Posts: 12
  • Posted On: May 22 2010 7:23am
“You heard the rumors?”

The two stormtroopers kept stride with each other as they patrolled the dank corridors of the Mourning Star, an Imperial slave barge bound from Balmorra to Vladet in the wake of the Dominion assault on the Core. Normally, the Empire wouldn’t bother to spend the credits on what they viewed to be lowlife scum, but the Mourning Star contained political prisoners the Imperial High Command viewed as too dangerous to risk falling into enemy hands, even in the wake of an alien invasion.

The two troopers were using a private comm. frequency, and to outside ears they seemed to be speechless as they marched on past. Still, their whispering tones could mean only the most conspiratorial of conversations was being exchanged.

“What, that shiv about desertion? No way the Cap would ever go for it,” the other trooper replied, shaking his head ever so slightly, “Way too loyal to the throne.”

As they walked past each cell, they took turns distributing rations into the receptacles. Every prisoner on the ship was in solitary confinement. Many of them had been for all of their Imperial incarceration. The Empire was not kind to its political prisoners. The barge had orders to serve one meal a day, and none bothered to check the cells for sickness.

The Mourning Star had a high death rate during transport.

“Yeah,” the first trooper said, his voice hesitant, “but the way a lot of people see it, there isn’t much of a throne to be loyal to anymore. The Emperor is gone…and not everyone has faith in Park Kraken.”

Emperor Kraken,” the second trooper corrected, absentmindedly. They had been drilling that into every member of the Empire since his coronation, “The Cap won’t see it that way, anyone does anything.”

“Yeah, but you gotta admit, that shitstorm on Coruscant was bad,” his partner replied, sounding cautious, “And what with those, what do they call them, Reavers? The Empire is in a bad way.”

“The Reavers are a myth. The Coalition made that shiv up to lower morale,” the second trooper said, chuckling at his partner’s naïveté, “Every grunt knows that.”

“I’m just saying, I can understand why some would be…disgruntled,” the first stormtrooper glanced slightly to his left as he said those words.

“Disgruntled is one thing. Hell, we put the ‘grunt’ into disgruntled,” the second trooper said, chuckling at his wit, “But stormtroopers don’t desert. You got me?”

“Yeah, I got you,” the first trooper’s said in a dead voice, his tone changing so imperceptibly that his partner didn’t pick up on it. Glancing around, he changed the subject, “Hold up, what’s this? This inmate’s papers must be wrong.”

The other trooper paused and gave the cell door a glance. His partner had been right. There was no more information than the prisoner’s serial code, incarceration date, and one word, ‘Stazi’, probably a name. It was a peculiar sight, so close to the Core. Moffs near the center of power were real sticklers when it came to protocol, and even prisoners were processed accurately, in case their existence ever need be denied.

“Should we comm. someone?” the first trooper asked.

“Wait, hold on,” the other glanced down at the date and did the math, “No, I’ve seen this before. Check the incarceration date. This one’s pre-Wrath.”

“Pre-Wrath? What do you mean?” the trooper asked.

“He was captured before the Wrath Virus outbreak,” the second trooper explained, “You didn’t join up until a little after, but when that shiv went down, it was pure fraking chaos. A lot of things got lost or confused. This must be the only data the Empire has left on him. He could’ve been a two-bit smuggler working with the Rebels, a Senator, or a fucking Admiral for all we fraking know.”

“So, why don’t they just stop feeding them or blow them out the airlock or something?” the first trooper asked, already bored.

“Orders are orders,” the other man said, shaking his head, “Not worth the trouble. Someone might remember this guy some day, and it’ll be our asses if he isn’t around to face his crimes. Who knows, he might even be dead already.”

“Copy,” the first trooper replied, and the two continued their rounds down the corridor.

Inside the cell, a starving Duros sprang upon his rations like a wild animal, and at first glance one might mistake him for having gone rabid. Sanity was not an easy thing to hold onto in Imperial prison, and the prisoner had been living in the darkness of solitary for longer than he could possibly remember.

The trooper had been right. He had been forgotten. And worse, he had no way of knowing why. Only the songs he had been taught in his youth on Duro and the defiance inside his heart had kept him alive. This Duros was not a man to let things go unfinished.

He still had a war to fight.

The second day, the same two Imperial troopers came down his cell’s corridor, handing out rations. The first trooper seemed jumpier than usual this day, as if any moment he expected something to happen. Finally, he got the signal he had been waiting for.

“Got a call from the C.O.,” he said, holding his helmet closer to his ear.

“What does he say?” the second trooper asked.

“Uhh, a lot of static,” the first man said nervously, “Go on ahead, I’ll let you know when I can make him out.”

“Copy,” the second trooper nodded, continuing down the corridor, distributing rations.

The blaster fire took him completely by surprise, and before he could turn around he was on his stomach, two scorching black holes still smoking in his back. The first trooper lowered his blaster, and in the distance he could hear the firing of more shots. In a few moments, there was a slightly perceptible lurch as the barge exited hyperspace, and diverted course.

“You were right,” the first trooper said, looking down over the corpse of his fallen partner, “There was no way the Cap would ever go for it.”

Inside his cell, the Duros listened with his hear against the wall, the blaster fire having roused him from fitful sleep. All he could hear was the sound of muffled voices, and the echoes of blaster fire farther away. He could feel the change in motion of the ship, and still had enough wits about him to know that they were back in hyperspace, but not along the same route as before.

The faint glimmer of hope that incident sparked inside him died quickly as nothing happened over the course of the next few days. His rations were still delivered only once a day, at the same time as always. He had no way of knowing that the one of the two troopers that delivered them was not the same as who did before.

He had no way of knowing that they were now bound for Nar Shaddaa.

“You really think they’ll go for that much?”

“Why not?” the first trooper asked as they walked down the corridor, “You have any idea how many people might want to get their hands on political prisoners? Even if they’re just some lowlifes, they’ll go for something. I’m telling you, Nar Shaddaa has a huge slave market.”

“And then we all split the profit and go our separate ways, eh?” his comrade mused, “What’s to stop Kerrik from fucking us over?”

“I’ll tell you what,” as he said the words, he lightly caressed his rifle, “I gunned down a man I served with for five years in cold blood. He deserved a proper death, but I couldn’t take any chances. I shot him in the back. He was a good man. If I don’t get mine, I’ll have no problem doing the same to Kerrik, bastard that he is.”

“We did what we had to,” the other man put in, “None of us are proud of it, but none of us are willing to go down with Park Kraken when the time finally comes. When I get my share, I’m headed for the Rim, as far the frak away from the Core and those Cree’Ar bastards as possible. You?”

“Where I’m going is none of your damned business,” the former Imperial trooper growled.

“Frak me then, sorry for asking.”

For a while they walked in silence, handing out rations at each cell door. It was a monotonous job, but necessary even then. The prisoners were their ticket away from the falling Empire. That, and whatever price they could fetch for the barge.

“I have family on Vladet,” the trooper said, at last, “A wife and son. When I get my share, I’ll be headed there to get them and get away.”

“Imperial Center?” the other trooper said, his eyes widening inside his helmet, “Frak me.”

“Imperial Center was base delta zeroed,” the first snapped, “Vladet is nothing but the throne of a fool.”

“All I meant was…never mind,” the second sighed, “Let’s just get this done and report back to Kerrik.”

Far behind them, the Duros had just finished his rations. Every day, he promised he would save a small portion for later, and every day he ransacked them as soon as they fell through the slot. He was a warrior, and inside his cell he had no one to war with but himself. A lesser man would have given into insanity years ago.

He was no lesser man, but this was a war he was beginning to fear even he could not win.

Tears streamed down his face, and in hopeless desperation he clutched the patch on the tattered rags that had once been his uniform, struggling to find some sense of comfort in the symbol of all he had stood for, once upon a time. Now, he could not even stand himself, he was so weak.

His hand fell away from the patch, revealing the crest of the New Republic. There was no comfort to be found. They had forgotten him. The bars on his chest that signified his rank meant nothing after all.

Mazik Stazi, Admiral of the New Republic First Fleet, had lost hope.
Posts: 12
  • Posted On: Dec 14 2010 2:23am

The word, which was once just a word, had become irrevocably associated with the fall of the Republic and the rise of Hyfe and Kaine’s New Order. Speak the word in any tapcaf or cantina throughout the known galaxy, and whether it was pride in the Empire or a reminder of old wounds, all knew immediately what you were speaking of. It had become more than a word, more than a battle, both and yet neither. Endgame was a feeling.

It perhaps spoke to the terrible genius of Simon Kaine’s mind that Endgame was not a thing itself, but a series of events that even now most did not completely understand. It had done much to further the idea of the Empire’s Grand Marshall as not a man, but something more, a sorcerer more feared and deadly than most infamous Sith Lords of old.

When a man looked into Simon Kaine’s eyes, he gazed upon portals into a mind that had overthrown the galaxy and remade it in his image. Who but Palpatine could claim to have done the same?

In the bowels of an Imperial slave barge that had once been bound for Vladet, now for the criminal underworld of the galaxy, there was a prisoner who had never heard of Endgame, and yet had been destroyed by it so completely that history itself had all but forgotten him.

He had once been Mazik Stazi, this he knew. And yet, after so many years in the solitude of an isolation cell, that name no longer had much meaning for him. Neither did the frayed patch on his arm or the bars on his chest.

The prisoner was reminded in the vague way that he could remember, his body having once felt the way his mind did now. He had been a soldier once, and spent time in a bacta tank. Any who had done so could tell you that the feeling was unnerving. The breath mask was the only connection you had to the outside world. Other than that, it felt as if you were floating in a void, and the longer you stayed in the more difficult it became to remember the feeling of touch and sound.

Now, it was not his body but his mind that had been lost in such a void. He knew, perhaps, that he was finally beginning to lose his mind. Hope had kept him sane for years, but it could not sustain him indefinitely. He searched for something, anything to cling to. His perception of memory, of time, seemed almost to decay around him, and for a moment, he felt not that he was remembering, but reliving those last moments of freedom, those last moments he had been Admiral Mazik Stazi of the New Republic.

Had he known it, he was reliving Endgame.

His eyes no longer saw the wall in front of him, but stars. He was looking out a viewport, standing on the bridge of the ship he had once commanded. The Nebula-class Star Destroyer Justice had once been…was the flagship of the New Republic First Fleet, tasked with defending Coruscant.

It was a dark time for the Queen of the Core. For the first time in thousands of years, it found itself no longer the beating heart of the dominant power in the galaxy. The New Republic had moved its seat of power to nearby Corellia, and expressed no interest in returning the government to what many on Coruscant viewed as its rightful place.

What had once been the center of the galaxy now felt shoved aside, just another member world. This shift in paradigm had not only hurt the citizens of Coruscant morally, but fiscally as well. More and more businesses had flocked to Corellia, all used to increasing their cash flow with proximity to the government’s heart.

Weakened economically, the ecumenopolis had been forced to make deals that they otherwise would never have considered, the most controversial of which had been bringing Arliss Industries, an organization those on Corellia bore no love for.

Arliss…was it Admiral Stazi or the prisoner who felt such rage at the name? He could no longer tell. Perhaps both. Even before his incarceration, Mazik had little fondness for the business conglomerate. Their methods seemed altogether too…imperial for his tastes.

But more importantly, Mazik was a patriot. As a younger duro, he had been a veteran of the Rebel Alliance as it fought against Palpatine’s regime. He had been a Lieutenant at Endor, a battle that seemed to him simultaneously fresh in his mind and yet ancient history. He had stayed a military man even after the New Republic had driven the remnants of the Empire out of the Core. He had a gift for command, but Stazi knew politics was a type of warfare he could not thrive in, but neither did the idea of a simple civilian’s life appeal to him.

But perhaps the main reason he had stayed on in the Navy was the wanderlust characteristic of all Duros. His time in the Rebellion, though begun for more altruistic reasons, had fed his native desire to explore the galaxy. He was a true Traveler.

But now, the Admiral felt less like a soldier and more like a propaganda piece. The First Fleet had historically protected the heart of the Republic, but although the Senate had seen fit to reconvene on Corellia, the Navy had a more healthy respect for tradition. The First Fleet had always been the guardians of Coruscant, and they saw no reason to abandon their post. Stazi himself had been the main force in allowing the Senate to concede them this point of pride.

But with attention shifted from Coruscant to Corellia, the First Fleet had found themselves in desperate need of new blood, and not enough recruits to fill that void. Now, with the terrorist bombing on Coruscant’s surface, Arliss Industries had aggressively expanded their security services.

The Fleet had pride, but not blind pride even in the face of reality. They had needed the men, and Arliss had been more than willing to supply. Now, of the 1600 troops Justice carried, the majority wore Arliss uniforms. Even a sizable portion of their crew had come from the private contractor, though Stazi had managed to retain a wholly military command. He knew he needed the men, but he would be damned if he’d have to see anything but New Republic colors on his bridge.

The bombings had troubled him, as had the influx in private crew, but the Admiral had the utmost faith that these recent setbacks would be temporary. The politicians and security forces on the ground would get things back to normal eventually, and soon the New Republic would once again be strong enough to provide him with the men he needed, properly trained military men; though he could not deny many of the Arliss boys were efficient in their duty.

His faith and his duty kept him going. For though Coruscant had many problems, he knew that ultimately they were not his problems. He could not afford to gaze too long down at the world, for his eyes belonged fixed upon the stars around him, vigilant as always against the possibility of invasion.

Stazi remembered turning…turned to face his Sullustan XO, Jesh Nunb, a distant relative of the famous siblings Aril and Nien and a good man. Their conversation was little more than a status update, but the way they spoke to each other belied the close comradery and friendship one could only really find in a life of service.

The Admiral had been just about to hand control of the bridge over to Nunb to grab twenty winks when the explosions had rumbled within the bowel of the ship. Instantly, he was barking commands and ordering status reports, not missing a beat even despite his surprise that sensors had picked up no enemy craft.

He could not quite remember if he had been suspicious when communications had reported all their instruments unresponsive, but when the dim sound of blaster fire continuous enough to indicate a lightfight was occurring within the vessel, the Admiral had ordered the bridge doors sealed and drawn his holdout, others doing on the same.

With communications down the crew could not coordinate to repel boarders, Stazi knew he had to act. But before he could issue any commands, the bridge doors unsealed and a squad of Arliss security troops poured into the room, dragging the body of a Republic trooper with them. They had barked orders for the bridge crew to get behind them and gather together so the troopers could better shield them. With a reluctant nod from Stazi, they had hesitantly obeyed. How he regretted that nod.

The Admiral had moved to the front of the crew with the intention of demanding a status report from the squadrons leader when, as one, the entire squadron spun around with the precision that only Imperial training could provide and the bridge crew had been riddled with blue stun blasts.

Stazi had managed to raise his holdout to fire, even despite the hesitation that the sheer surprise of the assault had brought onto all of them, but by then he had been hit, and the nerves in his body screamed in pain as they stopped responding. Still he stood, nothing but blind rage keeping him on his feet, but he could not pull the trigger. The blaster pistol sagged uselessly in his hand, and then another blast knocked him off his feet.

He remembered…he knew that the Arliss soldiers had been surprised when they had discovered he had not lost consciousness. It was not unheard of after being at the receiving end of a stun bolt. Overloading a person’s nervous system often induced unconsciousness, but not always. Still, none of them had ever seen someone still awake after two successive shots.

Tears formed around the prisoner’s eyes as he wished dearly that he had blacked out. If he had, he might still have some hope in the survival of his crew…of Jesh Nunb, instead of having to witness out of the peripherals of his vision the squadron move through their bodies, finishing them off with blasters set on lethal.

A soldier moved over him, blaster rifle aimed at his face, and Admiral Mazik Stazi tried to say something, anything, even if it was nothing more than a bestial roar of defiance, but he could not. His mouth would not work. Instead, he stared the man dead in the face, unwilling to die trying to look away.

But the bolt did not come, the squadron leader pushed the man’s rifle down at the floor, and Mazik could remember the last words he had heard as a free man.

“Not this one, see the Admiral’s bars? He could prove useful,” the squadron leader said, admonishing the grunt, and spat in Stazi’s face, laughing, “Kaine is on his way boys, soon Imperial Center will be ours again!”

The blaster rifle turned, and the butt of the weapon came down, and Admiral Mazik Stazi had known only blackness until he awakened in the first cell among many. The words still rang in the prisoner’s head, all these years later.

Useful…he supposed he wasn’t useful after all. Neither Simon Kaine nor anyone else had ever visited them. Had he known of Wrath, he might have been able to believe that they had never gotten the chance, but he didn’t. All he could think was that the Empire’s strike had been so widespread and successful that they had no need of any information he might have.

He had hoped against that possibility for years, but he had finally run out. Lost in his reverie, lost in the void, the prisoner did not notice the slave barge’s emergence from hyperspace. Nor would it matter to him if he had. For all he knew, all that awaited him at the end of his voyage was just another cell, probably even more decrepit than this one.

Outside his cell, the crew of the Mourning Star knew differently. They had arrived, at last, at Nar Shaddaa. One way or another, their fate was sealed.
Posts: 12
  • Posted On: Jan 21 2011 11:53am
Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler’s Moon.

It was no oversight on the part of the major players in today’s galaxy that the world remained independent. Nar Shaddaa could devour diktats, it could turn a hostile occupation into a logistical and, far more importantly, political quagmire that would break the back of any intergalactic entity foolish enough to try.

Vertical City was a jungle, and the jungle held no allegiances. It didn’t adapt to you, you adapted to it. The only way to survive on a world as wretched as this one was to play as fast and loose as possible, and pray to whatever divine beings you held any faith in that you could keep it going long enough to make the creds for a boat offworld.

Nobody thrived on Nar Shaddaa; not for long anyway. Anyone tells you different, they’re about two deals away from the biggest bust of their lives, and quite possibly the last. On a world like this, the house always wins in the end.

The Hutts fancied themselves in power, and the grifters that populated their lavish palaces fawned over them as if they were. But if you stick around long enough on Little Coruscant…if you survive long enough on Little Coruscant…you start to notice that not a year goes by when all the names change, all the big players seem to disappear and new ones sprout up in their place. Only the little guys seem to stick around, the ones that smartened up quick enough to find themselves a place far enough down the ladder that wasn’t worth killing over. Maybe they’re the real players, after all. Maybe not.

Ever since Jabba had met his grisly end, Hutt Space just wasn’t the same. The little honor that remained among thieves had quickly evaporated, and it became every sentient for themselves. Were these the dark ages or the renaissance of crime? Perhaps both.

Kerrick disliked the place immediately. He looked down on its denizens, on the dreary lives they led. That was the worst mistake anyone could make coming to Nar Shaddaa. Hate the place, pity those caught in its web, but never…ever underestimate it.

Think about it long enough, and you realize that a man like Kerrick was dead the moment he set foot upon the spaceport duracrete.

At present, he fancied himself a conscientious objector, but he had fancied himself a lot of things throughout his life. He had been the Mourning Star’s XO, back when the ship had been Imperial. That seemed a lifetime ago, even if it had only been about a week since the mutiny. Now he was just Kerrick, and the crew were just “his boys” as he almost affectionately thought of them.

See, Kerrik was an opportunist, and maybe under different circumstances he would have fit right in with the lowlifes of Vertical City. But his mindset was an Imperial mindset, just as cruel as the worst lowlifes Nar Shaddaa, but suffering from one fatal flaw. That was, the subconscious rationalization of his actions. It was the same flaw all true Imperial men possessed.

Kerrik, like all Imperials, actually believed he was doing the right thing. That is to say, he had some conception of morality. A truly freakish conception of morality, but a conception nonetheless. An Imperial man could justify anything within his own mind, but that very same capability also blinded him completely to the way things actually worked.

There was a difference between the fantasy world each true Imperial had concocted and the reality of things, and on Nar Shaddaa, ignorance of this reality could, and almost certainly would, get you killed.

The officer-turned-pirate had aimed high during his time in the Imperial Navy. Groveled, lied, and betrayed his way damn near to a Captainship on some Core world’s picket line. A real nice position, one that took decades of service the honest way. But Kerrick had miscalculated, bribed when he should have killed maybe, and it had landed him slave barge duty.

Ships like the Mourning Star were a dead end on the path to the top.

So where everyone else had seen the sacking of Coruscant as a tragedy, as an act of barbarism unrivaled (to the Imperial’s line of hypocritical thinking), Kerrick had seen an opportunity. An opportunity, that was, to correct the myriad of injustices his deranged mind had conjured up to explain his present predicament. The credits he assumed they would be making off their stolen cargo was his rightful property, so cruelly robbed of him by the institution he had long supported.

So he and his boys, the disillusioned crew of the Mourning Star, had staged a coup and changed course for Nar Shaddaa. His attempts at setting up a potential buyer had been so comically juvenile that it seemed as if almost every con man and petty thief had been on the list of responders, further fueling his deranged expectations.

In the end, the decision had been made in true Imperial fashion. Kerrick had picked the highest offer from one of the few human contacts. Turncoat he may be, but the man still bore no love for “degenerate alien scum”.

And so here the Mourning Star found itself, on a landing pad within a rundown spaceport. Kerrik was looking forward to getting this unpleasant business over with and getting his credits. He only hoped that this Captain Zyras Lunewell of The Wandering One would be prompt.
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Jan 22 2011 9:42pm
The city above him groaned. This far down, the muck and the grime and the decadence coating everything was enough to strip the sound of its metallic origin. It felt truly as though he were in the belly of some world-spanning beast; ravenous, unforgiving, and deathly alert.

“It's time,” a wheezing, ghastly voice cut into the near-total darkness. Captain Zyras Lunewell could just make out the barest features of his Evocii guide, the hideous twisting of flesh that centuries of life in the Undercity had worked into the alien species. But Zyras made a living out of working with “unfavorables”. More than that, he made it the purpose of his life. And besides, the Evocii were one of the scarce few on Nar Shaddaa that a man like Zyras, so hunted by the Hutts, could trust.

Well, for as long as the meal lasted, anyway.

As the pair passed closer to the cavernous room's sole dim light, Zyras cast a look into the corner of the room, where a dozen or so Evocii were still eating, the blinding stink of the dead Hutt that he had brought as payment forcing him to look away immediately. But he kept himself composed: these Evocii could see better in darkness than he could in day, and anyone who hated a Hutt enough to eat it was just the kind of friend that he and The Wandering Ones needed to hold on to.

The pair climbed from the Evocii den for a long time. This far down, even the turbolifts don't work. It gave him time to think, as his guide wasn't much of a talker.

Jarvis liked to rotate ships in and out of Hutt Space. It gave everybody a break from the grind of raids, but kept them familiar enough with the genuine terror of combat that they could still be of use. Zyras guessed he was just “lucky” to be in Hutt Space when the message from The Wandering Ones' on-world contacts came in. One of Jarvis' other lieutenants probably would have staged a hit in orbit, just vaped the ship and marked off a couple more Imp skulls on the tally sheets.

He smiled at the thought: they liked to compare kill counts and guess at which of them Jarvis like more. But this was different; this was an Imperial dungeon ship. This was a flying crate filled with enemies of the Empire. And even if it turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of “political activists” and “religious troublemakers”, Zyras still remembered the early days, when he and Jarvis hit Hutt slave operations just for the chance to set a few people free . . . just to do the right thing.

Even a bloodthirsty psychopath can do a good deed, in his own way, every now and then.

And besides, he was going to get his skulls. However it played out, this day would end with bodies hitting the floor.

The Evocii didn't like to venture into the lit part of Nar Shaddaa. Zyras' guide left him at the lowest levels of what can really be called the Vertical City, and he found his own way from there. But as he traveled further up, he found himself not liking the lit part of the city-moon either. He had too many enemies now; his face was on too many posters. That was why he didn't bring his ship to the world. That was why he had spent the last week in the dark and putrid bowels of this world.

He was glad to see that his men were fine when he reached the tavern where they had been staying, but their names weren't listed beside every warrant issued for Jarvis Ragnar. Their faces weren't among the galaxy's most hunted. Maybe now that he wasn't stomping around Nar Shaddaa by himself, he wouldn't stand out so much either.

It was always hard to know just how many people to bring with you on these sorts of things. You needed enough gun hands to be able to fight your way out of a situation gone sour, but not so many that you drew too much attention from the common passerby. And then, of course, you want to make whoever you're planning to deal with comfortable, but not so comfortable that they think they can pull one over on you.

Things get even more complicated when you're planning a double-cross.

Zyras had settled on a crew of about a dozen, three other humans and then a nice array of unpleasant looking aliens playing the part of hired muscle. Hopefully the group would be intimidating enough to discourage foul play from the Imps while still appealing to their inherent humanocentrism.

Truthfully, though, Zyras had thought the whole operation was a bust when he found out the meeting had been set up under his actual name. But these Imps either thought their defection would offer them protection, or they had been out of contact with the galaxy at large so long that they'd never even heard of The Wandering Ones.

“Boss, I sure wish we had more gun hands. I don't like this low profile nonsense.”

Zyras cast a sideways glance at the Devaronian, grunting indistinctly at the comment. “This isn't your standard smash and grab op, Dac. Just keep your gun in the holster and your hand on the gun, and everything will go fine. Whoever these morons think they are, they're Imps. They're Imps on Nar Shaddaa, and they're already dead. We're gonna play this easy and wait for their bodies to catch up, that's all.”

“I still don't like it,” Dac sulked.

“I don't pay you to like it,” Zyras shot back.

“You don't pay me at all. I volunteer!” Dac shouted his own retort.

Zyras nodded. “And that's why I trust you enough to bring you along. So shut up and do what I say, or you don't get to come next time.”

And then they were there. The spaceport was just like a thousand other mid-level establishments spread across the Smuggler's Moon, its space rationed out to an impossible extreme. When Zyras rounded the corner and caught sight of the old slave hauler parked impossibly close to every wall around it, his heart skipped a beat and his mind went racing. But he didn't break his stride and he kept his face an impassive mask, working through the scenarios.

There were only two: either this was a set-up and he was already dead, or this ship came from one of the Empire's black lists, one of its secret programs. This was no ordinary prisoner transport vessel. Zyras knew about the Lictor Dungeon Ships and their smaller cousins, the Kiltirin. He knew about the dedicated warships repurposed for use as mobile fortresses. And then he knew about ships like this, about the shadow fleet of transports and slave barges whose existence must be denied, because the cargo that they carry “doesn't exist” either.

This wasn't a small-time deal. Zyras had to play it right, now more than ever.

He checked his chrono: right on time. Signaling for half the team to wait at the entrance, Zyras and his now-human-dominated entourage stepped into the landing pad. Halfway to the ship, its boarding ramp lowered and Zyras brought his men to a stop, their hands all resting near their holsters, ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble.

Four helmetless Stormtroopers filed down the ramp, blaster rifles in hand but resting across their chests. Then two men in Imperial officer's uniforms marched down the ramp, hats and rank insignia missing. “Captain Zyras Lunewell, I presume?” the older of the two said, his voice cold and more than a little condescending.

Typical Imperial. Zyras moved his hand away from his blaster to waive. “That would be me, Mr. Kerrick.” It was not a question, merely an acknowledgment of who the man was. He signaled lazily with one hand, and Dac tossed the bag he had been carrying forward. “There's your payment, hard currency, Muunilinst issue, Imperial certified, just as agreed.”

Kerrick nodded and his associate moved forward, opening the bag and checking the contents. “It's all here,” he confirmed, closing it and then growing stiff. He looked up at Zyras, just realizing that he'd both moved himself closer to a potential enemy and taken possession of the object of this exchange.

“Understand,” Kerrick spoke up, ignoring his subordinate's discomfort. “We want to be rid of this cargo just as much as we want this money, Captain Lunewell. Let's not have any unnecessary incidences.”

In another life, Zyras Lunewell could have made a square deal with this Kerrick fellow. “This is how it goes,” he said. “Your men leave the ship. You, your men, and the money move to the side of the dock. Four of my boys go in and check things out. Anybody they find that's not in a cage gets a blaster bolt to the brain, no questions asked. When they say things are good, you, your men, the money leave the dock, never look back. Agreed?"

The man with the money looked back to Kerrick. Kerrick, features sour, nodded toward the entrance to the landing pad. “You gonna call your dogs away?”

Zyras smiled, then shouted “Dogs! Come here!” He slapped his thigh as if it would signal them to obey.

As they moved away from the entrance, the rest of Kerrick's men filed down the ramp. They moved in a tight group, walking near the edge of the pad, keeping their eyes on Kerrick and his men all the while.

“Dac, check it out,” Zyras said quietly, staring down the Imps while his men hurried into the ship. The seconds passed slowly, not a sound across the dock.

Finally Zyras got the all-clear. He just pointed to the exit, and the Imperial traitors started moving. “Boys,” he said quietly, “get in the ship.”

“What?” one of them asked.

Zyras didn't take his eyes off of the Imperials. “Just get in the ship.” The lights flickered, and Zyras dared a glance to his side, confirming that his men were still standing by his side. “Get up the ramp. Now.”

They moved toward the ramp, and then the starport went dark. Horrific shrieks sounded out and Zyras saw a few bolts of blaster discharge near the entrance to the docking pad. In the near-darkness he could barely make them out, the scampering, beast-like shapes that encircled the Imperial outlaws. Before he knew what he was doing he had moved forward a dozen paces, completely consumed by the action of the moment.

Another flash of blaster fire and an agonizing shriek, and then only one of the Imperials remained. Zyras was close now, close enough to see the glint in Kerrick's eyes as he turned toward the human from The Wandering Ones. The Imperial raised his arm to bring his blaster to bear on Zyras, and then another shriek rang out and a misshapen hand closed around his wrist.

His eyes widened in terror as the blood-crazed Evocii bit into his neck, blood spurting into the air.

The lights flashed back on but Zyras just stood there, staring at the streaks of blood on the floor.

“Boss? Boss, what's going on?” Dac stopped next to him, just noticing the blood. “Where'd they go, boss?”

“Grab the bag,” Zyras said, turning toward the ship. “And get back to the ship.”

As Dac cautiously approached the credit-filled back, now streaked with human blood, his mind raced with what could possibly have happened in twenty seconds of darkness.

This much was sure, though: never before and never again would he be so glad to leave the Vertical City behind.

* * *

Dac slid the porthole open, glanced in, slid the porthole closed. He took five steps, slid the porthole open, glanced in, slid the porthole closed. Steps, slide, glance, slide, steps. On and on it went.

“Anything interesting yet?” he shouted at his counterpart, doing the same for the cells along the opposite bulkhead.

“I saw a Caamasi earlier. What the hell's a Caamasi doing in a place like this?”

“No, me neither,” Dac replied. He'd seen some dead bodies, gleaning a rough idea of when they'd bought it by the pile of uneaten food on the floor. He'd seen a couple nut jobs banging their heads against walls, blood running down the bulkhead. He even saw one guy who looked like he'd been eating his own arm.

Messed up stuff. He'd seen a lot of messed up stuff. Nothing interesting, though. A human. Kel Dor. A Nikto. Another human. A Wookiee. Some naked, some with clothes. Some with rags that looked to be rotting off of them, like they'd been here a lifetime already and just couldn't quite seem to die.

Arkanian in robes of state. A Bothan in military uniform. A naked Givin. A Duros in soiled rags. A one-armed human. A Vratix with burn marks on its carapace.

Dac stopped. Backtrack.

He stopped in front of the cell door, looking at the data stamped on it. “Stazi,” he read aloud, noting the date as well. He's an old one. He pulled the panel open again and peered back at the Duros, who had curled himself into a ball. “Hey,” he said. “Hey!” he shouted when there was no response.

The figure stirred, and Dac caught sight of it again. “What you got there?” he said, curious. “What you got there,” he repeated, quieter, realization dawning on its own.

Dac pulled the access card out of his pocket and swiped it, finally getting to enter the authorization code he had been forced to remember.

“Hey, what are you doing?” his counterpart shouted, now several cells ahead. "We're not supposed to let any of them out!"

“Shut up!” Dac yelled, then slid the door open, taking a step into the tiny space. His eyes fixed on the little scrap of fabric, just visible enough in the Duros' clutched hand for Dac to have no doubt as to what it was:

The emblem of the New Republic, dirty and worn, but undeniable in its identity.

The Devaronian mercenary-turned-freedom fighter felt his whole body go cold. He had seen truly evil things in his life. In the service of Jarvis Ragnar, he had participated in some of those very things. On this ship, in only the past half hour, he had bore witness to the true depravity made possible through such things. None of that had ever fazed him. No act of horrific will, no sight of gut-wrenching gore had ever moved him so much as this man―more than ten years in a windowless box―clutching at the last vestiges of the life he had once lived.

He moved closer to the Duros, dropping to his knees to be on more even terms with the prisoner curled up on his bunk. “Who are you?” Dac asked gently, and in those three simple words he confessed all of his hopes and fears to this total stranger.
Posts: 12
  • Posted On: Dec 4 2011 10:28am

Amongst all those emotions most primal to a sentient being, none are quite so immutable as blind rage. Take away everything a man has, strip away his identity, rend his very sanity, and all you’re left with is the hate, the darkest parts of us all. Nothing but death can truly drain a sentient’s capacity for fury. And in its most pure form, when there is nothing left but the rage, still burning hot inside when all other flames have gone out, it is capable of the most astounding defiances of physiology.

“Who are you?”

There was no real cognitive association of the sounds the intruder’s voice made. There was only reaction, cause and effect, kill or be killed. There was only the rage. An inhuman shriek of un-distilled hatred erupted from him, and before Dac could even recoil in horror the Duros was upon him, hands coiled around his throat.

It was really more awkward positioning and stunned surprise that knocked the Devaronian back off his knees and onto his back than any feat of physical strength on the prisoner’s part. As emaciated as he was, the mercenary could have tossed him away like a rag doll if his mind had been able to consider the possibility. It was the horror that kept him there, pinned to the floor as the feeble grip around his neck struggled to find the strength necessary to cut off his airflow. Not horror at the situation, the Devaronian had seen his fair share of ambushes, had drawn his weapon without so much as flinching in the most unexpected situations.

No, it was the look in the prisoner’s eyes that left him utterly powerless to defend himself, to even move. Dac knew at that moment that those crimson orbs would haunt him for the rest of his life. And if he didn’t do something soon, that wasn’t likely to be a very long time. Yet he lay there still, far too petrified to remember how to move. He began to feel lightheaded, and the vague thought that the Duros might actually be able to kill him before the last of his strength waned passed through his mind, but he did not know what to do with it.

“G-get off ‘im!” a pathetic sounding voice called out. The prisoner’s head snapped up to stare holes through Dac’s counterpart, standing just outside the cell hatch, a blaster rifle drawn but hanging slack in his hands, as if he had forgotten how to hold it properly. How long had he been standing there, too dumbstruck by the scene before him to even speak? As his eyes met the Duros’, he staggered back as if struck by some unseen assailant, raising the rifle in his hands as if he had just remembered he held it, “Get off or I’ll shoot!”

The shot rang out as soon as the last syllable left his mouth, likely more by accident than real intention. At any rate, the mercenary’s hands were trembling so badly that the laser bolt went far wide of its target, ricocheting off the magnetically sealed bulkhead and pinging back and forth across the the cell and momentarily bathing the room is a dim red glow, but by some miracle hitting nothing living.

At once warning klaxons began blaring throughout the ship, and Dac’s counterpart staggered toward the hatchway in vain. He was not quick enough, and the hatch slid violently shut and clicked as automatic security protocols engaged throughout the prison barge. The thumps of his bounding and screams for help could still be dimly heard, but neither occupant of the cell noticed.

“P-please...” Dac gurgled, now too weak to fend off his attacker even if he had been able to try. He saw red at the corners of his vision, and knew that he would lose consciousness soon. He was dying, he knew. This was it. He was going to die.


The word scythed through the Duros like a vibroknife, forming a neural connection he had thought lost to him forever. Was it the word itself, or the pitiful desperation of the plea? He could not be sure, but something battered the rage aside just long enough for the prisoner to remember something besides it. Something that had once been everything to him, that had meant more than the rage ever could.


The floodgates opened, and a torrent of emotions nearly overwhelmed him. Pity, honor, loyalty, duty. He grabbed hold of them and clung tightly, wielding them as one might wield a club as he beat back the rage. His hands began to tremble, and in the red pulsing glow of the alarm above them both he truly looked at his enemy for the first time. His hands recoiled as if stung and he fell backwards and off the other man, making the most important connection of all.

“Not human...”


“Not Imperial.”

Dac did not hear him, he lay on the soiled durasteel floor clutching at his bruised throat and wheezing. The Devaronian trembled so badly it seemed as if he might be seizing, and he gulped greedily at the stale air despite the searing pain every breath caused him. After several moments of silence between the two, he regained enough strength and wits to crawl backwards into the corner.

The prisoner crouched in the center of the chamber, staring at the mercenary with a mixture of confusion, embarrassment, and mistrust. They could both hear yelling outside the chamber, this time of multiple voices, and the pounding grew louder. Biting back a cry of pain, the prisoner slowly rose to a standing position, fighting against the vertigo and urge to vomit. When he was certain he wouldn’t fall, the Duros took a tentative step toward the other man, and Dac shrank back in fear.

The prisoner held his palms out in front of him, the only reassuring gesture he could think of. There was a sort of realization that dawned in the Devaronian’s eyes, but he did not relax.

“Not...” the words were difficult for him, it had been so long since he had spoken, it had been days since he’d even had any water, “Not...Imperial?”

Eyes wide in terror, Dac shook his head furiously.

“Then...then what?” the prisoner croaked. The Devaronian said nothing, could not say anything. The prisoner repeated the question, this time more forcefully.

“R-rebel...” all pretext of discretion had completely abandoned the mercenary at this point. Consumed by his fear, it did not even occur to him to lie.

“Rebel...” the prisoner echoed. For several seconds he said nothing, and then all at once he began to cry softly.

Dac sat there, his strength and courage slowly returning. He said nothing, unsure of what to say exactly. The man standing before him had just been seconds away from strangling him to death, yet as he looked at the pathetic creature he felt nothing but pity, and a certain sense of admiration. How had he managed to survive for so long? How had he not gone completely mad?

“You...you were a soldier?” Dac asked, finally having enough strength to speak properly, “With the Republic?”


Before the Duros could say anything else, the klaxons stopped blaring and the cell was bathed in darkness. Seconds later, the cell hatch slide open and nearly the whole crew of the The Wandering One poured into the room at once, all of them screaming and waving blasters frantically.

“Kill him! Kill him!” one of them screamed, the voice belonging to Dac’s counterpart.

“Wait!” Dac cried out, and all at once the screaming stopped. The prisoner was surrounded, about five or six rifle barrels inches away from his face, but his gaze never left the Devaronian’s, tears still trickling down his face.

“Whatchu mean wait, Dac?!” the counterpart yelled back, “He almost kilt you! I saw it! He’s feral, he is! Imps drove him crazy!”

“Dac?” Zyras called out, not taking his eyes off the prisoner in front of him, “Explain.”

“I...I don’t think he’s crazy,” Dac said, slowly rising to his feet, “Leastways not feral. I think...I think he was just confused.”

“Confused?! He karking near kilt you, Dac!”

“Shut it,” Zyras snapped, and the other man complied, “Duros, identify yourself.”

Who are you?

The Devaronian’s voice rang in his head.


His eyes slowly tored themselves away from the man that had just saved his life and fixed themselves on the human standing in front of him, but there was no more hate in his eyes.

You were a soldier? With the Republic?

Trembling every inch of the way, his hand rose slowly from his side to his head and formed a salute.

Identify yourself.

“Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.”

Then the last of the adrenalin dissipated and his world went black.
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Dec 7 2011 5:24am
The whole area was just called “Haven”. It was easier to talk about that way.

The Rendili DeepDock Wanderer's Haven was, of course, at the center of the configuration, but at any time the converted mobile base of operations housed anywhere from two to twelve of Jarvis' light warships. Then there was the veritable fleet of supply and storage craft carrying everything from munitions and fuel to food and spoils of war. Plus converted superfreighters gathered together in little clumps serving as mobile training areas, recreational space, and the like.

Then there were the squadrons of starfighters running drills, the patrol craft making their rounds, the other little collections of raiding squadrons resupplying or offloading goods.

And now there was an Imperial dungeon ship parked right in the middle of it all.

Jarvis Ragnar stared intently at the little speck through the bridge forward viewport of the Rendili Light Corvette Anathema. Three hundred fifty seven souls. Three hundred fifty seven souls had been pulled from the rotting, rusted bowels of that monstrous Imperial deathtrap. All of his medbays were full, all of his medics and doctors taxed to their breaking point. One of the deepdock's cargo transfer docks had been converted into mass-housing for the best-off of the survivors. But they didn't have the facilities needed for this sort of thing, and they weren't well-stocked for treating malnutrition and viruses.

“Tell me about our special guest,” Jarvis said, still staring at the prison barge.

The young Bothan standing behind him at the bridge's main access, Ziv Bar'akai, walked up to Jarvis' side and joined in the study of that silver-brown speck. “It took some doing―my contacts at Bothan Military Intelligence aren't as accommodating as they once were―but I have confirmation . . . such as it is. After all, it's been quite a while since that was an active verification code.”

“But it's him?”

Ziv nodded. “All indications suggest so. Ten years in a place like that does a lot to wear a man down, but facial analysis matches accessible holoimages, and the doctor says there's no indication of reconstructive surgeries or anything of the sort. Short of a full-on DNA comparison, this is as good as we're going to get . . . and as good as I am, I don't know how to ask for a man's DNA profile in such a way that Intelligence won't know who it is we've got.”

A beeping message from comms cut off any reply, and Jarvis waived Ziv away, out of range of the holoimager, before signaling to let it through.

The image of a middle aged human woman sprung to greet him. “Colonel Adrimetrum, how nice of you to respond!” Jarvis bellowed in mock surprise.

“I'm sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner, Jarvis, but things are still pretty unsteady around here.”

“I hate to put you in an uncomfortable position,” Jarvis replied, a note of gravity in his tone, “but I seem to have bitten off more than I can chew, here. One of my lieutenants seized an opportunity to . . . liberate a certain cargo from rogue Imperial elements. It turned out to be a dungeon ship full of black list political prisoners.” That got her attention.

“Most of them are in pretty bad shape, and we aren't set up for large-scale medical care. I'd try to pull a medical frigate from Alliance fleet duty or something, but our current position makes official channels unreliable and, well, given recent developments in Bothan Space, security isn't altogether reliable at the moment. I need to get these people out of here and into proper care as quickly as possible. What do you say; think you can help me out?”

Kaiya smiled broadly, letting out a quiet laugh. “I can send you a medical ship from the Alliance task force here, but I can't spare escorts right now and I'm not sending her into Hutt Space alone. I'll talk to General Jutka; I'm sure he can pull together an escort from the Kathol Navy. It might take a little while though. Politics here are . . .” she shook her head and huffed audibly.

“Thanks, Colonel. It's good to know there's still someone out there I can count on.”

Colonel Adrimetrum offered a curt salute, and then she was gone.

“Well, now that that's done . . .” Jarvis' commlink beeped at his side, and he thumbed the microdisplay to see who it was. “Never a moment's rest.

“Go ahead,” he said into the commlink.

“Jarvis, this is Doctor Torwyn. He's waking up.”

Jarvis' eyes widened in surprise. “Already?”

“I said it could be any time,” the Ithorian doctor sounded annoyed. “And Jarvis, please hurry.” Now he sounded afraid.

“I told you to strap him in,” Jarvis replied absently, though he made his way for the bridge exit.

“Jarvis, we've been over this already. I don't feel comfortable restraining him, given his extended detainment and his reaction after being disturbed. His psyche is in a delicate state right now, and if he has any hope of recovery then it is vital that he regard us―”

“Yeah, uh-huh, okay,” Jarvis muttered in reply.

“Please hurry!” the doctor added again before closing the line.

When Jarvis arrived, Captain Lunewell and the crewman, Dac, were already waiting just outside the door to the small medical area. Jarvis peered in, and saw the patient stirring, the doctor checking over his vitals one more time. It looked like he was just coming to.

Leading the group, Jarvis entered the room and moved straight for the patient's bed, studying the Duros occupant for a few seconds and waiting for him to show some sign of recognition.

“Admiral Mazik Stazi? My name is Jarvis Ragnar, and I am a cell commander within the Alliance to Restore the Republic. You're safe now; you're in good care, and the doctor assures me that you're in no medical danger.”

Jarvis paused for a brief moment, taking a deep breath and bracing himself for the fallout from what was coming next.

“Now, this might be hard to hear, but it's important that you understand: you have been in Imperial custody for more than ten years. The galaxy has changed a great deal, and it may take some time for you to fit into it again. An Alliance relief force is being assembled to come here and pick up the other liberated prisoners for medical treatment and evacuation to an Alliance safe zone. You're free to go with them, if you'd like, or to stay here for the time being, but I think it would be best to inform Alliance High Command of your presence before long.

Posts: 12
  • Posted On: Jan 21 2012 4:44pm
The void overtook him.

The prisoner had known nothingness before. Oh, how he had known it. For as long as his cognizance seemed to stretch back, there had been nothing but four slate grey walls and the durasteel beneath him. The only sounds he had heard that were not of his own making was the swish open and swish shut of the dispensary punctuated by the clatter of a try mildly populated with rations.

When they had moved him from whatever world he had spent his incarceration on to the prison barge, they had outfitted him with a full sensory deprivation unit. Still, the feeling of stretching his legs after years and years of no more than ten meters of space from one wall to the other would have been euphoric had it not been for the mild agony of his atrophied muscles.

After that, he had not been able to sleep for what must have been half a week because he could not endure the tremendous roar of the ship’s engines, though somewhere in his mind he dimly recalled having experienced the clamor as nothing more than a faint hum in the life he had before. Eventually they too faded into the monotony of his existence.

But this...was this what death felt like?

There was a serenity to it.

Some part of him was somehow still lucid enough to comprehend that he was slipping in and out of consciousness, that what he experienced was not completely linear. Mostly though, he revelled in the void. It became everything, the blur of what lay beyond nothing more than a mild annoyance. It filled him up, he lived off of its very essence and it burned him with a rhapsodical alleviation.

For more than a decade, time had been utterly subjective to him. He had no real grasp on exactly how long it had been, and any sense of a day/night cycle had been quickly replaced by vague concepts of awake and asleep. There had been times when he had woken up, utterly terrified, not knowing for how long he had slept. Had it been five minutes, or half a day? More? It was not long before he began to fear that he was falling asleep for years at a time, that he was rocketing through time and that everything he had ever known had been dead for centuries. The anxiety and dread at such a notion had been horrific until one day (night?) he had remembered that it didn’t matter anyway. He was going to die in a cell, alone and forgotten. In a sense, he was dead already.

Now he was free of it all. Free of time. In the void, it was more than subjective, it was non-existent. Time was meaningless now, he had transcended it. He was beyond it, beyond everything. He was everything. He was Who Is. He could feel his body collapse in on itself and begin to stretch, narrowing and extending into infinity, becoming eternal. He was the prisoner no longer, now He was a god. He was the God. He always had been.


There was the whole of creation, the beginning of everything, the subjective “time” that had eluded Him for so longer. He took it in his hands and began to mold it, reshape it, carve it into His own image. There was the center of it all, there was the compression, the explosion, the inferno, and there it went, spiralling away, expanding outward. It took both mere seconds and the vast expanse of countless millennium.

For aeons He watched it all unfold, exactly as He knew it would, exactly as He had intended it. Like clockwork. Like time.

And then, one day...He found suddenly that He could sense something else, something more. Something not of His own work. For the first time, he felt doubt. Was he not omniscient? Were there other gods in the void after all? Had he been foolish to think himself infinite? No. He would not accept it. He was Almighty. He was Awesome. He was the Universe itself.

So what was this Otherness? What Else was there? Could there be other Universes? Could it be that infinity was not the limit after all? He needed to concentrate, if He focused all of His Will, perhaps He could pierce the veil. Planets withered and died, stars exploded and imploded, time marched on. Then, one day...

He could see them. Who were they? Shadows...shadows flickering in the flame of His Light. They resembled Him. Could they be angels? Was it possible that He had forged some other life and forgotten them? Had He ever even known they were there? No. No! They were demons, unnatural beasts from Beyond.


His fists pounded against the edges of the void, the edges of the Universe. He would destroy all He had wrought, if that’s what it took. The Defilers would not lay their hands upon his Creation. He would lay His hands upon their throats first. He could feel the reverberations as the walls of infinity quaked under His Fury, but they held firm. Had He created something so impenetrable that not even He could breach it?


The aftershocks devastated galaxies, formed massive ultranovas as the stars surrounding Him reached critical mass simultaneously. The Light was so bright, all of the aeons of divine creation detonating in an instant, it overtook Him.

And then, something touched his arm. His arm?



“By the Force, what the hell is wrong with him?!”

“Frell if I know, allergic reaction to the bacta?”

“Can’t be, we ran the tests. He came back negative.”

“Then what?! Looks like a grand mal seizure, was he epileptic?”

“How the hell should I know?!”

“I think...no. No, he can’t be.”

“What? Damn you, what?!”

“I think he’s awake.”

“That’s impossible, you saw his charts! There’s no way he could be conscious after only twelve hours in the tank! He’d need a week at least...gorammit, HOLD HIM DOWN.”

Voices. Others. Voices! Others!

The crown fell, the shackles clamped shut.

From the bowels of his lungs came a scream...no, a bellow of rage and anguish so unnatural that the two Others struggling to hold him down on the bed froze and let go, backing away in terror. It seemed to stretch on forever as his arms tore violently against the shackles, his back arched farther than seemed anatomically feasible, his legs kicking outward in a desperate attempt to hurt something, anything. His eyes were fully open now, and the light was blinding.

“Hyfe’s bones...”

“Get his ankles, get his ankles!”

“Fuck off, you get his ankles!”

“Tranq him, for Skywalker’s sake, TRANQ HIM!”

A sting, and then the void.

NO. This cannot be! They cannot do this! I AM A GOD.

No, you are not.

Who are you? How did you get here? How dare you defy my will!

I am you. I am what’s left of you.

What’s left of me? I am infinite! I am eternal! I am the stars themselves!

No, you are not. You are just a duros. You are mortal.

Just a...just a duros? Then it was all a lie? I have no purpose?

You have purpose, duros. You have a destiny stronger than the limits of sanity. By all rights you should think without doubt that you are a god, but here I am. Here you are, questioning, searching for the truth that you had once but have forgotten.

What is it? Please, tell me. What is the truth? I need to know.

You are a warrior, duros. And your war is not yet over. In fact, it is just beginning. Remember who you are, duros. They burned it deep within you, deeper than any Imperial prison can strip away. Remember.

Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.

Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.

Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.

Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.

“Stazi, Mazik. Admiral, Republic First Fleet. Verification oh delta two zeta nine.”

His eyes opened. Agony.

“Admiral Mazik Stazi?”

There were others in the room. His vision swam, blurring and refocusing. In front of him stood a man, the image blurred, an angel. Yellow-white light surrounded him, penetrated him, seemed to flow out of him, his scalp rimmed by a piercing halo. The image refocused, his hair was long a white. He didn’t recognize the species. From appearance, he gave off an impression of leadership, of responsibility.

“My name is Jarvis Ragnar, and I am a cell commander within the Alliance to Restore the Republic. You're safe now; you're in good care, and the doctor assures me that you're in no medical danger.”

So it was true, then. The alien’s voice, Jarvis’ voice, seemed almost to transition into a foreign tongue halfway through for all he could comprehend after that first sentence. The New Republic was dead. He hated himself for the drop of happiness in the lake of grief, but he could not help it. He hadn’t been forgotten, not by those who really mattered. Infinitely more depressing was that those who really mattered were long gone, nothing now but half-recalled memories, collages of moments haphazardly jumbled together by a nearly broken mind.

“Now, this might be hard to hear, but it's important that you understand: you have been in Imperial custody for more than ten years.”

Rationally, he was aware that he should have felt...overwhelmed by what the man slip angel was telling him. That he should feel...what? Angry, bitter, sad, afraid? He didn’t. All he felt was a pervasive sense of relief. It really had been so long. Of all the things he had thought of during his imprisonment, by far the most disturbing had been the possibility that he hadn’t been a prisoner nearly as long as he believed. His brightest dreams of rescue had often turned into nightmares as he discovered it had only been months, but it hadn’t. For the first time, there was a sense of reality, of truth that had previously escaped him.

The angel focus alien speaking had clearly feared some sort of outburst from him at this news, but he gave no visible reaction. There was a brief, pregnant pause before he spoke again.

“The galaxy has changed a great deal, and it may take some time for you to fit into it again. An Alliance relief force is being assembled to come here and pick up the other liberated prisoners for medical treatment and evacuation to an Alliance safe zone. You're free to go with them, if you'd like, or to stay here for the time being, but I think it would be best to inform Alliance High Command of your presence before long.”

Had it?

Change is phantasmal.

Decades ago, he had been a young duros filled with optimism and high minded ideals about the way the galaxy should be. He had joined the Alliance to Restore the Republic to fight the brutal tyranny and xenophobia of the Galactic Empire. He had given pints of blood, he had watched thousands of souls wink out of existence in seconds, he had even seen the aftermath of an entire planet’s obliteration, but in the end they had finally won, had finally overthrown their brutal government and cast off their shackles. Now, here was Jarvis and his men slip angels fighting the exact same fight he had given everything for. What had it all been for, then? A couple of years on top? Would the galaxy never be rid of devils focus Imperials?


What was he supposed to do?

Destiny was a lie. Nothing could be so cruel. What was the point? Growing up, he had never once felt the sort of massive agoraphobia some sentients experienced as they began to truly appreciate their place in the universe, but right now he had never felt so tiny, so minuscule. So alone. Should he give up? Find some quiet world on the Outer Rim and spend the rest of his remaining days there, probably in some wide open exterior? If he picked up his sword, would it make any more difference than the last time?

Did it matter?

More than ever.

He recognized the voice. He had heard it in the void, it had saved what was left of his mind, and he began to suspect it was, even now, helping him piece back together the rest.

Slowly, he became aware that everyone in the room was staring at him intently. They expected him to speak.

“Admiral, can you understand what I’m telling you?” Jarvis asked.


“What?” the strange alien asked, caught off guard likely both by the strangeness of the word and the other man’s haggard tone.

“Call me...call me Mazik,” he said, struggling to ascend into some sort of sitting position, “I am...I’m not. They called me Admiral once but I’m not that anymore. I am just Mazik now.”

There was another awkward pause, as if no one really knew what to say to him. What could they say? What did you say to someone like him? After a moment, the Ithorian cautiously approached him and spoke as he inspected him intently. He realized that this one must be the resident doctor.

“How are you feeling, Mazik?” the doctor asked, “Are you noticing any unusual pains?”

He thought for a moment.

“I can’t...” he paused, “I can’t see out of my left eye.”

The Ithorian froze, and so did everyone else in the med center.

What had he said? They all stood there, staring at him, and wearing the most dumbfounded expressions he had ever seen.

“Mazik,” the doctor said in a cracking tone after he found his voice, “You don’t have a left eye.”


He sat there, feeling utterly powerless. When had that happened? He couldn’t remember. He tried to recall if he had lost it before his capture by the Empire, and he couldn’t remember. It was, in a way, comical enough to make him laugh, but he couldn’t quite remember how. He recalled the theory, and if he focused hard enough, he could just make out what he believed laughter used to sound like, but he was terrified that if he tried it would sound more like he was having some sort of fit. Instead, he forced a small smile.

“I suppose...I suppose that’s a relief, then.”

Some of the others smiled too, but they were just as weak as his own.

“Jarvis...Jarvis Ragnar,” he called out a little too loudly, as if he were collecting roll in a crowded room. Wincing at the awkwardness of it, he continued anyway, “The one that found me...” he tried to remember. What were they called? “...the...the Devaronian. Is he...is he well?”

“Dac?” Jarvis asked, then nodded, “A little shaken up, but otherwise he’s fine. What do you say, Dac?”

“Gave me a bit of a scare, you did,” the Devaronian piped up nervously, “But no damage done.”

He winced, and remembered what guilt felt like.

“Would you...will you...” he struggled for the words, “Can you forgive me?”

“I...yeah, yeah o’ course,” Dac said awkwardly, unsure how to take the apology, “No damage done, like I said. I probably would’a done the same thing myself, I was you.”

“Thank you...” he mumbled, nodding to himself, “Thank you.”

“Mazik, I know you must be tired, and in some pain,” Jarvis broke in politely, “But is there anyone we can contact for you? Any friends, or family? Perhaps comrades we could look up, see if they’re still around, still fighting.”

It was a good question. Was there anyone?

Of his remaining memories, the rebellion was the clearest. Those early years, those times both hopelessly dark and blindingly bright. He tried to think back to his life on Duro, to family, old friends. Faces, names...were they still alive? Had they been alive when he was captured? He couldn’t remember, couldn’t remember. Dimly he saw the face of a girl, young and pretty. Was she his? Was she alive? Did it matter?

“Is...is...this place,” he realized that he had absolutely no idea where he was, though he could feel the dim throb of massive engines that suggested space somewhere, “Is it equipped for physical therapy?”

“Yes, yes of course,” the Ithorian doctor piped up, “Rudimentary, yes, but we have facilities.”

“Then all I would...all I would ask for,” he said quietly, “is time. And after that, a gun and orders.”