Path of a Warrior (Closed)
Posts: 2558
  • Posted On: Dec 6 2013 11:24pm
Irtar saw in that vessel the face of one who proceeded him. She had danced down the dark path, and yet now all she looked like was just a broken doll. Her face pale, and cracked.
And it all became brutally clear.
Regret and a guilty conscious motivated both of them to this point. Irtar's paled in comparison to Ahnk's list of crimes, but it still ate at their hearts. But what had set her apart from the many others? Was it just how near she had become? In the end, what difference did it make?
"And what do you need of me?" Irtar asked Ahnk, trying to maximize upon this day of truths and revelations.
"I'm not a great philosophizer. I'm not a particularly great statesman, to be honest." Irtar confessed. He didn't think anyone would contest that, so far, he had been a failure as a Jedi and as a politician. He didn't really fail as a Jedi, so much as never really succeed at it, but as a politician? His failings on Sinsang were many. He was more of a middleman than a leader of men, facilitating deals like any bureaucrat without really influencing the course of how they would affect people.
"And if you hated being a weapon, strikes me as a tad hypocritical if you just me to strike out to balance the debt." He added, trying to really piece together that why that had been nagging at his mind since they first met. Before it would've made sense, giving the intense physical training, but now...
"You've been training for me for a while now. Building me up. Well, physically wise at least. Doing the odd Forcey bit and philosophizing. What do you want of me? Do you just want to start training out some Jedi and hope the bulk good we do help? Is there something particular you see in me? There some sort of prophecy that a kid from Dantooine will bumble about and save the Galaxy from some great darkness I don't know of?" Irtar stops himself, realizing he is just going off on a rambling rant. He takes a breath and recomposes himself before he proceeds.
"I... Well, not to seem insensitive or nothing, I'm not aiming for that. I'm thankful for all the training you've given me." He said, putting his hands up in the air in a show of humility. "I'd just like to think you brought us half way across the galaxy for something more than just a lesson on regret. Now, if it's a technical problem I could try and give it a whirl, but I can't say I've seen half of these systems before..."
Ahnk's face didn't betray any emotion, motioning for Irtar to follow him to a bank of computers.
"You are correct. I didn't bring you to Yavin to correct the technical issues of this facility. I am more than capable of running the necessary calibrations on my own." Ahnk said, as he stepped over to the console. With a few presses of a button, a holoschematic of the facility was projected into the middle of the room. The facility was huge, larger than Irtar expected (though how can one expect an army spawning cloning facility to look?). A few sections were blinking red, indicating damage of some kind. "But, while I have you, I will make use of your talents. It will make this all run more quickly."
"Unless you would like the remaining Sith to find this facility, and the cloning facility within it." Ahnk said, a hint of satisfaction in his tone. Irtar couldn't help but feel like he was being toyed with.
Irtar sighs, and takes out a small multitool. "I hope you have a shop on site, else this may take a while."
Hours Later
Irtar had exchanged the bulk of his clothing for the few pieces of protective gear he could find. The heat in many parts of the facility was even more stifling than in the jungle above. He had burnt himself several times, nearly seriously once or twice. Ahnk had advised him to use the Force to protect himself, but focusing on trying to protect himself from the heat distracted him from his work. After a close call with shorting a main line, Irtar decided it was far safer to rely on more mundane forms of safety.
If Master Baas knew that Irtar was elbow deep into the power grid of a Sith cloning facility, he likely would never have let him walk away. Irtar had a laugh at the thought of the old crustacean scowling at him, and the sheer ridiculous set of circumstances that led him to this.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, and brought up the panel and put it back into place. A few bolts returned to place, and he made his way along the line to the next panel Ahnk had advised him to work on.
"Let's see... Double-leth-orenth-three..." Irtar muttered as he walked along the back of a bank of generators of some sort. "Ah, here it is."
With the last panel in the section located, Irtar took out a commlink from his back pocket. "Hey, just letting you know I'm almost done here. Perhaps another... ten minutes or so?" Irtar said, as he began loosening bolts with his other hand. "Just giving you a heads up."
To be fair, other than directions for locations and what to fix, Ahnk had been silence the whole time. He knew the line was coming through. The logical part of him was worried that something was wrong with Ahnk, perhaps another silent disease, but the Jedi part of him knew that all was well. In the end, he just shrugged it off and got on with his work.
Irtar found it relaxing to be working on machines again. Going through the motions of repairing, mending, and correcting took his mind away from the chill that had been clawing at his spine the whole time.
The Dark Side was strong with this place, the taint of the death that used to flow from these halls clung to it like the smell of death sticks on a strung out vagrant.
For the last few hours of working, he kept seeing movement out of the corner of his eyes. At first he had thought maybe there were some sort of maintenance droids that took care of the lesser repairs. Most places had some variant of them. Astromechs to mouse droids, they helped thin down on repair staff.
But, Ahnk had said there were none, and not to concern himself on it. That it was something that he 'couldn't help'.
Irtar pushed it out of his thoughts, and just focused on doing his work. Soon enough, he'd finish up and Ahnk could explain what this other reason was that he had in mind.
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: May 15 2015 12:48pm
“Head’s up,” Ahnk said, and when Irtar turned, he found something about the length of a lightsaber, but about the thickness of his arm, flying towards him.
Whatever the metal object was, Irtar watched it into his hands and then studied it once it was there. “What’s this?” he said, wiping grease from his forehead with the hair of his arm.
“Lunch,” Ahnk said. “Refrigerators down here still work, but its broth and water; I wouldn’t trust any of the meat,” Ahnk said, and took a sip out of a metal cup in his hand.
“Probably wise,” Irtar said, opening the container. The warm steam was pleasant to his grease-congested nose. “So, I feel like there must be an obvious answer here…”
Ahnk chuckled. Irtar had been working in the power generator room, and was pointing out that there was a large gap where a power generator should be. “As you can tell, we’re deep enough to power the facility via geothermal energy,” Ahnk noted.
“It is a tad warm for my tastes, but it makes logical sense,” Irtar said. “According to this, though, the system isn’t drawing anywhere near enough power to keep everything running. And yet…”
“There is an entire convoluted system of wiring and piping that seems to imply that there was another power generator here,” Ahnk finished his sentence.
“…but it isn’t here now,” Irtar said, continuing the thought process. “Given all the security procedures…”
Ahnk nodded his head, indicating they had both had the same thought. “What do you know of anti-matter?”
Irtar paused to think. “I think that they used anti-matter in the old hyperspace generators for the Republic’s Jedi Starfighters. And they have anti-matter furnaces, which produce huge amounts of energy,” he said, thinking of the top of his head.
Ahnk nodded and gestured with his hand. “What if I told you that there used to be an anti-matter furnace in here?”
Irtar smirked. “They tended to be massive in size, so I wouldn’t believe you,” the apprentice Jedi replied.
Ahnk smiled too. “When I was initially taking over the training facility here, a student arrived in an unusual vessel,” Ahnk began. “It was smaller than an X-Wing, and yet, he explained to me that it was powered by a matter/anti-matter reaction; he didn’t elaborate, and he left without explaining how it functioned.”
Irtar was curious. “He left?”
Ahnk waved his hand. “The details are not important,” he said, clearly not wanting to get into it. “What is more important is that I set his vessel up in a field and sent droids to study it. As you know, anti-matter and matter particle collision is very dangerous. Eventually, I found a way to modulate the output stream… endless power.”
“But the ship is gone,” Irtar said. “How did it get out of this room?”
Ahnk nodded once again. “This student… he claimed, though I was never able to verify this, that the purpose of this vessel… the one he left behind… was to create tears in spacetime, to allow for the instantaneous travel from any point in the galaxy to another,” Ahnk said. “Maybe that happened.”
Irtar looked at him and shook his head. “Maybe it exploded,” he said.
“Would have taken half the planet with it,” Ahnk theorized. “Whatever happened, we need to run purely geothermal from here on out.”
“Oh that shouldn’t be an issue,” Irtar said, taking a sip of his soup. Ahnk raised an eyebrow and Irtar smirked. "I went ahead and bypassed all the conduits going nowhere, and adjusted the intake on your transformers to draw enough energy to power your facilities without depleting the energy in the local vents."

"That's thoughtful," Ahnk said. "And the cloaking up top?"

"We can restore it, but you'll need to wait for a good rain to fill up your fake lake properly," Irtar said. "Is there anything else we need to do here, or can we move on to the next stage of my training?"

Ahnk was silent for a few moments. "To be perfectly honest, repairing these generators is not the only reason we are on Yavin IV," the master explained to the student. "This world has a rich history with the force, both the lightside and the dark using it for their own aims. There is a lesson to be learned here, on this world. It is, perhaps, the most important lesson. And once you have taken it to heart, you will be a Jedi."

Irtar nodded. His face was serious. "I am ready," he said, with no hesitation.

Ahnk smiled in response. "We will see about that," Ahnk said. "The hours of the day are getting shorter. There is a room on the second level with military bunks. Get as much rest as you need, then when you are ready and it is daylight outside, use the intercom button to signal me, and we can leave and take the next steps of our journey."

Irtar nodded. "Where will you be?"

Ahnk looked over at the row of empty pods over his shoulder. "It's been a rough couple of months for me, being active and moving around again. I was thinking of getting four or five hours of major surgery in one of those pods," he said.

Irtar nodded. "After the ravaging you suffered on Sinsang you probably could use it," Irtar said. "Thanks again for the soup," he said, taking another sip.

Ahnk nodded. He walked back to the pods, briefly stopping to look at, and touch, the one occupied one. He lingered only a moment before looking over his shoulder, then tapped in a small sequence into a keypad along the railing. The rock wall in front of him faded from view, and he reached out, touching the occupied pod that had been hidden behind the false image of the wall.

He wiped the frost from the outside of the pod and saw the face within. He smiled, and turned back on the holograph of the rocks.

"Not long now," he said, before settling in to an empty pod.
Posts: 2558
  • Posted On: May 21 2015 11:10am
With a stretch and a groan, Irtar spread his limbs after a hard day's work. The last of the tools were put away, everything back where some Sith technician had left them years ago. Force of habit more than anything else. Not to mention the time he had to spare, with Ahnk in that tank. Time alone. In an abandoned Sith cloning facility.
A shiver ran up his spine.
Irtar brought up the schematics, found the barracks, and made his way onward. As he made his way through the dark, twisting corridors, he tried to think of what a Sith Clone Barracks would look like. He had no idea what to expect. More pods, like the one Ahnk had climbed into? Rotten, broken beds left behind when the place had shut down? Maybe those droids Ahnk had mentioned had maintained the place, and he would find everything spotless and ready for a new squad?
What he found was a large, empty room. Whatever furniture that once adorned the room long gone. Whatever beds, blankets, and mattresses were here were now... Ahnk only knows.
He spotted a door on the other side of the room, and looked inside to find a bathroom with showers along the one wall. Well, he thought to himself, at the very least I can get a shower. His limbs stiff from the jungle trek and the work, he stripped off his greasy, sweat stained clothes. Stepped into one of the alcoves. Activated the panel. And..
Irtar banged his head against the wall. "Fantastic."
He returned to the empty room and unfurled his sleeping bag, annoyed that he was going to bed filthy, on a duracrete floor. At least he was going to have a roof over his head, and not have to worry about the things lurking in the darkness of the Yavin jungles. Though, as he lay there, he had a growing concern for the things that lurked within.
Irtar lay there for some time. Listening to the creaks and groans of the old facility. A younger him would have envisioned such horrors lurking in the shadows. Waiting for him to drop his guard. But Irtar had learned the ways of the Force, and with it he reached out to the shadows and felt the echoes of the past. It chilled him more than those youthful phantasms ever could. Shuddering again, despite the stifling heat, Irtar turned on his lantern. Having a bit more light was comforting.
Despite the soreness, the filth, the discomfort, and the concern, eventually the exhaustion won out and sleep took him.
"You are weak." A voice spat through the darkness. "Unworthy."
Slowly, Irtar opened his eyes and looked up. The sergeant in an old Sith uniform stood looming over him, contempt written on his face. Irtar's mind began reeling, trying to remember where he was, taking in the room. The barracks room was dully lit, but everything was in its place. The beds, the lockers, even the red banners of the Sith Brotherhood hanging from the walls. He took note of the other people in the room. They all looked...
It was a squad of Irtars, all grappling with one another in hand to hand combat. It was a fighting drill. He had been... Irtar's attention was dragged back to the sergeant by a swift boot to his ribs.
"To your feet!" The sergeant roared, his searing gaze looking over the whole squad. "All of you! WORTHLESS! The finest training injected right into your minds. Genetically handcrafted to perfection! Master Rashanagok should have the lot of you broken back into primordial sludge, so we might be able to make proper soldiers out of you!"
Irtar tried desperately to get up, but his limbs wouldn't respond. Wasted. Spent. Useless. He ground his teeth, and tried to will himself forward. But his body refused his mind. Even the Force did nothing, his connection as impotent as his limbs. The sergeant's face darkened further and further into fury.
"You could not execute Our Lord's will. You can not fight. You can not kill." The sergeant scowled through clenched teeth. All the brawling Irtars came to a stop, cowed by the sergeant's overflowing rage. They looked wordlessly for an answer to one another. Slowly, they drew curved knives from their belts, each looking awkwardly to the other in turn. "You all hide from your emotions. None of you have the strength to break your chains. Embrace your fear. Let it fuel your rage. Grab the might within you with both hands and strike forth. Prove yourselves WORTHY of Our Master!"
One of the Irtars suddenly gained a serious look, and madly yelled in frustration as he drove the blade of his knife into his brother. The rest stood stunned for a moment as the blood sprayed into the air. The wounded Irtar slowly sank to the ground, his face greying as the life drained from him. The sergeant's face changed in an instant to a horrible grin.
"Good." He encouraged, waving an arm to the example bleeding to death on the floor. "Give in. Use your hatred. PURGE this squad of the WEAK."
Another horrilbe thunk and rip as another Irtar gave in. Then another. And before he knew it, there was a frenzy of flesh, and steel, and blood. The sergeant turned back to the Irtar still prone upon the ground and locked eyes with him.
"Witness what could be yours. The strength to accomplish any feat. The might to do anything that is required of you." The sergeant said to him calmly, a hint of excitement pulling at the fringes. "Overcome your fear by embracing. Use your hatred of these flaws holding you back to strike them down. Purge the weak."
He offered Irtar one of those curved knives.
"Take it, initiate. Show Master Rashanagok what you can do."
Slowly, painfully slowly, Irtar's arm came back to life. He numbly reached out to take the knife, as the sergeant gave his encouragement. The blade was hard and cold. Unfeeling. Clumsy in his hands. And as quickly as he had hold of it, Irtar dropped it, his hand recoiling.
The sergeant's face had snapped back to burning rage before the blade even hit the floor.
"So disappointing." The sergeant muttered. "You shame Master Rashanagok."
The surviving Irtar's turned upon the perceived weakness of their brother, and turned their knives upon him. Slash. Cut. Stab. Searing streaks and points across his whole body which stood as beacons as the light dimmed, and he lost focus on the world.
Irtar shot up, covered in sweat. The oppressive darkness suddenly cast off, like a thick blanket on a summer night. The room was again empty and clean. No sign of life, other than his heavy breathing.
Irtar knew he wasn't going to be getting any more sleep than what he'd already managed to get. No here at least. For better or worst, it was time to get going.
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Jun 4 2015 10:45am
A tall, imposing figure in black robes, stepped out of The Massassi Grand Temple on Yavin IV.

After the defeat of The Sith Empire in the Hyperspace Wars, Naga Sadow brought with him the Massassi, a race he used as frontline meat shields in his wars, and slaves, to construct his fortresses. None were more grand than the aptly named Grand Temple. It stood above all others, shining golden in the sun, holding a small fleet in its hanger bays, it would stand for thousands of years, a symbol of the Sith and their empire.
Naga Sadow fell; his slayer, Freedon Nadd also fell; and the man who ended his life, Exar Kun, was so vanquished; and there would the chain end, if not for the man striding from the temple.

Ahnk Rashanagok.

The lineage of the title, Dark Lord Of The Sith, was not direct. Long after Kun was dead, a Sith Lord known as Darth Bane adopted the practice known as the Rule Of Two: one Dark Lord Of The Sith, and his apprentice lord. When the apprentice was ready, he was to slay the Dark Lord and take the title for himself. The Rule Of Two, though, tumbled down a long shaft aboard Palpatine's Death Star, and with the death of both Darth Sideous and Darth Vader, the Rule Of Two was broken.

And then came Exar Kun again.

Although by now his body was long dead, the disembodied spirit recreated his Empire on Yavin 4. There, the greatest Sith the galaxy would come to know would study under him. Zeta. Avery. Hexrya. And then, the final student, Rashanagok.

Kun saw the hatred in Andrew Michael Rashanagok. An all consuming fire burned in him, and it was directed at the Jedi. Kun didn't need to turn Ahnk against the Jedi; that had been done long before the boy arrived on Yavin. All Exar Kun did was sharpen Ahnk. Like a blade, he'd been honed, until he was razor shape.

Of course, Ahnk Rashanagok was not a Sith Lord anymore. Not, anyway, when  he was awake.

But then he wasn't awake. At least, not yet. No, this hooded figure who strode from the temple was not the same Ahnk Rashanagok who had spent the night talking with Irtar. Nor was this even the same day.

No; Ahnk knew what day this was.

He looked behind him. From poles amid the second and fourth levels of the temple, hung large banners. Green banners, with black outlines and gold inlay, they depicted the logos of the Sith Empire, and the Brotherhood Of The Sith. The Sith Empire logo was a starburst; Ahnk had it burned into his forehead as a tattoo, a mark of who he would forever be. The symbol of the Brotherhood Ahnk had chosen himself; it was a lightsaber amongst the turning gears of a clock. A reminder that technology changes in time, but war was constant and inevitable, and it was the basis of much of that change.

Violence was the mother of invention.

In many ways Ahnk understood violence. As a child of a broken home it might have been correct to say that his only truly constant parent was violence. And Exar Kun, as far as parental figures go, was definitely an abusive one.

But Ahnk took violence to an entirely new level. Ahnk would meet with fellow Sith and provoke them, question their abilities, their leadership, in the hopes of being struck. Ahnk took so many punches to the face without retaliation, some spoke of him as a coward.

The truth was something far more bizarre.

Ahnk believed in a purity of genetics. Not in some outmoded concept that inferior races must be dominated but that certain genes made for a better warrior. Ahnk looked at himself as a template, and began to push buttons. Shift one genome one way or the other. Then Ahnk realized that by analyzing patterns in the string, he could use other templates and begin mixing and matching components. So he started a collection. With each punch he took, he collected valuable pieces of skin on his teeth. With each duel, he would draw blood and withdraw. It allowed him the data to analyze hundreds of warriors, Jedi, Sith, and unaffiliated.

Then he went to work.

He untied the strings and recombined them. Abominations resulted. So many failed specimens. But progress cannot be made without sacrifice. It was easy to discard. But Ahnk chose instead to destroy. To watch unmade in fire what he had constructed in the lab. In the same way Ahnk was once burned did he burn his own failures. Learning experiences. But Ahnk absorbed the cost.

Eventually, he realized that limited variation was best. Small increments replaced large scale replacements. Gene therapy began on preconstructed samples. The samples were baked to maturity and the results were analyzed. Crop production became more stable. Progress was slower, but more promising. There were less steps backward.

In many ways, Ahnk had become a parent to war.

The refinements of his clone army bore fruit even today. He watched them jog, lockstep with each other, across the stoneface. Chang led them; the Vong warmaster was in his element here. Of course, only Ahnk knew he was a Vong. In his masquer, his black and green skin was a perfect match for the Sith he imitated. No one but Ahnk would know he wasn't another clone.

Beyond the stone was what interested Ahnk right now.

He nodded at Chang as he walked. The fresh, crisp air rolled in over the trees, brushing past fresh water lakes and picking up the smell of the wild as it travelled. Ahnk had always loved the smell of Yavin in the morning. Even at his most genocidal, it always managed to soften his mood.

Within moments, he became just another shadow in a forest full of shadows. They say sometimes it is easy to miss the forest for the trees but there were parts of Yavin where you could easily miss the forest in the forest. The canopy above was so suffocating, almost no light reached the ground.
And then, just as abruptly as it began to choke that light away, the canopy broke open, for a clearing, a meadow, or a lake. And in those areas, the sun was so bright it could be blinding, and incidental secondary contact, a glint from a rock, a reflection from the surface of water, could be outright painful.

There was a duality here one could not deny.

Ahnk stopped at the edge of a clearing. He looked up, noticing the cragged hill that awaited him. Running along it, eroding away the bottom of the hill, was a small, swift creek.

"You don't come here very often," a soft, female voice said, over Ahnk's shoulder.

"Not on Yavin very often," Ahnk said, "at least not these days. Lots of bad memories."

Ahnk shuddered slightly as a hand dug itself into his shoulder. "I hope I'm not one of those bad memories," the voice said again.

Ahnk turned to her and smiled. "Of course you are," he said. "You're in the tank, and I'm out here. No one is to blame for that but me."

She returned his smile. "Uiae ad unum," she said, in Krathari, "locum properant omnia."

Ahnk shook his head. "Long lost woman using a long dead language," he said, "my knees are weakening as we speak."

The woman stepped closer, almost stepping past the tattooed Sith Lord. "Why are you here, Ahnk?"

Ahnk didn't immediately answer. He looked down at his hands; in glimmering sunlight, the black and green tattoos on his skin faded and sharpened. He could see the plain white skin he had once had repeatedly bleeding through. He reached down and tore the sleeve from his arm, then the other one. He wrapped them once, then again around his palms, then over his wrists several times. Then he took a deep breath.

Most of Yavin was softly rolling hills, but every once in a while, an old glacial slide from before the planet fell into a warmer, more rain forest friendly orbit. So it was with this set of crags. Corrosion from past collisions, fracture patterns, and only one thing left to do. Wrap your hands, and get climbing.

Normally Ahnk had gloves but today the sleeves of his robes would do. They were a thin fabric but double wrapped gave him both texture and protection. Climbing was something that didn't need a complex approach or premeditated strategy; just put one hand above the other until you reached the top.

Ahnk threw hand over hand, again and again, until he saw a hand reaching over the edge.

Reluctantly, he took it, and allowed the woman to pull him up. "You still haven't answered my question," the woman said.

Ahnk strained his eyes. In the distance, he saw men in orange hazard vests. They were the kind of vests you use when you are working construction. Ahnk held his hand up, shading his view from the sun. Suddenly, there was a bright flash, and Ahnk had to cover his eyes from that as well.

"I wonder," the woman asked, "if what you're looking for... is anywhere near where they are blowing things up."

Ahnk allowed his mouth to curl into a snarl. In fact, they were. He looked down and tore the robes wrapped around his hands away, revealing, conveniently, that his hands were already stained with blood.
When Ahnk emerged from the chamber Irtar had been awake already for quite some time.

“Did you eat?” Ahnk asked, and then remembered where they were. “Alright then, we can hunt for something when we get to the surface.”

“Hunt for something?” Irtar asked. “Like… live game?”

“Or see if there is a café nearby,” Ahnk said. “I hadn’t realized that since the last time I’d been here, some other humans have moved in.”

“Oh yeah?” Irtar said. “Are they friendly, do you think? Maybe we should say hello…”

Ahnk smiled at him. “I think we will definitely need to introduce ourselves…”

Ahnk then clipped his lightsaber to his belt, and began heading for the lift to the surface.
Posts: 2558
  • Posted On: Jun 12 2015 12:43am
The surface felt like a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. The air was no less hot or humid, but richer than it had felt before. The sun felt like sweet release from the suffocating darkness down below. Though after with another long trek through the thick jungles of Yavin, the feeling began to quickly fade.
"We are running low on supplies." Ahnk said, without having to look at the packs. Irtar had finished off one of the last of the ration bars that morning, and only had enough to last him for another day or two without starving. Ahnk hadn't ate much this whole trip. He must've been sustaining himself through the force, or so Irtar thought, but that was something that was beyond his abilities.
"You had mentioned something." Irtar responded with a bit of a frown. "But wouldn't foraging slow us down? We're already not making the best of pace. It'd be a hard task for the best woodsman to keep up through this, impossible for most others."
"Not for a Jedi." Ahnk stated flatly, motioning for Irtar to follow him off the river bed they had been following into the woods. As they pushed and forced their way through the dense undergrowth, Ahnk suddenly paused. "Tell me, Irtar, what do you sense out there?"
With a deep breath and a fair amount of concentration, Irtar attempted to open himself to the Force. And as he did, everything suddenly came crashing in. The trees, the plants, the insects, the animals... The sheer vastness of jungle life in one surge overwhelmed his senses, like coming into the bright daylight after sitting in pitch darkness.
"Too much." Irtar groaned as he blinked, losing his concentration. His head throbbed from the metaphysical smack it just took.
"Focus." Ahnk instructed, watching the young Jedi prepare himself for another attempt. "You need to cut through the noise and distractions, like with everything else. Focus only on what you need, everything else is irrelevant."
Irtar took another deep breath, calming himself and trying again. Slowly, carefully opening his mind's eye to world again. He first cast aside the other forms of life. The plants, and trees, and insects. It was much more difficult to sift through what was left though. It all had bones, and blood, and flesh, and all thought in their own ways. Filtering out the life above to ignore the birds, and the life below to ignore the undergrowth dwellers. That just left...
"That way." Irtar said, pointing in a direction without opening his eyes. "About... fifty meters that way is something. Or... somethings."
"A pack of somethings." Irtar confirmed with a nod, opening his eyes to look over to Ahnk who had only the slightly hint of a smile. Irtar couldn't tell what he had touched through the Force, unfamiliar with the alien energy the creature cast off. With a subtle motion from Ahnk for the apprentice to take the lead, Irtar lead them further into the woods.
As they carefully pushed their way through the brush, it suddenly gave way to a clearing. At the far side stood a pack of some sort of animal Irtar had never come across before. A low, squat creature with a long face, and brown and green fur. They slowly nudged their way through the vines and other undergrowth grunting along as they ate.
"Good. Now, which do you think would be best for dinner?" Ahnk asked absently like he was eyeing up packages at a grocers. He jabbed a finger towards one at the fringe of the group. "That one would do. Yes, it would do nicely."
"I didn't bring my rifle." Irtar said with a frown.
"You have that." Ahnk said, motioning towards the lightsaber hanging from Irtar's belt.
"This?" Irtar muttered, taking his lightsaber in his hand, and giving it a twirl. "There's no way I could get close enough."
"Why not?" Ahnk asked with a raised eyebrow. "You have all the tools you require for the task. All you need to do is learn how to use them."
Ahnk continued despite, or perhaps because of, Irtar's confused expression. "Much as you can raise your awareness of everything around you, you may reduce the awareness of everything around you."
"But... how?" Irtar asked, that puzzled expression still on his face. A lifetime ago on Naboo he had learned a variety of ways to improve himself through the Force. Nearly everything was taking the Force, and using it as a boon. Never as a detriment. Never as something you used against others. "I thought using the Force for anything but self-defence was a path to the Dark Side?"
"I am not asking you to lash out with lightning, or throw someone off a cliff." Ahnk chided with a frown. "Masking oneself is not an aggressive use of the Force. You can use it offensively, true, but that does not make the act itself an attack with the Force."
"Doesn't seem that different." Irtar muttered, contemplating the matter.
"A Jedi can operate offensively, otherwise they would never win a fight. Many Jedi have killed without loosing themselves. It is lashing out with the Force itself that can lead to problems. The way you have to draw on that sort of energy can... change you." Ahnk said quietly, his mind almost wandering for a moment. "You are using this method to defend yourself, to keep yourself hidden."
"Dull their senses to your presence, and when you get close enough? Swtich to the saber. Don't waste your opportunity. I won't be the one sleeping hungry if you do." Ahnk said quietly, staying in the shadows and letting his apprentice go to work.
Irtar realized as he skulked around the clearing that most of the other Padawans from Naboo would be lost at this point. But this wasn't his first time out on a hunt. He slowly and carefully circled the clearing, keeping himself downwind of the creatures.  Usually, he was much further out so it wasn’t as much of a concern. There was no tangling underbrush, or jungle trees to obscure his line of sight. Just furloughs, and grass.
The last time had been with his father and brothers back home, on the plains of Dantooine. There was a pack of rabid Kath Hounds that was picking off Bols from their herd. It had taken them some time to find the pack giving them grief with how much land they had to cover. They only had two rifles, one for his father and the other his older brother, Indarin, took. It was up to Irtar and his younger brother to try and-
He forced his mind back to the now. He needed all of his focus to try and sneak up on these creatures. Nothing about their stance had changed, so he guessed they hadn't noticed him yet. But he was getting close enough now that even with Jedi enhancement he would have trouble just sneaking. And so, Irtar once again opened himself to the Force.
He saw all the life he did the first time. That blinding brilliance. But instead of focusing on any type of creature, he tried to envision a shroud blocking the gaze of all those lights. He tried to work that vision through the Force, and wrapped it around himself.
Carefully, Irtar emerged from the woods, lightsaber in his hands. Prepared. Slowly, he crept forward, his thoughts split evenly between his connection to the Force and his every step. Ready. He was within five feet of them, he raised the weapon and prepared to ignite it when of them looked up.
With a mighty shrieking squeal, the lot suddenly sprang towards the jungle brush. Irtar hurriedly lit up his lightsaber, and went off trying to chase one of the creatures. The jungle however fought against his movements the second they exited the clearing. Vines, branches, and undergrowth all tried to grab him and hold him back. Long before he could catch up to them, the creatures were gone.
Ahnk was waiting in the middle of the clearing with an impassive expression upon his face.  He looked at Irtar expectantly. The padawan sheepishly shrugged.
“I thought I had it. And then... I didn’t.” He said, looking back to where the creatures had been. “Faster than I expected.”
“You made the same mistake again.” Ahnk stated, his expression remaining stoic. “You tried to apply yourself too broadly, and to too many things. You must FOCUS. Not just with the Force, but with all things. Focus on what you are doing. Focus only on what you need to do.”
“There was no way you could shield yourself through the Force from everything in this jungle. Even a Jedi Master would have trouble with something like that.” He instructed, giving Irtar a serious gaze. “Hopefully you will remember that after going hungry this evening.”
Ahnk looked about the clearing appraisingly, as if suddenly realizing something. “I think here would be a good place to set up camp for the night.”
“Sounds good enough to me.” Irtar said with a shrug, sitting down on a fallen log nearby, fishing out the last of his ration bars from his backpack. Ahnk fetched it out of his hand before he got a chance to get a bite.
“Awww, c’mon!” Irtar scowled, his stomach growling its frustrations.
“Thank-you, Irtar. I needed this after the trip today.” Ahnk took a big bite out of the plain looking bar. “I’m sure you’ll try harder tomorrow.”
A group of sentients sat around a repulsor lift, each wearing different protective and safety gear. The hodge podge mix of styles and corporate symbols reflecting the hodge podge nature of the group. One man stood above the rest, wearing a white helmet and with a datapad in his hands.
“Alright boys, listen up. I’m sure we all know why we’re here.” The older man began, trying to sound very prophetic. “We’ve all been chased from our homes by the Empire, and we mean to do what those other galactic governments won’t. Show the Coalition how we took care of Palpatine and his the first run around. So, here’s where we’ve decided we’re striking down. Same place we struck down that first Death Star of theirs decades back. We’re gonna tap into that old can do attitude and-“
“If we wanted fucking talking we’d be listening to Regrad.” Someone yelled from the group. “Get to the fucking point.”
“Fine! Don’t know I bother to try and...” The foreman grumbled off into incoherence. “We’re going to be setting up some landing pads here for the heavy lifters. Scanners picked up some caves around here, and we figure we can blast on down to them. Should give plenty of cover and room to grow.”
“So, I need Faroe, Brent, and Starchaser to confirm the surveys. Those check out, we’ll start blasting us some level ground.” The foreman motioned towards a Bothan and a couple of Humans. “Fargo, I need you to go and double check the blasting supplies. Should be about two crates. Get ‘em prepped, and laid out for the blasting teams. Rest of you are going to help get the pre-fabs setup so we have somewhere to sleep for the next couple of weeks.”
“Alright, you’ve got your jobs for the day. I’ll call people as we need ‘em. Otherwise, off you fuck.” The foreman said, waving his datapad towards the group until they started heading off to their different taskings.
Drex Fargo leisurely made his way across the clearing they had been set up camp in. The Human yawning and grumbling the whole way, taking a swig from a small flask he kept in a pocket in his jacket. He hated these pisshole backwaters. But work was work. And if it helped bring down the Empire, all the better.
With the alcohol helping to steady him up, he figured it was as good a time as any to work on those explosives. They said they’d need about a good ten charges to destroy different larger rock outcroppings on the site. Techs would set up the yield as needed. All he needed to do was make sure they were dry, intact, and everything was accounted for.
He came to the large supply tent they had set up at the perimeter of the camp. Kept it well enough away from the rest of the camp, in case something went wrong with any of the supplies. Nothing quite like having a faulty charge go off, or having a chemical leak right in the middle of camp.
Safety was damned important, Fargo thought as he took another swig from his flask.
 He walked into the tent and slowly ran down the rows of boxes. A portable cistern of water, several crates of perishables and non-perishables, construction equipment, bedding materials... Where was the explosives?
Fargo frantically started tearing apart the supply tent, looking desperately for the explosives. Maybe they had been put in another crate by accident?  He started tossing things out of other crates, hoping that maybe they’d been put into one of the other crates. With the supply tent a horrible mess, Fargo threw up his hands.
“Well FUCK!” He yelled, kicking a box of rations. The boss was going to have his head for this.
Irtar came out of the jungle, fumbling with a small repulsor-lift with a crate on it. Ahnk furrowed his brow at the apprentice, who seemed very pleased with himself.
“You didn’t say how much you needed. And figured with the lift there I might as well take the lot.” Irtar said, patting the crate. “Worst case, we leave them what we don’t need, right? Better than going back there under heightened security.”
“Besides...” Irtar said, pulling open the lid of the crate to show some pilfered rations, and fruits. He tossed a Hindian pear to Ahnk. “I figured I could do one better than alien meat of questionable edibility.”
“From diplomat to thief.” Ahnk said with a thin smile as he took a bite out of the fruit, giving the apprentice an appraising look.
“Firstly, I only took this stuff because you ordered me to, and took my rations.” Irtar said, grabbing out one of his own and taking a big chunk out of it. “Secondly, I didn’t steal it per say. I left a credit chit that should cover this, mostly, I think. Assuming the Coalition hasn’t closed my account. Thirdly, they seemed the shifty sort. Probably smugglers that stole it all in the first place.”
“Any fourthly?” Ahnk dryly asked, the words drenched in sarcasm. Irtar just shrugged it off.
“Give me a minute. I’m sure I can think of something.”
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Jul 18 2015 11:13am
“Steady now,” Ahnk cautioned.
Irtar nodded softly. “I’m walking as gently as I can,” he said. “How long do I need to keep doing this?”
“A few more feet should do it,” the Jedi Master said, appraising the situation. “Alright, stop.” Irtar stopped and knelt down. He turned to Ahnk and they both grinned. “Fire in the hole,” Ahnk said with a smirk.
“Fire in the hole,” Irtar repeated. He quickly double checked his senses and, with no one lurking in what he presumed to be the blast radius, depressed the button in his hand.
Across a small valley, which had been clearcut by nearby dormant machines, a small pile of explosives detonated in a not-so-small explosion. The blast shot dirt and debris upwards and outwards in a combination of smoke cloud and fireball, and the explosion could be seen, and heard, for miles.
Shortly afterwards, the construction crews across the valley, on the opposite side to the two Jedi, sounded klaxons. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
“Looks like we got their attention,” Irtar said. “You’re sure they won’t send men after us?”
“Eventually they will,” Ahnk said. “I recognize the symbols on their equipment… they’re being paid for by Marin Faulkner. He’s an industrialist, philanthropist, a real salt of the earth, by his own bootstraps kind of man. These are civilian contractors for construction work, not mercenaries. He’ll have a security force in orbit but they’ll be several hours away, which gives us a head start.”
Irtar nodded, following his thought process. “Remind me again, what are we doing here?”
“You remember the geothermal vents you worked on in my cloning complex?” Ahnk posed.
Irtar nodded his confirmation.  “How could I forget? I spent hours banging my heads on those pipes.”
Ahnk’s smile widened. “Would it surprise you to know that I didn’t build those vents?” Irtar said nothing so Ahnk continued. “Thousands of years ago, there was a great battle here; the last great battle of The Great Sith Wars. The Jedi and the Republic would launch a desperate, and incredibly destructive, assault on Yavin IV with the aim of killing Exar Kun. Though he would survive, he was badly damaged. The world, though, was left in ruin. A cold, desolate wasteland, all life burnt from its surface in the assault, leaving nothing but ash.”
“And the Jedi did this?” Irtar queried. “Sounds pretty destructive for keepers of the peace.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Ahnk noted. “When you’re dealing with an evil like Exar Kun, you do what you need to do to end the threat. Just don’t forget the damage done in the attempt when it’s time to pay the cleaning bill.”
“Is that what the vents are for?” Irtar asked.
“Power generation; geothermal vents were tied into terraforming blast furnaces, designed to recreate atmosphere and water cycle,” Ahnk explained. “Gradually, the desolate wasteland became fertile, and old seeds, all that remained of the burnt husks of the previous cycle’s great trees, took root and began growing again. What you see before you, now, is representative of thousands of years of growth.”
“So we’re going to these terraforming stations?” Irtar asked.
Ahnk nodded. “Not for the stations themselves though,” he clarified. “Along with the terraforming stations, the Jedi built a facility here meant to house a cadet branch of their order. Those Jedi Knights who were sent here would guard against whatever remnants of Exar Kun… his spirit, his soul, his malevolent energy… keep it from manifesting in the future.”
Irtar’s eyes widened. “You think these Jedi might still be around?”
Ahnk’s face darkened. “The facility was abandoned long ago… a change in governments meant the Jedi were suddenly needed elsewhere. So the facility was abandoned… the terraforming work, the facility itself, left to caretaker droids. Long ago, the machines stopped, the world had been reborn, and the facility went dark, becoming more of a dusty legend than anything of practical value to anyone.”
Irtar nodded. “That makes perfect sense. We go from one dusty old subterranean facility to another. No one told me Yavin was such a tourism hotspot!”
Ahnk smirked. “Irtar, you need to think beyond the immediacy of the facility itself.  It was designed to raise a generation of Jedi… to impart upon them all the knowledge, all the wisdom, accumulated by the Jedi to that day. Knowledge, and wisdom, archived and collected in two places. Here, and Coruscant, where it burned following Darth Vader’s purge of the Jedi Order.”
“And you think that library still exists?” Irtar asked. “That we can access the information?”
Ahnk turned to the crater they had made. “If we were careful enough with the dynamite,” he said. “Fix up a pair of harnesses. We have some rappelling to do.”
Posts: 2558
  • Posted On: Aug 7 2015 10:24am
Ahnk had found them a way down to the city. A sheer pit that disappeared into darkness. If there was a bottom, Irtar couldn’t see it. He frowned looking down into the abyss.
“And you’re sure this goes down to the city?” Irtar asked, peering over the edge. His Jedi senses could reach for a little ways, but obviously not far enough to sense bottom.
“It’s there.” Ahnk replied, as he double checked his harness. “Do you feel anything on your face?”
“What?” Irtar asked with an eyebrow raised in confusion. He didn’t understand what Ahnk was even on about.
“If this were one of the geothermal vents, you’d feel a gust of hot air rushing upwards. Or if this was meant for the ventilation of one of the generators, you’d feel cold air being sucked downwards. But the air here is still.”  Ahnk explained, as he began to tie himself off to the face of the pit.
“But what if it’s just collapsed or blocked?” Irtar asked as he joined his Master in tying off. His mind began to process all the possibilities, mostly to distract himself from the impossibly deep and dark hole he was leaning over.
“Do you see the chunks of green stone on the walls of the shaft?” Ahnk motioned towards a couple of fragments of rock sticking out sporadiacally along the length of the shaft. Irtar nodded in confirmation so Ahnk continued. “That is green marble. The elevator shaft to the surface was lined with it. Obviously something happened, because almost the entire facade has crumbled.”
“That’s not promising.” Irtar muttered, as he dug in his heels and prepared to start lowering himself down.
It was an odd feeling. The human mind was wired with an innate fear of heights, something about the primitive parts of the human mind remembering ancient survival instincts. Even though he had all his Jedi training, had a modern harness, and a Jedi Master at his side, he could feel the fear of this great dark thing clawing at the back of his mind.
Ahnk had already begun to lower himself, and Irtar could make out his light below him.
“Do we have enough line?” Irtar called down to Ahnk, one last double check.
“Probably.” Ahnk called back.
“Great...” Irtar muttered. He took a deep breath, pushed back, and began to kick himself down the side of the pit. The rock face taking up the whole of his vision, as their little ball of light slowly made its way through the shadows.
Along the way, Irtar made out the odd intact mural on the slabs of green marble. Scenes of the old Jedi Order and of that Great Sith War. Ahnk explained the meaning of each one as they came across them. But for the most part, they were incoherent and shattered by the hands of someone who got there before them, or from some sort of natural disaster. Ahnk either couldn’t or wouldn’t say what had happened.
After about ten minutes of descending, they came across a block. Obviously, the elevator had been in use when whatever happened happened. It was jammed in the shaft, buried in the fragments of marble from above.
“So... now what?” Irtar asked with a frown, dangling from above. Ahnk lowered himself carefully on to the broken platform, inspecting the damage done. It groaned as he put his weight upon it, the steel raging against the movement upon it. He reached into his pack and pulled out another one of the charges.
“Wait, we don’t know how stable this shaft is! And being in a confined space, the pressure has nowhere to go but into our bodies!” Irtar cautioned as Ahnk began to set the charge, ignoring the apprentice.
“This is not my first time setting a charge in a crumbling ruin. It shouldn’t take much to knock this elevator loose and clear the path downwards.” Ahnk said idly as he fiddled with the high explosives. After a minute, he began climbing back up and away from the rubble and Irtar began to brace himself.
“Just trust in the Force, and use what I taught you to protect yourself. You’ll be fine.” Ahnk said, trying to comfort his apprentice before adding… “Oh, and keep your grip on the walls in case your line is knocked loose so you don’t fall to your death.”
And with that, a thundering crack erupted below them and the old elevator crumbled. The entire world seemed to reverberate with the force of it, the wall feeling like it was trying to toss him off. Years of debris rained down the shaft, as the broken steel cried in protest to its disturbed rest. Crashing down, tearing most of the remaining façade on the shaft with it in gouges and chunks.
All Irtar heard was a deafening ringing in his ears.
All Irtar saw was a great plume of dust.
Deaf and blind, he held firm to the walls of the shaft. His line still felt taut be he didn’t feel like learning out the hard, long way. Slowly, the shuddering passed. The dust began to settle. The ringing passed.
He looked about, and saw Ahnk still nearby, covered in dust. He gave his line a few strong tugs to make sure it was secure, and evidently confident enough resumed making his way down the shaft. Irtar slowly grabbed the rope, tested his weight, and eventually began to make his way down.
And that is when Irtar noticed something below him.
A light.
Dull and red, but undeniable.
As they got lower, he found it was coming from what looked like a hole in the side of the shaft. The air was still, so it was unlikely that Ahnk had managed to open up one of those geothermal pipes. Irtar groped out with the Force, but felt nothing. At least nothing alive.
Ahnk remained silent, but determined.
It took some time before they got to the gap and the light. The destroyed elevator had obviously fallen further still, lost somewhere below them in that darkness. But this was obviously at some point a stop. There was a half open door, the red light flowed through like an old wound.
“This is it.” Ahnk said, as he swung around the shaft towards the door.
“Are you sure?” Irtar aksed as he slowly circled about. “Could be some sort of maintenance station or junction room or something.”
“No. This is it.” Ahnk said with absolute certainty as he reached the door, and began to pry it completely open. Old gears and broken mechanisms groaned as they were forced to comply. The Jedi Master passed through the door, shortly followed by his apprentice.
The narrow hallway was lit only by a series of light strips. There were other fixtures, but they were long dead. Irtar presumed the strips were a form of emergency lighting. There was writing and arrows, but Irtar couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Some form of primitive galactic basic, maybe, but Irtar was never much of an anthropologist or linguist.
The farther down the hall they made it, the worst Irtar began to feel. That cold, clawing feeling was even worse than in the cloning facility. Just as there, Irtar couldn’t quite put his finger on it. It felt like the dark side taint he’d experienced in the past, but there was something… different about it. The other taint was more like a lingering odour. Something that was lurking where it dwelt, but was slowly dissipating.
This felt palpable. Alive.
The tunnel exited into large cavern, dark but even without the Force to help him, Irtar could feel the immensity of the place. As they brought their lanterns to bear, everything began to become clear to what happened.
Everything was a ruin. Rocks from the roof of the cavern scattered everywhere. But any hint that this was natural was quickly dispelled. The buildings were scarred with fire and blaster marks. There were ancient droids scattered everywhere, broken from a battle long before the pair came down here, as well as….
“Stormtroopers!?!” Irtar asked, seeing the crumpled figure in white armour near a building. Covered in dust, and obviously been there for some time, but the distinctive armour stood out amongst the dark ruins.
“I should have known.” Ahnk muttered under his breath as he looked carefully over the destruction. He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment.
“The City of the Jedi was not intended just as a place of Jedi learning, or a terraforming station. It also had a secret purpose.” Ahnk said, slowly picking up one of the broken hunks of stonework littering the city before them. “It was intended to trap the soul of Exar Kun.”
“What…? How is that possible?” Irtar asked as the questions swirled around his head.
“It is a secret that only the old Jedi Order knew. It was one of the things I had hoped to learn.” Ahnk casually tossed the rubble aside. “And Kun knew this as well. Having been trapped here for millennia, he knew exactly where to find this place. He would never have left such a threat to his continued existence stand. But it looks like anyone who came on this assault that didn’t die to the defending droids was quieted by his hands.”
As Ahnk moved his light, Irtar suddenly noticed the pile of the charred dead, their armour twisted by electrical burns. The cold feeling clenched tighter.
“I guess this place has joined the temple on Coruscant…” Irtar muttered, turning back towards where they came in. He paused when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Fear is not the trait of a Jedi.” Ahnk said, giving him a very serious look. “There may be something he missed. WE will go over this place until we find what we need to.”
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Nov 25 2015 9:19am
"Alright," Irtar said, in a calm, measured tone. The past few months of working with Ahnk had caused his skin to thicken considerably, and it would take more than this to make him frustrated. "Where do you suggest we start..."

Before Irtar could finish his thought, the wall behind him exploded in debris and flame.

Both men immediately ducked behind the piled rubble that sat at the entrance to the library as a series of blaster bolts began to stike at what had previously been their positions.

Now, Irtar was starting to get frustrated. "I thought all the stormtroopers would be dead?" he said, a logical assumption.

Ahnk took a deep breath before answering. "It isn't stormtroopers," he said.

"How can you tell?" Irtar said. "Even with the light from the blaster bolts it's too dark to see more than a foot in front of me," the apprentice pointed out.

"Then don't use your eyes," Ahnk said, and he said it in a way that Irtar heard an echo of it in the back of his head. It was reinforced by the unspoken suggestion, "Use The Force."

So Irtar took a deep breath as well, and closing his eyes, reached out with the force...

...and felt nothing. There was no life, at least, not nearby.

He considered for a moment. "The automated defences?" Irtar asked, somewhat surprised. "Amazing that they would still function after all this time..."

Ahnk agreed. "Bodes well for the rest of our search," he said. He looked around, and quickly formed an idea. Irtar's head swivelled in Ahnk's direction as the elder of the force users activated his lightsaber, and he followed the movement of the blade as Ahnk sliced through a pipe above. Instantly, a spray of water began leaking from it.

"A genius idea," Irtar said. "Because this place wasn't inhospitable enough when it was just cold and dark, now you're going to make it cold, dark, and wet. You know droids don't need to be comfortable the way humans do, yes?"

Ahnk smiled, and moved his saber so that the high energy beam touched the edge of the metal he had cut. The metal heated up and Ahnk slowly moved the blade, drawing the molten metal across the hole he had made. A few seconds later, the metal cooled, and the spray became isolated drips. "Bear with me," Ahnk said, and he reached into the rubble. He grabbed a handful of what had been dust... but was now a chalky, grey mud. He covered both hands in it, and then began to spread some on his face.

Irtar wasn't sure what Ahnk was doing. "Master, what are you doing?"

Ahnk turned his now mud soaked face to the younger Jedi. "The technology of the defences will be antiquated; that means limited, outmoded sensor technology. My guess is they have heat and motion sensors, and not very finely attuned ones. The wet mud, covering the skin, will dampen the heat signature my body gives off, and if I move slowly enough..." Ahnk said, before slowly standing up. His motion was not tracked; the blaster bolts continued to hit his old position and did not follow to his new one. "As long as we move carefully and stay in range of cover, we should be able to move further into the facility... then, I entrust you, the master engineer, with turning off those turrets."

Irtar slowly began to shimmy, staying behind cover, over to where Ahnk had created a mud puddle. "Unconventional thinking," Irtar said, "but then, you seem to have a knack for that."

"Irtar," Ahnk said, his voice serious and with an impression of caution behind it. "Your ambient body temperature rises with frustration. Try and relax; let go of agitation, and aggravation."

"That's asking a lot," Irtar said, with a smirk, "given I have to put up with you."

Ahnk nodded and returned the grin. "We move when you are ready," he said, and after a few moments of giving himself a mud bath, and a few deep breathes, Irtar was ready. The two began to pace slowly, moving from one pile of rubble to one stone pillar, always keeping cover close by should their movements trip the automated defences. Moving slowly enough, though, they managed to remain undetected. "There's a doorway up ahead," Ahnk said, gesturing to it with his hand. "I will be in the open as we approach. I may need you to cover me," he said, eyes dropping to Irtar's lightsaber.

"You can rely on me," Irtar said.

"If I felt differently, I'd make you open the door," Ahnk said. He stepped out from cover... watched the turrets in the corners of the room, and tracked them. They, fortunately, did not seem to track him. Ahnk made his way to the doorway, and tried the control panel. The buttons clicked in when pressed, but caused no other response; the panel was dead, power long ago having faded from it's circuits. "Irtar, if you still have any of those explosives..."

Irtar grinned, and slid his pack over to Ahnk. Ahnk reached down and grabbed a quantity of explosive capable of clearing the door, then began slowly backing away. Once he was behind a stone pillar, he nodded in Irtar's direction. "Fire in the hole," Irtar said for the second time that day, and then hit the detonator. Ahnk had packed and angled the explosives well, and when they exploded, they tore a hole in the stone door without damaging the frame of the foundation, which held the weight of the stones in the ceiling. "Good work, master."

"You can accomplish a lot with a little mud, some forward thinking, and bulk quantities of powerful explosives," Ahnk said. "I think the smoke from the blast will cover us as we move into the next room. Keep your head up for more defences," Ahnk said.

Irtar nodded, picking up his pack, and following the older of the two Jedi as they entered into the ruins of the facility...
Posts: 2558
  • Posted On: Dec 22 2015 12:07am
In the smoke, they advanced quickly through the shattered door, prepared for anything. And yet, all that greeted them on the other side was more of the oppressive, dead darkness. They stood by the door for a moment as the smoke cleared, Irtar’s hand tense on the hilt of his saber awaiting for the crackle of plasma discharges from any internal defences.
And yet, they never came. The capacitors of the turrets outside the door could be heard quietly and contentedly humming. Other than that, everything was still, and quiet. Slowly and cautiously, Irtar reached into a pocket and brought out his light. A click, and the orb bathed the room in light as its small anti-grav generator brought it to float by his shoulder.
The reception of the library was dirty, with chars from blaster discharges on the walls. Broken men and droids scattered the floor, laying wherever they had fallen in their old battle. Forgotten even to scavengers. The place was comparatively spartan to the elaborate elevator. Obviously meant more as a place of quiet contemplation than any grandeur.
Aesthetics however didn’t draw Irtar’s eyes so much as the wiring that ran from the frame of the door over to the reception desk. Right from the turrets. They had been rerouted. Irtar tried to think of who and why.
And as he considered that, he considered other things. Now that survival wasn’t the focus of his thoughts, he could think more on their circumstances and situation. It all didn’t feel right.
“Master, do you find it strange that Kun would have cleared this place out, seemingly destroy the place, but leave these defences in place? This close to the entrance?” Irtar asked, as he slowly picked his way over to the console.
“Exar Kun wasn’t the type of being to waste his time. He likely did the damage he had to, and moved on. It seems that this building wasn’t relevant to what he needed to do while down here.” Ahnk replied, peering into the darkness intently. “We cannot concern ourselves with things we cannot know. Worry about the now.”
Irtar took a deep breath, and sighed out. It would do no good to argue with Ahnk. Especially in a trap laden, ancient Jedi library laid low by a long dead but not quite dead Sith Lord.
When Irtar got to the desk, the console there gave him a pause. It wasn’t some millennia old machine, but a familiar Imperial design. Recent, at least compared to the rest of the tech he had seen.
“Maybe the past is the problem of the now.” Irtar mused aloud as he began to try and access the computer. It was fairly easy, the machine was fairly standard issue across the galaxy. And, at over twenty years old now, its vulnerabilities were well known. A simple slice job. And with a couple beeps and whirs, he had access to the machine.
“Now let’s see… Yeah, this is wired into the turrets out front. Targeting parameters are for… everyone? That doesn’t make sense. If the Troopers fell back into here, wouldn’t they have set these on the droids to give them cover or something?” He asked Ahnk, a perplexed expression on his face.
“You would think.” Ahnk replied, his tone neutral, his expression not granting a hint to any emotion underneath. Irtar gave another exasperated sigh and resumed seeing what he could learn from the console, but it wasn’t much. Standard Imperial design. Only thing of note was the makeshift device that allowed the newer computer to talk to the ancient turrets.
With a couple keystrokes, the turrets audibly powered down, their capacitors slowly dissipating their charge and the plasma cooling. Irtar quickly disconnected the device from the console and the lines feeding into it.
“Did you find anything helpful?” Ahnk asked, as his eyes kept scanning around the room. As if expecting the shadows to lash out at him. And the thing that shocked Irtar was that he felt much the same.
“Well, if we run across anything else, hopefully this little thing should help. Translates whatever ancient language all this stuff uses to something modern devices use.” Irtar said, as he waved the silver box before putting it into the sack. Ahnk stared at him blankly.
“Computers and robots aren’t like ropes and pulleys. There’s logic. There’s designs. There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes. You hand me a thousand year old computer, and I might as well be starting from scratch. It’s completely alien. I’d have to deconstruct everything and build it all up again before I have a clue what I’m looking at.”
“Unless you want to spend a week for me to figure out how to open a door.” Irtar said, as he sat up from the desk.
Ahnk frowned.
“SO. Going to give me some idea of what we’re looking for in here? Databank on something or the other? Some treatise on which or the what?” Irtar asked as he looked at the entryway into the library proper.
“As I said, this is an ancient Jedi library. From before the purges of Palpatine, and the decades of conflict and destruction that followed. I had hoped that this place had survived all that. A time capsule of all the wisdom of the old Jedi and their ways.” Ahnk said, as he placed a hand gingerly on the wall. He closed his eyes for a moment. Irtar couldn’t tell if it was in quiet contemplation on the universe or just for a dramatic pause. When he opened his eyes, even in the darkness their sorrow shone. “But it seems nowhere is safe from the wars.”
“Ah, so just a ‘whatever scrap we can find’ approach.” Irtar said, tapping his chin. “Well, I’ll let you know if I see anything that might be... important? I’m assuming you don’t want a copy of Youngling ABCs or the Coruscanti Dictionary and Thesaurus that’s a thousand editions out of print.”
Ahnk frowned.
“Well, whoever set these defences up didn’t wire anything more to this. So, let’s hope they just wanted to set something up to cover their backside and we have clear flying going forward.” Irtar said, trying to sound hopeful. Ahnk just cast him a tired gaze before stepping into the main hall of the Library.
Whatever battle had gone on outside had continued into here. More dead troopers and droids littered the hall. Tables overturned for cover. Ancient datachips blasted with carbon and melted by plasma discharge. More defensive turrets, but these ones obviously long dead, their innards hanging by tiny wires.
The room was silent, and long dead.
Every step echoed throughout the hall. Both stepped with care, as if a heavy footstep could wake whatever horrible things could lie dormant. The further they went, the dimmer Irtar’s little light droid seemed to get. The more the darkness seemed to enclose around them.
Irtar picked out one of the old crystalline data storage units out of the wall and gave it a hard look. The light it refracted was dull and grey.
“No good.” Irtar said with a frown. “Looks like whatever fighting they were doing blew something out. Even the intact ones seem to be fried.”
“Then we’ll have to try the next level.” Ahnk said, his words seeming to reverberate off the walls and the shadows. “They kept rarer editions a floor below. Some hard copies. They stood a better chance of surviving.”
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Dec 31 2015 1:08pm
The lifts between floors had been disabled, but the facility had emergency stairwells at several points that could be used to traverse the facility. Several of them had been destroyed in various explosions, but Irtar's droid was able to find one that would allow them to walk to the next floor safely.

When they set foot a floor lower, Ahnk felt... something...

Suddenly, he was backpedalling, hand reaching up to a fresh wound on his shoulder. The smelt of burnt flesh and dusty smoke filled his nostrils. He looked over to see Irtar, similarly taking cover.

"I've been waiting for you," a voice said from ahead. Ahnk looked out from cover but saw only wisps of flame. "You I don't know... but him... oh I never forget a face..."

"Ahnk!" Irtar shouted, and Ahnk turned to him.

As he did the smoke faded. He reached up and touched his shoulder, and found the flesh undamaged.

"Are you alright?" Irtar asked. "It was like you were in a trance..."

"It was a vision," Ahnk said.

"Of what?" Irtar asked. "Of the future?"

"Difficult to parse, visions from the force," Ahnk replied. "Our minds... filled with memories, and emotions. Calm can bring clarity... meditation... but I feel a sudden sense of urgency."

Irtar looked over at Ahnk seriously. "Urgency...?"

Ahnk nodded. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, Irtar saw a flash of the fire in them. "There's someone waiting for us. In the cold, and the dark below. Our coming here was not an accident... not a sudden insight of mine on how to expose you to a greater world of knowledge... this is a trap, and I've walked you right into it."

Irtar took a moment to process that, and then held out his hand. "We walk into it together," he said.

Ahnk considered, and then grasped his hand. "Together," he reaffirmed, and the two began walking deeper.

This level showed less signs of damage; while the facility was unpowered, and the terminals refused to accept input, they weren't destroyed, and for the most part the screens were intact. There were, however, still the occasional destroyed droid and dead body lying around. Ahnk traced a finger along a stretch of wall; dust, but nowhere near as much as he had expected.

"Is it just me, or is the air in here pretty thin?" Irtar asked.

"This facility was designed to be isolated and sealed from the surface," Ahnk explained. "The air recyclers have probably not functioned for decades... air was coming in from topside but down here, between the carbon dioxide from the blaster fire and the dust from the explosions..."

Irtar nodded, looking around. "This level doesn't seem as badly damaged as the ones above... maybe we can get the air cyclers working again."

Ahnk followed his thought process... "Center of the complex, down that hallway, third door on the left."

Irtar nodded, and started walking towards the center of the complex. He stepped into the hallway...

...and immediately back out the other side, blaster bolts whizzing past him. "Looks like we got a live one," he said to Ahnk. "Cover me with your saber, so I can hack the turret?"

Ahnk nodded. He stepped forward, raising the saber and thumbing it on... but the blade did not ignite. He thumbed it again, with the same result, and then again after shaking it, still getting the same result. "My lightsaber is dead. Try yours," Ahnk said.

Irtar nodded, and then thumbed his saber. It lit up with a familiar snap and a hiss. "Okay, so..."

"How much do you trust your arm?" Ahnk said, extending his hand.

Irtar shook his head. "This would be a lot safer if I turned it off first," he pointed out.

"No time, that turret might track the saber and I'd rather take my chances any shot it fires hits the blade," Ahnk said. "Trust the force, and trust yourself... now!"

Everything happened quickly. Irtar's saber started through the air, and Ahnk pushed himself forward, hand extended. The turret tracked the saber as Ahnk had expected and fired. The bolt hit the saber, causing it to wobble and recoil... Irtar and Ahnk both watched, powerless to change the swords direction, as it sliced through the robe of Ahnk's arm...

...then, Ahnk reached out with his other hand and grabbed the saber. He spun, his entire body a blur, and Irtar stepped in behind him. Ahnk turned just in time to catch the next bolt. They stepped closer and closer until Irtar could get a ping on the teminal. He started tapping keys...

"Can you hurry this up?" Ahnk asked over his shoulder. Irtar smelt burnt flesh... Ahnk must have missed a shot.

A few keys away. "Done!" Irtar said, and with a mechnical sigh the turret control computer shut down and the turret itself dropped, unpowered. "That was getting uncomfortable."

"You're telling me," Ahnk said. He tapped Irtar on the shoulder, and the younger Jedi took the offered lightsaber handle.

"I was worried for a second, I thought that saber would take your arm off..." Irtar said.

"It did," Ahnk said. He rolled back his robe, revealing where the saber had cut through his arm, just above the wrist. Underneath a small coating of seared flesh, Irtar made out the workings of an artificial arm. "Lucky it took out this arm, I'm fond of keeping the other one flesh and bone."

"I figured when you didn't cry out it had just cut the cloth," Irtar said, wincing. "I'm sorry."

Ahnk, unexpectedly, laughed. "When you've been through the kind of torture, and agony, and death that I have been through, it takes more than a few signals from electronic pain receptors designed to artificially replicate stimulation to get me to cry out," he said. "I'm more concerned about why my lightsaber didn't activate."

"I have a theory about that," Irtar said. "Try it now."

Ahnk thumbed the activator and the saber snapped to life. "I'm guessing your theory treads water," Ahnk said, waving the saber around before thumbing it off.

"I noticed when I was working the turret control terminal that it was linked to another function; a dampening field generator. I wasn't sure what it was set to dampen but when I shut down the terminal, it shut down the field itself," Irtar said. "There was something funny about the software..."

"Can I see your interface?" Ahnk said, asking for the interface Irtar was using to connect to the terminal.

"Sure..." he said, handing it over. "As I was going to say, the software contains some algorithms you wouldn't expect from pre-Battle Of Yavin technology."

"That's because it's not that old," Ahnk said. "This dampening field is designed to create sub-atomic resonance... a very specific frequency of resonance. Enough to render a Corusca gem inert."

"A Corusca gem? I thought those were mostly decorative, used to jewellery," Irtar said.

"Mostly, the common ones," Ahnk said. "The extremely high grade gems, those with the very best density, are what we refer to, in the Yavin system, as weapons grade. When I held this world, I would use them as focusing crystals on all of our soldiers blasters... and all of the lightsabers we made here."

Irtar raised his eyebrows. "So someone was expecting you," he said.

"Me or someone like me," Ahnk said. He slid the lightsaber under his robe and pulled out a handle that looked much more garish and much older. "My Sith Academy on Yavin was the only one that used Corusca gems for construction as a rule, rather than as an exception. I guess whoever set up that dampening field assumed that someone from the temples above would be ransacking it at some point."

"Guess it's lucky I wasn't always your student, huh," Irtar said. "Anyway, I wanted to say, when I was trying to hack the terminal, it took longer than expected because the encryption is much more recent than what I would expect, given how old the turrets themselves seem to be."

Ahnk frowned at that. "How much more modern?"

"Let's just say, we're not just dealing with ghosts and dusty old droids," the younger Jedi said.

Ahnk snarled, visions of fire dancing in his head. "There's someone else alive down here."