Title:The Crimson Man Timeframe:Eight years after RoTS Characters:Arjen Venice, Alchemist, Shanra Zima Eight years after RoTS A sleek, black vessel cut through the skies of Nal hutta, with an elegance, and speed of a Hawk Bat. A modified Baudo-Class star yacht, made in one of Medel Baudo’s shipyard.A customised freighter, equipped with powerful sublight engines, and hyperdrive, providing speed, and agility, few ships could rival.Normally, bringing such an expensive ship to a planet, ruled by the Hutt, would seem foolish, and reckless, but sometimes, one have to take such risks.Sometimes one have to take the direct approach, no matter how blunt it is. The vessel descended from the hazy, green skies, and slowed its speed as it closed to the surface.From its belly a shape of a man appeared, who seem to falling from the freighter.But the man wan not falling, more like levitating.Measured and graceful, the man landed in the muddy, sticking swamps.His stance was straight, and prideful, yet it projected a sense of vicious determination. The man -clad in a simple charcoal grey clothes- was tall, and athletically built.His eyes were grey, and piercing, like a blade.His hair was long, golden, kept in a ponytail.His face painted by a forever stern expression. On his right side, hanged a long, curved knife, a pair of grenades, and on his left dangled a weapon of a more civilized age. A lightsaber. The man was called Arjen Venice.The Scourge of Salusa IX. “I know you are here, Alchemist.I can sense your presence.”He thought. He took a deep breath from the nauseating air of Nal hutta, and closed his eyes.Then he opened his mind to the force, reaching out to the planet.He felt the currents of life swirling around him.Wild, primal, a life ruled by the basic instincts of beastly nature. An adequate place for the bloated and hedonistic kind of the Hutt. “Come, child!I’m waiting for you.”Arjen heard the booming voice in his head.At first he snapped out from the meditative state.He had to accept that the element of surprise has lost. But how?In a planet full of life, like this, makes it difficult to hear one’s presence in the force.Arjen knew that well, as he was an expert in the area of stealth.He calmed himself and opened his mind, yet again, reaching out with his consciousness.“Impressive, most impressive.How did you know?”He thought. “I have a certain level of omniscience.”The Alchemist responded.”Come, my presence will serve you as a beacon, through your journey.But, be careful.This place holds many dangers.”Then the voice disappeared from Arjen’s metaphorical ears. He stood there motionless, for a while, contemplating his next move. The Alchemist.A strange, twisted man, he met three years ago, on the planet Tekada.Where Arjen, and his companion investigated an ancient tomb of a now extinct civilization.A place was drenched in the intoxicating, aura of the Dark Side. In the belly of the dungeon, they found this man, who referred himself as Alchemist, while he conducted some kind of twisted ritual. When the man found out they were there, and he offered them to join him, or die. Arjen refused him, of course, and a fight ensued.The Alchemist wielded abhorrent arcane powers, and was able to subdue him.Fortunately his companion was a good shot, and took the crimson robed man’s left arm with her weapon. “This time I’ll bury you, for good.”Arjen thought, but there was no answer. He activated a small communication device, in his hand and, the azure blue hologram of a togrutan lady. “What’s your status.”She said. “I was right, he is here, he contacted me, through the force.” He felt the concern in her voice, though she hid it behind a frown look.”I should’ve gone with you, with a gun, a big one.Or a rocket launcher, or something.”She said. “Do not fear for me, this time I’m prepared!”He said pridefully, but then he changed to a more softer tone.”Lock on to my communicator, in case if I need an extraction.” “Roger, take care.”She said, and broke the the channel. Thus, Arjen begun his quest to find this man, called Alchemist.It’s been eight years since he felt that unmistakable rush in his blood, the thrill of the hunt.His vengeance will come soon enough, he knew, and when he’s done here, he can finally focus on a greater cause of retribution. As he spent the next two hours, walking in the swamps, his thoughts been clouded by the concerns of this particular mission.What he might face, is largely unknown for him, as his last encounter with the Alchemist have not went well. He spent the last eight years with rigorous training, in the arts of lightsaber combat, far surpassing his otherwise middling skills, he sported during the clone wars.Infiltrators like him didn’t needed too much skill with the weapon, as they operated, mostly out of sight. But since that dreadful day, when he’s been betrayed, when all of them had beem betrayed, a fire burned within him.The Flame or Retribution.A fire he did not felt before.Not before he lost his home, and brethren.He will deliver justice, he knew.But when and how was harder to ensure. But the source of his worry was different, this time. To put it bluntly, he have no idea what to expect.The Alchemist did not fought with lightsaber, when they met, instead, his enormous command of the force, fuelled by the dark side tainted tombs, were his main weapon. He wondered if the Alchemist used lightsaber, at all.Because if not, them why would he expose himself, in such a possibly disadvantageous position? Perhaps he has an advantage, Arjen do not know about.Perhaps some kind of power, he could not defend against. His line of thoughts stopped by the realization that he has been watched.Not by the Alchemist, that was different, but a number of beings, each had a similar frame as his.Six sentient beings, in thirty yards from his position.They were hiding well, amongst the lush fauna, but beyond them, he sensed something bigger. “Is there anyone there?”Arjen tried to imitate a voice of a weary, scarred traveler, though by his own admission, it was not particularly convincing. From the dark haze of the swamp, six man appeared on his flank. Arjen took a long glance on them, carefully examining them, from their race, and equipment to their stance, and walk. The one that looked like the leader was an human, with curly, black hair, wearing a chest plate, and a DL-44 heavy blaster.An iktotchi, in brown robes, with an A280C type blaster rifle.A large man in heavy armor, and helmet, with a C303 assault rifle, and a jetpack on his back.The rest looked like a fodder group of soldiers with ragtag armor, and cheap blasters. “Well, well look, what we have here?”Said the black haired man with a raspy voice, and wide grin. Arjen probed their emotions through the force, and sensed great confidence, and the faint sense of malice in the leader, and the large man.The Iktotchi, was more, clouded, though.“I could ask the same from you.”Arjen said, calmly. “I just wonder what does a poor, lost soul like you doing in a screwed up dung hole, like this?The man said, with a strange sense of glee.”Are you lost, my friend?” “No, not at all, I’m here to study the local flora, and fauna.This place have some extraordinary species, to populate by.”Arjen said. The man’s face was contorted by an overblown sign of surprise, but Arjen felt that behind the false expression, the sense of malevolence, has begun to boil up.”Oh… really?” “And why would a mud digger like you, need a lightsaber?”The man remarked. Arjen responded, with a faint smile.”I won it on pazaak, it’s quite useful, sometimes.I can cut roots, and branches in my way.” “Perhaps.”The man said.”Or perhaps you are a jedi, who try to trick our noble group of soldiers.”The man chuckled.”Don’t you think that’s possible?” Arjen begun to reach out with the force, on a wider scale, and sensed that primal presence, in the far.He felt that it was coming closer, slowly, but surely. “Is that why you are here, are you looking for a jedi?”Arjen asked. “I guess I am!”The man remarked with a beastly grin.The time of subtlety was over, it was obvious for Arjen.These were a group of bounty hunters, probably hunting for him, he guessed, and it seemed his was right. Arjen sensed the presence of the large being from behind of his would be advisories, it was close, close enough for him to finally identify it.To feel its hunger, and thrill, and the knowledge pleased him. “Is that why do have the Iktotchi?”Arjen asked, with a much more colder, and stern voice. “Yes.”The man remarked.”He will sense if you try to use your tricks on us, and warn us, or even prevent it, and we have enough firepower to put you down.Don’t think you would be the first jedi we wreck.We have all the tools, we need.”He said, unconvincingly. Arjen and begun to drawn on the force.Steeling his muscles, and preparing for the incoming fight.Then he spoke with a faked sense of defeat, so obvious no one would buy it, but that wasn’t the point.”Well, I guess I’ve been defeated, then.” The leader, flanked by his companion, responded with a suspicious look.”Yeah, you are.”He said. Then, Arjen continued with an oddly calm tone.”But before I surrender, tell me something!What does a snake looks like from the inside?” “I don’t know.”The man said, with suspicion.His soldiers slowly raised their guns at Arjen, who stood motionless in front of the firing line. Arjen smiled, mildly“Well… you are about to find out.” A giant snake like creature thundered from the waters, behind the bounty hunters.Its mouth filled with arm length teeth, snapped around leader, while its long, scaled and muscled tail, whipped and lashed around, wildly, amongst the rest, killing at least two of the soldiers, with its impact. Arjen ignited his sun-shining blade, in a reverse grip.He lashed out with the Force and pulled the iktotchi into his blade, before the alien could react.Then he simply threw the dead men aside, into the dirt, and threw his blade at the remaining soldier, quickly ending his life. The snake lashed at the large man in armor, but the man was quicker.He activated his jetpack, and rose above the incoming attack.His rifle spewed plasma at the snake’s scaled, pale green skin. The creature endured and lashed after him, yet again, mouth wide open, only to be greeted by a thermal grenade, down on its throat. The creature would’ve screamed in agony if it would’ve any voice chords left in it’s throat, instead it died in silence, with smoke rising from it’s mouth. The man looked at Arjen, and briefly hesitated.He was calculating if he should take the Jedi on his own.Unfortunately for him Arjen could not let any witness behind, especially a bounty hunter. The hunter probably came to the same realization and disagreed with the conclusion, which opinion he pressed by opening fire on him. Arjen advanced quickly, deflecting the thick rain of blaster fire aside, harmlessly.As he closed the distance, the bounty hunter ignited his jet pack to fly away, however he did not expected Arjen’s blade flying towards him.In the last second he dodged, awkwardly, but meanwhile he was able to throw another thermal grenade towards Arjen. Arjen had dash away from the explosion, which made him loose his telekinetic grip on his lightsaber.The weapon sniffed out and fell in the swamp, somewhere.Through the Force, Arjen could still sense its position, but had no time to reach after it. Instead he launched himself in the air, by the aid of the Force, and landed an elbow strike on the man’s helmeted face. Arjen landed on his feet, while the bounty hunter fell clumsily, in the swamp with a dirty splash.He spun and saw the man’s fingers running on his gauntlet. A small rocket has propelled from the backpack of the man.A projectile approaching fast, and Arjen knew he have no time to call his lightsaber into hand. Instead, he used the Force to seize the explosive in mid air, just half a meter from him.Then with the flick of his wrist, he turned the rocket around, and sent it back to his foe. The bounty hunter has become little more than a crimson cloud of blood, hovering over his torn limbs, internal organs, and charred bones. “You are fired!”Arjen said. The rest of his journey was in relative peace, he only had to evade a few reptalian and insect type creatures.Thanks to his skills in telepathy, he was able to compel said creatures to leave him alone. As he ventured forward, he felt the presence fading, with each step, thus he increased his pace, slightly, only to be disappointed by the complete absence of the Alchemist. At first he though, he fled, but quickly discarded the thought, instead he expected an ambush.There are certain techniques in the Force, one could use to suppress his or her presence to other force wielders.Techniques he too was though when the Order still existed. Arjen looked around in the swamp, but only saw the foggy, dark landscape and the vomit green skies. The momentary silence was broken by the harsh crackling of electric discharges.Arjen spun with blade ignited, and blocked the incoming blast with it. The white-blue jolts of lightning were pushed against his blade, swirling, and dancing on the energy blade.Behind the wall of destructive power, he saw the figure of the man he was looking for. A tall, balding man, in his middle ages, dressed in crimson robes, and on his left, a prosthetic arm, in replacement of his own.Shanra’s ‘gift’ from their last meeting. “Good, your skill did not dulled, since our last meeting.”The Alchemist extinguished the bolts of dark side energies. “Hmph… You are not particularly good at making traps.First those amateurish bounty hunters, now a sneak attack?I expected better than that.”Arjen said. “This is not a trap, but merely tests about your resolve, I knew they’ll be no match for you, and I expected you to defend against my attack.And you did not fail me.” “Your words are heartening.”Arjen said with sardonic hostility.”But on what purpose did you contacted me?I’ve spent eight months looking for you, old man, and now, three years later you simply show up, from nowhere.What is the meaning of this?” “This is an offer, an alliance based on our common ground.You and I can achieve great things if we work together.” “Is that so?Forgive me if I’m not naively devour your honey sweet words, as I have no reason to believe they aren’t poisoned.Who are you anyway?” “I told you once and I tell you the again, I am the Alchemist, the keeper of knowledge and secrets, and my words are purity.”The man said. “How profound.”Arjen said sardonically.”If so, then I’m curious what is your relationship with the Jedi and the Sith?Where do you stand? “Lets say I am a… curious observer, an outsider, Who… learns the lesson from the failure of others and serves the benefit of our kind.” “Our kind?!”Arjen spat. “Yes, force sensitive people, trapped in the triangular prison of Sith, Jedi, and mundanes.As much as I admire your former brethren for their unity and their knowledge, they made a fatal error by putting themselfs under the heels of the ignorant and unworthy.The Jedi could’ve… No, they should have rule the republic, and creating the utopia they strive for, instead they become subservient to mundane beings, inferior lifeforms, with worthless, miserable lives, and complete lack of understanding of the cosmos.The universe is shaped by people, like us.Not by them”The man said. “Then I guess you idolise the Sith for the ambition to power, I think I got my answer then.”Arjen said. “No, it is not that simple.Although the Sith realized the natural order of the cosmos, they eventually fell into the very thing that plagued the mundane people’s limited vision.Paranoia, jealousy, greed, infighting.Their destructive nature makes them pestilence, a plague that must be eradicated, and the Jedi must embrace… a larger view on the Force.If they are wise enough.” “Perhaps… Perhaps you just want to get rid of your competition.Now that the Jedi are nearly wiped out, you have greater chance in a bid for power.Tell me, who am I suppose to be in this ‘alliance’?A weapon, a tool you discard when the qoup de grace has be delivered to the Sith’s black heart?” “No!You and I can shape the universe, with the right step, the right move.Don’t limit yourself by the title of Jedi, you survived Order 66 for a reason.Now you are free from rules!” “Oh… I’m sick your derivative drivel!So far I saw precious little reason to trust you, let alone join forces with you.What makes you batter than those heretical witches of Dathomir, or the Sith, What do you have that I would need?!” “Knowledge that far exceeds anything you ever learned in the Order, knowledge that I gladly share with you, if you willing to listen.But until them…”The Alchemist pulled out a lightsaber from the pocked of his robes.A weapon with a rare curved type of hilt.Then the man used the force and levitated it to Arjen.”Consider this as a gift, a sign of my good will.”Said, the crimson man. Arjen was suspicious at first, but in the end he took the weapon.He examined the hilt, carefully.The first thing he realized is how light and ergonomic it was.The middle section, and crystal chamber was covered by a smoothened bone piece, built flawlessly, into the metal alloy.The two end of the weapon was decorated by a pair of small hooks. Arjen activated the weapon, and from its emitter, he welcomed by a blood shining blade.”Not particularly my color.”He said.”Who is this blade belonged to?”. “This was a weapon of a long deceased Sith Lord, a souvenir of my.I have many more, if you interested.But before we depart, tell me.How did you survived, the Purge?”He asked. Arjen shrugged.”I got lucky.I was leading a small group of clones in the jungle of the planet Ragesh, then the order came and they turned against me.I’ve been injured but survived.That’s it.” “You are holding back something, an important detail perhaps.I can see it, in your face.” Arjen snarled in response, but for some reason he felt compelled to tell.At first he stopped himself to do so, perhaps the Alchemist is trying to subtly manipulate his emotions, but then thought that maybe he could use this as an opportunity.The first brick in the bridge between them.Perhaps he truly have knowledge that Arjen could use, and if not, then that bridge can lead him into a position where he could put a dagger in the crimson man’s back. “Very well.”He said.”When I was betrayed, I had to fight my own men, the same men who I kept alive through numerous mission.We were a strike team, a commando, working behind enemy lines, often without supply.I was loyal to them, but in the end it meant nothing.Then I felt an echo, like a scream, calling out for me.I spun around instinctively, with saber in my hand.I deflected a most of their shot, but a few slipped beneath my guard, then I fell, into the waterfall.The next thing I remembered that I was lying on a river shore, body soaked in pain.” The eyes of the crimson man has widened, and his mouth curled into an excited grin.”I see it now!”He said.”You have been risen from the graves of the clone wars, reborn from the ashes to become like an Angel of Retribution! “It was fate that made you survive, it was fate that led you to Tekada, and it was fate that led you to me!You have a lot to learn from me, my friend, come and together we’ll discover the full extent of your fate.”He said. Arjen was shocked disgusted by Alchemist’s words, and had only one response to him.”I spit on fate!” “We will see.”The man said.Then he did some strange gesture with his hands and disappeared in a globe of dark side energies. Arjen’s chin was dropped on the floor.Never in his life did he ever saw such power, there were legends that said teleportation is possible, but no one in the Order had the interest, nor the dare to research such knowledge.Now he knew he needs this man.