This is the childhood and teenage years of Syphoc Rilkel.
The light slowly filtered into the room through the semi-closed curtains, throwing long shadows over its contents. The thin bars of light slowly crept across the floors and walls of the room as the sun rose over the planet Antenora. It extended its reach across the floor, eventually giving birth to a dark cloak spread across it. The light stretched further revealing dark grey robes with purple detailing underneath the cloak.
Startling emerald-green eyes stared out at the world from underneath the hood of the cloak, taking in the beautiful sunrise even though walls blocked the view. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the man placed his pale hands on his knees in the common meditation pose taught at the Shadow Academy campus of Deneba.
Drawing a deep breath, the man closed his eyes and slowed his anxiously beating heart. He drew the power of the ever present and eternal Force within him and entered the trancelike state required for Dark Side Meditation.
At the request of my master, Braecen Kaeth Kunar, I am meditating on my past, present, and future. My past has been filled with violence and strife, teaching me that only power has an eternal place in this world. To me, this power is embodied in the Force, a tool to be commanded.
When my father could still be counted amongst the living, he used to tell me stories about everything, but it always seemed like he was holding a crucial piece of information back. After my training in the Shadow Academy I have come to the conclusion that I can revisit events that occurred in the past and examine them again. If I am powerful enough, it is also possible that the Force would reveal things to me that did not happen or that I did not notice at the time.
The following events began twelve years before the Battle of Yavin. I have learned about it either through my experiencing it, or my father telling me about it. I am Syphoc Rilkel, last of the Rilkel line… this is my story.
Xenon and Ira Rilkel, my parents, were common galactic travelers in the never ending search for business partners, or so my father always put it. It was on the planet known as Coruscant, or as it was called at the time, Imperial Center, that I was born. After a very tense session of negotiations with a potential “business” client, my mother collapsed onto the floor in a heap. Her dark brown hair fell across her face like a dark veil of the kind worn to a funeral.
Xenon immediately called for the Coruscanti Police who took my mother to the nearest hospital. I, Syphoc Rilkel was born alongside a torrent of pain, the last that my mother would ever feel. My father told me that I burst into hysterical tears almost as soon as I was released from the prison of my mother’s stomach. I believe that this was because I felt her life essence rush out of her body through the Force. After several attempts to revive her, the doctors gave up, declaring my mother dead.
I examined my father’s face here, searching for any emotion, any hint of what I thought he had been hiding from me. I was young when he vanished as well, but not so young that I could not remember what his face looked like. Now though, I could see the slightest look of relief on the smooth features of his face, features that I had inherited. This look made my blood boil, even in the meditative state. I am however, getting ahead of myself, I of all people should know not to point the finger of blame before facts have been verified.
After waiting a year after my birth for me to gain galactic citizenship, Xenon took me and we left Coruscant, traveling for the planet where the Rilkel line had been established, Corellia. He bought a small apartment in Coronet, the jeweled capital of Corellia. Here, we lived in relative peace for approximately eleven years.
By the year that the Battle of Yavin took place in, I was practically an independent child. Xenon had ensured that I knew how to get home from school and what to do when I arrived at our apartment. Following the destruction of Alderaan and the Battle of Yavin, the Empire had launched a crackdown designed to incarcerate Rebel conspirators and sympathizers. Because of the notorious independence of Corellia, the Regional Governor had been given authorization to use whatever amount of force necessary in order to ensure the loyalty of all citizens of the system. This, for whatever reason, made my father incredibly nervous, leading him to make sure that I was independent in case he was arrested on some trumped up charge, or so he described it to me at the time.
I arrived home from school one day and reached the floor that our apartment was located on. It was unusually quiet and I quickly figured out why: strewn throughout the corridor were papers and information disks that usually resided in my father’s desk. Little droplets of blood coated the floor in several areas, pooling; where it came into contact with the papers the blood was absorbed, bleaching the paper a vivid shade of red.
Blood pounding in my ears and fear clouding my eyes, I slowly walked to the door of our apartment. The door was cycling open and closed because a piece of wood was stuck in its track. I removed the piece of wood and the door cycled shut. After keying in the code so that the door slid open silently, I surveyed the scene inside the apartment. A chair that had been carved from Alderaanian wood was laying in pieces near the door, allowing me to come to the conclusion that the piece of wood in the door was from that chair. A couch looked as if it had been shot with a blaster rifle. A data disk lay in a pool of blood such that its information had been wiped completely blank. Another disk had shattered upon coming in contact with the floor so that the information encoded on it was permanently irretrievable.
It is hear that I will bring my memories to an end for the moment, for I have reached my goal. Now, I will open myself fully to the Force so that it might influence the rest of this meditation session and show me what I demand to see…
I walked to my father’s office, remembering how so long ago he had forbidden me from entering it. The office was dark, but I could see perfectly well, in part because of the Force and in part due to my training in assassination and stealth. I walked over to my father’s desk and my heart beat faster as I saw that the same vivid shade of red was present here too.
After some probing around, I discovered a button on the underside of the desk. It had blood on it as if someone had tried to push it but had been stopped violently. I pressed the button and it slid in easily and then depressed; opening as it depressed was a hidden compartment in the desk. I glanced into the compartment and saw two holdout blasters and a small circular holocomm.
The holocomm was flashing and so I picked it up and examined it, discovering that it had a message. Hands shaking, I pressed play. The image of my father appeared and began speaking:
“I am Xenon Rilkel, husband of the late Ira Rilkel, father of Syphoc Rilkel. If you have found this, it probably indicates the fact that my life has ended. I offer one excuse for the actions that I have committed only saying that everything I did, I did for my family.” The translucent blue figure took a deep breath and continued, “Before our only child was born, Ira and I decided that we could not sit quietly by and watch as Emperor Palpatine’s New Order destroyed the Old Republic. We started by quietly gathering our allies and friends but even united we were no match for the Empire.”
“One day however, our hopes were rekindled as we joined the Rebel Alliance. Ira and I accepted covert jobs on Coruscant, mainly information and surveillance. Once or twice, we were ordered to blow up an air speeder or an assignment of that type.” The blue miniature of my father stood quietly for a few seconds as though he were letting the information sink in. “When it became clear that Ira was pregnant however, everything changed. I had to begin carrying out the acts of terror myself, for Ira was unable to participate. And then suddenly, she was gone and I was alone with my son. It was a relief let me tell you, because it meant that the only person, who could turn me in, was dead.” My father took another deep breath and finished, “We went into hiding on Corellia; I lied and told him that was where our family had started. Everything I did from that point on, I did for Syphoc; our goal in joining the Rebellion was to make the world he would ultimately live in a better place.”
A tear was already running down the man’s face as he opened his emerald green eyes to behold the darkness of the room. Syphoc rose and crossed the room to stare out the window, unable to see the sunset as, the tears dripping down his face; he had suspected that his father was a traitor, but to hear the words out of his own father’s mouth was a kick to the stomach.
When Syphoc turned from the window though, his face was dry and expressionless. “I will find the truth, and I will see if my father is still alive.” Turning his back on the sunset over Antenora, he walked to the bed that was against the wall and collapsed onto it. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Drained of all energy by the day’s meditation, Syphoc Rilkel slept deeply, never once stirring behind his closed eyelids. The light in the room was sparse, for the clouds of Antenora blocked out the moon and stars.
The seconds ticked by slowly as his subconscious gradually took him to the realm where the mind ruled supreme and the imagination never failed…
Dreams take you to the realm of the past or the never was. They are the messengers for the parts of your mind that are too dark to come out in the light of day. Nightmares are dreams of the present, future, or never will be; they explore the possibilities that your conscious mind would never consider.
With my father dead I was forced to mature much faster than the normal teenager. I survived, alone, on the streets of Corellia at first and then Coruscant by stealing off people too stupid to pay attention to their own pockets. It was a dangerous life but I was living.
By the time I was seventeen, I was tired of the life of a street urchin living off the… charity… of others. I joined a smuggling team of seven operating a heavily modified CR90 Corellian Corvette. It was difficult with only seven people but we had droid brains that filled in for the remaining necessary crew spots.
The years that I was a smuggler were filled to the brim with deception, strife, and death. Because of this, I have often wondered whether I have fallen into a nightmare… one from which I will never wake up from.
I vaguely heard the sound of the sub light engines coming online as the ship reverted to real space. Picking my pillow up and putting over my head, I remained in bed hoping that I could manage to get a little bit more sleep. Luck it seemed was not on my side as I heard someone knock three times on the door of my cabin.
Groaning, I reluctantly got out of bed and fished around in the semidarkness of my chambers for a clean set of clothing; red shirt covered by a black jacket with black pants and knee-high black boots. I took my time, letting Anar wait outside the door, his punishment for waking me.
Once I was finished getting dressed, I opened the door to my cabin allowing the light-skinned Zabrak to fall into my room for he had been leaning on the door.
After he had removed himself from the floor, I brushed him out of my room and into the cabin, allowing the door to cycle shut. “Morning Syph,” he said. “We entered the Naboo System and Karol told me to come wake you; it appears like this should be a breeze, there are no Imperial capital ships anywhere that we can pick up.”
“Very well,” I responded, “You can return to the bridge and tell Karol that once I have eaten something I will get to the bridge.” He stalked away down the hall, obviously insulted that I had dismissed him so sharply.
Anar had a personal vendetta against civilization that he often allowed to interfere with his duties. He never talked to any of us about what had caused this problem but it severely affected his thinking at times. I shuddered to think about what he would do when he discovered who we were taking our cargo to.
The short walk to the mess hall where we ate all of our meals was punctuated by random thoughts about the cargo we were carrying. As I entered the mess hall, I raised my gaze to look out the view port and gasped as the extreme beauty of the Naboo system met my gaze. I quickly ate my breakfast and walked to the bridge.
“Where are we taking the goods Syph?” Anar asked me before I could even step through the door.
“Theed. I’m not sure who is picking them up though, so don’t even ask,” I replied. This was true enough, for though I had suspicions about who our client was, they were just suspicions. They were also paying a hefty fee that we desperately needed so I didn’t think it was necessary to get a name. Thankfully, Anar asked no more questions.
Two hours later, we landed the corvette in Theed’s spaceport under the name Emerald, a far cry from the vessel’s actual name, Alpha Centauri. The Emerald was a fake transponder we used from time to time, that said that the ship was registered to a Kardo Lon, a Zabrak, so I left Anar to take care of starport security. If I was lucky, they would shoot him.
I headed for the cantina because that was where our client had said to meet him. The streets and buildings of Theed were impeccable, as always. It was hard to believe that only forty years before there had been an invasion on the peaceful planet.
In the cantina, I headed for a table in the back of the room and ordered the drink my client had told me would alert him to my presence. It received several raised eyebrows as the server droid brought it across the room and laid it down in front of me; I could immediately see why, for it was green in color and had an odor to rival that of a dumpster. As the droid turned to roll away, I requested a glass of water, for I had no intention of imbibing the drink.
The disgusting drink apparently served its purpose however, for as the droid rolled away from my table with the water, a human stepped over and sat down across the table from me. Unruly black hair rolled off his head in waves and he appeared to have enough muscle to lift a small speeder. I refrained from asking the question I so desired however and merely waited for him to begin talking.
He quickly began, and got right to business too saying, “The Krayt Dragon crows at dawn.” This was the sign that he was my client, now I had to reply with the countersign, “The Sand People flee in its wake.”
“Excellent,” he said, “I have the credit chip here with all of your payment on it. Leave the package in the hangar tonight, I’ll send someone over tomorrow to get it.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, what do you need with two metric tons of bacta?” I asked him. The man looked at me for a few seconds and then replied, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”
I dropped the subject, but I was thinking about what else I could ask that would reveal him to be who I thought he was. However, before I could get very far along phrasing my next question, my comlink beeped. I sighed and answered it.
“Syph, you’ve got incoming Ess-Tees, I advise you exit the back way,” came through the comlink. It had to have been Aekros who was following me and had noted the storm troopers.
I got up to signal the end to our conversation and began walking to the back door. As I exited, I glanced backwards and could see the storm troopers just entering the cantina. Breathing a sigh of relief that I was going to get away, I stepped through the door and into the alley behind the cantina.
When I reached the street, I found Aekros and we returned to the ship together, not speaking much. I could just hear the sounds of blaster fire as we walked away from the cantina; if my client died, then I had made over a million credits and I could walk away with the goods. I was elated as Aekros and I walked back to the hangar.
Once back on the ship, I checked the HoloNet and it did indeed say that a fugitive had been caught and preferred to fight rather than “go quietly.” The picture matched that of our buyer, so I told Karol that we were going to take the bacta and sell it to the next highest bidder. She glanced at what I was watching and then grinned; we were going to make a fortune.
We entered the launch queue after making sure that the bacta was safely hidden in the smuggling compartments. We were cleared for launch and made it to space before anything interesting began to happen.
An Imperial Star Destroyer, Victory Class by the looks of it, materialized in front of us as it reverted to real space. I could hear Anar gasp as the massive grey ship headed straight towards the planet, and us. I didn’t blame him.
Working around the lump in my throat, I ordered Aekros and Anar to the turrets so that if they Destroyer wanted a fight, it would get one. The turrets on Alpha Centauri were highly illegal military grade cannons that we had stolen from Corellia.
The holo-generator in the middle of the bridge came alive as it generated the form of an Imperial Admiral. “Valiant to unidentified corvette, turn around and return to Naboo. This planet is under strict Imperial Blockade until further notice. “
“Pee-Four, continue to the jump point,” I told the pilot droid. “Guy’s, I’m activating the turrets, if they target us and open fire, return fire,” I said to Aekros and Anar through the comlink.
“Unidentified corvette, this is your last chance to return to Naboo and end this peacefully,” the hologram said.
Like hell it was. Once on the ground, the Imperials would tear the ship apart… like they had torn apart the apartment that I had shared with my father.
Barely seconds later, a siren blared as the Star Destroyer got a target lock on us; a red light began to flash signaling the warning. The Star Destroyer also began launching fighters in an effort to block all of the jump points and effectively blockade us in Naboo space.
A flash of green light shot across the depths of space as the Valiant fired the first shot at us, thinking that it would disable the Corvette as though it were any other. The laser hit the shields and was swallowed instantly; the cannons on Alpha Centauri began to return fire taking out an entire squadron of TIE Fighters in very little time.
I knew however, that powerful as the cannons and shields were on Alpha Centauri, if we did not reach the jump point soon, the Star Destroyer would destroy us.
I slapped a red button on the console in front of me, moving a proton torpedo into the launch tube directly below the bridge. I hit the blue button next to it that armed and launched it; it shot away from our Corvette, circled around and headed for the Valiant.
We only had to survive a few more minutes, we were nearly at the jump point and the calculations for the jump to lightspeed were almost set. The proton torpedo bypassed the Star Destroyer’s shields and was headed straight for the forward turbo-laser, not showing up on their radar because it was too small. It hit the turbo-laser with a flash of fire, and we arrived at the jump point.
Naboo shrank behind us as fire flared and died around the turbo-laser and we made the jump to hyperspace and safety.
Strange how situations go from happy to bad in no time at all, is it not? One moment we were standing on the bridge, elated at getting so much money for nothing, the next moment we were sweating with fear as an Imperial Star Destroyer threatens to tear our world apart.
We escaped however, and we were on our way to the planet called Tatooine, a haven for smugglers and riff-raff. There, we hoped to recover our pride at nearly dying and to get a new job that was not as dangerous as smuggling bacta to Rebel traitors…
We received our clearance to land at Mos Eisley Spaceport as soon as we entered the Tatooine System. This is due to the fact that Tatooine requires no clearance to land because it is less than civilized; it is run by the Hutts.
Aekros, Karol, and I disembarked Alpha Centauri together and immediately headed towards the cantina; we left the remaining crew behind to watch for thieves. When recovering your pride, there is nothing better to do than to drown yourself in your own sorrow and misery.
In the cantina, we took a seat near the back door and each ordered a drink, heavy in alcohol, disgusting in taste. After imbibing several of these drinks, I could barely see straight, let alone think straight which Karol had taught me was the best cure for anything. I groaned as I imagined the hangover I would have in the morning, but immediately stopped when I saw someone take interest in the sound and look for its source.
From what I could make out on his blurry face, he had the look of a customer. I beckoned him over so that we could begin business.
Even up close where most people appeared normally, this man’s face was still blurred so I could not make out the sharp features of it. I could see his eyes though, a deep unsettling grey that matched his hair.
“You look like you’ve been in some tight spots and are looking for some work,” the man said with a small grin that I could just make out.
“You have a job for us, old man?” I responded. He took the comment about his age in stride, and quickly laid out the job requirements to us. Acquire one metric ton of bacta and transport it to the smugglers outpost on Dantooine. There, we would leave the bacta in containers labeled as waste where they would be picked up. The payment would be wire transferred once we left the Dantooine system.
Dantooine was a piece-of-cake-system to get in and out of, for the Empire had no forces based there. That along with the fact that we already had the bacta led me to accept.
Amazing how one’s luck will change practically in an instant. We had a job that we had already been paid for but hadn’t completed, and we were going to complete this job and get paid for it. Within the hour, we would be lifting off of Tatooine, headed for Dantooine.
As soon as we emerged from hyper-space into the Dantooine System, I knew that the plan had gone awry. Three Imperial Star Destroyers floated above the planet, blocking our path to the smuggler’s outpost.
They found us all too quickly and launched fighters. One Star Destroyer made us quiver with fear; three caused Anar to have a heart-attack on the spot, and he fell to the floor of the bridge, dead before he made contact. I felt it somehow, the anguish and pain all to clearly.
Karol and Aekros had disappeared to the turbolasers I remained on the bridge. Hands shaking, I tried to program a jump to lightspeed, but the topside cannon exploded in a flash of light for the shields had been overloaded within the first several shots. I felt the pain in my very bones as Aekros died with the cannon.
“How do I feel this… why me?” I whispered to no one, for there was no one around. If the Imperials followed standard procedure, they would disable the second cannon and the engines so that I could neither retaliate nor move. They would then launch the boarding party to scour the ship for survivors and take them all as hostages for interrogation.
I understood then what I had to do, and I set the events into motion. I sealed all of the blast doors aboard the ship to delay the Imperials. I then ran to the long-range escape pods. As I reached them, the ship shook and I fell to the ground as I felt Karol’s life disappear. The lights dimmed and I hoped that there would still be enough power to launch the escape pod.
I dimly felt the Imperials begin to board the ship, but there were more important things for me to do than think about them. I drew myself to my feet and walked to the only hyperspace-capable pod aboard Alpha Centauri.
Once inside the spacious escape pod, my fingers typed in coordinates for a location that I had never heard of before; the pod did not recognize the coordinates either and I had to triple confirm that they were correct before it would begin launch procedures.
I had no idea why I felt the need to go to these coordinates; I knew only that my mind was drawn to a beacon of power. A beacon of darkness... Antei, the name was whispered to my mind.
I launched the escape pod and was thrown backwards into a chair at the sudden acceleration. I felt the deaths of Alpha Centauri’s remaining crew as the pod made the jump to lightspeed, the jump to the unknown.