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Author Topic: Hearts of Stone  (Read 3728 times)
Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2018, 07:25:12 PM »

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...


Yeah escaping a trap is one thing...blowing up an interdictor...that is a costly piece of equipment and difficult to replace post Endor - i don't think anyone is going to take that loss and move on....
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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
Posts: 6078


Lord of the Force


« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2018, 07:26:20 PM »

Yeah, that was beautiful. Like LSG, I have trouble coming up with descriptions of anything that doesn't have to do with planets, characters or personalities. I have been wanting to read Clancy's stuff for a while now, but have never gotten the chance to (I play games based off the books). But every single thing about it seems like it would be realistic. You describe everything so detailed that you can almost see the circuitry. It is absolutely amazing.
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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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Karmack
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« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2018, 12:45:27 PM »

thanks guys.  I just hope I left them enough fuel to get where they're going...   ;-)
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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 #18 on: December 28, 2018, 05:47:43 AM »

Chapter 4: No Hiding Place
Syris, Outer Rim
5 ABY

The Hope erupted from hyperspace with a blue flash, the stretching of pseudomotion resolving as the ship's ion drives fired up and took over, pushing the battered light freighter toward the smuggler's moon.  In the cockpit Alex and Joanna both breathed a sigh of relief - they'd planned a fuel stop along the way at Nar Shaddah but had turned away and jumped immediately back into hyperspace when a Star Destroyer with the same markings as the Interdictor they'd encountered had been detected.  The quick change of plans had likely preserved their freedom but it had been a real risk; their fuel reserves were dangerously low due to the ... irregular ... depletion and they'd been reduced to running in low-power mode and eating e-rats for the last several days. 

But they were here, with a few grams of fuel remaining, and fortunately the ion engines used an entirely different fuel source, and the Hope still had plenty of sub-light bunkerage available.  Joanna locked in the autopilot and sat back in her seat, relaxing for the first time in days. 

"Steady on course 127 Mark 99, tracking on the primary approach beacon." 

"Navicomputer is interfaced with local traffic control..." Alex tapped keys, selecting files and placing them in the queue.  "Spectre files sent ... and accepted.  We are cleared for pad Besh-twelve."

"Autopilot has the beacon.  Twenty-seven minutes to re-entry, fourty-two to landing."  Joanna grinned at him.  "And two hours to Giuseppie's and some real food!"

"Sounds good to me!" Alex returned her grin as he spun out of the chair.  "Heads up!  We're fourty minutes out, about half that to atmosphere.  Strap in, it could be a bumpy..."  Alex stumbled as a wave of nausea swept over him.  He paused at the entrance to the common area, dry-swallowing as the sensation shifted to a cold chill running down his back.  "What the..."

He looked up and saw Donovan shaking his head as well, his face white.  "Something..."  He cocked his head, as if listening to something specific that only he could hear.  "Something is happening.  Now...."  He swallowed again, shaking his head.  "The song..."

"The song is in chaos.  The crystals are at risk.  We must flee."  Elo'Na also looked shaken, and her eyes were clouded with worry.  "Now."

Alex shook his head.  "We can't, ma'am.  We need fuel and provisions.  Even if we expedite, we don't have the cash we'd need to get turned around quickly, not without attracting attention.  A lot of attention.  To stay covert..." Alex shrugged.  "Probably twelve, fourteen hours before we can be assured of getting fuel and a food order delivered."

Donovan and Elo'Na shared a glance, the former with a look of vindication; the latter one of fear and dread. The old woman sighed. "Very well.  It is necessary, as you said.  Let us hope the Maker is gracious and the cost is midigated."

She turned and went back into the cabin the three healers shared, leaving Alex and Donovan in the cargo bay.  "The song intensifies.  Can you ... feel it?"

Alex nodded.  "I feel the tension in the force.  We're in for a fight, that's for sure."  Alex folded his arms across his chest.  "Any other details you can share from this ... song of yours?"

Donovan shook his head.  "No.  Just ... a fight.  Soon."

Alex glanced up at the chronometer.  "Ok.  Thirty-nine minutes to planet-fall.  I'll get the provisioning requests sent in, then we can prepare."

  <<<< >>>>

Joanna had the Hope under manual control as they entered the landing pattern.  Her hands moved with calm assurance, guiding the ship without effort as her eyes scanned the area.  "There...   Two O'clock..."

Alex followed her gaze and spotted the pair of upright wings marking the landing site of two Kom'rk transports.  "Company."  Alex looked back down the passageway.  "Donovan!  Two O'clock!"

"On it..."  Donovan shifted his turret sight, frowning.  "Kom'rk transports...   Figure at least two strike teams plus an LZ security contingent..."

"More likely three twelve-man squads on the target and one on security." Jamason replied.  "At least, that's how I would do it."

"Scanning with FLIR." Alex swung the passive array across the Kom'rk's as they passed by.  "I have four heat sources on board each ship and what looks like nine or ten targets around the perimeter.  Engines are still hot, they haven't been on the ground very long."

Donovan's head shot up.  "How long?"

"A few minutes, half-hour at the most." Alex responded.  "It explains why the crews are still aboard, they're probably still finishing the post-flight checks."

Donovan didn't reply.  He closed his eyes and Alex heard him hum a tune, deep in his thoat.  Alex heard the notes and for a moment he had the impression of a far more intricate song, something only half-remembered, but again he had no time to analyze it.  With a flash he was aware of a strong pulse flashing outward in the force, and unlike the music there was no ambiguity here.

DANGER!

Donovan took a deep breath and opened his eyes.  "A warning.  In case we are in time."

Alex nodded, rewinding the FLIR scan.  "Makes sense.  Joanna, how close are we going to be to them?"

"Close.  They're one aisle over and five bays down.  Frankly I wish we were further away."

"Agreed.  We need to take their base of operation first, then move against the strike team." Alex scratched his nose, thinking.  "They're still consolidating their perimeter, but they really don't expect to get hit from behind.  We need to strike hard and fast."

As the ship settled Donovan and Jamason joined them.  "We're badly outnumbered.  Can we stay covert long enough to achieve surprise?"

Alex nodded.  "Leave that to me.  I can cover our approach, just don't reach out with the force until we make contact.  Opal!" Alex waved the Shard over.  "Draw weapons, we're going to need fire support on this one."

"Agreed, friend Alex.  May I assume deadly force is authorized?"

Alex nodded.  "I would expect nothing less."

  <<<<  >>>>

The five of them moved quietly.  Ahead, thermal scanners told the tail - three targets, two forward and one back.  Most likely there were others around the bend that they couldn't see, but who would see anything that happened to their fellows in time to raise an alarm.  Alex concentrated, dampening their presences, keeping them hidden from all organic senses.  TO defeat the rest, they'd donned thermal blankets, killing their heat signatures at the price of comfort.  Sweat soaked his back as they closed on the figures.  Due to the blankets, only Opal was able to move freely. 

Fortunately she was enough.  The closest mercenary moved, his head twitching toward them and his rifle rising.  "Conta...URK"  Before he could even make his full contact report Opal moved, her droid body responding with lightning precision to the Shard's years of training and experience as a soldier and security officer.  THe heavy blaster rifle fired three precise shots, the red bolts screaming down-range as one.  Each blast caught it's target precisely in the throat, insuring that no alarm could be raised. 

But the cat was out of the bag now.  Opal continued to lead the way, rounding the corner and firing two more shots immediately.  "Five down..."

"Copy" Alex replied, moving quickly to clear the corner.  They had a long corridor to traverse and one more dog-leg turn before entering the merc's landing bay.  They broke into a run, Joanna following close behind him while the Mak'Tor moved along the opposite wall.  Ahead, Opal crossed the final threshold and entered the bay.  "Opal, pull back!"

"Come and get it, squishies!" Opal yelled, pouring fire from both her rifle and a heavy blaster pistol as she moved into the bay.  The four humans threw off their thermal coverings and limbered up their own weapons as they followed her into battle.  Ahead of them the mad Shard was like a super-nova of energy.  Her movements looked awkward and clumsy at first, but Alex realized that the Shard was moving in a very random and hard to predict way.  The result looked like someone staggering and struggling not to fall down, but was in fact fully controlled and made her a very hard target indeed.  But more importantly, as the four humans emerged behind her, she had drawn the full attention of the entire perimeter force.  A force that she continued to reduce even as her friends engaged behind her. 

Alex dropped the force cloak as he emerged, igniting his saber and reaching out with the force to grab a Mando mercenary taking careful aim at Opal from a high perch.  With a metaphysical pull he dragged the mercenary over the rail, driving him into the ferrocrete landing pad.  His saber spun up as he moved and he could feel his wife behind him, covering him as he moved along the perimeter.  The Knights split away, each of them charging into one of the grounded transports and dealing with its crew while Alex, Joanna and Opal continued to take out the perimeter team. 

It took Alex two minutes to complete his perimeter sweep and his saber hummed in his hand as he let his senses flow over the bay perimeter.  "Clear, four down."

"Clear." Joanna called.  "Three down."

"Clear, four down." Donavan said, emerging from the first shuttle, his own saber extinguished.

"Clear, four down" Jamason echoed.  "I have a live computer here, working to access."

"Clear, four down, one captured." Opal said.  She emerged from behind the far transport, dragging a weakly moving form in badly damaged armor into the open.  "Perhaps this one may assist us in our inquiries?"

Opal dropped the Mando onto the ground and stepped back.  Alex tossed his head toward the near transport.  "Jamason has a live computer, see if you can help him out.  We'll ... talk to our friend here."

Opal looked down at the still form, back at Alex and simply nodded before turning and loping toward the grounded transport.  Alex watched her go, the looked at Joanna.  "Perimeter." 

Joanna also simply nodded, her eyes veiled as she turned away and began scanning the approaches to the pad.  Alex extinguished his saber, clipped it to his belt, and knelt down.  He removed the man's helmet, revealing a face of chiseled features marred by years of weathering and battle scars.  Alex calmed his mind, focussing his attention on the force, reaching out with his hand, his mind, seeking contact...

A hand on his arm interrupted him.  "Alex ... you know what you're doing, right?"

Alex pulled back and sighed. "Yes, Donovan, I know the techniques ... and what they cost." 

Donovan met his eyes.  "Be quick."  His blade ignited and he began his own patrol of the perimeter, leaving Alex to his task.

Alex sighed again and re-focused, reaching out with the force.  His hand made contact with the Mandalorian's forehead, intensifying the sensation of connection as Alex followed the pathways highlighted by the force and plunged into the other man's mind.  The delve was fast and intense, the mind damaged already by trauma and lack of oxygen.  Alex could feel connections breaking as he moved, his clumsy damage enhanced by his haste to find what
he was looking for.  Pathways collapsed around him like shattering crystal until he saw it... 

Alex jerked back, emerging from the delve as the Mandalorian expired, breathing his last.  He shuddered, then stood.  "Donovan!"

"Yo!"

"Donovan, contact your medical mission, they're about to be overrun."

  <<<<  >>>>

Russ'alor Slaad crouched behind a pillar as blaster bolts splattered overhead.  "Besh team, move now, Cresh cover.  Aurek, hold and prepare to follow Besh."

Around him the twelve members of Besh leaped up and advanced, firing blasters and grenades.  The bolts mainly found harmless walls, but three were
deflected back by rapidly moving lightsaber blades, and all of the grenades were stopped in mid-air and thrown back in the faces of the attackers. 

They exploded harmlessly, the flash-bangs meant only to be a distraction and the effects were mitigated by the mercenary's armor.  Two of them fell, hit by defected bolts before they reached the next group of cover positions.

Now ten, Besh continued firing from cover as Aurek rose up and followed them, also losing a pair of troopers in their rush. 

Cresh and the small command group followed in turn, each losing a trooper, bleeding men to gain ground as they advanced deeper into the heavily fortified enclave.

Slaad cursed under his breath as he settled into his new position.  Nine down so far...  Rhul Stour expected him to take this enclave, and he intended to do it, but the cost was mounting.  Two of the half-dozen Knights holding it had also gone down but the rest were fighting hard and had apparently been warned in time to arm themselves and implement defensive measures that were turning his lighting raid into a slugging match.  Costly ... but it's a fight we will win, unless something else goes wrong.

Which it immediately did.

Besh had just emerged to repeat their leap-frogging motion when two saber-armed knights hit them from behind, cutting through their ranks like buzz saws. Reaction from Aurek and Cresh was nearly instantaneous, but suprise was total and the three Knights fought like banshees.  Worse, as the mercs turned to engage they were instantly attacked by the two remaining knights within the compound as well.  In addition accurate blaster fire opened up from across the street, making it impossible for the mercenaries to cover effectively against either force.  They still outnumbered the Jedi four-to-one, but against well-trained force users... 

Slaad knew they were beaten.  He also knew what the penalty for a second failure against these Mak'Tor would be, and there were far better ways to die than at the hands of Rhul Stour making an example of him for others...

And this way I can maybe take one or two with me...

Slaad's communications tech and aid were already engaged with one of the Jedi, the one who had led the reinforcements on Peg Shar.  His purple blade was a flashing streak of light as he closed, deflecting blaster bolts and melee weapons with equal skill.  His men would last only seconds...

Slaad lifted the rocket launcher, aimed and fired.  The Jedi reacted, screaming a name, his careful defense replaced by a furious attack.  Slaad had a momentary feeling of satifaction, of knowing he'd at least hurt the bastards, before a purple-white flame severed his head from his body and all thought ended forever...

 <<<<  >>>>

"Joanna!  Incoming!" Alex reached into the force and found a more direct pathway, hammering aside the two Mandalorians who had attempted to flank his

attack as the third raised a rocket launcher and aimed it toward Joanna's position across the street ... and fired.

"JOANNA!!!!"  Alex lunged forward, his blade sweeping, but he was to late.  The rocket leaped away, flying low across the street and slamming into the

stick stone facade Joanna was sheltered behind.  Rock chips flew and Alex had a fleeting view of his wife spinning away from the explosion.  Before

the Mandalorian's severed head hit the ground Alex was pounding toward his wife, bounding with force-enhanced leaps to reach her.

  <<<<  >>>>

Donovan finished off the last Mando mercenary, his blade swinging through an orbit before coming around and clashing with another Knight's blade.  "Sif!"

"Don" Koawan Sif'an'Cam grinned at her childhood friend.  "Just in time.  You never could resist a dramatic entrance, could you?"

"Nope."  His eyes softened slightly.  "I am glad we were in time to help."

"Me, too.  Your warning gave us just enough time to get the auto-turrets online and pull everyone back into the defensive perimeter.  Without that..."

"Glad to help."  Donovan grinned, then his face changed.  "Joanna..."

"Who?" Sif questioned, then turned at the sound of movement behind her.

Framed in fire, Alex shuffled forward, his wife unconscious and bleeding in his arms.  "Help me, please?"
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2018, 06:34:57 AM »

The price of this conflict is getting higher and higher on both  sides...how long before one decides it's not worth it anymore..not that Slaad has much to decide anymore.... Don't think Slaad nor Alex are getting paid enough for these losses and risks.

And Opal...come get it squishies....um...not troubling at all for organic life...
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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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Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2018, 02:14:03 PM »

LOL

Yeah, I had to think about what a Shard might use as a disparaging label for an organic life form.  "Squishy" seemed appropriate.  :-)
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Taegin Roan
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Posts: 6078


Lord of the Force


« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2018, 06:18:45 PM »

Opal just reminds me of L3-37 from Solo (or maybe it is the other way around since Opal appeared before I watched Solo), but either way, it is super fun to read. The "squishies" line fit so well. Cheesy

But yeah, the cost of war is high.
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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

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
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Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2018, 01:51:24 AM »

Opal just reminds me of L3-37 from Solo (or maybe it is the other way around since Opal appeared before I watched Solo), but either way, it is super fun to read. The "squishies" line fit so well. Cheesy

But yeah, the cost of war is high.

More like HK-47!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXvVVCr_6P8
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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."

Lady Revan
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Force Alignment: -967
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I leave my alignment to Fate-whether Light or Dark


« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2018, 02:01:33 AM »


HK is Bae <3
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Author of: Only Light Can Cast Shadow A pre-KotOR Fem!Revan Fic

Twisted Morality (Part III of "Only Light Can Cast Shadow")

I leave my alignment to fate--Light or Dark

Karmack
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Master of Ceremonies
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Light side points please.


« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2018, 12:30:54 PM »

LOL

Actually, some of the 'fun' with Opal is remembering she is a Shard, not a droid.  The droid is must her shell, more like a suit of clothing for her than a body.  Or, maybe a better analogy would be Tony Stark inside the Hulk Buster armor.  He's in there, but he's not the armor itself.

Opal is the same way, which means that any rules that would normally apply to droids don't to her.  I'm not even sure a restraining bolt could stop her for long.
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Taegin Roan
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Force Alignment: 1833
Posts: 6078


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« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2018, 10:51:04 PM »

More like HK-47!!!

Ah, yes. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to play KOTOR, so I don't remember about HK very often.
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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 #26 on: January 02, 2019, 11:04:38 AM »

Assassin droids are one thing that would just terrify me in any "real" Star Wars scenario...    Imagine what a couple of R2 units carrying explosives could have done to a rebel base ... or an ISD.

*shudder*

I'm not really up on all of the lore ... do they have anything like Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics in Star Wars for droids?
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
Knight Commander
*

Force Alignment: 164
Posts: 1104



« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2019, 02:15:50 PM »

Assassin droids are one thing that would just terrify me in any "real" Star Wars scenario...    Imagine what a couple of R2 units carrying explosives could have done to a rebel base ... or an ISD.

*shudder*

I'm not really up on all of the lore ... do they have anything like Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics in Star Wars for droids?

Nope nothing like Asimov... consistent with the huge number of different species, systems companies etc. There are droids of all kinds from simple 'bonk...bonk...' to some so highly sophisticated arguably sentient. Like so much in Star Wars it's messy, full of variety and no standard, but that is what gives you so much scope to write your own niche!

Just consider the droids in Solo movie who were 'enslaved' and L3 versus C-3PO who is frantic for a master to please and super simple mouse droids.
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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 #28 on: January 02, 2019, 02:16:54 PM »

Nope nothing like Asimov... consistent with the huge number of different species, systems companies etc. There are droids of all kinds from simple 'bonk...bonk...' to some so highly sophisticated arguably sentient. Like so much in Star Wars it's messy, full of variety and no standard, but that is what gives you so much scope to write your own niche!

Cool!  I was hoping that was the case.  ;-)
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

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

Force Alignment: 912
Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #29 on: January 14, 2019, 04:26:47 PM »

Chapter 5: Interlude Part 1
Mak'Tor Enclave
Syvris, Outer Rim
5 ABY

Alex had never felt more powerless.  He sat in an anteroom, his wife's blood on his clothing, and stared at the place where more of her blood had stained the floor.  Alex knew he was strong in the force, but his training had centered on stealth and manipulation of events.  Mind tricks and hiding, and when necessary fighting but not healing.  He knew only the most rudimentary healing techniques, and only how to apply them internally.   The healing arts of the Mak'Tor were a mystery, their healers an unknown quantity he wasn't really comfortable trusting with his wife's life.

The argument now leaking through the door didn't do anything to help.  "What is going on?"

"There's a ... dispute ... between the healers on the best way to proceed." Donovan replied.  He was sitting with Alex, offering support.  "Apparently some new technique recently came to light and Healer Ann'A'Mack wants to..."

He was cut off by the door opening and the younger of the two healers who were attending Joanna popping out.  "Master Krin, I need to speak with you..."

Alex and Donovan stood.  "Of course, Healer...?"

"Call me Anna." The young woman was pleasant but had an air of intense urgency about her.  "Master Krin, your wife is very badly injured.  The explosion..."

"The explosion did great bodily damage, which we all already knew." The Master Healer, introduced to Alex only minutes before as Master Healer Ne'Li'Lus, emerged behind her young subordinate.  "I already told you, Anna: Those motifs are to dangerous to use without proper support..."

"But without them she'll die!" Anna replied in exasperation.  "We both know it!  The song is clear, we need to..."

"Need to?  Now you're the Master Healer?  One seminar on M'Tzigon with that rouge and you suddenly know more than..."

"Rogue?  He's no rogue!?!  He's a great man and a great healer!  Look what he accomplished on Geonosis!  Have you ever seen..."

"Yes!  Look what he accomplished!  He nearly killed himself!  And now you want to replicate his accompishments here, and maybe excede them..."

"SHUT UP!!!"

Everyone froze, suddenly silent, and it took Alex a moment to comprehend that he'd in fact been the one to shout.  He took a deep breath.  "This is not helping.  Now, one at a time..."  He looked at the Master Healer.  "Master Lus, what is your recommendation?"

The older woman shot a glaring look at her young companion but composed herself to address him.  "Your wife is badly hurt.  We're administering traditional bacta-based therapies but we're losing ground to quickly.  I'd like to try a full immersion with healing therapies and song-assisted healing flows from the healers present..."

Alex saw the young healer, Anna, roll her eyes and he raised a hand in her direction to silence her imminent comment.  "I see.  And what is your prognosis?"

Master Healer Lus' face fell.  "I'm nearly certain your wife will survive, but she will likely have significant loss of motor function to her legs and may require implants or full cybernetic enhancement to return full mobility and use."

"I see." Alex pushed down a rising sense of panic and intense helplessness and despair.  He turned to Anna.  "Now ... what is your recommendation?"

Anna looked defiantly at her superior, took a deep breath, and met Alex' look with a level gaze.  "Your wife's injuries could be addressed with a new healing motif we've recently been made aware of..."

"That's far to energy intensive and you know it!" Lus exploded and Alex gave her an icy stare.

"Healer Lus, you've said your piece.  Healer Mack, please continue."

"As I was saying...   This new motif is ... volatile ... but it offers full and nearly immediate recovery.  But..." She looked at Alex, then Donovan and Koawan Sif'an who had just entered the room, "...I will need your help." She looked at Master Healer Lus.  "All of your help." 

Ne'Li glared at Anna for a moment before closing her eyes and sighing.  She looked at Alex.  "Master Krin, she's your wife.  I cannot recommend it, but the decision is yours."

Alex looked at the two healers.  He opened himself to the force, gently probing their emotions.  Both were sincere, truthful and were utterly convinced they were right and the other wrong.  Both new their own proposal was not without risk, and both were willing to abide by his decision, whatever that might be.

Alex closed his eyes and turned his thoughts briefly inward.  Oh, One who loves me, give me wisdom!  Alex took a deep breath, thought about his wife, what she would want...

He looked at Ann'a'Mack.  "Healer Mack ... what do you need me to do to help?"

   <<<<  >>>>

The room felt full.  In the center, Joanna lay still, her body broken.  She was lying in a bacta bath, the bacta already working on the open lacerations and deep cuts across her side, back and abdomen.  She was also hooked up to breathing apparatus to keep her blood oxygenated while electrical feeds kept her heart beating and in rhythm.  At her head Healer Mack stood, already humming under her breath while she gripped an oddly glowing gem hanging like an amulet from a chain around her neck.  Despite her previous objections Master Healer Lus, at her right, was humming the same tune, and Alex could feel the power and energy pouring out of both of them.  Alex stood next to Lus, facing Donovan and his friend Koawan Sif'an'Cam, who were opposite, holding hands and also humming.

For a moment Alex felt like he was participating in some form of twisted, dark magic, but he threw it off.  If one of his martial arts classmates had seen him during his midnight workouts he might have thought Alex was just as magical.  He could feel the force, the flow of energy, even if he had no idea how the tune all four of the Mak'Tor were now humming in unison tied in.  Slowly Alex stilled his mind, concentrating on the flow, and after a moment he was able to match their flow and mimic it in the force.  He let the pattern settle, then focused every ounce of energy he could muster into enhancing and supporting that flow...

Music exploded around him.  For what seemed like a single, endless, eternal moment it soared ... harmony over harmony, melody interlocking with melody.  One melody he instantly recognized - the melody the Mak'Tor were humming!  But it was different.  Deeper.  Reinforced by a deep, rich harmony who's beauty wrapped around him, entracing him.  It was like sitting onstage with the universe' most expansive orchestra, surrounded by music.  Alex let the rich harmonies roll around him, feeling the flow of the force merging with the music, concentrating power in ways he'd never imagined.  He floated, timeless, listening in utter fascination...

A hand squeezed his as he came back to himself. Alex looked down in wonder as his wife's hand gripped his own.  Alex could feel himself connected to the others in the force, a lattice of energy that stitched back and forth and over and around Joanna.  He watched in wonder as the bacta itself glowed faintly with the energy, mirroring the faint glow of the crystal amulet around Ann'A'Mack's neck.  The glow was also faintly highlighting Joanna's wounds - and they were closing.  Rapidly.

Alex watched in wonder as his wife's body literally reformed before his eyes.  Where there had been gaping, open wounds there were now only faint pink lines.  Heart and lungs were now functioning on their own as well, and her neural activity was also returning to normal.  Alex felt the song fading away now, the drain of force energy slacking, leaving his legs trembling and his core weak with force-fatigue.  He felt utterly drained ... but it was all worth it to see Joanna's eyes flutter open.  He lifted her hand and kissed it gently, holding her eyes with his own. "Welcome back, my love."

   <<<<  >>>>


A hand shook his shoulder and Alex opened his eyes.  "Alex!  There you are.  Wake up!"

Alex came back to himself, his eyes fluttering open as the music faded in his mind.  He found himself sitting in a comfortable chair outside the treatment area, in a comfortable anteroom.  He shifted, sitting up straighter while he stretched very sore muscles.  "Joanna?  How is she?"

"She's fine.  Sleeping for now."  Anna grinned at him.  "The song drained us, as Neli said it would.  You weren't the only one who crashed!"  Anna reached out and laid her hand on his forehead and he could feel her gentle force probe wash over him.  "Simple exhaustion, fortunately."  She picked up one of the insulated cups Alex noticed were sitting on the table beside them.  "Here, drink this."

Alex sniffed, then tood a drink.  The liquid was hot and sweet with a strong nutty, bitter flavor reminiscent of cafe but not the same.  "Thank you.  What is this?"

"Folks back home call it a 'latte', its a concentrated form of cafe mixed with steamed sweet-milk."  Anna sipped her own.  "Its actually not medicinal, just very good tasting and I'm afraid quite addicting."

Alex nodded, taking another drink.  "Well, thank you for introducing me to it."  Alex sat back slightly and looked at the healer - girl, really - over the top of the cup.  "So, Healer Mack, what exactly happened in there?" He nodded at her amulet.  "And what did that crystal have to do with it?  I was trained by a Master Jedi and I've continued my training and meditations since leaving him, but I've never encountered anything like you Mak'Tor before."

Anna gripped her amulet self-consciously.  "We ... try to keep a low profile.  The people we help are generally considered the dregs of society - slaves, servants, the generally down-trodden.  We offer hope and light the hopeless and those trapped in darkness.  As you can imagine, these people don't have a lot of interest in turning us in."

Alex nodded.  "Well, someone turned in the operation on Peg Shar, and if you're capable of what I just saw I'm surprised some Hutt hasn't already scooped you all up as slaves."

"We're all concerned about the attack on Peg Shar.  We had a similar attack here not to long ago with some ... horrible results.  But it wasn't about the power of the Song, but about the crystals themselves.  One of my clansmen has gotten mixed up in some serious power plays over them, and as you saw they can facilitate some amazing things.  I can't say I agree with everything he's done but several of the Clan healers met with him just before I came here.  While we were there he shared what we call a 'motif', a tune in the Song.  Its a modification of a memory motif of all things.  The way it was explained was that the force rebuilds the body into the undamaged state it had before the injury was sustained.  The crystal helps focus the energy and allows me to tie in other people, otherwise the energy required would be to much for all but the smallest repairs. There is also a time factor, the body only 'remembers' how it was for a few hours.  The longer you wait, the less effective the technique will be.  After even a few days full healing is impossible and after only a couple of weeks it doesn't work at all."

Alex nodded.  "So ... the music I heard was the song?"

Anna set her cup down and leaned forward.  "You heard the song?  Describe it."

Alex did his best to relay the experience while she listened, nodding.  "That's interesting.  Usually a novice will hear a simple tune or an ethereal sound like music playing in the distance.  But what you're describing sounds like you plunged right into the heart of it.  Am I right thinking you couldn't really discern a clear melody?"

"No, just a very deep, rich interweaving of melodies and harmony, all different but all weaving together into a melodious whole."  Alex sighed.  "I couldn't understand it or fully comprehend it but I can't forget it either.  It was just ... beautiful."

"That's the Song.  I don't think even Master Karmack understands more than a fraction of it."  Anna replied.  "Still, I'm glad you could hear it.  Most force users can't."

Alex sighed again, slumping in the chair.  "Well, whatever it is its gone now."  He gestured with his chin.  "And the crystal?  Did you create it?"

Anna looked down at her amulet, cradling it in her hands.  "No, Master Karmack actually tuned it.  He presented one to each of us at the conference.  They came from a previous cache of crystals he and his wife recovered from the Empire."  Anna tucked the crystal back into her robes and stood.  "Rest, Master Krin.  Your wife will be waking up in a few hours.  You should sleep as well, we'll need to be on our way soon after she awakes."

"But I have more questions..." Alex tried to rise only to find his legs wouldn't support him. "What...  What is happening?"  His vision swam as he sat back and he looked back at the cup she'd given him.  "What did you...."

Anna reached over and picked the cup up.  "I said the latte wasn't medicinal.  I didn't say there wasn't anything medicinal in it.  Now go to sleep..."

Alex thought he should be angry at her, but he suddenly didn't have the energy.  He slipped back into a deep, healing sleep with the vague notion in his mind that healers were sneaky...

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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

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