Light In The Darkness
A story we've been thinking of for quite some time. Here we'll play it out. It sparked from two posts in the Lounge.
At his workbench on Mimban, Kaine felt a disturbance in the Force. He put the various lightsaber components down and walked to his projection chamber. He activated the spider-like holoprojection droid at the Dark Hall and had it walk to the lounge.
As it approached the doors he saw a figure, torn apart with anguish. He activated the projection. A shadowy, transparent blue figure rose from the platform of the droid. Langis glanced through tear-soaked eyes at the unrecognizable figure.
"Langis," Kaine muttered. "Your suffering has led you further down the path to ultimate power. Do not hold back. Let loose your anger..."
The hologram flickered as distortion rippled across it. Emotions of confusion and anger intensified all around Langis.
"Who are you?" she screamed. "Go away! Leave me alone!"
"Good..." Kaine chuckled as the droid walked closer. "Soon you will be a great warrior. A Sith of incredible resolve. I'll be watching you."
The holoprojector flickered and suddenly went dead. The droid started its trip back to the HRLD Office in the Dark Hall.
It got stopped suddenly, however.
Kaine looked up from his workbench, narrowing his eyes as a priority one channel opened over his comm system, revealing the face of a cloaked man with a familiar dark blonde beard.
"Hello, Kaine", he greeted him, immediatly rising a hand to block the curses and death threats the Herald could throw at him. "Yes, I know, I'm sorry. I'm also sorry for abusing your projection droid for slicing into the comm system, but we need to talk."
"I have nothing to say to you", the Dark Jedi Master huffed.
"It's not true and you know it. Come to Antares, Kaine."
The signal flickered and vanished. Shortly thereafter, Kaine saw how the projection spider was released.
When the transmission ended, Kaine wondered why he'd become so angry. He had no real problem with the Jedi Master... his only true hatred was that of his former master on Yavin. He went back to the holoprojection room and fired up the droid again.
In the Dark Hall the droid stopped and turned back toward the lounge. The transparent blue figure rose from the platform, making an actual-size porjection of Kaine. Stopping in from of the Jedi, Kaine spoke softly.
"Ralltiir. Coordinates I will send through this droid. We can discuss things... there."
The Kaine projection seemed to reach to a console that was not in the Dark Hall, then his form flickered out. It was replaced by a planetary image with a spcific location point highlighted in red.
A silver streak shot through space and formed into the shape of a hyperspace ring carrying an Eta-2 Actis Jedi starfighter in a split second. The clamps released the yellow-marked vessel that fired up its engines and roared towards the green planet with its twenty-eight moons.
Inside, Mike Halcyon checked the very few instruments the vessel provided for any hint of a trap. He closed his eyes, reached out with the Force and followed the fine webs of the living energy field through the star system. Nothing.
"No, I don't think it's a trap", he answered the questioning whistle of the R4-unit in the Actis' left wing. The little droid rotated its dome fully around, beeping again a question.
"We had to leave so fast because I could already feel the impending danger. Faethor, Trev and the others... the did something." Halcyon frowned as the small vessel pierced through a small asteroid belt and passed a number of derelict Imperial ships. Witnesses of a battle long past when Ralltiir was the first planet to be liberated by the Rebellion after the Battle of Endor.
"I don't quite know", the Jedi Master admitted on a further inquiry by the small droid. "It was as if they started shrouding the entire system, making trespassing impossible." Truth was, he might not have been able to escaped if it hadn't been for Kaine.
"Arfour", he addressed the droid. "Send a message to Reb - he's probably already on his way from Coruscant. Inform him that he must not get near Antei under all circumstances." The droid whistled again. "No, I want to meet with Kaine alone. Tell him to wait for further information."
As the droid beeped affirmatively, the Actis sank into the planet's atmosphere, washing through the white clouds and soon howling over the green fields. Mike looked down and could see the scars from the fighting that had rained over the world so long ago.
Soon, as he passed over a large ocean, the Jedi Master could see the skyline of a city rising at the horizon. He double-checked - yes, this was the place where Kaine wanted to meet.
The yellow vessel's engines fired as it slowed down, rotating on its repulsor lifts as it slowly sank down on an exposed landing pad at the side of one of the numerous structures, the crystal water a mile downwards below it. As it safely touched down, the canopy opened, and Mike stepped out of the ship.
"No, Arfour, you stay here", the man commanded as the little droid ejected himself from the fighter, beeping and whizzing. "I need you to keep an eye out on the ship - it's our only way out of here if things get worse."
If they could get any worse, that was. Mike was in the vicinity of a Dark Jedi Master, a member of the Brotherhood's Dark Council whose mind was not fully clear. He just wished that he had have the time to construct a new lightsaber after he had lost one on Coruscant. And before he'd meet with the Herald, he'd first have to buy a new cloak.
Hiding the lightsaber in the sleeve of his slightly singed white tunic, Mike entered the city.
The city was a nightmare of activity, resembling all the frenzy of Coruscant. Mike found it a challenge to focus but pressed on. Seeking a directory or guide to find this shop, he shuffled through the hordes of people making their way around the numerous streets. Though, even all the confusion, he could not mistake one fact: he was being watched. Trudging down a less populated side street, he took a survey of the surroundings in an attempt to spot his observer. Nothing seemed out of place yet there was the unmistakable feeling that someone was watching.
Without drawing attention to himself, Mike hastily made his way to the nearest storefront. A protocol droid with a high pitched, scratchy human female voice greeted him.
“Hello sir and welcome to Master Orrick’s Showcase of Fine Footwear! I trust that everything you seek shall be found under our roof!” the droid chirped.
“Not unless you carry other clothing,” Mike jokingly stated. “Is there another exit to this building that I can access?”
“We do not carry anything but footwear at this time, sir,” stated the droid sadly. “It is of the finest quality in all of the system, and you would be hard-pressed to find such craftsmanship at such a low price.”
Mike shook his head. “I appreciate the offer but what about my question – is there another way out of here?”
Just then a portly squat man emerged from behind a counter. Clad in some stained clothing, a leather apron, and wearing some sort of optic enhancers on his head. He beamed at the sight of the Jedi talking to his droid.
“What can I get you today sir? You are most welcome to examine all of my goods until we find something that meets your needs!” Though his tone was jovial it was more than apparent he was desperate for business.
“Are you Orrick?” Halcyon inquired.
The man’s eyes widened even more. “Yes sir, yes! What can I do for you?”
“I do not need footwear today, however I do need information and that pays just as well. I need to know three things: One, do you have another exit other than this?” The Jedi pointed to the door he came through.
“Sure,” Orrick sighed. ”I have one that leads to an alley or you can go to either store on the side o this… or you can go upstairs and cross the footbridge to the building across the way.”
Mike nodded. “Great. Second, do you know where I might find a good cloak?”
“Cloak? Hmmm… I suppose you could try Nikloe’s… She deals in outerwear and such. She’s only a few...” Orrick pointed over his shoulder then trailed his speech off a bit. He seemed lost in thought. He snapped back into focus a minute later. “Oh wait no… she moved. I think she’s just outside of town now. Do you have a datapad or something? I can plot in some coordinates.”
Mike handed the man a datapad but suddenly sensed something unusual. He could not quite place it. Orrick looked a little dazed until he finished plotting the coordinates. Halcyon reached out with The Force and could sense many things, but nothing strong... Nothing like Kaine.
“I thank you for that,” the Jedi said. “Can you show me one of the other exits?”
Orrick motioned to the back of the store. “Come with me…” As they approached a small, unmarked door he turned to his patron. “Oh and what’s number three?”
Mike grinned. “What’s your best footwear? How much?”
The grizzled man smiled. “About 230 credits for these fine…”
“Here’s 500 – for all your trouble.” He handed the man a small metal chip. Stepping out into the alley the Jedi Master could not help but think it was some sort of trap. He glanced at the datapad coordinates. They were a good few hundred meters from Orricks, and in the opposite direction from Kaine’s. As the door slammed shut behind him, he took a good look at where he was. This “alley” had no exit. It was a pocket space surrounded by tall buildings. The door he came out of had no handle on this side.
A skiff piloted by an old Trade Federation battle droid lowered itself into the area.
“You’re the Jedi,” it buzzed, half asking. “He is waiting for you. Come with me.”
Mike stepped onto the skiff and the droid lifted off. Heading out of the city and into the green fields, the city slowly crept out of view. When the tallest buildings could no longer peek over the grassy hills they approached the site of a ruined palace. The ivy-laced earthen bricks and rotted wooden arbors echoed he former glory of this now derelict structure. The skiff settled in a courtyard and the Jedi stepped off. Much of the surrounding architecture was completely destroyed or even leveled, leaving only a footprint of its former construction behind.
There was a disturbance in The Force.
Slowly, the Jedi Master walked further down the courtyard. Soft moss gave way under his burgundy boots. In the light of the descending sun, the stone ruins casting shadows over each other in an intricate pattern, dancing around when a soft breeze brushed over the few trees.
Halcyon closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. This was a place of tranquility, a place of deep peace. The Force was strong here and yet, it seemed to be... wounded. A stain of the Dark Side traced through it, tried to hide its presence, sunk between the scarred rock like a horde of Rylekki pararoaches trying to escape the eyes of their pursuers.
With a sharp buzz, a lightsaber came to life.
Mike whirled around, pulling his own weapon in a fluid motion and awaking it as well. A bright flash lightened the face of Kaine Mandaala as crimson met azure crackling, painting the moss and stone in the vicinity blue and red.
In an instant, both Force wielders pulled away from each other, each driven backwards a couple of meters. Mike's saber came high above his head, pointing at his opponent over the figure-v fingers, Kaine had his gripped at his side parallel to his body, twisting his upper body to partially hide it.
"I am here now. What was it that you wanted to talk to me, traitor?" the Herald spat out. In an instant, Kaine furrowed his brows, seemingly confused. He regained control easily, though.
"You know why, old friend", Mike answered. "Back when I was still in the Dark Council, I could feel the sorrow and hatred in you - but unlike the others, you are different. You still have a chance of redemption."
"What do you know about me?" Kaine brushed him off. Both Force-wielders circled each other, testing out their defences. Then, in the wink of an eye, Kaine attacked.
The Dark Jedi Master rushed at the other men, sending wide and hard gashes at him. Mike carefully walked backwards, step after step, holding against Kaine's onslaught. The Herald's crimson saber came sailing over in a broad gash, seared through the air over the ducking Jedi Master and slammed into a stone arch, sending sparks flying into all directions.
"You know nothing!" Kaine exclaimed. He lunged for his opponent and missed only closely as the Jedi Master somersaulted backwards and up a stone ledge behind him. Walking up the old and broken stairs that lead half across the ruins, Halcyon looked down at the Herald.
"You are right", he admitted. "I know nothing. Tell me!"
Kaine deactivated the red-bladed lightsaber and opened his black cloak. He clasped the weathered hilt to the left side of his armored belt. He reached to the copper and silver weapon hanging from his right. The blue-black obsidian plates of his light body armor reflected a dull image of the shiny handle.
"Yes... While on the Council, you did feel something." He grinned. "Your feelings do not deceive you, as the Jedi teach."
He leaned back against a crumbled column and held the near-perfect lightsaber in his outstretched palm.
"I do not use this against your kind, Jedi," Kaine sighed. "This weapon I constructed in secret while I was still a student of Skywalker. Not a direct student, mind you, but one that attended hs teachings on Yavin Four."
Light gleamed off the lightsaber as it began to float a few inches above the Herald's right hand. Slowly it started to spin clockwise. "I was once like you," Kaine chuckled, "Misguided and foolish. I let others do my thinking for me. I let others handle the situations with their own ideas. I was never allowed to be myself and for that I was punished."
As he spoke, the lightsaber spun faster and faster until, in an instant, it dropped back into his hand. The area was bathed in a violet hue as the weapon ignited with a furious snap, forcing Halcyon to bring his lightsaber up to a defensive stance. The fabric of Kaine's cloak rippled like a small waterfall as he unclasped it from around his neck.
"I would hate to have to use this against your kind again. It knows only the taste of the blood of my true enemies, and I do not consider you among them." Darkness seemed to rise off the warrior like tendrils of flame. He reached to the other handle hanging at his waist and ignited it. "Though if you persist, you may join them."
Kaine stared up at Mike. The Jedi Master carefully walked over the columns and ledges, still keeping out of range of the Dark Side counterpart. The man in the singed, white tunic rotated the azure saber around his side as he stepped up a small stone balcony overlooking the courtyard Kaine was still standing in.
"I don't want to fight you Kaine", he stated watching the Herald step onto a short flight of staris that would eventually lead him up the stone ruins as well. "I have asked you for this meeting because what I felt back then is what I feel now - there is still good in you."
Kaine huffed, jumping up a broken pillar in order to step up another level. Mike looked around over the area, finding a slim stone slat that was part of the still standing western part of the palace. Placing a red boot on the ivy-laced ledge, he carefully balanced onto it.
"You've had a Jedi training. Remember what you learned! Get rid of your anger and hatred, it will only lead to your doom!"
"Your Jedi teachings have no effect on me", Kaine retorted. The Herald bend in the knees and jumped up, carried by the Force several meters up. A handfull of pebbles tumbled from the stone balcony as he landed on it. Following the Jedi Master's trail, he stepped onto the slat as well.
Mike turned around, the saber humming as he brought it up in front of his face, carefully balancing backwards on the stone structure. Soon, he would reach the end.
"You said you were never allowed to be yourself..."
The sun gilded the broken stone and moss-framed structures around the two Force wielders, sending its golden rays over the many crumbled pillars, broken ledges and fallen arcs, making it easy for the Jedi Master to tap into the Force and have it flow through him.
Then realization hit him.
"Mandaala... you are a clone?"
Shocked, Kaine stumbled. In the silence, all that could be heard was the blades retracting and hilts tumbling to the ground below. Lowering his blade, Halcyon winced as a wave of emotion washed across him. The stalwart pillar of bloodlust shrunk before his opponent.
"You..." Kaine whispered, "...are quite aware, Jedi."
Mike furrowed his brow and shook his head slightly. "Of what?" inquired the light-side Master, softly. "I know nothing about it."
The Herald's eyes darted around, as if he was suddenly aware he was weaponless. Turning to the puzzled, Kaine snarled then jumped off the balcony, Force-pulling his discarded handles to his eager hands. Clipping them back to his belt, he looked up to the balcony.
"I do not appreciate your games," the Dark Master shouted, still shaken. "It would do you well to not..." Kaine slowly looked over his right shoulder, then returned his gaze to the figure on the balcony and smiled. "It would do you well to research. Go to Manaan. Seek Jodo Grett. He will give you answ..."
The ground began to shake as a loud rumbling drowned out all other sound. Ancient archways crumbled and smashed all around. Kaine seemed to completely disappear amongst the dust and debris that kicked up. His worn robes getting even dirtier, Mike fought through the cloud enough to see the combatant board a light freighter. With a loud boom, the dust began to settle. The ship was gone.
Before he could make sense of what had just happened, a glimmer appeared on the horizon and quickly began to take form - a form that Halcyon recognized...
The Eta-2 Actis-Interceptor pierced through the clouds and came to a hovering hold high above the Jeid Master. The repulsor-sleds kicked in and lowered the starfighter just a few meters away. As it touched down on the rocky surface, dust still whirling around it, Halcyon clipped the saber back to his belt and walked up to it.
"Arfour, what are you doing?" he inquired. The droid beeped and whizzed, rotating its dome into the Jedi master's direction.
"I have no idea what you are saying", Mike continued, "but you sure as hell came in at the wrong time. I think I have reached Kaine - but there was something different."
The yellow droid beeped questioning, switching its domelight from red to blue and back.
"I don't know", the Jedi Master guessed the question. "But he told me to find a man named Jodo Grett on Manaan. I think we should go there. For the time being, Kaine is gone. If he doesn't want me to reach him, I won't be able to."
The sleek starfighter's canopy opened, allowing the Jedi to climb in. As it sunk down, the droid beeped again.
"Yes, I know that my attire isn't the best. That's why we're stopping by the big city in the south before we're heading over to the other side of the galaxy."
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Ever since the days of Bacta, Manaan's economy had decreased more and more. The once shining blue ball of water had seen an increase in overwater cities as it was forced to seek other revenues than exporting kolto. The oceans were no longer as pure as in the days of the Old Republic, the Manaans not as overzealous in their crime punishment than before.
Looking down through the canopy, Mike saw the green water pass by a couple of meters below him. At the horizon, the first of the four watercities rose from the waving ocean, shells and tang leaked up the outer walls that some time ago were probably from a shining silver. Now, unregular maintenance allowed for the surface to fall apart, get bents and even torn open every now and then, rust settling around the cracks like a wound's infection.
"What a nice place to hide", Mike commented. "I wouldn't be surprised if this Jodo Grett was a Jedi Master of some sorts. We seem to have a knack for hiding in the most shadiest of places."
The droid beeped.
Halcyon pushed the controls and hauled the fighter over the city's surface. A few clicks in the east he found a landing pad stretching outside, vulnerable to storm and sea - but probably inexpensive.
Not even a shiver ran through the swift fighter as the landing gears shifted outside the hull just a second before it touched down on the surface. The canopy opened for the Jedi Master to step out. His new brown robes flowed after him as he pulled up the hood, shielding himself against the rough sea breeze.
A clonk behind him signalled the astromech droid leaving the ship aswell. Mike looked over his shoulder, waiting for the little can to catch up. This time he didn't mind a little help.
"Arfour, I just wonder", he murmured as he walked towards the bulkhead leading into the city's outer ring, "how we are going to proceed from here. I know the Force will guide us - but this planet is big. And we have nothing more than a name."
The yellow droid pulled up to him and fluted softly, obviously agreeing.
A gentle breeze washed across a peaceful Ahto City, playfully misting the Jedi Master in a warm sea spray. The emptiness of Manaan’s development echoed a time of great prosperity. Neglect and time had left the metropolis tarnished. Taking a deep breath, Halcyon surveyed the structures before him.
“How am I to find one man in all this?” he questioned, rhetorically. Arfour beeped an answer, making his master smile.
“It depends on the man you seek,*PSSHK*” huffed an amplified voice.
Mike glanced to his right see six shock troopers clad in an odd, custom armor somewhat resembling suits worn during the Clone Wars. They all were pointing their rifles at him. As he reached for his lightsaber, one lowered his weapon and removed his helmet. The man looked to be in his mid forties, with a beaten, weathered face resembling leather. His near silver hair was dotted with the occasional black patch. His steel blue/grey eyes gave his stare a more pronounced intensity.
“You wouldn’t be…” he started, as he reached around to his back and brought forth a small datapad. The trooper studied the pad for a moment, then, without really looking up from it, blurted “Halk Yon… Hal Cee in…uh… Michael, a Jedi Master?”
Still leery, the Jedi gripped the hilt of his weapon and removed it from his belt. “Perhaps.”
“Great...” he sighed. He motioned with his entire arm and wiggled his head in a mocking gesture. “Here’s another one of these ‘mighty Jedi’ who can’t get asked a damned question and reply with a straight answer. Just as bad as that nerfherder Kaine. Look kid, are you this guy or what?”
Taken aback, Halcyon peered into the eyes of his inquisitor. “I am. Who are you?”
“Yeah – that’ll come later. Awesome,” the aged captain exclaimed. Putting his helmet back on, he motioned in a pseudo-military fashion. “Lower `em boys. Time to play escort.”
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The squad paraded for quite a few city quadrants with their Jedi captive. With his faithful droid in tow, Mike Halcyon was ushered into an unmarked storage area. Inside, all that was found was a single large crate. The troopers formed a semi circle around the front of it, leaving the Jedi in the void between their barrier and the box.
“This is where we part ways, kid,” chuckled the gruff captain's voice. “It’s been a blast.”
As they left in formation, Mike furrowed his brow. “This just keeps getting stranger and stranger.” Arfour whirred sadly.
A loud thunk assured him of what he suspected – he was being locked in. As the last echo of the sound trailed off, a high-pitched chirp came from inside the crate. Arfour wheeled around the side and found it had a droid access panel. The little droid beeped wildly.
Halcyon knelt by the droid and looked at the panel. “See what you can do.”
Arfour’s interface arm swung out and began to rotate the mechanism. The display was awash in red lights that progressively turned green as the droid worked. Finally, all six flashed green, then yellow. With a hiss of hydraulics, the front of the crate slid upward. The Jedi Master stood and peeked around the corner into the crate. It was empty except for an odd hexagonal trapdoor on the back wall, and a holoprojection cube with a flashing blue light on the floor. The cube chirped again.
Mike picked up the cube and clicked it on. “Hello?”
“Finally,” the familiar voice growled. “What took you so long?”
As the distorted image took shape, a man in dark armor stood proud. A black cape draped over his shoulders. The Jedi smiled. “Kaine? Who were those men? What is this all about?”
“This,” the Herald stated, very matter-of-factly “is how you find Grett. Those men were probably some of his Bounty Hunters in training…” Kaine muttered, somewhat to himself , “idiots that they are. They’re about as covert as a pink bantha on Hoth. I’ll bet they even made you walk in some sort of victory parade too.”
He smiled at the sight of the Dark Jedi looking off to a side and stewing. “What is this all about, Kaine?”
“You’ll find a trapdoor in this crate. It leads to a ducting system for the city. There you should be able to find him.” The figure held his hand out, palm down and flicked his fingers outward. The projection distorted and faded out.
"Ducts!", Halcyon exclaimed. "Just great." He narrowed his eyes and stepped into the twilight of the crate. Opening his inner eyes, the Force lending him its strength, the Jedi Master could soon see well again. As he kneeled down to examine the trapdoor, the little Astromech droid behind him beeped a question.
"No, Arfour, you can`t come along", the Jedi confirmed the droid`s fear. He threw a glance over the shoulder at the protesting droid, shaking his head softly. "I know you`re probably outraged because you can`t, like, electrocute somebody... or something. But those ducts are too small for you - at least the entry. I don`t know how they`re looking further in - but even if they widen, I need to keep a low profile."
Mike ran his fingertips over the edge of the hexagonal and stopped at one of the markings. With a soft click, the door unlocked and slid open, revealing a dimly lit tube. It looked like he had to crawl for the time being. A series of beeps and tweets behind the Jedi Master craved his attention yet again. Mike looked back at the droid who flashed his dome light blue and red.
"Even if you had the blueprints, I need to go in there alone. This Grett figure is quite proficient at hiding - unlike his thugs, that is. Kaine said they were bounty hunters in training - obviously Grett is their trainer. That, however, means I`m facing a seasoned bounty hunter. I need to be extra careful."
Finally, the stubborn droid agreed. Mike smiled and nodded.
"It`s okay. I`ll be back." With that he vanished in the ductpipe.
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Crawling through the plasteel rounding, Halcyon was lost in his thoughts. It hadn`t taken long for him to get his Binary up par again - thankfully. All those years in the Imperial Navy finally had something good.
It was always the past that came back to hunting the present. He didn`t know who Jodo Grett was - or what important information he held. But without doubt, it was something from Kaine`s past.
Mike crawled around a turn and pulled up to a metal lattice blocking his way. With a loud buzz, the Jedi Master`s saber came to life and flared over the durasteel breaking sparks into all directions. The blue lighting vanished as he turned the weapon off again, leaning back to kick in the lattice. As the blockade crashed down in the next room loudly, he slipped after it, noticing the big fan high above his head, circulating fresh air through the ducts.
Closing his eyes, the Jedi Master reached out with the Force. He found a set of golden lifelines, following them deeper down into Alto City`s guts. Below him, quite distant, there were a number of life signals - that must be where he should be heading.
The blue blade came to life again as Mike started to cut through the bottom of the main air vent. A red glowing followed the azure flicker as it slowly circled around, cutting a circle into the ground. A loud crash was swallowed by a splash as the circular cut-off hit the surface of water deep below, sinking into the depth of a sewer canal.
"It`s just getting better and better", the Jedi Master commented dryly as the smell already poured upwards, drawn in by the big ventilator above. Hooking the saber back to his belt, Mike jumped down.
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"Man, this sucks", the man complained. "I hate standing here, you know?"
His face was hidden behind a Clone Trooper mask bearing the markings of a Captain. The rest of his armor, however, suggested that it was nothing more than a colorful highlight. The other man, clad in similar rag-tag armor, sunk his Blaster rifle and scratched himself in the neck. He had to tilt his head forward, reaching below the edge.
"Yeah, yeah, you`ve been telling me the entire day. Why don`t you just shut the hell up? If Grett saw that, you`d be out in a minute."
"Grenn doesn`t have to stand here all day, you know" the other retaliated, looking around. Both men were standing in front of a junction leading away from the current sewer canal. A rusty lattice with an open door in the middle suggested some kind of bandit king hideout entrance. The two guards did their part to complete the image.
Mike watched them from down the canal, balancing on the thin edge of the durasteel ledge leading down the rounding. A couple of steel-carriers separated him from the bounty hunters in training, provided some visual cover. Carefully placing one feet in front of the other, the Jedi Master approached the junction. When he was just a couple of meters away, hiding in the dark of the absent lighting, he reached out with one hand, slightly waving with the fingers.
"Hey, what was that?" the first guard suddenly jumped to his feet.
"I heard it, too", the other acknowledged, raising his black glittering blaster rifle. Both men, alarmed and ready to fire, started to walked over a bridge in front of the junction and slowly, carefully up the canalway.
Mike slipped through the junction`s door right behind their back, producing not the smallest sound. Jodo Grett was just in front of him, somewhere - he could feel it. Soon, there would be some light shed into the darkness of this mystery.
After what seemed like hours, the Jedi found himself at a dead end. The long passage ended in a small, mesh-floored room with a large fan under it. A soft light shone through the blades of the fan as they lazily rotated. Stretching his arms above his head Mike could easily touch the ceiling, which was covered in small pipes and meter-wide panels.
"Just wonderful," he huffed. "Those two were guarding... nothing."
As he spoke those words, a panel opened on the ceiling of the dead-end wall. The bright light was a stark contrast to the relative darkness of the fan room. The Jedi adhered to a corner of his tiny space as he tried to reach out with the Force.
"I know you're down there," whispered a deep voice. "Let's go."
Squinting, Halcyon felt nothing dangerous. He stood under the hole, jumped upward and landed on the surface. He found himself on a metal platform near the water's surface. The man standing to his side ginned, his dark hair and youthful appearance disguising the age that came through in his voice. "I hear you're looking for me."
Mike examined the man. He had the body language of a confident person - common across the galaxy among crime lords, politicians and bounty hunters alike - and he sure didn't look like a politician.
"Possibly", the Jedi Master answered. "You are Jodo Grett" A statement, not a question.
The dark haired man slipped the hands into his pockets, the sea breeze tugging at his leather jacket with the metal clasps. A heavy blaster pistol rested at his hip, unsecured but still holstered.
"That be right, Master Halcyon."
Mike reached for his hood and dropped it back into the neck, the same sea breeze making the coarse robe fluttering around his body. Looking around, he examined the area. Him and Grett were standing on what seemed to be a maintenance platform just shortly above the sealine. Waves were splashing against Alto City's walls, leaking up the rusty metal. Grett was facing the Jedi Master with curiousity, the outer walls of the secondary docking bay in his back. Metal crates were lying around, moderatley secured maintenance gangways running around, extending left and right. No other soul was to be seen, although Halcyon felt that Grett's minions were there, ready to attack if needed.
"I understand that Kaine has informed you about my visit?"
Mike smirked. Two could play the game - but taking into account the severity of the situation, there were no time for playing games.
"I need to know about his past, Mister Grett. I need to understand his motivation."
"Yer come here all the way just for an ol' man's tales?"
"It seems to me that that's all you have left anyways", the Jedi Master remarked pointly, heaving his eyebrows.
"Don't get cocky", Grett huffed. The aged Bounty Hunter eyed his opponent. Halcyon crossed the arms in front of his chest, the winds getting stronger, sending his robe and hair jerking around his body like flames.
"Jedi", Grett added disapprovingly. He then turned to go, waving Halcyon with him.
"Alright, follow me."
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"It began with two siblings, Rahl and Kyuzo Archon", Grett began, sinking down into a big armchair, watchfully as to not spill anything from his Corellian Brandy. With the other hand he offered his visitor the other chair to settle in.
Mike turned his head to look around in the small apartment with the two duraplast windows in the east. The endless ocean extended outside, meeting the skies in the distant past to merge almost seemless. The apartment itself was filled with relicts from a time long forgotten, fitting the aged bounty hunter. On their way up to his private quarters, they had been escorted by two of Grett's 'soldiers' as an honor guard. The two men were waiting outside.
Halcyon walked to the armchair, tugging his robes over the thighs as he sat down, bending forwards to recieve a glass with the same golden liquid.
"Yer welcome." Grett took a sip, enjoying the feeling of the alcohol burning down his throat. Soon, a comfy warmth spread forth from his stomach, filling his body with new, calm energy.
"One of them, Rahl, was strong in the Force. He became a Jedi. The other, Kyuzo, didn't develop a connection as strong. Then, the Purge started."
Grett's voice faded as he realized who he was talking to. For a moment, only the far away sounds of the ocean rustled through the air.
"Go on", Halcyon asked him to continue.
"I was a bounty hunter, yanno. Gotta make yer credits somehow. I met Kyuzo when he was fifteen years old, searching for his brother. I warned him about the bounty on all Jedi. He was an intelligent one, coulda shoot a Krayt's eye even back then, yanno."
Grett paused to take another sip. Rolling around the golden liquid in his mouth for a moment, he swallowed it and continued.
"Rahl was killed on Dantooine seven years later by a woman named Seeni Mundari. Four years later, the laddie, Kyuzo, came to me. He asked me to train him as a bounty hunter - and, whaddayaknow, I did. Together we tracked down Mundari on Ralltiir, but she escaped."
"Not for long, I guess?" Halcyon inquired.
"Nope, Sir. Got 'er on Nam Chorios one year later. Killed 'er when she tried to escape. Kyuzo, though, got wounded. We knew he wouldn't make it. So I took him to them Cloners."
"Aye. They took a sample and created a clone of him, yanno. Pitched some Ysalamiri in there for accelerated growth. Two years later, Kyuzo`s clone was released into my care."
"Why did you do this?" Mike furrowed his brows. Grett evaded his gaze and looked out of the windows. Absentmindly, he rolled the crystal glass back and forth between his fingers. Taking another sip, he finally matched Halcyon's view.
"Been working with him for eight years. He was like a brother to me, yanno. You don't take the death of a brother easily. When yer in grief, yer doing things you shouldn't do."
Mike nodded understandigly.
"So, this clone - Kaine?"
"Yes. Something went on with him during the cloning, though. Kaine was strong in the Force - stronger than Kyuzo."
"Strong in the Force?" Mike echoed. "But that's not possible. Not only that clones are never sensitive to the Force - if his growth had been artificially accelerated with Ysalamiri, he would have been fully disconnected from it. Never could he have developed a connectiong with it."
"Whaddayaknow, I'm not a Jedi." Grett shrug. He reached for the bottle of Brandy to refill his glass. Mike leaned back in the armchair, stroking over his beard, intruiged.
"I met one, though. Korrath Lorren came to me with a contract. I should help him. Ferry him around and what not. I agreed. Kaine albeit quickly became his Padawan learner. Korrath took him to the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV - and that's where the problems started."
"Aye. See, he didn't know he was a clone. I never told him. But he also never knew about his past - I think I kinda spaced up there. Anyhow, four years in the academy and he simply left it to find out more about where he came from. Korrath was worried, of course. He searched for his former apprentice, send out his apprentice. That's where Kaine found out."
"He didn't exactly like to hear it", Mike guessed dryly.
"Nope, Sir, not at all. Kinda snapped. Swore an oath to kill all Jedi, too. He believes they lied to him about his heritage, that they wouldn't allow him to live his own life. It's prolly what would be labelled as 'bad luck', yanno."
"From my experience, there is no such thing as luck", the Jedi Master lectured. Finally, however, he could make sense out of what Kaine had said. Finally he could understand.
"What happened then?"
"Well, there was this girl, yanno. Saltri Na'mon - she was Korrath's apprentice. Kinda cute. I've seen her in the academy from time to time. She tried to bring Kaine back to his senses - but she didn't make it either. 'twas an unnecessary loss - she was a fine lass. After he killed her, he moved to Mimban. I haven't seen anything from him since then."
After Grett had ended, silence lingered above the room for a time.
"Satisfied, Halcyon?" Grett wanted to know. His mood had obviously taken a turn to the darker side as memories came flooding back.
"Not quite", Mike shook his head. "Kaine killed everybody he believes lied to him - yet you are here alive. Why didn't he come for your head?"
"He's got Kyuzo's memories", Grett answered. "He believes we been lifelong friends."
"I see. Well, that was most informative, Mister Grett." Halcyon rose from his armchair. "Thank you for your help." He bowed into the old bounty hunter's direction.
"Hey, whoa there, laddie. I'm not doing this for naught!" Grett furrowed his brows. "Whaddayathink? Come in here, have me talkin' and then just say thanks and leave? I been one of the best bounty hunters the galaxy has seen - this is gonna cost you!"
"I don't have much money on me, Mister Grett. I do have a reward for your efforts, however."
"And that be?" Grett narrowed his eyes, still seated. The Jedi Master walked up towards the apartment's door. He looked back over his shoulder as he answered.
"The rescue of an old friend from the darkness."
As he stepped out of the apartment, Mike could feel a wave of relief wash over the weathered bounty hunter. Perhaps there would be more gained in Mandaala’s redemption than he had first hoped.
Raising his comlink to his lips, the Jedi said, “Arfour, I’ve found what we came for, return to the ship, I will be there shortly.”
The astromech droid acknowledge with an approving chorus of beeps. Mike dismissed the comlink into his belt pouch and made his way through Alto City’s streets, reviewing the information he had pried from Jodo Grett. So, Kyuzo Archon was Kaine Mandaala’s true identity, in a sense… perhaps a visit to Korrath Lorren would reveal other secrets the Dark Jedi Master may have hidden from the Brotherhood of the Dark Jedi.
Something rippled through the force; a sudden unease, a coldness. He stopped walking and took his surroundings into consideration. The plaza was not relatively crowded, some selkath or human passer-bys seemed in a hurry, but nothing was out of the ordinary. His gaze finally settled on a cantina close by, or more precisely on a pair of icy blue eyes that studied him intensely. The owner of those eyes was a tall man with broad shoulders. Neck-lengthed black hair was brushed back to clear strong, handsome facial features. He knew this man. It was Cyris Oscura, an agent of the Brotherhood of the Dark Jedi. They had met on several occasion before Mike had disappeared from Antei.
Oscura had climbed to his feet and was walking toward him, now. The Dark Jedi was not wearing robes but rather what appeared to be typical smuggler clothing: a pair of black trousers lined by a white line at the sides, black padded boots, and a white mesh shirt covered by a black ribbed jacket. Cyris had the prideful yet vicious looks of an Acklay closing in on its prey.
”Micheal Halcyon,” the man greeted, nodding, “I was told I would find you here.”
”Your arrival is a timely one, Cyris, however late, as I was just on my way off this planet.”
“I fear leaving is not an option, renegade. Sources tell me you have been in contact with Kaine Mandaala. Your plans are clear to me… and I will not allow them to come to pass.”
“A Dark Jedi protecting another? That is an amusement. I’d have believed that to one of your kind, Kaine would have been yet another obstacle out of your way” Through the force, the Jedi felt other hostiles moving closer.
“Only the Jedi teachings would preach every Dark Jedi are disloyal and treacherous,” Oscura mocked before he nodded again this time to someone else.
As Mike expected, troopers encircled him, clad in black composite armor and aiming their blasters at his skull. They were from Oscura’s personal troops on Velrahn II, and it was almost flattering that Cyris had brought them to Manaan, only intent on his capture. In an instant, his lightsaber was in his hand, a blue-green beam hissing to life. He held the weapon close to his chest with both hands, keeping the blade parallel to his body. Should the troopers open fire, he would be able to quickly reflect the shots. Two more men joined the troopers. The force was strong in their movement. One was as tall as a wookie and as large as a swamp wampa, while the other seemed more of the acrobatic sort. Three Dark Jedi and twelve troopers… He was a master saberist, but Oscura had prepared for it.
“I have no wish to fight you, Cyris. Allow Kaine’s redemption, for his soul’s freedom.”
“And allow him to be weakened to Jedi ideals? Hardly,” Cyris spat, “Bahl, Enrick, entertain me.”
The Dark Jedi on either of Mike’s flanks ignited their weapons and lunged for the Jedi Master. Their own blades met as the Jedi jumped out of reach. Mike landed outside the ring of troopers, but they turned, opening fire. In a single swipe of his lightsaber, guided gracefully by the force, Mike deflected a perfect line of blaster bolts back into the group, taking down seven troopers. In synch to the dying blaster fire, Bahl, the hulking Dark Jedi, rammed his lightsaber against the blue-green blade with the strength of a Reek. Dancing back with the blow, Mike was able to side-step a pitiful flurry of downward arcs from the other Dark Jedi. Through the line of enemies, he spotted Oscura watching intently.
It wasn’t troopers, or the duo of Oscura’s followers that bothered him. They were most likely only meant to tire him. The battle had been planned and the true danger lay with Cyris himself, who was also known to be a superb saberist.
With a simultaneous thrust of his saber that grazed Bahl’s side and a swift kick that connected to Enrick’s chin, Mike drove the Dark Jedi duo to recoil. Muzzles flashed again, pouring blaster bolts. The blue-green blade flashed again and more troopers fell. It was Enrick who followed up this time with a low swing to the knees that Mike jumped over. The bigger brute caught the Jedi in mid-air with another hammering blow. Mike managed to block it, the strength sent him to his back.
Something fed on the force around him for an moment and Mike’s eyes widened when a blurred shape came crashing down on him. He was barely able to bring his lightsaber in front of his face to stop Cyris Oscura’s crimson blade from slicing him in half.
”Your Jedi teachings are right about one thing mike. Dark Jedi don’t fight fair,” Cyris hissed, pushing down on his blade.
With those words, Mike felt more life forms enter the area. More black armoured guards spilled into the plaza.
“Kaine will be better freed of you, Jedi scum.”
“Scum?” Mike said, undignified. “I’m not some low-life bounty hunter!” The Sith was suddenly thrown backwards by the Force, and Mike quickly got to his feet again.
The Sith motioned with his hand, ordering the newly arrived troops to open fire. Michael raised his saber, ready to deflect the attack, as several of the troops simply vaporized in a blaze of red blaster bolts. More rained down upon the soldiers, accompanied by the familiar thundering of vehicle-mounted blasters. A starfighter with blue markings soared low over the plaza, and turned around to launch another attack. Mild panic ensued among the troops, each of them trying to find cover from the coming aerial assault. Mike smiled, recognizing the fighter.
“A minor setback,” responded Cyris, swinging his saber at Mike as more blaster bolts rained down upon the plaza. The Jedi Master rolled sideways to evade the crimson blade, then jumped, just in time to evade attacks from the other two dark Jedi. Mike’s saber twirled around rapidly, blocking the attackers’ swings and thrusts while they tried to surround him. Moving gracefully around he managed to keep them all somewhat in front of him, but their continuing attacks left little opportunity to go on the offensive himself.
Above the plaza, he saw the starfighter turn around again, but instead of launching another attack, a brown robed figure jumped from one of the wings of the Actis. He landed in the centre of the plaza, cool brown eyes examining the fight going on.
“Hullo Mike,” the newly arrived man spoke. “Why do you seem to need rescue every time you go somewhere without me?”
“You just bring trouble along with you, Reb,” the Jedi Master greeted his friend and former apprentice, in between blocking several attacks.
“Actually, I was just trying to follow the trouble,” Reb answered.
Cyris paused his attack for a few moments, turning around to face the Jedi Knight.
“Reb Qel-Droma,” the Sith sneered, “Michael’s loyal puppy. Some people are going to very happy to hear you are both dead. Bahl, deal with him.”
The hulking man charged towards Reb, the other two continuing their attack on the Jedi Master. Reb calmly grabbed his lightsaber from the belt of his robe and activated it, the yellow blade extending from the slightly curved hilt. The red blade of Bahl’s saber struck the lightsaber with tremendous force, almost throwing it from Reb’s hands. Again the large man attacked, but this time the Jedi Knight deflected more gracefully, parrying the blade, feinting a counter-attack at his opponent’s leg. The dark Jedi moved his saber in a reflex to block, but left his torso unprotected. With a quick stab, the yellow blade pierced the man’s chest and he fell to the ground, dead.
Mike smiled as he saw Reb’s opponent fall. It was one of the many tricks he had learned him as his apprentice, and the fact that the dark Jedi had fallen so easily for it proved he had little actual experience. As he deflected another one of Cyris’ attacks, the Jedi Master deliberately created a gap in his defense where the other of Cyris’ henchman was attacking him. The dark Jedi immediately took advantage of the opening, just as Mike had expected. With a quick swipe, his opponent had lost his sword-arm.
“Fool,” Cyris hissed at the injured man, while pressing on his attack, swinging his saber in quick aggressive motions, again forcing Michael to focus entirely on blocking.
“Are you still going to help?” the Jedi Master shouted to Reb, who had grabbed a blaster and was shooting at some of the troopers that had come out of cover.
“Sure,” the young man answered, while motioning with his hand. An invisible force pulled at Cyris’ lightsaber. Though it only moved a few centimetres before the Sith could grip it firmly again, the distraction gave Michael just enough time for a single attack. A swing with surgical precision separated the emitter of Cyris’ lightsaber from the hilt, rendering the weapon useless.
“Nice swing,” Reb lauded his friend.
“Now would you care to explain what the hell we’re doing here?”
Langis Gyn Histop
“It’s a little complicated,” Halcyon said as he deflected three blaster bolts back to their source. The unfortunate trooper was scythed by his own fire and immediately clattered to the ferrocrete. Reb let loose a flurry of bolts towards the door where some more troopers had appeared. The black-clad guards immediately hit the floor, some of them for protection and some of them being hit by Reb’s fire.
“When is anything not?” Reb retorted back as he ducked behind a corner to avoid the incoming barrage of fire. Michael started to smile, then felt something through the Force. Sidestepping out of the way, he saw a red blade slice down at the exact point where he was standing. Swinging his own blue-green blade, he connected with a saber held by Cyris.
“Clever,” Halcyon said. “I almost forgot that your henchmen’s lightsabers still worked.”
“I do pride myself in being resourceful,” Cyris replied. Both Jedi flung themselves at each other, parrying and thrusting their sabers with a skill that few could master. Halcyon swung at the Dark Jedi’s head, missed as he squatted down, and was immediately greeted with a kick into his temple. He staggered back a bit and heard a sharp ringing in his ears. He called upon the Force and dulled the pain, swinging and blocking the incoming attacks of the red saber.
Reb had thrown himself into battle, throwing away the depleted blaster and drawing his lightsaber out. With quick slices and thrusts, he impaled most of the troopers in the area, blocking the incoming bolts at the rest of them. Turning off his saber and looking over at his Master, he saw that Cyris had gone on the offensive, as most Dark Jedi did. Michael was skillfully blocking each attack, retreating back with each step. Reb started to move towards the duel, when a dagger slid up against his neck. Reb stopped moving and gulped quickly.
“And just where do you think you’re going, Jedi?” a female voice hissed into his ear. “I know it can’t be over there.”
“Actually, that’s exactly where I’m going. You would be wise to lower your dagger,” Reb replied.
A pause. Then, “Your Master is going to die. Cyris is one of the best saberists that I know.”
“Clearly you don’t know who my Master is. That is Michael Halcyon, the best Jedi saberist that I know.”
Reb felt the dagger slacken against his skin and he knew that he needed to act now. “Halcyon? But how…” the woman muttered before Reb brought his elbow up into her face. She stumbled back away from him as he turned and got a good look at her. She was wearing a skintight spacer’s outfit, a small black shirt and long black pants showing off her curves. Her black hair was tied into a ponytail, showing off the beautiful features of her face. A blaster hung in its holster, and she had two daggers in her hands, both blades backwards. At any other time, Reb might have found her a seductive vision, but for now, she just looked dangerous.
“You will pay for that, Jedi!” she spat as she circled around Reb with exceptional grace and speed. Reb quickly activated his lightsaber, a small hum emitting from the yellow blade. A small amount of fear went into the mind of the woman and Reb focused on expanding that fear. He succeeded a little before her mind shut off from him.
“No tricks, Jedi. I am not some weak-minded fool. My ally is the Dark Side,” she said.
“Then you shall suffer, for that is all the Dark Side results in,” Reb replied. He slashed down with his saber and was surprised to see her step out of the way quickly and slice her dagger toward his throat. Reb pulled back as fast as he could, the dagger missing him by mere centimeters. With a flick of his wrist, he sent the yellow blade in a horizontal swing at her midsection, but found air. She had twisted and ducked under the swing, her mobility over him becoming increasingly apparent. She's quick, and she's obviously fought against someone with a lightsaber. How do I get at her? Reb thought.
Both pairs of Jedi, Dark and Light, fought with determination. Micheal had lost a bit of ground, but Cyris was starting to tire out. Reb had the advantage of a lightsaber, but the woman had remarkable speed. All felt the Force flowing within them as they fought...
Black swirled with lighter grey and some deep red as orbs of red-orange danced with the occasional white. A blue-white light crept into his vision as Dark Jedi Master Kaine Mandaala stopped rubbing his eyes and opened them. He knelt, meditating in what used to be a cargo hold on the now converted YT-2400 he dubbed the Vindicator. This ship held a lot of history - the cargo hold especially – though now it was the mobile base of operations for a confused and angry man.
His return to Ralltiir had upset him, but he could not understand why he let it get to him. Surely, all Jedi know who he is; that is why he hates them. Yet he got the impression that Michael Halcyon genuinely did not, as if the question was more of a revelation than an affirmation. Perhaps that is why the Herald felt the need to guide his Jedi opponent to Manaan, to seek Jodo Grett and learn the truth. Part of him regretted the decision, which is probably why he cryptically advised Cyris to keep an eye on Ahto City. On the other hand, perhaps that was too powerful a message to send, which is why he then advised Langis to seek training on the ocean planet.
He stood, and for a moment glanced around the space as if looking for something. A wave of energy came over him – the Force was fluctuating, as if someone tossed a stone into a still pool.
“Where are we?” Kaine half-whispered into a wall-mounted comlink.
“Still in the Kalamith Sector, sir,” the raspy battle droid replied. “In orbit around Belderone as requested when we left Ralltiir.”
The tired warrior lightly smiled and quietly snorted to himself. “Of course,” he thought aloud. “That is why I like you droids.”
He walked through the corridors to the cockpit. Four Clone War era battle droids manned each station. Kaine overheard one responding to a port hail and looked over to the communications board. The wildly blinking lights would relight moments after the droid deactivated them. “They have been hailing several times every hour, sir” the droid informed. “We still can transmit on an Imperial signal, so they think you’re some sort of inspector. They want to know when you’d like to land and where.”
“Perhaps another time I’ll entertain this. Get me to Manaan,” Kaine huffed.
“Roger roger,” barked the pilot.
[center]* * *[/center]
Waves crashed soothingly against the walls of the floating city as the sun bathed the planet in a warm, friendly light. The peace and tranquility of a quiet planet was shattered by the piercing scream of blaster fire and clashing lightsabers as the four Jedi fought. Only a few soldiers remained, and those that did not fall, fled out of fear.
Cyris and Michael circled around a landscaped terrace, anticipating each other’s moves carefully. As one gained ground, the opponent dodged to give more space. Reblet and his female assailant were facing a similar circumstance along a raised platform. As one ascended a small staircase, the other hopped off the side and ascended behind them, all the while keeping the other in view. Small attacks were parried and deflected. Everyone was at a stand still.
Ice washed over the two pairs of combatants. Heat distorted their vision in several directions, yet an unnatural cold was creeping across them. A figure stood on the edge of the city, his large black cloak billowing to his side. He turned his gaze from the ground upward, his ghost white face adorning a frightening pattern of war paint. He unfolded his arms and released the clasp on the cloak, allowing it to fall to the ground and reveal his familiar blue-black light body armor over a light grey undersuit. The figure unhooked the two lightsabers from his belt and crossed his arms against his chest. Taking a deep breath, he moved into a battle stance – his left arm extended, while his right arced over his head, pointing the weapons forward. Both blades erupted to life as he finished taking the stance, crouching slightly.
Reblet stared, confused. Langis half smiled. Mike Halcyon sighed frustratingly.
Cyris grinned. “Now you’re all in trouble.”
Mike narrowed his eyes. Kaine Mandaala - the person who had lead him here had now come to dive into the battle aswell. The Jedi Master's thoughts raced. Why was he here? Back on Raltiir, the Dark Jedi Master hadn't have a desire to fight. It had been some sort of primal bloodlust coming over him - the Dark Side itself. But back on Raltiir, Mike had touched his mind, had seen into the very spirit of the Herald - and found something.
Something the Dark Side inside Kaine most likely wanted to stay buried deep down.
Cyris' eyes flashed as he launched an assault at Halcyon. Driving backwards the Jedi Master with superior force, Mike had to give room to him. Cyris was faster and stronger than him - but his technique lacked. The Jedi Master's azure blade whirled around, slashed left and right, pinned down to deflect each of the other man's attacks, giving him no chance for a final gash.
"Nyargh!" Cyris got mad. Suddenly, Mike felt how space and time seemed to distort around his opponent as he was drawing upon the Force... no, not drawing. He siphoned from it in a way only the most primal rage, the purest form of dark side energy was able to. Mike was dazzled as the Warlord slammed his saber to the side, pushing through the normally quite reliable Soresu-defence. The Sith's foot came up, the padded boots hitting the Jedi Master square in the chest and sending him with a loud cough over the edge of the terrace and down Manaan's cityfront.
Mike slammed down and met hard resistance on the rusty durasteel, driving the air from his lungs as he slammed into it. Pain flamed up through his body, his view shortly distorted.
[center]* * *[/center]
"Mike!" Reb had watched his former teacher fall. His eyes jerked up to Kaine who was now jumping down a ledge and onto a nearby platform, ready to enter the fight. Then his attention was caught by his quite resilliant opponent who snarled at him, daggers up in an aggressive stance. The woman catapulted herself at the Jedi Knight, determined to finally end this confrontation once and for all.
The woman was still standing there, but Reb could almost see the tension building inside of her. Twirling to the side, he got out of reach just at the second Langis lunged at him just as she had done in his vision the milisecond before. The Jedi's yellow blade vanished in a slurping sound as he sent the hilt flying down at the Sith woman's head. Reb hit and Langis slumped down, unconscious.
He had no intention to kill her - and he had a feeling she would still play a role in the things to come.
Reb turned his head and looked over to Kaine, the seawinds tugging at his robes. The Sith stalked down a maintenance gangway, rusty metal slamming against Manaan's outer walls. The Jedi Knight had to shield his eyes when suddenly the sea breeze became a full fledged wind, throwing spray at the Force wielder. He didn't have to reach out with the Force to feel Kaine's powerful presence. He did notice, however, that something had changed. Whatever had happened in the recent time - it wasn't something good.
[center]* * *[/center]
Mike had finally gotten to his feet. Holding his head, he shook off the dizziness quickly. He opened his hand and his saber came flying towards, following a short roll on the rusty metal lattice he was standing on. The Jedi Master hooked the weapon to his belt, looking upwards at the other Force-wielders approaching.
There was nothing to be gained here, today. If at all, it would become a bloody fight.
Closing his eyes, Mike concentrated. He reached out with the Force, feeling how his heartbeating got slowed, becoming one with the pulse of life. The Jedi Master furrowed his brows as he imagined how the Force was connecting him and Cyris, him and Kaine and even the brave Guardian up there on the gangway.
Then Halcyon imagined how the fighting would continue. Cyris would, without doubt, jump down towards him to finish what he had begun. But while he attacked, he would find that his gashes would become more and more un-coordinated. At the same time, Mike's defence would become an attack, slash after slash hammering into the Sith's own defence, driving him backwards. After a while, he wouldn't be able to do anything but parry. Parry high, parry low, parry left and right. Fear would strike deep into his heart. Fear of losing the battle, fear of losing his life. Despair would join fear when he looked up to Kaine, seing how even the Herald that had such a great connection to the Force, would be fend off by his new opponent, the Jedi Knight.
Gash after gash, the Sith would be driven backwards. Acting with the powerful support of the Force, the mightiest ally in the galaxy, the Jedi would shine. Their sabers becoming deadly whirls, almost unable to parry. And if the Sith would not retreat, they would fall without doubt, however powerful their connection to the Dark Side might be. This was the hour of the light, the hour of the galaxy defending its sentinels.
Opening the eyes, Mike looked up, directly at Cyris. The Sith's eyes widened as he recognized the steadfast determination in his opponent's eyes. Waivering, he brought his saber up in defense, not approaching any further.
Jumping up the ledge, Halcyon landed directly next to Oscura. The two man's eyes met, gazes locking. Cyris snarled but did not attack, his mind trembling. Then the Jedi Master pulled back towards the gangway, joining his former Padawan. On the other side, the sea wind tugging at their clothes, Kaine and Cyris stared over to the Jedi, hatred in their faces and uneasiness in their eyes.
"We'll meet again", Mike prophecied, looking at Kaine directly.
"It will be your death, traitor", Kaine fired back, all hatred and anger.
"If that is the will of the Force, so be it", Mike retaliated. The winds became stronger. He had to yell in order for his words to be carried far enough. "But if this means I can save an old friend, it will not be in vain. Kaine! I know about Kyuzo! And I know about Korrath Lorren! The Jedi did not know it, Kaine - and you know this as well!"
"Run while you still can, Jedi!" Kaine threatened - but Mike saw that his words had hit. It was a subtle shift in his demeanour - nothing anybody could notice if he didn't know him as well.
"Explore your feelings, Kaine! I know that there is still good in you!"
Reb had the hilt of his saber firmly grasped. Looking at the darkening skies, he knew that this place would become rough with high waves soon. They had to leave. Now.
"Mike, hurry", the Jedi Knight urged.
Mike tried to search in Kaine's eyes for an answer. He didn't found one. Turning around, he nodded at his lifelong friend and brother. Together they left, hurrying for their ships.
Oscura frowned as he watched to Jedi hurry away. Allowing the anger to dissipate, to melt into the force, he silently moved to the unconscious woman and pulled her under his right arm then turned to face Kaine. For a moment their eyes met but neither said a word.
People had slowly started to step into the plaza again, but gasps and shrieks were heard here and there, most likely at the sight of dead soldiers. Or perhaps it was at the sigh of the two dark clothed men standing in the middle. Surely they all thought these two were responsible, which in part they were. Still, no one came close or dared to challenge them.
Oscura first broke the silence, “I did not expect reinforcements, my friend.”
Shrugging, Kaine’s eyes seemed to bare a new glow to them, a vicious… scheming glow. He turned his back to Oscura and slowly stepped toward a nearby railing, leaning on it. For a moment the Prophet seemed to study the waters, the waves, their velocity and size growing.
“You should not stay here, it will be your death,” Cyris warned before also turned away, starting towards the hangar bay he had landed in.
Once Oscura had made it out of the plaza, still holding Langis safely in his grasp, he turned sharply left down a passage that would lead him to the Obsidian II. Bringing a comlink to his lips, he barked an order at the ship’s pilot.
”Sir, how many will be boarding the ship?”
”Two,” Cyris answered, calmly.
“Two? Sir, that can’t be? Surely Bahl and Enrick are still alive?”
”No, Fentick, they are all dead. Now, just follow my orders. Oscura out.”
Oscura frowned at the female at his side. What the hell had a Guardian been doing there? Surely the Brotherhood still did not allow Journeymen to leave Antei or their clan planets without official missions. Coming to Manaan had in no way been on Brotherhood records. It should not even have been KNOWN.
Cyris lay Langis down in his quarters and studied her for a minute. She was still of use to him, whether she was a journeyman or not. She would either earn some standing with him, or she would be disposed or sacrificed soon enough. Still, she was on his ship now, flying away from Manaan’s orbit. She had nowhere to go, and she would have answers for him. At least, Cyris hoped, for her own sake, that she would.
He left her and moved to the cockpit. Taking a seat in the empty co-pilot seat, the Dark Jedi silently studied space as the Obsidian II broke into hyperspace.
”Sir, are you sure you wish to follow the Jedi? Without more troops, they could prove very dangerous,” Fentick inquired, nervous his curiosity would bring him trouble… or an unwanted answer. He was not fit to fight, only to fly a ship. Surely the Sith did not have plans for him beyond that?
“No. I don’t plan another head-on assault against Halcyon and his pet. Other strategies will need to be taken.”
Oscura eyed the blue tunnel of hyperspace, absent-minded. He had sensed something in his friend, something different, changing; something deeper than the bloodlust, deeper than the Dark Side. He had seen it in Kaine’s eyes. It had seemed like he himself, was thorn with uncertainty.
Cyris shook his head. He would not let it come to pass. Never would the Herald walk to light. Mike Halcyon would die before that. Or Kaine would.
A soft breeze flowed over the plains of Dantooine, the long grass waving to its rhythm. The sun shone brightly, a cloud occasionally moving on front of it, then blown onwards, bathing the plains in sunlight again. A group of large mammals were slowly moving about, grazing calmly, and if you looked carefully, you could see smaller animals dart through the high grass. It was a planet largely left alone by civilisation, but now two starfighters were standing in the grass, right next to a group of thorny blba trees.
Unlike the metallic vehicles, the two brown robed figures looked far less out of place, more as if they actually belonged here. Michael was sitting on the wing of his yellow-marked fighter, speaking to Reb, who had climbed into one of the engines of his own craft.
“I don’t understand why Kaine sent me to Manaan. He wanted me to find out about his past, but why attack me when I was about to leave? What is the purpose? He somehow seems to blame the Jedi for not telling him he was a clone, but how could we without knowing he was? And if I already knew everything about him, why send me to Manaan? It doesn’t make any sense.”
The Jedi Master paused for a few moments.
“Reb, are you even listening?”
“I am,” came a muffled voice from inside one of the blue Actis’ engines. “But really, I don’t have any answers either. I’m not sure Kaine himself has them. Could you pass me the hydrospanner, please?”
Mike looked into the toolbox next to him, and threw one of the devices towards the engine Reb was trying to fix. It changed direction mid-air and flew right into the exhaust port. “But there is still good in him,” Mike continued, “I can sense that. He’s fighting some kind of battle with himself.”
“But something changed last time we met, he seemed more powerful than I remember him, more angry, too. And this is the sonic screwdriver, not the hydrospanner.”
“Pick it out yourself, them,” Mike said. The toolbox leapt into the air, and started moving towards the engine. “But you’re right, he seemed changed last time we met him. If the dark side is consuming him, we may not have that much time left to save him. If I only knew how.”
Reb climbed out of the engine again.
“You would say ‘meditate’.”
“Yes,” Mike said, grinning. “You’re right. We should meditate.”
Reb could feel the Force flowing through him, a warm feeling spreading through his body. He was aware of Michael in his mind, guiding him, guiding the Force through them, letting them almost become one with the Force.
Suddenly, Reb became aware that his surroundings had changed. He was holding a green lightsaber, people were running around him. The grass he was standing on had been blackened in many spots, explosions could be heard everywhere.
“Cay, this way,” a man shouted. It took Reb a moment to realise the man was shouting at him. He was Cay Qel-Droma, what had made him think he had been called Reb? He shook off the strange feeling, and followed his comrade, Keiran Halcyon.
“There’s a couple of the Sith coming this way, we’re going to cut them off,” Keiran told Cay. “If we kill the Sith, we’ll be able to mop up the rest of the troops fairly easily.”
Cay nodded. “Is my brother among them?”
“We think he’s not even on the planet.”
Cay nodded again. “I suppose the Sith are using a speeder?”
“Yep, Sergeant McKinnon here,” Keiran nodded to the trooper that had joined them, “will take down the speeder’s engines, then we go in.”
The three men set themselves up behind a cluster of trees still standing, and Cay looked at the battlefield surrounding them. Troops, both from the Republic and Sith, were moving across the plains, tanks launching volley after volley of blasters bolts and explosives. At the moment, no side seemed to be winning, if the Sith themselves were allowed to join the fray, that would certainly change.
“Here they come,” McKinnon informed the two Jedi, pointing at a speeder coming rapidly towards them. The soldier grabbed his rifle, waiting for the speeder to come even closer, and then fired, blue bolts streaming towards the troop transport. Arcs of lightning played over the speeder, and it came crashing down towards the ground, leaving a trail of dirt behind it. The two Jedi quickly ran towards the speeder, where three Sith were emerging from a hatch.
Both Jedi Knights ignited their lightsabers, and the Sith followed suit. A furious battle ensued, Cay and Keiran drawing upon the light side to strengthen themselves, the Sith attacking in with great fury, using the dark side to feed their rage, sending bolts of lightning towards the Jedi. Though Cay fought with all his might, he knew the Sith still had the advantage; he and Keiran were in serious trouble.
Suddenly another speeder arrived, several other Jedi Knights emerging from the craft. The Sith looked both shocked and enraged at the same time, and attacked with renewed fury, but with the aid of the newly-arrived Jedi, they were quickly defeated.
“We’ll take it from here,” the leader of the reinforcements, a female Twi’Lek named Ilya, told Cay and Keiran. “You two can take the speeder back to base.”
“Thanks for the help,” Keiran said to the Twi’Lek, while Cay climbed in the speeder. As soon as Keiran had entered, the craft started moving.
“They almost had us again,” Cay sighed. “If it weren’t for Ilya, we’d both be dead now.”
“We got lucky,” Keiran agreed.
They said nothing for the remainder of the short flight, and got out of the speeder again at the base camp. Provisional barracks were scattered all over the terrain, Republic soldiers and vehicles moved about everywhere around them, heading towards the battlefields, returning from them, or trying to find the rest of their units. A soldier with the rank insignia of sergeant moved towards Keiran and Cay.
“Cay Qel-Droma?” the sergeant asked.
“That’s me,” Cay responded.
“Weapons Sergeant Smith wants you in his office.”
Cay nodded, and went to the see Smith. He had spent considerable time with him, tinkering with weapons, engines, or whatever had broken down and needed fixing. They had become fast friends, though Cay wondered why he need him. Surely if something had broken down he would just send some mechanic to fix it. Smith’s office was rather small, and tools and half-fixed weapons were lying everywhere. The man himself was sitting behind a cluttered desk reading through some reports from his staff.
“Hey, Smith,” Cay greeted the large man. “You needed me?”
“Hello, Cay!” Smith said, looking up from the reports. “Just the man I needed. Some clever fellas on Coruscant sent us some blueprints to tinker with, and this is the type of stuff I thought you’d like to get hands on.”
“What is it?” the Jedi Knight asked.
“Just look for yourself,” the sergeant replied, tossing a datapad to Cay. He quickly skimmed through the design, and smiled.
“That’s what I thought,” the sergeant said. “You can get some of my men to help you if you need it.”
“Thanks,” Cay said, still smiling. “You know where to find me.”
With that, the Jedi left the sergeants office, and went to find Keiran. He needed a test-subject, after all.
Langis Gyn Histop
Light penetrated through the Guardian’s eyelids, as Cyris turned up the lights. Her eyes jolted open, confusion coursing through them. She shook her head once and immediately regretted it. Cyris felt the pain in her wash over him and steeled himself against the torrent of emotions that she was feeling. Pain, confusion, anger, hatred. She obviously needs no introduction to the dark side, he thought. The Guardian turned to Cyris and widened her eyes in recognition. Taking in her surroundings, a look of realization slowly crossed her face.
“We killed them, didn’t we? We had to have, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” she said.
“Your reasoning is well thought out, yet your conclusion is wrong,” he replied. “But, you do not ask the questions, I do. You will tell me what I need to know.”
“You can’t make me.”
Anger flashed in Cyris’ eyes as he raised his hand. The Guardian’s hands shot up to her throat as she felt her breathing stop. Cyris looked into her eyes and waited for her reaction. As he looked, anger and hatred flowed in them, but slowly, her eyes filled with fear. Cyris smiled venomously and let his hand drop. She fell onto the floor, sucking in the air that was now available to her.
“I believe I have your attention now. Let us try again,” he said. “You will tell me what I need to know.”
She glared at the man with hatred, but said, “All right.”
“A while back, Kaine approached me with an opportunity to further my training. He had said before that I would be a great warrior, and a Sith with incredible resolve. He was the only one who seemed to feel that way about me at the time, and it felt good to have someone see my potential. So I decided to do whatever he asked me to do.”
She paused for a moment as memories surfaced in her mind. Cyris felt the raw emotion sweep over him and blocked his mind from it. The Guardian, who had introduced herself as Langis, was leaning against the bulkhead while sitting on the small cot that served as Cyris’ bed. Cyris studied her for a moment, crossing his arms and doing his best to look menacing. He had changed back into his robes, and looked every bit of the Dark Jedi that he was. He saw her shudder as she regained her focus.
“He at first wanted me to go to Mimban, so he could train me personally. The idea was exciting to me and I felt that I should go. But before I left, his holoprojection droid stopped me. He said that his plans had changed, that I should go to Manaan. I had never heard of the place before, which I told him. He merely said that if I wanted training that was second to none, then I would find Manaan and go there. After consulting the archives, I could find only one document that contained the system. So I plotted out where it was, arrived at Manaan, and then landed on the nearest city. I waited for a while, but soon heard blaster fire coming from the section of city adjacent to mine. I sneaked up as quickly as I could and saw you and your men being attacked. I waited for an opportunity to present itself and one did. The one you called Reb Qel-Droma was facing the other way, so I acted without thinking and tried to ambush him.”
Cyris shook his head. “But journeymen are not allowed to leave Antei. You can’t go back now, so why would you sacrifice that?”
Langis dropped her head and sighed. Looking back up, she said, “My training was taking me nowhere. I felt that I deserved power, but no one wanted me to have it. You know what that feels like? To train as hard as you can and get nowhere?” Cyris smiled at the Guardian. She IS full of potential. Kaine, you pick only the best, he thought. He allowed his smile to grow bigger. Which is why you picked me.
“Well, that explains how you got to Manaan and how you got involved. But what about-”
“Sir, we are approaching the planet of Velrahn II. What are your orders?” Cyris’ comlink quipped.
Cyris pulled his comlink to his lips and said, “Hold your position. I’m coming up.” He turned to the Guardian and saw her starting to get up. “No,” he said. “You stay here. I need to make sure that you aren’t just lying to me.”
He exited his quarters and shut the door behind him. The door lock beeped once and Cyris moved to the cockpit. Through the viewport, he could see the planet slowly get larger. “What are your orders, sir?” the pilot said. Cyris looked at the planet, then at the pilot. “Take us in,” he said. With that, he turned to the comm system to leave Kaine a message.
Soon, Jedi, he thought. Soon you will find that the dark side is more powerful than anything in the galaxy. And it will be a great pleasure to be the one to help you realize it.
The Jedi had gone, though where was a mystery. Cyris and Langis had also gone. The local authorities of Ahto City were trying to clean the mess left behind by the battle. There, amongst the disaster and destruction infecting an otherwise pleasant backdrop, sit a lone figure clad in a dark grey jumpsuit, pieces of armor scattered immediately around him. Screams of death and the pain of war raged through his mind as he attempted to regain his composure. A vision filled his mind’s eye as an icy wave of emotion washed over him.
Death. Some glimpse of a possible future? Or perhaps the past, but whose? Kaine struggled to absorb it as best he could without trying to analyze it. Red-orange suns bathed a yellow-orange sky as it faded into violet. Death. A dark figure stood above many fallen bodies. Kaine stood in the charred landscape as well. The figure ignited his lightsaber. The blue light bathed the singed remains of unknown combatants. As Kaine raised his own weapon his opponent shook his head. In the blink of an eye, the blue blade became red. Without warning, the figure lunged.
Manaan’s oceanic landscape quickly engulfed Kaine’s eyes, snapping him back from the trance-like vision.
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The twin suns of Tatooine were unkind to the Vindicator’s hull as it landed in the Judland Wastes. “Somewhere out here…” Kaine thought, “… Lord Vader’s fate shifted.”
Kaine took a deep breath. “Perhaps mine will as well.”
Sorry for the short one... just not feeling well the past couple days.
Sith. And they were approaching fast.
Keiran gnawed his teeth, the brows furrowed over the electrobinoculars. His slender finger moved over the zooming-wheel to get the enemy transports up close. Under the blinking, round reticle, the Jedi could see the dark, metallic hovertransports creep through the foliage several kilometers away, breaking over trees. A Dark Side juggernaut, bend on destroying the Jedi and the Republic they protected once and for all.
"Keiran!" Cay's voiced echoed over the forward command center. Sinking the electro-binoculars, Keiran looked over to his comrade in arms, pulling out of the Man-At-Arms' quarters. The sunlight reflected on Cay's right, metallic arm, sending sparks everywhere.
"Cay, they are breaking through our western flank", Keiran informed the other man with a dire voice. His long black pony-tailed whipped around his neck as he offered Cay the binoculars. Cay, wanting to use his long friend as testbed for a invention that could possibly give the Republic Army the much needed edge in this fight, was worried by the news. He reached for the electro-binoculars and looked for himself.
"Blast! You're right. They're already at Monni's Falls. If we don't stop this offense, they'll hit the lowlands within the next twenty-four hours. Once the Sith Army is in control of the lowlands, we're done for on this continent."
"That's exactly what I think, too", Keiran agreed. "We've got a problem, though."
Cay sank the binoculars, looking over to the man with the black goatee and the rugged looks, a shadow of worry over his eyes.
"I know. We don't have the time it takes us to assemble a division to repell them. We need to muster a task force ASAP and try to delay them."
Keiran nodded. Cay didn't say out loud what both knew - that a full stop of the approaching Sith Army with its silver-armored warrior squadrons and rage-driven Dark Side devotees would never be feasible - not with the small number of Jedi and support personnel the forward command post had available. If Cay and him would go in there, it would mean their end.
"Who knows, maybe a look at your face is all it needs for us to make them surrender, young one", Keiran smirked wryly. Cay snorted out undistinctively. He then suddenly frowned and look over to his long term friend, puzzled.
"Why did you just call me 'young one'?"
"I don't know..." Keiran seemed to be puzzled as well. Then he decided that there was enough time wasted already. The Sith transporters, accompanied by their hoverassaults, were coming nearer and nearer. They had to act - now!
"Cay, go and try to round up as many Jedi as possible - I'll get us a fast transporter and as much army personnel as possible."
"You got it!" Cay was already on his way, running down the ledge towards the encampment in the middle where a couple of Jedi were sitting, exhausted from the long fights. Not once did he question their common destiny.
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The winds whipped into the air transport's open cabin, sending Keiran's hair in wild spirals into the inner side. Squiting his eyes, he supported himself with on hand clasped to the door frame, looking down onto the battlefield. A scarred earth, woods and plains were destroyed, burned, annihilated by the pure brutality of darkness clashing against the light. Looking up, the Jedi could see the faint light of sabers in the battlefield fog far, far away. That was the northwestern battle zone. The Republic's troops were able to hold it - once the Sith strikeforce at Monni's would circle them, they'd face a hammer and anvil they couldn't escape.
"Faster!" Cay yelled into the direction of the pilot as he stepped up to his friend. Throwing a glance back inside, he could see the six Jedi Knights from the command post. All of them had agreed to follow him immediatly - despite the sure outcome.
"We're almost there, Sir!" the pilot yelled back. Keiran looked down - indeed, he could see the Sith transports carving their way through the woods already. In the vicinity, the crystal clear waterfall that gave the area its name was already tainted by the Dark Side.
"We can't wait!" Keiran turned to Cay and the others, his black hair jumping up and down like an angry snake. "We have to go NOW!"
Without a further word, he looked over to his friend and then jumped out of the flying aircarrier.
Immediatly, loud silence enveloped Keiran as he dove into the skies, the robes bellowing in the wind. Deep below, he could see the Sith army making their way through the woods. In only a couple of minutes they would pass them - and in the lowlands, Keiran and Cay had even less chances to stop them.
The Corellian Jedi picked one of the transports at the front. Its black top shimmering in the early evening's sun, he directed his fall into its path. With every heartbeat, the black juggernaut grow bigger and bigger, the air whistling in Keiran's ears as he mustered his strength to unhook his lightsaber.
The ocean blue blade ignited with a hiss that got swallowed by the sounds of the air movement just a split second before Keiran plummeted down on the Sith transport. Reaching out with the Force and landing on his feet and the remaining hand, the Corellian Jedi sucked in all of the kinetic energy to dissipate it into the area, leaving him with no injuries at all.
Not waiting even a second, Keiran raised the saber high above his head, stabbing it down into the transport's hull and slicing a round opening for him. Kicking the metal plate into the juggernaut with a swift movement of his boot, the Corellian Jedi hopped through it and vanished inside.
The black and silver transport continued his way - until suddenly it emanated a loud and harsh screak, slowing down and coming to a halt. At its side, five meters above the ground, the tip of a blue lightsaber blade flashed out of the hull, cutting open a small way for Keiran to jump out. The Corellian Jedi jumped to the ground just right before a bright flash emanated from the inside and suddenly a jet of fire shot out.
Landing in the grass, Keiran rolled on his back just in the right second to see secondary explosions roll over the hulk.
"Hah!" he exclaimed, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. Looking up, he could see the transporter shake and rattle - but not roll. Then, after it lay still for a bit with sick grey smoke pouring from various vents, a large loading hatch on the side of it rolled up, revealing lines of lines of silver-black armored Sith soliders, jumping down into the woods and swarming out. As they ignored him, the Corellian Jedi saw three dark figures emerging behind them, jumping down more gracefully.
Getting up just next to him, Keiran could see their deformed figures, the purple veins pulsing over their cheeks - Dark Side servants. In a fluid motion, the sounds of three igniting lightsabers hissed through the air still filled with far away blaster fire. Three crimson blades penetrated the wood's natural green, the Sith's hatred flowing over Keiran like a wave of darkness, trying to flush him away.
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"Oh, not good", he commented, bringing up his own saber in defence.
The first lunged at him. Keiran slammed his saber to the side, bringing his blade up in a vertical motion to deflec tthe second Sith's one. The third tried to stab him - but the Corellian evaded with a quick and still far too close sidestep. Punching the Dark Side devotee left of him square in the face, Keiran somersaulted over a gash from the first one, only to be forced to deflect the onslaught of two more sabers.
Calling upon the Force, the Jedi gained a short advantage that was rewarded when he twirled his ocean blue blade around his left hip, slicing upwards and cutting off one of his opponent's arms. Howling out, the Sith staggered back, holding his stump. The others, however, didn't care and pressed the attack.
Keiran was in the defence - they were good. Trapped in the woods, he did not have enough room to maneuver. More and more the two drove him off. Sweat pearled on the Corellian's temples as he had his saber dance up and down, left and right, only to hold the ground against his opponents - useless.
Keiran could see where this was leading. Gnawing his teeth again, the pony-tail dancing to the tact of the saber, he tried to find a way to escape, but to no avail. Then, in the blink of an eye, one of the devotees got through his defense.
The crimson blade washed through his vision and he instantly knew that it had not been deflected. Stumbling backwards, Keiran looked at the remnants of his saber hilt, now sparking and smoldering. Frantically looking around, the Corellian saw only escape routes that were barred to him because of his inability to move inanimate objects. Gazing back at his opponents, he saw the two Sith advance, enjoying the moment of victory.
The Jedi steeled himself for the inevitable when suddenly something whisked down behind the two devotees, followed by two short flashes of green. Getting to her feet was a quite stunningly beautiful woman, sporting almost a mirror version of Keiran's own black pony-tail. The Jedi robes flattered her well-trained but still very female figure and her eyes had a purple hue to them, rivetting him immediatly.
"Thanks", he still managed to state, stepping over the bodies of the two dead Sith, clipping his destroyed lightsaber to the belt and hauling one of the Dark Side devotees'. He narrowed his eyes, looking at the woman in the Jedi clothes again.
"You're welcome, Master Halcyon", she smiled. "For every Jedi I save, I get that much closer to bringing back peace to the galaxy."
"I'd say that's a good attitude!" Keiran remarked, smirking. "Miss...?"
"Jana Gyn", she replied. "I was with you onboard the airtransport. And it looks like I got here right in time."
"Aye", Keiran nodded. "Right in time to save a Jedi."
A bright golden flash.
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Mike opened his eyes, trying to find out where he was. Right a moment ago, he was in the woods talking to this woman - and now he was here on... where was he? Oh, yes, Dantooine.
Getting up from his cross-legged position, he cleared his mind. It wasn't him that had been in Monni's Falls, stopping the Sith onslaught - it had been Keiran Halcyon.
Looking over to Reb, he saw that the Jedi Knight was still in trance - he would awake soon, however. Frowning, Mike stroke through his beard. When it came to the Force, there was no such thing as past, present and future - it was all one. What he had seen - what he had experienced was real - at least from a certain point of view. Keiran Halcyon and Cay Qel-Droma really did stop this onslaught a hundred years in the past. But why had the Force showed this to him?
Then he remembered.
Kaine remained by the Vindicator for quite some time. His apprehension of walking under the suns again overwhelmed his curiosity of the vision. He sat in the shadow of the YT-2400 and closed his eyes, concentrating. Many years later he still felt every ounce of pain from the expedition. Death. So much pain, so much torment. Crying, pleading. Darkness. Two bright eyes in a wash of red.
He shook himself out of his trance and glared at the ground, then rubbed his eyes. Something became clear – It was not his trek through the wastes of this lifeless planet that bore him so much anguish. Kyuzo. As a bounty hunter he made many outings into the desert, searching for those who do not wish to be found. Was he stranded? Was it self-inflicted?
“I am Kyuzo,” he reminded himself. “The pain, the memories are truly mine.”
He took a deep breath and thought aloud. “What was I doing here? Why am I here now? Sitting here is not going to supply these answers.”
He stood and stepped into the sunlight. It instantly warmed his black boot.
“These celestial demons have ravaged me once,” he growled, pointing to the sky. “They’ll not get another chance to destroy me.”
“Who are you talking to, sir?” a battle droid inquired.
Kaine looked to the droid and grinned.
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“Land here,” Cyris Oscura instructed to his pilot, pointing to a flattened plateau amongst a sea of spiky mountains. “For now we’ll seek refuge near the temple.”
Leaving the cockpit, he stepped into a holoprojection transmitter and attempted to contact Kaine. The hail was accepted, and his screen danced to life. He bowed his head low and slowly brought his gaze upward. Where he expected to see the face of his master, he was greeted with the slender head of a battle droid. Letting loose a short gasp, he quickly relayed his message.
“Tell Master Mandaala that I have Langis. Though I do not quite trust her tale, I also do not quite know what to do with her. We shall remain on Velrahn II. Please advise.”
“Roger roger,” the droid blurted.
Cyris quickly cut the transmission short and shook his head.
“I hate those things,” he snapped as he hastily exited the room, “and he knows that.”
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Under his boots the sand felt like lava. The twin suns beat down on the dark clad figure in the barren and unforgiving Tatooine landscape. Minutes turned to hours as Kaine wandered through the desert reaching out through the Force, searching for something – anything – that could possibly explain his vision.
A battle droid accompanied the Herald through his mysterious journey, though used only as a walking coat rack as it carried his outer cloak.
Langis Gyn Histop
It permeated the very air that she breathed as she tried to meditate on the Dark Side. Most people would find peace and comfort in silence, but Langis’ childhood prevented that, the constant noise of Coruscant becoming her lullaby. Silence was torture to her, an endless nothingness that she dreaded. She had tried to focus on the Force, to tune out her discomforts like her Master had said, but it was almost futile to her.
My OLD Master, she thought. Looks like Lucien won’t be seeing me anymore. Leaving Lucien was one thing that she was not happy about, but she still had no regrets. Too much was at stake, namely her training. Leave those thoughts behind, she thought. Focus on the Force and nothing else. Not the past, present… or the damnable silence in this room!
The silence was broken, however, by the sound of footsteps in the corridor. Her eyes snapped up as the door whisked open. Cyris Oscura stood in the doorway, studying her intently. She moved back on the cot until her back hit the cold, metal wall, fearing that he would kill her. He sat there for while, then shook his head.
“Why did you have to come to me?” he said to himself.
A look of puzzlement crossed Langis’ face. “I thought that I told you. Kaine said that-”
“I meant it as a rhetorical question. I know your story, Guardian, you need not tell it twice,” Cyris interrupted. He turned back into the corridor and said, “Follow me.”
Langis got up from the cot and followed him, albeit cautiously. He seemed to notice her discomfort, smiling and saying, “If you are telling the truth, then you have nothing to fear.” Langis immediately relaxed, knowing that she was faithful to her superiors. They walked to the back of the ship and descended down the exit ramp onto the planet.
The planet that they stepped onto was not one that Langis was accustomed to. Smoke covered the sky, the majority of light coming from the red bursts of nearby volcanoes. The darkness gave the whole planet an evil aura, something that she both feared and was comforted by. They walked along a small path of stone, vegetation being few and far between. Natural stone pillars rose up from the ground every ten feet as they walked toward the side of a mountain.
“I find myself in a difficult situation, Guardian. As of now, you are of no use to me, which prompts me to… dispose of you,” Cyris said. Her eyes widened a bit at the thought of what he could do. He continued, “However, if you are telling the truth, then I cannot just get rid of Kaine’s newest pupil. So I am forced to keep here at my palace.”
As if on cue, Langis vision suddenly opened up. The palace was carved into the side of the mountain, the stone pillars turning out to be statues of long dead sith. She gasped in amazement at the place, her mind sensing the overwhelming Dark Side presence. They walked on, reaching a huge metal door. Cyris waved his hand once and the right side of the door opened fractionally, enough to admit the two into the cavernous hall beyond. Red and black silk decorated the walls, giving the hall an evil, but beautiful air. She was slightly taken aback by the wonderful display, wondering how he had attained beauty with strength.
“This is where you will stay,” Cyris said, leading her to a small door on the left. To each side of the door, two sith statues stood, seeming to guard the room. Cyris waved his hand over the keypad and the door opened into a lavishly decorated room with a refresher unit. The room seemed to made for a woman and Langis thought it might have been an old girlfriend's room. “Do not attempt to leave this room or I will know about it. The best bothan slicer that credits could buy designed my security. I trust that you won’t make any mistakes while here,” he finished.
“What do you expect me to do?” Langis asked. Cyris turned to her and smiled. “Wait.” He turned and walked out the door, saying, “I will come back for you when Master Mandaala contacts me.”
The door closed with a loud bang. Beyond, she could hear the sound of the keypad locking. Well, at least he didn’t kill me, she thought as she sat down on the bed to meditate.
“Do you think she will be any trouble, my Lord?” asked the sergeant next to Cyris.
“No, sergeant,” he replied. “She definitely believed my security story. She won’t be a problem.”
The sergeant looked back at the door, then at his Master again, frowning. Cyris barked a short laugh, then said, “All right, sergeant, if you feel the need, then put two guards next to her room.
The sergeant smiled, then saluted. “Yes, sir.” He quickly left the presence of the Dark Lord, eager to do his bidding. Cyris sighed and headed down deeper into the depths of the palace…
It was there again, screaming in her mind. Focus! she thought. I will never learn anything unless I focus! She took a deep breath and thought about the Force. How it connected all things, how she could use it for herself. She used it to dull the silence, helping her flow deeper into the Force. Helping her to remember her past, to remember…
A bright, golden flash.
Langis hit the back of her head against something hard. She yelped in pain as the rest of her body met the object and tumbled down onto hard dirt. Confusion coursed through her mind, wondering where she was. The stench of a grenade hit her nostrils and went into her throat, causing her to cough violently. She opened her eyes and was greeted by the sight of a soldier dressed in strange, silver armor. Who are they? What are they doing here? she thought.
"Stand up, and no tricks, Jedi," said the soldier.
Sith, that's what they are, she thought. "I can't move. Could you-"
A green flash of light interrupted her. She watched as the soldier's upper body slid off of his legs, and onto the ground. He was replaced by a man holding her lightsaber. "You saved me, I saved you. I'm beginning to like this pattern," he said, deactivating the saber and handing it to her.
She took it and clipped the hilt to her belt. "I was wondering if you survived that explosion. I expected to be alone in that fight," said Jana. Keiran gave a small laugh. "If you can call that a fight. It looked to me like you needed some help," he replied.
"Hey, I had everything under control. I was about to make my move, but you interrupted. Not that I don't appreciate the help," Jana said with a smile.
"Don't worry about it," he said. "I'm sure that there will be plenty of times where you will save me."
A thunderous crash issued ahead, the source being another transport bearing down on them. Jana's saber hissed to life, while Keiran reached for his. Then he remembered. "I'm hoping that one of those times is now," he said to Jana while he looked for something to use as a weapon. The transporter grew closer, until Keiran saw the the small form of a Jedi on the roof climb into the speeder. "Never mind, my friend arrived," he added as he watched the vehicle come to a crashing halt.
Jana shook her head. "Are your friends always this loud?" she retorted with a smile. She killed it quickly when three more Dark Side devotees jumped out and turned on their sabers. She charged towards them, hoping to give Halcyon enough time to find cover...
The young woman, a Jedi Knight named Jana Gyn - she had saved Mike... no, Keiran Halcyon back at Monni's. Mike threw a short glance over to his former Padawan, finding him still in deep trance. Walking over to his slightly scratched starfighter, he drew in the sleeves of the coarse brown robe, heaving his head towards the sinking sun.
Whatever the Force was showing Reb, it was Gyn that it had intended to show to Mike. The striking resemblance with the young Protector that had so bravely attacked Reb on Manaan was uncanny. Without doubt she was an heir to the Jedi that so long ago had stood against the forces of evil.
The Jedi Master stroke through his beard again, watching Dantooine's red sun sink behind the horizon thoughtfully. No Force-wielder with ancestors so deeply devoted to the light could fall to the Dark Side too firmly. If history had tought anything, than that ancient Jedi bloodlines were always inclined towards the either or the other side.
For a short moment, the image of Corran Halcyon flashed before the Jedi Master's eyes, reminding him of his failure on Corellia. The blonde man closed the eyes, turning his head slightly to drive away the issue concerning his brother. For the moment, the present dealt with Kaine and the young woman from Manaan - Gyn. He felt clearly that she was the key to saving Kaine. But more than that, he also felt that there was something else...
Throwing back a glance at the still meditating Reb, Mike made a decision. He stepped up the wings of his yellow Actis and slipped into the pilot capsule. Tapping a button on the side, the canopy began to lower itself, reflecting and breaking the glowing sun's light like a foreshadowing of darkness.
"Yes, we're leaving, Arfour", Halcyon confirmed his astromech's question. Reaching for the command console and touching a couple of buttons, the repulsor sleds kicked into gear. The Republic interceptor began to hiss as it lifted into the air, pushing away leaves and small branches. Reb wouldn't notice him leaving - so much he was entranced in his vision.
"Where to?" the Jedi Master echoed after the little droid let out another series of whistles. The man looked up as the vessel's sublight engines fired, propelling it swiftly through the outer atmosphere and into space. "I don't know... yet."
The droid beeped and rotated its dome, the optical sensor changing from blue to red and back.
"Yes, the Force will guide us, Arfour. Trust me", the Jedi Master responded, ignoring the astromech's snide remark.
Within seconds, the Actis had reached one of the two hyperspace rings orbitting Dantooine. The clamps locked onto the fighter's sleek form for a tight grip. A metallic clank accompanied the docking procedure. And while the astromech droid was preparing the jump to hyperspace, Halcyon closed his eyes, exhaling deeply and opening up himself to the Force yet again. This time, he recalled the image of the Sith juggernauts cutting their way through the green vegetation - and the Jedi forward command center. Reaching out, the Jedi Master allowed the living energy field to flow through his mind and body. A small nudge into the right direction and his fingers began to dance over the alphanumerical keyblock on his left side, punching in a hyperspace jump vector.
"Yes, I am sure, Arfour", Mike answered the curious droid's question. "And, yes, before you ask - I am aware that there are no hyperlanes leading there. But trust me - our destination is there." In times past, he might have added an 'Or this will be the shortest hyperspace jump of all times' - but now his voice was filled with confidence. The Force was a powerful ally, indeed - and Halcyon had learned to trust it fully.
The Jedi Master reached for the hyperspace lever and pulled it without hesitation.
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Within the blink of an eye, the blue tunnel collapsed into the streaking, white starlanes that suddenly jumped back to small dots of light in the black vastness of space. A green planet with a visible number of oceans and two moons suddenly filled the entire viewscreen. Mike squinted slightly as the Actis darted into the sunside of the planet, and soon thereafter, lowering itself into the atmosphere.
Without doubt this was the planet the Sith onslaught had been halted so long ago. The taint of the Dark Side was almost physical. And after just a short number of circles, the Jedi Master found the area he was looking for on the nightside, right beneath the foothills of a large mountain ridge.
Arfour whistled apprecieatively as Halcyon pushed down the sleek interceptor, almost dropping through the tree canopy. A flood of green and brown whisked past beneath the hull as he turned on the lights and headed for the big shadow in the east that soon turned out to be a magnificant waterfall, falling down the entire ridge and nourishing the roving hills and deep forests.
Finding a place to land proved more difficult than Halcyon had imagined. The forest had reclaimed its soil over the centuries, closing the wounds the Sith had inflicted. Tree stood next to tree, preventing any intrusion. The Jedi slowed down the Actis until he arrived at Monni's Falls. And there, indeed, he soon found a clearing that was suitable to land on.
Touching down there, Mike soon realized that this was no coincidence: The once crystal blue water of the falls were black and muddy. Trees in the vicinity were dead and crippled - and yet seemed to be in a state of half-life were they would not die and make room for new, fresh wood. Opening up the cockpit hatch and gliding onto the ground, the Jedi felt the grass creak under his boots, a sick brown permeating the entire ground. This place was tainted by the Dark Side.
"You stay with the ship", Halcyon ordered as the little droid cheekily tried to unlock itself from the port wing. Ignoring the astromech's protests, the Jedi Master pulled in his cloak and headed for the woods. It was probably quite dangerous to wander these lands - but these fields of battle held the only key able to open up a link between him and the young woman. Battles such as these always left their traces and marks in the Force, as did the combattants. The question wasn't if Halcyon would come across Gyn's traces - but when.
With the two moons high above in the skies and the jungle awakening all around, Mike had a troublesome march in front of him - and time was running out.
The room was silent and cold, wrapped in a thick veil of darkness. In its center stood Cyris Oscura, crouching low, feet wide apart with one arm stretched to the front defensively while the other gripped the unignited hilt of a lightstaff behind him. Sweat pearled down from his damp hair, down his face and his naked torso. The void that had filled his mind throughout his work out slowly faded and he regained a consciousness of his surroundings.
Too much bothered him and that only served to fuel the anger deep inside him. His mind wandered wildly from his shameful defeat from Mike Halcyon to the curious, yet strangely attractive, woman that resided in the quarters of his late wife to the hundreds of tasks that the Brotherhood charged him with. His lips curled back into a snarl as he hurled the precious lightstaff’s hilt violently against the nearby wall. Tremors of the Dark Side pulsed inside him though he fought to control himself.
He frowned. Day by day, the Dark Side seemed to tighten its grip around him, each day threatening to drive him mad. He shrugged the idea out of his mind and turned his thoughts to Langis. He’d lied to her before. He knew very well why she was here, and why the Prophet had decided to send her his way. She was to be trained, and Oscura was the man to do it. Her former master, a weak-minded tool of the Brotherhood, could never take her to the heights of Dark Side study that Cyris could reach. She would have remained a stagnant, unexploited asset, but with Elders like Oscura and Mandaala, she could tap into her potential. Still… she would need to harness that fear that emanated from her.
The southern entrance to the training annex whisked open swiftly, the light of the outer hall pouring into the room. Oscura turned to greet Langis as she was led into the chamber by two armed troopers. The Dark Side Adept motioned the guards out of the room and soon darkness swarmed them once more.
Though neither could see the other, Cyris Oscura could feel the young woman. Some fear still lingered in her, but her courage and determination seemed to have taken the better of her. Allowing the essence of the Dark Side to flow around him, he wrapped the tendrils of the force around her neck and violently heaved her off the ground. Satisfying squeaks escaped from her and he could feel terror swell inside her. She wanted to scream, she wanted to claw her throat out, yet she could do neither.
“Your fear is a useless tool, young Langis. Heed not what former masters have thought you. It is indeed of dire importance that you unlearn what you have learned, if you wish to embrace your true potential.”
He smirked. He had a use for her indeed. And that would serve well as her training into the shadows, her training into the true depths of the Dark Side of the Force..
He would reveal it in due time, but for now, she had to forget her fears.