Jan 14 2016 1:38am
“Someone? Or someones?” Irtar asked with a frown as he began unhooking his looted interface from the console.
“I don’t know.” Ahnk replied solemnly as he began to examine the damage of his severed hand.
Irtar’s face however contorted with worry. He couldn’t sense that far in the Force, he was lucky to sense things five feet away most of the time. But Ahnk seemed to be able to case an entire building. If he wasn’t able to sense what was down here….
It’s not often that someone jams for a particular gem, perhaps it could be-
“I also do not know who would have set up these defences.” Ahnk said, cutting off the train of thought in the padawan’s mind.
“Yes, but to jam for this particular gem… Is there any group that pops to mind?” Irtar offered.
“It was no secret that we used Corusca Gems. It is almost impossible to keep a mining operation of that scale secret.” Ahnk said with a frown as he prodded at a few smouldering servos. “It is something difficult and challenging to do, for certain. Dampening fields like this are not cheap, and only work in a small radius. But it is possible.”
Irtar finished packing up, and walked towards his Master, looking at the broken robotic hand as he went. “May I?” He offered.
“Of course. Never understood why all the maintenance on these things seemed to require two hands to do.” Ahnk said with a smile despite the pain receptors in the device continuing to scream out bloody agony.
“Let’s see…” Irtar muttered, his old pre-Jedi comfort of droid work coming comfortably to his mind. A few of the motors were severed, along with the structural damage to the fingers. “Did you bring any spare parts?”
“Not enough.” Ahnk said with a frown, turning the carbon scared hand over.
“Well, lucky for you we’re surrounded by thousand year old battle droids and whatever else were left behind by the old Jedi Order and however ransacked this place. I’m sure I could find something that’ll do the job. Not as well as properly measured and fitted servos and structural bits, mind you. But it’ll do in a pinch.” Irtar said, motioning towards the deactivated turret and other broken bits scattered around them.
“How long will this take?” Ahnk asked, dubiously looking at the piles of scrap around them and thinking of the bigger piles above them.
“Damned if I know. I haven’t even had a crack at this ancient tech yet. Could be an easy thing. Could be complicated.” Irtar hesitantly replied, tapping at his chin. He let out an exasperated sigh as he walked back the way they came. “Well, I’ll start upstairs I guess? There was more salvage up there.”
“We search together.” Ahnk corrected, following behind the padawan.
“But shouldn’t someone be on watch or something? We don’t know if we’ve set off some alarms and if someone is on their way down, or up.” Irtar said, looking past the deactivated turret, into the untouched darkness.
“And we don’t know if there are any hidden pathways, or if they are already lurking here.” Ahnk said, putting a comforting hand, his only hand, on Irtar’s shoulder. “And any group that prepares for a Sith Order and I can’t sense through the Force is nothing that a one handed old man or a young padawan should face alone.”
“Consider me reassured.” Irtar groaned as they made their way back up to the previous floor.
Despite the darkness, the death, and the danger, Irtar felt in his element for the first time in months. He eagerly picked apart the old droids, measuring, testing, and teasing for what he needed. His mind flashed back to those early days on Naboo. After Leia left, and he was left to his own devices. The run he built, the droids he restored. It was a peaceful life, though frustrating at the time.
In the end, maybe the Force had a plan for him. It would explain why he never found a Master that would deal with him longer than a month at a time. Either that or he was a terrible student that no sane person wanted to deal with.
Irtar cast a quick look at Ahnk who was quietly looking where the turret had grazed his shoulder. Thankfully, it looked like it was just a glancing blow. Like a deflected shot that was just a fraction of a fraction of a second too slow.
“So, how’s the arm?” Irtar asked from his collection of likely candidates he picked out on his first pass.
“Better than my hand.” Ahnk replied dryly as he wrapped a bandage around the plasma burn. “You never really struck me as the salvager type.”
“What can I say.” Irtar said as he tossed a piece of steel into his makeshift rejection pile. “Engineer, politician, salvage expert, Jedi, general pain in the ass. I am a man of many skills. A couple of them are even helpful.”
Irtar took a look, eyeing up an ancient chunk of steel he thought would make a good temporary index finger, before deciding against it. Too much of a curve, would make gripping unwieldy. The trick was finding something rigid enough to maintain stress without being too stiff to survive a shock. You want something that won’t bend, but will bend before it breaks.
The metal these old droids were made out of would have been ideal. When they were originally made. The millennia hadn’t been kind on these units, nor had the Stormtroopers. There was also the stress of time. Neither knew if there was a legion of troopers assembling beneath their feet, or descending from above. It seemed almost impossible that whoever had set these defences up would have no idea that they were here or coming.
Irtar held up a small shock absorber and gave it a good hard look. With a nod he added it to his keep pile. It wasn’t as degraded as the other steel and had been one of the best candidates he’d seen so far.
“So, anyone else come to mind?” Irtar probed as he began to knock together what parts they had found that could do the job into a makeshift cybernetic hand. It’d have none of the sensitivity or precision of his properly built one, but it could hold a lightsaber.
“Hrm?” Ahnk had been settling in to meditate while Irtar worked.
“The guys behind all this.” Irtar motioned from the broken droids to the carbon scorched walls. “I know you said it could be anyone, but these guys beat you to this lost city, and came specifically set up to counter the Sith Brotherhood. Surely some group has got to come to mind.”
“Dozens.” Ahnk replied, his eyes closed with most of his attention being elsewhere. “But I wouldn’t expect to find Zark Ekan in a place like this.”
“Who?” Irtar soldered together some wires from the makeshift data port to the motors on the fingers. They were giant by any measure for modern prosthetics, but still small enough for the job at hand.
“Nevermind.” Ahnk said, his focus drifting off entirely.
Irtar worked about another half an hour in silence, Ahnk journeying to parts unknown through the Force. No troopers came storming up or down. No Sith came crawling from the walls. No rats even went scurrying about. The only company the noise of his work, and the sound of the empty city rusting around him.
Nov 7 2016 1:46pm
"I need a power cell," Irtar said, and Ahnk snapped to attention.
Ahnk looked around and shrugged. "Any specific type?"
Irtar shook his head. "I can jury rig it, just something with juice," he replied.
Ahnk nodded. He reached down and grabbed one of the old E-11's from the ground, pulling out the battery. "Will this work?"
Irtar made a face that didn't look very promising. "Throw me the rest of the rifle," he said. Ahnk grabbed it and tossed it over. "I also need a step down transformer. Can you grab me a helmet from one of the troopers? They have one between the powerpack in their armor and their HUD."
Ahnk reached down and took one of the helmets off the trooper. "Wow," he said. "This is... Order 66 era trooper. This battle took place long ago."
Irtar looked over and nodded. "Creepy how they all looked the same," he said. "The clones I mean." He thought back to their earlier treks on the planet and then frowned. "Sorry, no offense."
Ahnk smiled. "Just keep working," he said, throwing the helmet over. He marvelled a bit at how the hard seal had kept the trooper preserved... then a few seconds later, coughed as he realized he'd broken the hard seal and was now breathing decades old death. "There's something about this whole situation that bothers me."
"Besides the ancient traps that have been retrofitted with modern technology and the very real possibility that there is someone actively trying to kill us?" Irtar asked.
"But why us?" Ahnk asked. "It's too much of a coincidence that someone comes down here and is still down here when we show up. But if they were trying to murder us, there have been a dozen times where we were more vulnerable than we are now. We slept on this planet yesterday; if they were specifically after us, they could have killed us then."
"So you don't think this is a trap set for us," Irtar said, and was confused when Ahnk shook his head. "You do? I am confused. What are you saying?"
"I think someone set up a trap for us, and then got trapped here themselves," Ahnk said. "It's the only thing that makes sense. They came down here, knowing that this place had things too valuable for me to allow it to fall into hostile hands. But before they could spring the trap, the construction crew up top moved in, and effectively cut them off from both the surface, and additional resources, and their prey."
"And they've been stuck down here, waiting for us," Irtar said.
"Not us," Ahnk said.
Irtar shook his head again. "I'm gonna bury my head in this," he said, holding up the helmet and the blaster pack. "You meditate on our current situation."
Ahnk smirked, knowing Irtar meant it sarcastically, and fully intending to do just that.
Suddenly, everything was much colder.
You don't understand the effect that carbon dioxide has on your body until you're in a building with properly recycled, and temperature conditioned, air.
"This is more like it," Ahnk said, as he walked through The Jedi Library as it had been, decades ago.
"It's almost pretty in a way," a voice answered back, causing Ahnk to swivel his head.
"Who are you?" he said, trying to reach out with all his instincts.
"No one you know," the voice answered back. "But then, you know. If you knew who you knew, then you'd already know."
"I don't know about that," Ahnk said, smiling. "You're very familiar... and very close."
"Familiar, maybe, close, definitely," the voice said back. Ahnk could make out slight details... a woman, probably in her twenties or thirties. Human or humanoid. Intelligent... slightly amused.
"I don't know what you came here for," Ahnk said. "If it's knowledge, or power. Artifacts... whatever it is, we can work out a deal. There's no need for further violence."
"And what," the voice asked, "if violence is why I'm here?"
Suddenly, Ahnk felt it. A warm feeling, like fire. Around him, the walls were aflame, crumbling and smoking around him. He felt, for a moment, the source of the rage. Then it was gone, and Ahnk was surrounded again by only the broken fragments of the glory he had previously beheld.
"Come find me, Ahnk Rashanagok," the voice said, now much more amused. "The path you have laid stands before you... its time you walked to the end."
And then, suddenly, it all made sense.
Ahnk's eyes snapped open, and he reached up with his one remaining hand to wipe the sweat from his brow.
It was then that Irtar stepped into the room. "Okay," he said, and then threw something to Ahnk. As he caught it and looked down, he realized it was a rudimentary mechanical hand. "I didn't have parts fine enough for properly articulated fingers, but I figure those will work. And the whole thing is built on a blasterpack, which are prone to exploding."
"Well, worst case scenario, it explodes and I start punching things with a fireball for a hand," he said.
"Or it explodes and takes half your ribcage along with your arm," Irtar said, and didn't like the resulting glare from Ahnk. "Fireball fist does sound much cooler and it's just as likely, so let's go with that. Did you get any insight into our situation while I was gone?"
Ahnk nodded. "I think I've been able to narrow down what felt off about this whole situation," he said.
"Great," Irtar said, and then when he saw Ahnk's expression, he frowned. "Not great."
"Not great. I don't think this trap was set for me," Ahnk said. "I think this trap was set for you."
Nov 11 2016 5:49pm
Irtar furrowed his brow at Ahnk. He just simply didn’t believe it. The man just couldn’t see himself being that important. The only people who at some point may have wanted him dead were the Sinsangese isolationists, but he stopped being a threat to them when he hung up his obligations to the Galactic Coalition. Of course there were the Sith, but why would they both going after him? More importantly, which amongst them would know that Irtar was with Ahnk? And put themselves in a position where they would have to go toe to toe with both of them?
It all didn’t make a lick of sense.
“So. Someone decides the best way to kill me is to what?” Irtar begins, putting his hand to his head as his brain tried to assemble the logic. “Wait for my Jedi Master to inevitably drag me off to hidden Jedi city hundreds of light years from where I was? A Jedi city, I might add, almost forgotten to the Galaxy and you yourself only found from years of research? And then their plan is to somehow fight me AND said Jedi Master that dragged me off to said forgotten city?”
“The Force could have guided them here.” Ahnk offered, Irtar just frowned at that.
“So the Force told them where the city was? And that we’d be coming here? But not the construction crew?” Irtar asked, and incredulous expression on his face. It seemed just plainly ludicrous to him.
“Yes.” Ahnk replied, calmly and as if it was an obvious truth.
There were a few choice words Irtar wanted to yell at his Master at this moment, but he bit his tongue and held it in. The Force is a strange and confusing thing, and if the Force wants to have someone fight them in the bowels of a ruined forgotten Jedi City, who was he to argue with the Force. Or maybe Ahnk was wrong. Either way, there was nothing to be done for it by arguing.
They were in a trap. They could either withdraw, and risk having this unknown assailant follow them out, or press forward while they’re trapped and finish the matter now. The problem is, they had no idea how much further they had to go. How many more traps there were. How much deadlier they could become.
“Whoever this is, if they know you’re here with me, and wants to kill me? They probably don’t want to fight both of us. So they’ll likely try to split us up, somehow.” Irtar warned; the Jedi Master nodded along. The man was much more experienced than him, and had likely already thought through the entire strategic situation. Still, Irtar felt better for such things to be said aloud.
“So… I guess forward and onward?” Irtar asked with a shrug, really unsure of what to do.
“We know the trap is here. We shall spring it so we avoid setting off the next which we may not see.” Ahnk said, moving his new hand slowly as he adjusted to the rudimentary machine.
“Be careful with that thing. Remember, fireball.” Irtar warned as they stepped out of their room and back into the halls of the ancient library.
Things were quiet now. That knowledge of the trap filled that void of sound with suspicion. Every creak and every step bore the potential terror of a thousand deaths. But Irtar could not let that consume him. He was a Jedi, like it or not. He forced his mind to calm, and to slow, keeping even breaths at every step. He had to look beyond the terrors his subconscious played before him to think cleanly and with clarity. It was only through the clear lens of serenity that he could hope to gaze past his would be assassin’s veil of fearful traps.
The goal had changed from one of hunting for knowledge to hunting for their assailant. The quickest way would be to split up, but that would increase the odds of one of them being caught on their own. Ahnk was confident in his abilities, a seasoned duelist and warrior. Irtar however… was not. If this foe thought it could, in the best case, disable a Jedi Master? It was not something that would be wise to face alone. To think otherwise would be arrogant and reek of foolishness and bravado.
The pair pushed on past the burnt out hulks of the turrets that fired at them earlier, and past the thinning signs of foreign intervention. If the pair didn’t know any better, it would seem as if the halls were untouched at this point. Irtar could even hear the faint hum of ancient machinery, continuing on its daily functions as it had for millennia. Perhaps they were databanks filled with ancient knowledge? Or perhaps that was the sound of yet another trap?
Irtar felt out with the Force, doing his best to keep those ideas at bay. If the Force led his attacker to him, perhaps the Force would lead him to his attacker. He frowned slightly as he walked, each step feeling about the same as the next. He had never been particularly skilled at using the Force for the mundane, may as well for the more mystical like dousing.
“Do you sense anything?” Irtar asked Ahnk, snapping the strained silence. He was about ready to give up on searching himself. He just had no practice in the Force in this regards. It felt like trying to pick out details on the bottom of a muddy pond.
“No.” Ahnk replied in his short way, seemingly oblivious to the world around him as he was lost in thought or meditation. “This place is draped in the Force, both Light and Dark. It is hard to find something that doesn’t want to be seen.”
“Well, what do we know?” Irtar hoped that Ahnk’s silent pondering had produced some results.
“It is a woman. Probably. And we can assume skilled enough with the Force to mask themselves.” Ahnk answered in a noncommittal way. The uncertainty did not fill him with a great deal of hope.
It was something, but it wasn’t much. Likely a darksider of some description, but he didn’t know any that would want to go to such lengths. At least, he didn’t think he did. He knew some of the Sith Orders liked to send their apprentices abroad to kill a Jedi as a sign of their strength. That would have made sense if he was still on his own, isolated and far from any other Jedi.
He had faced a Sith Knight once, but that had been a man.
Maybe it was one he had faced before? Aretsuya and her Mistress? That one mysterious darksider he had faced on that windy planet? Or perhaps even… No, it was impossible. It couldn’t possibly be HER.
Nov 14 2016 1:14pm
"I'd just like to reiterate, I think this is a really bad idea," Irtar said, hesitantly.
"Noted," Ahnk replied. "Prepared to do it anyway?"
Irtart smirked. "Whenever you're ready," he said.
Ahnk raised his lightsaber handle in his remaining real hand. "Ready... go!"
Coordination was key, but there was a benefit to raw speed as well. Irtar moved first, ducking out from behind the wall and jerking his arm forward, down the hallway. Then he ducked behind the column of the wall across. Then, Ahnk stepped forward, exposed, into the hall, and brought his saber to bear.
Deep breathes, Ahnk thought to himself as he watched everything slowly move around him. There was a series of clicks as the turret pivoted in it's axis, tracking from Irtar to Ahnk, then it fired. There was a snap and a hiss as the lightsaber shot out from the hilt, and then a soft hum as it cut the air. The timing had to be precise... the blade swung up to intercept the blaster bolt...
...and then the bolt deflected away, into the stone wall. Ahnk tried to remain calm; needed to focus. Pull the blade, adjust position and trajectory... he only had so many shots at this... the turret had fired again, and Ahnk eyed the blaster bolt as it moved, slowly, towards him... shifted his arms, and his hips... the bolt stuck the saber...
...and Ahnk followed the trajectory with his eyes and smirked. "Fire in the hole," he said, and in the corner of his eye, saw Irtar duck away.
He barely had time to turn himself before the deflected blaster bolt struck the plastic explosive that Irtar had thrown down the hallway. Meant to be remote detonated, the compounds were reactive enough that hitting them with a blaster bolt was all the energy needed to trigger their explosion. And it was, truly, a glorious explosion.
Ahnk could feel the heat at his back even as he pressed himself into the stone. He looked at Irtar, and Irtar looked at him, and both of them gave the other a satisfied nod.
They did, all things considered, make a good team afterall.
"Good work, Master, one more turret down," Irtar said.
"You should take some of the credit, as it was your idea," Ahnk said.
"One I immediately regretted saying, since I thought it was way too crazy to work," Irtar corrected.
Ahnk smirked. "Crazy always works, because no one ever sees it coming," he said. "That turret didn't know whether to shoot you or the explosive, and by the time it decided to shoot me I was ready to deflect whatever it sent my way."
"Shall we go?" Irtar said. "I think that should be the last turret on this level, so we can either search this level more or proceed to the next one."
"I'm ready whenever..." Ahnk said, pushing himself up and away from the rocks. Then, almost immediately, he fell back against the stone, hard. "Uh, hold that thought."
Irtar rushed over, and his hand went to Ahnk's back, sliding up and down. "Oh yeah, it's bad," he said, feeling burnt clothes, burnt skin, and some raw human insides. "Looks like you caught the tail end of the explosion before you ducked to safety."
"Apparently," Ahnk said. "I was so thrilled we'd blasted the thing I guess I didn't notice. Okay, help me up."
"No way," Irtar said. "This is a bad wound, Ahnk. The kind that ends an expedition like this."
"No!" Ahnk said. "We can't. We have to see this through, and finish what we started."
"You're in no condition," Irtar said. "We need to get you medical attention."
"We can't leave," Ahnk said. "Whoever is down there, they came here looking for something. And if we leave now, we risk them being able to leave with it."
Irtar frowned. "I thought you figured they were here for me," he said.
"We can't rule anything out," Ahnk replied. "We're here. We have to finish what we started before we leave, or we may never know, and we may never have this chance again."
"Alright," Irtar said. He offered his arm and they tried to pull Ahnk away from the wall, but he hissed in pain and pieces of him began to slide down the rocks behind him. "Okay, looks like we're not going anywhere for the minute," the apprentice said, and let the older man slide down a bit to a more relaxed, seated position.
"Look around, see if you can find anything that might be helpful," Ahnk said, "like maybe a surgical bay or something."
"Wait, something's off..." Irtar said. He canvased the hall and seemed to be looking for something. "Ahnk... can you smell that?"
"All I smell is my own seared organs," he sarcastically replied, and then saw Irtar was seriously scanning around. "What am I smelling for?"
"Anything else," Irtar said.
"No, I don't..." Ahnk said, and then it slowly began to dawn on him. "I don't smell anything."
"We just set off a shaped charge in a confined space about ten feet away," Irtar said. "We should be able to smell the scoring and residual smoke."
"Or the displaced dust, or even just the old dust stuck to the walls," Ahnk said, and ran a finger along the stone. It came back clean. "Irtar, step out of my path."
Irtar wasn't sure what Ahnk had in mind, but he gave the Jedi Master room to work. Ahnk lifted his lightsaber and thumbed it on, then softly pressed the tip into the opposing wall. The rock there began to heat up and as it did, pieces of the rock melted and the gas inside exploded from the heat. Small clouds of black smoke formed as the rock melted...
...and then disappeared, sucked into a thin space between the wall and the ceiling.
As Ahnk thumbed off his saber, Irtar ran a hand along the seam. "Air recycling," he said. "This far down some of the original systems seem to still be online," he said. "Maybe..."
"What's on your mind, Irtar?" Ahnk said, and Irtar blew on a section of the wall and then wiped at it with his sleeve. "An old terminal... if the central computer is still active..."
"Only one way to find out," Irtar said, and touched the screen. It flashed momentarily and then began scrawling binary code across it's surface. "Well, I'd prefer a GUI, but this will work." Irtar scanned line after line and then found what he was looking for. He touched a piece of the code and it lit up, then the code all disappeared and a rudimentary map flashed on the screen. "Excellent. This is where we are," Irtar said, touching the screen, and then dragging his finger, "and this is the nearest medical station. Stay here, I'm going to go get something to fix you up."
The state of Ahnk Rashangok was continually getting worse. Partially burnt, with a missing hand hastily reconstructed with spare parts, he started resembling something somewhat healthy when Irtar tightly tugged the bandage around him and then stapled it closed.
"This is going to be a very temporary and very haphazard solution," Irtar said, "and when shit starts hitting the fan, I can't guarantee the whole thing doesn't tear and start looking Ahnk goo all over the place. So we should stop and you should heal yourself a little bit before we go."
"We're close," Ahnk said. "There's nowhere for them to go."
"Her to go," Irtar said. "I know who it is. I can feel it."
Ahnk raised his eyebrow. "Strange that I cannot," he said in reply.
"I can tell," Irtar said. "My instincts..."
"Your thoughts can betray you, Irtar," Ahnk said, and closed his eyes, exhaling deeply. "Look at your hand."
Irtar looked down and realized, involuntarily, he had bunched his hands up into fists. "You don't know what she did to me," he said.
"I have some idea," Ahnk said, "but regardless, this isn't about settling a score. It's about survival now. Me keeping you alive, you keeping me alive, and both of us keeping whoever is down there from getting what they want."
"We know what she wants," Irtar said, impatiently.
"Irtar," Ahnk said, simply. It was a very forceful uttering of the word.
Irtar sighed, and calmed considerably, posture relaxing. "Yes, Master Ahnk?"
"Clear your mind of preconceptions and assumptions," Ahnk said. "We are in a dangerous enough situation as it is. We can't allow our imaginations to further complicate the situation."
"But I've always been taught to feel the force, and trust what it shows me," Irtar said.
"And when you can tell the difference between the flow of the force, and the reverberations of your own fear, then you can look inwards," Ahnk said. "But you're nervous, and it's clouding your judgement. Take a deep breath, and let all your nervous energy bleed away."
Irtar took a short breath, and then, seemingly feeling better, followed it up with another, slower, longer one.
"Now, we can try to reach out with the force, but we're dealing with another force user... I think we both agree on that," Ahnk said.
"It seems highly likely," Irtar replied.
"So what we try and see may be intentionally distorted," Ahnk said. "We can't trust our senses. But fortunately, we have other resources."
Irtar frowned. "What do you mean?" Ahnk gestured his head, and Irtar followed with his eyes. "Of course, the computer."
"If it can show a map of this level, I assume it can show us what's below," Ahnk said.
Irtar grinned. This was right up his alley. "This is us," he said, and then tapped a piece of code. The view of the map turned and it showed layers of space... a more three dimensional perspective. Then, just like that, another bright dot appeared. "That's them. Looks like just one person."
"Once again, let us not assume anything," Ahnk said. "There are beings that don't register on standard sensors, and a force user can mask their life signs so they don't show up either. For now, we make a plan around that space, but we keep our senses attuned as we move into the final level; no preconceptions."
Irtar nodded his head. "None," he said. "Master, if we do find down there what I think we will..."
"Our goal is to survive; we neutralize any threat," Ahnk said. "But we do what we have to do. Not what we want to do, but what we have to do."
Irtar nodded. "I understand," he said. "I'm going to see what systems are still running. Maybe, if I'm lucky, there is some sort of surveillance system active down there... we might be able to get some camera shots."
"If you don't need me, I'm going to slip inside my body and try and stitch myself back together," Ahnk said. Irtar nodded, and Ahnk closed his eyes, and allowed his mind to empty.
"You're hurt," the voice said to him, tauntingly.
"Don't be so happy about it," Ahnk said. "I spent decades as a Sith channelling my pain into anger and my anger into murder. Me taking damage is the worst case scenario for you getting out of this alive."
"You talk tough, Ahnk Rashanagok," the voice said, still taunting. "If you fight half as hard as you talk, this might actually be a challenge."
"I've given you a chance to negotiate your way out of this," Ahnk said. "I'm giving you another. You might get another, if I feel generous. Or I might let Irtar kill you. But I can talk him down, we can work something out. No one has to get hurt."
Her eyes flashed with rage. "Someone has to."
Ahnk nodded. "If bloodshed is what you want, then prepare yourself. The Jedi are coming."
Nov 18 2016 3:31am
Ahnk’s injury had given him the chance to distract himself. The search for medical equipment had given his mind somewhere else to focus its attention. It was a short lived reprieve, but it was what he needed. A little slack off the stress to give his mind a chance to cool off.
But as his Master went into another meditation, Irtar was left with nothing again but his thoughts. The strings of thought in his mind began to grow increasingly taught as he worked on slicing through the ancient system. Each line of code gave time for another thought to take root. Another shred of doubt, or fear, or regret, or anger.
It had hit him like a cargo trawler going lightspeed. He had nearly doubled over when it happened. It could only be her. That red headed demon. Despite his training, he had to face a wave of emotions. It was no easy task to try and process and compartmentalise them all safely away to be dealt with.
Sorrow over the reminder of his mother’s brutal passing.
He had been in the caves of Dantooine when it had happened. His focus had been on finding a crystal for his lightsaber as part of his attempts to become a Jedi Knight. It had felt like centuries ago. Back when he was part of the Jedi Order and before he had went off on his own. He didn’t even feel the passing of his mother he was so obsessed at advancing.
Self-loathing of his own inadequacies.
He hadn’t felt the Sith’s arrival. He had been so blind. So stupid. He didn’t know she was there until she came upon him in the caves, lightsaber in hand looking for blood. She found him, eyeing carefully through crystals looking for the best. Lost in engineering and analysis.
Anger at the one who did it.
At the time, Irtar couldn’t face her. He only had a simply training lightsaber with him. There was no way he could harm her with it. The only other thing he had on his person was a blaster. In his desperation, he fired it into the crystal formations. The blaster fire split and refracted, for a moment the world had lit up with fire. The walls had come in, burying both of them in rock.
Fear of how much stronger she had become since then.
She had fled to recover, he had stayed to recover. She rejoined her Sith, but Irtar was cast out of his family for the trouble he caused. He cast himself out of the Order over the ordeal. While he had wasted time trying to play politics to do what he thought was best for the government in the Galaxy he had thought would be the best for the people of the Galaxy, she could have trained. While he was meeting politicians, she was likely honing her skill in the Force. For every minute he wasted, she gained that much more of an edge on him.
Apprehension of what was to come.
His Master was badly wounded. His attempts to shield his Padawan from the dangers of this place were taking a terrible toll on him. He had lost his prosthetic hand and nearly a pint of blood to the dangers of this place, and they still had one more level to go. How much longer could his Master’s strength hold up?
Guilt over everything.
His Mother had died a horrible death because he chose to leave home and try to find adventure. He had failed all his Masters with his head strong attitude and indifference. Sinsang had become even more corrupt in his attempts to play politician, ruining the lives of an unknown thousands of people. His current Master lay there trying to stitch together his flesh being drawn into his problems.
Some people said that to be a Jedi was to be without emotion. That there was no emotion, there was peace. But he had never met a Jedi that embodied that. Jedi were people. People felt. They loved, they hated, they feared, and they wanted. The Jedi Code was not the code of how to exist as a Jedi. It was the code of how a Jedi had to interact with the Force. Or so Irtar understood it at least.
One could use their emotions to rattle the cage of their soul and try and bash the Force into obedience. But that was the path of the Dark Side, and a dangerous one. It made one go against the Universe, and try and demand power from it. It worked, in a way, but it was dangerous. Consuming.
For a Jedi, like Irtar tried to be, required calmness and serenity. Inside every being was the Force. From the small bacteria to the greatest space slug, every being had a spark of it inside of them. In the Jedi, that spark could become a flame if focused upon. With the focus of calmness and serenity, the spark would light to flame. Emotion muddled the lens of focus, and left the spark without the energy to take light.
So, the trick wasn’t in not feeling at all. It was in learning how to handle one’s emotions. You had to learn how to parse those emotions out safely, and get your mind into the right place it had to be in for you to focus.
But this tide was almost too much. Irtar felt his connection to the Force nearly completely ebbed. He was not much better now than he was before he even heard the word ‘Jedi’. Possibly even worse if he was being perfectly honest.
All of Ahnk’s attempts to keep him safe in this hole, and in some ways Irtar was worse off than him. Ahnk at least had kept his center and composure. Physically he was weakened, but mentally he seemed as resolute as ever. To be strong in the Force was greater than being even the strongest man in the Galaxy. And all this had cost Irtar his strength.
The Padawan paused to reflect on where he was. What he was doing. Why he was here.
Ahnk had more cause to grieve than him. This entire world and situation had to give echoes of the monster he once was. Every step a reminder of atrocities and crimes and deaths. Irtar’s failures, though grievous, were never intentional. He had never intentionally hurt anyone. But Ahnk had in another life time.
Here he was, in the bowels of a broken Jedi city, in a world that once was filled with the Sith and their servants. Here he was with a former Sith Lord and dictator, with a killer the level below. Someone who had committed their own crimes, and who hated Irtar not for who he was. No, she hated him for WHAT he was.
Irtar took a deep, calming breath. He had to push it all aside. He had no choice.
She has killed. She will kill. She had to be stopped. Running would just make it worse. He had to fight her. He had to stop her. And the whole way, he had to stop those dark roots she had cast upon his subconscious.
He wouldn’t just defeat her. He would OVERCOME her.
For his mom.
Irtar nodded to himself in resolution, rallying himself. He had to keep it together. He went back to hammering away at the ancient code, trying to find some monitoring system or something. Some way to find out how or what could be down there and to give them some sort of edge over the Sith. He couldn’t afford self-pity, or failure. Lives depended on it. Not just his, or his Master’s, but every life she would take afterwards.
He had to clear his mind, and focus.
Ahnk began to stir from his meditation. He sounded a little less horrible than before, but he still didn’t seem to be in top form. The fact he was still in a form other than bloody mush was just a sign of how skilled the man was with the Force.
“Ah, morning.” Irtar said, oblivious of what the actual time was. Ahnk grunted a response as he checked his burned side to see how much mobility he still possessed.
“While you were under, I was looking at the schematics for the lower levels. Mostly utility corridors and the like.” Irtar said, pointing at the rudimentary non-holo 3D display on the screen. “Right, now there’s no cameras down there. Well, at least none of the network. But what I was able to do was bring up the draws of the separate breaker circuits down there.”
“This place has been running for centuries. We have no idea what equipment would be down there.” Ahnk said, looking at the map. Not dismissing the fact, but waiting for Irtar to fill in how this would be useful information.
“Well, this place also has centuries of logs. We had a spike in energy consumption a couple decades back. I’ll assume that was our Imperial friends here.” Irtar said, motioning towards the hall they had come down littered with desiccated Stormtroopers. “And we see spikes beginning a week or so back. I’ll assume that’s when our Sith came here and started setting up traps.”
“So we know when she got here.” Ahnk said, nodding along.
“Ah, but I can do you one better.” Irtar quickly entered some commands and a few of the dots along the corridor lit up. “These are new draws that weren’t there before and seem consistent with the turrets we’ve seen so far. These things here and here, I have no idea.”
“Good work, Padawan.” Ahnk said, patting Irtar firmly on the shoulder. He nearly jumped at the sudden show of praise. Irtar assumed it was simply Ahnk’s want to not be shot at again getting the better of him. “We can avoid these traps if we take these corridors instead.”
“Yes, but those are just the energy traps. If she’s studied me as much as she would have had to figure all… this out then she’ll know I can figure out this information. Could be we’ll find lower tech traps. Or even techs on independent generators. These will make bottlenecks.” Irtar said, tapping at the screen with a bit of a frown. “It’s a trap.”
Feb 11 2018 11:41am
"Only one thing you can do to a trap," Ahnk said. He rolled up his sleeves.
"Are you sure you are ready for this?" Irtar said. "You're badly injured."
"I am, but that doesn't mean I can't help you," Ahnk said. He reached down and grabbed something from his robe. "Take this."
Irtar took it and examined it; a small transparent cylinder, capped on either side by metal, filled with a black liquid. "What is it?"
"This... situation," Ahnk said. "I think we might be overthinking it. But it's better to be too prepared than not prepared enough, would you agree?"
Irtar nodded. "So what's our next step?"
"Well, like I said, only one thing you can do to a trap," Ahnk said. He kicked a panel on the wall that Irtar had mapped as belonging to a vent. "Spring time."
Once they reached the lower level, they backtracked until they had a defensible position. "We assume they're alone," Ahnk said, "because that's the information we have. But we take no chances."
"No chances," Irtar agreed and the two backed up into an alcove with only entrance forward of their position. "Then...?"
"You'll have to go corridor by corridor, clearing traps and boxing in the person who set them," Ahnk said.
"Me?" Irtar said. Ahnk nodded. "Where will you be?"
"I'll be with you, but physically I am staying here," he said. He pointed with his arm. "Your map indicates that all of the stairwells on this level are collapsed except that one. I'll cover it and make sure they don't slip past you. In the meantime, each time you approach a corridor, I will use my senses to augment yours. With your technical knowledge of how the traps have been set up and my decades of instinctive responses, we can keep you alive. Together."
"Together," Irtar said. "Are you not afraid that, if this is a trap, you're walking me right into it?"
"There's something else going on here," Ahnk said. "Correlation is not causation; I've misread things, I am starting to believe, and made connections where none exist. If I'm right, all you need to do is cut off the avenues of escape, and then we can talk things out."
"And if you're wrong?" Irtar asked.
"Then there is no one I feel more comfortable of taking care of themselves in such a situation than you," Ahnk said. "It's been a long time since we first met and much has changed since then, but what hasn't changed is that you remain as dedicated and talented as any student I have trained. You are ready, Irtar Mal'gro, to take the next step and become the Jedi you were always meant to be. If we get out of this alive, I owe it to you to formalise that process."
Irtar was silent. "I'm not sure what to say," he said.
"Nothing, until we're both out of this alive," Ahnk said. "And remember, it will be a much more sombre ceremony if you let them sneak by you and kill me. You don't want to bury another master do you?"
"I've never wanted to bury one as much as I have you," Irtar joked, "but still, I don't want to get a reputation."
Ahnk smirked. "Nor I," he said. He reached out his hand and Irtar shook it. "Now, go, slowly."
Irtar nodded, and started walking. Onward he marched, straight into the jaws of hell...
"You again," she spat out, almost derisively.
"Yes, me," Ahnk countered back. "We're on your level now, Irtar and I. He's going to slowly make his way through the facility and back you into a corner."
"Excellent," she replied. "You've given me exactly what I wanted."
"Maybe," Ahnk mused. "But I don't think so. I don't think you set a trap for Irtar. I don't think you even knew he was here. No, I think you want something else. You came here thinking it would be here not knowing that I would never leave something so valuable where anyone could find it. You want something else, and without any way to get it, you're trying to salvage what you can of a wasted endeavour by adding to your killcount."
She didn't answer, but the way she paced told him he was onto something.
"Well, maybe you get what you want, and you kill Irtar, but it's just as likely he kills you," Ahnk said. "I've tried to convince him to take you alive. But I don't know if I was able to get through to him and, besides, if he can't convincingly overpower you, he may need to kill you. And let's face it; he's spent enough time training with me that all of his killing muscle memory is nice and fresh. Are you... honestly... convinced you can stop him?"
"It sounds to me like you're not convinced he can stop me," she countered.
"There's a lot of uncertainty here, that much is true," Ahnk said. "So let's eliminate it. You want something. Make me an offer, and we both walk out of here alive."
Aug 18 2018 12:21am
It was hard to describe the Force in words. Least of all the way it was to be immersed in the Force.
It is the essence that connects all things, or so the textbook definition goes. But what does that even mean? How can one even conceptualize the magnitude and completeness of it?
It is impossible to truly express. Even the best allegory only gives light to the shadow of truth.
As the padawan made his way slowly through the shadowy ruins in search for the one who was behind their current situation; he felt like a puppet on strings. His master pushed and pulled at his movements, dancing him this way and that as an instrument of his will. He would pull the padawan back from a laser shot, or push him past a trip wire, or jump him over a hidden pit.
But yet, there were no strings and he was no puppet. Irtar guided himself forward, and used his own decision making to decide the paths he needed to take It was up to him to decide the best approach to deal with each situation. And which sort of puppet pulled the strings of the puppeteer?
It was a poor analogy, and yet completely appropriate. It sounded maddeningly imperfect, but such is how things were in with the Force. A meandering flow of seeming contradictions that are perfectly sensible. His younger self would have fought against the logic of a great deal of it.
Perhaps that is the true challenge of training to become a Jedi? To understand and comprehend the seemingly contrarian elements of everything and to be able to think of reality in a completely different way from those around you. Let your emotions guide you, but not control you. Use the Force to guide you in a fight, but do not attack with the Force. Avoid attachment to anything, but yet be part of the attachment between everything.
Irtar picked his way slowly forward. He had the schematics of the hot spots of what was drawing off the grid, but that didn’t mean he had a full view of everything. Discretion was the better part of survival.
With Ahnk’s guidance, Irtar’s sense towards danger was greatly enhanced. Thin threads of trip wires seemed to radiate their threat and rigged walls shuddered with the weight of the harm they intended. It bolstered his confidence that he wouldn’t stumble into something that would scatter parts of him to the walls he would much prefer to keep. But it was no cause to be sloppy. Ahnk was the rearguard, and if there was someone or someones out there that meant to act as a hammer to this anvil Ahnk could very abruptly become very distracted.
The last thing Irtar wanted or needed was to start confidently dancing along the corridor only to have Ahnk sever the connection just in time for him to prance on a landmine.
Though Ahnk could help guide Irtar’s senses, he could not guide his wandering heart. He had yet to find a sign of whoever it was that was done below, but yet still his soul screamed. He had no proof, yet he knew who it had to be. But it was impossible. After all she had already done, why would she come after him? What more could she hope to do?
Perhaps the greatest challenge of all would be settling the contradiction of his demand for vengeance with the need for justice. In a long bygone era there had been a great Galactic Republic who could cage a beast like her. But in these days, who could he trust to jail her?
The Coalition he had walked away from? It was slowly crumbling. What use was a jail when its jailors had a shorter lifespan than the sentence?
Vinda Corp and the Great Corporations? They were driven by profit. What use was a jail when you can buy your way out of a sentence?
The Empire? It was founded by the Sith. She would end up running the prison.
What choice was there but to put her down, like the dog she was? A shiver ran up Irtar’s spine, and he could not tell if it was from how that thought unsettled him, or how it excited him which just unsettled him even more.
Focus his Master’s voice rang through his head, with the emotional weight of a hand upon his shoulder and the meaning of all the risk that this distraction put him in.
Ahnk was right. He had to stay in the moment. His thoughts were clouded, and that could mean his death.
He had to stay mindful of his emotions, and yet ignore them and focus. Another of the ongoing contradictions that he had to master.
The destruction he had seen on the other floors had all but faded by this point. No more shattered duracrete, plasma burns, or desiccated corpses. So deep into the bowels of this abandoned city, that few had made it this far. If not for the fine layer of dust and lethal traps one could almost mistake it for just a regular maintenance corridor one would see across the galaxy.
Irtar couldn’t decide whether it was an impressive testament to the talents of the people who built this hidden city that it had weathered the test of time so well, or a depressing reminder of all the setbacks to galactic civilization since this place had been abandoned. Of how little progress the galaxy had truly made, technologically, and all the loses.
He brought up his schematic of the corridors again. He was nearing the heart of this ancient complex. There would not be much further for her to run and to hide. Up ahead was the access to the power core. It was not a massive complex, as the city did not have a great deal of power requirements and anything sprawling would’ve given up the hidden nature of this city. But even a small generator from this era was still a large affair.
The bright yellow paint on the orange doors had faded to near nothing over the millenia, but those heavy, magnetically protected shield doors he’d seen many times before. On the other side of this door, he sensed only the same gnawing darkness he had sensed across this facility. She would be perfectly camouflaged in the shadows that shrouded this place. She knew he was coming. She was ready.
Lightsaber in hand, Irtar grit his teeth and swallowed his fear. He had to do this. For his Master. For his Mother. And for himself, to face his own demons once and for all. With an unsteady hand, Irtar pressed the button and with a sickening groan the ancient gears pulled the doors open.
Inside, his darkness and his destiny awaited him.
Nov 25 2018 2:32pm
His eyes fluttered open, each one feeling weighed down, as if covered in duracrete. It was an effort to open them, and they snapped closed again after a fraction of a second, requiring that much effort once more to force them to open and stay open.
He was tired. He was injured. He was probably dying.
But he couldn’t concentrate on a peaceful death.
A few meters away, a light panel, having not been maintained in hundreds of years, having been turned off for many of those years, did not want to stay on any more than Ahnk wanted to keep his eyes open. And so it blinked, on and off, and inside there was a metallic rattle as the filament shook inside, magnetically charged on alternating frequencies as the inconsistent level of power did or didn’t reach it. It was a very… familiar noise…
Clink… clink… clink…
The light strobed on and off.
Smoke from broken electronics filled his nostrils.
His head pounded from his injuries.
And Ahnk slowly let his eyes close.
He awoke with a shake. The wall behind him had been violently shaken.
For a moment, he was confused. He hadn’t remembered falling to the ground, and yet, here he was, feet folded beneath him, back supported only by a bulkhead,
His head pounded from his injuries.
Smoke from broken electronics filled his nostrils.
And overhead, several feet away, a light strobed, on and off. Inconsistently, as power did or did not reach it.
“Switch on auxiliary generators,” Ahnk said, hazy. “Status report.”
“Direct hits sustained before activation of primary shields,” a man said, before the room shook again. “Shields are falling against the onslaught.”
“Weapons?” Ahnk asked and the lieutenant shook his head. “Hyperspace?” The lieutenant once again shook his head.
Ahnk had been arrogant… when he arrived at the Sith Temple on Yavin, Avery, a Sith Lord, had killed him to prove how much he had to learn, and though Exar Kun revived him, Ahnk had never forgotten, or forgiven that action. Ahnk had promised that when he came to power, he would kill Avery. And so he had.
But in so doing, Ahnk made many enemies inside The Sith Brotherhood. Men who were loyal to Avery first and The Brotherhood second did not appreciate Ahnk Rashanagok usurping the position of power in the way he had. And so, when returning to Yavin from a meeting in the corporate sector, a trap had been sprung.
Ahnk, at the time, had been given command of a Star Destroyer, a simple Imperator class heavy cruiser.
He suddenly found himself surrounded by three Star Destroyers, two of them Imperators and one of them a Dominator, capable of pulling a vessel out of hyperspace.
They knew where he would be and when. And now, they knew he was going to die.
One of the lieutenants walked up to Ahnk and Ahnk pulled himself to his feet. “No way out of here, is there?” he asked.
The lieutenant shook his head. “Not for us, sir,” he said, “but maybe, for you.”
Ahnk didn’t understand. “This ship doesn’t have any onboard craft capable of hyperspace.”
“It didn’t, until your recent meeting,” the lieutenant said. “Your cargo.”
Then, Ahnk understood. He’d made a deal with Sienar Fleet Systems; he was to be kept abreast of their advances in research and development, and, in exchange, Ahnk would… problem solve, if they had any corporate disputes, insubordinate employees, unwelcome political oversight, that sort of thing. Ahnk was a very good mediator in such matters. And so, Ahnk had picked up a new piece of technology that even Palpatine’s Empire was only just about to begin rolling out.
The TIE Phantom.
Equipped with deflector shields and a hyperdrive, it was supposedly top of the line as far as starfighter designs went. Ahnk had been told the Imperial production run would even feature a cloaking device, although the Empire was strictly controlling the Stygium to operate said devices and so the prototype delivered to Ahnk would lack the feature.
Still, it did have the hyperdrive.
That would mean the entire crew of the Star Destroyer would be left for dead. “If I escape…”
The lieutenant nodded his head. “None of us want to die, but we all went to military academies, trained on starship operations, knowing that one day, we may well be killed in the line of duty,” he said. “Our duty is but to serve, and it would be a failure of our duties for you to die if we can do anything to prevent it.”
Ahnk considered. “Isn’t it the duty of a captain to go down with the ship?”
The lieutenant shook his head. “You’re not a captain, you’re a Sith Lord,” he said, “and Sith and Jedi play by different rules than grunts. Besides, if we all die, it would be nice to know someone is avenging our deaths.”
That caused Ahnk to grin. “They will die in great amounts of pain,” Ahnk promised.
Even with an avenue of escape, it wasn’t easy. Ahnk couldn’t go to hyperspace inside the shields of a larger vessel so the Imperator had to drop their shields to let him leave. If they still functioned, they’d be turned back on for as long as they would hold out. But there was no guarantee of that.
As Ahnk hit the button to engage the hyperdrive, he looked up to his former flagship, and then everything turned white.
Slowly, everything faded back into view.
The old, grey walls. The smoke. That stupid blinking light.
Ahnk had escaped with his life, and then disappeared. For many months, he was a rumor, a shadow, nothing but a whisper of an escaped shuttle from the battle.
Then, Walkenn Letscor died in a horrible accident. The inertial dampners on his shuttle malfunctioned and, when he went to hyperspace, he was thrown against the bulkhead of his shuttle at speed and died on impact.
Octray Durfri managed to choke to death on his own saliva. His death was ruled an accident. Two promising command officers, Crisclif Verbyu and Zoeykar Plulovi, were tragically killed when an elevator in the Massassi temple lost gravlift and plummeted several stories to the bottom of the shaft.
One, by one, the senior command officers loyal to Sith Lord Avery joined him in the Force.
Ahnk had learned a valuable lesson; for many years, he had been a ruthless assassin, the dagger of Exar Kun. But if Ahnk wanted to stay alive in a galaxy with a hostile New Order and Jedi Knights on the rise in the New Republic, he would need to use the dagger less and the cloak more. Ahnk would need to be more than ruthless, he would need to be devious, he would need to be duplicitous, and he would need to be intelligent.
Sometimes, you’re backed into a corner. Then, you win or you die.
But there are alternatives to fighting.
Ahnk leaned against the wall, admiring her position. She’d dug in well, and it was very defensible. “I’m nothing if not persistent,” he replied.
“Come to watch me kill your apprentice?” she asked, drawing her sabre from her belt.
“I don’t think it has to come to that,” Ahnk said, stepping forward slightly.
“You are bloody persistent, aren’t you,” she said. “What have you come to offer me now?”
“Option three,” Ahnk said. “I offered to make a deal with you, but you don’t trust me enough to believe I’d hold up my end. That means combat and I don’t believe the two of you can meet, face to face without one of you dying.”
She smirked. “Probably,” she said, sabre in hand twisting in her grip. “So what’s your third option?”
“When I was younger, things used to be simpler,” Ahnk said. “I didn’t like someone, or I coveted something that belonged to them, and I killed them. If I failed they might rebuke or kill me in return, but that was the nature of life. I was a little… narrow minded.”
Above them both, there was a shake and a rumble, and dust began to fall from the rocks and beams above. “What was that?”
“You see, I’ve been trying to work out a compromise between you and I, and I hit an impasse when I realized you weren’t able to trust me,” Ahnk said. He spread open his arms. “But then I realized I wasn’t thinking of everything that was at play here. While I was trying to figure out a truce between Irtar and you, I forgot there was another party to consider; the company of men above us with heavy explosives.”
“What are you talking about?” the woman asked, angrily.
“See, I don’t need to have Irtar risk his life to keep him away from you, and I don’t need you to stand down either,” Ahnk said. “When Irtar realizes why the roof is shaking, he’ll double back for me, and we’ll go out the way we came, and you can go to hell, buried alive because you refused to compromise.”
“You’re insane!” she said, as there was another, larger shake from above. “You’re putting your own life at risk.”
“I’m making a choice,” Ahnk said. “I know Irtar well, and I don’t know if I can trust him not to kill you. What effect that might have on his soul, I don’t want to have to know. But one thing I can trust him with is my life. He’s been there for me before, and I have every confidence he’ll be there for me now.” Ahnk closed his eyes. “Irtar would never put his own will for revenge before saving the lives of people close to him. That’s not who he is. Which makes you damn lucky I’m the one negotiating because if it were me walking towards you with a sabre, I don’t know if I’d turn around.”
Another shake, another rumble, the air thick with smoke and dust. “Wait!” she shouted, as Ahnk turned to leave. “We can make a deal!”
Ahnk turned and smiled. “Talk fast.”
Ahnk opened his eyes and looked down at the datapad in his hand. Irtar stood, no doubt assessing the situation.
To choose… to try and get his vengence, or make sure he could escape with his own and his master’s lives.
Ahnk set the datapad down. He put his trust in the Force… Irtar would make the right decision...
Jul 5 2019 8:28pm
At first Irtar thought it was the banging of his heart as his hand slowly moved towards the panel. Towards the switch to open the door.
It resonated through his body and his bones. He felt it in every part of his being.
A rusted screw fell on his head and suddenly he realized it wasn’t all in his mind. His senses at once moved from their pinpoint focus on the target ahead to the world around him. The ancient dust, stirred and slowly tumbling about the room. The lights now slowly drifting to and fro. The strain of the ancient foundations at these alien stresses.
The fading light of his Master.
Irtar looked towards that darkness before him; towards his chance to finally get the justice that the Galaxy had denied his family. He finally had the chance to bring his mother’s butcher to task.
Something above shrieked as centuries of neglect finally caught up to it and it came crashing down. The entire building quivered in terror of the encroaching destruction. The Lost City of the Jedi was soon going to be lost forever.
“Dammit, not now…” Irtar muttered under his breath. He had to make a decision. Try to avenge his mother or live to fight another day.
His previous failures passed before his mind’s eye. His training at Naboo. His time as a diplomat. His mother. Aretsuya. Crippling self-doubt locked his body into place as he grappled with the choice before him.
If he stayed and fought, he could ensure the justice he had been craving since that terrible day. Maybe he could get lucky and she was taken as off guard by these developments as he was. If she was off balance he might be able to quickly finish the fight and get out while the walls still stood. If not, he could always draw the fight out long enough for the City to finish the job.
But was it worth his life?
Ahnk was fading, and the only guidance he had left to offer was an unsettling quiet.
He had to live his own life. Make his own decisions. He was a grown man. A Jedi, of all things.
He couldn’t live in the shadow of his family. He had to make this decision not on what would make him feel better, but on what would make the galaxy better.
She wouldn’t escape justice. If somehow she got out of this crumbling ruin, he would find her again.
But what of the harm she would do afterwards? The blood of every person she killed if he let her walk would be on his hands. Every misdeed he would be bear some of the responsibility.
But if he let himself and Ahnk die here then he would be responsible for any of the good they could have done die with her.
Was the life of one renegade Sith worth the life of two Jedi?
He would just have to make sure the good he did was greater than the harm she did. It wasn’t much. The idea that she could do to someone else what she did to him bothered him. The idea that anything he could do was greater felt laughable. But it was all he had.
“Sithspat.” Irtar muttered to himself and spun on his heel back the way he came. They didn’t have much time.
The trip back was much more harrowing than the trip down. The fading light of his Master deepened the darkness making it harder to see the hazards. Trip lines that seemed obvious before seemed to come out of nowhere. But that was the least of the problems. The shuddering of the city kicked up centuries of dust and blanketed the hallways in a haze.
As he fumbled his way half blind he missed his strings.
Irtar was mid stride when another shuddering explosion from above rocked him. His heart skipped a beat as his foot grazed off the top of a hidden mine, just barely shifting his movement in time. He managed to barely avoid putting his weight on the pressure plate.
He didn’t have the chance to really dwell or regroup with that brush with death. There was no time to even think about it. If he stopped to contemplate dying, it would just get him killed. Had to rush headlong into the next one.
He didn’t have the time to contemplate what was more terrifying, the explosion of the demolition charges or the way the facility always sounded like it was just about to come down afterwards. He didn’t have time to worry that the woman who killed his mother may be following behind him, not getting slowed down by her own traps. He couldn’t spare a moment to consider how he’d stabilize his Master before he died or even get him out of the facility.
He had to focus.
His Master couldn’t guide him, but the Force was still there. He had to trust in the Force.
He had to let go. His fear for his Master’s health. His fear of the death traps that surrounded him. His fear of letting her walk free. His fear of what others would think.
A deep breath. He relaxed his mind. Slowly, the blanket over his mind began to pull away.
And he began to see.
The Force flowed through all things. It flowed through the insects that crawled through the cracks. It flowed through the rats that made their homes in the long abandoned. It flowed through the old durasteel beams that heaved under the alien pressures of the explosives. It flowed through the tripwire was the about three steps ahead of him.
The haze was still there, but things were clear and he made his way forward again.
Irtar smelt his master before he found him. That metallic scent of fresh blood.
By the time he found Ahnk he thought he may have been too late. There was a pool of blood around him. His skin had turned white. He laid worryingly still. But Irtar still felt some spark of light. He carefully and cautiously stepped towards his master.
Ahnk’s eyes slowly opened and looked up to him with pale eyes and softly smiled. “You actually came back…” He said weakly and with a hint of faked surprise.
“And give her the satisfaction of having killed a Jedi Master?” Irtar forced out the sarcastic quip as he slowly lifted his master out of the dust and the blood. “Not a chance. Now it’s on YOU to not screw it up.”
“Heh…” Ahnk half scoffed, half coughed. “Takes more than some… blood loss to… put me down….”
Ahnk’s voice trailed off as his eyes closed again. He was focusing on trying to keep his body going. The miners would have some medical equipment, but it likely wouldn’t be enough to save him. It might just buy them some time. That lab of his had enough medical equipment to service an army. If there was any hope to truly save the man, he would have to get him there. And fast.
“Bet you knew when you had me running up and down those mountains, it’d be to save your ass one day.” Irtar muttered mostly to himself. He had to admit, a year ago he wouldn’t have been able to carry Ahnk very far. After their training however, he might just be able to do this.
Irtar hefted the Rogue Jedi Master over his shoulder. He did his best to ignore the sickening, sticky feeling seeping along his shoulder and his back.
From here back, they’d cleared the traps and Irtar could put his focus on speed.
Will manifests action.
For a Jedi this was more true than most.
It is will that shapes the results of one’s connection to the Force.
And now Irtar’s will was refined by his instinct to save. He had to save Ahnk. And with that will as his wind, he sailed through the halls of the abandoned city. The weight on his shoulder seemed to become less with each step. The world seemed to slow as the dust hung in the air. All that existed was the destination and the goal.
Jan 10 2021 2:58pm
“Alright, set charges every ten feet,” the man said. “And hurry it along, I want to be able to send excavation teams as far as that lift tunnel drops.”
The man was watching his instruments carefully. Every variable had to be right; set off an explosive too close to an oxygen recycler and you could cause secondary detonations that would potentially ripple out of control. Every sensor had to tell him what he wanted to hear before he would okay another round of detonations.
And something his sensors were telling him was off.
“What in the hell…” he said. “Rodriguez, you still working on that lift door?”
There was a buzz of static before a reply came. “Yeah, going at it with a vibroblade but it’s thick material,” he said. “Why, what’s up?”
“You got a droid with you?” the commander asked. When Faulkner had set up this expedition, he had spared no expense and bought half a dozen of top of the line Vinda Corporation HRDs. They had superior to human strength, and since they were resistant to toxins could work in an atmosphere were good oxygen was limited. “Have him lift the actual lift carriage itself.”
“Wilco,” Rodriguez sent back as an affirmation of the order. Then, a few minutes passed. “Sir, you won’t believe it…”
But to Commander Jon Rawsh, who had seen the bodies on his infrared, he could absolutely believe it.
“...a complicated situation turned even more dangerous by infighting within The New Order.”
“I think it’s over dramatizing to describe the situation as infighting,” another voice answered the first. “When Simon Kaine announced that he would be retiring it created a natural power vacuum and power does abhor a vacuum. The New Order, unsurprisingly, founds itself on order, and when that order is disrupted, seeks to replace it with a new, stabilizing order. It’s not surprising that names like Zell and Vos and Desaria…”
“The last thing I wanted to wake up to was goddamned Imperial propaganda,” Ahnk said as he pushed his eyes open.
Irtar turned to him and smirked. “Not much else on; having some issues with the holorelays; plus, these Rebellion types like to keep abreast of the Imperial leadership, insomuch as the leadership lets slip out into the publicly available news networks,” Irtar said. All the same, he muted the feed. “How are you feeling?”
Ahnk looked down, and raised… one arm. “Incomplete,” he said.
“Your mechanical arm had severed wires, so I’ve been tinkering with it in my spare time,” Irtar said, and gestured to a desk nearby. “Thought I could buy you a new one, but then I saw previous evidence of damage and repair.”
Ahnk grinned. “I collect scars,” he said, stretching, and in the process feeling the fresh ache of the new scars this trip had given him.
“You like to think of yourself as a real badass,” Irtar said, “but the truth is, you’re reckless, sometimes even careless. You act before you think and it’s adding up. Every new wound isn’t just a scar on your surface but tears and cuts to your muscles, tendons… some of your bones have been knit back together, I can’t imagine the state of your ligaments. You’re not a young man, Ahnk, and I assumed if you had an unlimited supply of clones, you’d have switched to a fresher body.”
Ahnk didn’t reply, only nodding softly.
“I always thought that training was to give me an example to follow; if I follow you, I feel like it’s going to be to an early grave,” Irtar said, resolutely. “I have come to a difficult conclusion…”
“You don’t have to explain,” Ahnk said. “You don’t want to follow me anymore.”
Irtar raised his hands, defensively. “It’s not that simple…”
“No, it’s alright,” Ahnk said. “I understand. I just would ask you to think about something, Irtar. Maybe the things that frustrate you most about me are things that you see in yourself as well. Tendencies, habits, things that frustrate you about your own way of seeing the world. And maybe, when you look to me for guidance, and see me making the same mistakes… but maybe that is how we learn. I don’t teach you, you don’t teach me… but we learn together, and evolve. If there is a set of Ancient Jedi Texts that codify anything and everything, Leia never let me read them. So I think the best we can do is muddle along… an example to each other, and try and define, day by day, what being a Jedi is. And if we can do that, and help people along the way… if that is, ultimately, how I die… I think it will have been worth it.”
Irtar was silent and sighed softly.
“Maybe I misread you…” Ahnk said, feeling somewhat silly.
Irtar chuckled a little. “What I was going to say was, I don’t want to follow you, headlong into danger, anymore, unless it’s preceded by a long conversation about what we’re doing and why, and a hearty breakfast.”
The two looked at each other in silence for a few moments before they cracked up laughing. It was a healing laughter, bleeding out all of the tension that had been there before, and only stopped because Ahnk’s ribs started to get sore. Then, there was a knock at the door. “That’s probably my hearty hospital breakfast,” Ahnk said, and used the force to unlatch the door, allowing the person outside to step in.
Irtar turned and sized them up, surprised to see someone not in hospital uniform walk through the door. The man set down a briefcase and raised his hands. “In case you’d like to search me,” he said, and Irtar turned to Ahnk.
“Nothing wrong with being too cautious, is there Chang?” Ahnk asked. “Irtar Mal’Gro, this is Chang. He’s an… assistant of mine. I asked him to take care of a few things, procure an item or two, deal with the day to day business while I was… out of the office.” Ahnk looked to Chang and the two shared a nod. “Everything go smoothly, Mr. Chang?”
“Mr. Faulkner has raised a small amount of hell, but nothing that can’t be dealt with financially,” Chang said. “Otherwise, all of your instructions were followed.”
“My meeting later today?” Ahnk said.
“On schedule,” Chang replied. “I should leave you to your work.”
“Wait, meeting?” Irtar said. “Are you really in any condition to meet with someone?”
“Maybe not, but that’s alright; showing a bit of weakness makes me seem more vulnerable, which can be an advantage,” Ahnk said, “the appearance of vulnerability, anyway. I’ll even drag along my arm. You can finish fixing it tomorrow. I have something else to work on tonight.”
Irtar looked at Ahnk, intrigued. “What is that?”
Ahnk allowed himself a small smile. “Grab the briefcase, let’s get some air.”
“I have to say, Mr. Rashanagok, you have been a right and proper pain in my ass,” Commander Rawsh said. “When our business here is done, I will be thankful.”
“For your part, Mr. Rawsh, I appreciate that you have been put in a difficult position,” Ahnk said. He tightened the glove on his artificial hand. “What is her condition?”
“Stable; normally, with injuries to such a large percentage of her body, we’d recommend bacta immersion, but the subdural injuries and damage to her internal organs meant we opted for direct bacta infusion,” he said. “She’ll be fully healed in a week.”
Ahnk nodded. “Remove the ports,” he said.
Rawsh put his foot down. “That would kill her,” he said. “I refuse.”
“Mr. Rawsh, she has already healed to the point where she could effect her escape; the only thing holding her back is your security,” Ahnk informed him. “She’ll wait until someone with a keycard and a weapon enters the room, kill them, take both items, and escape without much effort.”
“If you dies, it will be on your head,” Rawsh said.
“If she dies, it will be by my hand,” Ahnk said. “But she’ll survive pulling the plug. Do it.”
Rawsh programmed the order into the complex’s medical computer, and the droid overseeing her care removed the bacta infusion ports. “Wake her,” Ahnk added, and so the droid gave her a stimulant. “Open the door and leave us,” Ahnk said.
“I hope you are as correct as you are arrogant, Mr. Rashanagok,” the officer said, and offered him a curt salute on the way out of the room.
“Sometimes,” Ahnk answered his question. Then, he walked into the room, carrying the suitcase Chang had brought to his room. “So, we meet at last.”
The woman on the table inclined slightly. “The pleasure is all yours,” she said. “Because of you, I’ll have three artificial organs going forward.”
Ahnk raised his artificial arm. “Talk to me when you get to ten,” he said, and then circled around her bed. “I’ve heard stories. You’re supposed to be a ruthless, viscous killer. But then, I guess everyone looks less threatening on a hospital slab.”
“Let me out of this complex and I will show you how ruthless I can be,” the fireheaded woman said in a mixture of reassuring and threatening.
“I offer you a counter proposal,” Ahnk said, raising the briefcase. “I let you out of his complex… and you just leave.”
She eyed his suspiciously. “You will just let me go about my business?”
Ahnk shrugged. “Plenty of Sith in the galaxy; what’s one more disconnected loner out there following their own ambition? My only condition is that you keep your distance from myself, and the boy.”
She smirked. “You’re weak, and so is he. Why do you insist on protecting him from me?”
Ahnk set the case down and grabbed the bars on her bed. “You really don’t get it, do you? All I had to do was let him go, and he’d have killed you. Maybe not even quickly; might have done it slow, to let you feel it. The Irtar I know is capable of that… but I want him to be capable of more. I want him to move past his violent urges and seek higher challenges than settling old grudges. He needs to overcome his past if he’s going to embrace his future… and that means he needs to let go of you.”
The woman looked down at Ahnk’s clenched fist on her bed, causing Ahnk to become aware of it as well, and remove it. “So I just take your word, you let me go and I can go about my business?”
Ahnk then raised his hands defensively. “Your business is your business and my business is my business; just don’t cross them again, and I will offer you no resistance,” Ahnk stated.
She considered. “Ah, but my work here is not complete; I didn’t come here for the boy,” she said.
“Ah, no, you came for this,” Ahnk said, pulling up the briefcase. He opened it, and the contents filled the room with a glorious orange light. It danced across every surface; in reflecting off the woman’s hair, it made it seem alight. “Of course I know why you came here; I asked for you.”
She looked at him. “What?”
“Oh please,” Ahnk said. “I’ve killed dozen of Jedi and dozens of Sith. I’ve glassed entire worlds. I’ve died more times than I can count. Do you think that planting a rumor of a powerful artifact would be beyond my reach?”
She nodded her head, slowly. She was in awe of it; everyone had heard of holocrons, but there were so few remaining in existence… “What does it say?”
Ahnk closed the case. “The Jedi Order became aware that Exar Kun had discovered a way, using his massive fleet, to hunt them via a unique type of radiation; the radiation created when connecting to the force. In close proximity, it can be used to detect a single Jedi on a world but… when the Jedi came together, Kun was able to detect them from sectors away. They could never find a new home until they destroyed him, and his work. But in order to hide themselves in the future, they needed to know what that radiation signature is.”
The woman’s eyes flashed. “A way to detect Jedi…”
“Force users,” Ahnk corrected. “It doesn’t discriminate between Jedi and Sith. When Kun died, this… signature, such as it was, was buried. The Jedi were worried that if this holocron fell into the wrong hands, it could be devastating.”
The woman smirked now. “You don’t consider me to be the wrong hands?”
Ahnk turned and smiled at her in return. “You don’t have the vast network of sensors you’d need to use that in any meaningful, large scale way; it will most likely, for you, be a warning beacon if another Sith decides to assassinate you,” Ahnk said. “Still, a deal is a deal. You came, as requested. I needed to test Irtar, he’s been tested. And you can take your artifact, and go.”
She sat up, and kicked her feet off the bed. “As tempting as it would be to see if you still have those sabre skills I’ve heard rumors of,” she said, standing. She then held out her hand. “I know a good deal when I hear one. I’ll take that briefcase.”
Ahnk handed it to her. “The guard outside will escort you to a hanger, where a shuttle is waiting for you,” he said. “Go directly, go swiftly, and go peacefully for now. Goodbye, Dehoir. We will not speak again.”
Irtar had quarters, as everyone else did, in one of the Massassi temples. Ahnk had seen to it that Irtar had a balcony of sorts, to stand out and admire the skies. There was something called the red hour when Yavin’s sun struck the gas giant in such a way that it bathed the forest moon in a dark red hue.
Irtar had been left with much to reflect on.
“Do you think it was really her?” Irtar asked. “Dehoir. Her presence… I swear it was her.”
“You would know better than I,” Ahnk said. “If it was her, she will have sensed how strong you have become. I doubt she would have wanted to fight you.”
“It can’t be a coincidence that she was here,” Irtar said.
“The force weaves through everything; don’t make yourself more important than you really are,” Ahnk said. “Thousands of people know about The Lost City Of The Jedi. The timing was unfortunate, but ultimately we escaped with our lives. That is the most important thing.”
Irtar nodded reluctantly. Here, in the second level of the hospital compound erected by The New Republic, the two stood in the open air; at Ahnk’s insistence, having been confined to too many beds too often recently. “Lovely fellow, that Chang,” Irtar said. “Funny, I had trouble getting a read on him through the force.”
“One of the benefits of his employment,” Ahnk said. “When you are a Force user you find yourself dealing with other Force users, so having someone who is unreadable can come in handy. Hardly an original trick I admit, as like much of my business and organizational strategies, I copied that one from Seth Vinda.”
Irtar nodded, keeping his eyes on him. “Do I get to see what’s in the case?”
“Of course; after all, I had Chang bring it specifically so I could give it to you,” Ahnk said. “Open it up.”
Irtar did. When the case opened, it gave off a bright blue light across several meters of the pavilion. “Is this… what I think it is?”
“I realize that when you were masterless, you built your own lightsaber already, but there used to be a tradition, when a Padawan was ready to shed that label…”
“So you mean… I’m a fully trained Jedi?” Irtar said.
Ahnk laughed out loud. “Fully trained? Do you think I am fully trained?” Ahnk offered as a counterpoint. “Irtar, you will go to your grave knowing only a fraction of what there is to know about the force. What you are, is a great student. One who will continue to learn, regardless of whether you refer to them as a padawan… or just a Jedi. A Jedi… it used to be a follower of an ancient religion, and a way of life. Now, it means something different. I don’t know what exactly it is, but… maybe it’s about our choices. Choosing to be bigger than our selfish needs and ambitions. Maybe it’s about overcoming our biases and our baser instincts to be better than ourselves. Whatever we define being a Jedi is… it’s what you are. It’s what you always have been. It’s time to accept the mantle, and everything that comes with it. You are a Jedi, Irtar. With all the honor, and all the horror, that comes with that.”
Irtar didn’t respond right away, needing a moment. “I… I don’t know what to say.”
Ahnk reached a hand, the human hand, around his shoulder. “Tell me you can do something with that crystal.”
Irtar took a closer look at it and frowned. “It seems… raw. Unprocessed.”
“Yeah,” Ahnk said with a smirk. “Didn’t used to do that back then. Flick on that saber, it would roar and hiss like it was alive. It was all intimidation; a bitch to use, all weighted wrong, unregulated, chaotic. But maybe that was part of the fun; feeling how chaotic it was, to be the Dark Lord Of The Sith… Exar Kun reborn…”
Irtar’s eyes widened. “This crystal is from…”
“Exar Kun’s lightsaber, yes,” Ahnk said. “I was one of his last students and, when his physical body was destroyed, I took his lightsaber as my own. I liked to think I was carrying on his mantle; I always assumed someday when I was ready to stop fighting myself, I’d find a Sith worthy of taking the sword. But… things have changed a lot since then. And I don’t feel like that mantle, the mantle of Exar Kun reborn, needs to be passed on anymore. So I had Chang take the saber apart. It won’t take anymore lives. But maybe… maybe, a new, bright blue lightsaber can be born from it’s crystal. And maybe that saber can be used to save lives.”
Irtar was still a little stunned from this all. “Do you think I am… worthy?”
Ahnk looked at him and nodded firmly. “There is no one more worthy in all the galaxy.”
Irtar reached out and closed the case. “Thank you.”
“So, tomorrow is a new day,” Ahnk said. “Let’s start things off properly. Meet me at the top of the temple, just after sunset. We’ll have breakfast... start the day off properly.”
Irtar smirked. “I’d like that.”
And now Irtar stood, pacing and stopping, pacing and stopping. On his table, a mess of mechanical components; a new, old saber crystal. A damaged robotic arm. Parts and tools needed to work on both of them. In many ways, it was the chaos of old in Irtar’s room.
And yet, while he still clearly saw the chaos, in his mind he could also see ways to fit it together. It wouldn’t be easy; nothing ever was. It would take several hours, maybe even days of hard work. But it was possible. There was optimism. And, for the first time in a while, Irtar’s lingering doubts and fears seemed miles away.
Although very little had changed, in some ways, it felt like everything had changed.
The sun poked out past the gas giant in the sky and the red began to fade. In a few hours, the sun would set back behind the other side of the moon and then, after a few hours of sweltering heat, a cool would settle in over the surface of the world. It seemed to odd to start the day when the sun set, but Ahnk wasn’t a fan of the heat on Yavin and would rather begin when the sun faded. They’d probably be leaving the world today… and while Irtar didn’t know where, it didn’t really matter. It would be something. Something new.
Tomorrow would be a new day.
Tomorrow would be a new hope.