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Saga The People's Armor (NaNoWriMo/Kalat Arm/OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mechalich, Nov 6, 2010.

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  1. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    So yeah, this is my NaNoWriMo submission.

    Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

    The People's Armor

    Chapter 1: Upon the Ashes

    Ash Badlands, Lavestral
    Laclim Sector
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Kamick shook a bit of pumice out of his boot, idly scanning the horizon as he did so. The gray sky stretched on into barren nothingness forever, or so it seemed. Ash and volcanic rock and nothing else unto the end of the world. It was a miserable vista, and he'd never loved it. Only outsiders found anything beautiful in the stark dark basalt-covered wastelands of the planet. He simply lived here.

    The young man slipped his boot back on and slid into the seat of his landspeeder. Two hundred klicks to Havestram, the next settlement larger than a homestead. He figured he could make it with an hour or so before nightfall. It would be a decent place to stop on this segment of his outback patrol. He pulled back on the accelerator and kicked the vehicle into motion.

    Accelerating around an ash flow Kamick caught a glimpse of something in the sky, a streak in the haze. He braked immediately, pulling about and up to the highest nearby point for a better vantage. Popping the landspeeder's canopy he grabbed the macrobinoculars from their resting place in the empty passenger seat and pulled them to his face.

    There's a streak alright, he confirmed quickly. And fresh too, east-west pathway, maybe forty degrees declination. He tried to judge altitude, to guess the probable termination point of the trail cutting through the haze-coated sky. It wasn't easy, he didn't think it would pin down well. ?North,? he muttered, sloshing saliva around against the gritty atmosphere. ?What's north?? His patrol region was massive by almost any standard, tens of thousands of square kilometers. The only saving grace was that it was mostly ash-coated wasteland, he was well beyond the radius of heavy land adaptation efforts. Kamick tried to plot matters against a mental map, but quickly gave up and grabbed a datapad off the dash.

    ?Oprail's Dojo's north,? he pulled off the map. ?Well damn.? He looked at the trail again. Who or whatever it was, they were either already there or soon would be. He jumped backed into the landspeeder in a smooth motion born of endless repetition. It was the act of a second to plug the datapad into the center console and bring up Lavestral's limited central data net. He scowled as his suspicions were confirmed. There were no landings scheduled for Oprail's Dojo today or anytime this week. Nothing for the whole 48/60 sector in fact.

    Kamick checked the emergency band next. Nothing. If is was an accident no one had called in or screamed in distress yet. He doubted it was anyway. He grabbed the landspeeder's embedded comlink. ?This is Kilo-Tango,? he grimaced. He wanted to kill the moron who'd simply used each officer's initials for cal-signs. ?Calling Delta-Hotel,? Even the dispatch headquarters had a lame identifier. ?Possible unregistered landing in 48/60. Moving to investigate.?

    ?Copy that Kilo-Tango,? Kamick thought the voice belonged to Farns, a semi-retired officer without anything remotely resembling drive left in him. ?Start time??

    Kamick glanced at his wrist chrono. ?1636,? he answered. ?Estimate distance to contact at...? he looked at the map again and did a quick mental calculation. ?One hundred and eighty klicks. Moving out.? He didn't wait for Farns to respond with approval. He slammed the accelerator down and pushed the landspeeder to full.

    Regrettably, maximum thrust wasn't what Kamick would have wished, the speeders they had to work with were old and always put through about ten too many repair jobs, but it would have to do. Besides, there was something to be said for screaming across a bleak ash-scape dodging outcroppings, dips, and outflows at close to three hundred klicks an hour. He rarely got the chance to push things.

    As his eyes narrowed to laser focus on the terrain, the rest of the officer's mind moved on a secondary track of equal importance. Why would anyone bust in on Oprail's Doj
  2. Mandalorethe1st

    Mandalorethe1st Jedi Youngling

    Oct 7, 2010
    this is a neat idea that i haven't thought about. I like it a lot.
    can't wait to see what happens next...
  3. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    And here goes chapter 2.

    Chapter 2: Breaking Forth

    Dockyards, Ablerin
    Laclim Sector
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    ?Final check everyone,? Jia Ji looked around to her squad. ?All ready??

    A small chorus of nods answered the whisper.

    ?Good,? she turned her head ever so slightly to her wrist-mounted comlink. ?Blue Team to Leader, at the ready and standing by.?

    ?Copy that,? the sonorous voice of Captain Juro, their Duros commander, replied. ?Wait for my signal. Stage one commencing in three minutes.?

    ?Understood,? Ji silenced the connection, knowing there was nothing to do now but wait. She held herself to be calm, breathing easy, resisting the urge to check her weapon one more time, to give some final reminder to the team. Everything that can be done has been done, she told her itching nerves. Anything more will only be detrimental. As she had been schooled she kept her body fluid but firm, all in readiness.

    I am still. There is no wind over the pond.

    Silence encompassed ten individuals in a dark tunnel, each in its own way nervous, each burying that beneath the need to be professional, silent, and patient. All waited upon Ji for the signal to let it lapse and unleash their fury.

    Three minutes in, the operation began. Thirty seconds later there came the sound of blasterfire, as the skirmishers engaged the initial pickets, drawing reinforcements to their feint. Hearing this Jia Ji winced. Those men were well trained and well armored, but the enemy sported powerful weapons and no doubt good marksmen of their own. Their would be casualties. The vise of pressure tightened upon her a revolution, knowing those loses would be for nothing if the rest of the plan failed.

    At five minutes a series of explosions broke across the auditory landscape, the fire of a grenade mortar, the precious weapon being used to pin down the enemy response, hold them in place even as the skirmishers were reinforced by the main attack. All would be ready to crash through the enemy once they were broken.

    It fell to Jia Ji's squad to do the breaking.

    ?Blue Team, go on my mark,? Captain Juro ordered. ?Mark!?

    In a calm, ordinary voice Ji spoke two words. ?Commence attack.?

    Ten bodies surged forward down the tunnel.

    Ji's heart pounded in her chest, her body felt on fire from the surge of adrenalin, and from the pressure bearing upon her.

    The tunnel was an old bulk air exchange duct, used before the most recent upgrade to Ablerin's airflow system, back when massive fans had been needed to keep air moving across the barren landscape of the asteroid tunnel base. No longer used, it still provided access to the target docking bay. It had been Jia Ji who found the tunnel, scouring the old maintenance archives. Now it was her plan that led a surprise attack down this secret entrance. Should it fail, all the blame would be hers alone, and the dead.

    A durasteel plate had been used to patch the tunnel of course, and so it was Leviil who led the way. The Rodian was their only pro with a det charge.

    Long green fingers extending around the valuable explosive, the thin alien ducked back with a wave of the hand, throwing himself to the ground in front of the rest of the squad.

    The plate blasted out, revealing the docking bay.

    ?Attack!? Ji commanded, howling at the top of her lungs, knowing the hearing of the rest of the squad was at least as impaired as her own.

    The others obeyed, jumping down the two meters to the deck plating of the docking bay, searching for targets and opening up with all kinds of lethality.

    The red-coated, fifty meters long, and wide-winged hull of a Correllian KR-TB freighter, known commonly as a 'Doomtreader,' occupied the center of the docking bay. Large empty spaces surrounded it, for this landing platform had been designed for bulk ore haulers, and in that openness lay opportunity, enemy, and death.

    A lone opponent, red hair in braids whipping behind him, was the first to turn at the sound. He was halfway between the cover of the vessel and the fighting near the docking bay's front gate, a lethargic r
  4. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 3 ? Insecure Windfall

    Captured Dockyard, Ablerin
    Laclim Sector
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    When light had first flooded the cargo hold Kamick had initially taken it as a sign of doom. Surely it was the Zygerrians come to deliver them to whoever had arranged this madness to begin with. Instead he was greeted by a pair of armed humans and a Rodian. They were soon joined by others, and proceeded to open the cargo bay door and start ripping the netting out. It was the last act that convinced Kamick he was not being sold. Whatever these people's motives, if they had been at all affiliated with the slavers they would preserve the expensive netting.

    Kamick was not first out, nor was he last, but even the brief period of waiting as they got to his position was interminable. He tried to watch these strange liberators, but couldn't focus on it, instead hope and dread warred through him in massive swings. When they puled him down he was bursting with questions. ?Where am I? Who are you? What's going on??

    These people, and though they wore scatter-shot uniforms the deputy was quick to recognize they must be soldiers of some kind, were obviously quickly growing sick of hearing the questions. They responded tersely. ?We're Discblade Alliance buddy, and we've just kicked in some Zygerrian heads,? the second was said with obvious pride. ?We're just taking you out, the boss'll sort you guys out in a minute, or maybe the Captain.?

    The Rodian gave him a quick medical scan at the exit of the ship and then motioned for the deputy to sit down in a group with the rest of the freed slaves, all milling with no real idea what to do. Stang, Kamick thought. There were that many inside? He watched as more and more were released, and gathered an estimate of about two hundred. So many, it was hard to fathom. Freedom overwhelmed him in the docking bay, and a massive thundering relief. The ordeal was over, and though he was a failure, it had not saved the Zygerrians, they'd been caught and defeated. A quick scan revealed some of the soldiers had piled up gear and armor they must have taken fom Zygerrian bodies. Dead then, Kamick guessed. Well how about that? Miserable rutting bastards deserved it for sure.

    How long was I in? The deputy questioned. The darkness had stolen time from him, but it didn't feel like that long. He looked at his fingernails after a moment. Some growth, but not too much. A few days he figured, maybe a week. Long enough to get from Lavestral to here, wherever here happened to be, and maybe a stop or two on the way. I can't have gone too far, he noted. Not if they're Discblade Alliance.

    He didn't know much about the resistance, not really. They were named after the weapons of the Zeison Sha, the Force users, and he didn't know much about them either. Lavestral was an unimportant world, and on the edge of their stomping grounds. They fought the Empire though, and Kamick supported that. The Empire was ruining the galaxy, especially this part of it. He'd never really met anyone from the resistance before though. Lavestral wasn't host to fighting, and the outback was a barren land. He'd heard there was a cell in the spaceport, but it'd been years since he'd visited. Well, I suppose I'm meeting them now, he shrugged. I wonder what they want with us?

    Several of the other freed slaves chattered amongst themselves, asking similar questions, but Kamick avoided joining in their banter. They were not really together after all, and he looked around to realized none of them were quite human. Near-humans the lot, which he thought a bit odd, but who knew with the Zygerrians? They'd been a twisted bunch. I'm not with them anyway, the deputy realized after a moment's thought. These ones were captured to be slaves. I was taken to be kept quiet, they just figured selling me was good business. The Discblade Alliance members might not realize it, but his situation was different than that of the other two-hundred beings surrounding him. He just needed a chance to prove it.

    So Kamick watched the resistance fighters go about their
  5. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 4 ? New Departures

    Discblade Alliance Camp, Ablerin
    Laclim Sector
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Processing the refugees had stretched on interminably, especially at the end, dealing with the ones who required translation and had all sorts of strange cultural quirks. Many had no idea they were even on another planet. Two had thought they were in the afterlife. Faced with almost nothing she could do, Ji had eventually arranged for a smuggler captain to take them to a Longrun Shipping refugee outpost. The syndicate would no doubt treat them harshly, and the bulk of the group would spend the rest of their lives laboring away in hellish Outer Rim Oreworks mines, but it was the best chance she could give them. She comforted herself as she steamed off in the refresher and tumbled into her bunk with the thought that all other options had been exhausted. I am not Zeison Sha, I cannot work miracles, only give my best, even when it isn't enough.

    Jia Ji was not one to forget such an indignity, however. The slavers had forced her to such routes, and she was more resolved than ever to crack the mystery behind these strange slaves.

    So, as soon as her immediate duties were resolved, Ji made the trek to see Captain Juro.

    The re-purposed docking bay serving the fifty-odd fighters of this Discblade Alliance cell was spacious, having once accommodated big Action-series freighters and ore haulers. It easily fit the handful of small freighters and pair of starfighters they possessed. Captain Juro, feeling staying aboard his ship was a barrier to communication, had erected a command tent using camouflage netting in the center of it all. He was there, typing at a terminal and accompanied by only by an astromech droid assistant, when Ji found him near midday.

    Juro turned when she came in but did not rise. These days he usually chose to save his strength. The war is aging him fast, the squad leader noted sadly. But he has so many duties just as we all must bear. ?Captain,? she said, and bowed slightly as she entered, hands together at her waist.

    ?Ji,? the duros officer smiled. ?Welcome, what can I do for you??

    It did not surprise the woman that Juro knew she had not come idly. She did not like to waste time on idle visits, it was unsuitable with superiors. ?I am submitting a report on the unusual composition of the group of slaves we liberated in yesterday's engagement.?

    ?Save the trouble and just tell me,? Juro waved away her formality as she had know he would.

    ?Very well sir,? Ji replied. ?It was an extremely unusual group. All near-humans, excepting a single human police officer they captured when he attempted to interfere,? she amended, being thorough was important. ?No Twi'Leks, or other local species common in the slave trade. The composition bears no resemblance to local demographics and must have been deliberately determined prior to raiding.?

    ?Really?? Juro yawned briefly, not convinced. ?To what end?? He questioned. ?That would be very limiting, and expensive.?

    ?I do not know,? Ji admitted glumly. She hated presenting incomplete ideas. ?I can only assume someone requires large numbers of near-humans for some purpose. The police officer implied the Zygerrians would sell them to some secret or isolated firm with no contact with the outside galaxy.? He had been the only one with useful testimony, and even that had been limited. The slavers had been surprisingly professional. Zygerrians set great store by their species superiority complex, but prejudice could not account for it all. ?Given the expense, it would be someone with considerable wealth.?

    ?You make a good case,? Juro admitted. ?So someone is seizing large numbers of near-humans, are they? Well, something to watch for anyway. I'll pass that along to our contacts.?

    It was the reasonable response, to tell the Zeison Sha who kept the connections between their group and other cells, and to see what shook out in time, but it was not enough to satisfy Ji. Two hundred and twenty-eight lives were taken specifically for this nefarious purpose. It was a majo
  6. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 5 ? Early Turns

    Skip 1, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    How is it possible for an asteroid to smell? Kamick wondered as the three of them walked the halls of Skip 1, Smuggler's Run's largest, most populous, and assuredly most filthy settled asteroid. The place had a foul odor to it running underneath all the different scents of beings, food, machinery, and more. It was like the asteroid had decided to punish the scum of the galaxy by offsetting its ideal size, composition, and location with a disgusting aftertaste. I sincerely hope our investigation carries us somewhere else quickly enough, he wished.

    The deputy turned resistance ally found the Run to be an eye-opening experience. He'd never seen so many different species, or blaster models, in one place at once. The diversity was immense, and a little bit frightening. Everything from humanoids, to insectoids, to some kind of oozing tar pit being made their way through the streets, going about endlessly different endeavors. As far as Kamick could tell there was only one piece of commonality here. Everyone was armed, surly, and in a hurry to get out of the way of Drado.

    In the cramped confines of Nomad Sentry the young man had found the Kyuzo warrior more than a little intimidating. Here, he discovered that he was not alone, and it was quite the blessing. Even the testy Velabri, known throughout the region as warriors with a hair-trigger for slights, and a hulking Wookie spacer seemed to understand Drado was not to be crossed unless you really meant it. The citizens of Smuggler's Run had a clearly refined sense for those who actually were dangerous compared to ones who simply presented the illusion of it.

    Jia Ji led them down from fortified docking bays, where the defenses were concentrated on the inside, to a series of large markets carved into major asteroid caverns. Countless stalls, booths, and alcoves were filled with various businesses, all buying or selling to the smugglers, pirates, and other representatives of the galactic fringe who gathered here. ?I put the over/under on stabbings per hour at about six or seven,? Kamick whispered over his shoulder to Ji as they passed a vendor selling candies laced with spice.

    ?I suspect you could find a bookie to offer you odds on that,? she answered in complete seriousness. ?But we have other business to attend to.?

    ?Right,? he agreed. Ji had provided some extra background on slavery in the region in general and the Coldiron Conglomerate in particular while in hyperspace, but they had relatively little to begin their search. ?Where do we start??

    ?We need to find out about the flow of slaves, and find a way to get in touch with someone as high in the game as we can,? she outlined. ?That way we can try to touch on the market for exotic near-humans. Rumors and tips will only be marginally helpful, our best way is to find someone who knows the business and then either bargain or seize the information.?

    It wasn't a terrible approach exactly, but it was a military one; locate the target, find an opening, and then strike. It might work, under the right circumstances, but it might also backfire.

    ?We don't want the slavers,? Kamick objected, and when Ji's expression turned puzzled explained further. ?Why should the slavers talk to someone poking into their business? Criminals are paranoid, and usually for good reason. Someone comes asking around about what slaves go where and they'll assume we're making a play for their business, and even if they hate the Coldirons they'll clam up, maybe even come after us.?

    ?Reasonable,? she admitted, though he doubted he'd convinced her. ?But how are we to get the information we need otherwise??

    ?We go to the competitors, people whose business is in opposition to the slave trade, and therefore do their own espionage all the time,? Kamick grinned. ?Those people are far less likely to care what we want, so long as we promise it won't be good for the slavers. Most criminal enterprises are a fixed market, not like regular business. You don't grow throug
  7. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 6 ? Tunnel Rats

    Skip 1, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    ?You were right about the food diversions,? Ji began moments after arriving at the edge of the access tunnel Kamick and Drado had chosen. ?The Zygerrians have been buying heavily. The Toydarian merchant they have handling the discrete purchases knows it's way more than the slavers themselves could possibly eat. He's been wondering what they were doing with it.?

    ?You talked to him?? the deputy blurted. That was a major risk.

    ?Not in person,? Ji smiled softly. ?I made a video call. It was easy enough to claim I had noticed he was a major player in the local market and I struck up negotiations on a phantom deal for supplies. It was simplicity itself to tease that out during discussion, he was practically bragging about all the business.?

    Kamick blinked. Right, she can do that kind of thing, pretend to be some big shot and carry it off. I couldn't have pulled the con, he knew. Really, she's not just a soldier, who is she? He resolved to ask once they were in a less dangerous situation.

    ?What about the auction patterns?? He asked, it was the other major piece, and the more important one right now.

    ?Well, the Zygerrians aren't selling their near-human captives at auction,? Ji offered, and nodded in his direction. ?Which supports what you heard when they questioned you.? Questioned, right, the deputy's whole body burned at the horrible memories, still fresh and raw. ?There were other near-humans on the market, and I'm not able to say what is a normal proportion, but it did appear there were very few Desga being auctioned off.?

    Drado offered a quick opinion.

    ?Indeed, certain Desga species, especially females, are exotics,? Ji's voice grew cold, her disdain for the subject bleeding through her tightly controlled voice. Kamick sympathized, researching the economics of slaves sales just felt dirty. ?Big time buyers, ones who already have enough Twi'leks and Zeltrons, tend to snap them up. The Zygerrians are big players in the slave markets in the Kalat Arm, many other criminals will not traffic in slaves due to Zeison Sha blades.?

    Kamick and Drado both chuckled at this. Law was weak in Wild Space, but the Zeison Sha tolerated crime only to a point, and slavery was well over the line. Slavers had a bad tendency to eventually meet one and wind up dead. It kept the smart criminals out of the business. Zygerrians, Kamick supposed. Just can't help themselves.

    ?I wish I had a list of purchases, but such information is either non-existent or highly secure,? Ji smiled wickedly, an expression new to the deputy. ?Or possibly both. In any case, we cannot get to it, but thanks to your efforts,? she nodded to them both. ?We may not need to.?

    ?This old tunnel is pretty much abandoned,? Kamick gestured, explaining what they had managed to find. ?But it crosses one of the major internal transit corridors to the inner parts of the asteroid. Someone blocked off one side with rubble, but the other's open.?

    ?And you believe this transit corridor is the one the Zygerrians will use to transport the slaves?? Ji concluded.

    Drado muttered something.

    ?And whose idea was it to look for those?? Ji querried carefully.

    When the Kyuzo pointed a long green-skinned finger at him, the deputy couldn't help but swell with pride. It had been his inspiration to scan the omnipresent ooze for the characteristic red hairs. After that a medpack's analyzer had easily confirmed the Zygerrian origin. Of course, it had been the sharp eyed Kyuzo who'd actually located the hairs. He's just that good, Kamick had to admit, but he had discovered the alien wasn't arrogant about it. Whatever his reasons for devoting himself to combat, it's not about being the best, the deputy had been glad to discover.

    ?And there is a slave auction tonight?? Ji confirmed the message they'd sent calling her over.

    Kamick nodded. It had been another joint discovery. He'd asked the Weequay enforcer questions while Drado held him half a meter off the ground and did knife tricks with the o
  8. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    I really like your characters. Kamick is great and a very good character=D=
  9. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    early-bird: thanks, I'm fairly fond of Kamick as well, though I think I like Ji better.

    Chapter 7 ? Between Spaces

    Skip 1, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    ?So how is it you happened to assist us?? Ji asked Xulin when they returned to the Nomad Sentry's docking bay. The Ubese woman had refused to reveal any secret hideaways within the asteroid she knew.

    ?I have sharp eyes,? the Zeison Sha was frightfully opaque, but Ji was uncertain how much was deliberate and how much was an Ubese simply being Ubese. Conversation was not a strong point of the species. ?I watch the tunnels closely, your men went probing around earlier, and I marked that out as worth following. As to helping you,? she shrugged, one of the few motions noticeable through the environment suit. ?I know the tunnels better than almost everyone. I grew up here.?

    ?I see,? Ji suspected there was something more to it, probably involving the Force, but it would be pointless to ask for an explanation she would be unable to understand. She pressed in the code to unlock the Phoenix-Hawk's boarding ramp and motioned for everyone to come aboard.

    ?How cramped,? Xulin's droid, Etch, remarked critically.

    ?Hardly important Etch,? Xulin rose to the bait.

    Watching this exchange Ji wondered at the pair, they were oddly contrasted. A Trang Robotics Duelist Elite, she thought wryly. One of the most expensive droids on the market serving an Ubese raised in smuggler tunnels. I wonder how that happened? Of course, it would be exceedingly rude to ask. ?Despite her lack of comforts, Nomad Sentry is a functional vessel,? Ji defended her ship. ?She will get us out of Smuggler's Run in haste, which I suspect may well be necessary at this time.?

    Coming up behind the Zeison Sha Kamick nodded in response to this comment. ?We got lucky tonight, doubt we will again,? the cop echoed her sentiment. ?Hope we can crack the datacards for something good.

    Ji had a similar desire, but she did not place much trust in it. If the Zygerrians were intelligent they had kept the true details of their contract with the mysterious backer in oral form, no recordings anywhere. All they really knew now was it must be someone of considerable power and wealth in the Kalat Arm. The list of candidates was not extensive, but they were still directionless. It was disappointing, especially after winning a battle, but she suspected they would learn nothing more on the Run. Intelligence gathering is difficult when fighting for your life. ?Drado, Kamick, get started on takeoff preparations. I will speak to our benefactor ere she must depart.?

    Xulin shook her head. ?You should not leave yet,? the synthesized voice of the Ubese woman was instantly attention-grabbing, regardless of what she said. Slow and measured, with brutal mechanical force, every pronouncement felt important.

    ?I'd rather not take chances with a Zygerrian ambush,? Ji countered cautiously. She did not like arguing with a Zeison Sha. Xulin was not a famous name among the group, but she was important to the Discblade Alliance at this significant location, it felt like she should be taking orders. Only Xulin's typically Zeison Sha avoidance of leadership gave Ji any courage to assert herself.

    ?The reach of the slavers extends only across Skip 1,? the Zeison Sha explained. ?It would take them some time to barter for an attack on another Skip.?

    ?So we can just switch asteroids?? Kamick commented. ?That doesn't seem right.?

    Ji saw Xulin's point immediately. ?Each Skip has its own master, who must give approval when members of another faction visit, as among provinces.? She was willing to take a small risk. ?A few days might be enough to find another target after this, but should keep risk minimal.? They may have no way to identify us anyway, she hoped. Waiting briefly might allow Xulin to confirm this one way or another. She must have contacts in the local underground.

    ?Where do we go?? Kamick wondered. ?This is the main asteroid.?

    ?Skip 2,? Xulin announced.

    ?What's on Skip 2?? the deputy questioned, his lac
  10. Raphire

    Raphire Jedi Knight star 4

    Dec 19, 2008
    NaNoWriMo, very nice. Is this how far you've gotten?

    Like the story a lot. Your characters seem well developed and your plot is very nice. Keep it up and may we both survive to the end of this month.
  11. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nice update with Kamick showing Force sensitivity.
  12. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Raphire: no, I'm actually finished, the total piece is about 115K, I'm giving each chapter a quick once-over before posting though.

    early-bird: ultimately somebody has to, since I want to tell a story about the Zeison Sha, and training someone is the best way to get into the nitty-gritty.
  13. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 8 ? Truth and Pain

    Skip 2, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Two words dominated Kamick's thoughts as he marched out behind Jia Ji to meet the security escort.

    Zeison Sha.

    His whole life was uprooted. How can that be right? How? I can't use the Force, can I?

    Xulin said he could, another Zeison Sha had claimed him as one of theirs. He had trouble imagining it in any way. Can I really become like that? He wondered, feeling awed, scared, and blessed all at once. He'd seen Xulin crush a man with a flick of the wrist, jump onto a ceiling and shoot a perfect hit, and control obscuring mist. Stories said that was the least of what the Zeison Sha were capable of achieving. Move massive boulders, summon howling winds, and strike ten men down with one throw of their Discblades, all this and more was said of the Force users of Yanibar, and Kamick believed. The Ubese woman was more than enough proof.

    But what else is there? He wondered as Ji motioned for everyone to fall into line with her. The security guards led them along, but Kamick was hardly paying attention. He'd learned to march in training, it was an activity requiring no focus on his part.

    I've heard so many stories about the Zeison Sha, but I don't know anything about them. Their powers were only the least of it, he'd seen it in Xulin's demeanor, in the different way she acted. She was not just a silent warrior in the mold of Drado, she was something more, in tune to something greater. It must be the Force, he guessed, but I don't understand. What is the Force, anyway? He'd never learned anything in school. The Empire didn't like anyone to talk about the Force.

    The Zeison Sha were utterly opposed to the Empire, that Kamick knew perfectly. They had rallied the people to fight when the Empire came, had built the foundations of the Discblade Alliance and still fought harder than anyone else. No generals though, no politicians, he'd never heard of such, a gap in his understanding. Even Xulin had let Ji take the authority. Why?

    The deputy's thought remained jumbled, unfocused, as they were led down long sterile corridors and past a great many docking bays, loading cranes, and other shipping gear.

    Lost in his own concerns he missed the point where the backdrop suddenly changed to one of opulence, the fine furnishings and refined tastes of the headquarters of a captain of industry. Stang, Kamick cursed himself for not paying attention. They must be close.

    Part of his training had covered Hutts. They were said to prefer great palace fortresses, filled with symbols of oppression, gluttony, and coarse entertainment. This display did not properly fit the preset image. Oh it was certainly defensible, hidden reinforcement and security cameras could be seen everywhere, but no massive gates, thuggish guards, or symbols of torture could be seen. In fact, it all seems rather well done, the deputy had to admit. He wouldn't trust his sense of style very far, but there was a classic, regal presentation to the environment. The intended message was obvious enough. It was rich and powerful, but not without class.

    Well, the deputy recalled. Xerweg was said to be eccentric for a Hutt.

    A quartet of security guards in rich livery, in the gray, blue and silver trim of Longrun Shipping, stood at a set a ornate stone doors. Imported, Kamick noted, for it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the stones of the asteroid field. Hand carved, too, he'd never seen anything like it. The image was a mystery to him, some battle scene of Hutts fighting a mix of humans and battle droids. It looked old though.

    ?His Excellency Xerweg the Hutt will receive you now,? one of the guards intoned.

    The doors opened into a high-vaulted chamber, dimly lit and mostly empty. Only a handful of guards, droids, and courtiers were present.

    Ji led them in, with Xulin on her right and Kamick on the left. Drado and Etch brought up the rear. The deputy noticed Ji was suddenly walking different. Stang, how does she glide like that? The woman's motions were the epitome of grace,
  14. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    nice update with the Hutts.=D==D= Love the detailed descriptions
  15. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 9 ? Other Struggles

    Skip 2, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Ji managed to make it all the way back to the Nomad Sentry without her control slipping away completely. Once in the docking bay she ran for the ship and charged inside, pulling the boarding ramp up behind her. Kamick ran up to the entrance and put his ear to the metal. He was sure he heard sobbing from inside. The hatch was locked, and though he pounded on the door briefly there was response. She hasn't told me the code yet, he thought bitterly. Damn.

    He turned around to see Drado there. The Kyuzo warrior's face revealed deep sadness even to human eyes. ?Do you know the entry code?? Kamick asked suddenly. He must, she would trust him with it.

    ?Yes,? the warrior replied in bitter Huttese. ?But if she wishes to be alone, I will not intrude.?

    Stupid warrior codes! Kamick threw up his hands. Crying by herself was the last thing Ji needed right now. She needed help, and it was impossible to give. He slammed his fist against the metal one last time.

    That one hurt, Kamick managed a wan smile. Okay, prioritize, the old habits of outback life took over again. Ji's stuck inside, there's nothing I can do for her. Maybe they'll be a chance to talk to her later. For now, she's not the only one suffering.

    He went looking for Xulin.

    The Zeison Sha lay slumped up against a pile of empty packaging crates. Etch was with her, but all was silent between the pair. I hope she's all right, Kamick thought with sudden fright. Sheathed in her body suit, when she failed to move he wasn't even able to confirm Xulin was still alive. ?Uh,? he struggled for something to say. ?Are you going to be okay?? it was a terrible, stupid beginning, and he stumbled for a recovery. ?I mean, there's not any permanent consequences to exposure are there??

    ?Physically Mistress Xulin requires only the breath mask,? Etch answered for the Zeison Sha. ?The full helmet and mask augment her voice and provide additional sensory data and protection.?

    ?Well, that's a-? he stopped, this isn't going to help. ?Never mind,? he muscled in on the droid, looming directly over Xulin's small frame. ?Xulin, say something, anything, you look like a corpse.?

    ?If Mistress Xulin has nothing to say to you then you should be gone,? Etch interjected, starting to push back. The droid's blue visor flashed.

    ?No, Etch,? Xulin's voice had returned to its normal synthesized obscurity. ?Thank you, but let him stay. He is not to blame.?

    ?Good to hear you speak,? Kamick felt a lot better just hearing something from the Ubese. It made everything a little less desperate.

    ?Do you despise me policeman?? Xulin asked suddenly.

    ?What?? Kamick jolted back a step. ?Why would I do that??

    ?I am weak,? the Zeison Sha was merciless upon herself. ?I allowed Xerweg to bait me, I was ready to throw my way over the precipice of darkness, and merely to show my face I lose everything.? Xulin put her head in her hands. ?I could not even do it myself, I let that woman compel me.?

    ?Mistress,? Etch was clearly distressed, leaving the identifier off his address. ?It is not shaming to be tricked by a Hutt. He has had hundreds of year to practice it.?

    ?Etch's right,? Kamick echoed. ?He trapped us, it happens, you can't guess them all.? His mind flashed through the discovery of a certain Doomtreader. ?Besides, in the end you won.?

    ?How can you say that?? Xulin demanded.

    ?You didn't attack him,? Kamick told her. She looked up at him, the blankness of the mask accusing. ?Okay, so you had some help on that one, but you could have refused to listen to Ji, you could have smashed any of the three of us to pulp, but you didn't, and you know that's what he wanted.?

    ?I doubt Xerweg wanted me to kill him,? Xulin managed a bit of weak sarcasm.

    ?And I don't think, Zeison Sha powers or not, you had any chance to break through his security measures in a blind rage,? Kamick retorted. That was what you did when interrogating a dangerous subject, you made it look like you were vulnerable, but they never had any chanc
  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    interesting update learning more about the species in Wild Space.=D= and about Kamick
  17. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 10 ? Alternating Options

    Skip 1, Smuggler's Run
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    The markets of Skip 1 expanded in all directions around the group as they walked. Ji was grateful for the bustle. It took her focus off of memory of recent moments. I am all right, she had convinced herself, and was going on for now. Kamick had been correct, she could not be governed by past failures. There was nothing to gain from further reflection now. The choice had been made for her, now she could only continue.

    Xulin had already left them, leaving behind a small holodisk with instructions on finding Irina and a message for the Kratovas Zeison Sha when they encountered her. Ji had let the deputy handle the goodbyes. She knew she was not ready to face the Ubese, did not think she would ever be able to look on the face of what she had done. I will not come back here if I can avoid it, she resolved, though doubted it would be possible. Smuggler's Run held a central role in the Kalat Arm, the gateway to the rest of the galaxy, and the hub of the fringe.

    Drado paused in leading them to let a group of droids pushing heavily-laden repulsor platforms cross in front of them, and Ji caught Kamick looking at a nearby stall. Curious, her eyes followed his gaze. The rodian vendor was selling personal protection equipment, he had a variety of combat vests, boots, helmets, and so forth hanging from a chaotic display. Yet the item catching the deputy's eye was unusual. A rectangular plastoid block with a cut out panel on one side and a handle two-thirds of the way up. A shield, Ji realized, though it had been some time since she had seen one. They were not common devices in the military service, for carrying one prevented a soldier from using a rifle or other full-sized weapon. Ah, her mind filled in the gap. Policemen carry pistols and other small arms, so perhaps...

    ?You are interested?? She asked as she came up beside the deputy.

    ?I lost mine when they nabbed me,? Kamick muttered idly. ?I asked your guys about it afterward, but they must have junked it.? He sounded slightly wistful.

    Ji turned to vendor. ?How much for this shield??

    ?Eight-hundred credits,? the Rodian replied.

    ?A dubious figure,? Ji retorted. ?This device has been thoroughly scrubbed out. I suspect it was stolen from a law enforcement officer, and the condition is therefore questionable. Three-hundred.?

    ?My lady,? the rodian protested. ?We must all make a living, and these are dangerous times, the market for weapons is too good to consider such an offer. I must get at least six hundred.?

    Kamick watched this exchange in wide-eyed puzzlement, forcing Ji to stifle a grin. ?A living perhaps, but I see no reason to subsidize your boozing or your spice habit,? she cut into the merchant. ?However, given the market I could go to four-fifty.?


    ?Five hundred.?

    ?Done,? the rodian held out a long fingered hand. Ji took it and shook quickly. She would have liked to go lower, but the merchant was right. Fighting with the Empire drove up the price of everything. The noblewoman fished out a series of one hundred credit chips and passed them over.

    ?Here,? she grabbed the surprisingly heavily plastoid piece and passed it to Kamick.

    ?But, but-? the deputy protested. ?I cannot ask you to spend mission funds like that.?

    ?I did not,? Ji noted warmly, feeling much better for some reason. ?This is a personal gift, from me alone.?

    ?Oh,? he stammered. ?Well, thanks, I mean thanks a lot.?

    ?I owe you much,? Ji managed to admit evenly, though it was not easy to control her voice. ?And I think a functional gift is best.?

    Kamick smiled weakly, seemingly embarrassed. Ji guessed he thought it overly much, he was of humble origins, but she would not neglect his feelings for that reason alone.

    Drado spoke up, noting the path was now clear.

    ?Right, let's keep moving,? Ji agreed. They had much to do.

    Ji had identified several candidates for their potential expert searching Smuggler's Run's anarchic datanet. The first, an old Twi'Lek, had proven to be a s
  18. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Time for some bad guys

    Chapter 11 ? At the Edge

    Arcane Lash, Geosynchronous Orbit
    Kalat Arm
    Unknown Regions
    1 BBY

    ?Engineering estimates the maintenance to the portside turbolaser will be complete at 1900 standard captain,? the lieutenant pointed out sections on the diagnostic. ?With that complete we will have 100% combat capacity again.?

    ?About time,? Temel, noted. It had taken far too long, and he hated having his ship unready to give her best, regardless of the attack probability projections. ?Once the engineers are finished, I want all quadrant one personnel to battle stations. At 2000 we'll run a full fire-suppression drill.?

    ?Yes captain,? the lieutenant displayed no enthusiasm, drills meant extra work, and like seemingly everyone else on the ship, work was a low priority action.

    If you all weren't such laggards I wouldn't have to do so many drills, Temel thought bitterly. That would strain this poor old lady less, but I won't see her fall apart on my watch.

    ?Captain,? the communications and sensors ensign motioned from the other side of the bridge, a surprisingly spacious area in a legacy of Old Republic design. ?I have a live subspace call for you. It's eyes only.?

    Temel caught the slight eye-roll accompanying the last notice. In their isolated position secrecy had been pushed well past what the captain considered reasonable. Everything was eyes only these days. ?I'll take it in my cabin.? He stood up from the command chair.

    The captain's cabin was just off the bridge tower, another Old Republic design trait, so Temel didn't have far to walk. It was not a very spacious cabin, however. Damn clone-oriented designs. He thought every time. Like all Peltas, Arcane Lash had been designed expecting a Clone officer to command, and had spartan accommodations as a result. The current occupant would have preferred a more robust cabin in a different section of the ship. He hit the wallscreen and brought up the call, already sensing irritation build. There wasn't a long list of possible callers, and he had no real desire to speak to any of them.

    The screen revealed a many-scarred face dotted with horns and with wild red hair trailing in braids. ?Captain Balten,? Temel greeted the slaver, doing his best to prevent a disdainful lip curl. Scum, he thought.

    ?Captain Ruskar,? the slaver acknowledged with nowhere near the respect due an Imperial of Temel's rank. ?I have a problem.?

    You are a problem, Temel thought uncharitably. One best disposed of via a garbage masher. It wasn't that Balten was an alien, he'd served alongside plenty of aliens during the Clone Wars, they were usually decent enough. No, the captain disliked the Zygerrian purely for his arrogant airs and despicable practices. No respect, not even in consideration of what we're paying him. ?And what is that? You'd better not be wasting my time,? Temel had little doubt that was what was ultimately going to happen, but he'd take every opportunity to put the slaver in his place.

    ?I've lost a ship!? Balten protested, hissing in old anger. ?And over two hundred slaves!?

    Well, that's a blow to the schedule, Temel admitted, but his concern barely stirred. Let them lose the slaves, that's not my problem. ?One of your captains make a hyperspace error?? It was half-mocking, half-legitimate, for in the uncharted fringes of space it was by far the most common reason for a vessel to vanish.

    ?No! My men were attacked by the Discblade Alliance!? Balten did not deal well with being treated as unimportant, he was hissing and spitting with rage.

    Discblade Alliance? Temel's mind shifted. This could actually be serious. ?When and where??

    ?Five days ago, on Ablerin,? Balten's voice was well above normal volume, and Temel reached over and dialed down the sound on transmission.

    Ablerin? He thought. That's a pirate nest, a pustule in space. It lessened the captain's concern instantly to hear that. ?Infighting between you and the resistance is not a situation requiring my concern.?

    ?Ha, you'd think that wouldn't you?? Balten cursed. ?They didn'
  19. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006

    Things will get interesting
  20. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 12 ? Tundra Surge

    Rakjas Spaceport, Kratovas
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Is it always this cold on this planet? Kamick wondered as they slipped out of the docking bay. Cyc says its currently summer, but really? He'd known his homeworld was hot and dry, and even the artificial environments of Ablerin and Smuggler's Run had seemed cool, but this place was on a completely different scale. I may have to buy some warmer clothes.

    Ji, who had silenced customs by the expedient of a large denomination credit chit, seemed perfectly comfortable. The deputy had asked Cyc, who seemed to know almost everything, a bit about her homeworld, and supposedly Tianjiang was a place of deep canyons and howling winds, so perhaps this was within her range. Drado had been raised in the jungles of Indoumodo, but if the Kyuzo was bothered by the chill he gave no sign.

    ?Remain watchful,? Ji cautioned them as they walked out into the streets of the spaceport. ?We have passed through the key point of security, but there will be Imperial troops throughout the city.?
    No kidding, Kamick thought, looking to the west, where a massive structure towered over much of the city. Rakjas Spaceport was mostly built low, so the fortress, Firebase R-1, built by the Empire, was by far the highest structure in the area.

    The deputy had thought they might look out of place, but a quick look at the streets illuminated this mistake. ?Stang,? he breathed. ?So many people.? The sheer diversity of races could not match Smuggler's Run, but the numbers were a new experience. While the shadowport had been crowded and compact, there was a limit to how many beings could occupy any given space at one time. Rakjas sprawled, and it's people, whether residents or visitors, were everywhere.

    ?Local estimates place the population at roughly one point two million residents,? Cyc answered the unasked question. ?With at least one hundred thousand visitors at any given time.?

    One point two million? Kamick's eyes widened briefly. The entire population of Lavestral had been only four million. So many people live in this cold?

    ?What proportion of the total planetary populace is that?? He heard Ji ask the droid.

    ?Between two and three percent,? Cyc answered quickly. ?There is no census, but the Empire's aerial estimates are roughly in the fifty million range.?

    ?Fairly normal then,? the noblewoman acknowledged.

    Kamick did some quick math. Two percent? Had the spaceport on Lavestral been in that ratio? He thought it might have been.

    ?Xulin,? the deputy caught the slight hesitation in Ji's voice as she mentioned the name. ?Recommended seeking out a plastoid merchant named Lei'Nami. Cyc, can you pull the location from the datanet??

    ?The Rakjas Authority needs to do some serious data-scrubbing,? the droid complained. ?But yeah, I got it. It's on the eastern side of town, it's going to be a bit of a walk, and the Empire's got an advisory saying we should avoid a neighborhood called Whitelace.?

    This roused Kamick's curiosity. He knew all about neighborhoods where the law didn't go, but he wondered what the reason was here. ?Why's the Empire worried about that place??

    ?The city has several minority populations in concentration,? Cyc noted dryly. ?Whitelace is an Oram neighborhood, and it seems there have been incidents there.?

    ?The Oram are a Desga species are they not?? Ji remarked.

    Drado added in a quick comment. Kamick still had no way of understanding the Kyuzo, but he was getting an idea of tone. It had not been complementary.

    ?Arrogant and prissy?? Ji asked in surprise.

    ?A crude but not...inaccurate assessment,? Cyc offered, strangely without elaboration.

    ?Well, there is no point in waiting,? Ji noted. ?Lead the way.?

    As Cyc led them through the crowded streets, filled with citizens and droids going about everyday business, Kamick kept out a sharp eye. It did not take long to spot the Imperials.

    The deputy's limited experience with the Empire had led him to expect stormtroopers on the streetcorners, but there was no white armor in evi
  21. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    loved the intense action
  22. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 13 ? Chill Openings

    Whitelace Safehouse, Kratovas
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    As it turned out, the children were all Orams, a local school class seized by COMPNOR agents in an attempt to blackmail the civic leaders of the neighborhood, who had sons and daughters among them.

    ?Idiocy,? Kamick had heard Cyc's explanation. ?Among the Oram a child is not truly a person until they have passed through an exotic series of tests at age fifteen. It wouldn't have done anything but make them mad.?

    A local resistance group had broken them out, but they had missed a tracking device implanted on one of the kids by the Imperials. Ji had ordered everyone searched the moment they entered Whitelace, suspecting something of the kind, and Kamick had found it on the bottom of a little girl's shoe. Contrary to his expectations, she had thanked him formally as opposed to crying when he did it. It was all the reminder he needed that these were not humans, no matter how close their looks.

    The safehouse was a small honey processing facility run by an elderly Oram couple. It had an incredibly strong sugary smell, but was otherwise comfortable. Throughout the evening Kamick watched over the back door as they reunited the various children with their parents. Drado was perching on the rooftop, keeping an eye out for Imperials, while Ji spoke with several members of the local resistance cells.

    Lei'Nami was the last to leave. Apparently the Empire had enough trouble telling the Orams apart that the children could stay in the city, but the Twi'Lek woman who had displayed the courage to shelter them would have to travel elsewhere. She was to be smuggled out of the city aboard a cargo hovertruck, and then join one of the nomadic herding communities found across much of the planet's tundra.

    ?Are you going to be okay out there?? Kamick asked her. ?They say it's a hard life.?

    ?I've been a merchant all my life,? she told him, filled with joy. ?It was a decent life, but not satisfying. Today I learned what it means to be one of our warriors. Of course it was worth it.?

    ?Well...? he didn't quite get it. ?Be careful out there, and get a pair of good boots.? It was a perennial piece of outback wisdom, regardless of environment.

    ?Thanks,? she giggled, and surprised him with a quick kiss as she stepped out the door.

    ?Not bad deputy,? Cyc laughed at the quizzical expression Kamick knew he must be sporting. ?Though I think she's a little old for you.?

    ?Do I have to take that from a droid?? the deputy retorted.

    ?Would you rather from a woman?? Kamick recognized the voice, and spun around to see Irina, dusty and apparently exhausted, land in the alleyway.

    He rushed out, offering her a hand.

    She waved him away. ?I am fine, just tired. I have exerted much today.?

    Ji appeared in the doorway, noting the new arrival. ?Best to get inside,? she encouraged. ?There is no telling what eyes might be watching.?

    Irina nodded, and walked in before Kamick. He did not know quite what to make of her. She was not what Xulin had made him expect.

    Kamick closed the door behind them, and Ji motioned for Irina to take a chair. ?Our hosts have food available,? the noblewoman spoke deferentially. ?I'm sure you're hungry.?

    ?That would be nice,? Irina said with a smile. ?But nothing hot.?

    Kamick and Ji shared looks of puzzlement.

    ?Blue-caste Maskri don't eat heated food, and prefer all meals chilled,? Cyc explained from his perch against a nearby wall. ?The entire species has this strange fascination with temperature.?

    ?Why don't you go tell our hosts what is suitable then, Cyc,? Ji instructed.

    ?Of course, everybody makes the droid work,? the unit mumbled, but it was not an unfair assignment. His hull's a bit dinged up, Kamick knew. But he's way less tired than the rest of us. Droids required downtime, but they could go much further than flesh under most circumstances.

    ?It has been a long day,? Ji offered by way of excuse to Irina. ?But a fortuitous one in many ways it seems.?

    ?Yes,? the Zeison Sha agreed, sipping from a glass of
  23. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    great to see that Kamick becomes an apprentice. He is a nice character.
  24. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Chapter 14 ? The Long, Cold Ride

    Skirantalis, Kratovas
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    Kamick found the experience of riding a bantha rather disturbing. The creature's gait was solid and steady, covering ground well, but the massive body created a disconnect from the motion. The deputy felt he was on the galaxy's slowest, hairiest, and least stable landspeeder, not a living animal. ?This is going to take some getting used to,? he told Irina, riding behind him on the same beast.

    ?We will ride some and walk some,? the Maskri woman explained. ?It is best to walk in dry areas where the ground is solid, and let the banthas carry us through wetlands.?

    That made sense, Kamick had to admit. He'd never thought the tundra would be so wet. The bleak landscape, all muddy green and brown, with occasional flashes of color from clumps of flowers, stretched on forward. I can't believe you can see so far! Lavestral's lava flows made an open view of more than few kilometers a rarity, yet here the flat land stretched all the way to the horizon. It was amazing, and kind of disturbing.

    There were six banthas all together, carrying the group and their gear. Cyc rode the lead animal, looking incredibly awkward on its back. Despite this incongruity, the droid was fully capable of handling the animal, and had more experience in the saddle than the rest of them put together. Ji and Drado followed on the second in the team. The noblewoman had a modicum of riding experience, for herders raised banthas on Tianjiang as well, though not quite such shaggy specimens. She did not appear to much like it however, and had already begun to complain about hairs getting mixed into her own scalp. Kamick suspected Irina had some Zeison Sha trick to get around that problem, otherwise she would be suffering miserably. Drado, was, as usual, opaque as to his feelings. The deputy believed the Kyuzo preferred walking.

    Three pack animals brought up the rear, loaded down with the supplies necessary for a month in the wilderness. As the modest walls of Skirantalis retreated behind them, the reality of the sojourn began to settle upon Kamick. It was going to be a long journey indeed.

    ?What do you know of the Force?? Irina asked a moment later, signaling that training had truly begun.

    ?Not much,? Kamick felt only a little ashamed to admit that. ?It's how you do what you do, and that's about it.?

    ?The foolishness of the Empire,? the Zeison Sha remarked. ?Well, so be it. The Force is well, a force.? She began. ?Like gravity, it is an intrinsic part of the universe.?

    ?It didn't come up much during physics class,? the deputy noted.

    ?The Emperor wishes the knowledge of the Force to fade from the galaxy, so only he and his minions control it,? Irina answered with some bitterness. ?It is a mad dream, but many have been stunted by this. Had you been taught of the Force as a child, you might well have awakened to your abilities at a much younger age.? Irina took a careful breath and returned to her lecture. ?But the Force is not a sterile thing like gravity, it is connected to all life. Indeed, it is the Force that makes life possible. If there was no Force you could assemble a human but it would not live.?

    ?Okay,? Kamick could accept that, it made a certain kind of cosmic sense. Why shouldn't there be some aspect of reality that made life possible? It might have been strange otherwise.

    ?The Force is always present, always around us, an energy field overlapping the galaxy,? the Zeison Sha continued. ?It can be stronger or weaker in places, but it is always present. Like gravity the Force exerts a pull upon living creatures, especially those sensitive to it.?

    ?A pull? Like control?? That sounded ominous.

    ?Does the gravity of Kratovas control you?? Irina questioned. ?Few would say so, but its hold is firm and can be broken only with great energy. The pull of the Force is like that, it is attuned to life, so through it you are brought closer to events of significance to the living, particularly sentient beings, who concentrate the Force.?

    ?That's whe
  25. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Seeing as it is now the end of the month, and NaNoWriMo is over, I'm going to try and put the rest of this up in a hurry.

    Chapter 15 - Upwards

    Glacier Edge, Kratovas
    Kalat Arm
    Wild Space
    1 BBY

    ?So they are in there then?? Ji followed the guide's hand with her electrobinoculars. ?This isn't going to be easy.?

    The excavation was at the far end of a massive trench carved in a two kilometer high ice wall. Ji guessed the distance inward to be at least five kilometers. Five completely exposed kilometers.

    ?They blasted the way open with their great machines,? the guide, a local herder with strong anti-Imperial bonafides, noted. The man was not well educated, but he was observant and steady, and Ji trusted his observations.

    ?We'll never get in that way,? Ji shook her head. She could just barely see the tiny figures of people working from this distance. They seemed mostly to be hauling out rubble and dumping it in great slag piles. At least they are still excavating, the noblewoman took solace in that much. Whatever the Empire wanted here, they hadn't found it yet.

    Not that anyone could confirm an Imperial presence. The Coldiron Zygerrians were the only beings to be seen, them and their poor captives. They took all the meetings with outsiders, including supply vehicles, new slave shipments, and everything else. If the Empire is here they must be well out of view, Ji noted. She suspected a secret launch pad for shuttles somewhere back over the ice.

    ?Well, how are we going to get in?? Cyc asked from Ji's right. The droid was taking a heavy role in the observation, partly because he could sit endlessly on the frigid mud and not get frozen, and partly because Irina had co-opted Drado into her endless training exercises for Kamick.

    ?There must be hidden platform somewhere out over the ice,? Ji grumbled. ?If only we had an airspeeder that would be the best entry point.?

    ?Well we don't have an airspeeder, and I doubt our chances of sneaking up on something that heavily guarded over the top of the glacier. Thermal imaging will pin us down in an instant,? Cyc noted.

    ?Thermal...? Ji thought of something. ?Those ruins are inside ice aren't they? Shouldn't the excavation cause the glacier to collapse atop their heads??

    ?Actually, you can run a cold dig in this situation quite easily so long as you make certain to vent the heat through an out-gassing tunnel,? Cyc commented dryly.

    The two turned to each other. ?Out-gassing tunnel??

    ?It should be possible,? Cyc elaborated. ?The standard Imperial design specs are for something far larger than a human needs to fit through.?

    ?I know,? Ji acknowledged. ?Similar vents have been used by several Zeison Sha in commando attacks. The trick will be finding out where the egress point is. There is a lot of ice to search. An aerial photo would be perfect, I wonder if there's some way to get one.?

    ?The only major aerial surveys on this planet are Imperial,? Cyc commented dourly. ?And I don't have access, but maybe there's another way. Even with optimum heat channeling there would be spillover at the point the atmosphere mixes with the outflow. That should have created an outflow lake on the surface. Let me see...? The droid pulled out a datapad, searching through for a display. ?Got it!? he announced triumphantly.

    Ji looked as Cyc turned the datapad toward her. It displayed a false color image of blurry squares, but one was significantly darker than the other. ?Is this it?? she wasn't sure exactly what she was supposed to be seeing.

    ?This is data from an agricultural satellite, it monitors a number of different radiation effects all across the surface,? Cyc explained. ?It's designed to tell you when the shrubs are leafing out and such, but since water has a different reflectivity than ice, you can spot a lake this way.? The droid changed the image. ?Looks like our target is right here.? A large X appeared in the middle of a much more detailed topographic map of the quadrant.

    ?Hmm...? Ji studied the map closely. ?That's a few klicks in from the edge of the ice, bu
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