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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:23 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 20, 2004 3:58 am
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Location: England
Obroa-Skai Capital City.


The Corellian built YT-2000 transport raced low over Obroa-SKai's capital city.In its wake, windows were left rattling and in some places the thrust pulled tiles from rooftops. Ground based turbolasers and anti-aircraft weaponry were brought online, but they struggled to track the fast moving, low flying ship. The few shots that the defensive weaponry managed to fire in the right direction went wide as the Chronus blurred past.

In the cockpit, Deven Tarn focused on dividing his attention between watching the sensor board and weaving the transport between the few buildings that were actually taller than the Cronus' current altitude. In the co-pilots seat, Katrin Halcyon had her full attention on the sensor board. She was searching for the location of a particular building.

"Got it!" She nodded, "Turn forty degrees north"

"Turning" Deven responded, "What am I looking for? They didn't exactly go for variation in some of these buildings, I can't tell libraries from housing"

"There" She indicated a squat, ornate builiding with four spires at each corner and a transparisteel dome in the centre, "It's the old police headquarters. I guess the Neo-Seps took it for their own use when they took the world"

Deven smiled, "That dome looks big enough to get the Chronus through if we get rid of all that transparisteel first"

Katrin thought for a moment, then nodded, "Gets us out of the weapon sights of those fighters that'll be here in three minutes"

"What's the ETA on the Sacul?" Deven asked.

"Three minutes" Katrin shrugged as she brought up the targeting computer and dropped the crosshairs over the dome, "Considering the Sacul had to travel all the way from the nearest moon. It's not a bad time"

"You think we should warn somebody that we're about to blow a hole in ther roof?" Deven asked as the dome grew larger in the cockpit viewport.

"Fine" Katrin said sending a low power bolt at the dome.

The bolt lacked the power to do much more than blow out a few panels of transparisteel, but it was really the best and only way of really providing a warning of what was coming next. Increasing the power Katrin fired the main laser cannon again. This time the results were more spectacular. The blast vaporised fully half the transparisteel dome and as the air around superheated and as the air cooled, the expanding bubble of air blew the rest of the dome out in a shower of transparisteel.

"Nice" Deven grinned as he throttled back and guided the Chronus down through the now open roof, "Rrowv and Void ready to go?"

Katrin nodded as the Chronus desended into what appeared to be an over ornate assembly hall, "They've been itching to go since I got back on board"

"Just what I like to hear" Deven smiled, "Give them the go"

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Even before the Chronus had touched down in the assembly hall. the boarding ramp was down and Rrowv and Void were dropping to the floor, heavy blasters sweeping the room. Normally the sight of the towering Togorian and the sinister Defel always served to send a spark of fear through enemy troops. The shock always gave them a few extra seconds to go on the offensive.

Usually.

But not this time.

This time there were no enemy troops to fill with fear, no weapons fire coming at them. In fact, there was a complete lack of activity. Just a considerable amount of corpses littering the floor.

In surprise, both Rrowv and Void lowered their weapons and stared incredeously at the rooms only other living occupant.

"Relax" Face grinned, "Building's secure. Most of them did a runner when the dome was blown away. I dealt with the rest"

"Colonel?" Rrowv frowned, "We're...erm...we're here to rescue you" The Togorian paused for a moment, "I think that was the plan anyway"

Face smiled, "Good job so far then" He said dryly, "Should have been here earlier then you wouldn't have missed all the fun" He started towards the boarding ramp, "Now lets get the hell out of here"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Deven allowed himself a small smile as Rrowv reprted that Face had pretty much rescued himself. They should have expected it really, Garik Loran was nothing if not resourceful. Where most people saw a problem, he saw a challenge. Where most people would dispair, he just got inventive.He always found a way to get out of whatever situations he found himself in.

"Message from the Sacul" Katrin said, "New squadron of fighters incoming. Our flight path is going to be busy"

"Got it" Deven nodded and hit the intercom, "Rrowv, Void, get on the turrets. Soon as we clear the roof we're going to be the centre of attention"

Without waiting for a response Deven turned his attention to powering up the repulsors and sending the Chronus rising towards the hole in the roof. Meanwhile, Katrin concentrated on ensuring the shields were at full operating power. The were going to be taking fire from any fighters the Sacul failed to deal with.

At the rear of the cockpit Face slipped into the passenger behind Katrin.

"Report" He said, as he strapped himself in.

"Well" Deven said dryly, "We had this big, complicated rescure plan put together and we got here and find you didn't need rescuing" He laughed, "We called in the sacul to hold off the local fighter squadrons while we busted you out. Now we've got the info, we're gonna make a run out system and jump to Myrkr"

"Kicked up a bit of a Rukus in the process it would seem too" Face nodded as the Chronus emerged from the police headquarters and into the sky above the city.

In the distance, they could see therecognisable shape of the Sacul looping around over the city and exchanging fire with a swarm of Vulture droids. Further off, a full wing of fighters was apraoching the city, they weren't actually visible to the naked eye, but the sensor boards showed them in precise clear detail.

"Time we were out of here" Face said.

"Agreed" Deven nodded and opened up a comm channel to the Sacul, "Sacul, this is Chronus. We're bugging out. Disengage and head out on our trajectory, we're going to need your firepower when that destroyer moves to block our hyperspace vector"

"Destroyer?" Face frowned, "What destroyer?"

It was Katrin that answered, "The VicStar that arrived in orbit not long after I got back to the Chronus after we got separated. Sacul intercepted some transmissions, apparently they're here for you"

"Makes sense" Face shrugged, "While I was captured I learned that they'd had us under observation from a few days after we arrived"

"They saw through our disguises?" Katrin frowned.

"Well, mine anyway" Face sighed.

Deven laughed and looked over his shoulder, "You? They saw through your disguise? The great Face had a transparent disguise?"

"Yes, I did" Face replied tensely, "But please, concentrate on not crashing into a building and killing us please, Deven"

"Spoilsport" Deven grinned with amusement in his eye, but turned to look the right way in any case, "Sacul's coming up on our wing"

Face glanced out of the cockpit and caught a glimpse of the sleek and deadly shape of the Sacul. As he watched, the Sacul's lasers flashed towards aft at the pursuing fighters and second later, he flet a tremble through the deck as Void and Rrowv added their own fire to the mix.

"I take you you have a plan for getting past that destroyer?" Face asked.

Katrin nodded, "We're actually racing towards it's location, but keeping within the planets atmosphere" She answered, "We'll pass under them in a few minutes and then while they're struggling to reorient, we'll break for space and our hyperspace vector"

"And the fighters?" Face pointed out.

"I know you know the answer" Deven replied, "They're already diving into the atmosphere towards us. They'll have to burn off speed and turn to pursue us and in the process they'll block the ones currently on our tail. By the time they get themselves turned around and get their speed up again, we'll be breaking atmo"

Face frowned, "I'm seeing a few flaws in this plan"

"It was the best we were able to come up with in the time we had" Katrin said, keeping one eye on the sensor screens and the rapidly approaching squadrons, "As soon as that VicStar showed up time became a luxury" She turned her head enough to look at him, "Besides, we can't all come up with brilliant plans on the spur of the moment" Her eyes focused on his hands, "What the hell happened to your hands? Did they pull your finger nails as a form of torture?"

Face hesitated, "Yeeeaaaahhh! That's exactly what happened"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Victory Star Destroyer Warrior.
High Orbit.

Commander Ilia Zhat watched out the viewports as the Warriors fighter squadrons raced towards the planet. Seeing the Vulture and Scarab droids caused her to wrinkle her nose in disgust. When the Warrior had been captured by Neo-Separatist commandos, a lack of trained pilots had led to droids being assigned to the Destroyers fighter bays. Ilia, as a former Imperial officer always felt that the only fighters assigned to an Imperial vessel should be Imperial fighters.

Then again the Empire was gone and Ilia had to accept the changes evident in the galaxy.

Likewise, most of her crew were droids to make up for the lack of trained crewers. A Victory Star Destroyer usually left dock with around five thousand crewers. Currently ILia had approximatly two thousand, the rest were droids hardwired into the ships systems. she didn't like it, but she had been aware when she signed with the Neo-Separatists seven years ago that there was a shortage of capable crewers and pilots. She made do with what she had.

"Sensors, report!" She called.

The sensors officer looked up at her, "The targets are still heading in our general direction, but they are no longer gaining altitude. They will pass under our position in approximately three minutes. Their current course will not have them breaking the atmosphere"

"Dammit" Ilia muttered, "Helm, full turn. Bring us about one-eighty degrees. We'll pursue till they try to break from the atmosphere" She ordered, "Flight control, have the fighters move to intercept. We'll get them"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.

"Star Destroyer is turning" Corran reported.

"Meaning what?" Kai asked, "Is it an immediate threat? Do I have to worry about it at this exact moment? More importantly, what's for lunch?"

"It's not going to be any real problem" Sacul answered, "Too slow and too cumbersome. Those fighters on the other hand are a threat"

"How long till they catch up?" Corran said in question.

"About a minute while they regroup and the two groups avoid crashing into each other" Sacul's voice was thoughtful as if she was actually thinking about the answer rather than obtaining it directly from her sensor arrays, "After that, they'll be in firing range in two minutes, twelve seconds"

Corran thought for a moment, "Two to break away?"

"Two minutes approximately" Sacul answered, "Deven's keeping the actual moment fluid in case he gets a bad feeling through the force" Sacul's tone indicated that she felt Deven's reasons were less than sensible.

"Groovy" Kai muttered sarcastically, then shot a look at Corran, "No offense to the force and all that, but I don't like depending on a mystical feeling"

Corran shrugged, "I know Deven's plans can be a little out there, but I seem to remember some equally strange plans from a certain Twi'lek"

"Touche" Kai sighed.

"Enemy fighters entering weapons range" Sacul cut in, "Bringing rear weapons to bear and opening fire"

"Then again" Corran said dryly, "Deven's poor sense of timing can be a problem. Sacul, can you transfer control of one of the turrets to my console?"

"Done" Sacul answered.

A moment later Corran's screen changed from status displays and switched to the view of the outside from the turret he now controled. In addition, a turrent control yoke rose from a recess in the console to alow him pinpoint control of the turret. It wouldn't be the same as sitting in the turret, but it did mean he could stay here in the cockpit in case of emergencies.
The stick pushed slightly against his hand as he drifted the target crosshairs over the closest target, a Vulture class droid fighter. The cross hair flickered orange to indicate the target wasn't quite in targeting range, but was within weapons range. Allowing the force to guide him, he drifted his aim across the Vulture and squeezed the trigger.

The Sacul's rear heavy blaster turret flashed with discharged energy and a burst of laser fire speared the Vulture droid, burning through it's forward hull and vaporising the delicated CPU brain. As the fighter dropped from the sky in a spin, Corran tracked his aim over to the next target in line and fired again. His laser fire cut across the droids port wing assembly, shredding it and blowing apart the weapons array. The fighters drop toward the ground was more controlled than it's wingmate, but it was still a fatal plunge.

By this time the rest of Sacul's rear oriented weapons had picked out targets and Sacul was doing her best to thin out the pursuit. Lasers, missiles and flak clouds filled the air between the Sacul and pursuers along with explosions as that fire impacted its targets.

The comm crackled and Deven's voice filled the air, "Break for the black now!" He called.

Even before Deven had finished speaking Kai had pulled back on her control yoke and slammed the throttle to four-fifths of maximum, sending the Sacul racing for the void of space at a pace that kept them side with the slightly slower Chronus. As Corran's stomach lurched, his screen spun until he was looking almost straight down at Obroa-Skai's surface.
Meanwhile, the pursuing fighters were now struggling to overcome the own interia as they attempted to change their course to pursue the two vessels. In fact, as Corran watched there were several collisions as a number of fighters pulled up across the path of other ships.

Within seconds the black of space had replaced the skies of Obroa-Skai and both the Sacul and Chronus were racing for the hyperspace jump point, the VicStar lagging impotantly behind and the handful of fighters that had continued pursuit were left as drifting clouds of debris.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

General Octavia Terah's Office.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer.
System 3458.

Time slowed to a crawl.

Having your life flash before your eyes, Octavia thought, was actually surprisingly heartbreaking in places. Yes, you got to look back over many of the key events in your life, but also many of the worse ones. Happy times in her family's workshop, leaving Tatooine and being accepted into the New Republic Military Academy, graduating, being accepted to Rogue Squadron and then her transfer to and adventures with the Wraiths, the disbanding of the squadrons and her reassingement to the NRI repair bays, command of the Ackbar and her rise through the ranks. All filled her with a mixture of happiness and sadness.

The faces of her family flashed before her eyes. Her parents Zan and Faith Terah, both retired and living their days in peaceful relaxation and her brothers and sisters, Quint, Kess, Nikana, Danison, Barrad, Tiberius, Verun, Keth and Kader and their own familes. She felt intense happiness at seeing each of them one more time and sadness that she may no longer see them again and that she had never had the chance to share their joys at having children of their own.

Then the bad events. Her fathers heart attack that had encouraged his and her mother's retirements, Levatt's betrayal, Senator Decker's witch hunt against her, the disbanding of Wraith squadron -again, she thought- Rickard's betrayal and death at her hands, the death of Hiram Jolar and now, her approaching death at Lucas Penrose's hands.

It had been, Octavia admitted, a well lived life. She'd made a few mistakes, but nothing truly serious and she regretted a great many things. The important thing was she hadmade an impact on the galaxy.

However, more importantly, she wasn't ready to die yet.

Time sped up.

Still gasping for breath, Octavia pivoted on her rear and brought her leg up to crash against Penrose's chest. It lack power and general accuracy, but the impact surprised Penrose as he'd not expected Octavia to fight back at this stage. His grip on the garrote slackened briefly and as her leg came back down, Octavia shot her hands up through the loop of the garrote and pulled it open enough to slip her head free.
Drawing deep beautiful air into her lungs through an incredibly sore throat, Octavia scrambled to her feet and darted for the intercom. Halfway there, Penrose tackled her back down to the floor sending them both tumbling across the deck.

Still woozy from a holiday from oxygen, Octavia drove her left elbow back against Penrose's stomach. This time she managed to put some power behind it and Penrose's breath blew out of his lungs in a single whooshing breath and he drew back off of Octavia. Still continuing with the same movement Octavia rolled over and brought her right hand to slam closed flst against his ear. The impact was the equivilant of a very small bomb going off in his head. He yelled in pain and clutching his head gave her time to regain her feet.
He recovered quickly though and regained his own footing, setting himself up to intercept her whichever way she went.

Octavia decided to attack.

She took a step foward and Penrose mirrored her move and grinned at the prospect of a fight. Unfortunately, Octavia had recieved hand-to-hand training from some of the best combatants in Wraith and Rogue Squadron. K'jtari, Hijaka and basic Teras Kasi from Face Loran, a form of wrestling from Piggy, down and dirty fighting from Adorni Glamel and boxing from Deven Tarn. Penrose was in a for a very unpleasent surprise.

Octavia ducked his first swing and unloaded a pair of solid one-two punches to his stomach. As he doubled over, she switched styles and spinning on her right foot brought her left leg up and cracked the side of his head with her foot. He staggered back and Octavia pursued to deliver a combo of open handed palm blows against his chest. She felt at least of his ribs crack under the impact and he yelled in pain.

Unfortunately, his reach and anger still gave him an advantage over her.

A sudden slap against her cheek stunned her. Wrapping her in a bear hug that pinned her arms to her side, he literally lifted her from the deck and grinning evily, started to squeeze.

Unwilling to give up, Octavia kicked out and scored a solid hit against his shin. Startled by the impact he released her and as soon as she dropped back onto her feet she grabbed and handful of his uniform and bringing him towards her slammed her forhead against his nose and smashed it flat in a spray of blood.

In a rage and with his face a mask of blood, Penrose lashed out with a powerful blow that spun her to the floor.

With the groan of pain and with her vision turning on its side, Octavia tried to rise one more time but the cabin began to spin.

"Uhhhhhhhhh...." She groaned around the blood in her mouth from a cut cheek.

"Oh, come on!" Penrose snapped angrily, "This isn't the way it's supposed to happen. Sure, you're supposed to die. But since you insisted on fighting back you have to run around a bit first, fight back" He wiped blood from his face, "What fun is this?"

"Fun?" Octavia whispered harshly, "FUN?" She shouted.

With a single movement so fluid it seemed she was made of liquid, Octavia rose up and decked Penrose with a single, powerful blow that shattered several of his teeth, crack two of her knuckles and sent him dropping to the deck.

"How dare you?" She shouted as her rage exploded over, "How dare you trivialize life and death! Is that all this war has been to you, fun? How many, eh? How many have to die for you to get your jollies?" She dropped onto his chest, one leg either side of his body and raised her fists, "How many?" She demanded as she drove her fists down against his face, the red rage descending.

She drove her fists down again and again until she lost count and her hands had gone numb.

Suddenly a new arm, this one musculer and green wrapped around her pulled her from atop Penrose.

She began to struggle in her assailants grip, but the harsh metallics tones of the voice of the owner of the arm cut through the mist of anger.

"General, enough!" Piggy shouted as he all but dragged her across the cabin, "Octavia, stop. He's done. It's over"

Her anger disappating, Octavia looked to her captor, "Piggy?" She rasped, wincing at the roughness in her voice, "What are you doing here? How did you know HE was here?"

"Sorry, General" Ryan Montjar said apologetically from where he knelt over Penrose's unconcious, bloody form, "We didn't. We came to report something we'd found out about Mr Penrose here and heard your shout. It took us a few minutes to override the security lock and get in"

"Oh" Octavia said quietly as she realised, if not for coincidence either her or Penrose would be died by now and Penrose was a lot closer to it than she was. She slipped from Piggy's grasp and the moment she tried to stand on her own, her legs buckled and she would have fallen had Piggy not grabbed her again, "Whoa, shaky"

"I'll call for a medic team" Montjar said with concern.

"And a security team for Penrose" Octavia rasped, "Now what did you find out?" She asked as -with Piggy's help- she slumped into the office's couch.

"Well" Montjar said rolling Penrose over and slipping stun cuffs on him, "For a start, his name isn't Lucas Penrose. It's Koss Mallowes and before he became Lucas Penrose and joined the New Republic Military he was an aide to Karka Vek'la, a minor Bothan Functionary on Coruscant. More interesting is who Vek'la's immediate superior has been for the last eleven years"

"Vorsk Kel'lya" Octavia said harshly., "I'm starting to see the lines joining the dots here"

Piggy nodded, "We missed the link at first, then we discovered that Penrose's military record itself was faked. Nobody named Lucas Penrose served on any New Republic vessel prior to his assignment to the Ackbar. From there we began looking at who had the skills to fake, not just an identity, but an entire military history"

Montjar took up the narration, "We went through the usual suspects. The Neo-Seps, Imperial Intelligence, New Republic Intelligence and New Republic Fleet Intelligence" He shrugged, "We eliminated the NRI and NRFI on the basis that they've shown they are more closely allied with the military than with Kel'lya and his puppet Supreme Commander. We also eliminated ImpTel since there is no Empire anymore and the methods are very different from anything I'd ever seen in ImpTel"

"Which leaves the Neo-Seps or some private agency" Octavia frowned.

"Yep" Montjar smiled, "So I started taking a closer look at the code involved and I noticed some interesting code strings. I brought it to Piggy...I mean Commander saBinring...in the hopes he'd be able to give me an clue on recognising the code. Almost straight away he spotted something very interesting"

"Which was?" Octavia asked, ignoring the pain from her throat.

It was Piggy who answered, "A very interesting encryption style developed and used exlusively by the Bothan Spynet"

"Okay, I see how you got the Bothan connection" Octavia scowled, "But how did you make the connection to Karka Vek'la?"

"I had an inspiration" Montjar answered before pausing as the office doors opened and a medic and a security team entered.

The security team picked up Penrose, who by now was showing signs of returning to conciousness, and dragged him from the office. In the meantime, the medic gave Octavia a basic examination and informed her a more detailed examination needed to be done in the Ackbar's medi-bay, but told her that she didn't have any serious or life-threatening injuries. Octavia dismissed the medic after promising to report to the medi-bay by the end of the day and then turned to Piggy and Montjar.

"Right" She said, "Continue"

Montjar nodded, "Ok, as I said, I had an inspiration. I worked with the assumption that Penrose was connected directly to Kel'lya in some way. So I ran Penrose's face against the records we had of Kel'lya's staff over the last ten years. I had to take a shuttle and carry the data over to the Barghest since we were still in full lockdown over here. Once there I logged onto the holonet and pulled down Senate records then ran a search against Kel'lya's staff" He smiled, "Number one match is to Koss Mallowes, who at last notice was on Mon Calamari for assignment"

"The same place Lucas Penrose originated" Piggy nodded, "Montjar brought the information to me and we came straight down here. Lucky we did"

"Yeah" Octavia nodded, "And I'm very, very grateful for that. Though I do point out the evidence is still flimsy at best"

"We know" Montjar shrugged, "In fact, if you don't need anything else, I have some leads to chase down"

"Very well, Major. Get me whatever you can that will let me nail Kel'lya to the wall" Octavia smiled, "Dismissed"

Once Montjar had gone, Octavia realised that Piggy was looking at her strangely.

"What?" She frowned, "I'm okay, really"

"Are you?" Piggy asked carefully, his mechancial tone oddly filled with concern, "The Red I remember could have never come close to beating a man to death" He sighed, a deep rumbling typically Gamorean sigh, "Nor would the Red I remember have fled into privacy like you have done"

"What are you saying?" Octavia asked in a small voice.

"You've changed, Octavia" Piggy answered, "And I think it's a change thats destroying you inside" He stared at her for a moment, "It started with the unfortunate Hiram Jolar didn't it?"

"Yes" Octavia nodded slowly, I now know I should have found another way to get him off the ship, but I can't change that now. Since his death at my hands, I've been plagued by nightmares that have eaten into my sleep cycles. Add that to the stress and even more sleep disruption this Penrose cause with his antics and I'm on the edge" She gave a sharp laugh and immediately regretted the pain it caused her throat, "My patience and temper have been shorter than Kai's attention span"

"Have you spoken to Doctors Murray or natu about this?" Piggy asked.

Octavia winced, "I'd just decided to do so when Penrose jumped me" She frowned, "Who did he get past the security systems to get in here anyway?"

"We'll work that one out later" Piggy shook his head, "In the meantime, you need to go down the medi-bay to have your injuries checked out and to get something to help you sleep and I won't accept any refusal. Oce you are back to command capabilities, we're going to resume your meditations"

Octavia smirked, "Fine" She rose to her feet, far more steadily this time despite the popping in her back, "I'll go" She smiled, "Oh, and Piggy" She tirned and embraced him, "Thank you for caring"

"I always will, Red" Piggy returned the embrace, "I always will"


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Nashira Public Starport.
Nashira.
Skye.

Nightime had fallen on this part of Skye and despite the well lit nature of the starport, long oppressive shadows stretched from every ship and structure. A multitude of vessels were arrayed on the landing zones, from small one man fighters to shuttles to light transports to the largest and heaviest freighters capable of landing on a planet.
Since the starport was so close to the city, night landings and take offs were forbidden here at the main starport and any new arrivals were diverted to the secondary starport further out from Nashira. As a result, apart from a few security patrols, there was very little activity here tonight. Normally, some of the crews and the starport techs would set up a large grill in the centre of the landing zones, set some crates up as seating and tables and would have one of the famous Nashira Starport BBQs. such events even brought civilians in from the city. There were restrictions of course for security, but the events always went well with even Queen Oslo-Tarn and her husband attending several over the years. Unfortunately, the heavy rain that continued to pour down had led to tonights get together being called off.

Tonight, the only signs of life were the three man security teams that walked their regular patrol routes, checking that ships were secure and cargo had not been tampered with.

From the shadows of one stack of crates Jonah Levin watched as the security team currently doing the rounds -really three of his own men- moved towards a battered looking GX1 Short Hauler Light Freighter. As they passed the vessel, one of the men held out a torch and sweeped it underneath and over the vessel, apparently looking over the ship for suspicious damage or signs of the local wildlife taking refuge in the landing gear. In fact, the torch also contained a powerful thermal imager and as the torch swept across the GX1, an image was beamed to the screen Jonah held. Displayed were the thermal outlines of four crew aboard the vessel, exactly the number that the surviving intruder had revealed was on board in her interrogation.

It had taken time to get the information. The woman had been horrifically burnt by Wes Janson's improvised bomb and had required extensive medical treatment to stabilize her. Even when they had the information they hadn't acted immediately and had spent several days observing the vessel and its crew and juggling things to ensure that everyone currently on the starport tarmac was one of his own Royal guard or a trooper from the Skye Military.

The rainstorm had been an impressive help forcing the cancellation of the usual cook off and reliving Jonah of the need of having to find someway of preventing it from going ahead.

In addition, Queen Trinity Oslo-Tarn had insisted on the delay while one of Wes Janson's other creations was readied. Jonah had done his best to talk her out of what she intended, but he had been unable to convince her to stay out of the line of fire. She was so angry at the attempted kidnapping of her children that no reasonable argument could convince her to course a different course.

But now, everything was set.

The ersatz security team moved away from the GX1 and behind the large bulk of an Action IV Transport where they would be joining up with the rest of their squad. Jonah counted off five seconds and then brought his comlink online.

"Now" He ordered.

In an instant the GX1 was bathed in the harsh light of five spotlights and was brought under the sights of dozens of weapons including several shoulder carried missile launchers. In response, the GX1 lit up with activity as it's crew attempted a take off. Unfortunately, tractor beams had been focused on the transport and security clamps had locked to the vessels underside to prevent takeoff. Even if it could take off under the press of the tractor beams, the security clamps would tear gaping holes in the lower hull.

Jonah switched his comm over to a second frequency, "Attention, crew of the Vantoria" He voice echoed across the landing zone as it blasted from the loudspeakers arrayed around the pads, "This is Commander Jonah Levin of the Skye Royal Guard. We have your vessel locked down and surrounded. Power down your systems, drop your boarding ramps and exit your vessel"

The response from the crew of the GX1 was to power up the tranports weapons and open fire on anything they thought might have hidden troops. In return, Jonah ordered his troops to return fire. Missiles spiralled in on trails of smoke and exploded against hull plating and lasers scored black furrows across armour. Energy fire from the transport exploded cargo crates, scattering their contents and inflicted damage on other parked ships.

"Commander!" One of Jonah's squad leaders called across the comlink, "We're not doing enough damage. Our weapons are too light to penetrate their armour"

"Ok" Jonah answered, "We expected this. Pull back, but keep them under fire. I'm calling in the heavy weapons" He switched to a new frequency, "Paladin to Avatar. Go word is given"

"Understood, Paladin" A voice answered on the line, "Moving in"

"Good Luck, Avatar" Jonah said, "Give 'em hell, Highness"

----------------------------------------------------------------

The Mercenary's jaw dropped as the...thing....moved onto the landing zone tarmac and the sinking feeling he'd been experiencing for days got worse.

The plan had been well organised and had started off well, but he had supected that something had gone wrong when the infiltration team had failed to return or even report in. Then a report had appeared on the local Holo-News station mentioning an 'explosion' in the Royal Palace that had killed several guards and severely injured one other.

He had fought his initial desire and the suggestions of the rest of his team to blast off as soon as possible, that would have just alerted security that he was involved somehow. Especially as his landing permit had his launch date as later in the week.

At first it had seemed that he had made the right choice as there seemed to be no interest from the authorities being directed their way. Then the trap had been sprung and his ship had been pinned in place and lit up. At that point an remnant of control he may have had was lost when the other three crewmen -all trigger happy Corellians- had powered up the Vantoria's weapons and opened fire on the surrounding forces who in order to defend themselves returned fire.

And now some kind of war droid was moving in to attack.

It looked like someone had overfed a set of Atlas Power Armour until it had tripled in size, scooped out it's head and upper chest and filled the empty space with cockpit from a loader mech. From a quick glance, he could identify a pair of shoulder mounted missile launchers, a waist mounted light laser and a heavy repeating blaster fixed in place of the right hand. The left arm ended in a clawed hand that looked like it was suitable for tearing apart armour.
In fact, the mech loader cockpit made it look more like oversized battle armour for someone with a small head. It moved with a ponderous, but fluid gait and he realised that it was some new kind of battle armour. One more powerful than current versions and capable of bridging the gap between power armour and walkers.

As he watched, one of the Vantoria's gun turrets swung around and opened up on the supersized walking armour. The lasers blasted into the chest of the machine and he thought it staggered back slightly. But when the smoke cleared, the armour continued on. Almost majestically, like some ancient titan it turned to face his ship and cut loose with the repeating blaster.
He winced as the energy bolts sliced in at his ship, but he found himself flooded with relief.

Then with two ship shaking explosions, the Vantoria lurched and began to tip onto it's portside and a single thought struck his mind.

"It's shooting out the landing struts!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Few Minutes Ago.

Trinity Oslo-Tarn, Queen of Skye, rarely had the chance the chance to do something that wasn't diplomatic or involved her family. Though she understood the need for the first and loved the latter, she had very little free time to herself. Which was why she was here at the Nashira Staport, in a rainstorm, piloting Wes Janson's prototype 'Kage' Battlesuit. Someone had a problem which they had decided to rectify outside of diplomatic channels and had threatened her children.

She wanted revenge.

The last few days since the intruders had been stopped had been a crash course of training to use the battlesuit. A cross between power armour and a walker, the battlesuit was the literal walking equivalent of a light tank. The cockpit was based on that found on a loader mech, but lacked a standard seat. Instead she sat atop a saddle with her legs strapped into a series of exoskeletal straps that were linked to the legs of the battlesuit.

Her legs were strapped immobile, but by going through the motions of walking, sensor pads detected the muscular impulses in her legs and translated them into binary impulses that worked the battlesuits own legs. By trying to move only one leg, she was able to turn the machine.

Her hands rested in specially made shoulder length gauntlets that worked the same way as with her legs, but provided control to the arms.

Her right hand gripped a control yoke with three firing studs for each of the weapons. Index finger rested on the trigger for the repeating blaster, thumb trigger controlled the missile launchers and little finger had control of the small laser. A thottle on the yoke allowed for control of walking speed, she could essentially make the battlesuit run by twisting the throttle up and going through the options of walking.

Her left hand ended in a sensor clad gauntlet that controlled the battlesuits left hand. She could work each of the fingers individually, form a fist or grip something by making the corrosponding gestures with her own hand.

The HUD was the same as that found in a B-Wing bomber with additional programming from the Atlas Power armour HUD systems. Wes Janson had promised that the current HUD was a placeholder until he could perfect the program he wanted to use, but for now it was sufficent, despite the confusing mismatch of data streams that occasionally popped up regarding Altitude and hyperspace coordinates. Motion sensors had been built into the cockpit that tracked her head movement and turned the battlesuits upper torso corrospondingly. Likewise, she could swtich various displays and target specific locations by focusing her eyeline on key areas of the HUD.

In fact, many of the systems were placeholders waiting for Janson to perfect the neccesary tech. The cockpit actually was from a loader mech. The legs came from a small construction droid and the 'saddle' she sat across was from a swoop bike. The power core was salvaged from an A-Wing and the missile launchers came from an old Hellfire Tank Droid. The armour came from a Thrawn Class Hover Tank and had been ran through a process that made it thinner without sacrificing the strength, though it did increase the weight. The arms were the only custom built parts and only because Janson had been unable to scavange parts that he was satisfied with.

In total, the Battlesuit weighed close to thirteen tons and could life twice it's own body weight. Though Janson had promised he was looking into reducing weight to under ten tons, assuming he could find a way to lighten the armour without loosing the strength and lighten the support structure without sacrificing integrity. In addition, the battlesuit generated a considerable amount of heat from weapons use and even from moving. Again he'd promised this would be rectified with a better cooling system in future prototypes, but for now he'd warned that the cooling in the Kage was unreliable at best and advised that if she finds the heat building to quickly she was to ease off of weapons and moving around until the temperatures had dropped to safe levels. He'd also warned that the juryrigged nature of some of the systems might prove problomatic and she should avoid overstressing the battlesuit too much.

"Still" Trinity thought as the chest armour shrugged off the direct hit from the transports heavy laser, "If the prototype is this good, I'm think I'm going to love the production models"

As the battlesuit took an involutary step back, the com crackled.

"Avatar" Jonah Levin's voice sounded tinny, the comms obviously needed work too, "This is Paladin. The tractor beams are starting to overheat. Control says they are going to have to start dialing power back to prevent the coils burning out. Soon as that ships crew sees the Tractors beams are scaling back they'll try and take off" Levin's voice was momentarily lost as an explosion sounded somewhere close by, "I have a team standing by with cutting gear, but that belly turret will cut them to pieces before they get in place"

"What about the upper surface turrets?" Trinity asked, bringing the heavy repeater in line with the GX1 transport.

Levin's answer was confident, "They can't traverse far enough down to hit them once my men are against the hull and cutting through. But they could still hit them before they reach the ship"

"Give me two minutes and I'll have it sorted" Trinity smiled and squeezed the trigger for her primary weapon.

The heavy blaster bolts streamed from the barrel and passed under the transports belly. She held the trigger down and braved the rising heat as the hot energy chewed through the ships portside landing legs. With a pair of small explosions, the landing legs severed and the transport lurched and crashed down on it's portside.

Without missing a beat she blinked twice and locked her targeting crosshairs onto the transports upper hull and then fired off the battlesuits missile launchers. The transport bounced on its remaining landing legs as the missiles exploded across the transports hull. When the flames had disappated under the rains quenching wash, both the transports upper turrets were twisted tangles of useless metal and with the transport sat on it's portside hull, the belly turret was jammed against the tarmac and unable to target Levin's breach team.

"How's that, Paladin?" Trinity laughed.

"Perfect, Avatar" Levin chuckled, "Just perfect. My men are moving in now"

Trinity kept the battlesuit waking until she was looking down into the cockpit of the transport. The single occupant -a human male- sat there, staring up at her in abject terror. With a grin she brought the battlesuits right arm up and tapped the barrel of the heavy repeater against the viewport. The man paled considerably and then his eyes rolled back and he passed out in his seat.

"Damn" Trinity thought merrily, "I love being Queen"


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sub Level Three, Quadrant Four.
Desolate Sector.
Nar Shaddaa.

Thousands of years ago, long after the moon had been urbanized. Nar Shaddaa had been one of the galaxies major trade worlds. But the same trade route shifts that had led to the deline in the importance of Taris had also effected Nar Shaddaa. However, where as Taris had managed to maintain some of its trade until it's near devastation during the Jedi Civil War, Nar Shaddaa had slid completely into darkness.
As a haven for smugglers and with it's presence in orbit around the Hutt world of Nal Hutta, Nar Shaddaa would became the world of choice for those wanting the illicit, the illegal and the rare.
For as long as anyone could really remember, the so-called Smugglers Moon had been a base of operations for almost every single slaver, smuggler, information broker, body seller and illegal trader. The Hutts themselves were responsible for most of the illegal activities there and encouraged the development of the moons reputation as a place to avoid the law.
The Old Republic had tried to bring law to the moon and had failed. The Empire had tolerated the moons activities for years until an ambitious Moff had launched an assault to clean up the Smuggler's Moon by razing it entirely, only a mix of bribes and a spectacular defense by the smugglers had saved the world and driven the Empire away. For the most part, the New Republic had tolerated Nar Shaddaa rather than risk trouble with the Hutts and had left the world to its own devices.

Since the days of the Empire however, with smugglers like Talon Kaarde and Booster Terrik basing themselves out of worlds closer to the core, the number of smugglers on the moons had dropped. Likewise, many traders had found most of their goods were no longer banned under the New Republic and had also moved closer to the core. Lando Calrissian's takeover of the Spice Mines of Kessel and his legitimate sales of spice had also destroyed Nar Shaddaa's spice trade, a fact which had angered the spice dealing Hutts no end.

The only ones left were those that were no longer tolerated by the galaxy. Black listed mercenaries and bounty hunters, slavers, body traders, wanted criminals and traders of the goods that were still illegal remained on the moon alongside those born on the world with no chance to leave. Descendants of refugees of a thousand wars, the impoverished, slaves and former slaves that had been freed, but still trapped upon the world and those who had no choice, but to eke out a living on the corrupted world.

The world itself had fallen on hard times. At one time, Nar Shaddaa had boasted mile high, glittering spires that had rivalled those of Coruscant. It had possessed a powerful planetary shield and had once had expansive starports. Now many of those spires were mile-high hovels slowly sinkin as the lowest floors were compressed by the weight of the building above. Garish neon lighting cast sickening glows across all surfaces, but the oppressive shadows the persisted did little to mask the dark foboding that eminated from the lower levels. The planetary shield was long gone, it's generators savanged for spare parts and it's starports were decrepit and obselete withmany of the landing pads dominated by a multitude of shanty towns.

A number of wars had hit Nar Shaddaa hard too. During the return of the Emperor Reborn, the Star Destroyer Invincible had crashed into Nar Shaddaa, devastating the Duros Sector and inflicting thousands of casualties. Then during the Darth Shiva instigated Imperial Offensive Ten years ago, Nar Shaddaa had suffered a brief orbital bombardment that had devastated a significant portion of the cityscape.

Though Nar Shaddaa had hit hard times, it hadn't really changed in regard as to what could be found here.

Since they'd arrived, both Jenna and Jaden had mean approached by a multitude of society's lowest beings, all selling something. From spice to information, slaves to a few minutes of meaningless coupling and illegal weaponry to offers and requests for work. They also been confronted twice by would be attackers. The first group had been encourage to withdraw through force manipulation, the second group had been stronger willed and had been left several levels up nursing blaster burns and lightsaber wounds.

It had taken a lot of careful qquestioning of a reletively trustworthy information broker to discover an approximate location for the rogue Arkanian surgeon Del Korvata and then a little force trick from Jenna to ensure the broker wouldn't even remember the customers that had tipped him quite handsomely. So now both of them were descending further into Nar Shaddaa's underlevels to find and confront the man responsible for Jenna's mental health issues.

A derelict stumbled from the shadows and gripped Jenna's sleeve and tugged far too forcefully on it for Jenna's paitence.

"Greetings" The derelict said gleefully, seemingly unaware of Jenna's incendiary stare, "I am a mighty Jedi. I tell your fortune, yes. Only ten credits"

"Get away from me you fraud!" Jenna snapped, backhanding the derelict and sent him sprawling to the ground, his tattered hood falling back to reveal the distinctive antennapalps of a Balosar. She took a step towards the cowering Balosar as her hand dropped towards her lightsaber, "You dare impersonate a Jedi?"

"Jenna!" Jaden's shout stopped her, "Enough, he's not worth it"

Jenna stared, shifted her gaze between Jaden and the whimpering Balosar and sighed, "Fine" She muttered, then stomped off down the dark corridor.

Jaden stared after her for a moment, then turned to the Balosar, "I suggest you find a new line of work" He advised, before heading off after Jenna.

He caught up with her at the top of a set of ancient looking rampways that descended deeper into the underlevels. She was pacing back and forth and appeared to be having an argument withherself, waving her arms and talking in a raised voice.
Seeing his approach, she stopped and decided to look out of what had once been a window, now it looked out over the dark sub levels below and up to the cracks of light above. He could sense a maelstorm of conflicting emotions in her and he was starting to realise the nature of this ticking time bomb he'd been saddled with.

"Was that neccesary?" He asked, "Striking that derelict? He's just trying to make a living, like every other poor soul on this world"

"I was angry" Jenna shot back, "He startled me and then thought he could scam me"

"So beating him is an appropriate response?" Jaden scowled, "What's wrong with you?

"Nothing's wrong with me" Jenna replied.

"That's a lie" Jaden said dryly, "Were you mixing alcohol and your meds again? You do realise the alcohol reduces the effectiveness of those pills you take?"

"I'm fine" Jenna snapped.

"No, you're not" Jaden shook his head, "The further we've gone in this mission of yours, the more unstable you become"

"Are we doing this now?" Jenna scowled, "Or are we going after Korvata?"

"Jenna" Jaden said, "I need to know you're not going to freak out on me and do something unplanned and stupid"

"I'm not going to do something unplanned" Jenna said ambiguously, "I know exactly what I'm going to do"

Jaden frowned at the meaning in Jenna's words, but decided not to push things further, "Fine. But when we're done here, we are having a serious talk"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Former Imperial Prison 'Pain Mountain'
Lola Curich.
Lianna.

Crouched in the darkness of the storm drainage tunnels beneath the former Imperial Prison, Halley Kadorto adjusted the light sensitivity of his mirrored faceplate. The device, which had been given only to the 'wet' team, concentrated the availiable light streaming in through the small, round drainage hole above them. With the amplification, the meager light pouring down through the drains dotting the tunnels spine looked like harsh spotlights. Halley glanced at the luminous time display on the upper left corner of the faceplate. Above, the tme slowly increased toward midnight. Below, seconds and minutes clicked down as the deadline for their attack approached. Halley smiled, trying to fool himself out of the nervousness that had his stomach churning.

"We're here a full minute ahead of schedule" He thought, "Three minutes and counting"

The wet team had approached the prison by swimming beneath the Lona Cranith river, then located the ferrocrete tunnel where Rilan Mori had found temporary refuge after his escape years ago. It led deeper into the prison, and was designed to carry water from rainstorms to the river. The two-meter-diameter tunnel had long been dreamed of as an escape route, but all the drains leading down into it were too small to admit any prisoner, and no one had the equipment to break through the ferrocrete that lay between him and freedom.

Halley watched as two of the dozen-man team placed explosive charges in a circle around one of the drains.

"Those shaped charges should blow up and out with enough force to open a hole for us to climb through into the cell blocks" Halley glanced up at the drain, "I hope those who volunteered to get themselves incarcerated so they could get word to key people will be able to get out again"

Zaren Holl had been first in line for that duty.

To reassure himself, Halley dropped a hand to the curious weapon he had been given for the assault. Mated to the body of a blaster rifle, the barrel and action of a pump-fed shotgun clung to the underside of the laser's barrel. For the sixth time since entering the tunnel, Hally looked at the pulse selector for the blaster and held himself back from increasing the blasters power.

"If the blaster can't melt it's way through something" Halley mused, "The shotgun will just have to knock it down"

Mindful of the risk of encountering a battle droid, Halley had filled the bandolier hanging across his chest with heavy slugs. That the shotgun attatchment would eject to the left and across his line-of-sight bothered Halley a little, but he dismissed the concern as trivial.

"If that's the worst thing that happens to me in this operation, I will be doing fine" He smiled.

The thunderous rumble of short range missiles exploding against the prison walls and gates reached the tunnels below the prison. As flames soared high into the sky, enough light flickered down through the storm drains and to nearly blind the team below. As the last second vanished from the faceplate clock, Halley ducked his head, screwed his eyes shut and clapped his hands over his ears.
The force of the explosion bounced him a meter back down the tunnel, but he recovered his balance almost instantly. Uncoiling like a snake, he darted forward. In the shower of dust filtering down from the hole, Halley saw the twisted ends of the metel bars that had formed the tunel's skeleton. Letting the rifle swing back on it's shoulderstrap, he grabbed a bar and -shoulders protesting- pulled himself up into the dark confines of the prison laundry.

"I'm too old for this" He muttered.

Others had also clambered up and out of the hole, then spread out to form a perimeter. Firelight streamed in through the barred windows, dispelling all but the most dense shadows. Halley pointed one man to check a line of washers that had been tumbled over like dominoes in the blast, then sent others forward towards the doors. When his scouts reported all clear, Halley moved the team out.

"We're in the lowest level of Katana Block" Halley said to himself, "Up the corridor, around the corner to the stairwell, through the checkpoint, and we reach the gallery. Blow the lock bars and everyone is free"

Halley moved to the front of the group. He stopped at the end of the corridor, glanced quickly around the corner, then waved the others onward. One woman dropped to one knee at the base of the stairs while Halley swept past him, taking them two at a time.

A flash of motion caught by the faceplate's enhancement of his peripheral vision gave him enough warning. Halley launched himself into a rolling dive that took him to the stairs first landing. He ignored the grinding pain in his back as he somersaulted on the bandolier. Reaching a sitting position, he slewed himself around so that his back slammed into the landings far corner, pounding pain through him again.
Needles of laser light burned red flames in the bricks just above his line of travel. In the laser's back light, Halley saw the slim, spindly shadow of a Battle Droid silhouetted between the stair railing and the wall. Halley swung his own weapon in line with the apparition, then jerked the shotgun's trigger and the laser's trigger.
The laser bolt caught the droid just above the machine's midline, burning through to the circuitry beneath. The shotgun slug slammed into the droids blaster, destroying the energy coils in a brilliant electric-blue flash, then ricocheted into the droid. It impacted just above the laser wound and spun the droid away into the wall. It hit the bricks hard, then rebounded and cascaded limply down to the stairs to Halley's feet.

Two more of his team ran up the stairs. One checked the droid was no longer active, while the other dropped to Halley's side.

"Are you hurt?" The man, a cadet from the academy asked.

Halley shook his head, then rubbed his left hand against his right side, "The gun was just seated wrong. It recoiled into my ribs" He rolled forwards and climbed to his feet, "I'm too old for this"

He motioned to another member of the team to move forwards and pointed toward the heavy, steel door set back from the top of the stairs. As the man unlimbered a portable rocket launcher, Halley carefully deployed the those who had not already taken up there assigned positions.

"Go!" He ordered.

The armour-piercing rocket's depleted-uranium tip punched through the door like a blaster bolt through an apple. Two meters beyond the thick steel slab, the rocket's warhead exploded within a narrow rectangular chamber.a jet of fire stabbed back out of the entry hole to scorch the stairwell wall, then subsidiary flames created a reddish-yellow corona around the door seconds before ot tottered from its tracks and smashed flat against the ferrocrete floor.
Smoke billowed from the chamber beyond the door. The upper half of each wall had been blown out by the blast, sowing glass shrapnel through the guard chambers on either side of the security checkpoint. Through the smoke and beyond, Halley saw into the gallery.

Two commandos moved in low, then lofted anti-personnel grenades into the guard stations. Twin explosions sounded one after the other, and some of the barbed, plastic flechettes from the grenades bounced out to the stairs. One of the two commandos rose up and took a step forward, then hesitated for a fatal second.
Three scarlet laser bolts shot through the smoke and punctured her chest. Energy ony partially spent, they burst through the back of her body armour, igniting cloth lining as they did so. The cadet spun around, collided with the railing at the top of the stairs and pitched head over heels. Her body landed witha wet thud at the bottom of the stairs and lay very still.

The blood streaked guard in the security chamber disintegrated in the withering hail of return fire. Dozens of little fires burned like voltive candles in the wall beyond his position. The furthest-forward cadet-commando stayed low and moved through the checkpoint. His appearence on the other side of the doorway brought a cheer from the inmates while more detonations shook the building from outside.

"Luthor, Prepare to blow the bar-locks" Halley waited until his team had climbed through the empty windows to the guard station before he charged into the gallery. Even though he'd studied plans of the building to where he found himself wandering through it in his dreams, the reality shocked him, "This is a wastebin for sentience!"

Rising up to a height of ten tiers, the gallery formed a gray, ferrocrete canyon separating dark walls dooted with even darker holes. Arms and legs jutted between prison bars like insect appendages hanging from the mouth of a lizard. Thousands of voices echoed through the room, filling it with a murmuring chaos that drowned out all but the sharpest explosion from outside.

Halley darted toward the staircase leading to the upper levels of the cell block. a shotgun blast blew the lock from the wire-mesh door. Halley ripped it aside and sprinted up the stairs.

"They're in cell seventeen, tier three" He thought.

Another shotgun slug mangled the lock on level three and gave Halley access to the tier's balcony. People jammed the doorways, stretching their arms out to claw at him and draw him closer, desperation on their faces.

"They want to be free, but they're terrified they'll never make it" Halley swallowed, "We've got to get them out"

He found the mouth of cell seventeen and leveled his gun at the inmates choking it. They melted back, leaving Halley a clear view of Tela seated on a cot. She'd raised herself on her elbows and had an expectant look on her face.

Halley stepped to the balcony and raised his right hand. Someone down below relayed the signal to Luthor. A sharp flash of light preceded the report of am explosion and the resulting alarm signal A series of metallic clicks sounded up and down the cell blocks, and inmates quickly pulled their limbs back through the doors. The steel-bar portals slid back throughout Katana Block, and the denizens of the cells poured out.
Halley fought his way through the press of prisoners into cell seventeen. He pulled his faceplate back onto the top of his head and seated himself on Tela's bunk and enfolded her in a hug.

"I'm sorry we didn't come sooner" He apologised.

Tela cried tears of relief, "I'm glad you came for me at all. Even when word got through that something was going to happen, I couldn't believe it. I should have known you would come up with something"

Halley shook his head, "I'm merely the servent of a master craftsman, doing what I've been told" He turned serious, "Where are Jaren and Mira?"

"Two cells further down" Tela answered.

"Let's get them" Halley nodded.

A few moments and much fighting through the crowds later, Halley was reunited with the rest of his family. Both Jaren and Mira -Jaren still in his cadet's uniform and Mira still wearing the jogging suit she had been wearing when the invasion had begun- embraced father and mother excitedly and emotionally.

The Kadortos were together again.

Screams and the sound of laserfire echoed up to the cell and interrupted the reunion.

Tela grabbed Halley's arm, "What's going on?"

Halley gently freed himself from Tela's grip, "I don't know. Crawl along the balcony to cell fifteen and wait for me there" He turned for the door.

"Dad!" Jaren said and when Halley turned, he nodded, "Good luck" A moment later Mira nodded her own agreement with Jaren's words.

"Thanks kids" Halley smiled, then pulled his faceplate on again, fed three more slugs into the shotgun, and ran to the cells entrance.

What he saw below brought him up short and took his breath away.

Marching relentlessly through the milling thong, a super Battle Droid lashed out right and left with it's arm. Even a glancing blow crashed bodies and sent them flying deeper into the crowd. Short bursts from it's laser burned swaths through the inmate population. The gallery was so packed that none could escape, try as they might to flee, and people involuntarily filled in the body strewn path behind the droid.
Without thinking, Halley brought the rifle to his shoulder and triggered two laser shots. Both energy bolts hit the back of the droids head, but failed to breach the armour. Turning to this new threat, the Super Battle Droid, spun quickly, then bent it's legs and launched itself up toward the third tier.
The railing collapsed under the droids heavy bulk, but impeded it just enough to make landing awkward. It landed on all fours, but it's blood slimed left foot slipped on theferrocrete decking as it started to rise. The shotgun slug from Halley's rifle hit the droid in the right shoulder, further unbalancing the machine. It's arms flailing wildly, it pitched back off the balcony. Before it could slip out of sight, it's left hand clawed the ferrocrete like an anchor. Halley saw the silvery grey form swing back and forth twice, building momentum, then the right elbow bit into the deck. As inexorable as the sun rising at dawn, the droid hauled itself up.

Halley's hand dropped to the blaster rifles pulse-rate selector and dialed it all the way up. At point blank range, he sighted in on the dark, glassy line in the centre of the droids upper chest. His finger squeezed the triiger, and the sustained bolt sliced through the target. The figure, smoke curling from the single, shattered eyepiece and the remains of it's CPU, jerked, then fell back. It smashed into the tier below, then whirled end-over-end into the waiting crowd.

Nervous sweat misting against the inside of his face plate, Haley stepped back and moved down to cell fifteen. Inside, Tela, Mira and Jaren were waiting paitently.

"Now what?" Mira asked.

Without stopping to reply, Halley studied the cell's back wall. From the lower-right corner, he counted five cinderblocks out and five up. As he popped his power pack from the blaster and snapped a new one in place, he offered an explanation to his family.

"When the contractor built the prison, Rebel Alliance agents put pressure on him to seriously modify the original design. Various cells, with numbers and levels determined by the use of the number five, had escape routes built into them. They were never used because once their secret was revealed, all would be shut down"

Halley triggered a dozen blaster bolts. The five cinderblock pattern in the centre of the wall dissovled into smoke and ferroccrete dust. The hole in the wall sucked most of the smoke down. Jaren walked over to it and peered in, but carefully avoided touching any of the still-glowing rock.

He looked over his shoulder at Halley, "This gets us out?"

"Yes" Halley nodded, "We climb down and take the first crosscut shaft heading north. That will dump us out in the Commercial Sector. From there Mori has a transport waiting for us that'll get us clear of the city"

A ragged cheer came up from below, "What about them?" Tela asked.

Halley smiled, "There are twenty-five passages like this one. My team will see they escape to freedom" Muscles bunched at the corner of his mouth, "Those who don't....well, it's up to us to see they are avenged"


Last edited by Deven Tarn on Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Sub Level Twenty-Eight, Quadrant Four.
Desolete Sector.
Nar Shaddaa.

Down this deep on Nar Shaddaa, there was no such thing as natural light. Sunlight, planetlight from Nal Hutta, starlight, none of it ever reached this far down. Even the bright lights of the upper city was unable to penetrate the oppressive darkness down here. The only light came from ancient, still functioning street lights, equally ancient neon lights and bio-luminesent plantlife.
Also, the inhabitants of these lower levels were a lot different than those closer to the surface. Hairless, near-blind and comepletely feral they were those who had fled from the surface long ago and they and their descendants had devolved to their current state.

Several times, Jenna and Jaden had come across evidence of the ferals passing, usually in the form of a skeleton that had been picked clean of flesh. Jenna had also been sensing them hanging around at the edges of her senses, it was clear they were trying to track the two, but so far were unwilling to move closer. Every so often, one of them let out a screech to communicate with the others. Occasionally, one would let out a far different sound as something else snapped one up.

There were other dangers too. Ancient speeders, starfighters and even small starships littered what had once been streets, slowly rotting and forcing the two to squeeze around. Walkways were prone to sudden collapse. Building fronts crumbled, Millenia old security droids wandered to and fro seeking protect businesses that no longer existed. Slime and water from the sudden rainstorms that occured down here made footing treacherous and the darkness limited visibility to only a dozen feet in any direction.

Jenna wished they hadn't had to come down here, but this was were Korvata had chosen to take refuge. He had set up a lab of sorts in the bowels of a derelict hospital that was slowly being compressed by the buildings above, most of the upper floors had gone, but apparently Korvata had had the basement reinforced and equipped with the latest medical tech. Once a month, a supply delivery would be made comprising food and other essentials including equipment Korvata had requested as well as test subjects gathered from Nar Shaddaa's populace. Information regarding Korvata's security was sketchy, but considering the difficulty of recruiting enough beings brave enough to come down here, it was likely Jenna and Jaden would be facing only a token security force.

Jaden paused for a moment and consulted the mapping unit they had been assured would lead them towards Korvata's refuge. Though relatively accurate in the upper levels, down here it wasn't quite as useful. Collapsed walls and other debris had forced them to take numerous detours and in one case, an old Bantha class freighter had crashed, having plunged all the way down from the upper levels and forced them to go nearly an hour out of their way.

After studying the map image for several minutes until Jenna had thought she would have to hit him, Jaden finally looked up.

"That's it" He said, indicting a building that looked no different from the others.

"You sure?" Jenna scowled. The building looked just as ruinous and decrepit as all the others.

"Check out the doorway" Jaden nodded, "It's the only place down here that I've seen with new blast doors fitted. And the mapper points straight to it" He looked towards a spot above the doorway, "Plus if you look, you can still see a medical cross on the wall above the door. It's difficult to see, look for an area that's lighter than the rest of wall"

Sure enough, Jenna found the medical cross and sighed, "Fine" She muttered, "This is the place"

"Next problem" Jaden said, "Getting in. I doubt we can just knock and hope they let us in"

"No problem" Jenna replied, activating only a single blade on her lightsaber "I've got an all purpose lockpick"

Stepping up to the door, she plunged the glowing energy blade into the heavy metal door almost all the way up to the hilt. Though the lightsaber itself gave off no heat, the energy reaction still caused the surrounding metal to glow and bubble. With both hands gripping the sabers hilt, she began to drag it across the door creating a circular cut almost two feet across and four feet high in the metal.
It took a good three minutes to carve out the opening and in that time both Jenna and Jaden knew that inside the structure, security would be going into overdrive. Eventually however, Jenna closed the circle and brought her lightsaber back to where she had started and withdrew the blade from the glowing door. The centre of the cut remained where it was, but that would change soon.

"Ready?" She asked activatng the second blade and bringing her saber into the ready position.

"Ready" Jaden answered drawing his blaster and bringing it up to aim at the centre of the door.

Taking a deep breath, Jenna brought her hand up, palm out and gesturing at the door, pushed with a strong force blast. The circle she had cut shot free of the rest of the door and crashed down somewhere deeper in the building taking at least two security personnel -a Weequay and a Nikto- with it. The other members of the security team were stunned by the sudden speed of a previously inanimate object and froze momentarily.
Jaden sighted in on and dropped a pair of Klattu and a Rodian with a trio of expertly aimed shots. Meanwhile Jenna had leapted through the glowing hole and was fighting with an antique IG-100 Magnaguard Korvata had procured somewhere for his security force.

Trusting Jenna to look after herself for a few moments longer, Jaden shift his aim and downed the last security team member, a human that looked like he'd never seen a sonic shower. Satisfied that only the Magnaguard remained, he stepped through the hole in the door and began debating if interfering in Jenna's fight was a good idea.

"She'll be ticked if I don't" He thought, "then again, she'll be even more ticked if I do"

Unaware of Jaden's internal debate, Jenna concentrated on fighting the Magnaguard and remembering what she could about them.

The Magnaguards had been built by Holowan Mechanicals during the Clone Wars to act as bodyguards for high ranking members of the Confederacy of Independant Systems, though they primarily served as body guards for the cyborg General Grevious. Following the Rise of the Empire, the Magnaguards had been phased out in favour of the more powerful and less anti-Jedi oriented IG-72, 88 and 92 Assassin models. The magnaguards that still survived had either passed into the hands of collectors or fallen under the control of pirates.

Jenna had never fought a Magnaguard before, but she knew they had been developed to fight Jedi directly, using their lightsaber blocking electro-staffs with deadly precision. As well as being strong, agile and extremely intelligent and inventive, the Magnaguards were capable of surviving damage that would render even a Super Battle Droid or Droideka as scrap. Cut off an arm and it would simply switch fighting styles. Cut off both arms and it would switch to attacking with its powerful legs. Remove a leg and it would hop. Bisect it and the upper torso would keep coming after you. Decapitate it and it would switch to it's secondary brain in its chest and keep on fighting.

Master K'kruhk had once described fighting even one Magnaguard as fighting a childhood nightmare, it didn't matter what you did, it would just keep coming.

"Well" She thought, "I'm about to put that to the test"

Bringing her lightsaber around at the droids head, she gritted her teeth against the pain that shot up her arms as the Magnaguard brought its electrostaff around and blocked the attack. With hesitating Jenna reversed her previous motion hoping to bring the second blade down and up through the Magnaguards right knee. However the Magnaguard managed to block this attack too, deflecting the blow to the point that Jenna's blade skipped aross the Phrik armoured skin.

Growling in frustration, Jenna took a step back and then thrust her lightsaber at the photoreceptor mounted on the droids chest. the Magnadroid moved quickly blocking the attacking by batting her lightsaber down. Using the momentum imparted by the Magnadroids defelction of her attack, Jenna allowed her lightsaber hilt to rotate in her hands and twisting to avoid the deflected end of her weapon, brought the opposite end cleaving down through the combat droids left hand.

She felt a momentary resistantance as the lightsaber fought to cut through the Phrik enhance metal, but then it was through to the other side and severed hand and half of the electrostaff clattered to the floor. Whirling away from Jenna, the Magnadroid dropped into a new fighting stance to account for it's new disability, then moved back in for the attack.
Jenna was quicker though and moved into attack, forcing the droid onto the defensive. A whirlwind of attacks had the Magnadroid struggling to block with its one arm and soon Jenna was pushing the droid back down the darkened hallway deeper into the old hospital.

Confidence grew in Jenna as she fought the droid and she almost missed the telltale shifting of its stance. At the last second she recognised it for what it was and barely managed to brace herself for the impact as the Magnaguard deflected her blades to one side and then struck her across the face with the stump of its left arm. Seeing the attack coming, Jenna had managed to roll with the blow aborting it's full power, but the impact still sent her flying and exploded the right side of her face in pain.

The world spun around her as Jenna struggled to her hands and knees, spitting blood and fragments of broken tooth. She was aware that the droid was coming at her again, as was Jaden, running towards her her blaster raised to fire at the Magnadroid.

"Back off, Loran!" She shouted, spitting blood, "This is my fight"

Ignoring the hesitation she sensed from Jaden and the pain in her mouth, Jenna rose up swinging her lightsaber. She was angry. Angry at being suckered like she had been. Angry at having to come to the darkest depths of Nar Shaddaa and angry at Korvata for choosing this place as a refuge and for doing what he had done to her. She focused on her anger, tasted it, used it to channel her attacks and add strength to her blows. A little part of her was aware that she shouldn't surrender to her anger, but she ignored that small part and instead focused her anger into a powerful force blast that sent the Magnadroid flying to a tangled landing against an old and rusted stretcher frame.
Jenna was on the droid in an instant. Three powerful strikes ended the droids operation. The first severed the remaining arm, the second decapitated it and the third and final blow penetrated the chest mounted brain, terminating the droids operation.

Breathing heavily and suddenly feeling fatigued, Jenna deactivated her lightsaber and looked at Jaden, who appeared to be looking at her with a mix of concern and sadness.

"Well?" She asked, "Let's keep going"

"Yeah" Jaden answered carefully, "Let's keep going"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prisoner Cell Three.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha Three.
Rhen Var.

The sound of activity outside his cell startled Oddball out of his doze. Rising up from where he had been laid on one of the two beds in the small cell, he turned his full attention to the door. The sounds of someone using the keypad told him something was happening that was not part of the usual routine. Since the last interrogation session over a week ago, the usual routine was for a food tray to be shoved though the serving hatch three times a day. An hour after the tray appeared a tap he pushed the tray back through the slot when ordered. The few times he'd refused to do so had resulted in a suspension of meals for at least one sleep cycle.

Whatever was happening now wasn't part of the usual routine.

He figured it wasn't going to be another interrogation. He doubted he had anything useful left to tell, between drugs and torture he'd pretty much spilled his guts. Whatever it was he decided he'd at least be grateful for the contact with someone. He also decided he'd make another try at asking about Jaina's condition. He knew Lowbacca was still alive and cranky. The Wookie had the neighbouring cell and the two managed to converse through the small vent that connected the cell at floor level. His grasp of the Wookie language was extremely limited so the conversations were distinctly one sided, but Lowie was often able to get things across in a way that Oddball understood.
Of course, the Wookie was even more concerned about Jaina than he was. They didn't even know if she'd she'd survived. When they'd last seen her in the hanger of this base, she was being carried one way and the two of them were being dragged the other. The way the guards refused to divulge information on Jaina didn't help and only left Oddball fearing the worst. Had they got her here, only for her to die on the operating table?

Oddball tried not to think about it. Losing Ganner Rhysode was a tragedy, losing Jaina would make it worse.

The door slid open and three guards walked into the room. One held a stun rifle in Oddball's direction, but made no further move. The other two carried a budle dressed in the same prision fatigues he was wearing. It took Oddball a moment to recognise the bundle as a person, or more accurately a woman.

More importantly, he recognised who it was.

"Jaina!" He shouted, rising to his feet, "How is she?" He asked.

The guards didn't answer, though the one with the stun rifle gestured for him to sit back down. The two carrying Jaina dumped her face down on the cells other bed, then all three turned and left, shutting the cell door behind them. Quickly Oddball stood and made his way over to where Jaina lay.

"Jaina" He said kneeling next to the bed and rolling her over onto her back, "Jaina, thank the Force"

"Uuuuuhhhhhhhh, I feel terrible" Jaina groaned weakly rubbing her head. Slowly her eyes focused on him, "Oddball, what are you doing in my cabin?"

"Jaina, we're in a prision cell" Oddball answered cautiously, "On Rhen Var"

"Rhen Var?" Jaina frowned, "How did we.....? Damn! I got shot, didn't I?"

"Yeah, you did" Oddball nodded, "You were in a bad shape. I had to surrender to make sure you got medical attention"

"To be honest" Jaina said, rolling to a sitting position and pulling her top down far enough to reveal the vicious blaster scar just above her left breast, "Considering I'm alive after what did this, I'm confident you made the right choice"

"Thanks" Oddball replied dryly, "Doesn't help us though does it?"

"No" Jaina shook her head, "I can't feel the force which means Ysalamiri and in all honesty, I don't feel up to anything at the minute"

"Ysalamiri?" Oddball frowned, "What are those?"

"Little tree dwelling critters from Myrkr" Jaina sighed, "The Vornskr, a predator on Myrkr had evolved the ability to ability to use the force to find their prey. They are also exceptionally good at tracking force users. On response, The Ysalamiri also evolved a force based ability, but they evolved the ability to project a null force bubble that effectively cancels out the use of the force within it's area. Multiple Ysalamiri can combine to increase the size of the bubble"

"Nice ability" Oddball remarked.

"I hate them" Jaina muttered, "For centuries, the Jedi simply avoided Myrkr rather than be forced to deal with the effects of the Ysalamiri. It was Grand Admiral Thrawn who introduced them to the galaxy properly. Apparently he used them to control the Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth and later used them as a way of preventing the force from warping the minds of clones that were grown too quickly"

"Jorus C'baoth?" Oddball nodded, "Sounds familiar, wasn't he a part of the Outbound Flight"

Jaina shook her head, "Jorus C'baoth was. But Joruus C'baoth was a clone, created at some point following the original's death. Palpatine created the clone to act as a guardian of his Wayland Storehouse. Thrawn used him as a sort of long range co-ordination between battle groups in different systems. I actually spent some time researching the clone some years back since I came pretty close to being captured as a baby and being handed to Joruus as a student"

"Thankfully a fate that was avoided" Oddball nodded, "But we're getting off track with the history lesson. The Ysalamiri are stopping you from using the force, so what are our other options?"

Jaina through up her hands,"Dunno yet, then again. I've been out for a while. You've been awake since we got here, what do you know?"

"Let's see" Oddball said, "For a start, some good news. Lowie's just on the other side of the wall. He's cranky, but well"

"Thank the force" Jaina smiled, "Any other good news?"

"That's it, I'm afraid" Oddball shrugged, "We get three meals a day at irregular intervals and if i guess rightly, now you're out of the med-bay, you have interrogations to look forwards to"

"Joy" Jaina said sarcastically.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Lab Facility Of Del Korvato.
Sub Level Twenty-Eight, Quadrant Four.
Desolete Sector.
Nar Shaddaa.

Del Korvata stumbled back, blood pouring from his split lip. His legs tangled around the legs of a chair and he sprawled onto the floor with a yell that was half pain and half terror. Without standing up, he shuffled across the floor on his rear in an attempt to get away from the young human female that was standing menacingly over him and had just struck him in the face with the heel of her boot.
Stepping around the tipped chair, she continued to pace after him, her face a mask of furious anger and hatred.

"Please" He wailed, "Don't hurt me. Who are you? What do you want?"

"Answers" The woman snarled, reaching down and grabbing a handful of his tunic and lab coat.

With a grunt, she dragged him to his feet and then all but threw him across a lab bench. Equipment went everywhere as he crashed through it. Test tubes shattered, beakers broke and various sugical implements clattered on the floor. His momentum barely arrested by his collision with the equipment he slid off the other side and was once again introduced to the floor. Pain shot through his body from the impact and from the pinpricks of the sharp fragments of broken glass which crunched underneath his body.

"Answers?" The Arkanian doctor groaned, "What kind of answers?"

"Answers about some work you did about seven years ago" The young male who had broken into his lab at the same time as the female spoke up. So far he had stood back and allowed the savage with the guise of a young girl to beat him almost senseless. The young man stared at the girl for a moment and she backed off, though her face did not lose any of its anger.

"Seven years ago?" Korvata frowned, then his face sank. His eyes fell on the girl and his heart dropped down to his feet, "Oh, no!" He said, even more terror filling his voice as he stared at her, "It's you! You were the one we operated on!"

"Operated on!" The girl screamed, "You butchered me! You ruined my life!"

"I had no choice" Korvata wailed.

"You had no choice?" She shouted and with a sick feeling her realised she was brandishing a lightsaber. A lit lightsaber, "I'll show you no choice"

"Jenna!" The young man shouted, "We want him alive"

"Fine!" The girl, Jenna, snapped, "You have five minutes to get something out of him, then I start removing parts" She stalked off acrss the lab and out of Korvata's field of view.

"Sorry about that, we're not going to kill you or hurt you or maim you in any way" The man said, crouching next to Korvata, "But you have to understand. She is very angry at what you did to her. She suffers from Scizophrenia becuase of what was done to her"

"That is how schizophenia affects humans?" Korvata asked, "I never had the chance to study it in non-Arkanians"

"Actually, she took her meds today so she's pretty lucid" The man answered, "What you see there and have felt is pure anger. You're lucky she didn't just go straight for the force choke"

Korvata swallowed, "OH!"

The man nodded, "Anyway, I'm Jaden and if you tell me what we want to here, then I'll do my best to ensure you won't be carrying bits of you around in bags later on"

"What do you want to know?" Korvata sighed.

"Several things" Jaden answered, "Why you carried out the surgery on her? What it's purpose was? Who paid you? Where can we find him? And finally, why her?"

"We picked her because not only did she stumble across our base, but she also matched the criteria for the subject we needed" Korvata replied, "She matched all sixty three conditions we required. Body weight, general age, metabolic rate, blood type, blood suger levels, even cleanliness of DNA. No defective genes and very little sign of childhood illnesses" He held an arm to ribs he was sure were cracked, "To be honest though, I think the conditions were just a blind. He was waiting specifically for her"

"Who was?" Jaden frowned.

"I never knew his name" Korvata shook his head, "We met many times to discuss...." He looked in the direction Jenna had gone, "The paitient"

"What can you tell me about him?" Jaden asked, then when Korvata hesitated gave a friendly smile, "Please just what you know"

"He was human or at the least humanoid" Korvata sighed, "He wore heavy robes and his face was always hooded, so I couldn't see his face. But I can tell you he was of an advanced age, but kept himself in good shape and appeared to have no health issues. No obvious weakness due to age or anything like that"

"That narrows it down to around thirty percent of the galaxy" Jaden sad dryly.

Korvata ignored the remark, "I do remember though. He carried a lightsaber"

"A lightsaber?" Jaden said, his interest increased.

"Yes" Korvata nodded, "He always kept it hidden in his robes, but I caught a glimpse of it once when his robes hung up against a bulkhead"

"I see" Jaden said, filing away the info for the moment, "So why the surgery?"

"I don't know" Korvata hung his head.

"You don't know?" Jaden scowled, "You performed the surgery, how can you not know what it's purpose was?"

"I only opened up and closed the cranium" Korvata protested, "The medical droids performed the actual work on the subject. I don't know what the purpose of it was" He shrugged, "I don't think he trusted me, but he paid a lot of money so I decided not to ask questions"

"How mecenary of you" Jaden said with sarcasm.

"I'm sorry about your friend" Korvata said, "But to me she was just work"

Jaden clamped down on his anger, "Where can we find him?"

"I don't know where you can find him" Korvata stammered, "Not for certain anyway. But I did once overhear him talk about sending an excavation team to Rhen Var"

"Rhen Var?" Jaden frowned.

"Yes" Korvata nodded, "It seemed very important. Maybe you can find something there to tell you where to find him?"

"Maybe" Jaden conceeded, "Do you know anything else that may help us?"

"No, nothing" Korvata shook her head, "I swear"

Jaden frowned, but his instincts told him that Korvata was telling the truth, "Fine" He stood and helped Korvata to his feet, "C'mon"

"Where are we going?" Korvata asked

"You are going nowhere" Jaden answered, "Ideally, I'd hand you to the authorities, but I doubt anyone on Nar Shaddaa would take you. And I'm not dragging your ass off planet"

Korvata was shocked, "You can't leave me here! You've destroyed my defences, killed my security personnel! The ferals...."

"Are your problem" Jaden interrupted, "On the plus side, you're still alive" He turned away and shouted for Jenna, "Jenna, we're done here. Let's get out of here"

The words had barely left his mouth, when as he turned back to Korvata, a blaster bolt impacted the Arkanian's head and in a shower of blood and bone, Korvata's head simply exploded.

As Korvata's headless corpse dropped back to the floor, Jaden whirled around, blinking away the afterimage of the blaster bolt and dripping with the remains of Korvata's flash-fried brain. His blaster was out of his holster in an instant, but he found himself staring at Jenna who was returning her own blaster to its holster.

"What the hell was that?" He demanded angrily, "He told us what he knew, I said we wouldn't kill him"

"Correction" Jenna said coldly, "You said you wouldn't kill him. I also promised Jaro Bek that Korvata wouldn't be a problem for much longer" She smiled, though the expression lacked any warmth, "Now, c'mon. I've found a turbolift that'll get us out of here and direct to the surface. Looks like Korvata had his own private accessway" With that she turned and headed off towards a corridor leading deeper into the old hospital.

Shaking with anger and frustration, Jaden stared after her for a few moments before setting off after her.

"This is getting worse" He muttered aloud, "How the hell did I get tangled up with an unstable girl thats bent on revenge and is sliding towards the darkside faster than the curry morning runs?"

"Time to break out the lightsabers and satrt making contingency plans" He thought silently.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Unknown Location.

Viqi Sheesh settled into the large imposing chair the Prime Councillor would usually occupy and allowed herself to imagine this truly was her chair. Normally, occupying this chair would be immediate grounds for execution, but today she had orders to sit in this chair. Very specific orders.

She had a duty to perform today and once carried out, she would be that much closer to the power she deserved.

She gazed around the Society Council Chambers and smiled. In a few minutes, the remaining eleven council members would be arriving. The Council had started this war with fifteen members. Tono, also known as the Corellian noble Kursk Holt, had been eliminated after being caught on Nar Shaddaa meeting with Republic agents. Jeffery Kusunoki -Councillor Regret- had been abandoned at the battle for the Assembler and later captured by Republic forces. With the Prime Councillor still overseeing events on Rhen Var, there would be a reduced Council today.

"But not for long" Viqi thought and settled back into the chair.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, the rest of the council began to make their entrance through the double doors at the far end of the room. Most were startled to not only see Viqi occupying the Primne Councillor's chair, but to see that the hood of her robes was pulled back to expose her head. As a buffer against one member revealing the indentities of the other members, each Councillor knew the identity of only two or three others. For her to be revealing her indentity to all put many of them on immediate alert. Others were just offended by the fact she occupied the seat of the Prime Councillor.

"Good evening" She nodded once everyone was seated, "I shall be chairing this meeting of the Council. The Prime Councillor is currently dealing with a delicate situation on Rhen Var, so he has asked me to speak with you all today"

The robe figure seated furthest from Viqi's left spoke up, "Is that why you choose to disregard protocol?" He demanded.

Viqi sneered, "My reasons will soon become clear Traeda or should I say former Grand Moff Traeda?"

Traeda was nearly apoplectic with rage, but one of the other councillors cut him offf, "Councillor Crimson" The older woman, Councillor Noir said coldly, "You would do will to remember your place. You may be second-generation Society, but many of us here are fourth and fifth generation. You shall respect your betters"

"When my so-called betters are deserving of my respect they shall have it, Lady Agatha" Viqi shot back, "My one comfort however, is that you won't be able to prefess yourselves as my betters much longer"

The room dissolved into shouts of outrage, "What do you mean?" Lady Agatha demanded.

"I have very specific orders for today" Viqi answered calmly, "Unfortunately for you, the Prime Councillor's plans no longer require a council"

As a shocked silence froze the other councillors, Viqi made her move. Lifting a panel on the chairs arm, she depressed a button and held on as the chair slid back a good three or four feet. As the other Councillors watched in suprise, two bulkheads on opposite sides of the room slid from the walls and across the room to meet in the middle, dividing Viqi from the other councillors. Transparisteel panels had been inset into the divivders allowing Viqi to watch as the Councillors quickly discovered the doors had also been sealed.

Viqi was glad the barrier was sound proofed. What happened next was easier to sit through without the audio.

A small door opened in the wall of the chamber. Councillor Sun -the Quarren Kelmet Tels- was the first to see the possible exit and darted for it. He had just managed to get on his hands and knees and push his head into the darkness when his whole body stiffened. A moment later, Kelmet Tels toppled to the side, his head torn from his shoulders. A heartbeat later, the reason for Tel's unexpected divorce between his head and body entered the room.

A Nexu. A vicious predator consisting mostly of razor sharp claws and deadly fangs all wrapped up in a nearly five meter length of a feline hunter.

The reaction on the room was instanaeous and amusing. the remaining Councillors were frozen for several moments as their stares shifted between the Nexu and Kelmet Tels' corpse. Then the terror hit them. Ten council members and one Nexu moved in different directions. The councillors ran in the first direction they could think of, however hopeless. The Nexu pounced on the nearest warm body.

Viqi watched as Lady Agatha, the noblewoman of the Tapani Sector, was the next to fall. The old woman was to slow in moving and the Nexu's razor sharp claws opened up her belly to spill her intestinal tract all over the floor. A part of Viqi was sickened at the sight, but another part of her rejoiced in the fact that Agatha hadn't yet died and was scrabbling in absolute panic as she tried to return her insides to where they belonged. Death dead not come quickly, but Viqi could see that it was suitably painful.

The Nexu moved quickly through the trapped Councillors. Offering no mercy and killing for the pure sport of it. Traeda was the last to fall. His blood sprayed across the transparisteel and his mouth speaking words Viqi couldn't hear, the former Imperial Grand Moff breathed his last as the Nexu dragged him towards the centre of the room.

Satisfied that the Nexu had eliminated it's prey, Viqi stood and head for the door in the rear of the chamber. she wanted to be away from here when the Republic finally showed up.

On the other hand, when they did get here the Republic troops would find the Nexu to be well fed.


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Prisoner Cell Three.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha Three.
Rhen Var.
Three Days Later.

"I spy with my little eye" Oddball said without rising from the bed upon which he lay, "Something begiining with......"

"I swear" Jaina interrupted, "If it's ceiling or wall or door or bed or single crappy light again, then I will come over there and force feed you your own feet"

Oddball sat up, "Sorry, but there isn't exactly a lot of entertainment in here"

"I know" Jaina sighed, "And I'm sorry for snapping at you. It's just all this inactivity is driving me mad"

"Does seem strange that they haven't even questioned you yet" Oddball frowned.

Jaina shrugged, "Maybe the lack of interrogation is to make up for shooting me?"

"Unlikely" Oddball snorted, "They have something planned. Some kind of alternative to interrogating you"

"Yeah" Jaina nodded, "And I think that's what's bothering me so much"

As if on cue, there were sounds of activity outside the cell and the door hissed open. A pair of guards stepped through, both cradling blasters and while one kept Oddball covered, the other turned towards Jaina.

"Miss Solo" The guard said in an unhappy tone, "Would you please come with us?"

Jaina momentarily thought about refusing, but then stopped in confusion as she realised the guard had made a request. Politely. She exchanged a look with Oddball who was equally confused and then sighing, she stood and nodded to the guard.

"Ok" She shrugged.

The guards conducted her through a maze of tunnels and corridors to the point Jaina knew she'd be unlikely to find her way back to the prison level in a hurry. She was certain of two things though. First, they were definitely heading down. They had descended three, maybe four levels. Second, her guards were clearly unhappy about having to escort her. They put the cuffs on her, but had clearly wanted to administer the standard beating that was common place in any prison. They had obviously been ordered to treat her more like a guest than a prisoner. For what reason, Jaina couldn't fathom, but she knew she'd find out soon enough.

She wished she could get a force reading on the situation, but the two guards had been joined by a third outside her cell. This one carrying a nutrient rack with a ysalamiri hanging from it. As she had told Oddball, she hated ysalamiri. After nearly thirty years of having the force as major part of her life, she just couldn't get used to being without it when insode a ysalamiri's null-force bubble. She'd been subjected to it several times and each time she'd felt like she'd had a major part of her being ripped away. It was like being blinded or deafened, losing the force was like losing a major sense.

Fortunately, she wasn't completely helpless. Being a Jedi wasn't just about touching the force, it was also about maintaining an excellent level of fitness, learning combat skills and improving ones body as well as ones mind. Not that it really helped her at the minute. All three guards were keeping their blasters aim at her and were spaced out enough that if she tackled one, the other would either cut her to peices or stun her depending on whatever setting the blaster was on.

Soon the metal corridors of the base gave way to intricate stonework that Jaina recognised as being part of one of the Ruins that were scattered across Rhen Var. At first she wondered why the Neo-Separatists could be so interested in the ruins that they they'd set up a full base here, but then she remembered the Neo-Seps apparent obsession with technology of the past and decided there was something in these ruins that they were after.

"I need to find out what they're after" She thought, "Though getting out of here with the information may prove difficult at the moment"

The three guards conducted her deeper into the ruins and into a lift cage that then noisely began to descend even further down. She did note that all three guards stood so that they could keep her covered with their blasters, but also so that they wouldn't catch each other in the crossfire.
From the three minute descent, Jaina estimated that at the speed they had dropped, they were now approximately nearly a hundred feet lower down in the ruins, a heck of a distance to try and escape back up. She doubted the lift was a viable option, too slow and two open. If she made her attempt to flee she'd have to find some other route. If there was one.

The lift cage reach the bottom with a loud clash of metal and the guards herded Jaina from the cage. She was led through a series of tunnels and caverns that appeared to run below the ruins. Eventually, Jaina was shown into a natural chamber that spanned nearly fifty metres in any direction. At the centre of the chamber, in the 'bowl', was a large disc that had been carved into the stone floor. Jaina guessed that it easily big enough to park an X-wing on without overhanging the sides. A single robed figure stood in the centre of the carved circle next to what appeared to be a padastel with ornate decoration on it's upper surface.

At the edge of the disc, the three guards stopped and Jaina did so too, but a prod from one of the guards told her to keep going. She did so, proceeding carefully, wary of a trap, but unwilling to take her eyes off the beautiful and intricate carvings.

"Impressive isn't it" The voice interuptted her admirings.

Jaina looked up at the robed man, "I don't recognise any of the work. I've never seen anything like it before. It certainly doesn't look anything like what can be found in the ruins above us"

"That's because it is even older" The man answered, "The ruins above us are perhaps thirty or forty thousand years old. This and several other items we found are maybe ten times that, pre-dating the Infinite Empire and other civilizations that were known to exist at the beginnings of the recorded histories that still go that far back"

"So who did make it?" Jaina frowned.

"That is the question, Jaina Solo" The hooded man replied.

Jaina scowled, "Well, it's clear you know me. But I don't know you"

"I am the Prime Councillor" The man answered, "I used to have another name, but it was burnt away in the flames of my past"

"I see" Jaina nodded, unsatisfied with the cryptic answer, "So, what is this thing?" She asked tapping the carved disk with a foot.

"It is a seal" The Prime Councillor answered, "Set in place to protect a great secret that has been buried since the beginning of recorded time. It has lain here unopened for millenia awaiting someone willing to open it and reveal the secret"

"A seal?" Jaina looked down and realised that what she had taken for carved lines to separate the rings of inscriptions were infact the separations between stone rings, "What secret?"

"The location of a great power" The Prime Councillor laughed, "One that I will use to restore the galaxy to the way it should be"

"The way it should be?" Jaina repeated, "What do you mean?"

"Your New Republic is weak and corrupt and the Empire it replaced was insidious and evil" The Prime Councillor answered coldly, "The Galactic Republic was the only true and worthwhile government"

"The Old Republic died because it was so corrupt and bogged down by beauacracy that Palpatine was able to get himself elected Chancellor and nobody even blinked when he started gabbing more on more power" Jaina retorted, "They all just nodded and handed him more power as long as he looked the other way on their own indescretions" She laughed, "He was elected on his promises to clean up the Republc and he did just that. He swept it away and people let"

"The 'Galactic' Republic was good and great" The Prime Councillor snapped, "Palpatine manipulated all of us from the beginning. He was suspected of being behind the assasination of Vidar Kim allowing Palpatine to become Naboo's senator, he was behind the attack on Naboo that led to the removal of his predecessor as Chancellor and his own election. He masterminded the entire Clone Wars and the destruction of Outbound Flight and he was behind the destruction of the true Jedi Order"

"The Jedi Order still lives" Jaina shook her head, "It has been remade"

"Ha!" The Prime Councillor barked, "It is a cheap imitation. Your Grandmaster Skywalker allows Jedi to couple and bear children. He permits relationships and attachments and he does not follow true teaching methods"

"The galaxy changed" Jaina all but shouted, "The Order had to change. There were so few Jedi left that it was impossible to be picky about a candidate just because they had a family. Same with the training, when my uncle restarted the academy, he was the only Jedi with any experience there. He had to teach nearly a dozen candidates on his own. It was only later when others like K'kruhk, Ikrit, Aquinos and T'ra Saa emerged from their refuges that more experienced teachers were availiable and by then the first class were teaching the next classes"

"Weakness" The Prime Councillor spat, "Weakness encouraged by the son of the betrayer"

"Betrayer?" Jaina frowned, "Oh, right. Anakin Skywalker"

"Yes, Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader as he was better known after his treachery" The Prime Councillor snorted, "He was the great hero, the one who would bring balance to the force according the the prophecy. Do you know he slaughtered younglings? Children?"

Jaina swallowed and nodded carefully, "Not for a long while. Not until K'kruhk told me"

"Yet his son is the Grandmaster of your Jedi Order" The Prime Councillor pointed out.

"Luke Skywalker is a good man" Jaina shouted, "He has worked hand to repair what his father, my grandfather, did" She tunred her back on him, "Is this why you brought me here? For a history lesson and to rag on everything I fight for?"

"No" The Prime Councillor said with an apologetic tone, "I had you brought down here to apologise"

"For what?" Jaina turned and eyed him suspiciously.

"When you arrived on this world precise instructions were to bring you in unharmed" The Prime Councillor said, "Unfortunately, one of my men took it upon himself to open fire in an attempt to kill your Wookie comrade. He missed and unfortunately you were hit. Let me point out that even if he had hit your Wookie, your friend would still have received the same treatment you did"

"I see" Jaina frowned.

"Yes, I apologise" The Prime Councillor nodded, then signalled one of the guards.

A moment later, two more guards dragged a struggling man into the chamber. From the scars and tattoos Jaina guess he was a former pirate. He was dressed in a priosn jumpsuit and kicked and pulled at both his bonds and his escorts.

"What is this?" Jaina asked.

"This is the man responsible for your previous life threatening situation" The Prime Councillor answered, "I have brought him here for you to decide his fate"

"Decide his fate?" Jaina stammered.

"Yes" The Prime Councillor nodded, "He wronged you greviously. It is your right to decide wether he lives or dies"

Jaina stared between the robed figure and the pirate whose fate was in her hands. A small part of her, the dark shrouded part she tried not to listen to encouraged her to take the offer and have the man killed. Another, more rational part told her it had to be a trick of some sort. She listened to the rational part.

"No" she shook her head, "Whatever you say. I don't have the right to decide wether someone lives or dies"

The Prime Councillor stood silent for a few moments and Jaina suddenly became aware of how much the hooded figure looked so much like the images she had seen of Palaptine during his days as Emperor.

"Weak" The Prime Councillor said eventually, "Return her to her cell. Perhaps her friend will prove more willing when she arrives here to confront me for what I had done to her"

As the guards grabbed Jaina and began to drag her back towards the lift cage, the meaning of the Prime Councillors words hit her, "Jenna!" She shouted, "Do you mean Jenna?" She broke free of her guards, "What are you planning?"

She never got an answer because at that moment, one of the guards slammed the butt of his rifle against the back of her head and blasted her into darkness.

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Briefing Room.
Providence Class Cruiser Arc Royal.
Toprawa System.

General Alya Ven strode into the briefing room, stood behind the podium and waited for her Regiment and Batallion Commanders to sit down before speaking, "Good morning" She nodded, "Many of you are no doubt wondering why we were suddenly pulled off of Aquaris and why we're here holding station at Toprawa"

"Too right, General" Jake Fuller nodded, "We had the Neo-Seps and the back foot and were pushing them off Aquaris when suddenly we're pulling out and the Second Armoured is rushing to take our place. What gives?"

"An important mission has come up" Alya answered, "And at this moment we are the only infantry unit in the sector close enough to reach the objective quick enough"

She pressed a button on the podium. A holo-projector flickered to life in the centre of the room. It displayed a icy world that spun lazily above the projector.

"This is Ziost" She announced, "This is our objective. Once a forested world, an ice age centuries ago turned it to a cold, barely hospitable world. Though most of you will have never heard of Ziost, it has played an important part in galactic history once before. It was a holding of the ancient Sith race and would be the capital of the Sith Empire formed by exiled Dark Jedi in 6,900 BBY. Many of the so-called Sith Lords built mighty fortresses there and from ther ethe Sith built their empire. In 5,000 BBY the Sith Empire aunched the Great Hyperspace War against the Republic and only the actions of a few Jedi and Empress Teta of the Koros system -later renamed the Empress Teta System- held back the Sith In the aftermath of the conflict, Ziost was subjected to orbital bombardment by Koros and Republic fleets" She pused for a moment, "Since then the worl has more or less faded from common knowledge, a forbidden world that few visit"

Chastity Mulvany raised a hand, "We appreciate the history lesson, General" She frowned, "But why is this world suddenly so important?"

Alya smiled, "Because we have recieved information form several reliable sources that put the Neo-Separatist headquarters and their ruling council on Ziost"

The buzz of suprise and eagerness rippled across the assembled troops and Alya let it continue for a few moments before speaking again.

"I think it says a lot about our reputation" She smiled, "For us to be given such an important mission. Our objectives are to land and establish fortified positions before moving in and securing the old Sith Fortress the Neo-Seps are using. Primary objective is to capture the Council. Secondary objectives are to locate and secure anything and anyone of significance"

"What's the word on defenses?" Gordo Baird asked. His injuries suffered on Agamar were still keeping him off the active roster, but he would be co-ordinating landings and deployment from Arc Royal.

"Data on Defenses are sketchy, but expect up-to-date turrets and weapons systems" Alya answered, "Droids are also likely. On the other hand, this is a millenia old fortress. It's likely power is suppled through exposed cables since i doubt the ancient Sith's power requirements would have led to them installing generators that are up to the task of powering modern weapons systems. If you see a generator or power linkage, take it out" She nodded for a moment, "I'm transmitting unit assignments to your datapads now, First Regiment will make first landing south of the fortress and will secure the landing zones before moving in to assault the fortress to draw defenders to that front. At this time Second Regiment will make a full combat drop north of the Fortress and set up firing positions, Even if First Regiment doesn't succeed in drawing in all the defenders, we'll at least force them to split the forces" As she had talked, the holo image had switched to an overhead view of the fortress and it's surrounding area, "Once the defnders are nautralized. Both First and Second Regiments will secure the area before effecting a hard entry. Second Regiment will then move in to secure the interior of the fortress and effect the capture of the Council"

Tucker Harwell, commander of third Regiment raised his hand, "I'm assuming you want Third Regiment to remain here on the Arc Royal as reinforcements"

"Yes" Alya nodded, "In the event we run into an unexpectedly high level of resistance, I'll need Third Regiment to make combat drops as soon as possible. Use your discretion on drop targets, you'll have full access to the Arc Royals Sensor scans. If I call for help, I expect you'll have your people drop in locations you deem most effective"

"Understood" Harwell smiled.

"Okay" She nodded, "We have just two days before we hit Ziost. By then I expect us to have hammered out any flaws in the plan and be ready for action. Any questions?"

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Octavia Terah's Quarters.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer Ackbar.
Mon Calarmari System.

Despite the aches and pains that rippled through her body as she sat down, Octavia knew she was feeling a lot better than she'd felt in weeks. She knew a lot of it was done to painkillers she was on, but just in the last few days her meditations with Piggy had really helped cleanse her of stress and frustration. Admittedly, she didn't feel quite so good when she looked at herself in the mirror, her bruises had turned a fetching shade of yellow and the sweeling around her left eye had only just started to go down and only her knowledge that Lucas Penrose looked a lot worse kept her in a reletively good mood.

Granted the mission to destroy the shipyard at Nespis had been suspended indefinetly. Pellaeon was unwilling to risk ships and personnel on an attack against such a heavily fortified target.
Also upon returning to Mon Calamari, Octavia had recieved news that Jaina Solo and her group had never made it to Mon Calamari, leaving Rogue Squadron another four pilots light. Though Jenna Tarn's position had been filled, Colonel Kasen Moor was now being forced to find another four replacement pilots to bring her squadron to full strength until the missing pilots showed up. Octavia hoped that Jaina and her freinds had simply been delayed and forced to make a detour around Neo-Sep fleet movements, but they were over a week overdue.

Additionally, she had also been informed that Jenna Tarn had disappeared from Coruscant weeks ago, not long after the Ackbar had passed through the system and dropped Jenna, Jaina, Deven and the others off there. A notice had been posted that she was believed to be at risk that she should be taken into protective custody when sighted.

Octavia sighed, Jenna hadn't deserved what had been done to her and where ever the young woman was, Octavia wished her well.

Her intercom beeped for attention and she reached out to activate it, "Terah here"

"General" Piggy's voice answered, "Holo-transmission from the Chimera"

"Patch it down here" Octavia ordered, "I'll take it in my office"

A few moments later, the holo-projector mounted in her desk lit up and displayed the image of Gilad Pellaeon above it.

"General Terah" Pellaeon's image greeted her, "You are looking well"

"Don't lie to me, Gilad" Octavia laughed, "I look terrible and you know it"

"Indeed" Pellaeon smiled, "And i know it could've been a lot worse. I have seen the reports from both yourself and Major Montjar"

Octavia frowned, "Should I be bothered that the Major is reporting directly to you?"

Pellaeon shook his head, "No, technically he is still assigned to the Chimera, but I actually asked for the report from him. Has this Lucas Penrose or Koss Mallowes or whatever his name is said anything yet?"

Octavia winced, "Not yet" She answered, "I broke his jaw multiple times and cut his mouth up really bad. It also turns out he's allergic to bacta so he's having to heal the slow way. It could be a while before he can speak intelligibly"

"I see" Pellaeon nodded, "Hopefully you'll be able to get something out of him by the time we reach Denon"

"We're relocating back towards the Core?" Octavia frowned.

"We are are" Pellaeon replied.

"What of the shipyards at Nespis?" Octavia asked.

"Gone" Pellaeon answered,

That caught her attention, "Gone? In what way gone?"

"Unknown" Pellaeon sighed, "A scout reported back this morning that the Neo-Seps had up and left and had destroyed the shipyards behind them"

"They did the job for us" Octavia said in confusion.

"They did" The aging officer shrugged, "It looks like the Neo-Seps are also pushing back towards the core. We're going to hit a few remaining bases on the way, but I have a special mission for you"

"A special mission?" Octavia repeated, "I'm listening"

"I want you to head to Tatooine with a small Task Force" Pellaeon continued, "You are to rendevouz with elements of the Tenth Fleet and take command"

"Take Command? What happened to Admiral Vandelhim?" Octavia asked trying to suppress the thrill that the mention of Tatooine sent though her.

"Nothing as such" Pellaeon snorted, "But Vandelhim branded those ships renegades after they refused to join the rest of the Tenth at Bothawui. Kel'lya is pulling Vandelhim's strings and Commander Escra Nay'lon -a Bothan I might add- refused to abandon the rest of the sector and led nearly two hundred ships away from the Bothan system to defend the worlds in that region"

"I can do that" Octavia nodded confidently, "What can you tell me about Commander Nay'lon"

"He's from the same generation as Treast Kre'fey" Pellaeon smiled, "Knows his stuff and refuses to play politics. He's also known for being a bit of a champion for the common soldier. I think you'll get on well with him"

"Good" Octavia grinned, "As long as I can work with him rather than have to work against him" She frowned, "Why Tatooine?"

"I suggested it" Pellaeon answered, "Due to commitments Nay'lon won't reach Tatooine until the seventeenth of next month. By my estimates, you be there a week earlier. From recent events I feel it would do you some good to drop in on your family on Tatooine"

"Sir?" Octavia's eyes widened, "But..."

"No buts, General" Pellaeon shook his head, "We may be at war, but my officers need to function. And I feel spending time with those close to you will do you a world of healing"

"Yes sir" Octavia nodded numbly, "Thank you sir"

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The Wraith.
Hyperspace.
Enroute To Rhen Var.
One Day Later.

"We have to talk"

Jenna opened her eyes and looked to the doorway where Jaden was standing. After leaving Nar Shaddaa she'd spent a lot of time here in the Wraith's cargo bay trying to find some kind of balance to try and keep herself together a little bit longer. She's emerged only long enough to wash and eat before returning to her meditations. In the four days since leaving the Smugglers Moon Jenna hadn't exchanged even a single word with Jaden and they'd spent the whole time simply trying to avoid each other.

She knew he was upset regarding her killing of Korvata, but she couldn't care less. She had vowed that Korvata would pay by her hand and he had done so, as would his mysterious paymaster. The one who had paid the late surgeon to butcher her and leave her teetering on the verge of madness. She was aware of how much she was slipping towards the dark side, but like Jaden's dislike of what she had done, she didn't care anymore.

She was just glad the people she did care about weren't here to see her falling.

"About what?" She asked.

"You know what" Jaden scowled, "About what you did to Korvata, your attack on that derelict begger, your obvious slide towards the darkside"

"Maybe I don't feel like talking" Jenna said with a bored yawn.

"I'm not leaving this bay until we do" Jaden said evenly.

"Fine" Jenna shrugged, "Then I'm getting something to eat" She began to move in the direction of the doorway.

"What makes you think I'm letting you leave until we've spoken about this?" Jaden said with a hard edge to his voice.

Jenna almost laughed, "What makes you think you can stop me?" She sneered.

The snap hiss of a lightsaber activating filled the air and Jaden swept a silvery blade up into a high guard position. At the same time, he dropped his mental barriers and allowed Jenna to sense the full extent of his force abilites.

Jenna froze and stared at the unexpected weapon, "THAT is very interesting" She said dryly. Her hand dropped to her own lightsaber, but she didn't activate it yet, having realised Jaden was trying to make a point.

"I say again" Jaden said carefully, "We need to talk"

"Fine" Jenna sighed, "We'll talk. You first. I never knew you were force sensitive and your record never mentioned anything of the sort. I do wonder where you got your abilities from. They certainly don't come from your father"

"Maybe they were spontaneous" Jaden smirked, "It happens"

"Maybe it does" Jenna shook her head, "But I doubt think its likely, which means you got the powers from your mother. I know it wasn't Asha Torsyn, she and you father weren't together long enough. And since then Face Loran has apparently lacked the interest in any long term relationship that would produce a child. Quite a mystery"

"Shira Brie" Jaden stated flatly.

"Shira Brie!" Jenna said in surprise, "Now that is very interesting. Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I want you trusting me" Jaden answered extinguishing the saber.

"Trusting you?" Jenna frowned, "I do trust you"

Jaden shook his head, "No, you don't. If you did, you'd listen to my advice. You'd trust me to help you and more importantly, you'd trust me to take some of the burden to help arrest your slide. You are on the verge of slipping fully into the dark side, unless you let me help you you'll never make it back to the light"

Jenna sighed and looked away in shame, "I can't let you do that. This is a one way trip for me, I'm not dragging you or anyone else down with me"

"I don't intend for that to happen" Jaden said confidently, "Trust me, let me find an alternative to this crusade of vengence of yours. Let me save you"

Jenna sighed, and the chink in her emotional armour Jaden had opened closed up again, "Sorry, Jaden. I'm beyond saving. nothing can save me from the darkness. On Rhen Var, we'll have to part our ways. Where I go no one can follow"

"I see" Jaden said with obvious trouble, "We'll soon part our ways. On Rhen Var"

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Interrogation Room 15-A.
Royal Guard Headquarters.
Nashira.
Skye.

The mercenary slumped in his seat, exhausted by his ordeal and only the cuffs that bound hin to the chair prevented him from nosediving onto the table. Over the last few days, he had been beaten, questioned, pumped full of a variety of chemicals and subjected to various tortures. Now at last, he had some peace. He tried to concentrate, tried to remember things, but his mental control evaded him. He knew he'd spent the last few days babbling, telling all in response to a multitude of questions, revealing everything he had known. But now, he struggled to remember his own name, let alone anything he may have said.

Jonah Levin, Commander of the Skye Royal guards, stared at the broken man for a few more moments, then turned and left the room. As he departed, the two guards that had also been in the room moved in and lifted the man from his seat to drag him off to a cell. Jonah thought about the information they'd extracted from the mercenary and other captured mercs as he made his way towards the tunnels that connected the Royal Guard Head Quarters to the Royal Palace.

The information they had culled from the captives was still incomplete, circumstantial at best. They would need some time to confirm many of the details, but it looked like the orders to capture the three young heirs had originated on Coruscant and that would be enough to give the orders for Skye agents there to be activated. Jonah had already worked out a few theories on who would want to take the children hostage and why. Somebody, possibly even someone in the Republic Senate or higher, wanted leverage against Queen Trinity Oslo-Tarn. Someone obviously suspected that the Queen was planning something, but without proof they had possibly decided to simply take the children as insurance to keep SKye in line.

Despite the failure of the kidnapping attempt, Jonah had to admit his security teams and precautions had fouled up big time. If it hadn't been for Wes Janson the intruders could have been off planet before anyone could have raised an alarm. They had sucessfully inflitrated the Royal Palace, evaded every single security system and had killed seven of his Royal Guard troopers, including one who would be absent from her four year old daughters birthday tomorrow.

The mercenaries, both the captured and the dead, were a motley assortment of sum and guns-for-hire that the leader, the man Jonah had just finished questioning, had recruited on Coruscant. Most had been Imperial soldiers, but a couple had been discharged from the Republic military for various indescretions. The mercenary how had hired them was himself an ex-Republic commando kick out of the service for running a smuggling operation. They all had skills and would not have come cheaply to whoever had ultimately hired them.
The ship they had was an unremarkable GX1 Short Hauler that had been purchased on Corellia for the purposes of the op. It's comm and nav systems offered no clues and were pretty much a dead end. The stealth suits or at least what was left of them after Janson's improvised bomb, did yield some clues. Though they bore no serial numbers, the paticular model had been traced to a contractor for Sienar Design Systems that had loaned several of the cloaking suits out for field testing. Considering the regulations regarding allowing non-military personnel from having access to such devices it was likely someone had greased a few wheels to encourage SDS to hand the mercenaries several suits.

Jonah had already dispatched someone to push at the SDS angle, but he knew it was unlikely they'd find out anything quickly. He still felt they would have more luck following up the few contact details the merc leader had provided. Someone on coruscant, someone close to Vorsk Kel'lya was behind the attempt,he was sure of it.

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Research Labs.
Beneath The Skye Royal Palace.

"You stick that probe in there" Janson said helpfully, leaning over the tech's shoulders, "It'll smoke"

Janson and the tech had one of the access panels on the prototype open and were trying to work out why the battlesuit had failed to operate properly ever since Queen Oslo-tarn had taken it into the fight at the starport.From what they could tell from the standard diagnostics everything was fine, but any attempt to operate the battlesuit resulted in a sudden multitude of error messages and an unusual amount of grinding noises.

So now, Janson and one of the techs assigned to him were going over every square inch of the battlesuit to find what was wrong.

The tech, Conner Markeb, reared back in outrage at Janson's presumption, "Nonsense" The Skye tech said angrily, "I know what I'm doing. I have a degree in electrical engineering from the Balmorra Institute of Technology"

"That's okay" Janson said equably, patting the side of the battlesuit, "She dosen't know that. It's goning to smoke anyway"

Markeb snorted and stuck the probe in. Sparks flew, followed by a bacon frying sound and brown smoke pouring out. The lights on Markeb's test board flashed once and died.

Janson snickered and looked over at their observer, "I don't know what they teach these kids at school these days" He said, mournfully shaking his head, "They build these things with just the right amount of smoke inside. You let some of it out -whoosh, don't work no more"

Markeb emitted a thin scream though his teeth.

Trinity Solo-Tarn, Queen and ruler of the world of Skye, shook her head in amusement, "You and I both know that's not true, Doctor"

"Call me Wes" Janson interrupted.

"Fine, Wes" Trinity nodded as she and Janson moved away from the increasingly frustrated Markeb, "Any ideas on what's wrong? I didn't think I'd been that rough with it"

"You weren't" Janson shook his head, "The few hits you even took didn't even penetrate the armour. At best, the impacts might have shaken something loose. It is a prototype after all, it's held together with duct tape and chewing gun"

"Worked well though" Trinity pointed out, "Not that difficult to use. Well armoured and it packs a lot of firepower. It'd be a good addition to the Skye Military once we get it into production"

Janson frowned, "I'm afraid a full production design is still a fair while off, Highness" He said, "I still need to work on a better more intergrated control system, a fully dedicated HUD and computer system and a scratch built power core thats light, but still provides the power. Not to mention better cooling, armour and artificial skeleton" He shrugged, "Could be a few prototype cycles away yet"

"I'll have to accept that" Trinity nodded, "In any case, the last of the team members you requested are just settling in. You'll be able to get this project on track" She smiled, "As well as some of those other projects you talked about"

Janson nodded, "No problem. I'm be eager to start getting to work with them"

"Good" Trinity smiled, then she looked vaguely awkward, "Again, I want to thank you for what you did to protect my children. I don't even want too think what might have happened if you hadn't been there"

"Then don't" Janson shrugged, "Speaking of your family, have you heard from Deven recently or your daughter?"

Trinity sighed, "I spoke to Deven about a month ago, he was heading off on some damned jaunt of a mission" She looked really unhappy, "I haven't spoken to Jenna for about the same time. She was at apparently ill with some kind of virus or something. She didn't tell me what it was, but she did assure me it was just something she'd picked up on Hapes and it wasn't serious" She sighed again, "I just wish she'd keep in touch more"

"There's a war on" Janson pointed out, "I know from my time with Rogue Squadron that every other week you'd be under comm silence or out of contact. Some days you'd just be so exhausted you'd just drop into bed and sleep for a week"

"I remember" Trinity smiled, "I miss those days. Back then if you didn't like somebody, you were allowed to shoot them. Now, as Queen, I have to smile and nod and accept their empty praise and tell them how I understand there problems and how I'm sorry to hear their nobility status doesn't offer them the same priviliges their grandparents enjoyed and how their family fortunes and businesses aren't as profitable as they used to be"

"Those wacky nobles and their get rich quick schemes" Janson laughed, then suddenly realised who he was speaking too, "No offence meant"

"None taken" Trinity laughed in return, "I've never been fond of nobles who seek only to improve their already luxurious lives. Thankfully, we don't have many of those on Skye. Most of the greedy, self-centred ones conspired with the Empire when they first came and were hunted down by lynch mobs after we first liberated Skye twenty-one years ago. Those that remain are 'lesser' bloodlines that tend to be closer to the common citizen. Those that aren't, well, I keep them in line"

Janson frowned, "How many nobles do you have here on Skye? The way you talk it sounds like there's a lot"

Trinity nodded, "Twenty three noble families all together. Most desending from the ruling families of Skye's old nations before the unification. The worst are the Rhys-Monroe's and the Zou's. Back when my ancestor Caleb Oslo unified Skye and created the Skye throne, the Rhys-Monroe's and the Zou's tried to make several attempts to take the throne. Their failures really put their noses out of joint and they've desired the throne ever since, though their influence has waned so much over the last few decades, I'd doubt they'd be able to hold it for long if they did maage to take it" She chuckled, "Of the other houses, the Gio-Vanti's, Blaylock's and the Steiner's are staunch allies of the Oslo and now the Oslo-Tarn bloodline. The rest fall somewhere in the middle"

"Begging your pardon, but that sounds like the Emperor's own circus" Janson blurted.

Trinity looked surprised for a moment, "True, I think that expression sums things up perfectly" The door to the lab opened to admit Jonah Levin, "Looks like this is important, I thank you for your time, Doctor Janson. Wes" She nodded then made her way over to Levin who then led her from the lab, presumably to somewhere secure.

With a shrug, Janson tunred and returned to where Morkeb was still working on the prototype battlesuit, "C'mon, smoky" He laughed, "Let's see if we can find with what's wrong with this. Open up the chest cavity, let's see what we find in there"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Secure Briefing Room.
Skye Royal Palace.

"Well, Jonah" Trinity said as Joanh shut the secure room door, "What do you have?"

"Nothing concrete yet" Levin answered, handing Trinity a datapad, "But the initial information does point to someone with a fair amount of cash to throw around. Someone from Coruscant"

"Could the message to the mercenary have simply been routed through Coruscant?" Trinity asked.

"Possible" The commander of the Royal guard shrugged, "But I doubt it. I'm willing to bet whoever hired the mercs is based primarily on Coruscant. After all, who would have the most to gain from having leverage against you in the form of hostages"

"Kel'lya" Trinity growled.

"Or someone close to him" Jonah nodded, "I've already prepared the orders for our agents on Coruscant to start looking into links there. Starting with the dead drops our merc prisoner gave up. It's a weak trail, but it's somewhere to start"

"Good" Trinity smiled, "If Kel'lya or one of his cronies are behind this, I want enough evidence to bring him and his government down"

"How are the children?" Jonah asked, switching subjects.

"Holding up well" Trinity replied, "The noises of the night of the attempt, then the sudden increased security really frightened them. Not to mention with their force sensitivity, they felt everyones anxiety. Jasek and Malcom are back to their usual havoc creating selves" She sighed, "Bel though, she's retreated into her shell again. Just sits in a corner with a doll and refuses to play with her brothers. I'm struggling to get even a word out of her half the time" She scowled, "Dammit, and I was making good progress getting her to open up more"

"She's just a really quiet kid" Jonah stated, "The doctors gave her a clean bill of health. No disorders or disabilities. Truth, be told. I was the same when I was her age. Look at me now"

"True" Trinity smiled, "Change of subject. How do we stand with the other preparations?"

"Seventy percent complete" Jonah nodded, "The last shipment from Kamino arrives next week and they should be in position by the middle of next month. On your command, we'll take a minimum of ninty percent of the objectives within two to three days. The last ten percent, a week at the longest. Because the Republic has trimmed back of forces in this area of the galaxy, we may not even be opposed in some cases. Not to mention, eighty percent of the worlds in question are already with us. We'll be able to supplement our own forces with the local militias"

"How soon till we can move?" Trinity asked, "Realistically?"

"Two months minimum" Jonah replied, "My recommendation is to wait until after the Neo-Separatists are defeated and the war is over"

"That could complicate matters" Trinity pointed out, "Units will be returning home"

"Maybe" Jonah conceeded, "But it's preferable to fighting a three sided war. In any case, by then the Republic military will be in no noood for another fight, while the majority of our forces will be fresh and firmly entrenched"

"Fine" Trinity nodded, "When we do this, it's going to be big. But if the New Republic has to die, then so be it"


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The Old Sith Citadel.
Ziost.
One Day Later.

The Genyosha hit Ziost hard. Within hours of the Arc Royal arriving insystem, the first wave -consisiting of the entiretiy of First Regiment- were disembarking the still glowing drop pods and advancing in full force towards the south face of the citadel. The Power Armoured troops pushed through the dark forests and were soon dug in around the citadel as Genyosha mortar teams shelled the citadel walls and defensive points. The return fire was sporadic at first, but soon increased in quantity as more defensive troops moved to the southern battlements.

Even so, the defense was far lighter than had been expected. Alya Ven estimated that there was only ten percent of the reported defenders actually present. Where were the rest?

Alya's comm crackled and a moment later, the voice of Chastity Mulvany filled her ears, "Second Regiment is down and moving in on North side of fortress. Negative opposition so far"

"Understood" Alya answered as an unsettling feeling settled over her, "Breach the outer wall on that side and see if it stirs them up"

"Affirmative" Mulvany answered, then added, "Something wrong?"

"Maybe" Alya answered, sighting in on a droid firing down from a balcony and firing. Her energy bolts separated the droids head from its shoulders and sent the remains tumbling in two directions, "Stay alert and report anything unusual, no matter how insignificant"

"Will do" Mulvany replied,"Breaching now"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stonia.
Almania.
Republic Held Sector.

As it had done for over a week now, the storms continued to hammer down on the Almanian city of Stonia. Despite the time of day, the thick black clouds and dense falling rain resulted in a lack of any real light. Normally, the lights of the city would have expelled much of the darkness, but with New Republic and Neo-Separatist forces facing each other across the river which bisected the city, such lights would have only invited artillery bombardment. Even so, both sides occasionally exchanged fire and light mortar strikes when the opportunity arose.

Due to the heavy storms, air support was non-existant and the orbiting fleets of both sides, when not ecxchanging fire, were unable to penetrate the storm clouds with there sensors to provide and accurate depiction of enemy positions.Visibility was almost down to a few hundred feet and even ground based sensor systems were next to useless.

To make matters worse, the river had burst it's banks due to the excessive rainfall and much of Stonia was now knee deep in flood water. The result of this was that both sides had relocated their heavier equipment further back behind the lines to avoid them becoming bogged down in the thick mud that had been deposited by the flood waters.

Soria Onasi grunted with disgust as she forced her feet through the flood waters, feeling the layer of mud tug at her boots. Since she and her Republic Rangers had arrived on Almania, things had not progressed well. Though the Republic troops had succeeded in pushing the Neo-Separatist forces back on most fronts, things had quickly bogged down in the capital. The tight confines of the city had restricted the use of heavy armour and forced infantry into building-to-building combat. Eventually, the Rangers had forced the droid forces back over the river and the Neo-Separatists had blown the bridges.

At that point the storm had rolled in and grounded air support before Soria had been able to call up transport craft. Even the bridge engineers she'd called in to repair the bridges ahd been forced to land miles from the city and even now were themselves being slowed by flooding in other areas.

On the plus side, supplies were not a problem. Twice since the storm had rolled in, a heavy transport had managed to fight through the storm clouds and make a supply drop, dropping a number of supply containers as it passed overhead and back above the storm before it attracted a lightning strike.

Morale on the other hand, wasn't flying so high. Due to the flooding, the sporadic bombardment, occasional fire exchanged across the river and the inability to sleep well, the Rangers were not exactly in good spirits.

And then there was the smell.

As well as forcing the river to burst it's banks, the heavy rain had also overloaded the sewers, resulting in a significant amount of waste being brought to the surface. Actually, the sight wasn't much better than the smell.

Pulling her jacket tighter to fend off the driving rain, Soria turned off the street and climbed the steps up out of the flood water and into the restaurant that had been taken over as a mess hall for the Rangers. In the lobby she shook off as much as the rain as much as she could, handed her soaked jacket and helmet off to an orderly, swapped her muddied boots for a clean pair and made her way to the restaurant's main seating area.

There she found the midday buffet laid out by staff who refused to leave and were grateful for the credits the New Republic had paid for use of the restaurant with. Helping herself to a few slices of garlic bread and a selection of cooked meats and a tossed salad along with a glass of juice, she made her way to the only occupied table in the restaurant.

Sharon Omizuku looked up briefly from her own plate of food, "Hi Boss, Still raining then?"

Soria sighed as she settled into her seat, "Tell me about it" She muttered, before taking a biteful of the garlic bread, "The only plus side of the rain is that it's probably worse for the Neo-Seps. All this rain is going to play havoc with the visual sensors of all those droids"

"Not to mention the rust" Sharon grinned, "You hear about what Kimura's doing?" She asked refering to Taisuke Kimura, the Rangers other Major.

"No" Soria frowned, "What is he doing?"

"He's got a few of the newer non-coms out looking for the baby alligators the flood brought into the city. As proof of their existence he even has a couple of fuzzy holos"

Soria smirked, "Well, they're bouyant and log shaped, but they're hardly alligators"

Omizuku made to reply, but was cut off as the air was filled with a loud, keening whistle that was audible even inside the builidng, "Oh hell! Artillery!"

Even as the words left Sharon's mouth, both the two women and the restaurant staff were diving under tables. An instant later, the entire building shook to the sounds of explosions outside. Plaster and paint was shredded from the walls and ceiling in clouds in repsonse to the vibrations shaking the restaurant and one of the windows cracked under the violence of the shock waves. After what seemed like an eternity, but was only a few minutes, the sounds of artillery fire ceased and everyone emerged warily from under the tables.

Soria looked at Sharon, "C'mon" she ordered, "We need to get back to the CP"

Sharon nodded and the two made their way back to the lobby area and collected their jackets and helmets. Outside they found the Rangers and the few remaining citizens in full activity despite the flood waters and the driving rain. Several buildings had been hit and were burning and the water had been made even more murky by the impacts of the artillery. There didn't appear to be any casualties, but until all the reports were in they couldn't be certain.

Halfway to the command post, the sounds of artillery sounded again. This time however, it was the Rangers artillery returning fire. Soria watched the far bank of the river as explosions erupted in the Neo-Separatist held portion of the city.

"And then we return fire" She muttered.

"They fire at us" Sharon nodded, blinking rain from her eyes, "Our spotters zero in on them and pound them just enough to keep them honest until tomorrow"

Another flash of lightning lit up the sky and a second later, a rumble of thunder that almost eclipsed the sounds of artillery detonations filled the air.

"Damn storm prevents us from doing anything more" Soria grunted.

Rounding the next corner they were met with a sight neither of them had wanted to see. One of the shells had impacted in the street, the crater visible even through the murky waters. The twisted remains of a speeder lay nearby and a half dozen bodies were arranged on the bed of a speeder truck, all covered in blood soaked sheets. The tattered remains of a Ranger combat uniform was visible under one of the sheets.

"What happened?" Soria demanded.

One of the nearest Rangers, a Lieutenant Colm Tran, looked over to them, "Ma'am, a group of survivors had brought one of our supply pods that had gone awry after the last drop. Privates Mazk and Jojiro were helping them unload the pod when a artillery shell landed right on top of the speeder" Tran swallowed, "The four civilians and Private Jojiro were killed instantly, Private Mazk was far enough away from the blast to avoid the same fate, but she died before the medics got here"

"Dammit!" Soria muttered, eyeing the corpses, "I'm getting tired of this" She thought for a moment, "Sharon?"

"Colonel?" Omizuku asked expectantly.

"I want you to put together a twelve-strong team to cross the river and knock out that artillery" Soria ordered.

"Gladly" Sharon nodded, "When do you want me to move?"

"As soon as possible" Soria answered, "The sooner we can knock out that artillery, the safer it'll be for the engineers when they get here"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Old Sith Citadel.
Ziost.

A section of wall the size of a landspeeder disintegrated as a shaped charge of the other side of the wall detonated. Through the dust clouds stepped a group of power armoured infantry, sweeping their weapons up and down the corridor into which they had stepped. A handful of guards responded and tried to bring their own weapons to bear, but were cut down by the Genyosha's fire.

Major Chastity Mulvany allowed her squad to secure the corridor while she studied the map overlay on her HUD. The map data they had wasn't believed to be reliable, but she'd happily take an inaccurate something rather than an accurate nothing. Sub-vocalising a few commands, she commanded her map unit to lock onto the suspected council chambers.

"This way" She ordered.

Leading from the front as always, Chastity lead her squad through the fortress. Even as they moved up through the many floors of the fortress and closer to the Council chambers, the level of resistance remained light. A handful of droids and organic guards put up a meager defense, but their efforts seemed half hearted. The only major resistance came at the doors to the council chambers, the Genyosha squad discovered a dozen Super Battle droids protecting a time of techs who appeared to be trying to open the doors.

As the Super Battle droids brought their weapon arms up, the Genyosha brought their own weapons up and opened fire. Chastity dodged right as she fired, making sure she didn't block her squadmates line of fire. Her blaster shots impacted one of the Super Battle droids clean in the torso, the first two of three impacted against the droids chest armour, but the third and final shot punched through the weakened armour and blasted the droids internals.

As the wall arrested her motion, cracking tiles in the process, she swung her rifle in on a new target. Out of the corner of her vision she saw one of her team -David Worth- tumble back under fire from the droids, but pushed the distraction aside and sighted in on the next target. A burst of laser fire and the droid was tumbling back, its laser arm firing reflexively into the ceiling.

At that moment the entire fortress seemed to shake, as if it was reacting to the conflict inside it. Realistically, Chastity knew that the tremors were the result of First Regiment turning Mortars and other explosives against the battlements and the defenders on them. But a small part of her, a part that was aware that Ziost had once been the Sith Throne World, was worried that some Sith evil could have been awaken and was now making itself known.

Shaking away the thoughts, she picked out a new target, a droid that had not yet been savaged by Genyosha fire and brought her rifle in line with it, ready to fire........

.......The next thing she knew she was looking up at the ceiling, her vision slowly becoming less blurred and silence filling her helmet. She contemplated the silence for a moment before panic set in, was she deaf? What had happened? What was happening to her team?

A second later, the head of Gregory Hector slipped into view, his helmets faceplate pulled back to reveal his concerned expression.

"Major!" Hector said, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine!" Mulvany said, louder than she meant to, "I'm fine" She repeated, "What happened?"

"One of the SBD's almost nailed you with a missle" Hector answered, "Nearly put you down for good"

"Damn" Mulvany muttered as she climbed to her feet, "Report"

"All hostiles in the immediate area neutralized" Hector said quickly, "First battallion has secured the exterior and Second has swept the interior clear of hostiles. We're all clear"

"Casualties?" Mulvany asked warily.

"Light for the most part" Hector answered carefully, "Mostly minor injuries. Not got all the reports yet though. I can tell you we lost both David Worth and Leena. worth got caught in a fusilade of laser fire and his armor couldn't hold up. Leena caught a missile head on, tore her chest apart"

Mulvany shuddered, she'd nearly shared the Omwati's fate. She indicated the door, "Any luck getting that open? The Neo-Sep council is behind that door"

Hector pointed to two armored forms crouched by the door control panel, "Rzadi and Wolfe say they'll have it open in a second or two"

"Good" Mulvany nodded, "I want to be the first through"

"Major...I..." Hector started.

"No buts" Mulvany held a hand up, "We're talking a bunch of rogue senators, CEO's and nobles here. I doubt they'll be much of a threat" Moving towards the doors, She nodded to Rzadi and Wolfe, "Well?"

Rzadi looked up, "Opening now"

The doors into the Council Chamber trembled for a moment before slowly sliding apart. For a brief moment, Mulvany stared into the chamber shocked by what she saw, then suddenly she was thrown back, her vision filled with rows of razor sharp teeth. As her back impacted against the floor, the creature reared back momentarilyand she was able to take the brief respite to recognise it as a Nexu. As the Nexu resumed it's attempts to open her helmet and get to her soft flesh, she was aware of Gregory Hector ordering the squad to hold fire, telling them their weapons were just as likely to kill her as well as the Nexu.

She knew the Nexu was unlikely to get through her armor, but she didn't want to take that chance.

Flattening her left hand, she drove it knife like into the Nexu's throat, the armored fingers piercing the soft, vunerable flesh and severing the creatures throat, jugular and penetrating through the brain. The Nexu made a sound that was half whimper, half gurgle, snapped at her head a few more times, stiffened and collapsed on top of her wheezing its last. Kicking the creatures corpse to one sidem she climbed -once again- to her feet.

"Major...." Hector began.

"I'm fine" She waved him away, "Just surprised. What the hell was that doing here?"

"Feeding" Rzadi answered, peering into the Council Chamber.

Wolfe joined the Falleen at the doorway, before spinning away and -barely opening his faceplate in time- emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor.

Mulvany herself struggled to keep her own stomach under control as she looked into the room. Turning away she activated her comm unit, "General Ven, this is Mulvany. We have a problem"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prisoner Cell Three.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

Oddball sat up on his bunk as the door opened as it had done so the last couple of days and waited as Jaina was shoved uncremoniously through the doorway, exactly like the had been thrown the last two times. This time however, he'd been prepared and had laid her bunks matress on the floor in the spot she had landed -painfully- the last two times. Unfortunately, the guards had also been prepared for something like this and had shoved her with enough force that she actually covered the width of the cell, impacted the wall -painfully- rebounded off and landed on her back only halfway onto the matress, her rump hittting the floor, also painfully.

Oddball winced and as the door closed again, he stood and made his way to where Jaina was still laid groaning, "What'd you do to tick them off this time?" He asked.

Jaina moaned and cracked one eye open, "I seem to remember trying to describe the interrogators linearage in some very unflattering terms"

"Smart move" He grinned, "You need help getting up?"

"Nooo" Jaina waved weakly, "I'm comfortable down here"

"Liar" Oddball shot back with a laugh.

"Hey, my body's so numb right now" She answered, "I can't feel much of anything"

Oddball frowned, "What exactly do they have against you though?" He asked, "Even I've not been getting it as bad as you"

Jaina slowly rose to her feet and with Oddball's help returned the matress to the bunk. Settling down on the bunk, she sighed, "I think it has something to do with Jenna"

Oddball stiffened, "Jenna?"

"Yeah" Jaina nodded, "I think she's coming here"

"Here?" Oddball whispered, "To Rhen Var? We have to stop her"

"How?" Jaina sat up with a wince, "How do we stop her? Me and Lowie are cut off from the force, we're stuck who knows how far below the surface in a prison, We have no weapons and quite frankly I'm in no condition for an escape. We don't even know when she'll get here"

Oddball was shocked by the apparent surrender in Jaina's voice, "Are you saying we do nothing?"

"No" Jaina shook her head, "We just need to plan very carefully and hope we don't run out of time"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.
Visage Enterprises Storage Facility FSG-53.
Tirahnn.

In the shadowed, silence of his quarters, Garik 'Face' Loran was alone with his thoughts. The only light in the room came from the small, palm sized, holo-projector he held in his hand. A hand span sized image was rendered in detail above the projectorm an image of one the few people Face had truly cared for enough to open his heart to. The only woman he'd married.

Asha Torsyn, who had lived for only a hearbeat as Asha Loran.

When he closed his eyes he could still see that day as clear as ever. The fighting aboard the Queen's Pearl, the harried retreat to the Sacul's airlocks, the final shootout, himself dodging the laster shot that would have, should have, hit him and the look on Asha's face as she stared at her wound.

Most of all he remembered the soul crushing pain in his heart as she lay in his arms, the life seeping out of her. It had been like someone had torn out his heart and tossed it to the side. The defining memory though were the words they had exchanged as Asha lay dying, even know he could here her voice saying the words in time with him.

He mouthed the words silently to himself as he heard her voice in his mind speaking the Mandalorian marriage speech.

"Mhi solus tome"
"Mhi solus dhar'tome"
"Mhi me'dinui an"
"Mhi ba'juri verde"

"I love you" He'd said.

Then her very last words, "I know. I love you too"

He forced down the ache that threatened to surface and instead focused on the memory of her last smile, the same one he saw reflected in Asha's holo-image. They'd been together for such a short time, but she'd stayed with him all these years. He'd never subscribed to the idea of ghosts, but sometimes he'd had a feeling that she was there, just in the corner of his eye, watching him, watching over him and offering moral support when he needed it.

Perhaps that was why he'd been unable to form a lasting relationship since then, he'd been comparing them all to Asha. He'd dated other women, but they'd all lacked that elusive quality that had attracted him to Asha in the first place. Ironically, he'd probably spent more time in the company of Sacul than he had with any other woman. Despite Jaden, his friends and his career, he'd been alone ever since Asha had died.

After all these years, the pain of Asha's death still hurt, yet he'd always avoided sharing it with anybody. Well, almost anybody. He'd shared a lot with Sacul over the years. She might have been a computer simulation of a person, an artifical intelligence, but she was a good listener and she had access to a wide selection of phsychiatric journals and databases, with the result that she was a pretty fair counselor, plus she was capable of keeping things confidential.

Even now she could be observing him in his silent and long lived pain, but he knew that she wouldn't do that. She always found something to occupy her attention, but was never far when he needed to speak to her. He wasn't sure why it was so easy to bare himself to Sacul, perhaps it was that her digital nature prevented her using the information for personnal gain or maybe it was the fact he saw so much of Asha in the way Sacul was consistantly growing as an actual living being.

He was stirred from his thoughts by the sound of the door chime. With a sigh he deactivated the holo-projector and place it on his desk, "Lights" He commanded, his voice catching momentarily. Coughing he waited until the lights had reached a suitable brightness, then looked to the door, "Enter" he called.

The door hissed open and Deven entered, a look of determination on his face, "Face, we need to talk"

"About what?" Face frowned.

"Jenna" Deven answered, "You've got a message from Jaden. I'm guessing it's about her"

"Wait?" Face was surprised, "How did you know I asked Jaden to go after Jenna?"

"Logic" Deven replied with a smirk, "I know that other than Wraiths, there are only two other people you'd trust with the task of watching over Jenna and only one of them is capable of handling Jenna if it came down to it. Plus Lucius was here"

"Nice work" Face nodded, "Except I haven't got a message from Jaden"

"Just came in" Deven smiled, "I was monitoring the communciations, so I was there when it came in and I know you haven't read it yet"

Face scowled, but turned to his desk computer and pulled up the comm logs. Sure enough, there was an encrypted message waiting for him. No identifying tags, but the first twelve numbers matched one of the comm accounts Jaden had sole access to, "Ok, it seems you're right" He said grudgingly. Punching in the decryption code, he opened the message and read through it.


*******TO.WRAITH.PRIME.**********
*******SENDER.WRAITH.NULL*********
****Have made contact with subject <Jenna Tarn>.
****Forced from observation to direct contact by enemy actions on Bespin.
****Made side trips to Arkania and Narr Shaddaa for information gathering.
****Currently en-route to Rhen Var. Possible location of Primary target <Prime Councillor>
****WARNING. Subject <Jenna Tarn> rapidly approaching Darkside.
****Subject <Jenna Tarn> has killed at least once without reason.
****May be forced into confrontation with subject <Jenna Tarn>
****Am pursuing possibilty of alternative course of action.
****ADDITIONAL.Confrontation on Narr Shaddaa with rogue Arkanian surgeon leads to possibility that subjects condition may be for specific reason.
****Will attempt further information gathering on Rhen Var.
****WRAITH.NULL.OUT**************



Face read the message carefully then looked up at Deven, "They're heading for Rhen Var. Apparently, thats where the Prime Councillor may be" He said avoiding mention of anything from the word warning onwards.

"Fine" Deven nodded, "Then thats were I'm going"

"Deven, wait....." Face began.

"Face, old buddy" Deven paused, "Don't try and talk me out of it. This is my daughter we're talking about"

"Yes" Face sighed, "But it's also my son thats involved with this. We're all going"

"Seriously?" Deven turned and eyeballed Face with his good eye.

"Yes" Face nodded, "We'll take the Sacul and I dount we could take any of the others out of coming"

"Let's go then" Deven grinned. Then he stopped, his eyeline flicked down at the holo-projector momentarily, "Remember, as we've all been telling you for years, anytime you want to talk....."

Face smiled, "I know and I appreciate it"

"Good" Deven nodded.

"Wait, first..." Face said, "How did you know I sent Jaden to keep an eye on Jenna?"

"I didn't" Deven smirked and his face lit up with amusement, "Not for sure, until you confirmed it. Same with the message. I guessed"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stonia.
Almania.
Neo-Separatist Held Sector.

Knee high water soaking against their fatigues, Sharon Omizuku's hand picked Ranger squad carefully made their way deeper into the droid held portions of the city. Behind them, thered in the shadows of a overhang were the trio of row boats they had crossed the river in. Assuming the mission went well, then as of this minute, those boats were the only way back.

Sharon had picked her team carefully. The core of her unit were the usual members of her squad, the heavily built Moon and the former cellmates Unagi and Usagi. Too them she'd added three more troopers, the humans Stoyler, Wills and Kronz. Three heavy weapons specialists, the Togorian Skraar, the Klatooine Baraka and the human Tannis and two engineers, the Omwati Orthan Xur and the Rodian Teeko.
All had jumped at the chance for the mission when, as much as an excuse to do something as it was do deal with the constant artillery bombardment that had made nights miserable.

Their primary mission objective was simple, either locate and destroy the Neo-Separatist artillery units or tag them with the marker isotops, vacate the area and then call in the Ranger's artillery to fire on the tagged units. Sharon didn't expect the mission to be easy, but she anticipated that they'd be able to knock out or destroy at least fifty-to-sixty percent of the artillery. At the very least, they could cripple the Neo-Separatist artillery capabilities.
They had a secondary mission too. If they had the chance they were to place isotope tags that would allow the Ranger artillery to bring fire onto the Neo-Sep motor pool. The less armour the Rangers had to face when the inevitable push came, the better.

Sharon quietly, but swiftly lead her squad through the flooded streets. Enemy patrols were nearly non-existant. With standard battle droids having balance problems on anything, but solid ground and the Separatist commanders unwilling to deploy the heavier and better balanced Super Battle droids, limited organic patrols had been deployed instead. However, Ranger spotters had determined that the flooding and constant rainstorm had encouraged many of the patrols to follow very specific and very predictible routes.

Sharon didn't really blame them. Sloshing through the cold water and getting rained on constantly wasn't pleasant. Her first choice for spending the night would have been spending the night in a warm bed, not up to her knees in flood water moving through enemy territory.

Fortunately, they had an idea of where the artillery units were. A Prowler drone had been launched into the airspace above the city and was sending back the specific locations of the artillery units. Sharon didn't now how long the drone would last before a lightning strike fried it's circuits, but for now it had pinpointed the artillery to a park North of her squads position. The drone had also pinpointed the motor pool a little to the east in a series of warehouses.

Coming to an intersection, Sharon held up her hand for the squad to stop, "Moon" She said looking over her shoulder, "Take Stoyler, Wills, Kronz, Baraka and Tannis and go start tagging up anything important at the motor pool. In addition, anything you can sabotage in the process, do so. Meet back at the boats in..." She glanced at her chrono, "Twenty minutes"

Moon nodded his assent and indicating to his assigned squad led them off in the direction of the motor pool.

Sharon briefly watched them go, satisfied that Moon would kep the others in line, then nodded to her own squad, "Let's move out"

During the short wade to the park where the artillery had been positioned, they encountered only a single, easily avoidible patrol. The Neo-Seps had been making so much noise that Sharon and her Rangers had heard them long before they saw them and had time to get out of sight.
When they did reach the park and found somewhere to observe the situation without risk of detection, they were surprised by the lax attitude and security of the onsite units. Apart from a pair of Battle Droids, the only targets present were the artillery crews, all of whom were doing anything except manning their units. Most of the crewers were playing card games with each other, whilst others were resting on crawler tracks or paying little attention to anything. The artillery unit themselves were a mixed lot, two Heavy Artillery Guns, a trio of Long Range Missile Carriers and a single Long Tom Mobile Artillery Cannon, it's massive barrel pointing skywards.

Sharon signalled to her squad and they began to spread out around the park to take up firing positions and on an unspoken signal, they opened fire.

Skraar was the first to fire, the Togorian's heavy gatling blaster cutting apart the two droids and several of the crewers in a single roaring burst. Unagi and Usagi added their fire next, their blaster rifles picking out targets with deadly effiiciency. The two engineers Orthan Xur and Teeko concentrated on any crewer that was close to a com unit with one of them hurling a deadly frag grenade into the midst of one packed group of surprised crewers, turning them into a cloud of smoke and red mist. Sharon herself picked out targets at random, intending to make a clean sweep of it all.

After what felt like an eternity, but was closer to only a few minutes, the last crewer fell into the knee deep water, his blood mixing into the murky water and mingling with the blood of his fellows.

"Right" Sharon shouted, as an alarm echoed from somewhere "Xur, Teek, get those charges placed. The rest of you, stay alert. We made a lot of noise and it won't be long till someone comes looking"

It was a tense few minutes as the two engineers moved between the artillery vehicles placing their goods. The Omwati Xur led the way, placing Nergon-Six charges in specific locations on the artillery, locations where the explosive charge would breach armor and tear apart the vehicles. However, following behind, Teek was also placing much smaller Thermal detonators in less obvious places like lauch tubes, under gunnery chairs, even tucking them inside repulsor nozzles. In the event, the Nergon charges were discovered before they could be blown, the Thermal detonators should escape detection until they could be detonated. Even then, Once they were done, the two engineers quickly tagged each vehicle with a radioactive isotope that would light them up bright as day on the scanner units of the Ranger Artillery.

"Done" Xur called.

Quickly, the rangers retreated to a safe distance and Xur sent the detonation timer signal that started the five minute countdown for the explosives.

"Okay, lets get out of here" Sharon called, "Let's hope the sloppy response of the Neo-Seps lasts us out"

Unfortunately, it was a vain hope. Halfway back to the boats, they ran straight into another patrol. Though the Ranger's managed to take the element of surprise, the patrol still held them up long enough, that the Rangers came under fire again while they were still some distance from rendevouz point.

Pressing her body into the wall and ducking behind the dumpster, Sharon tried to avoid looking at Orthan Xur's shocked expression as the Omwati's corpse floated past her feet. They'd practically worked straight into an ambush and Xur had been cut down practically in the first exchange, though not before she had succeeding in bringing down a Super Battle Droid. No other Rangers had been lost yet, but that could soon change if they didn't deal with the Neo-Seps before reinforcements showed up.

Sighting down her rifles length, Sharon snapped off two shots. Her first shot missed high, but her second hit the intended target, the laser energy bolt burning through the head of the Battle Droid. As the droid toppled, Sharon sought out Unagi and Usagi on the far side of the street with the other engineer Teeko.

"Get ready to cover me" Sharon ordered, then turned to glance over her shoulder, "Skraar, on my signal open up with that cannon of yours. Cut to pieces anything that isn't wearing Ranger colours"

"What signal will that be?" The Togorian snarled.

"You'll know it when you see it" Sharon answered, crouching and taking a hold of Xur's collar dragged the body closer to her. Quickly, she searched the dead Omwati's pockets until she found what she was looking for. One of the thermal detonators Xur had not been able to place on the artillery units. Setting the timer for only a few seconds, she pressed the activator, "Get ready!" She shouted, then rising above the dumpster she hurled the detonator at the cluster of droids and troopers blocking the way, "Fire in the hole!" She shouted.

As the thermal detonator landed amongst the Neo-Separatist troops, one of them picked out Sharon before she could duck out of sight, nailing her through the meaty part of her upper right arm with a laser bolt. Yelping more in surprise than pain and she stumbled back crashing into the water, but before she could gather her wits, the thermal detonator exploded. The subsequent explosion took out most of the Neo-Sep squad, caved in the front of the building they had sheltered around and sent a four foot high wall of water rushing down the street at the Rangers.

Sharon had still not yet recovered from her shooting and dunking and quickly found herself turned upside down and every which way. By the time, she found her equilibrium and surfaced Skraar had opened up with his heavy repeater to finish off the remaining Neo-Seps. Coughing up mouthfuls of the foul, fetid Sharon stuggled to sit up as her wounded arm grew numb and she tried not to think about the effects of getting the filthy water in her wound, let alone her lungs.

A furred claw slipped under the armpit of her uninjured arm and lifted her clear of the water. Sharon glanced up into the feline features of the Togorian Skraal, "Thanks, Private" She rasped, "Report" she called.

"Enemy unit neutralized" Unagi answered.

"Way is clear" Usagi nodded, "We should..."

"..Leave before more show up" Unagi finished.

"Agreed" Sharon said weakly as the sounds of the explosives on the Artillery detonating rumbled in the distance, "We'll take Xur's body with us. We're not leaving anyone behind"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Geers Estate.
Tralus.
One Hour later.

Dru Kargin looked up from the datapad he held and at the other occupant of his office, "Is this accurate?" He asked.

"It is" The non-descript woman answered, "Around a week ago, an unknown agency attempted to kidnap the children of Skye ruler, Queen Trinity Oslo-Tarn. The attempt was foiled with casualties confined to a number of Royal Guardsmen and the kdnappers"

"Someone tried to grab Deven's kids" Dru muttered.

"Sir?" The agent was confused.

"Deven" Dru repeated, "Deven Tarn. Trinity's husband"

"Ah" The agent nodded in understanding, "You served with him didn't you? In Rogue Squadron?"

"Yes" Dru nodded, "It's a few years back now, back before the squadrons were disbanded" He looked back up, "How did we come by the information? I hadn't realised we had anyone on Skye"

"We don't" The agent answered, "It came to us"

"It came to us?" Dru frowned.

"It did" The agent shrugged, "A Skye agent passed it to one of our people on Telos"

Dru scowled, "A rogue agent?"

"Not judging by the holo that came with it" The agent answered, producing a hand sized holo-projector as she did so.

Dru was annoyed that the agent hadn't produced the holo-projector with the message, but took it anyway. He was surprised to see two noteworthy things on the projector, the first was the Royal Seal of Skye, signifying that the contents on the projector came direct from Queen Oslo-Tarn herself. The second was a thumbprint and DNA reader, which if he was right Oslo-Tarn and Skye Intelligence had a sample of his DNA on file.

"I think" Dru said carefully, "we may have underestimated the capabilities of the Skye Intelligence network"

"I would agree, sir" The agent nodded. She indicated the holo-projector, "Would you prefer I leave?"

"No" Dru shook his head, "I may want a second opinion on this message" He pressed his thumb against the reader and waited while it scanned his print, then ignored the slight sting of pain as it took a skin scraping for comparison. The device seemed to take several minutes to process the print and DNA sample, enough that Dru began to worry that something else was happening here.

A moment later, the image of a woman flicker into life above the projector. For a moment, Dru's breath caught in his throat as the visage of Trinity Oslo-Tarn gazed out at him. He'd heard from Halley and Face about how beautiful Deven's wife was, but he'd never met her and actually seeing her stunned him for a moment. She was beautiful, there was no denying that, but she exuded a measure of power that carried over even in a record holo. Deven had certainly found himself an interesting wife. Shaking himself, he force himself to concentrate on the holo message.

"Mister Kargin" Oslo-Tarn began, "As you may now be aware from the message given to you by my agent on Telos, certain elements attempted to kidnap my children to use them as bargaining tools or as a way of making me bend to their commands. This will not stand and I have spent some effort in the intervening time back tracking the kidnappers tracks. I has reason to believe that the kidnap order originated on Coruscant"

"Coruscant?" Dru said aloud, "Someone in the Republic government?"

"Yes" Oslo-Tarn nodded, "You've arrived at the same conclusion I have"

For a moment, Dru missed the true import of Oslo-Tarn's words, the the realisation hit him hard, "She reacted to my words!" He stared at the holo-projector in shock.

"Yes, this is a live connection" Oslo-Tarn smiled with amusement, "I couldn't leave such a critical conversation to the irregularities of the mail service"

"I'm..I'm" Dru stammered, "I didn't expect this. This is why it took so long to process my print?"

"Indeed. It took a little longer than expected to make the connection" Oslo-Tarn explained, "But I knew once the device arrived in the Corellian System, it would only be a matter of time before you activated it"

"I'm not even going to ask how you knew" Dru shook his head, then straightened up, all business, "So what can I for you, Highness?"

"I was hoping you would be able to send some agents to take over the investigative work on Coruscant from my own people" Oslo-Tarn said, "Unfortunately, my assets are limited and I need my own people elsewhere"

"What makes you think I have 'agents'?" Dru asked warily.

"I know enough about your operation that you have built yourself and impressive intelligence network" She held up a hand to forstall any comments from Dru, "Don't try to deny it, but also don't worry. I have no itention of using it against you in any way. I just need your help with this"

"Fine" Dru nodded, "My own Coruscant teams can do what you need? Any specifics?"

"Follow the work my people have already laid down" Oslo-Tarn shrugged, "They've laid a lot of the ground work, but they have no real details yet. I'm hoping your people will be able to build on what has already been discovered. This is strictly information gathering though, everything is passed back to me" She smirked for a moment, "Of course, since the information will pass through you first, I'm happy with you seeing the information too. Maybe you will find some way to use it once I have what I need"

"Since I'll be pulling teams off other work......" Dru began.

"I'll compensate you" Oslo-Tarn nodded, "Fifty thousand credits with a bonus of thirty if I get the information I need"

Dru struggled to maintain his composure. That was a lot of credits, but he wasn't going to agree out of the blue, he wanted to see how far Oslo-Tarn would go, "Seventy thousand, bonus of fifty"

Oslo-Tarn scowled, "Fifty thousand, thirty-five thousand bonus"

Dru shook his head, "Sixty thousand, bonus of forty-five"

Oslo-Tarn looked thoughtful for a moment, "Sixty thousand, bonus of thrity five, plus a little something from my R&D department"

"Such as?" Dru asked thoughtfully.

Oslo-Tarn manipulated a keyboard off to one side and a second later, her image was replaced with a wireframe model of a star fighter Dru had never seen before. Specs and weapon systems were quickly highlighted.

Dru let out a low whistle, "Nice"

"Victor Heavy Assault Fighter" Oslo-Tarn's voice carried over the wireframe model, "I can give you a half squadron. Four up front and the other two on delivery as a bonus if I get what I need" The wireframe vanished to be replaced by the holo of Oslo-Tarn, "I can have them delivered to you as 'farm supplies' if you wish. What do you think?"

"Deal" Dru smiled, "I'll need the contact data for your Coruscant teams"

"You have them" Oslo-Tarn smiled, "The recognition codes and details are on a chip encased in a cavity in the base of this projector"

"Thank you" Dru laughed, "You were so sure I'd accept?"

"I know the reputation of the man" Oslo-Tarn grinned, "I presume you'll send the details of the accounts you'd like the cash to be paid into?"

"I'll transmit them to you shortly" Dru answered, "I presume this is two-way?"

"It is" Oslo-Tarn confirmed, "It's fully shielded against listening devices and automatically encrypts the transmission. Only the receivers at my end can unscramble it and vise-a-versa. Plus it's a direct line to either me or one of my immediate advisors, so you won't be dealing with some minor clerk like you would if you contacted me through normal channels"

"Useful" Dru nodded.

"Very" Oslo-Tarn sighed, "I think that's all, any questions contact me" She hesitated, "And if you happen to hear anything from my husband or..." She stared at him for a moment, "...My daughter, please let me know" Then she shut down the transmission at her end.

Dru let out a sigh, "That was...."

"..Interesting" The agent finished.

Dru jumped slightly, he'd forgotten she was there, "When she mentioned her daughter and stared at me like that I thought she was going to ask about Jenna being here"

"Perhaps she suspects, but isn't sure enough yet" The agent offered.

"Maybe" Dru replied, "Okay, change of subject. How soon can we get in contact with our people on Coruscant?"

"A day, maybe two" The agent answered, "Depends on I can get a berth to Coruscant"

"You sure you want in on this?" Dru asked.

"I'm the best you have" She shrugged, "Besides, it's safer I go with the orders and codes rather than trust it to the holo-net or a lesser agent"

"Fine" Dru nodded, "Soon as you can, head out. One more thing, what do you think is so important that Oslo-Tarn is pulling her own Coruscant agents off of this?"

"No idea" The agent said evenly, "Perhaps something to do with all the diplomatic shuttles between Skye and other worlds in that wedge of the rim"

"Possibly" Dru agreed, "Might be worth sending some other agents to Skye, I'd love to know whats happening there"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Republic Rangers Command Post.
Stonia.
Almania.
Republic Held Sector.
One Hour Later.

"At that point" Sharon Omizuki was saying as she made her report, "We could no longer rely on stealth and between the explosions at the artillery and the various shootout between the two teams and the enemy we didn't have the time. The Neo-Seps were on full alert so we decided to just get out of there as fast as we could" She paused for a moment, "With Unagi and Teeko carrying Xur's body between them, we fell back to the boats where we rendevouzed with Moon's team"

Colonel Soria Onasi interrupted at this point, "They had encountered less opposition had they not?"

"By some miracle, yes" Sharon nodded, "They had picked up a few minor wounds, they had achieved their objectives. Though at the time no one was aware Stoyler was slowly bleeding to death from the wounds he had suffered" She sighed, "We got everyone on the boats and started rowing back for this side of the river. About halfway across we signalled the artillery, and they began pounding on the motor pool and the park where the Neo-Sep artillery had been, just in case we didn't get them all with the explosives"

"It was on the way back that you lost Stylor, wasn't it?"

"Yes" Sharon sighed, "He passed out from blood loss and died before we reached the shore" Soria looked at Sharon for a few moments, trying to catch an idea of her Major's mood.

Sharon Omizuku was a sorry sight. Her right arm was bandage and held against her chest in a sling. Her straight, black hair was still damp and was combed straight back into a simple pony tail. Despite the jumpsuit she wore, Soria could see were sharon's exposed skin was scrubbed red raw, a sign that she may have been slightly obsessive compulsive in getting herself clean after her unexpected swim in the filthy flood waters. From the way she stood, it was clear she was exhausted and a little demoralized.

"Well" Soria said evenly, "I can give you some good news. The storm took out the drone while you were out there, but control managed to get another one up a few hours ago. The second didn't last as long as the first, but we were able to confirm six wrecks in that park. All artillery units deployed there were destroyed successfully by the explosives your team placed, the artillery was probably overkill, but it finished the job" She noticed Sharon sighed with relief, "The motor pool was shelled by our own artillery for nearly two hours. As best as we can asertain from the drone scans, a lot of damage was done. The wrecks of at least three dozen vehicles ranging from STAPs to AATs have been identified and at least a dozen more were identified as operational, but damaged"

"Good, we achieved our objectives" Sharon nodded and she straightened up in pride, "At least we managed to do what we went in to do. I'd have hated to have wasted a night and lost two people for nothing"

"How are you doing?"

"So-so" Sharon shrugged, "Arm is pretty sore. Got a lashing off the medic for going swimming in sewage water with an open wound, then he put me on a course of painkillers and antibiotics to help fight off any infection. I'm drained, both physically and psychologically. On the other hand, I should be good for for combat in about two days"

"Good" Soria nodded, "Because in two days our bridging engineers will finally be here and we're going to be pushing into the Neo-Sep held part of the city" She leaned forwards i her chair, "We're going to kcik them off of Almania, and we're going to kick them hard"

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Ancient Jedi Archives.
Ossus.

Jacen Solo walked down the corridor, his eyes drawn to each fresco that he passed, "There's so much history here. It would have been a tragedy if they had been lost when the Cron Cluster exploded four thousand years ago. I know the Jedi were able to save a lot when they evacuated ahead of the supernova, but there was so much they couldn't carry with them"

Beside him the aged Sunesi nodded, "Ood Bnar remained here to guard many of the treasures and there were also a handful of Jedi who never made it offworld. They found refuge from the shockwave in a series of cave that protected them and their descendants eventually became the Ysanna tribes. Between them and Master Bnar, the treasures that survived here were protected"

Jacen smiled, "To be honest, with the war going on I never expected to have the chance to come back here to see what did survive, and when I was sent here I was expecting to be dealing with Neo-Separtist forces" He laughed, "Instead, we find a group of bandits that were easily chased off and I get the chance to look over some of the Jedi history"

"I do appreciate the assistance with the bandits" Aqinos said, "My Iron Knights are skilled and capable, but they aren't exactly suited to stealth and as you and your fellows demonstrated, stealth was an ideal solution for catching and dealing with the bandits"

Jacen opened his mouth to reply, but stopped as a Juggernaut War Droid -a lightsaber clipped to a strap wrapped round it's torso- came round the corner into the corridor, it's heavy feet shaking dust with each foot fall.

"Solari" Aqinos frowned, "What is wrong? What is the rush?"

"Master Aqinos, Knight Solo" The Iron Knight said quickly in her harsh metallic tones, "We have found something in the storerooms. An artifiact, it's millenia old"

Aqino and Jacen looked at each other, "What sort of artifact?" The Sunesi master asked.

The droids head tilted to one side in a very humanlike movement, "I really think you need to see it for yourself......it's out there"

Jacen felt a little wierded out to hear such a droid use such an expression. Even Threepio didn't say stuff like that, "Show us" He nodded.

Solari quickly led them deeper into the old archives building. Jacen estimated that the storeroom the Iron Knight was leading them to was a considerable distance below the planets surface. That told him that the storeroom was one that contain items the Old Jedi Order considered either extremely valuable, extremely rare or extremely dangerous.

The actual storeroom, when Jacen saw it was fairly unimpressive. Small room, plain walls and a handful of pretty tame artifacts such as statues and pottery. Solari led them to a well lit work area that had been set up and around which Tenal Ka and Zekk were gathered with a pair of FLTCH droids -another pair of Iron Knights.

"What is so interesting?" Aqinos asked, "What have you found?"

Tenal Ka indicated a book on the main work table, well a sort of book. It wasn't made out of the usual materials you would expect from a book, instead the cover and each page was a sheet of polished metal, the words inlaid carefully and with astonishing precision.

"This book" She said, "Is dated at several millenia old. According to the old Jedi records, it was found about five thousand years ago in a series of ruins on the world of Rori. Those ruins were covered with Rakatan ruins which themselves were buried beneath old Rori ruins. The book was dated as being made some considerable millenia before the rise of the Infinite Empire, and Jedi scholars had succeeded in translating most of the book when the Freedon Nadd Uprising began" She nodded to the Iron Knights, "Phond and Nextor have been translating the remainder of the book for the last four years"

The FLTCH on the left -Phond- nodded, "It was slow work. Even if we Shards do not need to rest. Many of the translation notes and keys were lost, so we had to use the completed translations to translate the rest. The book is written in a language that is reminiscent of Ancient Coruscanti and is known as 'The Book of the River of Time Fortold'" The Shard gave a very undroid shrug, "That may be a mistranslation, which does not bode well for the rest of the translation of the book, but it does appear to be a book of prophecies"

"Prophecies?" Aqinos frowned.

"Yes" The Iron Knight known as Nextor answered, "Prophecies. Some disturbing"

Zekk picked up the thread, "Bizarrely it does fortell a lot of events. The rise and fall of the Infinite Empire, the Jedi, the Sith, the Old Republic and it's growth and eventual fall, the Empire, Palpatine and Vader, the Universal War and loads of little events in between" He ran a hand through his hair, "Some of the dates are vague or non-existant, but there are a few suprisingly exact because they are based around celestrial events, such as supernovas, planetary alingments" He laughed, "There's one which even uses the thawing of the Qella homeworld to pin down the date of the Yevetha Crisis"

"Interesting" Jacen nodded, "I take it there's more?"

Tenal Ka and Zekk exchanged glances, "The final passage, the one that was just translated, speaks of the return of an ancient evil" Zekk said, "One that will scour the galaxy in cleansing flame as it did once before. Essentially the result is supposed to be the extinction of all life in the galaxy, not even microbes surviving"

"When?" Aqinos asked and Jacen knew neither of them was going to like the answer.

"Well" Zekk sighed, and Jacen felt a cold feeling settling in his gut, "You remember that big event in the Talron System a few months before the war started?" When Aqinos and Jacen nodded that they did, Zekk continued, "The book states that this final prophecy will come about within the same year"


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Location: England
Main Hanger Bay.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer Ackbar.
Tatooine Orbit.
Five Days Later.

General Octavia Terah, commander of the Ackbar and currently on unofficial leave, looked up as Piggy and Major Montjar approached her as she stood at the base of the Marketta-Class Shuttle that was to take her down to the surface. With a smile, she dropped her travel bag at the base of the boarding ramp and took a step towards the two officers.

"Come to see me off, Gentlemen?" She asked.

"Partially" Piggy replied in his dual voices, the traditional Gammorean squeals and grunts and then the harsh metallic tones of his translator, "We also thought we'd tell you we're about to interrogate Lucas Penrose or Koss Mallowes as he's also known"

"Ah" Octavia sighed, "Ready to talk is he?"

"Not really" Montjar shrugged, "But now he's healed up a bit he can at least talk"

Though Montjar's tone made no judgement, Octavia still felt a burst of shame. If she hadn't beaten Penrose/Mallowes to the point of a coma, then they might have been able to learn more from him a lot sooner, "And you want to know if i want to sit in?"

"Do you?" Piggy asked in a tone that indicated he knew the answer.

Octavia shook her head, "No" She said empathically, "I'd rather not be there. Besides I have somewhere I do want to be, even if just for a week"

"You sure you can trust us to keep things together here?" Montjar smirked.

"No" Octavia laughed, "But I need to find my perspective again and this is the only way to do it"

Piggy nodded, "I hope you find it. We'll make sure things go smooth in your absence"

"Good" Octavia sighed and picked up her travel bag, "Remember, Pellaeon is aware of this, but no one else is. This is completely unoffcial and if it got back to Coruscant, there'll be a lot of spitting over this. If Pellaeon contacts me, then direct his signal down to me at my famile's estate, If anyone contacts me, tell them I'm occupied and that I'll comm them back. Then notify me immediately" She started up the ramp, but then turned back to them, "If it's an actual emergency though....."

"Understood" Piggy nodded, "Good luck and say hi for me"

"Thanks Piggy" She smiled, then tossed a salute to Montjar, "Major" then she turned and headed up into the shuttle with the ramp closing behind her.

Piggy and Montjar quickly retreated to a safe distance as the shuttle lifted from the deck and glided though the magcon field, out of the hanger bay and down towards the planet. Once the shuttle was out of sight, Montjar turned to Piggy.

"Shall we do this then?" The former Imperial agent asked.

Piggy nodded with a sigh, "Yes, lets.."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Personal Yacht 'Wicked Pleasure'
Inbound To Rhen Var.

Viqi Shesh was in two minds. First her attempt to have the Tarn children had failed and by now the kidnappers were no doubt talking to Oslo-Tarn's people. Fortunately, she had set things up so that the trail led stright back to Vorsk Kel'lya, even the money was to have been paid from one of the Chief-of-States private accounts. There was nothing to link the kidnappers back to her at least.

On the other hand, she'd eliminated the rest of the Council as ordered, which put her a lot closer to the culmination of her own plans.

Speaking of plans, despite her dislike of the icy world of Rhen Var, the last place in the galaxy she wanted to be when the Prime Councillor initated the next stage of his plans was Coruscant. No doubt her absence from the Senate and Kel'lya's inner circle would soon be noticed, but Kel'lya would soon have more than enough to occupy his attention.

In any case, from this point onwards Viqi would need to be extremely careful. Sooner or later, the Prime Councillor would decide she had outlived her usefulness. She would need to make her own move before that happened.

Maybe she could use one of those Jedi that had been captured a few weeks ago.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mos Eisley Starport.
Mos Eisley.
Tatooine.

Shielding her eyes from the harsh glare of the Twin Suns, Octavia Terah made her way down the steps that led up to the main enterance of the Mos Eisley Starport building. With a sigh, she looked around for her waiting party, noting that in the seven months since she'd last been here, Mos Eisley had changed little. Then again, she'd have been disappointed if it had.

Her eyes drifted over the familiar domed buildings and towers, the wreck of the ancient star ship 'Dowager Queen' still towering above the city. None of the people she saw were familar, but that was hardly surprising. With it's reputation as a commerce centre and as a 'wretched hive of scum and villany', Mos Eisley tended to attract a lot of those who were 'just passing through'

Still, Octavia took a deep breath, inhaling a lungful of the dry, dusty air, it was nice to be on the old homeworld every so often.

She turned her attention back to looking for him, but a voice from behind caught her attention, "Hey 'Tavi, need a lift?"

Recognising the voice, Octavia spun around to face the source, a grin on her face, "Quint!" She yelled and launched herself into a hug that was inappropriate for a Republic General, but perfectly appropriate for a reunion with her older brother.

Quint Terah had changed little since Octavia had seen him last, he was a little older, a little greyer and a little more sandworn, but he was still the rugged, handsome older brother she remembered. The one she'd always looked up to as a little girl and the one who'd always looked out for her. Seeing him was a firm reminder she was home, at least for a little while.

"You look well" She said, pulling away from the hug.

"As do you" Quint grinned, "Looks like the military is being good to you"

"To a point" Octavia sighed, "To a point"

"Want to talk about it?" Quint asked with concern.

"Maybe later" Octavia shrugged, "Now, are we going to stand in the street all day or are we going to get home?" She grinned.

Quint returned the grin, "Fine. C'mon my speeders parked over here" He led her towards an almost new Sorosuub XP-52 Landspeeder.

Octavia stumbled slightly as she saw the expensive speeder, "Please tell me you didn't waste money on that? Even though I haven't been around much, I know the business is successful, but it's not at the point where you can waste money on something like that"

"I didn't waste money on it" Quint laughed, "As a matter of no one in the family paid for it" Seeing her look of confusion, he quickly explained, "A couple of months ago we had a guy drop it off for some repairs, but when it came to pay the bill, he skipped out. When the local constabulary caught up with him, they discovered he had a lot of unpaid debts stretching all the way to Naboo. In the end, we got the speeder to cover his debt, while all his other debters fought over the rest of his possessions for their share"

"Nice" Octavia said dropping her bag into the luggage compartment, before dropping into the passenger seat grateful to be back out of the sun.

"Very" Quint smiled, slipping into the drivers seat and engaging the engine, "So tell me" He said, as he directed the speeder out of Mos Eisley for the short trip to the 'estate' where the Terah family maintained their workshops and repair bays, "What have you done since we last saw you? I hear you have your own ship now? When you last visited you were still working the NRI Repair Bays on Druckenwell"

"Yeah" Octavia, "The Ackbar, transferred to take command a couple of weeks after my last visit. At the time, the Ackbar was a test bed vessel and I've told you what the NRI are like in ensuring secrets aren't leaked" She sighed, "I couldn't get leave, I couldn't even make a personal call. I know you were worried about me when you didn't hear from me for nearsicx months"

"Yeah, we worried" Quint nodded, "So how'd you get out from under the NRI's shadow?"

"The system we were stationed in came under attack from the Neo-Seps" Octavia answered, "Through interesting tactics and a measure of surprise, we managed to defeat the attackers. Soon after, Gilad Pellaeon turned up and told me he was transfering me and the Ackbar to the Ninth Fleet and with a promotion to Lieutenant-General, made me his fleet XO" She shrugged, "A few battles later, and I'm now a General"

"General Terah" Quint smiled, "I like the sound of that?" He loked at her, "You know, when Dad heard you'd got yourself caught up in the war, he was almost as worried as Mom. When he heard about your big victory at Mon Calamari, well, he was about ready to go charging off to join the fight too" He laughed, "Probably would've if we hadn't stopped him"

"How are Mom and Dad?" Octavia asked.

"Moms the same" Quint replied, "Still looking after all us kids, even if we ain't little kids anymore. And she just dotes on all the grandkids" He shook his head after he manouvered the speeder around a Jawa caravan, "Has a lot of love for everybody and never asks for any in return, though she always has it"

"And Dad?"

"Dad?" Quint smirked, "Is Dad. He's recovered a lot since his heart attack, but he's still pretty weak compared to how he was before. As soon as he was well enough, he was angling to get back to work. I ended up giving a job in the workshop to keep him happy, I say job, he's actually workshop supervisor"

"Are you both okay with that?" Octavia frowned, "I mean, he used to run the business before passing it to you, is he comfortable working for you? And are you comfortable having your own father working for you?"

"Oddly, yes" Quint gave a nod, "It was a little weird at first, but Dad just wanted to be busy again. He knew he couldn't take on the same work load he used to, but just being back in the workshops has made him a lot happier"

The subject of her father's near brush with death brought to mind her own close encounter at the hands of the ersatz Lucas Penrose. She'd not come as close to her father did, but it was still a terrifying reminder of ones own mortality.

Qunit noticed the sudden change in her demenor, "Want to talk about it yet?"

"Not yet" Octavia sighed, then brightened up, "Is the rest of the family here yet?"

"Near enough" Quint nodded, "Keth and Kader accepted a contract to repair a cruiser currently parked at Mos Espa. They'll be arriving a little later, just in time for supper" He looked sidelong at Octavia, "And in case you're wondering, 'they' are here"

Octavia nodded, she didn't need telling who 'they' were, "I was so worried they might have left when I dropped out of contact"

"Where would they have gone?" Quint pointed out.

"Point" Octavia sighed, then looking ahead, she sat up straighter, "Oh! It still looks like I remember it"

Quint laughed, "You've only been gone six months, what were you expecting?"

Octavia didn't answered and instead focused on the sight of the collection of domes and squat buildings that marked her family home. Marked by a pair of above ground domes and comprising a large mostly underground living area and a single workshop, since she had first left home all those years ago, the 'estate' had been expanded to almost eight domes and buildings with a number of large workshops and a repair bay and an enlarged living area.

The family business had taken off immensely eight years after Octavia had left for the academy when the local Hutt Controlled vehicle repair concern had been shut down by a misaligned power converter that had levelled the Company's repair bays and workshops and killed most of their mechanics. Suddenly finding themselves the only repair company in close proximity to Mos Eisley, the Terah's were suddenly besiged with customers, some legitimate and some not-so legitimate. Anyone who needed anything fixing, servicing, upgrading or scrapped for parts came to the Terah's.

There had been a little flak from the Hutt's initially, but then the controlling Desilijic clan was forced off of Tatooine by their rivals in the Besadii clan. Fortunately, the Besadii had no interest in control repair business on Tatooine, instead wanting to concentrate on the resurgent sport of Podracing.

Things soon come on in leaps and bounds with the business beinging in enough credits for Zan Terah to begin planning for expanding the home and it's repair facilities. A single workshop was expanded to three workshops and a large scale repair bay. The living areas were also expanded. However, unlike Huff Darklighter, Zan never flaunted his profits. Credits were only ever spent on parts, tools, medicial care, food and water. The rest was put into accounts for all the children and grandchildren.

As they approached the Terah estate, Octavia tried to spot something, any sign that her father may have changed his ways and spent a few credits on himself. Just treated himself a little. It was in vain, the estate still looked as basic and utilitarian as ever, though she did spot a few new vaporators and down the ramp to the repair bay, she could see a VXH Loadermech that hadn't been here last time.

She soon stopped her efforts when she saw two figures waiting near the top of the stairway that led down to the main house. Age and the harsh rays of the twins suns had leeched much of the colour and life from their hair and skin, but there was no denying the strength the radiated from her parents, their happiness at seeing their long absent daughter was evident as Quint brought the speeder to a stop.

"Mom, Dad" Octavia smiled as she climbed from the speeder and embraced her parents.

"My dear Octavia" Her father returned the embrace, "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Dad" Octavia replied, "A lot better for seing you though"

"Are you well" Her mother asked with concern, "Have you been looking after yourself?"

"Yes, Mother" Octavia rolled her eyes and caught a wink from Quint as he walked past them with her bag, "The chef on the Ackbar always makes too much and I always feel obliged to eat a little bit more"

"Nonsense" Faith Terah scowled, "It's obvious you haven't been eating well. You're far too pale"

"Mom" Octavia protested, "Do you have any idea when I last set foot on a planet was? You don't get natural light on a starship, thats why I'm pale"

"Be that as it may" Faith replied, "As long as you're here you'll eat well and you'll get plenty of sun, carefully of course, with your red hair you'll burn very easily. Speaking of which lets get inside before you do"

Octavia shot a pleading look at her father, but he could only offer an apologetic smile. Actually, once they were inside and below ground level Octavia had to admit that the cool air was refreshing and a welcome change from outside. At her mothers admonishments, she took off her jacket and hung it up, taking comfort in the cool air on her bare arms where her t-shirt exposed them.

As her father went off to find the rest of the family for a quick reunion and her mother headed off to the kitchen, Octavia gazed around the main room in which she found herself. The room was almost like she remembered from her childhood, though the walls had been repainted and the furniture was new, it was almost the same....just smaller.

She cast her mind back over thirty years, "Am I really getting that old?" She thought, thinking of her twelve year old self sat in this room, focused on the holo-projector, watching various documentries about other worlds in the wider galaxy. Though she learned much from episodes about Bestine and Coruscant and Teyr and Obroa-Skai, she soon had a growing desire to visit this worlds, to see a greater galaxy away from the sandy world of Tatooine. That desire had drove her to leave her home and her family to join the New Republic Military, so she could see the wider galaxy.

"I never spent enough time here" She sighed.

"You've got that right" A voice said calmy, but with a tinge of coldness and a measure of sadness.

"Hello Blake" Octavia evenly as she turned to face the tall, sandy haired man, "You're looking well"

"You too" Blake Kale nodded as he stepped forwards and enfolding Octavia in an embrace that was uncomfortably stiff at first, but soon softened into something a little more suitably comfortable.

"I'm sorry I couldn't visit sooner" Octavia sighed against his chest.

"I know" Blake added his own sigh, "When I married you I always knew your career would be a big obstacle, always giving us little hurdles to deal with. I expected it, just don't think I'll always be happy about it" He stepped away and held her at arms length so he could look into her eyes more easily, "Six months is too long to go without seeing you. It was bad enough when you were assigned to the NRI Techbays on Druckenwell, but at least you were able to visit for a few days every couple of week. Now....now, it's just ridiculous"

"I need to talk about it with you later" Octavia said.

Blake frowned at his wife of ten years, "What do you mean?"

"Not now" Octavia shook her head, "Where is she?"

Blake nodded, "I asked her to wait in the other room while we spoke, just in case we argued like we did when you commed a few weeks back"

"Good point" Octavia sighed. Things had not gone to well on that occassion.

Blake turned and stuck his head through the door, "Tavi, you can come through now"

There was a quick patter of feet and then a small face adorned with a mass of red curls appeared around the corner of the doorway, followed by the rest of the eight year old girl's body. She looked up at Octavia with a mix of apprehension and excitement.

For a moment Octavia just stared at the little girl, taking note of how she'd grown since she'd last seen her six months ago, how tanned her skin was and wondered how much she must have looked like that when she had been Tavi's age.

Dropping to one knee, she held her arms out, "Hello Tavi"

For a moment Tavi stood there, her lip quivering, then she launched herself into Octavia's arms, "Mommy!" She cried.

Octavia held her daughter, "I'm here now, Tavi, I'm here now" She said tearfully.

Even if for a short time, her family was coming together.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Wraith.
Rhen Var Orbit.

The holo-map scrolled along as it displayed the snow covered surface of Rhen Var, rolling across the projector until Jaden brought it to stop on a snow plain that would otherwise be featureless except for a cluster of squat buildings and a landing zone clustered with several ships including the Yacht that had been slipping down the gravity well as they had arrived in orbit.

"That's were we need to go" Jaden stated evenly.

"Convince me" Jenna frowned. The man she was after was here on Rhen Var, but she wasn't sure he was in that collection of surface buildings.

"It's the only sign of activity on the planet" Jaden answered, "That Yacht that preceeded us here is there and that big ship in orbit seems to have an open comline with that base. Plus the sensors have dtected an extensive underground network. That's the place"

"I'm not sure....." She scowled.

"It's a start" Jaden pointed out.

"Fine" Jenna snapped, "So do we just land and walk up to the front door or something?"

"We could" Jaden laughed elicting a look of disgust from Jenna, "I suggest we land on the other side of this ridge" He pointed out a string of rocks that ran parallel to the base, "It'll keep them from spotting us with the naked" He indicated several steam plumes rising near the base, "We should be able to gain entrance to the base through the ventilation system"

"I don't really feel the need to be boiled in my own jumpsuit" Jenna sighed.

Jaden shook his head, "Not even that hot, it's just where air from the base is warmer than the air on the surface"

"Fine" Jenna nodded, "And you're sure they aren't going to see us, especially that thing out there?" She asked referring to the massive cylindrical vessel that hung in Rhen Var's orbit.

Jaden smiled, "If they haven't seen us yet, they're never going to" He grinned, "The Wraith is equpped with a variant of the Phantasm stealth armour mounted on the Sacul. They have to be looking at us with the naked eye to spot us"

"Whatever" Jenna sighed. She was eager to get down there and confront the man that had had her brain lasered, "The sooner we get down there, the sooner I can finish this"

Jaden eyed her carefully, "Are you still sure you want to do this alone?"

"I have to" Jenna replied, strangely calm, knowing her time was coming, "It's not even neccesary for you to even leave orbit, no reason you should risk yourself further. I can make an orbital skydive easily enough"

Jaden shook his head as he head towards the cockpit, "As far as I can tell no one in the Republic knows about that base. I'm going to do some recon, find out what I can" He hesitated for a second, "And something tells me I'll be needed down there"

"You think I can't handle myself?" Jenna's tone was one of annoyance,

"Oddly enough" Jaden glanced over his shoulder, "I'm pretty sure it isn't you that'll need my help"

Jenna scowled after him as he slipped into the pilots seat, her anger building, "What does that mean?" She demanded as she dropped into the co-pilots seat.

Jaden shrugged, "I've been getting a feeling through the force. Somebody down there needs help and since you're so intent on this obsessive crusade of yours....."

Jenna didn't answer straight off and instead concentrated on staring out of the cockpit windows. Despite the fiery anger rolling off her, Jaden thought for a moment that he'd actually hit a nerve and she was at least thinking about dropping her mission of vengeance, but then he felt her clamp down, "Fine. You wanna play hero? Go ahead, just stay out of my way"

With a sigh, Jaden turned his attention to guiding the Wraith through Rhen Var's atmosphere. Through the few weeks they had been travelling together, Jaden had noticed Jenna becoming increasingly irritable and more hellbent on following this self destructive course she was on. Every attempt he had made to deflect her from her course had been the equivilent of trying to talk a Gammorean into growing fur or Muun into being short.
As far as he could see, Jenna was resigned to whatever fate her crusade consigned her too, regardless of wether that fate was death or the dark side. The thing was Jaden wasn't willing to give up on her just yet, but if the force was warning that someone on Rhen Var needed help, then his conscience obliged him to help them.

There had to be some way of helping Jenna too.

As he brought the Wraith to a landing in the shadow of the ridge, Jaden realised that between his thoughts and concentrating on flying the Wraith, he hadn't noticed Jenna leave the cockpit and head aft. Powering down the vessel and setting the security systems on standby, he headed aft to find Jenna. He found her pretty much where he expected to, the armory.

When he walked into the small compartment, she was in the process of donning a suit of Mandalorian armour. Since the armour was laced with cortosis ore as a defense against lightsabers, Jaden had to guess Jenna was either intending to fight a force user or had decided she may have to fight her way past him. He noted that she expressed no interest in the helmet, jetpack or any of the fancy wrist mounted weaponry. He found he was relieved at that, if she was going to get herself killed, it was better she didn't actually do it herself.

"Planning on looting anything else?" He asked dryly.

"Just this and one of those heavy blasters with some extra cells" Jenna replied without looking at him, "Couple of grenades too"

"You really set on doing this?" He asked, his eyes drifting to the half bottle of Tatooine Whiskey, where had she been hiding that? "Then again, if you're going to do it, I suppose drunk is the best way"

"Yeah, I'm set on doing this" She shot back and picking up the bottle, necked a mouthful, grimacing as she did so, "Not that I could get drunk on this. It's vile and it's got a kick like water"

Jaden sighed as he opened a locker and began rooting around inside, "Fine. I'll accompany you into the base, then you're on your own"

"Works for me" Jenna nodded, slipping the bottle with her meds into a pocket in the armour and then filling the rest with extra power cells.

"Then take this" He handed Jenna a harness.

"What's this?" She scowled.

"You really think they're going to have stairs in those vents?" He grinned.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prime Councillors Chambers.


"She is here"

Viqi frowned at the Prime Councillor's words, "Who, my lord?"

"The next part of my plan" The Prime Councillor smiled underneath his hood, the expression looking very Palpatine-esque.

"I'm not sure I understand" Viqi said, "Again" She dared to add.

The hooded man chuckled at her impertinance, "Rest assured Viqi, after today we'll be one great step closer to the culmination of the plans that have taken years to bear fruit" He stood and made his way to the door, "Now I am on my way to the seal room. I would advise you stay clear of there until I am done, I would not be able to guarantee your safety"

"Yes, my lord" Viqi nodded, actually sensing that he was being truthful. He was actually concerned for her safety.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terah Estate.
Mos Eisley.
Tatooine.

Night time had settled in over Mos Eisley. On the Terah Estate, most of the adults along with all the children had retired for the night, leaving Octavia, her husband Blake, her Father and three of her brothers Quint, Barrad and Tiberius in the lounge, sharing stories and a bottle of Whyhen's Reserve Octavia had brought with her.

"And so" Octavia was saying, "With General's Antilles, Horn and Janson and Colonel Lorna away for a few days for some big meeting, we were left in the hands of Tritonis Base's commander, Colonel Obrin. Problem was he was a terrible drunk" She shook her head, "He'd been shuffled off to what was essentially a backwards posting and his career had hit a dead end, so he spent most of his time roaring drunk. One day me and Kai found him staggering down a corridor, completely blasted" She laughed, "And Kai cut off his mustache! I thought I gonna die!"

Zan Terah frowned, "How could she possibly....?"

"Oh, the Colonel was 'dead' drunk" Octavia chuckled, "Three hours ripping on the enlisted officers and how he had to babysit two squadrons. Uh, 'They're scum', uh, 'They don't know the meaning of fighting' and, then he passed 'right' out....boom" She burst into laughter again, "We could barely move him, he was so damn heavy. So, uh, Kai just.....snipped it right off his face" She took a drink of the Whyhen's, "And you have never seen a man more proud of his mustache than Colonel Obrin. I mean, in all my life I've never known a man love a woman the way that man loved his lip ferret" She mimicked the mustache with her hands, "Big walrus-y thing...all waxed up"

"Did he find out?" Blake asked as he slipped his arm around Octavia's shoulders.

"Oh! Next morning, he wakes up, it's gone and he is furious!" Octavia replied to her husband, "But he can't just say, y'know, 'Someones stolen my mustache'. So he calls all the off-duty base crew together, all the techs, the clerks, the marines and the pilots...we thought he was going to shoot us" She shook her head, "And he's eyeballing each and everyone of us something fierce. Not a word, and he comes up to Kai, and Kai's wearing the sithing thing on her face!"

She waited until the resulting laughter to settle down before continuing.

"She'd glued it on!" She laughed, "And she's staring the old man down with his own damn mustache!"

"Surely she didn't get away with it?" Tiberus frowned.

"Technically we weren't even part of his chain of command. he couldn't touch Kai" Octavia smiled, "He did lodge a formal complaint with Face as her commanding officer and with General Antilles as the most senior officer in the sector. Kai ended up with a fair amount of extra duty, but she probably got off a little light" She reached for her glass, "We still laugh about it to this day"

"Do you miss those days?" Zan Terah asked.

"I do" Octavia sighed, "Back then I had a lot more freedom, I didn't have thousands of people hanging on every order I give and I didn't have that same number of people hoping that I give the right order. On the other hand, I command one of the most advanced ships in the Republic Navy, I'm a General and I can pull rank a lot more than I used to be able to do"

"You still miss something though?" Blake asked.

"Yeah" Octavia nodded, "I think I miss the sense of adventure I used to have. Back when I was with the Wraiths, I felt a lot more freedom than I do in command of a starship. Back then we rolled from one situation to another, it was pure seat-of-the-pants stuff. These days before the war started I spent all my time overseeing tests and filling out reports"

"But are you happy now?" Barrad smiled.

"Damned right I am" Octavia laughed, "There's something about commanding a starship thats just so inspiring. Gives you a whole new perspective on things"

"I never approved of your decision to leave home to pursue a career in the military, though I did tolerate it" Zan said evenly, "But I can clearly see it was what you where meant to do" He added with a smile, "It has done you a world of good, far more than if you had stayed here"

Quint nodded and add his own voice, "Your place was never here on Tatooine, your destiny was clearly elsewhere"

"You think so?" Octavia frowned.

"I do think so" Quint grinned, "Had you remained here would you have been happy?"

"Yes" Octavia nodded, "But I guess I would've always wondered if there something more"

"You'd have regretted never following your heart" Blake cut in, "Besides..." He smiled down at her, "If you hadn't been assigned to Druckenwell Eleven years ago we'd have never met" He looked up and something at the far end of the room caught his eye, "Tavi, why aren't you in bed?"

All eyes turned in the direction of the doorway to where a very sleepy Tavi Terah-Kale stood in her Bonny Bantha pyjamas, clutching a stuffed Randy Rancor with one hand and rubbing her eyes with the other, "I had to go to the fresher"

Blake began to rise from the chair, "Let's go tuck you back in"

"I want mommy to do it" Tavi blurted.

"Think you can do that?" Blake asked, looking to Octavia.

"Sure" Octavia answered, "I mean, of course I can. I've not been away so long I don't know how to look after my own daughter" Standing up, she walked to Tavi and took the little girls free hand in her own, "C'mon, let's get you back to bed"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Octavia allowed Tavi to lead her back to her room. Once there, Octavia waited until the little girl had hopped onto the bed and slipped beneath the sheets, then knelt beside the bed and adjusted the sheets. As Tavi settled in against her pillow and hugged her stuffed Randy Rancor closer, she looked up at Octavia with hazel eyes that matched Octavia's own.

"I love you, mommy" Tavi said quietly.

"I love you too, sweetheart" Octavia smiled and planted a kiss on Tavi's forhead, eliciting a giggle from the girl.

Tavi's good humor vanished quickly though, "Are you going to go away again?" She asked in a quiet voice.

Octavia sighed, "Just for a little while. But I promise I won't be gone as long this time"

"Why do you have to go?" Tavi looked up at her.

"Some bad men are trying to hurt a lot of people" Octavia explained, trying to keep it in terms the tired eight year old wouldn't struggle with, "And me and some other people have to try and stop them and make sure they can't do it again"

"But why you?" Tavi demanded.

Octavia thought it out for a few moments, "You know how your Grandpa and Uncle Quint are good at fixing things and Grandma is good at cooking?"

Tavi nodded, "And like I'm good with drawing and Daddy's good with computers?"

"Yes" Octavia smiled, "Well, I'm good at commanding a starship and that makes me very important in stopping the bad men"

"How big is your starship?" Tavi grinned.

"Big" Octavia nodded, trying to think of a good example of size, "Has Daddy taken you to see the big passenger ships that sometimes arriving in space when the Podraces are on?"

Tavi bobbed her head up and down, "Uh huh, we go up with Uncle Tiberius in his ship"

"Can you remember what the biggest one you saw was?" Octavia smiled.

The little girl thought for a few moments, "Daddy said it was called the 'Yule Of Dac', I think"

"Jewel of Dac" Octavia corrected, dredging up what she knew of the vessel, a five-hundred metre long M-Class Liner, "Well, my ship is twice as big as that one and a lot wider too"

"Wow, could I see it?" Tavi's face lit up with excitement.

Octavia's first instinct was to apologise and say no, but something stopped her. Children weren't really permitted on military vessels, but then again Octavia was supposed to be onboard the Ackbar and not on 'unofficial leave'. She was sure Pellaeon would cover her for one more indiscreation, especially as this whole trip home had been arranged by the wiley old ex-Imperial.

"Let me check with your Daddy and my boss and we'll see what we can sort out" Octavia smiled, "In the meantime, it's time you were asleep"

"Okay, Mommy" Tavi sighed as she settled back down, "Goodnight Mommy, I love you"

Kissing her daughter on the forhead, Octavia stood and moved to the door "And I love you too" She smiled, "Goodnight Tavi" She whispered as she switched out the light and slipped from the room. As she turned from the door, she nearly jumped from her skin when she saw Blake standing there, waiting for her.

"I think it's time we talked" Blake nodded.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ventilation Shaft One.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

Snow flakes and sparks drifted down into the deep shaft as Jaden made the last cut through the grating that capped the top and lifted it clear. A moment later a pair of high tensile cables dropped into the shaft and after checking they were secured properly, Jaden and Jenna began their descent into the depths of the base.

As she slowly made her way down, Jenna concentrated on the cable tugging through her descender rings and not on the massive fan towards the base of the shaft which was spinning below them. A wire mesh platform was between them and the fan and though it held the pooled excess of the cables, it would not support the weight of a person landing on it.

"How far down do we go?" Jenna asked.

Jaden glanced at her, "Well, bases like this tend to have security concentrated in key areas. Entrance levels, prison areas, power facilities and armories" He answered, "Air circulation systems tend to rate fairly low on security priorities"

"Why?" Jenna frowned as she dropped closer to the fan.

"It's extremely difficult to get into a base via the ventilation system" Jaden replied, "Most vents are too small to allow access, the shaft entrances are usually in inaccessible locations and..." He paused for effect, "Plus I'm willing to bet they're counting on no one actually knowing about this place"

"Great" Jenna muttered, the answer not helping her mood or her simmering anger.

As they descended, Jenna counted off seven levels of ducts before Jaden called a stop at a grated duct that looked exactly like all the ones before it and presumably like all the ones below it.

"This one will do" Jaden nodded, swinging closer to the duct and gripping the edge of the grating.

"What are you basing that on?" Jenna scowled as she hung over the spinning fan.

"Have you sensed that void in the force?" Jaden looked down at her as he used a multitool to unscrew the grating.

"Yeah" Jenna sighed, "It's caused by Ysalamiri"

"And they're likely to be concentrated on the prision level" Jaden smiled as he collected another of the screws, "Which means the security is going to be lighter below the prison level"

"Because when you escape from a prison you head for the surface, not deeper down" Jenna sighed, angry that she hadn't realised it before.

"Unless you were on Lusankya" Jaden conceeded, "But we know were we are in relation to the surface so thats not a problem"

"Fine" Jenna rolled her eyes, "Now hurry up before I develop vertigo"

Within minutes, the two of them were clear of the shaft and squeezing through the tight duct, Jaden in the lead and Jenna bringing up the rear.

"You take me to such romantic places" Jenna said sarcastically, "Where are you taking me for the second date? Dinner in a broom closet? Taking in a show in a locker?"

Jaden twisted in the confined space until he could look at Jenna between his feet, his small flashlight illuminating the space around them, "If you want to consider this a date, thats fine by me" He grinned to try and lighten Jenna's mood, "In fact, it's already going better than some dates I've had"

"Keep moving" Jenna just grunted angrily.

Jaden sighed as he twisted back around and carried on moving down the tight duct. Sometimes Jenna would have this moments of near calm when he humor broke through the anger, but all too quickly it would wash away again. He silently wondered if her meds were losing effectiveness either under the constant flush of alcohol or the crushing weight of her anger. Either way it didn't bode well.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terah Estate.
Mos Eisley.
Tatooine.

With a quick glance at the thin sgard of light where Tatooine's twin suns had slipped below the horizon and shivering against the chill of the rapidly coolling night air, Octavia turned to face her husband. for a few minutes neither of them said anything, but their tenseness was palpatable to the other. Perhaps both were remembering a holo-net conversation some weeks back, shortly after Octavia and the Ackbar had been assigned to the Ninth Fleet.

Even though Ryloth had only been a few jumps from Tatooine, Octavia hadn't been able to make the trip to see her family. At the time, Blake had already been bristling over her six month 'disappearence' due to stupid NRI regulations regarding test bed vessels and Octavia hadn't exactly helped matters on her part. The entire conversation had quickly devolved into a shouting match across thousands of light years with a lot of hurt being inflicted on both sides.

Fortunately, subsequent conversations had been a lot more controlled and cordial, but Octavia knew that how the next few minutes proceeded would be very important.

"I think I know what you're going to say" Octavia said, holding up her hand to forstall a comment from Blake, "And I'm sorry"

"You are?" Blake said as a statement, not a question.

"Yeah" Octavia sighed, "I am" She hesitated for a moment before continuing, "I never should have let myself get transferred over to NRI's Testing Division. It took me away from you, from Tavi and from my family and put me incommunicado for over six months" She sighed again, "You were right when you said I was putting my career above you and my own daughter"

Blake recovered quickly from Octavia's confession, "Were you?" He asked, "Maybe you were, but in hindsight perhaps it turned out for the best"

"What do you mean?" Octavia said tersely, "Are you saying it was good for me to not be here when my daughter had her first day at school, to miss her first sleepover, to miss her growing up? Are you saying it's a good thing to miss my daughters life?"

"No" Blake shook his head, "But if you hadn't been there, how would the Battle of Mon Calamari gone? Or the battle to destroy that shipyard in the core? Would the Republic still have won if you weren't commanding there?"

"They would have" Octavia answered, "They might have"

"Maybe" Blake shrugged, kicking at the sand with one foot, "But my issue was never just about you fighting in a war, it was the lack on contact" He sighed, "How do you think it affected me and Tavi when we didn't hear from you for so long? I spent most of the time trying to reassure Tavi that you were alright and not even believing it myself"

Octavia winced and turned away, "I tried to get a message out, but I never knew you thought that way"

Blake continued, his voice raising, "And how do you think it would have affected us if word came through that you had been killed?"

"Dammit!" Octavia snapped, whirling around and blinking back the tears, "You think I don't know that? Everytime I went in battle with the Ackbar, I dreaded that it would be the last time and I'd never see either of you again and when I almost did die, all I could think of was the two of you"

Blakes expression slipped to one of concern, "You almost.....? What happened?" He asked, stepping forward and gently gripping her arms, "Octavia, what happened?"

Hesitantly at first, Octavia quickly filled Blake in on what had happened with Lucas Penrose, from the discovery that he was a spy to his attack on her in her own quarters and her near death experience when Penrose had almost killed her. As she told her tale, She became aware of Blake pulling her into a calming embrace.

As she finished, Blake sighed and held her tighter, "I didn't know....." He said, "Why didn't you say something?"

"I don't know" Octavia shook her head, "I guess because I'm still trying to work through it all myself. I thought when I left the Wraiths I'd left behind the days of someone trying to kill me personally. Kind of a shock really and it really got me thinking"

"About what?" Blake asked.

"About what I'm missing" Octavia answered, "I've let my career take me too far away from my family and what's important. I love commanding the Ackbar, but it's keeping me away from the ones I truely love. You and Tavi. I thought by keeping my career and family live separate, I'd be protecting you, keeping you safe from those that might use you against me in some way. I was so wrong, it wasn't you and Tavi that needed protecting"

"What are you saying?" Blake frowned.

"Well, I can't do anything with the war on" Octavia nodded, "But once it's over that's it. I'll retire, I'll resign, I'll do whatever it takes to come home for good" She smiled up at her husband, "I want to come home"


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Location: England
Fondor Senatorial Offices.
Senate Halls.
Coruscant.

Mariska Savage hummed happily to herself as she alternated between twirling a finger through her long blond hair and working through the files on her terminal. She only had an hour before shift and and she'd nearly done todays filing, soon she'd be able to go back to her apartment and spend the night with a nice romance novel. Her life wasn't perfect, but she enjoyed her job and her home was pretty decent for the money.

Mariska Savage had a good life.

Or at least she would if she really existed.

Mariska Savage wasn't a real person. She existed as a datafile. A complete datafile none the less, with a birth certificate, a family history going back four generations, education records, employment history, travel records, an account with the Galactic Bank, even membership cards for librarys and holo-movie rental stores. Beyond that however, she was simply an identity waiting for someone to slip into the role.

She'd done just that. The trip from Tralus had been spent in her quarters aboard passenger liner immersing herself in the role of Mariska Savage, a mid level filing clerk newly assigned to the Senate Halls. She didn't particulary like the character of Mariska Savage, she was far to vacuous and flighty, but she had to admire the work that had gone into creating the cover indentity. The identity had been created some years ago and then left in 'hibernation' as it were waiting for the role to be activated.

Of course, she'd also spent some of the voyage remembering her last conversation with Dru Kargin before she left Tralus.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tralus.
Five Days Ago.

"You really don't have to do this yourself" Dru sighed as she sealed up the small bag that contained the few items she'd need before collecting her cover identity at Kuat when she would board the liner Kuati Star and make a brief exchange with a Skye agent who would provide details on the identity and appropriate luggage and documents.

"I do" She nodded.

"We have plenty of agents on Coruscant, all of whom are better experienced with the the world" Dru continued.

She turned to face him, irritation on her face, "Look Dru" She sighed, "I can do this"

Dru scowled, "Why do you call me that?"

She frowned, "It's your name"

Dru sighed, "You used to call me Dad"

She gave her own sigh, "That was before I turned twelve and became older than you"

"Lyn...." Dru began.

"Stop. Just stop" Lyn Kargin shook her head, "I'm going to Coruscant to run the Op. Don't try and talk me out of it"

Dru looked like he was going to continue pushing, "Fine" He muttered, then added under his breath, "So stubborn, why can't you be more like Cera?"

Lyn's face hardened, "Yes, you'd love that wouldn't you?" She asked sarcastically, "Having me be a goodie two shoes just like my sister?

"Lyn, I didn't mean it like that" Dru said apollogetically.

"Too late.." Lyn answered, "Dad" She used the word in a way that robbed it of emotion, "I've gotta go, I don't wanna miss my flight"

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Senate Halls.
Coruscant.
Now.

The sound of movement outside her office alerted her that someone was approaching and stirred her from her thoughts. She closed down the files she had open and switched the slicing program she was using to stealth mode.

The head of a Bothan female poked around the doorway, "Hey Mariska, some of us are going to grab some lunch. You want in?"

"No thanks Liska, I'm too busy" Lyn shook her head, careful that she remained in her cover identity, "Can you bring me something back?"

"Sure" Liska Rayl'fey nodded, "Any preferences?"

Lyn shrugged, "As long as it's cooked, isn't moving and isn't too spicy, I'm game" She told the clerk from the neighboring offices, "And no Soylent Green"

"Fair enough" Liska nodded, "We'll be back in about an hour"

"Don't worry" Lyn smiled. Try as she might, she couldn't help but like Liska, "I won't starve in the meantime"

"Cool" Liska grinned, then slipped back into the corridor.

Lyn knew liking Liska could be a problem in the long run, but it least helped her in the short term. Liska worked in the offices for the Bothan Delegation, more specifically she worked in the offices also occupied by the Chief-of-State. Lyn had been able to pick up a lot of information just from gossip. For instance, just from various things Liska had overheard and passed on, Lyn had learned that Vorsk Kel'lya was making an other attempt to gather support for the Senate Oversight Bill that would give him direct control over the military. It had no bearing on her mission, but she did pass it along to other agents working for her Father's organisation, they might be able to make use of the info.

Turning her attention back to her computer, she reactivated the slicing program and set it to work on the files she'd located within the Senate database. It gave security protocols nightmares, but the Senate systems were all linked into a single network that also tied into the various embassy's as well as a direct link to the Chief-of-States office. She doubted the person who had hired the mercenaries for the Tarn kidnappings would be stupid enough to keep incriminating data on a shared network, but maybe they might have been careless in some small way that she could use.

In the identity of Mariska Savage, Lyn Kargin got back to work.

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Briefing Room.
Bothan Assault Cruiser Ralroost.

Admiral Treast Kre'fey nodded to Jedi Master Luke Skywalker as the former Rebel alliance pilot entered the room. Clad in a pilot jumpsuit in Republic orange and lacking the usual Jedi robes, Skywalker reminded Kre'fey of any pilot under his command, if not for the intensity of the Jedi Master's expression and the almost serene way he held himself.

"I appreciate you coming, Master Skywalker" Kre'fey said as the two occupied seats in the briefing room, "I presume you've already seen the report from your Nephew?"

"I have" Skywalker nodded, "A Neo-Separatist battle group destroyed in the Anobis system. The recon flight lead by Anakin arrives just in time to see the final ship consuming itself with secondary explosions. They also catch a glimpse of a vessel jumping out, something big"

"My analysts confirmed it as a Super Star Destroyer" Kre'fey replied, "Executor class"

Skywalker sat up straighter, "I thought they were all accounted for?"

"They are. Twelve were built" Kre'fey scowled, "Executor, Aggressor, Annihilator, Intimidator, Blood Fist aka Iron Fist, Knight Hammer, Razor's Kiss, Reaper, Terror and Vengeance all destroyed. Lusankya and Guardian in our hands"

"So were did this new one come from?" Skywalker frowned.

Kre'fey hammered some commands into his desk computer, "I don't know and that's what worries me. The Vengeance 'could' have survived, but considering it was last seen as a derelict dropping into a gas giant, I think thats a long shot" The Bothan commander shook his head, "No. This is a new one"

"From where?" Skywalker asked.

"You were on Nirauan" Kre'fey shrugged, "You saw signs of what Thrawn had established out there. Could they have built a Super class Shipyard"

Skywalker considered the question for a moment, "I can't be sure. Super weapons and ships of that size were never Thrawn's style. Besides, I doubt they have the resources to spare for a shipyard of that size, let alone a ship that big"

"It could have been one that was dispatched with Thrawn when the Emperor originally sent him out there" Kre'fey said, "We assumed there were twelve Executor class vessels because that's how many we encountered. I mean, we didn't even know about the Lusankya until it blasted free of Coruscant or the Razor's Kiss until Warlord Zsinj tried to steal it"

"So you think there could have been another one?" Skywalker asked.

"With the evidence before me" Kre'fey answered, "I can't help but think there was another. The only reassuring aspect is that whoever has it is fighting against the Neo-Seps"

"But how long before it gets turned against us?" Skywalker added the question neither of them wanted to think about.

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Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

The corridor was empty and devoid of life, but that soon changed as grating dropped from a ventalation duct and drifted gently to the floor under a force grip that prevented it from clattering to the floor. A second later, the head of Jaden Loran emerged, glanced up and down the corridor before slipping from the duct headfirst, flipping over and landing firmly on his feet. Shortly after, Jenna Tarn also emerged, looking no happier for the time she'd spent in the ducts with only Jaden for company.

"Which way now?" Jaden asked.

Jenna's face held a strange expression as she considered the question, "I'm going this way" She said eventually, "If you know what's good for you, you'll go the other"

A look of resignation flickered across Jaden's face, "Okay, yeah okay" He sighed, "Take care of yourself"

Jenna frowned, "Not gonna try and talk me out of it?"

"Would you listen?" Jaden tipped an eyebrow.

"No" Jenna shook her head, and her expression softened, "No, I wouldn't"

"Just look after yourself, okay?" Jaden smiled.

Jenna returned a smile that was partially forced, then turned and headed off down the corridor. For a moment, Jaden considered following her, but decided against it. She wouldn't thank him for it and it might well be enough to push her over the edge. Plus the niggle in the force that told him someone on this world needed help was getting more persistant.

With a last sigh, he placed the grating back into the duct and headed up the corridor in the opposite direction to Jenna.

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Stonia.
Almania.
Republic Held Sector.

Soria Onasi leaned against the parapet on the roof and looked out over the city. Her eyes were drawn to the smoke emanating from various points in Stonia, remnants of the fires that had been ignited during the last few hours of fighting.

The storm that had dominated the skies during the Ranger's time on Almania had finally cleared and assisted by aerial support from the fleets starfighter squadrons, the Republic Rangers had made on assault on the Neo-Separatist held positions. It had been a tough fight, consisting mostly of vicous building to building urban combat. She come to Almania with all three batallions of the Republic Rangers -nine hundred troops altogether-, First Batallion had pushed through the city itself whilst Second and Third battallions had flanked around the city to the east and the west.

The battle had been fierce, the Rangers had suffered over thirty percent casualties with the majority in First and Third Batallion. Two hundred and seventy three wound, of which eighteen were critical and fifty nine dead. Many of the casualties had been inflicted by a pair of Hellfire droids that had shelled Ranger positions indiscriminantly.

A sound on the roof behind her caught Soria's attention. She turned to see Sharon Omizuku making her way onto the flat roof. The former criminal from Skye was still limping and bandaged, a reminder of the concussion blast that had left her down while her squad tore into the unit that had fired on her. She come away with a number of nasty bruises and a number of cracked ribs.

"New orders are in" Sharon waved a datapad.

"Already?" Soria frowned, "Where are they sending us now?"

"Skye" Sharon answered, "Apparently, Queen Oslo-Tarn has offered us the use of their facilities for rearming and recuperation"

"Unusual" Soria scowled, "Normally rearm and recup is done on the world the fighting has been carried out on"

Sharon shrugged, "Maybe, but I'd take Skye over Almania anyday. They're even sending a Skye vessel to collect us. The Tremere, a Star Destroyer captured from the Imps ten years ago"

Soria nodded, but was occupied with her thoughts, "I'm not sure about this. Skye is garrisoning worlds around the rim with forces far in excess of anything they were supposed to have. They're armed forces include ex-Imperial units no one had ever heard of and now we're being rotated there for whatever reason"

"It gets better" Sharon said, "Scuttlebutt is Oslo-Tarn's drumbing up support in the Outer Rim. Possibly as a prelude for a vote of no confidence in Vorsk Kely'lya and a chance to have herself elected as Chief-of-State"

"Be tough for an Outer Rim leader to get herself elected" Soria pointed out, "Kel'lya had a boost from the Bothan's martyrs who obtained the plans for the second Death Star. Otherwise a Bothan would have struggled to even make the Advisory Council"

"Oslo-Tarn is married to a former member of Rogue Squadron and Skye was instrumental to the final victory against the Empire" Sharon said.

"Yeah" Soria nodded, "But she also has to get past the double barrel of being from a 'backwards' Rim world and being a former officer in Imperial Intelligence"

"Backwards!" Sharon rolled her eyes, "We're also fairly sideways too. So you don't think she'll get enough backing to unseat Kel'lya?"

"Maybe" Soria shrugged, "If she can get enough support amongst the Outer Rim she can use that to swing a lot of Cal Omas' former supporters to her side, along with those who are feeling slighted by Kel'lya"

"And the chances of that are what?" Sharon scowled.

"Pretty good considering the way Kel'lya's tried to run the war" Soria answered, "He would've removed any kind of protection from almost every world outside the core and any world that didn't pledge loyalty to him. Problem is, Kel'lya has plenty of supporters of his own and he doesn't seem the sort to back down in the face of defeat. I bet he'll fight it all the way"

Sharon sighed, "We could save the New Republic, only to watch it self destruct"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.
Rhen Var Orbit.

"Damn" Deven muttered as he stared out the forward viewport, "That's a big ship"

"You can say that again" Kai added her own mutterings as she too stared out of the viewport.

"Damn. That's a big ship" Deven repeated dryly.

The Sacul was holding position several planetary diameters from Rhen Var having exited hyperspace in the shadow of one of the Tobali Systems outer planets. Making the most of the Sacul's stealth armor, they'd headed insystem towards Rhen Var until -only moments ago- Kai had brought the Sacul to a full stop.

The reason?

The twenty thousand meter lon starship bristling with weapons and hanging in Rhen Vars orbit and surrounded by clouds of starfighters.

"What we got?" Face asked as he slipped into the cockpit followed by Corran and Katrin.

"Big ship" Kai answered.

"Very big ship" Deven added.

"I can see that" Face scowled, "Sacul?"

The holographic form of Sacul materialized above the main piloting console, shrunk down in size to minimize the space she took up in the cockpit, "Vessel is approximately twenty thousand meters in length, maybe ten thousand wide" Sacul replied to Face's enquiry, "Design is similar to the old Invincible class Dreadnought Heavy Cruisers, but on a much larger scale. Weapons and starfighter compliment is likely to be along the same lines as an Executor class star Deadnought"

Face frowned, "Haven't I seen something on this ship. Very recently"

Sacul's image shrugged, "It's size and outline is consistant with the long range scans of the vessel that left the Unyielding Hierophant shortly after the battle had begun"

"If that ship had decided to stay and fight......." Corran began, but left the rest of the sentence unsaid.

"Yeah" Deven nodded, "Even if we'd still won, the Ninth would have been in no condition to fight at Mon Calamari"

"Okay" Face cut in, " We want to go planetside. That's in the way. Options?"

"Fighting is out of the question" Corran mused, "Too many fighters"

"Plus" Sacul added, "I couldn't even tell you what the capabilities of that thing are"

"Well, we can slip past that oversized stick" Kai pointed out, "But our stealth armor won't hide our atmospheric entry"

"That's probably our best bet" Face nodded, "But we still have the problem of......"

"Coronu burst!" Scaul suddenly shouted in warning, "Behind and slightly above"

"Kai!" Face shouted.

Before her name had left Face's mouth, Kai was already throwing the Sacul into a dive, one brutal enough to throw Corran and Face from their feet and force Katrin to grip the hatchway tightly. Deven still sensibly strapped into the co-pilots seat let out a curse as he recognised the vessel that flashed scant meters above the Sacul.

"Only he would be crazy enough" He scowled, "Corellian YT-1300 freighter, ventral and dorsal turrets. Dropping out of hyperspace this close to a gravity well. Only one possible answer"

"Han Solo" Face grimaced as he picked himself up from the deck before helping Corran to his own feet, "Hail the Falcon"

"This is Solo" The captain of the Millennium Falcon answered a few seconds after Sacul opened a comm channel, "Sorry about that near miss Sacul, but we couldn't exactly stick our head in to check the system out first"

"Yeah, I know that feeling" Face answered, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Solo hesitated, "My daughter is currently missing" He eventually answered, "Based on a.....vision....Leia had, we came to Rhen Var. You?"

"Chasing up some leads of our own" Face answered, "We've got some of our own of that iceball"

"So what's the plan?" Solo asked.

Face glanced around the cockpit at the others before answering, "We were going to sneak past them, but...." He glanced at the sensor screen, "Your arrival appears to have shaken up the womp rats nest"

"Keeps things interesting then" Solo replied.

Deven grimaced as he examined the data coming through the sensor screens, "Interesting is exactly the word I'd use. We've got a full squadron moving our way and two further squadrons moving to support them"

"And to make things even more interesting" Sacul cut in, "We've got additional vessels to our rear" She brought up a view from the rear sensors showing two Carrack Cruisers and two squadrons of fighters moving towards their position.

"They were expecting us?" Katrin frowned as she slipped into one of the rear cockpit seats as Corran and Face slipped into their own seats.

"No" Solo's voice came across the comm, "Formation is wrong for an ambush. Looks more like they've come out of hyperspace on a routine entry into the system and happened to find themselves looking at our tailpipes"

"I say we make a break for the planet" Kai said, "All those fighters and that big ship, it's the last thing they'd expect us to do"

"Actually" Deven added dryly, "The last thing they'd expect us to do is to turn into ice-skating mongoose and dance the bolero. Kai's right, I say we run for Rhen Var"

"Sounds good to me" Face nodded, "Solo?"

"Agreed" The Corellian answered.

"Katrin?"

"Like I've got any other suggestion" Katrin laughed.

Face hit the ship's internal comm, "Rrowv? Void?"

"I'm in" Rrowv growled.

"Corran?"

"Do I have a choice?" The Jedi sighed.

Face looked thoughtful for a moment, "No"

"Fair enough" Corran shrugged and turned his attention to the engineering console.

Face laughed, "Kai, take us in. Solo, we'll take the lead"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnought Merciful Hand.

"General Hertzog" Commander Courtney Whitmore called, "The intruders are moving towards Rhen Var"

General Krin Hertzog frowned, "What can they be thinking? Do we have an ID yet?"

"Working on it, sir. One target is proving difficult to aquire a sensor lock on. The other is using the larger ships sensor shadow to baffle our sensors." Whitmore nodded before heading for the sensor station.

"Opinions?" Hertzog faced the man standing next to him.

Conner Black scowled, "Smugglers who've simply stumbled into the system, Republic scouts or even just private citizens poking their noses where they shouldn't"

"Maybe" Hertzog shrugged, trying not to give Black any respect.

Since Conner Black had botched the Raiko's Memory mission as the war broke out, he'd been skating on thin ice. The Remnant Raider's whom Black had employed for the mission had been liquidated and only the fact that Black was good at what he did kept him alive. Hertzog disliked the fact that Black had been assigned to the Merciful Hand as a Council Representiative, but his hands had been tied on the matter.

"Sir, we've got tentitive ID's on the targets" Whitmore called, "Target A is a Corellian YT-1300 Light transport. Speed and shield index is inconsistant with known YT-1300 specifications leading me to believe it's the Millennium Falcon. Second Target is still defying full sensor lock, but it's profile is similar to a Marauder Corvette. Best guess is the Sacul, a New Republic Intelligence craft normally associated with Wraith Squadron"

"Interesting" Conner Black mused, "Han Solo and Princess Leia have come for their daughter and brought some friends to play"

"It would seem so" Hertzog nodded, "Had the Sherman and Constator not dropped out of hyperspace behind them, we would have never noticed their presence"

"Yet they come towards us" Black scowled, "Towards twelve full squadrons and this vessel and with two Carrack Cruisers and two more squadrons at their rear. What can they hope to achieve?"

Hertzog looked at Black with disdain, "I have not made a career from underestimating my opponents. I will not underestimate Han solo and I will not compound such an error by underestimating Face Loren's Wraith Squadron. You would be wise to remember that since underestimating your opponent almost ended your life"

Black ignored the barb, "What can they hope to achieve?" He repeated.

"I was an Imperial officer during the days of the Rebel Alliance" Hertzog scowled, "Many of their victories were won through unorthodox tactics that didn't make sense at the time. Tactics Han Solo was often responsible for. He often did things that made little sense and more often than not, came out on top. He is not the sort of man to do something you can expect"

"And Garik Loran?" Black asked.

"A very dangerous man" Hertzog answered, "Deadly and unpredictible. Thrawn may have always been seven steps ahead of everyone else, but Garik Loran is only one step behind him AND he'll have an out even Thrawn couldn't predict" The General sighed, "Loran is trouble"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Skye Transport Allendrio.
Docked To The Star Destroyer Chimera.

Rear-Admiral Gilad Pellaeon sighed as he looked around the transport that had arrived to take away the passenger that had travelled aboard the Chimera these last few months. Security was very tight, almost as tight as when the passenger had first arrived. Only Pellaeon, his first officer and the crew of the transport were even aware of the passenger's identity.

"Well, it was a pleasure to have served with you, sir" Pellaeon smiled and offered the blue skinned alien his hand.

Thrawn nodded and accepted the handshake, "Likewise Admiral, it was a most interesting experience. Tell me, did I measure up to my namesake?"

"You did" Pellaeon nodded gruffly, "It was just as I remembered it being. My only critisism is that you need to have more confidence in your abilities"

"I'll take it under advisement" Thrawn nodded, "Being a clone of such a tactical genius makes one self concious about ones abilities"

"I think your mistake then" Pellaeon pondered, "Is that you are trying too hard to be Thrawn, when you should be trying to be your own person"

"What do you suggest?" Thrawn looked curious.

"Be Thrawn" Pellaeon answered, "But be your own Thrawn. Don't try and live up to a dead man"

Thrawn raised an eyebrow and a small smile tugged the corner of his mouth, "Genetically, I am that dead man. I possess his memories, his personaility and his tactical ability"

"Maybe so" Pellaeon answered, "But your life is what you make it, not something thats dictated by someone else"

"Interesting point of view" Thrawn nodded, "Very well. I shall stop living up to Grand Admiral Thrawn and just be Thrawn"

"So what are your short term plans?" Pellaeon asked, "Why this journey to Skye?"

"Plans change" Thrawn shrugged, "Apparently I'm needed elsewhere"

"Who's plans?" Pellaeon frowned suspiciously, "Kel'lya's?"

"No" Thrawn shook his head, "Not Kel'lya. I assure you though, these plans pose no threat to the New Republic. They are intended as a breakwater against the worst case scenarios"

"I see" Pellaeon sighed uncertainly, "Well then, I shall let you depart and I hope to work alongside you again"

"So do I, Admiral" Thrawn smiled, "So do I"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prison Level.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

Jaden carefully inched up to the corner and peered around, blaster at the ready. It had been slow going making his way up to the prison level, yet surprisingly security was light. It seemed that he'd guessed right about security being deployed above the prison level rather than below. Still, he had been careful to avoid being seen.

When he'd hacked a terminal and discovered the identity of the only prisoners being held here on Rhen Var, he'd been surprised.

"Then again" He thought, "The way the force works sometimes, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised"

From the terminal he'd acquired a map of the facility and had located the Ysalamiri that were casting their null-force bubble over the prisoners. Now those Ysalamiri were fitted with small explosive charges that would liquifiy their small brains and close down their null-force bubbles.

Looking down the corridor, Jaden spotted seven guards. Two were standing either side of the door to the nearest cell, two more were outside the next cell down. The remaining three were scattered along the corridor. From his position, he could see that the guards were almost sloppy in their alert status, the standing guards were leaning against walls and the patrolling ones were holding their weapons in comfortable grips, rather than holding them at battle ready positions.

With a deep breath, Jaden triggered the remote signal for the five second timers the Ysalamiri bombs, then leaning back around the corner, he sighted in on one of the guards with his blaster and opened fire.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prisoner Cell Three.

The first indication that something was happening was a dull thud that shook the room and rocked Oddball from his slumber. The next indication was the sounds of blaster fire and the shouts and screams of those outside. Sitting up on his bunk he looked over to Jaina who was also stirring, albeit weakly.

"What's going on?" Oddball asked standing and moving towards the door.

"Dunno" Jaina muttered as she lifted herself up on shaky arms. Her last interrogation session had only been a few hours ago and she was still feeling the effects, "But I can feel the force again"

Oddball looked at her in suprise, "The Yalamori are gone?"

"Ysalamiri" Jaina corrected, "Yeah, there was a brief group scream through the force, then nothing, followed by everything as the force rushed back into my senses"

Another thud outside the room elicted pain filled screams from someone outside.

"Concussion grenade" Oddball said, "Could be a rescue?"

"And me without my damsel dress" Jaina muttered as she stumbled onto very shaky legs.

Seeing that she was unsteady, Oddball caught her and slipped her right arm over his shoulders, "Any idea who it is?"

Jaina reached out with the Force, "Not someone I recognise" She frowned, "But he is strong in the force. He does feel familiar in some way"

"He friendly?" Oddball asked.

"I think so" Jaina nodded. Reaching out with the Force, she sensed an increasingly agitated Lowbacca in the cell next door, she sensed their unknown rescuer, she also sensed the last of the guards falling to the rescuers blasterfire. Reaching further out -and almost blacking out from the effort- she sensed the alarm spreading across the base and at the edges of her senses.....

"Jenna!" She gasped.

"Jenna?" Oddball blurted, "What about her?"

"She's here" Jaina replied, still in shock. She frowned as she sensed Jenna was moving away from them and down into the ruins.

"She came for us?" Oddball said hopefully and relieved.

"No" Jaina shook her head setting off a wave of nausea, "She came, but I don't think she even realised we're here" She reached out to Jenna and pushed at her mind with the Force. For a moment, she felt Jenna's realisation and hesitation as she recognised Jaina's Force sense, then Jenna clamped down and slipped clear of Jaina's senses, "Dammit" She muttered.

"What?" Oddball demanded.

"She's going into the ruins" Jaina answered, "I think she's going to confront the Prime Councillor"

"Damn" Oddball grimaced, "We have to stop her"

At the moment the cell door hissed open and Jaina and Oddball found themselves staring at the blond haired man on the other side with Lowbacca stood next to him.

"What are you doing standing around?" Jaden Loran grinned, "Don't you know a jail break when you see one?"

"Who are you?" Oddball demanded passing Jaina to Lowbacca so that the towering Wookie could take her into his arms.

"The name's Loran, Jaden Loran" Jaden replied, "I'm getting you out of here"

"You came with Jenna?" Jaina asked.

"Yeah" Jaden answered hesitantly, "But she has her own path"

"We have to go after her" Oddball cut in.

"And do what?" Jaden frowned. He pointed to Jaina, "She's almost dead on her feet, you're not much better off and the Wookie -though strong and determined- is still only one person"

"We have to save her" Jaina shouted.

"I think she might be beyond saving" Jaden sighed, "But fine, we'll go after her, but first we need some better firepower. There's an armory one level up, I hacked the database, your lightsabers are there. We'll get them and then we'll go after Jenna"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Millennium Falcon.

Han Solo gritted his teeth as the Falcon bucked under the energy bursts that were impacting against the forward shields. A second later, the vulture droid drifted under the sights of the dorsal quad cannons and Han answered the droid fighters fire with his own. The laser fire from the quad cannons tore through the Vulture's port wing assembly and sent the fighter spinning away out of sight.
Another droid flitted into sight at the very edge of his field of fire, but before he could fire on it, an energy bolt from the upper turret hit the fighter dead on and turned it into free floating gases and debris.

"Good shooting, Highness" Han shouted over the comms using his old nickname for Leia.

"Like you'd know, Nerfherder!" Leia shot back lightheartedly.

At the helm Chewbacca brought the Falcon around in a roll that brought them back behind the Sacul. The larger vessel was staying ahead of the Falcon opening a hole in the fighter squadrons between them and the planet. the Sacul was making full use of its heavier, rapid fire weaponry and was swatting aside fighters as if they were insects.
Ahead of them, the massive bulk of the massive capital ship hung in orbit, as if the battle was beneath it's notice. Behind them, both Carrack Cruisers were giving chase, but both were unable to keep up with the swifter speeds of the Falcon and the Sacul.

"Chewie!" Han called, "See if you can push the engines a bit more. We don't want to drop too far behind the Sacul and get cut off" The Sacul was less manueverable than the Falcon, but flat out it could outrun the Corellian built freighter.

Chewbacca's roared answer sounded insulted at the notion that he hadn't already pushed the Falcon to it's highest speed.

"Okay, okay" Han said defensively, "Just checking"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnought Merciful Hand.

General Hertzog sat back in his command chair and watched the data screens showing the battle. Both the Sacul and the Millennium Falcon were continuing their run for the planet. The Sacul -with it's heavier firepower- was in the lead and cutting a path through the fighter screen. Meanwhile the Millennium Falcon was bringing up the read, using the larger Sacul as a blocker.

Further back, lagging embarrasingly behind- were the two Carrack Cruisers the two intruder vessels were fleeing from.

"Do you plan on allowing them to reach Rhen Var?" Conner Black asked.

"Wether we take them in space or on the planet is immaterial" Hertzog answered, "I'd prefer to capture them in space, but if they enter the atmosphere our fighters will be unable to disable them without causing them to crash. If they land I'm willing to allow the ground teams to take them"

"Capturing the crews of the Sacul and the Millennium Falcon would bring a lot of honor to the officer in charge" Black pointed out.

"Maybe" Hertzog nodded, "As I said, I'm not going to endanger potential prisoners by pushing too hard. However, I'm not just going to give them up. I've alreay sent a signal to the Invigorator. She'll be jumping in in the next few minutes.....right in their path"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.

As the fighter disintegrated into a cloud of gases and debris, the Sacul shook with multiple shield impacts from the debris and the trio of laser bolts the fighter had loosed before being destroyed. As the hull trembled, the sound of something hitting the hull echoed through the hull.

"Do you think" Corran winced, "You could avoid flying through the debris clouds? I've lived this many years without dying, I'm in no hurry to change that"

"Oh, be quiet" Kai grinned over her shoulder.

"Actually, he has a point" Deven cut in.

"Yes" Sacul's voice cut eerily into the air, "I'd prefer to keep my hull intact and my paint job respectable. Please stop doing it"

"Fine" Kai muttered, "You guys are no fun"

Behind her, seated at the main weapons console, Face just smiled and shook his head at the back and forth arguement.

"Heads up!" Katrin's voice called from the main sensor suite one deck down, "New contact dropping from hyperspace"

Up ahead, the large slim shape of a Pinnance-Class Geonosian Dreadnaught dropped from hyperspace, cutting across and blocking their route to Rhen Var. Within seconds the Pinnance's turbolasers were firing in a containment pattern intended to trap the Falcon and the Sacul on their current course.

Kai scowled, "It's a bigger ship than hours. Deven, personally, I blame you"

"Me?" Deven feigned a hurt look, "How can it possibly be my fault?"

Kai shrugged, "Because otherwise it might be my fault, and that can't be right. I'm a Grand Admiral"

"Yeah, and I'm the Emperor" Deven shot back.

"Argue later" Face interrupted, "We need to deal with that Pinnance"

"We're not going to be able to scratch the paint on that thing" Sacul said, "And that's assuming we could mass the firepower to get through the shields"

"I doubt we'd be able to get around it without taking to many hits" Deven pointed out, "The fighters are redeploying to intercept if we try to break out of the containment fire pattern"

"Okay" Face nodded, "New plan. Sacul, how's your hacking software?"

"Up-to-date and top of the line" Sacul answered, "What do you need?"

"Can you hack the navigational systems of the two Carracks?" Face asked.

"Given time and a way into their systems, yes" Sacul replied.

"Would a data stream do?" Deven cut in, "Send them a virus disguised as a combat data stream from their command ship?"

"Yes" Sacul said after a moments delay, "I've already unscrambled and isolated the command codes they've been using in their comm transmissions. Give me a few moments and I can slice together a virus to accompany the data streams. They'll detect us as the source quickly enough, but by then I'll already be in their systems"

"Good" Face nodded, "Do it" He hit the comm, "Falcon, this is Sacul. Stand by to break on my mark. We're going to have to cut things pretty close"

"Define close" Solo answered.

"Very" Face answered.

"Nothing new then" Solo laughed, "We'll await you word"

"I'm ready" Sacul called.

"Send it" Face nodded.

On Face's command Scaul transmitted the virus laden data stream to both Carrack Cruisers. It was a tense few minutes as the virus did it's work aboard both cruisers, infiltrating the computers aand locking open a little used comm channel straight back to Sacul and granting her direct access to the Carrack's systems.

"I'm in" Sacul announced.

"Good" Face grinned, "Here's what I want you to do"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Carack Cruiser Akura.

Captain Emran Tain scowled as he watched out of the forward viewports. His vessel and it's sister ship, the Bruticus had dropped out of hyperspace in the Rhen Var system on a routine patrol route along several Neo-Separatist held systems and he had been suprised to find himself staring up the engines of two of the most famous transports in the galaxy.

"The Sacul and the Millenium Falcon" Tain thought, "Capturing either one will bring me enough prestige to get me a better command" He turned to face the helmsman, "Increase speed" He ordered.

"Captain" The comm officer called, "We're receiving updated combat data streams"

"Use it" Tain nodded, "And put it up on my screen" A second later, Tain's personal screen lit up with a display of the current battle. For a moment he watched the screen before a cold feeling settled into his gut, "Where did we get the data streams from?" He shouted the question from the comm officer.

"I...I don't " The comm officer paled, "Transmission was received from......Target B...The Sacul"

"Why would they send us......?" Tain began to ask, then a sick feeling washed over him, "Shut down the main computer!" He shouted, "Shut it down!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As soon as the virus had provided access into the systems of the Carrack Crusiers, Sacul was sending a new set of programs in. The first rerouted the commands that allowed for shutdown of the main computers to prevent the Carrack crews from simply pulling the plugs, the second locked out all navigational control and the third and final program provided a brand new set of navigational courses.

Given time, the crews could have managed to get around Sacul's blocks and flushed the system clean of the virus. Unfortuanately, they didn't have that time.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Mark!" Face called out.

At Face's command, Kai threw the Sacul into a corkscrewing climb that took it over the hull of the Pinnance. At the same time, the Millennium Falcon looped under the Pinnance. Their shields took a number of hits from turbolaser fire, but at that proximity, the gunners on the Pinnance were unable to bring there weapons to bear fast enough at that range.

A number of the pursuing droid fighters were unable to manuever fast enough and simply hammered themselves flat against the shields of the Pinnance. Others pulled across the flight paths of other fighters and collided with them. Their effect on the Invigorator was negligable.

Not so the Carracks. Sacul's pre-programed course was a full on collision course with the Pinnance and both ships were locked onto that course. The Akura hit the Invigorator's port side dead on, slightly forward of the hanger bay. Shields on both ships crackled with energy before overloading and allowing the two hulls to meet. Armour buckled under the impact and superstructure gave way as the bow of the Carrack dug deep into the Pinnance's side. The forward viewport on the Akura blew out as the forward superstructure warped out of shape and drove deeply into the Invigorator's innards. At this point, the engines on the Akura overloaded and the shattered hulk was slowly consumed in a fireball that tore a chunk from the Pinnance.

The Bruticus actually hit off centre, a dozen metres above the mid-line and right over the location of the power core. The crash was no less spectacular, but because the Bruticus hit after the Akura's collision had overloaded the Pinnance's shields, the Bruticus hit at full speed. The Carrack drove deeply into the Invigorator, rupturing the reactor, severing power conduits and breaching fuel lines. Furthermore, the Bruticus had been heavily refitted with multiple torpedo launchers and soon enough, those missile loads detonated in a fiery conflagration. Fuel ignited and along with the oxygen rich atmosphere leaking from the Invigorator a firestorm was soon raging in the engineering decks on the Invigorator.

Though the firestorm burnt out quickly, the damage had been done and the Invigorator had been dealt a mortal wound and left drifting in space.

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Command Bridge.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnought Merciful Hand.

General Hertzog said nothing as he watched the view of the Invigorator and the escape pods launching from the undamaged areas of the dying ship. Meanwhile, the Sacul and the Millennnium Falcon were taking advantage of the situation to make a clean run to Rhen Var.

"That went well" Black snickered.

Hertzog shrugged, "It was unexpected, I'll admit. But I did say that Loran was unpredictable"

"You think Loran was behind that?" Black frowned.

"Of course" Hertzog nodded, "It was costly, but they'll be overconfident when they come back. Assuming they don't get captured on the ground"

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Armory Eta-Three.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

Jaden had been right about the armory. There Jaina and Lowbacca had found their lightsabers along with the lightsaber of Ganner Rhysode. Oddball had appropriated a set of Imperial Scout Armour and a repeater blaster and Jaden had merrily helped himself to a handful of plasma grenades.They'd encountered a few guards, but then the alert status had changed and announcements were sounding about new intruders at the main hangers and all personnel were to prepare to fight the enemy there.

"What the heck's going on?" Oddball asked.

"Who knows" Jaina shrugged. She was still very unsteady on her feet, but she'd regained a lot of her colour, "But it'll make it easier to get to Jenna"

"Maybe" Jaden shrugged, "Though I'm still not sure it's wise to go after her. She's pretty volatile. She made it pretty clear what would happen if I tried to follow her"

That caught Jaina's attention, "She's that bad?"

Jaden nodded, "I'm afraid so"

"How bad?" Oddball asked.

Jaden sighed, Very. She killed at least three people in cold blood on Nar Shaddaa alone. She's very unstable, she threatened me several times and moments later would be acting like nothing had happened. I'd catch her having conversations or even full blown arguments with herself" He sighed again, "She's a ticking timebomb"

"I don't believe it" Oddball shook his head, "She's not like that..." He looked at Jaina, "Jaina, tell him"

"Oddball" Jaina said apollogetically, "I can't, Jenna is ill, you know that. She left the hospital on Coruscant before they could prescribe adequete treatment" She looked over at Jaden, "Is she still on her meds?"

Jaden shrugged, "On and off and despite my best efforts she was mixing them with a lot of alcohol"

"Dammit" Jaina muttered, "We need to......." She trailed off as a tingle of danger ran through the force.

"What?" Oddball asked, catching the change of tone.

"We need to get moving" Jaden nodded, "Before they get their act together and come after us"

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Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Sub-Level Gamma-Seven.

Jenna silently rode the lift car down alone. Though technically, she was neither silent nor -to her mind- was she alone. With her and talking more than she would have prefered were three other Jenna's. The first other-Jenna on her left looked exactly like her, except for the way she hunched her shoulders and her eyes darted around supiciously. Jenna had named this one Paranoid-Jenna.
Next was Airhead-Jenna, her jumpsuit was heavily abreiviated and very revealing and her voice was high pitched and she was reminiscent of a stereotypical bimbo, right down to the platinum blond hair.
The final other-Jenna caused Jenna's stomach to heave everytime she looked at her. Zombie-Jenna was a horrible mass of rotting, disfigured flesh clad in a tattered, discoloured jumpsuit. Every so often she plucked her brain from her own open skull, just to check it was still there.

"This is a bad idea, you know?" Paranoid-Jenna said, "They could be waiting for us. You know, a trap?"

"It might not be" Airhead-Jenna squeaked, "They might -like- just want to be friends and everything" Her brows furrowed as she struggled to concentrate, "Or it might be a trap. Oh, this is -like- sooooooo confusing"

"Just be quiet" Jenna muttered, "If it is a trap, then they'll hear us coming if you don't shut up" She winced, "Except I'm pretty sure, none of you three even exists"

"We don't?" Bimbo-Jenna looked worried, "That -like- sucks"

"You know what sucks?" Zombie-Jenna rasped, "Being like this" She indicated her rotting body, "Sucks" She looked at Jenna with a pair of milky white eyes, "You do know you'll look like this someday. It's inevitable. You'll not live forever, but then again, it's not just about living forever, it's about living with yourself forever"

"What are you talking about?" Jenna frowned.

"This 'quest' of yours" Zombie-Jenna said around loose teeth that wobbled in rotted gums, "It's a one way path to the Dark Side. You know what they say? Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny"

"That's -like- not good" Airhead-Jenna said in that high-pitched voice.

"It's bad enough I get friends lecturing me" Jenna muttered, "I don't need figments of my own mind doing it"

"Lecturing about what?" Paranoid-Jenna demanded, "Nobody's lecturing anybody. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar"

Jenna sighed and considered turning her lightsaber against the other-Jenna's, then reconsidered it. If they were just parts of her own fractured psyche, then killing them -or trying to- would do little good, "Why don't you all just go away?"

Zombie-Jenna looked around the small lift car, her head making a sickening popping sound as it turned, "Where would we go?"

"I don't know!" Jenna shouted, "Anywhere you like, anywhere but here!"

"Like...where?" Airhead-Jenna asked, "Oooo...can we go outside and get a tan? I'm getting a bit pale" As if to prove her point she thrust out her chest.

"It's sub-zero temperatures out there" Paranoid-Jenna pointed out.

"Oh, and me without my mittens" Airhead-Jenna pouted.

"That is it!" Jenna declared as the lift car clanked to a halt at the bottom of the shaft. She shoved the door open, "I have no sympathy for any of you and no more paitence to pretend otherwise. Ladies, I wash my hands of this wierdness. Wish me luck, I'l need it" With one last huff, she set off down the tunnel beyond.

"I miss her already" Airhead-Jenna sighed.

"She was quite polite for the most part" Paranoid-Jenna agreed.

"Nobody move!" Zombie-Jenna shouted in hysterical panic, "I've dropped my brain!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Supreme Commander's Office.
Republic House/Imperial Palace
Coruscant.

"Supreme Commander Girdun!"

Heol Girdun sighed as he heard Vorsk Kel'lya calling his name. He'd barely rose to his feet behind his desk before the Chief-of-State whirled into the office. Girdun knew exactly what the reason for Kel'lya's visit was.

"Girdun" Kel'lya growled, "When I elevated you the position of Supreme Commander I expected results. So far you have not delivered"

"Sir, I...." Girdun began.

"Shut up!" Kel'lya snapped, "Nearly two thirds of the fleet commanders continue refusing orders to pull back to the core. They still follow the orders given by Sien Sovv before I had him removed from his post"

"The Ninth Fleet has mostly pulled back to the Mid Rim. Considering they were deployed all the way out at Mon Calamari, the Mid Rim is an improvement" Girdun said sheepishly.

"Not good enough" Kel'lya shook his head, "Pellaeon is pulling the Ninth back on his own initiative and at his own speed. He still refuses all orders given to him" Kel'lya flattened the fur on his neck with one hand, "Furthermore, I've learnt that Pellaeon dispatched General Terah to Tatooine to rendevouz with rogue elements of the Tenth Fleet. Elements led by a Bothan" He said disgustedly.

Girdun nodded, "Escra Nay'lon. I've seen his file. Considered to be a very radical thinking Bothan"

"I know that" Kel'lya growled, "And right now, he's just one more problem on a stack of problems. I trust you've seen the reports from Anobis? The ones Treast Kre'fey deigned to send?"

"Yes, Sir" Girdun nodded, "But we have no Super Star Destroyers out there. In fact, both SSDs in our control are both accounted for. The Lusankya is under the command of General Jesmin Ackbar and has been deployed near Mon Calamari. In fact, we know the Lusankya has not left the Dellalt System in over a week, no way it could have left that system, reached the Anobis System undetected and returned to Dellalt -also undetected- without us knowing" He shrugged, "And the Guardian hasn't left Coruscant orbit in nearly six months. We'd have noticed if it had moved"

"I wonder" Kel'lya said sardonically, "Which disturbs you more? The presence of another Super Star Destroyer or the fact that we apparently don't control it?"

"We should take some comfort in the fact that it's being deployed against the Neo-Separatists at least" Girdun pointed out.

"Someone" Kel'lya said slowly as if educating a child, "Has managed to construct and crew a Super Star Destroyer without tipping off New Republic Intelligence. The fact that they were able to construct one indicates that they have a shipyard capable of constructing more. That is a dangerous situation"

"I agree, Sir" Girdun nodded.

"Any new reports on the Skye situation?" Kel'lya asked.

"I wouldn't say it's a situation" Girdun shrugged and began pulling up data on his desk screen, "But we're definitely seeing a lot of troop movements and deployments. In fact, I've had reports of units and equipment that aren't even on the Skye TO&E, even accounting for all the stuff the captured from the Imperials after the big victory ten years ago"

"TO&E?" Kel'lya frowned.

"Table of Organisation and Equipment" Girdun explained, "It's a detailed list of the organisation, staffing and equipment assigned to a unit, milita or world. All worlds in the New Republic are required to provide accurate TO&Es on a regular basis. Same with our own forces. Skye's TO&E provides details of its militia, defense force and any mercenary units they've hired, but as I say, there are units carrying Skye insignia that aren't on the TO&Es"

"What have you done about it?" Kel'lya demanded.

"There's very little I can do so far" Girdun admitted, "I sent a request to Skye for an updated TO&E, they sent back one that still didn't match what we're seeing from reports. Two Republic Class Star Destroyers were sighted at Agamar with Skye Insignia, supporting the Agamar Defense Force. I sent an enquiry about those two vessels in the Skye TO&E, they sent back a reply saying those vessels must have been misidentified, they have no Republic Star Destroyers, they say" He sighed, "Even the Agamar government claim we must be mistaken"

Kel'lya looked thoughtful for a moment, "Could the SSD be from Skye?"

"Well, they 'could' have built one" Girdun replied, "When the Empire first invaded Skye two and a half decades ago, they built the shipyards with the intention of building SSDs there and making use of Skye's impressive resources. As a result, the shipyards are big enough and are equipped for the task, but no way they could have built one without us knowing"

"I do not like things we do not know about" Kel'lya muttered, "Oslo-Tarn has been meeting leaders of other Outer Rim worlds, creating some sort of Alliance that may or may not be for the purpose of a coup. They have ships and units that they haven't reported and they may have a Super Star Destroyer and may be allied with someone who does have one" He growled, "I do not like this"

"I came up with a possible solution" Girdun said proudly, "I had the Republic Rangers rotated onto Skye. If Oslo-Tarn thinks about causing trouble, then the Rangers can make sure she behaves"

"You idiot!" Fel'lya snapped, "The Rangers are commanded by Soria Onasi! She was there on Skye ten years ago, It was Oslo-Tarn that provided the material that allowed Onasi to build up the Rangers! Forty percent of the Rangers come from Skye!"

"I didn't...." Girdun paled.

"You didn't think!" Kel'lya shouted, "I didn't give you this job to think, I picked you because you can follow nice, simple instructions" He leaned forwards and looked Girdun in the eye, "Now I whave new instructions for you and I want you to follow them very carefully"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fondor Senatorial Offices.
Senate Halls.

Lyn was so surprised when she found it that she'd almost spilt water on her keypad. It had been buried in the Senate comm logs, beneath multiple layers of security and disguised as an innocent data query. On the surface, it was the evidence she needed and a lesser agent would have left it at that.

According to the message, Vorsk Kel'lya had hired a former member of Imperial Intelligence to put together a team and an operation to kidnap the Tarn heirs. The message provided details of drop point where aditional info and documents could be collected and on first glance it was authentic and very damning.

It was everything she needed and it set every one of Lyn's alarm bells ringing. It was too neat, too nicely packaged and too convinient. Kel'lya was a former member of the Bothan Spynet, he wasn't stupid enough nor clumsy enough to leave his name all over something so incriminating. He'd have used subsiduaries so that his name could never have been connected or he'd have ensured an opponents name was linked to the operation.

Which was what had happened here. Someone was setting Kel'lya up.

It was a curious setup though. Had the kidnapping been successful, then Oslo-Tarn and Skye would have had to bow to the wishes of whoever was behind it. Kel'lya benefited from having Oslo-Tarn behave, she was rattling a lot of cages in that area of the Outer Rim and drumming up a lot of support for whatever cause she had in mind. So he could have ordered the kidnapping and been sloppy, but Lyn doubted that. Kel'lya couldn't risk being even remotely connected to an attempted kidnapping of the children of a planetary ruler.
That meant that whoever was behind it was following Kel'lya's agenda to a point. They either did it on their own initiative or they were taking orders from someone other than Kel'lya.

"Okay" Lyn thought, "What groups would benefit?"

She discarded most of the mainstream Republic factions for the moment, none of them would risk their credibility by being involved in a kidnapping.

The smaller fringe groups such as the Anti-Alien League, Branded Aesthete or the Mecrosa Order would benefit from controlling Skye, but they lacked the resources to fund the operation and lacked the ability to make use of anything the kidnapping would gain them.

Criminal Organisations such as Black Sun, Edge-9, the Hutts and even what was left of the Zaan Consortium were good candidates. They had the resources, the networks and the contacts and gaining an 'in' on Skye would allow them to move in on Skye's market in ores and minerals, though they would have to go head-to-head with Skye's native Yakuza organisation. In addition, having Kel'lya revealed -however falsely- as being behind the plot would cause an upheaval in the Senate and the Advisory council that could allow candidates controlled by the crime lords to be slipped into the upper levels of the government.

Neo-Imperial groups were a good possibility too. Though groups such as Imperial 7, Palpatine's Sons and Empire Reborn counted mostly idealistic civilians tired of the New Republics ineffectiveness amongst their numbers, they also included a number of former Imperial officers as well as a significant number of Imperial Intelligence Operatives. Lyn could think of a multitude of reasons why they'd try a kidnapping, revenge for the Imperial defeat at Skye ten years ago, revenge against Oslo-Tarn for betrying Imperial Intelligence, maybe even a convuluted plot to put a grandchild of Feinleck Reillor on a resurrected Imperial Throne. However, Lyn doubted the had the resources to fund an operation or even take advantage of the results.

The final candidate was the best one yet. The Neo-Separatists. They had the resources, the drive and the ability to take advantage of the results of a succesful kidnapping or the downfall of Kel'lya. If they had succeeding in capturing the Tarn children, then the Neo-Seps could have ransomed them to bring Skye's forces over to the Separatist side. The balance of power would tip dramatically. If Kel'lya was unseated, the Neo-Seps would take advantage of the confusion to sow dissent and further whittle down the Republic.

Lyn shook herself, now wasn't the time for ananlysis. She'd look over the data later, she was here simply to gather information for now. Glancing around the office, she noted that the other clerks in the office were engrossed in their own work. Slowly she lifted her purse onto her desk and made a show of looking through it, As she did so she slipped a slim wire from the purse and plugged it into the dataport on her computer. A few presses on a keypad hidden inside the purse and the computer built into the purses lining began copying the data Lyn had found.

She'd collect data first, analyse later.

As the data collector worked, she also tagged a number of additional files for copying. On the surface, the files she tagged were unconnected to the message she had found. However, the files themselves all bore similar storge numbers, indicating that not only had they been created within a few hours of the message, but they had also been created on the same terminal. If she could track down the codes and the terminal they referred to, then she could also have a better chance of tracking down the true person behind the message.

After a few minutes her purse gave a barely audible sound, one that sounded like the click of a keypad press. Disconnecting the wire she slipped it back inside the purse and closed it back up.

Now she had to catch up on the filing Mariska Savage was supposed to be doing.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sub Level Beta-Two.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

Oddball pressed himself into the doorway and gritted his teeth as laser fire cut past him. They'd run into an ambush between the armory and the accessway to the levels below. Their attackers were three droids of a kind none of them had seen before, tall as a Wookie and simian in design, they carried a heavy blaster on one shoulder and were capable of clinging to walls and the ceiling and laying down a field of fire that kept them pinned down.

Leaning out gingerly, Oddball opened up with his blaster. The burst of energy bolts hit the closest Simian Droid in the chest, melting armour, but doing no real damage. It's return fire, which cut red hot rivulets in the wall above him was less accurate, but far more deadly had it hit him.

"I'm not used to this" He shouted, "I belong in a cockpit"

"Ask them nicely then" Jaden shot back, "Maybe they'll be kind enough to stand aside and wait till you find a fighter"

"Fine" Oddball snapped, "Got any ideas?"

"Working on it" Jaden replied as he dropped to the floor a second before a stream of bolts tore into his cover above his head.

"Will you too shut up and concentrate on shooting the tin-gorillas?" Jaina cut in.

As if as reply, Lowbacca stepped out of cover, levelled the Rail Detonator he carried and fired a single shot at one of the droids. The Rail Detonator slug impacted and detonated against the torso of one droid, blasting it a good distance down the corridor to where it landed on it's back.

To their suprise, the droid climbed back to its feet. It's chest armor was tattered and the skeletal structure was exposed and leaking fluid, but it still came on, intent on getting back into the fight. It ran back up the corridor, hunched over and and on it's feet and knuckles.

"Oh, come on!" Oddball grimaced, "Don't these things ever stop?" He chuckled, "I don't know what these things are, but they are really put the 'ape' back in ape-ocalypse"

Jaina paled and looked sick, "THAT is unquestionably the worst line of dialogue I've ever heard"

"Sorry" Oddball shrugged and carried on firing on the droids.

There was a cross corridor between them and the droids, but with the droids laying down a firm field of fire, it was impossible to reach the cross corridor.

Of course, none of them expected help to come from that direction.

As the lead droid drew level with the corridor, it's head and shoulder blaster were suddenly divorced from it's shoulders by a spinning beam of green light that emerged from the corridor. As the droid crumpled, Oddball's mind caught up with him and he recognised the head remover as a lightsaber. The thought had barely cleared his head when a bowcaster quarrel hit the second droid, catching it in the side and spinning it around. The droid impacted the wall face on as it's left arm tore away from the damaged droid. A second quarrel shot took the droid in the back of the head and finished it off, leaving it too crumple onto the remains of the first droid.

The third droid -the one Lowbacca had damaged- hesitated and sealed it's own fate. Oddball, Jaden, Jaina and Lowbacca combined their blaster fire in a furious storm of energy that tore into the dmaged droids chest and vaporised it's innards. In a cloud of smoke and flame the droid flopped onto its back.

A few moments later, a group of familiar people entered their corridor from the cross corridor. Oddball recognised Deven Tarn in the lead as he retrieved his lightsaber from the remains of the droid he'd taken down. Behind him was Face Loran and Corran Horn and behind them were three very famous figures, Han Solo and Princess Leia and the towering Wookie Chewbacca.

"You guys okay?" Deven asked.

"Mostly" Oddball shrugged, "We're still in one piece at least"

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Deven led Oddball off to one side, "Tell me where Jenna is"

"Well......" Oddball sighed.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

"Jaden" Face nodded to his son.

"Dad" Jaden nodded, "I thought I recongnised the light glinting off your head"

"It's shaved" Faced said through gritted teeth,

"So you say" Jaden grinned.

"Still got a real attitude problem I see" Face scowled.

"Well, you've got a real hair problem" Jaden shrugged.

Face grimaced, "You just don't know when to quit do you?"

"Neither did your barber" Jaden shot back.

Face chuckled and then enfolded his son in a hug, "It's good to see you son"

"Likewise Dad" Jaden smiled.

"So" Face shrugged, "Report?"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chewbacca stood before his nephew, astounded to see that the young Wookie was almost as tall as he was. Though Lowbacca still had the thin leaness of youth, he would still be a fear inducing site to most humans.

<How are you nephew?> Chewbacca growled.

<I am well, Uncle> Lowbacca rumbled in response, <You?>

<Better for seeing you, Nephew> Chewbacca replied, <I feared you lost when I heard the news that your ship had disappeared>

<I was hurt when we crashed> Lowbacca shrugged, <Had I not been concerned for Jaina Solo's injuries, I would not have aloowed myself to be taken so easily>

<She was injured?> Chewbacca said coldly and Lowbacca knew that his uncles anger was being reserved for those who had injured his friends daughter.

<Badly> Lowbacca answered, <Her life was endangered. Had we delayed in surrendering, she would not have lived>

Chewbacca bowed his head in shame. A member of his extended family had been wounded and he had not been there to protect her.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Solo reunion would have gone better had there still not been a lot of tenseness between mother and daughter.

"Are you sure you're okay" Leia said, concerned with just how pale Jaina was.

"I'm fine" Jaina shook her head, "The interrogators here just took a greater interest in me than the others"

"Interrogators?" There was no mistaking the anger that boiled within Han Solo.

"Yeah" Jaina sighed, "Though they seemed less about asking questions and more about just seeing how much I could take"

"Torture?" Leia said.

Jaina nodded, "Seems to run in the family I guess. Us Solo's get tortured at some point in our lives"

"But why you?" Leia asked, "None of the others look anywhere near as bad as you"

"Well, Jaden only just got here with Jenna" Jaina shrugged, "Nobodies stupid enough to torture a Wookie...."

Han smirked, "Even Vader wasn't that stupid"

"....And Oddball got a lot of the torturing while I was still in a bacta tank" Jaina finished.

"Bacta tank?" Han paled, "What happened?"

"Well" Jaina sighed, "We'd just crashed and were gettting ready to find shelter that wasn't at risk of blowing up. Unknown to us, a bunch of Neo-Sep troops had us surrounded and some trigger happy put a blaster bolt through my left lung and nicked my heart. Fortunately, they were kind enough to stick me in a bacta tank and let me heal up before they started with the interrogations" She frowned, "Actually, they didn't actually seem bothered about torturing me until after I ticked off that Prime Councillor fella" She shook her head, "We'll talk later we need to go after Jenna"

Leia frowned, "You're in no state to..."

"I'm going" Jaina said.

"Jaina" Deven cut in, "Your mother is right. You're practically dead on your feet. I'm sorry to say, but you're in no state to be any help"

"Agreed" Oddball nodded.

"I suggest" Corran said, "We split up. A small group will head off after Jenna, the rest of us will return to the ships"

"I'm going after Jenna" Deven said.

"Same here" Oddball added.

"I'll go to" Jaden sighed, "I commited myself to helping her anyway I can. The only reason I'm not looking over her now is because rescuing these three took priority. Though if I'd known you lot were coming....."

"I may as well tag along too" Face shrugged.

Han scowled, "The rest of us will return to the ships"

"We have a problem though" Corran said.

"What?" Jaden asked.

Corran pulled aside one of the wall panels damaged during the fighting, underneath were the usual pipes and wiring along with several strange packages, "Nergon Seven and I'm willing to bet the walls are laced with them all over this facility"

"Scorched earth" Face nodded, "Give them a chance and they'll blow the place"

"That could be a problem" Leia pointed out, "Five of your coming back through this facility, if they set the explosives off you'll never make it"

"I have an idea" Jaina said weakly, the after effects of the adrenaline rush wearing off and leaving her as weak as ever.

"What?" Deven frowned, desperate to head off after his daughter.

"I know where Jaina's going to be" Jaina said, "I've been there. It's a big chamber, you could park a star freighter in it. It's a long shaft, and it looked deep enough toreach from the bottom where I was taken all the way up to the surface. I'm willing to bet there's only a light cap of rock or snow over the top. Blast the cap and fly on down for a pick up"

"We don't even know where the cap is" Leia pointed out.

"I've got a transponder beacon" Jaden said, "When we need picking up, I'll activate it. Drop a missile on the relative surface location and drop down a ship down"

"Falcon's the most manouverable" Han nodded, "We'll do the pick up"

Deven looked around, "Everyone in agreement?" He recieved a round of affirmitives from everyone, though Jaina's was reluctant, "Good, lets go"

"One last thing" Jaden cut in, "I parked my ship near the ventalation ducts, can someone pick it up?"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Great Seal.

The chamber Jenna found herself in was big, very big. The floor consisted of a large bowl shaped structure comprised of numerous ever widening rings and with a flat bottom covered in designs and above her she could see a shaft reaching up into the shadows and beyond. She estimated that the shaft was big enough to park a Dreadnaught on it's stern in and still leave room to walk around in.
Jenna noted that she had entered the chamber at the bottom of the bowl and she idly wonder what was on the top edges of the bowl. So taken was she with her initial view of the chamber, that she missed the robed man standing in the centre of the bowl next to a small pedastal.

"Greetings Jenna Tarn"

Jenna momentarily jumped in surprise, but her anger quickly smothered it, "Who are you? It's clear that you know me?"

"I do not believe its a case of who am I" The robed man chuckled, "It is more of a case of what I did to you"

Jenna's hand dropped to her lightsaber and lifted it from her belt, "You. You're the one responsible for my problems"

"In a way I had a good reason" The man replied.

"A good reason?" Jenna shouted, "A good reason to cut open my head and take a laser to my brain?"

"Yes" The man nodded beneath his voluminous hood, "I forsaw you standing here before me and I needed a way to bring you here, just to be sure that everything would proceed as I had seen. I had you captured at a very precise time and I ordered the surgery on you knowing that when psychological problems began to surface, you would search me out and eliminate a loose end for me"

"Korvata" Jenna muttered, then shook her head, "You couldn't possibly have predicted how I would have reacted"

"I spent enough time having you studied and I relied on what the force told me to let me know I was taking the correct path" The man continued.

"NO!" Jenna scowled, "This is too far fetched"

"To your mind perhaps" The man shrugged, "To me it made perfect sense"

"But why did you need me here?" Jenna demanded.

The man withdrew a small crystal from within his robes and stepped over to the pedastal, "Insurance. I saw that you would be here when I powered up this device and broke the seal. I didn't want to risk trying to activate it without you here if there was a possibility that your presence brought some element that made it work. Therefore I created the circumstances that led to your being here. I have spent to much time planning to allow things to proceed by chance and without my guidance"

"This sounds like something out of science fiction" Jenna said in disbelief.

"You came here on a spaceship" The man remarked dryly. He slipped the crystal into a slot on the pedastal and for a few moments nothing happened. After a several heartbeats they became aware of a low hum filling the chamber. They also noticed that the floor and the sides of the bowl were glowing with a vivid blue light.

"What's happening?" Jenna demanded.

"You'll see" The man nodded.

Soon the light exploded into a massive highly detailed holographic map of the galaxy and even as they watched it zoomed in on Rhen Var, traced a route from that world to another world on the very edge of the galaxy out beyond Gamorr. At this point Jenna released -belatedly- that there had been a third occupant in the chamber, one how had been recording the entire display and now this person -with a nod to the robed man- began climbing the side of the bowl to a shuttle that sat at the top.

"This" The robed man indicated the highlighted world, "Is where the past and the future of the galaxy lies. Where the secret of ultimate power can be found, the power to remake this galaxy"

"And you brought me here to see this?" Jenna scowled angrily.

"Technically, I didn't bring you" The man laughed, "But you still have a purpose to serve"

"I see" Jenna said, her paitence finally expiring, "I'm going to make it my purpose to eliminate you right now" She smirked and ignited her lightsaber, it's silver light barely noticable in the light cast by the holomap,

"You can try" The man shot back with an air of unconcern.

"Do or do not, there is no try" Jenna quoted the Jedi idiom, "Tell me your name, I'd like to know who I am about to kill"

With a shrug, the man reached up and drew back his hood, exposing an age lined and darkside corrupted face and long silver hair, "I am Dass Jennir, a Jedi of the Galactic Republic, a General in the Clone Wars, a survivor of the Great Purge, an enemy of the Empire, the Prime Councillor of the Society and the architect of the future"

He drew his own lightsaber, it's red blade casting sinister highlights on his face, "And soon, you shall call me Master"


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:06 pm 
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Location: England
Sub Level Beta Eight.
Neo-Separatist Facility.
Excavation Site Alpha-Three.
Rhen Var.

A sick feeling had settled in Deven's stomach as he, Jaden, Oddball and Face made their way through the facility in pursuit of Jenna. He'd listened to Jaden explain about Jenna's rapid slide and at first had refused to believe it, but when he allowed himself to think about it, it became harder to deny the feelings he felt through the force.

He was losing his eldest daughter to the darkside and her own psychosis.

"Just like her aunt" He thought, remembering his sister Bel.

He struggled to decide how he was going to handle things when they caught up with her. He didn't want to fight her, though he knew that was a possibility depending on how far she'd gone, and his track record for redeeming Dark Siders was less than steller. He'd try though regardless of what his chances were.

"This place is way too quiet all of a sudden" Jaden said, interrupting Deven's thoughts, "I mean, there wasn't exactly all that many personnel assigned to this place, but this feels wrong"

"Deven nodded, "We need to move. I've a funny feeling they're getting ready to blow this place up beneath our feet"

"And over our heads" Face pointed out, reminding them how deep underground they were.

"Don't remind me" Deven muttered.

Up ahead, Oddball knelt down and examined the body of a guard, "One of yours?" He asked Jaden.

Jaden nodded, "Yeah. The only one I encountered before reaching the prison level"

"It's weird" Deven frowned, "Facility like this you'd be expecting a lot heavier security. Coming down from the hanger bay we encountered maybe two dozen organics and three dozen droids. They didn't even put up a real fight, just enough to keep us honest"

Face nodded, "Yeah, almost like....." He stumbled slightly with hesitation, "Almost like they wanted us down here"

"Not us" Jaden shook his head, "Jenna"

"Why?" Deven asked.

"I don't know" Jaden sighed, "But looking back, the trail we followed was too easy. Arkania to Nar Shaddaa to here. Even with the attemped kidnapping on Bespin, it felt too neat, only I never thought about it till now"

"Kidnapping?" Deven scowled, "What kidnapping?"

"Some guy tried to grab Jenna on Bespin. Fortunately, I arrived on Bespin in time to prevent it" Jaden answered, "He was very well dressed too"

"Well dressed" Deven frowned, "Suit, tails, spatz and a top hat?"

Jaden looked suprised, "Yeah. Let me guess, you've met him?"

Deven nodded, "Yeah, put a blaster bolt in him too. Should have made sure he was dead then. He's a Society agent known as the Black Knight. Tell me, you at least did what I didn't?"

"No" Jaden shrugged, "Roughed him up, but thats it"

"Shame" Deven shrugged.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Surface Level Two.

Viqi Shesh was uneasy. First the Prime Councillor had brushed off her every inquiry about what he had planned. Next, the alarms had gone off, the prisoners were escaping. After that, a new alarm announced that intruders had landed ships in the main hanger bay and the facilities meagre defense force went haring off in all directions.

Now -exercising the better part of valor- she was making her way to the secondary hanger where her Yacht was waiting with her crew. Along the way she'd picked up a squad of five guards, former mercenaries who'd signed on with the Neo-Separatist cause to pay off debts.

Her plan was simple, get to her yacht, launch off and head for the Merciful Hand and take command there, if only for the sheer pleasure of doing something. In return for getting her to her ship, the mercenaries would earn themselves a ride off planet.

They came to a stop at a security door and as she waited, one of the mercenaries moved to punch in the security code.

A few seconds later, the doors hissed open and Viqi found herself looking straight at the face of Princess Leia Organa-Solo.

Suprise froze everyone for a few moments, but it was Organa-Solo and her compatriots who recovered first. A pair of lightsabers hissed to life and cut down two of the the mercenaries and then blaster fire cut down the other three before any of the mercenaries could get a shot off.

By now though, terror had got the better of Viqi and she turned tail and fled as fast as her legs could carry her.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As Corran and Lowbacca deactivated their lightsabers, Leia took a step in the direction Viqi had ran.

"Hey, Princess" Han said, "Where are you going? The Falcon's this way"

"That was Senator Viqi Shesh" Leia pointed out unneccesarily, "She's working with the Neo-Seps"

"Leave her, Mom" Jaina coughed, and Leia was alarmed to see blood in her spit on her hand, "If this place is rigged to blow then we shouldn't waste time"

"Jaina" Han said with concern, "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not" Jaina said with a pained look, "I'm pretty sure I'm bleeding internally"

"What?" Han was shocked, "How? How long have you been like this?"

"Since my last interrogation session" Jaina winced, "Which would be this morning"

"Why didn't you say something?" Leia demanded.

"Stubborn, I guess" Jaina barked a short laugh that ended in a pain filled cough, "Seems I do take after you in at least one way"

Leia ignored the barb, "You shouldn't even be on your feet in your condition"

"My condition?" Jaina snorted, "You make it sound like I'm pregnant"

"Bizarrely enough, that would be preferable" Han muttered, "Chewie?"

Without needing to be told Chewbacca lifted Jaina into his arms, at first Jaina resisted, but her strength quickly faded and she slumped weakly against the Wookies chest, "This isn't neccesary" She muttered.

"It is" Corran scowled, "You're in bad shape, Jaina" He looked to Han and Leia, "We'll take her out on the Sacul, there's a full medical suite complete with a top of the line bacta tank"

Han looked like he was going to argue, but then he nodded, "It's a better choice, especially as I'm planning to fly the Falcon down a hole to pick the others up" He sighed, "And if the Sacul is better equipped...."

"Let's get going then" Leia nodded, "The sooner, the better"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Great Seal.

Any belief Jenna had held about having the advantage quickly evaporated. Despite his advanced age, Dass Jennir moved and hit with the speed and strength of a much younger man. Jennir had already thrown aside his robe, exposing the thin bands of the exoskeleton that helped him minimize the delibrating effects of age.

Jenna still had the edge on agility though and her chosen fighting form, one that mixed Ataru and Shein gave her and edge she sorely needed.

Bringing her lightsaber up, she blocked Jennir's attack with the primary blade and twisting her body and rotating her wrist, spun her weapon around to catch the next strike against the secondary blade. As the two lightsabers locked, Jennir twisted his own weapon dragging both weapons out of line. Jenna barely twisted her body in time and took a glancing blow across her ribs as Jennir kicked out. His exoskeleteton enhanced kcik still dealth a hard blow and she felt a rib give way.

Gasping in pain and with her breath knocked from her lungs, Jenna spun away, stumbled and dropped to one knee and was instantly forced to bring her lightsaber up to block Jennir's next relentless strike.

"Jenna fighting Jennir" Jenna thought to herself distractedly, "How appropriate"

Spinning her saber, she knocked the old man's blade aside and made her own strike, swiping her lightsaber around in a stike that should have bisected Jennir. Instead, to Jenna's surprise, he brought his left arm up and caught the blade against the flat section of exoskeleton that ran up his forarm. Even more surprising, instead of cutting through his arm, the blade cut out in a burst of sparks and died.

"Sithspit!" Jenna cursed and rolled away to put distance between them and brought the secondary blade up in a defensive position while she waited for the primary blade to reinitialize, "Cortosis?"

"You do not live as long as I have by taking chances" Jennir gave a tight smile.

"Let's see about that" Jenna snarled rising from her kneeling postion and launching into a agressive pattern of strikes which were almost effortlessly deflected by Jennir. Without missing a beat, she leapt up and over Jennir in a force assisted leap, reactivating the lightsabers primary blade along the way.

Faster than she would have anticipated, Jennir spun around, blocked her strike at his back and hit her with a force blast that threw her the full length of the bowls distance. She impacted hard against the bottom step and her head bounced against the hard rock. Through the impact induced headache, she head the clatter of her lightsaber landing somewhere and skipping across the floor, accompanied by the sound of the blades cutting through rock before the deadman switch triggered and deactivated the blades.

Fighting nausea, she eased herself up and gingerly put a hand to the back of her head. It came away thick with blood. "Sithspit" She muttered as she choked down rising bile.

She quickly realised Jennir was moving towards her and fought to regain her sense of balance as she clambered to her feet. Reaching out she grabbed her lightsaber with the force and called it to her, activating the blades once it was settled firmly in her hand.

Calling on the force and her rising anger, she pushed aside the effects of the head impact and charged at Jennir, Lightsaber whirling. High strike, low block, duck a return strike, thrust, block, and twist to avoid a return thrust. Jenna snarled in anger as Jennir deflected another attack and his return strike nearly took her head off.

"Stand still, damn you!" Jenna shouted as Jennir easily sidestepped her followup strike.

Intending to repay Jennir for his earlier move, Jenna focused the force and pushed. Jennir was thrown a good fifteen feet and hit the floor hard, his exoskeleton striking sparks from the stone floor. As she approached him, he rose up on one knee and she saw that the exoskeleton brace around his right arm was broken away. His face was still suprisingly calm, but there was no mistaking the uncontrollable tremors in his unsupported arm.
He reached his other hand out to pull his lightsaber to him, but Jenna was faster pulling his lightsaber to her own free hand.

"Well done" Jennir nodded, "Very well done. Now what will you do?"

Jenna made no answer and instead moved towards him, her lightsaber held up high, ready for a killing blow.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Main Hanger Bay.

They reached the hanger bay and the Falcon and the Sacul without further incident.

Almost.

A handful of Neo-Separatist troops had deployed in a position that allowed them to cover the only approaches to the hanger. A dozen droids and a half dozen organics now stood between Han and the others and their way off Rhen Var. Distantly theycould hear sporadic laser fire being exchanged between some of the troops and Rrovw and Void who were covering their own approaches to the ships.

Han pondered the situation. With enough time they'd be able to press on the Neo-Seps from both sides and cut them apart with the crossfire.

He had too problems though.

The first was fairly important. If this facility was going to be destroyed -and the near evacuated state of the place seemed to indicate a high likelihood of that- then the quicker they were airborne and ready to pick up the others, the better.

The second problem was not less important, but as far as Han was concerned it was the more serious. When the last of the adrenaline rush had evaporated Jaina had started to take a turn for the worse. It was clear that her exertions following Jaden freeing them from her cell had resulted in Jaina worsening the internal damage that had already been done. She was bleeding very badly internally, and her body temperature had soared as her body fought against it's own failure to control the extent of the bleeding. They needed to get her to a bacta tank before it became too late for even bacta to do any good.

Han glanced over to his daughter cradled in Chewbacca's arms and looking more like the sleeping little girl of long ago and not the gravely injured woman she was. With help from Leia and Corran, Jaina had slipped into a healing chance, but in her condition it was feared the healing trance would take most of her strength just to slow down the effects of her injuries.

They had to get her to the Sacul fast.

"Chewie" Han said, "I'm gonna need your help on this. Leia, can you....?"

"Yes" Leia nodded and kneeling down allowed Chewbacca to lay Jaina down with her head resting on Leia's knees. Chewie grumbled at doing so, he was very protective of all three kids as well as Luke and Mara's son Ben, "Make it quick"

"I will" Han nodded, "Okay, Chewie with me" He looked at Corran, "Horn, can you and Lowie handle the other corridor?"

Corran nodded, "Count on it"

"Good" Han smiled, "Chewie, let's go"

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Leia's POV.

My daughter is dying and I've never felt more helpless.

I've never had a smooth relationship with Jaina. I knew a prefect mother-daughter relationship was unlikely, but I always hoped we'd be closer than we have been. I know now that sending them into hiding on New Alderaan and then Anoth for their first two years of life had been a factor in eroding chances of a solid connection, yet that is no excuse. Han has always had a solid relationship with Jaina, with Jacen and Anakin too, but especially with Jaina.

A lot of that was due to how alike they are. Jaina has always taken after Han in numerous ways, their love of piloting, of being in the thick of a fight, their refusal to fold before authority, but only with good reason. They'd defy me to prove me wrong, not out of spite or malice.

She's so stubborn too. But that she gets from both of us, an equal measure.

And she'd use it against me all the the time. I'd deny her something or disprove of something she did or was planning to do -such as her descision to join the military- and she'd do so anyway and I'd push back with the result that she'd push herself even harder.

After the incident at Byss and the subsequent enquiry, I made the mistake of being to 'I told you so' about the whole thing afterwards. I pushed and made things worse, she withdrew from us and all but cut herself off from our family for too long. Even now all these years later, we can barely share the same air space with arguing over something.

And now my daughter is dying and I can't do anything about it.

Why did I never complete my training? I can barely use the force to keep her stabilized, to keep her breathing, keep her alive.

She looks so peaceful lying there. The healing trance keeps her alive, but she looks almost like she's sleeping. Her breathing is eerily regular and her eyes are closed. She reminds me so much of when she was just a child, but I know she's dying in my arms and there's so little I can do.


Jaina, hold on please.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Han eased up to the corner and positioned himself so that he could look up the corridor without exposing himself too much.

About halfway up the corridor, he spotted six B1 Battle Droids, a Rodian and two humans had taken up position behind a pair of overturned tables. A good defensive position, except for the fact that they were positioned to cover the approach fom the hanger. The droids were postioned directly behind the tables with three behind each and the three 'orgaincs' were positioned -more hiding- behind the droids.

He ran through various alternate plans in his mind, but discarded them as time consuming. Jaina was on borrowed time and unless they got her into a bacta tank, he would lose her.

Han didn't want to even consider losing Jaina. She was so much like him, in fact, she reminded him so much of himself. He shook his head, he couldn't waste time dwelling on what if's, not when there was still a chance.

He looked to his longtime Wookie friend, "Ready Chewie?" At Chewbacca's nod of affirmation, Han smiled grimly, "Okay, let's do it"

Leaning around the corner, Han raised his DL-44 blaster and snapped off three shots in quick succession. The first hit the nearest human in the back, burning through his spine and sending him sprawling over his compatriots. The other two shots hit two of the droids, the first separated one droids head from it's shoulders and the second repeated the effects of the shot that hit the human, this time sprawling the droid over the upturned table it stood behind.

Caught off guard and suprised, the Neo-Sep's whirled to face the threat that had presented itself at their rear. Han ducked back around the corner and shielded his face from the flakes of superheated plasticrete that erupted across his field of vision from laser hits.

Counting to three, Han took a deep breath then threw himself across the corridor. He snapped off two shots mid flight, both went high, but forced the Rodian and the remaining human to duck their heads. He grunted as he hit the floor and slid against the wall. He snapped off four more shots dropping the Rodian and another droid even as they brought their weapons to reorient on him. Before they could fire however, Chewie leaned around the corner and fired his Bowcaster one, two, three times and dropped the remaining three droids. The remaining human took stock of the situation and turned tail and fled down the corridor.

The Rodian however, though wounded was still trying to fight and was struggling to reach his blaster.

"Easy" Han warned, walking up to where the Rodian lay and resting his foot against the wrist of the hand that was reaching for the blaster, "You really don't want to do that"

The Rodian clearly agreeing with Han promptly passed out.

Han smirked and turned to Chewie, "Go back and help Leia with Jaina. Let's get ready to leave this rock"

They regrouped a few moments later in the hanger where they were met by Threepio and the Wraiths who had remained with the Sacul. Han was pleased to see that the man that had fled was no unconscious on the floor having encountered Rrowv and Void.

Katrin Halcyon stepped forwards, "We've got the bacta tank all ready for her" She said indicating Jaina. Nodding Chewbacca carried Jaina up into the Sacul allowing Rrowv to lead the way.

"Oh, Mistress Jaina?" Threepio exclaimed, "What happened?"

"Later Goldenrod" Han waved his hand, "Any word from the others?" He asked Katrin.

"Not yet" The Wraiths second in command shook her head, "We're ready to launch as soon as everyone's aboard and you have the Falcon ready. I've also pinpointed the location of the Wraith, Jaden's ship"

"Good" Han nodded, suddenly realising everyone was deferring to him, "Who's taking the Wraith?"

"I'll take over piloting of the Sacul and Kai and Rrowv will secure and prep the Wraith" Katrin nodded, "Once you pick the others up, we'll make a run for the jump point"

"Fine" Han said as Chewie descended the Sacul's ramp, "Let's get going" He turned from Katrin as she headed for the Sacul and made his own way to the Falcon. He noticed Leia was waiting for him, "Leia, if you'd prefer to be on the Sacul with Jaina"

Leia hesitated for a heartbeat, "I want to, but you need the help here. I need to be doing something other than worrying myself over Jaina. She's in good hands"

Han nodded, "Okay, Princess. Okay"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Great Seal.

Jenna brought her lightsaber crashing down, but couldn't contain her surprise as Jennir rolled to the side faster than she expected. Her surprise didn't last long as Jennir completed his roll, came back up on one knee and drove his exoskeleton enhanced left fist into her body, just below her ribcage.

Other than a 'whoof' of air escaping her lungs, Jenna made no sound as she was thrown away and back onto the floor. Both lightsabers dropped from her grasp as she lay gasping for air. Rolling onto her knees and coughing with each breath, Jenna began searching for her own lightsaber, vaguely aware that Jennir was back on his own feet and had collected his weapon.

"You're allowing your anger to control you" Jennir said in a lecturing tone, "Instead of controlling your anger and using it to empower you"

"Shut up" Jenna gasped as she sucked air back into her lungs, "Just shut up"

"Then again" Jennir sounded thoughtful, "I should accept some responsibility since it was actions that I ordered that made you this way"

"Shut up!" Jenna repeated snatching up her lightsaber and charging at him.

The blades came together in a crash, their constant droning hum rising in pitch as the feedback compensators fought to control the energy blades as they battled each other. Gritting her teeth, Jenna disengaged her blade from Jennir's, spun away, reactivated her secondary blade and completing her spin, thrust the secondary blade at her opponents torso. Despite his almost crippled right arm, Jennir easily battered aside the blade, but he wasn't expecting her to spin again and nearly bisect him with the primary blade.
He whirled away in a spray of sparks as her blade struck the cortosis lined exoskeleton and Jenna was satisfied to see a tear in his tunic on his thigh showing a fresh new lightsaber burn, little more than a surface wound, but Jenna had to bet it hurt.

Jennir hissed in pain and inspected his wound, "I'm impressed" He said sardonically, "I can see you will serve me well when the time comes"

"I'll never join you" Jenna shouted bringing her saber around in a low strike that would take away Jennir's legs at the knees.

"I imagine" Jennir said dryly hoping easily above both blades as they passed under him one by one as Jenna spun the weapon, "Anakin Skywalker thought the same thing once, as did Revan, Exar Kun, Ulic Qel Droma and..." He raised an eyebrow, "..And Bel Tarn"

"I don't know what you're talking about" Jenna scowled and tried to fight back her anger, the fact that her aunt Bel tarn had also been Darth Shiva was known only to a handful of people.

"Yes" Jennir nodded, "I know all about Darth Shiva and your aunt being the same person. I met with her on several occassions as I attempted to create an Alliance between the Society and the Empire. Granted Marcus Gresh -one of my own people I may add- convinced Shiva to follow his own plans which led to the destruction of Shiva, Gresh and the Empire. It also created quite an upheavel in the New Republic"

"And your point is?" Jenna snapped swinging a vicious diagonal strike across Jennir's body, a strike he deflected away.

"She's very much like you" Jennir smirked, launching his own offensive and thrusting a Jenna with the type of his blade, "She too slid into the darkside, plagued by midness and fueled by anger. So many similarities"

"You really want to die, don't you?" Jenna asked, knocking the thrust aside and hoping clear of his follow up kick. She tried to strike at his leg with her saber, but he pulled his limb clear too quickly.

"Not really" Jennir shrugged, "But time is running out so I'm going to have to cut this short" He raised his free hand, the right one, the hand that was shaking and Jenna braced herself against another force blast.

Instead, the force lightning that erupted from Jennir's hand and tore acrss her body caught her so by surprise that she couldn't even prepare the most basic defense. An agonized scream cut through the air and it took Jenna a moment to recognise the scream as her own. Pain racked her body from the surface of her skin to the marrow of her bones.

For a brief moment, the lightning ceased and Jenna revelled in blessed relief, even as she were aware of the pain that racked her body and the smell of her burns. It did not lost long however and Jennir unleashed another burst of lightning across her body. Jenna screamed in agony again and the smell of burning flesh, hair and clothing filled the air.

As the assault continued, she writhed as lightning arced across her body and her screams mingled with the pops of electric arcs. As sudden as it had begun, Jennir ceased the attack again and this time it seemed he wasn't going to continue.

Jenna however, was in no condition to fight.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jennir looked down on Jenna's groaning form. She was still twitching from the electrical current that had torn through her body and her burns were raw and oozing blood. She was no threat now, her gaze was vague and unfocused and she was on the verge of unconsciousness.

Jennir deactivated his lightsaber and clipped it to his belt before collecting Jenna's. Kneeling by her he checked her vitals with the force then with a nod, signalled to a pair of ysalamiri carrying soldiers who had remained clear of the fighting.

"Load her onboard my shuttle" Jennir ordered, scooping up and redonning his robe, "We'll be leaving shortly"

"Yes sir" The troopers nodded. As one placed stun cuffs on Jenna's still twitching form, the other turn to Jennir, "Are you alright, Sir?" The young Gotel female asked, indictating his shaking right hand.

Jennir grimaced with distaste, "Yes, I'm fine"

The two troopers dragged the barely conscious Jenna to her feet and began dragging her towards the shuttle. Jennir gave one last look around the chamber then followed them.

Soon this chamber would be gone and buried.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sub Level Gamma Eight.
Descending Towards The Great Seal.

Deven yelled in pain as his whole body felt as if it was on fire. It felt as if his body was being ravaged by electricity and it took all his strength to not cry out in pain. Yet just as quickly as it began it was over.
Gritting his teeth, he strightened up and found himself looking into the conerned faces of Face, Jaden and Oddball. The lift descent had been uneventful until now and now, Deven felt an all new sense of urgency.

"What happened?" Face asked.

"Jenna" Deven gasped, "She's hurt. Hurt bad"

"How bad?" Oddball demanded.

"Bad" Deven shuddered, "Very bad" His face hardened, "We need to get this lift moving quicker"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rhen Var Snow fields.
Close To Ventilation Shaft Cluster Two.

The Sacul dropped low and as it approached the Wraith, the boarding ramp lowered and two figures jumped clear. The Sacul then flew off in a new direction before the vessels still in orbit could track them leaving Kai and Rrovw in the snow.

Kai shivered and made her way towards the modified Uulshlos Deep X Yacht that was the Wraith, "Let's make this quick" She muttered, "I'm freezing my lekku off"

Rrowv growled in amusement, "You're just sore because Katrin decided that you should be the one of this task"

"Whatever" Kai shrugged, "Hey, that's neat" She indicated the red sensor bar that had launched into motion as they approached, "Is that making a swooshing sound?"

"Might be the wind" Rrowv answered.

"Probably" Kai sighed and stepped up to the boarding ramp, slid open a small panel and inputted the code that Jaden had sent them onto the key pad that was inset into the hull. There was a tense pause as the code was registered and then the ramp lowered, "Good, now let's get this baby in the air"

They quickly made their way to the cockpit and slid into the seats.

"Mind if I drive?" Kai asked as she powered up the systems.

"Not if you don't mind me clawing at the console and shrieking like a cheerleader" Rrowv answered surprisingly deadpan.

Kai shot a hurt look at the Togorian and opened her mouth for a retort, but was cut off as a third voice entered the conversation.

"I would not apprieciate claw marks in my console nor would I appreiciate piloting that would make a cheerleader shriek" The voice -strong, masculine and slighty bored sounding- said, "Wait one, scanning..." A red glow momentarily filled the cockpit, "Commander Kaiu'kes -Twi'lek and Captain Rrowv - Togorian. Well, you're on my authorised lists, but Commander Kaiu'kes, I rather you didn't crash me into a mountainside"

"Hey? What have you heard?" Kai demanded, "And more importantly, who are you?"

"I am Wraith" The voice replied, "And I hear things. In fact, I'd feel safer NOT having you at my controls"

"Nice to be appriciated" Kai muttered as she engaged the repulsorlifts.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Great Seal.

Deven burst from the lift car like a man possessed. His lightsaber was deactivated, but ready and he held his blaster in his other hand, ready for battle. Face, Jaden and Oddball followed, their own weapons ready.

"We're too late" Deven shouted as they watched a shuttle -a Lambda class- take off from the opposite end of the chamber and rise up the shaft ahead.

"Jenna must be on that shuttle" Face said, then winced as he realised how unneccesary the comment was. He pulled out his comlink, "Falcon, this is Loran. We're ready for that pick up,look for a hole where a Lambda shuttle just burst out of" He switched frequency, "Sacul, if you can intercept and capture a Lambda shuttle that just burst from the ground above our location, we'd appreciate it"

Jaden's attention was directed at something else. something on the floor, "What happened here?"

Oddball came up alongside him, "Emperor's Black Bones" He whispered.

"What?" Deven demanded.

"You need to see this" Jaden answered.

Deven took a few steps towards where Jaden and Oddball stood, but calm to a sudden halt as he saw what Jaden had found.

Tattered and burnt shreds of clothing and no small amount of blood was gathered in a person sized area of the floor. Deven felt sick as he looked at it and the memory of what he'd felt in the lift came back to him. Jenna was hurting and hurting badly.

Face indicated the lightsaber scorch marks, "Looks like there was a heck of a fight here"

"Looks like Jenna may have taken a piece of her opponent" Jaden nodded and picked up a section of warped metal, "Looks like some sort of armour"

Face shook his head, "It's a wrist guard from a medical exoskeleton. They're used to prevent body tremors resulting from age or illness. Tyria Antilles was fitted for one about five years back for the days when the tremors from her CS were really bad" He nodded, "Pretty expensive too. They have to be custom made and tuned to the body's bio-electric field"

"There's a serial number on here" Jaden pointed out.

"Good" Face smiled, "Means we can trace whoever this was for"

Meanwhile, Deven was still reeling from what they had found on the floor. He leaned back against what he initially though was an ornamental pedastel and yelped as his elbow hit something sharp.

"What in blazes?" He muttered.

He examined the pedestal. A small crystal sat in a small recess in the centre of the pedestal, surrounded by unrecognisable glyphs that matched those on the floor. The crystal came out of the recess easily, but as far as he could see there was nothing remarkable about it.

"What is that?" Oddball asked.

"I don't know" Deven shook his head, still struggling to get over his shock over what they'd found in regards to Jenna, "Certainly unusual though" He slid the crystal back into place.

Suddenly the room blazed with light, prompting all four of them to draw their weapons in anticipation of an attack. When no attack came and the light reformed itself into a galactic map, they were equally stunned. The level of detail was incredible, they were able to identify individual stars, worlds and even moons.

"This is incredible" Oddball said in awe, "How old is this?"

"Malachor V is intact" Deven nodded, "Put's it at least four thousand years old"

"More like thirty thousand to twenty thousand" Face corrected pointing to one world, "That's Tatooine, but it certainly doesn't look like a desert world. Those are oceans and forests" He frowned, "This isn't an Rakata construction though, infact" He concentrated, "According to this, the Sorn Star hadn't gone nova when it had been made. That makes it pre-Infinite Empire"

Jaden shook his head, "This map spans a huge chunk of the galaxy. There were no galaxy spanning empires before the Rakata"

"That we know of" Deven pointed out.

"That we know of" Jaden conceeded.

The map suddenly shifted as it traced a route from Rhen Var to a world out beyond Gamor. At the same time a continuous tremor ran through the chamber, dislodging small rocks and an impressive amount of dust.

Face looked up, "Damn it, the whole place is going up" He pulled out his comlink, "Falcon, where are you? We're running out of time here"

Solo's voice crackled back across the comlink, "We're on a way down now. Keep your hair on"

Deven turned his attention from the map, "Whatever the Neo-Seps are after is on that world. Does anyone have a recording device?"

"Right here" Jaden produced a small hand-held holo cam.and directed it at the map as it began to repeat the route from Rhen Var to the unknown world.

By now the tremors had become more violent and somewhere at the edge of hearing, they could hear the sounds of what could be explosions.

"Falcon" Face called into the comlink, "Now would be a good time"

"We're here" Solo answered as the Millennium Falcon shot from the shaft nose down and pulled up to hover a short distance above the floor as it's boarding ramp lowered.

"Let's go" Face shouted.

Both Deven and Oddball ran for the Falcon with Face, but Face came to a halt as he realised Jaden hadn't moved.

"Jaden, move it" Face shouted.

"I need another minute" Jaden shot back as the route traced past Sneeve.

"You don't have a minute" Face shouted in concern as flames became visible through the gridwork of the lift shaft, "Move it"

"I haven't got it all yet" Jaden answered, "Nimban, Toydaria, Ganath, Nal Hutta" He read off the systems as they flashed past.

"Jaden!" Face called above the heavy rumbling.

Jaden ignored him, "Nearly there, Nal Hutta.." Another explosion thumped through the chamber and the map cut out, "Gamor...dammit"

"Now Jaden. Move it" Face ordered as flames erupted from the bottom of the lift shaft and cracks fissured across the bowl.

"Sure" Jaden answered as he charged towards the Falcon.

As he and Face clambered up onto the boarding ramp, both Deven and Oddball helped them up into the Falcon.

Once they were in Deven hit the shipboard comm, "That's it, we're all in. Get us out of here"

Everything suddenly tipped sideways and they were forced to grab the nearest handhold as Solo put the Falcon on it's tail and sent the transport blasting up through the shaft as fire filled the chamber that had held the great seal.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Han gritted his teeth as the Falcon shook from the blast wave following them up the the shaft and bucked from debris impacts from fragments dislogdged from the shaft wall. Somewhere aft, he could here shouts from his new passengers and the panicked cries of Threepio and then, after a rather large debris hit, the sound of something breaking.

"I really hope that wasn't important" Leia said through gritted teeth from her position in one of the rear cockpit seats.

"It wasn't" Han said with false reassurance, "Probably just Threepio falling over again. He always forgets to strap in"

In the co-pilot seat, Chewbacca grumbled at Han.

"If it is something important, the secondaries will handle it" Han replied, "We've got the Falcon so cross wired, she'll fly even with half the systems blown out"

"THAT'S reassuring" Leia said dryly.

The Falcon burst from the shaft only seconds ahead of the gout of flame that pursued the ship. Clear of immediate danger, Han levelled the Falcon out and banked the ship enough to look down at the Neo-Separatist facility. As they watched, the shaft collapsed in on itself, acting as a sinkhole that quickly sucked in thousands of tonnes of snow, rock, ruins and plasticrete construction from the vicinity.

When everything settled again some minutes later, all that was left was a crater some five kilometeres in diameter, two kilometers deep and filled with jagged rock and fragments of ancient ruins and more modern plasticrete construction.

Han shook his head, "They are definitely playing for keeps here. Couple of seconds longer and we'd have been somewhere under all that" Chewie rumbled something, "You know something Chewie, if you want to rip their arms off when we find them, feel free to do so"

Leia snorted, "Let's rendevous with the others, then get out of here"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Those on the Falcon joined the others in the shelter of a valley a good distance east of where the Neo-Separatist facility had been. Face and Deven headed to the Sacul, Oddball and Jaden went for the Wraith and allowed Kai and Rrowv to return to the Sacul.

Before launching again, a three way conference was set up between the three ships allowing for the four who had gone after Jenna to be updated.

Suprisingly, all of the orbiting starfighters had been recalled to the capital ship in orbit and along with the transports that had launched from the base, were commencing landing operations. The Sacul had not been in a position to chase the shuttle that had left the Great Seal chamber, but it had tracked the shuttle to the star ship. In addition, it had also tracked a luxury yacht that launched from the base's secondary hanger and also headed for the starship.

Already Sacul had pulled up the ID on the yacht and confirmed that it was the personal vessel of Viqi Shesh, Senator for Kuat, member of the Advisory Councilor, staunch supporter of Vorsk Kel'lya and apparent traitor to the Republic.
Sacul had taken care to record her sensor readings and IFF intercept of the yacht. When they returned to friendly space, they'd have the proof to take to High Command and the Senate regarding Viqi Shesh's treachery.

There was some good news. Jaina was in a stable condition. She was floating inside the Sacul's bacta tank and was hooked up to a full suite of medical sensors. She was still gravely injured, but she would live, though she would still need medical attention once they reached a better equipped medical facility. She was still unconscious in a healing trance, so she wouldn't get worse, but she certainly wasn't getting better quickly.

Kai did have some angry words for Jaden and Face regarding some things that had been said to the Wraith's A.I regarding her piloting skills.

After everyone had been updated, the discussion had turned to a course of action.

Deven, Oddball and Jaden (to Oddball's annoyance) had argued in favour of going after Jenna aboard the Merciful Hand -as Sacul had identified the massive vessel from comm intercepts- but Corran, Han and Leia had argued against that due to the need to get Jaina to a dedicated medical facility.

Kai, Sacul and Rrowv had argued that a run against the Merciful Han with anything other than the Sacul would be suicidal and since the Sacul's medical equipment was needed to keep Jaina alive, that meant that they also sided with Han, Corran and Leia.

Han had refused to take the Millennium Falcon into such a fight with the Sacul's support as did Jaden. The Wraith was a tough ship, but on it's own it wouldn't last long, meaning that Jaden grudgingly sided with Han and the others, a fact Wraith was relieved to hear.

Void had refused to become dragged into an arguement and simply said, he would side with whatever was decided.

Katrin on the other hand, argued that even if Jaina wasn't in dire need of treatment, an attack against the Merciful Hand would be follish even with all three vessels. An attack that size would require a number of cruisers and destroyers as support.

Even so, Deven and Oddball still wanted to make the strike, even if they had to borrow a pair of the Sacul's complement of X-Wings.

However, the point became moot as mid discussion Sacul reported that the Merciful Hand had jumped out of the system.

At this point, Deven had angrily withdrawn from the discussion and headed off to the Sacul's Science Lab to analyze the recording Jaden had made to try and work out the final point of the route that had been traced on the holo map. Oddball, though equally upset had accepted the situation and had turned the discussion on where to go.

Both Leia and Corran had suggested Ossus, the world was firmly in Jedi hands and another Solo child, Jacen was there, but the medical facilities were sparten at best. In return, Jaden and Han had both voted for Lianna, though only recently liberated within the last week, it was now heavily defended by Keyan Farlander's Fifth Fleet and the Second Armoured as well as what was left of the Lianna Militia. Lianna also had some top notch medical facilities and was only one jump away, where Ossus was three jumps away.

It was soon agreed.

Lianna would be their destination.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Medical Bay.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnought Merciful Hand.
Hyperspace.

Dass Jennir -the Prime Councillor- sat silently as the med-tech replaced the damaged section of his exoskeleton and began the process of retuning the system to his body's bio-electric field. Unlike when he'd originally had the exoskeleton fitted fifty years ago, this time the process was quick, the med-tech simply used the pre-existing settings contained within the rest of the exo-skeleton.

After a few moments of work, the med-tech looked up, "Is that satisfactory, Lord?"

Jennir flexed the figures of his right hand and rotated his wrist. The movements were smooth and controlled, no shaking at all, "Very good, your skills are to be commended"

"Thank you, Lord" The med-tech nodded, "Is there anything else you need?"

"No, that is all. Thank you" Jennir replied. When the med-tech had left, Jennir turned to the other conscious occupant of the room, "Viqi, it is good to see you made it off Rhen Var in one piece"

"Barely" Viqi Shesh replied in a voice thick with irritation, "Were it not for simple good fortune, I would have been taken prisoner by Leia Organa-Solo and her allies"

"Better you had not" Jennir nodded, "If you had, you would have met the same fate as Sarah Channing -The Black Widow"

Viqi paled, "I understand"

"Good" Jennir smiled, "Now fill me in on events"

Viqi swallowed nervously before speaking, "The destruction of our base on Rhen Var is complete. The siesmic charges collapsed the underground caverns and the rest of the facility was broken up by the Nergon Seven and tumbled into the open areas left by the destruction of the caverns. General Hertzog kept us insystem long enough to focus the Merciful Hand's sensors on the area"

"And?"

"He reports a ninety-nine point seven percent chance that the Republic will not be able to find anything of use in the rubble for at least three months, with chances increasing by ten percent for every week beyond that mark" Viqi reported, "He is however, 100 percent certain in the complete destruction of the Great Seal Chamber"

"Unsuprising" Jennir remarked, "That chamber was laced with enough explosives to destroy a star cruiser. What of our visitors?"

"They escaped and were clear of the facility before it's destruction" Viqi answered, "It was observed that the Millennium Falcon did fly down the shaft to the Great Seal. Conner Black believes they may have been picking up other members of their crew's that had been attempting to rescue Jenna Tarn"

"An astute observation" Jennir said dryly, "Not something I believed Conner Black was capable of making"

"Indeed" Viqi smiled, "Myself and General Hertzog were surprised too, "Sensors indicated that both the Sacul and the Millennium Falcon were joined by a thrid ship. A Uulshlos Deep X Yacht that may have made a stealth landing sometime before the other two ships arrived"

"Did General Hertzog take any action?" Jennir asked.

Viqi hesitated, knowing her next words could mean the end of a potential ally, "He did not think it prudent to attempt to engage them" She eventually replied, "He pointed out the limitations of many of our fighters in atmosphere as well as the possibility of Republic forces having been called in by the crews of the Sacul or Falcon. He decided that leaving the system was a priority"

Jennir was silent for a few moments and Viqi feared she might have signed Hertzog's death sentence, "I would have appreiciated not having the possibility of them discovering our plan, but Hertzog's logic is sound. Has there been word from Admiral Deegan yet?"

"Yes" Viqi nodded with relief, "He has taken up position in System 28948 and is slowly drawing in as much of the Neo-Separatist fleet as he can. He should be ready to move by the end of the week"

"Good" Jennir smiled, "And the rest of Operation Firestorm?"

"On scheduale" Viqi answered, "They should be making planetfall right about now. Forbidding any problems with customs, they should be in position to move by the end of the week, in time for Admiral Deegan to being the other part of Operation Firestorm" She frowned, "I'm still not sure about your choice for taking down the planets defenses"

Jennir nodded, "Understandable. It is a form of war that has been frowned upon for centuries, though the Empire certainly created a precedent with their scorched earth tactics ten years ago"

"It could work against us" Viqi pointed out.

"Possible, but unlikely" Jennir shook his head, "None of the operatives involved in the first stage of Operation Firestorm will be connected to the 'incident'. Those carrying out the actual act are simple mercenaries, hired through so many intermediaries, it would take years to even uncover a fraction of the trail. Should any of them survive, there are hunter-killer teams on planet to eliminate them before they can tell their story"

"A wise precaution" Viqi agreed, then nodded at the only occupied bacta tank, "What of her?"

Jennir looked over to where Jenna Tarn hung unconscious in the bacta tank. She had been stripped to her underwear and placed into the bacta tank almost as soon as she had been brought aboard. She'd also been pumped full of seditives to keep her sleeping until Jennir needed her awake. Her body was criss-crossed with burns that were slowly healing under the effects of bacta, but Jennir noted that none of the burns seemed to touch the Krayt Dragon Tattoo that dominated her stomach, chest and left arm. Why was that?

"She is the final part of my puzzle" Jennir answered, "She carries a lot of anger and hatred. It will take some work, but I plan on turning her to our cause"

"She's mentally unstable" Viqi frowned, "On my last visit to Coruscant, I pulled her medical file in response to your interest in her. She has borderline schizophrenia, biploar disorder and a few more mental illnesses. All of which I might add are a result of unneccesary surgery you ordered"

"So noted" Jennir nodded, "So noted. I admit she will be a challenge, but it has been many, many years since I had a Padawan. Once turned, she would be a powerful ally to our cause"


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