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Beyond - Legends Star Wars: Paranormalities Trilogy (30 ABY AU, OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Gahmah Raan, Feb 2, 2015.

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  1. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Onderon arc documentaries. Similar to Dagobah, this was also originally going to be one chapter, but split it when I felt it was getting too long.

    Original Publication Date: June 2, 2013

    The Onderon system was indeed meant to be done after Korriban. However, since Dxun and Freedon Nadd's tomb is relatively mild compared to Korriban when it comes to Dark Side influence, I thought this would be the right time to show Zolph making progress with his PTSD (but again, don't have him just get over it, because that's not really how therapy works). So I had Zolph pretend to be annoyed instead of terrified since it's the third time (this is also me thinking the PTSD would wear out its welcome at this point in time to the audience) and once halluci-Dynn points out he's faking his fear, he rejects it aggressively. Unfortunately, as Grein points out at the end of the next chapter, that he's treating it like a physical threat means he still hasn't gotten over it. He's just gotten over the death-seeker tendencies.

    The Kur'Ada Equalists were an idea that originated in the earliest concept phases of Episode I. But in those concepts, what I had planned for them in Episode I wasn't exactly relevant to the Forceless plot. However, I still wanted to keep them for the idea of the Valkoran having allies outside their empire (conceptualized even earlier than the Skakoan Commandos), and I wanted to use them in a way that connects them to the overall war. I mentioned their existence back in Chapter 2, but I introduced them in this arc to set up their betrayal of the Valkoran. Concept art for a Kur'Ada warrior.

    I'll admit it. I created Spectre as an excuse to have a female Kyuzo (and artistic license was mandatory since Embo was the only Kyuzo introduced at the time in both canon and Legends, and I didn't want her just being Rule 63 Embo) in Besh Squad and have the idea of squad members that always been part of the squad in-universe (or squad members that died before Zolph met them), but Zolph simply hadn't met or known about.

    My description of the layout of Freedon Nadd's tomb is based off the map from KOTOR II: TSL. I also did a bit of extensive Wookieepedia searching on Nadd's tomb and its origins to mold my idea of Fafniros's temple being hidden in Freedon Nadd's Dxun tomb. This included the idea of Arca Jeth specifically relocating the tomb from Onderon to this specific spot on Dxun solely to mask something that can potentially be just as threatening as the Dark Side.

    Original Publication Date: Junes 2, 2013

    Machinus: During the Sith cult conceptualization phase, Machinus was just a human cyborg with Grievous-level modfications (and he essentially looked like a much more robotic version of Darth Malak), with the only organic component being his head (which could detach and crawl around). But since this is Paranormalities and I eventually turned him into an anti-villain, I decided to be more creative and go all out with the weird factor. And thus, I turned him into a purely mechanical droid that used to be a living being and a Jedi. And going further, I decided to make him a Nautolan in his previous life. Here is the concept art. His head operating without his body is a reference to the original concept, but since his body is based on a Nautolan, I decided to make a Vocaloid reference out of it too.

    The original design for what would become Fafniros was just.... a dragon. I eventually realized he was kinda boring when put next to the more alien Archfiends, so I decide to turn him into a cyborg dragon similar to Meta Ridley from Metroid Prime and add some of the same somewhat Lovecraftian traits as the purely organic Archfiends by making him an artificial lifeform that has metal plating for skin and other parts of his body (and some exposed muscle). I also went for the idea of an ultimately Collective-loyal Archfiend that had his own standards. Unfortunately, the Collective would find these standards counter-intuitive. Concept art (you can also spot a Kur'Ada Glaive-class starfighter and another Katana-class battleship.

    As for the tracking beacon Besh Squad was able to put on Fafniros, Spectre fired a tracer round on him from her sniper rifle (with that armor, he wouldn't real feel it) before the rest of the squad used the MAAD pods.

    I had Hiriss ride a ruping to the Dragoon as a means to weld TCW's depiction of Onderon with the Old Republic era's depiction of the system. And speaking of Hiriss, here's some more concept art. While I wanted her to have some resemblance to Dynn (besides species), I deliberately gave her different hairstyle to keep them from being too similar.

    The scene for Hiriss sharing the X-Wing's cockpit came as a result of Hiriss not being in the original conceptualization phase when it came to escaping the plummeting Dragoon. However, this would eventually lead to the X-Wing getting extended for a co-pilot/passenger seat.

    With Zolph no longer surrendering to his hallucinations, I thought this would be the right time to take him off the therapy.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
  2. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Now we're getting to the point where I decided to stop splitting chapters for the sake of length control.

    Original Publication Date: July 30, 2013

    Yes, I was taking the opportunity to rip the hell out of the Star Wars Holiday Special just because this chapter was on Kazook Kashyyyk. Seeing as this was written before the Legends decision, I had trouble believing the Special as a whole could plausibly allowed to be canon (and sadly for my sanity, I and a few others were subject to it during an attempted Livestream riff of the Special; we didn't get past the cooking channel scene, but I persevered only a little better). So I opted to turn into a post-Yavin Imperial propaganda film that failed miserably. And the description of Attichitcuk was also me picking on how creepy his costume was in the special. If you want to go on theater theory in the Star Wars universe, I would imagine one dressing up as another already-existing species would be the Star Wars equivalent of black face.

    When it came to the Kur'Ada's betrayal of the Valkoran, I wanted to establish that just because they've turned on the Valks doesn't mean they're suddenly friends with the Alliance, especially when their philosophy is built on the extermination of Force users.

    This was clearly written and published after the Disney buyout but before the Legends decision. I included Attichitcuk as chieftain for a background detail, but I deliberately avoided mentioning his son by name or his fate in Vector Prime (except for that slight nod for how Grein quickly picked up Shyriiwook) because not only did I have no clear idea how the post-ROTJ EU was going to be changed (I just knew change was imminent since Peter Mayhew was announced to return, thus obviously undoing Chewie's death), I didn't feel it was important to bring up within the context of this story (the advantages of relying mostly on OCs...).

    Speaking of canon characters, I had Luke present on Kashyyyk in response to some criticisms about Luke almost entirely being in mission control mode, because when you have Force-related terrors around, you'd think he'd also be making response to the Archfiends.

    I revealed Dynn to be a deep-cover double agent because I knew there was something that could prove problematic when it came to Zolph's feelings for her: namely, the fact that she died as a Valkoran agent - one who joined within a month after being captured - and a potential war criminal, a fact that would almost certainly bring up some animosity within the ranks of the Galactic Alliance military. This was especially important if I planned to bring her back later and return as an ally. Of course, I also had to make General Choi regret his decision to send her undercover and the consequences of doing so without knowing everything.

    Similar to having the first half of the Fafniros battle be an aerial dogfight that later comes to the top of a ship, having Harphscor summoned off-screen and attack Rwookrorro was done to both mix up the formula for fighting Archfiends (keeping them from becoming the somewhat repetitive fight them as soon as they are summoned within their temple), but show just how dangerous the Archfiends can be to everyone else. Harphscor's personality, on the other hand, was there to serve as grim reminder after three remotely sympathetic Archfiends, that not all of them are forced into fighting for the Collective, and that some are just as psychopathic as Belluzub. For those who want to see the cover art without the logo, here's what Harphscor looks like. His design is based on some very bizarre dream that I had when I was 14 and had towering pale creatures with human heads and pipe-like bodies that were stiff even when moving.

    I introduced Forceless Newborns as a logical conclusion to the idea of instantly-created Forceless (they couldn't be the warrior class from Sleheyron because where would the armor come from?). This was also a way for me to introduce the threat of being possessed to the rest of the Jedi Order and Galactic Alliance.

    Fun fact, Zolph's Forceless-channeling ability at the end of Episode II was conceptualized first. However, from a writing standpoint, it was also important to make sure this power didn't get introduced at the last minute with no prior foreshadowing and establish it early enough by demonstrating a flawed version of that ability. Another problem with the conceptualized version of the ability was that it could potentially turn Zolph into an overpowered Sue, so I had to put some limits on this power and introduce flaws to this power too. Not only was this power on a time limit, it had the potential to make the user insane if they weren't really in control of their emotions. This power to convert Forceless into Force power (possibly by overloading them with Force power) also gives more reason beyond immunity for Valkor wanting Zolph dead. Concept art for this form.

    I always had plans for bringing Maesterus back into the story on Kashyyyk. Originally, there was going to be a duel "for old times' sake", but scrapped that idea because there really isn't any point in having Zolph and Maesterus fighting each other again now that Zolph's grudge against Maesterus pretty much ended in Episode I (except when Zolph was high on Black Matter, obviously). With Zolph's Forceless-channeling being introduced in this chapter, I thought it would also be a good time to follow up on the Bast Castle holocron subplot before it was completely forgotten.

    That last scene with Hiriss. If I was planning on having Dynn return one day, I had to make sure Hiriss become her own character and also used this scene to deconstruct a previous speculation of her becoming a potential love interest for Zolph just because she looked her (and her being Dynn's cousin just makes it more awkward). Although they are seen together a lot throughout Episode II (and Zolph/Hiriss seems to have a bit more chemistry than Zolph/Dynn since the most we saw of Dynn was when she was with the Valkoran and those appearances weren't that frequent), it's mostly a platonic relationship. And even if they were to become an item, he'd have to avoid making a substitute out of her.
     
  3. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Original Publication Date: September 10, 2013

    I always wanted to write a chapter done from the Valkoran POV to give a better view into their character. I had written Arcidus's backstory before this chapter in his profile, but revealed it in the story proper in this chapter. This also gave some more insight into his character.

    I didn't go into too much detail describing Ockla Prime yet because for the Valks, this is nothing out of the ordinary. I decided to wait until the Galactic Alliance/Jedi Order characters saw it for themselves.

    With this being a Valkoran POV chapter, I thought this would also be the proper time to directly introduce Emperor Valkor. In the original planning, he was just going to struggle to give Arcidus the orders to attack the Kur'Ada enclave. However, I decided to give him a bit more time on screen to establish his character more. The goal was simple: make him somewhat charming on the outside, but flat-out terrifying inside. Originally, he wouldn't introduce his more freakish traits until the Battle of Ockla Prime, but since it's already established that he's in control of both the Valkoran Empire and the Forceless Collective, I decided to make it clear he's not normal from the get-go. He's not characteristically infallible, but it would be very foolish to not see him as a serious threat, so that led to the part of him not being an evil overlord who sits on his throne all the time, and if he does get up, that means something horrifying is going to happen.

    Concept art for the Phantom Razor. If there's one slight inaccuracy I can think of (aside from perspective things), it's the size of V7-L20's head. Speaking of V7, older concepts originally had him as an R7, but since this droid is part of a society that has been in seclusion for a very long, I decided to make him an entirely new model of astromech droid, and suggest Valkoran astromechs aren't built like R-series astromechs (similar to BB-8, which is funny considering this was written long before BB-8 was revealed). And since Arcidus is a counterpart to Zolph, I decided to make V7 a counterpart to R9-C4 personality-wise by making him more humble.

    The idea of the Kur'Ada gaining Force connections was not something I had always planned. However, I wanted to give more motivation to the Kur'Ada Equalists' betrayal beyond just "an Archfiend tried to kill us". With this idea came the idea of them rethinking their ideology. I also felt the need to address Midi-chlorian theory and flat-out debunk the idea that Midi-chlorians are the direct cause of the Force since some previously non-Force-Sensitive beings learned to use the Force.

    What Valkor did to Mursama was indeed the introduction to the "Pool of Souls". With Mursama's initial reaction to him (followed by the introduction of Collective Heralds in the next chapter), this also foreshadowed that the Valkor we were dealing with this Episode was just an avatar. And here's some concept art for the scene of Valkor eating Mursama.

    If there's one slight regret I have now, it's that the Kur'Ada could use some more background development for their initial motivations, especially when you bring up the question of how they were able to get optics in the first place considering Miralukas wouldn't have initially understood the concept of eyes. Perhaps that is a topic for a Fanon post since Paranormalities isn't really supposed to be "The Tale of the Kur'Ada Equalists".

    Original Publication Date: November 29, 2013

    Chronologically, this chapter takes place at the same time as the previous chapter.

    The idea of Zolph getting frostbite from his prosthetic arm was influenced by Fullmetal Alchemist when the Elric brothers went to North Amestris.

    I took some liberties when it came to the depiction of the rebuilt Techno Union lab, such as the presence of Separatist droid models that weren't present on the planet in the show, and I deliberately kept it ambiguous as to when the events of that storyline specifically happened (when the Legends stuff was still considered canon, the microseries conflicted with Labyrinth of Evil when it came to what happened just before Revenge of the Sith). Including Commando Droids as Gestroma's primary infantry was done to merge both Clone Wars series together, but having them be the main infantry force was a deconstruction of the idea of them outright replacing the B1s from a narrative standpoint. While it would be more practical in-universe to replace the B1s, that would just mean the elites become the new cannon fodder and they start being taken for granted.

    Seefor referencing the Daleks came as a result of me just getting into Doctor Who that year and binge-watching it.

    Since the Nelvaanians haven't had much exposure since their first appearance (or appeared much), I wanted to go into how the Techno Union's meddling (as well as the rise of the Empire not long after) influenced their behavior. Going into Nelvaanian history and mythology also gave me an excuse for Zolph to draw comparisons to his own personal experiences and where he is now. I also brought up the idea of how history outside the Jedi Order and Skywalker family views Darth Vader and Anakin.

    Captain Shiera Hond was created to not only emphasize how horrible Gestroma's activity is, but also add some weight to Hiriss's reason for being with Zolph on Nelvaan.

    Fun fact: I conceptualized Gestroma without his armor first.

    As lazy as it sounds, I avoided describing the other mutants because I wanted to imply that there's a lack of consistency in what they turn into, and I didn't want to waste a whole page on describing them all. My only real regret is not describing the scout's mutations enough (or the scout before he mutated).

    As the name of the Imperial weapon project implies, Gestroma isn't his real name. Even with the revelation of him being the son of Despayre inmates, I kept his real name and his original species a mystery on purpose.

    Making Gestroma a Forceless Herald was not only a means of keeping him from being an outright-filler villain, but also giving Valkor an excuse to come to Nelvaan and assimilate a mercenary that he's been paying before.

    The acknowledgement of other Collective's possibly spawning from other planets being destroyed is a straight-up acknowledgement that the galaxy really has trouble staying safe in the Legends continuity. But at the same, I had to make it clear that Valkor's Collective is the one the galaxy should be most worried about at the moment since they have an army.

    When it came to describing the Kur'Ada refugees, the "Force-blind but non-Kur'Ada" might be a slight misnomer. They're just non-combatant enclave citizens. I will admit, the idea of there being Kur'Ada warrior remnants siding with the eventual Valkoran Separatists was a last minute idea.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
  4. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Original Publication Date: December 13, 2013

    The idea of Grein having a job as a stripper on while Sleheyron (and Zolph's reaction to learning this both when it came to her age and when he learned she is his ancestor) was essentially me trolling any potential Zolph-Grein shippers (not that I know of any).

    Let's go ahead and get out of the way what I regret: Constantly not using the z-word to describe the undead in this chapter, when I used the z-word in later chapters, acknowledgement of zombie movies in-universe and the z-word has been used in the Star Wars universe before. Also, the execution of Masochus creating an army from Lieutenant Helms' corpses, as I just ended up making Helms look dumber than he should be. However, since I wanted to keep the joke of someone abusing Helms' ability to not stay dead in a hilariously twisted way, I would have Masochus force Helms over a distance into answering him against his will.

    For the Guaymar chapter, I had the idea of both an Archfiend that can reanimate the dead, and the good guys having to deal with a zombie apocalypse. This eventually led me to set up the idea of Zolph and crew getting to the planet after Stythanyx had been summoned.

    Speaking of Stythanyx, he's one of a few Archfiends that's constantly changed in design throughout the planning phase. Only two things have been consistent: He's gigantic and he can reanimate the dead from his presence alone. The first design had him as a conglomeration of corpses. The second had him a barely mobile creature with three trunk-like mouths. The final design came as a result of trying to make him come off as reasonably threatening if he were to get off planet and making the Hands a little more relevant.

    Originally, the Hands weren't directly connected to Stythanyx at all. The in-universe theory of the hands being the ghosts of alien astronauts was based on the original concept (originally under the name "Yand Phantom"). I connected them to Stythanyx because when I showed the early designs online, they almost always generated a response, usually to how nightmarish they are. As such, I couldn't simply let a padding enemy overshadow a Forceless general, so I made them a little more important in regards to Stythanyx. This led to Stythanyx's design looking like a larger version of the Hands with more body parts (and allowed me to add some more horrifying traits to them, such as the four-day death curse). Once I connected them to the Forceless Collective, I also had to come up with an excuse to have them keep their eye design.

    I mentioned the Guaymarans as a side factor and a design for them in the drafting phase, but didn't bring them up too much to avoid distracting from the plot.

    When conceptualizing Masochus's character, the goal was to make him a nasty piece of work even by Sith standards. While his goals are rather shallow compared to Valkor's, he's fundamentally more disgusting as he doesn't even have any pretenses to justify the things he does (any pretenses he does cook up would be blatantly hollow). To justify why he's still not a Sith Lord, I had to establish that even the rest of the Sith Empire found him a liability (how they didn't execute, that would be interesting side story material), so I made him clinically insane. In other words, he's basically a deconstruction of the card-carrying villain Sith Lord. And as such, he's widely disliked by the majority of the Valkoran Empire, and much of his insanity also leads him to making stupid decisions. And I made him a spoiled brat.

    In other words, similar to Valkor, I wanted to make Masochus you could love to hate.

    You'd get the impression from the way I've depicted traditional Sith Lords, I have contemptuous opinion of them. No, the situations of Azath and Masochus are just how rational-minded people would react to them in reality.

    As for the design, Masochus wasn't always a pseudo-zombie. Originally, he was just an ugly human. Then he was a mummified corpse with his life-force trapped in and transporting himself with a sarcophagus. Finally, I played up the idea of Sith using the Dark Side to keep themselves alive after otherwise-fatal injuries as inspired by Darth Sion and Maw. After the return of Darth Maul in The Clone Wars and observing how insane he went over ten years, this led me to making Masochus clinically insane based on badly mutilated he was compared to every other instance of staying alive through hate. However, I wanted to make it clear that Masochus did this to himself and the extent of his injuries make him an invalid that is only able to function by moving his body with the Force. And this in turn, led me to develop a sorcerer-type fighting style for him. When I designed his lightsaber for the cover art, I wanted to set up a visible implication that hilt had some fossilized body parts built into it.

    Zolph's reaction to Grein being a former Valkoran agent came as a result of where Zolph's character development was at this point, so I decided to downplay his annoyance with Grein not telling him before and have Grein keep cool about Masochus spilling the beans to preserve the trust. While he is a little peeved on the inside with Grein's secret-keeping, he knows she has his best interests at heart after everything he's been through and his opinion of the Valkoran Empire as a whole became less caustic. This is also demonstrated through who he decides to attack when Masochus tried to make him angry before forcing him to Force-channel. Seriously, if you were turned into a blood-thirsty killing machine, who would you prioritize? The ally who kept secrets but made it clear she cared for his well-being, or the psychopath who's openly gloated about making his life hell?

    Masochus taunting Grein over being separated from her family on the other hand, shows she's not perfectly stable either and establishes that Zolph and Grein are helping each other to keep from slipping.

    Zolph remembering that Forceless are hive-minded came as a result of me remembering that too, and acknowledging that it really is difficult for human beings (both for writers and the characters) to keep up with mind-game plots when someone can see everything their minions see and making sure the ones doing the surveillance aren't hopelessly overpowered.

    The idea of there being racism within other species suggests that humans of the Star Wars galaxy did have racial tensions before they reached their space age and got past them almost entirely, kinda like where we are right now: it's getting better than before, but we still have problems.

    Original Publication Date: February 6, 2014

    The idea of having Krishar take place one day after Guaymar came as a result of logical deduction and convenience since it was the only planet left on Zolph's list.

    I foreshadowed Gahmah Raan's return as soon as he disappeared from Episode I. With his return as an ally, I also wanted to develop his background and tastes a bit more, such as what being a bounty hunter means to him. In other words, create another comic relief character with some depth.

    When it came to Gahmah being a self-proclaimed rival of Boba Fett (Boba probably doesn't even know about him) and voicing a stereotype about Mandalorians, I was indeed poking fun at not just Karen Traviss's depiction of Mandalorians, but some Mandalorian fans' warped logic that Mandalorians can't ever be pacifists because of their culture in an attempt to justify their hatred of the New Mandalorians. Newsflash: cultural standards evolve when people become more empathic and use logic; otherwise they stagnate, and this refusal to evolve has nearly killed the Mandalorian culture a few times. By extension, I'm poking fun at the close-mindedness of some EU fans when it comes to retcons or just simply new ideas (and you can imagine that I eventually I got more ideas to troll the "Bring Back Legends" extremists).

    Since I established Gahmah could regenerate, I decided to abuse that feature for all it's worth. Which included suffering amusing injuries.

    The tea time scene was a dose of reality when it came to discovering new alien cultures. Especially when it comes to foreign foods.

    Nazeen might not have much characterization in this chapter, but I added some slight background to her when I wrote Gahmah's character profile. Gahmah Raan will return in Episode III, and I intend to have Nazeen return with some more characterization (and their kid will be born by this point).

    The idea of Force lightning trees came as a result of reading a starwars.com article on the midi-chlorian controversy, stating that because all living things have them, every living thing has the potential to become a Jedi regardless of count. So, I took that idea to its logical conclusion and made ordinary non-thinking trees into sorcerers.

    I admit, I kinda fumbled when it came to describing some parts of Armogeist, namely his lightsaber's color. This along with a more detailed background was established when I wrote his character file, and brought said elements in when I had him return later with more focus.

    I also could have handled Armogeist's reasons for stopping Zolph's team a little better the first time around. I could have said Xixixix was already impairing his judgement a lot earlier than I did.

    Since we were dealing with an insanity-inducing Archfiend, I thought it would be perfectly logical to have the last Dynn hallucination Zolph would be scared be here. And with Gahmah Raan's slight medium awareness, I thought it would make sense for him to see what the lead POV-character is seeing too, and Gahmah not being an overly serious character would help Zolph cope with this particular situation.

    When it came to making a concrete conceptualization of the Archfiend of Krishar, I decided to play with the formula and make Xixixix the least actively threatening Archiend and make him an idiot. Similar to Grein mentioning Facadma in advance in the previous chapter, I wanted to set up the idea of some Archfiends having been present in the galaxy since the Infinite Empire. And Krishari being on the list is another call back to the idea of some of the data on the list being forged to set up traps. In the case of Xixixix, he's another in-name-only Archfiend because he's too brain-dead for leadership positions and the Forceless Collective wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible while keeping him in reserve as a weapon (the fact that Valkor decided to go assimilate Xixixix into the Collective shows that even he can make poor judgement calls). When I wrote the character file, I had to suggest that Valkor cut him off from the hive-mind to keep him from driving the rest of the Collective insane, similar to why the Hands of Stythanyx aren't directly possessed.

    And when I had the name first spoken, I had to make a joke out of how the name is spelled in reverse to readers to asking "how do you pronounce that?" It was partially suggested, but I pronounce Xixixix "Shick-sick-six". It's an obvious number of the beast reference.

    Concept art: Armogeist and Xixixix.

    Having Zolph name the Manthis (the ship) this chapter was basically forcing myself to finally name the ship too.
     
  5. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Original Publication Date: April 6, 2014

    Not only did I want to have an excuse to have Zolph encounter Arcidus again, I wanted to experiment with relatively mundane plots again.

    When it came to the idea of Zolph encountering Arcidus as a result of a staged pseudo-assassination attempt against a senator, the original idea was relatively underdeveloped. So I decided to make it come off as even more mundane for the more heroic characters by starting them body-guarding a corrupt senator. This also allowed me to show a darker side to the Galactic Alliance government and show the personal complications that come with positions that require political impartiality in public.

    The bill that Bal Mophula was trying to pass and his backing by a New Trade Federation is indeed a pot-shot at the many attempts at monopolizing the internet through cyber-security bills such as SOPA and CISPA. That last comment of Zolph's about trying to keep money out of politics is also a pot-shot at Citizens United. Considering that George Lucas has revealed that he's opposed to big businesses worming their way into politics, I wonder even more if his idea of the Trade Federation and other Commerce Guilds getting seats in the Galactic Senate (as ridiculous as it might sound to some people) was a commentary on current U.S. politics and how lobbyists are corrupting it.

    I kinda regret this now in light of the things France has recently suffered as of late and defying dated stereotypes, Bal Mophula shouting "I surrender!" as soon as he was shot at was a deliberate use of the "Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey" since Twi'leks were almost always depicted with French accents in The Clone Wars, yet they never displayed that stereotype once except for probably Orn Free Taa. Yeah, Mophula is essentially an expy of Orn Free Taa, and I also wanted to introduce four-lekku'd Twi'lek (when I wrote it, I had no idea it was a result of obesity; so now, the claim of it being a birth defect can just be taken as a defensive lie).

    I'll admit, having the chase go to the Coruscant underworld was a little bit of padding, but since 1313 got cancelled and we only got a few TCW episodes set there, I wanted to have this area explored in a post-NJO context. Thankfully it works, because if Arcidus wanted to talk with Zolph and didn't want to get caught by Valkor's fanatics (or Alliance security). And with this being the crapsack part of Coruscant, I had to have Zolph encounter some thugs, so I decided to get creative with the thugs he encountered and made them cannibals (and made a nod to Gahmah Raan's tale of a "kissing" accident with a Karkaradon).

    Speaking of Gahmah, when I mentioned that little incident in the previous chapter, I didn't realize the implications it would bring up until part way through writing it, so I slightly brought that up by keeping people guessing as to whether he's actually bisexual or that was just the booze talking. But with the mention of Violo Jod later, I think I've established that it's both. And don't worry, I've come up with a new bit of world-building lore in regards to Krishari society: polygamy is legal there.

    And yes, making Rakan ignorant of Force "science" is me poking fun at fans who claim midi-chlorians completely demystify the Force... again. I decided play with that by making his cannibalism logic incredibly warped.

    The fight with Arcidus in the warehouse came as an excuse to finally have him demonstrate his combustion power against Zolph (albeit staged). Him not using these powers back on Charros IV was a result of not only not wanting to kill Zolph, but as a result of the video game structure plan too. Having that kinda power immediately would make for a very brutal first boss.

    As I planned to make him become the leader of the Seferite Order (AKA the Knights of Maesterus) at the end of Episode II, this was also another opportunity to develop Aiken as a character outside his POV chapter. So I had him take action on his own and without anyone's say-so. This was also my way of saying that yes, Seferin is definitely now aware by this point that Valkor is indeed aware of him working to undermine him.
     
  6. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Mortaqa arc documentary. Only a few more of these to go.

    Original Publication Date: May 6, 2014

    I know. Current politics don't work that quickly. I was just being cathartic.

    When it came to the build up of the superweapon, I decided to play with classic superweapon tropes. First, have it allegedly be the same type of impractical doomsday device that you'd probably expect from the Bantam era, which is where the gravity controller came in. Second, reveal that said weapon isn't actually supposed to be a weapon in the first place, and that it was just being as a decoy to lure the Alliance into a false sense of security before the real weapon showed up. Finally, once said weapon shows up, it turns out to be one of the most terrifyingly practical superweapons conceived of: a simple, powerful Force user.

    It took me a while to decide that Christophsis was the planet to be annihilated this chapter. First, it was an entirely original planet, but I didn't think it would have that much impact if the place being destroyed was unfamiliar to anyone. At another point, it was Mygeeto, but then I realized there was another snowy planet as the setting for the next chapter. I chose Christophsis because it was conceptually similar to Mygeeto, just without the snow. Besides, even after its first appearance in The Clone Wars, it didn't get much presence in the post-Original Trilogy Legends run, so I decided to give it some post-Clone War spotlight.

    The city of Chaleydonia/Crystal City was pre-established material. The city of Agatanea is entirely original. I named it going on the crystal name theme with the other city.

    Concept art for General Ven Choi

    On another note, here's some concept art for R9-C4.

    When it came to the duel with Valkor, I had to make sure that one of the heroes died. One of my original plans was to kill off Hiriss, but I didn't want this chapter repeat Episode I's chapter 13 too much by killing someone else who resembles Dynn. However, I was planning on killing off General Choi anyway, so sparing Hiriss was to prevent it from being overdone. If there's one thing I regret looking back, I feel like I downplayed the damage Choi got from having his mask ripped off.

    Another note, with me revealing later that killing people before they are eaten by the Black Matter doesn't save them from being put in the Pool of Souls (that came as a result of coming up with an explanation for how Valkor could resurrect dead subjects), it would seem Choi's suicide may have been for nothing and Valkor may have eaten him later. Or Valkor's just toying with what everyone else knows so far by letting one person become one with the Force.

    In a way, Mortaqa was designed as a reconstruction of superweapons as literary devices after the Bantam era made it something to be embarrased about because they were used so much. In other words, emphasize just how terrifying they can actually be when they do just what they're supposed to do. No collateral damage, just death to selective targets. And that just makes Valkor come off as even more monstrous.

    Originally, the character that became Mortaqa was actually one of the leadership figures, but I decided to turn her into a hidden weapon because if someone with that much destructive potential was wandering around freely, the Valkoran Empire would have won by now. And realistically, if I was turning a good chunk of the Valkoran into anti-villains, they'd get very suspicious if a person of mass destruction was wandering around, and the ex-Jedi would sense that she was tormented. And this destructive potential also meant that I had to kill her off next chapter.

    Mortaqa/Facadma's life-force harvesting power wasn't always the same as Mother Talzin's and the Frangawl cult's power. I just established it to be so once I realized how similar it was.

    When it came to half the Valkoran Empire eventually betraying Valkor, I originally intended to have them fight alongside the Galactic Alliance at Ockla Prime once the Forceless Collective arrived. However, I realized that would come off as abrupt, so I decided that one half betrays Valkor much earlier as a result of the annihilation of Christophsis while another half stays loyal out of cult-like fanaticism. That way, I both get a battle of Ockla Prime between Alliance and Valkoran forces and the Empire's split comes off more realistically.

    Zolph preventing Private Varson's suicide was also done to show just how far his character has come. With what happened to Dynn and the depression he's suffered throughout the beginning of Episode II, his motivation is "Don't let anyone else suffer as I have suffered."

    Originally, I didn't intend for Grein to be present on Christophsis, but once I established that Mortaqa was Emilin, I had to have her be present to recognize her. However, I also had to come up with an explanation for how she survived the annihilation, with the implication that Emilin had just enough willpower left to keep Facadma from killing her (hence why we see Facadma mentally abusing her on Chilades next chapter).

    Valkor to me is an interesting character. To some, he would be written off as a bad villain for making stupid decisions and coming off as childish (something I'm seeing again with Kylo Ren with some fans) and not being like Darth Vader. When he's dangerous, he'd be considered a bad villain because he comes off as an infallible villain sue for daring to be more dangerous and terrifying than the most iconic film canon villains. This is basically me being fed up with the indecisiveness of what the fan base wants in their characters and how modern media consumer tastes are becoming more and more cynical. My goal was simply to make him terrifying and not boring.

    And yes, that "newborn competition" Valkor was referring to was indeed the symbiote born from Christophsis's annihilation.

    Speaking of Valkor, what he looks like unmasked can be seen in the bottom right.

    Original Publication Date: June 25, 2014

    With having the beginning of the chapter set up on Polis Massa and forcing Luke Skywalker to be on the move for a whole month, this establishes just how bleak having a sentient superweapon roaming around the galaxy for an extended period of time could be. The idea that Valkor was minimalizing the casualties caused by Mortaqa was a sign that despite his occasional stupid decisions, he is able to learn from his mistakes. But obviously, too little too late for him seeing that his Empire split.

    With Zolph being the only living being able to resist the life-force harvesting, he had to go alone. However, with Mortaqa having become an important part of Grein's character arc, I had to find some way to help her have one last reunion with Emilin without killing her off (I still had other plans for Grein). So, the holo-communicator solution came in.

    I am slightly indecisive on how Chilades is pronounced. It's either 'kill-ladies', 'chill-ladies', 'kill-ah-dis' or 'chill-ah-dis'. The first pronunciation is derived from the play on words of "chill" and "Hades". Appropriate, since the best description of the planet would be "frozen over, but still Hell".

    Concept art:
    Mortaqa/Emilin
    Facadma - You might notice that the lower face tentacles are on her cheeks here and not her chin like in the chapter cover art. The later was a slight artistic goof on my part as a result of not drawing her again for a few years (I had done several sketches of Facadma in the past to get an idea of her main features), and the one concept art is more in line with my lore.

    The idea of the living Force ripping apart Facadma as she was dying was not really inspired by how Mother Talzin's corpse decayed in Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (this chapter was published just after Part 2 was released). And canonically, it's not really clear if the harvested living Force is cognizant in canon. What I established about her powers at this point was solely based off what was revealed about TCW Nightsister magic at that point in time. The similarities to the later revealed mechanics was just a coincidental case of fanon going ahead of canon.

    Yes, Facadma was indeed lying when she was begging for mercy, and she would have regenerated eventually and possessed another creature if Zolph let her live. While he was angry at Facadma, he took a more pragmatic approach to eliminating her while keeping his anger in check, just like Belluzub. Still reeks of the Dark Side, just not enough to fully succumb to it. All of his previous experiences with Valkor's Forceless has made him a bit cynical, but unlike most Jedi that go through this stuff, Zolph is aware enough to avoid going too far.
     
  7. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    I'm almost done with Episode II's documentaries.

    Original Publication Date: September 6, 2014

    This chapter wasn't originally planned to exist. The purpose of this chapter was to make sure some things didn't go unanswered, some of the one-off Valkoran characters got more development and didn't just disappear, and take a deeper look behind the things they did at the beginning of the story.

    With Zolph going over to the Valkoran fleet at Lehon, I had to establish that just because Maesterus and his allies are good guys now doesn't mean they are going to get off scot-free for their earlier war crimes, even if they were trying to wage a soft war.

    Yes, "Mr. and Mrs. Sarlacc fused together" is innuendo. For context, the female is the spiky mouth that's always been part of the sarlacc. The male is the worm that was added in later editions. You can figure out the rest from there.

    With me failing to describe some details about Armogeist in his first appearance, I had to bring them up here. And with him being of Sith origin, I had to acknowledge that while he is much nicer than the average Sith (the opposite of Masochus), he's still got some instabilities due to said upbringing. If Balos had any saner Sith masters, I can imagine he'd be just as much of a zealot as them.

    And I'll admit, Balos and Juganak's discussions during their sparring session was me taking potshots at some of the more borderline-militant members of the "Bring Back Legends" movement. However, I also wanted to make sure these potshots didn't take up a whole page and turn into a filibuster, so I tried to keep them brief (and make a point about what happens when you try to sidetrack people like this in the middle of a battle). And technically speaking, the name "Moraband" is also part of Legends due to "The Lost Missions" being released before the decision was announced, and I thought this would be good way to acknowledge both names can exist in the same continuity, as mentioned in the "Sacrifice" episode guide.

    Original Publication Date:eek:ctober 30, 2014

    The characters Ascana Vaso and Yanto Eko were on-the-fly character ideas. I not only wanted to have non-human Black Guard (we'll be seeing more in Episode III, one of them being a Hutt of all species), I thought this would be a good time to provide some setup, as well as some explanation, for how Dynn Manthis could be resurrected. On another note, I wanted to establish that Zolph was learning to control his Force-channeling a lot better, and he can think of more benevolent applications for this power.

    I know, this chapter is all over the place. You can pretty much say the same for the next chapter as well. Again, going with the idea of making sure certain characters don't disappear, I wanted to emphasize the scale of this battle and how important it was since it was the last one of the Valkoran War. I was trying to go for something like Endor: You had one battle on the surface of the moon, you had one space, and then you have the lead hero's final confrontation. Besides, it would get pretty boring if it only focused on Zolph and Maesterus scaling the Imperial Palace.

    With Ockla Prime being the Valkoran capital, I thought it would make sense for them to have a Fortress Tank or two after not showing any since Krantisi. This would also be a good time to explain the realities of having a weapon that big and powerful when your faction is not as big as the Galactic Empire, and why only a few of them were ever built. I can imagine that even Machinus thought they were impractical (seeing as he had to add even more systems just to make them safe for the crew), and only made them because Valkor wanted a weapon that can inspire terror in enemies, similar to the Galactic Empire's weapons. And once the battle ended, I would bet that he stripped the remaining ones in the Seferite Order's possession down for parts to just build more boring but practical weapons for their smaller forces, or sold them to pay off the Order's war crime fines. With the infiltration of the Vakaziz, this was also a good time to establish just how good Besh Squad is.

    The Frankenstein "astromech droid" in Masochus's lab is a reference to another character I made a long time ago outside Paranormalities: Artoo Meat-too.

    And yes, Gahmah Raan is indeed implying that Masochus is a eunuch, and he's obviously not a guy you want to see naked. Under all the implications, I'll just spell it out in the correct order: After Emilin was possessed by Facadma, Masochus was one of the few people besides Valkor to know about Mortaqa. Masochus being the sadistic prick that he is, raped Emilin while under Facadma's possession. Since Grein wanted to get some form of retaliation, she castrated Masochus before fleeing the Valkoran Empire, and feeling wronged himself, Masochus decided to cut off Emilin's breasts as a proxy for Grein not being around.

    Again, Masochus was indeed written to be one of the most repulsive Sith Lords ever. He's basically Joffrey Baratheon as a cripple and sorcerer.

    Whether Masochus actually has a problem with the name "Moraband" (which would make sense for an ancient Sith Lord living long past his time) is an interesting question. It's quite possible he's just inventing pretenses for being a sadistic bully, but seeing as how he should be dead under realistic circumstances, he has to be a psychotic asscave (yep, I've been Xenoblade Chronicles X recently) just to stay alive.

    Pointing out the non-Euclidean geometry of Valkor's insides was done to further emphasize just how unnatural Forceless can be.

    I really wish that I pointed this out earlier. Maesterus was able to sneak up on Valkor because he closed his eyes and Force-sensed his way over to him. An upside to having one of your teachers be a Miraluka.
     
  8. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Time for the last of the documentaries.

    Original Publication Date: January 30, 2015

    Yes, the intro to the chapter is synchronized with the ending of the previous chapter. Anyway, the idea of the Forceless fleet using wormholes for space travel was used to demonstrate just how they were able to get to this galaxy and conquer so many other places, and much further they had advanced as far as space travel goes. Unlike say, the Yuuzhan Vong, they don't spend thousands of years just getting to one galaxy. The Archfiend temples and their summoning rituals were really just a way to make them seem more divine than they really are, because occultic appeal and theatrics is one way to gain the most naive followers. The other reason for wormhole travel is Episode III-related.

    Yes, I know flamethrowers shouldn't work in space, but in this universe, there are already fiery explosions in space. Besides, who doesn't want to have Seefor barbecuing space ship pests? It just wouldn't be Seefor if she wasn't so over-the-top.

    The idea to have other members of Terraris's species fight for the Collective in this battle came during the writing process, and this led to the Planara Manos getting named. The name of the species is also a reference to one of Terraris's early names, "Planarahan". When it came to presenting them, I had to make sure that just one wasn't more powerful than Terraris, but still a credible threat to non-Force Sensitives. Terraris is unique for having geomancy.

    The Forceless Sleeper Troopers were also an afterthought. If Valkor was putting a sleeper symbiote in Masochus, shouldn't a few of the lower-ranking Valkoran Troopers - loyal or separatist - have them inside them too? In addition to the end of Chapter 15, this scene was also done to build up Masochus getting eaten by his symbiote and not being able to control it.

    As for Luke lecturing that trooper on gun safety, I can imagine that Han taught him that.

    My description of Juganak interpreting ink patters was part of some speculation as to how Miraluka would be able to read despite only seeing through the Force. Would they be able to interpret stuff on display screens? That's an even more interesting question.

    Gahmah Raan's hands littering the floor during the cathedral fight was yet another gag involving me slacking off for whatever reason. And Cardosh is another Krishari god. However, unlike Xixixix, this one has not shown up in person, and its existence has yet to be proven (or its godhood invalidated by just existing on the physical plane).

    If you compare the descriptions of Gestroma's appearance in Chapter 9 and his unpossessed form here, you'll notice that it's actually different. Gestroma's symbiote got overtaken when Valkor assimilated him (and possibly overrode the mutagens) and made him look like the other Forceless, but once unpossessed, he reverted back to his natural coloration without his own symbiote's influence.

    The idea of giving Violo Jod pink Mandalorian armor came as a response to people complaining about Sabine Wren's armor and claiming its a taboo Mandalorian color, and giving a male Mando pink armor was kind of an experiment to see if those same types of fans would apply double standards based solely on gender (I honestly don't recall pink being a taboo color for Mandos in the Legends verse; I just thought they were complaining about a girl from a culture of warriors wearing pink and jumping to conclusions of Disney resorting to gender stereotyping). From an art major's perspective, while's Sabine's pink is actually maroon, I would describe Violo's shade of pink as Mountbatten pink, which was used on British ships in World War II for camouflage at dawn and dusk.

    This was also an opportunity to give some more depth to Gahmah staying behind to fight Gestroma (especially since he off-handedly mentioned that he had a rivalry with Gestroma back in Chapter 11). However, since Gahmah's reason for wanting Masochus dead came at the last minute, there was no just way he would be the one allowed to kill him (and to be fair, pretty much everyone who's met Masochus wants him dead), especially since Grein and Armogeist had more established history with him.

    As for Gahmah's reaction, I went the extra mile and decided that Violo is not just one of his closest hunting partners, but also his second mate (bigamy is legal among Krishari, so he has both a wife and a husband). If I wanted to do a personality for Violo in a later story, I would imagine him playing a sane man to Gahmah.

    The Ragnirathan was an idea I had even before the writing process, but I kinda wish I foreshadowed its existence a bit more ahead of time. On the other hand, it being able to strike without warning and destroy stuff quickly in addition to being a living creature is what probably makes it more intimidating compared to past superweapons, and the Ragnirathan was built on Valkor's study of what made previous superweapons work (as well as the casualties they caused) and where they failed. Yeah, I knew people were tired to death of superweapons thanks to the Bantam books churning them out every week in the 90s (and it still shows to an extent with Starkiller Base). The difference is that Valkor trivializes his superweapons as just another resource compared to the Imperial Remnant treating them like the ultimate power in the universe. In other words, what I wanted to do was make a superweapon terrifying and dangerous enough to justify not letting wander around the galaxy for more than one story (from what I hear, that's why they gave the Death Stars one movie each; and while Starkiller is obviously a third one, I'll give it credit for elevating the concept to more logically terrifying levels). And don't worry, I don't have any superweapon plans for Episode III, at least not of the planet-shattering variety.

    As for specs on the Ragnirathan, it's much bigger than what is seen. The rest of the body in the portal is probably about as big as the Death Star.

    Masochus's death had a few different scenarios. One of the first was to have him accidentally killed by Valkor after he became the colossus. The second was to have him killed just by Grein. However, with Armogeist being established as his ex-Sith apprentice, I felt he should have gotten a piece of the revenge pie too. So, I decided to have both him and Grein kill Masochus at the same time.

    Originally, Armogeist was planned to die during the Battle of Ockla Prime. Originally, he was going to sacrifice himself to weaken colossus Valkor. However, the circumstances of his death felt so bizarre and senseless to me that I decided to just let him survive... for now at least (he's made it clear he wants to die eventually). Besides, with the blatantly obvious potential for Masochus to come back after being eaten by the sleeper symbiote, I wouldn't want him dying just to have the guy he wanted revenge against to come back from the dead.

    And yes, Masochus was definitely going to say a certain c-word just before Armogeist cut his arm off. With Star Wars including a lot of made-up expletives (this one's no exception with its use) in addition to real world, I decided to sneak in some suggestions of real world high-level profanity existing in that galaxy. However, since I was trying to keep it mid-teen rated (says the guy who includes plenty of horrifying deaths, mutilations and suggestions of other horrific scenarios), I had to make sure he got cut off mid-speech.

    Neur's psychotic mode is noticeably different from when it was shown the first time. Since she's no longer obsessed with Zolph, I decided to turn her into a bombastic ham, with her dialogue inspired by Noire from Fire Emblem: Awakening ("Thud and Blunder" is just a rearrangement of Noire's "Blood and thunder"). I created Neur before I even heard of Noire (yep, I'm a casual Fire Emblem player), but once I realized how similar those two characters were, I decided to just have Neur go all out. The difference is in their default personalities.

    And I thought this would also be a good time for Lieutenant Helms to take advantage of his resurrective immortality on his own volition to finally show he's no joke anymore.

    Originally, Valkor was going to turn into the colossus on his own, but since that imply he could take that form at just anytime, I decided it would make more sense to have him absorb multiple Forceless first and/or a really large Forceless first. It would also give the Ragnirathan a little more purpose.

    And to keep you from thinking Admiral Gravlek died for nothing just because Valkor absorbed Ragni's head and went on to kill Maesterus, I'll go ahead and say this. If they did nothing about the Ragnirathan before Zolph and Maesterus killed Valkor's avatar, the Ragnirathan would have just immediately blown up Ockla Prime after the avatar's death, similar to Palpatine's plan in a deleted scene for Return of the Jedi in regards to the Death Star II's shield bunker.

    Original Publication Date: February 21, 2015

    The first short chapter I had written in a long time. Mainly because it was very straightforward.

    And no, just because Zolph has been able to control the Forceless channeling once doesn't mean he's perfected it for life. Not only was he barely keeping his anger over Maesterus's death in check, Episode III will introduce some situations where he can't save someone just by purging them of Black Matter. As we learned from Dynn Manthis and some of the possessed Skakoan Commandos, the symbiote can always fatally gut the body and be the host's only life support, and we already know how much Valkor loves psychological warfare. And he can't just avoid transforming when he absorbs it. If it stays unchecked too long or he absorbs too much at once, it could risk ripping him apart from the inside.

    I'm not going to say much more about the final battle of the Episode, but I will say that I always wondered how a seismic charge would work when gravity's in effect.

    You may have noticed I've constantly been referring to the Knights of Maesterus as the Seferite Order. The latter name wasn't thought of until after this chapter was written. I thought of the name out of convenience and the first name just felt too long to say repeatedly in one sentence. This explanation for its origin will apply in-universe too. Both names are still applicable.

    Episode III's prologue is almost finished, and expect the story as a whole to throw a few more wrenches into what you think you know.
     
  9. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I have been owing this story a proper review for a while and there's another reason I need to read it for - [hl=black]the fanon challenge[/hl], so I guess this is where I begin? I apologise for the fact that this took me about six months, especially since I was so proud that my story was the first one you commented on. This writing style you have is so different from most I see here and the universe you created is very, very complex, so I may be coming back with stupid questions. Also, since you're on the list, I may take some little things to PM - if you don't mind, that is.



    Prologue
    Alec and Zolph seem to be overly confident of their abilities and given that Jedi are supposed to be humble and be seeked, I smell trouble. There will definitely be trouble, as inheriting this attitude creates trouble.

    Now, I could not seee the death of both Alces and Veene coming - that was just horrible. And it looks like this is something Luke can comfort Zolph for, given his life.

    Chapter 1: Five Years Later
    Like the idea of a planetary station being called Acropolis.

    Dynn's comment reminds me of how people in areas prone to wars comfort themselves. Heck, I heard my own father say that each generation on the Balkans peninsula has to go through a war...seeing that here is wonderfully disturbing, in some way.

    One thing I don't get, though...which of the two is Luke's Padawan? Or are they both? This is an AU, so I can totally see that as a possibility.

    Seeing these Valkorans again must be painful for Zolph. At the same time, it's funny that he sees them as "Galactic Empire Wannabes"...just like The First Order in New Canon, ahahahaha.

    And that guy, he really plays with fire. I still see trouble ahead. He almost got everybody killed here. Luke's got the patience of a saint.


    Chapter 2: Old Wounds

    That probe droid scene sure went differently from the one in TESB. Ouch. Once again, Zolph is pretty bold for advising Luke...

    Love it how Dynn basically tells him that she can take care of herself. You go, girl! The space battle here is really good, it stands out. Now, I am really worried that she didn't make it.

    This Private Will Helms again...with a personal vendetta and yet another life to throw away. Intriguing.

    And Maestrus agrees with my assessment of Zolph. Heh.


    Chapter 3: Scum and Villainy

    Perhaps Zolph is learning from his past mistakes. He was pretty down-to-earth in convo with that bartender.

    "You don't know Va'Za the Hutt? He's the one that makes it easier for people like me to get riches, women and power." Just what Tatooine needed - a new Jabba. Eeek!

    And it was pretty obvious who's backing him up. What a cowardly Hutt he is.

    ...


    Gonna come back at some point...
     
  10. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Neither of them are necessarily his Padawan. As Headmaster of the Academy, he generally considers everyone his students. However, Zolph and Dynn were apprenticed to the same master. A Vong War-era sidestory might be a good place to explore that.

    And I don't mind being PM'd. Do what you need to do.
     
  11. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    I've just finished up the rough draft for Episode III's prologue (about time, right?). Be sure to PM me if anyone's interested in doing a beta-reading before I officially post it.
     
  12. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Ladies and gentlebeings, one year after the end of the Episode II, Episode III has begun.​
    [​IMG]
    EPISODE III
    Prologue: Awakening
    One month after the Battle of Krantisi

    “Time to wake up.” Said a voice with a vaguely Toydarian accent.

    “Ugh…Five more minutes.”

    “You’ve had a month to be useless, Manthis! Now wake up, you lazy c-!”

    Dynn suddenly woke up, instinctively raised her left arm and telekinetically strangled the source of the voice: a slender black-cloaked man of a species she hadn’t seen before with a beaked, goggle-eyed mask that made him look like a Kubaz.

    “Next person who tries to say that word loses an arm.” Dynn then released her grip on the man and got a good look at her surroundings.

    She was wearing a very simple light grey tunic in contrast to the more elaborate custom-made Valkoran armor she was wearing before and was chained to what looked like an archaic medical cot with a hard, uncomfortable cushion. Also she was inside some large rustic-looking chamber - illuminated by crude yellow-glowing lamps - with several more cots of different sizes similar to the one she was chained to, all with creatures of various types recovering from sometimes fatal-looking injuries, including a large, screaming cyclopean insectoid-reptilian creature that had its arms amputated, a long but cropped tail and suffered severe burns all over its body yet was somehow still alive. It was like a grossly-outdated hospital combined with a condemned prison.

    “What happened to that… thing?” Dynn asked in response to the scorched lizard.

    “That thing is Lord Belluzub, and he was thrown into a star.”

    “How in space did he survive that?”

    “He didn’t. His death was just slow and painful enough that we were able to retrieve his body and soul before he was completely incinerated, just like you. Suffice to say, he wasn’t very easy to recover compared to previous subjects.”

    “But why does he still have fifth-degree burns?”

    “Yalbdalaoth made him keep them as punishment for being an idiot and failing to kill his target in an efficient and logical manner.” The masked man changed the subject after Dynn had time to absorb her unfamiliar surroundings. “Speaking of which, I would have thought one month in the Pool of Souls would have tamed that rebellious attitude of yours.”

    “Wait, the Pool of what now?”

    “That big, black infinite void where all the glowing eyeballs scream at you.”

    “Oh, that place. So that wasn’t just some bad spice trip. And I heard more static than screaming. From the looks of what’s going on right now, I’m assuming this is Hell?”

    “You would be wrong, Manthis. You may have been killed, but my master has denied you death so you will continue to serve the Collective.”

    “And if I refuse?”

    “You won’t.”

    A familiar voice cropped up in Dynn’s head. “Hello, Dynny.”

    Dynn suddenly looked at her right arm, noticing that it was the same sentient arm that had taken over her body before her death. “Son of a Hutt...” At the very least, she could tell her body wasn’t forcefully mutilated again… at least not yet.

    The masked man chimed in again. “You should be thankful, Manthis. Not everyone resurrected by my master gets their original body back.”

    “Original body? Judging by the accent, I guess that means you were a Toydarian before you became whatever you are now.”

    “Correct. I had a name once. I was called Girdretto. I was once a lowly kingpin on Sleheyron before the Forceless Collective came. I was terrified, but after a few months in the Pool of Souls, Yalbdalaoth has enlightened me and made me realize how terrible our galaxy, and by extension, the universe is. Eventually, you will see the same.”

    “But why me? Why do I get to keep my original body, and why I am not in the face-chest phase yet?”

    “Yalbdalaoth has realized a potential weakness in one of his highest-priority enemies, and you are that weakness.”

    “Let me guess: Zolph.”

    “Ding ding!” The arm chimed in. “I’d bet a million credits that he’s still reeling from the circumstances of your death. And if you still have your original body when you reunite with your boyfriend and I reshape you again, we’re more likely to make an impact on him.”

    “Do you really think he think he’s going to fall for that twice?”

    “It’s only been one month since you died, and for someone as young as him, he’s still pretty vulnerable right now. Even after a few months, one doesn’t just recover from a traumatic incident.”

    “Not if I have anything to say about it!” Dynn instinctively tried to grab for her lightsaber, only to realize it wasn’t in her possession.

    Girdretto taunted her. “Nice try, Manthis. Anything that was on you before you died is a long way from here. Besides, even if we retrieved your equipment in preparation for your service, we aren’t stupid enough to arm people who have proven problematic for us.”

    “I guess that only applies to Private Helms then.” Dynn muttered to herself before directing her speech to Girdretto again. “I’ll admit, that was very smart, except you forgot one thing…”

    A massive shock wave suddenly erupted from Dynn, shattering her shackles and sending Girdretto flying and stumbling over a vacant altar.

    “A Jedi is never unarmed.” She tranquilly boasted as she got on her feet.

    Girdretto smugly taunted her back as he was recovering. “Oh, we didn’t forget.”

    The Forceless arm suddenly bent backwards, causing Dynn to feel the exact type of excruciating pain she would be feeling if she still had her original right arm once again. Dynn then fell on her knees.

    “I’m still heeeere.” The arm mocked her. “Master Valkor knows you Force users all too well. Most of his disciples are Force users, and anything that flows with the Force is food for him.”

    Mentioning Valkor when Girdretto didn’t gave Dynn something to think about, something the Forceless Collective probably didn’t want its followers outside this location to know about. She turned her attention back to Girdretto. “Tell me, Not-a-Toydarian. You keep mentioning this name like it’s very important. Who the hell is Yabby-dabby-bobby-loth?”

    Girdretto responded defensively. “Yalbdalaoth’s name is not that complicated to pronounce in-!”

    Girdretto was suddenly interrupted by a puddle of Black Matter oozing out of his plated boots. It started breaking him down inch by inch, making it look like he was sinking into the puddle despite its apparent volume and the solid floor it emerged on.

    A gargled voice came from the puddle. “You have said too much, Girdretto! Perhaps you need some more…correction.”

    “Please have mercy!” Girdretto begged as the puddle consumed him. “I don’t want to go back in there!”

    “Then you need to learn to keep your mouth shut. Or I can give your next body no mouth at all.”

    As Dynn guessed, they probably didn’t want her learning the name “Yabladoth” or however-the-hell-it-was-pronounced until she was fully converted to this Forceless-worshipping cult.

    As Dynn smirked at the trouble she just caused, the Forceless arm pulled a nerve in protest. “Bitch, what did you do?!”

    “I did nothing…yet.” Dynn used her left hand to Force pull a scalpel from a surgical tray on a cart – that looks like it hadn’t been used for thousands of years – and stabbed it through the single eye on the back of the living arm’s palm. This elicited a scream of pain it never gave before when it harmed her despite sharing the same nervous system. It still hurt her a bit and she’d have to get used to having only two eyes again after spending the last seven months before her death with more.

    Dynn followed up on her previous response. “I just alerted you to an incompetent disciple.” While the scalpel remained impaled through the arm’s eye, she took the opportunity to use some more surgical tools to remove the tongue from the arms palm and the teeth from the fingers. She figured if the scalpel stayed, it would have trouble regenerating or trying to cripple her.

    Eventually, Girdretto was completely broken down, but the puddle was still there and sprouted an eyestalk. The symbiote tried to charge at Dynn, but with no tangible and practical weapons around, Dynn used the Force to lift the blob off the ground and threw it at the badly-burned Belluzub. This caused the massive Archfiend more agonizing pain from just being touched.

    While the symbiote was preoccupied with the charred beast and nothing else in the room to stop her, Dynn rushed out of one of the chamber’s exits.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Navigating through the corridors of wherever she was, Dynn deduced that she was in a hospital that has fallen into disuse – and become criminally outdated by galactic standards - and now become a correctional facility for resurrected Forceless hosts, whether they’re up to the Collective’s standards or not.

    Before Dynn could think about anything else, the scalpel impaled through her Forceless hand shifted a bit, indicating that it was still alive but struggling to regenerate.

    “Oh, no you don’t!” Dynn aggressively twisted the scalpel to undo the parasite’s progress.

    Before she could think of any long term plans, her first thought was to get the arm amputated. She was tempted to use whatever was available, but the tools provided in the hospital couldn’t cauterize the inevitable wound and prevent her from bleeding out. While death might be preferable to being enslaved to some nightmarish abomination again, she thought she might as well use her second chance at life to her advantage.

    As she continued trying to find a way out, she found a chamber filled with six people bolted down to the floors by tight body-concealing robes that were essentially straight-jackets and helmets that blocked off all their senses to the world around them. She unmasked one of these prisoners, revealing a male Abednedo who was apparently psychologically disturbed.

    “Who-who-who are you?!” The Abednedo asked Dynn.

    “I’m Dynn Manthis. What were these people doing to you and the others?”

    “It was horrible! It was so dark! Yet I couldn’t shut out the eyes! Or the screaming!’

    Judging by the description, this seemed to be a way to simulate the Pool of Souls for the living, and potentially brainwash them.

    “Calm yourself.” Dynn tried to comfort the Abednedo. “Whatever you were experiencing, it’s over now. What is your name?”

    “M-m-m-Matra Kee. They tried to make me forget my name. I was a scout for the Galactic Alliance operating on Sleheyron before… before those things invaded… and I was eaten by one of them.”

    Dynn wasted no more time releasing the other five prisoners from their torment, all being of species she was at least somewhat familiar with. Most of them were still sane enough to be horrified by what they experienced, but one of them, a bald tan-skinned human male, was more broken than the rest and laughing like a mad man.

    “What is your name?” Dynn asked the human.

    “Name? Names are only for people who have been deemed worthy by Valkor!” The man tried to grab at Dynn to strangle her, but she merely used the Force to throw him against the wall and knocked him unconscious.

    “You….you’re a Jedi?” Matra gasped. “Then that means we’re saved!”

    Unfortunately for Matra, his joy was dashed a bit when Dynn informed of her circumstances. “Don’t get your hopes up too high, Matra. First off, I’ve just been resurrected from the dead with the intent of being used as a weapon again by these guys, and maybe you were too. Second, I need something to amputate this arm without killing myself because I don’t have my lightsaber. And last, aside from this place being a conversion clinic, I have absolutely no idea where we are. Between not knowing how many more people in this clinic have been converted, being handicapped and outnumbered, things don’t look so good for us right now.”

    Suddenly, five long-limbed humanoids bearing four-eyed masks with capes hooked behind them entered the chamber and pointed the bases of their pikes at the prisoners as if they were rifles and the blades were stocks. The other prisoners – all people who were on Sleheyron when the invasion happened – recognized these uniform beings as the foot soldiers for the invaders.

    “Shavit! It’s them!” Matra panicked. If he had his blaster, he’d be ready to fight back, but since he was unarmed, he felt hopeless now.

    Despite being physically unarmed, Dynn stepped forward in defiance to the creatures.

    “Stand down, Forceless scum. I’m the most dangerous person in this room.” She boasted to the warriors.

    The Forceless all pointed their weapons at Dynn, but she simply lifted her false right arm and used the Force to toss them all against the wall, smashing all but one of them into pieces. As the last one got up on its feet and reclaimed its weapon, Dynn’s Forceless arm tried to distract her as much as it could again by triggering a muscle spasm near her shoulder.

    “Restrain her and then have the rest of them put back in processing.” The arm communicated to the warrior.

    As the warrior approached Dynn and tried to restrain her, Matra charged for one of the dropped rifle-pikes, picked it up and after a second of trying to find the trigger based on how its wielder was holding it, fired an energy blast into the Forceless warrior’s head and killed it.

    With nothing else to distract her, Dynn twisted the scalpel again to incapacitate her own arm.

    “Good shot, Matra.” Dynn commended the Abednedo scout. “Unfortunately, heated blade or not, I can’t deal with this arm forever. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, this arm has a mind of its own and is the same as one of those creatures.”

    “This weapon works just like a blaster, but blasters don’t cauterize wounds as well as lightsabers. However, I’ve got a temporary solution to your arm problem until we get out of this hellhole. This will hurt a lot, but please put your hand on the floor.”

    Dynn complied and did as Matra told her. Without hesitation, Matra swung the rifle-pike’s blade downward and chopped off Dynn’s hand, eliciting a pained scream from her as the stump bled out a mix of both her own blood and Black Matter. Matra then wasted no time tearing off a large piece of the deceased Forceless warriors’ capes and wrapped it around the stump.

    “Like I said, this is only a temporary solution. We’ll still need to find you an actual doctor.”

    “Well, we are in a hospital.” Dynn replied while trying to maintain a sense of optimism in such a tough situation. “The worst one in the universe, that is. Now, we need to think about escaping before we can think of long-term plans. And reinforcements are most likely on their way here thanks to my screaming.”

    “Unfortunately, we’re one gun short of our party, and I’m not sure if all of us have held a blaster before.”

    One of the prisoners, a Rodian female named Veeaba, replied to Matra’s assumption. “We might not have military training like you and I might just have been a mere dancer, but when you live in an Outer Rim cesspool, knowing how to use a blaster is almost a necessity, even when you’re not a criminal or living in poverty. So you don’t need to worry about us.”

    “And don’t worry about me either.” Dynn commented. “I was obviously able to get this far without a weapon. Besides, I can always just pick up another on the way out.”

    The incapacitated human prisoner Dynn knocked out earlier started coming to his senses, but Matra wasted no time shooting him before he could fully recover.

    “It’s too late for him, Manthis. The brainwashing already took its toll on him.” Matra then turned his attention to the other escapees and pointed to the grip near the rifle-pike’s guard. “You might not be able to see the trigger, but if you just squeeze your trigger finger on the grip, it will fire. Using the blade should be pretty straightforward.”

    Everyone else picked up a rifle-pike and they all moved out.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    As the group moved to the lowest levels of the “hospital” and fought the security force, it didn’t take Dynn long to get a rifle-pike of her own. Not knowing how long it would be before she had access to non-living prosthetics, Dynn thought this would be a good time to get used to fighting left-handed. She felt slightly clumsy compared to Matra Kee’s wielding of the weapon, and only not as clumsy as the normally-non-combatant prisoners thanks to the Force.

    Along the way, they bolstered their ranks with a few other prisoners, but most of them had already fallen to the Collective’s brainwashing procedures. And sometimes, those that were just liberated would be killed in battle, or possessed and then killed by those that had just rescued them.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    It didn’t take long for them to get out of the hospital and get an indication of what planet they were on. This hospital was situated in a desert with ash gray sand and an orange sky, almost as bleak as the ward they were just inside.

    Unfortunately, the group wasn’t home free yet. Guarding the hospital courtyard’s main gate was a platoon of Forceless warriors and Nidracha, led by a hunched-over, 20-foot tall, Forceless-possessed humanoid with four pincer-tipped arms – two of them connected to his back and much longer than his primary arms, presumably the warden. His face had four glowing red eyes and a line-covered trunk splitting down the middle of the face, with the center-most line splitting open to reveal a toothy mouth.

    “This is as far as you go, traitor!” The warden boasted to Dynn. “It would be a shame if just one patient escaped from the Darksand Correctional Facility.”

    “There’s a first time for everything, Nose-mouth.” Dynn boasted back. “And you’re calling me a traitor? Don’t make me laugh. You knew I was a double-agent working for the Galactic Alliance when I joined the Valkoran Empire.”

    “You people have nowhere else to go.” The warden continued. “Even if you did get away from me, there won’t be any starships to get you off this planet. And even if you found a ship or two, you’re several galaxies away from home. You’ll be trapped here, forever! That is, unless you pledge a life of servitude to Emperor Valkor. Only he has the means to let you go back.”

    Dynn tried to filter him out. Whatever he was claiming, it was clearly intended to break their spirit.

    “We’ll worry about those little details after we get out.” Dynn then gave some words of encouragement to the non-Force-sensitives fighting alongside her. “Don’t listen to a word he says. We’ve gotten this far. I know some of you, especially those of you killed people for money, are scared, disillusioned and tempted to join them. Whatever empty promises he’s giving you, it will cost you all sense of freedom you have in the process, and I mean that literally. You won’t be able to do anything on your own volition, and they’ll torture you until you know nothing but unquestioning loyalty to their cult. They tried to do it to me once, and that’s that what they were doing to you before I freed you.”

    “Impressive bravado, Manthis. But Jedi or not, you’re far from your full potential…at least for a few more seconds.”

    Dynn suddenly felt something sprouting out of the stump where her recently-amputated hand used to be. The blood-soaked piece of cloth fell off and revealed the Forceless hand grown back.

    “I’m back, bitch!” The hand boasted before looking to Matra Kee. “You should have chopped a lot higher, Abednedo. As long as there is a little bit of me left, I can keep growing my head back.”

    “I don’t know what that b-word means, but judging by the context, I bet it’s the same as schutta and the c-word. So for that, you’re losing more than your tongue.” Matra then fired his rifle at the hand’s eye crystal and incapacitated it, if only temporarily. “Sorry, Dynn. We cut that slime off from the roots now, and you’re at greater risk of exsanguinating. Just try to hold on a little longer and keep stunting him.”

    The warden taunted them further. “With Manthis’s arm still around and nothing to prevent her bleeding, what hope do you have of getting away from here? Only two of you have actual military experience, and one of those two is a disabled Jedi without a lightsaber.”

    Matra Kee promptly shot down a few of the warriors and Nidracha accompanying the warden. “Ugly, Mom and Dad fought the Galactic Empire when I was a boy, and Mom told me ‘Matra, don’t take shavit from any nerfherder who tries to take away your freedom’. And we’re not having yours…nerfherder.”

    The remaining Forceless fired back, but they were all shot down by the rest of the escapees.

    “Seeing your Rebellion roots, you don’t seem likely to turn without me forcing you to, Matra Kee. But what about the people of Sleheyron? A lot of them are credit-clinging criminals. They don’t have any sense of patriotic loyalty.”

    One of the escapees, a burly male Weequay named Vahn Tahkna, stepped up and spoke to the warden. “No, but I only killed people for Girdretto because I had a wife and two kids to feed, and I highly doubt your cult would reward me with credits or the chance to see them again. And if I did join you, I probably wouldn’t recognize them as my family. I’d rather die only having memories of them than have them see me again as more of a monster than when I was with Girdretto.”

    Veeaba also spoke up. “When most of us were possessed during the invasion, those two Jedi that were there clearly didn’t want to kill us, but only did so because they thought they were sparing us from something far worse.”

    Dynn speculated that the two Jedi Veeaba was talking about were Zolph and Grein.

    “You’re defending the ones who murdered you?” The warden taunted Veeaba. “I would think you would be bitter about them killing you over something you had no control over. You didn’t ask to be killed after all. In fact, all of you should be grateful to us. We brought you back from the dead! Therefore, you owe us your lives!”

    “You made us your slaves before we died, you entitled, bipedal Hutt!” Veeaba protested. “We didn’t ask to be brought back to life in the middle of who-knows-where, either!” The Rodian then calmed down a little before raising her rifle-pike again. “Besides, the Jedi might not have expected us to be resurrected at the time, but they gave us a chance to be free from you, whether it meant permanent death or being resurrected without your possession.”

    Veeaba then shot the warden in the face. The shot burned away his upper left eye, but it didn’t kill him.

    “It would seem…disciplinary action is to be taken!” The warden angrily lashed his left back arm at Veeaba, knocking her and a few of the other escapees to Dynn’s left and against the courtyard walls.

    Dynn tried to chop at the warden’s arm with her pike and what physical strength she had, but didn’t cut deep enough into it. The arm then swung the other way and knocked everyone else out except for Dynn, who had just enough strength to leap over it.

    “You are not keeping us from getting out, Warden Nosemouth.” Dynn boasted to the warden. “I will make sure the survivors are free from you.”

    “Oh, that reminds me. I forgot to formally introduce myself. I am Bethlerot, and as you already figured out, I am the warden of this hospital.”

    “You have a name? I guess those are privileges to your little cult.”

    “Little? Cult? You dare downplay the size of the Collective of Valkor?! We have far more divine right than your pathetic Jedi Order and Galactic Alliance!”

    “Religious pretenses: the laziest yet most effective rationalization of getting the gullible or desperate to follow you and seemingly validate your rule. Apparently, your Collective is a Yuuzhan Vong wannabe, except without the oh-so-inconvenient roadblocks that restrict most religions’ own followers from doing everything they want. And you’re still naming Valkor as the leader of your Collective? Why bother? Girdretto’s already spilled his guts on the existence of a supposedly more powerful entity with a Y-name I haven’t gotten the hang of pronouncing yet. But then again, eating him was a clear sign that’s something you don’t want us foreigners knowing about unless we’re on one-hundred percent.”

    Bethlerot’s anger over Dynn’s speech was barely concealed. “You should all pray that you don’t survive this, because you will all be sent back to reconditioning. But you, Manthis, you will survive! Valkor will have his weapon!”

    “Don’t you mean Yabadoll?” Dynn mocked the massive warden, still failing to get the pronunciation of Yalbdalaoth right. This sent Bethlerot into an uncoordinated berserk rage.

    Bethlerot tried to chop at her with all four of his clawed arms, but she dodged all of his swipes with her Force-enhanced dexterity and continued to make weak chops into his left back arm until it came off.

    As Bethlerot groaned from the pain, he also commended Dynn. “It looks like Maesterus taught you well, being able to only fight back with your weak arm and a comparatively inferior metal blade. I’m surprised none of your group has accidentally stabbed themselves using them to shoot. But alas, hero time is up for you.”

    Suddenly, Dynn’s right arm came back to life again and forcefully bent backwards, causing her enough pain to effectively immobilize her.

    “Dammit! Why now?!” Dynn shouted.

    As usual, the smug arm mocked her predicament. “Well, you can have life or you can have freedom, but you can’t have both.”

    “Since when?”

    “Since it was established that the purpose of all life is to serve the Collective.”

    Bethlerot took one more opportunity to taunt Dynn. “Like I said, Manthis, nobody leaves Darksand alive without being in our service.”

    While Bethlerot was taunting her, Dynn saw a mysterious grey-skinned, humanoid alien shrouded in a white cloak with a few pieces of jade-colored armor beneath emerge from behind the top of the gate post on her left.

    The alien then drew out a sword with a metal blade that enveloped itself in an orange, glowing energy field, leaped off the post and slashed off Bethlerot’s front right arm with almost no effort, leaving a cauterized stump as the large creature screamed in pain.

    Suddenly, Dynn’s arm dropped its smug demeanor and started to worry. “Damn! That old fool’s still not dead yet?!”

    With the arm panicked, Dynn took the opportunity to slam its single eye really hard against a small rock poking out of the dirt, dazing it again.

    After landing on the ground, the warrior glanced at Dynn while continuing to face Bethlerot. “Young lady, get the survivors out the gate. I’ll answer your questions after I’m done with this two-armed toady. And don’t stop resisting that parasite!”

    Dynn was a little perplexed to see a member of a never-before-seen alien species speaking Basic, but for all she knew, now was not the time to ask about that. Dynn complied and started helping up the survivors of Bethlerot’s attack, including Matra, Veeaba and Vahn. Thankfully, only six out of the twenty-six escapees were killed by Bethlerot.

    While Dynn was helping the others, the warrior and Bethlerot exchanged words in a language Dynn did not understand at first.

    “Admon Onae.” Bethlerot muttered. “After I kill you, there will be no one to discredit Valkor’s sovereignty.”

    “Don’t you mean Hazral Vangeli’s sovereignty?” Admon mocked back. “After all, he’s the one who created your cult. But then again, it would have been invalidated as soon as it began if the name of an infamous religious extremist was credited to its creation.” Admon activated his sword again and pointed it at Bethlerot. “Besides, I’d say you are the ones doing the discrediting! Your so-called ‘faith group’ has turned one of Muriga’s oldest religions into a bad joke.”

    “It wouldn’t be a bad joke if the remnants would just accept it or die!” Bethlerot yelled before swiping his back right arm at Admon.

    Admon held out his left hand to redirect Bethlerot’s strike into the dirt with assistance from what was apparently - to Dynn at least - the Force. Admon then jumped really high to cut through the planted arm’s midsection. This Force-sensitivity could possibly explain why he’s able to speak Basic so fluently, since Dynn herself has used it to pick up other alien languages quickly upon hearing them.

    “How?!” Bethlerot panicked. “You’re an old man near death, and you aren’t even benefitting from Yalbdalaoth’s blood! How can you even stand against us?!”

    “You underestimate the power of the Plamora, Bethlerot.” Admon answered. “And it’s a power that a sycophantic Deathborne abuser like you couldn’t hope to understand.”

    Bethlerot made one more futile strike with his remaining arm, but Admon simply threw his heated blade into the warden’s slit-like mouth and skewered through his cranium. After he fell down, Admon forcefully removed his weapon from the warden’s massive corpse, with any excess Black Matter burned away by the heat. He then turned off the blade and placed it back in the scabbard on his belt.

    By now, Dynn’s party had made it out of the institution’s gates. However, some hooded-and-masked men and women – apparently cultists in attire similar to Girdretto’s – started pouring out of the main building and pointed their weapons, consisting of non-hybridized pikes and rifles – at Admon.

    “The infidel has killed the warden! Death to the infidel!” One of them shouted.

    “Not by you, you hack plague doctors!” Admon boasted as he fled the vicinity and dodged rifle-fire, firing back at the cultists with an ether pistol.
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    An hour after getting away from the institution on foot and fighting the arm’s influence, Dynn’s party had made it to an oasis with some surprisingly green vegetation.

    For how much time Admon Onae spent stalling Bethlerot, it only took a few minutes for him to catch up to the party.

    “We owe you for saving us back there, Admon. I have so many questi-.”

    Admon interrupted Dynn. “Let’s get rid of that arm first. When was it last incapacitated?”

    Dynn felt the Forceless waking up again, but barely coherent from all the repeated shootings and bludgeonings. “You…cannot…escape…from me…” Dynn abruptly skewered it onto her rifle-pike again before it could insult her with some other foreign expletives.

    “About a second ago.” Dynn weakly answered Admon.

    “Good.” Admon then commanded Matra Kee and Vahn Tahkna. “I need you two to help restrain her in case the arm wakes up during the amputation process.”

    Vahn kneeled down behind Dynn and used his muscular arms to bind Dynn’s left arm to her torso while Matra held the Forceless arm out to her side and the pike it was still skewered on.

    Admon unsheathed and activated his thermal blade again. Dynn took a deep breath, knowing that this was going to hurt like hell. After making a judgment on how far the roots have dug, Admon swiftly sliced close to her shoulder – inevitably burning off a little more of Dynn’s natural arm in the process - and safely separated the parasite…for Dynn that was.

    As Dynn groaned from the pain of having her arm cut off for the third time, the severed Forceless arm violently writhed around – no longer feeding telepathic messages into Dynn’s head – before dying and decomposing into a puddle of Black Matter.

    The Black Matter tried to slither away, but Veeaba fired her rifle-pike at it to finish it off, causing it to evaporate into the air.

    “Yes! I am FINALLY free of that kriffing arm!” Dynn yelled with exasperation before collapsing down onto the grass.

    Matra checked on her. “Jedi or not, even with the wound cauterized, you’ve still lost a lot of blood today, Dynn. Not to mention all the self-inflicted blunt trauma. You need to rest a bit.”

    Admon handed Matra his water canteen to give to Dynn while everyone else, undoubtedly thirsty and hungry from their ordeal, drank from the oasis and took some fruit from the nearby trees. Once the canteen was empty, Matra refilled it for Admon, who then pulled down the wrappings over his mouth to take a few sips himself.

    “After we’re done resting, we need to get moving again.” Admon informed the party. “Deathborne are hive-minded, so that arm we just cut off may have given away our position to some hunting parties.”

    Dynn was a bit baffled by that name. “Wait…Deathborne?”

    “That’s right. You’re not from this world…Dynn, that’s your name right? Much like you probably have a different name for what we call the Plamora, you have a different name for them, and Yalbdalaoth just goes along with it when it comes to drawing in new followers.”

    “I’m going to make a guess and assume that this ‘Plamora’ is another name for what we Jedi call the Force and ‘Deathborne’ are what we call Forceless. You fight just like a Jedi and call upon the Force- excuse me, Plamora, to aid you. And that sword you wield is similar to another weapon I had back home, except it doesn’t need a solid metal blade to give the plasma energy its shape.”

    “So, these Jedi are much like the Paladins of the Plamora that once existed here, with me and Valkor being the last remnants of that order.”

    “Wait a second…”

    Admon interrupted again. “We should get moving now. We’re almost out of Darksand Wastes. You can continue probing me while we make the journey back to my camp.”
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Thirty minutes after resting and evacuating the oasis, Dynn continued with her many questions.

    “First off, who are you and where am I?” Dynn asked Admon.

    “For a proper introduction, I am Admon Onae, one of the last of a generation long gone, but you already knew my name. You are on the planet of Muriga, a world which I hear from others of your species I’ve helped save, hasn’t reached its space age yet, thanks to the Order of Yalbdalaoth enslaving the Levioths and using them to travel beyond this galaxy, thereby rendering further technological growth on this planet meaningless for them when they can just steal from others. In other words, you are on the capital of what you call the Forceless Collective.”

    Dynn suddenly paused in her tracks and fell to her knees. She started to cry and laugh at the same time, realizing that breaking speech that Bethlerot threw at her team an hour and a half ago had a ring of truth to it. Valkor once told her that his Forceless Empire was made up of a few galaxies.

    With the rest of the party worried, especially with such behavior from a seemingly stoic Jedi, Veeaba rushed over to her to calm her down. “What’s wrong, Dynn?” The Rodian woman asked.

    “That nose-mouthed goon wasn’t lying! We’re stranded beyond the reaches of our own galaxy! Worse, my own boyfriend doesn’t know I’m not dead anymore.”

    “You’re not alone, Dynn.” Veeaba tried to comfort her. “Most of us are desperate to reunite with our friends and family, and we’re worried for their well-being too.”

    “It’s not that simple, Veeaba. Zolph killed me in a futile attempt to save me from possession, and he’s undoubtedly plagued with guilt over it right now. I told him to move on before I died, but now that those monsters brought me back for their use, I feel like I lied to him. And I can’t reassure him that I’m back.”

    Admon joined in the conversation. “I think I can relate to what your boyfriend might be going through. I was too much of a coward to kill Valkor back then to save him from Yalbdalaoth and was so desperate to ensure he wasn’t recognized as a monster. Now that I’m old, frail and living on Plamora-based life-support, I partially regret not ending it the pragmatic way sooner; and to this day, Valkor continues to suffer while his name is tarnished. But I still continue to fight even though I could die of old age any moment, and I’m sure this friend of yours will do the same. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be reunited some day.”

    Dynn calmed down a little bit and got back on her feet when she was reminded of another question she wanted to ask. “It’s a slim chance, but the Force may have another trick up its sleeve. Thanks, Admon. Anyway, what’s the relation between you, Valkor and this Yalbdalaoth?” As an aside, Dynn retained some slight optimism realizing she finally got the pronunciation of the name right. “I thought Valkor was the leader of the Forceless Collective.”

    “That’s what Yalbdalaoth and Hazral want everyone to think. Valkor’s not the real leader of the Collective. He’s just an unwilling face to hide the real leaders. As for his relation to me, he and I were once Paladins of the Plamora, as I mentioned before. He was both a comrade-in-arms and a dear friend, but such labels would be understatements for the relationship we had. Suffice to say, Hazral, his deranged religious fundamentalist father didn’t take the idea of his legacy not living up to his standards very well. So he forcefully turned Valkor into a herald for the monster he created; the monster he named after one of our gods to sell the idea it had taken physical form. However, we must continue to move on to the camp. I’m sure you’ll have more questions, but I don’t want to stall us with everything I know at once when the Collective has most likely sent Rapthounds to sniff us out.”

    “So, there’s much more to the Collective and the Valkoran Empire than I thought. We may never get home again, and we may live with the sorrow of never having our situation known by our friends and family, but at least here in the capital, we can put up a fight and make a significant difference for them from afar. It’s just too bad that once it’s over, we’re going to die on this bleak desert planet.”

    Admon was slightly offended by that remark. “You know this is my home you’re talking about, right? If you’re sad about dying on this planet, don’t be. Darksand Wastes is just one region of Muriga, and not all of it is a desert. There are plenty of livelier and beautiful places to die, and my camp is in one of these places.”

    “Really? In the galaxy I come from, usually when you see one part of a planet, you have pretty much a good idea what the rest of the planet looks like.”
     
  13. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    It's been a very long time, it's finally done. My hope is that updates will be more consistent from now on.

    This chapter is written in memory of Carrie Fisher.

    Lindorm
    (original species)by Gamiel


    [​IMG]
    EPISODE III
    Chapter 1: Disciples

    The galaxy has changed! One year has passed since the end of the Valkoran War. The Galactic Alliance is caught in yet another galaxy-encompassing war, this time with the extragalactic invaders known as the Forceless Collective, which seeks to subjugate this galaxy as part of its more ambitious goal of subjugating the universe.

    Despite a loose alliance with the Seferite Order, a defected splinter faction of the Valkoran Empire under the leadership of Arcidus, the battle with the Collective seems never-ending, thanks to the group’s surplus of cults and servants gained over millennia. And the Collective has earned many more since by conquering worlds throughout the Outer and Mid Rims and possessing their populations, getting ever closer to the Core Worlds.

    Zolph Vaelor and Hiriss Moraana - Jedi Knights from Luke Skywalker’s academy and heroes of the Valkoran War - have been dispatched to the desolate desert planet, Blenjeel, to aid the Alliance in the siege of a Valkoran base, hoping to turn the tide of the invasion however slightly they can…
    _________________________________________________________________________

    In orbit over Blenjeel, a fleet of Galactic Alliance warships headed by Admiral Cephal’s flagship, Harmony was engaged in combat with a fleet of Valkoran starships, a mix of familiar designs such as the Obliterator-class Star Destroyer and Firaxa-class starfighter in combination with Collective space beasts such as Levioths and new ships introduced since the end of the previous war. Since Machinus defected and deprived the Empire of his technological expertise, these new ships were very unusual, hybridizations of basic starship parts and Black Matter, making it unclear which were Forceless cyber-beasts like the Eyewing or just starships with organic components. No doubt, the Valkoran Empire – now named the Valkoran Order - dropped all pretense of having any sovereign power independent of the Forceless Collective.

    From Admiral Cephal’s perspective, his forces had much more to worry about. This wasn’t the same Valkoran Empire that the Alliance was fighting in the Valkoran War. What once seemed to be another theocratic superpower bent on taking over the galaxy now had the backing of extragalactic alien invaders more frightening than the Yuuzhan Vong. In addition to dying as expected in war, they also had to worry about the threat of being possessed and turned against those they fought for, all while being aware of their possession. And the Forceless were more than happy to send boarding parties in naval warfare.

    However, some hope for the Alliance forces jumped out of hyperspace in the form of the Manthis, a modified next-generation X-Wing fighter that belonged to the Jedi Knight, Zolph Vaelor. Shortly after their arrival, Zolph contacted Cephal.

    “Did someone call for two Jedi and a killer R9 unit?”

    “It’s about time your team showed up, Vaelor.” The Mon Calamari admiral responded. “This campaign is going as smooth as per this war’s standards.”

    As Zolph set his fighter’s s-foils into attack position and split the two wings into six, Hiriss Moraana, Zolph’s half-Mirialan companion commented on the situation. “In other words, pretty bad. How can we fix this mess?”

    “Can Zolph absorb Forceless and turn into the Silver Seraph through the cockpit?” Cephal asked.

    “Can you, Zolph? Because that would be amazing if you could.” Hiriss repeated to Zolph.

    “First off, Force-channeling affects only me, and not the fighter. Second, I highly doubt my piloting skills would benefit much from it, and even if I could survive in space as the Seraph, there are some complications to doing so. Not counting the emotional restraint required to become the Seraph, I would need a lot of Black Matter to keep the form up long enough; and the Matterbugs would know by now not to infect me, go after Hiriss instead or just straight up kill me, as has been their goal for ages.” Zolph answered both Hiriss and Cephal. “So, short answer: No, I can’t.”

    “All I’m hearing is speculation. Have you even tried it, before?” Cephal asked.

    “No, but I would be more comfortable trying it when I don’t have a co-pilot with me.”

    R9-C4 disappointedly chimed in. “R9-C4 = Still here. // No co-pilots = Seefor included?”

    “Okay, make that pressure-sensitive co-pilots.”

    “Very well. The old-fashioned and practical way will do for now.” Cephal replied disappointedly. “Anyway, two of our torpedo frigates have been taken over by those blasted parasites. The least you could do for those poor souls onboard is spare them the pain of being forced to fight against us. A few other ship types have been possessed, but those frigates are the biggest threat to us right now.”

    Without Jedi assistance, identifying Forceless-possessed ships was almost impossible without being attacked first, as their transponder codes still identified them as friendly ships. Along with this invoking friendly fire among unpossessed ships, this has led to many victories for the Collective just because of the chaos it created.

    The frigates in question were MC30c frigates – better known as Mon Calamari torpedo frigates – lightly-armored ships armed with many proton torpedoes for taking out capital ships and cluster bombs for fending off fighter squadrons. In the terminology of balancing strengths and weaknesses, they would be considered glass cannons.

    “Understood. I don’t think we’ll be able to save everyone, but let’s keep alive and unpossessed as many as we can.” Zolph replied.

    The Manthis boosted towards the first possessed frigate, the Kolina, all while gunning down intercepting Eyewings and Bio-Firaxa fighters. With the addition of a newly-added tail-gun as a feature for the co-pilot, Hiriss assisted Zolph by covering his flank. However, this feature sometimes felt redundant to Hiriss as Zolph was so used to dodging laser fire, he ended up throwing off her aim.

    “Zolph, can you please at least acknowledge that you now have a gun on your butt?!” Hiriss complained. “You’re making those credits go to waste!”

    “No, getting blown up makes them go to waste.” Zolph quipped back before Hiriss killed the FIE Interceptors – a biological mimicry of the Galactic Empire’s TIE/IN interceptor with two pincer-like wings with contrastingly mechanical laser cannons on the tips, a single eye in lieu of a viewport and an ion engine grafted into the rear of its pod-shaped body - tailing him. Rather than a burst of Black Mater, the explosions created by their deaths were the same as those of any other Sienar-made TIE exploding due to the mechanical components.

    Suddenly, the Kolina ejected what looked like a metallic egg, which then exploded into a cluster of smaller magnetic bombs that homed in on them.

    “Cluster bombs!” Zolph panicked.

    Hiriss immediately shot down the bombs tailing them.

    “Okay, I take back what I said.” Hiriss commented.

    Some of the other mini-cluster bombs destroyed a few A-Wings and X-Wings, but in the process, also destroyed some of the Valkoran fighters and Forceless cyber-ships.

    As the Manthis got closer to the Kolina, it released another cluster bomb. However, just as it was released from the frigate, Zolph shot down the base bomb before it could detonate, generating a chain of explosions that immediately obliterated the Kolina.

    “One down. One to go.” Hiriss pointed out.

    Zolph and Hiriss repeated the process on the second frigate, this time with just a few well-placed proton torpedoes into the frigate’s own torpedo launchers, igniting all the ordinance within the ship. While Mon Calamari torpedo frigates were surprisingly fast and had enough punch for taking out capital ships despite their smaller size, they were still relatively frail and were essentially flying powder kegs.

    “The torpedo frigates have been destroyed, Admiral.” Zolph updated Admiral Cephal.

    “Very good.” The Admiral replied. “But now we need to eliminate what got us into that mess in the first place. Obviously, they brought some Alpha Matterbugs along with them. Killing them would ease some of the psychological burden on our men.”

    Going by experience, Alpha Matterbugs were significantly larger than the specimen used for possessing starfighters. Equating to the size of a shuttle, the Alphas were designed for quickly taking over ships that required large crews to operate. In regards to the Valkoran’s affiliation with the Forceless, the Alphas have nearly phased out their usage of the Mailoc-class boarding craft.

    R9-C4 detected six of the massive, wasp-like insects flying towards the Harmony. “Giant Forceless Bugs = Heading for bossy fish man’s ship. // Seefor + Sidekicks = Exterminate Giant Forceless Bugs and save bossy fish man,” the droid beeped.

    At the same time, however, a few squadrons of Demolusks and Shyrack-class bombers were charging for the other Alliance capital ships as a diversion.

    Admiral Cephal barked orders to the other fighter squadrons. “Blade Squadron: Concentrate on the Demolusks. Green Squadron: Focus on the Shyracks. All other squadrons: cut off any interception. Let Commander Vaelor worry about the Matterbugs.”

    Blade Squadron was a B-Wing squadron mixed with some A-Wing escorts, with enough firepower to punch through the squid-like Demolusks’ tough, rocky hides. Green Squadron was an all A-Wing squadron, fast enough to quickly eliminate the Shyracks, which were lighter-armored but faster in comparison to the Demolusks. X-Wings provided cover fire for both squadrons.

    While Green and Blade Squadrons dealt with the bombers, Zolph quickly picked off five Alphas that were trying to land on the Harmony. However, one more was just about to inject its stinger into the ship. Just as it thrust its tail downward, Hiriss used the Force to redirect its sting parallel to the ship’s surface and yanked the tail off in the process. As the last Alpha bled Black Matter out of its posterior, Zolph finished it off before making a close flyby to allow Seefor to incinerate the excess Black Matter so it couldn’t sneak into the hangar.

    “Your ship is clean, Admiral.” Zolph announced to Cephal. “What’s next?”

    “Now that you’ve killed the plague spreaders up here, I think we can handle the rest up here. General G’Jan could use your help down on the surface. In case you forgot to equip EM shields on your ship, be careful about the storms as you enter the planet’s atmosphere; that’s just one of the reasons Blenjeel was put on the NRGD’s planets-to-avoid list.”

    “And thankfully, one of the only ones now since the Valks got rid of the other big reason for it.”

    What Zolph was referring to was the maugra – or sand burrowers as they were once simply called – large but stubby sand worms with multiple rows of teeth belonging to the same family of animals as the vixus, rathtar and sarlacc. While they didn’t have tentacles like their other genetic relatives, they had the same habit of swallowing prey whole and overpopulated the entire planet, even possibly overhunting other indigenous species. The galaxy at large didn’t know how dangerous Blenjeel was until one Jedi became the first person to escape the planet almost two decades ago. Since then, the Valkoran Empire took advantage of the public avoidance and bombed the planet from orbit to make it safer before setting up base.

    Hiriss then called Zolph. “You’re thankful for an entire species’ potential extinction? That’s not very Jedi-like.”

    “When all a species seems to do is eat people and render a planet almost inhospitable, it’s hard to be sympathetic to it. Not even animal rights activists are complaining. Besides, maugra are hermaphrodites, so any survivors will repopulate the planet within a few decades.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    As the Manthis entered Blenjeel’ atmosphere, multiple bolts of electricity coming from the clouds wrapped around the ship, but the electromagnetic shields prevented the bolts from destroying any vital systems and causing a rough landing. After bypassing the storm clouds, gunning down some Eyewings in the night sky and striking a Valkoran Modular Anti-Air Defense pod on the ground with a proton torpedo, Zolph was forced to retreat from the nearby Valkoran base after some other MAAD pods fired their missiles, despite the earlier catharsis. Zolph then flew towards the Alliance base in the recently-named Jeela Badlands.

    Observing Zolph’s descent from atop the Valkoran base’s outer wall was a Forceless-possessed female humanoid covered from head-to-toe in archaic black armor with red and gold decals and a closed helmet with two blade-like fins wrapping around the cheeks like insect mandibles, similar in design to the helmet Emperor Valkor wore. Agnasur - another Forceless-possessed, four-armed, serpentine Valkoran commander with a vaguely humanoid torso and a lipless, toothy mouth surrounded by four oddly-formed pincer-like mandibles - approached the woman.

    “Zolph Vaelor’s here now. Are you happy?” Agnasur hissed at the woman with contempt.

    “It is satisfactory for the time being.” The woman responded. “But I wish to engage him directly and analyze him further.”

    “I wouldn’t be too bold if I were you, Cina. I don’t need to remind you that Vaelor already killed Emperor Valkor once.”

    “You continue to refer to that metallic toy on Ockla Prime as your Emperor? What you called ‘Emperor Valkor’ was merely a symbiote-filled puppet. I know the true Valkor personally, and not just one of those cheap dolls he uses to reach out to foreign disciples like you.”

    “You think you’re something special just because you’re from our Emperor’s homeworld, don’t you? I don’t care if that cult you were part of is older than the Collective. That doesn’t make you equal enough to patronize him, you old hag.”

    “Your sycophantic blabbering means little to me. Regardless of how much you fear him, now that Vaelor is here, an attack on this base is imminent. Prepare the troops while I commune with Terraris.”

    Agnasur begrudgingly nodded in agreement with Cina and slithered away.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    The Jeela Badlands were notable for being rather flat compared to the dunes that made up most of Blenjeel, suggesting that the area was relatively untouched by maugra activity even before the Valkoran bombardment. However, the presence of maugra corpses encased in glass formations indicated they still visited the area occasionally.

    The Alliance base camp was not designed with any intent of staying long term and built into a large plateau with a shield generator and a landing zone installed on top, a carryover tactic from their days as a low-budget rebellion that typically built their bases around natural or artificial but abandoned landmarks. Outside the plateau, the Alliance soldiers took advantage of rock spires or glass formations from the bombardment to use as lookout points and trenches dug up by excavator droids.

    Zolph landed the Manthis atop the plateau alongside some other fighters and transports, but standing out among them was an aging Corellian YT-1300 freighter. As he, Hiriss and Seefor disembarked, they watched a female Kel Dor sergeant and her squad of troopers emerge from a turbolift.

    “Sergeant Kass Choi reporting.” The Kel Dor greeted them. “General G’Jan is waiting for you in the briefing room on the fifth floor. He also wanted me to inform you in advance-”

    Zolph then interrupted her. “Hold on. Are you related to General Ven Choi?”

    “Now is not the time for a long talk about how you knew my uncle. I’ve had over a year to mourn his passing.” Sergeant Choi continued with her report. “As I was saying before you interrupted, General Solo and Organa have also joined in on the campaign.”

    This threw the team for a loop, but at the same time answered their question about the freighter’s presence despite not being a military vehicle.

    “Wait, as in Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo?” Hiriss asked before shrieking with excitement she almost only showed off the job and shaking Zolph. “Do you know what this means?! We’re not only meeting two veterans of the Rebellion, we’re finally meeting Master Skywalker’s sister!” She then stopped shaking to Zolph to ponder. “Although I keep wondering why she doesn’t use the Skywalker name when their relationship is public knowledge.”

    “And that explains why a museum artifact is sitting on top of the base.” Zolph voiced his contempt for the designs of older Corellian freighters, while recovering from the shaking.

    “You would be better off asking her yourself, Commander Moraana, because I don’t know either.” Kass calmly answered Hiriss. Underneath that stoic façade, Kass was put off by the Mirialan’s suddenly upbeat behavior, as Uncle Ven gave her the impression that Jedi were all emotionally reserved. “Anyway, I wouldn’t keep the generals waiting. This campaign has gone on long enough as is.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Jeela Base’s briefing room was a series of crudely set-up display screens, terminals and holo-projectors in a rocky cave lined with lamps. Inside, Zolph, Hiriss and Seefor met up with the Bith general, Birik G’Jan. Accompanying the general were a middle-aged human male and female, about a decade apart from each other.

    The male, General Han Solo, was dressed like a Corellian smuggler, a holdover from his pre-Rebellion career. The female, Leia Organa, had her hair styled in a way that was elaborate but simple by Alderaanian standards and appeared to be nearing her sixties despite only being in her early fifties. Accompanying the couple was a gold-plated protocol droid with a mismatched part or two.

    The protocol droid greeted the Jedi. “Greetings. I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations. I present to you General Han Solo and Princ- I mean, General Leia Organa Solo. You must be Zolph Vaelor, Hiriss Moraana and R9-C4. I also happen to be a long-time acquaintance of Master Luke. I have known him since he was a mere farmhand.”

    Seefor sassed back at Threepio. “R9-C4 = Doesn’t care. // C-3PO = Needs to shut the kriff up.”

    Zolph then scolded his droid. “Watch your vocabulator, Seefor, or I will reinstall the censor system next time we get involved in politics.” Zolph pointed at Threepio. “He helped save the galaxy from the Empire and the Yuuzhan Vong.”

    “You’re too kind, Master Vaelor. I’m not much of a fighter and more of an interpreter. Now, I mostly help by leading a droid spy network. And don’t worry about Seefor. I’ve known plenty of astromech droids as vulgar as she is.”

    Han butted in. “Alright, that’s enough, Professor. These kids have some work to do before we can leave this formerly worm-infested dust-ball.”

    Leia took the moment to comment on the two Jedi’s appearances, both looking different from the holo-images she had seen of them. Zolph had a drastically shorter ponytail and was growing a beard. Hiriss’s red-hair, while still sporting her hairband, was a now little longer and curly and she had a few more Mirialan cultural tattoos added to her face since then. However, Leia wasn’t too surprised since she also heard that Hiriss was a little bit of a fashionista even when she knew her occupation involved getting dirty a lot of the time.

    She first addressed Zolph. “Zolph, I see you finally got a haircut. And that beard looks good on you.”

    “Yeah, someone finally got the idea to pull on my ponytail in a fight. So, I decided to make it less of an obvious target.” Zolph said.

    Leia next addressed. “Hiriss, you look adorable today. Word of advice: for practicality and time’s sake, stay away from Alderaanian and Naboo royalty hairstyles, and especially don’t do twin spirals. You’ll look like you got caught in the crossfire of a bakery fight.”

    “Um… thanks?” Hiriss responded awkwardly. “Anyway, quick question. If you being Luke’s sister is public knowledge, why aren’t you called Leia Skywalker, marriage aside?”

    “Three reasons.” Leia answered. “One: I was raised as an Alderaanian princess. Two: I’m all that’s left of House Organa despite not being related by blood, so I continue using that name out of respect. And three:” Leia took a deep breath before explaining with a sheepish look on her face. “There was a one-time thing that happened between me and Luke that was somehow made public, taken out of context and the both of us are having trouble living it down even after over twenty-five years.”

    Threepio tactlessly blurted out. “Do you mean when you kissed Master Luke on the lips before either of you knew you were siblings back on Hoth?”

    “Ew!” Zolph and Hiriss projected in unison. Seefor - oblivious to organic relationship taboos – did not understand her partners’ disgust while General G’Jan and all other personnel in the room tried to maintain an image of professionality.

    Leia defensively lashed back at the droid. “I was trying to make Han jealous!”

    Han smirked. “Even after so long, that hasn’t gotten old.”

    “Shut up, Han!” Leia snapped back.

    “You brought that on yourself, sweetheart!”

    “Reminds me of when I first learned that Grein is my great times ‘x’ grandmother and what her day job in Hutt Space was.” Zolph remarked. “But that’s enough small talk for now. We’ve got work to do. G’Jan?”

    “Of course.” General G’Jan replied. “I’m assuming you tried to fly over to the Valkoran base?”

    “You know me too well, General. And as usual, they have a base shield and anti-aircraft. What else is there to know?”

    “Even with the near-extinction of the maugra, getting to the base on foot isn’t any easier. The Valkoran have air superiority, and the Collective has supplied them with Planara Manos. So instead of vicious but unintelligent sand burrowers that would cause problems for both sides, we now have sapient sand burrowers loyal to the Collective to deal with.”

    “And if there are any surviving maugra on the path, the Forceless could have just possessed them.” Han pointed out.

    “We’ve taken that into account too.” G’Jan continued. “The commander overseeing the base is a Lindorm named Agnasur.”

    “Lindorm?” Zolph asked.

    “They’re listed in galactic databanks, but they aren’t a well-known species.” Han answered Zolph. “Their homeworld is somewhere in the Unknown Regions, but a few colonies of them have settled throughout the galaxy. Chewie and I had a few encounters with them in the Outer Rim back in my smuggling days.”

    “And as we recently learned, the Lindorm homeworld is within range of the Valkoran Empire, which would explain how they were able to recruit some of them despite the species’ stereotype for hedonism.” G’Jan added. “As for Agnasur, he was once an acolyte in the Church of the Forceless, but is obviously now in a leadership position.”

    This meant little to Zolph and Hiriss considering what they have faced before. Given that most of the high-ranking Force-sensitive Valkoran leaders have either died or become part of the Seferite Order, a lowly acolyte that was once tasked with worshipping and summoning Archfiends was hardly a threat.

    “Scraping the bottom of the barrel as usual, I see.” Zolph replied. “Nothing we can’t handle.”

    “I wouldn’t be too overconfident, Zolph.” Leia warned him. “I sensed a powerful Force presence around the Valkoran base, much more powerful than the former acolytes that we’ve been fighting over the last year. I also sense a greater Forceless presence than normal. Perhaps one of the remaining Archfiends?”

    “It might be, seeing that they’ve summoned a few more since the end of the Valkoran War.” Hiriss answered. “Either that, or there’s just a lot of lower-ranking Forceless.”

    “So, a powerful Force user and a possible Archfiend. I’ll keep that in mind.” Zolph said. “Now, Hiriss and I just need a speeder bike to give us a mobility advantage against what’s on the ground and in the sky.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    After making the necessary preparations for the trek across the desert and the sabotage of the Valkoran base, Zolph and Hiriss disembarked from Jeela Base on a speeder bike – with Zolph as the driver and Hiriss riding behind him to provide some defense – and made their way across Blenjeel’s dune sea.

    As they were warned, Zolph and Hiriss had some encounters with the snake-like Planara Manos. However, as intelligent and adapted to the sand as they were, the speeder bike was too fast for them to catch with their finger-like mandibles. They also faced attacks from Shyrack bombers, but their bombs were easily evaded as well.

    Once they got close enough to the Valkoran base, Zolph decided to destroy the MAAD pods that had caused him and Hiriss trouble earlier. Thankfully, there were very few other land vehicles to defend them, as the Valkoran Order had lost a large percentage of them in the bombing of Ockla Prime, but on the other hand, they still had support from Forceless-possession hosts small and large. Hiriss slashed at the MAAD pods’ fuel tanks with her green double-bladed lightsaber as Zolph drove by each of them, causing them to explode after a few seconds and take out any defenders with them. With the pods eliminated, the Jedi had finished the first step of enabling an airstrike on the base.

    After stopping at the entrance of the base’s outer wall and disembarking from their speeder bike, two Planara Manos emerged from the sand, one of them grabbing the bike and then crushing it to pieces. However, the giant snakes were no match for the Jedi, as both Zolph and Hiriss took them down in a single stroke to the single eye in their “palms”.

    “Let’s now add ‘steal a vehicle’ to the things we need to do before we leave.” Hiriss said.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    After cutting through the main gates, Zolph and Hiriss were greeted by a platoon of Valkoran troopers armed with blaster rifles, flamethrowers and mounted repeating blasters.

    Following the Battle of Ockla Prime, the Valkoran had repainted their standard trooper armor from predominantly light gray with black decals to predominantly dark gray with red and black decals to reflect their allegiance to the Forceless Collective. To distinguish them from the similarly-colored Shadow Troopers, the Shadow Troopers now wore tight-fitting masks over a balaclava instead of recolored helmets.

    However, accompanying the troopers were Forceless-possessed Galactic Alliance soldiers, displaying various mutations beyond unnaturally blackened skin and glowing gem-like eyes.

    Ever since Ockla Prime, Zolph and Hiriss were slightly more hesitant to kill possession victims than they were already. If the host was killed through conventional means such as a blaster shot or a lightsaber slash, the symbiote would break down the corpse if left alone and imprison the host’s essence in a dimension known as the Pool of Souls. There, they were kept from becoming one with the Force and truly escaping the Collective’s grasp so they could be revived later for further use. This moral dilemma didn’t feel quite as big in space battles since the symbiote was usually vaporized alongside the host in starfighter combat. In the case of larger ships, however, their crews being absorbed if they were exposed to vacuum or if the vessel wasn’t quickly obliterated didn’t feel much different from killing hosts on foot.

    Publicly, the Alliance military has decried this claim of soul imprisonment and the ability to resurrect them as propaganda from the Collective to keep their forces from being further discouraged against fighting the Collective, and to keep others from being lured by potentially false promises of resurrecting lost friends or loved ones. On the other hand, parts of the Alliance’s political system – despite blatant evidence by refugees from invaded worlds and impartial reporters - has tried to deny that the greater Forceless Collective exists and claim the Valkoran Order are still an independent sovereign power and the greatest threat to the galaxy. At best, these politicians were trying to avoid a mass panic, or at worst, they were desperately trying to portray themselves as strongmen to distract from their own inadequacies. Nonetheless, killing possession victims was a reality the Jedi and the Alliance military had to come to terms with lest themselves or other innocents be killed or possessed by the Collective.

    The gunners immediately opened fire on the Jedi, but through quick Force-enhanced reflexes, they deflected every single shot back at all other troopers in the squad despite the weapons’ quick firing rate before killing the gunners. Afterward, they cut down the Forceless-possessed Alliance soldiers. Zolph and Hiriss then remorsefully tried to kill as many of the symbiotes as they could before their allies’ bodies could be consumed, but not all of them could be saved.

    “You know what’s funny, Hiriss?” Zolph asked. “Even after a year, I still hate that I can’t save everyone from possession, and I constantly worry about becoming too desensitized to killing otherwise innocent people. Even when I have the power to potentially do so, it comes at the cost of possibly drawing close to the Dark Side.”

    “That’s the dilemma all of us Jedi face, Zolph.” Hiriss answered. “Our most basic principle is to feel compassion for others and protect the innocent, but conflictingly, we’re also taught to put our emotions aside so we don’t act too hastily or we aren’t prevented from acting when necessary. And the war against Valkor is testing this ideology to cruel extremes. As for great power, we’re encouraged to use it when necessary, but we also need to balance its use so we don’t abuse it or become afraid to use it at all.”

    “It’s like what Grein and the ex-Jedi in the Seferite Order tell me: the worst Jedi tried too hard to be the extreme opposite of the Sith in every way, and ironically enough, the religious dogma made them seem just as dysfunctional.”

    Hiriss then got them back to the task at hand. “Anyway, now that we’re in the fallen empire’s base, we just need to place some charges on the power generator, capture or kill Agnasur, and get us a ride out of here before the Alliance blows it to hell.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Within the walls of the Valkoran base, Zolph and Hiriss almost effortlessly plowed through enemy troops and vehicles to reach the power generator. The generator itself was guarded by two possessed, massive insects that they only knew by the name “Juggernaut Beetle”.

    “Two of these guys?” Zolph asked. “Well, Hiriss, we know what to do.”

    As one of the beetle’s tried to face the nigh-invulnerable shell-shield on its upper body towards Zolph, Hiriss leaped over it to get at its vulnerable spinal column while it was distracted. However, the second beetle moved right behind its partner to cover its back. As the beetles covered each other by bending their spines, Zolph and Hiriss backed away from them in the hope that they could separate them since their only obvious weapons were their long, sickle-like arms and the horns on their shells, apparently lacking ranged options. To their surprise, however, the beetles spat out a black digestive acid at the Jedi’s positions rather than separate.

    “Have they always been able to do that?” Hiriss asked with astonishment after avoiding the acid. “Or is this another recent genetic modification from the Collective?”

    “Whatever the case, this proves they’re a lot smarter than they look. However, their double shield approach isn’t foolproof. Did you pack any extra charges?” Zolph asked her.

    “In case any of them were duds.” Hiriss understood what Zolph was planning, but didn’t elaborate directly since any creature possessed by Forceless – even non-sapient animals – could understand Basic and catch on to their plan.

    As Hiriss pulled a charge from her munitions backpack, she observed the Juggernaut Beetles’ defensive formation, noting that they would always try to keep their shells facing their opponents. In past encounters, the beetles have shown awareness of their own weak points and were quick to react to flanking maneuvers such as throwing a lightsaber like a boomerang, but they couldn’t handle simultaneous attacks from multiple directions. When alone, the closest they could get to protecting from all other directions was hunkering down to have their recently-reinforced shell protect their entire body even from bombing runs, but doing so limited their offensive options and didn’t protect them from underneath.

    While Zolph was trying to keep his respective beetle focused on him, Hiriss activated the charge on a timer and tossed it up into the air so it would land on top of the beetles. Recognizing the thrown object as an explosive, the beetle focusing on Hiriss reacted to it by facing its shell upward. Before the charge descended, Hiriss threw her lightsaber directly at the beetle in a spinning motion. As the beetle’s face was looking towards Hiriss when the shell was facing upward, this prompted the beetle to position the shell back towards Hiriss, but this was exactly what she was planning. As soon as the shell was facing her, Hiriss Force-pulled her lightsaber back before it could even connect with the beetle. The charge fell between both beetles and promptly detonated, pulverizing them.

    With the Juggernaut Beetles dead, Zolph and Hiriss immediately started planting some of the remaining charges on the power generator, and they still had some charges left over.

    “Next up: Agnasur.” Zolph muttered.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Zolph and Hiriss continued fighting their way through base, even as some Valkoran forces fought to disarm the charges. Eventually, they made their way into the command center and came face-to-face with Agnasur, along with a trio of Shadow Troopers, waiting at the other end of the holographic display table in the middle of the room.

    “So, it’s come to this.” Agnasur hissed at the Jedi in contempt. “You, the one who defeated our Emperor, have come here to tear apart what’s left of the great Valkoran Empire?”

    “Spare me the pretentious whining.” Zolph answered. “Your ‘great empire’ is nothing more than a cult that now has even less power on its own than the Black Sun crime syndicate did in its prime. That the Forceless Collective’s extragalactic forces are now fighting alongside you says as much.”

    “Why are you so opposed to galactic peace? You Jedi constantly preach about keeping it, but for thousands of years, your Order and every other major government has failed to make it last. Under Emperor Valkor, it could last forever!”

    “You want to know who else said that?” Hiriss rhetorically asked. “Emperor Palpatine. Valkor may be thousands of years older than him, but he isn’t the first known rising dictator who’s tried to present himself as an all-powerful figure that can bring an age of greatness and awed others into supporting him through populist appeal. What then follows is setting up a totalitarian regime, waging a war or oppressing specific groups as scapegoats in the name of peace and order.”

    Zolph followed up. “Your Emperor’s idea of everlasting peace is having everyone but a select few individuals either robbed of their free will or brainwashed into believing in his cause. And considering that he went through the trouble of killing a planet and trying to torture me before killing me, I’m sure that claim is nerfshavit. As for you, you might as well just be a mutated, malnourished Hutt.”

    Agnasur visibly didn’t take the insults well, particularly the one insinuating that the Emperor he was taught to worship his entire life was feeding him lies and the one implying that he’s trying to seize Valkor’s throne.

    “Guards! Kill these heathens for your Emperor!” Agnasur shouted to the Shadow Troopers.

    The assassins drew out their mocksabers – crude, mass-produced imitations of lightsabers built with only a basic understanding of laser technology - and failed to impress Zolph and Hiriss once again. As they charged towards their targets, the Jedi activated their lightsabers, but Zolph faked out the Shadow Troopers by then drawing his blaster and shooting two of them down. When the last one got close enough, Zolph simply slashed the trooper across the chest with his lightsaber.

    “Surrender, Agnasur!” Zolph demanded the Lindorm while pointing his blaster at him. “You’re about to lose your shields and turbolasers, your base is about to be bombed, and you’re not even half as powerful as the other Force users that once led your vestigial empire. I’d cut my losses if I were you.”

    Agnasur angrily drew out four light blue-bladed lightsabers – one in each hand – and retorted as he slithered onto the display table. “Do not compare me to those traitors or that lunatic!”

    Agnasur then charged at the Jedi with all four sabers crossed in front of him before slashing outward at them. The Jedi blocked two of the blades, but Agnasur tried to chop them with his free arms, prompting them both to dodge backward.

    While Zolph and Hiriss put up defensive stances, Agnasur twirled the sabers in his upper arms like rotary fans while quickly slithering around the Jedi in a circle. Once the Jedi were forced back-to-back, the Lindorm wrapped his tail around their ankles and threw them out of one of the command center’s windows. Agnasur then jumped out the window after them, aware that such a maneuver rarely kills Jedi.

    As Zolph and Hiriss were recovering from the landing, Zolph caught sight of Agnasur burrowing into the sand.

    “It seems we may have underestimated him, Hiri.” Zolph said.

    Suddenly, Agnasur emerged from the sand under Zolph and ensnared him with his pincer mandibles.

    “So, now you admit that I’m as powerful as those that came before?” Agnasur smugly asked.

    Zolph responded while wincing in pain. “No, I’m just…ow… admitting how crafty you are. And we were…ow… unfamiliar with Lindorms up until now.”

    Hiriss tried to attack Agnasur from behind, only for him bend one of his arms backward to block her strike. He then tried to trip her with his tail, only for her to activate the other blade on her saber and cut it off.

    While Agnasur screamed in pain and his severed tail writhed around before going limp, he accidentally released Zolph from his grasp. Zolph took advantage of the opportunity to stab Agnasur through the chest.

    “Damn you, Zolph Vaelor!” Agnasur cursed as he was slowly dying. “You may have killed me today, but as long as Emperor Valkor lives, he can resurrect me without cease thanks to the blood he has blessed me with!” Agnasur then stopped breathing and collapsed, and the Black Matter inside him quickly broke down and absorbed his remains, not giving the Jedi enough time to prevent the absorption.

    After shooting at and evaporating the Black Matter puddle left in Agnasur’s place, Zolph and Hiriss were alerted to an unfamiliar voice.

    “Not bad, but I was expecting more.”

    Zolph and Hiriss turned around to see a tall, armored humanoid female armed with a double-bladed metal glaive standing atop one of the outpost’s sentry towers and wearing a helmet that looked familiar to Zolph. They could also sense she was much stronger in the Force than Agnasur was, comparable to the Force users that once led the Valkoran Empire. She jumped down from the tower towards the Jedi.

    “But on the other hand, Agnasur was not the greatest challenge any of you two of have faced.”

    “Great. Another fanatic. And this time, she’s a cosplayer.” Zolph dryly addressed her. “Well, you got a number of details wrong and Valkor was kinda hunched over… or at least his avatar was.”

    “This is actually a common design trait from where Valkor - and I mean the real Valkor – comes from, and I come from his homeworld as well. I will admit, the Rakata and their slaves did a passable job when it came to avatar design accuracy compared to the avatars from other galaxies.” The woman answered.

    “Enough about that. Who are you, and what is your deal?” Zolph asked.

    “I am Cina Onae, and I am one of Valkor’s oldest followers. Word is that you are one of the few who have destroyed any of his avatars, or more accurately, his symbiote’s avatars. I want to know how powerful you really are.”

    “I didn’t survive this long on just power alone. Besides, I’m not even the strongest Jedi this galaxy has ever known.”

    “You underestimate yourself. You’ve become feared throughout the Forceless Collective, so much that they will do anything underhanded to dispose of you, and not because you’re merely immune to possession. They perceive you as a natural predator.”

    “Enough trying to butter me up! If you want to fight me, just say so!” Zolph demanded.

    “Oh, don’t worry. I intended to fight you anyway.” Cina drew her glaive from the scabbard underneath her cape. The metal blades were then enveloped in purple plasma energy. “How else would I get a good read of your capabilities if that snake man was so inept?”

    “That weapon technology reminds me of Emilin’s lightscythe.” Zolph noted.

    “You mean Mortaqa’s lightscythe? That weapon was built using similar methods to this plasma glaive. The only practical reason I can think of wanting to build a weaponized scythe with an archaic construction method opposed to having her use a lightsaber is for psychological warfare.”

    Referring to his late, distant aunt by an alias while possessed by Facadma elicited a reaction from Zolph.

    “Do not. Call her. By that name.” Zolph projected with tranquil fury and ignited lightsaber.

    “Calm down, Zolph.” Hiriss warned him. “She’s trying to provoke you. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book for fighting Force users.”

    “You think I don’t know that?!” Zolph snapped at her.

    “You’re not helping yourself by responding that way.” Hiriss replied, even though she was put off by his response. “Please, if this is too much for you, let me fight her for you.”

    Cina replied to Hiriss. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mirialan, but this is between me and Zolph only. By intervening on his behalf, you defeat the purpose of this test.” She then used the Force to throw Hiriss against one of the walls and then used the joint pieces from the legs of fallen Gundark walkers to shackle her limbs to the wall.

    “If you hurt Hiriss, I will kill you.” Zolph warned Cina.

    “No harm will come to your woman. This is merely intervention insurance. Now, show me everything you have.”

    Zolph sloppily chopped at Cina, only for her to nonchalantly to dodge to the side. Zolph then tried to slash at her a few more times while Cina parried all of his blows, with her eventually using the Force to lift Zolph up in the air before slamming him into the sand.

    As Zolph got up and spat out some sand that got in his mouth, Cina telekinetically uprooted one of the sentry towers and tried to crush him with it. Zolph responded by using the Force to catch it and throw it at Cina, only for her to slash it in two.

    Zolph tried rush at Cina one more time, only for her to push a veil of sand in his face and rush through it to cut his prosthetic hand off.

    “Shavit! Not again!” Zolph cursed.

    “I’m disappointed in you, Zolph. I know you’re capable of much more than this. Didn’t Maesterus teach you that anger can lead to sloppiness, and for Force users, potential insanity? But then again, it is the nature of intelligent creatures to fall back on what they’ve learned because of their emotions. Ignoring that and as angry you are right now, I know you’re holding back on what allowed you to defeat that avatar. Perhaps you are afraid of your own power?”

    “That power is potentially addictive and dangerous if abused. That’s why I was holding back. Besides, it’s not like I could use that power anytime even if I wanted to.”

    “There were plenty of symbiotes for your power around this base, yet you were perfectly content with letting people you wanted to save die or be absorbed rather than accept the risks to yourself? That sounds like something an ineffectual Jedi Council member would do.”

    “Even if I could save them without risk, Forceless can mutate people into being dependent on them. I still wouldn’t be able to save them all!”

    “All being the key word. You’re just making excuses.”

    “Besides, there are barely any Forceless in this base left besides you.”

    “I’m not out of ammunition yet.” Cina used the Force to levitate Zolph off the ground and a stinger oozing with Black Matter ruptured from her left palm in a way that reminded Zolph of his first few encounters with Maesterus.

    “No! Don’t do this! You don’t know what you’ll get yourself into!” Zolph begged.

    “You act like you’re concerned for my well-being, but it’s obvious you’re more worried about what will happen to yourself.”

    Hiriss protested from the wall she was shackled to. “Leave him alone! Zolph has enough reasons to fear his own power besides Jedi superstition!”

    “If he has suffered pain because of this power before, he must learn to overcome it.” Cina then jabbed her stinger into Zolph’s chest, retracted it and dropped him to the ground before backing away.

    For the first time in a year, Zolph felt his body devouring the symbiotes that were injected in him and converting them into Force power. In a flash of light, Zolph had been transformed into a naked humanoid figure that resembled a Forceless-possessed creature and his right arm was restored, a form Zolph had labeled the Black Berserker.

    “You shouldn’t have done that.” Zolph told Cina in a distorted, angered tone.

    “I can sense a lot of power from you now, Vaelor. But something’s still missing: you don’t look like you can fly, and I heard reports of you doing that on Ockla Prime.” Cina replied.

    Suddenly, Zolph used the Force to slam Cina against a wall so hard it left a big crack in the duracrete. As Cina got back on her feet, Zolph created an aqua-green energy blade around his right arm, raised it in the air and extended the blade to ten meters in length. Zolph then chopped downward as Cina moved out of the blade’s path and the wall was split in two.

    As Cina dodged charged Force blasts and energy blade slashes from Zolph, she came to the realization that she might not have thought her plan to analyze Zolph through, as he was now both powerful and angry enough to kill her with ease.

    “I see now. It’s not the pain of your power that worries you; it’s the pain that you carry inside of you.”

    “Enough of your philosophical nerfshavit! Just die, you Forceless witch!” Zolph shouted at her as he fired another Force blast at her.

    However, Cina used the Force to deflect the blast right back at him, sending him flying into the walls instead.

    Cina both complemented and scolded Zolph at the same time. “You are indeed powerful, Vaelor. Poweful enough to maybe destroy Valkor’s replicas with ease, but not powerful enough to defeat that symbiote avatar when it had turned into the giant from Ockla Prime.”

    “What do you know, schutta?!” Zolph shouted while recovering from the blast.

    “Your pain and anger limits this power. I can now understand why you fear it: it turns you into something you detest if you can’t control it. That is why the Collective went through all the trouble of breaking you if it didn’t make you take your own life. However, I know you have overcome your pain and anger before, based on the reports from Ockla Prime. Even when the symbiote had just murdered Maesterus in front of you and was prepared to devour you and your allies, you overcame it. Perhaps some motivation will give me the results I want.” Cina then shouted into sky. “Terraris! You may now attack the plateau!”

    Suddenly, the ground started to shake violently, and Zolph and Hiriss watched a Planara Manos a lot larger than the ones they were used to fighting emerge from the sand outside the Valkoran base and then start tunneling in the direction of the Jeela Base – especially surprising to Zolph because if her claim was true, not only was Terraris somehow back from the dead, he was brought back stronger and larger than before.

    “You won’t be able to catch up to Terraris in time with any of the vehicles here, and don’t bother trying to alert them either; the Alliance won’t have time to completely evacuate. Either you show me your true potential or your allies will die.”

    “How do I know you won’t hurt Hiriss if I leave you alone with her?!” Zolph asked with suspicion.

    “I never said she was a hostage. Like I previously mentioned, I was just keeping her from interfering with my test.”

    “Don’t worry about me, Zolph.” Hiriss assured Zolph. “I can take care of myself if she backs out on her word. You just worry about that Archfiend.”

    Zolph calmed down and begrudgingly accepted Cina’s challenge. “Fine, I’ll take your word.”

    Suddenly, Zolph started brimming with Force energy once again, this time turning him into a more angelic, silver-skinned humanoid with four wings, a form that Zolph and the rest of his allies had labeled as the Silver Seraph. Cina watched in awe as Zolph flew away from the base at high speed.

    Cina turned around towards Hiriss, only to notice that the half-Mirialan had broken out of the makeshift restraints on her own.

    “Oh, I was just about to release you, but I see you’ve already done that yourself.”

    “It looks like either no one told you or you forgot how difficult it is to hold a Jedi captive.” Hiriss snarked back before activating her lightsaber.

    “Put your blade away…. Hiriss, was it? I got exactly what I wanted, and I have no quarrel with you.” Cina started walking away from Hiriss.

    “Excuse me? You just ordered an Archfiend to attack the Alliance.”

    “An Archfiend which I have confidence Zolph Vaelor is going to destroy in time. Besides, I thought I heard the power generator exploding during our fight. You might want to leave before your bombers show up.”

    Cina then used the Force to leap a great distance over the base walls while Hiriss retrieved Zolph’s severed hand and lightsaber, and made her way for the Valkoran speeder garage.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Meanwhile atop one of the spires surrounding Jeela Base, Sergeant Kass Choi was keeping watch for any enemy attacks when she caught sight of Terraris attacking Alliance and Valkoran forces a few miles away from the base. Even though she wasn’t anywhere near as strong in the Force as her uncle, she could sense that something was off about this creature.

    She immediately pulled out her commlink. “General G’Jan! We’ve got trouble! There’s a gigantic Planara Manos attacking our forces not far from here. It’s swatting our vehicles away like flies and throwing everyone around with sand geysers!”

    “If something that powerful is here, we need to retreat, and you should do the same, Sergeant.” G’Jan replied. “I’ll send some fighters to distract it. They may not be able to kill it, but they will buy us time to evacuate and have a much better chance of surviving it.”

    “Understood. Sergeant Choi out.” Kass put away her commlink, headed for the airspeeder that got her atop the spire in the first place and flew back to the plateau. Meanwhile, several pilots on top of the plateau scrambled for their fighters.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Inside the base’s briefing room, General G’Jan was prepared to recommend Han and Leia to retreat as well.

    “I’m not going anywhere, G’Jan.” Leia defiantly replied before G’Jan could even make the recommendation. “We’re too close to winning this battle.”

    C-3PO protested Leia’s bravado. “Mistress Leia! Are you out of your mind?! The chances of us surviving a battle against such a powerful creature are three-million-to-one!”

    “I sense a disturbance from this creature, perhaps what we thought was an Archfiend earlier. And if I remember correctly, I heard that one of the Archfiends that Zolph defeated was a Planara Manos. Whatever the case is, we cannot leave this thing to its own devices.”

    Han butted in it. “I love your determination, Leia, but I have to agree with Threepio on this one. You may be strong in the Force, but you’re not your brother. Going up against that freak head-on would be suicide. If you want to fight it, at least do it from a position where you won’t get flattened.”

    Threepio was annoyed at Han’s interpretation. “That is not what I meant, General Solo.” But the droid’s complaint was ignored.

    “Got any bright ideas?” Leia asked Han.

    “Yeah. We’re taking the Falcon for a ride.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    As the Alliance fighters tried to keep Terraris away from Jeela Base, the Millennium Falcon joined in on the action, with Han serving as a pilot, Leia as his co-pilot and two Alliance gunners manning the quad-laser turrets. Thanks to her Force-sensitivity, Leia helped Han evade some attacks from Terraris that would have otherwise hit a ship their size.

    After doing little damage to the beast, Leia sensed a powerful presence approaching quickly and saw a four-winged, silver-skinned humanoid charging at Terraris. The figure punched Terraris in the head at super speed, causing the beast to recoil despite the massive size difference. Despite only looking vaguely similar, Leia could sense and recognize this character as Zolph Vaelor.

    “We should pull back for now.” Leia relayed to the fighter squadron. “If this is the Silver Seraph, we shouldn’t get in his way.” The Falcon and the fighter squadron promptly pulled away from the fight scene.

    As Terraris came back to his senses, he noticed Zolph hovering in front of him, only looking vaguely familiar to him.

    “Hello, Terraris.” Zolph addressed the creature. “Do you remember me? I’m the guy who killed you before. I may have learned your name and you were made bigger since we last met, but I’ve also learned many new tricks.”

    Terraris hissed at Zolph in anger.

    Zolph replied. “So, it really is you. And you’re still not much of a talker compared to the other Archfiends. But then again, the rest of your species isn’t so talkative either.”

    Terraris tried to make a charge for the Alliance base while he could, but Zolph simply used the Force to yank the giant serpent out of the sand and throw him miles away from the base.

    As Zolph charged for Terraris again, the beast started summoning many large boulders from the sand to throw at Zolph. Zolph responded by doing the same, except he also summoned the wreckage of starships that were buried during a time when the maugra ruled Blenjeel. Both entities started throwing their projectiles against each other, until one of Zolph’s boulders smashed Terraris in his finger-like mandibles.

    Zolph flew towards Terraris with two moderate-length energy blades formed, but Terraris retaliated by grabbing Zolph in his mandibles, interrupting his attack. As Terraris tried to crush Zolph between his mandibles and his crystalline eye, Zolph created another blade of dagger-length and stabbed into Terraris’s eye.

    This triggered a roar of pain from Terraris, provoking it into squeezing even harder. After pulling his blade out, Zolph started repeatedly punching the eye until it was shattered, blinding Terraris. Afterward, Zolph created a longer blade and sliced off all of the mandibles.

    As Zolph backed away to prepare a final attack, Terraris prepared for a last stand despite being crippled. Terraris summoned two large boulders and aimlessly tried to throw them at Zolph, but Zolph used the Force to catch the boulders and violently smashed Terraris’s skull between them.

    With Terraris’s skull reduced to barely functional mush, Zolph formed two massive energy blades and rapidly sliced Terraris into thousands of pieces, so much that the symbiote inside him was destroyed as well, and the chances of a second resurrection were almost impossible.

    However, Zolph realized his time as the Silver Seraph was almost up and immediately flew for Jeela Base.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Zolph arrived on top of the Jeela Plateau just as he turned back to normal. As he tried to activate the terminal for the turbolift, he just remembered that he was still missing his right hand. Zolph sheepishly withdrew his wire-filled stump and activated the terminal with his left hand and headed down into the base.

    As Zolph reunited with Generals G’Jan, Solo, Organa and R9-C4 in the operations room, he was also overjoyed to see Hiriss alive and well. He didn’t hesitate to run up and hug her.

    “I’m glad you’re safe.” Zolph told her.

    “I told you I could handle it.” Hiriss responded before holding out Zolph’s severed robotic hand with a cheesy grin on her face. “Need a hand?”

    “Very funny.” Zolph half-heartedly replied. “I take it you defeated that Cina Onae lady?”

    “No. We didn’t even fight at all. She got what she wanted, let me go, and went off on her own. As for the Valkoran base, the bombers have done their job and what’s left of the Valkoran Empire is further shrunken down. But again, how long are those incompetent senators going to keep their head in the sand and continue to claim that the Valkoran are still a relevant superpower?”

    “I’m worried that if we get to the point that the Collective runs out of their Valkoran followers, the head-in-the-sand guys will try to pick a fight with the Seferite Order under the pretense of them being ex-Valkoran, even though they’ve been pardoned. They would rather make unnecessary enemies than climb out of their comfort zones and try to deal with a more threatening, unfamiliar enemy. The last part especially ironic because we were at war with another group of extragalactic invaders for five years.”

    Leia replied to the two young Jedi. “I agree with your sentiment. That kind of obstructiveness and willful ignorance is why I retired from politics in the first place. But let’s not forget that the Vong invasion also left a lot of emotional wounds on us, and some of us just aren’t ready to deal with that again so soon.”

    Zolph responded. “Don’t get me wrong. I understand that some of them don’t want the rest of the galaxy panicking or giving into despair while we and the military deal with the Collective ourselves. Hell, as much of a pain in the Jedi Order’s backside as he is sometimes, even Chief Omas is secretly willing to acknowledge the Collective as a serious threat. But some of the politicians in question are just sleazy cowards who are interested only in keeping their seats and making themselves look more effectual than they actually are.”

    Zolph then changed the topic.

    “Annoying politics aside, Cina Onae is very unusual. If she was only interested in testing my ability to Force channel and not trying to kill me or Hiriss, is it possible she’s a case of Forceless immunity like Seferin?”

    “What do you mean by that?” G’Jan asked.

    “She looks like a possession host, but she’s allowed to act independently and do things that would be counterintuitive to Valkor’s plans.”

    “It’s not a good idea to immediately assume she’s just like Maesterus.” Han chimed in. “For all we know, she could just be trying to make an analysis of your powers so the Collective can counter it later.”

    “She also claims that she’s from the same world as the real Valkor and referred to the avatar we fought as if it were a separate entity from him; that it was actually an extension of Valkor’s symbiote.”

    “That just means she’s not a sanctimonious idiot that practices idolatry like the other cultists.” Han continued. “But if she is from Valkor’s homeworld, she might be a good lead to ending this war.”

    G’Jan responded. “That is again, provided that those idiot bureaucrats don’t send us on another wild bantha chase against some insignificant cultists. And then have them whine and yell at us just because we happen to be fighting Forceless at the same time.”

    “This might be something we’ll get better results with if we’re working closely with the Seferite Order.” Hiriss commented. “Besides, considering their previous connections with Valkor, it would be a good idea to inform Arcidus about Onae… and that creature Zolph just killed.”

    Hiriss had to choose her words carefully, as any word of Archfiends being brought back from the dead could cause the military’s attempt to undermine the Collective’s claim to fall apart. Thankfully, Terraris was larger than before and the only eye-witness accounts of Terraris’s original form were with Zolph, the Jedi Order and members of the Valkoran Empire; but it was only a matter of time before Collective propagandists would spread the word over the HoloNet and the Collective starts unleashing Archfiends with more public eyewitness accounts. On the flipside, this revelation added some credibility to the claim that Dynn Manthis was brought back too, but again, there was no telling if this claim was true or merely bait for Zolph. Han, Leia and G’Jan could tell Hiriss and Zolph knew something they weren’t willing to tell them in front of the rest of the personnel, but kept silent when they also knew that they were fighting an enemy that could weaponize truths laced with false promises.

    “The bureaucrats won’t like the idea of you working with groups outside the government, let alone former Valkoran agents, but this may be our only option for any meaningful progress.” Leia told them. “You two and R9-C4 should visit the Seferites alone if you want some effective diplomacy.”
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
  14. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    A few fun facts from the most recent chapter that doesn't have much bearing on the plot later on.

    The character that would become Agnasur wasn't always a Lindorm, but he was still a sapient, serpentine creature with four arms, but from another galaxy. Because I worked with a Lindorm in Odd Partnerships (and that's not me trying to be in-character either) and that story shares a universe with this one, I felt it would be awkward to have two very similar creatures that are claimed to be different species. Since Agnasur as a boss fight was conceptualized before Agnasur as a character and my ideas for Episode III went through some revisions (such as giving the remnants of the Valkoran Empire a bit more exposure while acknowledging that they are no longer relevant as a superpower now that the Forceless Collective is on the forefront), I decided to revise Agnasur into a formerly lower-ranking Valkoran acolyte that rose to power as a result of the other former Valkoran leaders either dying or defecting. That would also mean that Agnasur had to be a member of a species that was native to the GFFA. The closest canon species I could find to match Agnasur's physiology were the Thisspiasians, but even if you were to shave off all their hair, they still wouldn't be as close to the look I envisioned for Agnasur. By the time I thought about this, I had been working on Odd Partnerships, and what I imagined the Lindorm species to look like using the details provided by Gamiel were the closest thing I imagined to Agnasur, so I decided to use that species once again. On that note, I'd like to go ahead and say that the cultural tastes of Lindorms in the Valkoran Empire tend to be different from those living in other places. For instance, they are much more tolerant of right angles (that might just be me being lazy, but even trying to work with that was little difficult when I was writing Liamag).

    And yes, the pincer-mandibles are Forceless mutations.

    On a different subject, it was fun exploring a planet again that had only been shown once before and was only a death world. I thought that if anyone would dare to build a base on Blenjeel (let alone go near it) post-Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, they would have tried to do something about the man-eating sand worms first (this also doubles as catharsis for me, because the Blenjeel mission was as much nightmare fuel to me as a kid as the dianogas in the Anoat sewers in Dark Forces). On a side note, the maugra in their game were just called "Sand Burrowers". I gave them a new name not only to make them sound a bit more exotic and less syllable-heavy, but I theorized that they were only called "sand burrowers" at first because they were newly discovered at the time. Giving them a genetic relation to the sarlacc (as well as a few other creatures similar to it, one of which was introduced in the new canon) was artistic license on my part.
     
  15. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Time for a very-relevant-to-the-story character lore update:

    Gahmah Raan has some Gungan ancestry. His maternal grandfather was the son of the marooned Gungan slave, Tar Jar Binks and Krishari, Shairah Jaal. However, it should be noted due to Shairah's Krishari anatomy, Tar Jar was unable to conceive any more children right after he conceived Gahmah's grandfather.
     
    Ewok Poet likes this.
  16. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Okay, it's time to come clean....

    April Fool.

    No. Gahmah Raan is in no way a distant cousin of Jar Jar Binks (although it would make sense in the context of Gahmah being similar to Jar Jar's original concept character-wise). Not only would both species be biologically incompatible (one's a reptile with mammalian traits, the other's an amphibian), there wouldn't be enough time for genetic muddying to make Gahmah look like a non-hybrid and the chances of a Gungan getting into galactic civilization pre-Battle of Naboo would be very slim.

    However, Shairah Jaal being Gahmah's great-grandmother is still plausible.
     
  17. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Hey, would you look at that. I didn't take an entire year writing this chapter. And I just barely missed the appropriate May 4th mark. Progress, right? In all seriousness, some moving pains interfered.

    [​IMG]
    EPISODE III:
    Chapter 2: Allies

    One day later…

    After explaining what they encountered on Blenjeel and receiving approval from Headmaster Luke Skywalker on Ossus, Zolph, Hiriss and Seefor arrived in orbit of Barsemic, an oceanic world which had a small blockade of Seferite warships positioned in relation to specific hyperspace routes.

    Once controlled by the Valkoran Empire, Barsemic fell into the hands of the Seferite Order following its fracturing. Traveling here was a new experience for Hiriss and Seefor, but Zolph remembered coming to the system during the first year of the Valkoran War. Back then, his mission was to infiltrate Maesterus’s now-destroyed flagship, the Doomsayer, while it was undergoing repairs in an orbiting shipyard. Of course, Zolph had never been down on Barsemic’s surface.

    As per Seferite protocol, a squadron of Firaxa-class starfighters swarmed around the Manthis before her crew received a transmission from Admiral Morda on the Obliterator-class Star Destroyer, Liberator.

    A stern, but welcoming female voice came from the Manthis’s communication terminal. “This is Admiral Sonia Morda. I know your vessel is one-of-a-kind, Vaelor, but please transmit your transponder codes and identify yourself. We need confirmation your ship isn’t stolen or being impersonated.”

    Zolph immediately entered in a few keys on his terminal before addressing the Admiral by voice. “Admiral Morda, this is Zolph Vaelor and Hiriss Moraana of the Jedi Order. We’ve come to discuss important matters with Supreme Commander Arcidus personally.”

    “Good to hear your voice, Zolph. That means you haven’t been killed or possessed yet.” Morda answered back. “Please proceed to Docking Bay 16 on Galode Island. I will inform Arcidus of your arrival.”

    The Firaxa fighters dispersed and the Manthis made a beeline towards Galode Island.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The Seferite base was divided upon several islands, each serving a specific purpose. These islands served as residential, commercial, and industrial sectors as well as a civilian space port. Galode Island – distinguished by its towering command center – was dedicated to the Seferite Order’s administrative and military activity. As they approached Docking Bay 16, they passed over a statue of Maesterus - depicted in full armor and a cape - in a triumphant pose. For both symbolic and pragmatic purposes, the stacked wings he had late in his life were omitted. This artistic decision was made on a similar principle to the organization changing its working title, the Knights of Maesterus, into the Seferite Order.

    After landing their fighter in Docking Bay16, Zolph, Hiriss and Seefor disembarked to be greeted by a squad of Seferite troopers. Commanding them was Barabo Desilijic Veuro, a Hutt that was, to the surprise of almost anyone outside the Valkoran and Seferites, a lieutenant of the Black Guard. Like all Black Guards, he wore full body armor except for his gastropod underside to allow him better movement and carried a plasma staff. As befitting his position, he was thinner, more muscular and had longer arms than the average Hutt, but was still large and bulky enough that he needed to consume more food than the standard humanoid.

    Barabo addressed his guests with a deep voice in fluent Basic. “Welcome back to Barsemic. Did I get that right? You never actually set foot on the planet’s surface before…” The Hutt then refocused himself. “Anyway, it’s so good to see you again, Zolph. And I see you brought some guests.”

    Seefor chirped dryly at the ornate Hutt. “R9-C4 = Humbled by legless, fat man’s acknowledgment of Seefor’s existence.”

    Zolph scolded Seefor. “And with that, you are staying at the ship.” Zolph then turned his attention back to the Hutt. “It’s good to see you again, too, Barabo. These are my partners, Hiriss Moraana and that mouthy droid who thought she could get away with insulting you in binary, R9-C4.”

    “I don’t mind the droid. It’s normal for droids that go without frequent memory wipes to have sassy personalities. Although your droid has a special flavor to her.” Barabo then inched his faceplate towards Seefor. “Yes, Seefor, I can understand every beep of yours. Common language studies are part of the Black Guard training regimen.”

    Seefor whistled apologetically. If she made that comment towards any more stereotypical Hutt, they would most likely demand she be turned to scrap on the spot.

    Hiriss greeted Barabo in turn. “Nice to meet you, Barabo. How do you and Zolph know each other?”

    Barabo answered Hiriss. “Even though I’ve been part of the Black Guard for centuries, I first met Zolph when he came to the Doomsayer to prepare for Ockla Prime with Maesterus.” The Hutt sighed with sadness. “It was a day of great progress, but also a harbinger to a day of great loss. Getting back to what’s at hand, our Supreme Commander has received word of your arrival. I guess what you’re here for is too sensitive for a holo-call?”

    Zolph answered. “You guessed correctly.”

    “In that case, I won’t press you any further and keep my big mouth shut.” Barabo then gave an order to one of the accompanying troopers. “Sergeant Kalre, please escort the Jedi to Arcidus’s office. I need to report back to Captain Helms.”

    Zolph was surprised to hear that name. “Wait, Captain Helms? As in Will Helms? He went from trooper lieutenant to captain of the Black Guard? If so, that guy has climbed up a lot in just a few years.”

    “You got that right. A man who can’t stay dead is an excellent choice for a bodyguard and special forces unit. Anyway, you shouldn’t keep Arcidus waiting.”

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Minutes later and after a shuttle ride to the command tower, Sergeant Kalre had brought Zolph and Hiriss face to face with Arcidus in his private office, sitting behind a desk topped with an unsorted mess of datawork and a mug of caf. Unsurprisingly to Kalre, Arcidus was still wearing his goggle-eyed breath mask. However, he sometimes wondered if Arcidus sometimes drank the caf through his mask’s filter.

    “Uh… hello, Aik…Arcidus.” Zolph swapped out his name choice at the last second to sound more professional in addressing the leader of the Seferite Order. “How’s it going for your group.”

    “Not so great, Vaelor. It’s still a mess.” Arcidus answered. “We’ve lost several more bases, the Collective knows where most of them are, this one included due to them being former Valkoran worlds, and Kuat Drive Yards keeps trying to find excuses to sue us.”

    “I’m surprised they are still in a position to make lawsuits considering what the Vong invasion did to their planet, but I guess that doesn’t make a difference when they are one of the galaxy’s wealthiest shipbuilding companies.” Zolph commented. “Besides, you can just settle that by selling another Fortress Tank like you did with your war reparations.”

    “As impractical as they are, they can still be stripped down for better uses, and we don’t have that many left. Even then, KDY’s executives are just one of the many war-profiteers who own senators that are trying to provoke us back into war with the Alliance.”

    Hiriss chimed in. “As they learned from the Vong, a war against the main government and an extragalactic invader that has no need to buy their products isn’t as profitable for them. Even more so since the Collective can easily steal or synthesize their own weapons.”

    “But I know you have another reason for being here besides small talk and corporate politics.” As Arcidus changed the subject, he silently ordered Kalre to report back to his squad and closed the door to his office.

    “Take off that mask, Aiken. You don’t need it.” Zolph bluntly demanded. “All it does is make people outside the Seferites think you’re a Darth Vader wannabe. And your scars aren’t that ugly either.”

    Aiken breathed out with hesitation. “Very well. This is a private meeting after all.” Aiken undid the laces on the back of his mask and removed it alongside the headcloth. He was a brown-skinned human male in his mid-twenties with short, black hair, blue eyes and some permanent burns all over his face.

    This wasn’t a new sight to Zolph, but Hiriss had never seen Aiken Cremas unmasked until now.

    Hiriss playfully made a playful catcall in response. “Rawr. Now I know why you really wear that mask.” She nudged Zolph and whispered to him. “Can’t you pretend to be a little jealous?”

    “You got that idea from Leia, didn’t you?” Zolph whispered back.

    Aiken sheepishly responded with denial. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He then forced them back to the subject. “Private matter, please?”

    “Sorry. Discussions tend to go on tangents whenever I’m around.” Zolph apologized. “Anyway, for starters, we encountered a possessed Force user by the name of Cina Onae on Blenjeel. She wore a helmet that looks almost like Valkor’s and was armed with an archaic, lightsaber-like weapon. Have you had any run-ins with such a character?”

    “I haven’t had reports of anyone like that. What about her?”

    “When I fought with her, she told me she was from Valkor’s homeworld and was one of his oldest followers. At the same time, however, she seemed to only be interested in testing my potential with Force channeling, and she got what she wanted when I fought Terraris again.”

    Aiken was caught off guard and did a spit-take with some of the caf he was drinking. “Hold the comm. Terraris?! Didn’t you kill him?”

    “Not so loud, Aiken. That’s the part I’m trying to keep private. Which brings me to my second topic: The Collective is apparently resurrecting Archfiends I killed. As for Terraris, yes, I killed him, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to stay dead after what I did to him the second time.”

    “Are you sure it wasn’t just another powerful Planara Manos? Because I find the notion of the Collective bringing back the dead hard to believe.”

    “When you were once part of an ancient conspiracy, associate with other strange characters and your appointed guard captain is an undying man, we’re way past the point of skepticism. To answer your question, Cina explicitly called Terraris by name and I could sense that it was him.”

    “Valkor always liked playing mind games with you, and his servants may be continuing the tradition. But if true, I can already see why it’s a politically-sensitive topic. The good news is most of the summoned Archfiends didn’t have any living eyewitnesses besides us.”

    “It’s the few that had other witnesses that are the ones we need to worry about. If word gets out that there are supposedly-dead Archfiends running around, the Collective gets some ammunition against our governments for attempted censorship and many more desperate followers. But getting back to the topic of Cina, I think she may be our key to defeating the Collective for good. If we can capture her alive, she might help us reach the Collective’s home galaxy.”

    “It sounds good in theory, but the question is if she’s willing to cooperate. Valkor is known to fully possess traitors unless they are immune to it or he still has use for them.”

    “Which brings me to my next point: her willingness to sacrifice an Archfiend to test the Silver Seraph would be considered treasonous since I’m a priority target for the Collective. So, I theorize her immunity is at least equal to Seferin’s and she is playing the long game.”

    Hiriss added to Zolph’s assessment. “I’m a bit pessimistic about this plan too, but we’ve already failed almost every attempt at capturing a Levioth. Those that were captured self-terminated before they could be studied and worse, gave away strategic locations to the rest of the Collective. We’re no closer to understanding how the wormholes work, let alone being able to use them for ourselves. It’s risky, but we’re running out of options.”

    “You’ve made your point. Since Juganak, Machinus, and Neur are away doing their own investigations, I’ll request that they keep an eye out for Onae.” Aiken conceded. “Do you have any further details on what she looks like beyond what you described before?”

    Zolph described in detail. “She’s female but is armored and well-built enough to mistake for a man at first glance. Her primary colors are black, gold and red. Like I said earlier, her helmet almost resembles Valkor’s save for a few minor details. And her weapon of choice is a double-bladed glaive that works just like Emilin’s lightscythe.” Zolph then changed the topic. “Speaking of Emilin, how’s Grein doing? I haven’t seen her since she decided to tag along with you.”

    “She’s alive and well, but still recovering. Currently, she’s making her rounds over at the Shrine of Heroes on Cryptola Island.”

    “So, not much has changed since then.” Zolph responded somberly.

    “Not entirely true. She still mourns for those she lost, but she has recovered enough to keep going.” Aiken then made an offer to Zolph. “I understand that this is your first time formally visiting Barsemic. Would you and Hiriss like to take a tour of the city?”

    “We’d love to Aiken.” Hiriss replied. “I always wanted to know more about the Valkoran-Seferite culture beyond the military, political and occult matters.”

    “You’ll only find what you’re suggesting in the Seferite Order now. What’s left of the Valkoran Empire is an authoritarian cult that has no real respect for such things, even if they claim to uphold those values.”

    Suddenly, a frantic droning sound came from the communications terminal on Aiken’s desk – a sound usually indicative of an emergency.

    Aiken immediately answered the terminal. “This is Arcidus. What’s the situation?”

    A panicked voice came from the terminal, which Zolph recognized as Admiral Morda. “Commander! A single Forceless transport just bypassed our fleet and is making its way to the surface!”

    “Damn! Send a squadron to intercept it!”

    “We’re already working on it, Commander. The wormhole appeared near one of the gaps in our blockade and they sent a few decoys to throw us off. We’ll try to correct our mistake, but we need you to be ready in case anything else goes wrong.”

    “Understood. Continue holding your position, Admiral, but spread the fleet out a little to cover the gaps. We have no idea where the rest of their attack force will pop out.”

    “Orders received. Admiral Morda out.” The transmission ended.

    Aiken then slammed the emergency alert button and an automated public announcement blared across the city. “Emergency alert: All civilians take shelter. All military personnel report to your stations.”

    Aiken sighed. “Once again, the frequency of incidents like this is why the term ‘planetary blockade’ is usually hyperbole. Even if the Collective played by the rules of hyperspace, we don’t have enough ships to cover all the routes to this system.” He then addressed the Jedi. “Zolph. Hiriss. I know you didn’t plan for this, but we could really use your help. My guess is that transport is headed for the power plant. Captain Helms is stationed there, but since there’s a delay between his reincarnations and where they happen isn’t always consistent, he won’t be able to protect the generators on his own if he’s the only one standing.”

    “What about the residential and commercial sectors?” Zolph asked. “The power plant is such an obvious target for pre-assault sabotage. They might go for your civilians first, not to mention there possibly being sleeper symbiotes among your people.”

    “Armogeist is currently stationed in the residential sector and since Grein should be reporting back in, I’ll assign her to the commercial sector. I’ll help as I see fit. But if the power plant goes down, our city’s shield and automated defense systems go down too.”

    “Got it.” Zolph then activated his comlink. “Seefor. I need you to provide some air support. A large-scale Forceless attack may be imminent.”

    Seefor replied. “R9-C4 = Already ahead of Zolph.”

    “I though I told you to stay put!” Zolph berated the droid.

    “Zolph = Incorrect. // Zolph’s previous order = Stay with ship. // Current action = Within parameters of previous order. // Besides = Seefor predicted that Zolph would give order for air support in response to PA.”

    “Touché. Well, keep doing what you’re doing.” Zolph ended the transmission and spoke to Hiriss. “You said you wanted a tour, Hiri. It’s just going to be more action-packed than we thought.”

    “But we’re going to start with one of the more culturally sterile parts.” Hiriss replied dejectedly. “Oh well, I guess we have to work before we play.”

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Moments later, Zolph and Hiriss arrived outside the industrial sector’s power plant via shuttle. They witnessed Barabo, a few other Black Guards and Seferite troopers fighting against a group of beak-masked Forceless disciples armed with rifle-pikes in front of the decomposing corpse of the Loderoach that deployed them. Despite the casualties among the Seferites, Barabo was holding his own, proving to be surprisingly agile for a Hutt. Barabo ended the fight by literally throwing his own bulk onto the last disciple.

    As the Jedi approached Barabo, they watched the crushed disciple’s arm spasm before he stopped moving. They gave the Hutt an aghast look.

    “He asked if I was going to sit on him to death. So I obliged.” Barabo nonchalantly replied. “Or are you just surprised to see a legless tub of lard like me fight so well?”

    “I guess we shouldn’t be considering Maesterus didn’t just pick anyone to be a Black Guard. It’s more like you broke our expectations.” Zolph answered. “But that’s not important now. Was that the entire raid team?”

    “Sadly, no. Their leader and a few more charged into the plant while these goons were holding us off. The leader looks like some anthropomorphized extinct arthropod with too many syllables in its name in any language. He rolled up into a ball and plowed through the security force like a blood-frenzied Colicoid. He’s also blast-proof.”

    “We need to hurry!” Hiriss chimed in. “The city defense systems aren’t going to last with something like that tearing up the place!”

    “We’ll continue keeping watch out here. Given that the interception force was stalled out of nowhere by a squadron of Eyewings before they could kill that transport in time and I caught some amphibious disciples making their way to the sea, I have a bad feeling about this.”

    Zolph and Hiriss immediately rushed into the power plant. Zolph was also disappointed once again to be reminded that even if the Loderoach was salvageable, they were still dependent on Levioths for creating wormholes to travel through.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Inside the power plant, Zolph and Hiriss fought their way through more disciples in addition to Black Matter soldiers. None of these two types of grunts proved much trouble for the Jedi, but they still posed a threat to the sub-generators and the Jedi had to hold back their power to avoid completing the Collective’s mission for them.

    Eventually, they reached the chamber housing the primary power generators, which were spaced feet apart in rows, but several of the generators were already damaged or had their protective casing knocked off, and the bodies of Seferite troopers littered the floor. Inside, they noticed a Black Guard, Captain Will Helms – unmistakable from other standard, humanoid Black Guards by his trademark Phoenix symbol on his pauldrons – fighting against a hunched-over, Forceless-possessed insectoid with curved, tusk-like mandibles almost as long, but thicker than his arms, an armored carapace with blade-like fins on his spine and a crustacean tail.

    Helms jabbed his plasma staff into the creature’s torso with barely any effect. The creature then grappled Helms with his mandibles, somersaulted along the floor with the man in his grasp and threw him into one of the remaining active but exposed generators. The voltage from the generator electrocuted Helms to death before his corpse fell to the floor.

    “Looks like we arrived just in time.” Zolph addressed the creature before he could start tearing the other generators apart.

    The creature turned around with a look of fear in his eyes even the possession symptoms couldn’t mask.

    “The Demon is here?!” The creature panicked in click-filled Basic before shifting to a more overconfident tone. “We weren’t planning on you being here, but we shouldn’t be surprised that you are, seeing that you two are on better terms with these traitors than your own government.”

    Zolph retorted. “You’re right. You shouldn’t be surprised. And we’re not blind to the fact that the Collective is trying to take advantage of our own political shortcomings.” He and Hiriss drew their lightsabers. “And we also knew your strike team would go for the power generators.”

    The creature then let out a series of clicks unmistakable for chuckling. “Do you really think those laser swords are going to hurt us? We are Armaloch. We are invincible.”

    Hiriss rebuked Armaloch’s boast. “That’s awfully big talk coming from a minion. And even though it didn’t do much, that little cut Helms left in your chitinous hide and that frightened look you gave Zolph earlier say otherwise. Besides, we know someone who is technically invincible, and that isn’t hyperbole.”

    “If you’re talking about Vaelor, we already know about the Silver Seraph. And seeing how much chaos it leaves in its wake, we know he wouldn’t dare turn into it in here, especially with how much mental fortitude it takes to keep control over. So, that gives us the advantage.”

    “As powerful as both the Berserker and Seraph are, I wasn’t talking about Zolph.”

    Suddenly, Armaloch was sidelined by a high-powered blaster shot to his underbelly, in the exact same spot he was grazed by Helms minutes earlier. He turned to his left to see a Black Guard armed with a blaster rifle at the bottom of a stairway.

    Even though the shot hurt him a little bit, Armaloch mocked the Black Guard. “Another one? Just how many of you want to die today?”

    This guard, whom Armaloch did not recognize as Captain Helms, retorted back. “We only met less than five minutes ago and you already don’t remember me? That’s just harsh.” Helms immediately pointed at the Phoenix emblem on his armor before pointing at his own corpse.

    “Impossible! You’re not even part of the Collective! How can you cheat death without our Emperor’s blessing?! And now that we think about it, why didn’t he take interest in you in the first place?”

    “Let’s just that as a simple grunt for most of my career, I was beneath Valkor’s notice.”

    “Sadly, you have just sealed your fate… again!”

    “I don’t have any illusions of beating you myself. I’m just a distraction.”

    Suddenly, Zolph and Hiriss struck their lightsabers against Armaloch, prompting him to block with his right arm. The plating on his arm stopped the blades from immediately cutting it off, but they were slowly boring through. Armaloch pulled his arm towards himself before swiping it against the Jedi, knocking their lightsabers out of their hands. They were sent flying towards one of the generators, but they each applied a light Force push to break their flights and not damage the generators in the process.

    Armaloch tried to roll towards Hiriss while she was still trying to get back up. Before he could run her over or grasp her in his mandibles, Hiriss used the Force to try to stop him in his tracks. However, this didn’t hold Armaloch for very long, and he continued rolling at the same speed once her hold broke. Once he was close enough, Hiriss instinctively used the Force to cause him to fly over her and right into the generator behind her. This action resulted in damaging the generator, but it also electrocuted Armaloch in the process.

    As she and Zolph called over their lightsabers, Hiriss immediately apologized for her accident. “Sorry about that. But at least we’ve found a more effective weakness.”

    Armaloch repeatedly clicked his mandibles again. “But you don’t have many generators left. Regardless of whether you kill us or not, this power plant will fall.”

    Zolph and Hiriss’s situation didn’t look good. They were far from the strongest Jedi to have lived under normal circumstances. If they were particularly strong in the Force and had the mental and spiritual fortitude for it, they would be able to conjure Force lightning without either endangering their own lives or tapping too deeply into the Dark Side.

    Zolph pulled out his comlink and contacted Aiken. “Arcidus, we could really use your help right now. We’ve got a heavily-armored, lightsaber-resistant enemy, and we don’t have any way of killing him quickly without tearing the power plant apart.”

    Aiken replied. “I’ve got my own problems right now. We were both right about what needed protecting. Some Forceless were spotted attacking the civilian centers and they’ve got a lot more air support than we thought. I’ll try to get to the power plant as soon as I’ve trimmed down their numbers and let Veeseven take over from there. Just keep trying to hold him for as long as you can.”

    “Understood. Vaelor out.” The transmission ended.

    Armaloch smugly clicked his mandibles again. “We see what you’re trying to do. We may not have anticipated you being here, but we were already aware of Arcidus’s power… and his relative inexperience at being a leader.”

    “So that’s why your plan was to attack both the civilian centers and the power plant at the same time. Still, that doesn’t explain how you managed to get the rest of your attack force past the blockade when they only detected one transport plus a few decoys entering the system.” Zolph pondered.

    “You have a brain. Figure it out.”

    Zolph remained silent for a bit, before making a conclusion.

    Armaloch made a mocking guess. “We think you’ve come to suspect there’s a spy or traitor in your fleet?”

    “In any other war, that would probably be the most logical conclusion, and sleeper symbiotes are a possibility. But this isn’t an ordinary war. We already know your wormholes don’t work exactly like hyperspace, and under all that occult flair, I’ve seen the Valkoran use similar portals for bringing Archfiends here. So, I’m going to make a guess that the wormholes can work even inside gravity wells, and that your forces are just toying with us by dropping the transports in orbit first.”

    “You have great intuition, Vaelor.” Armaloch complimented Zolph before changing his tone. “But that intuition won’t save you!”

    Armaloch tried to grapple Zolph with his elongated arms, but Zolph lept over his attempted embrace and landed right behind the arthropod. Armaloch quickly turned around, lunged at Zolph and tried to catch him in his mandibles. Zolph immediately dropped down on the floor and reactivated his lightsaber, slicing into Armaloch’s underbelly and tail as he passed over.

    Armaloch was injured, but still alive. “It looks like we underestimated you, Vaelor. That actually hurt.”

    Zolph replied. “I just applied my previous experiences with armored arthropods to you and tried to go for a spot that’s already been worn out. It’s a miracle you survived that.”

    “Even if we die here, the Collective will be victor-!”

    Armaloch was interrupted by a concentrated, fiery blast behind him, setting him on fire and causing him to scream in pain. As Armaloch was burning, he turned around to see a black-clad figure wearing a mask with red goggles.

    “Ar-ar-Arcidus!” Armaloch exclaimed fearfully.

    Armaloch tried to roll away from the scene, but Arcidus raised his hand, led his target, and generated another blast in the creature’s path. Once Armaloch landed on the blast point, he was stopped in his tracks and set ablaze. He screamed in agony for a few seconds before collapsing into ash.

    “That was a lot more torturous than I would’ve preferred.” Aiken commented as he looked at Armaloch’s smoldering remains. “If I wasn’t trying to preserve the generators, I would’ve used a more powerful blast and incinerated him instantly.”

    “You and me both.” Zolph replied.

    “And me three.” Hiriss chimed in.

    Zolph continued. “Anyway. Your timing was excellent.”

    “We have your droid to thank for that.” Aiken informed him. “If not for her, clearing the skies would have taken a lot longer.”

    Hiriss commented. “Seefor’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but she’s very reliable where it counts.” She then looked to Helms. “And you did your part well too, Captain.”

    “You’re too kind, Moraana.” Helms answered with self-deprecation. “I was dead weight once you wizards came in.”

    “But until then, you kept Armaloch from completely destroying the plant. So we have you to thank for that.”

    Aiken informed the Jedi duo further. “We’re not quite done with the Forceless yet, but it should be smooth flying from here now that the plant’s safe.”

    Suddenly, they were interrupted by rumbling followed by a loud bestial roar.

    “I have a bad feeling about this.” Hiriss nervously responded.

    “Don’t tell me that is what I think it is.” Zolph responded in turn.

    Aiken’s comlink rung, having received a message from Barabo. “Commander, you and the Jedi better get out here!”

    “Understood, Barabo. We’ll be there shortly.” Aiken replied before switching off the comlink and looking to Captain Helms. “Captain, get to work on fixing this place up. We need our power grid fully functional as soon as possible.”

    While Helms ordered for a maintenance team, the Force users immediately made their way for the entrance.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Zolph, Hiriss and Aiken exited the power plant and met up with Barabo’s squad. Out in the ocean, they noticed a dark, colossal, reptilian humanoid with glowing red eyes in its shoulders and hair-like quills running down its back.

    “Oh, fierfek.” Barabo cursed.

    “Another one already?!” Zolph exclaimed.

    “I take it that’s an Archfiend?” Aiken asked Zolph.

    “Archfiend. Specifically, Mandoculus.”

    “I’ve heard about him. So how do we kill him?” Aiken asked as he watched some Shyrack-class bombers futilely shower the beast in ordinance, only to do scorch damage to its nigh-impervious skin. Some of them were swatted down or crushed in its fists like papercraft.

    “When I fought him on Dagobah, his weakpoints were his eyes and his insides.” Zolph answered before pointing to the protective lenses strapped over Mandoculus’s shoulder eyes. “But it looks like Valkor took note about the first one. Mandoculus may have been a dimwit, but he was at least smart enough to not expose the eye in his mouth unless shooting lasers. So forcing him to open up is going to be a bit trickier.”

    Aiken issued an order to his forces over comlink. “Fighter squadrons. That monster’s weakspots are its eyes, but do something about the lenses first.”

    “Can’t you just fry him?” Hiriss asked him.

    “I can’t generate a burst that big. If I could incinerate even the largest targets, I would have easily destroyed the Ragnirathan and Maesterus, Gravlek and many more would still be alive today. Even if I could, it would take a lot of restraint and willpower to prevent collateral damage.”

    Zolph sensed something unusual about Mandoculus. The body was familiar despite being even larger, but the presence was not. Zolph remembered vaporizing the original’s brain with a thermal detonator. His extreme pain-sensitivity, more child-like nature, and that he had to be bullied into serving the Collective was undesirable enough that his symbiote completely took over in his last moments. And from what Zolph observed of his fighting style, this new Mandoculus was significantly more intelligent. More likely than not, this Mandoculus was a clone conditioned to be loyal from birth.

    Zolph immediately contacted R9-C4. “Seefor, I need you to come pick me and Hiriss up. We’re going to do something about that monster.” Aiken did the same for V7-L20.

    Seefor replied. “R9-C4 = Being tailed by bogies. // Orders = Ill-advised.”

    “Damn. Get here as soon as you’ve shaken them off.” Zolph ended the transmission. On the flipside, Veeseven was free to pick up Aiken. “Now if only there were any lesser Forceless nearby…”

    Suddenly, an Eyewing charged for the group from above and peppered them with blaster fire. Once the Eyewing got low enough, Zolph jumped on top of it and punched his mechanical arm into its back. As the creature was grounded from the impact, Zolph started absorbing enough Black Matter as was necessary for the situation and for his body to handle before jumping off its back. The Eyewing was still alive but weakened, until Aiken incinerated it.

    “Are you sure you’re not going to turn into the Berserker again?” Hiriss asked him as his body started channeling with the Force.

    “Seraph or Berserker, I'm out of options right now.” Zolph was immediately engulfed in a bright light before transforming into the Silver Seraph.

    Zolph immediately took off the ground and flew for Mandoculus.

    As Mandoculus approached the shore of the residential sector and was peppered with artillery blasts, Zolph used the Force to throw him away from the shore and back into the sea. The impact of his landing caused massive waves, but they were far away enough that the city wasn’t in danger of flooding.

    As Mandoculus got back up on his feet and a storm started to brew, Zolph addressed him. “Mandoculus. Do you remember me?”

    Mandoculus replied in a guttural voice. “You’re Zolph Vaelor. Of course, I know you. And I will crush you like a insect and these traitors will soon-!”

    Mandoculus was interrupted by Zolph throwing a self-generated energy blast into his open mouth.

    “Nope. Just as I thought. You may have his genetic material, but you are not the original Mandoculus. Not only was his Basic poor, I can’t imagine why the Collective would want to bring him back.”

    “The original was an imbecile and an overly sensitive coward. But his body is still useful to us.”

    The Mandoculus clone tried to smash Zolph between both hand, but he dived into the water before launching out of it underneath Mandoculus’s throat and upper-cutting him with enough force to make him fall over. However, Mandoculus got up again quickly, grabbed Zolph, and shoved him underwater.

    As Mandoculus tried to drown Zolph, he failed to notice that the Silver Seraph didn’t have a visible mouth or nostrils, and as such, he didn’t even need to breathe. Zolph naturally created an energy blast to break out of his grip. Once free, Zolph charged for the lens on Mandoculus’s left shoulder, formed two energy blades, and cut the chain straps holding the lens. With the straps destroyed, the lens fell off and the eye on Mandoculus’s left shoulder was exposed. Zolph promptly jabbed his blades into it until the eye was blinded.

    “I’ll give you credit. Making the lens and chains out of phrik was a good idea. However, I can cut through even lightsaber-resistant material.” Zolph taunted him.

    Mandoculus immediately grabbed Zolph with his right hand, and this time, held him in front of his mouth. Mandoculus’s throat-concealed eye exposed itself and extended out on a stalk. It started glowing brightly, preparing to fire a high-powered laser.

    Suddenly, a Corellian YT-3200 freighter flew towards Mandoculus’s blind spot and fired some concussion missiles at the stalk. This attack distracted Mandoculus long enough that Zolph broke free and repeated his previous process to blind the right shoulder eye.

    With both shoulder eyes blind, Zolph flew in front of Mandoculus, who was forced to expose his main eye, but not without having his eye-laser fully charged. As Mandoculus fired, Zolph used the Force to collect the laser’s energy and slowly generate his own projectile from it, eventually dwarfing Mandoculus. Zolph then threw it back at the Mandoculus clone and completely vaporized him.

    “And that’s a wrap.” Suddenly, Zolph began to feel his moment as the Silver Seraph was ending. “Karabast! Couldn’t this have happened after I landed?!”

    In a flash of light, Zolph reverted to human form in midair and started plummeting towards the ocean. As Zolph prepared to break his fall, the YT freighter from earlier – which Zolph recognized as the Blazing Manta - positioned itself underneath him. Out of the emergency hatch emerged Hiriss Moraana, who also used the Force to help soften Zolph’s landing.

    “That was amazing, Zolph. You turned into the Seraph like it was no big deal.” Hiriss said.

    “I wasn’t under too much stress at the time, and I was mostly focused on protecting this planet. If I get cocky, I’d risk turning into the Berserker, so once again, this isn’t something I can easily do.” Zolph answered. “But enough about that, what are you doing on this ship?”

    “Seefor was preoccupied, but she still had Grein’s comm channel. So she requested Grein to come pick me up.”

    “I see. Speaking of Grein, I’d like to go see her now.”

    They both descended into the emergency hatch.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Entering the Manta cockpit, Zolph came face to face with a female, purple-eyed Chiss at the controls. Grein didn’t look like she had aged a day. However, the teal in her front bangs was starting to fade, and due to the stress of the war, she had little time to dye her hair again.

    “It’s been a long time, Zolph. I’ve missed you a lot.” Grein responded.

    “I missed you too, Grein.” Zolph answered. “So how’s it been going for you?”

    “The war is no closer to ending, and we have a lot of work to do. But judging from what I saw out there, we still have a chance of winning.”

    “What will you do when this is all over? You’ve spent several lifetimes trying to fight the Collective and you have lost a lot of the things that mattered most to you, including your parents, your sister and your husband.”

    “I haven’t thought that far ahead. But you, Hiriss, Aiken and the other Seferite leaders mean the entire galaxy to me right now. Perhaps I’ll have a place in the new Jedi Order since they seem less corrupt than the old one. Or perhaps we’ll start a sect in the Seferites.”

    “That’s a good goal strive for. Even I sometimes wonder what I’ll do after this is over.”

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Minutes later, the Forceless invasion was thwarted and Zolph, Hiriss and Grein met up with Aiken at his office.

    “Sorry I dragged you into this mess.” Aiken apologized to his guests. “Sadly, this isn’t the first time the Forceless have attacked Barsemic, and they’ll keep attacking until it falls.”

    “Then why haven’t you and your people evacuated yet?” Zolph critically asked.

    “You make it sound easy. The Rebel Alliance had the luxury of keeping their bases away from populated worlds when fighting against the Empire, and that made it easier for them to run when discovered. I’m running what’s left of an empire, and not all my people are willing to abandon the homes they’ve known for many years, and some are just tired of running. Before the Battle of Ockla Prime, we tried to get our people to flee the planet, but only three-fourths of them were willing to leave their old lives behind. Parts of that other fourth were either killed in the battle or are now servants of the Collective.”

    “I figured Seferin was only telling most of the truth when he told me about the evacuation. But I had no idea the death toll was that bad, and he sure threw out a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. I’m so sorry.”

    “Don’t be. This was the result of a Valkoran-Seferite cultural problem.”

    “Anyway, let’s talk about future security for this planet. I think I discovered that the transportation wormholes the Forceless use are just like the Archfiend portals. They can open up in gravity wells, and that’s how the rest of the attack force snuck past the fleet.”

    “We already figured as such from the previous attack, and we’ve been trying to make the best of what little resources we have.” Grein commented. “However, they haven’t attacked with an Archfiend before.”

    “Since you’re the one who taught me about the Archfiends, Grein, I’m sure you know that one was Mandoculus… or a clone, rather.” Zolph told her. “And you probably know why we’re maintaining public silence about the resurrections of dead Archfiends.”

    “But almost the entire base saw that thing.”

    “But most of the galaxy doesn’t know what the individual Archfiends look like. So ignoring cases like Fafniros and Harphscor, we should be safe for now.”

    “I wouldn’t get too ahead of yourself, Zolph. What’s to say a former Forceless disciple here isn’t a sleeper agent and won’t leak this incident onto the HoloNet while providing credible sources?”

    Aiken then interrupted. “Sleeper symbiotes are to be expected and we should keep our eyes out for them, but we’ve both agreed that trying to actively search them out is almost impossible even for Force sensitives. And we don’t want such searches turning into witch hunts on our own people. Whatever the case, protecting our people is going to be a lot harder from here on out.”

    Hiriss chimed in. “Being Supreme Commander isn’t an easy job, especially when you’re fighting an enemy that is nigh-impossible to predict like the Collective.”

    “And especially with only one year’s worth of experience. But enough of the stresses of my role. You two deserve that tour I was about to give you before the Forceless attacked. I’ll give you any reports I receive on Cina Onae when you get back to Ossus.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
  18. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Not the next chapter, but something I thought would be helpful. A pronunciation guide for some of the more exotic sounding names introduced in this story (or at least how I pronounce them; how you pronounce them might be dependent on your accent).

    Zolph Vaelor - Zolph (like "Dolphin") Vay-lore
    Alec - Like Alex
    Veene - Like the "vene" in "intervene"
    Valkoran - Val-core-an
    Marx Gravlek - Marx (just like the real world surname) Grav-lick
    Maesterus - My-stir-us
    Lobranha - Lob-rahn-uh (given the obvious pormanteau, this one should be easy)
    Dynn Manthis - Den Man-this
    Va'Za - Vah-za (either "uh" or "ah")
    Terraris - Ter (as in "terrain") - are - iss
    Girdretto - Gur-dreh-toe
    Grein - Gray-in
    Ze'grein'aradi - Zay-gray-in-a-rod-ee
    Nidracha - Nid-rock-uh
    Eyewing - Eye-wing (pretty straightforward)
    Levioth - Either "Lev-E-oth" or "Le-vai-oth"
    Cthulopod - Cuh-thoo-low-pod
    Silicth - Sil-lick-ith
    Loderoach - Load-roach
    Ven Choi - This one's pretty straightforward
    Cryosmn - Cry-oh-sim
    Gahmah Raan - Gah-mah Rahn
    Vriknash - Vrick (like "Rick")-nahsh
    Bom Pintor - Bomb Pin-tore (it's a play on "pinto" since the poor guy's sole purpose is to act tough before exploding from a single shot)
    Maushh - Maw-sh
    Menbar Mun - Men-bar Mun (like "nun")
    Kratzar - Krat (like "cat")-Czar
    Pyron - Pie-ron
    Thilid - Thil (like "hill")-lid
    Shesas - Shay-zahs (don't know how most Selkath names are pronounced, since we never hear them spoken in KOTOR)
    Hydrojus - High-droh-jus
    Xadisall Varessi - Zad-i-sall (like "salt") Va-ress-ee
    Boltz - It's just "bolts" with "Really cool letterz"
    Barsemic - Bar-sim-ick
    Krantisi - Kran (like "can") - tease- ee; Krantisian - Kran-tea-zhun
    Vykle - Vai-kul
    Belluzub - Bell-oo-zub
    Seferin - Sef-ur-in
    Arcidus - Ar-kee-dus
    Aiken Cremas - Ike-in Cream-as
    Cephal - Sef-al (it's obviously derived from "cephalopod")
    Birik G'Jan - Beer-ick Guh-john
    Gestroma - Geh-stroe-ma
    Hiriss Moraana - Hear-iss More-ahn-a
    Juganak - You-guh-nack
    Argem Nylek - Are-jim Nigh-leck
    Cham Beneska - Cham Ben-es-ka
    Mandoculus - Man-dock-you-lus
    Azath - Az (like "as")-ath
    Neur - Nyur
    Machinus - Mack-in-us
    Cid Geero - Sid (like the Cids in the Final Fantasy series) Gear-o
    Cinydra - Sin-eye-dra
    Emilin - Em-il-in (like "Emily")
    Ze'emilin'asana - Zay-em-il-in-a-sahn-a
    Kur'Ada - Kur-Ah-da
    Fafniros - Faf-near-ohs
    Harphscor - Harf-score
    Ockla Prime - Ock-lah Prime
    Valkor - Val-core
    Mursama - Mur-sah-ma
    Varzos - Var-zohs
    Shiera Hond - Shee-era Hahnd
    Guaymar - Gway-mahr
    Masochus - Maa-soh-cus
    Stythanyx - Stai-than-nicks
    Antirr - Ahn-tear
    Krishar - Kri-shar
    Krishari - Kri-shar-ee
    Nazeen - Nah-zeen
    Zhikpil - Zhick-pill
    Xik - Shick
    Xixixix - Shick-sick-six
    Armogeist - Ar-moe-geist (like in "poltergeist")
    Balos Oiren - Bal-os Oi-ren
    Bal Mophula - Ball Moe-fyu-la
    Vil Rakan - Vill (like "hill") Rack-an
    Ratter - Rat-er
    Agatanea - Ag-a-tahn-ia
    Mortaqa - More-tock-a
    Ilen Kosar - Eye-lin Koe-sahr
    Saul Varson - Saul Var-son
    Chilades - Chill-ay-deez
    Facadma - Fa-sod-ma
    Ascana Vaso - A-sahn-a Vah-soe
    Yanto Eko - Yahn-toe Ee-koe
    Banir Keeti - Bun-near Kee-tee
    Vakaziz - Vaa-kuh-ziz
    Rancen - Ran-ken
    Demolusk - Dem-oh-lusk
    Planara Manos - Pla-nar-a Mah-nos
    Violo Jod - Vee-oh-low Jod
    Rapthound - Rapt-hound
    Ragnirathan - Rag-near-a-than
    Tey Hasha - Tay Hah-sha
    Sonia Morda - Sahn-ya More-da
    Muriga - Mur-ee-ga
    Yalbdalaoth - Yalb-da-lowth
    Matra Kee- Mah-tra Kee
    Veeaba - Vee-ah-ba
    Vahn Tahkna - Vahn Tahk-na
    Bethlerot - Beth-ler-rot
    Admon Onae - Ahd-mon Oh-nye
    Hazral Vangeli - Haz-rall Van-jelly
    Cina Onae - See-na Oh-nye
    Agnasur - Ag-na-sir
    Maugra - Maw-gra
    Jeela - Jee-la
    Barabo - Ba-rah-bow
    Kalre - Call-ray
    Galode - Ga-load
    Cryptola - Crip-toh-la
    Armaloch - Arm-a-lock
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  19. Gahmah Raan

    Gahmah Raan Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2015
    Update: Episode III - Chapter 3 isn't finished yet. However, I thought I'd try an experiment by releasing part of the chapter that's already been worked on before releasing it in one complete package (which I'll do on other sites). I'd like to know what my readers think of this approach. You won't get large chapters per post, but you'll be getting more story content regularly. But once the chapter's complete, I'll merge them into one post.

    Episode III:
    Chapter 3: Newborn (Part 1)
    Two weeks later…

    Aside from a tighter working relationship between the Galactic Alliance and Seferite Order, there had been no major developments in the current galactic conflict since the attack on Barsemic, not even reports of other resurrected Archfiends. The Alliance had a few minor victories in defending their territory and even reclaiming worlds, but several more had been lost to the Forceless Collective. The Collective had seized much of the Outer Rim Territories by this point, and they were creeping ever closer to the Core Worlds with several conquests from the Mid to Inner Rim.

    That said, even with a threat as anxiety-inducing as the Collective, the Alliance’s most valuable players needed to take breaks from the fighting too. Otherwise, they may become too mentally strained to be of use when needed, or in the case of the Jedi, further run the risk of falling to the Dark Side than they were already. These breaks not only provided them a chance to recover their strength, but some time for self-reflection and finding inner peace.

    At the Jedi Academy on Ossus, Zolph and Hiriss were taking a break from the fighting while they awaited any intel that the Seferites would have on Cina Onae and kept alert for potential Archfiend sightings. While the Alliance’s military was becoming better adjusted to fighting the larger Forceless war beasts, the Archfiends were powerful and unpredictable enough to warrant Jedi intervention.

    In the Academy’s dormitory rec room, Zolph was playing Dejarik holochess with R9-C4. While Seefor wasn’t one of those specifically-programmed Dejarik-playing droids, being a Class 2 droid that wasn’t subject to memory wipes made her a moderately challenging opponent for Zolph.

    That said, Dejarik wasn’t exactly one of Zolph’s expertise. He would have preferred to be playing ExtraGalaxia, but not only were Zolph’s living campaign friends unavailable, the war with the Collective made the game feel closer to reality than intended, souring some of the escapism. He always had some single-player holo-games to go to, but Zolph was currently stuck with repeat playthroughs of those games, and word of a Forceless techno-virus temporarily discouraged the Academy from connecting to the HoloNet for recreational use.

    In just a few well-calculated moves and lucky digital dice rolls on Seefor’s part, Zolph’s four-monster team was eliminated.

    Zolph slammed his left hand on the display table in frustration, being careful not to break it with his right hand even if the strength-enhancer was deactivated. “Fifth game in a row!” Zolph moped as Seefor made a series of chirps that clearly translated as gloating.

    One of the doors to rec room opened, and Hiriss came in and approached the Dejarik table, wearing yet another new outfit she had made and some eyelash extensions, getting a brief reaction out of Zolph before pretending he didn’t see anything eye-catching. As usual, her look was stylish yet practical for Jedi work. She wore a mixed red dress with a padded skirt that extended to her knees, black tights, and gloves that reached up to her shoulders. Of course, her hairstyle hadn’t changed much from two weeks ago: same headband, same long, loose curly hair, except this time, she had some of it pulled back in a ponytail and the curls were slightly less wavy.

    “Did the AI rig the dice rolls again?” Hiriss asked Zolph.

    Seefor replied. “R9-C4’s Intelligence = Self-made. // Droids = Superior Dejarik players to meatbags.”

    Zolph answered Hiriss. “That or she assimilated a Dejarik droid’s memory core.”

    Seefor then protested. “C4 =/= Cannibal. // Zolph Vaelor = Sore loser.”

    “I was just kidding, Seefor. And you’re right, I’m not taking losing well. But you’re also a sore winner.” Zolph replied to Seefor.

    Hiriss then started up another conversation, and one Zolph was expecting as soon as she came into the rec room. “So, how do I look?” She made a quick 360-degree twirl of her body.

    “You look good.” Zolph replied promptly.

    “Anything more? Any constructive criticisms?”

    “I’m not a fashionista, Hiri. I’m not the best critic for this thing. What more do you want me to say?”

    “I’d like an opinion from someone who isn’t really into that sort of thing… or are you?” Hiriss asked playfully.

    “I… don’t know what you’re getting at?” Zolph nervously changed the subject as he stroked his left-hand through his long hair. “Would you like to play a game?”

    “You know I’m only a slightly easier opponent than Seefor, Zolph. But if you want me to play against you, then sure.”

    Before they could even start their game of Dejarik, both of their comlinks rang and they quickly answered and heard the voice of Jedi Battlemaster Kyle Katarn, who had temporarily been put in charge of the Academy while Headmaster Luke Skywalker was away on Coruscant.

    “Zolph, Hiriss. Please report to the operations room. We’ve got a visitor on our comm channel that wants to talk with you.”
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


    In the Academy’s operations room, Zolph, Hiriss and Seefor met up with Battlemaster Kyle Katarn, a middle-aged human male with brown hair plus a beard that was slowly graying and instead of wearing Jedi robes or similar attire, he wore some mercenary clothing, a holdover from his pre-Jedi career. He was about as much of a maverick as Zolph and Hiriss were when it came to the Jedi dress code, if there was such a thing now.

    “What’s up, Kyle? Any word on the hunt for Cina Onae?” Zolph asked Kyle casually. Despite his position, Kyle Katarn was not comfortable with being addressed by titles.

    “You’ll have to ask our guest.” Kyle answered Zolph before addressing Hiriss. “You’re looking as beautiful as always, Hiriss. That style works for you very well.”

    “See, Zolph. Those types of compliments don’t have to be commitments.” Hiriss told Zolph. “And it’s not like Kyle’s cheating on Jan with that compliment.”

    Kyle was suddenly a little uncomfortable. “Please don’t drag me or my wife into whatever’s going on between you two.”

    “Sorry, Kyle.” Hiriss apologized. “I forget sometimes that your career paths and the galactic crises over the last few years have made it hard for you two to get together again.”

    “No hard feelings. Anyway, don’t keep the Seferites waiting. Whatever they’ve got must be pretty important.” Kyle took the communications terminal off hold, and Arcidus’s masked face was displayed on the monitor.

    “Arcidus. It’s good to see you again.” Zolph addressed him.

    “It is likewise a pleasure to speak with you again, Zolph Vaelor.” Even though Arcidus was wearing a mask, Zolph could tell that he was glancing at Hiriss and Kyle. “Has the Jedi Order’s dress code changed that much over the past four thousand years?”

    “Not that much. While this generation is the most liberal the dress code has ever been, I heard that there have been a few examples pre-Empire.” Hiriss answered him. “But that’s obviously not why you contacted us. What’s the scoop, Arci?”

    “We don’t have direct confirmation on Cina Onae’s whereabouts, but I have a lead that may be related to our hunt: we lost contact with Juganak.”

    “Crap.” Zolph muttered. “Where was Juga the last time you contacted him?”

    “He was investigating on Felucia. The Collective has taken a peculiar interest in the planet, as some of Felucia’s mega-flora are capable of spreading their pollen and spores to other planets.”

    “And if the Forceless control these plants, they could send out possessed spores and subtly take over other worlds without the need for a massive invasion force.” Hiriss concluded.

    Kyle butted into the discussion. “Also, while they don’t share the same sector, Ossus and Felucia aren’t very far apart. So, aside from the obvious threat to the whole galaxy, Felucia could serve as a potential staging ground for an attack on the Academy, and they already know a little about the Academy’s layout thanks to Maesterus’s attack.” Kyle then quickly apologized to Arcidus. “Uh, no offense to your late master.”

    “None taken.” Arcidus replied. “We know his faults, and so did he.”

    “Anyway, aside from us and the Ysanna, Ossus doesn’t have much life that the Collective would be interested in possessing yet, but there are other nearby planets that do. Now that I think about it, why would the Forceless go through such a convoluted method for a surprise attack? They could just wormhole a fleet right next to the Academy at any time.”

    “As we were reminded two weeks ago, they could do anything to catch us unprepared. Their activity on Felucia plus the development of a droid-possession virus are just exercises in giving us multiple threats to worry about.”

    Zolph rejoined in on the conversation. “Regardless, even if one threat’s a distraction for another, we can’t leave any of them unchecked. They all have potential for quick galactic dominance. If Juga’s gone missing, there’s something powerful on Felucia, whether it’s Cina or something else.”

    “I’ve already sent a rescue team, and Armogeist has decided to join them, but they could use your help too.” Arcidus replied.

    “Hiriss, Seefor and I will meet up with your forces as soon as we can.”

    “Thank you.”

    Arcidus’s image disappeared from the display screen, and then Kyle spoke up.

    “I’ll go ahead and notify Skywalker of your trip to Felucia. Meanwhile, I’ll keep holding the fort in case the Forceless show up. May the Force be with you.”
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    As the Manthis passed through hyperspace on its journey to Felucia, Hiriss started up a conversation behind Zolph’s seat.

    “Our last conversation before Kyle called us ended abruptly… or rather, you weaseled your way out of it. Let’s continue where we left off.”

    “Felucia’s pretty close. Can we not?” Zolph asked Hiriss.

    “Yeah, but we’re not that close. Besides, we need something to pass the time and none of us want to experience hyper-rapture.”

    “Okay, fine. You look beautiful, and so does your dress and hair. They fit your personality to a T. If there’s anything wrong with it, I can’t see it. You got a good score from me.”

    “I still feel like I could do something more, but I commend you for trying. But be honest with me, Zolph. Why are you so hesitant to make compliments like that?”

    Zolph took a deep breath. “I actually have feelings for you, but sometimes my feelings for you feel… wrong.”

    “Does it have something to do with me being Dynn’s cousin?”

    “Yeah, but before you take it the wrong way, I don’t want you to think I’m substituting you for her again. I’ve taken what you told me back on Kashyyyk to heart. You are Hiriss Moraana and not ‘Mirialan Dynn Manthis’.”

    “You’ve done well on that part, but it’s okay to have feelings for more than one person. Friends are supposed to care for each other, after all. But I take it that something else is worrying you?”

    “I haven’t forgotten that Dynn told me to move on, even if it meant finding another partner. But then Valkor threw another wrench into my mental state by claiming she’s back from the dead, and all these resurrected Archfiends only add weight to that claim’s plausibility. If she is back from the dead, I feel I’d be cheating on her. And it doesn’t help that some of your actions and word choices of late have come off as flirtatious, whether you intended it that way or not.”

    “I’m so sorry, Zolph. If I had realized I was making you uncomfortable, I would’ve toned it down or just stopped. I know I look like a hypocrite after our talk on Kashyyyk, but I have feelings for you too. I want to believe Dynn’s alive too, but we also need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and I thought by giving you the option, it would help you move on. However, presuming Dynn is alive and Valkor’s not just gaslighting you, I’m sure she’ll understand whatever happens given the circumstances.”

    “What if she doesn’t?”

    “She’s my cousin, Zolph. I know her a lot better than you do. From what she told me before the Valkoran War and what I’ve observed, you’ve always been a little shy, especially when it comes to crushes. However, for all our sakes, I won’t push you. I can also sense that you’re worried that your feelings for me will make me a target for the Collective like Dynn was. We can just be allies… and friends for now.”

    “Thanks, Hiri. I’m sorry for not being transparent earlier, and I don’t want to pressure you into giving up your hobbies.”

    Seefor interrupted. “Zolph + Hiriss = Done with mammal courting drama? // Grossness of Courting Drama = Grossness of Millennium Falcon navigation computer. // Manthis = Entering Felucia’s orbit.”

    “Yes, Seefor. We’re done.” Zolph dryly responded.

    Just as the Manthis dropped out of hyperspace, they were right in front of the face of a Forceless Levioth. Zolph immediately pulled up in a panic so they wouldn’t crash into the beast’s face.

    Hiriss, freaked out by the close call, promptly quipped as she activated the rear turret. “Well, the Collective definitely knows we’re here now!”

    Suddenly, in addition to several battleship-type Levioths, Zolph and Hiriss caught notice of a Forceless Bio-Nest, a space beast resembling a giant, living insect hive that served the same purpose as a designated fighter carrier. The Bio-Nest promptly released a swarm of Eyewings and FIE Interceptors to pursue the Manthis.

    Zolph promptly complained. “The sad part is that after this, somehow, some of our senators are still going to find a way to deny that the Collective are a major problem.”

    “Mission now, politics later.” Hiriss bluntly reminded him as she gunned down some of the pursuing fighters.

    As the Manthis fought back against the Forceless fighters, a squadron Seferite-aligned Firaxa fighters intercepted the enemy fighters. Zolph and Hiriss immediately received a transmission from the squadron leader.

    Manthis, this is Banshee Squadron. We’ll take care of their space force from here.”

    “I take it you are part of the rescue team Arcidus sent?” Zolph asked Banshee Leader.

    “Affirmative. Aside from the fleet, the rest of the team is already down on the surface. We’ve set up camp near a farming settlement. There aren’t any possessed plants there. Hurry!”

    As Banshee Squadron fended off the fighters, Zolph, Hiriss and Seefor made their way down to the surface. From what they’ve noticed in space, there were several unusual shades of dark gray among green and various other bright colors dotting the planet’s surface, a sign that the Forceless Collective was already putting their foot down on Felucia.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    As soon as the Manthis passed through Felucia’s stratosphere, its crew was greeted by the sight of many large, exotic plants and fungi. While most of them retained their usual bright colors, some of them were a dark gray that made them look withered. Even worse, some of those tainted plants had grown bright red eyes, which could make them potential sentries for the Forceless. As per Zolph and Hiriss’s previous experiences over the past year, the Forceless Collective had a tactical advantage on planets high in vegetation. Even if the plants weren’t immediately dangerous and the mutations Forceless symbiosis provided them were limited compared to what could be done to animals, Zolph quickly shot down the possessed sentry plants so they wouldn’t track his crew to the Seferite camp.

    “Seefor. Get us ready for an airdrop.” Zolph ordered the droid. “We need to make it harder for the Forceless to follow us and safer for you to land.”

    As Seefor took control, the Manthis hovered in place and opened the cockpit. Zolph and Hiriss leaped out and landed in a marsh, getting their legwear wet in the process.

    “You didn’t have wetlands in mind when you dressed this way, did you?” Zolph jokingly asked Hiriss.

    “I had everywhere in mind when I came up with it. This is just an inevitability from being a Jedi.” Hiriss answered.

    Suddenly, a pack of ten Nidracha crawled out from behind and up some plants that looked like giant stacks of bubbles to surround the Jedi. The Nidracha were also accompanied by masked, humanoid amphibians with webbed hands, a smaller pair of arms with fingered hands below their elbows, coated in blue, bioluminescent body paint and carrying swords made from jaw bones. Along with the amphibians, they were accompanied by short, reptilian humanoids armed with blasters and dressed like farmers. Both species carried the name “Felucian”.

    “It looks like they’re already in the process of possessing this planet’s sentient population.” Hiriss lamented.

    With their backs against each other’s, Zolph and Hiriss both activated their lightsabers with the uncomfortable thought that they were about to yet again, kill some innocent people, even if it was partially justified as defense of themselves and others. Using possessed sentient populations as cannon fodder was another recurring tactic of the Collective for two purposes: to demoralize the Jedi and tarnish their reputation with the people they protect regardless of how they deal with the possessed.

    The jungle Felucians charged at the Jedi while the Nidracha and reptilian Felucians provided cover fire with acid and blaster fire respectively. Zolph and Hiriss called upon the Force to throw their attackers off their feet. The reptilian Felucians were easily put out of commission, but the jungle Felucians quickly got back up on their feet and the Nidracha held tightly onto their posts. The Felucians charged at them once more but some of them were easily cut down by the Jedi.

    Zolph and Hiriss could sense that the jungle Felucians were Force-sensitive. For how easily they were killed, this meant that they weren’t brainwashed yet and were trying to resist their symbiotes’ influence. Even the shamans – distinguished by their red body paint and stronger Force-affinity – were holding back their potential.

    Suddenly, the remaining Nidracha and Felucians were gunned down by blaster fire from a previously unnoticed source. Zolph and Hiriss turned around to see a Seferite trooper squadron.

    “Master Vaelor. Master Moraana.” The squad captain, who the Jedi recognized by voice as Saul Varson, addressed them. “Commander Armogeist sent us out to find you and escort you to our camp.”

    “Thank you, Lieutenant Varson.” Zolph responded. However, he and Hiriss also noticed a familiar Cathar man and Kyuzo woman among the crowd who were clearly not long-term affiliates of the Seferites.

    “Bad Kitty? Spectre? What are you doing here? And where’s the rest of Besh Squad?” Zolph asked them.

    “Let’s just say not everyone in the senate has their head up their ass. We finally got some approval to cooperate with the Seferites again thanks to our regiment’s connections with former Chief of State Organa.” Bad Kitty answered. “That plus Felucia’s an Alliance-affiliated world and an Ithorian refugee colony.”

    “Ouch.” Hiriss responded. “Just when they lost one home to alien invaders, another one is put in danger.”

    “The rest of the squad is providing extra protection to the village that Armogeist has set camp around.” Spectre answered the other question. “You may want to go ahead and call your ship over there. And save your ship’s torpedoes and fuel; the Collective already knows where the camp is.”

    “Lead the way.” Zolph ordered Varson. Zolph and Hiriss followed Varson, Bad Kitty, Spectre and the rest of the troops.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    To be continued...
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019