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Author Topic: Tales from the Shatari Legacy  (Read 4352 times)

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Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #15 on: 08/12/15, 06:20:49 PM »
Captain Bethany Regus of the Imperial Marines swore in a very unladylike manner.
It was, however, a thoughtful and well constructed string of vulgarity, barely audible, but nonetheless poetic in its delivery. Or, at least, it would have been, had she not been interrupted by the crash of an artillery shell that landed nearby, throwing her head over heels into a nearby dugout. Strangely, her first thought as she lay in the cold mud was Thank the Force that was fragmentation. If that had been plasma artillery, the splash would have melted her armour, skin, muscle and flesh down to the bone.

The rain pattered down on her exposed face, lighter than the last few days, for all the good it did. Bethany took a moment to appreciate how dark Balmorra got during the night, the thick layer of cloud allowing no sign of the moon nor stars. Wait a second, exposed face. Beth’s gloved hands immediately went to her face, panic sweeping her momentarily. Everything was still there. She craned her neck downwards, seeing if her limbs and innards were still where they were meant to be. They were. “Last time I attempt to sleep without my bloody helmet…” She muttered to herself, laying in the cold soil for a few moments longer.

“Cap’n Regus?” came a voice. Beth blinked. Right, not dead. She hefted herself to her feet, waving a hand above her head, clearing her throat and doing her best to sound on top of the situation. “I’m alright, Sergeant. Anyone wounded?” He shook his head. “No ma’am.” Incredibly lucky. Again. Casualty figures are well below the expected figures...one could wonder how long that luck will hold out. Beth coughed, clearing her lungs of the smoke. “Good. Any sign of a Republic counterattack? Though they’d be lunatics to attempt it.”
“Just a platoon of heroes, Skip. They got some new holes for their trouble. Must have been rear echelon types, one of ‘em had larger tits than you do, must have been scoffing all the Republic rations.”
Beth laughed. The thinly-skinned didn’t last long in the marines. “Yes, edible until the end of time, I’m sure. Must have been as hard as rocks, I’m surprised his gut could handle it.”
“Thank you, Ministry of Logistics…” The Sergeant murmured absently as he peeled off to return to his position, overlooking yet another valley.

The shelling from the Republic ended as abruptly as it had begun. Evidently, they were trying to conserve ammunition and maximise casualties. Beth took a moment to smile. “Well, that’s another shell wasted.” She wondered how long their luck would hold out.

Beth turned her torso, glancing over her shoulder. She held her rifle one handed, the thick leather strap dangling in the ice cold Balmorran wind. The Republic concrete bunkers had been left more or less intact, floodlights illuminating the entrances. They had certainly suffered damage, indeed the concrete that had been blasted off still lay in the mud, but, the Marines were more than happy to merely remove the Republic from within. A roof was a roof, after all. She had to hand it to the Republic engineers, they had constructed a hell of a defence network. The Republic troops had lived and died underground, in extensive tunnel networks that opened up to multiple firing positions, hardpoints and bunkers. Their quarters were underground. Stone cold, grey, concrete boxes that they were expected to stay in for years.

She smiled as she gazed at the bunker, pride welling in her breast. We’re hitting perhaps one of the strongest Republic military hardpoints in the galaxy, and we’re tearing through it like it was wet paper. And tearing through it they were. Moff Keriak had dictated that the Imperials take one ridge per week. By Beth’s calculations, they had it at 1.7 to every 7 standard Kaasian days. Casualty figures were well below expected, supplies were plentiful, and morale was high. And yet...she couldn’t shake the feeling that they were living on borrowed time. How much longer until Republic reinforcements arrived? Until the Republic got a competent General? Perhaps they were massing on the planes on the other side of the Beckett Line, ready to crush the Imperials in a bottleneck? “Ralakan was right...I really do overthink a lot of this stuff.” She muttered aloud. Would ceasing her worries assuage her fears?

Beth sighed, taking a seat on a rocky outcropping. To the east of the ridge her company currently occupied was the immense, landlocked Sarak Sea. The 1st Marine Division had been charged with holding and advancing along the farthest east flank of the Imperial advance, but only now did she see the sea they now ran parallel to. The pink of dawn had begun to appear in the east, reflecting gorgeously in the water, the magenta tinge reminding her of the paraphernalia her parents had draped her in as a child. She was just as quickly reminded as to why her relationship with her parents was estranged at best. She wondered how her younger sisters were, what they were up to.

Suddenly, she heard a clanging, and the sound of a scuffle. A few scuffles. Grunts, yelps and curses came out of the pre-dawn darkness. Beth frowned, rising to her feet, leaving her helmet resting on the rock. Screams. Her pulse quickened in an instant, and she unslung her rifle. “Sitrep, sentries!” She called out into the dark. No response immediately found her. Her blood chilled as she stared into the gloom. “Sentries, sitrep!” She yelled. A number of Marines had slowly taken up firing positions astride her, fingers hovering by their triggers. It was just as Beth realised how exposed she had left herself that the first bolt missed her head by less than an inch. The radiant heat of the round warmed her numb face as it passed for a fraction of an instant, far faster than she could react. Fire erupted from the Marine line, the green bolts lighting up the gloom like a laser show. White and red armoured figures were illuminated as though by strobe lighting, jittering from place to place like a slideshow, advancing toward the marines. They were everywhere.

Beth flopped, flattening herself as the air was suddenly filled with violence. The blue rounds of the Republic blasters and the green of the Imperial blasters flew overhead, the epicenter of which was right above where she lay. Strangely, she wasn’t afraid. No more than a person under fire could be. Laying in the muck reminded her of the live fire training exercises they’d ran back at Camp Nik. All she could think of was the moment fire had erupted from the Republic line...unusual fire discipline. The white and red markings, too, suggested that these were no rear echelon or even main-line troopers. Then who the hell were they?

“Captain! Are you hit?”
Beth rolled in the mud, sliding herself behind a nearby low rock for cover. “I’m alright.” Was about the best reply she could provide.
Twice today. She took a moment to thank whatever deity was looking out for her.
Or whoever’s listening. Beth peeked over the slight rise in front of her. The Republic troopers moved with a trained fluidity, and were extremely well coordinated. They knew each other very well, it would seem. Men who trained as and with conscripts didn’t have the level of unconscious trust and “sixth-sense” of the elite infantry. The white-and-red armoured spectres were everywhere. In-front, behind and astride the lines. Counting them was impossible thanks to the visibility. Judging by the green bolts flashing overhead, her men were giving her covering fire. Covering fire...right. She immediately pushed herself to her feet, hand sinking into the wet soil momentarily, before she spun on her heel and ran back behind her marines, giving them a clear line of fire.

“Who the bloody hell are these guys, ma’am? Intel said there were three army groups stationed on the Beckett Line, none of which had these SpecFor buggers!” One helmeted Marine called out, firing aggressively from a kneeling position.
“They might have been here on exercises!” She called back, drawing a bead on a Republic trooper as he darted to and from cover. Well trained, they’re not running in the open like the other units we’ve seen… she noted. Her rifle kicked back in her arms as she squeezed the trigger, the satisfying thump being more felt than heard. The man she’d been leading had chosen a very poor time to dart out of cover, and had received a new hole in his torso for his effort. He fell screaming, twitched in the mud, and lay limp.
“Enemy neutralized!” Beth called out. Their pattern of attack was too random, too skittish, to be an assault. This was a raid. Then why were they pushing against the lines? Unless they were a distracti-

It was at that moment that the entire hillside was illuminated in an instant, and a massive boom shook the very earth they stood on. Fire erupted from the nearby bunker that been used as an ammo dump, the plume of flame going some twenty meters in the air. A dozen Marines who were unfortunate enough to be right next to the bunker were killed instantly by the explosion, and a dozen more screamed as they were set on fire in an instant, or as the shrapnel from the blast found its mark. Beth froze, startled. She felt the warmth of the blast on her cold skin. Some of the Marines had already recovered from the initial shock, and had continued fighting at the Republic Special Forces, who were now in the process of melting away into what little darkness remained of the early morning. Evidently, they’d had no choice but to leave their dead and wounded behind.

Within minutes, as the last shots were fired, they were gone. Bethany Regus stood by the crackling flames of the bunker, helping to police the bodies of the dead. The other Marines were in the process of searching the enemy dead and wounded, trying to find anyone still alive enough to have a chat. She sighed, “I should have seen it coming. They don’t put those shells needlessly to waste.” She murmured quietly to herself, thinking back on the incoming artillery that had knocked her on her ass not 20 minutes before. She’d survived a tour on Hoth, nearly a year of non-stop combat on the nightmare world of Corellia, one tour on Balmorra, and the duration of the horrorshow that had been the Dread War on Oricon. She’d been wounded in action four times, and had knocked on Death’s door frequently enough that he’d had to buy and install a doorbell. And yet, she had trouble shaking the feeling that this world would be the end of her. She suddenly felt very tired, and sat down on a still smoking piece of concrete that had landed in the thick mud. She was a professional soldier, daughter of one of the Empire’s most revered Moffs. This war was her family’s legacy. She wondered when the name Regus would become synonymous with something other than combat, death and destruction. Beth glanced around, realising that her helmet was still MIA. Realising it was now likely buried beneath 30 centimeters of mud, she sighed, and keyed her wrist-mounted comms.

“Forn actual to Battalion, Forn actual to Battalion, over.”
“This is Battalion, what’s going on, Beth? I heard that blast from here.” Major Ralakan Walker’s voice came in, riddled with static, but mostly discernible.
“Republic raiding party, likely special forces, platoon sized element, sir.”
The line was quiet for a few moments. She liked his considered silences, she’d known the man for 10 years. It always came off as endearing.
“Third report I’ve heard of SpecFor troops in the AO in the last few hours alone...alright. I’ll get on the horn to Colonel Numair’s flyboys, weather might be clear enough for a few hours for them to do some aerial recon.” He paused. “Are you alright, Beth?”
“Not a scratch.” She replied, doing her best to sound cheery. The success was nebulous.
“Not what I meant, I know it’d take two of your dad’s fleets to finally rid the galaxy of you, you’re tough as nails. How are you feeling?”
“I’m...yeah. I’ll be alright. We’ll have time to talk when we take Hill 246, assuming you still want the whole battalion to hit it, sir.”
“Yeah, that’s the plan.” He paused, the line going quiet again for a few moments. “Hang tough, Beth. Remember Life Day? Still got that deal to uphold.”
She smiled. “Understood, sir.”
The radio clicked off, and she sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the steam rise as the rain met the flames.

“Cap’n Regus? We’ve got a live one. No’ too forthcoming though, seems a bi’ lockjawed. I’m sure he’d love to have a cha’ with you, though, ma’am.”

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #16 on: 09/13/15, 10:11:58 PM »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #17 on: 09/30/15, 05:32:00 PM »
Shadren V, Dorian's Palace

"Hawking Shatari is dead."
Darth Lethash didn't believe him.
"You'll have to forgive my impertinence, Hunter, but I can't take your word for tha'."

It's not that he strictly refused to believe the Mandalorian, indeed, Lethash was rational and a firm believer in using multiple sources to confirm suspicions, as open minded a Sith as you were liable to find anywhere. But he knew his former friend. He was a tough man to kill. The gold armoured Mandalorian in question crossed his arms, the black, reflective T shaped visor reflecting the brilliant golds and purples of the sunset, concealing the man's expression. Lethash could read his body language well enough to get the idea.
"Then you can take it or leave it as you will, my lord." He replied, expression and tone entirely unreadable.
The black and purple robed form of the Miraluka standing beside Lethash shifted slightly as Voltis readjusted his weight. Officially under Darth Mavesh, and indeed his apprentice, Lethash had borrowed the diplomatic alien learner, formerly under the fanatical Crimson Guard general Darth Thaydis, to be his assistant in Dorian's absence. He was proving to be quite the asset.

"Can the informants provide evidence to back up your statement, Mandalorian?" Lethash inquired, readjusting himself on the seat, placing a fist under his jaw, eyeing the Bes'kar clad mercenary. He had recently hired on the Mandalorian as an enforcer of sorts, a "fixer". Quite the higher up from a respected clan, too. Have yet to ask what caused him to depart so rapidly from Concord Dawn...
"They can, my lord. They saw the bodies."
"Bodies?"
"Of the healers, who had been attending to him. His Force flu spread to the other jetti who had been keeping him alive. Guess he was tougher than they were to survive for that long."

Voltis politely cleared his throat. "If I may, Hunter...how do the bodies of the healers definitively provide evidence of this Jedi's death?"
"No healers, no healing." The Mandalorian, Kal'tracyn, replied simply. Lethash, formerly of diplomatic nature himself, somewhat admired the Mandalorian's ability to hold utter contempt for minced words. He spoke little, and rarely without being prompted.
"He's locked away in a remote villa in the Tythonian wilderness, now entirely unattended. Say what you will about the jetti, but they're certainly not stupid. They'll only throw a select amount of their healers at this problem before they cut their losses and isolate him, let him die out where he won't be a danger to the rest of them. Looks like his credit has expired." He finished dryly.
Voltis nodded. "But what of the Jedi belief in compassion? Or their dwindling ranks? If this Master is valuable to them, surely they would be inclined to take the risk to save his life?"
"Do not be so sure." Lethash commented somewhat bitterly. "The Jedi are just as willing to abandon their own as the Sith. For benevolent knights of peace, they can be rather cold hearted."

An uncomfortable silence fell over the grand hall.
The Mandalorian shifted his weight expectantly, casting a glance from behind his helmet to the robed Miraluka, who was standing bolt still.
Lethash sat in silence, gazing off across the vast, planes of Shadren V's expansive southern continent, visible from the open air balcony of the upmost level of the royal palace. It seemed to go on forever.
"Thank you, Hunter, Apprentice Voltis, you may take your leave." He said finally, after several further long moments of deliberation.
"Very well, my lord." Kal'tracyn replied, offering the Sith a nod. His golden bes'kar glinted in the sun as he turned on his heel, the cape strapped to his shoulder flapping in the breeze as the Mandalorian left. He was never far away.
Voltis simply bowed, the veil over his eyes offering as little insight into his feelings on the matter as his expression.

Within moments, Lethash was alone once more. He didn't move for a long while.
So, Hawking was dead.
So far as details went, the story was sparse, even amongst the Jedi themselves, or so the informants would have him believe.
Lethash felt no satisfaction from the news, nor elation, nor even strictly sadness. The Jedi had been his partner, his fellow and his friend.
But even he was unable, or unwilling, to clear my name in the eyes of the Council.
And now he was dead. Not in battle, nor of advanced age, nor of simple accident(not that simple accidents befell Jedi Masters regularly), but of abandonment by his own, being left to die of an ancient plague alone and in isolation.
The Sith sighed, running a finger down the cybernetics that coated his face. Hawking had had a Padawan, by all accounts. Lethash wondered if she was to be treated any better.
Case closed, I suppose.
He had hoped to see, or perhaps confront, his old friend one last time. It seemed now he wouldn't get the chance.

But, the universe and the Force moved on, and stagnation was an unforgivable sin for a Sith to make. Perhaps he had been removed from the war and the universe for too long. Lethash stood, black and gold robes standing in stark contrast to the marble and sandy ochres of Dorian's palace.
Peace is a lie. He reminded himself as he checked his belt, ensuring the beautiful silver hilts of his two lightsabers were secure.

Time to get to work.
« Last Edit: 09/30/15, 05:34:05 PM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #18 on: 01/04/16, 02:30:56 AM »
One year after the Eternal Empire's invasion...

Aspasia swore quietly as she cradled her bloody arm.
If the Jedi attending her had heard her cursing, he gave no indication. The man merely tutted, lowering himself so that his eyes were in line with the long cut that adorned the girl's forearm. Not that said girl was content with being labelled as such anymore, now sitting at the respectable age of 12. Or, 12 and a half, as she repeatedly insisted.
The artificial lights in the Custodian's Watch seemed dim in comparison to the blazing sun of the world the Jedi had just returned from, Aspasia reflected. Her eyes still hadn't fully adjusted.
"Ow!" She clenched her jaw as pain lanced through her arm and shoulder.
"I did warn you, Initiate. This is a serious laceration, it was hardly going to be without pai-" The healer began. He was a portly man, a Mirialan, by all appearances. His tone suggested he was under the suspicion that she'd brought the injury on herself, just like all the others that had asked.
"It wasn't my fault! That bloody thing jumped up at me-"
"I hear it came off second best."
"Well, yeah..."
"You must have quite a right hook." The healer commented offhandedly. His bedside manner was well practiced, if nothing else.
Aspasia eyed him coolly. Sudden compliments. That meant-
"OUCH!" She saw a flash of silver, followed by a dark thread. "Is that a-"
"Needle? Yes, just so. We're a bit short on resources for our more advanced medical systems, and the senior healers are-"
"Yeah, I know," Aspasia replied grumpily, averting her gaze from her arm. She wiggled her butt backwards, shifting her weight on the cold steel bunk. "Ye told me already, remember? In a meeting."
"Mmmhm. I'm glad you'll listen to me, even if you seem less inclined to listen to the Knights who have the pleasure of being responsible for you planet-side."
"Mmm." Aspasia grumbled. She didn't bother trying to defend herself. She had pushed it, and she knew it.

A few minutes later she was on her way again, pattering barefoot on the cool steel walkways of the Watch's crew deck. She had stopped being dazzled by the cool blue lights of the corridors quite some time ago. The tapestries, crystals, banners, plants and other decorations had likewise lost their magic.
Living aboard a vessel that was forever on the run had lost its appeal. Aspasia had thought it would be endless excitement. It certainly had been in the early days, for the first few months, at least. There had been an edge of fear with every jump. Every planetfall had been thrilling, the negotiations tense, the missions swift. She had seen things that had blown her mind. New tastes, smells, sights and sounds that she had never thought she would see. A lot of it had been cool, very cool.

She blinked, emerging from her thoughts, finding herself standing in the intersection between the entrance to the  mission deck and the crew quarters, staring at a tapestry like a total dolt.
"Ow." She murmured, chancing a glance at her arm.
You must be strong, for you must lend your strength to others. She recalled the words of her class's teacher, one Master Darandan. She remembered the blank look on Mical's face as he'd been asked to give his thoughts on the statement. She'd decided he was okay. She was three years older than him, and they hadn't gotten on for the longest time, but, things were different when your social pool was as limited as hers was.
She had plenty of friends. Few in her class, truth be told, but she'd made friends elsewhere.
Miller Turlim was cool, even if she hated his smug grin sometimes. He was a friend of Master Shatari's, apparently. Knight Dassalya, too, even if the Mirialan reminded her, strangely, of her mother.
Dassalya's Padawan, Abethul, was more to Aspasia's liking. She wasn't much older than Aspasia herself, and she always seemed willing to chat, which Aspasia found equally odd and inspiring.
Knight Qardaak, Merrant, Knight Telline...even Master Farworlder.
Aspasia shrugged to herself. 'Spose there's worse people to be stuck on a big ship with. Wonder what Ashton woulda made of them...

She found herself wandering the corridors aimlessly. She had nowhere she needed to be for a few hours yet, and didn't much feel like inhabiting the archives or the shared quarters that all the initiates lived in. She found herself less and less able to connect with her peers. They were all three or four years her junior, and no matter how much she tried, she just couldn't talk to them. Not for long, anyway. 'coz they're kids. She reminded herself. She supposed she was, too. To the standards set down by the Republic and the Jedi, she was still very much a child, she had noticed. Back on Maguire, she would have been on the cusp of womanhood. Her train of thought was interrupted by the thumb of white-golden hair that fell across her eyes. She went to brush it away in frustration with her injured arm, and immediately swore loudly as the pain swept over her again.
"Stupid...bloody..." She muttered, before blowing the intruding fringe off of her face with a small huff, her eyes darting around to make sure she hadn't been heard. There was hell to pay for public expressions of anger at something so trivial.
Left...clear.
Right...clear.


Bzzzzzz.......WHUMP!
Suddenly she was on the ground.
Stars filled her vision, and her head swam.
Had she tripped over her robes? Gods, she hoped not, she'd made herself look like enough of a fool-
Oh, hyperspace.
She rolled onto her back and groaned.
Really, 'Spasia? Again? Its not that hard...look at a bloody clock, remember the jump schedule. She lay there for a time, uninspired to rise to her feet.
She wondered how Zarasmina was. She hadn't heard from the Padawan that had saved her life in close to a year. No-one had, to her knowledge. Last she had heard, Mina was still working on that case with the Ladies. Aspasia failed to see why, what with the silver, shark like Eternal Fleet and attached Empire providing a larger problem for the Republic. The Witches wouldn't be going anywhere, and neither would Zarasmina's master. He was dead, any doubt of that had been erased months ago.

Eventually, she fished around beside her on the wall for a handhold, and pulled herself back up. Aspasia glanced downward, taking the first good look at her injured arm. She'd been avoiding it. Less so because of the blood (Gods knew she had seen enough of that back on Maguire, it no longer phased her), but because of the guilt it elicited. The disapproving face of a variety of Jedi floated to the forefront of her mind, each one dispensing a bollocking for an infraction she had committed. Perhaps the excuse that she-hadn't-known-any-better had flown for a few months, but by now, even Aspasia herself would admit that she had crossed the line on a number of occasions. She couldn't quite put a finger on why. She'd always been headstrong, if she was totally honest. Her father had always referred to her as "his little Spitfire", just as often endearingly as disparagingly.
Maybe this was the result.
First comes the wounds...then maybe you'll really mess up.
I won't get kicked out of the Jedi. I can't. Not after Maguire.
They won't kick you out? I dunno...
I won't let myself be kicked out. She resolved.
It was all she'd wanted. All she still wanted. She could still see the brilliant blue of Zarasmina's lightsaber on Maguire, could still feel the heat it emitted as it, and the girl who wielded it, saved her life time and again. The steel she had seen in the Padawan's eyes, the compassion she'd seen in the eyes of the Jedi she'd met later...
I am a Jedi. Aspasia reassured herself, looking up from her injured arm.

"Initiate? Aspasia! You're ten minutes late for your lesson!" A booming voice echoed down the corridor.
Aspasia swore quietly.

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #19 on: 03/06/16, 08:53:12 PM »
They came for them at midnight.

Pale moonlight shone through the open window, casting long shadows across their bedroom for the monsters to hide in. At the foot of her straw bed, in the gloom beneath Ashton's bed, beside the mantlepiece, but most of all in corner, where the shade was darkest. Aspasia wasn't stupid, she knew there were no creatures of the night in the dark of their room. The beasts were outside.
"No, please- My Lord, she's not- No, NO!" A man's voice, desperate and distant. A woman's sobbing. Aspasia shuddered, pulling her thin woolen blanket up to her eyes.
"On your feet, Triteki. ON YOUR FUCKIN' FEET!" A different man's voice, not desperate and afraid like the last. It was loud and gruff. A soldier. Ashton was still asleep. He'd always been able to do that, she'd never known how. She watched her brother's chest rise and fall slowly, trying to distract herself from what was happening only a few houses over.
"You look at me when I'm talking to you, you disgusting little mutant. Lord Moore has decreed that all Triteki are to be rounded up, and face due..."
The door to her room creaked open.
Her blood ran cold, and her heart stopped in her chest.
They're here for you now, you and Ashton. This isn't fair, I'm only 11, why don't they take Sarah, or Lani, or-

"Aspasia? Ashton?" Came a familiar, soothing voice.
Aspasia dared not sit up. Her breath quickened, blood pounding in her temples. Ashton murmured in his sleep, slowly rousing, a strange frown evident on his face.
"Young ones? Are you alright?" A dark figure entered the room, the door parting with a creak.
"...Da?" Ashton croaked, sitting up slowly.
You're a coward, 'Spasia.
The sound of wood splintering shattered the cold silence of the night, and a chilling scream went up from somewhere in the village, the wind carrying the echo far into the distance. Aspasia's gaze darted to the open window, the curtains fluttering like melancholy spectres in the breeze. She caught Ashton staring too, before they were both drawn back to the familiar figure that had entered the room. The infiltrator had drawn a match, exposing the concerned face of their father. Shadows danced across his features, the orange flame of the candle he now held illuminating a face that seemed to have more wrinkles on it by the day. Aspasia suspected not all of them were a result of old age. He had trimmed his lengthy greying beard. He never did that, unless it was for...

"Da, the screams of those people...the soldiers n' guards, they're..." Ashton blurted out, whispering loudly. Aspasia gazed across at him, but his face was murky, as though she couldn't quite make out his features. His hair was the same colour as her own, as white-golden as the sun itself, and his eyes were blue...but...
"I know, son." Their father replied quietly.
The year had gone so fast that Aspasia had forgotten. It had all been going so well, she'd rode and played in the summer, she'd learned her father's medicine techniques in the autumn, sat by the hearth and listened to his stories in the winter...but now came spring.
Now came the rains.
Now came the harvests.
Not new life...but death.

"It's the first day of Spring, my dears...the lunar cycle of the ladies."
Another scream from outside.
Aspasia gulped. She and Ashton exchanged glances. They were twins, and not all language between them was verbal.
"The...the Exodus..." Aspasia croaked.
"I know, sweetling. I know. Just try and go back to sleep..."
How many friends would she lose this year? She'd lost 3 last year, 2 the year before that, and her mother the year before that.
But she was safe. She and Ashton were safe, her father had promised that. They were the only kids in the village that were needed, he'd told them. Ashton would be a healer or a warrior, the best Maguire had ever seen, and she was to run the estate and find a husband.

Aspasia lay her head down on her pillow, pulling her blanket up around her, trying to stop her teeth from chattering. The temperature must have been well below zero, but that wasn't why she was shaking. Fear insidiously clawed its way up from her gut to her throat, settling there as a lump that refused to budge. She had never felt so cold. Ashton was asleep again in minutes, but still, her father remained at the end of her bed.
She felt time pass. The shadows stretched and bent immaterially. 
There was silence for a long, long time.
That's it, that's all they're takin' this year.
She almost believed it, too.

Thump.
Thump.
Thump.
Thump.


The sound of a drum.
It was close.
Aspasia frowned. REALLY close...weird. They normally play that to signal the arrival of the town's Lord. But it was far, far too early for Lord Moore to be up. Perhaps he was ill?
Aspasia sat up, confused...and then saw her father's face. Ashton, too, had woken again and was looking at the elderly village healer.
The look on his features was one she'd never seen before, and would never forget. Sheer, unabated terror.
"Da?" Aspasia asked hurriedly. She hopped up from her bed, and craned her head to nervously look out the window. They were on the second story, but she could still make out the ambient orange flicker of torches below.
"Get away from the window, Aspasia." Her father commanded quickly, a tone to his voice that was totally alien to her.
"Da, we're safe, right? You said we were safe, you promised we-"
"I don't know, sweetie. Lord Moore and his men are outside, they could be here for any reason."
Lord Moore's beaked face swam into her mind, all sharp angles and cold grey eyes.
Ashton hopped up from his bed, joining his father by the door. He only reached his old man's shoulders, but was evidently doing his best to be brave.
"He can't send us, father, he needs you. And you'll die before you let 'im take us, right? That's what you said to ma."
Aspasia gulped as the sound of the drums stopped.
"No-one is going to die tonight, son." Their father replied calmly, smiling down at his son.
He was lying, Aspasia knew. People had already died, and many more were about to. The Exodus was always preceded by the Night of Knives.
Ashton stuck his chin out solemnly, as he was known to do.  "If worst comes to worst, Da, 'Spasia and I will be okay on our own. Won't we, Spazzie?"
Aspasia nodded meekly. "Yeah."
Her Da smiled. "Too much of your mother in the both of ye...and I don't just mean the gift in your blood."

"HEALER CULLEN!"
Aspasia's father wheeled around slowly, freezing in place, facing the door.
"HEALER CULLEN!" Came the yell again. It was the angry voice from before. The soldier. "You and your Triteki children are to be down here in one minute, to be presented to his eminence Lord Moore! Should ye fail to comply, you will be punished!"
"Father..." Ashton asked blankly, turning as white as a sheet.
Aspasia felt the colour drain from her own face, and her vision tunneled.
"Get dressed. Now." Their father instructed, barreling out of their bedroom, rushing for his own.
Aspasia and Ashton looked at each other blankly, before madly stumbling over toward the dresser, blindly throwing on whatever clothing they could find in the darkness.
"We're dead." Aspasia gasped as she popped herself into a loose fitting dress that had been her mothers.
"We'll be okay." Ashton replied with as much courage as one could muster under the circumstances. Aspasia wished she could share his faith.

"TWENTY SECONDS, HEALER CULLEN!"
Aspasia and Ashton dashed down the stairs after their father, fear of what lay outside outclassed by the fear of what would happen if they stayed inside the house. They threw themselves out into the cold air, wooden door slamming shut behind them. Aspasia's gaze was leveled downwards, staring at the mud on her feet. She wiggled her toes, for what may have been the last time. The thought chilled her to her core.
She didn't hear what the soldier said initially, her brain disconnected from her senses. She felt as though she was dreaming. Finally, she looked up. In front of her stood a tall, hawkish man bedecked in furs and velvets. He wore a simple crown of iron on his balding head, but the true mark of his station came from his eyes. They were cold and grey, and indicated a total lack of time for anything and anyone. He was flanked on all sides by a phalanx of his guards dressed in black and red, bearing spears and other wicked implements of violence. Ashton stood beside her, totally silent. Her father stepped forward, clearing his throat nervously.
"My lord...to what do I owe the pleasure on this fine night?"
Moore eyed the man coldly, folding his hands behind his back. "You are well aware of why we stand before you, Healer Cullen."
Aspasia's gut lurched, and she quietly fiddled with a lock of golden hair that had fallen down over her forehead.
Her father laughed, voice strained. "Then I fear you must take me for a man of frightful foolishness or incompetent memory, my lord. I do not recall you mentioning any such visit."
Moore glanced to his nearest guardsman, the man who had been doing the yelling. "Monroe, remind Healer Cullen of his place. And then take his Triteki Children and put them with the others. His occupation will not shelter his mutant offspawn any longer."
The guards, Ashton, and her father all moved at once...

Everything exploded in an orgy of blood and violence.
Aspasia saw her father beaten down by the haft of a dozen swords, felt herself tugged away like a ragdoll, saw the flames of the torches reflected in Moore's cold eyes.
The world fell away, morphing and shifting. Faces and voices flashed past, screams and howls.

She saw the children, hundreds of them, all near naked and shivering and afraid.
She felt the violent, icy winds as they walked hundreds of miles for the forest.
She layed her hands on the stone cold corpses of the others as they died, one by one.
She heard the voices of the other Triteki in the forest; "The cave...it's safe...we need to go down...it calls to us..."
She heard Ashton, too, saving her, time and time again..."They're down there, Aspasia. The Ladies. They're down there, and they're hungry."
They learned the forest's secrets, resisted its lures, for so long...

And then the Jedi came.
She saw the dark haired man fight, saw him fall.
She saw the dark haired girl ride, felt Zarasmina's hand pull her onto the Dray.
She saw Ashton fall as he ran to catch up, tripping and burning in the fire that consumed everything, his blue eyes full of panic and fear, pleading to Aspasia to save him.
She saw the bloody spear that protruded from her father's back, saw the villagers butcher one another, saw the blood run in the streets, saw the smoke choking the horizon, saw the blade that was to end her life flash toward her...


Aspasia woke up screaming, tears stinging her eyes. She scrambled backwards, smacking her head on the bulkhead behind her sleeping quarters. She desperately clawed at her chest, hysterically searching for where the blade went in. She could feel it. The pain, the coldness, the terror, all lodged squarely in her heart.
They were dead, all of them-
You're on the Watch. You're on the Watch. You're on the Watch. She repeated in her head, looking around herself wildly, trying to calm down, still not quite believing it.
"You're on the Watch. Maguire is far away. They're all dead," She breathed quickly to herself. "It was just a nightmare....it was just a bloody nightmare, 'Spasia..."

Except it wasn't. She knew it wasn't. The Force allowed one to relive memories with perfect clarity in their sleep, intertwining the future and the past. It was no dream, but a promise.
She was going back. She had to go back. Every day she put it off, Maguire clawed its way back into her heart and her head, trying to drag her down into the abyss alongside itself.
Her breathing came back to her, shuddering and taught. Aspasia buried her face in her palms.
"Gods..."

« Last Edit: 03/06/16, 10:34:18 PM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #20 on: 03/20/16, 04:44:31 AM »
Coruscant, Five and a Half Years after the signing of the Zakuul-Republic Treaty...

The chair was awfully uncomfortable.
It was all harsh angles and flat surfaces, utilitarian, not designer. It was, more likely than not, designed specifically to leave the person sitting in it feeling uncomfortable. Sergeant Lena Reuven, however, was not so easily cowed.

Conventional wisdom states that it is supremely difficult to win an argument with an intelligent person, but impossible to win an argument with a dumb one. The man sitting opposite her was living proof of the maxim, as she was slowly and rudely discovering. He was a spindle of a man, willowy and and slim, and unfortunately wearing the bars of a Captain in the Republic Army. Had he worked for the bars he wore, perhaps today would be going very differently.
“Now, Lena-”
“Sergeant.” Lena corrected stiffly, offering the man a thin smile.
“Right, Lena, we’ve known each other for quite a while, correct?” The man, a certain Captain Finnigan Dornier, inquired. He was bubbly and chipper, but not in an endearing way. Every word he spoke further reinforced both his inexperience and his superiority complex. The sandy mop of hair on his head seemed out of place, as though it had been unceremoniously lumped on his head and left there. His high, nasal, boyish voice did little but distract whomever he was talking down to on any given day.

“I suppose we have, sir, yes.” Lena replied patiently, sky blue eyes scanning the room.
The newly built barracks was nice, she noted. Sterile, unfriendly and utilitarian, but nice. Dornier had decorated the walls with Republic wartime posters and famous holoimages from the last two wars, as if in an effort to convince himself that he was supposed to be here.
If one were to look out of the window, one would be greeted with the imposing mountain of the Republic Senate, only a few blocks away. It was real estate worth killing for.
“Of course, we’ve not always seen eye to eye,” Dornier continued, offering Lena the most forced laugh she had ever heard in her 26 years of life, “But you have the respect of the company, Sergeant Lena. And you’re a smart woman...”
She suspected the comment was intended to enflame. She remained silent, but looked at Mac out of the corner of her eye, watching him shift, half opening his mouth to comment, before wisely deciding to close his mouth once again. He was seated beside her, also bedecked in the brown fatigues of the Republic Army, his normally scrappy beard trimmed into something more presentable.
“...which is why I’m sure your act of insubordination today was merely a misunderstanding, Lena. Am I correct?”
Lena remained silent.
Sergeant Mackenzie “Mac” Ellis gazed at her, clenching his jaw, before turning to regard Dornier. His turn to answer.
“Insubordination is a bit...harsh, don’t you think, Captain?” He said slowly, prompting the officer as though speaking to a child.
“I don’t know how long you’ve been in the Republic Armed Forces, Mackenzie, but, what Lena did today could be considered treasonous.” Dornier replied, leaning back in his fluffy leather chair, pouting slightly. His continued use of their first names irked Lena, but she also found it somewhat amusing that the man reprimanding them for disobeying code and conduct was so freely ignoring it himself.
“Sergeant…” Mac corrected quietly to himself, closing his eyes and wrinkling his nose in obvious frustration.
“I know the two of you come from the “Old Army” and have been thick as thieves for years, but, you serve under me now.” Dornier reminded them, steepling his fingers. His sleeves fell away to his elbows, the uniform he wore obviously a size too big. “And I expect only the best from my troopers. Our new supervisors saw fit to keep the Republic Armed Forces 99th Infantry Division intact due to meritorious actions against both the Empire and against the Eternal Empire in open battle, even in defeat. I may only run a company of this fine unit, but I intend to show them that keeping the 99th running was not a mistake.”
The meritorious action that the Captain mentioned equated to little more than surviving, by Lena’s reckoning.
“And, Lena, that means that I want every one of my troopers to play by the book, serve with honour, and do their comrades proud as a team player. To do that...you need to obey when your officer gives you a command.”
She wondered if it was possible for him to speak in something other than cliche, or whatever he’d heard sports personalities say in interviews.

Lena cleared her throat, and leaned forward, making sure not to blink. She steepled her fingers, laying her hands on the table between herself and Dornier.
“Now, sir, I feel the need to remind you that I followed your orders to the letter.” She said tactfully, not raising her voice.
Dornier went red in the face, eyes narrowing. He reminded Lena of the womp rats she’d chased around on her farm during her youth, before she’d learned that they made for good target practice.
“No, Lena, I told you to-”
“Sergeant. And yes, I know. You told me to lead the troops on a PT run.”
“Not. To. The. Red. Light. District.” Dornier squeaked stiffly, nearly tripping over his words.
Lena shrugged. “It was a solid twenty clicks there, sir. I figured they needed some rest.”
“Half of them came back-”
Mac leaned across the table, interceding on Lena’s behalf, with his usually perfect timing.
“Drunk?”
“Yes.” Dornier sniped back, black with rage.
“No sir, I can personally vouch for-”
“The Zakuulian emissary himself was visiting the barracks for inspection, Sergeant Ellis. What if he’d seen-”
“But he didn’t, sir. And the troops weren’t-”
“SILENCE!” Captain Dornier yelled shrilly.
Mac and Lena exchanged glances, and then fell silent.
Don’t laugh. It’s not that funny. You laugh, he’ll hang you out to dry.
“I will not tolerate back talk in my company, Sergeant Ellis!”
Mac gazed at him silently.
“The Eternal Empire has given us a very good deal, Troopers. The Republic is still here, her fleets still stand, as do her armies, which have never been better trained or-”
“Better lead, sir?” Lena asked quietly, a thin smile on her face.
The comment caught Dornier off-guard. His brow wavered, and Lena knew that she had him.
“Well, yes, Lena. I’m glad you think so.” He replied seriously, head slowly bobbing up and down in what approximated an empathetic nod.
She smiled again, but said nothing, letting the silence hang.

Captain Dornier cleared his throat, and attempted to straighten his moppish mess of hair.
“Now, troopers, I’m glad we could iron this out. But, you need to understand that I can’t let the two of you off easily.” He warned, wagging a thin, bony finger at the two soldiers. “I have no option but to write you both an official reprimand, and give you both a warning. I won’t tolerate soldiers who can’t follow orders, understood?”
Lena held back a smile. “Yes sir, understood.”
Mac nodded. “Understood, Captain.”
“Good...good.” Dornier humped a few random sheets together and tapped them on the table, clearing his throat as he did so.
“Is that all, sir?” Mac prompted gently.
“Oh, yes. You can go.”
Mac stood up, brushing himself down. Lena moved to follow, she didn’t want to be here for a moment longer than necessar-
“Sergeant Rueven?”
Damnit.
“Sir?”
“Take a seat. You can go, Mackenzie.”
Lena exchanged glances with Mac. He offered her the wink of a liberated man.
“See you downstairs in thirty.”

“Mmmhmm.” Lena turned back to face Dornier, crossing one leg over the other. She folded her hands in her lap expectantly, hoping to rush the little weasel along.
He stared at her awkwardly for a few moments, a strange half-smile on his face, watery blue eyes scanning over every nook and cranny of her features.
“I’ve always liked that stud.” He said finally, breaking the silence in such a way that she wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He spoke in reference to the small silver nose stud she wore on her right nostril, a souvenir from a boy back home, one who was now long dead.
“Thank you, sir.” Lena replied testily.
The captain had either missed the tone to her voice or decided to ignore it, and continued on. “Now, I’ve got some news for you...but, first...” He clasped his hands and leaned in, just like the civvies at the bars liked to do, “I wanted to ask you about your service on Balmorra. Tell me about it.”
“Which campaign, sir? I served a few tours on Balmor-”
“The most recent one, before Zakuul.”
“Ah.”
“You sound bitter, Lena.” Dornier cooed, looking perplexed.
“Well, not to sugarcoat it, sir...but we got our hides whooped. I lost a lot of friends.”
“Mmm...how many of...you are still serving? Those who were there, during Operation Stranglehold.”
It was now Lena’s turn to be caught off-guard. She hid it better than he had, but, the comment struck her as odd. It was as though he simultaneously knew both more and less than he was letting on.
“Couldn’t count them on one hand, Captain, but, not many. Myself, Mac, Shady- uh, Tee-Sarge Jensen, Lieutenant Walker, Corporal Clark, Corporal Ilyushin…” She trailed off when she realised he wasn’t listening. His eyes were fixed on her.
“You knew General Stravka, right, Sergeant?”
Sergeant. Not Lena.
“...Yes, sir. She was from Carthias, same as me.”
“Small world.”
“More than you might think, Captain…” She replied cautiously. Where was he going with this?
“Hahahahaha!” He exploded in laughter, clapping his hands together.  “I’m just messing with you, Sergeant. I do have news for you, though.”
Lena stared at him with the cold, practiced, laser like gaze of the non-commissioned officer, able to freeze a wayward private in his tracks from two miles.
“I suggest you get the point, Captain.” She said bluntly.
“Mmm...it’s about your brother.”
Her blood froze. Balmorra…
“I-”
“No no. Tell me about it. Polarion.”
“150,000 Republic troops, myself included, attacked over three miles of open ground and across a river against a position fortified by a 10,000 man crack Imperial division, without air support and with limited armour, while the Imperials had both in ample supply.” She said flatly.
“Right out of the history book.” Dornier replied dryly, sounding bored. He pointed his index finger at her.
“I want to hear about the experience. You outnumbered them by over ten to one, you’d shelled them for three days straight prior to the attack…”
Lena felt her blood rise. This asshole wanted the narrative. He wanted his grand war story.
“‘And then when we were routed. We threw everything we had into the meat grinder, because Stravka was dead and her replacements were incompetent and pressed for time. We made a frontal, head on attack, right into the Nexu’s jaws. And, shockingly, we got chewed up, Captain.”
She realised she was hissing, and made a mental note to avoid it in future. As of right now, she  couldn’t give a damn about looking bad.
“92,336 killed or died of wounds, a further 3,000 and something wounded...many others captured...but not you. You and your unit made it out. Guess that makes you pretty lucky, huh, Lena?” He mused.
Lena curled her hand into a fist.
“Not that the Imperials did much better. Records say that the First Marine Division nearly got wiped out...the famous, Imperial Hero Ralakan Walker and his buddies only just made it out, same as you, part of the lucky few.”

Surely this was more than him regurgitating a few numbers. The dulcet tones, the condescending edge...she was regurgitating information he already knew.
“You were there, weren’t you?” Lena asked, biting her lip, calming herself down.
“A mystery for another time, Lena.” Dornier replied airily, nasal voice disseminating any air of enigma that his phrase may have elicited.
“What about Stefan-”
“Your brother? I’ve decided I don’t want to tell you. Not yet, anyway. You didn’t follow my orders, and you should feel the ramifications of your actions. Think of it as a learning experience. Are we clear?”

She stood, brushing down her oak brown uniform.
Dornier reached over to shake her hand. “Good, wouldn’t want us to part on bad term-”
She punched him.
The brutal jab caught him right in the jaw, eliciting an ear splitting crack. The little man crumpled, shocked into silence, toppling from his chair and hitting the floor with a thud. Lena didn’t stick around to watch him fall. She spun on her heel, composed herself, and strode out into the hallway. Dornier’s moans of pain trailed her as she walked.

The nearest speeder was five minutes away, the closest bar another four atop that.
If she was going to cop hell, she was going to do it while as drunk as possible...not that alcohol agreed with her overmuch. Or at all, really.
Time to see who was faster, her squadmates, or the military police.

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #21 on: 06/10/16, 07:30:43 PM »
BELSMUTH II
VALEFOR EXPEDITIONARY FORCE CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS FACILITY - "FORT WHITLAM"
FIVE YEARS, NINE MONTHS AFTER THE ZAKUUL-IMPERIAL TREATY


The snow was light today.
The flakes danced on the breeze as they fell toward the earth, coming to land on the buzzing sea of black and gold figures below. The alpine spring air was crisp and clean, refreshing and rejuvenating, but also electrified. The buzz of excitement hang thickly, every man and woman drinking deeply from the ambient energy. Nervous smiles were cast to one another, winks and quiet jokes, anxious comments and easy reassurances. Today was the day. For four years they had trained, the first of their class. Despite himself, Colonel Ralakan Walker felt the butterflies dance in his stomach. He had been to his fair share of pre-operational orations during his 15 years of military service (He'd given many himself), but nearly every one of those had been underscored by a feeling of unease and euphemism. The objectives laid out had been grandly postured and decisively taken out of strategic context, leaving the nebulous political goals of the Imperial war machine on the side-lines. Today, it seemed, was a new day.

They had been assembled division by division on the immense landing pad of Whitlam Base, preparing to embark to the the fleet above. The navy sat in low orbit above the heads of the newly minted soldiers. The great grey and silver jackknifing hulks of the Terminus destroyers and Harrower dreadnaughts that had been "liberated" from various formerly Imperial naval units and shipyards during Zakuul's invasion sat alongside a variety of other craft, local designs from the conquered territories that now made up the Valefor's League of states. The mass of ships, however, paled in comparison to the colossal black behemoth that dwarfed even the mightiest Imperial vessel in the sky. The Vepar "Super" Harrower, assembled at the shipyards above Shadren V itself, crowning glory and pinnacle of the Valefor's efforts. It was often said in the Valefor's territories that so long as the Vepar's heart beat, so did the heart of the League. Ralakan saw no reason to disagree with the sentiment.

Ralakan himself stood in the front row of the immense group of troops and material, freshly shaven and trimmed, wearing the black and gold body armour of the Valefor Expeditionary Force. His helmet was cradled under one arm. Going to be enjoying the luxury of recycled and filtered air for the next two weeks, no substitute for the real thing. He surmised. Best to enjoy the fresh scents of the Belsmuth alps whilst he could. They were currently some kilometer and a half above sea level, standing on a grand metal palisade built into the side of a mountain, intended to accommodate landing destroyers. Were one to walk in a straight line in any given direction, they would be met with open air, and a drop some several hundred meters down into the forested valleys below. Ralakan shifted his weight to the other foot and let out a quiet sigh, anxiously anticipating the "something" to come. Said "something" was to be their official mission statement. The entire Expeditionary Force had been mobilized, all 250,000 men and women from across the territories drawn up and ordered to report for immediate preparation. The transports had been travelling to and from the fleet for the last few days, like a giant escalator leading to the heavens, ferrying troops and material to a destination hitherto unknown.

The troops bustled and chatted, white noise, perhaps. Friends exchanged promises, optimists forecasted successes,  pessimists offered their grim predictions, and the veteran NCOs dispersed smacks to the backs of heads. They were untested, Ralakan reflected. Exceptionally trained, but untested. It was an achievement that they were here at all. The tattered remnants of the units that had fled Imperial space to take refuge in the relative security of the Valefor's territories had all been coming apart at the seems. The 1st Marine Division had numbered only 1,100 of it's original 10,000, the various Imperial Army divisions not much better. One unit had been surviving on a single contingent of infantry no larger than 200 bodies, the rest being cooks, clerks and support staff. It had been nicknamed "Task Force Typewriter". The navy had been little better, the ships in poor shape and manned by exhausted skeleton crews. Fighter wings were crippled. Logistical systems had been non-existent, and the threat of a Zakuulian pursuit had been a boogeyman that had been a very real, very persistent fear that had hung over the heads of everyone. In realistic terms, the exhausted and discordant Imperials had not been fit to guard the pantry from ravenous children, let alone several isolated sectors from marauders, rogue Republic units, or from the finest automated fleet in the galaxy under Arcann.  Darth Lethash had ordered that the old insignia be abandoned, old protocols and channels wiped, old modus operandi dispensed with. These Imperial units had died with the old Empire, he had declared, but they could be reborn as something stronger, something better. The Valefor was comprised of an intricate set of diplomatic ties between a variety of system states, all helmed by Sith Warlords who ultimately answered to the council helmed by Darth Lethash. Each of these Warlords had their own military forces, naturally, but would now be required to provide men and material for a new, united force that was to be the mailed fist of the League. Intended to fight as a conventional military force, but also as a means of keeping unruly Warlords in line, the Valefor Expeditionary Force was born from the hodge-podge ashes of the old Imperial military.

Ralakan glanced about himself. The men and women surrounding him were predominantly human, owing to the demographics of the region. The Belsmuth sector and surrounding systems had been an Imperial backwater, mostly agrarian or industrial, as their accents testified. The stiff upper lip of the Dromund Kaasian aristocracy was now few and far between, unfamiliar to the ears, as was the working class drawl of Dromund Kaas, Dromund Fels and Ziost's middle and lower classes. The strong Imperial accents still survived amongst the veteran officers and NCOs who had fought in the last war, and was often audible during moments of severe chastisement to a bumbling lesser. He reflected quietly. Few fighting men had been drawn from here for the Imperial military, or at least for the Marine Corps, so far as he could remember. Many of those around him currently had been drafted, to fill the severely depleted rosters. It had certainly taken some getting used to. For the first year he had been constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting to see Lorraine, Reinel or Regus, but was more oft than not greeted instead by a wide eyed and confused looking young man or woman clutching a rifle like a farming implement. They came from a dozen worlds across Valefor space. Some spoke tongues other than Basic, or had complexions and colourings that had been rare back in the Empire. But, we're all fighting for the same home, now, whether we were born into it or adopted it.

"Soldiers of the VEF, eyes front! Your Lord Commander addresses you!" Someone shouted out.
Ralakan glanced back to the front, where the imposing figure of an Echani stood atop a parked transport. His hair was the colour of the snow that fell from above, cybernetics marred his features, and he wore a billowing crimson cape attached to his black body armour. Two silver lightsabers hung from his belt. Excited whispering broke out amongst the ranks. A few of the newer men whispered questions to their Colonel.
"Colonel Walker, sir, is that the High Warlord?"
"Correct, Corporal."
"Bloody hell."
Ralakan smiled. Some astutely noted that this man cut a magnificent figure, silhouetted by the alpine ranges behind him. This was certainly not the first time Ralakan had seen Darth Lethash, but, he did concede that ever since taking the role of High Warlord, the Sith had undergone something of a personal redesign. His voice echoed across the vast open space of the landing pad, no doubt making use of the Force to enhance his oratory ability.

"You come from many different worlds, from many more different nations, and from incalculably more individual homes. You may have once named yourself a Crendian, a Dromund Kaasian, a farmer or an Imperial commando. As of this moment, you are those things no longer. As of this moment, you are a soldier of the Valefor's hegemony, a peacekeeper of our territories, and an enforcer of our will. But ten years ago, the very mountain you stood on was uninhabited. As of five years ago, the planet on which you stand was but a backwater. You have built Belsmuth II into the finest military bastion in the outer rim. As it was reborn, so were you. We entered this crucible as a thousand divided entities, but exited it as a interlinked chain of iron. The last vestiges of the old, false Empire have been burned away, and in its ashes, we have built something better. Your families are richer than they have ever been. None struggle for food or work. They are safer. None worry for the raiders that once reaved these worlds. This was your work. Whether you once named yourself Imperial or otherwise, you have built this League, and now you must fight to protect what you have built. The way of life you have constructed is under threat from enemies internal and external, and now, we fight to defend it."

Nice speech. Ralakan noted, pursing his lips. Lethash wasn't wrong, however. Ralakan had never felt truly comfortable fighting for the Empire. He had been a cog in an infinitely greater wheel that was killing for the wrong reasons. He'd kept fighting only for the sake of the other cogs. He wasn't naive, the Valefor was run by a council of warmongering Sith, but things were better. Non-Sith had the ability to voice their opinions in a way that the Empire had never allowed, and what Lethash had said about the economic and cultural success of the League was, as far as he could tell, true. For the first time in many years, he'd had peace of mind regarding the safety of his own family, for his wife and two new children, as strange a concept as that was.
But what's the rub? You don't mobilize the full strength of a united military force only to commend them on their ability to not get wiped off the map.

Lethash's voice turned cool and serious. "The neighbouring Demetras sector is a grave threat to our security. Their systems are in uproar. Revolutions and civil wars explode across their worlds. This sector was a peaceful one, make no mistake, but should they codify in favour of the false Empire, Republic or Eternal Empire, our borders will be direly threatened. Our worlds will come next, and our enemies will need only step across the minuscule gap between our sectors. Order must be restored to the sector. The old regimes have fallen, and the slate is now clean for new masters to engrave their will. And thus, I turn to you, troopers. We must liberate these peoples and induct them into our League, for our mutual securities. Success in this campaign will bring prosperity to our peoples, and to theirs. You will have the full support of the Valefor's resources, and that of the forces under the command of her Warlords. Time is of the essence."

Ralakan watched in silence, contemplating the rhetoric. It made sense. Unstable neighbours made for an awkward neighbourhood, and the Valefor did not have the raw strength of the Republic or Empire. What he was less sure about was the concept of "liberation". This would be called an intervention or a liberation, but the local peoples would view it as invasion the second the great hulks of the Valefor's navy appeared in their skies. It would be a war for hearts and minds as much as it was for ground. Doubt we'll be the most popular kids in class after this. Ralakan went to scratch his beard as he oft did when troubled, only to find the smooth surface of his face.

Lethash placed his hands palm-in-palm behind his back, looking down upon the legions in front of him with austerity. "You will embark to the fleet in the coming hours, and Operation Thunderbolt is to commence in two weeks. I will be giving this campaign my personal oversight." That comment elicited a number of whispers throughout the crowd. The veterans amongst the crowd did not break their gaze, but Ralakan could almost hear their brows lowering. Darth Lethash was a shrewd tactician and an accomplished negotiator, but the prospect of a Sith dictating this endeavor did little to ease Ralakan's conscience.
"Fortune be with you, troopers, and may the Force serve you."

The Vepar loomed in the sky like a bird of prey, and thus, it had begun.

« Last Edit: 06/11/16, 12:55:27 AM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #22 on: 07/27/16, 07:38:05 PM »
Conventional wisdom states that if one's body cannot tolerate alcohol, one should probably not attempt to get trashed after a day in which everything had been predestined from the start to be a total shitshow.

Sergeant Lena Rueven, however, was nothing if not persistent. She was not normally a foul tempered woman. Indeed, her buddies and those under her command often noted that she was one of the few people that stayed consistently zen and rock-like both in the field and when off-duty, only raising her voice when the ambient volume reached peak levels. Today, however, she glared down at the bottle on the counter, fiddling with it, silently taking out all of her frustration on the glass implement with the force of a thousand thunderously passive aggressive volcanoes. The neon lights of the Coruscanti bar made it difficult to tell the time of day or night, but Lena figured she'd been out for longer than intended. To complicate matters she was still clad in the brown off-duty uniform of the Republic Army's non-commissioned ranks that she was wearing as she had wordlessly stormed from the barracks in the Judicial sector into the open air of Coruscant.

The luminescent glow of the neon lights had started to hurt her eyes. With it had come a pounding headache that refused to abate, having encroached on her like a spectre, strangely coinciding with the starting point of the evening's drinking endeavors. The bar, a smaller venue in the Old Market district, was not hotly occupied. It was a week night, and as was the norm since Zakuul had assumed control, curfew was in effect. A few layabouts and aliens of ambiguous cultural background were yet huddled around tables or drooped across bars, but Lena sat alone on a stool, silently cursing her head, Lieutenant Dornier, Zakuul, Saresh, but mostly herself for attempting to ingest alcohol. She shifted her weight, resting her head on her upturned hand, dark brown hair flopping loosely with the movement. Maybe closing her eyes would help to stop the pounding in her skull.
Nope.
Damn.
She could almost see her father, dressed in his comical overalls, grimy jeans and work boots, offering her a wry remark about the wisdom of her actions. Something like; "Nice to see you makin' friends, honey." or "Who needs enemies when you've got buddies like these?" No doubt he'd see it as some sort of hokey farm wisdom.

Lena's eyes perked up as she heard the familiar rhythmic beats of boots marching in unison, the steady pat-pat-pat-pat echoing off of the durasteel walkways outside. Slowly, she turned around on the bar stool.
If those boots belong to members of the Military Police, she was in trouble. Or was she? This was her first offence, so far as she knew. She'd fought valiantly and nobly for her Republic across Balmorra and a few other lesser known systems, and as far as Lena was aware, her file had never been laid on the desk of anyone she ought to be concerned about. Not that many of those people represented the Republic anymore. If the good God was listening, he took mercy on her, and the boots continued on into the distance.

The God her people had venerated, however, had not been merciful to the Republic. Whilst her world, a small agricultural breadbasket of little note called Carthias, had only been added to the grand collection of free planetary states some few generations earlier, it hadn't been safeguarded from the onslaught of the Eternal Empire of Zakuul and its fleets. Lena and her millions of comrades had fought desperately against the Zakuulians all the way back to the Core Words. As exhausted as they had been after a number of major campaigns against the Empire under Saresh, there was still hope amongst the troops that things could be turned around. But things had quickly deteriorated, until it was clear even to the noblest of optimists (whom Lena counted herself amongst), that this was not to be a winnable conflict.
And even now, some time after the Republic's capitulation, the battles were still being lost. They were not battles fought between millions of men and women, however, but rather between jaded Republic NCOs and the new caste of officers, most of whom got their commission by brown nosing their nearest Zakuulian official. By Lena's estimations, the two made for the bitterest of adversaries. Until today, she had merely watched on with passing interest, continuing to do her job to the best of her abilities, not that Zakuul made that easy, either.

A pang of pain and nausea made itself apparent in her gut, and Lena groaned inadvertently, garnering the attention of the bartender. It appeared her stomach had joined in open rebellion. She frowned.
"Goddamnit."
The bartender, an elderly human fellow, meandered over at the sound of her voice.
"Strange accent on you, trooper. Everything alright?" He asked, tone gruff but familiar, much like that of a well versed grandparent.
"Yes, fine. Dandy." Lena replied, and offered the man a strained smile and a thumbs-up.
His cool grey eyes seemed unconvinced, but still held a mirth to them that Lena found surprising. He stooped over the bar, leaning in. The Sergeant half expected the old man to throw out his back in the process.
"Now," He looked at her shoulders, scanning for insignia, "Sergeant, I don't mean to alarm you, or to turn away good business when I see it, but it appears you'll soon be in no state to return to your barracks. I've not seen you around here before, but, you seem like a good girl. I'd hate for you to be welcomed by the nightly patrols like they welcome forks in their underwear."
Lena smiled wryly.  "Specific example."
The bartender winked. "I figure there must be something stuck up their hind quarters nowadays, and if not an assortment of silverware...well, your guess is as good as mine. My my...what this place was like not even 5 years ago. There was electricity in the air and spirit in the people...now, well..."
"Now we have Zakuul." Lena replied quietly.
"Now we have Zakuul." The bartender echoed.
An easy silence hung in the air for a few moments as Lena and the bartender exchanged weary smiles.



The air was surprisingly crisp in the Coruscanti night.
The boulevards, speederports and walkways of the Old Market sector were nearly derelict. This place had once been a major hub of the region’s nightlife, but now the vibrant street lights illuminated only empty durasteel passageways. Lena walked the quiet sector aimlessly for a time, occasionally taking a sharp turn or detour to avoid catching the eye of a patrol, Zakuulian or otherwise. The fresh air had helped clear her head, at the very least. She had never really acted the rebel before, and now that she had tried it on, she had decided that it didn’t really fit her.
Lena dug her hands into her pockets as she walked through a merchant arcade, kicking absently at the litter that had begun to congeal on the street outside of the various closed shops that dotted the area. The Zakuulians had promised the Republic unity, and in a bitter twist of fate, had succeeded. The Republic credit had dropped by magnitudes, the economy gutted alongside the military. Everyone was slowly reaching the same point of desperate poverty, it seemed.
Lena paused in front of one shop, a bakery she’d once bought a cup of caf from. The windows were shuttered over haphazardly, attempting to cover the clearly shattered glass. The door had been bolted closed, a faded piece of laminated paper stuck to the steel of the entrance, proclaiming it unfit for service or some such.
More likely the proprietor had a disagreement with the local authority. Lena reflected solemnly, sky blue eyes scanning the building up and down. She’d seen what happened to those who spoke out too loudly about the new regime, especially within the military. Their leash was shorter, and was getting shorter by the day.

She set off again, glancing up at the flickering street lights as she went. History and her general knowledge of the area told her that it was a lingering remnant of the last force to occupy Coruscant. The Works beneath this sector was severely damaged by Sith bombardment during the sacking, which marked the end of the Great War. It may as well have been a thousand years ago. To the people still living here, whose ships now dotted the sky was evidently inconsequential. They’d suffered through over a generation of war already, and at least Zakuul seemed somewhat interested in repairing Coruscant’s infrastructure. Her thoughts wandered in tandem with her feet and her eyes as she took her surroundings. The arcade soon gave way to a sweeping mezzanine that offered a stunning view of the Coruscant cityscape. Lena found herself standing by the railing, gazing off into the endless lights. She sighed, and hooked a foot through one of the horizontal beams, leaning on the steel support heavily. She slid a carton of military cigarettes from her breast pocket, fingers dancing across the thin white cylinders, before arbitrarily selecting one.
It met her lips like an old friend, hanging there limply whilst she lit it. Within moments, the smoke was filling her lungs.

The great democracy was still there, in some form or another. Coruscant still stood, as did the majority of the Republic worlds. Zakuul had little need of examples in that respect, only a few worlds had felt the full fury of their war machine. But the people had lost faith. The war against their ancestral enemy, the Sith Empire, had been all but won. And then Zakuul showed up. Cooler heads failed to prevail, and then millions died in fruitless campaigns. Saresh had thrown bodies at Arcann, hoping her wall of corpses would keep out the invaders. Sufficed to say, the harder they’d pushed, the more constricting the fingers around their throat had become.
And the Jedi. The mystical robed heroes, paragons of virtue, defenders of the innocent.
Where had they gone?
Lena didn’t know. They were sworn to protect the Republic. Does that include protecting it from itself?
Many, many Jedi had been killed alongside the soldiers. Their numbers had dwindled and withered, until they’d all but disappeared. One of Lena’s comrades had grimly joked, towards the end, that seeing a Jedi in the wild was like seeing a Krayt Dragon. Eventually, they stopped seeing them all together. Maybe they’d disappeared to join this rumoured “Alliance”, fighting for galactic freedom against Zakuul? Lena scoffed quietly. A nice dream...hard to say if it’s anything more. She glanced up, a sad half-smile on her face. The cigarette hung limply, trailing smoke laziliy into the crisp night air. Her eyes took in the gleaming lights and buzz of Coruscant, but all she saw was a broken, defeated world, full of broken, defeated people. The bartender had been right. The spirit had been bled from the Republic.

Slowly, as she stared out into the heart of the Republic, the realization dawned on her.
There’s nothing for me here, not anymore.
Lena exhaled, long and deeply. She plucked the cigarette from her mouth, and callously flicked it off the edge.
Where had the Jedi gone? Was this alliance a real, tangible thing? And, more importantly, were they hiring?
Sergeant Lena Reuven had no idea, but she intended to find out.

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #23 on: 01/15/18, 02:08:32 PM »
He’d looked for her.

High, low, near, far; she’d eluded him all the way. Sometimes he’d been close (he’d seen her on the far side of a crowd, once), and other times the trail had stopped cold and dead. But he trusted the Force; it had created a bond between he and Zarasmina that extended beyond the words they’d spoken to begin the apprenticeship, as it did with all students and masters of the Jedi. No matter how thin the thread of that bond may have seemed at times, Master Hawking Shatari had never doubted that it would finally lead him and his Padawan back together again. The universe, however, was a rather big and random place that tended to do as it saw fit as part of fulfilling the Force’s greater plan, and as such was not a particularly conducive place for one man searching for his (formerly) teenaged student.

::


Hawking flopped into the pilot’s seat of his too big and too empty Corvette, the Aurochs. The angry looking security forces were barrelling into the dusty private hanger with their weapons raised, but Hawking wasn’t bothered. He flipped a switch, raising the boarding ramp mounted in the ship’s underbelly, which elicited a chorus of swearing in thick, nigh indecipherable Huttese from the rabble below. A blaster bolt slammed into his viewport, fizzling away against the hardened plexiglass. The good Hutts, he’d learned today, had long memories for their friends, and even longer memories for their enemies. The planet his search had lead him to, a delightful hellhole called Diyu, was full of slaves and criminals who lacked a sense of humour. None of them had lacked a sense of humour more than the head honcho, a particularly slimy Hutt called Geero who had a thing for young slave girls. Word on the street had been that he was haemorrhaging “cattle”; someone had been working from the inside to help slaves get off-world. Hawking had come dressed in some “liberated” fine dress wear, putting on the airs of a private royal buyer. As he’d found out, however, tuxedos did not make for good fighting gear. Worst of all, he reflected flatly as he begun to prime the engines, his bowtie hadn’t survived the adventure.
A series of beeps from behind him distracted him from his grumbling. Hawking craned his neck over the back of the seat. “Hello Teeseven.” Hawking said with a smile. The diminutive astromech droid lazily rolled in through the doorway to the cockpit, beeping what the Jedi took to be the droid equivalent of a grunt.
“[Bearded Jedi = alive. T7 Emotions and Logic Core readout = mild surprise, mild relief.]”
“Good to see you too.” Hawking muttered. More blaster shots pinged off the viewscreen as he double checked that his ailerons hadn’t been ripped off by that Gundark after all.
Neither of them said anything for a long few moments. Hawking heard the mooks beneath him trying to bash away at his landing stalks with the butts of their rifles. The less intrepid security personnel continued shooting.
“[Bearded Jedi = Found leads on Z?]” T7 beeped, rolling himself over to regard Hawking with a penetrating glare from his red optical lens. Hawking paused, wondering if he should bother sugar coating it for the droid.
“No. Nothing.” He admitted, offering the droid a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, buddy. She wasn’t here, and I didn’t find anything out from the slaves or the slavers that we didn’t already know.”
T7 beeped sadly. He had belonged to Zarasmina. Or maybe they’d belonged to each other? Hawking had been shocked when he’d returned to find T7 still with the ship. The droid would have followed her anywhere.

There was a sudden bang from across the far side of the hangar. Hawking glanced up from his instruments.
“Ah. Speaking of the slaves…” He said with a smile. The Hutt goons stopped shooting at his ship. Nice of them. Whooping and hollering echoed off the walls of the hangar, audible even inside the cockpit. A sea of people of all shapes, sizes and species dressed in brown surged through the door. Blasterfire streaked out from the crowd. Ah, so they had found the armoury. Hawking heard a series of girlish screams, and glanced at the Aurochs’ proximity cameras. The security guards had dropped their weapons and were running around like headless chickens.
“Probably time we make our exit.”
“[Slaves = free. Geophysical location of Hutt criminal elements = ?]”
“Not our problem,” Hawking smiled, “I just let them out and had a few quiet words with them. Geero is in for quite the evening.” Hawking keyed the engines. The Corvette lifted off the ground and lazily turned around, the nose pointing out of the hangar towards the star filled sky that lay above the harsh dunes of the planet.
“Still haven’t quite fixed the starboard traversal thrusters, huh?” He inquired, glancing at the camera to check whether they were firing. A Hutt goon accidentally tripped and disappeared off the sheer drop outside the hangar in an attempt to grab onto the Aurochs’ retracting landing stalks. The rest of the security force had been rounded up and secured in a shipping container. Hawking had made sure to impart onto the leader of the revolt that most of the mooks were just hired guns and wouldn’t be too interested in dying for Geero. He hoped the slaves would remember that.
“[Task difficulty magnitude = 8.5x without Z.]” The droid retorted.
“Spot on.” Hawking murmured in reply, hitting the thrusters. The Defender Corvette streaked out of the hangar and turned starside. Diyu had been a bust, like every other world before it. Maybe he needed to vet his information better. And yet, every lead he had said she was in Hutt Space.
“All yours, Teeseven,” He said as he spun around in the chair to get up, “stay the course for now. I’m going to make some calls and meditate, figure out our next move.” The droid beeped a flat, unenthusiastic reply as he plugged into the central flight systems. He hadn’t been the same since she’d gone. Hawking knew how he felt.

He wandered the ship aimlessly for a time, trying to get all the information straight in his head. The bathroom held no answers, nor did the meeting room. The holoroom had long been silent (an emitter of that size was too easy to track), and his own quarters had laid largely untouched for half a decade now. The ornaments, souvenirs and other exciting things that adorned his walls had once been milestones for him; all taken from battlefields and strange far flung worlds and ancient ruins. Now, they were mundane, barely more than curios fit for sale at a strange stall in a Nar Shaddaa market, perhaps. Of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen, at least 7 of these things had the potential to decimate entire populations, but-

He ran a hand through his hair. He had valued the quiet of his ship, for a long time. It made thinking easy. In a galaxy torn apart by warfare, it was a peaceful place. But now the war he’d grown up with was done. Replaced with another, which had in turn been replaced with another, which had in turn given way to total subjugation of the galaxy, which had then, finally, ended with the uneasy period of calm they now found themselves in. But it wasn’t victory. In some ways it was even more of a challenge. Tython was devastated, the Order shattered and scattered. The few remaining Jedi could have been anywhere. The whispers he’d heard indicated that many were still hiding; some in the wilderness of fringe worlds, others in the impossibly big crowds of megacities. And yet…he’d abandoned the ones he could locate. The Custodum Enclave. Hawking sighed. That was going to be an awkward reunion. He’d told himself that he was doing the right thing, that more Jedi needed to be found and returned to the fold lest the Order collapse. He’d start with his own student, to prove he could do it, and to make finding the others easier…stupid. Iaera wouldn’t have a bar of that. Maybe it was time to admit he’d been lost in his own hubris.

And yet, Zarasmina was out there. The Force told him that for certain. She was alive, although severely lost. But lost where? Certainly no more lost than he himself felt now. No, if he knew his Padawan, she’d be right in the thick of it. She wouldn’t let something as pesky as total collapse of the civilized galactic order get in the way of helping people who needed help, whether they wanted said help or not. Maybe it was time to check out Lead Whynot, so named due to his belief that had he not found Zarasmina by the time this place looked likely, that was the only thing left to say. It was a tragic place. In truth now half a place, after the planet had shaken itself apart. Between the plight of its original inhabitants in the old war, and now the overwhelming burden placed on its already shattered surface by the hopeless refugees of the new war, it was a place that seemed to attract suffering. Hawking paused on the cold steel bulkheads of the Corvette, and then spun on his heel, heading for the cockpit with new determination. It was just the kind of place you might find a Jedi.

“Teeseven, plot us a course for Makeb.”
The droid seemed unimpressed. “[Makeb = structurally unsound. Value since extraction of isotope5 reserves = little. Calculated likelihood of encountering Z = 0.0054%. Bearded Jedi = sure of planned action?]”
Hell, why not? 
« Last Edit: 01/15/18, 02:14:29 PM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #24 on: 02/03/18, 04:39:43 AM »
The man with the unusual name rubbed his temples in frustration.

The body stayed where it had fallen, still smoking. It had started to smell. It was getting its smell all over the place.
Soon, the entire alley would be consumed by its stench, and the local population would probably be forced out by the raw rankness of the scent. Standard for Nar Shaddaa. He'd liked this place, once, before he realised that the foul smells that belonged to the world had a nasty habit of sticking to clothes, too.

This wasn't how this was supposed to go. The idiot who had just played an instrumental hand in creating this new, frustrating corpse stood over it, and was now attempting to stonewall the unusually named man. Poorly.
"To clarify, you don't know who shot him. No idea in the foggiest."
"Nope."
"Are you sure?"
"Yep."
"You're holding a blaster with clear signs of recent plasma discharge."
"That's a lighter."
"What?"
"Y'know, for lightin-"
"Yes, yes, I know what a lighter is. I've never seen one that looks like that."
"It's new."
"You shot him."

The idiot's eyes grew wide.
"I did not."
"Yes you did. You clearly just did."
"You didn't see it."
"No, but I was right around the corner, interrogating your frien- ugh."
"What are you, some kinda rozzer?"
"And if I am?"
"Then I know my rights, and I know I don't have to talk to you."
"You're not even an Imperial citizen...not that Imperial citizens have those rights," The man said in exasperation to the idiot, "and even if you were, and even if they did, they still wouldn't apply. I'm not law enforcement."
"I think I technically still am, or somefin'. Did the laws change when those fellows in the big white ships creamed the military, booted our behinds and took the Sith to the cleaners? I dunno. Nobody does, with all the stuff goin' on. If you're not some cop, then who are ya?"
"I'm low on patience, pleasure to meet you."
"Right, Mr Lo, I've had quite enough of your questioning, this is a public space and is subject to protections, I will not be harassed-"

A blaster appeared in the man's hand, sleek and black. The idiot's tirade of half-construed legal cliches instantly turned into word salad, and then incoherent noises, and then finally silence.
"That corpse was a source, one that I liked. I'd appreciate an apology."
"A source, ey? So you're not a rozzer, what are ya, some kinda spook-"
"Yes. Exactly. Congratulations, I will now present you with your Imperially certified genius card, which entitles you to specially marked speeder parking in Kaas city, or the bits that aren't covered in rubble anyway, and a free drink the next time you visit the Nexus Room cantina."
"Fantasti-"

Bang.
Thud.


Two frustrating corpses, freshly fallen in the neon lights of the Smuggler's Moon. Some things never changed. The man with the strange name felt a headache begin to form at the back of his head. This was going to be a lot of paperwork. Nobody ever mentioned that part of field agency. You were accountable. For everything. The Navy hadn't been like that, and the Navy Commandos definitely hadn't been like that.

Maybe he was in the wrong job. No, of course not. He was good at this. Damn good.

The man sighed. Sadly, the corpses couldn't simply be left here. Somebody would see them, and probably scream or something, and then complain, which would find its way up the chain, probably to him. Someone was going to have to clean this up.

"Amanaki, this is Boogie, I'm going to need some street cleaners. Yes, send the burly ones, please. The packages are rather big, we'll need some muscle to move them. Yes. Right. Right. I hardly think that's fai...oh, come o-...fine.  I'm well aware of what the Sphere has mandate- yes. YES. I know. The Hutts are more than welcome to choke on their Mantellian spice weasel-alright. Alright. Secure channel, I'm aware. You're at the Dancer's Palace? Drinking what? With who?"

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #25 on: 02/18/18, 03:48:05 PM »
(( https://youtu.be/B5SbVN2wY6o?t=38m36s ))

She missed nature, sometimes.

Coruscant was nice. It was a marvel of engineering and home to trillions. It housed the Enclave she called home, the people she was duty bound to protect, and the titanic industry that made her life amongst the stars possible. But it had no trees of its own, no mountains, no rivers. The Coruscanti skyline cut an amazing figure during the day, and a truly unforgettable one at night…but sometimes she longed for a simple black sky pinpricked by distant suns, unblemished by the unceasing pollution of light that came with the greatest city of them all. It was hard to think in this place, sometimes. You never felt alone, surrounded by so many people and so much activity, but Aspasia had never done her best thinking around other people anyway. Quite the opposite, really. So when the opportunity had come to get away for a bit, she’d taken it without a second thought.

::

The girl sat on the deck of the modified freighter-turned-luxury vessel, lounging on a chair that had once been the most comfortable in the fleet, or so the pre-flight instructions had insisted. It was stained, now, and had evidently been chewed on by something. The padding was spilling out in certain places, and it had a must to it that was impossible to ignore, but she’d sat on worse, and was grateful for the opportunity to take a load off. The wormhole of hyperspace rushed past through the ship’s frontal viewport. The dials around her pulsated light from their LED fittings slowly and serenely, autopilot engaged. Aspasia wasn’t here to fly the ship, nor was she here to keep the company of a crew, or even a captain. It was an automated ship in need of supervision, manned only by a crew of government owned droids, running senatorial business to…somewhere. She didn’t often ask where. A volunteer had been needed, so she’d volunteered. She’d even worn her robes; brown and loose fitting as they were. Badge of office. She mused to herself. The grand, flowing outer layer of her robe lay draped across the chair behind her. It had been enough for the Senator in question, he’d wanted a Jedi, and hadn’t stopped to ask about rank or responsibility. A Padawan was as good as a Master, she supposed. Of course, the Jedi would likely see that differently, as would her Master. Masters. She hadn’t specifically told them she’d be going out to do this. Nor had she the last 3 or 4 times. 

“Ughhhhh.” She groaned. Ye came all the way out here to think, idiot. So think. Reflect. Don’t go runnin’ from your feelings. She kicked a leg up on the console, being careful not to let the twin lightsabers in her lap spill onto the bulkhead below. Still half-constructed, there were plenty of ports yet uncovered, and this ship was dusty as hell. She didn’t want to think, not about that. Not about the searing disappointment she was sure she’d seen in Ran-del’s eyes, not about how wrong she’d been about Sibyl-ko, not about the frustrating amount of sense Iirim had talked. Certainly not about Master Hawking Shatari and the conversation Iirim had calmly-but-firmly suggested she have with him. And most absolutely not about how she’d been acting recently and how completely, undeniably awful she was at being a Jedi. Being young was hard, they’d said. Being a Jedi was hard, they’d said. But bein’ a young Jedi… She groaned again, and rubbed her eyes in frustration. “You’re your own worst enemy, Spazzie.” She mumbled to herself. You should be better at this. You’ve been taught to be better at this. You know better than this. So why can’t I get it together?. Why indeed.

“Ugh.” She kicked her feet up and off the console, where her boots thunked to the floor. She carefully slid her lightsabers back onto her belt, and then yanked her boots free of her feet. The bulkhead was cold beneath her toes. Time for a walk.

::

The corridors of the ship were narrow and lined with tall, elegant plexiglass windows. She’d forgotten the name of the vessel, and only half remembered the intended mission and destination of the craft (something about retrieving a personal assistant’s “personal items” from the Senator’s private station), but she was glad to have the escape. It was different out here. The cool bulkheads and steady hum of the engine weren’t quite a substitute for grass beneath her feet and the sun above her head, but it was quiet, and most importantly, straightforward. There were no moral dilemmas to confront out here, just peace.

Aspasia wandered the corridors aimlessly for a time, sticking her head into random rooms and compartments, looking intently for nothingness and finding it in spades. She hopped onto the Senator’s couch. She poked his pillow. She briefly considered drawing a moustache on the grand, incredibly poorly crafted portrait of him that lay in the central hold of the vessel. The droids had no interest in her. Some of them beeped at her, but binary remained foreign to her ears.

Why was she such a screw up? I was gettin’ better at all this. She lamented as she perused the Senator’s bookshelf. He owned thirty-seven copies of his own autobiography, and had autographed all of them. She should have been happy. She’d flown the other day for the first time. She’d investigated the hold of a mysterious shipwreck near Coruscant, and potentially saved lives. She’d met an ancient machine. And then killed it. No. We killed it. And it asked for it. Literally. She corrected herself glumly. She hadn’t been thinking that way when she’d met it though. She’d been afraid. Machines, she had learned, were smart. But that one had feelings, and held concepts of philosophy that even some organics had trouble understanding. It had been designed for war but lost its taste for it, it had come to understand the harm it was doing, and it had wanted out. That was terrifying. And to make matters worse, it had been Iirim’s droid that had ultimately euthanised it. No, she’d seen a threat, and would probably have moved to take it out had Ran-del not stopped her.

The thought made her burn with shame, even alone, even days after the fact. He’d been disappointed, she’d known it. Maybe she’d never been the most lateral thinker, but she wasn’t dumb…but letting her fear rule her like that? Like she had been for a while now? That was dumb. Real dumb. It hadn’t been the first time, either. She’d lost count of the people who’d told her to believe in herself in recent times. They’d also said she was young, and shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Nobody was perfect, some had said. Jedi make mistakes too, others had said. Her mind drifted back to the conversation she’d had with Iirim, as she left the Senator’s library in search of his movie room. Maybe he’d have Captain Blitzer.

“Do ye worry for our souls?” She repeated to herself, letting her voice echo throughout the halls of the ship. She’d asked that of Iirim. A Jedi harnessed incredible power and incredible responsibilities. Our decision makin’ has to be flawless. She ruminated. The Order had entrusted her with those powers. They’d trained her for this, given her license to do good as she saw fit within the confines of their philosophies and the Code. The Force had a plan, she was not the director of the show, merely a piece to be guided in the grand orchestration. Or something.
“Soooooo,” She uttered as she wandered, voice singing a dry melody, “who messed up when the Jedi burned down my kriffin’ home?” She spun on her heel, pirouetting like a dancer, hands outstretched, fingers cutting through the cool, artificial air. She’d asked that of Iirim too, although a little more politely. Aspasia found herself standing in the central atrium of the ship. It was a large room, but surprisingly bare of the ostentatious trinkets the Senator had lying around elsewhere. A large window crested the top of the room, letting the brilliant light of hyperspace flow in to illuminate the centre floor. She danced her way over, bare feet skipping and hopping. Her mind wandered too.
“Whose mistake was it when my brother died instead of me? Was that the Force? Or was that the Jedi? Doesn’t seem like a very Jedi thing to do, but I ‘spose the Force doesn’t make mistakes.” She asked of her assembled crowd of nobody. “My Masters think I should let go o’ that. You’re one with the Force now, Ashton, they say.” She explained. “Of course they weren’t there, and I’m not sure how much they believed of my story. Probably not the bit about ye getting’ eaten by those monsters, and stoppin’ ye from joinin’ with the Force. Or maybe you did.” She sighed, and ran a hand through her hair, standing in the shimmering blue and white light of hyperspace. “Be nice if ye answered me one of these days, y’know. I miss you. Thought I saw you on Ossus, too, when I found my crystals. Our crystals, I ‘spose. Think one was waitin’ for you. Doesn’t like to be activated when the other isn’t.”

She received no answer.

“Not like you to shut up for so long. Seven years? Unheard of.” She joked, smiling sadly to herself. “There’s a girl at the Enclave now, by the way. She sounds a bit like us. We had a go at each other, ye’d like her. Apparently Maguire wasn’t just known as properly evil only to us, turns out these people are our cousins or somethin’, and were convinced that home was some sorta demon backwater…guess they were right.” She laughed, her voice echoing down the hallways.
“Ugh. What are you doin’, ‘Spasia.” She sat, flopping down under the skylight.
“Saying to yourself what you should probably have been working through with your fellows in the Order, Padawan. Assuming you want to ever get past this block.” The voice echoed out from nearby, catching Aspasia completely by surprise. She shot up from the floor, alarmed.
“AGH- What- who-? Master Shatari?”

And so it was.
Master Hawking Shatari appeared in the light of the central atrium, appearing from around a corner. He wore a simple tan tunic, his lightsaber hanging from his belt. She hated it when the Masters did that, and really hated when they were smug about it. Aspasia sighed. “Hi, Master. Sorry. Didn’t realise there was anyone else on the ship.”
Hawking smiled, jade green eyes meeting her own. She didn’t trust them, not entirely, but they’d seen the galaxy a hundred times over. They beheld her, considered her.
“I’m sure there’s a lesson in there about attuning yourself to Sense.”
Aspasia cleared her throat. “Right. Aye. Sorry, Master, I ‘spose I was…uh…distracted.”
“So you sounded. Please, sit.” Hawking wasted no time himself, sinking into a cross-legged position. He patted the floor beside him. Looks like she’d be having that conversation after all.
She sat, flopping slightly more ceremoniously to the floor this time. “Excuse the bluntness, Master, but what are ye doin’ on the ship?”
“Catching a ride. I have business in the sector, all that secret squirrel stuff that Master Farworlder and I have been embarking on. It’ll make a great holo someday. It so happened I knew the Senator, and heard there’d be a certain errant Padawan on security today.” He replied wryly. Aspasia had no idea if he was joking or not. She never did, nor did she like being the butt of his jokes. He was too familiar for someone who’d been gone for years, and for the man who’d come to Maguire.
“Right.” She replied coolly, avoiding his gaze.
Hawking was quiet for a few moments, but not uncomfortably so. She disliked that, too.
“You’re carrying a lot, Aspasia.” He said finally.
“Perceptive, Master, aye.” 
“Please, there’s no need to be hostile. I think we’re overdue a chat, don’t you?”
Aspasia sighed. Grow up, Spazzie. How many times do Ran-del and Miller need to hit you over the head before you embrace common courtesy? He was right. He wasn’t her enemy.
“I…do, Master Shatari, yes.” She replied slowly.
Hawking turned his gaze upwards, looking out at the currents of hyperspace.
“Your introduction to our ways has been…well, a tornado as opposed to the regular light breeze we prefer to induct people with. The Force has embraced you quickly. Probably a bit too quickly.”
“The Force, Master? Or the Order?” She inquired, blowing a strand of hair from her face. She felt him looking at her.
“The Force, Padawan. Your transition into the Order has been exemplary, by all accounts. Given the pressure you’ve faced and the adversity inherent in emerging from where you did…you are on the Path to becoming an excellent knight, Aspasia. I believe that. But learning to listen to and understand the Force is a lifelong endeavour-”
“Ah. So you’ve been keepin’ tabs, then? Easier to do that from a distance, I guess. Or were you happy with the hand ye played, starting me off on the Path? Pluckin’ me onto that Drey while everythin’ was burning around us?” She said quietly. She regretted the words even as she spoke them. She barely knew the man, and he had saved her life, even if it had come at a terrible cost. But no, maybe she needed to work through this. Honesty was the best policy.
Hawking frowned lightly.
“I kept my distance for a few reasons, Padawan. Maybe I was incorrect in doing that, but-“
“You were the first Jedi I ever saw. You and Zarasmina,” Aspasia interjected coolly, “you were nearly dead, everything was on fire, and it was your student offerin’ me her hand and a way out of the mess her master had made. I didn’t forget that.”
Hawking said nothing, merely studying her impassively.
“That’s not to say I’ve got a grudge or anythin’ against you,” Aspasia said quickly as she realised how she was sounding, “but…Master Shatari…ye killed my planet. My brother, my Da, everyone. Even if you didn’t mean to, and it didn’t sound like you did…that’s what happened. And I swore my life to servin’ the Order you represented, even after seein’ that, because you saved me. But…how am I ‘sposed to reconcile that? Can I reconcile that?”
The light played across his features, and Aspasia swore she saw his eyes glint, just so.
“Do you know where I went, Aspasia? When I disappeared from the Watch.”
She didn’t. Nobody had. “No, why?”
“I left to find Zarasmina. Perhaps I’ve worded that differently in recent times, but that was the crux of it. My student was, and is, out there. I took an oath to teach her and protect her, that’s true. She’s the future of the Order, that’s also true. But so are you. And from what you’ve said, and how you’ve felt, and from how I left Zarasmina on Maguire…”
Aspasia’s eyes widened slightly. That selfish bastard.
“…you’re tryin’ to make amends.” She said slowly, in disbelief. “You know you messed up on Maguire, and so you’re tryin’ to, what, apologise? To who?”
“To-“
“To yourself!” She interrupted, getting to her feet. “Do you even care about what you did to me? How hard you’ve made my trainin’? The doubt and the pain I’ve felt? I’ve been carryin’ all that for…years! I came to peace with it right up until you came back-and now you’re tryin’ to save face? You’re responsible for my induction, Master, but to bring on someone with all that shite bubblin’ under the surface…I’m a fallen Jedi waitin’ to happen!” The words tumbled out of her mouth, half articulated and emotional.
Hawking stood, slowly and quietly. He looked down at her. Aspasia shrunk, just a bit. Had he always been that tall?
“Maguire was my fault. Your brother’s death was my fault. Zarasmina disappearing was my fault. But your induction to this Order was not a fault, Aspasia, and it was not an accident. Are you the first?”
“What?”
“Are you the first Jedi to have lost someone? To have lost everything?”
“Well, no, I don’t think so, but-“
“But what?”
“But…” Aspasia floundered for words. She felt tired, and confused, and just a little bit like crying.
He put his hand on her shoulder gently. His palm was warm. “You’ve lost, you’ve suffered, and you’ve sacrificed. Such is the life of a Jedi. But you’ve given, and you’ve gained, too. I heard about the mission you undertook just recently, how many lives do you think you saved?”
“I…dunno.” She hadn’t stopped to think about it.
“If the mission report is accurate, that fleet AI still had access to the vast majority of its systems and suites. Coruscant was only a hop and a skip away. We don’t know for certain, but it could yet have caused serious damage.”
“That wasn’t me. That was Ran-del, and Sibyl, and Iirim-“ She retorted, before being cut off.
“But it was you too. You were there. You saw, you spoke, you acted, and you learned. You’re learning every day. Our way is not one that’s mastered overnight. As hideous as that cliché is, and as frequently as I’m sure you’ve heard it, it’s true. Your challenges have been arduous, but you have the strength to see them through. You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, so she said nothing.
“I am sorry for my role in what transpired on your planet, Aspasia. I am, truly. I spent four years considering my role in that disaster as I recuperated. My body suffered as your planet did. I wondered how I could be so idiotic, how my decision making could have been so poor, how I could have been so thoughtless and callous and rash. But what I have never questioned is why we were there. We went to save a generation of Force-users who were being persecuted and killed. The Force led us there, and the Force led you from there. It was your destiny to serve its will and help others, even if you couldn’t help the people you loved.”
He exhaled, letting his hand return to his side.
“You haven’t disappointed the Force, yet, Aspasia. If you had, it probably would have conjured a lightning bolt from the aether to smite you down. Your Masters know that, and I think you know that. I think they also know how much you despise being talked at, as I just have, so perhaps I’ll leave it there. But know that you’re a fine student, Aspasia, and a woman with a good heart. As much as I hate to admit it, the duty of the students is to supersede and improve upon the failings of their teachers. I presented you with a hell of a failing, and you’ve been improving upon my mistake ever since.” He smiled.
“I…just…” She grasped at the air, looking for the words, “…miss him, Master. My brother. The Order is my family now, but…I wish he’d been here to see it. All of it.”
Hawking’s eyes drifted down to regard the twin lightsabers on her belt. He quirked an eyebrow. “Must I say it?”
Her eyes trailed down likewise. She’d spent a lot of time around the crystals that languished within those housings in recent weeks. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence after all that she’d found two. What was she saying? Of course it wasn’t. The Force didn’t work that way. She smiled.
“Don’t think you do.”

::

He left shortly after that, leaving her to her thoughts. They had talked a little more about the details of that fateful mission; of what he’d found. There wasn’t a whole lot she hadn’t heard from others, but it was nice to hear it in his words, and especially to hear about what he’d thought of Maguire. He talked about the meditation at the crack of dawn, about the beauty of the forests, and the way the moon had gleamed on the fjords. He mentioned the hospitality of the townfolk, and the simple “charms” of Maguirish food.

That had helped, Aspasia thought as she reclaimed her robe and her boots from the cockpit. It had been a selfish doubt, all this time, to assume that the Jedi had blundered in and destroyed something thoughtlessly. That was not the Jedi way. A Jedi appreciates the nature of all things, Miller had once told her. So maybe things really had been that bad, and maybe, like that droid, it had been a necessary mercy. It wasn’t the best option, Hawking had said that himself, but it also had not been the worst.

Aspasia sighed, and moved to sit down again as the ship shunted out of hyperspace. She was used to it now, but that deceleration from lightspeed had once kicked the small girl from that small, strange world on her ass every single time. The metallic grey and neon pink visage of the luxury orbital station came into view, slowly orbiting a world of brilliant greens and deep blues. It looked pathetic next to the planet, really, and Aspasia found herself wondering why anyone would bother staring down at such a gorgeous planetscape when they could walk its surface.

She hummed to herself for the next half-hour as the droids did their thing, retrieving whatever sensitive material the Senator had lied about reclaiming. She suspected it was underwear. The planet rotated slowly beneath her, teeming with life.
I’m ready. She realised. I think I’m finally ready to go back. Hawking had suggested as much. It was the final piece of the puzzle for the closure she sought. She didn’t know what she would find there, and neither had he, but they’d agreed that should she truly wish to finally move on from the ghosts of her homeworld, she should probably visit the graves. To be a Jedi was a journey, Ran-del had told her, albeit in a more flowery, poetic and emphatic fashion, as was his style. To walk the Path was to do so in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. There is peace, She recounted to herself.

In a galaxy torn apart by war, strife and loss, that didn’t sound so bad to her.
“Peace.” She murmured.
Time to go find some.

::
« Last Edit: 02/18/18, 04:02:10 PM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #26 on: 04/18/18, 06:36:45 AM »
@blingdenston


"What's that?"
"Dunno. Some tapestry Knight Qardaak and his Padawan brought back from some mission. Came with a map."
"What kinda map?"
"Dunno. Didn't ask. Looked old, got told not to accidentally drool on it. Stupid archival duty."
"Wizard painting though, wonder where it's from. Looks old, and what kinda fabric is that-"
"Yeah...she didn't like looking at it, kept avoiding it."
"Who?"
"The Padawan."
"Weird. She threatened to punch me for cutting in front of her while in line for rice back on the Watch. Wonder why she's afraid of a picture. What's her name again?"
"Something foreign, but screw her, she was always too rough during sparring. And she was older than all of us!"
"Maybe we should sneak it into her quarters, put it up above her bed. See who's tough then."
"Nah, I've been assigned to the archives for long enough already. You feel free though."
"She's been looking pale, though, hasn't she?"
"Who?"
"The Padawan."
"Yeah, I guess she has."
« Last Edit: 04/18/18, 05:10:39 PM by Hawking »

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire

Offline Hawking

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Re: Tales from the Shatari Legacy
« Reply #27 on: 05/28/18, 07:56:01 AM »
"Aspasia! Padawan Maguire!"

Reading time was over, it seemed. Aspasia sighed and closed the book she'd been attempting to get through, yet another ancient and crumbling tome with a whimsical, flatulent writer who seemed more interested in putting together incomprehensible sentences than expounding anything useful to her. The sound of bare feet pattering rapidly through the aisles grew louder as the source of the voices closed in on her. She rubbed her eyes, feeling tired. They hurt. The fluorescent lamp she'd been reading by continued to bare down on her furiously, totally unphased by the dark night sky of Coruscant that lay beyond the thin windows of the archives.
But are they thick enough to contain this kriffin' brick? She pondered, hefting the dusty tome in her hand. Probably. It was disintegrating in her hand as is. Not that it had been of any use. Just like all the others, it had mentioned Maguire exactly twice. Both references had been in passing, and one, she was pretty sure, had been a typo.

Aspasia glanced up, weary, as a pair of young teen boys blasted around the corner.
"Gods above, slow down! The Archivist may not be here but ye know she's got cameras set up. And even if she didn't, she'd somehow figure it out anyway." Aspasia hissed as the boys slid to an awkward and uncontrolled halt in front of her. The excitement that had been etched on their faces vanished immediately, replaced by solemnness. They fixed her with a look.
"Are you threatening to dob on us, Padawan?" Asked the smaller one, a scruffy human called Adem who'd been plucked from the lower levels of Coruscant. His tone was somewhere between puppy dog and mafioso, and his face couldn't seemingly decide whether he was trying to plead or intimidate either.
"And if I am? You pair of ratbags could use a few more months in here. I was stuck here for-"
"A year, or whatever, we know." Replied the other, a tall and proud Kiffar boy called Caiyo. He wore his hair like Master Vos, and conspicuously lowered his voice to a deeply unconvincing macho growl whenever the older Kiffar was around.
Aspasia crossed her arms and put on her best high-and-mighty Master voice. "And look at me now. My time in these hallowed halls taught me patience, virtue and humility. Somethin' that you two could use."
They stared at her until she gave in and cracked up. They joined her, their laughter echoing around the cavernous space.
She recomposed herself, grin still etched on her face. "What've ye got for me, o minions of mine?"
"Well, firstly, think we need to renegotiate the whole 'minion' thing,' Adem started, 'it's demeaning. And illegal. It's basically the same thing as slavery. The only servitude we do is service to the Force. For the Force. Or whatever. Also slavery is illegal.'
"Not in my archives." Aspasia growled jokingly.
"Not your archives. Just because you've slept on half the books and kissed that one boy down here when you were a kid doesn't mean they're yours."
"Allegedly." Aspasia replied, clearing her throat.
Rat bastards. Never should have told them that.
The pair exchanged a look, suppressed a fresh bout of laughter, and then returned their gazes to her.
"Got some news for your master, figured we'd tell you first."
Ah.
"Right. Glad you're both loyal enough to not do the right thing and go above my head-"

"They're too boneheaded for that." Came a voice, rich and warm, echoing from behind the boys. A girl walked in, dark of skin and with thick braided hair. The boys grinned, and Aspasia smiled.
"Evenin', Luk, just chastisin' our proteges. Apparently they've got somethin' interesting to tell me."
Padawan Lukhanyo Imawe strode over as she usually did, quietly and with the grace of a nexu, all poise and total, easy confidence. She was a fresh transplant to the Enclave, having arrived with her Master. They'd been all over the galaxy since the war against Zakuul and subsequent cleaning up, apparently, but had decided to return to the fold when they'd heard that the Custodum was making overtures to reintegrate with the Republic. Aspasia liked her, it was nice change of pace to have someone her age around again.
"Cool, I heard the racing around and assumed they were breaking things again. Go on then, don't let me interrupt." She cracked a smile, and Aspasia laughed.
"That was one time. And it was worth breaking. That Maguire stuff was creepy as hell. No offence, Spazzie, but that carving was in my damn dreams-" Caiyo protested.
"None taken. Believe me." Aspasia replied, smile faltering slightly. "Is that what this is about?"

Caiyo and Adem pursed their lips in unison and glanced at each other.
"Uh. Sorta. Guess we have two things."
Lukhanyo watched the pair with amusement, before her gaze settled on Aspasia. She said nothing. Aspasia smiled again, but felt uneasy. There'd been a recurring pit in her stomach these last few weeks, but she hadn't been able to put her finger on the what or why.
"Suspense is killin' me, boys."
They exchanged looks, and then spoke at the same time.
"The scans from the droid came back, it found heat signatures. We think there's something alive down on Maguire."
"We think the SIS is spying on the Enclave with senatorial and military backing."
What?
"What?"
"See? Told you I should go first, she's gone all pale again-"
"She's always pale, and Master Hantso taught us to get to the point first, but to soften it-"
"You think that was softening it?"
They continued bickering, hissing at each other.
"Boys, boys-" Aspasia protested in vain, attempting to get their attention without having to throw a book at them.
"You may need to repeat yourselves, gents, we're getting a bit old and hard of hearing." Lukhanyo interjected calmly, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. The boys shut up immediately.
How does she do that?

"You first, Adem."
"Right. Uh. Life on Maguire. We picked up positive thermal readings in the woodlands on the southern continent right before the probe got sucked into the nebula and eaten or whatever. Council wants someone to investigate. Uh. Carefully, after what happened last time."
Aspasia blinked, and felt herself exhale dramatically. She felt as though she'd just been slugged in the stomach by a heavyweight boxer, the wind knocked out of her.
"See? You killed her. Definitely pale. Nicely done, kathshit."
"Language." Lukhanyo interjected. Caiyo rolled his eyes and looked to retort, but instead fell silent.
"Spazzie? Y'hear me?"
"Aye. Yeah. Just...bit to digest. They want us to investigate? Me?"
"Well, you and your master, and whoever else wants to go, yeah. You know the place." Adem replied flippantly, looking pleased with himself. "Dunno why you're looking so grim about it. Not everyone gets to go to haunted planets, could be...uh...enlightening."
Stupid heart, stop racing. Been thinking about this for ages anyway, was only a matter of time. She breathed, and collected herself.
"Right. Maguire. Noted, thanks Adem."
Lukhanyo shot her a searching gaze, cocking an eyebrow. Aspasia ignored her, and turned to Caiyo.
"And you, Vos Jr., what's this other pressin' business?"
She saw his eyes light up at the mention of the name Vos.
"Oh, you know, the usual." He replied gruffly.
"I don't, that's why I'm askin'. And why you were in a rush to tell me."
"I heard some Shadows who are here on loan expressing some concerns about the SIS and military presence in the Enclave and on the Watch. They reckon we're being spied on. Council agrees."

That didn't surprise her, and certainly didn't knock the wind from her body. She'd felt the eyes. They all had. Ever since the Watch had been 'given' a delegation from the SIS and Republic Military, things had been different. The Jedi weren't distrustful by nature, quite the opposite, and the current times dictated that they work with their Republic allies to the best of their ability...but she'd heard some of the Masters expressing their concerns, just quietly. The garrison was getting nosy, and unfamiliar faces had started popping up in places they weren't necessarily welcome to be.
Not that we can say anything about it. They'd look secretive, opaque and elusive if they raised a stink. She'd never understood until recently why people didn't trust the Jedi. Aspasia didn't subscribe to that viewpoint (how could she, now?) but she was beginning to see why some folks felt that way. The last thing they needed was the public hearing from some jacked up senator that the Jedi had hijacked a Republic war vessel and refused to hand it back-
"Aspasia?" Lukhanyo's soft voice interrupted her line of thinking, and Aspasia snapped back to reality.
"Sorry. Processin'. Right. Military and SIS spyin' on us, what else is new?"
"That's the kicker. They thought it was just some bad edds or something in the departments who were getting a bit too curious-"
"Bad eggs, Cai." Adem corrected.
"Whatever. They think it could be a team now. Like a coalition of snobs from the government, spies and soldiers who have been put together to keep an eye on us. Because we're that dangerous and awesome."
Aspasia exchanged glances with Lukhanyo, wary.
" 'Spose we are, aye. But remember, boys, they're our people too. We're sworn to protect 'em."
"Someone tell them that." Adem deadpanned.
"We're trying, Adem." Lukhanyo replied with a frown. "There's a lot out there you haven't seen yet. You'll get your chance soon."
"Not if they're confined to the archives for spillin' secrets to Padawans who don't have clearance." Aspasia replied wryly. Lukhanyo shot her a vaguely disapproving look. Aspasia shrunk a little.
"But...uh...thanks, boys. I'll pass word along, and let the powers that be know ye did a good job delivering the message. Might get you out of here and doin' somethin' interesting sooner rather than later."
That seemed to reassure them. The two exchanged grins.
"Just doing what we do, Padawan." Caiyo replied coolly, before offering her a lazy bow and zooming off around the corner again.
Adem sighed, shook his head and regarded her. "Please don't bring back another tapestry. We filed the first one away under lock and key but I can still see it in my mind."
"Yeah."
He offered her a nod, and then stomped off to track down his compatriot, slinging obscenities.

Aspasia scratched her neck awkwardly as silence fell between the two Padawans. Lukhanyo looked at her, smiling slightly.
"You handle them well."
Aspasia couldn't help herself but laughing. "Hah! You're...jokin', right? They tear around like a pair of cats in a holobooth, bloody miracle nothing is destroyed on a daily basis. That's not even mentioning the swearing, filing things in the wrong place, dropping things, falling asleep..."
"Familiar story, from what I hear. Not so different to a fiery little blonde girl who was constantly assigned to and from the archives in her yore."
Aspasia waved her off, cracking a crooked half-smile.
"Different enough. They're a lot less stupid."
"Nobody thinks you're stupid, Aspasia, certainly not the Masters and Knights. On the contrary. I've heard they're looking at speeding up your training, they're impressed with your progress. Might not be too long until you're knighted." Lukhanyo grinned. She was charismatic, that girl, but something about her still rubbed Aspasia the wrong way.
"Representin' the Enclave's Knights, huh? Nah. Not yet. That'd mean I'd have to be takin' on the responsibilities of talkin' to the public and helping with recruitment. I'm happy to wait a few years, maybe until the whole PR disaster blows over."
"Could be waiting a while. And the Order needs capable servants. As I hear it, you're more than ready."
"You're a flatterer, Imawe." Aspasia replied dryly, smile slowly fading. Lukhanyo's brown-orange eyes met her own amber-gold, studying her. Aspasia felt an odd chill race down her spine.
"Just a realist. Think we're a bit devoid of numbers currently, and we're the next cabs off the rank. Same thing happened during the Great War, and that was the generation that gave us Master Farworlder, Master Shatari and Master Jalth. We'll show 'em up, somehow. Maybe we could all have two lightsabers instead of one or something."
Aspasia chuckled, but the pit in her gut returned.
"Aye. Maybe. Or use...force pikes or somethin'."
"Hah! Yeah, maybe."

Silence reigned for a long few moments, before Lukhanyo thumbed over her shoulder.
"Alright. Better get going before my master puts out another all-points bulletin. Get yourself some sleep, Aspasia, you look tired. I'd recommend an actual bed."
"Right, way ahead of you." Aspasia replied with a yawn. Lukhanyo offered her a two-fingered salute in farewell, which Aspasia mirrored.
Weird. I knew Jedi from beyond the Enclave were different, but...weird. Still. Jedi were Jedi in this day and age, as divided and strange as things were.

Maybe that was enough.
::

Characters:

-Hawking Shatari, Master of Myserty
-Aspasia Maguire, Smack Talker
-Rieko "Boogie" Black, Agent of the Empire