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Author Topic: Interludes  (Read 31389 times)
Karmack
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Master of Ceremonies
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Force Alignment: 912
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Light side points please.


« Reply #390 on: December 10, 2018, 07:42:44 AM »

Jorya…dangerous paths she’s taking, good she relfected on what happened with Jennira…but to still go ahead…Take what you want and pay for it….but that’s twice now she’s done something like this…thrid time she might not get out so easily…

I like how in the ‘Abyss’ there was in the end only a kind of ‘need’ – like the need for something anything other than the absence which she is surrounded (if such can decirbe the absences of anything…) with.  If D’Alyanna is trapped in the Pyramid on Taris still…that will be a difficult return journey….and one you wouldn’t want to undertake till she actually knows what to do when she gets there…and I suspect at this point she has little to no clue…

And the Orb…at first we all thought it was of Aethan origin…but they don’t have a monoply on orbs…and this one seems a little to active and responsive to Jorya even through a Force vision/delve…sinsiter as it is suspenseful.

But I think we all know who the old man is….

“Despite a thick, white beard, the old man looked hardy and hale.”

Its SANTA!!!

LOL   Somehow I always knew Santa was a force user.  How else can you explain that once-a-year trip?  Elf?  C'mon...   ;-)

Dutchman, welcome back!  I hope you're well and truly on the mend my friend! 

I have to agree with LSG.  There's an element of this whole "Take what you want and pay for it." philosophy that Jorya doesn't seem to have completely grasped yet: You really need to be very sure you can afford the price before you take it.  Though I understand her desperation.

And that orb...      Yeah.  Not Aethan methinks. 
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #391 on: December 10, 2018, 02:44:55 PM »

LOL   Somehow I always knew Santa was a force user.  How else can you explain that once-a-year trip?  Elf?  C'mon...   ;-)

Dutchman, welcome back!  I hope you're well and truly on the mend my friend! 

I have to agree with LSG.  There's an element of this whole "Take what you want and pay for it." philosophy that Jorya doesn't seem to have completely grasped yet: You really need to be very sure you can afford the price before you take it.  Though I understand her desperation.

And that orb...      Yeah.  Not Aethan methinks. 

Yeah I think that is just her being younger and a bit more...eager and experimental - I think Jorya risks running up a credit card debt in paying for things...one day the payments come due yet what choice does she have given the situation

Yeah Not Aethan...I doubt anything they made would respond to outsiders that easily - after all in Schisms Kazic/Saani had to delve those little orbs pretty deep to get them to work as comms to Ari...and this orb and the obelisk etc. seem much more active than mere observation devices they might plant around the place.
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Taegin Roan
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Force Alignment: 1833
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Lord of the Force


« Reply #392 on: December 10, 2018, 05:35:11 PM »

Once again, TD shows off his storytelling skills. Of all of us writers here, I have to say, TD is the best at doing tie-ins.  Whether or not the orb is Aethan of origin or not, we will have to see, but I'm inclined to agree with you guys. Seems a bit too responsive to Jorya (although, who knows what was left in her mind when Black Armor delved her and Ken, possibly the orb senses a connection?). Anyways, great to see you back TD. Hope your healing goes well.
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"I am the Outcast's Shadow" - Taegin Roan
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TheDutchman
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« Reply #393 on: December 13, 2018, 10:01:51 AM »

Thanks guys for your kind words!  I AM getting better, if slowly  Tongue

About Jorya...let's just say that you guys are SPOT ON: Jorya's interpretation of what her Father's told her forgets the caveat of "be prepared to pay"  Again: nicely done  Wink

About the orb...it DOES have provenance and is NOT Aethan.  More later!

Anndddd now I've got that visual in my mind: Darth Santa!   Cheesy
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #394 on: June 20, 2019, 04:45:26 PM »

The Way it Wasn’t

An Alternate Future

Chapter 1 - Part 1

Hands grasped at anything that passed too closely near the pitted walls, degraded with semi luminescent fungi and the rot of humidity.

He kept to the dead centre of the broken ferrocrete, jagged weeds jutting out between the cracks, his eyes never stopping too long looking out for any threat…
No that was not right, everywhere was threat – simply looking for the next one to strike.
He could feel the eyes upon him, in the normal way, clean crisp and precise…and the hazy static sense that had taken much too long to develop and only provided the most vague of indications.
It was unusual for so well equipped a being to be in such a place…though ‘well equipped’ nowadays was wretched before…before….

His armour was functional if not clean, every edge covered in chinks as if some obsessive attempt at recording his kills – there had been many…but not enough…

The scrunch behind him and flitting shadows in the half collapsed walkways above indicated he would soon add a dozen more.

The first shots were aimed true at his back, but he easily avoided them, a single motion twisting to the side and raising his own blaster, punching a blazing red bolt into a silhouette above as his other hand hurled one of two daggers worn from over use but recently sharpened at least into the chest of the fist attacker.

What followed had been repeated a thousands times, the desperate and starving attacked, the strong and prepared killed them all.  He didn’t waste time, gripping their thrusting blades and ramming them into their allies chests, snatching thud bugs from the air and pushing them into eyes. In less than a minute six were dead, the rest fleeing. 

It would not do to let them escape.  Practised motions put his bow into his hand, arrow blasting off guided by the aether punched through five torso’s before teleporting to the quiver. He was already twenty metres from the other bodies as the last attacker breathed his last.

<Was that necessary?>
The question was as predictable as it was inevitable
“Answers the same” Valens replied, his ‘voice’ his thoughts for his companion could not ‘speak’ per se only think across the tentative connection in the song.

<So it is.> Odjina replied.

<<<<>>>>

The work camp was poorly guarded, only the warriors on the verge of being ‘shamed’ were assigned so far from the front lines.  Aether based techniques, Buried Presence, Twilight Shadow and the like were of no use against Vong, so he used more conventional means, a light absorbent cloak over his armour, using his superior dexterity and speed to conceal himself in the divots of malformed yorik corals, a small selection of stolen Vong creatures to detect anyone using a cloak of Nuun – but he doubted any would be so well equipped here.

He watched the ‘shifts’ change, the Warriors denied the chance to fight on the front lines taking out their frustrations on the slaves, killing a few of the weaker each shift…more where that came from – only a few cities were occupied in a meaningful way, the rest of the populace of Fytra, a dumpy forgotten world of the former Galactic Alliance, was left to eke out a living in the hive cities cut off from any help.

Like so many of those left behind, they were too weak and dispirited to the fight the Vong so fought themselves – and when the Vong needed more slaves they found willing sellers among those who sought to integrate themselves with the new Overlord. 

It was pointless, the Vong did not play by the rules of the Galaxy as it had been…Valens understood this for neither had his People…when he had a People still….

<She’s there,> Odjina noted taking Valens away from becoming mired in utter despair. He looked up from his crouch to see the somewhat familiar face he sought – he forgot still that outsiders aged, she was older now, face firmer set – he had never really known her back then…but now there was no one else. 

“Zhe told the truth…and still you killed zher,” Odjina noted regarding the source of the information for finding her.

<If she does help you, will you kill her after too?>

Valens didn’t supress the sneer at Odjina’s moralising – it was easy for him to say…

“If we succeed…we won’t need to…”

<Circles within spirals…I’m still not convinced…> Odjina noted seriously

“And I’m still waiting for a better plan.” Valens replied shifting out as the guards passed.

He moved deftly through the villip field, the bulbous leathery things growing in foetid mud…the terraforming was not going well here it seemed, the best planets were already near fully developed – Dantooine, Chandrilla, Dathomir…M’tzigon, the marginal ones were all that was left.

Sleeping quarters were rough, peppered with the huge lumbering Vong biots that spewed disgusting green gloop that was the only nutrition available to the slaves and provided reasonable cover.  Valens was confident he could dispatch the Vong force of thirty, but if possible he wanted to do this quietly.

Sneaking along he saw her stooping to offer comfort to a teenager, a zabrack by the looks, but the coral implants jutting from his face made it difficult to tell. Even in this she still seemed to have retained some of what Odjina would call ‘compassion’.

<Perhaps you could do with some?>

“Perhaps my People could’ve before the Devastation,” he snapped back ending any exchange before it began by referring to the holocaust of his own kind, Odjina knew better than to press on that topic.

He watched and waited as she attended to whom he could, healing flows in the aether little help but to diminish pain, they could not heal the hideous scarring of the biots.

Finally she headed to a small alcove beneath the husk of a Yorik-trema shot down when the planet was taken fifteen or more years ago.

Winding his way through the darkness, past the weary and crushed spirit he slid his hand over her mouth tightly

“Don’t scream or resist…I’m here to free you”

Here eyes widened with shock, yet this was soon dispelled to a mingling of fear and irritation as she sensed just what was upon her, marginally less horrific than he Vong.

Sensing she would not cause a fuss he released her mouth.

“I thought you were all dead?”

He didn’t reply

Sighing out knowing even now he wouldn’t be any more communicative Jorya relented “What do you want?”

<<<<>>>>

Something in him broke…
Just broke.
The love of his life, his wife, his friend, hiw universe spat out dark blood as the amphistaff pierced through her back out between the breast he had so often rested his head upon.

The battlefield dissolved into a red haze, the only object visible as the leering Vong yanking the staff out as D’Alyanna crumpled dead like so many bodies he had seen over the years.

His breath stopped in his lungs, tensed and held, he couldn’t, wouldn’t breath till as much blood now pooled around D’Alyanna’s increasingly pallid face was rent from the one who had killed her.

Someone…or something was between hem suddenly – ally or enemy Zearic didn’t care, unconscious effort put the Nocte and Tenebris through its torso as his sabre permafrost blue humming with the song Karmack had long ago enhanced it with sliced the head off.

The vigour of hate pushed him through the crowd till he was on the murder.

Then he broke him. 

It was messy and uncoordinated – the Vong was not without skill, and Zearic was sloppy, but he didn’t care, he took some blow but was soon ripping limbs off, grasping the lipless mouth open and pulling the jaw apart.

Other things began to strike him as his face twisted in grief laden glee at the warriors death spasms.

There were shouts, a voice he vaguely recognised called for ‘retreat’ snapping him out of the sea of Vong blood he wallowed in.

Zearic tried to stand but his left leg had been hit by something, the pain lost in the insensate rage.

“GO!” he boomed struggling up despite himself placing weary feet either side of his wife body.  He would not leave her.

Smoke and misty blood clouded about him as he heard the rear guard fire their last and the hum of engines powering up.  Out of the fog of war Voduun crab armoured figures approached.

They would break him in the end – or they believed they would but they could not harm him anymore, he had already died two minutes ago with D’Alyanna.


<<<<<>>>>

“We need to leave now,”

“Leave to where, the front?” she whispered quickly

“There is no front anymore….The GA broke and ran after the Third Battle of Sullust, Solo, Sovv, Pellaeon, Tenel Ka Djo, Antilles all dead…the only one I’m not sure of is Skywalker…”

“Ben?”

“Luke…the old man might’ve escaped…I tried finding him first but ran out of leads….”

“So I’m second choice,”

“No I need you specifically for…we don’t have time…”

Jorya’s mouth twitched annoyed

“Time is all I’ve had for three years….” The sting of betrayal rose again in the presence of the Aethan Demi-god, it hadn’t been that battle, nor the one before that…

<Pettiness does not become her…> Odjina noted not that Jorya could ever hear

“And death is all you’ll have if you stay here,” he pulled her up and reached round to his back pulling out the vile device that he had  to wipe out two patrols to get hold of.

“What is that?” Jorya asked disgusted still by the bio tech

“It will remove the slave seed…”

Jorya grimaced as the tactless Aethan pulled off her ragged shirt, hastily the tendrils of the control creature connected with Valens device.

A vicious stab filled her torso, a squelching squeal in her ears lost against the cries of others in the camp. Only belatedly did Valens remember outsiders experienced pain as a visceral sensation and clumsily tried to supress it.

Raw scars were left, they would have to be treated later.

“Here…” Valens shoved something else toward her…a sabre she recognised all too well ,that in a less stressful moment might’ve brought a tear.

“Move”

<<<<>>>>

The rumours were true.
More than true…worse than the most outlandish stories he had heard from refugees.

Trembling aged hands gripped a sabre older than any of the other Mak’Tor in the party as he felt the song begin to quiet in his mind and body. 

This is why…Chillum realised…this was why he felt such a strong urge to come here, why he had all but demanded Ken let him come…this was his time.

Around him crowds were screaming, the humid air full of sweat and dust as the Healers ushered the now homeless civilians onto the transports.

Maenowan Ken’in’ah Mack stood at the fore directing the operation, three squads of men at arms and seven knights in support of the healers.

Amidst the throng of barely clad civilians, clothing being much less on Gyas VI for the humidity was a ragtag group of non-humans in scored and battered armour.

“Friend Ken!” scarred and bleeding Gado called the insignia of the Sons of Kessel half scratched off
“They’re only a few minutes away we can’t stay any longer!”

Ken nodded as the sunset behind them the ventilation towers that kept the urban areas cool towering overhead, Chillum hadn’t noticed them much till now…and now…

The sky shattered with a scream as one began to topple.

“Move, move!” it didn’t matter, the crowds were too tightly packed, already trampling each other to get to the space port.  Blaster fire erupted to the west, strange ships circled overhead.

The tower fell in slow motion as Chillum lifted his hands, bracing the huge object as the people too frightened to stare in awe pushed out of its path.  It was said sized mattered not, but in Chillum experience the larger the mass and volume of an object the more Force energy was required…arguably he shouldn’t be able to do this – Ken was staring…but there was a calm over him that meant he felt no strain.

Yes it was his time.

Ken didn’t ask, didn’t probe further simply did what he could as the tower crashed down relatively safely…only the be followed by another…

They’re caging us in…Chillum realised all too well, Ken quickly realising the same, yelling to pull back immediately…this was not going as planned at all.

The air rumbled once more and overhead…a world appeared…

The thing was massive, Chillum had never seen a death star…but could only imagine this was what it looked like…vast and dark like a black spiral sea shell it dominated the sky…as so called ‘world ship’

“Maker help us…” one of the younger Knights gasped

Kens eyes were fixed up, “We leave now,”
“But the refug….” One complained
“We run and fight another day, we have nothing to take on that…Grandfather we need to go,”

Chillum paused

“You do my boy, but I need to stay,”

Now Ken paused not understanding, Chillum had never been a singer but he let the Force flow through him openly, without restraint, the tone of ending reverberating through him.

What little time he had was taken with a firm hug between them then Ken ran with the others.

Chillum spread his hands as the crowd approached and the screaming echoed ever closer, pouring out calm and stability into the Song to keep the refugees from panicking and trampling the evacuating Mak’tor and GA…he understood their fate on this planet would not be a good one, but there was nothing else to hold onto now but life, and the hope it brought.

Explosions burst in the sky, he sensed the deaths, but not Kens.

The crowd stood in silent terror as the creatures known as Yuuzhan Vong surrounded them, one in gargling stuttered basic final speaking on the ruins of a tower

“YOU creature serve live…” it held up a strange plate armoured snake creature in its hand

“Resist Die”

Chillum gazed upon the hideous intentionally scared visages of the invaders no one knew anything about.

Yes this was his time…he could no longer fight but he had his life, a sense of peace, he would serve…he would serve the Maker, serve these lost people in their need…and with the small transmitter sewn into his robes – transmit every piece of information on this new enemy back to the Mak’tor.


<<<<>>>

“Let me guess that’s where you parked?” Jorya asked as they looked out over a vast junkyard of ruined skyscrapers, droids and other ‘heretical’ technology where a squad of Vong were poking around.

“I’ll deal with it…” Valens noted morosely. “Stay here.”

As if I have anywhere else to be Jorya sneered, oddly Valens expressionless mask turned to her for a moment as if he’d heard…then with an unnervingly silent lea he vanished.

She looked down as the Vong poked about, no doubt their biotech had picked up heat signatures or the like, but they looked bored, nothing much happened in the wastes apart from the semi free survivors raiding and scrounging.

Jorya didn’t see where Valens was, the Force barely a breeze in her after so long under the suppressive effect of the slave seed wouldn’t have helped even at full strength.

One Vong stepped around a shattered tanker…then vanished.  Another a few metres away about to turn in that direction suddenly stood stiff, then dropped into the shadow of a ruined harvester droid.

One by one the Vong vanished in between the moment they looked away from each other for a split second, reminding Jorya just how fast Aethans were even without the Force, till only one was left, panicked and barking for the others, it lifted its arm, the villip implant beginning to writhe in activation before a line o shadow she barely saw sliced the arm off at the shoulder, and instant later the head followed the arm to the ground.

Barely had the head rolled when a heavy hand pressed on her shoulder.

“Move,”

<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #395 on: June 20, 2019, 04:48:01 PM »

The Way it Wasn’t

Chapter 1 - Part 2

 “You had this the whole time?” Jorya sneered stepping off the transport into the empty hangar.  The ship was not huge, about the size of a mid-range cruiser, but an Aethan Destroyer did not have to be larger to pack more fire power than a Star Destroyer.

Valens didn’t answer merely throwing her a small breath mask, whilst she could survive in the atmosphere for a time, prolonged exposure to the Noble gases in their preferred mix of air would poison her.

As she fixed the breather on she noted the ship was not exactly new, there were drag marks on the deck, the odd light had gone out not yet replaced.  Along the walls half the docking cradles for black spear tipped fighters were empty, and while there were six large bays for assault transports like Valens had brought her on, there were only two including the one they came on there.

“Are there more of you?”

Again he didn’t answer struggling as it was to remember to walk slowly enough for her to follow, his normal pace would require her to run.

Through a security lock they came to a medical bay near the hangar, again the shelves were not fully stocked, a small white droid activated as Valens entered.
“See to this Togruta’s wounds and such,” he ordered dismissively
[Yes Lord] it genuflected hovering on blue proton.

Lord….better than ‘God’ but still the arrogance….

“You aren’t going to tell me why you came all this way to get me?” she demanded as he strode out the door.

“Not yet.”

<<<<>>>>

The armour rack heaved with the weight of the Black-Heart – it was designed for Black-Stone which was 15% less dense, but still managed to support the bespoke creation.

Undressed apart from basic shorts Valens proceeded to the console activating the Renewal’s system remotely with their next destination.  The Vong would not detect the Aertemisaea Generation IV Destroyer until it was long gone, they still had the edge on speed if unable to completely mask the slip to DarkSpace.

He opened the light wooden cabinet, inside boxes of individually wrapped hand sized blocks, sweet and salty bars of various flavours that provided for all nutritional needs, one of the storage holds held 10,000….

<10,000 days of life,> Odjina noted wryly, Valens could easily enough consume outsider food, but required a high volume for the energy benefit.

“10,342 to be exact…” Valens noted wandering over to the bed as the system confirmed they had entered dark space, even so he would only cycle off six levels of consciousness, retaining the other two.

His hand paused at the bed, it was cool…and empty…on the right side where once…once…

Now there was only a small stuffed ewok in black and white fur that had been hers…then their daughters…their grand children’s…and now…

If Odjina could be said to ‘feel’ in his disembodied state he would’ve felt now for his ‘companion’…there had been a time when Valens was almost…almost something more than merely the ‘back up’, the Goddess little brother who would come in when there was a crisis and with his god like power lay waste to every enemy of the Aethans and begin the process of rebuilding.

That was what he was made for, his function…he could only indulge the fantasy of being husband and father so a few moments between the unending threats he was created to destroy.

Odjina understood now truly why things had happened on Vyth as they did, he no longer considered the Aethans as culpable in the same way…after so many years with Valens he had finally realised just how little ‘Valens’ there really was in that machine of DNA and hormones.

And if he could’ve wept, perhaps he would’ve.

<<<<>>>>

Spitting out blood Kyp sneered at the leering guards as the sphincter like door opened
Here comes the boss – he mused

His body was wracked with pain form his X wing being brought down…somehow they had known just where and how to find them…the rest of the Dozen…were gone he could feel that – except Jaina – though after losing her brothers at Myrkr she was hardtop sense at the best of times.

For now he kept his eyes forward as the figure approached between ranks of Elite Vong warriors.
About to speak Kyp’s astonishment was ended by the figure raising a hand

“The time has come to end your wars, to embrace the True Path of life,”

The figure stepped forward, a biot hand like a queer crab claw sharp as beskar caressing his face almost gently

“You killed millions in your ignorance as a young man, a mistake you cannot wash away with the blood of the Yuuzhan Vong,”

Kyp couldn’t reply if he wished – yes he had done terrible things under Exar Kuns influence, and perhaps he sought to make up for it by taking the fight to the Vong but at least he wasn’t a….

“Your words mean nothing, there is no betrayal to serve Life, that is the way of the force,”

The rage finally building strong enough to break through Kyp spat out, not the invective laced retort but something more pressing

“What did you do with HER!”

The figure paused behind him, cradling his head like a mother might a small child in a sick attempt at affection under the vicious gaze of the Vong.

“You will relearn the value of life in the Embrace…” the figure finished

<<<<>>>>

Her rooms were grey and blue, typical Chiss Jorya knew from Ry’s descriptions, but with wooden furniture and hand woven rugs and paintings of three female figures.

“Odd he didn’t take them down…” she said to herself stretching out and breathing almost freely, Valens having sealed this deck and adjusted the atmosphere to standard for her – it was unusually considerate for an Aethan

“Desperate times…”

Entering the refresher of the room she saw on the counter half used creams and soaps, an intricate bra and underwear left beside a towel – this was a woman’s room, everything laid out for when she returned…

But like so many in this war she never had.

She looked into the mirror, her face bearing so many cuts and scars, eyes sunken with tragedy upon tragedy, defeat upon defeat…and her body not hardened just exhausted from the slave seed…and she was no longer young enough to bounce back at 48.

“There are clothes that should fit…” Jorya leapt startled by Valens appearance behind her.

Even more shocking he was unarmoured, wearing a close fitting black under suit showing off more obviously the superhuman musculature that marked him as truly non-human. 

“At the far end of the corridor is a gymnasium…there are some training suits in there you can wear as armour…our regular kind is too heavy for you…we have 36 hours, rest for 8 then begin training, you have much to recover from…”

He turned and headed to leave
“Where are we going? What is this about,” she grabbed at his arm
“If the GA is gone then…”
She looked about the remnants of another woman’s life in the room, for a brief moment grief she had kept at bay by helping others in the camp overwhelming her
“…what is left”

Valens paused uncertain how to respond
<Just talk to her> Odjina counselled
“There is a chance…to change things…but I need help to do it…I can’t say more…not yet,”

Jorya didn’t bother hiding her distrust, she couldn’t conceal anything from an Aethan she well knew. Yet still, no matter how much she despised Valens…she hated the Vong more – and if there was one thing she could trust it was that whatever he had in mind would kill a whole lot of them.

“And what help do you need from me specifically?”

<Tell her or she won’t trust you>
Nodding Valens explained.

<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Karmack
Forumverse Loremaster
Master of Ceremonies
Knight Commander
************

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #396 on: June 21, 2019, 07:42:32 AM »

Nodding Valens explained.


OH COME ON!!!!   ;-)    Awesome start.   Obviously SOMETHING in the past changed.  Looking forward to seeing how this alternate universe works.  :-)
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signature picture by DarthScrub

Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

TheDutchman
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Force Alignment: 779
Posts: 3136


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« Reply #397 on: June 24, 2019, 10:43:27 AM »

OK it's official:

LSG is our resident "Forumverse 'Elseworlds' Expert!"

This was SUCH a treat reading this!  I have to admit that seeing our familiar characters in such weirdly twisted (yet all-to-similar) situations is an AWESOME read!  Except in this one: the Vong have seemingly WON.  How would the galaxy be different?  Well, I think I know the answer to that:

READ LSG's INCREDIBLE STORY!

I can only hope that this is NOT the only submission for this particular 'Verse!

...Besides: this version of Jorya is a character that I just HAVE to learn more about!!! Grin
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Sig courtesy of DarthScrub

Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #398 on: July 05, 2019, 03:26:05 AM »

The Way it Wasn’t
Chapter 2 - Part 1
The Templar Archive on Oros had been beautiful place

Tucked into a beautiful valley, the low but sprawling complex was constructed from blocks carved out of natural stone.  Numerous fountains, statues and gardens dotted the top level of the complex, which was, in a way, deceptive. 

The Archive hundreds of feet underground, while above had live over a hundred Templars, with dozens more coming and going….

No longer.

Now it was a foetid swamp, another failure of Vong terraforming leaving hideous twisted eco-systems full of bacterial pools, monsoonal weather, and dotted only by occasional frond like plants.

Jorya never thought to come back here…she had not been there when it fell, but from what she heard the Vong had levelled the place, the Templars had certainly never returned so far as she knew….but then that was probably because after Corellia there were none left.

She splodged along through the decaying ruins, while the stone had been strong, the acidic nature of Vong biotech was stronger, leaving it pock marked and scarred, the processes of nature covering the artificial.

It had been quite the fall apparently, nearly 2000 Vong, and up to 4000 of their traitorous allies, along with countless Chazrach slaves fended off for nearly a week by at most thirty Templars.

Just one of a hundred noble last stands that in the end meant nothing, for no one would remember, no memorials or statues would be raised…their names would drown as their bodies decayed in the quagmires.

“Is it much further?” Valens queried over the comm, he leapt silently between the columns and archways, keeping a look out.  There were no Vong ships in orbit, it appeared they had abandoned the planet after the terraforming failed…but even so it was possible there were desperate shamed ones and slaves left behind

Jorya looked around trying to get her bearings on a place she hadn’t been in 12 years that was now radically changed, trying to discern any landmark to help. Finally she spied a chiselled edge of a word in Aurebesh for library.

“I have my bearing now…it will be under…let’s just hope the archives are still sealed, or this will be very messy.”

<<<<>>>

He spat out a glob of mucus and blood onto the already coated floor as the last Vong flopped to the ground before him.

His office was lit in the night only by the sparks from the Mark IV Dark Troopers broken circuits and dull burn holes in the walls, the transpaisteel view of the waterfall he had so loved shattered.

Eurydice base would fall, that was certain, but Scrubber had made the bastards pay for very inch with a vat of blood.

Always slavers he smiled half lucid from the pain of his injuries…from another frelling galaxy and still they were slavers. 
Dust sprinkled down as another huge boom rocked the entire base, no doubt his allies had brought down another Vong ship covering the retreat. In his pocket her felt the small orb his latest guardian had left him, it was heavy in more ways than one.

“Take this my friend,” Jarys had said placing it in his hand, Scrubber knew what it was and what it meant, there was little to be said, they both knew the plan, with a brief nod between the old friends the ageless Aethan locked on his helmet and raced out of the room to his companions – they fought damn well alone, but Scrubber was more than happy to give up his bodyguard so the ten Aethans on planet could fight as one, the camera’s had shown just what they did to the first Vong landing party…then the second…but by the third they had to retreat and leave the rear guard to hold the facility and cover the skies while they shipped out.

And his Sires and sirra’s had done him proud, for eight hours they stood against the onslaught before the last Surface to orbit turbo laser was destroyed and they broke through the walls – what followed had been three hours of intense and bloody hand to hand ending here.

Squelching steps and the familiar husky breathing of the Vong approached down the corridor.  One hand on his blaster the other on the orb he waited.

The Vong commander rounded the corner surveying the scene with a look almost of respect for the trouble they had caused them, many a warrior had died honourably this day.

Scrubber smiled in reply and thought, just thought one thing as he opened his mouth and grasped the orb, lighting the whole base a nuclear yellow.

“Frell you slaver scum,”

<<<<>>>>

Foetid water splashed down into the dark, they had blocked off the entrance best they could but a few trickles would remain.

Gesturing a floating droid descended into what had been a turbo lift shaft to the archives.

“What exactly are you looking for?” Jorya queried suspecting that the Templars would’ve evacuated most of the powerful artefacts before the planet fell.

Valens, as so often seemed to know her thoughts

“A device of little seeming value to them, a bulky oubliette, around 4 metres long two wide,”

Jorya could not recall seeing such, but then she doubted she had ever seen much of the Templars collection anyway.

“And what is it for?”

Hammering a pin into the stone to affix a nyal-steel cable with what looked like a mere tap of his hand Valens shrugged

“We have one shot at this…I need to check it, make sure the device I have made is…functional…”

Normally he would’ve had Aresaea design such a thing or Adaea, Synaea, Kardyn, Arryn….

<It’s alright to grieve Valens….> Odjina noted quietly

Valens was capable for certain, likely the most knowledgeable Aether Craftsman left alive even if Skywalker was still around…but he could not take risks, he needed to be sure, and in the absence of his own people to check he needed something at least similar in functional intent.

“And how do you know the Templars have this?” Jorya asked threading the cable on her harness, Valens did not wear one, no doubt a thirty storey drop was of little trouble to his superhuman ability.

There was little point hiding anything now
“We kept tabs on what the Templars possessed,”
“My Father…” Jorya said a rise of anger in her tone
“Amongst other devices,”
<Valens sometimes….> Odjina ‘sighed’

Jorya was sorely tempted to call him out on his arrogance and sociopathic use of people as ‘devices’ but it was pointless, she simply shuffled to the edge of the blackened depth to begin the descent. Valens indifferently signalled the half dozen Dark Trooper Mark V’s he had brought with them to patrol, all were battle scarred and chipped, repaired as best he could given limited time and resources. Without complaint the droids began their silent motions engaging stealth fields.

As she abseiled down a whoosh of air passed Jorya as Valens simply dropped, a touch of the aether to slow his descent to land easily on the now wet floor, the main door was sealed be before him, solid durasteel with the Templar insignia spray painted white he could just make out in the dim light with his exceptional vision, grabbing an edge he yanked the steel open by hand, a desiccated corpse flopping out in the newly made gap.

The corridor was strewn with bodies, mostly Chazrach, the Vong slave creatures used as cannon fodder, but at least one twi’lek, a bothan and a human among them, sabres in their withering hands as they lay on wall splotched with the long since dried fluids of their decay.

There were dozens of doorways – part of the security measures was to make it as labyrinthine as possible, his sense picked up no energy signals, all automated defences likely disabled by the Vongs EMP equivalent weapons, or chewed by ssip bugs released to eat circuitry.

Glancing up he noted it would be some minutes before Jorya arrived to guide him through the labyrinth – he could simply ram down each section wall by wall, but the risk of a cave in and destroying the artefact he required was too high.

<Alone with your thoughts is uncomfortable isn’t it> Odjina prodded
“Alone?” Valens queried
Odjina paused…was that…humour in noting Ojina’s presence meant he wasn’t alone?
<hmm…good point, but having to stop and reflect instead of acting is difficult, I understand this, but if you don’t stop, think about where you are heading and why you are heading there…you risk wandering aimless from place to place never finding peace only more conflict to distract you from moment to moment…that is no way to live>
Valens sneered, Odjina understood so little despite being so close
“I don’t seek distraction, only retribution…and correction…”
<are you so certain>
“We do not lie to ourselves like outsiders, I have eight levels of what you term consciousness, our emotions are tools to protect the People - everything I do is very deliberate to that end,”

The answer was not an answer Odjina thought, it seemed once more that Valens was merely acting as a machine, and like such simply shut down when not in use.

With a clatter of the cables Jorya finally arrived, barely had she unharnessed whn Valens once more ordered

“Move,”     

<<<<>>>>

“How could you!”
The words were like a physical blow as Ken turned around, so focused on the planning he had not noticed the furious rage coming toward him until it was upon him.

“You let that thing defile M’Tzigon with its presence!”
“Mother…” he tried to say quietly but the Chief of Staff and other Maenowans were already looking…and to make matters worse one of them was smiling gleefully – Arnor noticed all too well.

“Take that smirk off your face you psychopathic bi….”

“Mother!” Ken grabbed her arm, “Now is not the time,” he did his best to contain her as he shuffled her out of the war room, nodding to the sheepish looking Sword of Light guard who had let her in.

Since retiring from active duties Arnor had focused on training the Sword of Light Regiments – no doubt why he let her in without proper authority - and as a counsellor to Koawans and Teidowans, much like Chillum before he had…

They never knew exactly what happened, only that one night they both awoke with the certainty he was gone, but not before he had provided valuable intelligence on Vong operations from behind the lines. 

Arnors fury was palpable as she spoke in the corridor bustling with movement as M’Tzigon prepared for the Vong to arrive.
 
“How can you let them come here, after Vyth? How can you stand in a room with those creatures knowing what they did?”

Ken bit back any emotion, there was no time for it when the whole planets survival was at stake – after the fall of the Sons base they had retreated to M’tzigon with near half their forces, but along with them came the BA’s, and a Vong fleet filled with Force sniffing Voxyn hot on their heels….and if the rumours were true far worse than that besides.

“We either stand together or die alone…” Ken said inwardly cringing at the cliché statement, no matter how capable the Men-At-Arms were, no matter how experienced the Knights and Singers, they were not superhuman geniuses with 600 plus years of military experience…yet if Arnor knew they had turned over most defence decisions to the one known as ‘Jarys’ his mother would…

“..save that anger for the Vong,” he said looking into his mothers hurt eyes

“They’ll be here soon.”


<<<<>>>
She didn’t recognize them all…but she recognised enough of the bodies to feel the weight of the loss here.

Over the years Jorya had befriended so many of the Templars…to see them splayed out here forgotten was…

Sometimes she wondered why she still lived, how she had survived when her Father and Mother hadn’t, the whole Vhal’Dan dead for all she knew, the Mak’Tor…Ken, Arnor, Julwyyn, Kye… 

Even as she lead him she felt a wellspring of spite toward Valens and his kind…the sting of betrayal stronger with each body she passed, each lightsabre forgotten in a corner or still gripped in hand amidst the rotten voduun crab armour of their enemies, old dried cuts seared in.

<You’ll have to address it…eventually> Odjina noted as Valens overheard her thoughts merely as part of idle surveillance of his surroundings as he crumpled some skull underfoot.

<I wasn’t there, I didn’t make that decision, but I would’ve had I been there, the battle was lost>
<It was a home to her as much as anywhere…she lost her People too>
<And?>
<And perhaps you can at least show some compassion for it, wouldn’t your Goddess enjoin that?>

Valens felt a surge of annoyance for Odjina to even mention such things, but conceded as a way to improve Jorya’s effectiveness as an ally it might be useful.

“I’m sorry for M’tzigon…” he said suddenly
Jory didn’t even break stride
“…My People and the Sons did all they could, but the Vong were too many…”

Now Jorya paused amidst the endless twists and turns of the Labyrinth
“They ran as soon as the second wave arrived…” she said quietly 

<A tactical retreat against overwhelming odds is not cowardice…>
<I’m surprised you don’t argue it> Odjina added somewhat impressed by Valens restraint
<No need…she knows it,>
“And sought to fight another day…had we succeeded it might have been worthwhile…” he paused staring blankly at the monotonous stone walls

“…but they did not…I know what it is to be the sole survivor, the feel the weight of the legacy you ought to carry in the memory of those long gone, to avenge, perhaps justify why you survived and not them,”

Jorya turned toward him, perhaps there was some semblance of morality in him after all or at least a shade of empathy.

Odjina could see the tipping point of a concordance between them,

<Repeat what I tell you…> the Mak’tor instructed 

“Killing the Vong, the Prophet even won’t bring them back or make you feel any better…” Valens noted solemnly, raising his hand and squeezing it into a fist as per Odjina’s instruction

“…but for now it gives us focus and purpose to do the right thing in this fight against tyranny, even if for the wrong reasons.” 

<<<<>>>>

The yorik trema descended in near silence upon the sand scored plateau overlooking the white Osa Dormeondo Dunes.

He would die today, he knew it…but being here…was at least buying time.

Only Kye was with him, his second, he would die to, poor boy, barely twenty all he had known was this war and it would consume him as it had so much else.

Ken waited in silence as the Vong Commander stepped from the hideous tube of the transport, beside him a warrior a head taller, his second.

The trick was old and well known, to play on the Vong elites penchant for wanting single combat and Jeedai heads, Ken had offered to face the commander of the invasion force in single combat, if he lost M’Tzigon would surrender, if he won…it didn’t matter everyone knew this was merely a game for time they desperately needed.

M’tzigon could not be held, their forces were barely half what they had been at the start of the war, they had lost out badly trying to help the Vhal’Dan, even more trying to disrupt Vong supply lines over the years…much of the population had already joined the endless throngs of refugees heading deeper into the rim…

In a very real sense the whole thing was pointless ever since the Prophet….

He could feel the stirrings of a Song off of the Vong commander, the comm-static twisted way the Prophet was re connecting the Vong to the Force still beyond Jedi or Mak’tor ability to understand…there were some who might know…and that was the final reason he had chosen this – M’Tzigon would fall…but if they could get their hands on some of these ‘Reborn’ Vong…

“Jeedaii…” the Commander in red crab armour glistening in the hot sun, his fleet just visible in the clear blue sky

“…I look forward to adding your skull to my trophies…” his amphistaff flourished with a hiss

Ken uttered his last words

“Let’s begin.”


<<<<>>>>
It took nearly an hour for Jorya to find her way to the main vault door, fortunately it looked to still be powered, it would’ve always had its own power source.

She stepped up to the keypad and reached out with the force – it still felt harsh and oversensitive after so long under the suppression of the slave seed, but enough to reach the real key pad beneath and enter her credentials.

Waiting a moment after she hit the enter button beneath the stone floor nothing happened.

“What’s wrong?”  Valens queried

“There should be an optical scan…” she pressed where she recalled the opening had been lifting the lid with the Force…inside was the pitted broken device…and the husks of small vong insects of some kind.

“Shavit…it’s….”

“There are Force traps,” he asked

“Of course,”
“Stand back,”
Without a word the Force died, the connection dropping painfully as the minor pain suppression she had unconsciously been using since the slave seed was removed dropped instantly. 

Out of nowhere he bolted forward, Blackstone blade straight into the centre of the rounded door, ultradense material screeching into Kortosis alloy, sparks flying as he twisted the blade round drilling a hole, around him Force traps erupted and bounced against the Null field that he sheathed them both in, and instant later more conventional devices activated – gas, acids, the blasters fortunately seemed drained of power – the rest Valens dodged with superhuman speed and agility.

  Soon the triggers died down except for no doubt a silent alarm screaming a breach of the archive to no one living.

Stepping back Valens checked his blade, it would need a resharpen, but was fine for now.
<You’re not getting through that hole….> Odjina added <What is your plan?>
<Watch…>
“Get round the corner,” he ordered Jorya, who didn’t delay in obeying.
<The hole is for this…> from his belt Valens placed an implosion grenade into the hole he had drilled. Standing before it indifferently four second later it detonated – there was no explosion per se – Jorya merely felt her entire body dragged against the corner she was crouched behind as if it was trying to merge her with its cold bulk.

Valens stood unmoved as gravity ate in on itself pull the kurtosis alloy door inwards on itself crumpling it inward and twisting the molecules out of the octagonal lattice  into frayed strands, the waves of reality distortion washed over him without incident, his cellular structure easily able to shrug off such a twisting of gravity and space…he recalled briefly the effect it had on the Vong…how their bodies churned and splattered in mid air…

Not enough he thought as the chunks of alloy flopped to the floor.

“Move,”
<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #399 on: July 05, 2019, 03:29:36 AM »

The Way it Wasn’t
Chapter 2 - Part 2

Hollow was the best word to describe the vaults. In the light of Valens Force ‘globes’ the empty plinths where artefacts had once stood offered nothing but dim half reflections of transparisteel behind which nothing sat.

Only on the corners were sealed containers sprayed with white Serial Numbers and Barcodes, a few with doors open, others still locked.

The Templars would’ve taken all the most valuable items, or what they believed were valuable at least. 

In addition to the visual darkness there was a queer…Taste in the force the likes of which she had never felt before, an undertone to the place that had never been there before.

“Without the suppressive storage measures some of the remaining devices are leaching out their power, touch nothing.” Valens instructed wandering past shelves littered with the broken ceramics that had crashed in some planet shaking explosion long ago. 

Toward the far end of the Vault she paused, two of the glow orbs hovering around her casting their blue light on the Revenant section. 

So much loss, so much pain fighting them…so many good knights, Mando’s, men and women killed…that entire war, all that effort spent fighting the Revenant, what did it matter, it achieved nothing, once the Vong arrived, the few bands of the Revenant that remained had likely fought the Vong just as hard – and just a futilely.

Perhaps, Jorya wondered, had the Revenant remained strong, if the Templars had ignored them…would they have proven another useful ally against the Vong? Or without the fight against them would the Templars and Vhal’Dan have lacked the combat experience to hold off the Vong as long as they did?

But then Sekot was ripped apart anyway, her parents, her Order….

<She’s not doing well,> Odjina noted <This place has too many memories for her, the survivors guilt and post-traumatic stress will overwhelm her soon.>

<I don’t have time nor knowledge to act as her psychologist….>

<And I can’t speak to her except through you…at the very least give her a focus to distract her>
<She’s a grown woman>
<Who has been hurt deeply and defeated over and over again, whatever she once may have been…her experiences have changed her…> Odjina ‘paused’ in their mental discussion
<I know that is hard to understand for you> he did not mean that as an insult, merely a fact, the Aethan did not ‘change’ his psychological state was genetically engineered to bounce back, to experience only short periods of depressive symptoms before chemical resets cleared trauma and despair – as such he had little empathy or comprehension of how an outsider could ‘change’ over time.

“See if you can find any Revenant Rending Claws,” Valens called
“They might prove useful,”

Broken from her thoughts by his voice Jorya began sorting through the overturned crates where they might be stored, recalling how hideous those weapons had been to face.

Valens proceeded to the  back where larger less valuable items were kept, he knew exactly what he needed, the oubliette had been designed in the New Sith Wars in the early period by a system warlord with an interest in time travel. The device itself was a failure, but as a curiosity had passed from Sith to Sith before ending up in the hands of Kadumar in some year long past.

Without effort he simply ripped the durasteel off the top not bothering with the lock. The sleek black coffin like oubliette lay within silent and near dead in the Aether.

<That is it…>
<It is…>
<Yet it didn’t work,>
<Not but the means was close, I just need to see…>
Pulling open the oubliette with a hiss Valens looked beyond the rank interior padding to the lines of Aether infused circuitry and crystal chambers beneath  The device had not been used for centuries, but a gentle pulse of the aether allowed him to follow the flow of energy.
<Yes…I can see, the rhythm of it is wrong though…here it feel discordant, it needed…> Odjina noted following Valens senses
<Another regulator further up to keep the aether from crumpling every eight wavelengths, but the method of stabilising the temporal creasing is better than what I had….>
<hmmm…yes you’re right, but still I think you had a better means of reaching energy mass, a kind of resistor would be needed to keep it from being overpowered…if we…>
A danger sense flashed in both their minds, vague but nearing
<Vong…>
<No…not focused enough…I have what I need>

<<<<>>>>


Breast heaving Julwyyn ran for her life, she could hear – feel – the edge of the screech blast waves hit her back.

The intelligence had been wrong…dead wrong…The Voxyn could reproduce, could survive away from Myrkr…somehow…somehow the Prophet had worked out a way to allow the Vong Fero Xyn and Vornskr hybrids created by the shapers to hunt Jedi to no just survive but thrive.

No she just hoped she could get this information back to the GA in time.

Her husband, Balnard Kohl, turned and snapped three shots backward at the creature, the green of his rifle slamming inly into the oversized blue fungi that spread like a forest on this world…for now at least.  They had gotten close to the Vong encampment easily – escaping would not be so easy.

The Warriors had laughed as the squelching cages the Voxyn were kept in were opened and they were unleashed – Slayers of force sensitive they had sensed her immediately – Kohl had taken down one, but then they had to run.

Her legs were sore from hours of slow crouched progress suddenly turned to sprinting.  Her mouth was dry despite the humidity that drenched her stealth suit beneath, another hideous echo of the beasts resounded through the air.

She instinctually ducked, a glob of hissing brown acid saliva flew over where her head had been a moment ago.  They were too close.

“Love get….” A splash in the undergrowth as her husband fell the white barb on the voxyn tail piercing into his back, the jaws crunching around his helmet.

Any grief or shock was lost to terror as a claw filled paw slammed into her breast slamming her backwards.  Her hand reached her sabre, orange light brightening the dark blue misty air, an instant later she heard the cauterizing sound of her blade hitting flesh…a wet thump – perhaps she had taken off one of its legs…but there were seven more…

“Jeisy…” her daughters name the last word on her lips.


<<<<>>>>

[Contact: Enemy Designate – Vong: - Voxyn – Class 3 – 14 Units >>> Permission to Engage]

A scrunch of annoyance on his lips Valens double blinked to order the DTV’s to pull back.

The Voxyn pack had no doubt been attracted by the activation of the Aether in the Vault, hopefully they would soon pass.

“What are we waiting for?” Jorya whispered, she’d managed to find two rending claws, hideous spiked gauntlets that when they met flesh tore the very Force essence form the victim to pump that energy into the wearer – said to be inspired by Darth Nihilus it was a desperate device the Revenant had developed toward the end of their war with the Templars…for in the end the user would become addicted to the sensation of consuming other life energies.

“Voxyn pack…”
Jorya felt her stomach drop – the Jedi Slayers…Skywalkers New Jedi Order had tried and failed to destroy their Queen on Myrkr…there Jacen and Anakin Solo had all died along with the whole task force, Jaina escaping only to be killed soon after along with Kyp Durron – one of the first victims of the Prophet and his new Slayers.

Somehow the Prophet it was said had devised a way to overcome the infertility of the Vong hybrid creature, Tsvaong Lah wisely setting the beasts loose on any world the Jedi, Gray, or other force sensitive cultures were known to have settled, they killed hundreds, but they bred faster than they could kill. 

Jorya knew of at least a dozen Vhal’Dan who had been killed by the vicious creatures…and more Mak’Tor who encountered them unprepared on Taris.

“The droids are undetected…I’d like to keep it that way, they’ll be linked to a yammosk or Dhuryam…and from there…”

“The Prophet…would he even notice something so small?”

It’ll notice…” Valens replied grimly standing stone still as he waited.

<<<<>>>>


Vague awareness of her surrounds returned with the beeping of the comm…

Jorya ignored it nestled warmly in the overly large bed, her lekku and montrails wildly splayed along with her arms and legs…

But something was missing…the warm body beside her…

Slowly rising up she saw the half light of the Hapan sun through the elaborate curtains of the Bridal Suite, somewhere in the next room the sounds of holonews.

As she stood up looking about for her hastily discarded underwear her comm beeped again. Glancing over she saw three missed messages, two from mother on M’Tzigon one from Father training with Ken and Kye.

“What could be so important…”

Sleep in her rich eyes she felt the Force flow again as she woke fully.
Not bothering with any clothing or cover she stepped into the main lounge, Stril, her new husband sat quite literally on the edge of the rich red lounge, his deep purple Sephi eyes fixed on the holonews in front of him.

Honestly who watches the holonews on a honey moon! Haven’t we been apart enough over the years before now!
She shrugged it off as her comm distantly beeped again, wrapping her arms around his neck he jumped in shock.

“Jor…it…you need to see this…”
The report was from the far edge of the Galaxy, systems she had never heard of, Helska, Sernpidal…battles lost, against an enemy known only as the…

<<<<>>>>

“Vong….”

The word broke her from the better reality of her dream, a time before all…this….

“We need to move…” Valens paused assessing his options, he had six droids, against what his vague senses told him were around two dozen Slayers, even more Voxyn.  On his own he might be able to sneak out, Jorya…even at her best she wasn’t that skilled and certainly not as well equipped – her body couldn’t lift Aethan armour – and she was far from her best.

He spun round
“I’ll carry you.”
“Seriously I can…”
“No you can’t, do not deceive yourself,”
Biting back any protest she had to relent…even in that acquiescence was proof of how beaten she had been.
Like a doll she was lifted over his shoulders, his armour cold as it was lightless making her shiver, she reached out from something to hold….
“Don’t touch that…it’s a…bomb in your words…”
“Now stay still,”

<<<<>>>>

After the Battle of the World Brain, Nom Anor, the spy and Executor had defected to the GA, brining with him details on just what had occurred.

He had barely escaped the scene alive, but during extensive debriefing by the best Bothan agents one tidbit was picked up – a shamed jester of sorts named Onimi could use the Force, apparently due to the implantation of Yammosk tissue, the octopoid telepathic creatures that co-ordinated Vong biots, flora and fauna and acted as strategic super computers.

This small detail advised to the Jedi Order came just in time.

Katarn dove from the telekinetic blast launched from the Hunter that shattered the dusty mudbrick wall behind him.

Neelgaimon was hardly much of a prize, but as it stood now every planet counted.

Rolling out from the attack he retaliated with a blast of Force lightning drawing on his rage at the Vongs brutality to power it.  The electrical potential difference struck the beast in the chest, boiling the voddun crab shell armour, even as Kyle probed the Slayers mind.

Like so much of the Vongforce as they called it, it was vague and static filled to his perspective.  It roared in annoyance and charged, rising up he met its amphistaff with his sabre.

The Slayers were shorter than average Vong warriors, bred it was rumoured to maturity within two months in polyp like pods, and all enhanced with yammosk tissue giving them a semblance of Vongforce ability. 

Again it blasted away with its telekinetic power – such rapid breeding and mental imprinting could not duplicate the skill and finesse that a Jedi could bring to bear with force telekinesis…but one Jedi took a dozen years to train, a dozen Slayers took one month to go from umbilical sac to the battlefield.

“Arggh!” charging forward he took the creature by surprise, the sun beating down hard as his blows while as the Coralskippers and X-wings clashed overhead, the odd TIE adding green to the red and orange exchange.

Finally breaking its guard he hacked greedily into the torso before pushing its trembling blood coated body off pausing to catch his breath.

All around his small task force – now reduced to Corran Horn, Saba Sebatyne and Jaden Korr – the Remnant Stormtroopers they fioguht beside were in retreat – they’d been trained to fight Vong warriors, but not Slayers.

“the Prophet's Jeedai” they were called and at first served a similar role, acting in small groups they had taken the GA forces by surprise…but now they were being deployed in their thousands – fast healing with tougher hides, enhanced senses and newly shaped amphistaffs bred specifically for them they had turned the tide on the ground just as the Prophet had turned the tide in the force.

There seemed no option.
“Fall back,” Katarn ordered pulling his disintegrator pistol to fire off a round into a Slayers face -  slight irony that before the war such weapons were highly illegal – didn’t matter now.

“This one will cover the retreat,” Saba called her tail featuring a few new bloody gashes.

Katarn looked at her for what would likely be the last time, anger rising in him again with frustration…he’d need that later.

With a nod he turned.

<<<<>>>>

She had never felt so helpless, so disgusted with herself.

Thing had not gone to plan.  The Voxyn and the Slayers had detected them. Now Jorya was on Valens back feeling physically ill as he wove with more twists and turns than a vomit inducing amusement park ride trying to fight off the Slayers and Voxyn as his droids rained down fire from above.

She had seen good Knights, better knights than her in her prime fall to the Slayers, that Valens was seeming to hold his own with her on his back was testament to just how incredible a warrior he was.

And that she was stuck on his back, less at risk there than running free was testaments to how badly she was beaten.  There was without a doubt the physical damage from nearly four years as a prisoner of the Vong, malnutrition and cut off from the force, but the mental defeat was greater.

Even as her eyes vaguely took in Voxyn being vaporized by high powered DTV proton assault cannons, a slayer too slow of deflect a micro missile bursting apart, her face was sprayed with dark Vong blood, insects from the swamp crowing round to get at the exposed moist flesh to feed and lay eggs, add scent to the scene and motion that had her retching.

She was sick of living like this, sick of living full stop.

There was a moment, an instant when she knew she would be captured by the Vong but before it happened, when she could have killed herself…

But she chose life…thought that for all those that had fallen she had to go on so as not to betray their memories…

She regretted it every day in the work camps, trying to fill the void of a living death with helping others…

“No more…” she whispered, blood and swamp water entering her mouth

Valens remained focused switching with grace beyond comprehension from his sword to his bow, to his arrows to his rifle as he kicking up logs and crunched gravity with the aether about him, slushing a Slayers arm to a queer thread like spindle.

“NO MORE!” her push was inelegant, she fell off rather than rolled, slamming face first into the warm swamp.

<What is she doing!>

<Let her> Odjina cautioned <…at worst she dies with dignity, at best you get a more useful ally>

Valens allowed it, pausing to drag her up to her feet, her orange skin covered in thick green muck.

Disgust, frustration, despair at herself reached out to the dead Templars of Oros as she saw the Slayers and Voxyn around her, a few leaping at the hovering DTV’s tearing chunks with their vicious jaws, thud bugs too numerous for the dorids to avoid.

All that didn’t matter as her fury exploded outward at them –
<A little help…>
<I know…>

Jorya’s blast was powerful but clumsy, Valens didn’t need Odjina’s instruction to assist, diverting all his energy to create a vacuum just before her, and a wall of telekinetic power behind - the Slayers were pulled into her invisible blast, then slammed back against another invisible wall, bones shattering, without a moment’s hesitation Valens leapt forward, directing his blackstone arrows into those that still lived as he plunged his blade into the others bodies with grim efficiency.

Jorya crashed down, a semblance of satisfaction that if she was to die it would not be on someone’s back hurling her breakfast. 

The Vong were still coming, but it had provided enough of a break to escape, Valens grabbed her weary arm.

“Move,”

<<<<>>>>

Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

TheDutchman
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« Reply #400 on: July 05, 2019, 07:30:06 PM »

Magnificent!  I am just loving this alternate-universe story that you've shown us, LSG.  And now as we venture further down the proverbial rabbit hole, the answers that we've been given just give rise to more (and MORE) questions.  The inclusion of canon and the various facets of the Forumverse is nothing short of astounding (not to mention that I LOVE the various easter eggs in this not-quite-familiar setting  Wink).

One of the biggest questions that come to mind: who (or what) is this "Prophet?"  And how in the %$#@ did said Prophet "reattach" the Vong to the Force?!  The mind boggles...

Again: reading these characters are such a treat...which honestly makes me want to go reread "Brothers," "The Gray&Unchained," and "What You Leave Behind"  Grin

MORE of this please, LSG!
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Karmack
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Light side points please.


« Reply #401 on: July 09, 2019, 01:41:35 PM »

I have a bad feeling that I know who the "Prophet" might be.   ;-)

That being said, this is AMAZING!  I love the tension.  And whether I'm right or wrong, I keep looking for a certain someone who hasn't shown up yet.   I'm sure it will be dramatic.  :-)
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« Reply #402 on: July 21, 2019, 03:20:19 PM »

The Way it Wasn’t

Chapter 3 - Part 1
***Thanks to Dutchman for a contribution on Jorya's Stroy****

Apart from the helmet which scrunched her lekku and montrals the Aethan armour was quite comfortable, clearly designed with women in mind.  

Floating in the void over Sullust Jorya need not worry about the extreme weight of the outfit around her as the metal hands of ‘Bobo’ guided her toward the wreckage of the Chimaera, Valens jetting along under his own power some 20 metres off.

Below the volcanic glow of Sullust seemed dim as the heat and energy was soaked up but enormous vong bioforms, the raw molten metals heating and feeding lichens within the beasts stomachs which were then excreted to feed other creatures – just one of a hundred such planet wide factories that produced billions of tonnes of organic matter to feed the Vong empire every day.

Amongst the wreckage of the GA fleet small Vong bugs consumed the metal hulls or nested in the floating corpses eating them from within, it would take years for the Star Destroyers and Mon Clamari cruisers to be whittled away in this manner, but the Prophet was nothing if not patient…

Jorya wondered if leaving this graveyard of the GA fleet following the Third Battle of Sullust was not intentional, a statement that the Vong did not need to fortify the orbit of such key systems anymore as there was no one left to take advantage.

[Prepare for Deceleration sweetling] Bobo texted in her HUD. The enormous Dark Trooper Mark IV-T was clad in grey-brown Phirk with the word ‘Bobo’ scrawled on its chest in lurid pink – after Oros Valens had reprogrammed it to be her bodyguard and training partner – to do that he had to no doubt wire it to recognise her as an Aethan female child – and so over the last two weeks as she slowly built up her strength and trained against the droid it referred to her as ‘sweetling’.  

They were to enter the Chimaera’s hull in search of the second component Valens needed for his plan – Jorya didn’t know how he was sure it would be there, but had given up questioning his prescience.

The Grey Destroyer was flopped on its side relative to the elliptical plane of the system, three huge holes through the hull, the bridge section floating a kilometre away, debris and bodies – Vong, Killik and GA filling the gap between, it was also slowly rotating clockwise in what appeared to be a slowly degrading orbit toward Sullust itself – the remnant of the momentum imparted by the last blast that had destroyed it.

It was one of nearly a hundred such capital ships amidst thousands of others over Sullust and through the system, many left from the First battle six years before, but most from the Second and Third.  Jorya had not been there for the First when it was taken by the Vong, nor the Third Battle of Sullust that saw the GA finally defeated and sent into permanent retreat…but she had been there for the Second four years earlier.

<<<<>>>>

Above Sullust in both sky and space, Koros-Strohna Worldships had engaged the Galactic Alliance fleet consisting of Mon Calamari Starcruisers, Republic heavy Dreadnoughts, and Imperial II-class Destroyers.  Both armadas hammered one another, small one-manned fighters dotted the battlefield in swarms consisting of various TIEs, X-wings, and Coralskippers as the capital ships battered each other, Yaret-Kor plasma cannons splashing against force fields while turbolasers were absorbed by dovan basals.  

As the broken hulls of ships began to litter the Sullustian orbit, ground forces battled each other in close quarters combat within the various underground tunnels created from former lava tubes; the surface of Sullust was as inhospitable to the attacking Vong armies as it was to the GA forces.  So instead of a sky above their heads, each combatant fought under tons of bedrock, the granite and andesite creating its own false starscape from the light reflected by the quartz within the strata…rock that was soon drenched in the blood of the dead.

However, one overarching aspect that pervaded the entire battle regardless if one was fighting in space or on the ground: an eerie inaudible droning seemed to reverberate around, in, and through every single being.  Whispers had named the Prophet responsible and, if so, Grand Master Luke Skywalker had gone off to counter…whatever it was.

The fact that it still continued after all this time was testament of Master Skywalker’s efforts…or more appropriately failures.  Still, for most combatants, they were far too busy in their own struggles to pay it anything more than a passing consideration.

Jorya’s blue lightsaber rebounded off of the voxyn’s leg as she fought to hold onto the hilt, her other lightsaber having been knocked from her grasp from the animal’s initial attack.  Gritting her teeth, she tried to put some distance between her and the monstrosity but the tunnels allowed only so much room to manoeuvre…

Rolling away, she attempted to flank the animal but the voxyn’s claws raked against her armour, catching one of the greaves.  Instead of coming to her feet by the tail, she was thrown bodily against the rocky wall of the tunnel, losing her lightsaber as a result.  Worse: she hit her montrals on one of the basalt outcroppings, concussing her.  Placing both hands upon her head, she realized that she must have bit her tongue as she tasted blood in her mouth.  But with no time to think, she saw—knew—that she was a dead woman: the voxyn’s head had turned her way, mouth open to spit its deadly acid…

Resigned to the inevitable, a tranquillity settled about her.  Thinking of Mother and Father, she began to hum the Hapan lullaby that she’d learned so long ago.  …I’m coming Dad, Mom… She thought.

But before the beast could act, a silver lightsaber struck at the voxyn’s snout.  Weakened from repeated hits, the animal’s muzzle vaporized, exposing the inner mouth, tongue, and throat.  The figure holding the silver lightsaber twisted his wrists, shifting the emitter and hilt of his weapon.  Suddenly the blade turned from a bright silver to a deep violet as multiple kyber crystals aligned, increasing the blade from one meter to three.  With a yell, the figure shoved the long blade down the beast’s exposed throat.  With a whimpering shudder, the voxyn collapsed, breathing its last.

Astonished, Jorya looked up at her savoir.  Stepping into the diffused light of a nearby lava rivulet, the figure emerged from the shadows.  

“Master Horn!  I thought that Master Skywalker had taken you with him to fight the Prophet…” Jorya intoned as the human Jedi Master helped her to her feet.  

Holding her lightsaber in his other hand, Corran Horn had a wry grin upon his lips.  “Afraid not.  I was about to board my X-wing when Luke pinged my comm.  He told me that he’d had a vision and that I should stay behind.”  His brown goatee mirrored the smile he broke out into.  “You know Luke: ‘Will of the Force’ or so he said.’” While he was speaking, he twisted his lightsaber again, the violet blade shortening and turning back to its silver colour.

“Yeah, thank the Maker…” Jorya told him although she really didn’t know much about Master Skywalker, just that he was one of the few human Forceusers who could match the Aethans in strength.  The Aethans…

Inadvertently, Jorya grimaced.  …The Aethans… News of their betrayal had been hard.  They’d been the front line against the Vong, one that had afforded the GA the best odds of winning.  Then, seemingly without warning, they’d up and vanished.  Just…gone.  

But even as she thought about them, Jorya was reminded of the here-and-now, that…droning putting her montrals on edge.  Well, that and her hitting the basalt rock… Shaking her head, she looked around and—noticing that they were alone—instead said, “Master Horn, any news from Admiral Kre'fey’s fleet?”  The Bothan commander was armada’s leader.  “Since I’ve been down on Sullust, I’ve only received spotty intel.  Is the GA fleet making any headway against those damned worldships?”  Jorya spit, absently wiping her cracked lips.

Corran gave her a look, one that immediately made her stomach fall.  “…You haven’t heard?  Traest Kre'fey is dead, killed when the Ralroost rammed one of the worldships.” He lowered his head when he spoke of the Bothan’s flagship, his voice hard.  “…Lost with all hands…”

Jorya blinked.  She knew that in war there were always casualties.  But…well, Traest had been a friend: when he’d answered the call of Ar'krai, the Bothan state of genocidal war against the Vong, she’d been there on Coruscant along side him.  He’d even helped try to find her Dad, even though rumors of his death persisted…

A tear ran down her orange cheek.  …Maker keep Traest safe on his journey… She recited the unspoken litany, one that she’d thought countless times since the war had begun…

Suddenly, she felt a…a wave; no, no that wasn’t right, an ocean tsunami crashed into her via the Force.  Both her and Corran grabbed their heads in a vain attempt to mitigate the excruciating pain that the…whatever it was had caused.  But they had no time to contemplate: a split-second later the ground began to violently shake, throwing both Jorya and Corran from their feet.  As the seconds ticked by, the trembling grew worse.  Trying to regain her feet, Jorya saw that Corran was having an even worse time of it.  Falling towards him, she grabbed his hands.

With a thunderous rupturing boom, Jorya looked above her as the ceiling began to collapse.  “Remember me.” Was all that she said.  Using a powerful Force Push, Jorya threw Corran back through the tunnel to the far cave just as countless tons of rock fell upon her.  It was the last thing that she remembered…
****************
…Before a rescue droid began shining a light into her eyes.  Awkwardly, she pushed the light away, coughing as the dirt that still covered her came off in clouds as she was slowly exhumed from her rocky grave.  “…How…?” Jorya whispered to no one in particular.

“Mistress, I am LBR-8, Humanoid Search&Rescue.  I do not detect any critical injuries.  However, the laceration upon your head requires attention, as will your broken arm.” LBR-8 intoned, applying some poly-bacta on Jorya’s cut.

Focusing her eyes through the pain, she looked upon the droid pressing, “What…what happened?”

Again in politely dispassionate tones.  “You were buried alive.  I was able to extract you.”

Jorya fought to regain clarity, looking around.  The tunnels were now an unfamiliar warren of fissures, the lava rivulets that had accompanied the basalt tubes had been cut off when the earthquake reformed the geology of the caves.  …Caves… Jorya suddenly thought, looking towards the large cave that she’d thrown Corran into.  Or rather, where the cave had been.

Where the cave opening used to be was now a jumble of collapsed andesite, basalt, and dirt.  There were no voids, no airways…not even an opening a millimeter wide.  Jorya began to silently cry, realization dawning upon her.  The entire cavern must have caved in, burying everyone within.  …By the Maker, no…NO…! She silently raged in horror.  She had tried to save Corran…instead, she’d killed him.  

Despondent, she turned back to the droid.  “I meant: what happened to cause the earthquake.” Her voice was monotone and quiet…perfect for the graveyard she now found herself in.

LBR-8 made a noise, one that Jorya had come to associate with confusion when speaking to a droid.  “I am not certain…but I received a planetwide communique from Grand Master Skywalker.  He wished to inform all GA members that the Vong had retreated.  And that he was successful against the Prophet.” LBR-8 finished applying the poly-bacta and had moved on to resetting her broken arm.  “Forgive me Mistress but this will hurt.”

The droid was right: it did hurt…but not as bad as Corran’s death.  Jorya closed her eyes in Meditation…and realized that the droning was no longer there.  She took a quick inhaling breath, eyes shooting open as she grabbed the arm of the droid.  “LBR-8, you said that Master Skywalker was…‘successful against the Prophet.’  Did he elaborate further?  Where is he?”

Gently the droid disengaged her arm—her good arm—and continued his ministrations.  
“Forgive me Mistress but no.  And I am afraid that Master Skywalker is…” Again, the droid made that noise, “…indisposed of, at least for now.  Now please: try to rest.  You will require at least a full six hours for this to fully heal…” But even as LBR-8 continued speaking, Jorya no longer was listening.  

Instead, she expanded her senses as far as the Force allowed her, taking stock of the battle.  And wishing that she had not.  

Even from this distance from under the surface, Jorya could sense the thousands—no, millions—of dead as they lay within the maze of caverns running through Sullust’s planetary crust, as they floated in the microgravity within slowly decaying orbits, as they remained crushed, pinned, or melted as part of the ship’s superstructure…even as they slowly asphyxiated from their slowly depleted oxygen supplies…

Master Skywalker had said that the Vong had retreated, that they’d won…Jorya’s tears had stopped, a dullness taking over.  Yes, the Vong had lost millions as well, dozens of worldships husks of what they had been… But what of the Prophet?  And what had that droning been?  What had Master Skywalker done…and why wasn’t he here now?  Jorya allowed the pain to wash over her as she unceremoniously slumped to the ground, her questions going unanswered.

If victory this was…who knew that it would be so hollow?


<<<<>>>>

Even dead as it was there was still a kind of half-life within the Star Destroyer – battery powered emergency lights and automated repair systems incredibly still functioning to some extent, a few mouse droids spinning their wheels desperately trying to find purchase.  

Micro fragments bounced harmlessly off the ultradense armour she was covered in as she expanded her senses outward, Bobo having brought her to a service corridor in the mid bow of the ship while Valens searched the middle and rear.

She was looking for a ghost amongst ghosts.  The Force had lost the sting of recent trauma, only a haunted shadow remained of the death dealt here, the shock of those killed deep inside the ship during the fight long since having lost it sharpness.  In time all such traces would be lost, but while some remained it would make the search easier.

Reaching out she felt first the hollow of the eldritch mechanisms within Bobo – an array of blackstone ‘veins’ that gave the droid and anti-presence in the force – and beyond that delved into the thin waters about her.

There deep beneath could still be seen the half written endings of the thousands that once populated the ship, panic, hope, fear, determination, words half bleached but just able to be made out on the face of time still.

Time…can it truly be changed… she idly wondered seeking something more…engaging her proton jets she moved to where she could feel a stronger pool of energies, past frozen bodies, many half ash from where explosions had caught then unaware, or peppered with shrapnel beyond recognition.

Finally she came to a bunk area…this was once a storage room but had been converted – so much of the GA had been living in makeshift rooms like this by the end as every planet was rendered unsafe by the Vongforming spores released en masse across every habitable system their suicidal seed ships could crash into, far in advance of the main Vong lines.

Here there were fewer bodies, but more depth…amidst the floating sheets and pillows were children’s toys, trinkets, holo’s still with power of families, and smaller bodies…heads and chests broken apart by sudden exposure to vacuum.

The Jedi padawans had been housed here…there was beneath the grief the hideous ink of unrealised potential, lives cut short too soon…and one…was deeper black in her mind’s eye than the rest…

“Valens…I’ve found him”

<<<<>>>>

He should be out there helping…doing something…not just sitting around in the dormitory.

Ben was 15 years old, he’d fought Vong before, yet still his father didn’t want him on the front lines.

“Protect the younger padawans,” Luke had said to placate him
“There is nothing more important than that – they…you are the future….”

Ben understood the logic…but still, he felt kind of useless just sitting by the door as the Battle raged outside.

Neida sat among the younger padawans, shielding them from the worst of the Force currents as death and terror built.  Originally they were meant to stay on Bothawui…until that too had fallen to the Vong…now they were all crammed wherever they could find space among the GA fleet.

Sometimes he didn’t see the point…all he had ever known was the constant background of fear and pain the war was causing, in-fact sometimes he doubted his Fathers stories about a time before the war were even true….it seemed as if the war had always been going…maybe not against the Vong but against someone – Empire, Sith…

Pushing off the column he had been leaning against Ben stretched out his arms….just in time to feel a sudden sting as his left arm vanished in a blaze of orange.


<<<<>>>>

The body floated among the rest, barely half of it was left, which was more than could be said of the slowly turning piles of ash where a secondary explosion likely of a turbo-laser capacitor had wiped out the padawans once bunked here.

It was just more detritus to Valens as he moved past Bobo and Jorya – he could feel she was distressed at the site of the loss of life here…or more particularly the loss of young life in such a random, meaningless way.

Pulling the body toward him he reached for the needle to take what samples he could, Jorya turning away at the sight, unable to view it as anything but desecration no matter the reason.

Even as he harvested what little was left something caught his eye…a slight glint in the reflections of Sullust light through the various small holes eaten into the hull by void capable Vong lichens that dotted the durasteel in small colonies for the moment.

With the aether he scooped up the sabre, noting its construction, much like Skywalker’s he imagined, rounded with black anodized circles likely honoring his mother as well – though as the story went Mara Jade had barely survived a Vong induced illness long enough to birth her son – a shame Valens thought, that such a powerful woman was lost to them.  

He proffered the sabre to Jorya.

Her own sabre was long since destroyed, the hilt she had made so long ago…that had seen her through so much…she could feel the weight of unrealized dreams within that piece of metal a circuitry, potential that was not hers.

But who else was there to take it up now?

Armoured hand tentatively clasping the sabre Valens pulled the needle out of Ben’s body then indifferently kicked it back into the hollow of ash and scattered bone.

“Move,”

<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Lord_S_Gray
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #403 on: July 21, 2019, 03:22:19 PM »

The Way it Wasn’t

Chapter 3 - Part 2

<It’s close…>

“Very close”

<Seems like the trip to Oros was worthwhile…you might actually survive it…>

Valens didn’t reply, there was something he was keeping from him Odjina knew, even as they worked closely on building it…there was just that tiny detail Valens kept to himself.
The device itself was small, pure Bloodstone, the ultradense mineral red as blood that could soak up Force energies like nothing Odjina had seen, as programmable as a Kyber crystal but….hungry.

Fitting neatly in Valens hand it had three indentations perfectly carved with the Force to fit the three Crystals of Klu Xandir…Crystals that too many had died before this to possess.

“This isn’t about surviving,” Valens noted in his usual grim tone

<<<<>>>>

They had sat out of the war too long
Now it was too late

Claw craft tore through the asteroid field that had once been a solid moon of brown and red, they satellite shattered in the face of the Vong advance sending chunks of rock into their vanguard, the Nssis Claw craft would come in tight behind unleashing their proton missiles into the scattering ships as the Capital ships dropped out to catch the Vong Destroyer analogue between the new asteroid cloud and the Chiss- Imperial fleet.
 
The former vague distinctions between the Imperial Remnant, Empire of the Hand and Chiss Ascendancy had vanished when the invasion began, all three integrating into one, and calling on their more…unique allies.

Even now Soontir Fel felt the power of the guiding mind on one of the three Black Dagger ships nearby, whilst only the third the size of a Star Destroyer they were as strong as three each – for now they would hold off on engaging, but still provided ‘Force based tactical Assistance’ in the form of battle co-ordination, short range temporal analysis – or in other words prescience – and Weaponised Force based defences.

They would need all of this to survive.

Of the many systems and factions the Vong had hit, the CEDF had done the best against them – they had data from Jag’s mission and advisors from the New Republic to prepare tactics and strategy, they had beaten back three assaults whittling down what Aethan intelligence indicated was the Vong’s Invasion force by a half already – the question seemed to be at what point the Prophet would give up.

But even that would not be the end Soontir knew as he twisted out behind the asteroid he had used as cover to unleash his SFS L.S 7.2 lasers on three yorik-trema escape pods hopefully full of vong warriors, the corpses blubbering as the yorik coral cracked under his fire before her rolled to avoid the Yaret-Kor magma ball fire in response.

“Stay tight, get ready to turn,” he ordered his squad  
They were taking a beating, true they had worn the CEDF down a little…but still…why would the Prophet want a war of attrition against the Chiss…what was he planning…or was he truly mad as rumour said.

Behind the screen of Vong vessels the blade of grey that were the Empire of Hand Star Destroyers crashed through pseudo space into reality, their turbo lasers opening up moments later to shatter the Vong rear.

“Target the Cruiser analogue on 43.77….” Fel began

“All units hold position….” An all channels emergency came through    
“Do not advance do not advance, pull back to asteroid cover,”
<Whats going on…we have them…what…>

Out of nowhere there was a ripple in space, tangled webs of…chitin?...broke through in between the capital ships and the asteroids…not a few…

Millions…

The writhed a living rain that spun and twisted, had his flight advanced as plan they would’ve been struck by three or four…as it was he could see in the distance the rain of insect like bodies hammering sparking waves on the Star Destroyers shields…

Insects…chitin….

Persecutor hard forward NOW!” the order came on all channels again, the flag ship hammered it drives but not fast enough…some dark and heavy toe out of hyperspace and slammed straight into the rear of the Star Destroyer, the blinding blue barely tinted by his helmet and auto tinting cockpit transparisteel.

He’d seen a ship like that before…long ago when Thrawn himself had shown him the threats in the Unknown Regions that had convinced Fel that the Chiss and the Empire were the only way to survive them….

The Killiks had joined the Vong.


<<<<>>>>

She felt cold…and small…very small.

Jorya was uncertain where they were, from the visuals on the Renewals bridge it appeared a virtually empty system, a small blue star, three rocky planets too far to support any heat or life.

Then Valens had without warning accelerate toward one planet, she feared he wasn’t even going to slow, in a moment of half terror wondering if the ultradense material would cut through the planets crust – instead an enormous crust cracked open to allow the Aethan Destroyer inside a huge hangar, with space for this destroyer and one other beside.

“Is this your home?”

Valens had shaken his head as the stepped onto the hangar floor, Jorya quickly noticing again drag marks and empty shelves – all signs it had been - not quite looted - but rapidly divested of anything of value.

“An outpost in the mid rim we built centuries ago…” a number of small drone droids descended from the ceiling checking over the Renewal no doubt automated maintenance as they had headed to the main facility.  Again the corridors were decorated but empty, the Force etched with traces of activity, frantic but determined beings whose power dwarfed her own.

Yet that wasn’t what made her feel small.

In what she hoped was the centre of the facility was an enormous chamber with nine walls – again the Aethan obsessions with 3 by 3 – at each corner a vast Oblivion Obelisk.  

For her Togruta eyes it was difficult to work out the size but each had to be at least 50 metres high that she could see, likely more below the floor she stood on where strange consoles covered in Oblivion orbs of three sizes- small medium and large – arranged in ways she couldn’t comprehend sat pulsing with Force energies the likes of which were maddening to contemplate.

The gravity of the ultradense material tore at her just being there, as if each were as heavy and prominent as Korrokrrayyo Mountain on Kashyyyk…and each as hungry as rancor for the Force.

“These…” she struggled to say, having to close herself off in the Force, the undercurrents just too strong
“What are they…”

Valens seemed busy at a console in the very centre of the room – blue flicks of lighting leaving his fingers in delicate lines with speed and intricacy she couldn’t understand.  There were no ‘buttons’ or keyboards, just Orbs – a place built for the Gods alone she mused.  

“In simple terms,” he finally replied bringing her back to the weird obelisks

“It’s An Aetheric Antenna Array…the last of ten…It can detect Aetheric signals in a wide radius across the mid and outer rim, the Orbs filter out distortions and background interference…this is how we will find Skywalker.”

Jorya nodded now, the pieces coming together

“That’s why you needed Ben’s body…blood, cells, DNA…a deep trace…” Julwyyn Kohl had told her of so called ‘Blood Magicks’ the Witches of Dathomir could use – it seemed the Aethans had their own no doubt ‘perfected’ version.

Valens nodded
“Correct…”

The next few minutes he continued working, moving to different consoles in silence, his eyes flashing blue every now and then as Jorya watched, feeling useless, she could not assist with such a device and she knew it.

“I’ll check around the place for anything useful…” Jorya broke in looking for something to do, still too tired from Bobo’s last session to do much more.

Valens raised his head but his fingers kept flickering light.
“Very well…but don’t touch any orbs, statues or tapestries,”

“Tapestries?” She understood all too well from what had happened many years ago what became of anyone tinkering with Force powered Orbs.

“Tapestries, they aren’t meant for someone so….”

<Don’t say limited> Odjina interrupted

<I wasn’t going to>

“…weakened as you have been from your incarceration…I shouldn’t be much longer, when you’re done head straight to the ship and ask Bobo to help you start it up again, we leave as soon as we’re done here…”

Jorya noted a hint of worry in his voice…and if Valens was worried she should be terrified

“The Prophet will sense it won’t he…” she surmised

“He will…normally this device takes at least five People to use properly - I can’t conceal its activation on my own, the Prophet will soon know it’s been used…then I’ll have to destroy it.”

“Too risky to allow the Prophet to get a hold of,”

“Correct, this device…is the last, the tenth, the other nine are already destroyed…”

Nine others…No wonder they knew everything that happened everywhere…yet…to destroy them all

“It’s not merely picking up signals is it…this device…has other applications…properly focused it can be weaponised can’t it…” Jorya said more firmly as she let the Force trickle in to sense the potential of this place.

“Again…you’re correct...targeted and powered with enough People…” Valens glanced aside a flicker of grief passing too fast for Jorya to see.

“…it can be used to control minds or teleport bombs half a galaxy away through the Aether.”

“Teleport a bomb? Something nuclear?” Jorya probed genuinely interested

“Yes…but the power cost…was enormous…it took nearly fifty People to teleport a small ones at M’Tzigon…”

M’Tzigon

“You teleported a nuclear bomb?”

“Two…they disabled the Worldship en-route, delayed the Vong fleet by three hours…” again his face betrayed a measure of grief “Our scouts who fixed the target did not survive….”

They sacrificed more than I realised…. Jorya thought

“After that it seemed too costly…and then the Prophet…”

For a brief moment Jorya could see some consternation on Valens normally adamantium face and felt a tension in the Force about him, as if he wanted to talk to her about…anything…the war, his losses, his plans, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do so…not out of weakness but grief,

She understood…all too well she understood – she longed to rest her head on her mother’s lap, to feel the tightness of her father’s bear hugs, the relaxation of Stril stroking her montrals – comforting physical connections she would never feel again…and Jorya knew Valens had lost similar moments of reprieve he desperately needed.  

Neither could find it here.  All that was left was to turn that gnawing hunger for solace to hatred for the Vong.

“I’ll leave you to it,”

<<<<>>>>

“Are you ready for this?” he asked aloud now alone in the Obelisk Chamber.

<Ready as I’ll ever be> Odjina replied

Valens nodded as he stood in the centre of the chamber, the cells extracted from Ben Skywalker in his hand to guide him.

He just hoped Skywalker was still alive.

<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #404 on: July 21, 2019, 03:24:55 PM »

The Way it Wasn’t

Chapter 3 - Part 3
The waves broke in white plumes of foam against the craggy edge of the island – in time it would eroded to nothing, the ceaseless momentum of the tides more powerful than the solid wall of rock.

Luke Skywalker looked out over the endless seas of Ahch-To for another moment.  

Then turned away.

He had not come here to see the sights, nor to hide or sulk on his failures, he had not given into despair after Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were murdered, nor when he was out of his depth on an Imperial Death Star mere hours after leaving Tatooine for the first time, not when the Alliance was on the run on Hoth, nor Endor when all seemed lost he had reached his father in those last moments…nor…
…nor when Mara died after giving birth, nor when he felt his sister, Han, their children die…when on the bridge of the Chimaera he felt Ben in the dormitories…

He would not give up now.

Years ago he had one of his knight’s find the information needed to find this planet, but events had overtaken him and he had no time to travel…no desire really as he grew the New Jedi Order…

“Now I’m the Last of the Jedi once more…” he noted ruefully.

Ahch-To was distant enough that the Vong would not reach here for years, across the seas on one of the larger islands GA survivors were establishing a small outpost, a way station before they sought refuge deeper in the Unknown regions…though there was little to be found there.

Last he heard from Soontir Fel was three years ago – at that stage the Chiss had retreated, Csilla taken by the Killiks the Prophet had somehow dominated, and with them it was rumoured the last of the Aethans – the strange superhumans who had proved such a boon for the GA until their ‘betrayal’…yet Luke perhaps alone knew the truth, they caused hell for the Vong behind the lines, were critical to winning at Sullust because of their absence and had come so painfully close to…

To doing the one thing Luke feared he could not.

Striding firmly over the overgrown grasses Luke set his gaze firmly ahead.  He had no illusions that militarily the whole galaxy was lost, the Killiks had supplemented the depleted Vong with billions of dedicated efficient and unquestionably loyal workers, their numbers increasing exponentially as the new Vong Slayers were cloned, even for all the terraforming that had failed, enough planets had been turned to tip the balance beyond recovery against GA.

In time the Vong would run into the Ssi-Ruuk further out, crush them, absorb them, then it would be truly over. There was no more last stand, no chance of establishing a resistance, there was only one path left to achieve even a measure of breathing space for the few who remembered a life before the Vong to flee…possibly to a new galaxy themselves.

Luke could not save the galaxy again, not this time, but words of his master Yoda echoed in his mind
“Vader…you must confront Vader” Yoda had said then…
Now Luke said to himself
“The Prophet, I will confront the Prophet.”
Most likely he would kill Luke, perhaps Luke would not even be able to fight him…no matter he had to confront him one last time, to see with his own eyes what he had become.

And so he wandered the isle of the ancient Jedi on Ahch-To, finding the pool of balance with its worn black and white mosaic, the overlook nearby, the deep pit in the island leading to the Mirror of the Soul.

Tightening his cloak he strode down the path that seemed more like a coincidental assortment of half buried stones in the grass than ever having been a winding footpath, designed to curve round the islands hills, ensuing whoever walked it took in all the sights, was forced to spend time looking, seeing the life, the balance in nature.

In that was a barb of pain, the Prophet understood this too, in some ways was more Jedi than the Jedi had ever been in dedication to Life…yet it was a form of life that sought proliferation and unity at the expense of freedom and choice….

“Had that always been in you…” Luke said to the absent antagonist  

“You were always trying to solve problems, fix things, make it work, but such confidence - too much…did you convince yourself this was the only way to fix things and find yourself consumed by the solution?”

It was pointless to try and guess, he recalled what had happened to Tahiri under the Vong tortures, she had recovered but been changed…undoubtedly the same had happened to his…

A brush, strong, and determined in the force hit him cold as the winds from the sea
Instantly Luke put up the guard on his mind, alert now to the probing that came and went like the tide, but became more determined as moments went on…

It’s seeking me out…it knows I’m here…

Luke’s eyes widened, if the Prophet had found him…

<<<<>>>>

“Don’t resist….” Valens grated annoyed, his body feeling drained as he reached out across a third of the galaxy.  Ben’s DNA had helped pinpoint the area…but even so it had taken time to zoom in on the exact position of Skywalker.

And with every moment so exposed he risked the Prophets gaze more and more.

The resistance was there in Skywalker’s presence, but a curiosity also, wincing Valens opened his presence up…if he could show he was not the Prophet at least he could fix the position.

Valens arms tingled as energy arced off into each of the nine obelisks about him, the power stored within them all but drained already, soon he’d be left with only his own aetheric energies, and whilst he was undoubtedly strong enough – just - he couldn’t transmit across a third of the galaxy without the aid of Link-Orbs at either end for much longer than a minute.

<It’s coming….> Odjina whispered to him

<I can feel the – eyes – hovering near us>

To ensure he could concentrate fully Valens had left surveillance to Odjina, along with another task.

“Strike now…catch him off guard, it should buy us an extra 5.3 seconds rather than waiting for him to touch us…” Valens grunted out sweat on his brow

<I’ll do what I can,>

“Nnnhhh….Jorya! get the ship ready send Bobo to pick me up!” he yelled through the cavernous space.

<<<<>>>>

The Prophet could feel it, the searching essence of a being he thought long dead…diffuse at first, then narrowing into a thread bright and focused at one end tapering off as it searched.

Relaxed in the amniotic fluids of his mediation sac, limbs floating freely as they were massaged my yammosk tentacles the Prophet gathered the Force to him as he reached out to touch this unusual sensation and show it the Truth.

<<<<>>>>

“Maker….” Jorya dropped to the floor clutching her head as the familiar scratchy droning she had last felt so intensely on Sullust itched into her head dropping the few ration packs she had found in a kitchenette to the floor.
[Oh sweetling are you alright!] Bobo queried helping her up [What is wrong?]
“The Force…its…”

[Aether darling, force is what Outsiders say…] the hand the size of her torso reached round and produced a think deep black necklace

[Lord Valens said put this on if you felt Aether-ill]

With little other option she slid the band around her neck – as soon as it clasped the Force died – a null device – the shock of the loss ameliorated by no longer feeling the extreme tension in the Force the Obelisks were causing.

“Nnnhhh….Jorya! get the ship ready send Bobo to pick me up!” the comm crackled on her hip beside the weighty sabre that had once been Ben Skywalkers.

“Bobo go get Lord Valens I’ll get the sh….”

A queer creaking echoed through the grey corridor, a tremor rumbled through the whole structure.

“…shavit…”

<<<<>>>>

The Killik deep space monitoring cocoon had already arrived, guided by the Prophets direction, already through the Yammosk network a dozen’s hips were en-route to this being and whatever device enable him to achieve such a powerful means of searching the force.

A sensation best described as excitement tingled up the Prophets back imagining how more deeply he could serve Life once he learned this devices secrets.  The tra-gnullith pulled from his throat to be replaced by another to feed his body oxygen in the fluid, the old one died its purpose complete – in the fluid its body would degrae and feed the archaea like algae within, which in turn would feed the yammosks that cradled the Prophets body with such gentleness.

The location finally focused in the Force he reached deeper to touch the mind that was creating the vergence.

Gold.

Blinding Gold struck the Prophet suddenly – entire mind and focus washed out in the blaze that settled into a white background, before him a gazebo of intricate design with a seated figure

Him…I am the Prophet, I am beyond such distinctions of gender… he thought, or said.

“What is this…”

Seated in a lotus position in the centre of the Gazebo a light green skinned twi’lek rose calmly, his eyes remaining closed as he settled into the ‘feeling’ of having a body of sorts as his mind interpreted the meeting of pure metaphysical energy as bodies in space about the gazebo that was once the interface to the Ancient One crystal.

“This is my home,” Odjina said calmly and clearly.

<<<<>>>>

Odjina stopped, standing in the doorway, and he smiled.  "And then, you came, and awoke me from my long slumber.  And now, at last, I can rest."

Karmack frowned.  "Rest?  But ... I don't know any more about this motif than they did!"

"You will, in time." Odjina's look softened, becoming almost fatherly.  

Karmack felt a sense of completion suddenly infuse the force, a new, subtle motif in Odjina's song.  

"I have finished the course, and passed on what I learned.  There is again a Master Singer of the Mak'Tor, a guardian to keep the melody, harmony and rhythm of the Song in balance.  Ka'A'Mack - Trust the Singer!  Walk the pathways he has set!  Follow the song as He…”

His words stopped dead as Karmack snapped around in fluid instinct, his sabre alight burning yellow with the power of the Ancient One that shattered ten glass blades sharpened to the molecule and ghostly absent in the Force and Song in a flurry worthy of the greatest swordsmen the Mak’Tor had ever seen.

Yet it was not enough - as the ten vaporized against the shield of yellow light, Odjina’s face ‘fell’ as he saw there had been twelve….

Karmack fell to one knee, glass blade lodged into his left thigh, another slicing across his forehead, hot blood steaming in the cold Vyth cavern as it ran over his eyes.

“No…Not again…”

Either deaf or indifferent to the plea what they both thought was a shadow in the tunnel became a silhouette of an armoured figure.

Odjina stared helpless as Karmack breathed out a healing motif, yet even as he did some sick enchantment had the glass shards in his thigh move of their own accord burrowing ever deeper to slice muscle and sinew as the figure strode forward raising both hands a pistol of some kind in each.

Blasts red as hell lit the room as Karmack raised his sabre to block.  The impact all but shattered his shoulders out of his back, each blaster bolt was like a flying brick, and they kept coming as the figure approached.

Karmack staggered backward under the weight of the fire as the very ground beneath him rumbled…yet this was not the worst – needles of mercury crossed the metaphysical plain to writhe at Karmacks mental guards.  He was completely on the defensive, utterly in shock and with no comprehension of who this enemy was or where they had come from.

Odjina knew…last he had seen this man he had not worn such advanced armour, but that he knew was the least of the improvements and abilities Valens had gained over 600 years.  

Gravity itself buckled around Karmack slowing his motions, his attempts to build a Battle song were frustrated by the constant barrage of mental thorns and hammering of blaster bolts – Valens was not even holding the blasters any more, they floated behind him as he drew a bow string back to his chin, firing off an arrow.

Astounded Karmack tried to divert it with the Force, barely blocking it in between the endless stream of red bolts.  The blue tinged cavern became a hideous purple with the stream of red fire and now a machine gun of arrows was fired at him – but even deflecting the arrows was not enough, they seemed to soak up the dregs of Karmack’s force energies and continued to arc around and hammer toward him like a nefarious swarm of insects.

Odjina tried to add what little power he had as a phantom to Karmacks song, he couldn’t enhance it so much as guide and strengthen it while Karmack’s mind was otherwise occupied.  

Yet that intervention drew Valens attention, re-clipping his bow to his back he pulled and threw an Orb of deepest black between himself and Karmack – and instant later something in the Force simply ceased – trapped in the null zone suddenly absent his healing flow Karmack crashed to the ground from the pain in his leg.

An instant later, superhuman reflexes saw Valens on him.  

There was no noble end, no dramatic finish - just the brute efficiency of a rapidly drawn sword of blackstone cleaving through Karmacks neck.

The fire from the blaster stopped, Karmacks sabre rolled only to be trampled under Valens boot, crushing down and collapsing the hilt.

The last remnants of Karmacks song flowed into the Ancient One, still tuned to Odjina’s failed attempt to help him…a connection that…

Without thought or pause Odjina let his incorporeal energy flow into the crystal binding himself to it, an additional protection overtop the entities that resided within.

Valens might’ve killed another Master Singer, but Odjina resolved Valens would not take the Ancient One unopposed.


<<<<>>>>

“You are dead in body yet live in energy…this interests me…” the Prophet noted acclimatizing to this vision scape he found himself in.

“Yes you could say that…” Odjina replied making every effort to buy time for Valens and avoid a conflict on this plane.

“Ah so that is your intent…to protect this Valens from me…” the Prophet noted here thought, intent, emotion were indivisible from communication

“Why does he seek to end Life, why do you aid with Valens who has caused you such pain, who has destroyed so much Life…”

The Prophet reached forward a genial smile on his youthful features

“Join with me friend, embrace the Living Force as I have, there is no need for conflict, we can learn from your state of existence how to expand Life into new nonphysical realms”

Odjina remained unmoved and unconvinced, to serve the Living Force, Life itself was noble…yet he could not ignore what Type of life the Prophet sought to spread – there was life in all its diversity, and yes in its conflict, as the Maker had laid out, and there was the stultifying monochrome unity the Prophet sought to impose – life as a machine with no goal but itself.

For Odjina life that was not in service to a greater good than itself, it’s heart to glorify the Maker and all he had made, was empty and for this reason he stood with Valens now against the Prophets vision that would see life as self-perpetuating machine whose only goal was infinite expansion –quantity never quality.  

“You will not be convinced…” the Prophet realised

“…your energy will re-join the living force fully…”
<<<<>>>>
The scraping at the walls was getting louder, the booms becoming more frequent as Jorya raced through the corridors Bobo up ahead.

Somehow the Prophet had found them and gotten at least some kind of force here sooner than even Valens had anticipated.

They were racing to the Obelisk Chamber, the door open just a head full of force lighting streaming between the vast black monoliths , Bobo getting further ahead on its mechanical legs.

The wall split open with a hiss and crack – a vast bladed leg of chitin slamming Bobo through the side and into the opposite wall.

Tumbling back from the shockwave Jorya looked up just in time to see the bulbous eyes of an enormous Killik, Vong bugs crawling across it, peek into the corridor.

<<<<>>>>

The presence was different…not the Prophet, but not familiar, Luke steeled himself, whilst deception was not the Prophets style, it was possible that had changed since their last engagement.

“Skywalker…” the wind seemed to whisper

The manifestation grew stronger, an image forming in Luke’s mind of a man in a vast chamber between nine enormous pillars bleeding pure force energy that would kill even the most the seasoned master in an instant.

It appeared some twisted ritual chamber yet now Luke could feel something familiar in the presence

“You’re one of them, the Aethans…I thought…”

“We are both the last of our kind…” the figure struggled to transmit across to him

“The Galaxy is lost…but the Force can still be saved,” Valens continued

Luke understood, there was no dislodging the Vong now, but the Force itself was not fully turned by the Prophets incredible power.

“I don’t know that I can reach him, let alone kill him,” Luke went on knowing - as he was now - he was no match for the Prophet. It was no boast for Luke to admit to himself he was strong, stronger than even Yoda had been, but he could not draw upon the power of billions of Killiks and Vong like the Prophet did, and the Force Skywalker had used for so long was fracturing.

Long ago Ben…Old Ben….had told him “…the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together”

But what he hadn’t said…or rather did not understand himself…was it was ‘coloured’ by the types of living things that made it up – and as the Vong grew in number so the Force – in this Galaxy at least – tipped toward a new kind of reality – neither Light nor Dark as the Jedi had for so many millennia agonised over preventing, but a different Kind of Living Force itself – one that was bland, empty of diversity, prolific yes, but constrained by is homogeneity.

It was one of the reasons he had to face the Prophet, to end or at least slow this change – evolution perhaps even in the Force was natural over time…but what the Prophet was doing was acting like a God to impose his own vision of Life upon the Galaxy.

“He will seek you out,” Valens replied in eerie echoes of Palpatine long ago “…then we can defeat him.”
<<<<>>>>
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

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