Force Unbridled

Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 11
Wherein the PCs meet with Tacker and fight the CIS

Reserved for Chapter 10: Spectres of the Past

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 10
Wherein the PCs visit Cybot Galactica and enter a Swoop race

Reserved for Chapter 9: Imperials need Clean Cootch

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Interlude: Force Explorer
Wherein the fate of a Jedi is explined

Reserved for Chronicles of the Gatekeeper: Force Explorer Interlude

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 9
Health Concerns

Kryze woke to a head full of pain. He had been sure he went light on the drinks, but the evidence suggested otherwise. Rising out of his bed; he was still getting used to the idea of not having a ‘bunk’, he found himself still in his armor from the night before. His head swam uncomfortably as he made his way to the door, whatever he had to drink the night prior was something he never wished to have again. With a calming breath and a quick moment to center through the Force, he rose to his full height and placed the helmet on his head. With a hiss of pressurization, the seals activated and he found himself once more in the artificial environment created by his helmets visor. Cameras placed around the crown of the helmet gave him an unprecedented field of view – nearly a 360 degree view, though it compressed and tapered around his peripheral vision.

Steeled and once more appearing cold and unfeeling, he hit the pressure plate on his door and waited as it slid open. The room beyond was dimly lit, all shades having been drawn, and cast the room in an amber glow as if eternally at sunset. The effect was so convincing that Kryze hit his chronometer just to verify it was still morning. He found Valan and Tomo up as well, and before too long Lil and Zikracicx ventured out of their respective rooms, and soon a conversation about who would be doing what began. D’Jrem stumbled out an hour into the conversation, shortly after it was concluded that Tomo and Zikracicx should be the ones to explore the Imperial Museum of History. Bail was down for the count it seemed, and with the upcoming meeting with Czerka Automaton, the group settled on D’Jrem and Lil giving the presentation with Valan as their bodyguard. Lil’s negotiation ability from being a smuggler enabled her to pitch the prospect of their business, despite her aversion to its nature. Kryze would stay at the hotel and secure Bail, mostly to make sure he wasn’t already dead more than the fear anyone would try and assault him. Additionally, it would look suspicious if they left one of the partners (and chief executive) unguarded. Decisions made and their course engaged, the group separated ways to go to their respective assignments.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tomo looked around once again as the Devaronian brought the speeder to a halt. His lack of discretion in his operation of the speeder was disconcerting, and bordering on nauseating. She silently thanked the gods of Cairanax that she was safely delivered to the surface once more. Zik, as she could scarcely conceive his actual name much less pronounce it, seemed completely comfortable with his piloting despite spending more time upside down and corkscrewing around than flying straight. Still, he had gotten them to their destination quickly and without incident, so in that he performed efficiently, if not perfectly.

She turned to regard the giant structure that was the Imperil Museum of History and frowned. The structure was ridiculously large, and it was draped in Imperial regalia. A sinking feeling began to overtake her as they moved to the entrance and saw the Stormtroopers standing vigil.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Valan opened the door for D’Jrem and Lil. He had been sitting with the driver, the same as the previous day, making small talk and finding out more about his background. He’d been a professional, ex-military like Valan. Though Valan didn’t relate his own military background, the fact seemed to pass unspoken between them, and the conversation flowed free and easy. Valan assumed their driver wanted as little to speak of his past as Valan did. They’d arrived at Czerka Automaton without incident, just as they had to Baktoid the day prior, and Valan was glad for it. This mess began with enough gunplay for him for a while, and he sincerely hoped things went well with Bail and D’Jrem’s startup idea. The Temple desperately needed the funds to keep going and act as a base of operations. Lil stepped out of the speeder and looked around, as if expecting to get jumped. Valan supposed it was her outlet for her discomfort – she was vocal about not being happy to present the business plan. With Bail still recovering from the previous nights’ enjoyment, however, there was no one else.

Once D’Jrem exited the speeder, the three moved to the lift opposite them. They were met Czerka security, and escorted to the meeting room. Stark, white lighting greeted them, and the meeting room looked more like a medical lab than a conference area. They were met by two members of Czerka; a head researcher and the Project Executive. They were odd titles for businessmen, and spoke to Czerka’s basis as a research and technology company, though everyone knew Czerka to be one of the oldest and most ruthless corporate entities in the galaxy. They had been for millennia, though the company had fallen on hard times since the rise of the Empire.

Lil stood and smiled at the group, introducing herself as Bail’s assistant. “Thank you all for your time today. In today’s galaxy, the reality of our hectic, star spanning schedules leaves little time to treat ourselves right. We eat poor food, hastily prepared, and often at odds with proper diet. We sleep only a few hours a day, staying up late to take care of errands we couldn’t get to during the business day, or caring for our loved ones before and after work. The stresses of surviving in today’s galaxy is even more pronounced on the singles – just as much work and half the manpower to complete it. It’s a wonder that we have time to take care of ourselves at all, leading to poor health from hasty nutrition, sleep deprivation, and stress. Today, we are going to talk to you about how we, along with your help, are going to help ease these issues. I present, D’Jrem Purt, President, and health expert.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zik was exhausted. The Museum was massive, but it was mostly empty space. They’d walked at least ten kilometers but they had hardly seen anything of use. Banners bearing the Imperial flag and murals of Clone Troopers cast as heroes in Clone Wars settings were everywhere, but there was nothing of the Jedi or Suljo Warde. Revisionist history wiped them clean, with the lineage of Clone Trooper to Stormtrooper documented in vivid detail, along with the ascension of Palpatine from Defense Councilor to Chancellor to Emperor. Zik’s legs were burning by the end of their walk, and he wondered now if perhaps skipping out on the calisthenics everyday was a wise idea.

For her part, Tomo looked like it was nothing at all. Even now, she held the same pace she had at the start; that of a dreadnaught that would never stop. Like an HK unit chasing its prey, she took one step after another, too fast for a casual walk, too slow for anything other than an ominous trudge. Her scowl at the Imperial iconography was ever-present, though Zik wondered for a moment if that wasn’t from the dress that Lil had made her wear for her public appearance.

As they concluded their tour and walked down the stairs in front of the museum, Zik was left with more questions than answers. The sites that were in the murals weren’t those of Jorra city, instead, those sections where the fighting actually took place (and most of the Separatist and Republic personnel were living) are now quarantined areas on the outskirts of the current city. With all the revisionist history going on in the museum, Zik had quickly developed the impression that it was here they needed to explore.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lil exited the lift as quickly as she could, stomach still a little upset from the sales pitch she just had to make. The fact that the meeting went well was little concern; if the business venture went forward, she would be complicit in something she was disgusted by, if the venture failed, the Dawn Temple might go under. It was the worst kind of situation to be in. She spent most of the ride back to the hotel in silence, and her journey from the car to the suite was zombie-like. The suite doors opened to find Zek and Tomo relating their trip to the museum to Kryze and Bail.

“The only lead we even sort of got,” the Devaronian was saying, “was a reference to the quarantine section.”

Valan tilted his head, “Quarantine Section?”

Zik nodded, “Apparently, the current Jorra city isn’t the original. Up until the end of the Clone Wars, Jorra was just outside the current city. The battles were so intense, that most of the old city was demolished and left for ruin. It seems that it was deemed cheaper by the Empire to build the new Jorra than it was to rebuild the old. It also allowed for a bit of ‘revisionist history.’”

Tomo continued, her grip on her honor blade tight, “The poor amongst the populace didn’t have the money the move into the new city, and were forced to stay behind, allowing the Empire to rebuild the Jorra in whatever image it desired.” Her lips pursed tightly and she continued through clenched teeth, “Those survivors and their children now live in the ruins of the old city, fending for their existence every day. Thanks to the weaponry used in the fighting, most of them suffer the long term effects of the battle even today. They’ve gathered as close to the city as possible to stay out of the quarantine zone, but they still live in ruins.”

“So what’s our play?” Valan looked at the others. It’s true the situation of the people was sad, but the truth of the matter was they weren’t significantly closer to finding Suljo Warde and the holocron shard than they were when they got here.

Kryze considered it for a moment and then stood, looking to Zik. “How handy with a speeder are you?”

Zik blinked and Tomo blanched, but quickly he replied, “I’m a pretty good pilot.”

Nodding, Kryze continued. “No one watching the building has seen me or Bail all day. Anyone following Zik will only know he went to the museum with Tomo then returned here. He’s currently in no way associated with PBJ. Thanks to the civilian garb that Tomo used, anyone watching will most likely assume it was her day off. That being said, Zik and I can sneak out and test the Quarantine Zone’s countermeasures. If they prove solid, we can return, if they’re lax, we’ll set up an easy entry point for later excursions and come back to get the rest of you.”

“I’m decent with a speeder, I can go too.” Valan challenged.

Kryze shook his head, “No, a small group has a better chance. The only reason I’m taking the padawan is I want to test him. I don’t want the risk of a third clouding that.” To this, Valan backed down, while Zik appeared to pale significantly.

“What about the rest of us?” Tomo inquired.

“I think heading into check on the survivors would be a good thing. It would give us a chance to talk to them and find out what really happened, since the museum isn’t shedding any light on things.” Kryze moved to the door with Zik. “When we’re finished, we can meet up back here.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 8
Chapter 7: Droidekas and Rumdrums

The group watched as Zikracicx worked out the last few computations. A bead of sweat formed on his brow as he worked the navicomputer and adjusted vectors here and there. Lil had, as an exercise, told him to calculate the jump to Cato Neimoidia. HK had previously calculated it, and she was interested in seeing how the young Devaronian stacked up to the droids jump time. For his part, Zikracicx (whom they had taken to calling ‘Zik’) never claimed to be the best, but he did say he was a pretty good pilot. Lil wanted to see how good he really was.

The group had sorted their cover story, and worked with V’Brel to set up an official incorporation record with BoSS (the Bureau of Ships and Services) to officially register the company. He then set about creating pamphlets and brochures to send to investors while we went to Cato Neimoidia to speak to the droid industry moguls about a partnership. The cover story was solid, and actually had the chance of being a legitimate side business to launder money through for the Dawn Temple, a side benefit to be sure.

As Zik finished his calculations, he sat up and looked at Lil, “Calculations are for a travel time of 471 hours.”

Lil regarded the data and compared it to HK’s. Zik had taken a route that was inferior by about 20 hours, but still, he had shaved over 12 off of the standard recommended travel time. “Good work, not perfect, but acceptable.” Kryze watched as Zik sunk into his chair, though he couldn’t tell if it was from relief or disappointment. He decided it was probably a little bit of both and left the cockpit to the smuggler and Devaronian.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

They had landed on Cato Neimoidia to little fanfare, having chosen a small spaceport in Jorra city and arranged for a speeder to their hotel. Kryze was nervous as they passed security, if his modifications to Bail and Lil’s lightsabers were off they were all in a lot of trouble, but everything had gone smoothly. The cab had dropped them off at a plush hotel that ascended farther into the sky than the clouds would allow them to see, and he was somewhat nervous to learn that their reservations were for the penthouse.

The room was a plush, extravagant affair, with gold silks covering everything and wine and snacks on every surface. Kryze had never personally seen so much finery, and it was a little intimidating. Bail looked right at home, moving about the suite as if he had always lived there, while the others wore expressions similar to his own. He wondered how the young Devaronian would react, he was still shutting down the ship and seeing to its repair and refueling before he would be joining the others.

The group relaxed and went over the last minute preparations for their meeting with the corporations. Valan, Tomo, and Kryze would act as security for Bail and D’Jrem, who were the executives of the company. Lil and Zikracicx were hired help – brought in to ferry them to and from their meeting with the three droid producers on Cato Neimoidia. The company name was decided by the duo, and much to the chagrin of everyone else was settled to be “Purt/Bail Joint Industries” or PBJ Industries for short. To make matters worse, when left to his own devices, V’Brel added his own touch to the promotional pamphlets to add the slogan “Sticky Sweet” to the corporate agenda, and agenda that Kryze had suggested as a joke but Bail and D’Jrem ran with. Kryze was convinced that they had doomed the venture, but somehow the pamphlets had investors pouring in.

The venture was so popular that all three of the droid manufacturers had responded to their meeting requests, and they had set up times on consecutive days with the groups. The first was Baktoid Industries, followed by Czerka Automaton the next day, and finally Cybot Galactica on the third. Lil would skip out on the Baktoid meeting and try and work her smuggling contacts to find out information regarding Suljo Warde with Tomo while the rest of them would work the distraction. On the following days, other people would hit locations relating to their specialties that might turn up leads, all while the rest focused on the cover story.

It was a good plan, one that impressed Kryze. Initially he was nervous working with the group, they seemed very rough around the edges, but after a choppy start on Arbooine, they seemed to be coming together and forming into a capable group. He almost regretted the fact he would have to leave them for the Containment Group when his assignment was done. He was a little relieved when they’d returned to the Dawn Temple after getting the first shard and found Val Isa’s holcron still compiling the data he needed. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was growing so attached to this crew, but despite himself, it was happening. He was snapped out of his fugue by Valan, “You ready, Kryze?” Nodding, he gathered his gear and moved to the exit. He gave Tomo and Lil a quick glance before leaving the room and moving to the lift down.

When they reached the bottom, Kryze moved from the lift and surveyed the parking deck before signaling the others to exit. He knew that the eyes and ears of either the corporations or the Empire, possibly both, would have them under surveillance, so it was imperative they behave according to their cover identities from the beginning. Waiting for them was the car they’d reserved – a large luxury airspeeder that probably cost more than Kryze’s entire arsenal. The money from the investors so far was significant, and more than enough to spend exorbitantly for a few days to prop up their cover. He found the chauffeur waiting by the airspeeder, and after a quick scan of his identity against a few databases, he cleared him to pilot and did a walk around with him to inspect the vehicle.

Everything checked out, and soon the group were on their way to Baktoid.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The doors of the lift opened to the top floor meeting room of Baktoid Industries, and Kryze found himself staring at a large durasteel table and glass walls. Three men, all dressed in business attire of some expense, sat at the end of the table opposite the elevator. As Kryze walked out of the lift, their faces went pale, and a fine sweat appeared on their brow. Their mood abated only slightly when Bail and D’Jrem emerged behind him to take seats at the table with a smile. As Valan moved into the room and stood to the side of Bail and D’Jrem, Kryze stood menacingly by the lift door, his EE-3 blaster carbine unslung but at rest.

“Welcome to Baktoid Industries,” one of the representatives croaked. “My name is Aren Khand, Chief Executive Officer in charge of New Projects. To my right is Garen Tibius, Chief Engineer, and Thren Bartind, our Chief Financial Officer.” He gestured to the two men with him and they nodded to the group in turn. “We understand you have an interest in our Droids?”

Bail looked to D’Jrem quickly before turning his gaze on the others and smiling. Kryze’s Omni3 scanner detected a fluctuation in the atmosphere matching the release of Bail pheromones. As a Falleen, he was capable of manipulating the moods of others through his pheromones, and from the looks of it, he was already increasing the level of interest in the project from the Baktoid reps. Bail waited patiently as his pheromones did their work, like a maestro manipulating the audience’s anticipation of the first note, then, when the mood was right, he spoke in that slow, relaxing drawl he had.

“Gentlemen, I’m happy to be here in front of you today. I’m sure you’ve seen some of our press releases by now,” he paused to see their reaction only briefly, but in that moment he caught the nods from his audience and smiled, “but the brochures and pamphlets only paint the broad strokes of the venture. I’m here to bring it to life for you. My name is Bail Whill, Co-Chair and President of PBJ Industries. With me is D’Jrem Purt, my partner and health expert. What we’re going to tell you about today is nothing less than the future of the galaxy!”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The driver pulled into the parking lot of the Dropview Catina and came to a stop. Shortly after the meeting concluded Lil had called and said she had made initial in-roads with the local underworld but a meeting wouldn’t occur until later. With the overwhelming success of their pitch to Baktoid still fresh, Bail insisted they all meet up at the catina Lil and Tomo were at for some celebrating, and so, after stopping by the ship to grab Zikracicx, they had made their way here.

As the group walked inside, Kryze immediately had a sinking feeling. The cantina was decked out in Clone Wars memorabilia, with old propaganda posters framed on the walls, and replicas of both CIS and Republic gear in display cases. An up-beat tune thrummed through the speakers in the walls, floor and ceiling, and the patrons chattered excitedly in a hundred voices about a hundred and one different topics.

The group found Lil and Tomo at a relatively private table at the back of the catina, sitting beneath a gaudy propaganda poster featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker leading a group of charging clones. Above them were the words, “We need you! Join the Grand Army of the Republic today and help us win the fight!” Lil was smiling brightly at Kryze, while Tomo wore the same stern scowl she adopted whenever Kryze did something to aggravate her.

As the group made it to the table, Valan stopped short. Zikracicx looked from Valan to the poster, and stopped as well, his mouth going wide. He turned from the poster and stared at Kryze, eyes wide and mouth agape, then back at the poster. Soon, the Devaronian’s head was on a swivel, moving from poster to Kryze, Kryze to poster and back. Shoulder slumping, Kryze took off his helmet. If he was going to have to deal with this now, he was sure as a Krayt’s bite going to have a stiff drink to help it along.

He brushed his neatly trimmed beard with his hand as he leaned back in the booth, blues eyes staring up to the poster that wore his own face, or at least one so close to his that it could have been his brother. Zikacricx finally couldn’t hold it in anymore and spoke, “Kryze, why are you on this poster from the Clone Wars?”

Valan titled his head, “You haven’t aged, if it is you, but I’m guessing there’s more to it than that?”

Kryze sighed as the waitress brought him his drink. He took as large a gulp of it as he was able, letting the acrid liquor burn its way down his gullet. When the waitress retreated far enough to not be in earshot, he sighed. “That is Obi-Wan Kenobi, not me. Obi-Wan is my father.”

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 7
Chapter 6: Zikracicx

“What in the thousand moons of Iego convinced you to think that you could train anyone?” Lil shouted. Tam stood motionless before her, a slight smile on his lips as the holographic form of the Gatekeepers stood alongside the group.

“Truthfully, my training as a Jedi was completed,” Tam began, “and since my return to the Dawn Temple, the rust of age has been falling quickly. While I’ve never had a padawan personally, I was a Jedi Knight. Moreover, I was my village’s elder for three decades. Teaching and advising others is something I’ve become quite adept at.”

“So you took it upon yourself to get a teenaged devaronian killed by an oppressive government that is hunting for anything even remotely glow-stick wizard like?” Lil retorted. “The second you deluded that boy to think of himself as a Jedi you slapped a giant bounty on his head and sent every blood thirsty killer like Kryze after him!”

Kryze tilted his head and looked at Lil, betrayed. “Hey, friendly fire! I’m on your side on this one.”

Lil threw a withering look to him, “Then play the murder hobo and execute this crazy old man,” pointing at Tam, “he’s obviously senile.”

Kryze held up his hands and sighed, “Look, I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of Tam training anyone, but he is the only here aside from the holocrons who’s qualified.”

Tam nodded, “I have been relying heavily on the wisdom of the holocrons as well. They are quite versed in the teaching methodologies employed by the Temple on Coruscant.”

The Warden nodded, “The Dawn Temple was required to be fully capable of training Jedi for the purposes of mental and physical therapy. An added benefit of this was the fact that, in a worst case scenario, the Dawn Temple could act as a training Temple should something happen to the one on Coruscant.”

Tam placed a calming hand on Lil’s shoulder, “I’m not doing this for any reason other than the need to teach the boy to control his powers responsibly. He used the Force to find this place, and, given time and no supervision, he would surely become a powerful force for evil. I’m trying to show him a different way.”

Lil looked at him dubiously. “Fine, then I suggest we take him along with us, get an understanding of his training and powers ourselves.” She stepped forward and challenged Tam, “then we can decide as a group what we should do with him.” She looked at the Devaronian. While much younger, his coloring was the same as Malefax’s, and the memory of her fight with him came back abruptly. “How do we know this isn’t some trick of Malefax’s?”

Tomo looked at her confused, “Because HK put a blaster bolt into his forehead and killed him.”

Lil threw up her hands in frustration, looking at the ghostly Val Isa that still haunted her, “Like that ever stopped glow stick wizards before!”

Tomo regarded her friend with a mixture of confusion and worry, fearing that Lil had finally snapped. “Death usually stops anything.”

Lil laughed and decided it would be in her best interests if she let it go, “If you only knew.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It was mutually decided that Zikracicx accompanying the group on their quest for Suljo Warde would be a good idea. It would give Tam an opportunity to continue repairing the Temple in preparation for the next phase of training, it would give the group time to assess Zikracicx, and it would give Zikracicx a chance to put his training to practical use in the field away from his master, a test of his training.

Suljo Warde’s holocron, once the shard from Marcolf’s necklace had been added, revealed that Warde left Marcolf behind on Arbooine because he was called to the greater conflict in the Clone Wars. Leaving Arbooine for Cato Neimodia, a vital seat of power for the Trade Federation and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, he was joined by two other Jedi Knights to assist in the battle of the capital city of Jorra. Initially led by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, the duo were forced to return to Coruscant after the initial battle in orbit was won. This left the actual siege and ground battle to the replacement Generals, Warde, an Ithorian named Kaddo Moll and a Twi’lek by the name of Jiv Durael. While they were successful in this endeavor, Warde’s holocron knew no more about what had transpired there than to know the next shard of the holocron was there.

“Cato Nemoidia isn’t like the other worlds we’ve been to,” Kryze sighed. “The Empire isn’t joking with security on the planet. It was homeworld to the Trade Federation, and one of the principle planets that seceded from the Republic to join the Confederacy of Independent Systems. It is home to Baktoid industries, the company that produced the droid armies of the CIS during the Clone Wars, and so the Imperial security and sanctions against the world are significant.”

Valan looked at the others, “We’re going to be under scrutiny every minute we’re there.”

Kryze nodded in agreement, “We can’t use the bounty hunting excuse on Cato Nemoidia, we’ll need a good alternative cover,” he stopped, then looked seriously to everyone, “And no lightsabers. Valan, Tomo and I are registered for them, but the rest of you will bring the Imperials on us within moments. The scanners planetside are highly sophisticated, so sneaking them in won’t work.”

Lil frowned and brought her hand to her chin, “how to the scanners work?”

“They monitor power signatures and use profiling to detect form and function, so they’ll find your lightsabers power cell and use it to track where you have it on your body,” Kryze replied.

Lil smiled, “What if we took the power cell out?”

Kryze shook his head, “Then you’d have to go through the lengthy process to rebuild it to get it working again. You might as well take the components with you and just make a new one planetside.”

Lil thought about it for a moment, then pulled out her lightsaber. “Not if we modified our lightsabers to disconnect them from the power supply. The power cell is housed in the lower part of the hilt, we could just make that section removable.” She looked at it one more time before holding it out to Kryze, “and by ‘we,’ of course, I mean ‘you’.”

Kryze shook his head. He didn’t like being cornered like this, but her reasoning was sound. He knew of at least one Jedi the Containment Group encountered that had made the same modification, he ran with the upstart Rebellion now under the name Kanan Jarus. He’d modified his lightsaber to allow for the detaching of the upper emitter housing. This severed the connection to the power cell, rendering it passive, and removed the crystal from the assembly. The net result was that the scanners wouldn’t detect anything amiss because the resulting hilt was little more than a tube with a battery in it. He took the lightsabers from those that were interested in having the modification done.

“That’s the lightsaber problem out of the way, but what about our cover story?” He said as he slid the small, cylindrical devices into his bag to work on later.

Lil shrugged, “We spent the money on the Bounty Hunting licenses, why can’t we pursue a bounty there?”

“Because Cato Nemoidia is a highly controlled planet. On a backwater, bounty hunters check in with the local governor’s office. Most of the time there’s nothing more than a garrison of troops there with at best a small time politician and at worst merely a commanding officer. In both cases, they typically are more frightened of the hunter than concerned with Imperial procedure.” Kryze explained, “They usually request you to keep the damage to a minimum and rush you out the door, thankful you didn’t disintegrate them.”

Lil raised an eyebrow, “Okay … and what’s different about Cato Neimodia?”

Kryze leveled his gaze on her, “on Cato Neimoidia, I’d be required to go to the Imperial Holding Facility,” he stopped and explained further, “that’s the polite name for an Imperial prison,” and then continued. “While I waited for an audience with the head of the Imperial Security Bureau on planet, Stormtroopers would go over every inch of my gear and my indenticard. They would trace my registrations back to check for outstanding warrants or infractions, then review the bounty case number I’m tracking. Once that was done, they would clear me to meet with the chief ISB agent on planet who would assess my reasons for being there and the intel I brought with me to determine the likelihood my quarry was there. If he was in agreement with my conclusions, he would then determine if the matter was better handled by Imperial forces or me. In the former case, I would be relegated to a “support capacity” while the ‘professionals’ took care of the target. In the case of the latter, I would be released with a certified warrant for the detainment and arrest of the target, with the expectation I would return him to the IHF for proper incarceration.”

Kryze let it all sink in, and when everyone (save for Valan’s) eyes had glazed over at the Imperial procedural red tape, he continued, “The situation is such a complete mess that most hunters don’t even bother declaring their purpose on those worlds and when hunting non-Imperial bounties you can’t even declare them legally. In either case, when you operate under the scanners, you are just as much an outlaw as your quarry. That’s why we’re considered scum by most Imperials to begin with.”

Lil shook her head to clear the fog, “Right, so bounty is a terrible idea. What else do we have?”

Bail thought for a moment, “I’m sure I could call some people and have a reason for being there.”

Lil typed into her datapad and brought up the holonet data log of the planet, “Its major exports are droids. In addition to Baktoid, Cybot Galactica and the automation division of Czerka are on the planet.”

Kryze found himself looking at the well-dressed falleen. He’d been complaining about the damage his lightsaber had endured on Arbooine the entire way home, and while his meeting with Lieutenant Devrays had put him in a good mood, it wasn’t so iron-clad as not have been brought down a peg by Bail. Of course, that may have been the pheromones manipulating him to fix it. Lil’s words, combined with unnecessarily extravagant robes he was wearing brought an idea to Kryze’s mind that just might work. “What about a startup?”

The others looked to him with equally quizzical expressions, but D’jrem was the first to speak up. “You mean a business? What kind of business would we be, Jedi Incorporated?”

Kryze frowned, it wasn’t that bad of an idea. “No, it would have to be something that would explain us coming to Cato Neimoidia, so something with Droids. Tomo, Valan and I can pass as the hired security detail, but it would need to be something the rest of you could carry off.”

Lil thought for a second, “well, the Corusca Gem is my ship, and since HK won’t be welcome there anymore, my cover can be I’m flying the VIP to the world with my Greenhorn.” She pointed at Zikracicx behind with her thumb.

Turning to D’Jrem and Bail, Kryze cringed as he as the only question he could, “So, what can the two of you consider being ‘experts’ in?”

In unison, they smiled inappropriately and responded, “Women.”

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 6
Chapter 5: Falling Stars

It was a matter of hours before they found themselves back in the meeting room with Pathran. Kryze had taken the time to head back to the Imperial barracks and speak with the lieutenant. He was concerned his initial impressions were off and that the Empire would quickly replace any provisional government the group might create in the absence of the Reeve, but the lieutenant was quick to confirm that the Empire didn’t care about the small world. So long as they obeyed Imperial doctrine, the Empire was content to pretend the backwater didn’t exist.

Armed with that, Kryze and the others were ready to deal with Pathran and his contemporary and create a stable, lasting government on Arbooine. The only hurdle was the people themselves. Pathran sat at the head of the table where he had previously sat, but now, opposite him, sat another Sathari. His plumage far more brown and dull than Pathran’s, this Sathari appeared to be far older, his clothing complicated and ostentatious. As the group arrived, Pathran and his counterpart stood and regarded the group.

“Welcome, my friends,” Pathran began, “this is Odir Tumris, he represents the other noble family of Quolas.” At this, Odir bowed, an action that appeared awkward due to his complicated clothing and robust plumage, but was accomplished with a grace that belied it to be a fluid and simple action.

“I am pleased to meet those who stand for the people of Quolas. As the rightful heir to the throne, I would like to formally welcome you to Quolas.” Odir spread his feathered arms wide in welcome as Pathran seethed from the other side of the table. A deep sinking feeling spread in Kryze’s gut as a squabbling of chirps and caws in the Sathari native language broke out between Odir and Pathran. The warriors accompanying each fluffed their feathers and waved menacingly at each other, while Lil brought her palm to her forehead.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The arguing had been going on for over an hour. Apparently, the two noble houses each had claim on the throne of Quolas, and each refuted the others claim as archaic and invalid. The noble family that previously occupied the throne was wiped out by the Reeve, and so no clear heir was actually apparent. This left the two remaining houses squabbling over ascendancy.

While the delegates were clucking and squawking, Lil and the others did their best to interject questions and request for clarification. In the end, the group resorted to speaking to each other over their sub-vocal mics. IT was then that an idea was hatched.

“Neither is ever going to accept the other’s rule,” Lil was lamenting. “Even if we could get one of them to agree to yield the throne to the other, the second a decree was made that struck the former the wrong way war would erupt.”

“I really don’t care as long as we get off this planet,” Valan sighed, “This cluster of rancors isn’t worth the headache.”

“You know, we could get both families to take the rulership,” Kryze interjected. “Odir Tumnas has a daughter, and marriage has always been a way to unite families in the interests of the throne.”

Lil looked to Kryze with a ray of hope, “You think it would work?”

“It’s the best alternative in the situation at hand,” he replied. The others nodded in agreement.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kryze adjusted the range-finder on his helmet once more. He stood staring intently at the mansion the Reeve used as his personal fortress. The suggestion of marriage was met with approval, though Pathran did his share of blushing at the idea, and once agreed the group had quickly moved to organize the Imperials and prep the assault. While Lieutenant Devrays’ Stormtroopers would face 7 to 1 odds, the training of the troops and the combat inexperience of the Reeve’s militia should see them through. The plan was for the troopers to set up their E-web and other assault gear at the front of the Reeve’s palace; a near kilometer long bridge that connected it to the main trunk of Quolas. Kryze and the others however, would use the jetpacks they had taken from the bounty hunters on the Silver Star to make their way to a rear atrium where they would breach and assault the Reeve in a flanking action.

It was this stretch that Kryze was now reviewing, the distance itself was significant, but not worrisome. The packs were capable of clearing the distance with little trouble, but he was concerned about the skill of the others to pilot them. While the travel was straight with no obstacles, the distance involved might give the Reeve’s forces time and opportunity to spot them, and if a firefight broke out mid-fight, he wasn’t sure the others would be capable of maneuvering safely through the blaster fire. It was an unlikely eventuality, even now he heard the blaster fire from the E-Web out front, and he hadn’t seen a spotter since the fighting started, but he warned the others of the possibility nonetheless.

They took flight as a group, Kryze in the lead and Valan in the rear, the duo being their most experienced pilots with jetpacks. The trails of flame shot out into the night as they arced from their landing towards the atrium of the Reeve’s estate. Kryze focused on his approach, and allowed the others to use the fires of his jetpacks thrusters to guide them in behind him. Over the comm, from somewhere behind him, he heard Bail curse.

“Pudu! I lost my lightsaber!” Bail cried, “It slipped from my belt and I couldn’t grab it!”

“We can pick it up after we assault the Reeve, use your blaster instead.” Kryze understood Bail’s nervousness fighting a Jedi without a lightsaber, but his reply to Bail was based on the simple fact that the weapon he dropped was probably in tiny little pieces on the forest floor. Even if they could find it, it was sure to be broken beyond any quick repairs even Kryze’s mechanical expertise could perform.

“Fine,” came the thick drawl that was the falleen’s accent, “but if anything grabs it in the meantime you owe me a replacement.”

Kryze landed pulled up his EE-3, sweeping the area for the Reeve’s men and securing the site until the others had finished their flight and landing. When Valan tapped him on the shoulder, the last to land, the pair moved into the hallway and began moving towards the interior of the mansion. The others followed suit, with Tomo as rearguard. Kryze caught the gleam of beskar iron and heard the sharp song of a blade being unsheathed as Tomo drew the Mandalorian warblade from its sheath. Tomo had taken to the weapon ever since finding it, and wore it alongside the honor blade of her people. The beskar iron would allow the blade to perform against a lightsaber, parrying without fear of being sundered, and Kryze found it satisfying that she would forsake her lightsaber for the ancient blade.

The plan was for them to move to the Reeve’s personal quarters and look for the holocron fragment they were here for, then once it was procured, move to the Reeve. This would allow them a mission success even if the Reeve managed to get away or force them to flee. To this end, the group moved quickly, the sounds of battle in the front echoing through the night. Kryze had the Imperial communications channel pulled up on his helmet, monitoring things as they worked. For all their training, the Stormtroopers appeared to be having trouble with the Reeve’s men. The tactics their opponents were using were extremely coordinated, as if they were some kind of hive-mind. Kryze immediately thought to the stories of the Jedi suing a battle meditation to allow their forces to coordinate at preternatural levels. He feared the Reeve was using them now, and voiced his concern to the others.

“There’s not a lot we can do about it now, Kryze,” Lil responded. “We have to trust the Stormtroopers to do their job.”

“If the Reeve is using a battle meditation, he’s probably doing it from a meeting room or his quarters,” Valan continued. “So our plan takes us right to one of those locations anyway.”

Kryze didn’t like it, the Stormtroopers were out there risking their lives because he asked them to be there. Their blood was on his hands, but he understood that greater things rested upon their success, and the lives of soldiers were committed to death in combat if necessary. The thing that bothered him about it the most, though, was that those soldiers were dying for a cause they didn’t believe in, or even know about.

As they reached the Reeve’s room, Lil and the others began searching for the kyber crystal shard. With each passing moment, another scream came over the comm as another Stormtrooper fell. Confused cries of battle erupted and with each voice cut from the communications net, Kryze’s sadness grew, until, as the number of places to search grew ever shorter with no sign of the shard, his guilt overwhelmed him.

“I can’t let another soul die while we do nothing,” he said. “I’m finding the Reeve, you keep looking.” He turned to go but found himself not alone, Tomo and Valan behind.

Valan turned over his shoulder and looked at Lil, Bail and D’Jrem. “You three keep looking, combat is what the three of us were trained for.”

Moving quickly down the hall, the trio came to a large, central chamber. In the middle of it stood Marcolf Reeve, monitoring a holographic display of the battle. He issued orders in a level, steely tone, and the native Sathari he commanded answered in frightening monotone acknowledgements. The confirmation of the Reeve’s use of the Force to command the troops seemed to make the loss of the Stormtroopers lives all the more tragic to Kryze. He couldn’t explain it, but it felt far more sinister, and dark, that the carnage was amplified by the use of the Force.

“Marcolf!” He shouted to the Mirialan, “Stand your forces down and surrender.”

The Reeve turned towards the voice, his expression one of thinly veiled contempt. “Who exactly do you think you are? I am Reeve of Quolas, and I’ll not suffer this attempt at a coup.”

Kryze leveled his gaze evenly, an effect only amplified by the Mandalorian battle armor’s T-visor. “We’re here to get the holocron of Suljo Warde. We don’t want trouble, but we’re not leaving without it.”

Rage washed over the Reeve’s face, “Suljo Warde? Suljo Warde left me here. He abandoned me! He was supposed to finish my training, but instead of mastery of the Force I inherited a pathetic race of birds!” He drew the weapon at his side and the blade erupted into a brilliant green light. “It was a mistake for you to come here. I alone am heir to Warde’s legacy, and it isn’t one I intend on yielding lightly!”

With that, he threw his hand out, sending Valan and Tomo flying from a push through the Force and lunged for Kryze, sword arcing up from his left hip. Kryze stepped quickly to the side and drew his lightsaber, feeling a calm overwhelm him as doubt to Warde’s complicity in the wrongdoing on Quolas finally washing clean from his spirits. The cyan blue hue of his lightsaber bathed the room in a soothing glow, as if washing it clean of the dark presence of Marcolf’s own saber. His father’s hilt rested comfortably in his hand once again, and Kryze could almost feel his father in moments like these, causing a wry smile to spread across his lips, hidden by his helmet.

Warde made a series of strikes at Kryze, but he calmly and easily parried each blow. He heard the ignition of a lightsaber, and the blue glow of the room went white as Valan’s yellow blade bathed the room in its light. Warde, now facing all three combatants, went on the defensive. As Valan struck surgically, Tomo unleashed a withering hail of attacks, and Kryze moved to defend the two from any counter assault the former padawan of Warde could muster.

Marcolf fought with a power that surged with Dark Side of the Force, enhancing his speed and agility to supernatural levels. Kryze could feel the Dark Side flowing off the Mirialan in waves of anger, confusion, rejection and hate. In his presence, one could almost feel the pain it caused him to be cast from Warde’s side, seemingly exiled to this distant, alien world. To have first been taken from his family to train as a Jedi, and then to be taken from his master to be abandoned and alone – the psychological damage the Reeve had endured could be felt so clearly that it seemed almost as Kryze’s own.

Despite the distraction of Marcolf’s anger, and his prowess with the blade he held, the Reeve was no match for the three warriors. As Lil and the others arrived at the door, blasters drawn, Kryze and his fellows had already backed the Reeve into a corner that he couldn’t escape from except through surrender. With a final roar of defiance, however, the Reeve showed his commitment to death as opposed to surrender, and struck a fierce blow at Tomo. Deftly stepping aside she delivered a riposte that first drove her own weapon deep into his abdomen, then quickly spun to bring the blade to the back of his neck, severing the head from the body.

“It’s his necklace,” Lil said. “We found a picture of him with Warde – Warde was wearing Marcolf’s amulet around his neck in it. That’s where he hid the kyber crystal.” She moved to the Reeve and clicked the amulet open, revealing a small crystal sliver inside. “There was never any option but to confront him.” Kryze’s heart fell as the sound of Devrays’ voice ordered a full retreat and wished him luck.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kryze sat in Lieutenant Devrays’ office, his helmet on the table in front of him. “How many men did you lose?”

Devrays filled the glass in front of him before refilling her own. He had shown her the imagery of the combat with Reeve They’d been drinking in silence for over an hour now, and she was beginning to wonder if the handsome bounty hunter was going to speak to her at all or if he was just here for the liquor. “Most of them. Three manning the E-web were the only ones to survive. The other nine were all killed in action or have succumb to the poison in those damn diiro.”

Kryze lowered his head, “I’m truly sorry, Lieutenant. If we’d been faster we could have spared your men. We proved to be too cautious it seems.” He took the Corellian whiskey in one gulp, the acrid sting of it a mirror to the pain of his guilt.

Devrays looked up and smiled, “Are you kidding? I took a single squad of ten men against a Jedi and his militia! Not only am I and those three troopers getting promotions, but the soldiers who died have guaranteed their families will have pensions for the rest of their lives.” She reached out and took his hand, staring into his eyes and trying to forget how inappropriate consorting with bounty hunter scum would be perceived. “By all rights, none of us should have survived, and the only reason we did was because of you.”

A blush came over Kryze as he realized just how close the lieutenant had gotten. “Well, I did have help from my tea-“ his words were cut off by the sudden application of the lieutenants lips to his own, and Kryze wondered if he would be in this position if she knew he was, himself, a Force user.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lil looked again at the bounty hunter. The trip back to Spintir had been a long one, and he hadn’t take off that helmet at all. Moreover, it was almost as if he was in a good mood for a change. It didn’t fit at all. They’d spent the night recovering in cantina while grumpy-gus went to check on the Imperials. When they called him to tell him that they were meeting with Pathran and the provisional government the next day, he said “No thanks,” and switched his comm off. Lil couldn’t blame him for that – the meeting was annoying as hell, but when he showed the next evening, he was all cheer and jokes.

As she set the automated landing sequence and brought the Crosuca Gem into the hangar, she could hear he was still cracking rude humor with Valan in the common area. Frustrated for reasons she didn’t quite understand, she powered the ship off and moved to the gang plank without a word to anyone.

When she finally stepped off of it at the bottom, she was met by a strange sight, causing her hand to reactively go to her blaster. There, waiting patiently in the hangar, was a devaronian youth, his black hair pulled back save for a single braid, the color in stark contrast to bright red skin. He smiled a sharp toothed grin and spoke, “Welcome to the Dawn Temple. I’m Zikracicx T’rimmok, padawan to Master Tam.”

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 5
Chapter 4: Battle Plans

Kryze sat down at the bar. The cantina wasn’t like the ones he was used to. It was clean, organized, and frequented by hat appeared to be the average members of the Arbooinian society. Even the drinks were strange, sweet-smelling affairs in clean glasses. He started at the drink for what seemed to be forever, uncomfortable enough in the strangely clean environment to not even remove his helmet. His gut was wrenching. He had played a gamble with the Lieutenant, but he now had to weigh the consequences. If the Reeve was a Jedi, and fallen, that was one thing – he’d never go down without a fight and the resulting death would remove a stain from the galaxy, but if was still true to the Code, then he had sold him to the Imperials, meaning he’d need Thrace, Kara, and the resources of the Containment Group to capture him and relocate him without the Imperials knowing. He couldn’t spend too much time thinking on it, however, as one by one, the others began filing in, first Valan and Bail, who shared a smug self-satisfaction, then later Lil and Tomo, freshly arrived from the Corusca Gem.

Valan recounted in some details the specifics of his encounter with the guards and the defamation of the temple. Apparently, the artisans were being forced to remove their own work, in order to make room to pay homage to the Reeve. It struck Kryze as the classic ploy of a tyrant – remove the true history of a people and insert your own version (conveniently making you a hero) for future generations to assume is fact. Within in a few generations, the true atrocities you committed are forgotten as history is rewritten. Valan and Bail took out the guards, freeing the artists and generally making the guards pay for their tyranny. Kryze wasn’t happy about it – getting involved in the affairs of the locals was a poor decision, and one he was certain would lead to more problems – but the worry in his gut lessened at hearing the Reeve wasn’t necessarily on the up and up. He couldn’t fault them for intervening, either. Ending any tyranny, even a small time despot like Marcolf, was worth the added headache and the natives didn’t seem very capable of defending themselves.

He excused himself from the story and moved to the bar, waving the female Arbooinian bartender over. “I’d like a round of drinks for the table over there,” he said, pointing to the group. The bartender nodded, and, after a brief look around, leaned in conspiratorially.

“Oh I know well who you are, hunter. Pathran wishes to meet with you. Wait for my signal, then follow me.” The avian looked into his visor, and nodded, as if looking for a confirmation Kryze understood the request. With a slight nod, he turned and went back to the table.

Sitting once more he shook his head and turned to the others, “Well, Valan, apparently your thrilling heroics have garnered some attention.” Kryze motioned to the bartender, who returned from the back room with a round of drinks. She moved gracefully over to their table and set the tray down.

“Pathran is ready to meet you. Follow me,” with that said, she turned and walked to a large sliding door at the edge of the room. A beautiful tapestry hung over it, depicting the tree of Quolas and winged warriors flying around the city, armed with the strange maces and fighting all manner of odd beasts. Sliding the door open slightly, she slipped inside and peeked back out, waving the group to follow. After a quick look to the others, Lil shrugged and moved to the still open doorway. Kryze and the others followed.

They proceeded into a passageway that seemed to descend deep into the tree itself. From the cobwebs and overgrowth, Kryze theorized it had been years since anyone came this way, maybe decades. The slope of the travel was decidedly down, indicating they were headed deep into the tree away from the canopy above. The trip seemed to take forever, though Kryze’s chronometer had only ticked off ten minutes of travel, most likely the spiraling route with no turns at all played a part in the deception.

When they ended their trip, they arrived in a large room that looked as though it was intended as a meeting hall, though it didn’t appear to have been used in the last hundred years or so. A large, wooden table dominated the center of the room, with a native Arbooinian sitting at the head of it. From the looks of him, Kryze guessed that he was still a youth, though to be honest, Kryze had trouble differentiating between the members of the avian species. He was far smaller than others he had seen, and his plumage looked to be brighter – it could be due to some hereditary trait, but Kryze suspected the plumage was representative of virility. He also noticed the presence of some down around the neck as well, and, when combined with the rest, led him to his opinion.

“Pathran, I assume,” Lil began, taking the seat across from the native, who nodded solemnly. Kryze stood behind her and slightly to the left, while Tomo and Valan sat on each side of her and the others filed in and found places around the table. The native that led them here moved to stand in the same orientation as Kryze, this time behind Pathran.

“We have seen and heard of your actions,” Pathran began, “and you have proved yourselves a friend of my people.”

Valan shook his head, “we only stopped some bullies, and we didn’t do it for your people. We did it because the action is a cowardly one.”

Pathran tilted his head, regarding the large human, “Whether you did it for my people or not, the act itself shows you to have a heroic heart. Quolas needs heroes, Arbooine needs heroes.”

Lil shifted uncomfortably, “I’m not sure that the term ‘hero’ suits us.”

Pathran held up a feathered hand, “It is the name of your true spirit. My people need your help. Reeve Marcolf exerts his will on us more and more every day, and we are quickly losing all that it means to be Arbooinian. The Reeve plans to make us his subjects, stripping us of our heritage and identity and replacing it with a history of his own choosing. Many amongst us have tried to stand against him, but have failed. The strongest among our warriors he lets live and turns them to serve him, the others, he makes examples of to frighten the rest of us. Our people need to be governed by ourselves, a Sathari people free and independent of outsiders.”

Valan coughed at the comment, shaking his head, “That isn’t going to happen. The Empire’s already here, and they don’t have a habit of allowing its charter worlds to do whatever they want. If the Reeve isn’t here, they’ll appoint a regional Governor who will be just as bad. I doubt they’ll let you govern yourselves.”

Lil thought about it a moment, “Well, Arbooine is really far out in the Rim, and there’s little actual military or industrial value. It’s not like the Empire makes Star Destroyers out of wood or anything. They might be too small to notice or care about.” She looked at Kryze, “You’ve met with them, how many Imperials are there here?”

“A squad, and they aren’t interested in the planet’s government,” Kryze replied, “they’re here looking for insurgents and Rebels. From the attitude of the commander, it’s a pudu assignment at that. She’ll be glad to be gone when it’s over.”

Lil thought for a moment, “Let’s say we do get rid of the Reeve, how are you going to govern yourselves? Who will rule? You?”

Pathran’s feathers ruffled at the statement, “I don’t want you to get rid of the Reeve! We just need to free ourselves! We need you to train our warriors, help in our strategies. Then, in a year or so, we will take our world for our own.”

Kryze felt his stomach knot at the idea of spending a year on this rock, then looked to the ‘bodyguard’ that stood by Pathran, “That’s one of your warriors?” Pathran nodded. Kryze regarded the warrior, who stood a little taller under his gaze. “What weapons do you plan on using against the Reeve?”

“Our Diiro will serve us in that capacity,” the warrior responded, drawing the strange mace-like wooden weapon Kryze had seen the natives carry.

The group exchanged nervous glances, and Valan snickered. Kryze shook his helmeted head as he clicked the speaker on his helmet on, “That’s not going to last a Devaronian second against the Reeve. He and his men are skilled combatants, you said yourself he took the best warriors amongst you and turned them against you. Even if you weren’t facing your old warriors, the Reeve is a combatant beyond your wildest dreams, he is capable of employing a weapon that will renders your diiro useless, and using skills that your troops will find overwhelming.” He noticed the warrior scoff at the comment, and Pathran himself flushed with anger.

“Our weapons are strong, and our warriors fierce, the Reeve …” Pathran began, but Kryze cut him off.

“Don’t, just don’t. You have no idea what awaits you if you face Reeve Marcolf, but we can give you a taste.” He looked to the others, and Valan stood up, Kryze nodded, “Valan here is an apprentice, not even properly trained like Marcolf was. Prove you can handle it.” Pathran looked to the warrior and nodded, prompting him to draw his diiro.

In response, Valan drew his lightsaber from his belt and ignited it. The room was bathed in a soft yellow glow as the brilliant weapon of light hummed in grim anticipation. The native warrior leapt at Valan, his diiro dripping venom from a recessed hollow in the tip of the spike topping the haft. With a simple flick of the wrist, Valan countered the incoming strike and sundered the weapon with the lethal edge of the lightsaber. The pieces of the diiro fell to the floor, leaving only the handle still gripped in the Sathari warrior’s hands, his beak open in shock and despair.

“That was my father’s diiro, and his father’s before that. It had served in every battle my people have ever recorded, and was my birthright …” the Sathari warrior stood staring at the broken diiro.

Kryze placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “I’ll repair it for you, but understand that what you face your people are not prepared to handle.”

Lil caught on his lead and continued, “We have the means to deal with Reeve, and the ability to do so quickly. We offer this, but only after we are sure you can establish a government once he’s gone. If you can’t then the Empire will surely sweep in and place another outsider in the Reeve’s place.”

Pathran looked to the humbled warrior and then to the outsiders, considering his options. A sour expression came over him as he continued, “I am not the only noble house in Quolas; there is another who need to be conferred with on this matter. We hadn’t yet begun conversations on what would be the new government as we had no immediate plans to depose the Reeve, but now … perhaps it is warranted.”

Lil smiled, “Great, you get a hold of the others and we’ll reconvene to discuss the plans for a transfer of power.” She stood and looked to the others before to gather their agreement before looking again the Pathran, “Until later then?”

Pathran stood and bowed, “Of course, I’ll signal you when things are ready.”

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 4
Chapter 3: Civil Disobedience

Kryze looked around the campsite. Bail and Valan were finishing off their breakfast in silence, while Bail was looking over his datapad. He brushed the sleep from his eyes and sat up. “Where are Lil and the others?”

Valan looked to him and tossed him a ration pack, “Good morning, sleepy head. They took Djrem’s new pet to the Crosuca Gem.”

“New pet,” Kryze asked, “I don’t recall passing a pet store on the way.”

“You don’t want to know,” Valan said, gathering his gear. “Anyway, we aren’t too far off now. Best we get moving.”

Kryze stared longingly at the ration pack, then nodded, taking the nutrient bar and putting the rest away for later. Within minutes, they were on their way through the thick forest again. It was only a few hours before the arrived at the foot of the massive tree city of Quolas. As they made their way along the spiraling bridge up into the limbs of the tree, Kryze noted the shadow of a creature the size of a man passing through the trees at regular intervals. Soon, it became clear there many of these creatures and not just one, the native inhabitants of Arbooine being native flyers.

When the ascension finally ended, the group found themselves in front of a large gate. Thick wooden columns were erected and bound to each other making an impressive barrier. While the structure wasn’t as solid as durasteel, it mattered little, as any materiel that an opponent could lug up into the tree wouldn’t pose significant risk to the sheer size of the wooden poles that formed the barrier even his lightsaber blade would only penetrate a third of the way into the smallest log at best. At almost a three kilometers into the air, and with more of the giant trees in every direction, the gates were outside the range of any close unit ground weaponry – no AT-AT barrage could target this height from angles afforded it to fire from, and an airstrike wasn’t possible due to the thick canopy protecting them from above. Kryze marveled at the defensibility, and wondered if the natives knew just how valuable their location was.

As they approached the gate, two natives appeared at the top, their plumage matching shades of white and rose. They called to the group to stop using a strangely accented basic, “Halt! What brings you to Quolas?”

Kryze raised his helmeted gaze to rest on the guard, allowing the light filtering through the canopy above to glint off it into the guard’s eyes before replying. The thick accented Mandalorian voice spoke out, “We’re serving an Imperial Bounty #75631. Stand aside or risk being charged with aiding and abetting.” It was a gamble, but the guards didn’t look like they were ready to tangle with bounty hunters.

The shocked look on their faces showed he had the desired effect. They quickly retreated into their post and soon the gates were being opened. Kryze looked to the others and nodded, and the three went inside.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As the group made their way through the wide, wooden streets of Quolas, Kryze noted the tendency for the inhabitants to fly more often than walk, making many routes through the city airborne ones. Homes build into the higher limbs provided protection from off-worlder attention, and added an aesthetic that Kryze had never seen before. His wonderings at the trees pulled his attention towards a towering mansion at the far end of the city. Attached to the main limbs of the city by an impossibly long bridge, the immense structure sat on a limb all of its own. The immediate thought Kryze had was how defensible the mansion was, unlike the rest of the homes and businesses in Quolas, this structure seemed designed around a strong perimeter and defense against outsiders. While the natives possessed their own ability to fly, outsiders would have limited options when assaulting the structure, and those limitations had visible counters worked into the design of the main structure itself.

As Kryze watched, a squad of Stormtroopers led by a young female officer made their way through the square heading away from the mansion and deeper into the tree. The officer in front had a look of apprehension to her, and if Kryze didn’t know better, he’d say almost fear. She looked cautiously around the square as she moved, noting Kryze and nodding curtly. Kryze scanned around himself – once again noting the benefits of his 360 degree heads up display. He saw Valan and Bail beside him, natives scurrying around on errands of unknown origins, but nothing that should have the officer nervous or apprehensive. The native Arbooinians certainly didn’t look like they were able to press together a competent military force, certainly nothing that would challenge Imperial troops, and there were no outsiders, so Kryze pegged the officer’s apprehension to be one of two sources; a fear of heights or the Reeve himself. Kryze shared his observations with Valan and Bail over the sub-coms, causing them to nod in agreement.

“I’m going to speak with the Imperials,” Kryze began, “After all, I’m operating under and Imperial Bounty. Protocol demands I check in, and it gives us the opportunity to find out a little more about what’s going on.”

Valan nodded as he spied something over Kryze’s shoulder, “Okay, then I’ll go and check out the local hall of records.” He pointed to a large structure that was worked into the main trunk of the tree they were in. It was labeled as such, and seemed to be a combination government office, library and museum all in one. “Maybe I can find something out about our dear Reeve.” Kryze nodded and headed off after the Imperials while Valan and Bail headed towards the Hall of Records.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kryze stood outside the Imperial “Garrison.” It certainly wasn’t what he had been expecting. Located in what he could best determine to be the “slum” of Quolas, it was a series of poorly constructed shanties on the farthest branches of the trees that held the city. In fact, the only reason he even knew he had found the Imperials was the presence of a few Aratech speeder bikes a biker scout working on their drives. He shook his head at the scout, partly in disgust, partly in sympathy, and went inside the main door.

Inside, he found the spartan conditions he expected, little in the way of sofas, merely chairs around a table and a small desk. Troopers stood around, cleaning gear, eating, and standing guard as necessary, though none of them looked overly worried about an attack.

“Who are you? What’s your business here?” one of the troopers challenged.

“My name is Kryze, of the Containment Group.” A trooper at the table inspecting his helmet’s mic went pale, and Kryze knew the desired effect was made. “Imperial Hunter registry #AA-25923. I’m operating a bounty in the area and have come to declare myself and my crew to the commanding officer.”

The trooper nodded and waved him towards a door in the rear of the shanty, which was, in fact a different shanty altogether, attached by a crude hallway of hastily erected durasteel panels. Kryze rapped on the door at the end of the hall, and was answered with a curt reply to step inside. As he opened the door, he saw the officer, sitting behind a small desk, staring at a group of papers and maps of the surrounding area. Her brunette hair was pulled into a bun behind her head and her green uniform matched her eyes. The green uniform and four bar rank insignia marked her as a Lieutenant in the Imperial Army. She looked up from her paperwork and jumped slightly at the sight of the Mandalorian. She swallowed heavily and her hand disappeared under the desk, presumably to a blaster. A small, morbid part of Kryze’s mind wondered if she had reason to fear a bounty hunter coming after her, but the rational part of him fought it down. Any sapient would be nervous with a Mandalorian at their door.

“My name is Kryze. I’m here to report my team operating in the area on an Imperial Bounty.”

A look of relief came over the lieutenant. She visibly relaxed and her hand came up to rest upon the table, “Very well. I’m glad to have you on planet. I’m Lieutenant Devrays, is there something the Empire can assist you with today?”

Kryze was a little taken aback at the statement. He’d dealt with a lot of Imperials in his time, and none of them were ever ‘glad’ to have him around. In fact, most considered him and other bounty hunters scum only slightly better than the pirates, smugglers, and rebels that they hunted. Kryze made a point of looking around the quarters, he didn’t need to of course, but he wanted the lieutenant to understand he was considering her surroundings, and remaining motionless while using his 360 degree perspective wasn’t going to convey that.

“Not so sure you have anything to give. You seem pretty boot-strap here, worse than a lot of small time bounty hunters I’ve seen.” Kryze made the statement in such as a way as to ensure it would sting the Imperial pride. “Perhaps there’s something my team can help you with?”

A look of curiosity came over the lieutenant. It had the edge of a gleam, the same kind of gleam a gundark gets when it sees a tasty nerf. “Who all, exactly, is on this ‘team’?”

“Myself, two rookie hunters, a wilderness scout, our pilot, and an Imperial advisor sent to make sure there are no ‘accidents’ when we bring in our prey.” Kryze noted how the breakdown sounded even more official than he had anticipated.

“A wilderness scout?” Devrays responded. “I take it you aren’t expecting to find your quarry in the city?” It was a leading question, one designed to get more information than its face value. Kryze weighed the options, then chose to play a gamble, as it seemed like Devrays knew more than she was letting on.

“You know who I am. You know what the Containment Group hunts.” Her eyes widened momentarily, a hungry look, the same one aspiring power brokers get when they see someone they can ride to the top.

“I wasn’t always on this backwater planet, you know. I know who you are.” She leaned back. “So let’s stop playing games. Why are you on Arbooine?”

“I have reason to believe there’s a Jedi here. The bounty I have vocally claimed to be hunting is a good reason to be here, but the real prey is a Jedi. If my intel is wrong, I get the bounty, if it’s right, I get a Jedi and a huge payday, and the bounty is a bonus. Either way, my expenses are paid.” Kryze hoped the lieutenant took the bait. Power players always started salivating when they heard about a possible Jedi.

“A Jedi here? What makes you believe one would be here?”

Kryze leveled the t-shaped visor at her, “The current Reeve of this city shares the name with the padawan of a Jedi named Suljo Warde. The padawan was mentioned in records to be Mirialan. While Warde fought and died in the Clone Wars, no record of his Padawan being deceased exists. I have reason to believe that the Reeve is that Padawan.”

She looked dubious, “It could be a coincidence. There are a lot of Mirialans in the universe.”

“In my line of work, coincidences like that don’t exist. An off-worlder comes to backwater world like this for only two reasons – either to disappear, or to find someone who has disappeared. I traced records of Suljo Warde to this planet during the Clone Wars, which means his padawan had knowledge of this planet. That provides opportunity and motive to be here. I had arrived expecting a hunt in the woods, which is why I brought the scout, I never imagined he would be sloppy enough to set him up as a ruler.”

The lieutenant seemed to mull over his words for a moment, then she relaxed visibly. Whatever he said, she believed it, and her attitude had shifted to match. “That explains your entourage, I had wondered why an Imperial advisor would be sent along for such a low level bounty as #75631, a Jedi however…” She shifted in her seat. “I’ll be honest with you, as you have been forthright with me. I’m here looking for a Rebel base.” She shook her head, “It’s more of a punishment assignment, I … disagreed … with a superior officer and it landed me in this remote hell hole. I had been convinced up until this point that the Rebel cell was a wild goose chase, but being part of a manhunt for a Jedi is just the kind of thing to get me off this world.”

Kryze smiled inside his helmet – he had her. “If the Reeve is a Jedi, his brashness in taking a leadership role may stem from his plans to begin forming a rebellious power here on Arbooine. It wouldn’t be hard to convince your superiors that he was the center of this Rebel ‘cell’ and his arrest stopped the establishment of a base proper. You’re mission would be a success and you would be responsible for a Jedi being brought to Imperial justice.”

She smiled, “Very well, you get the bounty reward for the Jedi, I get credit for finding him and calling you to assist my forces.” She looked sternly at him, “It is imperative that I be the one to have uncovered this operation, you understand. The monetary reward should be more than enough for you, but I need the credibility.”

Kryze nodded grimly, “As you wish.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bail and Valan walked towards the cantina where they had planned to meet Kryze. They had found some disturbing information about the city, and Arbooine itself. Apparently an artistic species, the native Arbooinians had beautiful artwork, carvings of amazingly intricate designs, which told of their world’s history. It even covered the arrival of Suljo Warde and Marcolf to the world. With Warde’s leaving, and his appointment of Marcolf as Reeve, things began to change. Reeve quickly became a tyrant, and the beauty and poetry of the carvings turned to factual chronologies and uninspired data. It was as if the very life and love of the natives drained the longer Reeve Marcolf was in charge, their works of art and carvings of detail becoming instead words and dates.

The two made their way through the streets when they heard shouting coming from a side street. Ducking a low hanging branch, they made their way to a small temple of some type. Exposed and open, the temple looked to be a series of panels in the midst of a terrarium that showed significant events of the Arbooinian past. Rising hundreds of meters into the sky, the panels seemed to be a record dating back to the earliest tales of the natives. A host of the avian natives were gathered in the garden, ranging amongst all ages, flanked by a six larger Arbooinians guards wearing combat gear and holding strange maces ending in what appeared to be a small, needle-like tip. The natives were shouting at the guards, incited by dozens of artisans who were busy in act of carving away one of the images. One of the guards, who appeared to be in charge, was raising his hands to speak to the group.

“These images are being remove to make way for representations of the Reeve’s many great deeds. Reeve Marcolf has decreed it alright for the removal in order to properly pay respect to his greatness,” the captain explained. “We are here to ensure the work is done to the Reeve’s satisfaction.”

Strange lilting boos erupted from some of the crowd, but when the guards looked as if they were going to confront the naysayers, the crowd quieted, cowed to little more than watching mournfully at the destruction of their history.

Valan’s hands clenched. The bullying of the guards irritated him for reasons he wasn’t really sure of. Even Bail seemed uncharacteristically sympathetic to the frail birdlike Arbooinians. Moving towards the guards, he drew himself to his full height. “What’s so great about the Reeve that he merits the destruction of his city’s past?”

The guards looked to the armored human and blanched, but the captain strode forward, “This is no business of yours, outsider.” With a menacing wave of his bludgeon, he signaled for Valan to move along. For a moment, Valan considered it – this wasn’t really any matter of his, but as he looked around to the lost, and downtrodden faces around him, a great swell of injustice blossomed in his chest, and he found himself unholstering his blaster.

“I’m making it my business,” he said calmly, and fired a shot directly into the chest of the guard.

View
Gatekeeper's Legacy Part 3
Chapter 2: Arbooine

Lil looked to the others impatiently. “Look, Kryze is finally here, it’s time to crack this glowie open and see what new form of Jedi hell we got ourselves into.”

Kryze looked disarmingly at the others. The Pathfinder starship that the Nova Suns had was a poor choice for a pursuit ship, having only a Class 2 hyperdrive, but it was an excellent hunting craft, possessing a sensor suite with such range that they could monitor ships long before they had a chance to notice the small craft themselves. “It isn’t a fast ship,” he said through a thick Coruscanti accent. The Mandalorian accent that most people associated with him was in fact an artificial product of his helmet, now, after a long trip in hyperspace, he wore simple civilian clothing instead of the cumbersome Mandalorian battle armor.

“Whatever, who’s got the holocron?” Lil continued, quite clearly ignoring the Mandalorian.

Valan produced the holocron from one of the many pouches on his military fatigues and held it out for the others to inspect. As he did so, the holocron began to hum, the soft aqua light brightening as it rose a few centimeters off of his palm. As Valan lowered his hand, invisible seams in the cube appeared, and the whole structure shifted itself, corners spinning and center adjusting to realign into an octahedron. Emanating from the sphere came a humanoid figure, bathed in the same aqua light as the holocron. As the image finished materializing, a young human man, no more than twenty standard years greeted them, his hair just a shade darker than the Jedi robes he wore. He looked to his audience and nodded, a sincere, yet reserved smile on his lips.

“Greetings, students,” the hologram began, “I am Suljo Warde – well, his memory at least. I am the gatekeeper of this holocron, which Suljo Warde created to store his knowledge of the Force and the ways of the Jedi.”

Lil shook her head, “Great, another one. Why don’t we ever find holocrons of non-Jedi?”
Kryze shrugged, “I don’t think non-Jedi made holocrons, Lil, sorry.” To this, Lil just huffed and leaned against one of the pillars in the hall.

“Alright, then,” Lil conceded, “I guess you have some quest for us then, that’s the schtick if I remember correctly.”

The holocron stopped, and if Kryze didn’t know better he’d say the holocron actually blushed, but it was probably just a trick of the light. Coughing politely into its holographic hand, it continued, “Well, actually, this holocron is currently incomplete. If you were to recover the other three kyber crystals that house Warde’s knowledge of the Force, I can fulfill my purpose and pass on his wisdom to you.”

Laughing, Lil threw up her hands, “I knew it! So where are these kyber thingies?”

The flickering hologram nodded, “Suljo Warde completed the construction of this holocron while on the planet Arbooine. He entrusted one of the crystals to a young Force-sensitive Mirialan named Gel Marcolf. He saw great potential in Marcolf, whom he hoped would become his Padawan. Warde kept the other crystals with him, and where they are now, I cannot say. If you hope to learn the techniques I can teach by unlocking the full potential of this holocron, you must travel to Arbooine and retrace Master Warde’s own steps.”

Lil raised an eyebrow, “And what, precisely, are these ‘techniques’ you can teach?”

The hologram leveled his gaze on her, seeming as if to age, not so much in a physical way, as instead in a spiritual one, “Suljo Warde was known for many accomplishments and feats, both before and during the Clone Wars. His greatest contribution to the Jedi Order, however, was his refinement of the ability to predict the future. Although many Jedi are capable of foreseeing future events, Warde’s ability was different. Rather than focusing on visions of events yet to come, Warde perceived the future decisions, actions and intentions of another sentient. Not only could Warde see beyond lies and deceptions, he could predict another’s decisions long before that person even contemplated the matter.”

Lil’s eyes went wide. Kryze’s stomach dropped. Lil was the first to recover and put voice to the sense of dread they obviously both felt, “If the Emperor and his agents had access to such an ability …”

“An organized rebellion would be impossible,” Kryze finished.

“Should we destroy the holocron?” Valan asked. It was a fair question, after all, with the holocron destroyed no one could learn the power from anyone other than Warde. Though, that led to its own problem.

“What if Warde’s alive? We need to know where he went, and if he is still around, destroying the holocron wouldn’t stop the power from getting into the Emperor’s hands, only our own.” Lil had voiced the very thoughts that Kryze had, though there was the further problem of anyone (like Marcolf) that Warde may have taught the power to.

The hologram nodded, “He may still be alive, although it has been some time since I was created. The Clone Wars must surely have ended be now, correct?”

Lil did some quick math, “If he was in his early twenties during the Clone Wars, and they ended about fifteen years ago, then he’s barely forty now … he could easily have survived.”

“We have to follow Warde’s path to find out what happened to him,” Kryze responded, shaking his head. “If we’re lucky, we’ll find he passed away with the rest of the Order. If not, we need to ensure this power not fall into the hands of the Emperor.”

Lil snickered, “It was so great a power how come he didn’t see the Emperor screwing over the Republic to make his Empire to begin with?”

“He probably never used the power on the Supreme Chancellor, to be honest,” Kryze replied. “It’s not like he was a Jedi of great note. From the sounds of it his reputation was founded during the Clone Wars, when the Jedi were too busy to meet dignitaries and the Supreme Chancellor was busy with orchestrating the end of the Separatist threat. I get the feeling this is a ‘proactive’ power – it isn’t passive flashes of danger so much as a decision to chart the future of an individual. With the strain that foresight places on the user, I would imagine he only used it when he needed to – most likely in relation to the Separatist generals he faced on the field of battle.”

Lil nodded, “So where on Arbooine are we headed? A planet is pretty vague directions.”

The hologram of Warde flickered for a moment before replying, “Suljo Warde met Gel Marcolf when they were attacked by Separatist assassins on Eriadu, and he sensed that the young Mirialan was strong in the Force. He hoped to induct him into the Jedi Order and perhaps even take him on as a Padawan after the war. As of my creation, however, he had not yet explained this to Marcolf. He was not yet mature enough.” The hologram crossed his arms and gazed upwards, as if remembering, “Suljo Warde took Marcolf with him after Eriadu, when he was sent to Arbooine to set the groundwork for a Republic base. The area surrounding the town of Quolas was an ideal location. At the time, Republic intelligence indicated that Quolas was torn by a violent fued between two families, those of Helshar and Tumris. The Sathari of Quolas are fundamentally good people, but prone to long-held grudges. Warde brought Marcolf with him in the hopes that the young man might learn something about conflict resolution and the real responsibilities of a Jedi Knight.”

Lil looked to the others, “So the town of Quolas on Arbooine. Check. HK,” she looked to the droid, “can you plot us a quick jump to Arbooine? One that will put us on approach to Quolas?”

HK blinked his photo-receptors, “Affirmation; Of course I can, Master. May I assume this means I will not be left behind to protect the meatbags from the Basilisk?”

Lil smiled, “Sorry, murder-bot, no such luck. I need you here in case things go sideways with the pet of the ‘Lady Mandalore’ over there.” Lil caught Kryze blanch out of the corner of her eye and smiled deliciously.

HK noticeably slouched, “Acquiescence; Affirmative, Master. I will comply with your wishes, though my circuits and coils wear at the thought of my continued imprisonment in this Jedi infested structure.”

“We’ll need a reason to be there,” Kryze stated. “Imperials aren’t going to let us wander around armed, and we’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m safe as a Bounty Hunter, my weapons are all registered through the Guild, but the rest of you will need a cover.”

Valan looked at Kryze and nodded, “He’s right. Kryze, can you get me registered with Guild?”

Kryze thought about it for a moment. “Well, if we sell the Pathfinder we recovered from the mercenaries, it could cover the cost of registration and weapon permits for you and Tomo. You both look like the type to try their hand at bounty hunting, and you can handle yourselves, but keep in mind that getting registered means yearly fees and the occasional string in the form of up and comers trying to prove themselves by using you as a stepping stone.”

Valan nodded, “Right. Gotcha.” Looking to Tomo, who nodded in agreement, he turned back to Kryze, “We’re in though.”

Kryze shrugged, his sandy blond hair falling into his blue eyes, “Okay, I’ll set it up. That does bring up a good cover story though.” Tapping his datapad, he looked through some strange profiles, flipping from one picture to the next before finally stopping on one in specific. “Ahhh, Mr. 75631, wanted for smuggling. He operates out of a system close to Arbooine, it would seem reasonable that he choose to hide on a backwater low tech world until the heat cooled off. Nobody would question the logic of bounty hunters following a lead to there.” He turned to Lil, “And, if those bounty hunters didn’t fly alone, they’d need a pilot. Lil, that’s your reason for being there.”

He looked next to D’Jrem, “It being a backwater, and one that is low-tech, we’d need a wilderness guide. Especially if we believed he took to the wilds. You can play that part easily.” Finally, he looked to Bail. “Being an Imperial Bounty, the local Governor’s office would demand that an advisor be sent, especially if he were a political risk, I’ve had to work with them before. Smiling used-speeder salesmen always trying to make sure that the image of the Imperial they represented wasn’t damaged by the target or the hunters. You’ll be perfect.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The trip to Arbooine took hardly any time at all – HK had utilized a fortuitous opening of a local galactic phenomenon to shave a significant portion of their time off the journey. When Lil released the hyperdrive and settled back into realspace, the blue and green orb of Arbooine settled into the front viewport. A temperate world, white clouds swirled around the upper atmosphere as Lil nosed the Corusca Gem towards the planet’s surface.

As Lil flew low over the forest, her frustration grew. The trees below formed a thick canopy, preventing any chance of landing the large craft without significant risk to it. Lil frowned at the display, “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to land anywhere close to the city.”

Djrem nodded, “That’s okay, I should be able to guide us through the forest to where we’re going. Arbooine isn’t a significantly deadly planet, flora and fauna wise.”

Valan nodded, “I guess we’re hiking then.”

Lil looked over the scopes once more. “It seems like there’s a break in the canopy about 15 kilometers from the city. I can set up down, but we’re probably going to be camping out before we can get there.”

Djrem looked over her shoulder, “Well, I don’t see another option. We should be fine, though provided there is a trail we can find. With a little luck it should only be about 7 or 8 hours.”

Kryze looked over the distance on the scope and then looked at the forest that awaited them outside the canopy. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The hike was grueling. The uneven forest floor lacked any form of path or trail, so the group was forced to blaze a trail through the woods. The forest around them was ancient, with growth having accumulated unmolested for centuries. The flora surrounded them in hues of pink and purple, with a preponderance of flower species. The dirt was an odd color, being almost crimson in hue more than a brown. As they traveled, on many occasions their path became blocked by enormous trees, the base of which were often almost a kilometer in girth.

As Djrem led them ever onward, it was apparent that they weren’t going to make the city of Quolas by dark. Scouting a location to make camp, Djrem brought them into a natural shelter made by the roots of one the giant trees, which Djrem said the natives called ‘elrit.’ They assigned watches and settled in for the evening.

Djrem had offered to take last watch, and sat in front of the fire by himself. He had a full nights rest as he was asleep through the first two watches, and now sat having a small breakfast and a cup of caff. He wondered at the natural beauty of the planet, and was forced to admit that despite the difficulty of travel, he was a little taken with the world.
He had barely finished his caff when he noted that the forest had become uncomfortably quiet. Picking up his rifle, he scanned the outskirts of the forest around the camp looking for anything out of the ordinary. Though he couldn’t see anything, something definitely spooked the wildlife. He had just begun to scan up into the tree when the sound of leaves being smashed out of the way alerted him to a threat.

The large beast leapt down at him from the limbs above, its six legs launching it with frightening speed. As the beast leapt, Djrem saw that each of the limbs was equipped with fearsome claws, which had been sunken into the tree above, and now retracted into the toes of the limb as it leapt. Four eyes, shining blue from the reflected firelight in the camp, fixed on him as its mouth, filled with dagger like teeth, opened in anticipation of an easy meal. Four tusk-like protrusion radiated out from the things cheeks, and Djrem wasn’t sure if they were literal tusks or merely matted fur, as the beast had a great mane of crème fur that darkened to sienna the further from its face it grew. From snout to tail the beast was huge – the size of an airspeeder in length.

Djrem rolled back and, with only a moment to think, held out his hand. He reached out to the beast through the Force, reaching out through the mystical energy field to the beast. He felt the hunger of the animal, the excitement of its adrenaline fueled leap, the rush of air around it, lifting and moving its fur. The beast landed inches from him, but he held firm in his control, pushing into the creature’s mind, the confusion it possessed at being linked to him the curiosity of this prey’s strange reaction.

The bond created, Djrem thought to the beast, feeling his conversation more than thinking it. He communed with the thing, seeing its thoughts as well as feeling them. Through its eyes, he saw the avian natives of the planet, heard them shouting ‘bearsloth’ at it. He could feel the beast straining to leap forward, but he calmed his mind, and steeled himself, the effect on the bearsloth mimicking his own calm. Reaching slowly to the campfire, he lifted the rations he was eating for breakfast and offered them to the bearsloth, envisioning the taste and satisfaction of his earlier meal.

The bearsloth perked at the image and feelings. It move forward cautiously, sniffing at the rations. The smell matched Djrem’s memories of it, those memories themselves implanted in the bearsloth, making it more trusting of the offering. It tentatively opened its jaws to accept the food, which Djrem placed into its maw. It greedily devoured the food, which Djrem could tell through the link it enjoyed very much. AS the bearsloth finished the last of the food, Djrem could still feel the hunger in its belly, and through the link assured it that there was more back at the ship.

Now he just needed to figure out how to get it there.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.