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Before - Legends [SWTOR] Enantiodromia

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by arkham618, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Title: Enantiodromia
    Author: arkham618
    Era: Old Republic
    Genre: Action, Drama
    Characters: OC
    Summary: Choices have consequences, and fervently-held beliefs, when taken to their extremity, can turn back upon themselves

    Part 1

    Twin suns hung low over the horizon like ripe muja fruits, bathing the fields of swaying gloxx in a twilight so purple it was almost black. Beyond the hills that limned the nearby river, gray piles of cumulonimbi slouched toward the farmer as he bent waste-deep in the bowels of an agrodroid combine, which had seized some time in the afternoon and remained frozen ever since. At the rumble of distant thunder, the farmer withdrew from the metal beast and glanced skyward. A storm was coming. The droid would have to wait until tomorrow.

    Wiping greasy hands upon his trousers, the farmer stowed his tools in a satchel and strode to a nearby landspeeder. He effortlessly vaulted the lip of the vehicle, quickly settled into the driver’s seat, and punched the ignition. The motivator hummed to life, and the farmer steered the speeder away from the looming agrodroid onto a dirt track, which led away from the gloxx field toward a cluster of buildings some two kilometers distant. The clouds, gravid with rain, sullenly followed.

    Minutes later, the farmer halted the landspeeder before a squat structure built into the side of a low hill. He pressed a button on the speeder’s dashboard, and thick metal doors retracted into the hillside, revealing a dim garage beyond. He navigated the speeder inside the garage and cut the motivator.

    As the farmer climbed from his seat, tinkling laughter reached him from outside: the sound of excited children. It was joined moments later by the stoccato bark of a haglar, a domesticated quadruped favored by the locals as a pet and guard animal. The farmer smiled as he exited the garage.

    “Papa, papa!” the little girl squealed, as she rushed to meet her father. The farmer scooped her up with bronzed arms and spun her once in a great arc, before setting her down again. Giggling, she kissed his weathered face. A boy, perhaps two years the girl’s senior, ran up behind her, pursued by Gaffer, the friendly haglar, who boisterously hopped and yipped around the trio.

    “You’re just in time,” the girl continued. “Mama has made dinner, and it smells so delicious!” Gripping the farmer’s hand with tiny fingers, she led him across a yard littered with discarded tools and droid parts to an adjacent hill, into which a humble farmhouse was recessed. “There’s stewed dhrast and maraki salad, and she even made tuvash pie!”

    “Is that so?” the farmer mused.

    “It is, papa,” the boy preempted. “Maya tried to dip her finger in the pie filling, but mama swatted her with a spoon.”

    Maya rounded on her brother and scowled. “Don’t be a tattler, Benji!” she snapped, angrily wagging a finger at the boy. Benji smirked and stuck out his tongue, eliciting an indignant squeak from his sister.

    “No bickering, you two,” the farmer scolded. Maya and Benji briefly wilted, but immediately recovered. “Yes, papa,” they chimed in unison.

    The farmer accompanied his children toward the house and entered through the circular portal. Careful to remove his soiled boots in the vestibule, he announced himself to Nanny, the domestic droid.

    “Welcome home, master,” intoned Nanny in her mechanically steady voice. “I shall inform the mistress of your arrival.” The droid turned, showing her tarnished metal back, and ushered Maya and Benji deeper into the residence.

    “Thank you, Nanny,” the farmer absently replied, as he removed his jacket and hung it on a hook by the portal.

    Gaffer squatted by the farmer’s feet, blue tongue lolling, an expectant look in its four beady eyes. The farmer bent down and scritched the creature behind one shaggy lobe, eliciting an appreciative whine.

    At that moment, the promised smells of a delectable dinner reached the farmer’s nose, and he involuntarily drifted toward their source. Entering the kitchen, he found his wife, aproned and wielding an intimidatingly large spoon. Her face, smudged with flour and sheened with sweat, was no less lovely for the signs of exertion. Wisps of auburn hair tumbled from beneath her floral kerchief, bracketing eyes the color of a winter stream. The farmer paused to absorb the sight. Noticing him as he entered, she distractedly smiled, then hefted a steaming pot of dhrast and handed it to Nanny, who dutifully stumped out of the kitchen and into the dining room.

    “Dinner is served,” Nanny distantly announced.

    “How went the repair job?” the farmer’s wife inquired, wiping her hands on her apron.

    “The motivator’s shot,” the farmer replied. “I’ll have to machine a new interocitor in the morning and install it straightaway.”

    The farmer’s wife fixed him with a serious look. “Don’t forget: Maya and Benji have their biweekly gathering tomorrow. You know how much they look forward to spending time with the neighbor children.”

    “Yes, of course,” the farmer replied.

    His wife leaned in close, and in a hushed voice added “And they’ll be gone the whole day. With Nanny and Gaffer.”

    “Yes, of course,” the farmer dumbly repeated. Catching the glint in his wife’s eye, however, he straightened. “Yes!” he sharply exhaled. “Of course!” The upward curl of her mouth was all the confirmation he required.

    She promptly turned and strode toward the dining room. The farmer appreciatively followed, the first patters of rain sounding from the rooftop.

    After dinner, the farmer retired to the living area to sit in his favorite chair -- an ancient and battered assemblage of uu’legh leather putatively older than his grandsire -- and smoke a pipe beside the fire. A storm had swelled during the evening meal and was now battering the domicile with considerable force. The shutters rattled from the wind, and thunder periodically shook the walls.

    Maya trembled and crawled into her father’s lap for comfort. Benji stoically sat on the floor and pretended to study his data tablet, but was also clearly perturbed. As the hearth cast long shadows upon the farmer and his children, he patted his daughter’s head and muttered soothing platitudes.

    “Papa, tell me a story,” the girl suddenly implored. The boy perked at this and said “Yes, a story, papa!”

    The farmer drew on his pipe and exhaled, blue smoke rings wafting toward the ceiling. “What sort of story would you like to hear?” he asked.

    Maya pondered a moment, her dainty face briefly contorting in thought. “Tell us a story about the Jedi,” she answered. Benji jumped up and scurried to his father’s chair. “Yes, yes!” he shouted. “About the Jedi, and the war against the Sith!”

    The farmer remained silent for a long while, and Maya and Benji began to sulk. Though they did not notice the remote look on their father’s face, his wife, standing at the entrance to the living area, saw and understood. Their eyes met, he saw her taut smile. She nodded then, and the farmer sighed.

    “Very well,” the farmer began. “A long time ago, in a system far, far away…”
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  2. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 2

    Above the marbled sphere of the planet Kalthis floated a shifting labyrinth of durasteel: scores of capital ships and their escorts, bearing the marks of rival empires, among which darted tiny, nimble fighter craft like flocks of predatory birds. The space between the mighty vessels flared with actinic laser blasts and the strobe of proton torpedoes, explosions ripping at the tortured metal hulls as ships groaned and men died.

    Yuli Orestes felt the floor lurch beneath him and was instantly slammed to the deck plating. Momentarily stunned, he glanced about the smokey corridor, searching for something familiar upon which to anchor his perceptions. Sparks lazily dripped from a ruptured conduit as a klaxon wailed somewhere in the depths of the hull.

    Yuli heard a soft grunt and turned to face his Master, the Jedi Knight Preetas Vir, who was gingerly rising from the deck. Vir straightened his dun robes and quickly assessed his padawan. Satisfied that Yuli was unharmed, he surveyed the corridor, frowned at the disheartening number of uniformed bodies that littered the deck.

    “That sounded like a direct hit on the shield generator,” he opined. “I fear the Anaphi’s Lance is lost.”

    As if prompted by the Jedi’s words, an automated evacuation order sounded from an overhead speaker. “All personnel are immediately ordered to the escape pods,” the calmly robotic voice announced.

    Vir fixed Yuli with a serious expression. “Come,” he ordered, “We must make haste.”

    Jedi and padawan hurried down the corridor, staggering as further explosions rocked the Anaphi’s Lance.

    “The impacts are getting closer!” Yuli shouted, but a tremendous roar suddenly drowned his words and ripped the air from his lungs. All around the padawan, atmosphere bled with hurricane force through a great tear in the hull. Yuli saw the jagged edges of the breach, glowing red from the baleful attention of some massive weapon, and shut his eyes, awaiting the cold embrace of the void.

    It did not come.

    Yuli hung in the gap between bulkhead and breach, his robes flapping madly in the terrible gale. Meters away, Master Vir clung with one hand to an exposed pipe, and with the other hand reached toward Yuli. The Jedi’s eyes were clenched in fierce concentration. Yuli could feel invisible tendrils wrap his torso and pull. The Force!

    After a brief moment that nonetheless felt like an eternity, a retention field snapped across the breach, and the wind instantly subsided. Master Vir released Yuli, who tumbled to the deck, then the elder Jedi slumped against the bulkhead. Both Yuli and Vir panted, greedily sucking down mouthfuls of air as the pressure normalized.

    Yuli lifted his head and gazed through the blue retention field. The battle raged unabated outside the Anaphi’s Lance. Countless tiny explosions pocked the dense starfield, each one a distant report of some hapless pilot’s final moment.

    Firm hands pulled Yuli to his feet. Master Vir gestured, directing Yuli’s attention back to the ship.

    “The way to the escape pods is blocked,” he observed. Yuli realized that the retention field spanned what had moments before been the route to the aft evacuation blister.

    “We’ll have to try the main hangar,” Vir continued, “and hope there are no further obstacles.”

    The elder Jedi stalked down a side corridor, Yuli close behind. Though the Anaphi’s Lance shuddered with further, smaller impacts, the bombardment seemed to have momentarily abated.

    Master Vir stopped before the entrance to a turbolift. He pressed the call button once, twice, thrice, but the door would not open. “There’s still power to this section,” he observed. “The mechanism must be damaged. Padawan, with me!”

    Yuli briskly stepped to Vir’s side and, in a swift, practiced motion, parted his robe and removed from his belt a metallic cylinder. Yuli depressed a button on the side of the cylinder, and a blade of blue plasma flashed to life, ominously humming. Beside him, Vir raised his own, green blade and plunged it into the turbolift door, gobbets of molten durasteel dripping from the point of contact. Yuli did likewise, slowly incising a ragged arc, which met that of his Master at the midpoint, and so cut a rough circle in the door. Vir kicked the loosened metal and sent it clattering down the empty shaft beyond.

    Yuli peered into the dimly-lit shaft, then stepped through the hole and grabbed a narrow maintenance ladder to one side of the door. Vir followed. “We climb,” he stated, pointing up. Yuli began to climb.

    After several minutes, Vir and Yuli cut through a second door and exited the shaft. Vir motioned ahead. “The hangar is that way.”

    Yuli hurried after his Master, noting the extensive wreckage of the level onto which they’d emerged. Sections of bulkhead had crumpled and burst, spewing fire and debris through the tight corridors. Live wires hissed and snapped, and small fires crackled. Unlucky crewmen, caught in the hellish maelstrom, lay strewn about the floor in pieces. The deck plates were slick with gore. Yuli felt queasy.

    “Center your thoughts,” Vir commanded, sensing his padawan’s distress. “Remember your training.” Yuli attempted a breathing exercise but instantly regretted it. The air stank of ozone and burnt meat.

    Another few minutes brought the Jedi to a large double door, which had been wrenched from its track by some immense force and now stood partially ajar. Beyond it, Yuli could see the hangar. He pushed past the door and stepped inside.

    If the corridors had been upsetting, the hanger was a scene out of nightmare. A large part of the ceiling had collapsed, raining conduits and girders onto the parked spacecraft below. Smoke billowed from a half dozen smoldering wrecks, choking the air and obscuring the piled debris that covered most of the hangar floor. If any of the crew had been present when the ceiling came down, they were surely crushed to paste.

    Vir and Yuli picked their way through the smoke and debris, sparks falling around them like acrid snowflakes, searching for a ship that could still be flown.

    There was a metallic clang and an angry grunt. “Dammit!” an unfamiliar voice erupted. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

    Master and padawan spun to face the source of the commotion: A young pilot, uniform torn and hair matted with ash and sweat. She was heaving mightily but ineffectually at a fallen girder, which lay astride the landing gear of an otherwise intact Type J shuttle. Oblivious to the Jedi’s approach, she continued to curse as she struggled.

    “Ahoy, liuetenant!” Vir called. The woman straightened and peered through the smoke at the Jedi. Wiping a sleeve on her forehead, she breathed heavily.

    “Master Jedi!” the pilot replied. “Lieutenant Alina Thrain.” She saluted. “Thank goodness you’re here. I’ve been trying to shift this beam, but it’s no use. It won’t budge.” To emphasize her words, she kicked the intransigent spar with her boot.

    “I think I can be of assistance,” Vir responded. “If we free the shuttle, can you fly us out of here?”

    “Of course!” the liutenant answered.

    The elder Jedi extended his hand and closed his eyes, concentrating for a moment. The girder began to rattle, then squeal in complaint as it lifted from the deck and floated clear of the landing gear. The pilot gasped.

    “You make that look so easy,” she wondered.

    “The Force is my ally,” Vir humbly replied.

    The entire ship convulsed. Yuli, Vir, and the pilot were flung into the air like dolls. Landing hard on his shoulder, Yuli winced, then rolled aside an instant before a jagged chunk of ruined machinery struck the deck where his head had been and buried with a dull thunk. Yuli inhaled sharply and scrabbled for a handhold as the Anaphi’s Lance lurched again and began to tilt. All around him, dislodged debris began to slide toward one side of the hangar as the deck slowly but inexorably inclined.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  3. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 3a

    “The drive is disabled!” Alina shouted. “The ship is deorbiting!”

    Master Vir staggered to his feet. “There’s no time to waste. Lieutenant, board the shuttle and initiate the flight sequence.” Alina nodded acknowledgment and dashed up the boarding ramp into the shuttle’s interior.

    “Yuli,” Vir addressed his padawan. “We’ll have to hold this position until the shuttle is ready for liftoff.” The Jedi strode to one side of the craft and planted his feet. “Brace yourself.” Yuli took position opposite his Master and adjusted his stance.

    Behind them, the shuttle slowly whined to life, its small drive rumbling as gas hissed like angry snakes from vents on the craft’s underside. As the tilt of the deck steadily increased, however, Yuli could see the shuttle start to slip sideways, sparks leaping from its landing pads. Master Vir, both hands extended, strained against the mass of the shuttle, teeth gritted and sweat beading on his brow as he lashed the craft in placed with strands of Force energy.

    For the moment, the shuttle’s slide was arrested, but Yuli wondered how long his Master could sustain such effort.

    The padawan’s reverie was brief. Within moments, a chaotic wave of sloughing debris threatened to crush them all. Yuli reached out with the Force. The wave slowed but did not stop. Alarmed, Yuli took a step back.

    “Hold!” bellowed Vir from seemingly far away. “You must hold!”

    Yuli gathered himself and pushed with all his might. His arms visibly trembling, he felt as though his temple would burst. The cascading debris suddenly halted, stopped by an invisible wall. For a brief eternity, the shuttle was anchored and shielded.

    The rumble of the shuttle’s drive became a roar “That’s it, we’re go!” blared Alina’s voice from an external loudspeaker. Master Vir released the shuttle, which rose a few meters from the deck and stabilized, hovering. The Jedi rushed to Yuli’s side.

    “Board the shuttle, padawan,” Vir commanded. “I’ll hold this until you’re clear.” Yuli felt the pressure in his temple subside as his Master assumed the burden.

    Turning, Yuli ran and leapt, alighting on the shuttle’s boarding ramp. “More altitude!” he shouted toward the cockpit. The shuttle raised another few meters, above the frozen wave of debris Vir still held in check.

    “Now, Master!” Yuli shouted.

    Vir lowered his hands, and in a blinding motion, hurtled into the air. Describing an elegant arc, he spun in midair and landed on the very edge of the shuttle’s boarding ramp. Yuli grabbed the Jedi by his robe and pulled him inside the craft as the wave of debris crashed to the deck below and swept across the hangar. The ramp closed.

    “Secure yourselves,” Alina called from the cockpit. “Things are about to get interesting.”

    The Jedi rushed to the passenger seats and strapped in behind the pilot.

    The shuttle spun in place until it faced the hangar’s retention field. More explosions shook the ship, and the hangar began to fill with flames. “Hold on!” Alina cried, pressing hard on the throttle.

    The shuttle shot from the bay in a gout of fire.

    Into the midst of battle.

    A wedge-shaped fighter hurtled past the shuttle, missing it by mere meters. Pursued an instant later by two differently wedge-shaped fighters, their laser cannon blazing.

    “Grife!” Alina exclaimed.

    More fighters swarmed, and errant laser blasts lashed the shuttle’s hull. Alina juked. Too late. Sparks erupted from the cockpit’s dashboard. A strident alarm sounded.

    “The shuttle’s not built for combat!” Alina warned. “It can’t take many hits like that!”

    Vir briefly closed his eyes and meditated. “Make for the planet,” he advised. “It’s our only chance.”

    Alina pressed down on the center stick. The shuttle dove. Behind it, the Anaphi’s Lance began to disintegrate. Smoldering pieces of the stricken cruiser broke off and seemed to chase the tiny shuttle as it rocketed toward the planet.

    Kalthis hoved into view of the cockpit as Alina angled the shuttle toward the planet’s upper atmosphere. The glowing orb – green and blue and white – was deceptively peaceful from this vantage.

    Another blast shook the shuttle. “We’ve picked up a tail!” Alina shouted, deep concern written on her face. A sensor readout on the dashboard showed the rectilinear outline of an enemy interceptor in ominous red.

    Alina strained against the controls, putting the sluggish shuttle through a series of desperate maneuvers. “It’s no use,” she exclaimed. “Whoever he is, he’s a tenacious bastard. I can’t shake him.”

    “Nor will you,” Master Vir replied, distantly. “Our pursuer is a Sith.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  4. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 3b

    Maphis Arrak reflexively veered to avoid the Type J shuttle that, flame-wreathed and panic-stricken, suddenly appeared in his flight path, missing it by mere meters. The enemy craft dogging his fighter briefly parted to bypass the fleeing shuttle before reconverging, their laser cannon futilely spitting death at him as he streaked along the nape of the disintegrating enemy cruiser.

    “Grife!” Maphis barked, momentarily annoyed. He wended his way between erupting columns of flame and shattered durasteel before abruptly launching into a steep climb, inverting, and leveling out behind his pursuers.

    The first enemy fighter drifted into his targeting reticle. “I have you now,” Maphis menacingly intoned. He triggered his lasers and the target exploded in a starburst of superheated metal. The second fighter tried to evade, but perished moments later. Maphis smiled.

    “What was that nonsense a moment ago?” he inquired to himself, referring to the shuttle with which he’d nearly collided. Maphis chewed his lip, something at the edge of consciousness bothering him about the encounter.

    In such moments, he’d learned to trust his instincts. As his old Master had once told him, they were the truest messengers of the Force. Maphis banked hard, doubling back the way he’d just come. He quickly picked out the shuttle amid the tumbling wreckage of the dying enemy cruiser, diving toward the planet below. As he closed with it, the uncanny feeling intensified.

    “Interesting,” Maphis observed. “Very interesting.” He loosed a volley of laser fire, striking the shuttle on its stern. The attack was not calibrated to destroy, but to rattle. Maphis intently watched to see what would happen.

    The shuttle sluggishly ducked and swerved in a parody of evasive maneuvers. It was clearly not built for such handling, however, and the result was almost comical. Maphis, growing bored, extended his thumbs to trigger his primary weapons, but was suddenly, astoundingly seized by a wave of disorientation. He swooned in his seat, and the fighter, bereft of a pilot, began to corkscrew.

    Maphis quickly composed himself and righted his spacecraft. “Bloody hell!” he gasped. Then his mind focused and his thoughts blackened. “Jedi!” he snarled, as he accelerated to close with his quarry.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  5. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 4a

    The shuttle struck the upper atmosphere and began to glow with the heat of reentry. From the cockpit, Lieutenant Thrain and the Jedi watched as a sheath of ochre flame spread from the shuttle’s nose and rapidly engulfed the entire spacecraft. The shuttle rattled and shook as it plunged toward the planet. Sensors momentarily blinded, the outline of the pursuing Sith fighter winked from the scope.

    Yuli secretely hoped that the Sith pilot had been dislodged by Master Vir’s telepathic assault, but as the flames parted to reveal the serene white blanket of Kalthis’ cloud layer, a new salvo of laser fire rocked the shuttle. Sparks once more filled the cabin, and Alina cursed as she desperately strained against the center stick.

    “We just lost the port stabilizer!” she warned.

    Vir leaned forward, scanning the onboard computer’s lengthening damage report. “Can we make it to the surface?” he inquired.

    “Oh, we’ll make it to the surface,” Alina assured him. “Gravity will make certain of that.”

    “The Force is with us, lieutenant,” Vir replied. “Have faith.”

    Alina bit her lip and said nothing. The shuttle continued its descent.

    Yet another blast, more savage than the last. In the rear of the shuttle, a conduit burst, spitting plasma across the loading bay. The scattered contents immediately caught fire, and the shuttle interior soon filled with thick, acrid smoke.

    Coughing and sputtering, Yuli lurched from his seat and grabbed an extinguisher from a nearby recess, then staggered to the bay. The entire space was ablaze. Tongues of flame crawled up the sides of the inner hull like rapacious glowworms and began licking at the ceiling. After a few desultory bursts from the extinguisher, Yuli retreated back to the cabin and sealed the door.

    The air purifiers furiously whirred as they struggled to clear the air of smoke.

    “The bay is completely engulfed!” Yuli reported. “Master, the shuttle will explode if the fire spreads much farther.”

    Vir sighed heavily, stifled a cough. “Lieutenant, cut the engines,” he calmly commanded.

    “What?!” Alina exclaimed. “That’s madness! We’ll be dead in the air!”

    “Cut the engines,” he forcefully repeated, “And extend the boarding ramp.”

    Alina dumbly stared at the Jedi, disbelief painted across her face.

    “Do it, lieutenant!” Vir almost shouted. “Now!”

    Startled by the Jedi’s vehemence, Alina unthinkingly complied, hand darting to the control panel. She pressed the ignition, then the ramp control, in quick succession.

    A half-dozen warbling alarms sounded at once as the shuttle’s ungainly but vaguely parabolic trajectory suddenly went vertical. Yuli gripped his seat as the shuttle began to plummet like a stone. He stared wide-eyed at his Master, who was intently watching a monitor on the shuttle’s control panel.

    Glancing at the monitor, Yuli realized he was looking at a video feed from the shuttle’s loading bay. As the boarding ramp lowered, the sudden drop in pressure blew the bay’s contents out into the sky, extinguishing the fire in an instant.

    Simultaneously, the shuttle shook as a menacing black dart hurtled past it at great speed: The Sith fighter!

    “Restart the engines, lieutenant!” Vir barked.

    Alina once again jammed her finger into the ignition.

    Nothing happened.

    “It’s no good,” Alina exclaimed. “The engines weren’t designed to rapidly cycle like that. I’m going to have to go through the startup sequence again!”

    “Do it!” Vir urged.

    Yuli peered out the cockpit window at a vast emerald landscape gathering far below. Though initially indistinct, the details of the terrain steadily resolved as the shuttle fell toward them.

    “And hurry!” he added, alarmed at how quickly the ground was rushing up to meet them.

    Alina frantically went through the paces of restarting the engines. She cursed as she missed a step and the computer bleated an objection. The shuttle began to spin as powerful winds lashed its inert mass.

    “Grife!” Alina fretted. “Mother-rutting Sith-spit!”

    She felt a hand upon her shoulder, comforting. Master Vir’s.

    “Calm, lieutenant,” he murmured. “Find your center.”

    Alina inhaled deeply and willed her hands to steady and her mind to focus. Willfully deaf and blind to anything outside the immediate confines of the cockpit, she methodically completed the last few items of the startup sequence and, with a final stabbing gesture, punched the ignition.

    The engines roared back to life, and Yuli felt the shuttle violently shudder beneath him as Alina tried to shed as much velocity as possible as quickly as possible without turning its occupants to paste with the sudden deceleration.

    Yuli glanced out the window again, saw a forest so close he could count the individual trees. A wending stream plunged over a cliff, cascading down to a small lake below. It was oddly beautiful in its onrushing deadliness.

    The shuttle struck the canopy. Alina screamed.

    Yuli briefly heard the groan and crack of splintering wood, felt the shuttle flip. Once, twice. The whole world seemed to fill with green for an instant, then blackness took him, and he sank down into a deep well of oblivion.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
  6. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    A nice bit of written action.
     
  7. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 4b

    Yuli awoke with a start. Strange viridian light immersed him, piny smells laced with smoke, copper taste of blood in his mouth.

    He glanced around the eerily silent cockpit. Alina slouched in her pilot’s seat, auburn hair matted crimson from a gash across her forehead. A slender tree branch, improbably delicate, reached through a jagged gap in the windshield. Yuli traced its tapering length across the breadth of the cockpit, to the clavicle of his Master, Preetas Vir.

    Alina stirred and moaned.

    “Are we dead?” she rhetorically inquired, gingerly touching her finger to her injured scalp.

    “No,” Yuli replied in a hushed voice. “At least, not yet.”

    He unclasped the belts that held him in place and stumbled to the tilted floor of the cockpit. Leaning toward his Master, he gently took the Jedi’s hands and squeezed.

    “Master,” he rasped. “It’s Yuli. Can you hear me?”

    Preetas Vir’s eyes fluttered beneath their lids, but he did not respond.

    “He’s alive,” Yuli announced. “But he’s pinned. We have to remove this branch!”

    Alina blearily surveyed the situation. “I’ll hold him,” she replied. “Can you cut him free?”

    Yuli nodded acknowledgment. Alina shifted, wincing and grunting as she situated herself behind Vir and braced him with her arms. Yuli reached to his belt and produced his lightsaber.

    The cockpit shone starkly blue as the weapon hummed to life. Yuli brought the blade as close as he dared to his Master’s chest and cleanly sliced the branch, leaving a cauterized stump still embedded in Vir’s shoulder. The Jedi groaned at the sudden release of tension, and his head lolled.

    “Help me move him,” Yuli implored. Alina unbuckled Vir from his seat and hefted him into Yuli’s arms. The two of them carefully maneuvered Vir from the cockpit and out of the smoking shuttle to the forest beyond. Yuli laid Master Vir down upon the dull, springy ground cover and glanced about, soaking in the scene.

    Mist drifted upon the air, and Yuli’s ears were assailed by the steady wash of falling water. The wreck of the shuttle sat beside a small lake, into which poured a waterfall. The water roiled and foamed at the base of the fall, but the perturbations quickly dissipated, and the lake itself was surprisingly placid.

    All around, the forest creaked and sighed as gentle breezes stirred the needled branches. The staccato knocking of some pecking creature echoed from far away.

    Yuli returned his attention to Vir, whose eyes had finally opened.

    “Yuli,” Vir mumbled. “All right?”

    Yuli weakly smiled. “Yes, Master,” he acknowledged. “And the lieutenant. We all survived the crash.”

    “Good,” Vir exhaled. “Find shelter. Sith coming.”

    As if summoned, a deep roar spread across the forest as a black wedge flitted across the sky. Yuli watched it slow, halt, and descend beneath the canopy some 200 meters from the crash site.

    “Damn,” he muttered, then motioned to Alina. “We have to hide. Help me!”

    Alina fell in beside Yuli, helped him lift Vir and drag him away from the crash.

    “Where do we go?” Alina inquired, distressed.

    Yuli glanced about, scanning for shelter. “There!” he pointed, directly at the waterfall. “There are shadows behind the water. I detect a cave beyond.”

    “Right,” Alina replied. “Let’s go!”

    Together, pilot and padawan hauled the stricken Jedi toward the waterfall. As they approached, Yuli spied a slick and narrow ledge, which indeed passed behind the cascade. Carefully creeping along this ledge, Yuli and Alina arrived at a cave entrance and collapsed, exhausted from their injuries and the effort of carrying Master Vir.

    Sadly, their respite was brief.
     
  8. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Thank you!
     
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  9. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 5

    Maphis retracted the canopy of his fighter and eagerly leapt from the cockpit. He fancied that he could smell the wounded Jedi nearby, though in truth the pricking of his consciousness transcended mundane sensation. He purposefully strode through the forest, gingerly descending toward the wreckage of the enemy shuttle, smiling at the awed silence that, but for the sound of rushing water, completely engulfed him.

    He emerged from the trees to discover a small lake and waterfall. The shuttle lay in ruins beside it, at the end of a long and ugly gash in the forest that stretched for several hundred meters. Maphis tutted at the devastation.

    He abruptly stopped, stared at the dull, springy ground. Fresh blood upon the soil. Maphis grinned, wickedly.

    “I’m coming for you, Jedi,” he mockingly intoned.

    Following the blood trail, Maphis approached the waterfall, found the narrow, slippery ledge. No fool, he drew his lightsaber and ignited it before pressing forward. The crimson blade cast weird reflections upon the waterfall.

    From the hidden cave entrance, Yuli and Alina watched as the baleful red light carefully circled round the falling water.

    Yuli activated his lightsaber and assumed a defensive posture. Alina drew her service blaster.

    The light halted. Remained still for a long while. Confused, Yuli hesitantly stepped forward. Peering around a stony corner, he saw the black hilt of a Sith lightsaber affixed to the cave wall, its blade piercing the rock, which bubbled and dripped from the intense energy. Behind him, a figure rose from the pool that lapped against the cave entrance.

    Maphis extended his hand, his lightsaber erupting from the rock face as he recalled it with the Force. Yuli, bending his body at a seemingly impossible angle, watched the angry red blade pass within mere centimeters of his face as it arced toward the Sith’s waiting grasp.

    Maphis laughed with glee. “Excellent!” he barked. “I might break a sweat with this one.”

    Yuli righted himself and rounded on the Sith, saber ready. Unhesitatingly, Maphis charged, leaping at the last moment and descending upon the Jedi with a powerful downward stroke. Yuli caught the blow and staggered. Breathlessly ducked as Maphis immediately followed with a vicious slash to his torso. The Sith relentlessly battered the padawan, thrusting and slashing, leaving no room for counterattack. Yuli quickly found himself driven to the cave wall. Maphis raised his lightsaber for what seemed the killing stroke, then abruptly spun and swept his blade in a broad arc, batting away a barrage of blaster fire from his rear.

    Alina stormed toward the Sith, pouring fire into him, heedless of the danger. Maphis grinned as he deflected her well-placed shots, then extended his free hand and wrenched the blaster from her grip. The weapon flew into his hand and he pointed it at her as he leveled his lightsaber beneath Yuli’s chin.

    “You are beaten!” he exclaimed. “Surrender, and I may let you live.”

    “I think not,” a solemn voice replied. Preetas Vir, breathing heavily yet standing of his own accord, raised his lightsaber and flicked the green blade into incandescent reality. “Leave this place, Sith, or you shall surely perish.”

    Maphis smiled a cruel smile. “This is too perfect,” he mused. “Master, padawan, and soldier. A marvelous trifecta.” He tossed aside the blaster and adjusted his stance. “Come at me, fools!”

    Vir sprung, saber flashing in a complex sigil of green light. At the same moment, Yuli rebounded from the cave wall, blue blade seeking Sith flesh. Maphis whirled and ducked with incredible speed, parrying as he went. Alina watched, mesmerized, as the lethal dance unfolded before her.

    With each clash of the energetic blades, bright flashes painted the cave walls green and blue and red. Skirting the perimeter of the furious duel, Alina edged toward her discarded blaster. Snatched it up. Spun and prepared to fire.

    A deep, bestial rumbling, like cinder blocks ground upon one another, filled the cave entrance, issuing from farther within the earth. Jedi and Sith suddenly froze, transfixed by the unexpected sound. Heavy thuds reverberated through the stone. Dust and dislodged rocks rained from the ceiling as something massive approached from below.

    Quickly coming to his senses, Maphis plunged his lightsaber into the Jedi who stood before him, skewering the already wounded Master with his blade. The man wordlessly flopped to the cave floor and pitched onto his side. His padawan screamed in anguish and unleashed a flurry of blows. Surprised at the ferocity of the attack, Maphis backed away. Fascinating, he thought to himself. This one radiates emotion. Fear, hatred, grief, rage! How unlike a Jedi. He continued to absorb the padawan’s assault, barely registering the fast approaching footfalls of some massive subterranean creature.

    The beast erupted from the darkness in a spiny rush, its hulking, chitinous form swallowing the confined space of the cave entrance. In an instant, Maphis and Yuli were flung apart by the creature’s segmented arms, and Master Vir kicked to the water’s edge by its clawed feet.

    Maphis instantly leapt back to his feet, stared at the beast. Recognition dawned. “Terentatek,” he whispered, awestruck. “It seems we shall all die today.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2021
  10. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Holidays and winter and distractions, oh my.

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

    Part 6a

    The monster surged, its mammoth bulk moving with improbable speed. Maphis leapt away, barking in pain and alarm as great claws raked his back. He landed in an awkward crouch, tried to stand, buckled. Desperate, the Sith summoned a mighty kinetic blast and hurled it at the creature, briefly staggering it. The terentatek reared and bellowed.

    Across the cave, wavelets lapped at Vir’s sodden robes. Scrambling to the side of his fallen Master, Yuli heaved him up and beckoned to Alina.

    “Help me!” he implored. “We must flee while the beast is distracted.” Alina hurried to Yuli’s side and together they mandhandled Vir from the cave. The pair hurried along the water’s edge, Vir dragging between them, and ducked into a rotted-out hollow in the side of a fallen tree.

    The cascade muffled the din of the terentatek’s rampage, but its roar still carried across the lake. Startled flying creatures rose squawking into the sky from a hundred scattered branches and sped away in a billowing sheet of tiny black bodies.

    Yuli parted limp, hanging moss and peered from the hollow. Through the fall, he could see brief red flashes and hear the strangled shouts of the Sith, whose struggle against the monster was reaching some kind of crescendo.

    There was a final crimson flurry and a furious roar.

    Abruptly, the waterfall exploded in a gout of spray and mist. A darkly robed figure hurtled through the air and crashed into the underbrush a dozen meters into the forest. The terentatek followed, water sluicing down its broad, armored back in great torrents as it burst from the cave.

    The creature paused and raised its head. Its recessed eyes squinted in the bright light of day, and it seemed to hesitate. A snuffling sound issued from the beast’s hideous face. It tasted the air, squat head swaying.

    It’s after our scent, Yuli realized. Even as the thought formed in his mind, the terentatek ceased its snuffling and turned toward the forest. It briefly stomped between the trees in the direction the Sith had flown, but then halted, hesitating. Turning back, its massive, armored head bobbed and swayed, the slick chitinous plates sparkling in the sunlight. Yuli caught his breath as the terentatek seemed to look directly at him. Its gaze did not linger, however, and the beast presently resumed its search. Yuli silently exhaled.

    “What’s going on?” Alina, her voice hushed, inquired from deeper within the hollow. Yuli turned toward her, saw her crouched by Vir’s side. The elder Jedi was pale and still.

    “The monster is prowling, but seems uncertain,” Yuli replied. “Like a pavlik caught between two muja carts.”

    “Which is the more tempting?” Alina musingly inquired.

    “I don’t know, but I don’t intend to find out,” replied Yuli. “Master Vir is gravely wounded, and we have no supplies or medical equipment. His only hope at this juncture is total immersion in a kolto tank.” He fixed Alina with a serious look. “We’ve got to get him back to the fleet.”

    “And how do you propose we do that?” Alina scoffed. “Our shuttle is wrecked.”

    Yuli’s brow furrowed as he considered his reply. “We take the Sith’s ship,” he finally responded. “We know the general direction in which it landed. We walk until we find it, then fly it back into orbit.”

    “Are you daft?” Alina blurted. “With that thing out there, hunting us? Even if we survive long enough to find the ship, what makes you think our people are still in the system? And how do you suppose they’ll react to an enemy spacecraft approaching from the planet?”

    “The Force will guide and protect us,” Yuli replied, though his voice wavered with shaken conviction. He glanced at Vir, who still hadn’t moved. The Jedi’s shallow breaths were barely perceptible. “Come, help me move him.”

    As carefully and as quietly as they could, padawan and pilot gathered branches and vines and lashed together a crude litter, into which they placed the stricken Jedi Master. In the distance, infrequent crashes and growls reminded them of the terentatek’s ongoing search. Gloam settled across the forest as the sun slowly arced toward its nadir, accompanied by an eerie quiet. The very trees seemed to stifle their sighing and rustling for fear of the terrible beast.

    “We should try to make some progress before we lose the last of the light,” Yuli observed. Taking up the litter’s handles, he leaned forward and began to pull, shifting it so that its burden heavily slid along the duff. The litter struck a knot in the earth and jolted. To Yuli’s relief, Vir groaned.

    “Hang on, Master,” Yuli muttered to himself. “We're leaving this place.”
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2021
  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ooh, this is really neat! I came across this because I was intrigued by the title (I guess we’ll find out what that means in time) and by the SWTOR era—definitely a timeframe one doesn’t see everyday You’ve got a very interesting setup, with cool action (reminds me of the original Star Trek!) and an interesting and in some ways unlikely trio of characters. It’s really been out of the frying pan and into the fire for these three (especially now that a terentatek has shown up—those things are seriously creepificacious), but I’m relieved that Vir turns out to be all right after all! [face_relieved] Keep up the good work—would be interested to see this continue, if and when you’re able! :)
     
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  12. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 6b

    Maphis spasmed and gasped, rolled onto his side, spat blood. His back, a ruin of shredded cloth and flesh, was afire; blinding red pain shot like a blaster bolt from his right leg. Groaning, he sat upright and inspected the complaining member. White bone protruded from the pant, dark blood oozing through the tear in the fabric.

    “Grife,” he absently intoned, shock dulling his mind.

    Something large and irascible roared nearby. Maphis peered blearily through the trees, spotted a lumbering form only a few score meters away. His lips parted in a wordless Oh.

    “Right,” the Sith grunted as he place both hands on his mangled leg. “Nothing for it, then.” Pausing only a moment to steel himself, Maphis wrenched the bone back into its proper alignment with a sickening wet snap. To his astonishment, he did not scream, though he briefly swooned as darkness clawed at his vision.

    The Sith reached for his lightsaber, felt panic rise when he did not find it. Frantically searching the undergrowth, he peripherally noted the sound of heavy footfalls, like the beats of a monstrous kettle drum, growing steadily closer. Finally, his hand touched metal.

    Maphis ignited the saber and gingerly touched the blade to his wounded leg. The flesh sizzled and the blood ceased to flow. Hurriedly, Maphis uttered a Sith incantation, eyes clenched in fierce concentration as the Force suffused his body like a potent spirit*. The pain abated, but did not vanish, and Maphis could feel the bone start to knit.

    In a few moments, he was able to stand. With some difficulty, Maphis staggered to a tree and braced himself against the trunk. He could hear the terentatek drawing closer, sense its bestial hunger and fury. If he tarried here, he would die.

    The Sith limped deeper into the forest.

    * Spirit used here in the sense of distilled alcohol.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2021
  13. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Thank you! I started writing this back in the autumn, but didn't receive much feedback at the time, so set it aside for a couple of months. I wanted to pick it back up, though, and am glad you're enjoying it.
     
  14. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 7a

    Yuli pulled at the litter with the remnants of his waning strength, hair limp with sweat, panting from the prolonged exertion. Alina, her blaster held ready as she anxiously scanned the darkening forest, briefly glanced at him with concern.

    “You’re exhausted,” she observed. “It’s nearly nightfall. We should find shelter and rest.”

    Yuli doggedly shook his head.

    “No,” he breathlessly replied. “Master Vir’s wounds are too grave.” Concern etched the padawan’s flushed face as he shifted his gaze to the unconscious Jedi. “We can’t delay; we must press on.”

    A roar reverberated through the forest, instantly followed by the groaning and cracking of some hapless tree, an unfortunate obstacle to an indefatigable predator.

    Alina impatiently strode to Yuli’s side. Grabbing his chin, she jerked his head so that he was looking directly into her clear blue-gray eyes.

    “That monster won’t rest until it finds us,” she exasperatedly explained. “And in your current state, you’re too tired to run, let alone fight.” She shot a finger at Vir. “And what would happen to your Master in that event? He’d be completely helpless.”

    Yuli prepared to object, but he could think of no good retort.

    “You’re right,” he reluctantly conceded. Gently setting down the litter, Yuli absently noted the blisters that had raised on his hands. They oozed with dull pain.

    “Help me find a place to hide,” he requested.

    Alina nodded, and together they secreted Vir in a patch of ferns before striking into the surrounding forest.

    For several minutes, padawan and pilot searched their environ for suitable shelter. As they did so, the sun finally slipped below the horizon, and dusk swallowed the forest, engulfing it in deep shadow. Alina produced a flashlight from one of the pockets of her flight suit and activated it, sweeping the beam back and forth as the duo wended their way through the trees. Abruptly, a rock face emerged from the maze of roots and branches. Alina traced the mossy stone with her flashlight, eventually settling on a narrow cleft.

    Yuli approached the fissure and peered inside. He beheld a shadowy cavelet, the bare sandy floor spacious enough to accommodate three or four people.

    “This will do nicely,” he remarked. “Help me move Master Vir inside.”

    Yuli and Alina hurriedly returned to Vir’s tussock and took up the litter, gently maneuvering it through the trees to the rock face. The cleft, barely wide enough to admit one person, proved difficult to negotiate with the litter, and Yuli apologetically hissed as Vir was jostled through the passage.

    Finally, they were inside. The pair set down Vir’s litter and then heavily collapsed on the sand. Sighing, Yuli slid to the edge of the cavelet and rested his head against a rocky wall, utterly exhausted.

    Alina sat herself for a spell, then reluctantly got back to her feet. She briefly checked Master Vir, concluded his condition had not changed, and began surveying the cavelet. A plan quickly formed in her mind. Noting that Yuli had closed his eyes and appeared now to be asleep, she chose not to disturb him, but exited back through the fissure.

    Sticking close to the rock face, the pilot quickly gathered fallen branches and twigs, until she had amassed a sizable bundle, then returned to the cavelet and arranged the kindling in a pile at the center of the floor, which she ignited with a well-placed shot from her blaster.

    Yuli stirred at the blaster’s report, but did not rouse.

    Alina then detached a small canteen from her belt. From a large pocket on her pant leg, she withdrew a couple of glossy packets, their wrappings printed with tiny Aurebesh letters, which she unceremoniously tore open with her teeth. Taking up the canteen, she depressed a button on its side and dropped it in the fire. The canteen parted along previously invisible seems and unfolded into a pan-like receptacle, at the center of which sloshed its watery contents.

    Alina upended the packets over the pan. Dull beige powder and tiny bits of textured protein rained down and quickly formed a thick gravy, which simmered as the water heated on the fire.

    Sniffing at the concoction, she wrinkled her nose.

    “It’s not stewed dhrast,” she mused, “but it’ll have to do.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  15. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 7b

    Maphis blindly hobbled through the stygian forest, grunting with barely suppressed agony and silently cursing the weakness of his mangled body. He could feel each impact of the terentatek’s heavy, plodding feet through his boots, the creature was so close.

    Behind him, branches screamed and shattered. Maphis instinctively dropped and rolled, his lightsaber shrieking to life and stabbing at the huge, gnarled hand that grabbed for him from the darkness.

    The terentatek bellowed in pain and rage. A wave of hot breath and roiling predatory hunger washed over Maphis as he scrambled to avoid the monster’s thrashing limbs.

    Stumbling between the trees, Maphis frantically searched for a refuge, but could see no farther than the blood-colored circle illuminated by his weapon. He’d maintained a desperate pace for what seemed like hours, but he could feel the Force ebbing from his body as his mind reeled and his will faltered.

    Not like this! Maphis inwardly shouted, anger mixing with despair as he sensed his looming demise. Not like this!

    Then, suddenly, a crack of light. Faint and shifting, like a guttering fire. No more than 20 meters away by the Sith’s quick estimation.

    Maphis lurched toward it. Ducked and swung wildly with his lightsaber as another huge hand reached for him. Ignored the furious roar of its owner.

    Spurred by a maniacal will to survive, he dashed toward the light, heedless of the violence to his body, and plunged through a cleft in the rock face that suddenly appeared before him.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  16. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 8

    Yuli crouched upon the sand of the arena, eyes downcast, poised like a runner at the start of a race. From oculi lining the wall of the structure emerged a dozen small, spherical training droids, which chirped binary warnings as they floated overhead. On a high repulsor platform overlooking the arena stood Master Vir, dispassionately watching as the droids arrayed themselves. Once they were in position, he tapped at his wrist gauntlet.

    “Begin!” the elder Jedi shouted.

    Yuli sprang into motion, dashing and juking across the arena as the training droids rained blaster fire down on him, gouts of sand erupting all around as the bolts repeatedly missed their mark.

    A pillar of dusty stone shot upward from the arena floor, directly in Yuli’s path. The padawan planted one boot on the column and ran vertically up its face, before pushing off into a graceful back flip that sent him arcing onto a repulsor platform that had detached from a nearby wall and sailed across the arena as he ran.

    Without hesitating, Yuli leapt from the platform and grabbed hold of a durasteel bar that had extended from a second raised pillar at a height of about 10 meters, used his momentum to circle the bar, then released on an upward swing that carried him to a still-higher repulsor platform.

    Yuli continued on this erratic course, steadily gaining altitude as he made his way toward Master Vir’s platform. The training droids swarmed around him, incessantly firing as they flew. Yuli deftly avoided their stabbing bolts, and he could feel his confidence growing as he maneuvered to within a dozen meters of his target. One more leap and–

    Yuli blanched as a hot lance shot through his leg. His smooth acrobatic trajectory suddenly flattened as he flailed in confusion and dismay, and he plummeted back toward the arena floor, clumsily arresting his fall by clawing at a passing repulsor platform. He landed on his side with a heavy, painful thud and a startled grunt.

    The padawan rolled onto his back and sat up, spitting grit from between his teeth. He gingerly regarded his hurt leg. The pant was holed, and he could see blistered flesh through the singed aperture, but there was no serious damage. The underpowered weapons of the training drones were designed to deliver a painful lesson, not to maim or kill.

    Master Vir’s voice descended from high overhead.

    “What was your error?” he asked, simply.

    “I failed to spot that last droid,” Yuli replied after a moment’s consideration.

    “Wrong!” Vir instantly retorted. “A Jedi does not rely on mundane senses in such situations. Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them!” Vir paused a moment to let that sink in. “No, your error was overconfidence. You underestimated your opposition and convinced yourself that prior achievement guaranteed future success. Even a simple droid can undo a Jedi if he is not mindful.” Vir tapped again at his gauntlet. All around Yuli, pillars retracted, platforms recessed, and droids resumed their starting positions.

    “Again!” Vir shouted.

    Yuli sprang to his feet and started running.

    Hours later, Yuli still had not reached Master Vir’s platform. His robes singed and torn, his face and hands caked in sweat-cemented dust, he stared blearily upward as the arena reset around him for the umpteenth time.

    “Again!” Vir shouted.

    Again, Yuli went through the paces, rising steadily higher, until an errant droid knocked him from his perch and sent him crashing back to the arena floor.

    This time, though, something in Yuli gave way. Not bone or flesh, but a part of Yuli’s mind that discipline had hitherto kept in check. Yuli began to seethe.

    “Dammit,” he whispered, pounding his fists in the sand. “Dammit,” he repeated, more loudly. “Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit!” Yuli was screaming now.

    Around the padawan, the sand rippled and little spouts of dust sprang up, as if the arena was a great drum head that had just been struck. The many droids floating overhead all suddenly froze in place, unable to move, their tiny repulsor engines futilely straining against invisible snares. One of the droids blatted in alarm as its chassis abruptly crumpled and sparks flew from its shattered body. The other droids quickly met identical fates, until the arena was littered with their smoking electromechanical entrails.

    “Dammit!” Yuli raged. Eyes clenched, he drew in the Force in a great torrent and blindly hurled it at the arena walls. The structure groaned, and dislodged plaster fell upon the sand like sleet.

    “Yuli!” The voice of Master Vir resounded in Yuli’s ears, surprisingly close. “Yuli, stop this at once!”

    Yuli did not stop.

    A stone pillar ratcheted halfway out of the ground and cracked.

    “I am so tired,” Yuli shouted. “And all you can say is ‘Again, again, again!’”

    A repulsor platform hurtled from its alcove and smashed into the ground.

    Strong, familiar hands gripped Yuli by the arms and wrenched the padawan to his feet. In an instant, Yuli’s anger deflated and he felt small. The arena ceased to shake. Fearful of what he might see on his Master’s face, Yuli kept his eyes shut.

    “Yes, ‘Again,’” responded Vir, sternly. “And again and again. What do you think the point of this exercise is, padawan?”

    “To navigate the obstacles and make it to the top,” Yuli hesitatingly replied.

    “By the Force, boy, no!” Vir blurted. “It’s to stress your body and mind and frustrate you.”

    “What?” Yuli incredulously replied.

    “Yuli,” Vir proceeded to explain, “as a Jedi you will face incredible hardship throughout your entire life, and it’s quite probable you will die a violent death far from home.” Yuli squirmed, uncomfortable at the direction the conversation was taking, but Vir held him tight. “You must learn to endure the hardship and serenely face the inevitability of both failure and death, lest fear, anger, resentment, and despair overwhelm your mind and derange your thoughts and emotions. For that way lies the Dark Side, and it will utterly devour you if you let it.” Vir spun Yuli on his heels so that he was facing away from the elder Jedi.

    “Open your eyes,” Vir commanded, “and see the destruction a mere moment’s lapse has caused.” Yuli ashamedly refused to comply. “Open your eyes, Yuli, and perceive the true danger of the Dark Side,” Vir insisted. “Open your eyes, Yuli! Open your eyes!”

    Yuli opened his eyes. And beheld a black-robed figure pushing through the cavelet entrance, a terrible, bellowing beast snapping and snarling at its back.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2021
  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Caught up at last (sorry it's taken me so long)! I love the dream sequence (I guess it is?) in this most recent chapter; it gives the feeling that Yuli's past fears and experiences are dovetailing, in a way, with his current predicament and his imminent confrontation with the injured and enraged Maphis AND a terentatek in a similar mood. (Though golly, part of me also hopes that Vir never really put him through a trial like that in the past--I'd be mortally frustrated and stressed, too!) Thank goodness Vir and Alina are in a nice sheltered spot; I sure hope Maphis won't find them, too! [face_nail_biting] Looking forward to seeing how this upcoming showdown will go! =D=
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I loved the farmer and his family. A great cozy domestic scene. Then the nonstop riveting action! Yuli has faced many tests on this adventurous journey and Alina is absolutely a handy companion. Vir has sustained a lot of injuries. [face_worried] Maphis is persistently after them but I'm surprised the terentatech hasn't made a quick snack of him yet! :p
     
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  19. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    @Findswoman and @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha, thank you so much for your continued interest! I hope to warrant your ongoing positive attention as the story moves forward. I'll be posting the next instalment in just a moment. Stay tuned!
     
  20. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 9

    Maphis pitched onto the floor of the cavelet, squinted his eyes against the fire that crackled at the center of the dim cavity. Something scraped against the small of his back, and he yelped and scrabbled over the sand, away from the cavelet entrance. Through the cleft in the stone protruded long, varijointed fingers, which frantically reached for the Sith. Beyond, the terentatek howled in bestial frustration.

    Alina shouted in alarm and Yuli reflexively sprang to his feet, taking in the startling scene. In a flash, his lightsaber flew to his hand and ignited, bathing the cavelet in cerulean light.

    Maphis rolled onto his side and activated his own lightsaber, slashing at the terentatek’s impotently straining fingers and severing them at the knuckle. The humongous predator shrieked and withdrew three smoldering stumps. The cavelet began to shudder as the monster beat furiously at the rock face.

    Sensing movement behind him, Maphis spun, lightsaber clumsily flailing as he struggled to regain his feet.

    Yuli leapt forward and batted the crimson blade from Maphis’ hand. It clattered against the stone wall of the cavelet and deactivated. Yuli pointed his blade at Maphis’ chest

    “You bastard,” Yuli growled. “You led the monster right to us!” The padawan stepped forward, raised the tip of his lightsaber until it nearly touched Maphis’ throat. The Sith, though battered and exhausted, defiantly raised his chin and glared into the young Jedi’s eyes.

    “Do it!” Maphis spat as he glowered at Yuli, eyes like black coals in the dim light of Alina’s fire.

    Yuli hesitated.

    “Do it!” Maphis repeated. “It’s the easiest thing in the world. Press forward but another step and I am done for. You can watch me die.”

    Yuli grimaced, struggling against the Sith’s brutal logic. His lightsaber, poised mere centimeters from his enemy’s face, quivered in his hand.

    Maphis laughed, a harsh barking sound.

    “You can’t do it, can you?” he disdainfully inquired. “You pathetic fool.” Maphis shrugged, and slumped onto the sandy floor. He shifted his gaze to Alina and smiled, impishly. “Fetch me some water, love?” he mockingly requested.

    Alina drew her blaster and in a single, long stride, brought down the grip hard on Maphis’ temple, then pressed the muzzle to his forehead. Her eyes brimmed with fury as she glared down at him.

    “Hah!” Maphis gleefully ejected. “This one has spirit!” He sneeringly looked at Yuli. “You could learn something from her, Jedi.”

    The terentatek continued to beat at the rock face. A gentle rain of dust and stone chips fell from the ceiling of the cavelet. Maphis glanced upward.

    “What a tedious creature,” the Sith commented. “I confess, I don’t much like its tone.” He looked back at Yuli, smirking, then glanced at the still form of Master Vir. “How long do you suppose it’ll take it to claw its way into this refuge of yours and tear us all to pieces?”

    “Let me kill him!” Alina angrily demanded, pressing her blaster harder against the Sith’s head. Maphis expectantly shut his eyes.

    “You have fire in you, woman,” the Sith uttered. “I admire that.”

    Yuli felt a powerful temptation to relent, to let Alina shoot the Sith where he sat. While his own code foreswore the execution of unarmed prisoners, he knew Alina had no such compunction. It would, as the Sith had said, be the easiest thing in the world.

    “Yuli.” A thin, weak voice rasped from the far side of the cavelet. Yuli glanced up in surprise, saw Preetas Vir unsteadily propped up on one elbow, looking at him, eyes pained. “Yuli, no.”

    In an instant, Yuli deactivated his lightsaber and rushed to Vir’s side. Alina followed the younger Jedi with her eyes, saw him kneel down beside and fretfully inspect his Master. Her face clouded. She looked at Maphis, who amusedly cocked one eyebrow. Her hand shook with barely-contained rage.

    “Lieutenant Thrain,” Vir imploringly exhaled. “Alina, please.”

    Alina slowly, grudgingly withdrew and holstered her blaster. Maphis sighed, as if disappointed, then awkwardly turned in place and presented his wrists for binding. Alina produced a length of cord from yet another pocket on her flight suit and tied the Sith’s hands. She drew the line exceedingly tight, so that the cord cut into Maphis’ flesh. The Sith appreciatively gasped and favored Alina with an appraising look.

    “Fire and steel,” he muttered. “What a lovely combination.” Alina inadvertently blushed, then kicked Maphis in his injured leg. The Sith howled.

    Alina hurried to Maphis' fallen lightsaber and snatched it up, then stepped to Master Vir’s litter. The elder Jedi had once again collapsed, his eyes unfocusedly staring at the cavelet ceiling as he incoherently muttered to his padawan. Yuli looked troubled as he tried to make sense of Vir’s vocalizations.

    “He’s conscious,” Yuli explained, “but he isn’t making any sense. I fear he’s delirious.”

    “I think you should hold on to this,” Alina replied, handing Maphis’ weapon to Yuli. The padawan took the lightsaber, turning it over in his hand. It felt cold and unfriendly in his grip, and he quickly secreted it in his robe before returning his attention to Vir.

    “Master,” Yuli spoke. “Master, it’s Yuli. Mast--”

    “Yuli,” Vir rallied. “Dear boy, you are in danger!” He suddenly jerked. Yuli tightly gripped the man, held him steady. “The Dark Side. Upon you. Beware.” Vir gasped, eyes fluttering. “Hatred comes easy,” he distantly muttered, “forgiveness less so.” His words began to fade, became mere whispers. “But forgiveness is all that redeems us.” Vir fixed Yuli with a final, desperate look. “Without it, we mortals are truly lost. In ignorance and despair, we are lost!”

    Vir began to convulse. Yuli cradled the man’s head in his lap and pitiably stroked his salted hair, desperately trying to sooth the elder Jedi. After several moments, Vir’s convulsions subsided, and the Jedi lapsed once more into abysmal unconsciousness. Yuli grimly stared down at Vir’s ashen face. As Alina watched, tears welled in Yuli’s eyes and pattered against Vir’s upturned cheeks.

    A contemptuous chuckle issued from across the cavelet.

    “Poor Jedi,” Maphis mockingly intoned. “Poor pilot.” The terentatek redoubled its assault on the rock face, prompting Maphis to glance up and out through the cavelet entrance. “Poor Sith,” he added, with somewhat less aplomb. “Death comes for us all, eh?”

    The fire continued to crackle, unperturbed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent and riveting. Yuli was on the brink of a life changing choice there. Alina would not be so bound and Maphis is a threat as much as the terentatek.
     
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  22. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 10

    After a small, thundering eternity, the terentatek grudgingly abandoned its assault on the rock face and withdrew back into the forest. Distant creakings, snappings, and growlings testified to its relentless, pacing vigil, however.

    Maphis, trapped and bound, silently brooded.

    Across the sandy floor, the Jedi padawan – Yuli, the old man had called him – yet clung to the deathly still form of his Master. Maphis could see the young man’s eyes, darkly-ringed from weeping, absently staring into the bounded void of the cavelet. They swam like quicksilver with reflected light from the guttering fire.

    The woman pilot – Alina – had hours before drifted to sleep and lay softly breathing against the cavelet wall. Maphis studied her face, which though fouled with grime and sweat and painted by the dim firelight in stark chiaroscuro, was quite lovely. Thinking on their initial encounter, he concluded that it would be a terrible waste to kill her, and resolved to take her prisoner once the Jedi were dealt with.

    Thus preoccupied, he failed to notice Yuli’s gaze suddenly shift and focus.

    “Why?” the padawan hoarsely asked, obliterating the quiet of the cavelet.

    Maphis started, then instantly composed himself.

    “Why what?” he replied.

    “Why?” Yuli repeated, simply. Maphis blinked in bemusement.

    “Don’t be absurd,” he finally answered. “You are my enemies; we are at war.”

    “Why?” the Jedi asked yet again.

    “It has always been so,” Maphis shot back, irritation creeping into his voice. “Ever since your dogmatic forebears cast out my own millennia ago, driving us into the galactic wilderness to perish.”

    “That’s not what happened,” Yuli objected, his voice hardening.

    “Indeed?” Maphis replied. “Are you such an authority on the history of my people? Please, instruct me, then, in the ‘truth’ propounded by your great society and its wise and virtuous caretakers. Thrill me with your privileged insight.”

    “You embraced the Dark Side,” Yuli rejoined, “treacherously made war on the civilization that birthed you, mingled with a brutal and barbarous race of slavers, and now seek to conquer the entire galaxy!”

    Maphis laughed.

    “You arrogant, cloistered little monk,” he inveighed. “We embraced reality! The completeness of the Force, not the blinkered and hobbled parody of it taught by the Jedi. For that, you branded us heretics and, after a hundred years of bloody conflict, had us exiled. And when we returned to reclaim our birthright, you blithely met us with blaster and blade. Do not speak to me about treachery and conquest.”

    Maphis winced as he shifted onto his knees and leaned forward, glaring at Yuli.

    “Understand,” the Sith resumed, “that life is struggle. It cannot be otherwise, for Light and Dark are in constant tension, and life cannot exist except by dispossessing or consuming other life. We Sith acknowledge the tension, embrace the struggle, and are stronger for it. In the face of these inescapable truths, you Jedi try to banish contention from your temples and gardens and achieve an impossible repose, and are continuously scandalized when again and again it comes crashing in upon you.”

    “I came to this planet to fight your kind,” Yuli noted. “I did not retreat to a garden.”

    “No,” sneered Maphis, “you came to this planet to hide in a hole, while your enemy berates you and a monster waits to devour you.”

    Yuli glowered at Maphis.

    “I have no intention of remaining in this ‘hole’,” said the padawan in a low, unfriendly voice.

    “Oh?” Maphis derisively snorted. “You have a plan to escape, then?”

    “Yes, in fact.”

    “Do enlighten me.”

    Yuli clenched his jaw and did not reply.

    “As I thought,” Maphis sighed. “It’s fortunate your Master will die of his wounds, and not of embarrassment at his useless pupil.”

    White-hot anger flared inside Yuli.

    “You miserable wretch!” the padawan blurted. “I will take your ship and leave you stranded on this forsaken planet. I may not kill you, but neither must I deliver you to safety!”

    Maphis arched an eyebrow.

    “Bravo, Jedi!” the Sith exclaimed. “I actually felt that.” He leaned closer still to the padawan and narrowed his eyes. “There are, however, some glaring problems with your so-called plan. First, there is still a very large, unpleasant, and hungry terentatek abroad in the forest. Second, the ship’s ignition is keyed to my biometrics and will not activate without my physical presence. In fact, it will self-destruct in–” he paused a moment to perform the arithmetic “–less than 24 hours, if I do not return.” Relishing the moment, he continued. “And third, my ship can accommodate at most three people, and that only with much cramping.”

    Maphis straightened and grinned.

    “So you see,” the Sith explained, “you will not be leaving this ‘forsaken planet’ without me, and one of you is doomed no matter what. Which will it be?” He glanced down at the pallid face of Preetas Vir. “Your Master? He’s already one foot in the grave. I’d hardly blame you for abandoning him.” Maphis suggestively slid his gaze toward Alina’s sleeping form. “The pilot? I confess, that would not be my preference. She’d certainly make better company in the cockpit than either of you tiresome Jedi.” He then locked eyes with Yuli. “Or will you do the noble thing and sacrifice yourself to save your comrades?”

    You must learn to endure the hardship and serenely face the inevitability of both failure and death. Vir’s words echoed in Yuli’s mind, and he nervously swore at the unbidden recollection.

    Maphis tutted.

    “Come now, Jedi,” the Sith admonished, “if we’re to work together, I must insist on a measure of decorum.”

    “You’re a monster,” Yuli fumed.

    “Maybe so,” Maphis replied, “but I have a feeling I’m in good company.”
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2021
  23. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 11

    Yuli woke from a dream that, although the details quickly fled his conscious mind, left him feeling cold and apprehensive. The fire had gone out some time during the night, but a shaft of wan sunlight showed through the cavelet entrance, announcing the dawn. Yuli blearily glanced down at his robes, briefly studied the soiled and disheveled dun fabric, then realized with a start that Master Vir was no longer resting at his side.

    “He’s gone!” Yuli blurted, leaping to his feet. Alina and Maphis startled awake.

    “What?” Alina groggily inquired. “Who?”

    “Master Vir,” Yuli replied, frantically searching the cavelet for signs of the senior Jedi.

    Alina quickly clambered to her feet. “What!” she exclaimed. ‘But how? His wounds–”

    “Grife!” Maphis groaned at the commotion. “Won’t you be silent?! I’ve barely slept a wink.”

    Alina shoved Maphis with her boot. The Sith toppled onto his side with a grunt.

    “Shut up,” she explained.

    “Look,” Yuli said, pointing at an uneven trail in the sand. It led to the cavelet entrance. “It looks like he crawled–” Yuli’s voice trailed off, the implication of what he saw striking him like a hammer. Without a second thought, Yuli plunged through the fissure.

    “Wait!” Alina shouted after him. Heedless, Yuli emerged from the rock face into the forest beyond. A still figure slumped beside a nearby tree: Preetas Vir. Yuli rushed to the Jedi’s side.

    “Master!” the padawan exclaimed in a hushed voice, cognizant of the extreme danger of their situation. “Why did you leave the shelter?”

    Vir’s eyes fluttered open and, after a moment’s erratic staring, focused on Yuli’s face. The Jedi raised his hand to his padawan’s cheek and weakly rasped: “Flee–to safety. The beast–I will lead–away.”

    Yuli disbelievingly gawped at Vir. “Master,” he objected, “you can’t even walk under your own power. How do you–” His question was cut short by a terrifyingly close roar. Yuli felt in his knees the deep, staccato thumping of pillarlike legs rapidly beating the earth as something large and heavy plowed through the forest directly toward him.

    The terentatek burst from the understory in a hail of shredded foliage and wood splinters and, in a single, remarkably fluid motion, swiped with a clawed hand at the padawan where he knelt. Yuli instinctively ducked, pulling Vir down with him. The terentatek’s claws savagely gouged the tree above Yuli’s head, and the monster reared back for a second blow.

    Heaving with all his strength, Yuli thrust Vir between the terentatek’s splayed legs and then darted after him, activating his lightsaber and stabbing upward as he ran. The weapon glanced along the creature’s chitinous thigh, leaving a shallow, smoldering wound. The terentatek howled as its fist smashed the ground vacated moments before by the Jedi. Yuli grabbed up Vir, who was struggling to stand, and dragged him, limpingly, away from the rampaging monster.

    The infuriated terentatek stamped the ground and roared its disappointment, then with a mighty, wrenching blow, snapped the trunk of the tree against which Vir had been resting and sent it toppling into the underbrush. The monster spun around and started tramping after the Jedi, bellowing as it went.

    Alina, meanwhile, ran to the cavelet entrance and peered out, beheld the terentatek’s assault upon the Jedi. Drawing her blaster, she stepped into the opening.

    “What are you doing?” Maphis shouted at her. Alina paused, glanced back at the Sith.

    “I have to help them!” she answered.

    “Why?” Maphis shot back. “The old man clearly intended to confront the beast. The apprentice is just cocking it up.”

    “I can’t let them fight that thing alone,” Alina replied. “They’ll die!”

    “But that’s what Jedi do!” Maphis exasperatedly countered. “‘For the ‘greater good’, the fools squander their entire lives in vain self-sacrifice. They practically exist for martyrdom.” His eyes met Alina’s and she could see in them genuine bewilderment mixed with something else. Fear? Concern? Such emotions seemed too incongruous to be real.

    Despite the urgency she felt, Alina hesitated. “Why do you even care?” she inquired.

    Maphis held up his bound hands by way of explanation. “This, for one thing,” he said. He glanced at his injured leg, which despite his ongoing efforts to accelerate the healing process, remained swollen and stiff. “And that, for another. In my current state, if you all die out there, I’m as good as dead too.”

    “Then help us!” Alina exclaimed. “Even with your injuries, you clearly have some fight in you. Your skills could improve our chances.”

    Maphis blinked, surprised. “You actually believe that, don’t you?” he asked.

    Alina silently glowered.

    “If you freed me,” Maphis probed, “I could turn on you all. Doesn’t that worry you?”

    “I suspect Yuli and I together could take you,” Alina replied, cocking her head. “In your current state.”

    Maphis appreciatively laughed at the pilot’s bravado. “Perhaps you could,” he mused. “Perhaps you could.” Maphis came to a decision in that moment. “Very well,” he said. “Release me and I will help the Jedi to the best of my ability. On this, you have my word.”

    “A Sith’s word,” Alina scoffed. “I wonder what that’s even worth.”

    “I hazard you’re about to find out,” Maphis replied, simply, holding up his hands.

    Alina stepped back from the cavelet entrance, drew a knife from her boot, and cut the Sith’s bonds. Maphis instantly leapt to his feet, grabbed Alina by the hair, and glared into her eyes. The pilot glared back, defiantly. The barrel of her blaster poked Maphis in his belly.

    “Let us pray we don’t both regret this,” Maphis growled. He then kissed Alina fully on the lips.

    She bit him. Hard.

    “Ah!” Maphis yelped, blood trickling down his chin. He absently wiped at the fluid with one hand, smearing his cheek crimson. “Excellent!” He wickedly smiled. “Wish me luck,” he cheerfully added as he dove through the fissure.

    Alina struck the cavelet wall with a balled fist and swore, then followed the Sith to meet the monster.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Caught up at last! Wow, I see that it’s not just our Jedi characters who have to make difficult and unaccustomed decisions here, but everyone—even that Sithy old Maphis! He may be a Sith and a slime (he more than deserved that bite from Alina), but I think he really is going to do what he can to help the Jedi and Alina in this drastic situation, since it seems that there’s no way out of it unless they all work together. And it seems, in way, that poor injured Vir has some sort of plan in mind, too, or he wouldn’t have left the shelter... [face_thinking] will be interesting to see how everything shakes out! Keep up the great work! =D=
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Maphis is a complicated character [face_thinking] He's not all as sithy as he'd like to appear looks like; more pragmatic than anything.
     
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