Ryan head snapped to his left, swiftly dropping from a natural stance, feet shoulder-width apart into a powerful, deep stance, his weight sinking into the earth as he widened his feet and bent deep at the knees. A powerful punch snapped out from Ryan's left side, his left hand delivering a painful strike into the solar plexus of an imaginary foe, his hips driving power into the blow. A sharp exhale from Ryan focused his power even more into the strike and a fleeting fog issued forth as the warmth of Ryan's breath mixed with the chill of Ryan's apartment.
Sweat dripped from Ryan's hair and fell upon the smooth, bare floor. What didn't wind up in small, salty, pools on the barren gray desert Ryan battled across, was soaked up by the traditional robes that hung, soaked and darkened with sweat, from Ryan's exhausted frame. The robes, hearkening to Broken Gate's Jedi roots, acted as an excellent training partner for solo practice. Each punch, block, and strike was answered with a sharp snap from the robes trailing behind. The robes were a natural, earthen tone, the khaki and brown more rooted in the public mind as the mark of a member of the Jedi Order than to the Dark Jedi Ryan ostensibly was. Ryan certainly didn't mind. After all, it was none of the inhabitants of Ol' val's business about what philosophical views Ryan bore about invisible energy fields. In fact, even those whose business was knowing such things didn't know about Ryan's status as a Dark Jedi. After all, Master Dralin didn't put in all the hard work training an apprentice only to have said apprentice tip Arcona's hand to Port Ol'val's “citizenry”. When it came to hands, Arcona wasn't even playing as far as the factions, criminals, and hedonists of the Port knew. Ryan wore black suits and long dark coats in public, more reminiscent of a corporate boardroom member than a Jedi. Ryan wore the robes mostly for tradition's sake, trying to get in touch with the “roots” of Broken Gate as a Jedi Art, along with the fact that the loose, comfortable fit made movement easier. On off-world missions, Ryan wore robes, but frequently eschewed the black typical of Dark Jedi, finding it melodramatic and hackneyed, more reminiscent of a Holovid movie star playing villain than of a serious practitioner of a Force discipline.
Ryan understood secrecy and discretion, and that loyalty and honesty were the highest virtues, even for a Dark Jedi. The more “traditional” methods of the Sith; backstabbing one's Master at the first opportunity, deception, cruelty, wanton bullying for its own sake, were, in Ryan's view the bad ideas that routinely caused the destruction of the Dark Jedi and the near extinction of the Dark Jedi. Buffeted by the powerful appetites, irascible and concupiscable, the Sith's rational nature, what made him human, was subsumed to animal passion. A true Dark Jedi was a slave to nothing, not even his passions.
On a small desk in a relatively empty, poor apartment in Port Ol'val such ideas sat. Philosophical musings on the nature of ethics, metaphysics, and, most recently, interpretations of Dark Side philosophy. A bedroll, wine red and in excellent condition, a finely crafted book case containing many academic works on philosophy, history, and military science, and a weapons rack, crafted of a dark ebony wood and containing various weapons and training aids were almost the only furnishings in this poor apartment, little or nothing adorning its sad, gray walls. A small clothing rack sat in the corner, containing many fine quality suits, all black. Under the bedroll sat a sturdy looking trunk, it's hinges well maintained, stickers plastered here and there of great magician-entertainers like Wim Magwit who had delighted audiences throughout the galaxy with their sleight of hand and skill. A wooden training dummy was tucked away in another corner, a battered and old wooden pole augmented by various wooden projections reminiscent of arms and legs.
Ryan had rented this place from a relatively honest Bothan landlord in the Pride of Corellia. It was cheap, relatively roomy, and served its purpose, that being to give Ryan a place to crash that nobody else knew about. Here, in this dingy apartment, Ryan could train martial arts, write philosophy, and meditate, all in privacy and somewhat free from the watchful eye of the rest of Arcona or anyone else for that matter. It was a place of privacy and quiet, serene and stable, where the neighbors didn't pry and Ryan could accomplish much free of distraction.
Ryan stepped forward into a deep, lunging stance and swung his right arm into a powerful block, the hard, calloused, conditioned bone of his forearm smashing into the most-likely unconditioned bone of an imaginary attacker's punching arm. Once again, Ryan's hips drove into the attack and a sharp exhale focused the Protector's intent: mind, body, and spirit united as one with the kinetic linking of the Earth, gave each action great power.
Ryan continued to move through the Broken Gate solo practice form, his misty exhalations mixing with sweat dripping from his dark blonde hair, stinging as it dripped into his dark blue eyes. Each movement contained a powerful grace: movements snapping and linear, but beautiful in execution with their clean lines and large movements. Such was Ryan's routine every morning, practicing hand to hand combat for two hours every morning, devoting as much time to hand to hand fighting as many Dark Jedi devoted to lightsaber or force training. Where other Obelisk sought to become expert marksmen or lightsaber duelists, Ryan remained devoted to mastering the art of disabling his foes with his hands and feet, occasionally augmented by the traditional weapons of the hand to hand arts. Ryan's body had found itself quite bruised and sore lately from his recent attempts to master the Iron body aspects of Broken Gate, smashing his limbs into the wooden projections of his training dummy, battering himself with dura-steel rods, and thrusting his hands into iron filings, all in order to render his body more impervious to blows and his mind tougher for the experience.
Ryan lashed out with a powerful side kick, giving a loud, spirited yell as he drove his foot through the solar plexus of his last imaginary foe, completing the 38th and final movement of the form. Stepping back slowly into a natural stance, Ryan held a state of alertness, then slowly relaxed. His body drenched in sweat, his muscles exhausted and sore, Ryan shook out his limbs, scattering sweat on the floor. Ryan slowly undressed, desiring a cool shower and then a trip to get a good meal in Besadii. After all, it would be nice to eat a good meal at a decent restaurant in the Entertainment District before he had to actually do some work in the district. Ryan hated working in Besadii, it was a place full of distractions and noise and lights, making it difficult to hear any dangers or individuals which might threaten his charge during security work. On the other, hand Ryan loved playing in Besadii. Ryan was not a hedonist, indeed, he carried few vices, and did not drink or visit the red light district, earning him a bit of a reputation as a prude. Despite his teetotaler nature, Ryan did enjoy dining at fine restaurants and a bit of light gambling. Ryan had been tempted a few times to enter the fighting arenas and earn some credits and reputation, but he was uncertain that his master, Dralin, being rather upper-crust and serious in temperament, would approve. After dinner there would be no time for playing, however, Ryan had a job to do, protecting a small-time crook from a rival gang. Despite the relatively low social status of the protectee, not anywhere near that of a major player, Ryan took the assignment just as seriously as if it were the “Blindman”, with a gravity and depth rooted in both a desire to not embarrass his master and superiors and a genuine concern for those who trusted him to protect them. Ryan was jokingly called “the Paladin” because of his devotion to honor and loyalty and relatively straitlaced attitude. It was a nickname of respect that a man could hold to such dated values not only in an age of blasters, not only in the Dark Brotherhood, but in a town entirely run by crime lords as far as the rest of the galaxy was concerned. It was also a nickname of annoyance and exasperation as Ryan made absolutely miserable company when out carousing, given to academic speeches, shop talk, and a piety that people hated to be around while indulging in vice.
Ryan sighed and slumped forward visibly as the cool waters of the shower washed in needle-like torrents against his skin. Ryan preferred water showers to sonic ones, enjoying the feel of the water and the massage loosening his muscles. He also appreciated water's traditional role as a purifier, making the experience after difficult physical and mental training almost cathartic.
Stepping out of the shower and drying off, Ryan quickly selected a custom tailored black suit and began getting ready to go out. One thing Ryan and Dralin had in common was their tendency towards sharp dress. Both looked like executives when together and maybe in another life they could have gone where the real money was and headed a major corporation like Sienar Fleet Systems. Making sure everything was coordinated, and in place, wardrobe-wise, Ryan could begin putting the final touches of weaponry and tools of the trade on his person. Wrapping a chain whip around his waist, concealing the flexible but solid weapon under his jacket, Ryan also donned a pair of black leather gloves, the backs of the hands filled with heavy shot to add extra weight and damage to Ryan's fist attacks without compounding lethality like knuckle dusters could. Finally, Ryan picked up the Westar blaster pistol concealed under his pillow and slid into the holster hidden at the small of his back, knowing that if he had to draw it, something most likely had gone horribly wrong with the mission.
After a filling meal at a fine restaurant, Ryan walked briskly down the street, a slight bounce in his step, a byproduct of his generally hyperactive and carefree nature. Ryan still blended in with the laughing, carousing crowds of BED. In front of a glittery casino, it's lights and glamor hiding the peeling paint and worn building front, a Human man about 21 years of age, his mousy brown hair falling in shaggy locks across his eyes, was being scolded by a Human woman of approximately the same age. She slapped the man repeatedly, yelling at him for losing their money at the Sabacc table, her hair dyed a fake-looking and sickly shade of orange that shook in time with her strikes and her quivering rage. The man looked henpecked and downcast, unable to look what sounded like his girlfriend or wife in the eye. The smell of food wafted through the streets from various restaurants and street vendors, creating a sort of tantalizing, spicy, overbearing smell that called out like an olfactory billboard, no less gaudy and tasteless than the lights and neon signs. Occasionally the smell would be broken by the heavy, liquored smell of a drunken carouser or bum passing by, drinking to forget their station, their monetary losses, a woman, or whatever excuse they could give, or the casino bartender could give, to cloud their reasoning. Besadii was dreadfully loud, inside and out, the sounds of loud laughter and even louder drunken yelling, mixing in cacophony with the beeps, hums, and bells of gambling machines, the roll of dice, the sounds of music and prostitutes calling out to attract the attention of a possible customer. It was disordered and messy, and it was dreadfully classless in such a way that Ryan spent his time in BED in the exclusive restaurants and private gambling dens that at least pretended to some propriety.
It was among these loud, crowded, streets lit up brighter than daylight on some worlds, that Ryan was supposed to link up with his charge, the Rodian, Frello. Ryan knew his charge would be waiting at a somewhat upscale night-spot known as “Pure”. Such pretentious names were common to night-clubs, gambling dens, and dance halls aspiring to something higher than they were, and pretending an exclusivity that simply wasn't there. People like Frello, those with inflated self importance tended to frequent these places. No real player in the Ol'val scene would be caught dead in these pretentious “wannabe” clubs.
From the outside, Pure had a relatively classy facade, crafted out of fine tile with the violet lights of the place flattering any ugliness possessed by the exterior. The name of the club was written in a fancy Aurabesh that conveyed the sleek and modern look designed to draw in idle rich kids with Daddy's credits and a total lack of parental supervision. In Ol'val, however, many of these kids had parents responsible for multiple murders, and some of the youths were being groomed to head some of the many criminal syndicates of the city.
The line extended for a while, but Ryan had no trouble getting in as the club was relatively empty, the line being another part of the pretensions of exclusivity and an illusion to impress any passerby: another billboard, this time composed of people standing idle, each thinking that since they got in that they were somehow more deserving.
The doorman, a blonde, Human man in a black coat with red-colored light body armor that covered his torso but remained unobtrusive to avoid jittering the nerves of the patrons, gently ushered Ryan in. This place wasn't the sort that needed searches or scans for anything except droids. Any trouble in this establishment would likely be dealt with by the parent of whoever was being aggrieved. The wealthy youths were unlikely to get in anything but drunken fist-fights and almost never resorted to the gunplay that occasionally erupted at seedier establishments. The one thing that wasn't pretended at this establishment was the incredibly low rate of violence and the nonexistent murder rate with its walls.
The dance floor and bar were lit with a light blue glow that made everything, and possibly everyone, just a little more attractive. The bar was a transparent and modern construction, its stools filled by disinterested young men of various species, likely drinking away rejection by an attractive party of Twi'leks whispering and giggling on a circular couch across the dance floor from the bar. The dance floor was about half full of a motley mix of species and genders, some holding their drink awkwardly above the fray to avoid spilling, some sensually dancing with a partner, some awkwardly shuffling to the rhythms of a live band of Bith, occupying a raised dais that protruded from the middle of the dance floor. Scanning slowly across the room Ryan eyed a male Rodian in a flashy yellow suit, flanked by two scantily-clad Rodian women massaging his arms and whispering sensuously. A third female lied on the couch next to theirs, stretched out languorously The yellow-suited Rodian matched the description of Frello and Ryan walked around the dance floor and slowly edged up to the Rodian. The Rodian lazily turned his head towards Ryan and began to speak in slow, accented Basic, barely able to keep his head level.
“Who are you and why are you bothering me,” the Rodian said, trying his hardest look down his nose with disdain at the Dark Jedi with his head lazily, or drunkenly, tilted to the side. He was clearly trying to appear arrogant and powerful in front of the three females, as his slight head movements indicated, eying each woman for signs of their approval. They're continued fawning seemed to serve as sanction enough for his continued bravado.
“Mr. Frello? I've been sent to escort you to a safehouse and ensure your security in the face of any threats to your person, sir.” Ryan said in a calm and respectful tone, the acoustics of the corner allowing him to be understood without shouting over the extremely loud Bithian band. He hoped that his introduction of his intentions would inflate the Rodian's pride and sense of self importance enough that he would come along with a minimum of fuss.
“Yes, when you're actually successful one day, you'll find that you make a lot of enemies. Mainly jealous punks who want what you have. Credits, glitterstim, women, whatever. Glad to have the extra help, though my blaster will take care of anyone before you can anyway. I'm one of the most dangerous man in Ol'val, after all, everyone's afraid of me.” Frello looked at the women and, seeing them nodding in agreement, continued. “Listen, friend, we're all having a good time and the night is still young, why don't you just stand over there and look menacing and we'll leave in a few hours.”
Ryan sighed. “I'm afraid I cannot do that for several reasons. First, sir, I was charged with escorting you to a safe location with little allowance for delay. Secondly, it will be much harder to defend you in this location with the lights and music and crowd concealing any who wish to harm you. Third...”
“Alright, alright just shut the hell up,” Frello pantomimed covering his ears while the three females giggled “I'll come and bring my ladies along,” Frello began to stand.
“I'm afraid that is also unacceptable, sir. I've been charged with protecting you, not you and your... friends. The task of protecting four individuals is far more difficult then protecting just one, not to mention the increased conspicuousness of traveling in such a group. If it comes to a decision between defending your person, Frello, and that of your entourage, I will be forced to make some sacrifices to ensure I do my duty. I doubt security will even let these women in whe...”
“Do you ever stop talking or ruining everyone's fun? Why did they have to send a toy soldier to protect me? Listen, you work for me and I'm not leaving these beautiful females. If you want me to come, they come too,” the Rodian was clearly angered and delusional or no, he was still a Rodian, a race with a violent streak and a temper. Ryan sighed.
“Alright, hurry up and let's all get out of here, we've got quite a few blocks to walk and...” Ryan suddenly sensed something in the Force and his attention was quickly drawn to the bar. Due to his lack of perceptiveness, he had failed to notice that the men at the bar, the men he previously thought were drinking off a woman brushing them off, were all staring intently at him conversing with the Rodian, some of them began to turn around and stand, revealing that some of them bore the purple and gold colors of the “Misfits” gang, a gang composed of ex convicts, wannabe smugglers, and the occasional “wannabe-wannabe” a wannabe young noble determined to be a wannabe smuggler.
“Oh hell....” Ryan muttered. The group began to saunter over, one of the group in the rear reaching into his vest for something. “DAMN IT I KNEW THIS PLACE DIDN'T HAVE STANDARDS! OUT THE BACK NOW!” Ryan shouted at Frello and the females. Frello sprang into action quicker than Ryan knew he was capable of, hauling the two women next to him off by the hand. The third female attempted to rise from her lounging position on the couch but fell and rolled under the small table the couch half-surrounded. Quickly rising, she ran after Frello, missing one of her shoes. Ryan hadn't realized how overpoweringly nauseating the smell of the Rodians had been until they fled, but now Ryan had a bigger problem. The rearmost Misfit began to draw what looked like a vibroshiv from his expensive-looking black vest and made a lunge for Frello.
Ryan quickly leaped into action, springing forward with speed augmented by the Force and quickly pinned the Misfit's weapon hand against his body, simultaneously retaining the pin and shoving him against the mass of gangmembers currently milling in confusion. About twelve gang members were there, bumping into each other and tripping over themselves trying to get after Frello. Ryan was intimately acquainted with the art of fighting more than one opponent, namely, that even if individuals fight together, they rarely train to fight together as a team. They're likely to get in each others' way as much as they are likely to help each other. Therefore, a skilled defender will be more successful in engaging multiple attackers if he can keep one defender between himself and the others.
Ryan quickly snapped two quick punches into the face of the grabbed Misfit with his free, right hand, the first impacting with the Misfit's nose, causing it to explode in a red gush down the front of his face, whether or not it was broken was of little consequence, the pain was still unbearable. The second punch impacted with the knife-wielder's jaw, strongly dazing him. The Misfit retaliated with a dazed and blind haymaker from his free left hand which Ryan deftly parried with an open hand, sending his arm across his body in a continued arc past Ryan's head. Taking advantage of the fact that his assailant's arms were now crossed, Ryan executed a deft Dulon throw, grabbing the bleeding Misfits crossed wrists and jerking in a motion which sent him falling through the air as his arms came uncrossed, the Misfit finally being relieved of his pain as he fell on his head and shoulder and was quickly knocked unconscious, his blade now sliding across the floor. Ryan sprang back from the still somewhat confused Misfit throng, his back covering the back door through which Frello and the women fled.
The scuffle in the back had caused the band to stop playing and the remaining patrons of the club to either stare in interest as if a schoolyard brawl were unfolding, or flee in terror out the front door while the doorman tried to keep order. The Misfits had finally regrouped and surged towards the door, Ryan fleeing out the back and sprinting down a narrow hallway containing doors to refreshers and, hopefully, an exit through which he could lose his pursuers. In a corner, barely lit a Twi'lek couple passionately embraced, seeking privacy from the crowd. It was prevented from going any further by Ryan running by pursued by an angry mob, startling the two and probably killing the mood.
Ryan burst through a door and into a back alley where Frello and the women were waiting. Ryan gestured down the alley and the group took off with the Misfits in hard pursuit, footsteps echoing loudly off of the filthy alley walls, splashing with the sound of the occasional “mystery puddle.” Ryan turned around and saw that they weren't likely to lose the gang anytime soon. He had to make something of a stand.
“Sir, madames, continue down this alleyway. I will meet up with you shortly.” Ryan said with unusual calm. Ryan loudly exhaled and tensed his muscles, rooting himself into a powerful stance, facing the rushing Misfits, and blocking off the alleyway. Ryan heard Frello and the women keep fleeing. “Thanks for voicing concern sir.” Ryan thought, then began focusing on the task at hand and the terrain.
A common parlor trick among martial arts teachers doing demonstrations in the attempt to attract new students is one where the instructor assumes a powerful, deep stance and has members of the crowd, arranged in a line push against his front. The crowd, unable to move the teacher, is treated to an explanation rooted in mysticism and secret techniques that one may only learn by paying for lessons from the teacher. In reality, the explanation is far more mundane, being rooted in the structural stability of the stance itself, but mostly rooted in the inefficient placement of the assistants from the crowd, in a linear formation. This was just such a situation.
Another way in which the alley helped Ryan was that he was no longer fighting eleven opponents. He was fighting one opponent, eleven times. The narrow alley and the lack of weapons like polearms ensured that only one foe could engage at a time, just like a bad Holovid Teras Kasi movie.
Ryan delivered a powerful strike with his left hand into the solar-plexus of his foe as the wave of gang-members reached him, a painful exhalation emanating from the Misfit, a human male who couldn't have been older than a teenager, who dropped to his knees with the wind knocked out of him. The teenager fell forward as the crowd pushed against his back and the gang-member behind him grabbed Ryan's extended fist.
Ryan allowed the Misfit to grab his wrist and withdrew his punching arm, drawing the Misfit forward and causing him to trip over the now prone teenager. This Misfit had tattoos and bearing indicative of an ex-convict. Withdrawing his fist, along with the Misfit's determined, grabbing hand to his ribcage, Ryan delivered a powerful block to the Misfit's extended elbow with his hard,, highly conditioned forearm. The Misfit's hand trapped at Ryan's body and his elbow now sustaining a powerful impact and severe leverage caused by the trapped joint, something had to give, Ryan's muscled and solid forearm, or his elbow joint.
It was his elbow joint. A sickening pop, pop, snap, each sound in quick succession, and the scream of the Misfit filled the alleyway as Ryan delivered a push kick, forcing him back against the crowd. Suddenly, one of the gang members drew a blaster and began attempting to fire it around the mass of his fellow Misfits. It was time to retreat again. As the next Misfit, an athletic looking Twi-lek hopped over his wounded cohorts, he was rewarded for his efforts with a Broken Gate stomp kick to the side of his knee, his knee giving out from under him, broken and buckled. Ryan ran backward as quick as he could, speed once again augmented by the Force before any blasters could be brought to bear. Although a Dark Jedi, Ryan had yet to attain the vaunted rank of Dark Jedi Knight, allowing him to wield the lightsaber which would render blasters far less of a threat.
The alley became a blur as Ryan began to lose his pursuers with his Force augmented speed. However he began to slow as his small Force reserves quickly drained. Just in time, he found metaphorical daylight as he exited the alley into a crowded plaza where Frello and his entourage were waiting.
“Follow!” Ryan loudly commanded and the group didn't have to be told twice. Following the winding streets of BED, the group was soon nearing Jerem Plaza. On a corner stood a group of three Misfits, male humans with clubs and sticks, joined the pursuit since their comrades now lagged far behind. Ryan knew if they could lose this last group they would be home free. Ryan reached into his jacket and unbelted his chain whip. Turning abruptly toward the pursuing three, Ryan leaped and whirled in a complete circle through the air and with him lashed out a whirling, steel chain whip. The Misfits stopped just in time to avoid having the whip trike them in the face. Continuing the momentum of his spin, Ryan landed in a low, kneeling position and whipped the chain around in a low sweep. One of the Misfits, on the far left was struck with a crunch in the ankle bone, sending him grimacing and yelling to his knees, clutching his ankle. The chain rebounded back and Ryan returned to standing. Allowing the whip to continue its now opposite momentum, Ryan saw one of the Misfits rush forward in an attempt to get inside the incredibly dangerous tip of the weapon. The Misfit attempted to block the whip, but the whip's flexible nature allowed it to wrap around his improper guard. The chain whip continued around his make shift club and struck him solidly on the side of the head, stunning the man briefly. Ryan snapped the whip back and lashed out with the tip, causing it to speed forward in a thrusting motion towards the face of the other remaining Misfit who had begun to move forward to take advantage of the distraction offered by his colleague. The Misfit leaped back to avoid being smashed in the face and remained on guard. Ryan snapped the tip back, catching it in his hand and causing the whip to be folded in half and increasing its effectiveness as a close range weapon. Ryan brought the weapon smashing into the weapon hand of the formerly stunned Misfit, breaking his hand with a sickening crunch and causing him to drop his bludgeon. Ryan then stopped.
Standing there, whirling the chain whip in the air, Ryan stared down the three Misfits, two who were out of the fight due to broken bones and one out of the fight due to a newfound trepidation brought on by the maiming of his friends. Realizing that more fighting would be unnecessary, and that the rest of the gang would soon show up, Ryan fled with Frello and the women, continuing to gain ground on their pursuers.
Ryan, Frello, and the Rodian women cut a strange sight as they all slowed to a jog and then an exhausted walk as they glanced nervously around, looking for a sign of any Misfits. Seeing none, Ryan breathed a relieved sigh as he escorted the Rodians to the station, a fairly non-descript building that blended in with the surrounding architecture. Ryan felt good, and he felt alive, but he felt trepidation, as surely his master would want to know of the events that transpired, and Ryan feared his many mistakes would certainly come to light, delaying him or even stopping him on his progress towards Knighthood. Ryan would not conceal the truth from Dralin to make himself look good. Ryan was an honest man, especially with superiors, and strangely, Ryan had begun to like his master as a person as well. He wondered how he would have fared in the “old days” of killing one's master in their sleep upon learning all they knew, in order that one could become the new Sith Lord.
Ryan reflected on the stupidity of the practice. After all, if the master and apprentice spent their time watching each other for treachery, then they would never watch their enemies and would never achieve the true success brought by trust and honor. Using one's anger and rage and other motions, rather than being used by them, was the key to mastering the Dark Side, rather than letting it master you. Giving in to anger must be tempered by a higher virtue such as... Ryan suddenly snapped out of his contemplation, realizing he'd been blankly staring off into space near the station. Ryan smiled slightly and with a spring in his step quickly walked off for some rest for his next task.