The soft hum of the Z-47 Lynx’s engines was barely audible, yet Lokasena could hear the slight energy variance in the vessels harmonic stabilizers when flying under cloak.
He was entering rival clan territory, after all. The idea of flying to his own funeral was not appealing at all to him.
Monitoring the speed of the Lynx to avoid detection, even through the cloak, was difficult but necessary. A passing ship would not notice him at all, but a active planetary scanner programmed to pick up the slightest tachyon variation, could.
“Mother, what’s our ETA?” Sena asked calmly. “Estimate Time of Arrival in the Cocytus system is thirty-five minutes, fifteen seconds.” A mechanical female voice replied. “Any vessels on long-range sensors?” “Negative, no vessels within sensor range.”
Lokasena sat back in his chair and relaxed his shoulders. He was fairly confident he would arrive on Judecca unscathed.
Filling the following half hour with a level two diagnostic of his ship’s systems, Lokasena suddenly heard the computers voice again. “Entering Cocytus system now. Please specify further coordinates.” Lokasena laid in the coordinates to the planet of destination. He would switch over to manual control as soon as he entered the atmosphere.
After completing his diagnostic, Sena saw the planet come into visual range. He decreased speed with seventy-five percent and disengaged the auto-pilot.
As the Lynx slowly descended upon the planet, Sena could see how beautiful it was. His course steady, Sena could see the city of Ohmen through the parting clouds. It’s beautiful circles of stone, surrounding a massive mountain side.
Scanning the city with a passive sensor array, Lokasena detected multiple turrets distributed throughout the city. He decided to set the Lynx down in a field of high grass. There it could stay cloaked, until he returned.
Stepping out of the invisible ship, Sena seemed to materialise in mid-air, his cloak catching a slight breeze. Luckily there was nobody there to see it.
Lokasena covered his head with the hood of his cloak, concealed his Lightsaber in his robes and had his trusty Mormegill sword hanging from his left hip. The Krath gave out a short whistle. Corvus replied from inside the ship. Within seconds, the jackdaw had flown out and perched on his master’s shoulder.
“Corvus, my friend. I’m glad you’re here. This could prove to be difficult.” The bird replied with a soft crow. The Dark Knight proceeded toward the tall city gates.
What the guards must have thought, as this tall, hooded and cloaked figure with a black bird on his shoulder walked up to them, is anyone’s guess. That did not stop them from holding him at the gates.
“Identify yourself!” the left of the two guards said. Neither of them was Force sensitive. Since Scholae Palatinae was a very militaristic clan, the employed large numbers of regular soldiers to perform guard duties. Sena sensed fear in them. He also knew that bursting in to the city with his blazing saber would be a mistake. Words would be far more effective. Besides, lying was a skill like any other. If one wished to uphold a certain level of excellence, one needed to practice constantly.
“We are here at the bidding of you House Summit. Our names are none of your business.” Sena said in a soft voice. “I’ll have to verify that.” The guard said and turned to a comm.. panel attached to a computer console on the wall next to the gate.
“We wouldn’t do that, if we were you. This concerns a highly sensitive matter regarding clan security. There can be no record of us being in the city. Orders of Mistress Stormraven”
Both guards looked at each other for a moment. “Well,” the left guard began. “I am certainly aware of special security operations during times of conflict, but you want to speak to Mistress Stormraven, I need some form of clearance on her part.”
“Very well, if you must. we have a security code that will verify my intentions to you. There will be no need to contact Rasilvenaira.” Corvus crowed loudly, distracting the guards from scrutinizing Lokasena’s appearance.
After entering the code into the console, the left guard’s face twisted in horror as he read what the computer told him. Quickly, he turned to Corvinus. “For give, sir. You may pass!” The second guard, on the right, looked at his colleague as if he’d gone insane. “But_” “Shut up!” the left guard interrupted. “Forgive my comrade, sir. Please enter…” The left guard pressed a button and the gates opened.
Lokasena straightened his back and relaxed his shoulders. As he walked through the gate and it closed behind him, he sensed the two guards arguing.
“I believe thanks are in order.” Corvus’ voice was clear in Sena’s mind. “Thank you, my friend. Where did you get that code, anyway?” “Never you mind, let us do what must be done and get out of here. I am least comfortable in an enemy’s stronghold.”
Walking through the streets of Ohmen, Lokasena felt they had reached an impasse. He was in the city, but he had no idea where to find his target.
Sena needed more information. Luckily, he had a friend, whom might be of use.
Nodding to an unsuspecting bystander, Sena walked up to the man. “Pardon me, kind sir. Would you know where a tired wanderer could find a hot meal and a cold ale?” The older man looked at him with kindness and compassion. “Of course, young man. Follow that street for five minutes. There is an inn, on the left side of the road.” “Most kind!” Sena nodded again and walked up the road. The old stone buildings hardly seemed fit to harbour the headquarters of a Dark Jedi clan. But looks could be deceiving. Lokasena knew that underneath this layer of decay, there was much power to be found.
Asani Vosa was just sharing a round of drinks with some of her fellow journeymen, when a figure, with an all to familiar bird, entered the inn.
“What’s the matter, Asani? You look like you just saw a ghost.” One of her comrades noted.
“A nightmare is would be more accurate.” Asani replied while setting down her drink at the bar. “Excuse me for a moment…” she said and walked over to the cloaked figure, whom had just taken a seat at a table.
As she came closer, Lokasena ignored her. Asani stood next to the table, cleared her throat and began to speak in a low voice. “Pardon me, stranger. May I join you?”
Lokasena could sense that the Protector was as much surprised as horrified to find him here. In a perverse way, it pleased him greatly.
Sena stood up and motioned Asani to sit down. “Please, noble Protector. Join me, enhance my evening.”
As both Dark Jedi sat down, the tension level at the table shot up. “What are you doing here?” Asani said softly, without leaning in. Being secretive would only raise suspicion.
“I’m here to see you.” Lokasena replied. “Why didn’t you just contact me over a comm.. channel?” the young woman almost snapped. “Because, I need a favour from you. And this sort of request could get us all in a lot of trouble.”
Asani sighed. “If it hurts my career with the clan, count me out!” Sena raised an eyebrow. “You wound me, madam. It will only jeopardise your career, if we get caught. But we won’t. And if we are, then I take full responsibility.”
Again, a heavy sigh on the part of the Protector.
“What do you need, Sena?” “I’m glad you asked. Do you have any contacts amongst the Equite ranks?” For a moment, Asani frowned. “Of course I do, why?” “Someone you really trust?” Sena wanted to make certain. “Yes. Yes, I trust her. Now tell me why?”
“I need someone of Equite level to grant me access to some of Scholae’s medical files. Nothing too classified, it is for research purposes. Here are the parameters.”
“All right, I’ll help you. I’m sure you won’t use the files to plot the downfall of our clan.” Asani said with a smile. Lokasena caught her emerald green eyes. “My dear, I sometimes find your blind faith in my discretion both flattering and disturbing. But in this case, you are right.” Again, the young woman smiled at him. “Very well, I will set up a meeting outside the city walls.” “Excellent, meet me at these coordinates when you retrieve the data.”
“I never could refuse you, Sena. Now get out of here!” Asani said with a mocking command.
“As you wish, my Lady.” Lokasena got up from the table and left the establishment.
“Who was that?” a young woman with the rank of Guardian asked Asani. “Just a friend.”
“Is your friend single?” the Guardian asked. Asani suppressed a slight chuckle. “You could say that, but I wouldn’t waste my time, if I were you.”
Three hours later, Lokasena was waiting in a field near his ship, Corvus still on his shoulder.
Sena had programmed the Lynx to take off immediately once Sena was on board, should there be any trouble.
After a while, Sena could see two figures approaching. One was Asani, the other a Twi’lek female. As they came closer, Lokasena’s hand automatically felt for the wooden grip of his Mormegill.
“That’s far enough!” Lokasena said, as the two women were four meters away from him.
“And who are you?” the Dark Knight asked the Twi’lek.
“It’s all right, Sena. She’s a_” The Twi’lek interrupted Asani by raising a hand. She was trying to catch a glimpse of Sena’s eyes through the darkness of his hood.
“I am Arch Priestess Impetus Korin-M’Nar. And who might you be?” the woman said in a clear and proud tone. Lokasena heard no malice in her voice. He could sense precaution, but not anger. Flipping his hood back from his head, Sena revealed his visage.
“My name is Lokasena Corvinus. I am a Knight of clan Taldryan.”
“You must be very brave, Knight, to come here for a few worthless medical files.” Impetus baited Corvinus. “There is more than meets the eye with the information you hold.” The Knight replied cryptically.
“I agreed to do this, because Asani is a good friend. And because the files are, apparently insignificant. But if you won’t tell me exactly why you need them, I will not hand them over to you, Taldryan!”
“What are they about, anyway?” Asani asked, looking from Impetus to Lokasena and back.
“They are the civilian death certificates of the last four months.” The Twi’lek answered Asani’s question quickly, without taking her eyes of Corvinus.
“What do you want with those?” the young Protector focused her gaze on Lokasena.
Seeing how the two women were staring at him, Sena sighed and began to explain.
“If my findings are correct, and I’d like to think they are, those deaths are connected to recent fatalities on Taruma.”
“How is that possible?” Impetus asked, obviously curious.
“When I complete my research on those files, I will be able to conclude that all these people died the same way.” Sena searched for a data-padd in his robes and threw it over to Impetus.
The Arch Priestess caught it and began to examine it.
“As you can see, the Taruma victims all died a sudden and horrible death. But there are no signs of homicide. Dementia, severe blood loss and Status Epilepticus; it’s a continuous state of seizure. Also and impaired swallowing reflex. These people drowned in their own blood.”
Impetus looked up from the padd. An expression of concern on her face. “What caused this?”
Lokasena began to walk slowly towards the two women. “I am familiar with everything I have found. But it rarely occurs simultaneously. There is evidence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. It is a blanket term covering a number of brain diseases. It is transmissible, but the infectious agent is believed not to be either viral or bacterial, but a protein called a prion. It’s not even a life from.”
“I’m vaguely familiar with the term.” Impetus said quietly.
“What’s important,” Sena continued. “is that although these diseases can produce astrogliosis, TSE’s produce no sign of infection.”
“Wait…” Asani interrupted. “What does astrogliosis mean ?”
“It’s the enlargement of the cells in the brain which fight infection.” Lokasena explained.
“Usually a patient shows no fever, no detectable antibody activity and the incubation period can be decades. But in the cases of these victims, the white count was through the roof. Evidence of viral infection as well. I would guess the incubation time to be minutes. Nearly all of the tissue cells were attacked simultaneously, including the brain! This caused their blood vessels to leak. Blood is unable to coagulate. Their blood would even protrude through the skin.”
“Unbelievable…” Impetus sighed as she went over the data in her hand. “Have you ever seen such a thing?”
“No…” Sena answered. “But I have read reports of such a ting. Connected to a mutant strain of the Marburg Virus.”
Impetus’ eyes widened and her lips parted to gasp for air.
“I see you’ve heard of it.” Lokasena commented as he looked at the Twi’lek intensely.
“I haven’t…” Asani looked very puzzled.
Lokasena took a deep breath. “The objective was to create a devastating biological weapon. The virus is genetically labile. It could, in theory, exchange genes with plague, anthrax, smallpox or flu strains. This would create variant viruses against which the humanoid population has no immunological defence. Weapons grade anthrax takes approximately eight thousand microscopic spores to introduce an infection. This Marburg variant takes three!”
“This is insane! Where did this come from?” Impetus voice was still calm, but Sena could sense her concern.
“A prion has no RNA, no life. This makes it the perfect weapon. It’s immune to antibiotics, enzymes and can withstand a heat of over a six hundred degrees Celsius. My research will prove that this Marburg variant was genetically engineered with the prion. Thereby creating a biological agent that would kill quickly, spread rapidly and if the virus were neutralized, the fused prion would finish off the host. After the fall of the Empire, most bio-weapons facilities were abandoned. The virus, Marburg variant PRP, a manmade life form that had never been exposed to the environment, leaked. Many animals, especially birds were highly susceptible, were infected. Over the next decades, the animals were imported by other worlds all through the outer rim territories. Nineteen years after the Battle of Yavin, a moisture farmer on Tatooine, together with his herd of Dewbacks, died from it’s effects.”
“That meant that the virus had undergone antigenic drift.” Impetus stated with hardly a whisper.
“Precisely!” Sena replied to the statement. “It could be transmitted from animals to humanoids. But then as soon as that happened, the virus disappeared.”
“And now it’s back.” Asani sighed. “Yes…” Lokasena did nothing to conceal the concern in his voice.
“But the Brotherhood must have a vaccine?” the Twi’lek asked. She was pressing buttons on the padd, looking for evidence to her theory.
“Yes, after nineteen ABY a vaccine was developed to keep the virus in check once it entered the body.”
“So people can be inoculated…” Impetus seemed relieved.
“There would never be enough material to develop a universal vaccine. The Remnant only made enough for its members. But the information you have there, might lead me to synthesizing a new vaccine.”
Without any hesitation, Impetus flung the data-padd and the crystal with recorded files at Lokasena. “Take them! I hope you learn something.”
“Thank you, both of you. And if you want to avoid a panic, I suggest you discuss this with no one.” The warning was clear coming from the Knight’s lips.
“Understood! Keep us informed.” Impetus said quickly as she saw Sena walk up the invisible steps to his cloaked ship.
Lokasena threw a last glance at the two women. “I will…”
The two women could hear the sound of engines powering up and they could feel a rush of air go past them as the invisible Lynx activated its main thrusters. The sound diminished and both women concluded that Lokasena was gone.
Impetus looked at Asani for a moment.
“We took a big risk. Can he really be trusted?”
“I trust him with my life.” Asani replied.
“Guess that will have to do…” the Twi’lek said as she let out a sigh.
“Cleared from planetary orbit.” The mechanical voice of the Lynx computer stated.
“Mother, please set course to back Taruma and proceed at five times light speed.”
“Confirmed.” Mother replied.
Lokasena walked across the deck and sat down in the command chair. Corvus ad taken a perch near the command console. He retrieved the data-crystal from his robes and twirled it in his fingers for a while. All his hopes were set on finding the right data. It could potentially save millions.
He slid the crystal in on of the appropriate compartments. “Mother. Please identify data-crystal.”
“Identification complete, authenticity confirmed.”
“Open data files.”
“Confirmed.” Mother said within a second.
Lokasena thought for a moment. The best way to proceed would be to find a common pattern within the disease.
“Mother, please compare these files to previous recorded files from Taldryan.”
“Processing command, please stand-by.”
Lokasena leaned back in his seat. He looked at the stars as they flashed by at high speed. Their brightness leaving a trail of light across window.
“Process complete, one hundred and fifty identical sources found.”
“Data suggests auto-immunological defect.”
“No, you’re looking for the wrong thing. It’s not an auto-immune disease.”
Sena rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Compare these findings to records containing data of Marburg hemorrhagic fever.”
“Data not available.”
“Damn…” Time was running against Lokasena. He needed to examine the findings, but he also needed to maintain stealth. After a few minutes of weighing the pros and cons, Sena decided the risk would be worth it.
“Mother, please create a link to the Library of Lears.”
“Processing command, please stand-by.”
For a moment, Lokasena half expected an armada of fighters swarming toward him.
“Process complete, link-up established.”
“Now, cross reference the compared data of Scholae Palatinae and Taldryan with any data concerning the Marburg virus.”
“Requested command will take approximately one hour and twenty minutes to comply.”
“Understood.” Sena replied and closed his eyes. The trip back home would be a long one.
Lokasena was uncertain how much time had gone by when he was awakened by an alert signal.
“Mother, explain alert status!” Sena said as he gathered his wits about him.
“Long range sensors detect two unknown vessels on intercept course.”
“Markings indicate clan Arcona TIE-interceptors.”
“Arcona? How far are we from Arconan territory?”
“Approximately one point five light-years.”
“What are they doing out here?” Lokasena wondered out loud.
“Please specify.” Mother replied.
“Disregard. How long till intercept?”
“Time to intercept two minutes and fifteen seconds.”
Sena’s eyes widened as he sat up in his chair. Was it possible they had detected him, through the cloak? He punched a few keys on the command console. The Lynx dropped out of light speed. “Mother, power down all non-essential systems.” Mother confirmed. A low power output would diminish the chance for discovery.
Within minutes, the two Interceptors arrived. Lokasena could see their grey hulls fly towards him and then come almost come to a full stop. Corvus crowed as he nervously moved on his perch. Lokasena was wondering whether it would be a wise course of action to destroy the scouts. If they reported back to base with a sensor anomaly on their records, it could possibly be traced back to him.
Sena’s eyes drifted to the large green key on the command console that deactivated the cloak.
Within seconds he accelerated past the two Interceptors and lowered the cloak. He quickly activated shields and powered his disruptors.
The TIE’s scrambled into an attack formation and fired their lasers at the Lynx. A rumble went through the ship. Mother’s voice sounded. “Shields at eighty-five percent.”
Bringing up the weapons panel, Lokasena fired at the TIE on his starboard side.
Two green beams flew at the Interceptor. There was a small explosion as one of the TIE’s wings came off. The Interceptor started to twirl out of control.
The port Interceptor fired at the Lynx again. The deck rumbled underneath Sena’s feet.
“Shields at seventy-two percent.”
As the Interceptor passed him, Lokasena turned the Lynx hard to port. This brought him straight behind the Interceptor. It tried to out manoeuvre the Lynx, but Lokasena did not hesitate. Again, two beams of green energy pierced the blackness of space. They hit the TIE straight on the engines. It immediately slowed down and curved in a downward pitch.
As Lokasena passed over it, he was already preparing to come about.
The crippled TIE managed to fire it’s lasers again. “Shields at sixty-eight percent.”
Two beams cut through space and sliced open the Interceptor. It exploded in a cloud of blue and white light.
Not too far ahead, Sena could see the single-winged Interceptor adrift. Pressing the disruptor key once more, Lokasena destroyed the other Interceptor. It too, exploded in a spectacle of blue and white.
Lokasena fell back in his seat with a loud sigh. “Mother, stand down alert status. Deactivate shields and weapons. Raise cloak and resume course to Taruma, five times light speed.”
“Affirmative.” Mother replied.
A weight fell from Sena’s shoulders the minute the Lynx entered Taldryan space. The mission had been a success. The Knight had called in favours, met new people and learned more about his enemy. But this had all been preparation for the battle that was to come. Fighting the disease would be difficult. In the hands of a scientist, information was a weapon. The better the science, the stronger the weapon. Lokasena was a great scientist…
DJK Lokasena Corvinus