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Author Topic: Hearts of Stone  (Read 3726 times)
Karmack
Forumverse Loremaster
Master of Ceremonies
Knight Commander
************

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« on: November 21, 2018, 11:04:01 AM »

Links to the interludes leading up to this story:
Tinker http://www.saberforum.com/index.php?topic=36209.msg662998#msg662998
Tailor http://www.saberforum.com/index.php?topic=36209.msg664927#msg664927
Soldier http://www.saberforum.com/index.php?topic=36209.msg667415#msg667415
Spy http://www.saberforum.com/index.php?topic=36209.msg668371#msg668371


Hearts of Stone

Chapter One: Running...
Peg Shar Spaceport
Halla Sector
Mid-Rim
5 ABY


"Two blocks out..." Alex heard Joanna report on their comm.  "Gambler, Blip, get the Hope fired up..."

"Gambler?" Do'Na'Vann asked, his eyebrows rising.  "Blip?"

"Droids.  You'll understand once you meet them..." Alex replied.  His voice trailed off as movement caught the corner of his eye.  He focused on the location, but all he saw was a dark cloak pulling back into shadow.  "Did you see that?"

"No..." Do'Na'Vann's voice was also distracted, his eyes semi-opaque as if he were looking beyond the narrow street ... or listening to something intently.  "C'mon, we need to move!"

The Mak'Tor Knight grabbed Alex' arm and pulled him forward.  Alex sensed a spike of apprehension mixed with fear and intense query from the area of the dark figure but the Mak'Tor's action pulled his attention away from what was behind ... and onto what was ahead.

Its a trap!  Another trap!

Alex wasn't sure if the thought was his own or part of the sudden warning pulse the Mak'Tor Knight generated.  In the end it didn't matter ... but the fact that neither Joanna nor Opal could hear it did.  "JOANNA!  EYES UP!!!"

Alex had his saber out and ready to ignite as he and Donovan rounded the last corner and plunged head-long into the erupting fire-fight. The air around the Hope was alive with angry red blaster bolts.  Alex absorbed the scene even as he followed Donovan into the fray.  Joanna was pinned down behind some crates, firing furiously.  The Mak'Tor healers were also crouching behind heavy crates, clustered around their cargo, weapons appearing in their hands as well, adding to the blaster bolts criss-crossing the bay.  Jameson and Opal were the only ones out in the open, the Mak'Tor Knight's blade flashing furiously, sending bolts back into their attackers while Opal stood, firing as impacts from solid slugs sparkled across her chest.

"Slug thrower!" Donavan yelled.  His saber was already flashing through defensive orbits while he ... sang?  Alex felt himself grinning at the odd trait.  To each his own....  He reached out with the force, grasping the weapon and giving it a savage yank.  The mercenary yelped as the weapon flew away from him, arcing through the air and landing next to Joanna, who instinctively slung it over her own shoulder.  The merc, apparently a second squad from the band that had hit the Mak'Tor clinic, attempted to draw a back-up weapon, his face a rictus of concentration and fury.

Alex drew the force to himself and his saber ignited as he executed a force-enhanced leap to the mercenary's position.  His first cut slashed through the rising weapon, destroying it as well as cutting through the man's hand.  The mercenary barely had time to feel it, however, as Alex reversed his stroke and took the man's head off.  The stroke avoided the prominent shoulder and torso armor, which Alex suspected was more of the cortosis alloy that had hampered them earlier, and his purple blade hummed as he threw himself into a forward somersault.  Alex rolled in behind the mercenary firing line, his blade slicing through knees and thighs as he came back to his feet and swept down the position.  As quick as he arrived he was gone again, always moving, moving, moving...

Sabers hummed and blaster bolts flew and scattered, slamming into the bay walls and doing damage all around the bay as Alex and the Mak'Tor knights closed with the remaining attackers and cut them to pieces, supported by fire from Opal and Joanna.  Then, with a suddenness that was surprising the firing stopped and the remaining attackers disappeared into the warren of passages surrounding the landing bay.

Alex extended his senses, tracking them as they moved away.  They weren't going far.  "They're headed to a neighboring bay..."

"Probably have a ship of their own." Jamason said, helping the healers with the crystal chest.  The anti-grav skid had taken a hit in the fight and the knight was using the force to carry it for them.  "We need to go.  Now."

"Agreed." Donavan said, turning toward the ship. 

Alex gripped his arm as he passed, stopping him. "What have you gotten us into, exactly?"

"I told you. they're here to hijack these crystals..."

Alex shook his head.  "I know, but that's two squads of Mando mercs, with droid support and there's more of them.  From what I'm sensing they had two other bays covered as well, probably other freighters known to deal with Wilson."  Alex pulled the knight in close.  "Now ... what is going on?"

The Knight blinked, then sighed.  "I'll tell you all of it ... but not now.  We don't have time.  We have to move.  Quickly.  The tempo of the song is increasing dangerously."

Alex felt his eyes narrow.  "Song?  What song?"

"As I said, I'll explain once we're in flight.  Now ... are we going to die here or get away?"

Alex sighed and let go of his arm.  "Lets go.  I'd rather not die today if I can help it."  He turned and headed up the ramp, now clear of healers.  He could see Gambler in Engineering, plugged into the main console and finishing the power-up cycles.  "Blip!"

The R2 unit appeared, tweeting a greeting. Alex knelt down and looked the astromech in the eye. "Yes, I'm glad to see you, too.  Listen carefully: I want you plug into the L4 junction in the port cargo bay.  Log into the stabilizer control bus junction and SIT ON THEM.  If they so much as twitch, you switch over to the secondary runs.  Understood?"

Blip tooted agreement and immediately trundled over to the port bus junction in the port cargo bay.  Alex patted the droid on the dome before stepping back to the turret control stations aft of the main ramp.  He noted the Healers had locked down their crates in the starboard cargo bay and were strapping into their seats in the lounge area under the watchful eyes of the Mak'Tor knights.  "Donavan, a moment."

The Knight stepped closer.  "Yes?"

Alex pointed at the turret control stations. "Can you and your fellow knight handle the guns?  I ... have a feeling we're going to need them."

Donavan smiled and nodded.  "No problem.  We've both served on Naval ships, we're familiar with the controls and protocols."  He looked at the control station, scanning the tell-tales.  "Though this configuration is non-standard..." He pointed at the stick.  "Trigger is rapid-fire laser cannon, and the thumb button is the turbo-laser?"

Alex nodded.  "Yes.  You can fire both if you wish, but sustained turbolaser fire will overheat the mount and shut it down in about twenty seconds, so watch your heat scale.  The laser, though ... you can blast away with that all you want."

Donavan grinned.  "You got it."

Alex nodded and turned away, headed for the cockpit.  Opal stepped out of the port bay as he moved forward.  "Friend Alex, I secured the recovered Shard interface in the electronics bay.  Orders?"

Alex tossed his head aft.  "Help Gambler with the start-up and stand by for any damage control we may need to do ... and keep an eye on our friends back there."

Opal looked aft, then back at Alex.  "Understood.  I will be ... near engineering."   Alex smiled and started forward again, only to be stopped by Opal.  "Friend Alex ... thank you.  For saving my friend."

Alex felt his smile morph to a grin.  "Don't thank me yet.  We still need to get off this rock!"

Joanna was already in the cockpit at the pilot's station, rapidly running the pre-flight checklist.  As Alex approached she pointed toward the communications station.  "Clearance!  Now!"

"Aye, ma'am." Alex dropped into the communications shack and activated the comm.  "Port Control, this is AX-224748 Hope requesting clearance for immediate departure."

"Hope, control.  I have no flight plan on file for you.  State your destination, passengers and cargo."

"Understood control..." Alex hesitated.  Something told him frankly acknowledging his passengers would be dangerous.  "We are outbound for Syvris with ... electronic components, repair technicians and security specialists for our client."  Alex decided that classifying the healers as "repair technicians" and the knights as "security specialists" wasn't an outright lie.

There was a pause from Central, though Alex could hear the clacking of a keyboard on the open channel.  Was the contoller updating their flight plan?  Or summoning the authorities?  He'd know in moments...

"Hope, control: you are cleared for departure.  Take a heading of 188 azimuth 75 for the Aurek beacon.  Take outbound lane Aurek-three.  Once you pass the belt you are cleared for hyperspace at your discretion.  Squawk channel Osk-Cresh-Senth-two-seven-seven.  Control, out."

"Control, Hope: Acknowledged!" Alex cut the connection and patched the communications board to the copilot's seat.  He sat down in the cockpit and strapped in as Joanna completed the final pre-flight checks. 

"Ramp secured ... moorings cleared ... thrusters are armed.  Hang on back there, here we go!" Joanna called.  With a few deft control movements she lifted the Hope II straight up, skewed left and aligned with the directed course.  A few seconds after lift-off the over-powered freighter was on course and accellerating away from the planet.

"Clearing atmosphere..." Joanna said, her hand pushing the throttles forward.  "Coming to full power..."

Alex leaned back, feeling the tension singing through the force.  "That was to easy..."

"Three bogies rising behind us!" Jameson called from his gun.  "They're well out of range but closing fast.  Those have to be fighters..."

Alex pulled up the sensors, focusing on the trio of ships rising from the surface.  "I'm not sure what they are, but they look nasty..."

"Kom'rk transports." Opel called from engineering.  "They were in use with the Death Watch and several mercenary groups before I went offline.  They're fast and capable."

"That would explain how they're overtaking us." Joanna interjected.  "We're armed but this is still a freighter.  Suggestions?"

"How long before we can jump?" Donavan asked.

Blip responded with a series of hoots and whistles. 

"Why so long?!?" Alex fired back.

More beeps and boops, this time from Gambler.  "Oh, joy..."

"What did he say?!?!" Joanna asked.

Alex ignored her.  "You're sure we can't shave some time off?"

Blip and Gambler responded together, in total agreement for once.

"What was that?" Donavan asked.

"Can anyone translate?" Jamason said, then added "Two minutes to weapons range."

"What about another jump point?"

Boop-beep-bloop-blaaaaap-whisle

"Fine, ok..."

"WHAT DID HE SAY?!?!?!" Joanna, Jameson and Donavan shouted in unison.

"Alright already!  The first leg of the jump is long and needs to be precise.  We have to hit it at the set vector and within a few thousand clicks of the fixed point, or we'll miss the corridor.  There's another possibility, but its just as finicky ... and its across the outer asteroid belt."

Joanna sighed hard.  "Well.  If we go straight out to Aurek-three we're going to be porg bait..."

"...which leaves only one viable option." Alex finished for her.  "Gambler, upload the Besh coordinates and jump calculations to the navicomputer.  Blip, stay on that junction!  If those controls get sloppy in the field, we're all going to be spare parts!"

Blip and Gambler whistled their affirmative responses while Joanna reefed the freighter over to a new course and Alex shifted to the engineering console, looking for every spare bit of thrust he could find in the engines.

At the gunnery stations Donavan and Jamason shared a look.  "Did he sound ... cheerful to you?" Jamason asked.

"Yep.  Maker preserve us all." Donavan replied.

But he was smiling...


   <<<< >>>>


The trip through the asteroid field proved to be anti-climatic.  It was tense at first as Joanna and Alex teamed up to pilot the ship.  Alex reached out with the force, probing and occasionally nudging the scattered rocks, helping his wife feel their way through the cluttered field.  For their part, the three Kom'rk transports broke off the pursuit, choosing not to take the risk.  They split up, two going high and one low, attempting to go around the field.  While safer, the longer distance more than negated their speed advantage, and the Hope II broke out of the field and reached the Besh beacon over ten minutes ahead of their pursuers.

With a flash of blue light and streak of psuedomotion the Hope II leaped into hyperspace.  Her crew and passengers breathing a sigh of relief.

The chase was on ... and they were off and running.
Logged

signature picture by DarthScrub

Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2018, 01:04:31 PM »

No messing around there - straight into it!  I think a rule of the universe is Mak'tor+Crystal=Trouble...you'd think they'd work that out by now but maybe message hasn't filtered through.  Also these Mak'Tor clinics...Mellichae...Mendax...how do they get anyone to accept a job there now...And Aex has some serious questions that will need answering very soon - I'd keep Opal close by when interrogating...

Anyway solid start I think your last line encapsulates the tone you've set perfectly...
The chase was on ... and they were off and running.
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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."

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

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2018, 05:52:54 AM »

Thanks!  Yeah, this is a loop-back to the original mission in Wind Chimes, trying to find and remove from circulation the crystals that Julwynn and Jennira "tuned" for the Super Laser on the Death Star II.  Lots of fun....   :-)
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signature picture by DarthScrub

Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2018, 02:17:53 PM »

Thanks!  Yeah, this is a loop-back to the original mission in Wind Chimes, trying to find and remove from circulation the crystals that Julwynn and Jennira "tuned" for the Super Laser on the Death Star II.  Lots of fun....   :-)

What You Leave Behind LOL!!!

Also loved Blip/Gambler/Alex conversation completely incomprehensible to everyone else!
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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
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 1833
Posts: 6078


Lord of the Force


« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2018, 05:21:08 PM »

Also loved Blip/Gambler/Alex conversation completely incomprehensible to everyone else!

Including us. Cheesy

A great start to be sure. Excited to see what lies ahead in this story. I like the setting too. It's about the time of We Are Gray is it not?
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"I am the Outcast's Shadow" - Taegin Roan
"We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the first order down." - Poe Dameron

Avatar by DarthScrub

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

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2018, 07:54:47 AM »

Including us. Cheesy

A great start to be sure. Excited to see what lies ahead in this story. I like the setting too. It's about the time of We Are Gray is it not?

Actually the setting is contiguous with What You Leave Behind.  5 ABY.  I don't want to give to much away, but if all goes according to plan (and how often does THAT happen?) this should intersect with WYLB at some point.
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signature picture by DarthScrub

Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Taegin Roan
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 1833
Posts: 6078


Lord of the Force


« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2018, 05:53:15 PM »

Actually the setting is contiguous with What You Leave Behind.  5 ABY.  I don't want to give to much away, but if all goes according to plan (and how often does THAT happen?) this should intersect with WYLB at some point.

Ah, right. I was thinking this was also directly after the second Death Star blew up, but it makes sense that it would be WYLB.
Logged

"I am the Outcast's Shadow" - Taegin Roan
"We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the first order down." - Poe Dameron

Avatar by DarthScrub

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

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2018, 12:39:57 AM »

Ah, right. I was thinking this was also directly after the second Death Star blew up, but it makes sense that it would be WYLB.

Not to give to much away ... but this is a sort of "meanwhile back at the ranch" story.  While we've been watching Karm grow and the struggles he's had with Mellichae and Mendax, other Mak'Tor agents have been out there doing...

Well.  You'll just have to read the next chapter.  ;-)
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signature picture by DarthScrub

Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

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

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2018, 02:06:59 PM »

Chapter Two: Inquisitions
Peg Shar system
Halla Sector
Mid-Rim
5 ABY

Rhul Stourr stood on the bridge of the "Vengence" and watched as the last of five Kom'rk transports settled into his ship's small craft bay.  It was bad enough that they'd missed their target on Peg Shar, but losing two whole squads in the process...  He shook his head, swallowing pride and suppressing anger.  He'd been fully briefed on the target.  He'd known the Mak'Tor Knights were trained in the Jedi arts.  He's prepared and equipped his units to deal with that threat.  They'd identified the middle-man, the mysterious "Wilson", and taken him out.  The target should have been alone and isolated when his Aurek strike force hit.

Overwatch had recovered little from the initial site except charred armor.  THe two survivors from Aurek had joined Besh at the spaceport and had died in the second engagement, leaving him with no real idea of just what had happened.  What he did know was that, despite their efforts, the target had somenhow managed to summon help. And if the preliminary report could be believed, it had come from more Jedi.

Stourr schooled his face to impassiveness as his surviving team leader stepped onto the bridge, his helmet tucked under his arm.  His steps were measured and precise as he approached, stopping a respectful distance away and stiffening to a rigid posture of attention.  Waiting.

Rhul let him wait.  He read through the maintenance reports on the transports, their fuel usage and weapons expenditures.  He noted the lack of missing ordinance, ticking off the item with a frown.  Finally he handed his data padd to an aid and turned to the rigid squad leader.  "Russ'alor Slaad.  Report."

"Al'Verde Stourr!  We deployed our teams as planned.  Strike team Cresh made contact with the intermediary and eliminated him.  Strike team Aurek made contact with the primary target and engaged, but were driven off with heavy casualties when the Mak'Tor were reinforced.  The survivors of Aurek maintained contact and shadowed the Mak'Tor to their exfilteration site, which Team Besh hit with the remnants of Aurek.  Again, they were unsuccessful.  Verd'ika Katrar reported the use of a heavily armed and armored securty droid, which rendered their special weapons ... ineffective.  When the target managed to board ship and depart we scrambled the Kom'rk's ready to fly in pursuit, but broke off as ordered at the asteroid field.  Aurek and Dorn stayed behind to pick up survivors and conduct clean-up operations in the port.  They should be returning within the hour."

Rhul said nothing, only nodded.  He let the Russ'alor stand rigid a while longer as he accepted and read through another report from maintenance.  Finally he looked up again.  "I accept your report.  Did your team emplace the tracker as ordered?"

"Yes, Al'Verde!" The young soldier barked.  He managed to hide any anger at the implication of incompetence the question posed, but there was fire in his eyes.  Rhul noted it, nodded and waved a dismissal, turning his back on the Russ'alor as he spun and left the bridge.   The young mandalorian mercenary no doubt would take the insult personally ... and it would drive him to do better in the future.

Rhul raised his eyes to the viewports of the Keldabe-class cruiser and stared at the brown and green ball of Peg Shar.  He felt the anger rise again ... and squashed it again.  This was not a time for anger.  Anger only got in the way of good, professional decisions. "Communications, send the report.  Target has left the system but has the specificed tracker in place.  The Asset should be able to intercept it it's leasure.  Then cut orders for teams Cresh, Dorn and Esk to proceed to the secondary intercept point.  Specify that Russ'alor Slaad is in charge ... and responsible ... for the mission."

Rhul looked down on the planet where fourteen of his best commandoes had died with hard eyes. Oh yes ... it was personal now ...


The Hope II
Lesser Lantillian Route
Hyperspace, somwhere in the Tharin Sector
Outer Rim
5 ABY


Alex watched his wife's shoulders relax and he forced his own body to mimic her.  They were back in hyperspace, on the long leg past Boonta and through the Tharin Sector.  After Peg Shar the next logical place to intercept them had been Boonta, where several hyperspace lanes converged.  The junction and traffic meant an obligatory drop from hyperspace and some time in real space setting up the next jump.  They'd all been tense during that transit, but now that they were back in hyper they were safe.

So why is the force still singing with tension?

Alex snorted at his own internal verbage.  "singing" seemed to carry special meaning with their new Mak'Tor friends.  More than once, during moments of concentration, he'd overheard them actually humming.  At first he'd thought it was a nervous affectation, but he'd dismissed it when he heard Donavan and Jamason humming in harmony ... from different compartments of the ship.  He'd barely been able to hear them both, it was unlikely they'd heard each other, and yet they'd been in perfect harmony, as if both were listening to the same song...

"Time for the meeting." Alex said, rising.  Joanna nodded and grinned, verifying the autopilot was properly engaged before following him out of the cockpit.  They were a little more than a day out of Peg Shar.  Time for everyone to rest, eat, clean up and compose themselves.  Now ...

Answers ... I hope ...

The Mak'Tor were gathered in the lounge, which was behind the port cargo bay.  Opal was also present.  Alex entered the space and poured himself a cup of cafe, adding cream before starting.  "Thank you for gathering.  Our current position is rimward of Boonta on the Lesser Lantillian.  We're approaching the Tharin sector, and we have a ways to go before we need to drop back out of hyper.  So ... lets talk."  Alex held his mug in both hands before him, trying not to adopt a challenging pose.  "Donovan, how about you fill us in on just what it is we're carrying, and who's so keen to take it away?"

Donovan sipped his own drink, and shot a sideways glance at the older woman Alex had assumed was the senior healer.  She gave the Knight a slight nod, though her face was set in an unhappy mask.  Donovan took a deep breath and released a sigh.  "Telow'na is gonna kill me..."   He set his drink down and sat back in his seat.  "How much do you know about the building of the Death Stars?"

Alex blinked.  "I know the first Death Star was built by Palpatine as a terror weapon.  There have been rumors that it was used to destroy the ancient temple on Jedha as well as Scarif's records repository and the entire planet of Alderaan before being destroyed by the Rebel fleet at Yavin.  The second Death Star was under construction around Endor when it was in turn attacked and destroyed last year by a Rebel Alliance force.  Again, rumor has it that both attacks were led by a Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker, and that Skywalker killed Vader and the Emperor aboard the Death Star before it was destroyed at Endor."

Donovan nodded. "All true.  Do you know why the Death Star attacked Jedha?"

Alex shook his head.  "No.  I assume it had a something to do with Saw Gerrera and his Separatist cell.  They were rumored to be based in or around Jedha City and its ancient temple."

"Also partially true.  Galen Urso, the engineer who designed the nuts and bolts of the Death Star, found a way to harness the energy of Kyber crystals in his lasing system.  The "super laser" of the first Death Star was built using massive arrays of Kyber, which was taken from the crystal vaults of the Temple of Jedha.  When the vaults were exhausted, the city was destroyed.  This was done as a preliminary, low-power test of the laser and to destroy the resistance cell.  We think Tarkin was attempting to kill Jynn Urso on the planet before she could unlock a secret left behind by her father about a weakness he'd purposely engineered into the Death Star against the day someone would have to attempt to destroy it."

Alex glanced at Joanna.  They'd heard a lot of rumors since Yavin IV and especially since Endor, but this?  Kyber?  "So the Empire used Kyber to build the super-laser...  But if the Jedha Temple was stripped and destroyed where did they get the Kyber for the laser on the second Death Star?  Reports from the battle state that the weapon was used on multiple Mon Calamari cruisers before fighters were able to fly into the superstructure and detonate the main reactor..."  Alex stopped and looked over at the crates.  "By the One...   You scavenged Kyber fragments from the explosion, didn't you..."

Donovan raised his hands, his head shaking.  "No!  No, nothing like that.  These crystals are not Kyber."

"Good." Alex relaxed back into his seat.  "I don't mind smuggling medical supplies and bacta even when they're on the proscribed lists.  But Kyber?  One or two light sabers are bad enough, but you start hauling around the key component to making dozens of them...  Well, lets just say you're not likely to survive to stand trial."

Donovan nodded, grinning.  "Trust me, I understand completely.  You were right earlier, after the building of the first Death Star, the ready supplies of Kyber were exhausted.  The Empire needed a replacement, and they found one: adegan pontite crystals.  These are found in many places, so the supply is ample, but in order to work together the crystals needed to be tuned in the force.  Initially this was done by a special cadre of Inquisitors based on Naboo.  When this processing center was destroyed by a member of our Order a new supply line was set up.  This center was also neutralized, but several Inquisitor survivors scattered, each taking a supply of the tuned crystals with them.  Most took their loads to Endor, where they were used to bring the second super-laser online.  But some did not.  Most of these rouges have formed bands of followers, using them to dominate their own spheres of influence ... and using their personal supplies of crystals to arm them.  My order has been working to ... disarm ... these Sith Lord want-to-bes.  Which brings me to this load in particular ... and who's probably after us."

"Finally!" Joanna interjected, only half joking. "I was starting to think we were going to end up taking on the Empire itself!"

Instead of laughing, Donovan only looked at her with a blank face.  "Well..."

Alex leaned forward now, intent on the Knight.  "Well ... what?  All five of you just pumped out an emotional spike.  Spit it out."

Donovan took a sip of his coffee before continuing.  "These crates, as well as four others we've already shipped home, all came from a cache we literally stumbled over.  They were all held by Dark Jedi who were loyal to a Dark Jedi Master named Jerec.  We don't know that much about Jerec, just that he was a Jedi Master and Archeologist and a close associate of Jocasta Nu, before the fall of the Order.  And now, he works for a large and nasty Imperial Remnant forming in the Outer Rim under Grand Moff Kaine."

Joanna sat back.  Her face as a mask but Alex could feel the fear radiating off of her.  "So ... we ARE being chased by the Empire."

"Not to mention multiple bands of Mandalorian mercenaries." Alex interjected.

"And a Sith warlord with his own ship and following of fanatical dark-siders." Donovan replied.  "Lets not forget that."

"Oh, certainly not."  Alex slouched into his seat.  "I have a bad feeling about this..."

"The song is restless, but it is stable for now.  We have some time still before conflict engulfs us." The Master Healer spoke, her voice rough with age.  Her blue eyes pierced Alex.  "Your song is strong, young one.  It rings with the strength of the Krin ... and Cunn's counterpoint."

Alex was taken aback.  "How...  Did you know Master Cunn?"

"Many years ago, before the Empire, I met a Jedi Shadow named Cunn.  He was young.  Unhappy.  We spoke many times of his path and the Song he chose to sing.  In the end he found what he was looking for on Coveway.  I thought he was in error, wasting his potential ... but then came the Clone War and the Empire."  She regarded Alex.  "It would seem I was ... mistaken.  His song is inside you.  It was not lost after all."

"Song again..." Alex leaned forward.  "What song?  I have no memory of Master Cunn singing.  I doubt he could carry a tune in a bucket, let alone sing..."

THe old woman smiled and waved a hand.  "It is hard to explain, and now is not the time.  Soon.  For now..." Her gaze became intense again.  "...you carry his legacy and mission: To return the Hearts of Stone to their dwelling place."

Alex was stunned.  "What...  Mission?  What are the 'hearts of stone' and where do they dwell?"  But the old woman was silent, her intense blue eyes her only statement.

Donovan shared a look with the other Mak'Tor.  It was not unusual for wise old healers to suddenly make declarations but it was almost always over a close apprentice or family member.  But over a stranger?  It was nearly unprecedented.  "She will not elaborate, Alex.  Its ... not our way."

"Ma'am, you are a seer as well as a healer?" Alex asked.  "May I at least know your name?"

"I am Elo'Na of Clan Racc, Elder and Healer." she replied.  "Now go.  It is time for actions, not words. The song quickens."

Alex was about to question her when the sense of impending danger struck him as well.  "Joanna ... we need to go.  Now."

In a moment everyone was moving, the Mak'Tor strapping in and manning the gunnery stations again while Alex and his wife sprinted for the cockpit.  Alex stopped for a moment to speak to Opal as he went.  "Opal.  Log into the database, find a folder called "Contigencies" and find the file "Rancor Bait".  Follow the instructions and stand by."

"Understood, friend Alex." Opal replied, turning to plug into the main data terminal.

"Thank you Opal.  Blip ... GET ON THAT STABALIZER!"

"Boo-eeeep!"
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2018, 08:31:03 PM »

Loving this story. Alex is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. In many ways, he is much like Rowahn. He is obviously a singer (or is he), but he doesn't know what that is or what it means. Loved the R1 references, and especially the We Are Gray reference. I'm interested to see what this "Rancor Bait" contingency is. Grin
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"I am the Outcast's Shadow" - Taegin Roan
"We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the first order down." - Poe Dameron

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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2018, 02:08:05 PM »

Poor Alex..taking on WAY more than he bargained for...the connection to Master Cunn is...too strong to be a coincidence....I suspect once the immediate danger is over Alex will be more than a little suspicious of being...used. Healers queer Oracle i suspect has to do with Opal and co...but maybe not...and doesn't Jerec have a date on Ruusan at some point....anyway that is the problem with ending the rule of two for the Sith just no discipline every two bit nut with a few crystal s and followers claims to be a Sith...Bane, Palpatine and Xithar would despair!
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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."

Karmack
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Light side points please.


« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2018, 08:06:57 AM »

LOL

Jerec was pretty legit in canon.  And yes, he was one of the people seeking the Valley of the Jedi.  He wanted to extract its power for himself.
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Karmack
Forumverse Loremaster
Master of Ceremonies
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************

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2018, 01:01:07 PM »

Sorry for the delay!  The time of year has us all going in circles.  :-)   But at last....

Chapter 3: Into the Fire
The Hope II
Lesser Lantillian Route
Hyperspace, somwhere in the Tharin Sector
Outer Rim
5 ABY


Alex finished strapping in and scanned his board.  "Engineering is optimal.  Weapons are hot.  Shields at 98% and holding..."

"Hot stick, manuevering engines are on stand-by as are the sub-lights.  Alex ... what are we doing?  We're in hyperspace, not scheduled for emergence for another fourteen hours."

Alex sighed.  "I don't know precisely.  I just ... have a very strong feeling that we're in imminent dang..."

The Hope's engines and shields screamed as the ship suddenly lurched and was dragged sideways out of hyperspace.  Alex felt bruises forming on his shoulders from the stress of the five-point harness digging into his frame and he slammed a telekinetic shield around himself and Joanna, using the force to dampen the worst of the violent buffeting in the ship.  He heard crashing behind him as one or more of the droids broke loose of their anchor points as well as partially muffled cries and one chilling scream that cut off abruptly with a wet thumping sound.  Alex felt the shock and confusion crashing through the force and he erected a wall, separating himself from the reverberations of emotion.  It was a variation of the technique that allowed him to hide his presence in the force.  A wall, rather than a hole; it let him avoid distractions in times of stress.

Like now.

Alex' eyes flew over the engineering panel.  Red lights were interspersed with the green, as well as amber, creating what would have been an aesthetically pleasing mixture of colored light under other circumstances.  The picture they painted, however, was grim rather than pleasing.  "Starboard engine is offline, the hypermatter flow regulator is throwing a fault.  Probably shock damage..."

"We're in real-space.  Hyper generator is squawking a gravity-well code, but there's nothing on the charts...." Joanna replied.  Her voice was rough, her breathing labored.  "Whatever happened, it gave us a hell of a twist..."

"The board is showing shear fractures in the starboard stringers, and the flex meters in the keel are reading 214% of recommended load." Alex toggled through the screens, noting structural loading.  "The hull is holding up, but we're going to have to do a full survey after our next re-entry to make sure we're not bleeding air or have any failed hull plating."

"Logged." Joanna replied.  "Weapons and sensors coming back online..."

Alex turned and called up the companionway.  "Donavan, are you up?"

"I ... think so.  Mounts are powering up, but it looks like we're disconnected from the primary sensor array."

"Understood." Alex turned back to his board, punching keys.  "Gambler!  I have a fault in control bus Aurek-four!  Nail that down!  We need sensors feeding those gun sights or we're defenseless!"   Before Gambler could reply Blip squeeled at him.   "No!  Stay on those stabilizer relays!"

"Boo-eeep Blip bloop bwaaaa."

"Opal will have to look after herself!  Stay on those relays or I will weld you permanently to that bulkhead!"

"Boo-eeeep! Blarrpppth"

"I heard that...."  Alex shook his head.  "Teenagers..."

"You programmed him." Joanna replied.  "There's a ... ship out there.  Main sensors are still offline.  I'm trying to get the optical relay laid on for an attempted ID..."

Alex heard her wince.  "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, just got wrenched pretty hard into the console.  Thanks, by the way.  That cushion probably saved my ribs."

"You're welcome." Alex replied.  He noted a stream of text on his board.  "Gambler has the fault isolated, sensors in two minutes."

"Good.  We're going to need them."  Joanna replied.  "Look."

Alex leaned over, looking at the optical sensor screen.  "Star destroyer?"

"No, worse.  An Interdictor."

   <<<<  >>>>

Captain Jenorrson stood at the forward viewport of his ship's bridge and tried to suppress his frown as two more blue flashes of energy and cork-screwing streaks of pseudomotion lit space within his view.  "Tactical, have you had any luck sorting out that ... mess ... out there?"

The tactical officer, standing down in the pit with his sensor staff, grimaced and braced to attention unconsciously as he reported.  "Yes, sir, but we're still behind.  We're right in the middle of a major space lane, sir, and we're hauling in multiple targets that fit the profile.  It may take some time to..."  He broke off as one of his technicians suddenly raised his hand, then pointed at his screen.  "Sir!  We have a hit!  The transponder doesn't match but the engine signature and hull form match the criteria we were given." 

Jenorrson nodded, never turning.  "About time.  Vector two flights of fighters to intercept.  Ion-cannons only - we want to disable, not destroy."

"Aye, sir!  Vectoring Dorn and Esk flights.  Besh and Forn remain in CAP with Aurek and Cresh on plus-five in the bays."

"Very good."  Jenorrson scowled at the specks of fleeing freighters.  "Lets bag our target quickly.  I wish to be back in Alignment space as quickly as possible."

   <<<<  >>>>

They were running.  There was no other word for it.  Their only hope of escape was to get far enough away from the Interdictor to be able to enter hyperspace.  Just how far that was no one really knew for sure.   But since they were still within the zone where ships, mostly small tramp freighters like their own, continued to be ripped out of the busy space lane, they knew it had to be further away than they were now.

The Hope responded, her engines surging as Gambler and Blip repaired or re-routed fuel flows and control busses.  "Sensors in thirty seconds!" Alex called to the Mak'Tor on the guns.  "Get ready!"

"Too late!  Fighters sighted one-eight-zero and low!  Engaging..."  Jamason called, firing his guns at the incoming fighters.

The ship shook violently as the four TIEs made a coordinated strafing run, raking the ship with ion bolts.  "Shields down to 18% ... deflectors offline ..."  Alex toggled off a shot with the ship's chin turret as the flight of four passed.  A clean miss.  "Joanna, prepare for black hole protocol."

"Already done.  I hope the relays hold..." Joanna had a live stick now, twisting the Hope through complex evasive manuevers while more ion bolts chased them through space.  "More fighters, apparently..."

"Understood.  They'll hold."  Alex gritted his teeth and hung on for dear life, his stomach threatening to empty itself onto his console as his wife did her best to imitate a grolean weasle on dust.  The star field streaked and spun and he lost all directional reference, his entire focus narrowing to keep down his gorge ... and the calm, cool flow of the force.  Steady....   steady ....

Two ion bolts crashed into the ship, stripping away their final layers of shielding.  Almost immediately thereafter a third bolt hit, sending electrical impulses sparking along and into the hull.  The power systems flickered, but held.  Alex and Joanna had spent many hours laying redundant power and control runs made from armored, military-grade conduit and junctions.  Even two or three full-power ion bolts wouldn't overload their systems like it would a normal civilian ship ... but very few people in the universe knew that was the case, and Alex had no intention of making these Impies part of that very exclusive club.  He felt the impulse in the flow of the force, his finger moving almost before he'd made any conscious decision to depress the key Joanna had armed on his panel.  "Black hole ... now!"

Before the crackling discharge of the last bolt's impact expended itself on the hull all power on the Hope died.  The ship immediately began to tumble, the inertia of their last maneuvers imparting momentum in all three axis.  Alex felt a few seconds of queasy zero-g before the emergency battery systems brought the gravity plates and basic environmental systems back online.  As the gravity steadied Alex took two deep breaths.  "Just about lost it that time..."

"One of these days I'm going to win that bet." Joanna replied.  "So ... we're dead in space.  Now what?"

Alex grinned.  "Now we bait the rancor."

   <<<<  >>>>

"Target neutralized.  Dorn three and four report damage and are BINGO to the landing bay.  Dorn one and two will escort the prize.  Besh flight is returning to CAP patrol.  Tractor beam engaged."

Jenorrson nodded.  "Excellent.  Stand down singularity generators and recall the fighters.  None of this ... rabble ... are interested in anything but getting away.  We have what we want, lets take it and go."

"Aye, sir.  Singularity generators are powering down.  Gravity well is falling below thresholds.  Fighters are returning to their bays.  Astrogation is calculating course and jumps now, we will be ready to jump once the Prize is secured."

"Very good, carry on." Jenorrson watched as the blue flashes of emergence stopped and the scurrying ships started to disappear back into hyperspace.  "Run you maggots.  Run while you still can..."

  <<<<  >>>>

"Look..." Joanna pointed out the cockpit screen.  Alex watched as a YT-1300 re-aligned itself and jumped back into hyperspace, ignored by the fighters which streamed past it on their way back to the Interdictor.  "I guess they got what they were looking for..."

"Yeah.  For the moment."  Alex swiveled back toward the rear.  "Opal!  Are you online?"

"Affirmative, friend Alex!" the droid called back.  "I am assisting Blip with repairs to the starboard stabilizer array."

"Understood.  Did you finish your preparations?"

"Yes!  You may deploy when ready ... though I would appreciate a bit of warning when the time comes, friends Alex and Joanna!"

Alex grinned fiercely at his wife.  "You'll get it." 

Joanna grinned back.  "You know this isn't going to work, right?  The timing has to be absolutely perfect."

"It will.  Trust the force." Alex replied.  He toggled through sub-systems until he found the one he wanted, set the parameters and armed the switch.  Laying his hand over it, he closed his eyes and calmed himself.  "Feel it flow..."

Alex concentrated and the flow of the force resolved into a familiar visual - streams of energy flowing through the landscape of his mind's eye.  They were nearly there, at the critical juncture, and Alex armed the toggle.  "Launching ... now."

The ship shuddered as escape pod three launched.  It was immediately caught in the tractor beam along with their ship, its small engine unable to break free.  Fortunately Alex had no intentions of breaking it free.  With a nudge Alex slid the pod directly into the center of the beam and began to push with the force.  Imperial tractors had a distinct tubular shape to their force matrix.  They were substantially weaker at their core than at the edge.  This was due to the harmonics of the system with the containment fields that focused the gravitational forces, and the effect was more pronounced the longer the range.  Short-range beams only had a weak core wide enough to contain a stylus.   But at the range they were currently held, the core was several meters wide.  This allowed Alex to push the escape pod closer to the Interdictor using both the force as well as its own engine.

It took less than a minute for the pod to reach the point where the beam narrowed enough for the stronger carona to catch it.  Alex continued to push, gaining a few dozen more meters of separation before finally giving up.  "Thats as far as it will go..."

Joanna bounced a ranging laser off the pod.  "That's awfully close, Alex.  Are you sure this is going to work?"

"It will work.  Just be ready with the engines and shields."  Alex had his eyes open now, seeing the pod in the force, now over a hundred kilometers away.  "Any second now..."

Feel the flow...

  <<<<  >>>>

"Sir, something else was caught in the beam."

Jenorrson turned toward the tactical officer, unable to completely hide his impatience.  "Something?" he snapped, his voice clipped.

"Sir...  It's an escape pod.  It looks like the crew may have tried to abandon."

Jenorrson nodded.  "Panic, perhaps.  Not unexpected.   Bring the pod in with the ship."

"But sir, the pod, its..."

"Lieutenant, were my orders unclear?" Jenorrson was suddenly standing directly above the tactical officer.  "Bring it in with the ship."

The tactical officer swallowed nervously.  "Ye..   Yes, sir!"

Jenorrson frowned and stalked back to the front of the bridge.  "Captain Yale, have a tactical squad report to the docking bay and prepare to receive prisoners..."

  <<<<  >>>>

Alex felt the force twitch, felt the flow turn, and his finger stabbed down on the button.  "Detonating now!"

The Hope was 114 kilometer away from the Interdictor and almost directly "below" it when Joanna brought their power systems back up to full power and slammed the engines back to full thrust.  Ions screamed as the Hope twisted, presenting its narrowest after cross-section to the Interdictor.

The escape pod was much closer, just crossing the threshold of the Interdictor's ventral docking bay, where a double-squad of storm troopers were forming up to meet it.  The pod was over-sized, one of three the Hope carried, each big enough to hold six people with air and supplies for three weeks.  This pod, however, contained only two things: a high-yield, slightly modified thermal detonator ... and a heavily shielded container of hypermatter.  As Alex' command reached the pod the thermal detonator exploded, sending a highly energetic plasma stream down the precise center of the hypermatter storage pod.  This in turn detonated the hypermatter catastrophically, resulting in a rapidly expanding shell of plasma and energy several orders higher than any bomb or torpedo warhead could yield.

Two very small portions of the escaping plasma were caught and channelled by the tractor beam.  One travelled outward, expanding and weakening before slamming into the hull of the Hope, striking the aft plating between the cooling array and the port secondary engine.  The ship was shaken hard and the plating in fact buckled, but sealant quicly filled the voids and the underlying structure of the ship was undamaged.   The second small charge went in the opposite direction, following the beam back to its emitter.  Unlike the outward wave, this inward wave was compressed and focussed into a powerful, pencil-thin penetrator which wiped out the tractor emitter on the roof of the ventral docking bay.  While not deadly to the ship, the explosion did take down the tractor beam holding the Hope, which immediately leaped away at full thrust, chased by the remainder of the expanding shell of energy flowing down and out from the explosion.

The lower half of the expanding explosion quickly dissipated, doing nothign more than rocking the Hope as it passed a second later.  The upper half of that sphere was another matter.

Approximately 30% of the energy expanding upward was caught and focused by the wide-open cavity of the Interdictor's ventral docking bay.  Two fighters were in the bay, nearly docked but still loose, and were slammed into their docking cradles resulting in heavy damage to the docks and the total destruction of the fighters themselves.  Other fighers were torn apart as well as the energy from the explosion ripped apart bulkheads and tossed loose material around like matches in a gale.  Secondary explosions blossomed across the bay as fighters, transports and fuel handling systems were detonated.  Within seconds the bay was a cratered wreck, lit only by the dying fires of ruptured fuel lines and sparks of severed power couplings.  OF the 24 embarked fighters only Dorn one and two, battered and tossed by the same shock wave that washed over the Hope survived. 

Before the two fighters could re-orient themselves Joanna had the Hope on course and entering hyperspace.  Their quick exit prevented the two pilots from re-engaging them and preventing their escape.   It also prevented them from observing the final consequences paid by the Interdictor for swallowing the bait.

As the pilots turned for home one of them noticed what looked like a chain of lightning flickering around the starboard ventral gravity projector dome.  The gravity well projectors, still powering down, were well below threshold levels but still contained massive amounts of power in their systems.  As a final blow the expanding plasma shockwave damaged several critical power couplers on all four ventral domes.  On dome three, the closest to the actual detonation, the power spikes hit critical mass and a building chain reaction of critical failures and power surges raced around the dome.

Fourteen seconds after the Hope entered hyperspace the gravity well generator went critical and exploded, destroying the Interdictor and killing the crew.  Only Dorn one and two survived, eventually being picked up by another ship after spending over a week scavenging air and water and looking fruitlessly for survivors among the wreckage.
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« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2018, 10:24:44 AM »

Ummm...yeah whatever the Mak'Tor were paying these guys they should double it...at least.

Alex does not mess around, pull me out of hyperspace, I'll blow you apart, but most noticeably the detail is amazing, the descriptions of the ships systems and how they are or are not effected by the ion and explosion, the position of the craft, the way the tractor beam works...It's amazing and i wish i could match it - I just gloss over that kind of stuff by describing big colorful explosions and peoples thoughts while watching them...its amazingly immersive stuff Karm you really know your space combat or are brilliant at making up technical jargon  -putting the science in science fiction!

But to the story...man Alex is gonna be more than a little...erm...annoyed at the risks he's now in helping the Mak'Tor - First Mando's now Imperials...'Death marks not an easy thing to live with'....
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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."

Karmack
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Master of Ceremonies
Knight Commander
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Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2018, 05:53:09 PM »

Ummm...yeah whatever the Mak'Tor were paying these guys they should double it...at least.

Alex does not mess around, pull me out of hyperspace, I'll blow you apart, but most noticeably the detail is amazing, the descriptions of the ships systems and how they are or are not effected by the ion and explosion, the position of the craft, the way the tractor beam works...It's amazing and i wish i could match it - I just gloss over that kind of stuff by describing big colorful explosions and peoples thoughts while watching them...its amazingly immersive stuff Karm you really know your space combat or are brilliant at making up technical jargon  -putting the science in science fiction!

But to the story...man Alex is gonna be more than a little...erm...annoyed at the risks he's now in helping the Mak'Tor - First Mando's now Imperials...'Death marks not an easy thing to live with'....

Thanks!  My first real "crush" if you will concerning an author's writing was Tom Clancy.  And Sci-Fi was an early staple, but the "Clancy" style has always kind of clung to my writing.  :-)  But I'm glad it works!

As for Alex...   Yeah, he's in deeper than he ever expected to be.    As for the Rancor Bait...   I'll let you in on a secret: it was designed to be used against Imperial Star Destroyers.  He had Opal prep the pod on a force-enhanced hunch more than anything else.   The bomb is designed to do three things.   1. Kill the tractor beam.    2. Provide a window for the Hope top get away.   and 3. Cripple the SD's hanger bay and fighter complement, also with a view toward getting away.

But blow the whole ship up?   Nope.  Not part of the plan.   Not that the folks they just blew up will care about the plan...

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