main
side
curve
  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Saga - PT Star Wars: Days of Old (AU)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Antaus, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 8

    Once Qui-Gon and Argoth were out of the military base, they found a nice secluded alley. There they changed back into their robes and tossed the military uniforms into a large waste bin. Argoth appreciated the chance to get out of the over sized uniform and back into his robes. He also felt less vulnerable with the lightsaber by his side again, rather than in a backpack. The city itself was quite busy, with vehicles and people moving about. It was close to mid-day by now and the daily life of the Elltiri people seemed to be in full swing. Brightly colored signs offered a variety of goods and services, shop windows were being browsed by curious people, and from here it didn't seem like there was a war going on. Qui-gon was standing at the end of the alley by now, looking around, and Argoth was almost beside him, when the older Jedi quickly flattened himself and his padawan against the wall.

    <S>“What's wrong?”<S>

    “Look, up there,” Qui-gon said, motioning with a nod of his head. He followed the motion to see one of the large electronic billboards had changed from an advertisement to a wanted poster with their faces on it. 'Jedi: Wanted Dead or Alive for collaboration with Talran forces.' It also offered 10,000 units of local currency as a reward for each of them. The only thing Argoth could do at the moment was grumble and roll his eyes. This was only going to make their mission that much harder. Now it would be difficult for them to even move about without potentially being seen and identified. They both drew their hoods about their heads and moved back into the alley.

    “We'll need to think of a new-”

    “Hey look, it's them, it's those Jedi!” They both turned to see a young man standing behind them at the end of the alley, before he quickly ran away calling for help. They exchanged a brief glance at one another, then up at the roof of one of the buildings that was only three stories high. In a blur they shot almost straight up, grabbing the edge of the roof and pulling up. Then quickly ducked down, and not a moment too soon, as the sound of running feet could be heard in the alley below. There were at least half a dozen men, and one of them was giving orders for the others to spread out and start searching.

    They began to race across the rooftops of the buildings in an effort to get away, not anticipating exactly how intent the Elltiri government was, on trying to capture them. No more than two buildings away, a small fast moving aircraft flew overhead. It took Argoth a moment to realize it was an aerial surveillance device. It slowed and began to circle back around, only to have Qui-Gon reach out an open hand, then close it and crush the small craft. The situation was heating up a lot faster than he had thought it would, not even sure how the Elltiri had found out about them, he looked to see what Qui-gon was going to do, deciding to let his master take the lead in this situation.

    “We need to get out of the open and find somewhere to hide.” Using a rooftop access door four roofs later, they were able to get into a building that was still under construction on the inside. It was dimly lit, only a few streamers of light coming in through the plastic covering the windows. The only thing that even came close to a wall were a few wooden frames that had yet to be built upon. There was a lot of construction material and tools laying around in semi-neat piles, but there didn't appear to be anyone nearby. Argoth also realized he hadn't checked the day of the week in local time. It would have helped to know if this was an official work day or not.

    The inside of the building sat in stark contrast to the commotion outside. The darkness seemed almost pervasive, and for a moment Argoth thought back to the disturbance they had felt in the dark side of the Force. While Qui-gon kept watch for any sign of trouble, he closed his eyes and carefully began to concentrate, seeing if he could feel anything out of place. There was nothing he could sense, but it still bothered Argoth that something so strong had appeared once, then was gone without a trace. He wanted to know what it meant, but had a good idea they wouldn't get the chance for that until they reached the capitol. He had no doubt that Qui-gon would find a way, it was just a matter of when and how.

    They remained in the building keeping watch for Elltiri planetary security until it was well past dark. It was then that they decided to move out. The plan was to make their way out of town and avoid any other patrols. From there they would try to find a way to get to the capitol, since 300 miles was a bit far to walk. The problem they were facing now was that there were still a number of foot patrols out on the street, and they knew the soldiers used thermal goggles which made them considerably harder to evade. The only option left to them was to continue across the rooftops and hope that no one spotted them.

    For nearly an hour they moved through the city from rooftop to rooftop trying to make it toward the outskirts. They were nearly there and standing near the edge, watching another patrol go by, when they heard a loud crash from behind. The noise came from a rooftop access door from which two planetary security soldiers came rushing out. One of them pulled his pistol from a holster and trained it on them.

    “Alright, nobody move and I don't fill you full of holes.” The first one seemed rather excited, while the one behind him didn't appear to be so at all. “See Tig, I told you, if they weren't on the ground, they had to be up top. Man am I gonna get a promotion out of this, maybe two.”

    “I'd be careful if I were you, Jedi have all sorts of magic powers. I hear they can even stun you by just moving their arm.”

    “Geez really?”

    “Yep,” the second soldier pulled his pistol, adjusted the setting on it, then moved his arm and fired a single stun blast directly into the others back. The first soldier face planted the ground in an unconscious heap, while the other holstered his weapon and approached the two of them. “Sorry about that. Sometimes Eger's a little too smart for his own good.”

    Seeing one of the guards stun the other, Argoth wasn't sure how to react. There didn't seem to be any hostile intent that he could feel, and the other guard holstered his weapon before approaching them. These two were wearing helmets which concealed their faces, and the man didn't appear to be moving to take it off. Qui-gon was suspicious and ready to act if the need arose, as was Argoth, but as the two of them would quickly learn, there was no need.

    “Sorry for all the commotion, my name is Tig and I must say, you two are not easy to find.”

    “What exactly is going on here?” Qui-gon asked.

    “Come on, I'll explain on the way, and don't worry, I'm on your side.” Tig picked Eger up with a bit of effort and tossed him over a shoulder, then they began the trek down through the building to the street below. As they walked, and finally drove, with Eger being dumped in the passenger seat, Tig explained the situation. He was part of an underground movement known as Hebel United. It was comprised of both Elltiri and Talran who were tired of the fighting, and they were trying to work toward a solution to bring an end to the constant conflict. They were often at odds with the government, and considered by many to be a dissident organization, so they had to operate in secret.

    “Where are we going?” Qui-gon asked, leaning closer from his seat in the back of the ground speeder.

    “To one of our bases in the city. You should be able to rest and recoup there without having to worry about getting shot at or arrested. We've been keeping an eye out for you since our people on the Talran side of the border told us you were coming. With a war on it's not easy to get information through, only heard that you were Jedi this afternoon. Been trying to track you down ever since.” About that time Eger moaned a little, to which Tig responded by taking out his pistol and stunning him again. “Must be building up an immunity to it or something.”

    That made Argoth wonder just how many times Tig had stunned Eger, but thought better of asking about it. Rather than driving to the outskirts of the city, they moved further in, deeper into the heart of hostile territory in Argoth's mind. By this time much of the city was sleeping, and only a few other vehicles or pedestrians were out and about. They parked on the side of the road with Tig making sure the coast was clear before letting them out, and the three quickly moved down a small alley. At the end there was an old steel door with a slit in it.

    Tig knocked on the door and the slit opened, then he gave the password 'bacon and eggs' to the set of eyes on the other side. The slit closed and several locks could be heard releasing, before it opened. As they walked inside, Argoth looked at the door guard. It was a young Twi'lek woman with green skin. She had a slender and very attractive face with full lips, wearing only a pair of leather pants with matching boots, and a white shirt tied in a knot in front of her chest. She was armed with a blaster pistol holstered on the left hip, but at this point the first thing to come to Argoth's mind was the road sign 'Dangerous Curves Ahead', because she had some to spare.

    “Mind your surroundings,” Qui-Gon said, speaking in a low voice. That was enough to tear his gaze from her body. The small run down building they were in was home to a good bit of makeshift furniture, and a variety of people in makeshift clothing as well. They looked like a street gang, and about as friendly.

    “Don't mind the scenery,” Tig said. The little group didn't speak to anyone, and walked down a blind hallway. Half way to the dead end, Tig stopped and knocked on the wall. A secret door opened and behind it was a Rhodian who was also armed, and a set of stairs leading down to a light near the bottom. Once they were down the stairs it opened into a single medium sized room with a door in each wall, and a number of people moving about. There was more furniture here, and a few consoles that had seen better days, but it was the banners on the wall that caught Argoth's attention. They were deep blue, and had a pair of hands clasping each other, with the words 'Hebel United' over top of them.

    This was a site for sore eyes, not simply because they were on the same side. It was a great emotional relief to Argoth to see a group of people trying to end the violence and conflict between the two sides. Now that they were safely delivered, Tig bid them farewell and returned to duties elsewhere. There were a number of people looking at them, but no one approached. The door directly ahead of them opened, and an older man stepped out. He was wearing an Elltiri military uniform, but without any rank insignia. His short black hair had light streaks of gray, as did the goatee on his chin. The man's hooked nose was crooked, as if it had been broken and not quite properly reset. The weathered face, heavy with lines, seemed almost at conflict with the bright smile and lively blue eyes.

    “Masters Jedi, it's such a relief to see you safe and unharmed,” the man said, throwing his arms out almost as if to hug, then brought them down into a clasp. “My name is Alberon and I'm in charge of the Hebel United cell here in the city.”

    “You military?” Argoth said.

    “Oooh, not for almost ten years now. Got tired of being shot at. Now, before we get down to business, is there anything I can get for you? Food, drink?”

    This time it was Qui-Gon's stomach who answered for him with a small indignant gurgle. He looked down, then to Alberon. “I suppose some food wouldn't hurt.”

    “By all means, right this way,” Alberon said, motioning to the door he'd come through with both hands. The little underground base was as run down as the building above, but the people were dressed better, and seemed to be in good spirits. On the way to get something to eat, Alberon was stopped twice by different cell members, but the conversations were brief. It was mostly pertaining to upcoming efforts to try and gain more support among the people. It also seemed a little strange to Argoth, for a dissident movement leader to be this cheerful. They came to a makeshift cafeteria with a number of tables and chairs scattered about, and a door in the far corner of the room.

    “Make yourselves at home, I'll be right back,” Alberon said. He disappeared into the back room as they took seats at an empty table. When he returned it was with four trays containing vacuum sealed meals, and a young blond haired human woman attractive enough to give the Twi'lek a run for her money. She was holding a drink carrier with four bottles of water. They both took a seat at the table and he passed out the meals.

    “Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my wife Cera,” Alberon said.

    “Hello,” Cera said, her voice soft and quiet. Argoth arched a brow at that thinking he was old enough to be her father at the very least, but held his tongue. Far be it for him to say anything about an age gapped relationship. They both nodded to her in greeting, and were about to start eating, when Argoth noticed Alberon and Cera fold their hands in their lap and lower their heads in prayer. Although the Jedi weren't particularly religious in the respect of worshiping deities, both Qui-Gon and Argoth lowered their heads out of respect. Alberon gave a short prayer asking a few gods to watch over them, thanked them for the meal, and other things one would expect when praying, then finished, and they began to eat. One of the other interesting differences that Argoth noted between the Talran and Elltiri were their respective religions. The former was monotheistic, the latter, polytheistic. One more difference between them. The meal proceeded in silence for a few minutes as everyone took the edge off their appetite.

    “Do you know anything about why the General ordered this attack?” Qui-gon said.

    “Unfortunately I don't. It came as a surprise to me as much as anyone else. The last I heard he was politely pretending not to know anything about his upcoming retirement party,” Alberon said.

    “You talk to General?” Argoth said.

    “No, not directly, but after thirty years in the service, you do tend to make friends,” Alberon said, then furrowed his brows. “Doesn't make sense though, Dehgo's not the warmonger type. Maybe it had something to do with his illness. Now that I think about it, it does sort of make sense.”

    That was enough to stop Argoth in mid-chew, and he looked up, “Illness?”

    “Yes, not long before this whole fiasco started he fell ill, enough so that his doctors didn't think he would make it. They kept it quiet to avoid upsetting the people, he is, or was, a national hero,” Alberon said. Qui-Gon and Argoth exchanged a look after that, and the rest of the meal continued without further conversation. Afterward they were shown to a room with two beds for them to sleep in. For Argoth it was a welcome sight. The meal combined with a hectic day made the padawan more than ready to play dead. In the process of doing so, he heard Qui-Gon speaking with Alberon.

    “We'll need transport to Eldin, the only way we're going to be able to stop this is by getting to Dehgo,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Don't worry, we'll cover all that in the briefing I've got planned for tomorrow morning,” Alberon said, assuring him that everything would be alright. The conversation wasn't even finished before Argoth was sound asleep, but it wasn't a peaceful one. The padawan tossed and turned that night, and it was well into the AM when he finally awoke and looked around. In the darkness he could see the outline of Qui-Gon laying in bed. His breathing was slow and shallow, a sign his master was sleeping comfortably. The reason that Argoth had awoken was his stomach, he was hungry again, only now it was worse than before.

    He walked back into the base and found someone, asking if he could get another vacuum packed meal. When the person told him to help himself, he did just that. After eating six of the meals almost without stop, and drinking enough water to float a battleship, he finally stopped. Despite this Argoth was still hungry, he could have continued eating, but the six meals had taken the edge off, and he didn't want to take advantage of the hospitality of Hebel United. On the way back to his room, Argoth started to think that he was eating more than normal, a lot more. No particular reason coming to mind, and being too tired to think on it, he went back to bed and slept the rest of the night without incident.

    ********************​

    The briefing the next morning wasn't held in a meeting room, or with a group of Alberon's most trusted. It was in the cafeteria over breakfast, with the leader and his wife. There they were told how some of Alberon's former military contacts, those who wanted the war ended as well, would help them get to the capitol of Eldin. They would also receive help getting inside the First Minister's building, which Dehgo was using as a personal command center for his new dictatorship. After that they would be on their own, as the General only allowed his most loyal soldiers to work there. Near the end of the briefing, and the meal, Argoth's stomach growled in protest.

    “Still hungry friend?” Alberon said, looking over at him. “Feel free to help yourself if you want.”

    “No, not eat all food,” Argoth said.

    “Ah don't worry about it,” Alberon said, waving a hand. “When we're not poking the hornet's nest, the government leaves us alone. Not like it's hard to get more.” That was all the invitation he needed to walk into the back room and start plowing through the boxes of vacuum sealed meals. It was little more than a slightly chilled room with cheap metal boxes stacked around six feet high. Against the far wall was a pallet with gallons of water plastic wrapped together on top of it. Packed in sets of four, he'd just finished the third box when Qui-Gon walked into the room and surveyed the mess he'd made.

    “Argoth, are you alright?” Qui-Gon said, walking up to him. Gallon jug tilted up, he looked at his master out of the corner of one eye, but finished and wiped his mouth before answering.

    “No, hungry,”Argoth said. Tearing another box open, he ripped the seal off another meal and started to eat it without bothering to use the utensils. His appetite was out of control and he didn't know why. It seemed that no matter how much he ate, he wanted more. Due to his size he normally ate slightly less than the average human, but was now plowing through food like there was a shortage.

    “Do you normally eat like this?” Qui-Gon said. It was a valid question as the two hadn't been together for very long, so they didn't know much about one another.

    “No,” Argoth said. With his fourteenth meal consumed, and a third jug of water down the hatch, he nodded. “Done.”

    The truth of the matter was that the food had only satisfied him to a small degree, but they had a mission to complete and he couldn't spend all morning eating everything in sight. This was definitely an issue he would have to look into once the mission was over. Tracking his biological changes was something of a guessing game at the temple however, since they had no frame of reference to go by.

    “Is this going to be a problem?” Qui-Gon asked.

    “No,” Argoth said. His master let the matter drop after that, and so far as he was concerned, it was the truth. The mission was more important than whatever the reason for his increased appetite was. If it came down to it, Argoth would just push through and keep going. It didn't seem likely that he would starve after a buffet like that. The one thing that he was determined to do was bring this travesty to an end, so that no one else would have to suffer like the soldiers in the hospital. For Argoth, completing this mission wasn't an if, it was a when.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  2. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    After nearly a month of working my butt off, I finally have time to continue writing.
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Nice new details on the differences between the various factions and very intriguing about Argoth's bottomless appetite :oops:
     
  4. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 9

    It quickly became apparent to Rahna, that Tasid had found a way to hide things from being sensed through the Force, otherwise she and Obi-Wan would have felt the dark side that was used to reanimate the headless body of the Rancor. There was no doubt that Obi-Wan could feel it now, but considering she was in a hidden passage under the estate, it was anybody's guess if he would be able to get to her in time. For right now Rahna was on her own, and there was a reanimated Rancor corpse bearing down on her at full speed. Lightsaber in hand she had no idea how to deal with a threat like this, but certainly wasn't just going to sit there and let it smash her.

    When the massive fist came down, Rahna flipped backward at the last moment and swung with her lightsaber, aiming to sever the fingers. The index finger fell free from the hand, but not with ease. Even in death the Rancor's hide was thick and hard to cut through. It attacked with claw swipes and fist smashes so fast that Rahna barely had time to react. Completely on the defensive she was forced to duck, flip, and roll, just to avoid being crushed. Following another fist slam, she rolled to the side and tried to sever the hand at the wrist. Before the lightsaber could burn all the way through, the Rancor swung to the side.

    Rahna was backhanded into a nearby wall, momentarily stunned by the impact as she hit the floor. To make matters worse when she looked up, her lightsaber was on the floor behind the Rancor. The creature seemed to get faster, smashing its fists on the floor, intent on killing Rahna. This sent her into a series of back flips and somersaults to avoid the onslaught. The only chance she had to stop this thing was to reach her lightsaber. Each time the Rancor slammed its fist or swiped its claws, she was able to jump out of the way, but the smell of death and decay was almost overwhelming. It was enough to nearly make the young girl wretch, but that was soon to be the last of her worries.

    The Rancor charged in its endless assault and as Rahna prepared to leap past the attack and try to dive between its legs... the plan never came to pass. All because of a tickle. The tiny irritation in her nose caused Rahna to sneeze at the last moment. When her senses cleared she was laying on the floor at the opposite end of the room, having been swatted like a fly. Now her vision was beginning to blur and trying to stand caused near blinding pain as her leg buckled... it was broken. From the way she felt it likely wasn't the only thing. She could hear thudding footsteps growing louder and knew the Rancor would be on her soon.

    Without a lightsaber, a broken leg, and no other options, Rahna coughed slightly thinking to herself this wasn't how she'd imagined dying. She tried to push up on one hand, and from inside her robe, the book on Nightsister Magic fell out. It landed on the floor, opening, and she glanced down, then nearly did a double take seeing what was written on the page. It was a section about tissue reanimation. Not only how to reanimate it, but also how to undo the spell that would bind the body in the first place. In that instant time seemed to freeze, because Rahna knew what this meant. The spell might just stop the Rancor, but using it would require her to call upon the dark side. That was something that she had always been afraid to do, hearing how dangerous it was from the masters at the temple.

    What choice did she have? In moments the Rancor would be on her and then it would all be over. She would be killed with a single blow. The incantation was written in a language that Rahna could read, and so she stretched out a hand toward the approaching monstrosity and spoke the words. Calling on the dark side of the Force was something that she had never done before, and had no idea how to do so. The Rancor continued moving forward and was almost on top of her. Nearly in a panic, she remember the words of Master Yoda. She remembered him teaching the younglings they must control their emotions, fear most of all. Fear led to anger, anger to hate, and hate... to suffering.

    The Rancor succeeded in evoking just that emotion as well, because when it drew back to strike, she was terrified. Rahna allowed the emotion to flow through her, and the dark side flooded in through the door she'd opened like a tidal wave. In that instant it washed away the light and the only thing left was a singular drive, an instinct to survive no matter the cost. When Rahna started to utter the words of the spell again, the beast shuddered and seemed to pause. Then the fist opened and the claws began to move toward her.

    “No...” Rahna said. Standing up her broken knee snapped back into place. So focused on this, she didn't see the blue lightsaber blade erupt from the roof of the room and begin to cut a circular pattern. This beast, this thing, wanted to kill Rahna, and what started out as fear began to turn inward upon itself. Like a great black pit that consumed everything the fear grew, becoming pain, which in turn led to anger.

    This was no longer a matter of if she would survive, Rahna would not allow this mockery of life to take hers. The claws inched closer and she threw her other hand out, feeling the dark side energy within the Rancor begin to waver. Slowly twisting her hands around, the spell began to warp the energy inside the body and the Rancor staggered back. That brought a wicked smile to Rahna's face as she tried to imagine the pain it was feeling.

    “That's right you piece of reanimated garbage, suffer! You're going to kill me? I don't think so.” Balling her hands into fists the Rancor nearly fell over. Then the last word she nearly spit out through bared teeth. “DIE!”

    At the same instant the Rancor collapsed and began to turn to ash, unbound from the spell that preserved it, a roughly circular section of the roof hit the floor with a crash. Without even thinking, Rahna held out a hand summoning her lightsaber, ignited the blade, and turned just in time to see Obi-Wan drop down through the hole. At first a smile began to spread across his face, only to fade just as quickly. His brows furrowed in uncertainty and he took a step back from the section of roof he was standing on.

    “Rahna?” Obi-Wan said.

    “No thanks to you,” Rahna spat. “I almost died fighting that thing, for all the good you did. Where were you, where?!”

    “Rahna, you need to calm down, now.” The anger inside of her was continuing to build, and her breathing was growing more ragged. She had nearly died fighting the Rancor and Obi-Wan hadn't been any help at all. Had she not used that spell they wouldn't even be having this conversation right now. She had done the one thing every Jedi was warned never to do, this was all his fault. All of her pain and suffering, because of him! There was only one thing to be done, make him suffer as well. Lightsaber in hand, Rahna took a step forward... then hesitated. Obi-Wan had come for her, he cut a hole through the ceiling, and had he been a few minutes earlier, they would have fought together. They would have been side by side like they always were. Obi-Wan and Rahna against whatever threat faced them.

    He hadn't done anything wrong, her master was trying to help. It was his fault, he had to suffer! But Obi-Wan was her friend, and master. Rahna had known him since she was five years old, how could she even consider hurting him, it was unthinkable! The darkness within began to subside, the rage and anger fading, then it resurfaced with a vengeance pushing everything else aside. The Jedi would suffer. Yet it was only a single step she took. Rahna's grip on the lightsaber was so tight that her knuckles were turning white. She wanted to hurt him, badly, yet something was stopping her. The struggle within continued to rage on, the urge to attack, to hurt and injure the one she blamed for all of this. But she couldn't, Rahna couldn't bring herself to hurt her oldest and dearest friend.

    It finally began to twist her up inside so badly she let out a shriek and dropped the lightsaber, grabbing her head with both hands. In an instant Obi-Wan was across the room and grabbed Rahna, then did the one thing that was completely unexpected, he hugged her. She fought violently, jerking and thrashing, slapping and resisting. Refusing to let go, even taking a pair of slaps to the face, Obi-Wan concentrated, drawing the force into himself. Being that close to such a strong source of light side energy helped it grow within her as well, and soon the darkness began to recede. All of the rage and anger, the desire to hurt and kill, it slowly faded, then disappeared altogether.

    Rahna almost fell as her knee, being held together by the dark side, came apart once more. She yelped as Obi-Wan helped her sit down, and now thoroughly exhausted by the whole ordeal, she leaned against him. The exhaustion was physical as well as emotional, and her hands were still shaking. In all her years as a Jedi, Rahna had never thought herself capable of such hatred and anger. She had killed the Rancor, if you could kill something that was already dead, but what bothered her the most is that she had enjoyed it. Watching the reanimated body seemingly suffer as the spell had warped and twisted the force energy within. The realization that the dark side had given her power over such a monstrous thing. There was a part of her that liked that, no matter how much the rest of her didn't want to.

    “I'm sorry Master, I'm so sorry...” Rahna said.

    “Hush now, there will be time to talk about that later. Are you alright?”

    “No...” Rahna said, feeling the pit of her stomach twisting itself into knots. For a time Obi-Wan remained kneeling and hugged her. Tears rolled across her cheeks at the thought of what might have happened, had she truly lost control. The silent tears served as a release for Rahna's pain, and soon the padawan was able to pull herself together. This wasn't the first time Obi-Wan had been a source of comfort for her. The two had been friends since she was a child, and the little redheaded girl had followed him everywhere throughout the temple when he was there, and she was allowed to do so.

    The Jedi Master had been her unofficial teacher for a long time, passing on the pearls of wisdom that he gained out on missions with his own master, Qui-Gon Jinn. This was probably the one place in the entire universe that Rahna felt the safest. Once they were ready to depart, it was only a matter of putting her back together again. Her injuries turned out to be a broken knee, and three broken ribs. It would have taken her a few hours to knit all that back together, but with help it only amounted to forty-five minutes. Regardless of the healing, there was still a stiffness that would take time to fade. These kind of injuries weren't the type you could just 'walk' away from.

    “Tell me coming here was worth something?” Rahna said, finally able to stand up.

    “Indeed it was, Thrad and I discovered a lead that just might take us to the person who stole the Codex,” Obi-Wan said. As they walked over to the hole in the roof, Thrad and some other security officers were standing there looking down.

    “Just a moment, I'll have someone drop a rope down to-” The older man stopped short when the two of them leapt straight up through the hole. “-or not...” On the way out of the estate, Obi-Wan explained they had uncovered some transmissions between Tasid and his older brother, a man named Goris. They had been kept in a database located offsite, and Obi-Wan had been able to crack the security codes from a terminal in the estate. There they'd learned the two had a number of heated exchanges about the very thing they were after. Goris wanted his brother to get rid of it, fearing the Codex was having a negative effect on him. There was even a threat from Goris to destroy the relic, so it was only natural to pay him a visit.

    Planetary security had done so before, but Goris played dumb about the whole situation. Now with the transmissions revealing he knew what the Codex was, it was time to pay the man another visit. The plan was for local security to question the man and keep him occupied, while they searched the house covertly. Rahna didn't like the idea of sneaking around like a thief, but if it would help bring this situation to a peaceful resolution, she would do what needed to be done. On the drive through the city, in a cramped metal transport, Rahna's discomfort was quickly turning to shame. She knew that Obi-Wan had seen the book laying on the floor, he'd looked directly at it, but thus far hadn't said anything. At this point she couldn't look her master in the eyes.

    When they reached Goris' house near the edge of the city, it was smaller than his brother's, but still nice. It was a two story home bordering on a small mansion itself, but lacked the wall and expensive front lawn. A simple white in color it boasted floor to ceiling windows with a sloped black roof. When Rahna inquired as to what he did for a living, Thrad explained that he was a moderately successful agricultural commodities merchant, and single. It came as a relief to learn the only people living there were Goris and a single servant. That would make it easier for them to move around undetected.

    As per the prearranged plan, the two transports drove up to the home, with the one carrying Obi-Wan and Rahna, parking closer to the side of the house. They waited the allotted five minutes, for Thrad and the other security officers to speak with Goris and move into the house, then they exited the transport and made their way around the back. In doing so, Rahna noticed the house also had a nice pond with an old fashion wooden boat some two-hundred yards back. There was a large waist high hedge around the back of the house, with Rahna noting it might provide good cover if they needed to hide. Snooping around like this was a bit of a stretch she knew, but they were running out of leads. While Obi-Wan picked the lock, a skill most Jedi knew, but rarely spoke of, she kept watch. It wasn't long before there was a small clicking noise, and the polished wood door swung open soundlessly. Once the two of them were inside it was quickly closed and relocked.

    They appeared to be in a long back hallway that had four doors, two in either wall, before opening up and leading further into the house some distance ahead. Without a word Obi-Wan took the door on the left, and she went right. Her choice turned out to be a storage room filled with a combination of metal and wooden crates. She quickly began to look through them, still annoyed by the fact she had no idea what the Codex looked like. There were clothes, books, a few photo albums, and other assorted items that weren't at all out of the ordinary, save for the legal but substantial blaster rifle collection in one crate. It didn't take long to go through everything and come up empty.

    She exited into the hallway the same time as Obi-Wan, and they both shook their heads a little before heading to the next set of doors. This time it was a rather spacious wash room. She went about searching and in short order, came up empty again. Exiting into the hall a second time, Obi-Wan was still searching the other room, she stopped short hearing the sound of whistling. It was coming from further inside, and very carefully she peered around the corner of the hall. Leaning to the side just enough to look with a single eye, the hall opened up into a large back room. There were a set of stairs leading up to the second floor, several expensive paintings on the wall, but it was otherwise empty.

    The whistling was coming from an open door near the stairs, and there she could see a young man with short dark hair and plain clothes. He was cooking on an island stove in the middle of the room, flipping an egg a few times, and continued to whistle a small tune she wasn't familiar with. He had rakish good looks, and Rahna couldn't help smiling. This was the first time she'd seen someone actually whistling while they worked. When Obi-Wan came up behind her and assumed a similar stance it didn't startle her. This was no doubt the servant they'd heard about, but he was also presenting something of a problem by facing the open door. There was no way they could make a dash for the stairs without being seen.

    Lifting a hand, she made a small motion, pushing a container of salt near the young man into the floor. He looked down, then set the pan on the stove, and bent down to pick it up. That was all the time the two of them needed, they were past the door and near the stairs in a flash. Up the stairs they came to three halls, two at either end of the stairs and one near the center. Somewhat annoyed by all the sneaking around, she once again chose another door and continued the search. This time Rahna entered what appeared to be a personal study. It wasn't as large as Tasid's, but had several book cases, and a large wooden desk near the far end of the room. That was the first place she went.

    Rifling through the drawers she pushed a ledger aside and froze almost instantly, her breath catching in her throat. There at the bottom of the drawer was something she had never expected to find in the study of a merchant. Black and gold in color with intricate carvings, was a small palm sized pyramid with four sides. It also made Rahna a little nervous because she knew what it was... a Sith holocron. Could this be the Codex they'd been looking for? Rahna couldn't be sure, but even if it wasn't, this was something that didn't need to be in the hands of the everyday person. She sent a sensation through the force to Obi-Wan letting him know she needed help.

    He appeared through the door not long after and walked over to the desk, seemingly as surprised as she was to see the holocron. Carefully he picked the device up, then it did something that neither of them was expecting. There was a small click, and all four sides lowered, giving it a rough star shape. Rahna knew that holocrons, Sith or Jedi, normally didn't open like this. Inside there was a data crystal, but it appeared different. Held in place by a small ring that was fastened to the base, there were tiny dark lines running through it. Even nearly on top of the crystal they were too small to see clearly without some sort of image magnification.

    Each of the four tips of the holocrons sides glowed red, and small beams of light lanced out striking the crystal. It quickly took on the same color and she started to get worried, though neither of them would have the time to find out what it was doing. Obi-Wan snapped the device shut the moment they noticed movement in their peripheral vision. Someone or something had just dropped down not too far away from them, and landed softly in the room. When Rahna looked over, she nearly did a double take seeing someone stand up, and keep going up. Rahna almost couldn't believe her eyes. Not because of the person's height, it was the fact she was a woman. It was without a doubt the largest that she'd ever seen.

    [​IMG]

    By her own estimates the woman was at least six and a half feet tall, maybe a few inches more. A quick glance up revealed that she had come in through a skylight. This was also very disconcerting because despite the lack of a wrap around cloak or hood, she wore a mask identical in design to the Lightsaber Assassin. The holocron was quickly stuffed into Obi-Wan's robe when he noticed her looking at it, and the two walked around the desk in opposite directions to put some distance between them, and potentially provide a strategic advantage if it came to that.

    “Well, it would appear we're not the only ones searching for something here,” Obi-Wan said.

    “Unfortunately you have the exact something that I'm looking for,” the woman said.

    “I don't suppose we could discuss this in a civilized fashion?” Obi-Wan said. His posture was already tense, one hand to close his side. Rahna knew this well, it was his 'grab the lightsaber and prepare for battle' stance. Not sure what was about to happen, she did much the same and waited, hoping the woman would be willing to talk this out.

    “I don't see why not. I would prefer to settle this with words rather than blades. You may call me Fifth,” Fifth said. That came as quite a surprise, watching the woman take a non-threatening posture. Even Obi-Wan was taken aback, having asked what seemed like a rhetorical question at the time.

    “Thank you,” Obi-Wan said. “My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi and this is my padawan Rahna. First I would like to ask what you're doing here, looking for a relic that Governor Tasid discovered in an old Killik hive.” Instead of immediately answering, the woman walked around the room in a casual manner, looking at some of the books in the book cases before running a finger across them. Though keeping a close eye on her, Rahna was also paying attention to the Force, but didn't sense any hostile intent from the interloper. She was either good at masking her feelings, or genuinely didn't want to fight.

    “An old relic discovered in a Killik hive, so that's the story that thief made up,” Fifth said.

    “Thief?” Rahna said.

    “Yes, thief,” Fifth said, turning to face them. “What you have is not some relic from a Killik hive. A few years ago when Tasid was on a diplomatic mission to a planet called Agiza, a small shuttle was forced to make an emergency landing on the planet. Unfortunately neither the pilot nor the passenger survived. That was where Tasid discovered this 'Codex'. I imagine he was either first on scene and stole it before emergency services arrived, or somehow managed to come into possession of it later. Either way it doesn't belong to him, and I want it back.”

    “Back?” Obi-Wan asked. “Are you saying it belongs to you?”

    “Yes, it was being delivered to someone else when the couriers met their untimely end, and it has taken me a long time to track down its whereabouts,” Fifth said.

    “Do you know what Tasid did with the Codex while it was in his possession?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “I'm well aware of the situation here on Alderaan. He used it to store the dirty little secrets of the nobles houses. I can assure you Master Kenobi, I have no interest in petty planetary politics. How about this?” Reaching behind her back, Fifth produced second device almost identical to the first. “I'll trade you this blank for the Codex, and you can do with it as you please.”

    “You know, that's a very interesting design on your mask. You wouldn't by chance know someone considerably smaller, wanted for the murder of Governor Tasid?” Obi-Wan asked.

    The woman put the device away and folded her arms, Rahna could tell she was starting to get impatient. “That would be Second. As to her whereabouts, all I know for certain right now is that she's not on Alderaan. Not that I would tell you her location, even if I knew it. Regardless, that's not the concern at this point. I'm here for the Codex.”

    “Why didn't Second take the Codex when she killed Tasid?” Rahna said.

    “Why didn't she what?” Fifth said, then chuckled slightly. “Oh, you mean the little video clip to Tasid's last moments? Because it wasn't the Codex he was working with. If it was, she would have taken it.”

    “If you know anything about Second, that is very much a concern,” Obi-Wan said. Rahna could already tell the situation was deteriorating. Through conversation they'd established a link between Fifth and Second. There was also a very subtle, but unmistakable, edge in Obi-Wan's voice because she knew he wasn't going to give up the Codex, and now they had a potential lead on the assassin.

    Fifth remained silent for a moment, then asked in a very low, very calm voice, “Are you going to give me what is mine?”

    “I'm afraid I can't do that,” Obi-Wan said. The same moment the lightsaber flew into Fifth's hand, his cloak came off, as did hers, and three weapons ignited.

    “Why can't anyone ever do things the easy way?!” Fifth said.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
    pronker likes this.
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow! Wow! Riveting! That was WAAAAAAAAAAY too close for Rahna there, her dabbling/dipping into Darkness. [face_nail_biting] Obi-Wan saved more than her literal life there. [face_relieved] This plot is also thickening with regard to the Codex. =D=
     
    pronker likes this.
  6. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Since I seemingly disappeared about 6 months ago, I just thought I'd let people know I'm not dead. I just got tied up with life, other things, and honestly, I forgot about the story for a few months. I am about to continue by posting some more chapters through. Should be either later today to tomorrow.
     
    pronker likes this.
  7. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 10

    Alberoth's plan to get Qui-Gon and Argoth to Eldin and inside the capitol building only proved to be partially successful. They made the five hour trip without incident, utilizing a troop transport filled with Elltiri soldiers who were sympathetic to the cause. Argoth talked with a number of them along the way, learning that many were followings orders because they could be shot for treason otherwise, but weren't very happy about the conflict. After another border war two years prior, many weren't eager to resume hostilities.

    Upon reaching Eldin, Qui-Gon and Argoth were hidden in built-in cargo compartments, and from there they could hear the soldiers talking outside the city. That morning Dhego's office had issued an order stating that no one was allowed in or out of the city without special orders, which included military. Their escorts had tried to argue that they needed to resupply and refuel, but were rebuffed anyway. Because of this they were forced to divert to a nearby town a few miles away. The soldiers apologized more than once after letting them out near a small forested area outside the city, while changing a tire that hadn't blown. This way they could take cover and avoid being seen.

    That left the two of them to find a way into a fortified city they had yet to even lay eyes on. Another potential problem was the town which they could see from the treeline, and with all the wanted posters it could be a problem. The transport left and Argoth began to think about how they were going to get to Eldin, and then inside the city itself. This mission seemed to be getting tougher by the day, and he was eager to bring the conflict to an end. About to ask Qui-Gon what the plan was, their attention was drawn by the sound of a small crowd approaching. The two quickly ducked down into some underbrush and watched quietly.

    It was a group of fifteen Elltiri soldiers escorting a group of people. There were men, women, children, and elderly. By Argoth's count there were some thirty in total. They stopped a short distance away, and his heart dropped when the soldiers lined up in front of them... it was a firing squad. That quickly changed to anger to even see something like this, and the padawan reached for his lightsaber. He was stopped when Qui-Gon placed a hand over his, and looking back his master pointed to an eye, an ear, and the group. It meant watch and listen. Not sure what was going on, he did as instructed.

    “Since these traitors decided to aid Talran rebels, we're going to make an example out of them,” the commander said.

    “Sir, shouldn't we take them to the detention center for questioning? We need to find out who's guilty and who's not.” Another soldier said. He was the only other one not in line. The people gathered in front of them were terrified, and looking around for anything or anyone that might be able to help them. Argoth wasn't about to let something like this happen if he was able to stop it, and he determined that if the soldiers in the firing squad raised their weapons, he would attack. Qui-Gon physically tackling him would be the only thing that would stop the padawan.

    “You have your orders soldier, carry them out,” the commander said. There was a long silence as the soldiers in the firing line looked at one another. The other soldier started to walk toward the firing line, then stopped. Hands clenching into fists he turned around.

    “No sir!” the second soldier said.

    “What did you say?” the commander said.

    “I said no, I will NOT be party to a massacre. This is wrong!”

    “In case you've forgotten, General Dehgo has suspended the Constitution for the duration of the war.”

    “Screw this,” the second soldier said, then drew his sidearm and shot the commander dead. “And screw you. I'm a soldier, not a murderer.” Much to Argoth's surprise, the soldiers in the firing line nodded, seemingly approving of the little rebellion. Holstering the weapon, the soldier ordered the civilians be taken to the detention center for questioning. As the soldiers started to leave, the one who had shot the commander continued to stand there. With a sigh the blaster pistol was holstered, and the helmet removed.

    To Argoth's surprise it turned out to be a woman, despite her armor not having any chest protrusions. Her short, dirty blonde hair framed an average face that was rugged and devoid of make-up. She looked down at the helmet for a time, then tossed it aside and walked toward the tree line close to where they were. Argoth also knew what was going on. The soldier had just shot and killed a superior officer. In just about any army that was an offense that would likely have the perpetrator court-marshaled and shot themselves.

    The padawan nearly did a double take as the soldier walked by less than a dozen yards away, and Qui-Gon stood up. Hearing the rustle of the underbrush she looked over and gasped, reaching for her pistol. Before the hand was able to grip the weapon, Argoth was standing as well, hand extended, keeping the weapon in the holster.

    “Don't be afraid, we mean you no harm,” Qui-Gon said. The soldier stood there, taking stock of the two of them, and finally let go of the pistol handle.

    “You're those two Jedi that everyone's looking for, the Talran sympathizers.”

    “The only ones we're sympathizing with are those who want this conflict brought to an end,” Qui-Gon said. “My name is Qui-Gon Jinn, and this is my padawan, Argoth.”

    The soldier folded her arms and continued to eye them suspiciously. “Adora Hightower, Second Delat, Elltiri Army, or at least I used to be.” While Qui-Gon explained the situation and their mission to reach General Dehgo, Argoth remained alert in the event Adora tried anything, but she didn't. The explanation detailed the original reason for their arrival, the attack in orbit, and everything that brought them to where they were now. Adora relaxed a little after that, and seemed interested in their mission now.

    “So you're trying to get to General Dehgo to try and bring this war to an end? Do you know how crazy that sounds?”

    “Got better idea?” Argoth said.

    “No, I suppose I don't,” Adora said, sighing gently. “I take it since we're having this conversation, you think I can help somehow?”

    “We're trying to get into Eldin,” Qui-Gon said. “But General Dhego has sealed off the city. We were hoping that you might know a way in.” Adora looked up into the tress and thought about it, shaking her head a few times while mumbling. It seemed almost like the soldier was having a private conversation in her head, reviewing possible options. While many might consider talking to one self to be a sign of mental instability, there were times Argoth considered the only means by which to get an intelligent answer, because he always knew exactly what he was thinking.

    “Go sewers?” Argoth said.

    “Does this look like an action-vid?” Aroda said. “The sewers around Eldin have full security systems, access gates, and cameras. If we tried to use the sewers, they'd send half the soldiers in the city after us.”

    “Crappy way to go.” Adora ignored the joke, and Qui-Gon just looked down at his apprentice, arching an eyebrow.

    “The only possible way I can think of is the airfield,” Adora said, looking over at them. “Tarn is the largest local medical supplier for the hospital. With the war on they make deliveries almost every day.”

    “Can you get us in there?” Qui-Gon said.

    To that Adora only laughed, “I just committed treason by shooting my commanding officer, and you want me to go back in there?”

    “Do you want to end this war?” Qui-Gon said. There was no response to that at first, and she looked between them and back toward the city, seemingly unsure of how to answer. Argoth could feel both indecision and a measure of fear. It took a moment for Adora to steel her resolve, and finally sighed.

    “Wait here, there's no way the two of you can get onto the airfield with your faces plastered everywhere,” Adora said. “I'll see if there are any friendly faces I can talk to. If I'm not back in an hour, that probably means I'm dead.” Adora left without another word after that, and while Argoth didn't like the idea of just waiting around for someone to possibly help them, they didn't have many other options at this point. He also wasn't sure if she would simply turn them in or not. Normally he could sense a person's emotions and intent when in close proximity, but such wasn't always the case with soldiers. They were trained to suppress their emotions, which could at times interfere with his empathetic abilities.

    Because of the fact Qui-Gon hadn't raised any objections, he remained silent as well. The two waited in the bushes, quietly hoping that everything would go well. More than once both master and padawan exchanged glances, but Qui-Gon always seemed to remain hopeful that things would turn out well. As time passed they continued to wait, and Argoth nearly wore the spring out on the lid of his pocket chrono, checking the time. The agreed upon hour elapsed without any sign of Adora, but still they continued to wait.

    To pass a bit of time, Argoth asked what they would do if she didn't come back, and Qui-Gon replied the only thing they could, walk to Eldin and try to find a way in. When another hour passed and the sun began to set against the horizon, Argoth gave up hope of Adora's return. Even Qui-gon seemed resigned to walking, and after a final half hour passed, they both stood and walked further into the trees to wait for nightfall. They were both overtaken by a huge gust of wind and the sound of turbines, and looked up to see a transport flying so low it was almost skimming the tree tops. When it landed on the other side of the area they were in, the two quickly dashed in that direction. The vessel was small and boxy in appearance, with two large yellow cargo containers on the either side. They found the side door facing them open, and Adora sitting in the pilot seat. As soon as they climbed in, she looked back and put a finger over her lips, they both kept silent.

    “Transport 113, why have you landed without authorization?” a voice said over the comm-system.

    “I'm having trouble with the engine's primary intake manifold, I think it's jammed,” Adora said.

    “Again?” the voice said, sighing audibly. “You want me to have a repair team come look at it?”

    “Uh, let me run a system diagnostic and see if that'll clear it up.” Adora did run a system diagnostic, then tapped a button in front of her. “Whadda ya know, all good now.”

    “Copy that 113, have the guys in the shop look at it when you get to Eldin,” the voice said.

    “Copy, over and out.” Once the line closed, she looked back at them. “I'm going to have to take off sharpish or they might get suspicious, so listen and don't complain. The only way I can sneak you in, is inside the cargo containers. You'll end up inside a warehouse, and hopefully they won't inventory you too soon. Wait for night shift to show up before you try to leave, the crew it pretty small.”

    The idea of hiding in a cargo container wasn't a very pleasing one for Argoth, but they both nodded and got out again. When Adora popped the hatches on either side, they each squeezed into one of them, and closed it behind them. When the transport took off, the ride was anything but pleasant. The vehicle itself seemed in need of a complete overhaul, and Argoth was constantly being poked and jostled by moving boxes. There in the darkness of the cargo container where no one could hear, he spent nearly the entire trip complaining. Thankfully it didn't take long to reach Eldin, and he let out a small sigh of relief at the thump of the landing gear touching down.

    There was some muffled talking outside, followed by the sound of machinery whirring, then a small thump as something grabbed the cargo container. They were moved elsewhere, and following another thump, silence fell. With that Argoth let out a small sigh, and finally allowed himself to relax at little, at least mentally. Physically he still felt like a sardine jammed into a can. It wasn't easy to meditate, but he managed to do so after a time, and focused on the Force. Through it he could not only feel Qui-Gon nearby, but the other people in the warehouse as well. He remained like that for what seemed like hours, only getting vague empathic sensation from his master. They were those of peace, calm, and tranquility.

    Instead of being annoyed by all of this, Argoth took his time, and practiced his Force abilities. In this regard he tried to focus on the people in the warehouse to get a better read on them, and sense what they were feeling. His abilities in this regard were still too unrefined to pick up anything aside from a general sense of boredom. Argoth was also able to tell when night shift arrived, by sensing most of the people leaving. By his own count there might have been half a dozen, and that's when the feeling of needing to move came through the Force. Qui-Gon's abilities in this regard were a lot better, and Argoth knew he needed to move quickly.

    Not even sure of his directional orientation, the padawan finally managed to pop the container's hatch and was thankful to be facing upward. They were in a large warehouse with huge metal bin shelves that had hundreds of cargo pods stacked five deep. Two shelves to the left another hatch popped open, and Qui-Gon appeared. Together they closed them and quickly regrouped. Instead of speaking and risking being overheard, they used sign language. Qui-Gon indicated they needed to find an exit and get their bearings as soon as possible, which Argoth agreed with. As quietly as possible they moved through the warehouse, trying to find their way out.

    Nearing the corner of one of the aisles, they heard the sound of talking, and quickly ducked behind some cargo containers in one of the bins. It turned out to be two employees, and it sounded like they were talking about sports, completely oblivious to Jedi's presence. When the was clear, Argoth started to step out, then Qui-Gon tapped him on the shoulder and pointed. Following the finger, he could barely see some lighted red lettering between some other containers. After a peak around the corner, he was relieved to see that it was the word 'EXIT' written in Basic. That relief quickly faded when they reached the door.

    In large letters there was a warning, it said that opening the emergency exit would sound an alarm. Frustrated by this, Argoth signed, asked if Qui-Gon knew how to disarm the alarm. He responded possibly, and stepped closer to the door. Because the alarm was meant to alert others to an emergency, rather than as part of a security system, the small box was attached to the side of the door frame. Prying the plastic cover loose, he studied the circuitry inside, then raised a hand. As Argoth watched, Qui-Gon moved his fingers around gently, and some of the components began to move as well. The eternity that it took, which was closer to twenty seconds, passed slowly, then the red light inside turned green. That brought a grin to Argoth's face, and a touch of professional jealously, as he couldn't control the force with that level of finesse. The door opened and closed without a sound, and they exited into a rather chilly Eldin night.

    “Going somewhere?” The sound of the voice brought both of them around to see Adora leaning against the wall with her arms folded. The name tag over her left breast was different as well, it read Boggs.

    “How did you know we'd leave this way? Qui-Gon said.

    “There are only two exits to the warehouse, and I doubted you'd try the front door. So, shall we?” Adora said. Qui-Gon gave a small nod, and the three of them set out. Argoth knew why his master hadn't given her the 'it's too dangerous' speech. Adora was a trained soldier, and she knew the lay of the capitol better than either of them. Seeing Eldin from ground level made Argoth think of Coruscant. There were sky scrapers reaching so high into the sky, that he had to strain to see the tops in the darkness. Even at night the buildings were specked with lights, many of the with signs atop them, offering a variety of goods and services, advertised by a number of scantly clad women. Even the traffic, both on the ground and in the air, remained steady. That view quickly changed as Adora pried a manhole cover loose in one of the alleys.

    “I thought you said the sewers had security systems,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Around the edge of the city yes, but on the inside it's just a bunch of nasty sewers,” Adora said. “Besides, there aren't really any safe places nearby to run off to if someone spots the two of you.” Not too excited to be going down into the sewers, Argoth was the last one down, and closed the cover behind them. Upon reaching the walkway that ran along the sides of the tunnel, the padawan tried to plug his nose, but wasn't fast enough. Smelling the river of waste, he leaned forward and threw-up into it. Argoth's sense of smell was slightly better than the average human, which only made this all the worse. It took a moment for him to suppress the nausea and desire to throw-up a second time, and following a small nod, they continued.

    The sewers were dark, wet, and the stench was so rancid that all Argoth could think about was getting out. Even having to clean bathrooms at the temple for misbehaving, was a walk in the park compared to this. Adora lead the way, taking them through one dark tunnel after another, but it was obvious she wasn't too familiar with the sewers either. Every so often she would climb a ladder bolted to the wall, and lift the manhole cover just enough to get her bearings before they continued. Argoth tried to distract himself thinking about how they would stop Dehgo once they got t him.

    This continued for the next hour before they arrived under the building in question. Now they had to figure out how to get in, because there was no conveniently unguarded manhole cover for them to sneak out of. While Qui-Gon and Adora discussed the security measures that were in place, and how to possibly circumvent them, he looked at a series of pipes nearby. By his own estimation the First Minister's Building wasn't that far above them. The conversation between soldier and master came to an end when Argoth held out a hand and a lightsaber flew into it, only this time it was Qui-Gon's.

    For this he would need a blade longer than what was produced by a shotosaber, and igniting the green blade, he began to cut a circle directly through the concrete. Almost immediately the blade began to spark and spit as he ruptured more than one water line, fortunately it wasn't tainted with waste. Getting something of an impromptu bath, he completed the circle, but the concrete didn't fall. The foundation was thicker than he thought, but using the force he ripped it loose, the large chunk slamming into the floor after he stepped back.

    The water was gushing by now, so Argoth called upon the force one last time to crush the pipes. Now drenched from head to toe, he stood on the chunk of foundation and finished cutting the hole without any difficulty. Shutting the lightsaber off, he handed it back to Qui-Gon, then looked up seeing what looked like a bathroom stall.

    “Those lightsabers sure are handy for making doors,” Adora said.

    “Among other things,” Qui-Gon said, offering a little smirk. It didn't take long for the small group to make their way up into the bathroom. Now came the hard part, getting to General Dehgo without setting off every alarm in the compound. Once the three climbed up into the bathroom, Argoth immediately noticed something was wrong. Pushing the door open, he looked around seeing nothing but stalls, mirrors, sinks, and a tile floor. It was as if there was a thickness in the air, it was oppressive, and Qui-Gon seemed to sense it as well.

    Adora was looking around carefully, sidearm in hand, but didn't seem otherwise disturbed. That made it fairly clear she had the force sensitivity of a doorstop. Argoth exchanged a look with his master finally realizing what he was sensing... it was the lingering sensation of the Dark Side. Now even more careful than before, Argoth stepped forward and carefully opened the door just enough to see out, with Qui-Gon doing so over top of him as well.

    There were four dead soldiers in the hallway, three of them still had their sidearms in the holster, and he could see long burns in the wall. They were struck down by a lightsaber, and from the look of things, it happened so fast, three of them fell before even knowing what was happening. Whoever they had sensed earlier... was here. From the burnt smell that still lingered in the hall, they attacker couldn't have been through more than a few minutes prior. Stepping out into the hall, he looked in the other direction seeing three more dead soldiers as well, weapons still holstered.
     
  8. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 11

    In a cloud of wood and plaster, Obi-Wan crashed through the roof of the livingroom were Goris and the security officers were talking. Tumbling across the floor he hit the opposite wall as Fifth dropped down through the hole. Still dazed from a powerful force push, Rahna was trying to clear her senses. Goris disappeared into the house as the security officers drew their blaster pistols. Intent on taking the Codex, Fifth was focused on her opponent and didn't even look at them. When the scream of blaster fire ripped through the air, the bolts were deflected with what seemed like casual waves of the red lightsaber. The security officers grunted and yelled as they were struck down by their own weapons.

    Rising to her feet, Rahna quickly learned that Fifth's size wasn't just for show, she knew how to use it and possessed considerable strength both physically and in calling upon the Force. The moment she attacked there had been a large surge in dark side energy. As Obi-Wan was recovering, Rahna jumped down through the hole and leapt at Fifth, weapon overhead to strike. The woman's arm shot back causing the girl to gag as she was force choked, then slung at her master like a projectile. Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber to avoid hurting her, and the two of them crashed through the wall into the yard beyond.

    Outside the lightsaber duel that erupted was a vicious one, with blades popping and hissing as they crashed against each other. Obi-Wan and Rahna stood together, side by side. At first they tried to attack at the same time. She came in aiming to slash at a knee to disable their opponent, while Obi-Wan aimed for the weapon arm. Fifth swung her blade down, smashing it into Rahna's hard enough to push the girl off balance and halt the offensive, then blocked his attacks. When Rahna tried to attack again, Fifth utilized her considerable reach and grabbed the girl by the face. The red lightsaber was then tossed into the air.

    Obi-Wan was able to throw his arms up and brace against the force push that followed, but was still slid back by the impact. Slow to react as the face grab confused her, Rahna was whipped overhead and slammed into the ground. The impact knocked the wind out of her, as did the heel to stomach as Fifth walked on her. Fifth grabbing the lightsaber as it came down, and continued to focus on attacking Obi-Wan. It was quickly becoming obvious that their opponent had been specifically trained in a manner that utilized both her size and strength.

    Being slammed into the ground and then walked on like a doormat was painful, enough so that Rahna was left coughing and trying to recover. She could also feel Obi-Wan drawing on the force to increase his speed and reaction time. Coming at Fifth with a flurry of swings, it was the first time since their fight started, that she was put on the defensive. Now their overly large opponent was stepping back rather than forward. She was able to defend herself, but it was taking an effort to do so. Their blades were clashing with incredible speed, then all at once it stopped.

    Fifth's head came down when there was a small opening, and slammed into Obi-Wan's with a dull clunk. He was almost knocked out by the blow and Rahna, nearly recovered, rose to her feet to defend him. As it turned out there was no need to. Fifth reached into his robe and took the Codex, and with a burst of force speed she was gone, having disappeared into the city nearby. Rahna was in no shape to pursue, and feared it wouldn't do any good anyway. Staggering over to where Obi-Wan was, they both took time to recover. Once his senses had returned, they got up and walked back into the house to check on the planetary security officers that were sprawled everywhere.

    Rahna was surprised to find that no one had been killed. Fifth had deflected the blaster bolts, striking shoulders, arms, and legs. They were all injured, but would eventually recover with proper treatment. The house was a mess, everyone was hurt, but even worse they'd lost the Codex. It was enough to make Rahna want to scream, coming so close, only to have their prize snatched away by some stranger. The sound of sirens could already be heard in the distance as emergency services were en route. They had been called by Thrad who had a comlink in one hand. He was leaning against a wall with a rather nasty looking blaster wound in his other shoulder.

    Obi-Wan and Rahna stayed long enough to make sure that everyone would be alright, and gave Goris information on how to contact the Jedi Council. They were responsible for destroying a large portion of the man's house after all, so it was only right he be compensated. She was just glad he was too shocked by everything that had happened, to think about asking why they were there in the first place. Planetary security retrieved the two vehicles at the home, and gave them both a ride back to Aldera City. Once they were dropped off outside the front gates of the palace, Rahna finally let out a small sigh.

    “I can't believe we failed.”

    “Did we?” She looked up at her master, not sure what he meant by that. Fifth made her look like a complete idiot in battle, bested him, took the Codex, and now they had been dropped off on the palace doorstep empty handed.

    “She took the Codex, we've got nothing.”

    “Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that.” Reaching into his robe, Obi-Wan held a fist out to Rahna, opened it, and there in the palm of his hand was the crystal from inside the Codex. Her eyes widened in surprise, wondering when he'd had the time to palm it. This was a complete reversal of fortune, which caused her to grin realizing Fifth had taken what amounted to an empty housing. “Not only that, think back to the conversation before the fight. What did we learn from that?”

    Her mind raced thinking about the words that were exchanged, trying to pick out any information that might help them. “Let's see... Fifth knows the assassin whom she called Second, uh... they were dressed in a similar fashion. Oh, and she referred to Second as a woman.”

    Putting the crystal back into his robe, Obi-Wan held up a finger. “You're right on all counts, but you're missing something, and it's quite possibly the most important of all.”

    Holding an elbow with one hand, she used the other to rub her chin and think. She mentally reviewed the conversation more than once, trying to pick up any important detail. Then her mind seemed to start putting the pieces together. That was when Rahna realized it wasn't what had been said, but what the conversation itself had implied. Hand lowering from her chin, Rahna looked to her master.

    “What about First, Third, and Fourth?”

    “Exactly. The code names seem to indicate a ranking structure of some sort which means...”

    “Whoa, we could be dealing with an entire group. Not good.”

    “No it's not. The Council will need to know about this, but first we have to deal with the Codex situation.” It peaked Rahna's curiosity when Obi-Wan didn't meet with the Queen immediately. Instead they went to the landing pad where their shuttles were, and he climbed inside. While working on something that she couldn't see, he asked Rahna to send a message to Queen Organa, informing her that they had the Codex, and that the leaders of the various noble houses needed to be called together so that they could bring this matter to rest.

    She did as requested, then returned to the shuttle and waited for him to finish. The only thing that she knew for sure was that he accessed the archives back on Coruscant for some reason. Every time the Jedi encoded a signal, it made a very specific series of beeps. It was easy to recognize if one knew what to listen for. It also came as no surprise when atmospheric shuttles began to descend upon the palace some time later. They were all expensive in design with crests painted on the side. The only one she readily recognized was the silver dragon which represented House Tanaka.

    When Obi-Wan climbed down from the shuttle he was stuffing something into his robe. For her part, Rahna wasn't sure what her master planned to do, but would support whatever decision he made. Approaching the palace, they were greeted by a contingent of honor guard that walked them through the brightly lit halls of white marble, making quite a show of things. Being the center of attention like this made Rahna feel uncomfortable, but considering what was at stake here, it made sense Breha would want to make a scene out of this.

    The young Jedi tried to see this from the Queen's point of view, and started to understand the importance of what was happening. The situation had nearly spiraled out of control when the Codex was lost. Queen Breha had in turn contacted the Jedi for help in this matter. It was her plan, for the duration of the mission they were representatives of the Queen, and her reputation that was on the line if anything went wrong. The guards stayed outside when they stepped into a large circular meeting room. It was surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows that offered a lovely view of the countryside.

    The view wasn't what Rahna was focused on, it was every eye in the room being on them. There were dozens, perhaps a hundred nobles gathered together around the outside of the room. In the center were Bail and Breha, standing next to a wooden table. The nobles were mostly human, with a few other species mixed in, and were decked out in their finest clothing and jewelry. To Rahna it looked like a gold and silver rainbow. Trying to puff herself up a little to look as formal and dignified as possible, she walked to the center of the room with Obi-Wan.

    “Your majesties,” Obi-Wan said, as they both bowed.

    “Master Kenobi, I am to understand that you have the Codex in your possession?” Breha said.

    “That's correct.” Reaching inside his robe, a holocube was produced and set on the table. It was a palm sized device made of metal and crystal that was used to store information. Similar to a holocron in that it was a data storage medium, it was less sophisticated, and didn't require one to be force sensitive to activate. The nobles walked closer and some of them began to talk amongst themselves, then one stepped away from the crowd. He was an older man in a blue and gold silk shirt and trousers, with a head devoid of hair on top, and a long white beard and mustache.

    “How can we be sure that this is the Codex, after all none of us know what it looks like,” the man said.

    “I can assure you, it is the Codex,” Obi-Wan said.

    The man started to say something else, only to have Breha cut him off. “Earl Langer, surely you are not suggesting the Jedi would seek to deceive us in this matter.”

    Rahna could tell that very thing was likely going through his mind, but the Queen had made it clear she would not abide any argument on the matter, so the Earl backed down. When Bail reached down and activated the cube, it displayed a holographic image that was garbled by a cipher... a Jedi cipher. Rahna recognized it immediately, and realized they were doing the very thing that Earl Langer was concerned about. That must have been why Obi-Wan had established a connection with the archive in the fighter. He was downloading and encoding information. She didn't know what he was up to, but there must have been a good reason, so she kept quiet.

    “How do we know this is the information we're concerned about? With it encrypted like this, it's impossible to tell what's on there.” The speaker was an older woman with short blond hair and a rather loud red dress.

    “Baroness, would you prefer I have the information decoded and sorted through to make sure everything is in order?” Breha said. The Baroness pursed her lips, but refrained from saying anything else after that. When Bail held a hand up and snapped his fingers, one of the guards in the room stepped forward. The Prince then took the blaster pistol from the soldier's holster and began to adjust the power setting. This caused everyone else to take several steps back. Bail looked around the room at the nobles who were assembled there, then aimed the pistol at the cube and fired a single round. The holocube was incinerated instantly, leaving a large hole in the table and a black score mark on the floor below. Many of the nobles clapped and seemed content with the idea their secrets were safe once more, though some still looked around suspiciously. They also cast some unfriendly glances in the Jedi's direction, but kept quiet.

    With the matter of the Codex settled, Bail and Breha thanked both of them and while the nobles seemed to be socializing with one another after the fact. Obi-Wan said something about needing to inform the Council about the mission, and they made a hasty, but polite, exit. There were quite a few questions going through Rahna's mind, but she waited until they were back on the landing pad before saying anything. Even then she kept her voice low.

    “Earl Langer's concerns weren't unfounded were they?”

    “No, they weren't. I didn't like dealing with the situation like that, but our conversation with Fifth also confirmed my original suspicion. There's more information on that crystal than just political secrets, and we need to know what it is.” Rahna considered the matter and nodded a little, agreeing that this went beyond simple planetary politics. In thinking about the matter, they already knew that Second and Fifth were both force sensitive and well trained in the use of a lightsaber. It only stood the reason that Third and Fourth, if they existed, would be as well. If the Lightsaber Assassin was Second, who was First? That would most likely be the leader of their little group, and someone Rahna would very much like to learn more about.

    Meeting Fifth had made this entire situation much more complicated than it had originally been. She had come with Obi-Wan simply to recover a relic, and now they were trying to uncover information on a group of people that could be a potential threat. He gave the Council a brief message to let them know the situation on Alderaan had been handled, but there was more they needed to talk about, in person. On the trip back to Coruscant, Rahna thought about everything that had happened, and tried to put it together in her mind. There was more going on here than she could see, that much was obvious. Who were these people and what were they after? While thinking to herself, Rahna paused long enough to realize she was stroking her chin like Obi-wan did when he was deep in thought. She smiled a little and went back to mulling things through.

    The more Rahna thought about it, the more she began to wonder about the assassinations. There was likely some logic to it, but they would need to learn more about Second and Fifth if they were going to uncover their motives. Thinking back to the fight with Fifth, she also remembered the woman didn't use a lightsaber style she was familiar with. It seemed to be custom tailored to her unique size and abilities. Then there was the rather odd fact that no one at Goris' house had been killed. As much as she didn't want to admit it, the headbutt had knocked Obi-Wan senseless to the point Fifth could have killed him, but she didn't. There were just too many unknowns to make any sort of sense out of this right now. Her contemplation was deep enough that she thought about it all the way through the briefing that Obi-Wan gave about the events on Alderaan. In the council chambers she was light years away until Obi-Wan gave her a gentle nudge. Snapping back to reality she looked around at the circle of masters.

    “Is there anything else that you wish to add to the report?” Mace said.

    “No, nothing else,” Rahna said. She continued to think about it on the way down the hall, trying to see if there was anything else that she had missed.

    “Your hair's on fire,” Obi-Wan said. Without even thinking, Rahna reached up and touched her hair, then everything sunk in and she looked over at him with a mildly annoyed expression.

    “I'm just... trying to make sense out of what happened. Fifth changed everything.”

    “I know, but so far we don't know enough about what they're up to.”

    “I'm going to the archives to check on something.”

    “Alright, I need to take this crystal to the Communication's Center to be analyzed.” In the archives Rahna began to look up known dark side orders. There were the Sith who had died out nearly 1,000 years ago. The Nightsisters of Dathomir couldn't travel off world without help and usually kept to themselves. The Jedi knew of the existence of the Prophets of the Dark Side, if not their location, but this didn't seem to fit for them. They were a religious order and, surprisingly enough, not prone to excessive violence. Both Bando Gora and the Sorcerers of Tund had been destroyed. Her research stalled rather quickly, leading to a dead end and considerable frustration.

    After reading through a small stack of books, she sat there, arms folded, thoroughly stumped on the matter. Nothing about this made any sense to her, and the pieces still weren't fitting together. Her thoughts were disrupted by the sense of a strong presence very close by, and Rahna turned around to see Yoda. He was seated on the small hover chair he normally used, and looking at her with a serene expression.

    “Master Yoda?” Rahna said, not sure why he was staring at her.

    “Troubled you are,” Yoda said. That was something that most Jedi would likely be able to pick up on, and it was quite accurate.

    “It... It's nothing really, just some stuff I was mulling over about the mission.” She gave Master Yoda a friendly smile and turned back around. The feeling of being watched didn't go away, and after a moment she looked over her shoulder, Yoda was still there, staring at her.

    “If you do not share your thoughts, help, others cannot.”

    “Sorry Master, I just... I didn't think anyone would take me seriously,” Rahna said, turning to face him once more.

    “Seriously, the concerns of a Jedi should always be taken. Listening, I am.”

    Still a bit unsure of voicing her concerns, she finally decided to trust Master Yoda. After all he had always taken her seriously in the past when they'd talked. “It's about what happened with Fifth. Whenever I spar with someone at the temple, I can usually tell what lightsaber forms they're using, but her... She was very well trained in using a lightsaber, but it wasn't any form I've ever seen. Master, even the Sith used variations of the seven forms.

    Not to mention the code names used, Fifth and Second. What about First, Third, and Fourth? If said individuals do exist, it would stand to reason they're force users as well. That means it doesn't fit Sith doctrine about the Rule of Two. Fifth drew upon the dark side but, she didn't kill anyone during our fight. The planetary security officers, me, or Obi... and she could have. None of this makes any sense, and it has me worried.”

    “Unknown lightsaber style you say? Interesting, that is. Never be afraid to speak, listen to you, others will, and your concerns, shared they are.” When Yoda floated away, it did make Rahna feel a lot better to get that off her chest, and know she wasn't the only one considering the same things.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
  9. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 12

    The three were nearly to Dehgo's office when Qui-Gon and Argoth felt a surge in the dark side of the Force. They looked at one another, then took off running with Adora trailing right behind them. They ran around a corner seeing a pair of double doors. There was blaster fire coming from inside the office, and they could hear it being deflected by a lightsaber. As they ran, both master and apprentice threw their hands out, unleashing a force push strong enough to knock the wooden doors down and send them sliding into the room.

    The office was nicely furnished with shelves, filing cabinets, and a few potted plants, but all attention was on the Duros general seated behind the large wooden desk. There was a lightsaber under his neck, bathing the nearby area in a crimson light. It was held by a small woman in an outfit identical to that of Fifth. The moment Adora saw the woman, she drew a blaster pistol and aimed. Without even looking at her, the Lightsaber Assassin raised a hand, causing the weapon to fly across the room, then threw the same arm forward. Adora was launched back, bouncing off the wall in the hall, and hit the floor in an unconscious heap.

    Argoth could feel the dark side of the Force radiating off the masked woman in waves. It was powerful enough that even he could feel the emotions behind it. Hate, anger, rage, it forced him to take a step back. This was the first time Argoth had felt the dark side and it nearly made him wretch. It took a good deal of effort on the part of the padawan, but he was able to shield himself against it, at least temporarily. Both Qui-Gon and Argoth were about to attack, when she stopped them cold with four words.

    “End this war, NOW!” The woman spoke with a clipped accent, like someone for whom Basic was not a first language. From the first time Argoth had sensed the disturbance in the force, he had thought that if it was from someone using the Dark Side, they would be behind the conflict, not trying to end it.

    “The only way I'll end this war is when every last Talran is dead!” Dehgo said, snarling at the woman.

    “Oh?” With her free hand, Second reached over pressing a series of buttons on the desk in front of Dehgo. This brought up a holographic image in a square window, which Qui-Gon and Argoth could see, albeit backwards. It was of a Duros woman and small boy. They were both bound to the wooden chairs they were sitting in. Behind them there was another person dressed like Second. The only thing they could make out was that they appeared quite broad.

    “Jursa?” the Duros woman said. “What's going on?” Anyone within eyesight of the situation could see that Dehgo's family was being held hostage. This caused the General to turn a few shades lighter, looking at the screen, then back to Second.

    “You monster, let them go! They have nothing to do with this.”

    “Order all Elltiri troops to withdraw from Talran territory and stand down, only then will your family live. Refuse, and you get to watch them die... slowly.” The tension in the room was thick enough to cut with a lightsaber as Dehgo glared at Second. There was a moment when Argoth thought he might refuse, even with the lives of his family on the line. When Dehgo finally let out a defeated sigh, the lightsaber was lowered and deactivated as Second stepped back. The image of his family was moved to one side, and with a few more button taps, another comm-line was established.

    “This is General Jursa Dehgo. I'm hereby issuing an executive order for all Elltiri forces to withdraw from Talran territory. All Elltiri forces are to stand down and await further orders.” Once the order was given and the comm-line terminated, he looked to Second. She in turn walked back to the desk and looked to the display of his family.

    “Did you get all that?”

    “Loud and clear.” When the other person pulled out a knife, everyone except Second started slightly, thinking the worst. The concerns were unfounded and the only thing it was used to do was slice through the ropes binding them. The Duros woman wasted no time in grabbing the child and running.

    “Remove the bounty on the Jedi as well.” With a few more button taps, Dehgo issued an order to remove the bounties. As he finished, Second ignited her lightsaber a second time, and before Qui-Gon or Argoth had time to react, she brought it up parting Dehgo's head from his shoulders, and sliced through the back of the chair he was sitting in. That was all they needed to see to leap into action. Lightsabers ignited, they took off running as Second dashed back down the side hall she had come from.

    The chase lasted until they reached the next room which was considerably larger. They ended up on the stage of a large auditorium that looked as though it was designed for heads of state to make public addresses. Out beyond the stage was row upon row of empty seating, and it was a good thing that no one else was there. Second spun to face her Jedi pursuers, pulled a second lightsaber, and ignited it. Throwing her arms out with the blades held underhand style, she stood there waiting. While his first instinct was to attack, Argoth stopped short, noticing that his master was waiting as well.

    The whole of his attention was on Second, and it soon became apparent why. The Dark Side energy flowing through their opponent was coming in waves. Her head twisted to one side, and Argoth wondered what she was doing. The stage floor cracked slightly underfoot, then she came forward with blinding speed, lashing out at both so fast they were forced onto the defensive. She danced between the two of them almost like it was child's play, and was soon on the other side. Her helmet had also split at the mouth, allowing her to breathe more freely. From that he could see black lips, pale skin, and normal teeth that were white.

    She flexed, holding both arms out to the side, and began to speak in a language Argoth didn't recognize. The words were short and clipped, and often rasped between bared teeth. This time she walked forward, spinning the blades around making a steady hum, then began to approach faster, and soon they were clashing blades again. Her style was fast and aggressive, pushing both of them back. Qui-Gon did more than defend, striking back a few times, only to be blocked, but it took everything Argoth had to defend himself and stay in one piece.

    It wasn't just Dark Side energy that he could sense, the emotions coming from Second were so powerful it was almost overwhelming. A white hot rage burned within her to the point it seemed difficult to control. It drove her to strike with speed and continue an offensive that would have quickly tired most. She spun around, twisting, turning, almost like a dance bringing both blades against her opponent. There was so much anger in her attacks, but it was one Argoth quickly learned wasn't out of control.

    Her movement was fast, graceful, and very deadly. If his defense faltered for even a moment, he could be cleaved in two. The Force energy she was drawing in also continued to grow, then Second back flipped away. Before Qui-Gon could say anything, he charged forward, only to soon realize it was a mistake. When she returned to a standing position, the Dark Side drew in suddenly, and leaning forward she let out a scream that would have put a banshee to shame.

    The flooring of the stage began to tear loose, the curtains tore, and the wall cracked as the force scream ripped through the auditorium like a shock wave. Argoth was hurled back through the air like a rag doll, and even with his ears covered, the attack brought Qui-Gon to a knee. Smashing through the door at the opposite end of the stage, he laid there dazed and confused. It felt like his brain had just been put through a blender, and his body was jello, jello that was in extreme pain. Joints ached, muscles spasmed, and it was even proving difficult to breathe properly.

    This brought about a pause in the battle, as Qui-Gon recovered himself, and Second seemed to be taking a breather as well. When the sound of lightsabers striking against one another reached Argoth's ears, he wanted to help, but his body would barely do more than twitch. The warm iron taste was a sign of a nosebleed as well. It was only when Argoth called upon the Force to help him that some voluntary movement returned. Once he began to do so, the paralysis slowly faded, but he still wouldn't be leaping straight back into the fight.

    With considerable effort, he reached out with a hand and called upon the Force again. It was difficult in the beginning, but with effort, he managed to rip a seat free from the front row and hurled it at Second. Still focused on Qui-gon, the makeshift projectile slammed into her halting the offensive as she stumbled to the side. The blow had done little to injure, and wheeling back with a spin, the weapons were held underhand style once more. When the fight resumed, Argoth tried to interrupt with another chair, but to no avail. As it sailed through the air, their opponent waved a hand casually redirecting it toward Qui-gon. He ducked and spun out of the way, coming up lightsaber at the ready. That little tactic was played out now.

    “If this is the best the Jedi Order has to offer, you have been found lacking.” With his muscles finally starting to recover, Argoth walked back toward the stage where the other two were standing, as was often the case, Qui-gon didn't engage in trash talking during a fight. He was focused on their opponent.

    <S>“Yeah yeah, whatever.”<S> Now ready to once again renew the fight, Argoth stood ready. When they were charged, Second surged forward, then flipped over them cutting her lightsabers off. They both looked up, expecting an attack, only to see that she'd disappeared. There was a ripple in the Force, indicating that she'd done something, but neither Argoth or Qui-gon had ever encountered something like this before. They could still feel her presence in the Force, and used that to give chase.

    Second was moving toward the roof quickly, so they began a quick ascent using the stairwell. On the way up, Argoth wasn't sure, but there were a few times he thought he saw a distortion of some sort moving up the stairs above them. He knew this was a force ability designed to fool the senses, but wasn't sure how to effectively counter it. Qui-gon kicked the door to the roof open, and they dashed out, sensing that she was close by. It was closer than they thought, 20 feet in front of them to be exact. Now the distortion was gone, and she could be seen plain as day again.

    “Funny, after all these years I never imagined I would see you again, here of all places,” Second said, her voice low and smooth.

    “Have we met before?” Qui-Gon said.

    “I wasn't talking to you.” Already preparing to attack that made Argoth hesitate, looking first to Qui-Gon, then her.

    “Don't listen to her,” Qui-Gon said. “She's just trying to get into your head.” They attacked in unison once more, coming in high and low at the same time. Second not only fended them off, she laughed while doing so, as if this were some sort of game to be enjoyed. Leaping over both of them, she flipped backward several times, coming to a stop in a kneeling position with one hand on the roof.

    “How does it feel to truly be one of a kind? Tell me little Jedi, have you been feeling hungry lately? Have the cravings been getting worse?” In the middle of charging forward, those questions brought Argoth to a dead stop and once again he looked to Qui-Gon, not sure how to react. Even his master seemed surprised by that, unsure of how to respond. There was no way she could have known about that... unless...

    <S>“What do you know about me? Tell me!”<S> The only response he received was more laughter, almost haughty in nature. Now Argoth had even more reason to fight than before as she could very well know something about who he was or where he came from, and with a growl he lunged. Second was skilled with a lightsaber and could hold her own against both of them, yet there was one thing she hadn't counted on.

    When Qui-Gon began to move in one direction, he moved in the other, trying to get her into a pincer attack. As this happened, Argoth intentionally made his attacks slow and easy to block. The idea was to have her focus on Qui-Gon as the serious threat. She spun back and forth defending and attacking. Second was about to flip out of the pincer attack when Argoth saw his opening. A hand came back and he didn't try to attack it with the lightsaber. That was the main thing most lightsaber combatants followed, the bright color of the blade. Instead he caught her forearm... in his mouth.

    It threw her completely off balance, and with an incredible bite force the armor began to twist and dent. He bit, she screamed, and Qui-Gon ended the fight. Knocking the other blade away, his green lightsaber came up to her throat, but stopped short of striking.

    “It's over, surrender,” Qui-Gon said.

    “And just how do you propose to arrest me, when you have your hands full with your padawan.” Turning her head to Argoth, Second spoke a single word. “Dochaka.” Argoth reeled back with a scream that rivaled the one Second had used. As she had predicted, Qui-Gon's attention shifted to the well-being of his padawan, giving her the chance to escape. It felt as though every nerve-ending in his body lit up all at once. The pain was unbearable, and unable to make it stop, Argoth began to thrash around. Qui-Gon tried to grab him, taking a backhand to the face for his effort.

    The pain continued to get worse as it felt like bones were breaking and muscles were tearing. Completely out of control, Argoth let out another shriek, this one growing much deeper in tone. Second had done something to him, but at this point his mind couldn't even comprehend the simplest of things. Thus Argoth did the only thing he knew how, he ran. Dashing across one rooftop after another, the world began to fade in a blur of color that was slowly turning to darkness.
     
  10. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Whoa. This is getting intense.
     
  11. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 13

    The mission to Alderaan had ended nearly five days ago, with both Rahna and Obi-Wan having exhausted what leads they had regarding Second and Fifth. Things seemed to have come to a dead end, and after a time, Rahna had put it out of her mind. There was nothing either of them could accomplish by dwelling on it. With the official report given to the council in hand, she read over it carefully, seated in her personal quarters. This was the third time this morning and there was still something that puzzled her. Obi-Wan had made no mention of her use of the Dark Side to defeat the Rancor.

    His official version had simply been that she'd fought and defeated a reanimated corpse. Revealing what had happened could have gotten her into trouble, and when Rahna thought about it, the council likely knew something was amiss. When Mace asked if she had anything else to add, she realized there was more to the question than what one might think. His gaze had been intense, more so than usual, as if he were asking something without directly asking. Her use of the Dark Side had the lingering effect of leaving Rahna shaken and uneasy. It had taken a lot of meditation and focus to recenter herself.

    The conversation with Obi-Wan about the incident hadn't been easy either. Largely because of her own guilt over nearly attacking him. As was often the case Obi-Wan had been consoling, but also very adamant that something like that never happen again. Advice about how to avoid such and how to resist the temptation were dispensed as well. Now not even reading the pad in hand, Rahna thought about something else that Obi-Wan had told her. It was how Asja had become his padawan. She'd known how, but the story related something else that Obi-Wan hadn't admitted to her before.

    Some years ago he had been on a mission with her Master, Jedi Knight Taza Min. Rahna remembered Taza, but had never talked with her very much. A human woman noted for her skill in diplomacy. Obi-Wan had been without a padawan at the time, and they had traveled to Corellia of all places, one of his first missions as a knight, to settle a dispute that was on the verge of breaking out into a violent conflict. Unfortunately even the skills of the Jedi couldn't say that particular day, and both sides did take up arms.

    The three had been caught in the middle, and confronted by a group of soldiers who were angry about their 'meddling' in local affairs. Outnumbered nearly five to one, the trio tried to calm the situation down, only to be attacked. They had managed to defeat the soldiers, and thinking the fight over, lowered their guard. As it turned out, one of the soldiers was still alive and had enough strength left to shoot Taza in the back. The shot pierced the woman's heart, killing her instantly. Not only did Obi-Wan lose someone who had been a dear friend, he did something no Jedi ever should. Seeing his friend die, Obi-Wan swung his lightsaber and struck the guard down in anger.

    That was the first time her master had ever spoken of his own brush with the Dark Side. It shocked Rahna because she'd always pictured Obi-Wan as a model Jedi. She realized it was a bit of a childish idolization, but it was still with her to a degree. In the end she had to admit that the capacity for evil existed within everyone. What it all boiled down to was choice, and what impulses or desires someone chose to act upon. Rahna had emotions just like anyone else, but until the encounter with the Rancor, she'd never thought herself capable of such violence. That there was a part of her capable of relishing such destruction was still a frightening realization. It also polarized her determination never to let something like that happen again.

    What Master Yoda had warned her of was true, the Dark Side was tempting. Even now she could still hear it trying to whisper in the back of her mind. The power would be so easy to call upon, hers to command, to do with as she pleased. The problem was that it also fed upon emotions like fear, pain, and hate. In order to have that power, she would have to give into those emotions, and become the very thing she detested.

    “Where are you Rahna?” Obi-Wan said. Taking the comm-link from her belt, she answered.

    “I'm in my quarters, what's up?”

    “I just received word the crystal's been decoded, Master Lurma is about to address the council and has requested our presence.”

    “I'll meet you there.” Now Rahna's curiosity began to turn to concern. If Master Lurma had called a council meeting, what she discovered must have been of considerable importance. Wasting no time, he headed toward the spire where the council met, and encountered Obi-Wan along the way. The two exchanged a small glance, but said nothing. Upon entering the council chamber, all of the masters were gathered, along with Lurma, the Jedi the crystal had been turned over to for decryption. They yellow skinned Mirailan woman turned to them and offered a small nod as they walked in.

    “Master Kenobi, Rahna, thank you for being so prompt.” Lurma was holding a palm sized holo-display in one hand, but had yet to activate it. “The reason I called this meeting is to discuss the contents on the crystal that was recently recovered. However, before I begin, there are some rather interesting technical details I think everyone should be aware of.”

    With the click of a button, the hand held display activated, showing a holographic image of the Codex crystal. It was then magnified considerably, to bring into focus the small filaments that Rahna had noticed inside the mansion. The image was magnified again, over 100 times larger, and that was when she blinked in surprise. The filaments looked like tiny computers.

    “Is that a computer?” Shaak Ti said, leaning forward for a closer look.

    “No, it's a network of computers. This isn't a simple data crystal like I first thought, it's an entire archive containing more than fifteen times the information capacity of a normal crystal. I also discovered that it's artifical in nature.” That alone was shocking to Rahna, because she'd never heard of technology this small or complex before.

    “Who would be capable of producing something like this?” Plo Koon said. Now all attention was on the woman in the center of the room. With one short explanation, Lurma was now speaking before a captive audience.

    “To my knowledge, no one. This is more advanced than anything I've ever seen, let alone anything we have. I also didn't find any indication of where it was produced.”

    “What did you discover on the crystal?” Mace said. Manipulating the display, Lurma switched it and expanded the view to show a number of muted video clips, and what appeared to be documents, all from Alderaan.

    “The first thing I discovered was the information placed within the archive by Governor Tasid. The encryption wasn't that hard to break, and as Master Kenobi indicated, it's the dirty political laundry of the noble houses on Alderaan. Back room deals, scheming, the usual planetary politicking, though nothing we really need to be concerned with. It was what I found under that.

    Tasid's little additions were only a drop in the bucket. He also tried, and failed repeatedly, to crack the encryption on the second archive. This comes as no surprise as it took the work of myself, an entire team, and most of the resources in the communication center to crack this over the course of two days.”

    With that said, Lurma took the small display and placed it on the floor. Stepping back she manipulated the device with a small hand remote and set it to the widest possible display. Instead of saying anything else, she let the information speak for itself. With the press of a button, the display began to fill the room with video clips, information files, and profiles... all of the Jedi. Had this been a cartoon, it was at this point Rahna's jaw would have hit the floor with a resounding clang. This revelation was enough to bring several of the masters up out of their seats.

    This wasn't a few reports, or some simple clips. It was highly detailed information about the Jedi Order, it's members, missions, the ships they owned, configuration, armament, a great many things that could potentially be used against them. That was when Lurma opened the profile on Mace Windu. It contained numerous pictures, statistical information such as height, weight, eye and hair color, comments that he preferred use of the Form VII lightsaber style, and more. There was also a detailed list of numerous missions that he'd undertaken, as well as reports, and even some video clips of him during said outings. Mace wasn't pleased to say the least.

    As the masters stepped closer, Lumra brought up the profiles of each on of them, and moved it closer for them to inspect. Then she turned to face Rahna, and played a video clip of her standing with the other Jedi outside the transport on Corellia. It was the day they had recruited her, and someone had taken the video from some distance before zooming in.

    “How... how is this possible?” Obi-Wan said.

    “I think the more important question is who gathered this information.” Ki-Adi-Mundi said.

    “As to who, I can't say, but after pouring over the information with the rest of the team, there is one thing I've determined. It didn't come from within. There's no information, pictures, or reports about the temple interior, and some of the mission reports are missing details from times when it would be impossible to gather information without being noticed.”

    “How many members of the order have been monitored like this?” Mace said.

    “All of them.” After that a silence fell over the room, and Rahna felt her heart catch in her throat. Someone was gathering incredibly detailed information about the Jedi Order, and had managed to do so without being noticed. That would have taken a lot a time, manpower, and resources. As she looked around at the Jedi Masters, it was easy to see the concern on all of their faces. No one was speaking, which in many ways worried her even more.

    “How long have we been spied on like this?” Rahna said.

    “The first report was filed just over a decade ago.” There was another silence, only now the masters were looking at one another, seemingly at a loss for words. There were so many questions this revelation raised, it was hard to know where to begin. Who had gathered this information and why? What were their intentions? With this kind of observation, it was obvious someone had intentions, and if done in secret it didn't seem likely their motives were begnine.

    “Who is behind this mystery, learn, we must.” Yoda said.

    “While I don't know who, I have an idea of where,” Lurma said. “I managed to reconstruct the transmission codes on a number of the reports, all of which were routed through a communication relay on Ryloth.”

    “To where?” Shaak Ti said.

    “Your guess is as good as mine, they all went out into Wild Space.” There was little more to be said after that, and the council dismissed them to further discuss the matter. There was no doubt in her mind now that Fifth was up to something, and Second was most likely involved as well. Why were they gathering the information, what were they planning, and what was their next move. They needed to know more, but for right now there was nothing else to do. That alone was driving Rahna crazy. As she walked down the hall next to Obi-Wan, the padawan wanted to jump into a ship, head out to Ryloth, and try to find some answers.

    Rahna also didn't need to ask how Tasid was corrupted, because she knew. Before turning the crystal in, Obi-wan had let her hold it for a closer look. In doing so she could feel that it was suffused with Dark Side energy. It wasn't enough that it would pose a problem to one trained in the Force, like a Jedi for instance. Yet to a person who wasn't force sensitive, it could begin to slowly bring their baser instincts to the surface. That coupled with the fact that politicians weren't exactly known for being pillars of morality in the first place.

    “I'm going to go nuts, and please don't tell me about the virtues of patience. I'll be patient later, I want answers now.”

    “I'm not feeling particularly virtuous myself.” Rahna could tell that Obi-Wan was as disturbed by this as she was, then he stopped dead in his tracks. Staring at a lot of nothing, she could see the gears turning in his head. Instead of saying anything she stood in front of him, waiting. He would speak when all of the pieces fell into place, and when their eyes met, he smiled. Rahna already liked what he was going to say, before even hearing it. “If someone who was force sensitive had spent a decade spying on the Jedi, they likely would have been noticed by now.”

    “Meaning they used outside contractors.”

    “Local contractors?” Now at a near run, the two of them headed for the vehicle garage on the roof of the temple. Five minutes later they were soaring through the orange evening skies of Corscant, though it soon turned darker. Passing the thick lines of speeder traffic, they descended into the lower levels of the city. There were too many places to even list where one could find 'seedy characters', so it was really a matter of just picking somewhere. Rahna had no doubt that Obi-wan knew where they were going, but she didn't. This was going to be the padawan's first trip to the planet's underworld, but with her master close by, there was little concern on her part. Now it was more curiosity than anything else.

    The speeder came to a stop on a platform that was among buildings that were something of a contradiction. They were dark and dingy, yet boasted bright neon signs. The people here were far less affluent than those on the higher levels, and many had subtle but visible bulges in their clothing were weapons were only partly concealed. While not the ground levels, it was still a far cry from the temple. The platforms above also blocked the sun, leaving only artificial lighting to pierce the gloom that surrounded them. There were large crowds of people walking about and Rahna had no doubt they included pickpockets, so she locked the lightsaber clip around her belt loop as it was the only thing of value she carried.

    Their destination was an establishment called the Outlander Club. As they moved through the large open doorway they came to a bar area thick with patrons that were out to enjoy themselves. They were drinking, dancing, seated at tables scattered about, and others were at the bar. The lighting was low, but not dim, and a synthetic beat pulsed from overhead speakers. The air smelled of alcohol and death sticks. There were too many conversations to pick out one in particular, punctuated by laughter, though none of it was of interest to the mission at hand.

    Instead of going to the bar, Obi-Wan tapped Rahna on the shoulder and pointed to a booth against the wall. Seated alone was a middle aged human man who looked like a criminal to her. Busy eating a large steak, what hair remained was combed over in a poor attempt to cover his balding head, his suit was cheap and stained, and his shirt was improperly buttoned causing the left side of his collar to rise higher than the right. His jowled face was busy chewing away as a pair of beady eyes shifted about. The man's whole appearance and demeanor was that of someone who had a shoulder that was constantly looked over.

    She followed Obi-wan to the booth where he sat down and scooted over, leaving just enough room for her. The man immediately stopped eating and looked at both of them, eyes widening, yet he didn't move. He was already getting nervous just looking at them, as the only people on Coruscant who didn't recognize the robes were the dead. The man seemed more focused on her than Obi-Wan, likely as an unknown. Rahna already had an idea of how she was going to play this, and glared at the man, trying to appear as menacing as possible.

    “What- what do 'you' want?”

    “Did you really think we wouldn't find out?” Obi-Wan said, relaxing in his seat. The man started to look around nervously, his eyes shifting from side to side. That was when Rahna kneed the underside of the table causing him to jump slightly.

    “My master asked you a question.”

    “I don't know anything!” Instead of saying anything else, Obi-Wan began to quietly stroke his beard and just watched the man. When he started to shift closer to the edge of the booth, Rahna put a hand on the side of the table, bringing him to a stop.

    “Make a move, I dare you.”

    “Rahna, calm down. You don't want to go in front of the council again, especially after that arm incident last week.” Rahna shrank back a little, seemingly deflated.

    “They'll grow back...” After that Obi-Wan leaned forward resting his elbows on the table, and continued to stare at the man.

    “Look I'm serious, I don't know anything. I just sell stuff I find laying around.” That was a round about way of saying that he fenced stolen goods.

    “We know you know information brokers, and I think you know who I'm looking for.” At that the man went pale and tried to back into the booth. Rahna was still glaring, but didn't do anything else, knowing that Obi-Wan had struck a nerve. The man appeared on the verge of jumping out of his clothes, and tugged at his shirt collar.

    “Look, all I know is Vek and his entire network went dark yesterday. That's it!” This time he did stand up, took a few steps away, and turned to face them. “Oh yeah, you can go jump off a platform for all I care!”

    The little public display of defiance was to be expected, for the sake of appearances, and they let him go after that. A broker named Vek had disappeared, or gone dark, along with his associates. Considering the crystal had been in their possession for only a few days, the timing was rather convenient. She stood up and waited for Obi-Wan to scoot his way out. As her master walked toward the exit, a woman approached. She was scantly clad in a pink top, skirt, and matching boots, with short blonde hair and a pleasant face.

    “Excuse me young lady, are you a Jedi?”

    “Yes?” The woman didn't appear to have any hostile intent, and her clothing, or near lack of, left little in terms of places to hide weapons. Never the less, Rahna was rather suspicious, in part from the way the woman was looking at her.

    “Judging from your age, a padawan perhaps?”

    “What's that got to do with the price of comlinks?” Now having no clue as to why the woman had any interest in her occupation, the conversation was starting to take an uncomfortable personal direction. The personal part only got worse when the woman put a hand on her shoulder.

    “I've found the Jedi to be so... cloistered. I thought perhaps a padawan might be a little more open-minded? I've never had the pleasure of their company.” Leaning closer the woman smiled sweetly. “I've got a nice private little room down stairs if you're interested. Just the two of us?”

    In a split second, Rahna's eyes widened and she went from annoyed to stiff as a board. Still rigid, she started to quickly walk toward the door where Obi-wan was standing and watching. “Obi!”

    On the walk back to the speeder, neither of them said anything. Obi-wan no doubt got the gist of the little encounter from her reaction, which in some ways had been more disturbing than their fight with Fifth. She'd never even kissed anyone, at least on the mouth, let alone kept them 'company'. Rahna knew there were people in the galaxy like that, but it wasn't something that had ever crossed her mind. Not to mention at only 13, it was also illegal.

    As they flew back to the temple, the thought of the woman fell by the wayside as Rahna began to consider the subject in general. The first time she'd even taken notice of a male in terms of attractiveness she was 12. It didn't even involve anymore than that at the time either, she just thought he was rather handsome. The physical desires didn't start until about six months ago, but it was something that Rahna had never done much about. She had too many other concerns to deal with. While thinking it over, she also had to admit, they were getting stronger. More than a few times her mind drifted in the direction of a handsome young male, and some thoughts even drifted into more... intimate areas.

    The sex education class at the temple, specifically for younglings her age, had explained the subject in detail. Not in an explicit manner of course, but they did cover subjects like reproduction, one of the few classes that was species segregated, along with what to expect in terms of mental and physical development. It also warned of the dangers of immature younglings experimenting in this regard. Such activities could result in developing feelings of attachment, and as such were heavily discouraged. She also thought about how the code did forbid attachment and marriage, but it didn't technically say a Jedi couldn't have sex. It wasn't something openly talked about though. She'd heard of some Jedi that did indulge on occasion, though there were also those who were celibate.

    It was something Rahna found to be aggravating, the physical side. There were times she would try to concentrate on something, but the images of young males and urges were very distracting. To make matters worse she enjoyed it to a degree. Overall it was annoying, interesting, and confusing. With a bit of a sigh, Rahna found puberty to be a thorough pain in the backside. It was also a subject she was a little reluctant to talk about. Never the less a master was supposed to be the one person a padawan could turn to in order to discuss anything.

    “Master, can I ask a personal question?”

    “Of course.”

    “How old were you when you first started to notice... females?” As soon as she asked, Rahna blushed a little and looked away.

    “I was 14.” Still annoyed by the matter, she finally just blurted the whole thing out.

    “By the Force it's a pain in the butt. I'll be trying to work on my studies, or train, and I keep thinking about males. I don't even want to, but I do. I don't like it, but I do. Grraaah! It makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes.” As the speeder slowed to a stop on an even lower level of the city, this one without the bright neon signs, Obi-wan cut the engine.

    “What you're feeling is a natural part of growing up. You're becoming a young woman and these desires are natural. Just like you were taught to control your emotions, you'll have to learn to control your desires.” There was something else she wanted to ask, but almost couldn't bring herself to. Looking around as if worried that someone might overhear them, she leaned closer to Obi-wan.

    “Is it... fun?” Now it was Obi-wan's turn to appear a little uneasy.

    “It can be, but you're still far to young for things like that and we have an investigation to focus on.”

    “Of course,” Rahna said, immediately straightening up as the subject changed.
     
  12. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    I wasn't trying to do anything 'naughty' with Chapter 13 as an aside. I wanted to show how, even for a Jedi, puberty can be a real mind bender. I know it was for me once upon a long time ago.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  13. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    As a small aside, I don't use minichlorides in my story. I prefer the force be a more mystical and mysterious thing, rather than some sort of infection.
     
  14. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Nice going to include the other DS orders to give perspective and add to the mystery of Fifth and other ordinal numbers.:qui:

    I'll bet he doesn't even trash think.:greensaber:

    [face_love]

    [face_hypnotized]

    :zeb: Hair? Truly, truly an AU. *pictures Mace with hair*

    I'm enjoying your tale, keep it up! :)
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Riveting posts, so incredibly worried for Argoth! [face_nail_biting] Adora is a wonderful ally and Second is just Sithy!
    =D=

    Rahna's feelings are very natural and RL-ish ;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
    pronker likes this.
  16. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Actually Mace is still bald, though I imagine he shaves his head. It was just comment on what his hair color WOULD be if he didn't shave.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
    pronker likes this.
  17. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 14

    There was only darkness at first, then tiny flashes. Fragmented images, smells, sounds that seemed disconnected. It was as if Argoth were part of some surreal waking dream. His mind was cloaked in darkness, sluggish, yet he could feel movement... he was moving. There was a part of Argoth that only wanted to sleep, to give into what he was feeling, yet he knew if that happened, he would be lost. The Jedi would slip down into the darkness and Argoth would cease to exist.

    He tried to fight through the fog that was clouding his mind, keeping him from thinking or acting. The darkness didn't want to give way. The more he fought against it, the more it fought back. Argoth could feel himself sinking further down into the abyss. What few sensations could be felt, started to grow weaker, and he began to panic. He couldn't lose this fight, if he did, he would lose himself. Argoth began trying to fight even harder, and sank even faster. Something was terribly wrong, why couldn't he control himself, why couldn't he assert his mind over his body?

    How could he win a battle if he couldn't even fight back? He was a Jedi, they were in control of themselves more often than nearly anyone else, that was what it meant to be a Jedi. There had to be something he was missing. That was when he remembered what Qui-Gon had told him over and over again since they had become master and padawan, mind the present. Instead of thrashing and fighting, he stopped. There on the precipice between consciousness and the void that lay beyond, he focused on trying to understand the situation, and what was happening.

    Then he heard a thud, followed by another, and another. At first he couldn't tell what it was, but focusing on that he tried to draw it closer, to feel it, to understand it. It began to sound more rapidly, and as the noise grew louder Argoth realized it wasn't a single sound, but two. They were so closely intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable... it was a heartbeat, his heartbeat. It was coming so fast now, and in his mind Argoth could see the organ beating fast, it was so fast, but why?

    What was driving his heart like this. Reaching out he touched the beating heart, letting his mind flow into it, through it, and slowly throughout his body. He was on all fours, limbs pumping, lungs burning, he was running! Why, where... so fast, Argoth was running like the wind itself. That was when he realized why he couldn't control himself, why fighting against the darkness caused him to sink deeper into it. His body was on autopilot, running on pure instinct. It was raw, untamed emotion, the very anathema of what it meant to be a Jedi. Panic and fear only fed into that making it even stronger.

    As he had done at the hospital, Argoth began to recite the Jedi code, then focused on a single line, 'there is no emotion, only peace'. He repeated it over and over again, trying to draw in his emotions and reign control over them. As he did the darkness faded, and he began to rise, higher and higher. All at once everything snapped into focus with crystal clarity, Argoth was in the driver's seat of his body again. The sudden reality shift was so disorienting that he just stopped, mid-run. With all the built up momentum, he chin slammed the ground, and completed two full tumbles before sliding to a stop.

    “Ouch.” Pushing up into a sitting position, Argoth rubbed his head, and the hand slid up the length of one of his horns. Near the top he stopped, then patted it confusingly. He had horns, but they were only tiny stubs. The other hand shot up finding a second horn on the other side, just as long as the first. None of this made... any... sense. As Argoth brought his hands down, the sight of them nearly made him jump. The hands were huge, and they were connected to thick wrists, and large arms. In looking down the padawan was greeted by a pair of long muscular legs that were even larger than his arms. What in the name of the Force had happened to him?

    In feeling his body, Argoth could tell that everything was larger, his chest, even his abs... he had abs! As this new reality started to set in, he finally noticed the blood spattered all over his hands and body. It was still fresh, mixed with dirt and bits of plant matter from all the running, he was a mess. Trying to think back to what happened Argoth remembered the office, Dehgo, the assassin, and the fight in the auditorium. She had said something to him, toe tacks, or some other nonsensical word like that, and he had gone completely berserk. Qui-Gon had tried to grab him, then... Argoth gasped and looked down at his hands. The blood, it couldn't be...

    He quickly shook his head, Master Jinn had been forced to let go after the backhand to the face. The blood belonged to someone or something else. Trying to remember anything past the point of going totally bonzo was difficult at best. It was fragmented into smells, sounds, and half-images. He did vaguely recall hearing the sound of a wild animal shrieking, then let out a belch loud enough to shake the nearby tree branches. On that note Argoth also realized he wasn't hungry anymore. Taking stock of his surroundings, the padawan saw that he was in a forest, but where, he had no idea. There were tall, leafing green trees in every direction, their large branches reaching up toward the mid-day sun. It broke through the canopy in small beams of light, and the surrounding area was quite peaceful.

    Argoth stood up and started to tip forward, then his tail shot straight back as an instinctive counterbalance. With a single step he managed to stay upright, and realized the ground was a lot further away than it used to be. Mentally grumbling about the sudden balance shift that would require some getting used to, he took several more experimental steps. He hadn't lost the ability to walk, but balance was about shot for the time being. Qui-Gon would no doubt be looking for him. Eyes closed, Argoth reached out to the Force to find his master... and found nothing. It wasn't that his master's presence was gone, everything was.

    The grass, trees, animals, he couldn't feel anything. As he had done countless times before, Argoth threw his hand out toward one of the trees, yet nothing happened. He tried again, and again, and again, calling for the Force to aid him, but it would not answer. A feeling of emptiness began to well up inside of him, a sense of loss that only grew by the moment. The Force was something he had known and felt since birth, as much a sense and sight, hearing, smell, or any other, and now it was gone. How could this have happened? To make matters worse, he had no idea where he was.

    Before despair could start to set in, he heard something in the distance. At first it was too distant to make out. Leaning on a tree with a hand, his head turn to one side as it drew closer, he realized it was the sound of blaster fire. Stumbling forward a few steps, Argoth finally found his feet, or hooves as it were, and took off running. One didn't have to be a jedi master to figure out what was going on. In the aftermath of him going berserk Qui-Gon would have come after him, but from the sound of things he had company, and it wasn't of the friendly variety.

    Slapping branches aside, and ignoring the thorns that reached out for his legs, Argoth continued to move in the direction of the sound. They were some distance away and he could hear the sound of a lightsaber deflecting bolts. From the amount of blaster fire, it sounded as though Qui-Gon was considerably outnumbered, and using the forest trees to try to maintain a tactical advantage. The forest was moving downward now, granting him even more speed, and ripping through a thicket of bushes as he ran a group of soldiers came into view. Not even trying to slow down he barreled through them like a wrecking ball, sending bodies flying in every direction. Skidding to a stop, he turned to face them.

    [​IMG]

    Of the dozen soldiers that had been standing there before, only five remained. The others were scattered about on the ground and unmoving. Out of the corner of his eye, there was a green lightsaber blade behind a tree, but his attention was focused on the soldiers. The soldiers would regret raising a weapon to his master. They in turn were looking at Argoth, not sure how to react. They had no doubt heard the other Jedi was a small, five foot tall creature, not that which stood before them now. The war was over, and the bounties had been rescinded, that they would attack Qui-Gon anyway, only made him all the more angry. That anger continued to build until he finally threw both arms out, and unleashed a bellicose roar. His body shaking from the strain.



    Now on all fours, Argoth lunged up the hill as the soldiers let out a cry and began to fire frantically. Their shots were erratic, but one did strike him in the arm. Not even slowing down he was upon them in an instant. The first to take a fist to the chest went flying back as armor gave way to the sound of breaking bone, and without plan or reason Argoth lashed out, laying them low almost effortlessly, but he wasn't even close to finished. There were more who would pay for attacking them, more fools eager to throw their lives away.

    They were scattered throughout the forest in small groups, but with Argoth taking the offensive, Qui-Gon soon did the same as well. The soldiers were like rag dolls as he ripped limbs free with arm and teeth, crushed helmets beneath his hooves, and their numbers fell as fast as they did. This newfound power was something that Argoth liked, watching soldiers flee in terror. They were so small and slow, so pitiful. Leaping through the air, he slammed one soldier to the ground from behind and wrapped a hand around his helmet. The man struggled briefly, but with a squeeze of his hand, there was a small pop as he went limp.

    “Argoth!” The sound of Qui-Gon's voice brought him around as he was about to pursue the few fleeing soldiers that remained. The thrill of battle, the smell of fear and blood, it still coursed through his veins and he wanted more. More soldiers, more blood, more death. His chest heaved from the heavy breathing, and he growled deeply looking at his master. His body wanted to attack, leap into action and tear the man limb from limb, but his mind wasn't so far gone as to consider trying it. He was also torn, a part of him enjoying what he had become, and another knowing that this was wrong. Jedi didn't enjoy pain and death, or think of others as pitiful. There was still so much aggression coursing through his mind, that Argoth needed to release it. The battle was over, so it was time to calm down.

    The last one to face his wrath was a nearby tree. By the time he was done punching, kicking, claw slashing, and headbutting it, nearly half the trunk was gone. As he began to calm down, there was a small pop, followed by a loud groan, and the wounded wood fell away from Argoth, slamming into the ground. His body was still tense, his mind ready to attack, but the deep breaths were slowly pushing those desires down. Looking at himself, Argoth also noticed he had been shot three different times. Once in the left thigh, as well as the right bicep and breast.

    They had burned through the skin and into the muscle, but stopped there. None of them had penetrated further than that. It would seem there were more to his changes than met the eye. There were however other things that didn't change. As the adrenaline wore off, he started to grow tired, and the blaster wounds were extremely painful. Unfortunately for Argoth, his nerve endings worked just fine. Taking a knee from the pain, he looked over as Qui-Gon approached. The Jedi Master seemed to be taking in the new measure of his padawan.

    “Are you alright?”

    <S>“I was shot three times, what do you think?”<S> With a bit of effort, he stood again, and for the first time since meeting Qui-Gon Jinn, Argoth looked down at him. That was no small feat either, as his master stood 6'4”. At a guesstimate, he thought himself to be around 6'7” or so.

    “I would ask what happened, but I imagine you know as much as I do.”

    <S>“That about sums it up. Why were those soldiers chasing you?”<S>

    “They think we killed General Dehgo.” Shoulders slumping, Argoth let out a deep sigh.

    <S>“Did they at least stand down?”<S>

    “Yes, Dehgo's actions left the Elltiri government in disarray, now they're too busy with internal problems to wage a war. I suggest we leave before anymore soldiers show up.” With the help of Adora, they were able to return to Talran territory without further incident, and received a hero's welcome. Though not one to bask in the glory of their own actions, Qui-Gon and Argoth did accept a small amount of hospitality. It amounted to a hot meal, bath, a new set of robes, and a good 10 hours of sleep.

    The next morning, they politely departed and began the trip back to Coruscant. Before entering hyperspace, Qui-Gon sent a message that the mission was only partly successful. Hostilities had broken out before their arrival, but they were able to bring the war to an end before it spiraled out of control. A full report would be given upon his return. During the rather long and boring trip through hyperspace, Argoth tried to reach out to the Force several more times, but it still eluded him. This was something that he had yet to mention, largely because he was afraid of being kicked out of the order. After all, what good was a Jedi that couldn't use the Force.

    With Qui-Gon's starfighter close by, Argoth's mind turned to the person with the red lightsaber they'd fought. There was no doubt in his mind that she knew a great deal about him, possibly even where he'd come from. What he didn't understand was how she'd triggered this change in him. He would no doubt be poked and prodded to no end. Right now he had so many questions, and too few answers. Stabbing a finger onto a button, the activated the ship's communicator.

    <S>“Master, do you have any idea who it was that we fought?”<S>

    “No, but it's obvious now that she knows something about you. We'll need to discuss this with the council when we return.” That was something else Argoth wasn't looking forward to. When they got back to the temple there would be a lot of gawking and staring from the other Jedi. Little Argoth had undergone a bit of a growth spurt. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and he took a nap after putting the fighter on autopilot, only waking up when the fighter shuddered lightly upon landing at the temple. With a bit of a grumble and snort, he looked around, then slumped down in the seat of the fighter. Maybe if he stayed there for the rest of his life, everyone would just forget about him.

    “Welcome home Argoth!” Rahna said. Or not. Unless otherwise occupied or off planet. The two would often greet each other upon returning to the temple. After all that's what friends did. Instead of being happy the way he normally was, Argoth was mildly annoyed. It wasn't at Rahna, who was just trying to be a good friend, but at this point he just wanted to be left alone. Knowing that wouldn't happen, he finally popped the hatch and climbed out. In the process he stepped on his robe, tripped, and made a grand entrance in a pile of cloth as he fell off the side of the fighter and hit the ground. The fall not only hurt his pride, but also his wounds.

    “Ar...goth?” With a loud grumble, he stood up and dusted himself off, then adjusted the robes. He looked down at Rahna who was wide-eyed and slack jawed. This came as no surprise since before leaving, she'd been two inches taller than him. “What happened? You look awesome!”

    <S>“I do?”<S>

    “Yeah, totally.” Now feeling a bit better about the change, he gave a mildly toothy grin, and while they walked through the halls of the temple, Argoth told Rahna about everything that had happened during their mission. After he was done, she ran in front, holding both hands out.

    “Wait a minute, was this woman a little taller then me, covered in armor, red lightsaber, no chest?”

    <S>“Sounds about right, why?”<S>

    “Crap, I gotta tell Obi about this!” Without so much as explaining why, Rahna took off down the hall, leaving him to wonder what was going on. It would seem the armored woman was involved in more than Argoth realized if Rahna knew something about her. Before their encounter in Dehgo's office, he'd never so much as heard of, or laid eyes on her. Qui-Gon had remained silent the whole time, letting the two of them talk. No doubt going over how he would relay the report to the council.

    By the time they reached the top of the spire and the doors opened, the Masters had just arrived and some were still taking their seats. As Argoth expected, all eyes in the room shifted immediately to him. Half way to the center of the room, he tripped over his robe again, and hit the floor knee first. Letting out a growl, he yanked at the robe which was still caught under a hoof, ripping the lower seam. Now thoroughly pissed off, Argoth started to swear, ripped the hem piece loose, then stopped and looked at the council, moving his eyes but not his head. Going from pissed off to embarrassed, he stood, cleared his throat, and waited for Qui-Gon to begin.

    His master gave a lengthy report detailing the events of their arrival, and everything that happened once they landed. The council listened intently, some nodding from time to time, but as Argoth suspected from Rahna's reaction, when they got to the part about reaching General Dehgo, and encountering the woman with the red lightsaber, the council's interest definitely picked up. Qui-Gon noticed this as well, and paused in his briefing to look around. Yoda took out a small data pad and accessed the archive, pulling an image of Second in Tasid's office, which had been brought back by Obi-Wan, and turned it toward them.

    “Look like this, she did?”

    <S>“That's her, that's the one from Dehgo's office. She's the one that did... this to me!”<S> Now it was Argoth's turn to explain his side of events, as the path's of he and Qui-Gon had gone separate ways for a time. He told the council everything, including that he didn't remember how he went from rooftop to forest, but left out the part about losing his ability to access the Force. Once finished, the council members looked at one another before speaking.

    “It would seem this Second individual has been quite busy, as has Fifth.” Ki-Adi-Mundi said.

    “Fifth?” Qui-Gon said.

    “On a mission to Alderaan, Master Kenobi and Rahna encountered an individual dressed in the same armor as Second, who called herself Fifth. It would appear Second is not working alone.” Shaak Ti said.

    “It's obvious they're planning something, and we need to know more,” Mace said, speaking to the other council members.

    “Agree, I do. Passed, the time for deliberation has. Action, we must take.”

    “Thank you for your report Master Jinn,” Mace said. They both gave a nod and turned to leave. “You've not been dismissed padawan.” That bought the both of them around again, and Argoth had no idea what was going on. He hadn't done anything out of sorts, except cursing on his way in, and that certainly wasn't something that required a council reprimand to deal with.

    <S>“Is something wrong?”<S>

    “You, Argoth. You said this Second character did this to you with a word. Sounds to me like a subconscious trigger.”

    <S>“Meaning what?”<S>

    “Meaning there could be more. How do we know that if you encounter her again, she won't use another word to turn you against other Jedi.”

    <S>“That's ridiculous!” Argoth protested. “I would never hurt my fellow Jedi!”<S>

    “You could be a danger and not even realize it. There's no telling what level of control Second might be able to exert over you, even against your will.” Ki-Adi-Mundi said. As much as Argoth wanted to argue the matter, he realized they were right. If Second could do something like this to him, there's no telling what else might happen. Now deflated and depressed, he looked over at Qui-Gon who placed a hand on his shoulder.

    “What does the council plan to do about the situation with Second and Fifth?” Qui-Gon said.

    “While we've not officially decided yet, we are in favor of sending you, along with Master Kenobi and his padawan, to Ryloth to see if you can uncover any information about them. As you have the most recent experience in this matter, it would make sense,” Plo Koon said.

    “I see,” Qui-Gon said. “Then would it not be best to send Argoth as well? If we do discover more about the people we're seeking, or possibly the people themselves, then we could learn more about any other potential problems.”

    “And what if there are, and Second decides to use them?” Shaak Ti said.

    <S>“Then you haven't got much to worry about, Master Qui-Gon could kick my butt in a real fight. Plus Master Kenobi will be there too.”<S> At that point Argoth then mentally added it would be even easier without a connection to the Force.

    “Consider your request, we will.” Yoda said. They both bowed a second time, then walked out of the room. While walking down the hall, Argoth looked at Qui-Gon, and thought about the situation. He understood the council's reasons, and even in his mind they were right. He was a security risk, there was no telling what else Second might be able to trigger within him, possibly even turning him against his friends and allies.

    <S>“Master, why did you vouch for me like that? I haven't even been your padawan for a month now, you don't know me that well.”<S>

    “I meant what I said, but Second likely knows the truth of who and what you are. If she does you have a right to hear it, because I know it's something that's bothered you for a long time. I also believe that in your heart, you're a Jedi and a good person. I believe in you Argoth, that's why I chose you as my padawan.” Having already gained more than a foot in height, Argoth felt 10 foot tall now, knowing that Qui-Gon believed in him. It was a sorely needed confidence booster that came at just the right time. Head high, and chest out, the wonderful feeling didn't last long.

    “Now, let's go to the medical bay and try to figure out what's happened with you physically.”

    <S>”Crap!”<S> The medical staff had always been curious about Argoth because of his unique nature, and weren't shy about poking or prodding. It was the poking part he particularly hated, having never been fond of needles. The medical bay was a large and sterile room, with skylights that kept it brightly lit during the day. The walls were lined with beds which had vitals monitors over top of them, and there was a wide variety of medical equipment neatly arranged in the room. It included over a dozen state of the art bacta tanks.

    They didn't have to wait long for someone to approach, and it was a Jedi that Argoth was rather fond of. It was Master Raggara, the only Wookiee currently serving as a Jedi, due to force sensitivity being rare among their species. Also the only person who spoke Shryiiwook as a first language. Reaching into a stand by the bed as Argoth pulled his robe down, and revealed the thigh wound, Raggara took out some basic diagnostic tools housed in a small plastic case. The only thing Argoth recognized was the thermometer.

    <S>“Alright, so what do we- the blazes happened to you?!”<S>

    <S>“Hit a slight growth spurt.”<S> Raggara blinked several times, then went about taking care of the basics, temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate. Once that was done, the questions came next.

    <S>“How did this happen?”<S> Taking time to explain the situation, only pausing to grunt as the wounds were sprayed with sterilizer, he laid everything out as Raggara tended to the wounds with bacta patches. Almost immediately the pain faded, and Argoth let out a small sigh of relief.

    <S>“How do you feel?”<S>

    <S>“Like I got shot by a blaster rifle three times.”<S>

    <S>“A right comedian you are today. Besides the wounds?”<S>

    <S>“Well, aside from not being constantly hungry anymore, like I did before, only bigger.”<S>

    “And more aggressive,” Qui-Gon said. That was something that Argoth had almost forgotten about, but his master was right. During the fight with the soldiers, Argoth had wanted to hurt and kill them, in a very unJedi fashion. Though not eager to admit that, it wouldn't do him any good to lie about it, as Raggara would be trying to discover as much as possible about what was going on.

    <S>“Is this the part where you get stabby?<S>

    <S>“Oh yeah.”<S> When Raggara took out a hypodermic needle, Argoth wanted to growl at him, but the Wookiee would probably just growl back and tell him to suck it up like a big boy. The poking was rather extensive too, including blood, spinal fluid which did get a growl, urine, skin, and tissue samples, and a litany of medical questions. By the time he was released from the medical bay, Argoth once again felt like quite a lab rat.

    “Qui-Gon, are you busy?” Obi-Wan said.

    “Argoth and I were just heading to the refectory for lunch.” Qui-Gon said, using his comlink.

    “Good, Rahna and I will meet you there, we've got a lot to discuss.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, so many consequences of that trigger word. [face_thinking] The Council raises valid concerns, I think. Eager for what is discussed and discovered on Ryloth. =D=
     
  19. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 15

    In the temple refectory, a large open room with beautiful arched windows along one wall, and holo-displays showing galactic news galaxy wide on the other three, the four Jedi had their meeting over lunch. Argoth was displaying his power eating skills, having nearly cleared his third plate before the conversation began. He practically ate his weight in food before the change, now Rahna was starting to think the kitchen might have to call for reinforcements

    “Alright, let's review what we know so far. We're dealing with at least five individuals, but only three have been seen, and two named, Second and Fifth. We know without a doubt that Second has killed at least two people, and Fifth has spent a lot of time and resources spying on the Jedi. Last, but certainly not least, is Argoth. What does all of this add up to?”

    “Deep trouble.” Rahna said. “They're up to no good, I can feel it.” The reference was metaphorical as opposed to any actual sense that she had. Ever since encountering Fifth, things had gone from bad to worse. After finding out what was on the crystal, it jumped straight to 'oh crap'.

    “I've tried to meditate on it, but I can't sense anything about them. Every time I look into the future my visions become clouded, hard to make sense out of,” Qui-gon said.

    <S>“What did you feel Master?”<S>

    “Danger, but without any hate or malice, despite our encounter with Second.” There was no doubt about that in Rahna's mind. Fifth had already proven how dangerous her group could be, yet she felt that Master Jinn was right. There didn't seem to be any hate or malice, at least not on the part of Fifth. More than anything it felt like she was just doing a job and they had crossed paths at the wrong time.

    “I don't doubt for a minute they're planning something, and I'll bet my last credit it's big,” Rahna said.

    “You don't have any credits,” Obi-Wan said. To that she merely stuck her tongue out at him.

    “Never the less I have to agree with Rahna. After seeing what was on that crystal, it would be hard to believe they weren't planning something against the order. We need to find out what, and put a stop to it,” Obi-Wan said.

    “We also need to bare in mind that the foes we face are extremely dangerous. Second was trained well enough to hold her own against both of us in battle, and utilized a force technique I've never seen before,” Qui-Gon said.

    <S>“And known ones in new ways. I've never heard of a force scream being used voluntarily before, but she directed that thing like a hurricane.”<S>

    “Tell me about it, Fifth walked all over me, literally. She slammed me into the ground and then stepped on me!” Rahna said.

    <S>“Obi-Wan and his padawan Doormat. Has a nice ring to it.”<S>

    “Shut up butthead!”

    “Now now children,” Obi-Wan said. Thinking things over, something occurred to Rahna. Something that she didn't like one bit. The idea scared her, but it was one that she had to voice.

    “Master, what if the Sith didn't die 1,000 years ago, and they've abandoned the Rule of Two?” That brought a silence to the little group as everyone looked at one another. It scared Rahna because the last thing she wanted to potentially face was a resurgent Sith Empire. From what she'd read in history, every time there was a Sith Empire, it inevitably pulled the Jedi and the Republic into a devastating war.

    “Let's not jump to conclusions before we know more.” The hand that Obi-Wan put on her shoulder was meant to comfort, but from the tiny undertone in his voice, Rahna knew the idea had concerned him too. Before they had a chance to continue, a male Zabrak Jedi walked up to them, and leaned down placing a hand on Qui-Gon's back.

    “Master Jinn, the Council has approved the mission to Ryloth. They would like you to depart as soon as everyone is ready.”

    “Argoth?”

    “Him as well.” After the Jedi left, there was another round of silent glances as everyone thought about what had been said, and what was to come. That was when Qui-Gon stood up.

    “It looks like we're going to Ryloth.” Instead of taking starfighters on this outing, the quartet opted for a small transport shuttle. Rahna had always referred to the XE-200 as the lawn dart, because that was what it looked like to her. It was a small tube shaped craft with two fins on either side of the back, large enough for a half dozen people. Argoth had also gotten a lightclub from the temple armory, basically a big lightsaber designed for larger species, due to the lack of time to build another one. While walking up the side ramp of the shuttle, she mused aloud.

    “Master, do you think the person that designed the XE-200 was fond of lawn darts?”

    “What?”

    “Never mind.” She took a seat in the back, as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sat up front preparing the shuttle for take off. Instead of sitting beside her as expected, Argoth walked into the rear compartment and closed the door behind him. While a bit unexpected, Rahna imagined that with everything he was experiencing, her friend likely wanted some alone time to sort himself out. That in itself didn't seem like a bad idea, and crossing her legs, Rahna began to meditate. Her goal wasn't to sense anything in particular she just wanted to sort her emotions out, and put them into nice little boxes.

    Rahna didn't make it a habit of repressing her emotions, because that was just a disaster looking for a place to happen. There was a time and place for such things, but right now was neither. For once, Qui-Gon seemed to be in a chatty mood, as he and Obi-Wan were discussing something up front, even having a chuckle, but she paid them no mind. Right now Rahna was focused on clearing her mind and controlling her emotions for the time being. Only her second mission as a padawan, she was already out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    They were already in hyperspace when Rahna's meditation was interrupted, but it wasn't from the front of the shuttle, but the back. The feeling was very tiny, but unmistakable. Argoth was in pain and trying to suppress it. He was almost successful, but she could still feel it. Neither Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan seemed to notice this, and it certainly wasn't due to proximity. Perhaps it was Rahna having known Argoth longer than either of them. Walking to the rear compartment, she opened the door without even knocking. Rahna was more concerned about her friend than being courteous at the moment.

    <S>“Go away.”<S> With his back to her, Argoth was seated like he was meditating, but she could tell he was too upset to even try. Walking around in front of him, the last thing Rahna expected was to see tears running down his face. <S>“You don't listen very well.”<S>

    “Yeah well, sometimes being a friend means NOT listening to them. What's wrong Argy?” The mention of Argy made him growl a little. It was a nickname Rahna gave him not long after they met, because she couldn't pronounce Argoth very well as a child. It was meant as an attempt at levity, but was received poorly. “Come on buddy, it's me Rhonda, remember?”

    That did get a small laugh from Argoth, being how Rahna came out the first time he tried to say it in Basic. He cast a few furtive glances at her, then slumped his shoulders and let out a sigh.

    <S>“I'm scared.”<S>

    “Bantha chips, you're the bravest person I know. I mean stupid brave sometimes.”

    <S>”Stupid brave?”<S>

    “Well, you did charge a dozen droidekas in the training simulator that one time.” Argoth nodded a little, conceding her point on that. “Is it because of the change?”

    <S>“That's part of it.”<S> When Rahna put a hand on his shoulder, he finally told her. <S>“After I changed, I attacked some soldiers who were after Master Jinn, but I...”<S>

    “It's okay, tell me.”

    Mouth open as if to speak, Argoth's words left him and tears began to flow down his face. His control was beginning to falter, so Rahna did what she could to help mask his feeling so their masters wouldn't sense them. If Argoth wanted to talk to Qui-Gon about this, she doubted she would be the one in the room. <S>“I didn't just attack them, I... I ripped them apart like an animal, and I liked it. The last one I killed was even trying to run away, I murdered him. I swore to defend the lives of others and I killed them like a wild animal. What's wrong with me?!”<S>

    Completely breaking down after that, Rahna hugged her friend. “It's not you're fault Argoth, you're a good person. Second did this to you and one way or another, she'll face justice for it.”

    <S>“That's not all.”<S> Tears still streaming down his face, Argoth leaned back and threw his hand out. Again nothing happened.

    “What are you doing?”

    <S>“It's not what I'm doing, it's what I'm not doing.”<S> Once it clicked in her mind, Rahna let out a gasp and looked at him.

    “You mean you can't...”

    <S>“No, not since I changed.”<S>

    “Have you told Master Jinn?”

    <S>“No! You can't either, please!”<S> Nearly shaken into a case of whiplash when Argoth grabbed her arms, she waited for the room to stop spinning, then blinked a few times.

    “Why not, he might be able to help.”

    <S>“Because, he'll have to tell the Council. The Jedi are all I've ever been, all I've ever known. What if the Council...”<S> Now Rahna understood why he was so afraid. To make matters worse she didn't know if he would actually be expelled from the order or not. Argoth was almost to the point of despair, and Rahna wasn't sure what to do, except...

    “Look on the bright side, it could be worse.”

    <S>“How could this possibly get any worse?”<S>

    “You could have gotten shorter and ended up as a footstool for Master Yoda.” Getting a sour 'really?' expression from Argoth, she gave a sheepish grin, then reached out trying to tug the corner of his mouth up with her fingers.

    <S>“You think this is something to laugh about?”<S>

    “Oh come on, I was just trying to-” She stopped short seeing Argoth hold both hands up like claws.

    <S>“I'll give you something to laugh about Red.”<S>

    “Nonononono, don't you DARE!” Grabbing Rahna by the sides he began to tickle, causing her to burst out into fits of hysterical laughter and kick her feet. That came to an end when the door opened and Obi-Wan leaned inside.

    “What in the world are the two of you up to back here?”

    <S>“She tried to make me laugh, so I'm tickling the Force out of her.”<S>

    “You vicious brute, you beast, help Master, help!” When she started slapping at Argoth, Obi-Wan laughed and shook his head.

    “So tell me, what do you two want to be when you grow up?”

    <S>“Just because I have to grow old doesn't mean I have to grow up!”<S>

    “You tell'em Argoth!” Obi-Wan laughed some more, and walked back toward the front, after which they both sat on the bench against the wall in the middle of the shuttle. With everything calming down, she put her hand inside Argoth's and spoke in a whisper.

    “You gonna be okay?”

    <S>“I don't know, but thanks for trying to help.”<S>

    “We'll get through this together, you and me buddy.” Slumped back against the wall of the shuttle and seeing that Argoth wasn't on the verge of a total nervous breakdown now, it brought a small smile to her face.

    'Mission accomplished.' Rahna thought. Even with a good hyperdrive, the trip to Ryloth would take right at six days, which meant a lot of free time. When not sleeping, most of it was taken up by training exercises, or a portable chess set that Rahna had brought with her. Fortunately for Argoth, since space on the shuttle was tight, there wasn't a lot of training in regards to the active use of force abilities. The few times that there were, Rahna covered for him.

    She managed to pull the little ruse off by practically sitting on top of Argoth when he practiced, under the guise of wanting to watch closely. This allowed her to use the Force without moving, but to very limited effects. This also made it difficult to tell who was doing what, though she doubted either master would be expecting something like this. Argoth played it off as having to readjust to his new self. This wasn't something Rahna liked doing, or was very proud of, but she was worried for Argoth.

    On the morning of the sixth day, the shuttle dropped out of hyperspace above Ryloth, bringing into view the world of two extremes. Tidal locked to its sun, so that one side always faced it, half of the planet was unbearably hot, while the other half was arctic and only inhabited by the toughest of creatures.. The only sentient life on the planet existed in a vast underground network of caves that existed on the planet's terminator. That small habitable area on the cusp between day and night.

    “Good day to you Master Jedi, this is Ryloth ground control. May I ask the reason for your visit this fine day?” a man's voice said, coming in over the comm-system.

    “We're following a lead in an investigation.”

    “Oh my, well I certainly wouldn't want to hold you up. I'll send you landing coordinates immediately.” Rahna was fairly certain the hospitality was only a formality. Known for an abhorrent slave trade and connected to the Hutts, Ryloth was definitely not a Jedi friendly world, despite being part of the Republic. As the shuttle descended through the atmosphere and toward what appeared to be a small canyon below, Rahna was quite surprised by the sight that greeted her.

    She had heard the Twi'lek lived in caves, but that was a poor description of the city that lay below the surface. It was like saying Coruscant had buildings. As the planet surface rose up about them, the shuttle descended into a chasm that delved down further than the lights of the shuttle could pierce. On either side of them were buildings, some hewn from the rock itself, and others made of cut stone. They came in all shapes and sizes, with splashes of blues and greens on some levels, deep reds on others, and signs as bright as those of Coruscant.

    On level after level there were people moving about on streets of either smooth stone, or metal platforms. It was easy to see the city went further back into the stone and earth around them. Mostly Twi'lek with a small scattering of other species, all going about whatever business brought them out of their homes. The shuttle came to a slow stop, and turned to face the opening door of a landing garage, and they set down on a very nicely kept platform. Engines powered down and controls secured, they made their way out of the craft. The Twi'lek maintenance crew paid them little mind as they went about their business.

    <S>“Master, if slavery in the Republic is illegal, how do they sell people here?”<S>

    “They don't, they sell 'lifetime employment' contracts,” Qui-Gon said, the disgusted tone in his not entirely concealed. Argoth replied with a grunt of agreement. Even Rahna thought of slave trade as abhorrent. Forcing someone into servitude against their will for who knew what, it went against everything the Jedi stood for. Clearing those thoughts, she paid attention to their surroundings as they left the small landing area, and went out into the city proper.

    Carved out of stone, there were buildings of all shapes and sizes just like one would find in any city, illuminated by a combination of sunlight, and artificial sources. There were roads, vehicles, and it appeared that life was proceeding with all due haste as it would on any other world. People were window shopping, eating, talking with each other, she even saw one woman inside a shop holding something, and seemingly bickering with a man behind the counter. The presence of the Hutt Cartels was either disguised, or they were on the wrong level.

    Rahna stayed close to Obi-Wan as they continued on, partly because she could feel a sense of danger here. It wasn't like that of an impending attack, but there was more than enough reason to keep their wits about. As Rahna looked through the crowd, she could see several people watching them. Some were subtle, others made no attempt to hide their attention. There was even a trio of guards, dressed neck to toe in red duraplast armor, that took notice of them, but didn't do more than crane their necks around for a better look.

    “I can sense the danger Master, but it's... strange. I don't feel like their going to attack.”

    “Our presence is cause for concern, but we've yet to give them a reason to attack. Be on your guard.” If the Jedi gave someone cause for alarm, it was likely because they had something to hide. No doubt illegal rather than personal, but they weren't here for that, their purpose was to find out where the transmissions from the crystal had been sent. All they knew at this point was that they went into Wild Space. There were also other hurdles they would have to overcome as well. Because they weren't the ones who sent the transmission, it would likely be a case of pulling teeth to get them to release private customer information.

    <S>“Can we get something to eat? I'm hungry.>”<S> Rather than making some sarcastic remark about Argoth's appetite, Rahna noted it was close to lunch time and that she was hungry too. However, since they were on a mission she wasn't betting on them stopping somewhere to eat. It turned out to be a bet she would have lost.

    “I think we've got time to get a bite to eat, Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon said.

    “Hmm, wouldn't mind a little something myself.” Although surprised by this, it was a pleasant one. Rahna hated missing meals unless it was absolutely necessary, and had no doubt her fellow padawan was happy as well. They found a rather attractive street side cafe with large glass windows, and a patio set with a number of tables and chairs. They took a seat at a patio table and waited for a server to approach them. One did so rather quickly. A green Twi'lek man in a black outfit, set by a white apron, and a small data pad in hand.

    “Welcome to the Mountainside Cafe, my name is Byd'an and I'll be your host today. Can I take your drink orders while you decide what you'd like to eat?” Everyone ordered water while Byd'an handed out menus, and Rahna studied hers carefully finding the prices quite reasonable. Though Jedi didn't normally carry money, when on a mission or assignment, the Order did accord them travel credits to take care of expenses, such as eating.

    She was also glad to see the eatery offered protein replacements for their meat products, a fancy term for fake meat. Diets in the order were largely personal choice, and some did eat meat, though Rahna didn't. Since humans could survive without it, she saw no reason for an animal to die just so she could have a meal. On the other hand, Rahna also didn't say anything to others if they chose an omnivorous diet. When Byd'an returned, they all ordered various items off the menu. Rahna opted for a sandwich with vegetables and a slice of protein supplement, and a side salad with dressing. The only one to order real meat was Argoth, though his biology seemed to require it.

    Everyone talked casually amongst themselves while eating and Rahna, having finished her sandwich, took the first bite of salad when she noticed something. From an alleyway across the street, a Twi'lek woman took a seat on the sidewalk. She then placed a small wooden sign next to her, and a cup in front. Though Rahna couldn't read Twi'lek script, it was obvious the woman was homeless and begging for credits. To make matters worse, she had a baby with her. The child was swaddled in a stained cloth and Rahna was disgusted by the number of people passing by without even looking at her.

    Even from where she was, it was easy to see the woman was underweight. Her arms were too thin, and her cheeks had started to sink. She focused on the baby for a moment and didn't sense any distress which only tugged at Rahna's heart even more. The woman was literally starving herself for the sake of her baby. Looking down at the salad, she stabbed the fork into it, then stood up and walked across the street. The container and cutlery were both disposable.

    “Here.” Kneeling down she held it out to the woman. Sitting cross legged on the sidewalk, the woman set the baby in her lap and wasted no time in eating. She thanked Rahna between bites for the meal, and the 10 credit chit she dropped into the cup. About to stand up and return to the cafe, something tugged at her Force sense. It took Rahna a moment to realize it was coming from the child in her lap. The baby seemed to be getting upset about something, but calmed down when the padawan stroked her head gently.

    The child was a little girl, with lekku that didn't even come down to her shoulders yet. No more than a few months old at most. Rahna could tell her initial assumption was right as well, the child still had a healthy chubby appearance. The touching would have seemed like a simple kindness to most, but for her it was to test a theory, one that had been correct. The infant was Force sensitive. It was impossible to tell to what degree at this age, and it didn't seem very strong. On the other hand Rahna was still a padawan herself, so her own judgment wasn't as experienced as a knight or a master.

    “Did you know your baby is Force sensitive?”

    “Force sensitive, are you a Jedi?”

    “The robes didn't give it away?”

    “I thought you were monks.” Ever so briefly, Rahna thought about that and acknowledged that the Jedi did share a good bit in common with other monastic orders. Although they didn't worship the Force like some sort of deity, there was no denying the majority of their lives revolved around it.

    “When was your last meal?”

    “What's that got to do with anything?” Rather than getting defensive or upset, the woman seemed more confused by the question than anything else.

    “I was just worried, you're not looking too well.”

    “I'll be alright. I just need to make sure little Ner'sa is taken care of, that's all.” What Rahna was about to say would be difficult. Despite her caring about other people, she didn't have her master's gift for gab, or nearly as much charisma.

    “And what will happen to her if you starve yourself to death, what then?”

    “What other choice do I have?” The woman set the salad down and picked the baby up.

    “What would you say if I told you Ner'sa could have a life without fear of starvation. One where she could be cared for and taught how to use her gift. Where she would be clothed, have a warm place to sleep, and be around others like her.”

    “As a Jedi?”

    “Yes.” The woman looked up at Rahna, and in her eyes, the girl could see how torn she was. Anyone could see that she loved Ner'sa, and had already proven she was willing to sacrifice for her. There was a part of her that wanted to keep the child as any mother would, and it was at war with the part of her that knew what was best.

    “Would she... be happy?”

    “I am. The Jedi found me on the streets of Corellia when I was only 5 years old. They took me in and raised me as one of their own. You see the younger man behind me with the short brown hair? He's not just my teacher, he's been my best friend since almost as long as I can remember. It's not always an easy life, but it is a good one. Your daughter will have purpose, direction, and she'll grow up learning to help those in need." The woman looked down at the baby in her arms, and tears began to roll down her cheeks. Rahna knew that she was torn by wanting to keep the infant, as any loving mother would, and knowing what was best for her.

    "Will she be loved?"

    "Yes, I love my teacher like a brother, and I know the other Jedi in the temple care about me." The last part was true too, and in a familial sense she looked at Yoda almost like a grandfather. Despite his position within the Order, he always had time to talk and was far wiser than Rahna imagined she would ever be. She was even fond of Qui-Gon, though their relationship wasn't as close as the one she shared with Obi-Wan. The woman said something to the baby in the Twi'lek language, something else Rahna didn't understand, then handed her the baby. So distraught by this, the mother took the sign and cup, quickly disappearing back down the alleyway from which she'd come. Upon returning to the cafe, no one said anything, but there were a few looks exchanged. Rahna knew that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan weren't angry, but imagined they were concerned due to how dangerous the mission could be. She certainly was.

    Author's Note: I did take some liberties with Ryloth, but I tried to remain true to the spirit and idea of the world as described in Star Wars Legends.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2019
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Loved the talk /discussion about who or what group Second and Fifth are with and what their motives are. Rahna's suggestion about resurgetn Sith very worrying!

    Happy that Argoth eventually confided in her - she really is a good friend, but the consequences of this change are enough to scare anyone. :eek:

    =D=
     
  21. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 16

    Taking on a baby entailed more than Argoth had realized at first. The group had been forced to make a small detour, and now Rahna not only had a front harness strapped to her to carry the baby, but also a new carry bag on her hip with a few diapers, sanitary wipes, a bottle, and a can of baby formula in it. They also agreed that if any hostilities did break out, both padawans would look after the child and make for the shuttle. Argoth also had a new personal mission, if anyone tried to hurt his friend or the baby, they'd learn just how nasty he could get.

    After a bit of asking around about where they could inquire about some transmissions that were sent, the group was told that three levels up there was a company called Ryloth Galactic Communications. It was responsible for all civilian transmissions both on and off world. Following the directions, they came to a sector of the city that appeared to be purposed towards industrial output. There was little in the way of homes or shops, it was almost entirely industrial plants and office buildings. The RGC was right where they'd been told. A tall building of metal and glass, definitely made for offices.

    The parking lot was full, and there were a number of people moving about, some wearing gray suits with RGC in gold letters on the back, and a few others in normal clothing. The way they were moving to and from speeders, it looked like it was shift change. The four of them walked in through the two glass doors, and were greeted by a large open area. It was made of hardwood floors, white plaster walls, and was quite cool. There were a number of plants and chairs lining the walls, some of them occupied by people waiting for whatever reason.

    There were also a number of holo-displays on the wall streaming both galactic and local news. Near the back there were stairs leading up on either side of a half dozen turbolifts. There was a large desk up front with a single Rodian male, and two large Twi'lek men in red duraplast armor sitting behind him. They had 'security' painted across the chest plate in white, and were trying to appear as unfriendly as possible. Qui-Gon approached and inquired about where to find the information they were seeking, and was directed down a hall to the left, and it would be the third door on the right, one of several communication centers in the building.

    The front area of the Communication Center was little more than a reception desk with a partial wall behind it. It wasn't hard to see into the back where the technicians sat at two dozen stations handling a litany of comm-channels on the screen in front of them, paying absolutely no mind to the Jedi. Behind the half circle wooden desk was a young green Twi'lek woman, in a crisp black suit and a small communication device over one ear cone. She was in the middle of a business call and typing away at the computer in front of her, so they waited. Once she hung up, the receptionist looked up, only to have the broad smile quickly fade.

    “You gotta be kiddin' me right? This some sorta costume party 'a somethin?”

    “Nope,” Rahna said.

    “Who'd I piss off ta desoyve this?” Rahna furrowed her brows curiously at the woman's rather odd accent, as she continued to chew on some gel.

    “If you would be so kind as to answer a few questions, we'll be on our way,” Qui-Gon said, offering her a friendly smile.

    “Yeah, like what?”

    “We'd like to know where some communications were sent.”

    “If you think I'm givin' you privileged client infamation, you need ta lay off tha spice Honey. I'd be lucky IF they fiyad my round green tookis ova that. So unless you're autharized ta view the information, forget it.”

    “Can you tell me who is authorized to view the information?” Qui-Gon said. When the woman held a hand out, he gave her the data crystal. The receptionist placed it into a slot and began to type away at a computer screen in front of her. When the information came up, she squinted at it a little, then back up at them.

    “These transmissions only got two people autharized ta view any infamation about them Honey. Someone goin' by Fifth, and a Rahna Demshar of Coruscant.”

    “Excuse me?” Rahna said. Now everyone was looking at her, including Argoth. Things just went from strange to straight up weird in the padawan's mind. Why would someone they were trying to track down authorize them access to information like this, unless...

    <S>“Master, this has to be a trap.”<S>

    “That obvious?” Qui-gon said.

    “Uh... excuse me, I'm Rahna Demshar.” Hand raised slightly, she was as shocked by this as everyone else. The receptionist gave her a suspicious look, then provided a small pad for her to apply a thumb print to. It would scan her DNA, then send a message back to Coruscant to confirm her identity, so it would take a while to get a response. After the thumb print was given, the group stepped off to one side to discuss the matter some more.

    “I don't like this, it smells like a set-up.” Rahna said.

    “I agree, but the question is why would Fifth list Rahna as having access to this information, why not Argoth? He seems to be the one their group has the most vested interest in.” Qui-Gon said.

    <S>“Because I give DNA scanners a heart attack?”<S> That was a less than subtle reference to him having a very densely coded genetic structure, that the Jedi in the medical bay were still having fun studying even before his change.

    “Because they want to lead us somewhere where they have a decided advantage.” Rahna said.

    “It makes sense. I see no reason why Second and Fifth wouldn't have been in contact since our encounters. They're most likely trying to address this situation as well considering the information we acquired,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Yes, but the advantage is theirs. They know far more about us than we do about them,” Obi-Wan said.

    “They've also tipped their hand. You said that Fifth tried to recover the Codex by talking with you first. If that's true, then diplomacy may not be a lost cause. They have gathered a lot of information about us, but in the last ten years, how many Jedi have died from lightsaber wounds?” Qui-gon said. Argoth had to admit his master had a point, because the answer was zero. What deaths did occur from violence were usually blaster related, explosions, a few being shot out of space, but no lightsaber wounds.

    “Are you sure about that Master Jinn, we know that both of them are Dark Side users.” Rahna said.

    “No, I'm not, but we have to try.” As much as Argoth didn't like it, he had to admit Qui-Gon was right. It wasn't the Jedi way to jump into a situation lightsabers first. Though he did want to get his hands on Second and strangle some information out of her, a bit of force choking here and there... Quickly shaking his head, Argoth tried to clear his mind of violent thoughts and remind himself that wasn't their way either. He needed to control his emotions and remain focused.

    “Here ya go Ms. Demshar.” The receptionist walked over handing her the information on a small data pad, but it wasn't much. They didn't even keep records of transmission contents, though they already knew what that was. What it did provide was information about where they'd come from, and where they were going. Rahna also noted that the transmissions had come from all over known space. She was already fairly sure they would match up to the times and dates of Jedi assignments, but would send them to the temple none the less.

    The destination in question was a planet in Wild Space that didn't even have a name, only a designation, 5987732-A. The picture provided was taken by a single explorer class ship that visited over 200 years ago. The planet orbited a yellow star and had a breathable atmosphere, but the survey indicated it was on the outer edge of the system's habitability zone. That meant it would likely be cold. She also held the pad flat so the others could see clearly as well. The only other information was a set of coordinates, and the calculations needed to make a safe hyperspace jump.

    <S>“So what now?”<S>

    “Now it looks like we're heading for an unexplored planet in Wild Space,” Qui-Gon said.

    ****************************************​

    Rahna's babysitting duty was short lived. After Qui-gon contacted the Council to explain the situation on Ryloth, and acquiring the child, arrangements had been made. Their mission was delayed by twelve hours as they flew to Christophsis to meet with a Rodan Jedi known as Master Balmas. Having finished acting as a neutral party in a potentially hostile trade negotiation over needed medicines, he was due to head back to the temple. Rahna almost didn't want to give the baby up, having found her to be absolutely adorable. She'd gotten to spend time with everyone on the ship, Ner'sa even threw up on Argoth, much to his dismay.

    “Master, it's not fair. Why do babies have to be so cute?” Rahna said, watching Master Balmas' starfighter rise up into the crystalline planet's atmosphere.

    “I think it's a natural defense mechanism.”

    <S>“She smelled.<S>

    “Argoth!” Rahna said.

    <S>“What? She did.”<S>

    “Ner'sa couldn't help it, she's a baby. Besides, you didn't have to change her diaper.” Once the child was safely on his way to the temple, their mission into Wild Space was back on course. As the shuttle returned to the darkness of space, Argoth noticed that Rahna seemed a little sad.

    <S>“Hey, you okay?”<S>

    “Yeah, I just feel sorry for Ner'sa's mother.”

    <S>“Don't worry, you did the right thing. She probably would have starved herself to death trying to feed Ner'sa, then there's no telling what would have happened. You probably saved two lives today.”<S> Rahna gave a weak smile, and Argoth was also happy to know she'd not only helped a child get off the street, if taken as a padawan later, the Order would eventually have another Jedi amongst their ranks.

    After a largely boring fifteen hour trip, both he and Rahna were peering over their master's shoulders at the announcement that they were officially entering Wild Space. It didn't look or feel any different, but it was still exciting to him to be going into uncharted space. There was no telling who or what they might encounter out here. The ship had stopped just long enough to change course, and when they dropped into normal space, there was nothing on the scanners.

    “Oh wow, this is totally awesomesauce, Wild Space. There's no telling what we might find out here,” Rahna said.

    <S>“Maybe we'll find a new alien civilization. It'd be totally boss if we got to try out their cuisine.”<S>

    “Oh for crying out loud Argoth, we're about to head out into the unknown and you're thinking about food?”

    “Awesomesauce, boss? Do you understand half of what the younglings are saying these days?” Obi-Wan said.

    “Not a clue,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Gee Master, sounds like you're getting old,” Rahna said, grinning broadly.

    “Gee Rahna, sounds like you're doing double training sessions when we get home.” The grin faded. Once the new course was plotted, they returned to hyperspace, their destination was only about an hour away. Argoth spent most of the time feeling nervous. Part of it was because of his inability to access the force, but also because of what might happen. It was obvious this was where Fifth, and likely Second, wanted them to show up. It had trap written all over it, and Argoth didn't like this one bit.

    Regardless, it was the only lead they had to go on, and it needed to be followed. Argoth hoped that Second would be there, so he would have the chance to get some answers. Where were his people from, how did he end up in an escape pod in space, what had been done to him. There were so many answers he wanted... needed answers to. If she refused, Argoth wasn't sure that even his new physical abilities would be a match. Second wasn't just fast, she had a fearsome command over the force, and likely even more abilities they weren't aware of.

    When the ship finally did return to normal space, both he and Rahna nearly face planted the front window of the shuttle. There it was, dead ahead, Planet 5987732-A. The world looked much the same as the picture, bright blue and heavily clouded. Argoth didn't find it very inviting. The cloud cover was thick, and the poles extended further into the interior than on most planets. This place was probably going to be an icebox.

    “I'm not picking up any sort of transmissions from the surface, no ships or satellites in orbit,” Qui-Gon said, tapping away at the controls in front of him.

    “Surface scans don't indicate any sort of sentient life, there aren't even any... wait a minute. I'm picking up some structures near the equator,” Obi-Wan said.

    <S>“Life signs, power signatures?”<S>

    “No, neither.”

    “That's weird, no people or power sigs? You think they picked up and left?” Rahna said.

    “After leading us here, I doubt it. Whoever, or whatever is down there, could be shielding themselves from scans,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Only one way to find out,” Obi-Wan said. Their descent was a bumpy one due to high winds buffeting the ship.

    <S>“Look, there!”<S> Pointing ahead of them, Argoth could see the structures in question. About a quarter mile in diameter it appeared to be a small village of some sort, though from the look of things it was long abandoned. Most of the structures, or what was left of them, was made of stone. Argoth continued to watch the sensors, but there were no changes. Around the settlement there was grass, but little in the way of vegetation, and what trees there were had no leaves on them. A good sign their destination was in the middle of winter. A look at the atmospheric sensors showed it was -3F outside.

    No one said anything as they came to a landing just outside the settlement, and as Obi-Wan had the foresight to pack accordingly, they all took out their thermal gear and suited up before stepping off the shuttle. At first Argoth left the hood down due to his horns, but when hit by a gust of ice cold wind, that changed. Removing it from the thick jacket, he placed it on the horns and pulled down, ripping a pair of holes in the top, then reconnected it.

    <S>“I hate cold weather.”<S>

    “So does this mean you're not buying that summer home on Hoth?” Rahna said, to which he only growled. Argoth did favor hot weather, and even before changing he could operate in temperatures pushing 100F with only minor discomfort. He also didn't sweat, his body just radiated heat directly through the skin. All four lightsabers were visible now. Normally kept under their robes, that would have been hard to get to quickly, so they now hung from the rings attached to the hip of the thermal suit. Working the small control panel on the belt buckle, Argoth set his suit for 77F.

    “We should split up, we can cover more ground that way,” Qui-Gon said. They all agreed, then made sure that their comlinks were on the same frequency before parting company. Argoth was all eyes as he and Qui-Gon started to make their way through the outskirts of the settlement, not only to watch for signs of danger, but also curiosity. Most of the buildings were missing walls, or had fallen down completely. They were also devoid of any signs of life.

    “What do you notice about the buildings around us?”

    Not sure what his master was getting at, Argoth began to look around at the buildings and look for anything out of the ordinary. Most of them looked old, possibly centuries old. They were made of stone, but with edges that were worn smooth by time and weather. Brushing a hand along one wall, his mind began to put some pieces together.

    <S>“None of the buildings appear damaged. It's like they fell apart from lack of maintenance.”<S>

    “Very good. So far I haven't seen any signs of battle damage either. I don't think the people that were once here met with violence.”

    <S>“What do you think happened?”<S>

    “It's too early to tell yet.” As they continued to look through the area, there was little to see. The next point of interest drew attention to itself when Argoth stepped on something metal. Pulling the hoof up, he kicked gently, sending something in the dust sliding forward. Qui-Gon picked it up and dusted it off. Roughly the size of a sign used for street names, it was rectangular, faded blue in color, and with characters he'd never seen before. It was obviously a script of some sort. There was a single horizontal line with circles of various size above, on, or below the line. Others intersected one another, or were in others altogether.

    <S>“You recognize the language?”<S>

    “No, I've never seen anything like this before.” Taking out a small scanning device, Argoth ran it over the script, then transferred the information to the shuttle's computer. It quickly returned a surprising result. The language wasn't in the Republic or Jedi database, both of which were quite comprehensive. Brows raising slightly at this, he tilted it forward for Qui-Gon to see.

    “Interesting, it would appear this world was once inhabited by a race neither the Jedi or Republic have encountered before.” Were the situation not so dire, Argoth would have found that to be quite fascinating. He did enjoy learning more about other species and cultures, but right now he needed to focus on the mission. It was also frustrating that they weren't finding any signs of advanced technology, or recent habitation. There had to be something here.

    As they rounded the corner of another street, they both heard a loud clack and quickly looked in that direction. It was a door the wind had slammed against the outside wall, but never the less, Qui-Gon motioned for them to have a look. They both went around a different side of the small single story building, looking into the windows, but didn't see anything suspicious. Argoth did notice a large open room that was too dark to see into, and moving around back, which turned out to be the front, he saw a garage door. Pulling on it, the door slid up without difficulty.

    <S>“Master, come look at this!”<S> Walking over to the object of interest as Qui-Gon stepped inside, it told a great deal more. It was a cracked drill head, industrial in size, and had hit something so hard it was nearly split in two. The damage wasn't what drew his attention, but rather what it implied.

    “It looks like this was a mining camp. Do you know what that means?”

    <S>“Tunnels!”<S>

    Author's Note: This definitely falls under the category of artistic license, because how a Twi'lek in the Star Wars Universe ended up with a Jersey accent, I have no idea. It... just happened.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  22. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 17

    Moving in the opposite direction of the others, Rahna looked around for any clues, or other signs that might give them any ideas. It was obvious the greeting party wasn't just waiting in town for them. Rahna also had no doubt that both Second and Fifth were here, maybe more. They were still dealing with an unknown quantity of people, so extreme caution would be required. She hoped that diplomacy would be possible, because Fifth had seemed reasonable at first, but it didn't seem likely. From what she'd learned about Second, the other woman didn't seem like the overly friendly type.

    The settlement was quiet, and Rahna also noticed there didn't seem to be any life in the area at all. Closing her eyes, she reached out into the Force looking for insects, animals, or anything else of interest. There was nothing to be found. The only sign of life was that of the grass and trees. She also couldn't feel any force users other than the four of them.

    “Rahna, come look at this.” What had drawn her master's attention was a small graveyard just outside of town. There were six graves in total, all with headstones above them. They were marked by the same alien script the others had found. Rahna scanned it, while Obi-Wan scanned the bodies in the graves. She got the same response from the shuttle about the script.

    “Interesting, the computer doesn't recognize the language. How about the bodies?”

    “They're humanoid, one with a crushed skull, another with a crushed chest cavity. The other skeletons show no signs of death by physical injury.”

    “Also interesting, but completely useless to the matter at hand.” They returned to the settlement to see if there was anything. As they moved further in it was all more of the same. Old dilapidated buildings that were succumbing to age and nature. She couldn't find anything to indicate that anyone had been here for a very long time. The area was silent, the Force was silent, everything was silent. It was starting to get to Rahna, then she spun around.

    “Master, did you hear that?”

    “Hear what?”

    “It sounded like... a voice.”

    “What did it say?”

    “Over here.” She was still scanning the area with her senses, and the Force, but came up empty. Obi-Wan did the same, then looked at her and shook his head a little.

    “I can't sense anything, but let me know if you hear it again.” Rahna still wasn't sure if it was a voice, or a trick of the wind. Every so often when it blew between two buildings, there was a gentle whistling sound, so it was possible her own paranoia was getting the better of her.

    “Obi-Wan, are you there?” Qui-Gon said.

    “Did you find anything?” Obi-Wan said, speaking into his comlink.

    “We found a damaged industrial drill head. It's possible this was a mining settlement, which means there may be tunnels nearby.” That caused both of them to kneel down, place a hand on the ground, and begin to look through the Force. They both sensed a void underground that was the size of a tunnel, and running parallel to the direction they were walking in.

    “Master Jinn, I sensed something underground, or a lack of something to be more precise. Possibly a tunnel. Any idea where they might place an entrance?”

    “Most mining settlements build their structures around the main shaft for ease of access.”

    “We'll meet you there,” Obi-Wan said. Rahna was only a step behind him as they made their way to the center of town, and the four arrived at nearly the same time. There they found a very large pile of stone debris with wooden timbers mixed in. Definitely a structure of some sort once upon a time. All four of them held out a hand and focused. With a rumble and a few cracks, the debris began to shudder. It slowly slid across the ground, followed by a small clack, clack, thud, as a stone fell, hitting a wall on the way down. Ten feet in diameter, it disappeared into darkness. Qui-Gon took out a small break light, snapped it to activate, and tossed.

    <S>“Looks like a good 40 or 50 feet straight down.”<S>

    “So who wants to go first?” Obi-Wan said. Argoth raised a hand, then stepped down into the hole. Qui-Gon then used the Force to slow his descent in a manner similar to levitating an object. Rahna was next, followed by Obi-Wan, who then helped to slow Qui-Gon on the way down. Now they were all standing in complete darkness.

    “I don't suppose anyone remembered to get a flashlight off the shuttle?” Obi-Wan said. To the sound of a pair of clicks, both Argoth and Rahna's faces were illuminated by the beam of light from below, and were looking in the direction of their masters.

    <S>“Paranoia isn't always a bad thing Master,”<S> Argoth said. They handed off the lights and let their masters take the lead. After swinging them around the tunnel to get a better look, it was easy to see this was a mining shaft. There was roughly cut stone mixed in with dry earth, as well as being more than big enough for people to walk back and forth. As they continued on, Obi-Wan's light stopped on what looked like the remnants of a small white vein in the wall. Walking closer he scratched a little off, then dabbed it on the tip of his tongue.

    “Zerinium, and a good bit of it from the look of things.” Scanning the walls there were more tiny white streaks to be found. That confirmed this was a mining operation at one point. Zerinium was a common ore, but also in high demand as it was one of the primary materials used in energy storage mediums.

    “Yeah, and someone probably made a nice chunk of creds off this too,” Rahna said, holding her small hand scanner. “They mined the crap out of this place, there are tunnels extending beyond my scanner range in almost every direction. Some even crisscross each other.”

    <S>“Anything of interest?”<S>

    “No, just tunnels, tunnels, and more tunnels.” The group moved along for a time, with Rahna using the scanner to map their path to avoid getting lost. This continued for nearly half an hour with nothing in sight, then a blue lightsaber blade snapped to life as Rahna spun around, quickly followed by three more.

    “What is it?” Obi-Wan said.

    “Now I know I'm not crazy because there's no wind down here.”

    “What did you hear?”

    “A voice said go back.” As before it was so faint as to be little more than a whisper. “Who's there, who said that?!”

    “Can you feel it?” Qui-Gon said.

    “Barely, but I'm not sure what it is. It's like... an echo?” Obi-Wan said.

    “I'm not sure either, but there's definitely something down here.” Qui-Gon said.

    <S>“Sounds like someone's trying to scare us off.”<S>

    “I don't think so,” Obi-Wan said. “The first time Rahna heard the voice we were above ground. It said over here, and now that I think about it, she did turn in the direction of the center of town.” The situation started to calm down, and sabers deactivated. Rahna also appreciated how Obi-Wan hadn't used the term 'claimed to hear' when describing the voice.

    “I haven't sensed anything malevolent yet, perhaps we should listen to it,” Qui-Gon said. The group turned around and began to move in the other direction. After backtracking their steps and moving into a new tunnel, it began to gently slope downward, taking them deeper underground. The silence was almost deafening, and beginning to get to Rahna. Above ground there was at least wind, here it was just silent anticipation.

    It was also getting warmer, and it wasn't long before the thermal suits were all unzipped and tied at the waist. Two tunnels later it became outright sweltering, almost like walking into a solid wall of heat. There was also an orange glow ahead, the telltale sign of magma.

    <S>“Oh screw this, I'm not playing char-crispy to find out what's down there.”<S> It was too hot for any of them to continue forward, so they went down a side tunnel that moved away from the magma.

    “Hello.” Rahna said.

    “Do you see something?” Qui-gon said.

    “About three hundred meters ahead, there's a chamber, it's square.” There was no doubt in her mind that it was artificial in design. Nature didn't make things this neat. They continued in that direction, only to find more. “Correction, it's a series of chambers. Various sizes and shapes, but they're all connected.”

    The group came around a gentle corner, and saw the first chamber ahead of them. There was light coming from within, and a small gray object opposite the entrance. Before even getting there, Rahna's attention suddenly shifted to the left. She could feel something through the Force. It was a presence, but difficult to pinpoint. As suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared, then reappeared to the right. Two more times the presence blinked in and out, each time in a different location.

    “Okay, someone's trying to mess with us,” Rahna said.

    “It's more than one person Rahna,” Qui-Gon said. “It's difficult to notice, but I did feel a slight difference each time.” That wasn't good, because in Rahna's mind that meant there were four different people here. Four Jedi, four unknowns. As they got closer they could see the gray device, about the size of a suitcase, was a transmitter relay. Not only did that seem to indicate that this world wasn't the final destination of the transmissions, this was far too easy. Everything about the room in front of her told Rahna to turn around and go the other way. Even a village idiot could see trap written all over this.

    <S>“So what now oh great and wise masters?”<S> That wasn't sarcasm on the part of Argoth, it was his way of acknowledging he was at a loss, and availing himself to their wisdom and experience. All three had heard it before, and took it as it was meant.

    “Really, Masters, any ideas?”

    “It looks to me like we have two options,” Obi-Wan said.

    “Either spring the trap, or go home,” Qui-Gon said. Rahna resisted the urge to vote for going home. Never the less, she remained like a cat on a hot tin roof, and they all started to move forward cautiously and look in every direction, including above and below. Once they were inside the room, Rahna half expected a giant stone or metal door to slam down and lock them in, but it didn't. Qui-Gon motioned for the others to stay where they were, and carefully approached the relay. After a top to bottom inspection, it looked to be deactivated, so he pressed the power button, nothing happened. Pressing a few more resulted in the same thing.

    “Dead power cell maybe?” Rahna said. Taking the left side of the transmitter's housing off, a small red and white stick about a foot long popped out. That caused Qui-Gon to jump back and grab his lightsaber, but nothing happened at first. The stick then started to turn and unfurled a red flag with the word 'bang' written on it. Inching a little closer, Rahna could see the entire transmitter was empty, save a tiny motor the stick was attached to.

    “What is this, some sort of sick joke?” Rahna said.

    <S>“Nothing funny about it at all, they're trying to mess with us, get into our heads.”<S>

    “If there was anything inside this relay, it's long gone now,” Qui-Gon said. Their only option was to keep moving, and the only path visible was another hallway to their left. As Rahna started to move that way she felt a slight ripple in the Force.

    “Master, I felt-” As she turned around the sentence fell short. Everyone was gone. Now having to fight back a good amount of fear, Rahna called out to the others and moved around the room, trying to reach out physically as well. She knew this was some sort of trick, an illusion perhaps, it had to be. They couldn't simply vanish into thin air. When sound and touch failed, she tried to reach out through the force, only to be denied once more. Somehow she had been completely cut off from her friends, separated.

    “Little Jedi, without her friends... all gone... all alone...” The voice came as a whisper, almost like a hiss... and it was right behind her.

    ****************************************​

    The situation was only growing worse by the moment for Argoth, because everywhere around him the enemy was using the force against his friends. They were all in danger and he was blind to it all. After the little joke with the transmitter he was ready to tear someone's head off, Jedi way or not. He didn't like people threaten those he cared about, especially Rahna. One way or another he would find Second and- Reaching out for Rahna, she wasn't there. He looked around, but his best friend was nowhere to be found.

    <S>“Where's Rahna?!”<S> Everyone began to look around the room, only to realize that she'd disappeared without a trace. From the room at the end of the hall to the left, Argoth heard Rahna scream, and without even thinking he took off after her. Qui-Gon yelled something about wait, but he wasn't even listening. At a full run he quickly looked around the room but saw nothing, then ran to the next room, and the next, and the next... nothing. That was also when Argoth realized he'd taken the bait, hook, line, and sinker.

    With a bit of effort he backtracked to the transmitter room, and found it empty, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were gone. Shaking his head, Argoth sighed. They they all got out of this in one piece he would definitely get gripped at, and rightfully so. He'd allowed feeling to cloud judgment, and acted very foolishly. There were times that Argoth wanted to rip his feeling out and stomp on them. They had become so hard for him to control after the change. He hadn't fully mastered them before, but now it was almost as though he were right back to square one.

    More than anything he was feeling anger, so much anger. It was like the forest of where Qui-Gon had been attacked by the soldiers. He wanted to grab hold of someone and tear them apart. His friends were in danger, and he was powerless to help them. How could this have happened, how could someone have simply taken the Force away from him like that. A single word, and he was cut off. The anger within wanted to explode like a maelstrom, but he was still a Jedi. Force or not he still remembered their teachings, and doctrine. He would not allow emotion to rule this day.

    “Why are you so afraid to feel?” Whipping around this way and that, Argoth looked for the source of the voice, but saw no one. It wasn't Second, this person didn't have the same clipped accent. Her voice was a lot smoother, almost consoling in nature.

    <S>“Who's there, show yourself!”<S>

    “It's are nothing to ashamed of, they're as much a part of you as anything else.” Argoth growled, but the voice still would not give itself form. It was impossible to tell what direction it had come from, but wouldn't allow himself to be fooled by simple mind games. He had enough problems to worry about without adding even more self-doubt than. No more than what he was already grappling with. Now alone once more, Argoth walked from room to room seeing that these were more than simple room. They were more like ruins. There were a number of large statues, though most had been worn smooth at some point.

    He wondered if these rooms had been above ground at one point, then shook his head realizing such speculation was pointless. His friends were in danger, and he needed to find them. Deeper and deeper he moved, not seeing or hear anything. He backtracked more than once, but whatever had been done to him wouldn't relent, and without the Force, he was powerless to fit against it. Deciding enough was enough, he sat down on the floor.

    <S>“You want to hide in the shadows like a coward, fine. I'm done with this stupid little game until you show yourself.”<S> For the next few minutes there was silence, then he could hear the sound of footsteps approaching. They were slow and unsteady, and unsure of what was going on he looked up. From around the corner of the hall ahead of him, he saw Rahna barely manage to walk into the room. Her lightsaber was destroyed, one leg severely injured, and her other hand was held over a bloodstain that covered most of her chest.

    “Argoth... I called for you. Why didn't you...” As she started to fall, Argoth was across the room in a flash, ready to catch her. Then she disappeared like smoke in the wind. Dropping to his knees, Argoth just looked down at his hands.

    “You call her friend, yet that is a lie. One you tell even to yourself. Why do you fear the truth?”

    Hands become fists as his eyes closed and he fought even harder against something else. “Because I am a Jedi, and that's all it can ever be, a lie.”

    “There is no emotion, there is peace, yet you are at war.
    There is no ignorance, there is knowledge, yet you know not even yourself.
    There is no passion, there is serenity, yet you find none.
    There is no chaos, there is harmony, and you fight against everything you are.
    There is no death, there is the Force, yet it is gone.”

    Finally losing control of himself, Argoth let out a scream and began slamming his fists into the wall. Over and over against he hit the solid stone in front of him, unable to control what he was feeling. The emotions flowed through him like a torrent, blinding him even to else, until he was utterly spent. Drained and in pain, he feel to the floor, looking at his hands and not even caring anymore. As much as he didn't want to admit it, the woman was right.

    Nearly all of his adult life, however short it was, had been a lie because of one simple fact he tried to ignore. A feeling he had been taught was only lead to darkness and despair, yet one he couldn't escape no matter how hard he tried. That was when he noticed someone standing in front of him. Looking up Argoth could see a woman dressed in the same armor as the others, only it wasn't Second or Fifth. This woman was, to put it bluntly, fat. Nearly as wide as she was tall, and built like like a barrel. Everything about her was big. About to try to attack, Argoth saw that her lightsaber was still clipped to a hip ring on the armor.
     
  23. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Excellent visual.

    Where would we be without friends?

    Good old Ki says the stuff that needs saying in the Council.

    Enjoyed this succinct recap of the Jedis' purpose.

    Good thinking!

    Uh oh.
     
  24. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    I'll be posting the last chapter and the epilogue tomorrow
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2019
    pronker likes this.
  25. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Chapter 18 (Final)

    Igniting the lightsaber as she spun around, there was no one there. Rahna knew she'd heard the voice, just as plainly as any other, but she was alone. She couldn't feel anyone through the Force, whatever had been done to her senses was still affecting them. She tried to use a Force Push, and felt the wave travel out of her hand and strike the wall, or at least she thought it had. Rahna shook her head and tried to clear her senses. This was a mind game. Someone was trying to confuse her, erode her self-confidence.

    Repeating the Jedi Code in her mind, Rahna focused on that, rather than what was affecting her. Taking several deep breaths she looked around, still alone. Regardless of that, she would not allow these tricksters to twist around her mind and emotions. They were hers, not weapons to be used against her. There was no point in staying here, so Rahna decided to look for the others. If she had disappeared, they would likely be looking for her.

    While moving through the halls of the ruins, Rahna tried to think her way through what was happening. This was a Force trick, something designed to turn her own mind against her. The question was, how to counter the effects. She couldn't very well just sit down and meditate, leaving herself potentially wide open to an attack. With her senses affected the way they were, there was no telling if she would be able to feel them coming. She also knew that no force technique was perfect, there was a way around everything.

    This wasn't a mind probe, because she would have felt it. They were invasive, often to the point of being painful. No, this was something new, something the Jedi had never encountered before. Now alone once more, Rahna had this nagging little suspicion in the back of her mind that she wasn't. The others were close by, friend and foe alike. What Rahna didn't understand was what they wanted. What was the point of all this in the first place. It was obvious to her that one of them likely could have killed her already. Was this some sort of sick game, someone's twisted version of entertainment?

    “What's the point of all this? Why not face me instead of playing this pointless game?” Appearing in front of her with what looked like a distortion wave, one of the four appeared. Rahna hadn't seen her before, or from the description given by the others. Taller, she was slender, with a nicely curved figure and chest.

    “Game? You think this is a game good padawan? Oh no, far from it.”

    “So which one are you?”

    The woman gave a deep bow and flourished with one hand. “I am Fourth. Now, are you ready?”

    “Ready for what?” The answer came when Fourth dropped into a battle stance, one arm forward, the other back, and ignited her lightsaber. To Rahna's surprise, this one wasn't red, but blue in color. With her own saber at the ready, the battle quickly proved to be anything but a simple test of martial prowess. When Fourth moved, she saw no motion between start and finish. One moment she was standing in a ready position, the next she was three feet closer, weapon raised to strike.

    Startled by this, Rahna jumped back and threw a hand out, trying to push her away. Just before impact, Fourth was now standing to the left. To Rahna it was almost like some strange form of stop motion movement. That was when she realized something else. She could feel Fourth drawing upon the Force, but it was from the Light Side, not the Dark.

    “How is that possible? You're drawing from the light, not the dark like Second and Fifth.”

    “So much do you see, yet so little do you understand.” The pain was searing as the lightsaber made contact with Rahna's arm. The wound was only skin deep, but enough to make her cry out and jump back. As before there was no movement, Fourth had been standing there one moment, the next she was beside Rahna, touching weapon to arm. How could she fight someone she couldn't even see move. That was when a simple realization became apparent.

    ****************************************​

    <S>“Either draw your lightsaber or leave me be.”<S> The woman standing over Argoth did neither. Taking a knee in front of him she placed both hands over top of his. As the warmth began to spread through his hands, the wounded knuckles slowly mended themselves. Though unable to access the Force, he'd seen the technique enough times to know she was calling upon the light. That alone left him confused, as both Second and Fifth used the Dark Side. <S>“Who are you?”<S>

    “You may call me Third dear child.” If the code names were ranks, that would mean Third, someone capable of calling upon the light, was the direct subordinate of Second. There were still so many questions he needed answers to, but upon opening his mouth to speak, Third placed her hand over it.

    “The change that you have endured was one that had to be, one that should have been more than a year past. Had it not, you would have died.” As she spoke, Third looked at Argoth, brushing her hand over his cheek. “The first time you fought after the change, was it as a Jedi, or were your heart and mind filled with the desire to kill and destroy. Had you drawn upon the Force, which side would have come to you, which side would have consumed you?”

    There was no doubt in Argoth's mind now, whoever these people were, they knew the truth about him. To make matters worse, Third was right. Had he been able to call upon the Force in the forest on Habel, things would have gotten a lot worse. It could have possibly ended with his master having to do something Argoth might not have lived to regret. There was still so much confusion in his mind that it was hard to think straight.

    <S>“Is this permanent?”<S>

    “Learn to accept what you've become Argoth, the rest will work itself out.”

    <S>“What about-”<S>

    “Hush now child. You must hurry unless that which you saw comes to pass.”

    ****************************************​

    As fast as her feet would move, Rahna ran through the ruins, trying to get away from Fourth. Though not a coward by nature, she also wasn't dumb enough to stay in a fight that would have been all but impossible for her to win. It would have amounted to little more than suicide. It was better to make a tactical retreat and try to find and advantage, than to stay in a fight she had no idea of how to win. If there was going to be any chance, she would need to find a way to deal with this new force technique.

    By this point Rahna was so lost, she barely knew left from right. Resting a hand on the wall, she tried to catch her breath. While she had no doubt Fourth would be along soon to continue the fight, she could feel her opponent through the Force. Turning to ready herself, Rahna watched as Fourth stepped into the room, saber by her side. At that same moment she felt someone behind her. Looking over a shoulder she saw Fifth walk into the room from the opposite end.

    Thinking the situation had just gone from bad to nearly impossible, they had a short exchange in a language Rahna didn't understand. When Fifth waved a hand at Fourth, she shrugged and walked out of the room. Confused as to what was going on, she turned to face Fifth, not liking this much more than her other option. The last time they'd crossed blades it hadn't gone well, but at the same time, Rahna was no slouch. Having already seen her style once before, she had some idea what to expect.

    “Right then, let's have at it,” Rahna said. Fifth crossed her arms in front of her face, then stomped a foot onto the floor, spacing then out, and slowly lowered her arms. Unlike last time, Fifth seemed to be drawing the Dark Side in and internalizing it. Pulling the lightsaber into her hand, the red blade ignited and she charged. When their blades met, the force of impact nearly knocked Rahna's saber out of her hand and sent her staggering back. The attacks weren't any slower, but they were much stronger than before. The blade struck over and over, and as she blocked, the young padawan was nearly battered across the room. The tactic was effective, because it left Rahna little time to react. By the time she recovered from one attack, another was already coming toward her.

    Determined not to be overwhelmed by brute force, Rahna drew upon the light to do much the same. Instead of strength she opted for speed. Lashing out with a series of rapid strikes, it forced Fifth onto the defensive. She continued to swing, looking for any possible opening, but her opponent's defense was as solid as she was. When Fifth tried to grab her again, Rahna ducked, and used her positioning to connect with an uppercut to the chin. The attack was more reflex than intent and with a dull clunk, the impact of fist against metal did more to hurt Rahna than Fifth.

    The pain shot through her hand like a bolt of lightning, and the foot to the chest impacted like a tree trunk, sending her tumbling across the floor. Fifth leapt into the air, weapon overhead to strike, and Rahna threw both hands out. The force push hit the larger woman hard enough to bounce her off the ceiling and sent her crashing to the floor.

    “Okay, that one hurt,” Fifth said. There was a slight intermission in the fight as they both took a moment to collect themselves, then stood up. This time when Fifth came forward she began to spin the blade around, designed to make the angle of attack hard to determine. Focusing her mind, Rahna blocked a side swing, then tried to attack as fast as she possibly could. This wasn't a technique she'd fully mastered yet, and would sacrifice accuracy in doing so.

    Fifth began to pick up speed as well, and it quickly turned into a contest of skill as blades hummed and popped against one another. At this moment in time the only thing in the room for Rahna was her opponent. She was watching every swing, every movement, blocking and attacking, looking for an opening that might let her blade dig into metal and flesh. The air around them was starting to take on a burnt smell from the plasma of so many blade strikes.

    “You fight well for a padawan but not well enough, this fight is over.” With the next strike, Fifth shifted her wrists ever so slightly, and with a 'hsssp' Rahna's blade disappeared. Looking down she realized Fifth had just slice the top of the lightsaber away, then a force push slammed Rahna into the far wall like she'd been hit by a speeder. Collapsing from the blow, she began to cough and spit some blood onto the floor. Her attention was drawn by the hum of a red blade, and she looked up to see the tip perhaps an inch from her face, then it fell to the floor. In a blur of brown, Argoth flew out of the hall in front of Fifth and barely slowed as he slammed into her.

    <S>“Get away from her!”<S> The two hit the floor and not even bothering to draw his lightsaber, Argoth began to hammer fist to face, only this time it was denting the helmet. Shocked by the ferocity of the attack, Rahna watched as the two of them began to punch, kick, and slam each other around like a pair of titans. Argoth tried to tail slap her, only to have the appendage caught and got spin slammed into a wall.

    He kicked Fifth in the chest hard enough to knock her down. This was a level of brutality Rahna had never seen her friend fight with before. They were literally spitting small chunks of stone as they hammered each other around the room. Then Argoth ducked under a punch, grabbed Fifth by the face, and began to repeatedly slam the back of her head into the wall.

    'Yeah, how do you like being whipped around by your head?' Rahna thought. Much like she'd done earlier, Fifth blew Argoth across the room with a double handed force push. As he hit the floor, she staggered forward slapping at the side of a now badly damaged helmet. It started to retract, then shuttered, unable to move further due to the damage. Grabbing two of the shifting plates, Fifth ripped the helmet in half, slamming the two halves onto the floor. For the first time since this all began, Rahna saw the face of one of their attackers. Shoulder length chestnut brown hair framed a large face set with deep blue eyes, a slender nose, and a set of generous pink lips. To Rahna's surprise, Fifth was quite attractive despite her size. They lunged at one another, locked arms, and tried to push the other one back through sheer brute force. Now Rahna was glad that Argoth couldn't draw on the Force, because he was to the point of nearly being enraged. Unable to push Fifth back, he whipped her around and with an immense effort, threw her into the wall. He charged forward, slamming into both Fifth and the wall so hard, it finally gave way. In a shower of dust and stone the two fell twenty feet into the room below.

    Limping over to the hole in the wall, Rahna looked down to see both of them laying on the floor. They were unconscious, but still alive. Hearing something that sounded like lightsabers, she glanced to the left, from the hall that Fifth had come from, and saw what looked like a distortion. It appeared like a ripple at first, then wavered, and Rahna realized what it was. Obi-Wan was fighting Second. Whatever sort of trick had been used to separate them seemed to be weakening.

    They were crossing blades on a thirty foot long stone bridge, and below that it fell off into darkness. Without a lightsaber and injured, all she could do was take a knee and watch them. The battle was a tense one, but Obi-Wan was matching her in both skill and speed. When she leaned forward and started to yell, he sent her tumbling back with a force push, and then pressed the advantage. As Second tried to recover, he struck at her wrist. The armor deflected enough of the blow to prevent loss of limb. Nevertheless it bit deeply enough to burn the wrist and render it nearly useless, as well as causing her to drop one of the red lightsabers into the chasm below.

    “The descriptions of your skill do you a disservice Kenobi. You are indeed a worthy opponent.” Before he had time to respond, she took the offensive, slashing with the remaining lightsaber. As he blocked low she tossed the blade to her other hand, which still had enough strength to catch, and unleashed a torrent of force lightning. Caught by surprise, he barely brought the blade up in time to block. With only one hand she was still capable of unleashing a blast strong enough to push Obi-Wan back. Rahna could feel the dark side drawing into Second with increasing strength. The lightning arced off the lightsaber to the point some of it struck her armor, causing the lights on it to flicker, but she wouldn't relent. The intensity was growing by the moment, and Rahna knew if the weapon was ripped free, it would all be over.

    Seeing Fifth's lightclub laying on the floor a short distance away, she reached toward it, but instead of pulling, she pushed. The handle ricocheted off the back of Second's helmet with a 'clonk', but it was just enough to disrupt her concentration. Rahna hadn't activated it, hoping they could capture one of them alive for questioning. When the lightning stopped, Obi-Wan repeated the move, slamming the butt of his lightsaber into the front of her helmet. Second staggered back as her last weapon was kicked free, and a blue blade stopped just short of her throat.

    “It's over Second, surrender.” Still breathing heavily from the exertion, she looked down at the blade poised to strike, then up at Obi-Wan.

    “Over? Oh no my dear Jedi, it has only just begun.” Holding her hands out to the side, Second twisted away from the blade and let herself fall from the bridge, disappearing into the darkness below. Surprised that she would do something like that, he looked down into the darkness for a time, then to Rahna.

    “Rahna, are you alright?”

    “I'll live.” When she limped over to the hole in the wall to check on Argoth, he was still unconscious, but Fifth was gone. Rather than going to get him, Obi-Wan used the Force to lift the unconscious padawan into the room where they were. As he did, Qui-Gon appeared from an adjoining hall..

    “Who did you run into?” Obi-Wan said.

    “Fourth, but once I saw through the illusion she was using it was a short fight.”

    “Were you able to capture her?” Rahna said.

    “Unfortunately no, she managed to get away. What of the others?”

    “Argoth tore the room up with Fifth and they managed to knock each other out, where she went, I don't know. Obi managed to defeat Second, then she decided to commit suicide rather than be captured and threw herself off the bridge.”

    “What about the fourth one?” Qui-Gon said.

    “No one's seen them to my knowledge.” Obi-Wan said.

    <S>“Third...”<S> Finally regaining consciousness, Argoth sat up and rubbed his head. <S>“She was here, but... we didn't fight.”<S> No one could sense their presence in the Force anymore, meaning they were likely trying to hide and retreat. After making sure no one was mortally wounded, they decided it was time to leave. On the way back to the surface they talked about everything that happened, with Argoth only saying that Third had tried to play mind games with him, then told him a little bit about what was going on his with change. He played it off as though she were trying to get into his head and break down his self-confidence. When Rahna looked around, both she and Argoth were pretty beat up, and Obi-Wan had a small lightsaber burn on each arm.

    The only one to remain unscathed was Qui-Gon. The encounter itself seemed odd, almost like it didn't have any real purpose. There had been no demands, little in the way of threats, and Third hadn't even engaged in battle. It made all of them wonder what this had been about in the first place. It was obvious there was more to this than they were seeing, but being unable to capture any of them for questioning, it left a lot of things unanswered. By the time they reached the shuttle, they had agreed on some other things as well.

    “The illusions that Fourth was using drew upon the light side, which presents a problem with the resurgent Sith Empire theory,” Qui-Gon said.

    “Sith wouldn't likely abide someone like that among their ranks,” Rahna said.

    <S>“They also know a good bit about me, but I had to help Rahna before I could get anymore out of Third.”<S>

    “What bothers me the most is Second. Before she dove off the bridge, she said this was only the beginning,” Obi-Wan said. To make matters worse, they didn't even know who these people were, or what they wanted. There was however one thing that Rahna was fairly certain about. They hadn't seen the last of the little numbered group. With Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan on the shuttle, she started to walk up the ramp, then stopped and turned to Argoth.

    “I know you're aggressive in a fight, but back there with Fifth, I've never seen you like that before.”

    “I was trying to protect you because... you're my best friend.” That brought a smile to Rahna's face, and before stepping onto the shuttle, she gave him a hug around the waist.

    “I'm glad I have a friend like you.”

    Author's Notes: The Epilogue will clarify a few things, so be patient. ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019