tarps were set up to give overhead cover from direct sunlight, and to provide camouflage for the troops that would gather to eat their meals there. The battalion’s officers, Black Ops teams, and the special operations team all ate their meals in the village’s three restaurants and four pubs.

    There was no cheer under the tarps as the enlisted ate their first hot meal in over a week. They were dressed in the clothes of the victims of their slaughter. Darth Nox could feel their gloom. It angered him, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The orbital observation probes might spot their uniforms otherwise.

    He forced himself to ignore the misery of his troops, instead focusing on what his scientists had to say. They detailed the results of their simulations. Prior to Darth Nox’s arrival on Makeb, the scientists ran two dozen simulations on two dozen different super computers scattered across several Imperial worlds in Sith Empire space.

    Nox’s mouth had fallen open. Incredulity showed plainly on his face as he asked with incredible disbelief, “You communicated with the Sith Empire over the last few days – from here?!” Then, with his fury rapidly building at what he perceived as utter folly, he asked, “Did it not occur to you that your intra-galactic holo-communications could be intercepted?!”

    Lord Cytharat quickly spoke, to assuage Darth Nox’s growing fury, telling the dark lord, “We used the Black Ops teams’ special communication equipment, meant to allow them to send and receive communications from deep within Galactic Republic space without detection, Dark Lord. It is a proven technology.”

    Nox quickly turned his head to face the four Black Ops team leaders, and angrily snapped his inquiry.

    “Well?! Is what Lord Cytharat saying the truth?!”

    Cytharat expected Sith superiors to suspect their Sith subordinates to deceive and plot against their superiors, but he was, nevertheless, offended at Nox’s blatant disrespect towards him in the presence of the lower classes. Yet, he remained silent. He knew his standing was in question because his own dead master, Darth Malgus, slain by Nox several years before, had betrayed the empire and usurped the Sith Emperor’s throne. Though he had proved his innocence of the charge of treason, he was never trusted nor respected again by the Dark Council.

    The senior ranked team leader replied, “It is so, Dark Lord. This equipment is used routinely to send and receive communications deep in enemy territory without detection.”

    Nox, sensing no deceit from the Black Ops captain, began to relax again, accepting the captain’s word.

    “Very well.” Then he ordered the lead scientist, “Continue your report. Tell me about your simulations.”

    The scientist, a Neimoidian named Nadrin Tro, stood nervously before the Dark Lord of The Sith and resumed his report where he’d left off.

    “Most august dark lord, the data has come back with the most satisfactory results. Nineteen out of twenty four simulations have returned results that show the experiment would succeed – with great certainty!” He exaggerated that last point a little. He added, “The remaining five simulations showed, not failure, but less than favorable results, Dark Lord. All in all, a most satisfactory conclusion.”

    Nox’s customary scowl didn’t change at this most satisfactory conclusion that Dr. Tro had proclaimed.

    Instead, Nox snapped impatiently, “Stop lying to me, and tell me what I am facing, here!”

    The Neimoidian, beginning to tremble, spoke most earnestly, as he explained, “Most august dark lord, the meaning of these simulation results is that we can save the planet from tearing itself apart and becoming an asteroid ring around its star. However, it is most regrettable that the planet will cease to be habitable. All ecological systems and the people living on this world will still die.”

    Nox asked, “How is it regrettable? If it saves the planet, and I can mine its resources, then why should I care what happens to the ecological systems of this world? As for the people…. It is unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do for them.”

    Katha Niar spoke up, saying, “Actually, Dark Lord, I have an idea that can be useful to us, as well as give the people a chance to escape.”

    Darth Nox, sensing her desperation, asked as though he’d already thought it a bad idea, “What is the risk it will tip off the Hutts to our purpose?”

    “This is information the Hutts have and are acting on. Their activities, as they prepare to evacuate the planet are already drawing the attention of the people. The people do not yet realize why the Hutts are so rapidly moving their assets off world.

    “If word could be leaked out...”

    Lord Cytharat could see that, by the expression on his face, Nox was not going to be sold.

    He cut in saying, “That could cause a worldwide panic. It would further tie the hands of the Hutt’s mercenary army, The Regulators.”

    Darth Nox liked the notion, but he wanted to be careful.

    He commanded, “Be silent, everyone. I must think on this.”

    The moments ticked by as Katha, Cytharat, Dr. Tro, and the four Black Ops team leaders sat or stood silently around the conference table, waiting for the dark lord to address them.

    After some thought, Darth Nox ordered, “Katha Niar, I will go with your idea. Plant the rumors and let them know that the planet’s destruction is tied to the increasing and worsening ground quakes.”

    Before Katha could acknowledge her orders, Nox raised his hand to forestall her, and then pointed a finger at her, cautioning her, “Take absolute care that we are not tied to the rumors. It would seem awkward that we are handing them weapons to fight for their homes on the one hand, while on the other telling them that their homes are doomed anyway.”

    Lord Cytharat spoke, “Dark Lord, it may even tie the hands of Republic forces on Makeb as they find themselves having to assist with evacuations.”

    Darth Nox smiled wryly, telling Dr. Nadrin Tro and Katha Niar, “You see? We didn’t even have to worry over the fate of these people.” Turning to Lord Cytharat, he continued with his point, “We’ll let the Galactic Republic take on the burden of rescuing these people. If they refuse to evacuate the Makebi people...,” his wry smile widened as he concluded, “we’ll find a way to let the galaxy know that the Galactic Republic had let a planet full of people die when they were in a position to help.”

    Katha Niar, feeling great relief, spoke resolutely, promising, “Then I will make doubly sure we aren’t implicated as the source of the rumors, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox turned to the Neimoidian scientist and told him, “When we have control of the mines you have specified, I will allow you to proceed with your experiments.” Nox added a very heavily implied threat, “I look forward to the successful completion of these experiments, Dr. Tro.”

    Dr. Tro immediately realized that failure would undoubtedly mean a death sentence for him.

    He felt it necessary to remind Darth Nox, “Recall, most august dark lord, success means the air will become unbreathable. There will be toxic smoke and superheated ash pouring into the atmosphere from many opened fissures on the planet’s crust. We will, ourselves, need to evacuate. Do not think such a necessity as a failure, but as a consequence of keeping the planet in one piece.”

    Darth Nox turned to Lord Cytharat and ordered, “Make a plan for our own evacuations. We must be ready to be kicked off a disgruntled planet.”

    The disgraced Sith lord bowed, replying, “As you will, Dark Lord.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    An Arranged Meeting​

    Darth Nox was having his breakfast the following morning when Khem Val approached to announce, “The miserable little woman who ordered the slaughter of the town is here. She wishes an audience.”

    Nox told Khem, as he chewed, “I will see her when I’m done eating. Tell her to wait.”

    Khem Val left without another word to convey Nox’s message to the waiting Katha Niar.

    An hour later, Nox was at his desk in the house assigned to him by Major Trent Ordensk, commander of the 31st Battalion 77th Regiment. The dark lord read patrol reports looking for signs his operation had been discovered. He knew that eventually the local authorities would start to sense something was wrong, and would want to make inquiries of the locals, who were now all dead.

    Nox needed the Makebi people armed and fighting to tie up the local authorities with the chaos of rebellion. He knew when the rumor of the planet’s imminent destruction hit, that it would become absolute pandemonium with armed rebels seeking transport off planet. Under such circumstances, a strangely quiet tiny village would fall out of the notice of the mercenary enforcers working for the Hutts.

    As Nox thought on Andronikos’ progress in securing the weapons, he wondered if he’d given the not-so-former pirate too much to handle. He was about to reach for his personal holo-transmitter when the door to his office slowly swung open.

    Virulous walked awkwardly into the room as she walked the door open. She awkwardly walked the door back to close it again. She finally turned about to face her master, who’d been watching as she struggled with entering the room through such an archaic doorway.

    Darth Nox simply said to his apprentice, “I don’t know how these people could live with doors that don’t slide open and shut automatically. I miss automatic sliding doors.”

    Darth Virulous was deeply surprised, taken aback by her master’s seeming familiarity towards her. She wore her armored mask, attached to her utility belt at her side, with her hood pulled back.

    Virulous bowed her head towards her master, replying, “Dark Lord, it is a wonder to me that such doors should exist when automatic sliding doors have been in use for millennia almost everywhere in the galaxy.”

    Nox nodded agreement, adding, “I’ve traveled all over the galaxy for one reason or another and have never come across any doors that were hand operated. It simply is a wonder.”

    He had enough with the pleasantries, and asked, “You are here to report something, Darth Virulous?”

    She replied, “Master, Katha Niar waits to give you her report. Do you not wish to hear her? Shall I send her away?”

    Having been reminded of Katha Niar waiting for him, Nox mouthed to himself, “Oh,” as he rolled his eyes, shaking his head at his lapse in memory. In a neutral tone, he ordered, “Send her in. I will hear her report.”

    “Master, may I listen in on her report to you?”

    “Yes, and be ready for instructions afterwards.”

    Virulous bowed her head, wordlessly turning about to head out through the archaic wooden door again. Before she could reach for the knobby door handle, it turned on its own, the door swinging smoothly on its hinges without human hands operating it.

    Virulous turned about and saw Darth Nox’s hand stretched towards the door behind her. She thought to herself, “Why didn’t I think of that!” Aloud, she said, “Thank you, Master.”

    She stepped through the door and used The Force to pull the door shut again.

    A few moments later, the door opened much more smoothly. Darth Virulous entered ahead of Katha Niar, stepping to the side of the office as Katha entered the office behind her and made her way before Darth Nox’s desk. Katha Niar knelt before Darth Nox’s desk as Darth Virulous used The Force to shut the door again.

    Darth Nox told the woman, from whom he could feel her fear, self loathing, and guilt, “Rise Katha Niar. Give me your report.”

    She rose to her feet and began speaking.

    “Dark Lord, a meet has been arranged with Pollus Avesta. He will meet with you at Kinlo Plantation at the Westwater Settlements. He knows you are an Imperial representative, and that you wish to offer him weapons to oppose the Hutts. He does not know you are Darth Nox, Dark Lord of The Sith.”

    Darth Nox had taken note that Katha Niar still wore her civil service uniform, but that it had been turned inside out. Her hair seemed a bit unkempt, and her skin seemed a bit grimy. He decided not to address this with her, immediately.

    Instead he asked, “When is the meet to occur?”

    Katha told him, “I hope, this evening is not too soon, Dark Lord. He expects you to arrive in the late afternoon to early evening.”

    Darth Nox nodded, pleased, and said, “Well done, Katha.”

    Turning to Virulous, he said, “You will accompany me.”

    Virulous bowed her head, replying dutifully, “I am honored, Dark Lord, and look forward to this.”

    Turning to Khem Val, Nox said, “Sorry, Khem. You can’t go to this meeting. Do not worry, however. A chance will come for you to get out there and let out a little steam.”

    Khem Val only nodded acknowledgment of Nox’s assurance, but Nox could see the Dashade’s frustration. He could easily tell that Khem Val felt caged inside the tiny eight bedroom, eight bath, two story shack that was once occupied by the village chief and local realtor.

    Darth Nox turned to Katha Niar and observed, “You look rough. Why are you still wearing your civil service uniform – and it’s inside out, why?”

    Katha Niar bent to her knee and begged for clemency, pleading, “Forgive me, Dark Lord. I could not bring myself to wear the clothes of those I ordered slaughtered, and I could not make myself to sleep in their homes. I slept in the speeder port of one of the businesses.”

    Darth Nox could feel her anxiety, fear, and abject guilt. He was conflicted. On the one hand, Nox wanted to kill the weakling. On the other hand, he knew he still needed her for the mission.

    Nox suggested, “There is an inn at the village center. I’m certain none of the locals lived at the inn. Why don’t you stay in one of the rooms? There is a clothing shop in the center of town, as well. Why don’t you get clothes from there?”

    Tears left Katha Niar’s eyes, but she kept her voice steady, confessing, “My mind is a mess, Dark Lord. I had not thought of this. I will see to it immediately, and I will pull myself together.”

    Darth Nox replied simply, “Good. You are dismissed.”

    Nox waited until he knew Katha would not hear, after she’d left his presence.

    Then turning his head to look at Khem Val asked, “If I ordered it, would you eat her?”

    Virulous was startled into laughter, but quickly regained her composure and became silent again. Nox cracked a small smile at Virulous’ mirth, but he kept his eyes on the Dashade.

    Khem Val had been shaking his head morosely, as he fumed about his own cramped situation. The behemoth replied, “No, master. There is very little meat on her bones, and she smells of defeat.” Turning to look Nox in the eye, he asked, “Does my master wish her dead?”

    Darth Nox’s small smile expanded as he leaned back in his commandeered office chair, laughing inwardly at Khem Val’s description of Katha Niar’s poor quality as food.

    Aloud, Nox told his servant, “No, Khem. I still have need of her.”

    Still smiling, Nox turned to the Black Ops’ reconnaissance report of Kinlo Plantation in Westwater Settlements.

    He told his apprentice, “Darth Virulous, we must get moving. This place, Kinlo Plantation is far away, and Westwater Settlements is a pocket controlled by resistance fighters who are surrounded on all sides by the Hutt’s Regulator mercenary forces. We’ll have to do a lot of skulking about to sneak through the battle lines surrounding Westwater, and to sneak into the Plantation, itself.”

    Virulous replied dutifully, “I am ready, Dark Lord.”

    She was apprehensive. This would be her first time in a combat setting alongside her master. For the first time, she would actually see him operate in the field. She hoped she would not be a hindrance to him, and hoped for a chance to learn something new from him.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  17. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    A Difficult Man To Keep Up With​


    The stealth infiltration dropship vanished from view as it lifted off. It’s already nearly silent engines quickly faded to imperception, as the craft left Darth Nox and Darth Virulous on the top level of a parking structure which scanners indicated had no one posted on it.

    Darth Nox felt the anxiety of a few of the Hutts’ Regulators in the level below. He surmised they must have heard the drop ship’s engines since they were only one level below the top of the parking structure. He motioned Virulous to follow him.

    Nox hid behind the burned out husks of speeders that had been parked there since before the fighting had started between the Regulators and the Makebi freedom fighters. Virulous hid behind the same speeders, beside Nox, keeping her eyes on the ramp that led up from the level below.

    The heads of two Regulator mercenaries came into view, sixty meters away, as they cautiously ascended the ramp, with their weapons at the ready. Darth Nox, who’d been crouching right next to her, vanished, not only from view, but she couldn’t feel his presence either. She turned her head to look at where Nox had knelt beside her.

    Impulsively, Virulous reached her hand to where she’d last seen her master, but at that instant she heard the unmistakable deadly hum of a lightsaber cutting through the air and its crashing buzz as it cut through armor. She snapped her head to look at where the mercenaries were ascending the ramp. All she saw then was Darth Nox’s murderous scowl aimed at her. He stood partway down the ramp where the mercenaries had been.

    She quickly got out from behind the wrecked speeder and ran towards her master. Nox immediately took a few steps up the ramp, pointing furiously, urgently towards her right. As she ran towards Nox, on the ramp on the left side of the parking structure, she turned her gaze to the right corner of the structure and spotted two mercenaries emerging from the stairwell.

    The two quickly started to take aim at her with their blaster rifles. Virulous executed a Force technique that made her vanish from sight. She quickly dashed to the right and ducked behind a wreck as the two men fired their blaster rifles wildly, hoping to hit something.

    Virulous knew she couldn’t let her master bail her out of her blunder. That would show utter weakness. She activated her shield generator and ran along the low wall behind the parked wreck where she had taken cover. Then turning to run towards the two shooters, she tried to close the distance to them. Forty meters was too far for her Force Lightning attack to reach. She got to within twenty five meters when one of the shooters began to perceive her presence. He could hear her running steps.

    As he turned his weapon in her direction to shoot, Virulous blasted both shooters with Force Lightning. Both mercenaries were knocked off of their feet, falling onto their backs and writhing on the soot stained resicrete surface. She quickly ran up to the two helpless mercenary fighters and impaled them both, one after the other, with her lightsaber, stabbing them three times each, alternating between the two.

    Virulous quickly approached the stairwell the two had emerged from, looking down the stairs for approaching enemies. Finding none, she turned towards the ramp, where she’d last seen Nox, but Nox was right behind her. Virulous was quite startled by his sudden and undetected appearance so close to her.

    Darth Nox worked to keep his anger on a short leash, as he told her, “Now they all know there is a problem here. They will converge here in numbers. We must move quickly.”

    He looked over the low wall, down the side of the three story parking structure into a narrow alley way.

    Returning his angry gaze to Virulous, he asked, “Please tell me that you can at least slow your descent with The Force. We may need to jump down to escape.”

    Virulous, feeling that her master was unnecessarily belittling her with his sarcasm, nevertheless replied respectfully, “Yes, Dark Lord, I can.”

    Virulous ran after her master when he suddenly took off towards the far end of the parking structure. There was a two story building with a hole on its roof, next door, on that end of the parking structure. Without even slowing down to assess the situation, he leapt off of the parking structure and onto the roof of the building next door. Then almost immediately, he jumped down into the hole in the roof.

    Virulous was close behind her master, leaping onto the roof of the two story office building. However, she hesitated at the hole in the roof. Looking down the hole, she found her master finishing the slaughter of four Regulator mercenaries in the conference room. They were already falling dead, as she looked down the hole.

    Virulous wondered, “Did he already know they were in the room before he jumped in?” She figured that she was no more than a second behind her master, thinking in astonishment, “His instincts are ridiculously sharp!

    Not wishing to fall behind, she finally leapt down the hole into the room as Nox exited the conference room into the hallway. She was shocked at the carnage in the conference room. It seemed Nox had slaughtered a squad of Regulators in the middle of a briefing, and not just the four she initially saw him cut down.

    She thought with quite some consternation, “There must be at least twelve dead men in here! He killed all of them in that short a span?!

    Virulous didn’t stop to count the dead. She didn’t waste any time gawking at Nox’s slaughter, but when she stepped into the hallway, she barely caught sight of the back side of her master as he ducked around a corner at the far end of the hallway. Virulous picked up the pace, but when she got to the end of the hallway, on her right where her master had turned, she found a stairwell.

    At the bottom of the stairs was a hole blasted into the wall with an explosive, during the fighting, where a doorway used to be. It led out to the street. She didn’t see her master and panicked. Leaping all the way to the bottom, from the top of the stairs, she dashed out of the building and into the street, but found no sign of Darth Nox anywhere on the street in either direction.

    Mercenaries from the Regulators mercenary organization began to approach the parking structure. Virulous ducked back into the blown hole in the wall, at the bottom of the stairs, and began to concentrate on The Force, using it to search for her master, feeling for his presence.

    Nox felt his apprentice’s attempt to feel for his presence and let out a tiny hint of his aura for Virulous to detect. Very shortly thereafter, he felt her focusing on his presence.

    With some frustration, he thought, “She has a lot of potential, but she lacks focus. There is much for her to learn. I hope she’ll be able to keep up with my teachings.

    Nox waited for Virulous in the burned out husk that was once a small grocery store. Meanwhile, Virulous ducked between burnt and smashed speeders parked on the street. She crouched in the shadows of the piles of rubble from crumbled office buildings and collapsed shops and used any other structure still standing, which she came across, to conceal her movements from the Regulators who were just now tactically entering the parking structure she and her master had abandoned.

    Another squad of Regulators had deployed to the two story office building, which Darth Nox and Darth Virulous had used to egress the parking structure, apparently to check up on the squad that had been using the office building as a squad barracks. They had failed to answer their platoon commander’s transmissions.

    Virulous thought in disgust, “Blast! As soon as they see the carnage the dark lord has left in his wake, they will sound the alarm and widen their search!

    As she had done at the top of the parking structure, she used The Force to bend the light around her to blend in with the pile of broken resicrete, twisted durasteel, and other materials on which she lay. She was about to leave the pile of rubble, when two mercenaries took up positions on the rubble, not three meters from her. Virulous knew that no matter how carefully she moved, the mercenaries would immediately notice her presence. They would hear her movements on the debris.

    The two soldiers were looking away from her. Since she was not in their field of view, she could not Force Persuade them into not noticing her presence. She decided to sleep them.

    Virulous concentrated on The Force, building up a brain-slowing pulse of Force energy, as she had done on Tatooine. She unleashed it at the two men. They became groggy, but neither man fell asleep. They shook their heads as they both fought off their sleepiness.

    Concentrating on The Force a second time, she used Force Persuasion on their auditory senses.

    She stretched her arm towards the two men and whispered, “Sleep,” as she again blasted them with a brain slowing pulse.

    The two mercenaries dropped their heads, instantly, deeply asleep on the rubble on which they’d taken watch positions. Virulous wasted no time getting away from that pile of rubble and the two sleeping Regulator mercenaries. She made a mad dash for the grocery store, what was left of it, across the wide street.

    Darth Nox had been watching from his perch within the burned out structure, thinking, “So much potential, but she has many flaws of which she must rid herself.

    Nox made notes on his datapad on what he needed to discuss with his apprentice for another time and then returned it to its niche on his utility belt as Virulous made her mad dash across the rubble strewn road. When she entered the ruined building, she suddenly found herself face to face with the dark lord. Breathing heavily from her exertions, she pulled back her hood and removed her armored mask, attaching it to her utility belt.

    Nox motioned for her to follow him deeper into the ruined store. Nox sat on the edge of an emptied and non functioning cooler, while Virulous sat on the dusty floor, resting her back against a wall.

    Without preamble, in a low voice, Nox told his apprentice, “You certainly have potential, but you need to work on a few skills. When we return to base, I’ll go over a few things with you.”

    Virulous was pleasantly surprised and excited by her master’s promise to share knowledge with her. Her gratitude was obvious in her tone and was plainly expressed on her face, but remembering to keep her voice low, she replied, “Thank you, Master!” Remembering her short comings from the very start of their mission, however, she added contritely, “I am deeply sorry that I’m giving you so much trouble and for slowing you down, Dark Lord.”

    Nox replied as though he had expected her lack-luster performance.

    “You are at my level when I was a young Sith and my master threw me to the packs of wild tukata. I had a rough time of it starting out, but I survived and learned a few tricks along the way. I’ll teach you some of the more important ones.”

    Virulous watched as her master closed his eyes and whispered, “Not here. Move on.

    She became startled when she heard a voice coming from the road so near to the shop she and her master hid within.

    “Not here! Move on!”

    She wasn’t aware anyone was out on the street approaching the shop.

    In wonder, she asked herself, “How did he know they were there? It’s the same as when he knew the mercenaries were coming up to the top level of the parking structure, even though he could not see them, the same as when he knew the squad was in that office, before he jumped down the hole in the roof.

    Opening his eyes, Nox whispered to her, “It seems the Regulators have found the messes you and I have made in the parking structure and in the office building. They are now looking for….” He closed his eyes again and, after a moment, began to smile as he finished his statement, “Jedi. They are blaming the Jedi for the slaughter we left behind.” Pleased, Nox nodded his head, observing, “This works out well for us. It means they are not aware of the Empire’s presence on Makeb.”

    Again, Virulous was astonished to hear the dark lord’s announcement.

    How does he know what they are talking about? How can he know what they are saying from here?

    She couldn’t tell if he was using The Force to read their thoughts, or if he had used The Force to hear their words from the great distance and through the walls of ruined buildings. She had meant to ask him about it, but Nox started to speak.

    “We’ll have to be late for our meeting. The search is too intense. I could make it out alone, to make it on time, but you’d end up getting captured.”

    Nox could see the shame on her down turned face and admonished her, “Learn well from your mistakes and do not repeat them.”

    Virulous nodded her acknowledgment, whispering dutifully, “Yes, Master.”

    She then watched as Nox closed his eyes again, whispering, “This is not the place. We’ll go across the road.

    Another voice outside of the ruins of the grocery store repeated aloud, gruffly, “This is not the place. We’ll go across the road.”

    The voice of another mercenary replied, “I thought this is where...”

    Nox whispered quickly as the mercenary objected, “I said, not here.

    The first mercenary replied angrily, cutting off his subordinate soldier, “I said, not here!”

    The second mercenary replied, defensively, “Alright, already! You don’t have to yell about it.”

    Virulous whispered, “Eventually someone is going to figure it out, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox nodded once to show he concurred.

    Virulous asked, whispering, “Dark Lord, how do you know that they seek Jedi? How did you hear them?”

    In answer, Nox decided to reveal a secret, but not the secret she asked about.

    “Force Persuasion techniques require that the subject have visual contact with the Force user. They don’t need to know you’re there. In fact, in some cases it’s best they don’t know you’re there, but you do need to be within their field of view to affect their subconscious mind.

    “That is when you have the best success with the use of Force Shroud. You don’t simply vanish from their sight. From their point of view, you never were there to start with, and you continue to remain out of their awareness even when you stand right beside them. That is, if you become proficient with this technique.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord. I know this, but isn’t it easier to just bend light around you to keep your image from reaching their eyes?”

    “Virulous, tell me the difference between Force Concealment and Force Shroud.”

    Virulous replied, somewhat annoyed, “They are essentially the same, Master. In Force Concealment, you bend the light around you, so that anyone around you cannot see you. Your reflected light does not reach their eyes. In this case, you don’t need to seize control of their subconscious minds.

    “In Force Shroud, you also conceal your presence from them but you can only target individuals when you are within their field of view since it requires you to seize control of their subconscious minds. It is much more difficult, and requires a great deal more concentration to pull off.”

    Nox replied, “There is another difference. In Force Concealment, they can still hear you, and can use other ways to find you. In Force Shroud, you are not at all within their awareness. They don’t see, nor hear you, even if you stand next to them whistling a tune. It is with that technique that you can approach with your lightsaber ignited, and your subject would not see nor hear your weapon.”

    Virulous understood this. She’d experienced it with Juuldis in her desperate battle at the spaceport to bring her back to The Citadel on Dromund Kaas.

    Nox continued his impromptu lesson, “Then you also know that to change someone’s mind using Force Persuasion, you need to be in their presence, and in their subconscious awareness. You must insinuate your will upon your subject but make them believe it is their own will to act in accordance to your agenda.”

    Virulous was about to answer that she knew this also, but stopped as she realized, for the first time, that Nox was not in the presence, nor in the field of view, of the soldiers out in the street.

    Mystified, she asked, “How were you able to use Force Persuasion without being in their presence or in their field of view, Master?”

    Nox’s serious facade changed ever so slightly, as he cracked the tiniest smile. He was pleased that she was paying attention, and that she asked exactly the right question.

    However, he wanted her to figure it out herself, so he went on to tell her, “I left you behind, lost you. You were forced to use The Force to seek me out. I allowed a sliver of my aura to seep out, so that you could find me.”

    Nox paused to let Virulous think on his words.

    “Yes, Dark Lord. I found you, because you let me find you.”

    Nox asked dryly, “Did you feel the presence of anyone else, besides mine?”

    Virulous, wondering where her master was going with this line of inquiry, replied, “Only a few of the mercenaries near my vicinity, Dark Lord.”

    Darth Nox strongly urged her, “Train this ability to sense the presence of others, not only nearby but far from you, above you, below you. Not only to sense their presence, but to feel their emotions.” He added for emphasis, “Do not only train your ability to sense those with The Force. That is easy, if they do not mask their presence. Train your ability to sense those who do not have The Force. That is much harder to do, but it is an important skill that means the difference between avoiding a platoon of enemy soldiers or running into them.”

    Virulous reflected, “This is how he knew exactly where the mercenaries were on the parking structure, in the office building, outside of this shop.

    Aloud, Virulous reflected, “Sensing your presence was like seeing a very tiny spark a very long ways away, in the dark, but sensing the mercenaries was like seeing dark, ill defined shapes in the dark, my lord.”

    Nox said, “Yes, and if you wish to manipulate these dark, ill defined shapes in the dark, you must also feel their emotions. It is an essential skill.” Then he asked his apprentice, “What do you sense around us now?”

    Virulous closed her eyes and concentrated. Reaching out with The Force, she searched for the presence of the mercenaries. She was stunned, her eyes popped open, revealing her shocked surprise.

    She whispered, with some apprehension, “Master, we are surrounded! There are hundreds of them!”

    Nox nodded both his approval and his agreement, smiling as he remarked, “Yes, we are in a bit of a fix.”

    The gravity of their situation hit her like a ton of bricks. Nox could feel the fear within her, and felt her anxiety begin to grow quickly.

    He cautioned her, “Use your fear to increase your own awareness, to make you more aggressive, to give you power. Do not let it overwhelm you.”

    Virulous, swallowing hard, replied as she gulped back her growing panic, “Yes, Master.”

    Closing her eyes she willed herself to remain in command of herself. In so doing she turned her fear into determination.

    Nox nodded his approval, telling her, “You know that emotions are powerful tools that we can use to harness the power of The Force, but sometimes those powerful emotions can get in the way of good judgment. You must be the master of your emotions at all times. Never let your feelings master you.

    “This is a mistake the Jedi constantly make. They think that powerful emotions, which increase mastery of the Dark Side of The Force, always lead to self destruction. They fail to understand this is only true if you do not become master of your emotions. Their fear of The Dark Side prevents them from trusting themselves with their emotions. They seek to smother their emotions with utter peace and tranquility. It is why the Jedi are weak, and why those that do try, will never master the Dark Side of The Force.”

    Nox became pleased as he sensed her fear become a fierce determination to fight for survival.

    Darth Nox proposed, “As an exercise, why don’t you find a mercenary who is filled with anger, and induce him into a brawl with his fellows?”

    Nox could see the uncertainty in her eyes. He could see she did not understand.

    Nox asked, “Have you ever gotten that feeling that someone was there, but after looking around, you found no one there?”

    Nodding in the affirmative, Virulous answered, “The feeling that you are being watched, Dark Lord.”

    Pointing at his apprentice, he affirmed, “That is how you establish your presence. When your subject gets that feeling, that is your presence, and that’s when you impose your will on his subconscious.”

    Virulous nodded her comprehension, replying, “I understand, Master.”

    Nox added to his instructions, “Make your subject feel that he is being mocked by someone near him and incite him to brawl his mates.”

    Virulous closed her eyes. Concentrating, she used The Force to search further out until she sensed a Regulator mercenary a few street intersections away in a very poor mood. She insinuated her presence until she could sense that he was urgently looking around, as though searching.

    She then planted the idea that one of his comrades was making a mockery of him. She guided his imagination, causing him to believe that he needed to teach his squad mate a lesson. Before she knew it, he was in a brawl with his sergeant. Naturally, the sergeant knocked him out cold, and she lost her connection to the hapless soldier.

    When she opened her eyes, she found herself breathing hard from the effort. She also found a very pleased dark lord of the Sith, smiling and nodding at her success.

    Virulous bowed to her master, telling him, “Thank you, Dark Lord, for sharing your knowledge with me.”

    Darth Nox answered, “I hope to be able to impart much deeper and darker secrets to you in the times ahead.”

    Nodding his satisfaction, Nox told her, “Now use this technique to get all of the soldiers nearby to sense your presence the same way you did to that soldier, and this time you will use Force Shroud. When we leave here, we shall make our way to the East towards the farmlands. You shall enshroud both yourself and me.”

    Virulous felt the task was beyond her. Nox could sense her doubt.

    “You have extended the range you can sense others and used Force Persuasion without actually being in their presence. You have already grown. This is merely the next logical extension of what you have learned. You are using Force Shroud, but this time you are affecting many at once instead of only a few at a time.”

    More than ever, now that her master was favoring her by imparting his knowledge to her, Virulous did not wish to be seen as weak to him. She closed her eyes and, exerting great concentration, blanketed the area with her presence.

    Attenuated through the ruined walls and broken windows of the grocery shop, she could hear the voices of several soldiers inquiring of each other if anyone had searched the structure she and her master hid within.

    One of the soldiers, apparently someone with rank ordered some of his troops, “You three! Go search that building!”

    Nox smiled as Virulous then executed Force Shroud. Virulous pulled the hood of her robe over her head. Then she carefully crept out of the ruined shop and walked gingerly passed soldiers who were oblivious of her passing. Nox’s initial worry was that she’d forgotten to shroud him with The Force, too. However, those worries were laid to rest as he passed a few soldiers without incident.

    They continued like this, covering a few hundred meters, until Nox started to notice soldiers around him and his apprentice begin to jump at their shadows.

    One of the mercenaries asked his comrades, “Hey… Did you guys hear something?”

    When a noncommissioned officer jumped to his feet and jerked his head directly at him, Nox drew his sabrestaff, but did not ignite it.

    The staff sergeant sighed heavily, telling his lieutenant, “Damn it, Sir! I could have sworn that I heard someone right behind us!”

    Nox realized that Virulous was starting to lose focus.

    He spoke conversationally, asking, “How are you holding up?”

    Startled, Virulous snap-turned her head to look at the lieutenant and his staff sergeant. She was astonished to see the two continue their game of sabacc. They hadn’t heard the dark lord say a thing. Nox saw then that her face was covered by her armored mask, which he hadn’t seen her put on and which her hood had concealed.

    Although he could not see the sweat rolling down her face under her mask, nor see her hair matted down with sweat under her hood, he could see her shoulders and her chest heaving, and he could hear her labored breathing. Nox could see she was exhausted.

    Speaking conversationally, he told his apprentice, “Darth Virulous, I’ll take over from here.”

    Virulous expressed her gratitude, whispering, “Thank you Dark Lord. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”

    Darth Nox took the lead, with Darth Virulous following behind her master.

    Nox, again speaking normally, told her, “This is a sign that although you are strong in The Force, you do not have much stamina. You need to work on improving your stamina.”

    Following his example, Virulous replied in a normal tone.

    “Yes, Master. I will make that a priority.”

    Inside, she was giddy because Nox acknowledged her power, but her giddiness was tempered by his critique that she had low stamina. But she was nevertheless, very happy. Virulous forcefully brought herself to the hear and now, looking up as Nox pointed at Makeb’s star, as the two continued to casually walk past mercenaries on very high alert.

    “It’s already past the mid day,” he said, adding, “At this pace, we will arrive mid to late evening. We need to pick up the pace so that we may at least arrive in the late afternoon. Try to keep up.”

    With that, Nox took off at an easy running pace, aided by The Force. Virulous, ran after him.
     
  18. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    A Meeting With The Avestas​


    A few hours later, Nox and Virulous ran down an embankment into a dried out irrigation channel. From his utility belt, he immediately brought out and activated a holo-projector, which produced a holographic three dimensional map of their current location, marking his and Virulous’ positions with two tiny bright red dots.

    After studying the map for a bit, he announced in a whisper, “We’ve gotten past the worst of the freedom fighters’ defenses. We’re only five hundred meters out from Avesta’s plantation house, but we’ll have to be just as careful of Pollus Avesta’s guards as we were with the freedom fighters’ and the Regulators’ defensive positions. As you’ve experienced, electronic sensors and traps are immune to Force Persuasion and Force Shroud. Heh. Heh.”

    Despite her exhaustion, Virulous became amazed that Nox had shared a joke with her. Although, fighting off the seeker mines and the troops who monitored the minefields was not the least bit funny to her.

    He made as though to climb up the embankment, to leave the irrigation channel.

    Still breathing hard from the long, forced jog, Virulous pleaded, “Dark Lord, let us catch our breath, please.”

    Giving his apprentice an annoyed look, he saw that she had pulled back her hood and removed her armored mask. Her face was red, covered in sweat, and her hair was soaked and matted down in sweat, and she panted heavily for air. Seeing the condition she was in forced him to reluctantly accept the fact that his apprentice needed to rest.

    He decided to stay put, thinking to himself, “Blast! I thought she was in better shape than this!

    Aloud, he grudgingly acquiesced, replying, “Very well, catch your breath. I need you fresh and focused when we confront Avesta.” After some thought, he added, “It was kind of them to accept our request for a meeting, but it may be a trap. They may have deluded themselves into thinking that Imperial prisoners might make a nice bargaining token to exchange for favors from the Republic.”

    As he sat beside his apprentice, waiting for her to catch her breath, Nox got an idea and told Virulous, “You shall hide your presence with Force Shroud, while I approach in the open. Stay close to me and keep alert for traps.”

    Virulous, still panting for air, replied “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Nox gave another short impromptu lecture to his apprentice, admonishing her, “Virulous, you need more exercise. You lack stamina, both physically, and in The Force.”

    Virulous smiled and leaned back against the earthen embankment.

    She said, “Dark Lord, it is painfully clear that if I want to keep up with you, that I must get into better shape.”

    She laughed at herself.

    Thinking Virulous was making light of him and of his advice, Nox became incensed.

    Conversationally, he asked, “Oh? What did you find so funny?”

    Looking over to her master, and seeing the anger on his face, Virulous remembered who it was that sat next to her.

    She sat up straight and hurriedly explained, “I was laughing at myself, Dark Lord. I thought I was already in great shape, but being on this mission with you has showed me that I’m not quite in good of shape as I believed.”

    Darth Nox’s anger faded from his face, but he then took on a studious expression as he appraised his apprentice for a moment.

    He observed, “You served as an officer of the Imperial Reclamation Service. You must be in great physical condition.”

    Virulous sensed that his statement was more a question than an observation.

    “Dark Lord, you ran all this way without stopping once for breath. Even now, you’re not winded.”

    Nox cut in before she could say more.

    “Yes. I am in peak physical condition. I train daily, unless I’m out on a mission. Yet, I don’t rely completely on my physical conditioning alone. I augment my physical exertions with The Force.”

    Virulous’ silence was telling to Nox.

    He thought, “This is yet another thing that had not dawned on her to make her life a little easier.

    He asked, “You’re one of those, aren’t you?”

    Virulous adopted a poker face, too late. Although he couldn’t see from her expressions what she might be thinking, her silence told him that she didn’t understand.

    Nox clarified, “You’re one of those that like to do things the hard way, just to make things a real challenge.”

    Nox shook his fist for emphasis.

    Virulous abandoned her poker face, showing her disappointment, as she tilted her gaze downward and past her toes in front of her.

    Shaking her head side to side, she answered, “No, Dark Lord. I’m just a dunce. It did not occur to me to use The Force to aid my endurance running.” Kicking herself mentally and annoyed with herself, she added, “I use The Force to speed me in battle, or to overpower larger, stronger enemies, but it didn’t occur to me to use it for long distance running.”

    Nox observed, “One must think up new and innovative ways to use The Force to make one’s life simpler.” Counting them off on his fingers, he gave a few examples. “Starting camp fires, fishing, moving crates to reorganize warehouses, running long distances without tiring oneself out…”

    Virulous felt that she needed to explain her lack of imagination, telling her master, “I’ve always viewed The Force as a weapon to manipulate others or to destroy one’s foes in battle. It never occurred to me that it could be used as a household time saving wonder tool.”

    Nox replied a bit sharply, “You are limited with what you can achieve with The Force by your own imagination. If you cannot envision it, then you will never be able to fully realize the power of The Force let alone the Dark Side of The Force.”

    Virulous spoke gravely, “Thank you, Master, for your patience with me. I will live up to your expectations. I will not fail you.”

    Nox nodded, replying, “As it should be.”

    Rising to her feet and brushing the earthen dust from her bottom, Virulous declared, “I am ready to go, Dark Lord.”

    Rising to his feet and dusting himself off, Nox admonished his apprentice, “Remain shrouded in The Force the entire time I confer with Pollus Avesta. Even if I’m threatened, do not come out of hiding until I say so, or if I’m actually attacked.”

    “Yes, Master.”

    Nox and Virulous climbed up the embankment of the dried out irrigation channel and into a field that had been growing fallow. The field was overgrown with tall wild grasses, weeds, the occasional shrub, and even a few crop plants, scattered here and there.

    As they walked through the field, Virulous walked behind Nox in the trail made by her master. The two emerged from the field and entered a very large opening paved with rough, white gravel. A few speeders were parked in the gravel lot. Four men armed with blaster rifles emerged from the two story house on the far side of the open gravel lot, approaching Darth Nox. A few others peered out from opened windows of the two story ranch style house.

    He stopped halfway into the gravel lot when one of the men ordered him, “Hold it right there.”

    The four men were intently focused on him. Virulous was not even in their awareness, as she stood a few meters behind her master.

    The man, whom Nox decided was their leader spoke again, this time asking, “How in damnation did you get here?”

    Nox pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the countryside that stretched into the distant horizon and said in his painfully obvious Imperial Basic accent, “After getting dropped by shuttle in the city several tens of kilometers away, I walked to here.”

    The man replied incredulously, “Yeah, Right! You walked through Regulator lines and then through our lines, and you didn’t get shot up by neither!”

    Nox said simply, “I’m the man Pollus Avesta is waiting to meet. You will take me to him.”

    The man replied, “I suppose you’re the man Master Avesta is waiting to meet with. I better get you to him. Come on then. And no funny business!”

    The four men lead Nox into the farm house and straight to Pollus Avesta’s office. Pollus sat dumb founded, looking at each of his men in disbelief.

    “You had one job. One job! Keep dangerous people away from me. But what do you go and do? You bring none other than DARTH NOX HIMSELF INTO MY OFFICE!!!” Having lost his composure, Pollus had bolted to his feet as he shouted the last part of his statement.

    The leader of his security detail replied, bewildered, “But Master Avesta, this is the man you was waiting to meet.”

    Recovering his composure, Avesta resumed his seat as he shifted his eyes to Darth Nox.

    “Is that what you tricked them into thinking?”

    Darth Nox stated, “My people and your people arranged a meeting with you and an Imperial official.” Then he asked, “Did they not?”

    Pollus leaned back in his office chair, and shaking his head in amazed disbelief, replied, “I wasn’t expecting an actual Dark Councilor!”

    Nox assured Pollus, “Now you know that any deals I make with you have the actual weight of the Sith Empire behind it.”

    Pollus nodded his head sagely, realizing that he was in over his head.

    He thought to himself, “What does the blamed Sith Empire want with Makeb?!” Aloud, he asked Nox, “What does the blai… Uh… Sith Empire want with Makeb?”

    Darth Nox, just starting to lose patience with the disrespect aimed at him, replied with a slight edge in his tone, “Aren’t you going to invite your very important guest to have a seat and make himself at home?”

    Pollus Avesta gave a huff for a chuckle as he conceded in reply, “My esteemed guest, please sit down. Make yourself at ho… Make yourself comfortable. Don’t start thinking you can make yourself at home, though.”

    As soon as Nox sat, he eyed the bottles of spirituous liquids on a shelf behind Pollus.

    Pollus swiveled his chair and looked over his shoulder behind himself.

    Realizing what his guest’s eyes longed after, he offered, “Care for a drink?”

    Darth Nox replied with a smile that failed to reach his eyes, “Yes. I’d like one. It was quite a chore getting to your plantation, and I’m parched.”

    Shivering involuntarily, Pollus observed, “I hope you’ll forgive me, but the holo-vids of you do you no justice. You look much more evil and menacing in person.”

    The forced smile quickly eroding from his facade, Nox told his host with a sharper edge in his tone, “I’m trying to be civil, here. Why can’t you return the favor?”

    Pollus set two shot glasses onto his desk. He filled them both, then sliding one of them towards his guest, offered a toast.

    “Here’s to good manners and civility,” he said, clearly not meaning it.

    Nox lifted his shot glass in toast, then took a hefty pull from it.

    Raising his eyebrows in appreciation, Nox asked, “What is this? This is quite good.”

    Pollus, intending sarcasm, replied, “Give me your shipping address. I’ll send you a crate.”

    Darth Nox gave his business shipping address on Dromund Kaas.

    Pollus didn’t copy it down. He had no intention of sending a dark lord on the Dark Council any gifts.

    Instead he got to the point and asked, “So, why are you here?”

    Nox was, the entire time, repeating to himself, “Patience, they will serve my aims. Patience, they will serve my aims. ...

    With a facade on the verge of scowling and barely keeping his composure, Nox replied as calmly as his building anger allowed him, “I’m here to help you with your Hutt problem, and I’m here to make life miserable for the Republic. I’m here to offer you enough weapons to field a large resistance army. I’m offering blaster rifles, anti-tank and anti-air weapons.”

    Pollus, shocked at what he heard, shot straight to the point.

    “What do you want in return?”

    “Call off your membership with the Republic. I know they’re twisting your arms, offering military aid, but only if you sacrifice your independence and join the Galactic Republic. They are willing to land a large Republic military force to drive off the Regulators and send the Hutts packing off-world. All you’d have to do is sell your soul to them. They want exclusive mining rights to Makeb’s mineral wealth.

    “I want to deny all of that to the Galactic Republic. Simultaneous to this, I want to crush Hutt imperial ambitions. I want to quash it here on Makeb, before they think they can challenge the Sith Empire. Finally, I want Makeb to negotiate business arrangements with the Sith Empire.

    Mainly, we want access to Makeb’s resources. No membership in the Sith Empire is required, and your business arrangements need not be exclusive to the Sith Empire. Maintaining your neutrality and independence is important to us.”

    Filled with incredulous disbelief at what he heard Nox say, Pollus asked, “Why is our independence important to you?”

    “It would be one less battlefield, one less star system that we would need to send military forces to oppose.”

    Pollus unmasked the projection lens of his holo-transmitter. The holographic image of Shalim Avesta sprang up. He led The Mining, Manufacture, and Transportation League of Makeb, the ruling party of Makeb’s planetary government, which in effect, made him Chancellor of Makeb.

    Pollus, his voice subdued by the enormity of the moment, asked his brother, “Did you hear that, Shalim?”

    Shalim Avesta replied, just as soberly, “Yeah, Pollus. I did.” Then he asked his brother, “What do you think?”

    Pollus replied, “Shalim, we’d be fools to turn this deal down.”

    Shalim Avesta addressed the dark lord, replying to the Sith’s offer, “It’s a deal, Darth Nox. You got yourself a neutral partner. We’ll muck up our deal with the Galactic Republic just as soon as we start seeing those weapons.”

    Darth Nox found respect for Pollus’ cunning in having his brother listening in from the beginning. Taking his special government issued, super-encrypted intra-galactic holo-transmitter out from its niche on his utility belt, he dialed up Andronikos Revel.

    As soon as Andronikos’ holographic image appeared, Nox asked, “How goes your assignment?”

    He expected to hear about difficulties.

    Instead, Andronikos surprised his employer greatly, as he asked, “Is it alright if it all comes in one shipment? It’s on its way on a convoy of six freighters arriving an hour apart.”

    Nox, surprised about the good news, was nevertheless greatly worried, and asked, “What about security? Have you already made arrangements for them to offload safely?”

    Andronikos replied, “Boss, there’s no way I can ship a hundred and fifty thousand blaster rifles and all of those other heavy weapons and munitions without any security. The Mandalorians were hired to do it. They’re escorting the freighters with six heavy destroyers and three heavy cruisers. Plus ground security will be provided by a division of Mandalorian ground forces.” Andronikos gritted his teeth, then added in a tone that warned he wasn’t taking no for an answer, “I’m billing the Sith Empire for all of it, Boss.”

    Nox, excused his servant’s impertinence, as he kept his focus, asking, “When will they arrive?”

    Andronikos became apprehensive because Nox seemed to ignore the matter of the bill, but he answered in a darkening tone, “Tell me where to land, and they’ll be there the next galactic standard day.”

    Nox looked at Pollus, expectantly, all the while thinking, “The Force is with me!!

    Pollus asked his brother’s holographic image, “Shalim?”

    Shalim Avesta thought a moment, then said, “You’ve got the bulk of the resistance fighters. Land them there. Once you’re armed and ready, link up with the mining corporation’s mesa and arm the fighters I’ve got with me, here. Then we can recruit and arm more fighters.”

    Andronikos suggested, “I could just land freighters in both places.”

    Pollus Avesta replied, “Yes. Please do that.”

    Andronikos answered with a pleased used speeder’s salesman’s smile, “Weapons for an army coming right up! Be ready to take delivery of a hundred and fifty thousand weapons, their munitions and power packs, power pack charging stations, and weapons maintenance equipment and supplies.”

    Pollus told his brother, “Shalim, this is going to make a really big difference.”

    His brother replied, “Pollus, see if you can make a contract with that Mandalorian division to train our fighters. You know the Regulators have combat experience, heavy armor, and heavy weapons, and that more than makes up for our numbers over theirs.”

    Darth Nox asked, “Pollus Avesta, I need a place to confer with my agent in private for a moment.”

    “Use the conference room three doors down the hall.”

    Nox walked out of the office and then down the hallway until he reached the third door in the two story ranch style home. Upon entering the small conference room and leaving the manually operated door wide open, he brought out a small scanner from his utility belt, activated it, and began to scan the room. Virulous, still shrouded by The Force entered the room behind her Master. Satisfied there were no spying devices in the room, he deactivated the device and returned it to his belt, as he shut the office door.

    Unmuting his special issue encrypted holo-transceiver, he spoke to his servant.

    “I thought I told you I didn’t want the Empire tied to this deal.” Why did you involve the Mandalorians?”

    Andronikos answered, “Boss, you’re not gonna like this, but to make this deal happen, I had to make a deal with some of your enemies.”

    Darth Nox was flabbergasted, and became apoplectic as he demanded answers from the not-quite-retired pirate.

    “You did what?! You went to my enemies?! What could possess you to put me into such a…. Which enemies? Spit it out!”

    Seeing his boss having such a fit did nothing to encourage Andronikos that he’d get reimbursed for his investment in this venture. Andronikos had made an unauthorized duplicate of the expense credit card he’d used to pay for his boss’ new ship at Tandankin Ship yards. In his state of fury and grief, shortly after mistakenly killing his wife, Nox had given Andronikos an expense card to take care of the repairs to his ship, but he had erroneously given Andronikos access to the entire budget of his sphere of influence.

    He thought to himself, “Come on, Nox. Give me an excuse to clean you out!

    Aloud, Andronikos spoke flatly, telling his employer, “The Exchange Gang. There’s this guy who worked with your apprentice, Shah…” Seeing Virulous’ holographic image standing behind Nox’s seated image, he recalled that she did not want to use her old name again and corrected himself, “uh…, Darth Virulous. He was smart enough to help her kill the top three leaders on Tatooine. He still thinks you’re gunning for him, so he’s trying to make nice by doing this job for you – at cost. He hired the Mandos to protect his ships and cargo.”

    Nox was immensely relieved to hear this.

    He told his servant, “Andronikos, you nearly gave me a heart attack! I thought you meant someone like Darth Marr or Darth Zash… Next time, be more specific. I thought I was going to have to kill you for betrayal…” Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Nox told his servant, “Never mind all of that. Tell me this Exchange gangster’s name.”

    “Uh… It’s Mr. Trannit, Boss.”

    Darth Nox told Andronikos, “Tell Mr. Trannit that this has put him in a favorable light with me. Tell him, that when I receive his yearly gifts, that I shall remember his part in killing my enemies on Tatooine, and shall think kindly of him.”

    Andronikos felt great relief on hearing Nox say these words. It meant that he wasn’t going to have to retire early and cash in his retirement fund, as he started to think of his unauthorized duplicate credit card. Still shrouded by The Force but unaware that Andronikos could see her, Virulous also felt great relief at Nox’s words. For her it meant that her master would not send her back to Tatooine to finish the job.

    Taking things into account, Nox observed aloud, “The Force is truly with me in this. With the Exchange Gang getting involved, and since they hired the Mandos, the Empire is further removed from proof of involvement. It has worked out well, Andronikos. The Empire shall reimburse your expenses.”

    Smiling broadly, the happy and grateful semi-retired pirate told his employer, “Boss, I’m real glad you’re happy with the deal. Thank you very, very much. I’m grateful that you’ll honor the contract.”

    Getting back to business, Nox cautioned his servant, “Continue to make every effort to hide the Empire’s involvement in this.”

    “Don’t worry, Boss. This is a transaction between an anonymous gun-runner, the Exchange Gang, and the government on Makeb.” Buoyed by the success of this business arrangement, he hinted, “Well, Boss, when this job’s done, I’m gonna hit the pazaac tables on Nar Shaddaa for a while. I left your ship at the Imperial consulate hanger on Nar Shaddaa.”

    With this, Nox understood that his ship was in this quadrant of the galaxy.

    He cautioned Andronikos, “Don’t get so drunk that you can’t fly if I call for you.”

    Laughing, he replied, “Boss, that’s why I make it a point to take R8 with me whenever you take your eyes off of him! It’s so that I can get plastered and still fly the ship!”

    Nox suddenly declared, “I’ve spent too much time talking about this. I’m returning to the meeting.

    Muting his holo-transceiver, he exited the small conference room, leaving the door wide open so that Virulous could follow him out, and made his way back to Pollus Avesta’s office. Again, leaving the door wide open, so that Virulous could follow him in, he resumed his seat and unmuted his holo-communicator.

    As Andronikos’ holographic image popped up, Nox announced, “My agent will speak with the Mandalorians to try to convince them to speak with you about entering into a contract, with your government, to train your fighters.”

    Pollus asked, “Will they fight, too?”

    Nox replied, matter-of-factly, “The Empire is giving you these weapons. The Empire did not hire the Mandalorians to fight for you. In fact, the Empire did not hire them at all. They were hired by a third party to guard the weapons shipment. We will not involve ourselves in any agreements you may wish to enter with them, except to tell the Mandalorians that you wish to do business with them.

    You need to work out any details for a business arrangement you wish to enter with them yourselves, but you had better be ready to pay dearly for their services. They are not at all cheap.”

    Hearing these words gave Shalim Avesta cause to consider, “It’s exactly why the Hutts were so easily able to buy out our contract with the Regulators. We simply weren’t paying enough!”

    Shalim’s frustration at the Regulator’s betrayal was palpable. The Mekebi government’s business relationship with the board of directors of the Regulators mercenary organization had spanned over seventy amicable years. Contract negotiations always went smoothly. The contracts were renewed every ten years, with the pertinent details of each contract renewal negotiated at the seven year mark of the current contract period.

    The last contract renewal negotiations had been going smoothly as well. That was until the Hutts arrived on Makeb. After securing the proper mining rights, the Hutts began massive mining operations of Makeb’s mineral resources.

    Just as the contract between the government and the Regulators had been agreed to, and just weeks before the signing ceremony, the Regulators board of directors suddenly had a change of heart, throwing out the negotiated contract and demanding the contract be renegotiated. After a very contentious and heated period of negotiations, the new contract had been signed and would go into effect at the start of the new year.

    Pollus bitterly observed, “At least they waited until the end of the last contract before they stabbed us in the back!”

    At the stroke of midnight, just as the contract came to an end, the Regulators conducted military operations globally, to seize control of government buildings and constabulary precinct stations. Makeb’s police forces were quickly overpowered and neutralized. Then the Hutts stepped out of the shadows, declaring their dominion over Makeb.

    Most of the government leaders were able to escape and go into hiding before the Regulators realized their mistake in not seizing the leaders at their homes at the start of their conquest. It was most fortunate for the Avesta brothers and the central government officials, who were all in their homes when the Regulators began their operations, that the Regulators had committed that one blunder.

    As a result, the ousted government officials were able to quickly organize their people into resistance forces which rose up to oppose the scheming Hutts and the traitorous Regulators. Unfortunately for the resistance, all they had were civilian grade hunting blasters, slug throwers, and whatever weapons they were able to liberate from a few constabulary precinct stations around the globe.

    The fighting lasted for six months, with the resistance largely defeated. The freedom fighters, however, were able to set up pockets of resistance which the Regulators heavy infantry were unable to crack. This stalemate continued until the Regulators convinced the Hutts to hire Regulator heavy armored units and close air support forces, which had to be transported to Makeb from other parts of the galaxy, where the Regulators were conducting other operations. These armored and air forces had only arrived a month before, and had just begun to deploy to the most difficult resistance pockets.

    In desperation, after an emergency meeting with the surviving government leaders, Shalim reached out to the Galactic Republic, appealing to them for military aid. The Republic had sent a delegation to negotiate. The cost for military aid was going to be Makeb’s inclusion into the Galactic Republic, with exclusive access to Makeb’s mineral wealth as payment for the first two years after liberation, and then said minerals to be sold to the Republic for very low prices, thereafter. This deal amounted to nothing more than extortion.

    Then out of the blue, the Sith Empire, ruled by the evil Sith, appeared from nowhere, quietly offering massive aid with virtually no strings attached. This weighed heavily on Shalim Avesta’s mind.

    He asked, knowing in his heart of hearts what the answer would be, “So… When does the Sith Empire declare Makeb its domain?”

    Pollus Avesta shifted his eyes quickly between the holographic image of his brother, and the dark councilor seated across the desk from him.

    Darth Nox replied, “Eventually, the Empire will defeat the Galactic Republic and dominate the galaxy. Over the centuries, more and more of the galaxy shall be dominated by the Sith Empire. Makeb will eventually enter the Empire. As it is now, our only interest is in crushing the Hutts’ ambitions for empire, and embarrassing the Galactic Republic.”

    He could see the doubts in the eyes of the Avesta brothers, so he added, “Militarily, Makeb has no value. Politically, Makeb can be used to embarrass the Republic since they have involved themselves in your mess. Strategically, we cannot allow the Hutts to realize their ambitions for empire.” Then in a menacing manner, Nox concluded, “And if you want to stay out of the war between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic, do not join their Republic. Maintain your neutrality.”

    The Avestas remained silent as they each considered his words and studied the dark lord’s demeanor, both wondering if they could truly trust him. Sensing their distrust, Nox began to lose his patience. His voice took on a hardened tone as he pointed out the obvious.

    “If the Empire wanted Makeb, your skies would be filled with Imperial warships and legions of Imperial troops would have, long ago, overrun the Regulators. We don’t want Makeb. All we want from you is for you to throw off the Hutts, wrecking their plans for empire, and to call off your entrance into the Galactic Republic. Maintain your neutrality.

    We are giving you weapons and munitions. Take them, fight your Hutt overlords, and win back your freedom. Or let those weapons sit unclaimed when they are delivered tomorrow, and accept the Hutts’ dominion over your world and your people, but expect the Empire to strike at the Hutts, here on Makeb.”

    Suddenly rising to his feet, and clearly losing his patience, Nox declared, “I’m finished talking to you, here.”

    With that, he turned to face the office door. Reaching with his hand, he used The Force to open it wide and took a couple of steps towards the door, but halted in his tracks as Shalim’s holographic image called to him.

    “Darth Nox.”

    At the end of his patience with their indecisiveness, Nox whirled about and snapped, “What is it?!”

    Shalim said simply, “Thank you.”

    Nox nodded his acknowledgment, turned about, and proceeded to leave Pollus’ office. Virulous had stepped to the side of the door way, waiting, but exited into the hallway ahead of her master when Nox resumed making his way out.

    Pollus watched from the second story window behind his desk, as Nox walked across the gravel lot towards the fields growing fallow. He spoke to his brother, still connected.

    “Well. He didn’t kill us all at the plantation. I guess that counts as a good sign.”

    As he’d finished his remark, he watched as a much smaller individual, robed and hooded in black, materialize next to the dark lord.

    “Shalim! There were two of them! There were two Sith in my office!”

    Shalim told his brother, “I could see that, Pollus. She – I think it was a she – was a real short one, wearing a mask. She stood quietly at Nox’s shoulder the whole time.”

    Pollus, mystified, asked his brother, “Why didn’t you tell me there were two of ‘em, if you could see ‘em?”

    A bit puzzled, Shalim replied, “Pollus. They were in your office. Why would I tell you what’s in your own office when you’re right there?”

    Pollus walked to the door of his office, and opening it, asked the guards at his door, “Did you boys see anyone else in my office with Darth Nox?”

    His men both shook their heads in the negative, as one of them replied, “No, Master Avesta. He was alone.”

    Pollus heard a barely audible whining sound coming from outside. He returned to his window and watched as a shuttle craft materialized from thin air and descended the last few meters onto his field. The two Sith wasted no time boarding the shuttle. It rose to the air a few meters and vanished from view again, it’s very quiet engines fading quickly out of earshot.

    Pollus told Shalim, “They’re gone now.”

    Shalim asked for confirmation, “You think we’re making the right call?”

    Pollus replied, “It’s almost a free gift. All we have to do is beat down his enemy, the Hutts, and tell the Republic to go stuff themselves.”

    Pollus reached for the bottle of spirituous liquid and poured himself another shot.

    Then said, just before downing the shot, “I can see how he’d want to keep his hands off the Hutts. The Empire has economic interests in Hutt space, and they wouldn’t want to openly smack the Hutts around. Politically, the Hutts are neutral. They wouldn’t want to push them into the Republic’s corner.”

    Shalim pointed out to his brother, “Yeah, but we also have to forgo our membership in the Galactic Republic. What will we do for defense?”

    Pollus asked, “Against whom?” Then he went on, “Once we beat down the Hutts and send the Republic packing, there’s no one else in the region that we’ll have to worry over.”

    Shalim’s reply reminded Pollus why they’d hired the Regulators to start with.

    “No one else in the region, except maybe the Exchange Gang, the Black Sun Pirates, and a few others…”

    Pollus reminded his brother, “Thank the stars, we’ll be getting enough weapons to outfit an army. With the Mandalorians training our men and helping us establish our own army. We won’t need the Republic, nor anyone else to help us.”

    Just then, Pollus felt a small bump that quickly escalated into a major ground quake. When it was over, two minutes later, he reestablished contact with his brother. Looking at his liquor bottles scattered across his carpeted floor, he thanked the stars that none of them had shattered.

    “You alright, Shalim?”

    “You?” was his brother’s response.

    “Yeah. The bottles didn’t break. I’m good. Good hooch has gotten real hard to come by.”

    Shalim asked his brother, “How many cases are you going send him?”

    Pollus made a pained expression, confessing, “I didn’t get his shipping address.”

    Shalim smiled mischievously, as a small chime notified Pollus of a downloaded document. Pollus read the contents.

    Smiling at his brother, he asked, “How’d you know I didn’t copy down the address?”

    Shalim replied, laughing, “Because you didn’t ask him to repeat it two or three times!”

    Becoming a bit sober, he remarked, “That was a good idea you gave me, there. We need our own professional army. I’m going to ask the Mandalorians to not only teach our guys to fight, but to help us establish our own actual army. Next, I’m going to put out a call for a geologist or three to have a look at why we’re having so many damned ground quakes.

    Nodding his head in agreement, Pollus remarked, “Good ideas, both of those.” Then very soberly, “Shalim, we’ve got a whole lot of work ahead of us, getting ready for that shipment, and then distributing the weapons and munitions and other gear to our fighters. We’ve got to get moving.”

    Shalim nodded his agreement, and replied, “Let’s hope for the best Pollus.”

    “We’ll talk again, Shalim.”

    The connection was cut. Pollus picked a bottle up from the floor, and opening it, poured himself another shot. Setting down the bottle and picking up the shot glass, he made a toast.

    “Don’t stab us in the back, Darth Nox.”

    He downed the shot in one go. Then he walked out of his office to get to work making preparations to receive the weapons shipment.
     
  19. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    These next two chapters are short, so I posted them together. I hope you’ll enjoy them both.


    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    A Progress Report​


    Darth Nox, in his customary black and yellow flexible armor, sat at his desk in his assigned housing. Katha Niar, dressed in the locals’ street clothes, and Lord Cytharat in his dark colored traditional Sith attire under a full length midnight blue hooded robe (he wore his hood down) with wide, long sleeves, stood in front of his desk as they gave him their reports.

    Cytharat reported first, “Dark Lord, we successfully sliced into Hesk Corporation’s servers and accessed their personnel records. We found the names of the engineers who operate the mining lasers. The Black Ops teams sortied late last night to abduct these engineers and bring them in to operate the mining lasers once we take control of the targeted mines.

    “We also recovered blueprints of the structures and schematics of the mining equipment for each targeted facility, and are conducting analysis of each site in order to get an idea of the processes involved in the operation of each facility. We will be able to rebuild and re-equip the mines when the surface cools enough to start work.”

    Nox asked, “When will that be? How long before work can start?”

    Katha spoke up, “Dark Lord, Dr. Nadrin Tro says it will be at the least two weeks, and at the most five weeks before the crust has cooled enough to harden into solid rock again. The air will be very hot and full of toxic gasses, however. Special care will be needed when building…”

    Nox cut her off, “We’ll worry about engineering a solution to that later. Focus on what we need to do now.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Turning back to Cytharat, he asked, “The Black Ops teams are still out, you said? Have they given status updates?”

    “Dark Lord, three of the four teams have completed their missions and are bringing in nine of the twelve engineers required to operate the three targeted mines.”

    Nodding his approval, Nox said, “Good. Keep on top of the situation and let me know if the fourth team has run into trouble.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Turning to Katha Niar, he observed, “You seem better.” Then he asked, “Are you able to carry out your duties without distractions?”

    Indeed, through The Force, Nox could sense a difference in her feelings.

    He thought, “She is almost at peace, it seems. She has become resolute about something.

    Katha answered her lord, “I have accepted responsibility for the actions I took which led to our failure in being discovered by the locals. I have accepted full responsibility for the terrible crime of the massacre. With my mind cleared of those doubts, I can focus on my immediate responsibilities, Dark Lord.”

    Good,” he thought, “I won’t need to eliminate her. I don’t need the morale of the troops or of the civilians working for me to take another dive.” Aloud, he told her, “Then I will hear your report.”

    Katha, although a civilian, snapped to attention, replying, “Yes, Dark Lord!” Then, relaxing her stance, she began her report, “Since the arrival of the freighters with their shipments of weapons, two days ago, Mandalorians have quickly established strong defensive perimeters and combat patrols. They have beaten back several attempts by the Regulators to seize the ships and their cargoes.

    “The freedom fighters, with the help of the Mandalorians, are quite effectively distributing the weapons to their fighters, rotating fighting units to the several weapons distribution points and quickly returning them to the front lines. Intercepted reports indicate that there is already an immediate difference in their effectiveness against the Regulators.

    “In space, the Mandalorian naval task force have inflicted heavy damage to four Hutt light destroyers and two Hutt heavy cruisers. The Hutt navy was simply outmatched. They were forced to withdraw their battle group from Makebi space. Their defeat is probably due to a lack of war time experience, Dark Lord. This has left the Regulators without naval gunfire support to use against the Makebi freedom fighters, the weapons shipment, and the Exchange Gang freighters on the ground.

    “An underworld crime boss, who identified himself as Mr. Trannit has claimed responsibility and has used this event to advertise his shipping services to clients needing successful shipping of any cargo to any destination in the galaxy, even to hostile destinations.”

    Katha smiled broadly as she reported on the successful results of Nox’s negotiations.

    “Shalim Avesta, the leader of Makeb’s legitimate governing body released a statement to the holo-net news outlets.” She read from her datapad, “He said, quote, ‘Thanks to Galactic Republic efforts to blackmail and coerce the Makebi peoples to join their republic with such onerous conditions attached, in exchange for their help, the Makebi governing body had to take the extraordinary measure of purchasing weapons from the criminal Exchange Gang, so that we could fight for our homes.

    “He further stated, ‘Makeb rejects the coercive invitation to join their Galactic Republic, and instead calls for the Galactic Republic to offer sincere humanitarian aid to the war displaced and suffering peoples of Makeb. When we have regained our own freedom with our own hands, with weapons we’ve bought, we will recover our economy and repay the costs of Republic aid. We will not give up our independence, not to the Hutts and not to the Galactic Republic.’”

    Darth Nox, smiling and nodding his great satisfaction, said, “With that, he has lived up to his end of the bargain. That was a nice touch, saying they bought the weapons from the Exchange Gang. That removes the Empire from suspicion of involvement – at least in the public eye. Now for the next part. It’s time for the rumor to go out. Plant the seeds reporting of Makeb’s imminent destruction.”

    Katha Niar replied, “I’ll see to it, Dark Lord.” Then she added, “On that score, it seems the Hutts have accelerated their evacuation of their isotope five war droids, their mineral wealth and other wealth they have amassed while on Makeb. They brought in more ships to do it with, too.

    “I was thinking that along with the rumor, we plant the idea of the Makebi fighters capturing those ships to evacuate their people.”

    Nox laughed, and praising Katha, declared, “Excellent thinking! Yes! Do it! That will force the Regulators to pull forces from many battle fronts, to defend the spaceports and their ships.”

    Cytharat nodded his concurrence, adding, “With luck, it will isolate their guard forces at the mines, cutting them off from reinforcements and making it simpler for our troops to take and keep control of the mines.”

    Nox moved the conversation on to the next point, asking, “What about the scientist? Is he ready to begin?”

    Katha Niar replied, “He assures me his calculations are ready. His team just needs to input the program and feedback algorithm into the computers that will control the mining lasers. He also said that his computer simulations show that while operating the lasers, making certain adjustments might make the ground quakes more intense in certain areas while greatly reducing the intensity of the quakes in other areas of the planet. He requests permission to test his theory, but he assures us he will conduct his tests in lightly populated areas in order to reduce casualties.”

    Nox leaned forward, a look of great incredulity on his face, and asked, “Did you just tell me he can control where the ground quakes can be at its worst?”

    Before Katha could answer, Nox interjected, exclaiming, “A weaponized ground quake?!” Then turning to Cytharat ordered, “Lord Cytharat, determine where the Regulators are most heavily concentrated and tell him, the Neimoidian, to target those areas.”

    Lord Cytharat replied, “I’ll tell Dr. Nadrin Tro, Dark Lord.”

    Nox was done with the two and told them, “You may both leave. I’ve heard enough.”

    Lord Cytharat and Katha Niar both bowed their heads and replied, nearly in unison, “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    The two turned and walked out of Nox’s presence, leaving his tiny office, and leaving his commandeered house. Darth Nox wasn’t the only one to feel the change in Katha’s emotional state.

    Lord Cytharat asked himself, “What has transpired to cause the change in her feelings?” On further consideration, he thought, “She has found her resolve.

    Cytharat was not like most Sith. He came from a family that passionately espoused honor and morality. On the one hand, he believed it was criminal, what Katha had ordered – the mass slaughter of unarmed civilians. On the other hand, he understood she had no other choice. Darth Marr was quite clear.

    Cytharat was there. He watched as the cybernetically enhanced and fully armored Marr, loomed over Katha Niar, poking an armored gloved finger on her chest, between her collar bones. Menacing her, he told her, “Under no circumstance are you to permit the discovery of the Empire’s presence on Makeb. Utter secrecy is paramount to the success of this mission and to the very survival of the Sith Empire. Do not fail in this.”

    Cytharat decided not to ask what had changed her state of mind. There was no sense in reopening such an ugly wound.

    Instead he told her, “I will look into why Black Ops Team Three have failed to check in. I’ll also check on Major Ordensk and make sure he’s on schedule for the capture of the mines.”

    Katha nodded, replying, “Right. And I’ll follow up with Dr. Nadrin Tro and his team of scientists to be sure they are ready to go when the time comes.” She added, “Since I will be checking up on the scientists, I’ll tell Dr. Tro of the dark lord’s desire that he target the Regulators. Shall I tell him to expect the coordinates from you?”

    Cytharat nodded his agreement, saying, “Yes. That will do.”

    Then he turned to go his way, while Katha turned the other way.

    Katha made her way to the Western business center at the village center to where the scientists had set up shop in the small business office complex. Cytharat walked to the North Western edge of the village, where the warehouse complex and, further out from there, the mass graves, were located.

    The warehouse complex was where the Black Ops teams had set up operations. A portion of the 31st / 77th operations section was set up in the warehouse to coordinate with the Black Ops Team leadership. Later, he would walk to the village government center building to speak with Major Trent Ordensk to go over the major’s plans to capture the mines Dr Nadrin Tro needed to conduct his experiments.

    Thus, Cytharat’s and Katha’s paths diverged as they quietly went their ways.


    ___________________________________________________________________________________​


    Terrible News!​


    Five days later, Shalim Avesta listened, stony faced, as his young niece, Lemda Avesta, made her scientific presentation, with two other geologists in attendance.

    “We have at best a few months, at worst a few weeks.”

    Shalim turned to look at the two geologists, seated at the conference table, both were pouring through the data from her research.

    One of the geologists said, “This is most interesting.”

    The other scientist turned to Shalim and said, “Of course, this needs to be peer reviewed…”

    Just then a ground quake struck. It lasted for over a minute, but it was mild in comparison to previous ground quakes. When the quake ended, the scientist resumed from where he had left off.

    “…, but the data is compelling.”

    Shalim asked, “Are you signing off on her report?”

    Both scientists replied in the negative, one shaking his head side to side, his eyes still on the data, and the other speaking out his reply.

    “I don’t agree – yet, on the cause. It may be that other factors are at play, here. However, I do agree that the planet is shaking itself apart.”

    The other scientist nodded his agreement with the first scientist’s sentiment. Then turning to Lemda, told her, “This is fascinating work. Unfortunately, I agree with your assessment. Time is indeed short. There really won’t be enough time to narrow down all of the possible elements involved with this phenomena, but there can be no doubt that the mining activity is involved in some way. This particular set of data, on page sixteen, tells me we were going to experience this anyway. It seems that the laser core drilling and mining operations sped the process up by orders of magnitude.”

    The first scientist nodded his agreement, adding, “I wish there was some way to make observations, but we’ll be dead in a short time, unless we can leave Makeb.”

    Shalim was startled on hearing that last comment, blurting out, “Leave?! Leave Makeb?!”

    His niece said, “If you hadn’t of been so mean to the Republic, maybe we wouldn’t have to get on our knees to beg them to help evacuate the planet.”

    Shalim answered resolutely, “I’ll just have to swallow my pride, and Makeb’s, and publicly beg the Republic for help.”

    Shalim briefly thought about asking the Sith Empire, but he knew the Sith would likely impose a steep price for their aid.

    Thinking to himself, he asked, “If worse comes to worse, what price would the Sith impose? Would they demand compulsive military service, indentured servitude? Slavery for a generation?

    Shalim’s holo-transceiver chimed a pleasant chord. He told the geologists, “A moment while I take this call.”

    Pollus’ holographic image sprang into view above the device on his desk and said, “Hello, Shalim. I’ve got some disturbing news.”

    He noticed that Shalim had visitors and said, “Shalim, this is important, but I can’t tell you with the other’s listening in.” Then he addressed his daughter, smiling, “Hi, Lemmi! How’s my princess doing?”

    Lemda responded, a bit peeved, telling her father, “Dad, I’m in a professional setting, here.”

    Shalim smiled, replying apologetically, “Sorry, Lemda, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, but you’re still my princess.”

    Lemda shook her head disapprovingly. Her fellow geologists turned their faces away as they suppressed their smiles. The geologists had daughters, too, and they sympathized with Pollus, but they didn’t want to antagonize Lemda, either.

    Shalim asked the three scientists, “Please, step out for a bit while I get Pollus’ report.”

    He thanked them, as they filed out of his office.

    Once the automatic door slid shut, he told his brother, “They’re gone. What have you got?”

    “The Hutts are packing everything they own, even if it was bolted to the floor, and getting it ready to go off world. They’re leaving Makeb, Shalim. Why buy out our mercenary contracts, fight to keep Makeb subjugated only to pack it all in and leave? It makes no sense.” He added, darkly, “Unless the rumors are true. My fighters are reporting a rumor that the Hutts are abandoning Makeb because it’s going to self destruct, but that’s…”

    Pollus trailed off when he saw the look on his brother’s holographic face.

    Shalim replied, “Come over, so that we can talk in person.”

    Surprised, Pollus asked a bit too loudly, “What? Now?” Then he added, as realization hit him, “The rumors are true. Aren’t they, Shalim?”

    Shalim remained silent, only nodding his head once to confirm the truth of the rumor.

    Pollus’ face became darkened with a grim expression; he felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach, as he replied, “I’ll be there in an hour.” He cut the connection without another word.

    Shalim immediately dialed up the frequency of the Jedi that had come to represent the Galactic Republic’s interests with their offer of military aid on the condition that Makeb join the Republic.

    After making his public statement, rejecting the Galactic Republic’s demands, he knew that speaking directly to the Galactic Republic supreme chancellor would be difficult. He hoped the Jedi might find a way to smooth things over with Supreme Chancellor Sharesh. That they might be able to mitigate any strange conditions she might attempt to impose in exchange for rescue.

    Pollus arrived an hour later, as he said he would. With the Hutt Navy defeated and chased out of the star system, and with the improved weaponry and tactical advice of the Mandalorians, it was possible to travel by shuttle again. Shalim told Lemda and the other geologists what Pollus had told him. Then he had Lemda tell her father what she’d told him an hour before. The meeting was adjourned a quarter hour after that, with Pollus ready to shift the focus of the war.

    A few hours later, the Jedi arrived via Republic military shuttle, to the Avesta Mining Corporation corporate offices. He was ushered into Shalim Avesta’s suite of offices. Shalim stood from behind his desk to greet him, walking towards a couple of comfortable chairs with a caf table in between the well cushioned seats. The Jedi turned towards the chairs, and sat in the one offered by Avesta.

    A secretary brought in a tray with a decanter of ice water and two glasses. She set it on the caf table and left the office. Pollus poured ice water into both glasses, and slid one of the filled glasses towards the Jedi.

    “Thank you, Master Shalim,” the Jedi said as he lifted the glass to his lips and took a nice long pull from it.

    Shalim took a sip from his glass, as well. Both men set their glasses down and Shalim began with the pleasantries.

    “It’s good to see you again, Jedi Master Ciiru Nomuro. I am grateful that you accepted my invitation to come meet with me on such short notice.”

    Ciiru Nomuro replied with a hint of an edge in his tone.

    “I am a Jedi Knight. I have not been elevated to Jedi Master. I’m afraid I’m not qualified for the title.”

    Shalim instantly became worried, thinking, “That sounded like bitterness.” Aloud he apologized, “I beg your pardon, Jedi Knight. I did not mean to cause offense.”

    The Jedi said rather darkly, “What causes me offense is that the Jedi Council had me running all over the galaxy to solve their problems, which I did, but then they quibble about how I solved their difficulties. And what thanks did I get for my efforts? I got a medal and a mild reprimand for asking them for a promotion. They tell me I’m not qualified to be a Jedi Master and then refuse to tell me why.”

    Shaking his head in disbelief he let slip, “I even killed the Sith Emperor for them, but that doesn’t qualify me to be a Jedi Master.” Realizing he’d said too much he said to Shalim, “Now I’m the one who owes an apology. I’m sorry for troubling you with my gripes. You did not invite me here to listen to my complaints.”

    Embarrassedly, he added, “I wasn’t supposed to talk about defeating the Sith Emperor. It hasn’t been confirmed, yet. Supreme Chancellor Sharesh and Grand Master Jedi Satele Shan will make a joint announcement, soon. So, could you keep that part to yourself? I would be much obliged.”

    Shalim wondered, “Is he being serious?” Aloud, he said, “I haven’t heard any news of the Sith Empire making any noise about their emperor. You sure you got the right guy?”

    Ciiru replied, “That’s what the Jedi Council and the Republic S.I.S. are trying to verify.”

    Realizing the Jedi was serious, he wondered, “I wonder how this news will affect our secret friendship with Darth Nox?

    Shalim decided to get to the point, telling Ciiru Nomuro, “Master Nomuro, I asked you to meet me because I need your help. I said some things last week that may have burned a few bridges between the Galactic Republic and Makeb.”

    Ciiru asked, “So, Makeb does want to join the Republic?”

    Shalim bluntly told the Jedi, “Makeb is a few weeks to maybe a couple of months from destroying itself and becoming an asteroid belt around our star. My people need to be evacuated off world, and we need new homes to go to.”

    Ciiru was greatly taken aback, asking intently, “How did you of learn this?”

    “My niece is a geologist. She studied the cause of our increasing and worsening ground quakes. Two other geologists who work part time for my family’s mining company, and who hold professorships, full time, at a couple of our best universities, looked over her data and essentially agreed with her.”

    Ciiru Nomuro saw nothing but desperation and despair on Shalim’s face as Shalim went on to say, “Supreme Chancellor Sharesh has a very bad reputation for being vindictive and very cold blooded. I’m afraid she will only be too glad to scatter our people across the Republic, or demand that we scrape up all of our savings to pay for rescue. I don’t want her to hurt my people when she agrees to save us. I’m ready to endure whatever hardship she’ll require of me, personally, but I don’t want her to burden my people with onerous conditions.”

    Shalim pleaded with the Jedi, “I’m hoping that if we make our appeal through the Jedi Council, they could moderate her response.”

    “I’ll do my best to help,” Ciiru said with determination in his tone. “I need a place to work. I’ve got a lot of calls to make.”

    Shalim was eager to get the ball rolling with Ciiru’s work, so he quickly offered, “You can use the conference room downstairs until I can have an office set up for you.”

    The Jedi told Shalim, “I don’t like how Sharesh does business either, but I can’t see her doing anything vindictive to a whole planet full of people. In the end, she’s a politician. She needs the votes of the Galactic Senate to keep her job. I can’t see her doing something to jeopardize that.”

    Shalim, worried the Jedi was underestimating Sharesh’s reputation, adding, “And yet…”

    Ciiru gave a wry smile, repeating, “And yet…”

    Shalim rose to his feet when the Jedi did and walked him to the door to his office at the corporate offices of the Avesta Mining Corporation. When the door slid shut, Shalim returned to his desk as the Jedi made his way to the conference room on the floor below.
     
  20. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Cytharat's Gambit​


    Darth Komo, a subordinate of Darth Nox, sent a recorded message. He had defected to Nox’s camp, betraying his old master, Darth Acina whom Nox defeated in a feud several months before. However, before Nox could deal the killing blow, The Emperor’s Wrath interfered.

    Nox was forced to withdraw from Acina’s bloodied and broken form without the satisfaction of killing his hated enemy. The Wrath then proceeded to haul Acina’s nearly dead body out of the Dark Council chambers. The Emperor’s Wrath, serving as one of the Emperor’s direct representatives, was a very powerful Sith lord who had the power to judge Sith lords, even those sitting on the Dark Council.

    Nox, at his desk, carefully studied Komo’s kneeling holographic image in the recording and observed, “So! He must now wear a respirator! And he’s lost so much weight!

    Before Nox’s famous duel with Acina, she had ordered Komo’s death for his betrayal against her. He barely survived being killed when one of her assassins pierced his back with his lightsaber, destroying one of Komo’s lungs in the process. Komo had fought off his four assassins, killing two outright and critically wounding a third, while the forth assassin managed to finally stab Komo in the back. The stricken third assassin had died of his wounds, but the forth assassin was hunted down and slain at the hands of Sith sent by Nox to protect Komo, but who had failed to protect their charge.

    Darth Komo fought for his life, submerged in a kolto tank after a surgery to save what was left of his lung, to repair heat damage done to his heart, and to repair the other damage done to his body when the saber beam pierced his back. He’d lost considerable weight while he healed over the months. Meanwhile, Lord Calaverous, an ambitious Sith lord, had come to Taris under Darth Nox’s orders to run the cleanup and resettlement operations of the planet while Darth Komo recovered from his very life threatening wounds.

    Darth Nox had strongly warned Lord Calaverous against taking surreptitious actions that could lead to Darth Komo’s death. Calaverous understood that if it could be shown that something other than his wounds had been the cause of Komo’s death, that Nox would automatically blame him and have him executed. Calaverous was ambitious, but he wasn’t stupid. He increased security around Komo and had all of the medical staff monitored at all times for signs that they might have been compromised.

    Since it was Darth Komo who was presenting Nox with the recorded report, the dark lord wondered if anything had befallen Calaverous.

    I hope Komo didn’t kill Calaverous. I still have need of him.

    As Nox listened to the recorded report, he took note that Komo could not speak in long sentences without having to take in another breath. The report was becoming tedious, with so many pauses for breath, but he bore with it.

    “My most esteemed dark lord.” (breath) I thank you for retaining me and restoring me (breath) to my post on Taris. (breath) Lord Calaverous has done a credible (breath) job of keeping things running smoothly (breath) as I recovered in hospital. (breath)

    “Lord Calaverous has asked for reassignment, (breath) but I have need of him. (breath) I have sent him to Taris City. (breath) That’s what we’re calling (breath) Imperial Settlement Number Two (breath) these days. As you may recall, (breath) Imperial Settlement Number Two (breath) is where the rebellion kept their (breath) shadow government and from which (breath) the rebellion, which you put down, was led. (breath)

    “I have tasked him with hunting down (breath) and killing the remaining rebels. (breath) There are a few left attempting (breath) to reignite rebellion. (breath) I have isolated and sealed Taris City (breath) to keep them from escaping into the forests (breath) and to keep them from the other (breath) settlements, (breath) in order to prevent the spread of their rebellion (breath) to those settlements.”

    Relieved at hearing this news, Nox thought, “Good! I have lost neither Komo nor Calaverous.

    “Despite their continued efforts to (breath) revive the rebellion, they are (breath) gaining no traction. (breath) The sabotage has mostly ended, and (breath) the citizenry are much more actively (breath) reporting suspicious activities, (breath) which has led to increased arrests. (breath)

    “This has translated to markedly improved production (breath) at a substantially reduced cost. (breath) We are getting more work done, (breath) all thanks to you, Dark Lord.”

    Nox thought aloud, “Had Acina put in half as much effort as I have, she wouldn’t have lost Komo’s respect. Komo would have followed Acina loyally, and I would never have learned of her plans to destroy me.”

    Komo’s recorded message continued.

    “In fact, Dark Lord, we are doing so well (breath) that we have come across an unexpected problem. (breath) We can’t seem to get enough Imperials (breath) to immigrate to Taris. I can’t justify (breath) building a new Settlement if I can’t populate it.”

    Nox paused the message and took out a datapad and began to type into it.

    If you can’t get anyone to settle on Taris, then find out what’s keeping them away. Address that problem. Or at the least, understate the problem to the public.

    A knock on the door took his attention from his work.

    He demanded, “Who’s there?!”

    Virulous’ voice came back, “Dark Lord, Lord Cytharat is here to report to you.”

    Nox commanded, “Enter!”

    The door swung open and Cytharat walked in. Darth Virulous, her armored mask attached to her utility belt and the hood of her black robes with red markings pulled back, walked in behind him and stepped to the side of the office as she used The Force to swing the door shut again. Meanwhile, Cytharat, in traditional Sith attire fashioned from expensive dark blue and black fabrics, had taken a few steps into the small office, stopping about three feet in front of Nox’s desk. Cytharat knelt on his right knee and, planting his right fist onto the floor, bowed his head.

    Nox spoke dryly, “Rise, Lord Cytharat.”

    Rising to his feet and lifting his head, he met the dark lord’s cold expectant glare and gave his report.

    “Dark Lord, it has been reported to me that your servant, Khem Val has been leaving the village at night and then returning in the early morning. He’s been observed a few of those times bringing a dead body into the village with him.”

    Nox interrupted, explaining, “If I don’t allow him to get out and stretch his legs, he’ll end up eating our own people. I’d rather he go out to hunt than to lose what few people I’ve got here.”

    Virulous gave a small involuntary shiver at the thought of being eaten by the beast, recalling having caught him, more than a few times, drooling and watching her hungrily. However, Cytharat had an idea, which he proposed, exposing his ignorance.

    “Dark Lord, I’d like to use him to gather intelligence when he goes out on his hunts. May I approach him with the idea?”

    Virulous became mildly incredulous at the Sith lord’s proposal, while Nox regarded Cytharat with a curious look.

    The dark lord asked him, “Are you looking to get yourself eaten?”

    Cytharat blinked, mildly surprised by Nox’s reaction, and replied, “Dark Lord, I am not his enemy. We’re on the same side.”

    Nox replied with an amused smirk on his face, “I can understand the wider galaxy not understanding nor even knowing what a Dashade is. They are nearly extinct, and are painfully rare in the galaxy, but for Sith or Jedi to not understand is almost comical to me.”

    Virulous let a tiny chortle escape her lips, which Cytharat heard.

    Nox could tell the way his shoulders tensed and his neck stiffened, that he’d taken offense, but Cytharat had otherwise hidden his feelings from the dark lord and his apprentice.

    Nox told him, “Khem Val is a predator which subsists on those sensitive to The Force. You are food to him, and he’s always hungry. Do not tempt him.”

    Cytharat was mildly surprised when he learned that despite Khem Val’s gargantuan and beastly appearance, he was actually very cultured. He’d seen the monster reading a collection of poetry a few days after Darth Nox arrived to take over command of the operation. On the one occasion he exchanged a few words with the monster, in the presence of Darth Nox, the Dashade exhibited great intellect and a commendable sense of honor.

    Cytharat realized that he had wholly underestimated Khem Val’s natural drive to eat those with The Force despite his good manners. His mind momentarily wandered as he imagined the Dashade listening to classical music as he dined on Sith lords or Jedi masters with a glass of fine wine.

    Clearing his mind of extraneous thoughts, he got back to business and asked, “May I then suggest that you propose the idea to him, Dark Lord?”

    Nox nodded approval as he replied, “I’ll talk to him.”

    Cytharat asked, “Dark Lord, may I ask an idle question?”

    Nox’s curiosity piqued as he asked himself, “What sort of question will he ask?” Aloud, he said, “Ask.”

    “Thank you for indulging me.” After a very brief pause, he asked, “Does this mean that each time you travel with him, he’s been…”

    Nox finished for him, “…murdering and eating people across the galaxy?” Nox let out a chuckle with a wry grin, answering, “Yes. I have to instruct him who not to eat. Most of the time, he’ll obey, but only if I let him out to hunt.”

    Cytharat thought of all of the missing persons reports in Kaas City on Dromund Kaas, and realized that many of them could be attributed to Khem Val’s eating habits.

    “Thank you, once again, for indulging my idle curiosity, Dark Lord.”

    “Is there anything else?”

    “Yes, Dark Lord. The 31st/77th is ready to strike at the three mines to capture the drilling facilities. I will accompany them to oversee operations.”

    Looking pleased, Nox declared, “Good!” The sooner we have control of those mines, the sooner we can start to reshape this world.” He asked, “When does the operation begin?”

    “Tonight, Dark Lord.”

    “Excellent! Return to me with the after action report.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord. With your permission, I’ll take my leave.”

    “You may go.”

    Cytharat bowed his head then turned to leave. Nox watched, passively, as Cytharat passed through the doorway, with Virulous following him out and using The Force to shut the door behind her.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    The rebellion had heated up. The fighting escalated at spaceports around the globe where several hundred gigantic Hutt owned freighters were being loaded with several megatons of equipment, materials and several tens of thousands of inactive super heavy war droids.

    The droids’ reactors had yet to be fueled with the Isotope Five fuel rods, and none of them had been programmed, yet. The powerful war droids were nothing more than heavy bulky cargo which could not be deployed to fend off the fighters. This was most fortuitous for the freedom fighters since they would not have to face these droids in battle.

    With the change of focus shifting from winning back their freedom to commandeering every ship on world in order to evacuate as many Makebi citizens as possible, the Mandalorians were contracted to lead squads and platoons of freedom fighters in battle and, at the higher levels of command, to advise the Makebi rebel unit commanders in the field.

    Since the Mandalorians informed the Makebi rebel army’s strategy and tactics, the Regulators found themselves having to reinforce and consolidate their positions. Gone were the days where a single Regulator platoon could outmatch a company of rebel fighters. The rebels were benefiting from Mandalorian field tactics and strategies, and were now armed with proper battlefield weaponry, not ordinary civilian hunting and sporting weapons as had been the case only a week before.

    The rebellion added to their numbers as well. As Regulator forces were defeated, their weapons and munitions were captured and used to arm and create new fighting units to field against the Regulator mercenaries.

    The factories, mines, administrative and governmental buildings were being abandoned by the Hutts’ administrative and managerial staff as they evacuated the planet, and the focus of Regulator forces shifted from maintaining order in the streets, to defending the various spaceports around the planet, as they fought to prevent the ships from falling to the rebels.

    The word had gotten out. Makeb was within weeks or months from self destructing, and evacuation from the dying planet had become the highest priority. As such, Regulator forces guarding those facilities were redeployed to reinforce their defensive positions at each major spaceport.

    This was what Lord Cytharat and Major Trent Ordensk were waiting for. The Regulators were effectively pinned at the spaceports, and the mines were virtually undefended.

    The Imperial troops had removed all of the insignia, unit patches and other tell-tales of their origins from their uniforms. They used various shades of green dyes to add random patterns to their mono-slate gray uniforms, body armor, and helmets to further disguise their Imperial identities as much as possible. Lord Cytharat and Major Ordensk had also gotten into their armor as they prepared to move out.

    Black Ops had moved out a couple of weeks before, closely monitoring and reporting the activities of the Regulators. When the Regulators packed up and moved out, leaving a skeleton force to guard the mines, Black Ops had made their reports, and then began to make their own moves.

    Black Ops had been watching the Regulators conduct their drills for almost two weeks and had plotted all of their defensive positions at each of the three mines. With the bulk of Regulator mercenary forces gone from each Hutt owned facility, there were many holes in their regular guard post defenses. Towers were left unmanned. The gates had been closed, locked, and barricaded. Thus, the gate guards had been removed from them. Patrols along the tops of the mining facilities’ ten meter high walls were increased, but that was all the security that the Black Ops teams had detected.

    This gave Black Ops the opportunity to make their own moves. Black Ops planted explosives and set traps on the barricaded gates. They also set up autonomous turreted blaster cannons trained on the defensive response positions of the Regulators security reaction teams. When the 31st/77th launched their attacks, the remaining tiny Regulator defense teams would occupy their positions and instantly come under fire of the autonomous turreted blaster cannons.

    The 31st/77th had split into its three companies, with each company reinforced by a platoon from the heavy war droid company. They moved out from the village the previous afternoon, after getting word from Black Ops that the Regulators were abandoning the mines. They remained in the wooded areas, marching no closer than five hundred meters from the roads, and getting no closer than three thousand meters from populated centers.

    Each of the towns and villages the companies had marched past on their way to their respective objectives, were all eerily quiet. Major Trent Ordensk, marching with Aurek Company speculated with Cytharat, who marched with Cresh Company.

    “For the Makebi, it’s the end of the world, my lord. Perhaps they’ve elected to stay home with their families while they await the end. The rest are fighting at the spaceports to capture ships for evacuation.”

    Cytharat replied to Major Ordensk’s holographic image, “It’s as good a guess as any. Regardless, their lack of activity works to our favor.”

    Major Ordensk’s executive officer, marching with Besh Company and listening in on their exchange, added, “We haven’t encountered any hunters or campers either… I’m grateful for that, at least.”

    Cytharat immediately ordered, “Silence any that you come across. Leave no witnesses and no potential for the Regulators to be tipped off of Imperial presence on world.”

    Both the battalion commander and his executive officer replied, “Yes, Lord.”

    Cytharat said, “That is all.”

    All three cut communications and stowed their specialized covert communications equipment borrowed from Black Ops.

    Each of the three companies arrived to their respective objectives within half an hour of the other, stopping a kilometer from their respective objectives in the thick forest between the twenty second and twenty third hour of the night. The troops were allowed to rest for a few hours before the operation was to begin at the third hour of the next morning in the dead of night.

    Their heavy war droids formed a perimeter a hundred meters out from the troops under the direction of their human handlers, who followed carefully behind their war droids to the outer perimeter. The huge and heavy six legged machinery, painted in woodland camouflage patterns, moved surprisingly gracefully, quietly in the thick woods as they took up their watch positions in the dead of night.

    Their sensors worked much better in the thick black night-plunged forest than human eyes aided by low light goggles and much better than human ears aided by sound amplification units installed in their helmets. This allowed all of the soldiers a few hours to rest before the attack.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    An Imperial soldier, whispering, poked Cytharat on his shoulder, waking him from a sound sleep. It was time to move out. He sprang awake. Quickly sitting up, he began to don his rigid plate battle armor which was a glossy bright red with black markings, although you couldn’t tell that in the black night of the forest. He had to don his gear by feel since it was pitch black. The dim light of the stars were blocked by the forest canopy. The soldiers around him were all doing the same, getting back into their flexible medium grade armor and pulling on their boots.

    After pulling on his heavy armored boots, he rose to his feet and slipped into his loose fitting, full length, long sleeved, hooded, midnight blue robe, which he’d been using as a blanket as he slept. His robe fully covered his bulky plate armor. When he finally donned his helm and activated the low light goggles attached to it, he was finally able to see, but visibility was still very poor with most of the starlight blocked by the trees, and there was no moon.

    The company of light infantry soldiers formed into a column of twos. Meanwhile, the heavy war droids, under the guidance of their handlers, quietly arranged themselves into single column files, twenty meters out, on either side of the infantry, providing flanking protection for the troops as they quietly marched through the forest the remaining thousand meters to their objective.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    The company commander quietly approached Cytharat who crouched behind a bush at the bottom of a tree, peering at a very tall wall surrounding the very well lighted mining complex a hundred meters away. The other mines targeted for this operation were several tens of kilometers away. She whispered her report to the Sith lord.

    “The troops are deployed in attack formation. The droids have been preprogrammed with their assigned targets. Second Heavy War Droid Section is in the reserve to give us additional firepower to direct as needed.

    “I’ve made contact with the Black Ops team leader operating in the area. I have received the remote detonators for explosives they’ve planted at the gates and have received the intelligence they’ve collected on the enemy situated here. The operation will commence in five minutes. Do you have any instructions for me, my lord?”

    “What is your name, Captain?” Cytharat whispered back.

    “My lord, I am Captain Mallorey Thane.”

    “Captain Thane. Lead your own men. I am merely an observer.”

    “I am grateful for your confidence in me, my lord. I think my lord will find that we are worthy of our place in the Imperial Army.”

    “Very well, Captain. Carry on.”

    The captain quietly turned away to return to her command post.

    A few moments later, the quiet of the dark forest at the third hour of the morning was shattered as the booming reports of a dozen heavy blaster cannons, mounted on the war droids, turned guard towers into expanding fiery clouds of dust and rubble which rained down in flowing curtains of sparks onto the mining complex inside the ten meter high wall. Security cameras mounted at the top of the wall’s exterior were taken out on the next volley.

    The captain’s voice, coming over the speakers in Cytharat’s helmet, was calm, crisp, and measured.

    “Cresh Company, forward in the assault.”

    The light from inside of the walled mining complex dimly illuminated the tops of the trees a hundred meters away, the diffused reflected light barely illuminating the poorly defined dark shapes of hundreds of soldiers as they emerged from the tree line. A few of those soldiers stepped on either side of the Sith lord as they advanced into the clearing blanketed in the deep shadow of the wall. Cytharat stood from behind the bush, pushing his way through the brush and into the darkened clearing along with the Imperial troops.

    His low light goggles made the lighted mining complex look like a single mass of glowing light – above the tall wall. However, below the tops of the walls, the clearing was held in darkness. Thanks to his goggles, however, he could see the troops clearly as they rushed towards the wall a hundred meters from the tree line. None of them were shooting, however, since there wasn’t anything for them to shoot at.

    As soon as the troops reached the walls, the explosives set by Black Ops blew the gates into the complex. When the worst of the falling rubble had settled, the captain’s voice sounded again in Cytharat’s helmet mounted speakers.

    “Cresh Company, breach the gates. Platoon leaders take charge of your platoons and secure your individual objectives.”

    Cytharat hadn’t heard any reply, but he watched as hundreds of Imperial fighters rushed into the two blasted open gates. Soon, the sounds of blaster rifle fire emanated from within the walls, and soon after that a few of the autonomous automated blaster cannons, within the tree line, added to the cacophony of the report of blaster fire at the Regulators’ defensive posts at the tops of the walls. The autonomous automated blaster cannons fell silent fairly soon after, as they had nothing left to shoot at.

    Meanwhile, Cytharat took in the scene. Two gates blasted open, five hundred meters apart, set in a ten meter high wall, with hundreds of Imperials rushing in. Two platoons rushed the west gate. A rather spirited blaster rifle battle took place on the western end of the mining complex as they stormed the western portion of the complex. He decided to trail behind the single platoon headed to the east gate.

    A series of huge blasts ripped from within the complex near the east gate, just as he edged closer to the breach.

    He stopped at the sound of the blasts, asking himself, “Do the enemy have artillery blasters here?

    Immediately thereafter, the soldiers who’d just entered the gate began to rush back out of it with many wounded. Cytharat realized then that he couldn’t hear the comm chatter at the platoon level until he heard Captain Mallorey Thane speak again.

    “Second Heavy War Droid Section, enter the eastern breach and reinforce Third Platoon. Engage super heavy assault droid and destroy.”

    “Second Heavy War Droid Section, acknowledged.”

    Through his low light goggles, Cytharat watched four of the Imperial Army’s six legged heavy war droids gracefully crab-sprint across the clearing from the tree line, towards him. The droids didn’t even stop, stampeding past him and through the blasted out gate.

    He peeked around the jagged edge of the destroyed gateway as the droids immediately sighted, identified and engaged the enemy war droid. Just as immediately, the Imperial heavy war droids were one-shotted, destroyed, one after the other, by the enemy’s super heavy war droid.

    He ducked back around the wall, concealing himself from the droid, as he thought, “So, that is one of the Hutts’ Isotope Five war droids…

    Cytharat spoke to Captain Mallorey Thane, via the audio only communicator attached to his helmet.

    “Captain Thane, we are facing one of the Hutt Cartel’s Isotope Five war droids. It has excellent shielding and two blaster cannons. The cannons seem to be about as powerful as artillery blasters.”

    Captain Thane replied, in her ever unflappable crisp tone, “Acknowledged, my lord. I shall forward this information to the battalion commander.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Meanwhile, at another mine complex, Major Trent Ordensk listened to Captain Mallorey Thane’s report over the audio only comm unit built into his helmet – even as he witnessed for himself, one such super heavy war droid hammer one of Aurek Company’s platoons as they attempted to shelter behind a very thick wall of hardened resicrete.

    The resicrete wall was quickly crumbling, with large pieces falling onto the helmeted heads of his men and women. He watched as two heavy war droid sections, eight of his heavy war droids, concentrated their fires at the flank of the Isotope Five super heavy war droid. Just as Captain Thane’s report stated, the droid’s shielding was excellent. The super heavy war droid snapped its twin blaster cannons on his droids.

    He watched anxiously as the beleaguered platoon hastily retreated from behind the crumbling wall and sprinted for safety, and he worried the troops carrying their wounded, who couldn’t move as quickly, might attract the deadly attention of the super heavy war droid. Meanwhile, his war droids began to run jump and dodge as they drew the fire of the enemy droid. The super heavy war droid had trouble hitting the ducking and dodging Imperial war droids. Actually, it missed every shot.

    It was a significant weakness. He communicated this weakness to his company commanders.

    “31st Primary to 31st Secondaries, Hutt super heavies can’t hit moving targets very well. Maximize shoot and scoot with our war droids.”

    The company commanders each replied, “Acknowledged.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Cytharat listened as Captain Thane issued new orders.

    “First Heavy War Droid Section, engage Hutt super heavy. Use shoot and scoot evasive maneuvers to avoid enemy fires. Probe for weaknesses. Report findings.”

    “First Heavy War Droid Section, acknowledged.”

    Cytharat stepped away from the wall and turned to look back from where he stood. He looked past the forty men and women of Third Platoon - Cresh Company, who had lined up alongside the wall behind him after they hurriedly rushed back out of the complex from the eastern gate.

    Through his low light goggles, he could see many of the troops applying emergency medical field aid to their comrades. Then he spotted the four war droids of First Section crab walk/run out from the western breached gate five hundred meters west of his position.

    The Imperial Army heavy war droids seemed to glide across the clearing past the troops. The six legs of each war droid pounded the ground as they sped across the landscape, sounding like a heard of hooved beasts stampeding across the field. The droids slowed to a stop about ten meters from where the Sith lord stood near the wall. Cytharat watched the droid handler hop off one of the droids.

    The droid handler briefly greeted Cytharat, “My lord,” as he ran past, coming to a stop at the ruined eastern gateway. He peeked around the wall and assessed he situation, whereupon he then began issuing orders to his droids. The heavy war droids sprang into action, stampeding their way into the compound through the breached eastern gate. The droid handler then ran through the breech behind his droids.

    Again Cytharat peeked around the broken gateway into the mining complex and watched as the Imperial war droids engaged the enemy war droid in battle. This time, the Imperial war droids ran as they fired. They jumped up onto platforms and ducked behind outbuildings or crouched low behind walls to avoid the super heavy war droid’s fires, never staying in one place for more than a few seconds. He watched the droid handler drop into a resicrete drainage ditch to take cover as he operated his heavy war droids.

    Cytharat thought, “These Hutt war droids have impressive firepower and shielding, but their fire control and targeting algorithms need a lot of work...” He noticed another weakness and reported it to Captain Thane, “The Hutt droid cannot maintain a high rate of fire for extended periods. My guess is that it is either taking too long to recharge its charge capacitors or the cannon bolt generators are overheating.”

    “Thank you, my lord. I’ll pass this along.”

    Cytharat turned to one of the troops behind him and asked, “Where is your platoon leader?”

    “That is I, my lord.”

    “Observe the battle between the droids. Look for weaknesses and report them to Captain Thane. I’m going in for a closer look.”

    “Yes, my lord, but I must warn you against going in...”

    Cytharat had already activated his personal shield generator as he rushed into the complex. The lieutenant took Cytharat’s place and peeked around the broken gateway to observe the fight between the droids.

    The four Imperial army war droids had the Hutts’ super heavy war droid thoroughly occupied. Cytharat kept his attention on the super heavy war droid as he trotted along the inside of the wall to get by the battling droids. He wanted to see if the super heavy would notice and attack him, or if it would ignore him to deal with the greater threat posed by the Imperial war droids.

    He made it twenty meters before the super heavy finally snapped its very nimble turret and swiveled its twin blaster cannons down at him before letting him have a volley of two blaster cannon bolts. Then it resumed its battle with the Imperil war droids. Cytharat reacted when he saw the guns turn towards him, using The Force to dash forward.

    He made it outside of the blast zone, but was nevertheless struck by the concussive blast waves which slammed him from behind and hurled him forward. He used The Force to slow his tumbling flight and then landed on his feet. However, he lost his footing with the incredible forward momentum and immediately ducked into a forward roll.

    His momentum was such that Cytharat rolled forward several times before coming to a stop, lying flat on his back. He was winded, felt sore all over, and found it difficult to move. Still on his back, he shifted his body with great difficulty and great pain. He tilted his head so that he could look back at the behemoth war droid.

    It’s not coming after me. Good,” he thought with relief.

    He dug out a hypo-kolto injector from his medi-aid pack on his utility belt and administered a quarter dose of kolto through the flexible anti shrapnel mesh armor beneath his heavy plate armor on his bicep. After a moment to let the worst of the pain to subside, he arched his head back again to study the behemoth war droid.

    The monstrous machine was twice as large as a main battle tank. Its four squat legs were built to withstand multiple strikes from blaster cannon bolts or take several anti armor missile hits.

    I don’t even think normal anti-tank mines would faze the brute,” he thought, impressed.

    It was not built for speed and was not particularly agile. Its turret was mounted on a raised articulated boom at the front end of the droid’s chassis, which could be lowered as needed to clear low underpasses. It had the appearance of a mechanical animal head on a long mechanical neck. The advantage of the turret mounted on the boom was that it gave the twin blaster cannons an added height advantage, when engaging targets hiding in trenches or behind low walls.

    The Sith lord observed that the super heavy’s shielding seemed inexhaustible. It easily absorbed the considerable energies of the Imperial army war droids’ blaster cannon bolts without degrading.

    As a power source, Isotope Five is proving to be vastly superior,” he concluded.

    Then he saw it. Each time the energy of a blaster cannon bolt had dissipated on the shield, a short thick rod, one of a dozen sticking out from the top and sides of the super heavy’s hull, glowed red hot and quickly darkened back to its normal metallic color as it cooled. These rods were the only parts of the super heavy not painted. Cytharat realized that those were the shield emitters.

    Still lying on his back, Cytharat used The Force to launch a piece of resicrete rubble, far from where he lay, at the super heavy war droid. The rubble slammed into the side of the droid’s hull. The droid’s turret snapped in the direction from which the rubble had come and scanned the area. Finding no targets, the turret snapped its attention back to the annoyingly agile Imperial heavy war droids.

    The Sith lord did it again, sending broken pieces of resicrete from the same location, twice more. Each time, the resicrete passed through the shield unimpeded and slammed into the hull of the droid, and each time, the droid turned its attention to where the rubble had come from, but finding no targets returned its attention to the running, leaping and dodging Imperial heavy war droids.

    It’s artificial intelligence is quite primitive. There’s a lot left to desire,” he thought, unimpressed.

    However, this gave him an idea.

    “Captain Thane.”

    Captain Mallorey Thane’s voice came back a bit strained, “Yes, my lord?! Are you well? First Heavy War Droid Section Leader Tech Sergeant Edrass reported that you were struck by the super heavy’s cannon fire. Do you need rescue?”

    “I do not require rescue. I have a report for you. Are you ready to receive it?”

    “Er..., uh.., yes, lord.”

    “The super heavy’s artificial intelligence is quite primitive. It doesn’t change its tactics, and constantly repeats the same tactics, even if they yield no fruit. It can be tricked into following and repeating a pattern. Also, there are bare metal rods sticking from the sides and the top. I believe these rods are the shield emitters.

    “I tested the shield with resicrete rubble, and the rubble passed through unimpeded. It is possible we may be able to use anti-tank missiles against the super heavy, provided it doesn’t have a specific threat recognition ability that we have not noticed.”

    The captain’s voice was calm and collected again.

    “Thank you for your report, my lord. Missiles may be able to pass through the shield, or did you mean the droid did not respond to projectile attacks?”

    “I succeeded in striking the hull with the resicrete rubble on three occasions. The super heavy failed to activate anti projectile shielding. This is either because its subroutines did not recognize the rubble as a threat requiring anti projectile shielding in its algorithms, or because it lacks anti projectile shielding. It’s not evident which might be the case.”

    “Understood, my lord. I’ll pass this up to 31st Primary. Again, you have my sincere thanks, Lord Cytharat. I am glad that you are well.”

    Cytharat did not acknowledge her final transmission. Still on his back, he looked around and found a pile of rubble behind which he could take cover. His body still complained with pain as he carefully rolled to his side. The quarter dose of kolto was only enough to deaden the worst of the pain, so he still hurt badly.

    At least my perceptions and reactions will not be muddled or slowed,” he thought, trying to console himself.

    He knew that more kolto would deaden the pain better, but would also slow his reflexes and make him much more vulnerable to attack, so he refused to administer anymore kolto. The Sith lord scrambled to his feet and made a mad Force sped dash to the rubble pile. He waited for the murderously powerful blaster cannon bolts to strike the rubble pile. However, nothing came his way.

    He peeked over the top of the rubble at the back of the super heavy and noticed something new. The back of the droid had a huge ventilation grill. Hot air blew out of it in a powerful jet of superheated air. He tapped a spot on the lens of his low light goggles and a digital readout showed him the jet of air was heated to 1080 degrees Celcius.

    That’s hot! Is the Isotope Five reactor really air cooled? Or perhaps it is water cooled and the air takes the heat from the water via a radiator coil? That’s an awful lot of pressure for a water cooling system!

    This gave him another idea, as his head seemed to spin momentarily.

    He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head a bit to clear the fog in his head, thinking, “Blast! Did I use too much kolto?

    Cytharat took a hypo-stim injector from the medi-aid compartment of his utility belt and gave himself a dose of a military grade hyper-awareness stimulant to counter the fog the kolto had put his mind in. He inspected his shield generator and found that the battery had been completely depleted. Cytharat replaced the battery, discarding the spent battery.

    The Sith lord then removed his low light goggles, detaching them from his helmet. The lighting in the mining complex was bright, but the quality of the lighting was markedly different. With his goggles, it seemed as though it was day time within the walls of the complex. Without his goggles, he suddenly found there were large dark shadows and the lighting was unevenly distributed.

    He secured his goggles in their compartment on his utility belt and then lowered the transparisteel face guard of his helmet, locking it to the chin guard of his helmet. The hard as durasteel transparent material would now protect his face from shrapnel, debris, and high energy disbursements (blaster bolt blasts).

    Cytharat removed what was left of his expensive, but now shredded midnight blue hooded robe and folded it neatly, leaving it, with a pang, on the rubble pile. He tasted iron in his mouth, and realized he might have a cut in his mouth.

    Feeling around the inside of his mouth with his tongue, he thought, “I don’t remember biting myself when I rolled across the ground...

    He took his lightsaber from its perch on his utility belt, and took a deep breath. Letting out his breath in a big rush, he burst out from around the pile of rubble and Force Sped his way to the Hutt super heavy war droid.

    Cytharat’s body complained greatly with aches and pains, from the earlier abuse it had suffered, as he Force Leapt onto the back of the super heavy war droid. In so doing, he had to pass through the jet of superheated air shooting out from the back of the war droid. He also passed through the droid’s shielding, landing on the droid’s back as he ignited his lightsaber.

    He immediately got to work cutting off the shield emitter rods on the top and sides of the droid’s chassis. He felt as though he’d been burned by an electrical current. This was no doubt caused when he passed through the shielding, but he also felt his suit become very warm. He became very uncomfortably hot inside his armored suit.

    Damn! I couldn’t have been in that air stream for more than a quarter second! Is the reactor that hot?!

    He worried about radiation in the super heated air stream.

    Too late to worry about that, now,” he thought, as he cut off another shield emitter rod.

    As he cut the last of the shield emitter rods, which he could reach with his lightsaber, he noticed two things: one, the super heavy wasn’t shooting anymore, and two, the Imperial heavy war droids weren’t shooting, either.

    Blast! The droid operator should ignore my presence on this droid and continue his attack!

    He looked up and saw that the super heavy was aiming its twin blaster cannons at him, but it wasn’t shooting. His first instinctive impulse was to leap off the droid, but he cancelled his instinctual desire to flee the blaster cannons.

    Instead, he gave a wry grin within his helm at the droid, asking the behemoth machine, “Can’t shoot at me without blasting yourself to pieces. Is that it?”

    On the top of the super heavy was a huge metal grill through which air was being drawn in at a ridiculous volume. The air howled as it was drawn in through the grate.

    He thought to himself, “It can’t be water cooled. It must be a molten salt cooling system. The operating pressure for those is much lower.

    Given the temperature of the air streaming out the exhaust at the back, it made better sense to him than water cooling did.

    The Sith lord, looked back down at the Imperial Army heavy war droids ducking and scurrying around the super heavy, all the while withholding their fire.

    He thought, a bit peeved, “The droid operator will likely ignore my orders to shoot for fear of accidentally killing a Lord of The Sith.

    And since the super heavy was also trapped, unable to shoot at him without destroying itself, Cytharat realized that both sides had reached an impasse on the eastern end of the battlefield.

    Cytharat walked onto the grill and could feel the enormous pull of the howling air on him, as though he would be vacuumed into the droid’s air cooling system. He cut a large square section of the grill with his lightsaber. Immediately, the piece was sucked into the enormous blower.

    The explosive sound of metal rotating at incredible speed colliding with a large piece of falling metal debris was most unnerving. He felt the jolting vibrations of the blower tearing itself apart, through his armored feet, and imagined that a piece of the blower would shoot up through the grill and impale him from below.

    As the blower destroyed itself, the airflow at the intake also came to a halt. The giant vacuum had ceased to threaten to suck him in, and he knew the reactor would overheat very soon.

    The super heavy lowered itself to the ruined and cratered resicrete parking lot and returned its articulated boom mounted turret to its lowered maintenance position. It then executed its emergency reactor shut down protocol. Retracting the Isotope Five reaction rods into their graphite block, the reaction ended and the rods began to cool. The droid had shut itself off.

    Cytharat leapt off of the deactivated super heavy, landing heavily on his feet, he collapsed to his hands and knees. Air whooshed out of his mouth from the force of the landing and blood splattered the inside of his transparisteel face shield. He unsnapped the visor from its catch at the chin guard of his helmet and removed an armored glove. Bringing his bare hand to his face and then looking at his blood soaked hand, he rose to his feet and began walking unsteadily towards the gate.

    I don’t remember biting my tongue. My mouth doesn’t hurt.

    He watched as Third Platoon, Cresh Company rushed back into the complex as he walked towards the gate. The world went black for him as he toppled forward and crashed onto his face.
     
  21. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Mysteries of The Force​


    Katha Niar stood before the dark lord in the office of what Nox thought of as his commandeered tiny eight bedroom two story shack. Sweat beaded on her forehead and a rivulet of sweat ran down her temple as she worriedly presented Darth Nox with a report of failure.

    Virulous stood at the side of the office after following Katha in, her hands down to her sides. She wore brightly colored, loose fitting clothing today. She had found the stylish attire after rummaging the closet and dresser in the room of the adolescent girl who would never see her room, nor anything else, ever again.

    Her robes and armor were being laundered by soldiers of the Logistics Support Company of the 31st/77th. She wore her long black hair in a single loose braid down the length of her back. Her right hand held her smooth chromium plated lightsaber in a light and relaxed grip. Her sabrestaff was put away with her utility belt and her other gear in her quarters in the guest house behind the main residence.

    Virulous regarded Katha with a mixture of disgust and pity. She felt disgust at Katha’s almost constant state of self loathing and self condemnation, and yet she felt pity for the top administrator working for her master.

    Virulous thought, “I hope I never have to do what you did, Katha.” Becoming introspective, she reflected, “What I did was bad enough.

    With a shiver, Virulous shook off the thoughts of her own terrible crimes. Not wanting to think of the children, she concentrated on Katha’s report to get her mind off of her own atrocities on Tatooine.

    Katha said, “The Regulators have succeeded in holding on to the spaceports and their ships. Most of the ships have, thus far, succeeded in launching into space with their cargoes and their passengers. The Regulator forces have also boarded these ships to be evacuated from Makeb.

    “There are only a few spaceports where fighting continues, with only a few dozen Hutt freighters remaining on world, which the Makebi are fighting desperately to capture. However, Regulator….”

    Nox cut her off rather curtly, telling her, “I don’t care about any of that. The rebels have done what we needed. They’ve kept the Regulators tied up while we took their mines. I don’t need to hear about their failures.”

    Katha Niar was taken aback, realizing that she had invested too much of herself, emotionally, to the fate of these people. She had forgotten that Darth Nox only wanted to use those people as distractions.

    Nox’s inquiry brought her back to the here and now.

    “Where is Lord Cytharat? I want to hear his after action report.”

    Katha felt as though she’d been punched in the gut. Her bid to save the people of Makeb had ended in failure, and the blood she had shed would not be atoned for. She fought bitterly to hold back her tears; despite her valiant effort, however, her eyes misted. This fact was not lost on Nox, not least of which because he could also sense her whirling grief and guilt stricken emotions through The Force.

    Katha kept her strong voice and told her lord, “Dark Lord, I’m sorry to inform you that Lord Cytharat has suffered serious injuries resulting from his battle against one of the Hutt’s Isotope Five super heavy war droids.”

    Nox leaned back in his chair with a look of exasperation.

    Shaking his head in some annoyance, he asked, quite flippantly, “Was it at least a good fight, or did the droid easily take Cytharat out?”

    Nox was quite surprised by Katha’s very firm reply. Virulous’ mouth fell agape in utter shock, letting out a small gasp.

    “My dark lord does not appreciate the sacrifices made by his loyal followers, here. The 31st/77th suffered nearly forty percent losses because of those cursed droids! Lord Cytharat’s actions helped the 31st/77th to deal with the super heavy war droids. The intelligence he gleaned from his observations and from his own personal battle against one of those monsters allowed our troops to obtain the knowledge needed to defeat the remaining two super heavies without poisoning the area with radiation.

    “He fought despite his very grievous wounds, sustained when he took a hit from the blast waves from the droid’s artillery blasters. Lord Cytharat is now in the 31st / 77th’s field hospital in the village center recovering after a major surgery. He suffered major internal injuries, and lost a lot of blood….”

    Nox angrily waved his hand, and Katha became silent, realizing what she had just done. Virulous, in a state of shock at Katha’s tone of voice with the dark lord, quickly glanced back and forth between Katha and her master. She fully expected him to order her to take Katha out to the backyard of the two story ranch-style house and execute her on the lawn. Meanwhile, Katha regained her senses and adopted the proper tone as she apologized.

    “I beg your pardon, Dark Lord! I foolishly forgot myself!”

    Nox ignored her apology, deciding that he would execute her when the mission was completed. He got back to the business at hand.

    He did not hide his fury at her disrespect towards him, scowling at her and asking with a biting edge to his voice, “Do we at least have control of the three mines? What about the scientists and the engineers Black Ops had abducted?”

    Swallowing back her grief for the people of Makeb, and her disgust at Nox’s indifference towards Cytharat and his sacrifice, Katha did her best to report in a neutral tone. However, Nox could sense the turmoil within her and knew that she disapproved of him.

    “Black Ops have transported the captive engineers and our scientists to the three mines. The scientists report they are currently reprogramming the mining laser computer guidance systems with the algorithms developed by Dr. Nadrin Tro. Dr. Tro reports that they should be ready to begin by this afternoon, Dark Lord.”

    Nox cut her off brusquely.

    “Tell me when he is ready to begin. I want to observe.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    “I’ve heard enough. Leave me.”

    “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Nox watched Katha bow at the waist, turn about leave his office, then finally pull the door shut behind her. All the while, Nox fought the great urge to blast her retreating form with Force Lightning.

    Virulous turned to look at her master from the side of the office and asked, “Do you want me to execute her, Dark Lord?”

    Nox replied, “I’ll deal with her myself when I’m done with her.”

    “As you will, Dark Lord.”

    “Why are you dressed like that?”

    The question, quite clearly out of the blue, greatly surprised Virulous. She became greatly worried that Nox would chastise her for dressing in the clothing of commoners. He’d lectured her on this in the past.

    She explained, “My robes and armor were in a dire need of cleaning. I have soldiers laundering them for me, Master.”

    Darth Nox looked as though a new truth had been revealed to him.

    “Oh, I see. Very well, you may go.”

    Virulous bowed at the waist, replying, “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Virulous straightened and turned towards the door. The door swung open, seemingly on its own, and swung shut on its own when she had passed through it.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Shalim Avesta sat in his office. A look of utter shock and disbelief, at what had just transpired, was plastered on his face. The Jedi representative, Ciiru Nomuro, was equally surprised at what he’d witnessed. However, he’d already gotten over the shock and was already busy attempting to make direct contact with the Jedi Council. Shalim’s brother and niece were in the office watching evil unfold before their very eyes.

    In a bewildered tone, Pollus asked no one in particular, “How could she?”

    His daughter, Lemda, rose to her feet and fled the office, the sliding doors hissing shut behind her, as her professional facade quickly crumbled, threatening to reveal the terrible fear and grief into which she had been plunged.

    Pollus and Shalim turned their grim faces towards Ciiru Nomuro’s intra-galactic holo-transceiver on the caff table when Ciiru had finally gotten a hold of someone at the Jedi Temple. It wasn’t one of the Councilors, but an administrator at the Jedi Council temple complex on planet Tython.

    “Ciiru! It’s been a while since I’ve last seen you. How have you been?”

    “Maraus, I wish this was a time to exchange pleasantries, but I have a very dire emergency and I need the Jedi Council’s help. This is something that only they can remedy.”

    “Let me hear what the matter is, Ciiru.”

    “The people of Makeb need the Republic’s help.”

    A puzzled expression entered Ciiru’s friend’s face, as she asked, “I don’t understand. Didn’t they make a grand speech about how they didn’t want to enter the Galactic Republic? What’s...”

    Ciiru interrupted, “The geologists discovered the cause of the very frequent and ever worsening ground quakes on this planet. It’s the result of the Hutts’ planetary core mining operations. The planet’s core has been destabilized and the planet will soon destroy itself. The people must be evacuated from this world or they will all die – all seven million of them.”

    Maraus’ eyes widened, “Then you need to tell the Republic about...”

    “Sharesh has refused to evacuate the Makebi people. Seven million people will die in a matter of a few weeks or a couple of months. I need to report this to the Jedi Council. I can’t reach anyone. I...”

    “Say no more, I’ll track one of them down and relay your message.”

    “Ask them to contact me with instructions.”

    “I will.”

    Maraus cut the connection so that she could get right to tracking down one of the Jedi Councilors.

    Ciiru turned towards Shalim and Pollus and said, “I have room on my ship for sixty passengers. I invite you and your families to leave with me if worse comes to worse.”

    Pollus turned to look out the window of the executive office of Avesta Mining Corporation. He was overcome with grief as he realized the end of life for all of his people was upon them. Shalim buried his face in his hands, his shoulders heaved slightly, as he quietly wept for his people.

    An hour later, Ciiru Nomuro was speaking to Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan via holo.

    “I can’t believe I’m hearing this, Jedi Grand Master.”

    She spoke soberly, in measured tones, explaining, “We are a foreign entity. You know this, Jedi Knight. We are an entity with diplomatic relations with the Galactic Republic. We are not a part of their government. Our presence on Coruscant is purely advisory and cooperative in nature. We are strong allies, but there is only so much we can do to influence our allies.

    “We pressed Supreme Chancellor Sharesh, but she would not yield. She went so far as to remind us of our place. In the end we are a foreign power with a very close friendship and a very deep alliance with the Galactic Republic, nothing more. We may not interfere with their internal affairs.

    “If we had the resources to evacuate seven million people, we would do it ourselves and settle them on Tython. In fact, I suggested the Galactic Republic offer their navy to transport the Makebi people to Tython, but Sharesh refused even that. There isn’t anything else that we can do.”

    Ciiru Nomuro, in the depths of fury, asked conversationally, “Remind me again why it is that I don’t qualify to be promoted to Jedi Master? Oh, that’s right. The Jedi Council wouldn’t tell me why. Yet, as a mere Jedi Knight, I thought of the possibility of using Force Persuasion. Have you thought of maybe using Force Persuasion to change Sharesh’s mind, Grand Master Jedi?”

    Satele recognized the sardonic criticism for what it was, but she replied unemotionally, “The idea of so very lightly using that technique to violate the Supreme Chancellor’s mind in order to affect political outcomes is….”

    Ciiru cut her off, but his tone was a bit more curt than he had intended; he was furious at what he perceived as hypocrisy and indifference from the Jedi Council.

    “Then why is it taught at the temple? Why do the Jedi share the knowledge of Force Persuasion if it’s such a problem? Isn’t it better, as you put it, to violate a sovereign mind in exchange for saving seven million lives?”

    Satele could plainly see his fury. She knew that the hero of the Galactic Republic was teetering on the edge of falling to the Dark Side of The Force. She didn’t want to push him over the edge. She wanted him to return to the Jedi Temple on Tython so that he could meditate and purge the anger from his heart, to purge the residue of the dead Sith Emperor which had contaminated Ciiru’s soul.

    Ciiru suggested, “Then how about appealing directly to the Galactic Republic’s Grand Admiral of the Fleet? Ask him to...” He interrupted himself, frustratedly answering his own suggestion. “We would be asking him to commit treason….” After a moment of angry contemplation, he pounded his fist into the palm of his other hand, declaring, “I’m so stupid!”

    Satele, quietly listening to the clearly furious Jedi Knight, considered that his battles with terribly powerful Sith lords and finally with the Sith Emperor himself had taken a terrible toll on him. Ciiru’s psyche had been deeply affected by the Sith Emperor’s decrepit and utterly foul and evil aura.

    He was one of two survivors who had returned from that mission out of sixteen Jedi which had formed the strike team. The other Jedi survivor had gone mad from the Sith Emperor’s echoing presence within her mind, even after his death. She ultimately killed herself, pointing her lightsaber to her temple and igniting it.

    Satele told him, “You have done everything that you could. I have done everything that I could. We don’t understand why Sharesh’s heart is so predisposed to such evil. It is something we will need to investigate.”

    Ciiru Nomuro’s expression changed as he asked, “You think she’s under the influence of a Sith lord operating in the background?”

    Satele looked surprised on hearing that. It hadn’t occurred to her. Her expression became introspective as she consulted The Force.

    After a moment of meditation, she shook her head slowly and carefully replied, “I just think she’s an evil person.”

    The silence between the two had stretched for many long seconds before Satele finally broke the quiet with a simply stated order.

    “Your mission on Makeb is ended. Please return to Tython.”

    Ciiru Nomuro’s fury returned with greater heat, but he fought to keep his composure, slowly winning the battle against the rage growing in his heart.

    He bowed his head towards the holographic image of Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan, replying in a steady voice, “I will return posthaste.”

    Then he cut the link. The Jedi Knight leaned forward in his seat. Resting his elbows on his knees, he leaned his face into his hands and stayed that way for some time.

    Shalim Avesta broke the silence in his office, his voice was heavy with defeat, but he spoke graciously.

    “Thank you, Master Jedi. I saw for myself. I know you did your utmost.”

    Turning to look at his brother, who wore the look of a defeated man, Shalim said, “I think my family will likely not want to abandon our people.”

    Pollus snapped out of his deep thoughts and looked sharply at his brother as Shalim added, “I think my family would not want to selfishly escape while the rest of our people stayed here to die. Thank you, but we must decline your kind offer to escape on your ship. However, please, feel free to rescue anyone else whom you will.”

    After a few heartbeats, Pollus looked away from his brother, nodding his concurrence. The two men had resigned themselves to their fates with their families and with their people. However, they became deeply shocked by what the Jedi said, next.

    His face still buried in his hands, he said, “There is one last thing that I can do. I don’t know if it will do any good, but trying is better than not trying. We, the Jedi Council, know about your deal with Darth Nox for weapons in exchange for your refusal to join the Galactic Republic.” The Jedi sat up straight to look into the faces of the two men and added, “Try asking him for rescue. He may turn you down as well, but then again he might accept if you offer him servitude in exchange for rescue.”

    Shalim exploded in fury, shouting, “How were our communications eaves dropped?! Did you tell the Republic?!” Bolting to his feet, he added accusingly, “This is probably why Sharesh turned us down!”

    Ciiru surreptitiously used Force Persuasion to bring calm to the two very angry men, as he replied, “We did not tell the Republic.”

    Regaining his composure and resuming his seat, Shalim countered, “Maybe you didn’t tell, but what about the Jedi Council? They might have reported it.”

    Ciiru answered, “We didn’t interfere with your deal, because his deal with you would result in a free and neutral Makeb.” He paused a moment before adding with a slight hint of disgust, “We knew that if we had told Sharesh, she would have done something to retaliate against Makeb, perhaps economic sanctions, trade tariffs, perhaps even set up a pretext to attack Makeb.”

    Pollus blurted, “How did you even know we met with him?!”

    Looking straight into Shalim’s eyes, the Jedi replied, “Because I tapped your communications the last time I was here, on the Republic’s behalf, to negotiate your membership in their Republic.” Turning to face Pollus, he added, “Through your brother’s holo-transceiver, we watched your conference with Darth Nox in your office and listened to him make his offer to you.”

    Turning to Shalim he said, “I’m sorry that I betrayed your trust. I’m sorry that I can’t do anymore for your people. I hope you’ll be able to convince Darth Nox to take your people in. Remember, do not depend on any goodness you may think he has. Nox is evil, just as evil or perhaps more so, than Sharesh. He must be given an incentive. Offer him servitude in exchange for rescue.”

    Shalim turned to his brother and asked, “Do you think I should?”

    Pollus turned to the Jedi Knight and said, “He’s a dark and evil man.” Then he asked, “What makes you think he’ll do what Sharesh wouldn’t?”

    Ciiru Nomuro, deeply unsure of himself and heavily conflicted by what he was doing, replied, “I think The Force wanted me to tell you this. I am trusting The Force in this matter.”

    The world began to shake, and with each passing moment, the shaking became worse.

    Pollus replied, “We don’t have a chose, Shalim. It’s our last shot.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Six hours had passed. Katha Niar was again entering Nox’s office, this time Khem Val followed her in. As usual, she knelt before him. As usual Nox allowed her to rise. As usual, she rose to her feet again, and then reported to him, as usual.

    However, out of the usual, Katha observed that Nox was dressed in soft clothing, probably belonging to the man who’d once lived in the ranch-style house with his family. Unbeknownst to Katha, Nox had followed Virulous’ example and had his robes and armor taken by the Logistics Company of the 31st Battalion 77th Regiment to be laundered.

    She realized she was staring, not having ever seen the dark lord out of his black and yellow flexible armor before. He was not bulky, but the open front and short sleeves of his loose fitting blue tunic, with yellow decorative patterns, revealed a well defined hardened musculature. He was extremely physically fit. She snapped her mind from her idle curiosity and got to business making her report.

    “The engineers have completed setting the new programmed parameters as Dr. Nadrin Tro and his scientists have calculated. Dr. Tro said there will be a marked increase in ground quakes and he wanted you to be alerted. He is ready to begin.”

    Darth Nox replied, “Good! It’s about time! It took long enough!”

    Nox rose from the quaint overstuffed office chair, which he had begun to take a liking to, and began to gather his datapads and personal computers from the desktop. With his portable office equipment in his arms and in his hands, he ordered Katha Niar, “Follow me.”

    Katha obeyed, quietly observing his well defined muscular legs under his loose fitting white knee-length shorts. She was followed by Khem Val, who followed Nox down the stairs, through the house, and out through the back door of the house and out to the backyard. A white tent had been set up before hand with all four sides rolled up. There was a table with a few chairs around it in the shade of the tent. A hundred meters further back, out of sight, behind tall bushes and trees, was Virulous’ guest house.

    Sitting at a chair, after setting his computers and datapads down on the table, he declared, “I’m all set.” Looking at the back of the main house, he quipped, “If that shack decides to crash to the ground in the next ground quake, I’ll already be out here. Tell the Neimoidian to begin.”

    Hiding her disgust from all but Nox, who could feel her hatred of him through The Force, Katha replied neutrally, “As you say, Dark Lord.”

    She then brought out her audio only communicator and spoke into it, knowing that the order was going to ultimately result in the deaths of seven million Makebis.

    “Major Ordensk, tell Dr. Tro to begin the operation.”

    A moment later the disembodied voice of Major Trent Ordensk came back, announcing, “Tell my lord that operations have begun.”

    Katha turned her face towards Nox and announced, “Dark Lord, they’ve begun. If you’ll excuse me, I must attend to other matters.”

    Nox merely waved her away. Katha bowed at the waist towards him, then straightened and turned away, leaving Nox’s backyard and his presence. She felt sick to her stomach and found she had trouble breathing, her chest felt as though they were in the crushing depths of a deep sea. She needed to escape his foul presence, which she had not felt since his first day on Makeb when he took command of the operation.

    Katha had other work she needed to do. She had written a legal document which would require Nox’s signature, but she needed to proof-read it to be certain that it followed the proper format, and that she had referenced the proper legal codes. Katha knew she wouldn’t be able to work under such a foul atmosphere, so leaving his presence quickly was at the top of her mind.

    Khem Val watched as Katha Niar strode quickly from the backyard, with purpose, as she made her way to the walkway at the side of the house. She was headed to a house across the road from his master’s house, where her office had been established so that she could work nearby to where Nox did his work. He was not like Nox. He could only see and sense her outer self.

    Khem Val observed, of Katha, “Master, she has become stronger. Perhaps she has ended her self pity.”

    In actuality, this was true. Katha had ended her self pity and had come to a resolution about what she had done. It became a source of strength for her.

    However, Nox was not moved, replying, “It won’t do her any good. She’s dead as soon as her usefulness to me has come to an end.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Nox was busy polishing his policy revisions for his sphere of influence, the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge. His archaeologists were starting too many dig sites throughout the galaxy, each of which was causing the Imperial Reclamation Service to exceed their quarterly budget, and forcing the bureaucrats to borrow money from the general fund to make up the difference – with Nox’s authorization, of course.

    Several members of the Dark Council had called him out on how much the budget for his sphere of influence had inflated. His rivals argued that it was starting to become a huge fiscal burden on the Sith Empire. It was an exaggeration, Nox knew.

    However, Nox also knew that the current military crisis was no exaggeration. The Sith Empire had lost their hold on three worlds which they had only recently conquered, and the Republic had begun to challenge the Sith Empire on several other worlds which had been part of the empire for millennia.

    With his current understanding of the fragile state of the Empire’s war effort, he realized his rivals had something to hang over his head. It was something that might become a hindrance to his path to the Imperial throne someday. By cutting the growth of his sphere’s expenditures, he would be making the appearance of having done the responsible thing.

    His policy revision meant that any new archaeological discovery would be guarded by Imperial troops and protected from looters rather than developed into a new dig site. When existing dig sites completed their digs, and when studies of any particular site were completed, it would become open to Sith seeking knowledge or to historians seeking to piece the history of the galaxy together.

    However, they would have to pay a moderate fee to access each site. These fees would go towards maintaining the sites. As each of the older dig sites were put on fallow, a newly discovered archaeological site would then be opened to Imperial Reclamation Service archaeology teams. The budget from the old retired dig site would then be applied to the new dig site. In this way, his budget would not need to be expanded.

    Nox knew there would be resistance to his new policy, not only from within his sphere of influence, but from the Dark Council. This approach would prevent the Imperial Reclamation Service from starting new dig sites until an old one was closed, but it would also not shrink his budget.

    As Nox saved the work on his documents, the ground began to shake and roll. This time, however, the shaking did not end after two or three minutes, as usual. The world continued to shake, and it did not seem like it would stop, becoming progressively worse with each passing moment. It seemed that the world would shake itself apart at any instant.

    The realization came to him, too late, that he was too far away from a starship to take him off world, when he heard a loud crash from his house. He turned to look, just in time to watch the roof cave in on one end of the structure, and the large pane window, of ordinary glass, at the back of the house shatter and scatter both onto the wooden deck in back of the house, and inside of the family room on the lower floor.

    The dark lord fought to stay in his chair as he questioned whether it was wise to remain on the planet any longer. His personal holo-transceiver chimed, but he ignored it as he occupied himself with ensuring his data was saved and his devices were properly shut down.

    An exploding sound emanated from the house, as its resicrete foundation violently shattered under the forces of the ground quake, the front of the structure collapsing in a crashing heap. This occurred out of view of the dark lord, so he was unaware of the extent of the damage. As the house shattered at that moment, however, he was also suddenly thrown into the air, off of the lawn, along with his chair, the table, and all of his office devices, including the tent. He came crashing back down, with all of the other stuff, landing in a sprawl two meters over from the lawn, where he’d been a second before. He ended up on the resicrete patio a few meters from the edge of the wooden deck, which was strewn with shattered glass.

    Darth Nox laughed as he righted himself and sat cross-legged on the resicrete patio. He busied himself with gathering his office equipment. That new policy he’d been working on was too important to lose, plus it took him a lot of work to formulate. He didn’t want to do it all over again.

    He thought to himself of the ground quake, “If I’m having this much trouble, then what’s left of the Regulators still on the planet are experiencing hell!” A bit worried about disappointment over Dr. Tro’s experiment to direct the worst of the quake, he thought, “They’d better be having a worse time than I am!

    He laughed aloud, enjoying the tumultuous catastrophe. His laughter and enjoyment was cut short, however, as he noticed Katha Niar staggering back into the yard. She was thrown into the air again, as was he a second time. However, he used The Force to gently lower himself to the ground, while she crashed back down onto the resicrete patio.

    Nox was greatly bothered by her existence. He felt that she had spoiled his fun in the moment, merely by entering his presence.

    Grasping his sabrestaff, he contemplated, “Well, the mission is practically over. I don’t need her.

    However, something nagged at him, as he thought, “Well, something might come up, and then I’ll need her for whatever that is.

    With that, he let go of his weapon.

    When she recovered from her fall, she crawled on hands and knees before him and shouted, “Dark Lord, I pray you accept this urgent call from Shalim Avesta!”

    Nox was surprised that she was still on about those people.

    At the end of his patience with her and perturbed over the subject matter, he asked, “Why?” then added, “He has served his purpose. I have no further use for him!”

    The ground quite suddenly stopped quaking violently, instead rolling and swaying as though on a great ship in a mighty rolling sea. Quite literally, the land rolled in waves three meters high and thirty meters between each wave. Katha quickly got to her knee, planting her right fist onto the ground. Meanwhile, Nox rose to his feet, looking down at his hated servant, the two swaying with the rolling landscape.

    Katha replied, “Dark Lord, we have an opportunity to embarrass the Galactic Republic, to show the galaxy just how shallow the altruism of those hypocrites really is!”

    Nox could read her like a datapad. He could see, from The Force, just how desperate she was about this.

    He asked, disgust dipping from his tongue, “You really want me to hear him out, don’t you? Why can’t you let it go?!”

    Katha didn’t care anymore. She had already crossed the line with him a few times. She knew he would likely execute her for her tone of voice with him a few hours before. Her life had stopped to matter to her, in any case.

    She replied, obviously insincere, “Forgive my impertinence, Dark Lord! I exceed myself, but I believe this is a chance to hurt the Galactic Republic in a very meaningful way. If you do not wish to hurt the Galactic Republic, then I’ll tell him you are busy and cannot accept his call.”

    At that moment, Nox realized for the first time why he had so much trouble simply killing her when he had wanted to so many times before.

    He admitted to himself, “She reminds me of Ashara’s stubbornness.

    Thinking of his dead wife and apprentice, Ashara Zavros, he could no longer find it within himself to dismiss Katha Niar. This was precisely the sort of matter his dead wife would insist he attend.

    “I’ll hear him.” Nox relented.

    Katha replied with genuine surprise and gratitude.

    “You are most gracious, Dark Lord! I thank you!”

    She then manipulated the controls of her holo-transceiver. Shalim Avesta’s still shaking and swaying holo-graphic image sprang up above her device.

    Nox said simply, “Speak.”

    Shalim exclaimed at the dark lord, “Darth Nox, this world is destroying itself! My people will all die if we are not taken off of this planet!”

    Nox was deeply surprised, speaking with disbelief as he replied, “The Republic won’t save your people?” Then he asked, “Do you want me to shame the Republic into saving your people?”

    Shalim showed his deep bitterness when he answered, “That witch, Sharesh, all but laughed at us, because we refused to join the Galactic Republic!” Speaking rhetorically, he asked angrily, “What’s wrong with wanting to maintain our independence?!”

    Nox shrugged his shoulders indifferently in reply.

    Shalim begged passionately, “Please! Save my people! Take them into the Empire!”

    Nox had expected Shalim to take him up on his offer to shame the Republic into rescuing the Makebi peoples. He was not prepared to be asked to rescue the people. Not very many in the galaxy considered the Sith to be the sort to rescue the helpless.

    Nox told Shalim, quite pointedly, and quite very coldly, “I have no need of so many weak and useless people! What can your people offer me? They...”

    Shalim interrupted, desperately making his offer.

    “We can become your servants, your slaves! You’ll have seven million slaves!”

    Darth Nox snorted at the preposterous notion, countering, “Have you any notion how costly it is to maintain even a few hundred slaves, let alone seven million?!” With finality, before ending the conversation, Nox told Shalim, “I have no use for your people. They have nothing I nee…..”

    Darth Nox suddenly stopped to think, looking away from the holographic image of a sweating and weeping Shalim Avesta. He shook his head and smiled sardonically in wry admiration of The Force, truly mystified by the power of The Force. Returning his wry smiling gaze to Shalim’s holographic image, he spoke, while jabbing an accusatory finger at his holographic image.

    “The Force is truly with you Shalim Avesta! You have no idea how mystical and powerful The Force is! Yet, it is so very subtle...” Nox’s declarations trailed away into silence, as he plunged into another round of deep contemplation about The Force. His facial expression became filled with wonderment.

    Shalim didn’t understand why Nox was so distracted and talking about The Force. He prodded the dark lord.

    “Darth Nox, I don’t understand what you are saying. What do you mean?”

    The dark lord laughed uproariously, and then declared, “As it happens, I do have a need for your people! I need settlers for a planet I have conquered, Taris!”

    Shalim’s confused countenance told Nox that he didn’t understand that his people had been saved.

    Nox told him, “I want your people to settle a world I have conquered, to clean it up, and to build several settlements there.”

    Shalim’s eyes widened with realization of what was being offered.

    He shouted, “We’ll take it! You have a deal, Darth Nox! You want settlers? We’ll do it!”

    Darth Nox nodded in satisfaction and told Shalim, “Very well. I’ll save your people. Make a public speech condemning the cruel and coldhearted Galactic Republic, which refused to rescue your people. Then publicly ask the Sith Empire to save your people. I will bring Imperial ships here to take your people away. Remember to keep the Empire’s previous activities on Makeb secret.”

    Shalim’s exhaustion showed as he replied, a bit shaken and in some disbelief, “I hope your ships will make it in time, Darth Nox.” He became lost in thought, for a moment, before finally adding, “Thank you, Darth Nox. For as cruel and heartless as your enemies have made the Sith Empire to be, I see that the truly cruel and heartless one is the Galactic Republic.”

    Nox signaled for Katha to cut the signal. As the holo-graphic image of Shalim Avesta vanished, the dark lord’s eyes turned just in time to watch her turn her face away to hide her tears from him.

    Nox told Katha, “Contact Nadrin Tro. Discover the reason why the ground quakes have stopped being so violent, then report to me the answer.”

    Katha’s voice was husky, as she replied, “Yes, Dark Lord.”

    Katha staggered as though drunk as she walked on the rippling and rolling landscape, making her way out of the backyard, to the front of the property, to make her inquiries of the scientist.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    As Shalim and Pollus jumped up and down, pumping their fists in the air in celebration. Ciiru Nomuro sat quietly contemplating with the same wonderment that Nox had experienced about the subtle, yet very powerful way that The Force ordered the galaxy. He shook his head in disbelief, that not only had an evil, black-hearted Sith lord promise to save the people. He did it because The Force had arranged it. The Force created his need for the Makebi people, and The Force had also guided Ciiru into making the suggestion to the Avesta brothers.

    He wondered if that meant that the Light Side and The Dark Side of The Force worked together, or were they actually one and the same.

    He asked himself, “Is there no light or dark? Is it just The Force?

    However, what glared at him with unknown implications was the fact that Nox was shaking and swaying as he spoke to Shalim.

    He’s here. He’s still here on Makeb. Why?

    Ciiru Nomuro considered finding the dark lord and confronting him, but he knew that if he did, that it would likely end any hope of rescue for the Makebi people. Ultimately, he decided to return to Tython as ordered by Satele Shan.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    As Nox watched Katha stagger out of his backyard, he took out his own intra-galactic holo-transceiver and dialed a frequency he’d used only twice since ascending to the Dark Council.

    Soon after his holographic image sprang up, Nox told Marr, “Soon this world will belong to the Empire, and its resources will belong to us. The Hutts are evacuating this world, abandoning it to its impending destruction, and the Republic has foolishly turned their backs on this world. Listen for a speech which shall be given by the leader of the peoples of this world.

    “Bring the fleet to evacuate the population of this world after the speech is given. There are nearly seven million of them to salvage. This is a great opportunity to make the Galactic Republic look like fiends. Their propaganda has always made us out to be cruel devils, casually murdering entire worlds. Now it is our turn to point our finger at them and declare them the heartless fiends who would leave an entire world to die!”

    Darth Nox laughed with glee at the prospect of such a propaganda coup. Darth Marr, however, was beside himself with incredulity. He spoke mockingly.

    “Amazing! I ask you to bring me the Isotope Five stockpile, but instead you bring me refugees! What am I suppose to do when the fleet runs out of fuel? Shall I ask the refugees to get out and push?” Then he asked darkly, “Why are you in those ridiculous clothes, and why are you dancing?”

    Nox’s mirth evaporated instantaneously and was quite rapidly replaced by his ire.

    Ignoring Marr’s ridiculous jab at him, about his attire and the comment about his dancing, he spoke through gritted teeth, telling his rival on the Dark Council, “I said that the Hutts and the Republic have abandoned Makeb, believing the planet will destroy itself.”

    Recovering some of his composure and relaxing his jaw, Nox continued, “They do not know that Makeb can be saved, is being saved. When you have unloaded the population onto Taris, you can bring the fleet back to Makeb to secure the star system for the Empire! When Makeb’s crust has re-solidified, and has cooled sufficiently, we can start to build our own mining complexes and begin mining the Isotope Five to refine it for ourselves!”

    Marr asked, confused, “What is this about Makeb’s destruction? What do you mean?”

    Nox explained what the Hutts had done to the planet’s core, and about the quakes that were driving them and the Republic to abandon the planet, leaving nearly seven million people to die.

    He concluded, explaining, “Our scientists have found a way to save the planet. However, to those not in the know, it will seem as though the planet had indeed destroyed itself.”

    Marr was unconvinced, but he realized he had no other choice. He realized that, to add to the fiction that the planet was doomed and also to black the Galactic Republic’s eye, he would have to go along with Nox’s farce.

    He railed at his nemesis, pointing a finger of condemnation at his rival’s holographic image, and declared, “Damn you, Nox! You had better be right about this, or we will see the end of our empire, and it will be your fault!”

    Nox was surprised that he felt a need to explain anything at all to a fellow dark lord about what he felt was the obvious.

    Nox lectured Marr, “You are too cautious, Marr. You need to be more daring to force your own destiny into being.”

    Nox had taken notice that Virulous had approached him from the guest house on the far end of the backyard. She was dressed, again, in her customary black robes and flexible armor with its red markings. She marveled at what she saw, the dark lord in soft clothing. She’d never seen him out of armor before, and found herself admiring his physique.

    Thinking back to her cross country run to Kinlo Plantation with her master, she reflected, “It is not only The Force on which he depends for power and stamina. He is also physically very fit.

    Nox allowed her to approach and to listen in to his conference with Marr. Just then, Katha reentered the backyard as the ground stopped rolling and the world became still again. She approached Nox and then reported to him.

    “Dark Lord, Shalim Avesta is about to speak.”

    Nox was slightly disappointed that the quakes had stopped, but he put it aside as he told Marr, “He’s starting his address. Let us see what he will say.”

    Virulous took on a quizzical expression as she wondered why her master would take an interest in what the local leader would have to say; she hadn’t heard the deal Nox had made with Shalim Avesta. Meanwhile, Marr ordered a technician to open a channel to the broadcast, while Nox cut his connection to Marr and turned to look at Shalim’s speech on Katha’s holo-transceiver.

    Shalim’s holographic image walked to a podium set in a garden, the permaglass doors sliding shut behind him had the Avesta Mining Corporation name and logo embossed on them in a frosted permaglass design. He set his notes, hand written on flimsiplast, on the podium which had been set up in the corporate garden for this important announcement.

    “My fellow Makebis, we have had some very trying times this past year. The Regulator Mercenary Group, which has provided security and protection for Makeb over the last seventy four years, not only terminated their contract right at the last second of its time period and with no advanced notice, a clear violation of the ‘intent to quit’ clause of the contract, but they betrayed us to the Hutt Cartel. The Hutts not only subjected our people to their cruelty at the hands of the traitorous Regulators, but they have also been the cause of these terrible ground quakes with their unsafe mining practices!

    “We appealed to the Galactic Republic. We believed they were good, representing freedom and what is good in intelligent peace loving beings. We believed them when they told us the Sith Empire was cruel and oppressive, but the Galactic Republic placed an onerous condition for their help. They wanted us to surrender our independence. They wanted us to be indebted to them.

    “We aren’t poor. We could have reimbursed the costs of military operations, but that’s not what they wanted. Our people suffered while we tried to convince the Republic to accept payment – with interest. The Galactic Republic wanted nothing less than to annex Makeb to their Republic.

    “We had no other choice but to surrender our independence in order to win salvation from the cruel Hutts and their traitorous Regulators. However, days before we formalized our agreement in a signing ceremony for the treaty to join their Republic, the unexpected happened. A representative of the Sith Empire approached us.

    “The representative offered us weapons so that we could fight for our own freedom. I expected onerous conditions from the Sith, but their only requirement was that we maintain our independence and that we defeat the Hutts!!

    “Why didn’t the Galactic Republic, which allegedly stands for freedom and justice, make us such an offer? Why did this offer come from the Sith Empire who are said to be the oppressors? The weapons, provided by the Sith Empire and the military training, provided by the Mandalorians, allowed us to throw off our Regulator tormentors.

    “Then a little over two weeks ago, just as we were at the very cusp of victory for our independence, we learned the truth of what the Hutts had perpetrated against our world, against our people! Their mining activities destabilized the core of our planet, and now our world will destroy itself, tearing itself apart and ultimately becoming a ring of asteroids around our star! These terrible ground quakes are the evidence of our world’s impending doom.

    “Naturally, we turned to the Galactic Republic for help, because the Galactic Republic is good. Right? We were shocked. Crushed! The Galactic Republic turned us away! Supreme Chancellor Sharesh told me, ‘You have nothing to offer. You would only become a burden on our economy, using up our much needed resources.’ That is an exact quote!! She said that!

    “In desperation we turned to the Sith Empire. Again, we expected onerous and cruel requirements. Would they require servitude, front line military service, or both? Would we be scattered throughout their vast empire to be separated from our friends and loved ones? Would they make us into slaves?

    “The requirement we have been given is to colonize a world and civilize it – that’s it! We are being given the chance to rebuild our lives and our communities on a new world, as settlers!! The Sith Empire has only required hard work and to earn our place in their empire!! Not slavery! Not servitude! We are being asked to tame a world. Of course it’s going to be hard work building a colony on a wild world, but it will be a colony we Makebi will build. It will be our community! Our home!

    “On behalf of my people, I want to thank the Sith Empire, and in particular, I want to thank Darth Nox. The Sith Empire is the true friend of justice, of freedom, of kindness, only requiring hard work and that we merit our place in their empire!

    “I don’t know what to believe about the Sith Empire anymore. All of my life, I’ve been told and believed they were tyrants, but this… This is not an act of tyranny! This is an act of benevolence. It is something I expected, and should have gotten from the Galactic Republic, but didn’t get – benevolence.

    “In a short while, I shall be in contact with Darth Nox to work out the details of our evacuation. Pay close attention to official news broadcasts for instructions on what to bring, and where to report for evacuation.

    “It saddens me greatly, as I’m certain it does all of you, my fellow Makebis, that we are losing our long time homes. However, I am greatly heartened for our continued future as a people. The Makebi people shall not parish, thanks to the just and righteous Sith Empire!”