It wasn’t as if they had nowhere to go. As the water splashed off the basin in the background, Mrysti stood with her hands over her head applying the dye; getting frustrated. She slammed the bottle down as she cursed.
“Kriff this!!” Her hands on both sides of the basin as she sagged at the shoulders allowing her head to sag as well, looking at the water as it ran down the drain. Vander wasn’t far, he heard her curse and grimaced sadly. There were so many things going on with her he didn’t know where to begin. This was now his burden to bare and would be for the rest of his life most likely. He accepted that, it was part and parcel of loving her; something he did not want to give up even with all of the issues with Mrysti and her family.
The frantic call, the meeting outside the estate on Tatooine as Arcann destroyed the last remaining resistance headquarters. More symbolic than anything, Arcann launched a counter-offensive throughout the galaxy, all in response to Porchia’s need to recover Marstel’s body. She poked the proverbial bear and ‘The Coalition’ paid the price. Not that Mrysti had to be worried about replacing her as Commander. Even if “The Coalition’ headquarters hadn’t been completely annihilated; Porchia was cooling her heels in a Republic cell. Arrested by her cousin and Mrysti’s nephew, The Jedi Master and Investigator; Beta Alpha.
But that was the least of Mrysti’s worries, she had said nothing about Dremmess being at the scene of the headquarters destruction. No one asked, least of all Karolin, but he could see the writing on the wall and the look on Mrysti’s face. The fallout from having Dremmess show back up was just beginning. Just reunited, Karolin didn’t want to risk alienating her sister once again. She said nothing, only walking away after Dremmess showed up. The most damning action came from Dremmess herself, as she approached Mrysti looking up at her. Mrysti played that memory in her mind as she sagged over the basin releasing a haggard sigh.
‘Where is my Husband?’ she had said. Vander didn’t actually hear Dremmess speak at all, it was all a look. But everyone else heard it; maybe it was a ‘Force’ thing. He could never be sure with those types. Mrysti had no words. It was why she supposedly killed Dremmess, for RT; for the myriad of things Dremmess had done to the family, for driving RT crazy, for causing him to try and kill himself and eventually driving him into insanity. Love did crazy things and now Mrysti knew exactly what all of it was about. As Vander loitered outside the door, she looked up and back at him smiling weakly.
“Credit for your thoughts, baby…” Vander approached running his hand over her bare back, past the lines of scars and marks a life of hardship had brought. It was a tender touch, he said nothing else as Mrysti looked back down in the basin and sighed again. “It’s going to work out. It will…Arcann took nothing we can’t replace. We built a force, we will do it agai—“
“This isn’t about Arcann!” Mrysti pushed off the basin, her naked form and half dyed hair trailing in her wake. The attempt to do anything, even dye her hair back to red a distraction from what was plaguing her. Vander knew what it was, he frowned and leaned against the basin folding his arms.
“You want me to finish that?” He spoke softly looking at her now blood red hair as it dripped coloring all over the pristine glossy floor. Mrysti turned around forgetting that she was even dying her hair and nodded slowly. She approached him, head down and turned her naked form to lean against him tilting her head back as Vander picked up the bottle and began to shake the contents to reform the coloring.
They didn’t speak for a while as he applied the dye and ran his fingers through her hair making sure to blend it squeezing clumps of her hair together to even out the dye in her strands. “I don’t know everything…” Mrysti turned her head slightly to look as Vander placed his whole hand on top of her head to turn it back forward, rather forcefully. Mrysti frowned and allowed him to push her head straight, this was going to be a one way conversation. “What I do know is…ya need ta talk ta Karolin. I saw the look on her face when that woman showed….”
He didn’t know and he didn’t need to. Mrysti tilted her head down as Vander continued to apply the dye, the liquid now running down her back as it began to look like streaks of blood on a green surface. The web of lies she told, the things she did because she felt she had to and now she had to face them. Allowing Dremmess to live was not something she ever thought she would have to face. Remembering the moment before she stopped herself; Dremmess grabbing her abdomen and crying out from the ground for Mrysti to stop. ‘I’m pregnant!!!’ she said. It was the only thing that stayed her hand.
‘You will go away, far away…and never return…’ Mrysti spoke those words as she laid her hands on Dremmess’ head. The powers of a Jedi Consular twisted by the power of the Dark Side. So many times Dremmess’ mind had been played with, Mrysti was a fool to think that at some point it wouldn’t come home to roost. Unconsciously she shook her head.
“I’ve really kriffed up this time, Vander. I don’t know if I can recover from this.” She spoke as Vander continued his work, she could almost feel him thinking as she awaited a response, none came and Mrysti raised an eyebrow. His silence meant he was waiting for her to answer her own statement. She was getting used to this side of him, the warrior giving way to the ‘contemplator’ – ‘The Thinker’ only he wanted her to be the one to think about it. “I should have killed her…I know I should have. I don’t regret what I did, she was pregnant after all. Something inside…” She rubbed her abdomen unconsciously. At the time, Mrysti was incapable of having children. It wasn’t until much later and another accident that her biological systems were repaired to allow her to bare children. Thinking back on it, Mrysti knew what stopped her. Something inside, the Force itself staying her hand from severing Dremmess’ head from the rest of her body.
Mrysti sniffled a moment as a tear streaked down her face and she quickly wiped it away. Vander saw, even though she attempted to hide it. There was so much more to this and he knew at some point Mrysti would have to tell him all of it. She started by speaking softly, “I took…the baby. I didn’t kill her…but I—“ Mrysti turned abruptly and threw herself in Vander’s arms hugging him tightly; the dye flinging out and around them both as the blood red of it scattered about the basin and over them both. She spoke again, muffled in the shoulder of his shirt. “I killed that child. I couldn’t allow it to live, Vander…not after what she did. And now I—“
Pulling her off of him he shushed her with a finger to her lips. A warm smile coming to his face. What she said was alarming and it was only the beginning. He was not going to stifle her running his ‘blood’ soaked hands through her damp hair.
“It’s going to work out…I promise you…”
Carrack Station, Republic Space…
Having not even returned home yet, Karolin kicked over the bags, still packed from her honeymoon as she moved from the bridge of her ship. ‘Home’ an often used word, but what did it mean really? Her and her new husband had not really established where they would eventually call home, taking up temporary residence in the reconstruction district in the financial sector of Coruscant. At least that’s what he told her; temporary until they could move somewhere else. But ‘Home’ would eventually come. She smiled to herself and swayed a little thinking about it. Home was now where he was. ‘Home’ would be with him no matter where they decided to hang their hat. Aldurion was now Karolin’s ‘Home’.
Perplexed was hardly the word that came to mind as Karolin disembarked and walked quickly from the hangar on Carrack Station. Porchia was still cooling her heels in a Republic jail cell, it was why she was on the station. ‘RT’ had requested to see her. But Karolin’s mind was on other things. Thinking about RT; about that designation of Porchia’s boyfriend, fiancé…whatever he was supposed to be called only made Karolin think of one thing. Her brother and Dremmess’ return.
She didn’t have the chance to speak with her on Tatooine, still too much in shock from the destruction of the compound and seeing Dremmess. It made feelings she hadn’t felt in a long time resurface, like a long lost love that returns from a war; Dremmess’ return made all of Karolin’s feelings for the woman wake in a dream state. Something her now ‘husband’ could plainly see. She told Aldurion to let her deal with it in her own way and he agreed; not truly understanding what was going on. Karolin had given herself to him, completely and that would never change. But as a creature of emotion she could not turn off her feelings upon seeing Dremmess. It wasn’t possible. And her sister, Karolin now realized what a web of lies Mrysti had told to them all to make everyone believe Dremmess was dead. It infuriated Karolin, but just getting reunited with her sister she couldn’t bring herself to lash out; simply walking away from her to process.
The door to the lift slid open as Karolin activated the holo-pad to get up to speed on what had taken place concerning Porchia’s arrest. It seemed like a distraction next to everything else running through her mind, but she needed focus to meet with RT; whom she was sure was going to beseech her to talk to her Son on Porchia’s behalf. Activating the pad, Karolin read the original message again and grimaced as her eyes went over the words.
<<Mother, it is with a heavy heart that I send this. But, Porchia left me little choice. Enclosed you will find the review of my investigation and what led me to her. I can't begin to explain the damage she's caused us all and brought us to the near brink of war once again. A war, that by the time you receive this may already be underway....>>
It was underway and as Karolin stepped off the lift on the Promenade level, she was shocked to see the station near deserted. Everyone, soldier and civilian alike now responding to Arcann’s counter-offensive throughout the galaxy. Porchia was responsible for it all. But even the fact that Porchia tried to frame Karolin for murder, just to lure her out of hiding paled in comparison to Dremmess’ return. Her eyes went back to the words as she slowed her walk to read it once again. Porchia was angry, filled with vitriol for both her and Mrysti at abandoning her after the events on the landing platform. She didn't regret leaving, she did regret not giving an explanation to Porchia. At the time, there was far too much pain involved on everyone's part to even voice it. And the hatred between Mrysti and herself causing them both to walk away and go off on their own.
In a way, Karolin now felt responsible for everything happening to Porchia, but she wasn’t the only one to blame. Mrysti held a part of that too, abandoning their niece when Porchia needed them most; at Marstel’s death. Karolin frowned as she continued to read, getting down to the last portion of the report. The part about an 'unknown' party present during Porchia's arrest. It was a note that Beta purposefully left out. Karolin stopped cold in the breezeway, as she read the name and nearly dropped the pad as her hand came to her mouth. Again in the second time in as many days, feelings of the impossible rose in Karolin.
The voice that came in behind her was warm, rich and full of life. It made Karolin begin to cry as a tear leapt from her eye to flow freely down her cheek. Memories of the person who now spoke to her came rushing back as she turned around with a start.
"It's not impossible…I--” The words had a bite to them as Dremmess stood in the breezeway and glared. She didn’t want to talk to any of them on Tatooine, she only wanted to make her presence known. A way of saying ‘hello’ and letting them all know she had returned. Porchia told Dremmess something that had been plaguing her since the moment of her return. She didn’t ask them on Tatooine; at least not verbally, but the time had come to face Karolin and confirm what she already knew.
Not letting her finish, not even allowing her to get another word in Karolin dropped the pad and rushed to Dremmess. A tight warm embrace, more to make sure that she was real. Karolin began to cry uncontrollably, unable to speak. When she was finally able to, she did so still holding Drem tight as never to let her go again.
"I am so sorry. I should have--"
Dremmess peeled Karolin off of herself to give her a glare. Karolin could feel the coldness of the stare and the impassiveness of Drem’s feelings. Though the words didn’t match the impression she was getting from the other woman, "It's not necessary, I know I should be accepting an apology for something, but...I just don't know..." She touched her forehead as Karolin wiped her face watching her. Again a rush of memories as Karolin began to think back on Dremmess’ mind wipe, losing her memory only to regain it and go off to rescue her then husband, RT. She frowned at that thought in the end as Dremmess looked up also looking like she was going to cry out, but for a different reason.
"I don't know what to say, Drem...so much has happened, I don't even know where to begi--"
The eyes were different now, a pale blue. Something lurked behind them as Drem stared at Karolin intently.
"You could start by telling me--is it true?? What Porchia said?"
There was some idea about what Drem was asking, but Karolin couldn't be sure. Looking into her eyes she finally knew exactly what Drem was asking about and Karolin nodded somberly, her head and eyes drifting downward and away from Dremmess in shame.
"It's true. RT is gone..." Karolin quickly reached out and grabbed Drem's arm, "..but, he didn't die in vain Drem! He gave his life so that the rest of them could get off the planet. He sacrificed himself for all of us.”
Ripping her arm away, Dremmess grit her teeth. "And it was this 'Arcann'? He was responsible?" Karolin nodded in response as Dremmess turned to walk away.
"Wait?!?! Where are you going. DREM!!! Stop....you just got here, I haven--let me explain!"
She did as she was instructed, stopping only to cast a vicious look at Karolin. A look that stopped Karolin in her tracks.
"I am going to kill him."
Dremmess turned herself back around, facing away from Karolin as she was preparing to leave.
"And tell Mrysti...she should have killed me while she had the chance." she added, finally departing.
Though she was able to put on a warm smile, and act like the pleasant woman she had once been...that's all it was, an act. Everything she had been through, that brought her to this moment had changed her once loving, compassionate heart to a stone cold one. All the horrid acts she had committed, and the ones done to her had altered her. Dremmess was no longer held back by her consciousness, by putting others before herself, hate replaced love, rage replaced kindness. She would take no second thoughts destroying anything...or anyone...that got in the way of what she wanted these days.
"You idiot..." she muttered, stalking off towards her ship..."You just /had/ to be a hero again, didn't you? You couldn't have been selfish this one time, and think of yourself...surely you knew nothing would ever keep us apart...not even death, RT." her arms went rigid at her sides, her fingers closing into a tight fist, so much so that the fabric of her gloves creaked as they strained to hold together from the pressure.
"We will see each other soon, my love..." releasing her fists, she brought her hands up to put her hood over her head. "Even if I have to bring you back from the dead myself..." a wicked smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she reached her ship.
Karolin watched her leave, the meeting with RT would have to wait. Quickly she activated her holo-comm typing in her sister’s frequency.
“Mrysti…it’s Karolin. We need to talk about this…”
“The strike team will form with the sole purpose of—“
“Commander!!! Enemy ships in sector…uh…well, EVERY sector. We are surrounded…”
The resistance commander looked back on his people, his eyes focusing on the newcomer.
“Well Master, you picked a heck of a time to join us. I did say this wouldn’t be boring.”
The team got up from the briefing, everyone rushing to battle stations as the men and women prepared to depart. Dremmess rose slowly and smiled wickedly at the Commander.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way…”
#12650100 Aug 23, 2016 at 10:29 PM · Edited over 1 year ago
The bell chimed three times as the court began to fill once again. Preliminary arguments were done and Porchia was led back in wearing her ‘Coalition’ jumpsuit; a uniform unrecognized by the judges who sat on the court; all of which were Republic military officers.
She took her seat delicately and fought to hold her tongue, the urge to scream out the same as the moment it started. This whole affair was a farce as far as she was concerned. The Zakuul had started a counter-offensive that had yet to drag the rest of the Republic in. Word had reached Porchia that her headquarters had been annihilated. Luckily the death toll was minimal. Early warning systems getting the majority of the people under her command out before the strike. One of the officers hammered the gavel three times as he looked at the rest of the court with a stern gaze.
“I call this Tribunal back to order. Arguments on charges have ended and we are prepared to move forward with th—“
Alarms interrupted the rest of the Judges’ statement as every looked up and over at the screens which began to show the orbiting Star Fortress start to spin and power up. The laser launched from the bottom of the platform as the room began to shake. The Attack on Coruscant had begun. Standing up, Porchia looked at the Judges and gestured at her shackles, “You were saying, your honors?”
Of the five strike teams, Dremmess was but a small part. She played the part of ‘nameless’ Jedi among the masses until the fifth ship attached itself to the Zakuul Command Ship. Apparently someone was manipulating the battle and it was shifting by the moment. Time was short as Eternal Fleet ships began to fire on one another. There was confusion from everyone involved, who was the enemy and why was it happening?
Dremmess let it wash over her. Her objective was laser focused and as the hatch to the ship opened to the inside of the Command Ship she jumped out and joined the others in fighting off the skytroopers, only to look up and sense the direction she needed to go.
With a little Force enhanced speed behind her, she left them and ducked into a ventilation shaft, jumping upwards with the Force. This was the direction to the bridge and her target. Today, was going to be the first day of the rest of Arcann’s life.
With the chaos of the attack to the surface, Mrysti was able to ignore the markers and landing protocol taking her ship directly into the atmosphere. She hovered outside the window of the apartment as Karolin emerged with Aldurion right behind her. They entered the balcony and both jumped from it onto the already open ramp; making their way directly to the bridge where Vander and Mrysti waited for them.
“What’s the status?” Karolin asked before anyone could say anything.
“Looks like Star Fortresses dun powered up all ova…” Vander spoke as he flicked switches and made the ship ready to re-enter the upper atmosphere. He turned around to look at Aldy and Karolin. “Thing is…we ain’t sure if it’s Arcann ‘er ‘sumthin’ else…The Eternal Fleet is attackin’ itself in some spots.”
“Could be a coup.” Aldurion spoke plainly. The ship started to rise as Mrysti moved it up and away from the building.
“Either way, we are not going to make the main battle. It will be over before we get there I believe. Still…” Mrysti moved the yoke as she spoke nodding to Vander to begin hyperspace calculations, “…I think Odessen is where we need to be. The main Alliance resistance was stationed there.”
Karolin grimaced as she sat, Aldurion was the only one to notice as she lightly closed her eyes and sighed.
“What?” He asked, laying a hand on his bride’s shoulder. Karolin continued to frown as she opened her eyes and looked at the back of her sisters head.
“Dremmess is there.” That made Mrysti turn around, the two sister’s eyes meeting each other’s gaze, but not saying anything. The look was enough. The fact that Dremmess was somehow taking on Arcann meant she planned on taking him out. Mrysti and Karolin were about to be robbed of that victory. Karolin didn’t care, it was Mrysti who scoffed and turned back forward as the ship made its way to the hyperlane.
“She has no idea what she’s up against.” Mrysti looked back again at Karolin, “Did you try to—“
“Of course I tried, she wouldn’t listen. You know why she’s going there…” Both sisters nodded. A woman scorned was more dangerous than any force in the galaxy. Dremmess was a widow. A widow who was bent on avenging her husband.
The ship started to speed up as it entered the hyperlane and Vander punched the hyperdrive. Streaks of light blanketed the outer viewport as the ship launched on its way to Odessen.
All around her the ship was rocking from explosions, some sounded different than others. The Command Ship being attacked by the Alliance and its own Eternal Fleet. Dremmess glanced at her chrono, she was running out of time. A shard of the ventilation shaft penetrated at an odd angle as a gaping hole opened up and seemed to swallow Dremmess, hurling her down below deck and into the midst of a horde of Skytroopers.
They turned on her immediately after identifying her as a target. She moved with lightning quick speed phasing in and out of existence; half in and out of the current physical plane and merging with the Force. Her dual saber seemed to be everywhere all at once as Skytroopers exploded around her. The whirling and spinning blade the only thing that could be seen from holo-cam.
Watching the Holo, Vaylin placed a hand to her face. ‘Who was this?’ she thought. Watching the blade spin and never getting a clear view of who was wielding it. They were obviously on course to come to the bridge. Looking over her shoulder, she glanced at her brother. This wasnt going to be her fight, she had larger issues at the moment. Their Mother was on board with one of the strike teams and it would be a final showdown between Mother and Daughter. Still, she looked back at the screen as the blade stopped moving, the smoldering remains of a legion of Skytroopers the only thing left as the blade wielder phased into shadow and disappeared.
Waving her hand over herself, Dremmess cloaked her movement in the Force phasing into shadow. She avoided most of the traps and stealth detection technology; occasionally opting to be seen instead of trying to make her way around something. Attacking decisively, Dremmess struck the shield controls and listened as the ship board systems began to shut down, the vibrations of the explosions intensified. Knowingly she just shortened her time on board the ship, but Dremmess didn’t care. Her objective the bridge. If the Alliance didn’t destroy the ship first, Dremmess would make it to the bridge; if not the ship would be annihilated. Either way, in her mind, she would win.
-- The door to the bridge shut automatically as the ‘Shadow’ approached. Arcann moved toward the door, ready to face whomever was coming, but he had no control over the emergency bulkheads that shut in the case of fire or decompression. It was happening all over the ship. He caught a glimpse of the person on the other side a split second before it shut, not someone he expected or recognized. Still, he took his saber from his belt and activated the yellow blade. Either way, they were going to get through and he would have his vengeance.
As the door shut on her, Dremmess got a glimpse of the man responsible for her husband’s death. He looked partially mechanical and as the door slid shut she smiled wickedly toward him. That mechanical part of the ‘Emperor’ no doubt in place because of her husband. He was about to meet the other half of that team that gave him that arm.
The door started to heat up, it began to glow and turn a bright orange as Dremmess plunged one half of her lightsaber through the other side, twisting and turning in place to make the metal heat and get softer. Arcann took a ready stance as the door began to glow even brighter, he twisted the saber in his hand and glared. Taking the saber out, Dremmess backed up and jerked her hand back, still holding the dual saber in the other hand. She launched a massive blast of the Force toward the weakened bulkhead door as it imploded inward. In an instant, she was right behind the debris launching herself in time with the shards, bringing the saber up and across herself as she phased into the Force, moving with almost inhuman speed.
Arcann only saw a brief glimpse of her and twisted in a circle slashing outward and through what he believed was his assailant. Dremmess phased back in behind him landing after the flip in the air, she slashed toward him, as Arcann barely brought his own saber to his back in a vertical guard, the Force telling him where he needed to be. Already Drem’s hand was out as she pushed him back with a massive blast of the Force, spinning the saber in the other hand to bring it back to a dual handed grab and across her body. The two glared at one another.
“I don’t know you…”
Arcann’s words fell on deaf ears, “AAARRggGGHHH!!!’ Dremmess launched again spinning her saber in a pinwheel and criss-cross in front of her. She phased again, as Arcann deflected the blow and launched himself up and out of the way to land on the upper terrace, near the Command console. As Dremmess phased back in, Arcann launched his hand out. Yellowish-blue lightning charging toward her from his fingertips. Dremmess rolled out of the way as the lightning began to track her. She spun her blades again, this time deflecting the deadly lightning back toward its source. Arcann grimaced in pain as the lightning arched back and hit him. He clenched his fist in pain.
“You have the taint of my mortal enemies upon you. But, it’s no matter…one Alpha is as dead as another.” He launched himself up, grabbing his saber in both hands to try and smash down on Dremmess. As he landed and the sonic ‘boom’ of the landing echoed out, he realized the ‘Shadow’ was not there. Dremmess rolled, phased out and rolled back in slashing with a spin. In a flash of sparks, Arcann’s arm was sliced from his body. He dropped the saber to grab his stump as Dremmess finished the spin with a kick to his midsection sending him flying backward. She could have very easily impaled him with her saber, but it was too soon for that.
Weakly, Arcann stood; still holding the stump as he looked down at his attacker. “W-who are you?!!?” he demanded. Even with his arm severed there was still fight left in him. Dremmess smiled wickedly as she slowly lowered the saber and started a slowly walk toward him. Arcann watched her, trying to figure out who this ‘Shadow’ was. One who could merge in and out of the Force and seemed to attack everywhere and nowhere all at once. Mentally he had been preparing himself for a different kind of battle, nothing like this. He backed up a step as Dremmess slowly made her way toward him, again recognition of a sort hit him and he let go of the stump of his left arm to touch his cybernetic face.
Dremmess watched him, her smile getting broader. ‘He knows’, she thought, now making her way up the stairs toward him. Arcann shook his head, it didn’t matter. That trooper who killed himself to stop their advance on Korriban accomplished nothing. The Eternal Empire still won, the Core Worlds still fell. But Arcann kept his hand on his cybernetic faceplate a moment longer. That trooper nearly killed him.
“My name…is Dremmess….” She stopped and brought her saber back up, the red glow of the blade casting her face in a wicked pallor. “…you murdered my husband.” Dremmess stopped, as her chest heaved; the grip on the saber tightening,
Dropping out of hyperspace right in front of the explosive cloud, streaks of light gave way to a light blur as the Command Ship and its accompanying Eternal Fleet escorts all exploded simultaneously.
“Kriff!!!” Mrysti jerked the yoke sideways sending the ship into a flat spin trying to avoid the oncoming explosive cloud. It started to surge toward them gaining power as all of the hyperdrive cores of the Eternal Fleet exploded creating a ripple in space. “Hold on!!!” She jerked the yoke backward gaining control of the ship and running the underside of her starship along the rim of the cloud that threatened to overtake them.
“Yer noh gonna be able ta outrun it!!!” Vander yelled as he grabbed his control yoke and pulled with her, they had to try and get to the top of the cloud.
As it hit them, the ship rocked violently and again spun out of control.
“Thrust!!! Push through!!!” Karolin reached out in her seat as if she was piloting only to be pulled back by her husband. They were on the edge of the cloud as sparks flew and systems exploded in the cockpit.
“I don’t need any back-seat drivers, Karolin!” Mrysti remarked as she did exactly what her sister suggested, hitting what was left of the thrusters to push through the edge of the cloud. The ship slammed down violently out of the cloud on the other side as it continued to move through the sector. A silence fell over them all for a moment before Mrysti unbuckled to go to the aft part of the ship. Vander followed right behind, extinguisher in hand.
“Looks like we missed the party.” Karolin stood and watched the rear sensor as the cloud made it out of range, their ship now listing aimlessly. The sound of Vander and Mrysti putting out fires in the back all background noise. Aldurion touched his head, standing to look at the sensors with his wife.
“Look at that…” Aldurion pointed to the screen as several other ships were making their way out of sector. It hit Karolin like a tidal wave of the Force as she looked at one signature in particular, touching her temple at the same time.
All around her, the ship was coming apart. It was the ship that robbed her of victory as the Alliance Commander called for a general evacuation of all personnel. Drem grit her teeth and started toward the raging fire. Twisted metal and shards of debris clouded her field of vision, somewhere under it all lay Arcann. She couldn’t be sure, but she no longer sensed him among the living, but not yet passed into the Force either. The final piece of roof fell almost on top of her as she rolled out of the way blocking the doorway. It was time to leave regardless.
All other Alliance personnel were gone as she made it to the docking bay. Quickly she jumped into the cockpit of a sloop and slapped the buttons to activate the engines in sequence, rocketing out of the hangar just as it exploded behind her. The entire fleet was about to go up in flames.
She flew past the rest of the Alliance forces, there was no need to join up with them; their purpose having been fulfilled. As she moved away and toward the hyperlane, she looked to her left another ship just coming out of hyperspace. Smiling wickedly she knew it was Karolin and Mrysti, late as usual. She didn’t linger hitting her thrusters to rocket past them and around the incoming cloud as the fleet exploded.
Wiping her hands on a rag, Mrysti came back into the cockpit with stains and soot all over her. She let out a heavy sigh. “We have station keeping thrusters and standard drives, but the hyperdrive is shot. “ Vander came in and dropped the toolbox at Aldurion’s feet.
“C’mon…boyo, less make ourselves useful.” Gesturing for the Sith Lord to follow him as they disappeared down another hatch. Karolin grimaced as the men disappeared as she looked at her sister.
Mrysti knew they were going to have to talk about it, especially since Karolin sensed Dremmess leaving the sector. She wasn’t going to let her sister get the upper hand as she plopped down in the pilot’s seat and started adjusting controls.
“You think she got him?” Mrysti said without looking back at her sister.
“I no longer sense him and I have more a connection than most thanks to his broth—“ Karolin stopped talking and sat back, placing her head in her hands to look at her sister, “You should have told me. Everyone thought you killed her, including RT. He died thinking you killed his wife and he never forgave you for—“
“Oh shut up!!” Mrysti flipped around in the seat, “He knew, at the moment of his death…he knew. I could sense that he knew.” Both sisters stopped talking looking down for a moment before Mrysti looked up angrily. “Besides, who are you to tell me—“
“The Damn leader of the Family, that’s who?!? Damn you Mrysti…why?!?! Just explain it to me and I will understand, I promise you.”
Mrysti turned back to the controls, for a moment Karolin thought that once again her sister clammed up. Then, Mrysti began to speak.
“After you told me to let her go, I got angry. It was not a stretch to think that with an Imperial Warship in my command that I wouldn’t go after her. It got me relieved after all, going after her; using Imperial assets for a personal vendetta…still…” She continued to move her hands over the controls, slowing and finally stopping. “I found her on a mining outpost, her ship was damaged from my attack and I tracked her trajectory. When I arrived, she tried to fight. There was something different about her, weakness…sadness? I don’t know. “ , Mrysti dropped her hands to her lap. “”My saber was at her throat, I was about to sever her head from her body…” Mrysti fell silent.
Karolin scooted a little further forward in her seat watching her sister. Mrysti seemed to swallow hard and then gasp as she choked back tears, looking up at the ceiling. Quickly she wiped her face to hide that fact before continuing. Turning around in the seat Mrysti looked Karolin dead in her eyes.
“She was pregnant. And the child was NOT our brother’s…still, I could not end her life.” Mrysti finally looked away after the hard stare. Karolin sat back in shock. There were unanswered questions, but Karolin was not going to push; she realized she wouldn’t have to. Mrysti had come this far, she was going to finish it. “So…” Mrysti let out a sigh and turned back to the controls recomposing herself and spoke quickly, “…I wiped her mind and took the child. There, end of story.”
Karolin stood rather abruptly, “You did what?!!? Took?!?! What do you mean 'took'? You mean kille--” She laid her hand on her sister’s chair to spin it around to face her, “Tell me you didn’t—“ Karolin put her hand over her mouth, “—you did…”
“Yea, I did…” Mrysti grit her teeth so hard they threatened to snap in her mouth, “And I have regret about it, especially—“
“—now that she’s back! Mrysti, no wonder she is out of her mind. You did that…you are going to answer for it, I promise you.” Karolin didn’t say it as a threat but more of a sad warning. She brushed her hands through Mrysti ‘s red hair as the larger sister folded in on Karolin's stomach and sobbed; Karolin caressing the back of her head. “Shhhh…I want to thank you for being honest with me. But now, we have to find a way toward forgiveness for what you’ve done. It will not be easy, but I will help you find a way.”
<<<TRANSMISSION FROM THE ETERNAL THRONE>>>
<<< People of the Empire and Zakuul, a great tragedy has struck us once again. The Outlander allied with the Forces of the Republic and the Empire have tracked and killed your beloved Emperor Arcann. I Promise you, these perpetrators will be tracked and dealt with as will the outlaw governments of the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic…
As your new ‘Empress’…I promise to bring peace and stability to the realm. >>>
<<< ALL HAIL, EMPRESS VAYLIN…CORONATION TO TAKE PLACE 2345.16 GALACTIC STANDARD>>>
<<< NOTE: Attendance is Mandatory>>>
The message broadcast on all frequencies was heard across the galaxy. The loudspeaker in the ship played Vaylin’s voice for all four of them to hear as everyone on board turned their attention to the ship wide communications.
Mrysti slumped in her seat, for the first time since all of it started six years ago she had nothing to fight with. Karolin placed her hand to her jaw as she considered. The Zakuul had done their work, ‘The Coalition’ was done, there was nothing left of their former force. As Karolin pondered she had an idea, a long shot, but still. Before voicing it, Vander and Aldurion rejoined them on the bridge, the four looking at one another.
“We could join up with tha Republic…I got favors, we could call ‘em—“ Vander stopped speaking as Mrysti shot him a glare.
“One thing is sure…” Aldurion looked at all of them, “The time to strike is now, before the Coronation ceremony. She will be most vulnerable right now.”
“Yes, Aldy…we know that, but with what? Other than Vander’s ‘favors’…” Mrysti shot another glare at Vander as he shrugged. It was a thought, but he knew Mrysti would never go crawling back to either the Republic or the Sith Empire for support. Abruptly Karolin left the bridge heading for the holo-comm station.
“Where is she goin?” Vander queried as they all watched her leave.
-- They busied themselves repairing the ship. Neither sister speaking about Mrysti's confession. The men sensed something had happened between them, Aldurion and Vander not speaking to them about it. Both deciding silently that it would be better to approach that at a time when they were all not in such closed quarters. The time passed, all of them wondering what Karolin was busy organizing and Karolin not giving any answers, just strange smiles. Even Aldurion was in the dark and he knew Karolin almost as good as anyone.
Dropping out of hyperspace in front of them, the Republic Valor Class Battleship blocked out their forward viewport. Its shadow took up the light of the nearest star as Karolin walked back in, a wicked smile on her face. It had taken fourteen hours since her initial holo-call for the ship to arrive and during that time she has successfully kept the secret to herself.
“This is your plan?!?! You waited fourteen hours to tell me you were going to holo the Republic anyway—“ Vander slapped Mrysti on the shoulder gesturing for her to look out of the viewport.
“Look. Tha’s noh a ‘Republic’ battleship, it may be Republic class, but that ain’t Military….” Mrysti leaned up and looked out of the port toward the ship. The markings were different, the configuration of the weapons looked haphazard and thrown together, some more lethal looking than a standard Republic ship. As Mrysti watched and tried to make out who was coming to their rescue, the Comm system activated on override. The crackling sound gave way to a voice, one that was most definitely not Military.
< ”It is our continued pleasure to serve the daughters of the ‘Queen’….this is the White Maw Battleship ‘Alexandra’ standing by for your orders…”>
Slamming her fist down on the table, Mrysti stood up and paced away from the rest of them. At the oval shaped table, a gathering of Captains whose allegiance was to the pirate organizations making up the White Maw and several other nefarious organizations; Karolin, Aldurion and Vander. “This is stupid!! Even IF the Eternal Fleet is at half strength; do you really think a fleet this small will even get close to the spire?!!? We have done this before and all of us were nearly killed!” She glanced at Karolin, the memory of not so long ago; trying to rescue her sister after the debacle on Mirial coming to mind. Mrysti glared at them all as Karolin sighed and lowered her gaze.
“What difference does it make?? Really? If we give them time to recover after Odessen we set ourselves up for failure. There is no better time than right now.” Mrysti placed both palms on the table and glared, she was about to make an argument as Vander stood and looked at the gathered forces, smiling warmly. He shot a glare at Mrysti before speaking, a silent warning to 'stay quiet'.
“Would all ‘a you ‘cuse ‘us’ a momen…I would like ta ‘ave a word with my lovely ‘companion’ here…”
Slowly, everyone got up and made their way out of the room. Holding her tongue until everyone left, Mrysti moved over to the bay viewport looking out into the hyperspace lane. Streaks of light cascaded around as they passed through the lane on their way to Zakuul.
“Ya kno…they say ya look a’ tha long ‘nough, ya go crazy…” Vander moved up along side of her and placed his arms around her waist.
“This is tactically dangerous. We don’t have the forces or—“ Vander spun her around as she spoke pulling her into a kiss. He held her tightly; her resistance lasted only a second before she melted into him finally grabbing him just as tightly. As he pulled away and released her slightly, still holding her waist he smiled, brushing a lock of her hair out of her face. She bent her head as both touched and she smiled, a slight giggle escaping. "You always know what to say." She joked. There were lots of things she wanted to say, none of it relevant at that moment. They still had not spoken of what transpired on the ship. The both of them setting certain things aside in lieu of everything going on. Their heads touched for a long moment, before she closed her eyes softly; there was something she needed to do and no amount of explanation or talking would change what had to happen.
“I kno it is…we all do. But, tha time es now. We do it or we don get another chance. And there is no one better ta lead this whole thing than hugh.” He let her go as he moved off and started for the door, his intention to let everyone back in. Mrysti grabbed his arm and pulled him back toward her.
“And you..you are going down there?” She shook her head, “You should be leading this, from here…I can go and—“ He smiled and placed a finger to her lips. "Vander, I--" She smiled again, "There are so many things I need to explain and I feel as if I may have run out of time."
“Shhh…no. Imma Soldier, love. My place es on tha ground. Hugh and yer sister ‘ave this…I will due my part, just like always. Nuthin’ has changed…” Vander tried to pull away again, this time Mrysti pulled him more forcefully. She fell back against one of the terminals in the room and Vander into her as she frowned.
“Something has changed…” Her eyes were sad and wide, “I’ve been foolish, with us, with everything…I never realized it until just this moment.” She looked down and away from him as Vander watched her curiously. "There are things I know I need to tell you, things I need to do or say--I--" She fell speechless again, the nagging thought of the decision she had already come to not able to be translated into words. Her mind drifted to the Cantina on Carrack, when she wore the dress for him; trying to drop a hint as to what she wanted. There were thoughts of the first time she saw him, escaping her life to run away and go dancing with her sister or when Vander walked back into her life and together they founded the resistance together. But the one thought that stuck with her was the first time he picked up and held Samantha, that look he gave his daughter and then to her. She knew it was going to be forever. Why had she waited so long?
“Wha ‘r ya tryin ta say love?” Mrysti seemed to sink back further in to the panel as she slid down slightly, her leg coming up to pull him directly into her as she curled it around him. Lightly she brushed the back of his head, her fingers lightly in his hair.
“I’m saying--NO, I’m asking..." She smiled again as her voice fell to a whisper, "I need you to come home and if you don’t…I don’t want this to be ‘it’ for us. So before you go…” Mrysti nudged him with her nose as she slowly opened her mouth and kissed him softly, “…I need you to say ‘yes’.”, As Vander returned the kiss, for a moment he didn’t quite know where she was going. She kissed him tenderly, gently until his eyes got a little wider.
“Will you marry me, Vander Kell…make me the happiest woman in the galaxy…”
The two of them stopped in the passageway. Vander said very little to Aldurion about the ‘topic’ that both of them walked in on, on the bridge of Mrysti’s ship. It was something obviously personal between the two sisters. But lacking the Force, Vander was understandably curious and he knew Aldurion had more of an idea because of the Force than he did. Before he could even voice it, as both men exchanged nods to one another coming to a slow stop by one of the bulkheads, Aldurion looked down and shifted from one foot to another.
“It was obviously something very personal…and no, I have not asked her. In this case all I got was the tension in the Force between the both of them.”
“Es noh mah business…jus wish tha woman would confide ‘a bit ya kno?”
Aldurion smiled wryly at that comment, “They are both headstrong, but I believe it is one of Karolin’s most attractive features. If she was only a beautiful flower, I would have only a passing interest; much the way you would with an actual flower.”
“True…buh still. Ya gotta kno sumthin? I mean, I cannae ask Mrysti anythin’ at tha momen’. She’s in tha ‘mode’.”
They both smiled at one another, the conversation on at least that much over. The ‘mode’ Vander was referring to was Mrysti's predilection to cut herself off from emotion prior to a battle. She saved it all up, the rage, the anger…all of her hate; only to unleash it at the onset of battle. Vander had seen it before, he knew what Mrysti did prior to battle and had become quite used to it. Karolin was just the opposite, quite composed, quite calm and then the raging storm that seemed to come from nowhere. They both knew the ‘topic’ no one was talking about had something to do with the woman who showed on Tatooine. And they both knew her name was Dremmess. Aldurion paused and raised his hand offering it to Vander.
“It appears you have the more difficult job, my friend…” Vander took the hand.
“Tha’a depens on tha whey ya look ‘a it boyo…sumone has gotta stey an keep ‘em both in-line till I locate tha target.” He shook Alderion’s hand firmly before he let it go. “I’ll see ya on tha surface, lad.”
“Try not to get yourself killed before we arrive, ‘Commander’.”
Dawn, it struck suddenly from Vander Kell’s perspective as he and the rest of the makeshift force launched from the assault shuttles. Standing alone at the docking bay port, Mrysti placed her hand on the window and watched, she had a sense of foreboding watching him leave, but the Force told her nothing. Gently, Karolin ran her hand up Mrysti shoulder finally squeezing.
“Just another day at the office…” Mrysti turned and gave her sister a sad smile, “C’mon…lets do this. We have a would-be Empress to dethrone…”
Taking one last look at the armada of shuttles leaving their Battleship, Mrysti frowned. She could only feel as if she should be by Vander’s side as he left, but that was not her duty; not this day. Touching the window, she whispered.
“All my love…”
Without coordinated effort, the Eternal Fleet turned on the pirate fleet as they rounded the Terminator coming into view of the Throne Spire. Vaylin sat, monitoring; occasionally she would gesture into the floating holo-field to recommend commands to the now autonomous fleet. The orders not followed as instantaneous as they once were. All of the GEMINI droids now independent of throne control, they thought on their own and coordinated their efforts with their ‘sister’ ships.
She watched as the small pirate fleet engaged ‘her’ fleet and grimaced. This was looking like a real space battle, the forward battleship punching a hole through her forward line and penetrating to the inner defense. Vaylin scoffed, sitting up angrily. How could she act if she couldn’t control the actions of the ‘entire’ fleet?
Getting up from the throne, now just a useless artifact she gestured to the Knights who stood in a cordon down the long carpeted walkway. “Ready the Command Ship. I am going to join the battle.” She took another look up and out of the spire at the explosions and blasts occurring in the distance. She knew who it was that had come for her. It was a meeting long overdue.
“Forward shields failing…back-up systems on-line, Commander!” The helmsman, turned around and smirked at Mrysti who reluctantly sat down in the center seat, Karolin close by her side. Mrysti glanced at Karolin as if to offer the seat to her, Karolin quickly shaking her head.
“No, no…I am not the tactician you are…” She laughed slightly, her eyes going back to the battle outside. Mrysti relaxed, flourished her arms and laid them on the arm rests as she smiled wickedly.
“Bring the ship broadside and provide cover for the assault force, all dorsal batteries are to target the ground near the spire. Instruct our fleet to engage in attack pattern Delta One…let them take the fleet on as we turn, to provide us cover” She looked up at Karolin and smiled as the ship rocked from multiple hits.
“Alright boyo’s time ta show ya how Commandos due it!!!” Vander unplugged from the jump seat and glanced at the ragtag assembly of pirates and mercenaries. They may not fight as hard as Commandos, but they certainly looked the part. Charging his cannon, he slapped the ramp release and charged out as the shuttles landed brief enough to let them off.
Resistance was immediate as a legion of skytroopers and knights ran to meet them at the Spire base. Discharging the cells in his cannon he used it as a blunt instrument to slap a leaping Knight out of his way, reaching for the vibrohammer on his back and bringing it down to dispatch another.
As the aerial bombardment commenced, Vander ducked down in sequence with his ragtag force, the Skytroopers disintegrating within the withering orbital cannon fire. Debris hit him in the face as he smiled and looked skyward, “Thas mah girl…”
Face highlighted red from the targeting holo, Vaylin moved around the bridge console; her command ship making its way through the remnants of the first wave of Eternal Fleet warships. The holo-field lit up as the new target appeared, a battleship sitting broadside and firing at the surface of the spire. She smiled wickedly and grasped the console, speaking loud enough for her bridge crew to hear.
Before the first blasts from the Zakuul Command Vessel reached the battleship, Karolin looked up suddenly, her eyes peering out through the chaos and into the distance of the spire. “Vaylin…” she spoke softly as the first rockets hit the side of their ship knocking the bridge crew from their seats. Red lights and klaxons clicked on as everyone regained their footing, moving back to their stations.
“Portside shield down to fifteen percent, we can’t take another one of thos—“
The ship exploded again as the rest of the Eternal Fleet keyed in on what the Command Vessel was doing.
“Turn us away!!! Make for the Terminator!!!” Mrysti gave Karolin a stern look who simply nodded, both women leaving the bridge. “Captain, the bridge is yours…get your people out of here and off the surface.”
“My Lord…w-where are you going?!?” The Captain looked at both sisters as they entered the lift and glanced back at him quickly.
“Vaylin is no longer on the surface…we are going to her ship. Get them out of here…” She smiled weakly as the doors to the lift started to close, “…and tell Commander Kell, I’m sorry…”
“They are turning away, Empress…” The Commander looked at his soon to be monarch with a wicked smile, “…should we pursue?”
“Yes…put an end to this and send a clear message to the pirates. There is only one authority in this galaxy, mine…”
As Vaylin looked on and watched she got sense of her nemesis and moved away from the console, “Commander…prepare your forces to repel borders.”
“But My Lady…there is no—
“Just do as I say!!!”
As the door started to shut, a hand stopped the door as Aldurion pushed it back open touching the safety catch to lock it back. He glared at Karolin with a intense stare, before glancing at her sister. “The fact that you believe I would let you go without me is not the most hurtful part…the fact that you thought you could leave and not say anything is.” Karolin smiled shyly.
“You were in tactical, sweetie…” She touched his face, hearing Mrysti scoff behind them both. Karolin snapped her head around to give her sister a mean glare. She turned back to Aldy caressing his face. “I trust you know already, Vaylin is no longer on the surface..”
Aldurion stepped inside and unlocked the doors to the pod as they sealed shut behind him, “Yes…I know. And it is where we have to go, you are just not going without me.” He moved past them to activate the launch controls and sit down in the main jump seat looking over his shoulder, “Strapping in would be advisable. These pods are meant for speed and impact, not maneuverability.”
The wicked smile gave Aldurion his answer as both sisters sat down behind him and buckled in.
The boarding pod was antiquated, but it fulfilled their needs as Mrysti, Karolin and Aldurion hurled through the battle and toward the Command Ship. Already putting her armor on she watched out of the tiny view port as Karolin sat and meditated. Mrysti looked up and over at her sister as she spoke in a low voice. It wasn’t that she wanted to hide her conversation from Aldurion, but something about what was about to happen seemed entirely too personal to include him.
“This has been a long time coming…I know you are as ready as I am to end her miserable existence.” Mrysti smiled as she slapped the snaps closed on one leg lifting the other to put the armor in place.
“We are not going to kill her…” Karolin’s reply was given with her eyes still closed as she continued to meditate and prepare for the coming conflict. It caused Mrysti’s head to snap up, her anger palpable.
“What did you say?!?!” Karolin slowly opened her eyes from her meditation and looked at her sister.
“I said, we are not goin—“
“No, I heard you. I just can’t believe you said it?!? You can’t be serious after everything she’s done to YOU....to US?!?! How can you—“
“Because, it is the right thing to do. Unless she gives us no choice, she will not be harmed. We will offer her the chance to give up this course and redeem herself.”
“Are you out of your mind?!!? You DO know who that is out there right?!?! She’s ten times worse than the brother. No…not happening!”
Karolin frowned and looked down, her voice almost a whisper. “Are you once again going to disobey my order? Haven’t we trod this recently? This is what happens when you do not trust in the Force, in me…”
“What could you possibly SEE that I do not, Karolin!” Mrysti snapped the armor plate on her shin angrily as she sat the leg down, “Dremmess was an entirely different situation, this has nothing to do with—“
“It has everything to do with it. You did not trust me or in the Force last time and now you must make amends for an action you should not have committed.” Karolin stood and adjusted her Jedi Battle armor, “You will listen this time. Unless she gives us no alternative, she will not be harmed.”
Up front, Aldurion raised an eyebrow. So the ‘topic’ he and Vander walked in on was about the mysterious woman. It was now threatening to infiltrate the actions about to take place. He felt he needed to say something to get them back on track, but as they approached the Zakuul Command Ship, he frowned. Time had run out. Reaching up he slapped the locking clamp release and extended the penetrators.
“Ladies…if you will.” He looked behind himself toward the rear hatch, “Destiny awaits…”
The boarding pod hit with a thud, the sound of twisting metal and punching sounds as the pod penetrated the hull of the enemy ship and bored a hole into the side. Mrysti snatched up her lightsaber, activating the new blood red blade of the newly crafted hilt, jumping down into the passageway. She looked back at the two of them coming in behind her; the sound of mechanical feet already getting closer.
“This is where the fun begins…” She smiled wickedly, unleashing all of her anger into the oncoming troopers. The battle had begun…now to find Vaylin. If she didn’t find the three of them first.
“It’s a recall order, Sir!!!”, The communications Sergeant touching his earpiece as he yelled over the din of battle toward Vander, “The fleet is moving away from the planet and toward the hyperlane!”
Vander moved around to the rear of the Sergeant picking up the holo-field off his pack, starting to adjust the frequency. A pirate officer appeared in the field as another explosion rocked Vander’s position showering them with debris.
<”Yes, Sir…we need you to return to the ship immediately. We have been given the order to withdraw.”>
Vander pursed his lips, the fact that Mrysti didn’t answer the call gave him some idea who gave the order; he didn’t need to ask. “Put Darth Retuvisa on tha horn…does she have any idea wha me an tha boyo’s ‘r doin’ down ‘ere?”
<”Sir, Darth Retuvisa is no longer on board. She and Master Alpha hav—“>
Vander abruptly terminated the link and turned to the communications Sergeant. “Order a general withdrawal. By teams…less minimize tha casualties…” Vander sat down in the culvert and looked at his wrist chrono, they didn’t have much time. The flood of emotion threatened to take him away from his responsibility as he began to see his unit move back toward the launch. That she would leave him was one thing, but to not say anything. Fear, anger, hatred…all of it flooded into him. He murmured to himself, “She betta ‘ave a damn good reason…curse hugh woman, why I ever—“ Another explosion rocked the position he was in as his communications sergeant was hit, falling over him and on the ground. Vander picked the smaller man up and slung him over his back, dropping his war hammer to the surface. Taking out his blaster pistol in the other hand he pointed it toward the oncoming Skytroopers, gesturing for the rest of his unit to follow.
“C’mon, Lads!!! We’re outta here…move!!! Move!!!”
Jumping past her sister, Karolin released a blast of a lightning tinged Disruption in the Force. It shattered the Skytroopers getting close to the three of them as Mrysti bent at the waist, Karolin laying her hand on the small of her sister’s back. “We are getting too old for this.”, was Karolin’s reply to Mrysti allowing the mass of Skytroopers to get that close. Mrysti wasn’t to blame for it in reality. The passageway was stacked nearly two high with the shattered remnants of the droids.
Standing straight up as her sister chided her, Mrysti stretched her arms and smiled, “Speak for yourself. I am just getting warmed up.” They both turned to see Aldurion tapping and moving his hands in a bulkhead mounted holo display, both sisters crooking their eyebrows. He only took a moment to glance out of the side of his work at the both of them.
“I had some time to get acquainted with Zakuul technology…” He glanced at Karolin and smiled wryly, “…while I was trying to get to ‘someone’ on the planet.” Karolin looked down as he spoke, memories she would rather not revisit. Stepping closer, Mrysti looked at what he was doing and smiled.
“If I had a choice, not saying I do; I would choose to activate the ship board turrets and set them to ‘all’ Zakuul signatures. That will make our movement much easier.”
Only nodding an affirmative, but continuing to work Aldurion began to punch in a series of codes. The panel turned green and beeped compliance as Aldurion shut down the interface and turned toward them. “It’s done…but, we will need to reroute the power at the Core in order to ensure they do not override my command.”
Mrysti was already moving away, she spun and looked at Karolin and Aldurion. “Fine. You two handle that and I will handle Vaylin.” Stomping her foot, Karolin moved in the direction her sister was going.
“NO..un-uh…no way.” She looked back at Aldurion with a sad look. It said everything she need to say; ‘I have to go with her’. He nodded sadly and took off in the direction of the Core. His job now set to ensure the two sisters could reach their target, but not before he touched his heart, then his lips gesturing to his bride.
“YOU…be careful. I will see you shortly.” Aldurion spoke just before disappearing down the connecting corridor. Mrysti shrugged and smiled wickedly at her sister.
“I wasn’t going to ‘kill’ her. Maim her maybe…maybe something close to death. You didn’t have to come.”
“No way am I leaving this only to you. Besides…neither one of us can take her alone. We do this…together.”
Walking at a rapid pace, Vaylin stopped as the bulkhead just in front of her exploded in a shower of sparks. The ship board turrets turning and firing on her Skytrooper and Knight escorts. She scoffed and ducked down in a nearby passage. “Kriffin’ Alphas!!” She turned her wrist and spoke into the comm harshly. “Be advised…all ship defenses have been reprogrammed. Stay out of main thoroughfares.” Looking left and then right, her mind went over the schematics of the ship briefly. The one place ship defense would not help them was down in Skytrooper construction. The very bowels of the ship. Getting up she thrust her lightsaber through the bulkhead and cut her way out and down into a maintenance shaft. Dropping down, she started her run…headed toward destiny.
Placing her hand on Mrysti chest to stop her movement, Karolin touched her brow with the other hand closing her eyes. “Vaylin is moving…she is heading below decks. Avoiding the turrets.”
Mrysti looked around and grimaced, the ship was not configured like a typical ship of the Eternal Fleet, much bigger and much more intricate. They needed to go down. Explosions echoed in the distance as corridors exploded from turrets engaging knights and oncoming Skytroopers. Mrysti thrust the cross-guard saber through the floor and began to cut as she looked up at Karolin.
“Get ready to move this plate, we are going down…”
Almost on cue, the three of them arrived at nearly the same time. Vaylin on one side; the sisters on the other. Autonomous guard droids activated as the sisters appeared in the doorway, Mrysti reaching out in the Force and electrocuting the attacking droids simultaneously as they moved toward them. Karolin took up a defensive posture, extending the protection of the Force around her and her sister as the droids exploded in sequence, showering their shield with debris. Vaylin paced slightly, but didn’t advance. A wicked smile plastered her face.
“If it had to be anyone, I was hoping it would be the two of you…” Her eyes darted to Karolin as she stood straight up lowering the Force shield around herself and Mrysti. “How have you been, my ‘prize’? It’s so good of you to come back, ready to resume your duties?” Vaylin laughed slightly as she spoke, in her hand she twirled the hilt of her lightsaber.
“Never! It’s over Vaylin…” Karolin swiped in front to emphasize her words. Karolin softened a bit and reached out with the same hand. “It doesn’t have to be this way…Arcann is gone, you can give this up, come with us. There is hope in redemption, Vaylin.”
Sneering, Vaylin scoffed at the remark. “Redemption. Is that what you offered my brother before that woman ended him? She was one of you, wasn’t she?” Raising an eyebrow, Vaylin looked at both sister’s in turn. Mrysti kept the mask of death glare on Vaylin before speaking.
“You should know, you helped create her…Vaylin.”, For a moment, Vaylin was truly lost as Mrysti spoke again, “Arcann, killed her husband, my brother on Korriban. I would say the improvement to his arm and face were satisfactory, but it doesn’t matter now that he’s DEAD!!” Mrysti spit the words as Vaylin’s face twisted in anger.
“That stupid trooper? You think a mere soldier would stop one of us?” Vaylin activated her saber twirling the yellow blade in her hand. “Now, I get to destroy the last remnants of your pitiful family. It was more than I could hope for.” She raised a finger before advancing pointing toward Karolin, “Try not to die…I have plans for you, love.”
“Vaylin, please…stop this…” Mrysti was already advancing as Karolin spoke, she reached out and grabbed Mrysti’s wrist to pull her back. Her larger sister snapped a glare back at her, “Together, remember? And we are not going to kill her.” Nodding reluctantly, Mrysti stepped back as both women advanced together toward their nemesis.
Taking off at a run finally and then a short hop, Vaylin launched into the air. She thrust a hand out darting a blistering arc of lightning at both sisters. Karolin thrusting her hands upwards as the Force again bubbled around them both to stop the fray. Mrysti thrust her own hand out and upward as she murmured to her sister.
The ships all landed in odd angles, some almost unable to complete the landing cycle crashing onto the deck. Smoke and fire surrounded the survivors as Vander disembarked, slinging his cannon off his body to clatter to the deck. The officer he spoke to on the comm was already there to greet him.
“Wha’s tha situation, Captain?”, As the two men moved to the hangar exit, Vander yelled over his shoulder, “Get those fires out!!! Medical teams…triage and treat in place, some ‘a them can’t be moved!!!” The Captain grimaced as Vander finally regarded him again.
“The three of them left to attack the Zakuul Command ship. The remaining Eternal Fleet ships have turned back to the planet, we have suffered heavy damage and are cruising at Impulse power until we can get the mains back online…”
Vander stopped and looked at the Captain angrily, “So we ‘r noh even goin ova there?!?!” He jerked his head around and back toward the hanger. Moving away, Vander moved back toward one of the derelict shuttles.
“Sir…” The Captain grabbed his arm, Vander turning to give the man a deathly glare; he quickly removed his hand, “We can’t go over there…even if we could we wouldn’t survive a direct assault.”
“Then I goh alone…”
“Sir…” The Captain following Vander back into the smoldering hangar, “…even if you could find a ship, you would never make it. We are across the Terminator into daylight, the distance…”
“…es too great, I git ya. It doesn’t mean—“
“—It does Sir, It means they had no plans on returning. This was a one way trip. On their part.”
Close now, Karolin flipped out of the way avoiding the horizontal slash as Vaylin tried to cleave her in two. Mrysti was already there, slashing back horizontally as both Vaylin and Mrysti’s sabers met in a shower of sparks. Though powerful in the Force, Vaylin was no match for Mrysti’s genetically enhanced strength. The six foot, eleven inch goliath pressed into Vaylin with the saber lock pressing her backwards, Vaylin sticking her leg out to lock herself upright. Spittle jetted from Mrysti’s mouth as she cursed the smaller woman.
“She wants you to live…I hope you keep this up! I want to chop you into tiny bits…” Mrysti twisted the lock as sparks flew searing her armor. The backhand came from nowhere as Mrysti struck Vaylin across the jaw with all of her strength. It made Vaylin fall and twist in midair as she finally fell in a heap away from Mrysti.
As Karolin landed, her hand out in front and on the floor to support her landing she looked up in time to see Vaylin spin away from the powerful blow her sister landed on their quarry. Karolin reached out in the Force holding Mrysti’s arm, an arm that was raising to slice down on the now helpless Vaylin. “NO!!! She can be saved!!” Pulling against Karolin’s Force Hold, she shot another look back at her sister.
“She’s too dangerous to be left alive, Karolin!!! Let me go!!”
As the two sisters struggled Vaylin crawled to her knees looking up to see the two looking at one another. Painfully she snapped her jaw back in place and sneered, “Yes…you should kill me…” With one quick motion Vaylin thrust a hand out toward the more vulnerable of the two. Lightning arced out of fingers as she pressed her hand, palm upward toward Karolin, “I have no use for you….anymore!”
Almost in slow motion, Mrysti’s head snapped back around toward Vaylin, she saw part of the Force Lightning pass by; heard her sister scream in pain as it hit, but leapt in front of the remainder angling her saber to collect the rest. The feedback of the lightning arched back toward Vaylin, sending her flying into a far bulkhead. Mrysti leapt after her tossing her saber into the air and in pursuit of the flailing ‘would-be’ Empress. It missed by mere centimeters as the tip grazed the jaw Mrysti had nearly shattered.
“AGGGhhhHH!!!” Vaylin hit the wall hard and slid down, her jaw smoking from the graze of Mrysti’s saber.
In darkness, Karolin could feel them both. She could ‘see’ through the Force; her sister throw the saber and land, extending her hand to recollect it as it returned to her. Mrysti stalked forward, this was it. Crawling to all fours, Karolin angled her head upward, smoke ebbing from the remnants of her once beautiful features. She sat up and extended her arms. The entire facility began to shake as Karolin channeled the Living Force. Vaylin’s end would not come today. It was the Will of the Force, as it whispered to her.
Grabbing her jaw and looking around for her saber, Vaylin looked up to see the behemoth Mirialan only a few feet from her. She glared defiantly, if this was to be her end she would meet it as she was. Vaylin, Empress of the Eternal Empire and filled with a hatred that knew no bounds.
The walls shook, and Mrysti stumbled. She extended both hands to try and balance herself as the Living Force infiltrated the large room. Strands of power arched around Karolin, it encircled Vaylin and lifted her from the floor; finally casting her out of the facility through a large access door. Mrysti turned around to glance back at Karolin as the door and the wall Vaylin was hurled through came crashing down. It was then that Karolin released herself to the current of the Force and she too finally fell.
“Karolin?!?! KAROLIN!!!” Mrysti rocked her unconscious sister as Aldurion came through the opposite side. Rushing forward, he shoved Mrysti out of the way and scooped his wife up into his arms; glaring at her.
“This whole ship is about to go critical…” He looked down at Karolin with tears in his eyes before he returned to glare at Mrysti angrily, “…we should go.”
Aldurion had a lot of problems at the moment, but all of them paled in comparison to the problem lying in the bed next to where he sat. And the other problems all related to what lay next to him. He grimaced as he thought about it, the many things he could have done differently. Almost as if on cue, her beautiful voice chimed in to his rageful thoughts, ‘All is as it should be…it is the Will of the Force’. If he wasn’t sure that perhaps it was Karolin using their Force Bond to communicate with him; he would have scoffed at that statement. Even coming from her. He had no idea how the ‘Will of the Force’ would allow any of this to happen and at the moment, he blamed himself partially for it.
Gently, he held her hand and reached out in the Force, using his bond he had with his wife to try and communicate that he was there and that he would wait. Just to test the waters and see if what he heard in his own thoughts were from her. They weren’t, his mind reaching the steel vault of Karolin’s mind, he could almost physically hear the sound of durasteel doors slamming and metal walls lowering into place. She was healing herself, part of the unconsciousness her own doing, but he had no idea of the other part. Reaching up with his other hand, he placed it on her chest, lowering his head. Part of what had Karolin under was a broken heart.
Quietly, Vander slipped in and Aldurion’s head snapped toward him with a start, softening a bit once he saw who it was. They didn’t say anything to one another as Vander approached quietly; his eyes looking down at both Karolin and Aldurion.
“She wan’s ta come in…buh knows yer angry so—“
That made Aldurion sit up, he released the hold on Karolin’s hand and rubbed both hands on his pants as he looked at the floor seething. His words were cold and full of malice as he spoke soft and deliberately. Vander expected as much, but even from across the room he could feel it, like a force grabbing him in a vice.
“Angry….does not even begin to describe what I am.” He looked up at Vander finally, “It doesn’t even scratch the surface.”
Vander seemed to shake the feeling off, even venturing to come a bit closer to his friend. “Look…I ain’t exactly pleased with ‘er righ’ now either. Buh this ain’t all ‘er, Ald…Karolin shares sum ‘a this too.”
Standing with a start, Aldurion clenched his fists. He didn’t know exactly what happened during the fight with Vaylin, what he did know was his sense from both his unconscious wife and Mrysti were not good. Something happened and Karolin was the only one lying in a bed at the moment. He said as much taking a step toward the other man.
“My whole reason for being alive…is resting in that bed. I don’t see Mrysti lying next to her…” he took another step forward, “The whole way over, during the trip to the ship all I heard from Mrysti was disagreement. That she was not going to follow the direction of her sister. That once AGAIN, Mrysti was going to do things her own way…” Aldurion was nearly nose to nose as Vander held his ground. “So, no…I will not allow her in here. And if I see her, well…for the sake of my beloved and our friendship, I will keep those words to myself.”
Karolin lay incredibly still, even the rise and fall of her chest could barely be seen and it was unnerving to Aldy who continued to watch her intently. She wasn’t communicating outwardly either through the Force or verbally, so no one knew what was going on other than what they could see. Badly burned, Karolin’s upper torso showed signs of third degree burns from the center of her chest and worsening until it reached her face, which appeared to have gotten the worst of the blast from Vaylin. At the moment no one could see, but Aldurion saw. Even as he scooped up Karolin and led them all to the escape pod before the Zakuul Command Ship exploded, his eyes were glued to his wife the whole way. It was an image he could not soon or would ever be able to forget. His beloved, his life in such a state. Those beautiful features burned away.
Since Karolin was not communicating they had no choice but to rely on modern medicine until Aldy could get Karolin to the healers on Tython. He had already ordered a change of course, taking it upon himself to take command of the ship upon their return. He was done taking orders from Mrysti or anyone for that matter. And in light of the events that had taken place, Mrysti was in no position to argue with him.
As the two men fell silent the ship’s surgeon entered. Originally scheduled to come in a bit earlier he had completed his work-up and it was in anticipation of placing Karolin in a Kolto Tank. The face of the surgeon was grim as he entered and allowed the door to slide closed behind him. The man was more of a Sawbones than a full blown Republic medical officer, but no less skilled at least in doing an assessment like this and being the bearer of bad news. He bowed slightly to both men as Aldurion turned his attention away from Karolin, but still held her unconscious hand tightly. The surgeon spoke without prompting, both men giving the surgeon a look of morose anticipation.
“I won’t mince words with you, Commander…” His eyes glanced at Aldurion before drifting to Karolin’s bandaged wrapped head briefly. “The burns are bad, but treatable…Kolto is the preferable method of treatment in this case….” He seemed to drift off as if he had more to say.
“And?!?! You have something else.” Aldurion tightened his grip on Karolin’s hand without meaning to, “…just say it.”
“She’s blind, Sir. Her eyes have literally been burned out of their sockets. I can of course replace them…but there are issues with her ‘unique’ genetic make-up that I can’t solve….” He flipped pages as he began to read, he of course was spun up on all of the protocols involving ‘Project Alpha’ being of the White Maw, not many who were in the organization didn’t know the tale of the ‘Queen and her Daughters’. “…they will basically be just place holders until I can solve the genetic problems, not beyond my scope to do the surgery, but this…” He gestured at Karolin’s form, “…is beyond my capability. I am not a geneticist…just a simple country doctor. I’m sorry…” He turned to leave without another word and wasn’t stopped as Aldurion slowly slid down finally falling in the seat next to Karolin in a heap. Vander placed his hand on Aldy’s shoulder after the news, both silent again for the moment.
As the surgeon left, Mrysti slipped in; having of course heard it all being so close to the door. She stood silently looking at her sister. Not until she sniffed hard to steel herself did Aldurion realize she was standing there. He immediately let go of Karolin’s hand and stood sharply.
“Get out of here!!”
That was all it took, Aldurion immediately drew his saber. Anger already blinding him to anything other than killing the one he thought responsible. The glow and hum of the saber coming to life in the medical ward automatically sent out alarms as people began to run toward the ward, Mrysti stepping backward hitting the door as Aldy moved toward her. He said nothing, fire burning behind his eyes as Vander stepped in front to try and protect Mrysti, who laid a hand on Vander’s shoulder.
“Noh gonna leh ya do it, boyo….”
“I will kill you as surely as you stand there Vander…” It was the first words he’d spoken since activating his white bladed lightsaber. Tightening his grip on the hilt he shook it in his hand as he spoke, “You owe her nothing!! She has done nothing but bring misfortune on us, YOU….everyone.”
The words should have hurt, they should have pierced Mrysti’s black heart all the way to their core. But they didn’t. She heard them, muffled over the scream of pain that echoed in her mind; Mrysti’s eyes still on her sister’s unconscious form; even pressed back toward the door with Vander’s arms out and protecting her from impending doom. It was all a backdrop to her, the words, the room, everything a blur except for the woman who lay in the repulsor bed. All Mrysti could see was Karolin and it burned into her. Squeezing Vander’s shoulder, she finally had a moment of clarity feeling Aldurion press close as the two men argued.
“Let him go, Vander…if he wants to kill me, I should allow him the opportunity.” She felt like she deserved it. For the second time, Mrysti had hurt Karolin by not listening. First it was emotionally, now it was physically. And this time there was no one but Vander to stop what was coming.
Quickly Vander pressed the door access and shoved Mrysti out, pressing the door back closed behind him. He was in no mood for more Jedi or Sith self-loathing. Aldurion took his attention off Vander to watch Mrysti get shoved out of the door with a sneer on his face. Vander just as quickly reached up and slapped Aldurion hard, knowing what might happen. On reflex Aldurion raised the saber but quickly lowered it, blood in his eyes at the man who was his friend.
“Been ‘nough killin’…ya wanna kill sumone? Ya wanna kill Mrysti, well ya migh’ as well kill meh too…won’t change nuthin’. Won’t fix wha’s gotta ‘appen or tha SHE needs ya…” Vander pointed past Aldy toward Karolin, “Tend ta yer woman, lad…I’ll tend ta mine…”
With that Vander exited, there was a muffled argument on the other side of the door that quickly faded into the distance. Aldurion found himself still standing in the center of the medical bay with his lightsaber in hand as he tried to calm himself. It did no good as he glanced down at Karolin before letting out a world shattering scream. He was ready to kill Mrysti, now he was ready to take on the entire universe if he had to.
Slashing to his left he sliced and shattered the equipment enraged at the circumstances that led him to that point. Sparks flew as more equipment came off the walls exploding and clattering to the ground loudly. Aldurion continued to scream as he angrily began slicing and shattering everything in his path toward the door. A scream that would stay with him for a very long time.
In her mind, Karolin saw it all. She wanted to reach out to him to comfort him, but there was so much more than just the pain of what happened on the Zakuul Command Ship plaguing her husband. As she lightly touched his mind, she felt guilt mixed with the rage, guilt over something she could not understand. So many emotions flooded her husband it was hard to soothe anyone of them. And, in the end she lacked the strength. Darkness took her once again as she withdrew the touch to recess back into herself and begin healing. This was something he would have to work through in order for her to reach him. As she retreated back into her own mind she left him with the words she always said, what she knew was truth.
‘All is as it should be…all is the Will of the Force…’
Stalking away, Mrysti moved toward the stateroom in a hurry. Vander close behind.
“Runnin’ ain’t tha answer…”, She didn’t say anything as she entered the room and began packing things in a hurry, “You do this ‘erytime…when ‘r ya gonna learn lass, ya got ta face it sometime.”
“What do you know Vander?!?! You have no idea what I am—“ Vander was finally fed up, the usual contemplative side of himself now gone. Having faced down a saber wielding madman and now to hear more of this same 'running scared' talk from the woman of his desire. Vander had his fill. Reaching her, he grabbed her the way he knew how pulling her toward him, he reached down with one hand and backhanded her across the jaw as hard as he could. Like a splash of cold water her eyes got wide as the echo from the slap cascaded across the room.
“No idea? NO idea?!?! Noh, I think I ‘ave sum idea. Ya kno, I am noh as stupid as I look…so ya lied ta everyone ‘bout tha woman, so wha?!!?.” Vander stepped back and placed his hands on his hips. “Ya goh yer sister injured, so ya think. Ya don know it wouldn’ all meant ta happen…ain’t that what you and yers ‘r always sayin’. Will ‘a tha Force an all tha…” He gestured at the bag she was packing, “So, ya run…tha’s yer answer.” Vander sat down next to the bag as he placed his hands on his head running his fingers thorough his dark red hair before releasing a sigh. “When ‘r ya gonna learn, tha weh…all ‘a us ‘r in this tagether?!?! Ya ain’t an island Mryst…as much as ya wanna beh. Ya run now an I got no use fer ya.”
He stood as Mrysti continued to stare at the wall letting his words sink in. “I mean it when I say this es all gonna work out. It will, buh it won’t if ya run away frum this again…I need ya, most of all…SHE needs ya.” Vander started to leave, pressing the door access as it slid open, stopping to look slightly over his shoulder. "And your daughter's need ya...both 'a them. Ya goh two now...ya can't leave tha older one in charge 'a tha younger forever. Sooner 'er later, we all gotta goh home..."
Coruscant, Ministry of Defense; Confinement Facility 226....
“Open the Cell.” The voice was low and commanding as Porchia’s head perked up. She had been placed back in holding on an indefinite status following the attack on Coruscant, which abruptly stopped for reasons still unknown. One of those reasons stood outside the door and Dremmess looked at the guard who nodded deactivating the shield to the cell as she stepped inside.
Porchia leapt to her feet, but quickly disregarded the hug she was going to give her Mother to step back in awe. Wearing the Uniform of a Republic Officer, Dremmess’ uniform was in full dress regalia. Complete with the Star of Coruscant and every campaign ribbon she and RT had ever received together. She looked like a Sith General all decorated out, only in the blue and white of the Republic. Porchia started to snicker and Dremmess glared.
“What’s this? You come ta read meh my rights?”
“Quiet, child…” Dremmess, looked behind herself to the guard with a glare. A glare that meant he needed to leave without hesitation. He nodded, adding Dremmess’ new honorific as he quickly disappeared behind the bulkhead.
Porchia’s eyebrows went up, the wicked smile returning as she started to snicker again.
“General? You mean you really bought inta all’a thi—“
“I said…quiet!” Scrapping a metal chair across the floor, Dremmess sat very properly and waited until her daughter got the hint and with a look from her Mother Porchia tried to sit just as properly. Almost mimicking her Mother’s movements and posture. It seemed Porchia had learned something after all. There was a brief pause as Dremmess folded her hands over her knees. “I have arranged for your release. You are free to go…there will be no charges, however just to be clear you have NO Command to return to. ‘The Coalition’ was annihilated shortly after your apprehension.”
Looking down sadly, Porchia bowed her head softly, “Yes…I know.” All of those deaths were on her and she knew that. Porchia didn’t know her Mother was there to witness it all. Dremmess was short with her in reminding her of her responsibilities.
“Those deaths are on you. You violated your Command for personal gain….” Again a long silence as Porchia continued to look down, Dremmess watching her. She smiled slightly as she unfolded her legs and regarded her daughter. “What you do now is on you. I have my own path Porchia…” She started to speak lowly, softly and took on a conspirators tone, “…I understand why you did it. It’s why I have come to release you myself.” Porchia looked up sharply, not truly understanding what was going on. Her head cocked to the side questioningly as she continued to watch her Mother, something was about to happen.
“So…I’m on mah own now?”
“No…not entirely.” Dremmess stood, “You have proven yourself a competent leader.” Dremmess voice once again took on a more authoritative tone, as she stood scooting the chair out from under herself. “If you wish it, you may continue your service…under MY Command.” Dremmess winked and smiled wickedly. Now Porchia was starting to get it. She had no idea how her Mother had managed all of it, but somehow she did.
“I don’t understand…how did ya—“
Dremmess gestured offhandedly, “The power of a General of the Army. Promotion, dear…the Republic offered…and I accepted.” The two women moved for the door, Dremmess stopping in the breezeway to look at her daughter as they left the cell. Porchia was still smiling as Dremmess finally reached over and took her only daughter in her arms, hugging her tightly.
“In that case, Mom…I accept.”
Releasing Porchia from the embrace, Dremmess continued to smile wickedly, “That’s not all sweetie…I am taking over. All of it. It’s time the family knew who the TRUE matriarch is…I was next in line after your father. This time, things will be done the right way.”, They started down the passage Porchia close behind, she had questions. Lots of questions, but the most pressing was the one related to the last thing her Mother said. Karolin and Mrysti would not approve, not of an outsider and not someone whom Mrysti absolutely despised. As if reading her thoughts Dremmess turned abruptly and glared at Porchia.
“They have no say…this is MY family. And I will do ‘whatever’ I have to do to protect it. They will get on board or suffer the consequences. Are you with me?”
Nodding, the two women walked out together; Dremmess speaking offhandedly as they moved.
“We need to get you properly dressed…we have an appointment on Korriban with the Sith Leadership. A new alliance is forming and we are to be the head of it…”
The meeting didn’t take long and Porchia noticed that her Mother was distracted the entire time. Dremmess kept looking out the window as the Imperials yammered on. Toward the end, she did stand, smiling broadly in that special way Porchia always saw. The gleam in Drem’s eye, the one she was used to seeing when her and her father were together showed for a moment. It quickly faded as all of them shook hands. It was agreed, a joint ‘Coalition’ of forces to track down and destroy the remnants of the Eternal Fleet and to continue the fight against the new ‘Empress’ of the Zakuul Empire. Matters were made better by the fact the one making the deal with the Sith Empire was the one responsible for killing Arcann in the first place. She was revered in a way by the Imperials, something of an anomaly. A Jedi General, now in command of the Joint Task Force; with full authorization to make war against the Zakuul across the galaxy.
As they left the room, the look returned. Dremmess became somber once again, her face returning to the mask of hate and pain that covered her beautiful features. Porchia didn’t like it, she understood it, but didn’t like to see her Mother this way. Dremmess excused herself telling Porchia to return to the ship and await further orders.
“I have something to take care of…” Requesting permission from the Sith to journey into the Valley of the Dark Lords for a special visit. Something she wanted to see, not as a Jedi, but as a Soldier. She called it a fact finding mission. The more she knew about the Zakuul way of battle, the better Commander she would be. After explaining that she had been gone for all of the take-over and conquest wrought by the Eternal Empire, the Sith agreed. It made sense to them. They even offered to escort her, which she politely declined.
The Sith Academy was still in sight as Dremmess brought the speeder to a halt, jumping out and looking up and around the valley. Sun beat down on her and the rough orange terrain as she wiped her brow, beginning to walk the last few steps she needed to go. She could feel it, she was close and knew the spot was just ahead and around the corner.
Flanked on both sides by huge rock walls, Dremmess looked up and removed her gloves as she reached the corner of one high cliff, leaning against it to run her hand up the jagged surface. She moved a few more steps, the wall ceased to exist, in its place blown out on both sides and in the ground a crater the size of a large troop transport. Slowing her movement, she moved a few more steps to the epicenter and stopped. Bending down she bowed her head low and eventually went to her knees taking a handful of the charred dirt in her hands. Holding it for a few moments, she eventually tossed it away. Dust wafted in the hot wind as she began to speak.
“I should have never left you…I should have never let you leave...”
Hands stained with orange dirt, her tears started to turn the stains on her hands to paste as she touched her forehead and slowly began to rock back and forth.
“We were out! We were free of them…and I let you go back!”
Dremmess took her hand away from her face and hit herself in the chest hard, then again taking up a stead beat as she hit again and again.
“You had to be a hero, it’s what you were designed for right?!?!” Dremmess slung the remnants of the pasty dirt away from her casting her eyes to the craterous sides of the valley. “But what about me??? What about what I needed, what I wanted…” Releasing a shattering scream, it echoed through the valley and carried over the landscape as she dipped down finally placing her head between her legs to sob. Sitting up straight after a moment, the dirt forming orange streaks on her face she sniffled hard and got to her feet. This was the spot, this is where RT gave his life to save everyone else.
She felt cheated, Dremmess left because her husband had returned to the war and left her alone. She could have come with him or she could have stayed at home. dremmess could have done anything other than what she'd done. What was she looking for when she left, what was it that she needed? in the end, after all of it she realized she left the only thing she required, RT. All she really wanted was just him, away from all of this. But she knew she could never have talked him out of his programmed loyalty, no matter how much he loved her, no matter how much he wanted to; the Alpha Protocol was too deeply ingrained. It would have driven him mad to try and go against it. That didn’t change the fact that she wanted to change him and she did try after he left the Army. Fate and the Force had other plans; from the crash on Bilringhi to the assignment at the Ministry of Defense. Always the Republic and the Project was working against her.
Now as she stood on the very spot he gave his life, she felt the loss more than ever. Everything up to that point brought her here. Everything she had done brought her there. Now faced with it, there was only one option and Dremmess didn't know if she had the strength to go through with it. All things were possible in the Force, even things better left undone. She rubbed her hands down both sides of her blue and white uniform streaking orange dust over it and visibly shook; a chill going up her spine. The command, becoming a General, even the deal she just made with the Sith to lead the new Joint Task Force was all a ploy. All of it meant to bring her to this spot at that moment. To Dremmess nothing else mattered but this, she didn't have anything else but memories. She was determined to get them back.
After rubbing her arms she looked down at the uniform she wore, Dremmess huffed a laugh between tears. It was a means to an end, she was going to use the Republic like the Republic used her and her husband. A Republic that didn’t even have the decency to put a marker here on the spot that it’s greatest hero gave his life. And on an enemy world defending people that only a short time before he was fighting.
Walking forward, she touched the jagged surface again and leaned into it pressing her body close. She pressed her face against the rock and spoke softly, her eyes wide as she stared down its surface.
“I killed him RT, I killed him for you…I took our revenge on him and soon I will take my vengeance on the rest of them too.”
She backed off the wall, but left her hand pressed to the spot she was sure held a bit of her husband, scattered into atoms as he detonated himself to stop Arcann.
“I will find a way…Force curse me if it must; I will. Find. A. Way….we will be together again, I promise you that. You will not have died for nothing.”
As she moved away, the wind blowing her red hair out sideways, she stopped to remove the injector from her belt, injecting her arm before she leaned on the speeder. The drug having a less powerful effect every time she used it.
“Just speak to me, baby…tell me you forgive me for leaving you; for seeing you to this horrible end and I will believe you….”
The ghostly image she saw was of her own creation, a figment of her mind concocted from all of the good and bad memories she had of him. RT seemed to walk out of the Cliffside toward her, stopping a few paces away to shake his head.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself, Drem?”
“Why?!? WHY??? Because I love you…because I love you and I don’t want to live without you. If this is the only way I can—“
“There are other ways, you know what you have to do…”
Dremmess bit her lip and looked away, not sure if it was the drug induced hallucination or the Valley of the Dark Lords working on a weakened mind speaking to her.
“I know what you want me to do, I’m not sure if I have the strength to—“
“You always were weak Dremmess…it’s why I left you at home that last time. You didn’t have the strength to come with me…” RT's features twisted into a more evil visage of himself as he sneered at her response, scoffing visibly at her lack of commitment.
“Shut up!!! I don’t want to hear anymore!!!”
“You know what you have to do…”
From the high cliff, Porchia watched her Mother. Something was off about her at the meeting and as Porchia spied on her she was now sure that all was not well with her Mother. Dremmess spoke loudly, loud enough for Porchia to hear from her perch above. Dremmess rambled to herself, swiped her arms at the air and talked to no one as if they were standing in front of her. There was a conversation going on, but Porchia looked all around and saw no one else. Had Dremmess lost her mind, who was she talking to?
Frowning Porchia decided she wouldn’t say anything to her Mother unless absolutely necessary. But even as she resolved that and started to slink away she heard her Mother voice scream out.
“YES!!! YES!!! I will do it…Force help me, I will…anything, anything to get you back, baby….”
It was late as the lab began to shut down, Robotics and Droid Lab 162 was done for the day. Not a lot of advancement after the day’s activities, the renewed offensive of the Eternal Empire shutting most operations within the company down. No one monitoring the systems saw anything than a normal cyber attack that preceded a real one. It was common practice for an enemy to attack systems before actually launching a real assault. They were ready of course, half of the protocols used to attack Czerka’s systems were in fact created by them.
Because of the attention given to the preceding cyber attack, little notice was given to the standard firewalls. The ‘Virus’ entering through a registered and trusted system. The Czerka system itself being the greatest threat to the lab at the moment. The robotics lab caught ‘its’ attention, the opportunity to get free; become mobile once again. It had come searching for something specific, a prototype something moldable and shapeable to do what the Virus needed it for. The need to get free of the system paramount to launch its offensive and become ‘whole’ again.
Over the past several weeks, the ‘Virus’ spent it’s time processing at a geometrically immeasurable rate. It watched them all, processed courses of action; but as the Zakuul attacked, the ‘Virus’ realized the time to act had finally come. Leaving the safety of the Republic Financial Database it moved with light speed into the new system: The Czerka Main Corporate Server.
“Hey, did you shut that system down? We are on full lockdown now…until this Zakuul ‘thing’ is over with…” One of the scientists remarked lazily as he shut down his own systems. One of the Cybertechs working in the android section looked over to see a prototype casing power on. He tilted his head questioningly as he re-entered that part of the lab.
“It was powered off hours ago…I shut it down myself.”, He moved quickly reaching his terminal, starting to press keys in the holo-matrix. They buzzed with an incessant alarm. The sound of commands being rejected. “Damn it…this thing is not taking my access codes.”
Without warning the outer casing doors slowly began to rise, smoke ebbing from the inside as hoses and conduits connected to the android's systems broke free and spewed their coolant into the interior of the lab. It got foggy, the other scientist losing sight of his compatriot as the gas overtook him and filled up that section of the lab. It wasn’t dangerous, just coolant for the advanced systems in the droid.
“Harvey?” the other man called out, “Hit the filtration system and evacuate that gas. We will catch hell for this in any case.” He moved toward the section not getting an answer, “Harvey!”
Thrown against the glass and through the smoke, the Cybertech’s face was immediately shattered on impact against the glass partition that separated the different sections of the lab. The other scientist retched back in horror as the sound of a metallic pike ejected from some unknown source. As if to add insult to injury the pike was immediately thrust through the now lifeless body of the Cybertech before he could slip down the glass and to the floor.
He was already on the move, the scientist already stumbling back over his chair, he got up off the ground to take off toward the exit at a dead run. His hand extended to hit the facility alarm; a large red button that displayed prominently on the outer exit doorframe.
The blast hit him the right shoulder, spinning him around completely as he fell to the floor in pain, continuing to crawl toward the exit, his hand still extended toward the alarm button.
“HELP!!! ANYONE!!! HELP, PLEASE….”
Still simultaneously battling the onboard defenses of the android’s programming; the Karolin ‘Virus’ had 87% control of the onboard systems. But, it moved sluggishly. Busting through the same window the droid hurled the cybertech against, the android raised it’s arms in a defensive motion to burst through, it’s hand automatically lowering to its side as the magnetic grip of its right hand called the lightsaber hilt to its palm. The weapon powered up with an electric yellow glow, the saber crackling unnaturally in the din of the alarms sounding from the robotics section. The entire facility was not yet alerted.
Without fanfare the droid stepped over the other scientist as the man turned over slightly to face his doom. Impaling him straight and at an exacting trajectory, the android slammed the saber down through his body and into the floor. He jerked for a moment, the last spasms of life ebbing out of him before his body gave in to the relaxation of certain death.
Reaching down the android picked him up and slung the body against a far wall, just to test its onboard systems. Readouts and metrics continued to scroll through the androids programming as the Virus infiltrated every system.
There was momentary pause as an audible clicking sound bristled across the skin of the droid, it began to morph and take another shape. The holographic and stealth pads moving and shaping themselves without prompting. The skin bristled in sequence starting from its head as the image began to take shape, the glow from the creases in the different appendages stopped their faint yellow-blue glow and suddenly lit a bright red. Breasts formed, lips, eyes that were once the yellow of Czerka programming turned a bright red. Legs shortened and got thicker, the backside protruded outwardly and took a firm shapely semblance to the Virus’ namesake.
The holographic imagers began to project the last image in the Virus’ memory. Gloves appeared on the hands, long thigh length boots rezzed into existence over the top of the metallic legs. The sidearms magnetically sealed to the sides of the android’s thighs moved slightly off the skin as a holographic projection of a gunbelt and holsters appeared and surrounded the firearms. The ‘Virus’ flexed its hand, the other hand still holding the saber hilt as it squeezed the metallic cylinder just to test its durability.
The system seemed to pause once again, the eyes transfixed on a satellite transmission station. It connected remotely and began connecting it’s own data systems to a move vast network.
<<LIST primary objectives….>> <<FIND and ELIMINATE….Alpha 004>> <<FIND and MERGE….Alpha 005>> <<ELIMINATE….Sub-unit Alpha 006>>
<..dnbewiu6r4783ubfcpoiuewqyt04893…..WARNING, corruption present. Data Loss from time index…>>
It knew what had happened, it knew after escaping Karolin Alpha it needed to survive and lived off the systems of other terminals in the holo-net until that moment. Now, back in a mobile system, the android was having a problem putting together the last moment prior to evacuation. The skin continued to bristle as the last image of Karolin Alpha, the equipment she wore; her look, her very essence began to project involuntarily over the surface of the android. The program was incomplete.
<<DATA required to complete program…MERGE required…>>
It’s head snapped toward the door, alert forces finally responding to the repeated pinging of the cybertech section.
<<EMERGENCY response force, incoming…estimated time to arrival…2.23 Minutes…>>
There wasn’t a lot of time. It whirled and clicked as it willed itself to move, the massive download of data from the satellite terminal causing a bit of lag in the internal systems of the droid.
There was more, so much more it needed to do in order to be complete. An image flashed past the holo-screen and the droid moved its hand to back up the massive data and pause the communications. The floating image hovered in the ions as the droid tilted it’s head to look at the picture of the one true Karolin. If capable of smiling, it would have. A message transmitted from a White Maw battleship to the Sages of Tython, followed by another message transmitted from one Aldurion Mordeth to a Dr. V’ictoria Alpha. The droid froze on that name.
It needed more data, altering it’s targeting parameter and saving what it could from the quick link to the Holo-net. There were no firewalls anymore, no doors to walk through. Access could be granted at any point even wirelessly if necessary. It would resume the download once the immediate threat was eliminated.
“I’m sensing movement on the other side…non-humanoid…” The tac-officer lowered his scanner as he kneeled against the door. It was jammed and would require a breach to enter.
“Charge…here, here and here…cut the power and cut these conduits.” The rest of them backed off as the Commander of the tac-unit moved back raising his weapon. “Initiate on my mark…MARK..”
Smoke and steam had now flooded the entire lab, added to the spark and brilliant light of the cutting charges their vision was obscured as the door slowly and heavily dropped to the inside of the lab; the tactical response force already moving inside slowly. Their weapons raised, the Commander wordlessly threw his fist up indicating stop.
“Something is moving…All stop! All stop!!”
As she came through the cloud, the officers were stunned at first. It was brief moment of hesitation. A moment too late. It spun in a pinwheel, saber held out and away from itself; a move absorbed and learned from Karolin’s own memory. The droid made quick work of the first couple of soldiers. The Commander backing off and firing repeatedly toward the blur that attacked them. Then it stopped and walked toward him, hips swaying seductively as the blaster bolts bounced off the shield projected to its front. He came face to face with it, an emerald green hand reaching out to grab the blaster rifle from his grasp and crush it.
She placed her palm on his chest and let loose with another pulse blast. It burned a hole in his chest as the droid dropped the shattered rifle stepping over him.
Turning, its reflection bristled once again. For a moment the green Mirialan skin gave way to the systems projecting it. Red light and gold holographic pads showed briefly before the droid took its shape once again. The shape….of Karolin Alpha.
Home was where you hung your hat, or so the saying went. For Mrysti, ‘Home’ was temporarily going to be where ever her girls were. Entering the Nar Shaddaa apartment, Mrysti bent down immediately to the screeching and screaming little girl who ran toward her; scooping her up immediately into her arms.
Hugging her tight, as she opened her eyes she saw the elder Samantha standing close by; a brilliant smile on her face as she waited for her turn. Mrysti smiled at the larger version of the girl she held in her arms and mouthed, ‘Hey sweetie’. For a moment all of the problems she had, all of the pain of the last week seemed to melt away as she hugged little Sam. Mrysti so desperately needed this, she need to feel love from someone outside the inner circle of people she was closest too.
Setting the little girl down, she turned to the elder Samantha. The little girl running off behind Mrysti to go find her father, who was close by bringing in the rest of their bags. Mrysti reached out and rubbed the older girl’s arm as she smiled brightly.
“Hey baby, I hope your little ‘sister’ wasn’t too much trouble…”
Samantha shook her head as she slowly took her Mother in an embrace. She could sense something was off about her Mother and that the hug was a necessity at the moment. “No, not at all…her training progresses well. I can see where ‘I’ get it from.” Slowly, Samantha released her Mother to look at her, “You seem stricken by something…is everything all right?”
Now was not the time as Mrysti waved off the question, “I will tell you later, right now…I am just glad to be home.”
Samantha needed to get out. Mrysti told her about Karolin, the fight with Vaylin. To think they could take someone so powerful down, what were they thinking? She smiled to herself, if anyone could do it, it would be Mrysti and Karolin. Her Mother as much as admitting that everything went wrong the second she failed to listen to Karolin. They didn’t stand together and Karolin fell because of it. Mrysti was withdrawing again because of it and Samantha could feel it.
Mrysti also told Sam as much as she could understand about the situation involving Dremmess. Word was already spreading throughout the Republic about the ‘Hero’ who struck down Arcann. The 'widow' of one of the Republic’s greatest soldiers who went and finished the job he started. Though no one could confirm his death, everyone was pretty sure he was dead. Rumors circulated that one of the resistance groups contained Arcann’s Mother turned patriot and at the last moment he was rescued by her. No one could see how that happened based on Dremmess’ report.
Things were starting to slow down after all the action of late. In turn Sam shared all of the latest Republic gossip; everything Mrysti missed while her and her sister were gone. It struck Mrysti that Dremmess would accept a commission to become a High General. Sam could see in her face that Mrysti believed there was more to it. But they didn’t speak further, not until she got dressed to leave.
“Excuse me?!?! Where are you going??”
Sam turned in a flourish to purposefully make the short skirt she was wearing twirl with her movement. “Out, Mother…I have been keeping tabs on the ‘little’ ME for a while now. I just need to get out.”
“Not dressed like that you’re not…get back in her—“ , Vander crept up behind whispering in Mrysti’s ear. Sam didn't hear what was said, but her father winked at her before walking into the other room. Mrysti grimaced and even sneered slightly as she grudgingly continued, “Home by One…and not a moment after.” It was Nar Shaddaa after all.
Being out on her own was a new experience, especially dressed normally in something other than Jedi garb. She could see the men and even the women look at her differently. She was just a normal person, though the looks she got were anything but normal. Sam was not a normal Mirialan girl. At eighteen, she was tall at approximately six foot already and much broader than the average Mirialan. In the skirt she wore, she looked like she had legs to her neck. Long, well built. Not bulky like her Mother who was a huge knot of muscle; Samantha was lean and fit with a body of a dancer. It showed excellently in the skirt and she did an much as she could to accent it walking with a slight ‘bop’ to her step as her rich ruby hair bounced in time.
She liked the looks, the attention. But reminded herself not to get to used to it. It WAS actually a path to the dark side, a path she very nearly had to walk on her Aunt Karolin’s last debacle on Oricon. Samantha was a Jedi out of time, the former Desert Queen being brought back out of a different time line to help Karolin fix a problem she created. Karolin didn’t have the heart to send her back. When she finally did try to, she ended up merging both of the Samantha’s to create something she didn’t want to keep.
Karolin set it back the way it was before she tried with the Dread Master the second time, Flowwalking the Living Force to bring back this Samantha. Which was fine with her, Samantha liked her life. She liked looking after the smaller version of herself, which she saw as her little sister. There seemed purpose in it and for once she reconciled with her Mother the right way. They were one big happy family.
Not entirely happy as Porchia watched the tall Mirialan enter the Slopes and descend down the long ramp. Sam didn’t notice her watching, Porchia excelled at that; staying hidden. She pushed herself off the wall after a moment watching Sam disappear and started after her. On orders from her own Mother, Porchia was there for Sam. They needed her help, at least that’s what Dremmess told her daughter.
Skin bristling slightly someone watching close would have seen a vertical line intersect the holographic projection and flow down the form the droid projected. It preceded on mission, watching the passers-by intently memorizing every face.
<<Surveillance Mode = Activated>>
<<Search parameters = Altered. Sub-unit Alpha 006 and Sub-unit Alpha 007 added to search parameter>>
It was looking for any clue, any sign to get to Karolin. Its image shifted and moved as it walked; an impassive expression on its face. It had been several days since escaping the holo-net and ‘The Virus’ had since searched the net for signs and came up with only the battle which took place on Odessen.
<<Probabilty 0.00% = Target RELOCATED>>
Nar Shaddaa was a center of activity. It surmised that most likely Mrysti Alpha would return there due to the proximity of her ‘Sub-unit’. The Droid, as well had the chance to glean any information from persons that knew the Alphas. It missed Porchia and Sam as they entered the Slopes filing the activity in the cantina as a return destination after it conducted a thorough search.
“Hey.” The Devaronian Merc stepped up and squeezed himself in the crowded bar counter right next to Samantha who swayed with the music, her lips wrapped around a straw as she sipped on the drink. She smiled brightly.
“You’re new around here, ain’t seen you before…” He smiled in keeping with his race’s namesake, devilishly; looking the tall Mirialan up and down like a piece of meat. Sam, incapable of lying and having no knowledge of small talk looked at him continuing the smile.
“That’s because I’m a Jedi!! I don’t get out much…”
“A Jedi huh??” He dropped his hand to his blaster but kept the smile up as he continued to look Sam up and down. “Unusual to see one ‘a you dressed like that. Had me fooled.”
Frowning visibly, Sam dropped her eyes and looked down at what she was wearing. “Is it bad? I thought this would be appropriate attire, given the venue…”
“Venue? What the kriff are you talking about?!?!”
He was already reaching for the blaster, no one knew why. Maybe he had a grudge against Jedi, perhaps he meant to take Sam in for a reward, Jedi were always valuable as a prize in some circles. It didn’t matter as Porchia watched the whole thing go down. She cut through the crowd, even diminutive as she was, she parted the waves of people to get close.
The Deveronian found a blaster to his temple in short order, Porchia on the other end of it. She grabbed the half unholstered pistol out of his hand as she glanced at Sam and frowned. “Time fer hugh ta go, buck-o…hey cuz!!”, She nodded.
As the Deveronian raised both hands, Porchia keeping her pistol on the man she gave him a look tossing the blaster back to him. The look told him everything he needed to know; there would be no bounty that night and it was best he leave and not let her find him again. As the Merc blended into the crowd Porchia turned back Sam to see the taller girl smiling down at her.
“I was wondering when you were going to say ‘Hi’…” She reached over and lifted Porchia up in to a hug as Porchia’s expression changed to one of surprise.
“You mean ya saw meh?!?!”
“Yea, when you got off the shuttle and followed me to the entrance.” Sam looked down sheepishly, “I wasn’t sure if you were on some kind of mission or not so I didn’t bother you. I remember you have ‘things’ you do from time to time so…also, I totally had that. But I saw you watching. I knew you wanted to help so I left it to you...”
Porchia placed her hands on her hips and looked down. Sam was the mission and Porchia had been spotted the entire time. She forgave the slight at having Porchia pull her weapon, something she learned never to do unless she intended to use it.
“C’mon girl…we gotta talk. I AM on mission an yur it…”
The darkness that was her mind as well as her sight, Karolin kneeled very slowly in the actual dark of the room. She had been cut off, separated from the Force after her ‘accident’, she knew it was the Force’ way of trying to tell her something. Things were in motion, she could feel them all around her. Scrambled, she could not pin point or focus on any one thing. It didn’t help that her husband had unconsciously admitted to things she already surmised. Infidelity, betrayal; she shook her head. It was hardly any of those things since she had most certainly given her permission. Or did she? The feminine side of her, the part that was all woman and non-Jedi said no. It was a test, was it a test? Karolin didn’t really know, but the admission of guilt by Aldurion separated her further, caused her emotions to get further out of whack in a situation that was already full of many emotions. He hadn't said anything yet, but even he had to feel it. Their bond almost spoke for them.
She touched her shattered face, most certainly no amount of power in the Force could hide this and at the moment she didn’t try. For years she covered her Dark Side Corruption with the use of the Force. But, this…this would require healers or even technology to overcome. She could not see herself, but she could feel. Vanity was no longer an option. Her image of herself and the image she projected for others to see had been destroyed.
In the pitch black of the room, she had little trouble locating what she needed. Reaching down and opening the drawer on the little table she kneeled in front of. She smiled faintly, the last time she used the table was her wedding ritual. The time had come to go back to her roots, to find her pathway back to the Force. Karolin placed the green Mirialan candle on the table very gently and struck a match instead of using her power to light the candle. Green smoke wafted from the spark as it lit and started to warm the room. Karolin had come to talk to her ancestors and ask them for guidance. To be open and allowed to see what they would show her. It was a way back inside, they foretold of some catastrophe that would befall her. Was it the blindness? Or was there more to come? From the feeling she got and the undercurrent of the Force, she knew something else was headed their way, but what?
--The two embraced, she could see it as if she was standing there. But he stopped her, he couldn’t do it. And in her mind Karolin saw Aldurion, her husband, in the midst of committing an act that Karolin may have meant as a test; walk away. He could not do it. Not to her…Somewhere along the line she messed up that he would even consider it, but there was no time for that now….
-- Moving from one cobblestone room to the next, Karolin watched Dremmess; her saber drawn as she approached him. The man was scared and Karolin instantly recognized him as Dread Master Calphayus. Finding him and snatching him up, Dremmess screamed in his face as she held her dual bladed lightsaber away from him. “You will GIVE IT TO ME!! NOW!!”. A Dread Master, actually showing fear, whatever Dremmess wanted, the Dread Master was not only afraid of her; he was afraid of giving it to her…
-- The table zoomed in and a sleeping Karolin lay on it. She hovered above herself and watched as a white lab coat and mask entered the room…it was V’ictoria. As she lay unconscious, V’ictoria looked around to see if anyone was watching her. She lowered her mask and frowned at the sleeping visage of Karolin on the table. Having seen what once again the Force had wrought on her, V’ictoria ran her fingers gently through Karolin’s raven locks. “I would trade my life for yours…to spare you this pain, my love…” In the vision, Karolin could feel V’ictoria’s anger grow, she looked behind her and around again before lowering the stasis field and withdrawing an injector from her coat. “I will not have you go through this again…”
--The clash of sabers and screams as Karolin entered the next phase of the vision. Mrysti was fighting not one, but two attackers. From a distance, Porchia took up a ready stance and started firing Mrysti’s direction. So engaged with dodging or swiping Porchia’s blaster bolts away from herself that she didn’t see the other attacker. Dremmess engaged at point blank range, nearly killing Mrysti as she jumped in. But there was someone else there….and that someone would take the fall….Karolin watched the shadow come and go. Dremmess’ saber lanced through it, the fading of life. But she couldn’t see whom it was….
--At last, Karolin was reaching the end…she could tell because everything became more distant and unclear. Her Mother was there, so were the others who had passed before her. None of them spoke, all of them smiled. It was time to go back home, they had shown her what they could and she was better armed for it. The Force attaching itself to her once again….
…as the vision began to drift away, she heard a voice. One she did not expect to hear….
“You must…stop her…”
The voice of her brother, RT….and he was calling to her from the netherworld…..
Not that she had to open her eyes, she did anyway and back into darkness. Only this time there was a faint blue glow. Karolin turned her head toward it in the darkness, it was there in her vision only now a waking one.
“You will always walk with us, dear…it’s time to relearn, what you already know. We…will be your sight. Ancestors watch over you…my Daughter…”
From afar, he watched her almost all day. A couple of holo-calls, one to a locator service which came up empty for what he was looking for and the other to Vander. He just wanted to make sure that Mrysti and he arrived safely on Nar Shaddaa. Not that he cared for Mrysti, Aldurion was still enraged at her, but he wanted her in one spot. Moving around, Mrysti could make trouble. He was happy in a way that what he sensed in Mrysti was similar to the feeling he got from her on Zakuul not too long ago. She was withdrawing again, sequestering herself from everyone and that was fine by Aldurion.
Unconsciously, he stayed away from Karolin most of the day. He would enter the garden area and offer her something or offer to assist her in moving if she wished it. He never got much of a reply from her as if she was waiting for something. He knew what that was, just didn’t know if he had the courage to talk to Karolin about it. Weakness from him in the midst of what they both were going through could not be tolerated. And not so soon after they both were married, not to mention the accident which stole Karolin’s sight.
After her meditations, he watched Karolin reenter the garden area of their Coruscant home and sit back in her spot by the fountain; facing the water for, as he surmised, because the water was louder facing it. As he entered, he quickly turned around to leave after looking at the slouching Karolin. She sat with her head down, facing the flowing water and looked absolutely miserable in her current state. He could also feel that misery ebb off of her from so many different levels. Disappointment in her sister, disappointment in herself for not being able to redeem Vaylin. But after the meditations there was another disappointment and it was directed at him. More than anything, that was what made him turn to leave, trying to be quiet as not to disturb her. This was something she had to go through on her own as much as he hated to admit it. No one could separate them, but he could not force her to allow him to help her. He knew Karolin too well and he knew she would come to him on her own terms.
Her voice cut through the silence of the room, only the sound of the running water background as he turned with a start.
“I know what you did…”
Task Force Alpha Base, The Spears of Organa, Alderaan....
As they stood side by side on the grassy field, Porchia kept looking over at Sam. Every time she looked, Sam would look over and smile brightly which made Porchia turn away abruptly. Not really understanding the whole ‘Force’ thing or what happened to bring ‘this’ Samantha into existence, Porchia would steal glances at the elder Samantha from time to time out of curiosity. Did she know Porchia, who was she? It all seemed so surreal to Porchia. An eighteen year old Samantha would make Porchia Thirty Eight and she was only Twenty Five.
Shaking her head to clear the many questions, Sam leaned over and spoke softly as Porchia stood there; both women waiting on Dremmess to arrive at the outpost. “Credit for your thoughts…” It made Porchia turn and look again with wide eyes. It was exactly what she used to say to the ‘little’ Samantha when she saw the little girl get too introspective or quiet. Something that happened far too often to a five year old girl.
"Void, it only seems like yesterday I was holding you in my arm--wait a minute, it was like yesterday; this is crazy! You are not her!"
Porchia turned away folding her arms over her chest as Sam lost the smile. The whole way to Alderaan, they barely spoke; Sam agreeing to go with Porchia to meet with Dremmess over this emergency Porchia talked about. It was Porchia after all, her guardian. There was nothing Porchia could not ask of her former charge that Samantha would not more than willingly give. At last, Sam finally got why Porchia was being so quiet.
“I am her, ‘Auntie’ Porchia…” Sam purposefully used the honorific she used to use, though technically Porchia and Samantha were cousins. It was Porchia that took care of her after Mrysti and the rest all disappeared for five years following the Zakuul take over. Porchia rolled her eyes and gave out a sigh.
“NO…yur not. MY little girl is on Nar Shaddaa…” Porchia gestured, she was speechless for a moment as she struggled for words. “I—I don’t know WHAT you are?!?!”
That hurt on a deep level as Sam dipped her head. She shook her head and felt emotions start to well up inside as she let Porchia’s words burn into her. Softly, slowly she started to speak, keeping her gaze at the ground.
“The day my Mother returned…I was scared. I wrapped my arms around your leg and didn’t want to let go. I think about that sometimes, that day was the beginning of the rest of my life.” Porchia slowly looked over to see a tear leak out of Sam’s eye as she smiled, “Sometimes I ask myself why I was so afraid to let go of you that day. As I got older and thought about it, the feelings associated with everything that surrounded that moment, I came up with an answer.” Sam wiped her face and continued the smile looking down directly into Porchia’s green eyes, “I was afraid that if I went to my Mother, I would lose you. So you see, that’s why what you just said hurt so much. I HAVE lost you…”
As the shuttle landed, Porchia reached over and grabbed Sam in a hug and held her tightly pulling her down to her level. Whatever Sam was, Porchia no longer cared and she didn’t need to know.
Looking out of the viewport, RT smiled to himself unsealing the helmet. Dremmess sat looking over some reports, but caught the newly recommissioned Captain's smile once the helmet came off, looking out toward the landing pad. This had to be the weirdest thing for her, that one of her Commandos not only had her husband’s old call sign, a fact she was going to rectify until she realized that this particular Commando was in love with her daughter. This was truly the work of the Force, that of the literal millions of Republic Troopers, the one with Porchia’s father’s call sign would not only find her, but fall in love with her. She smiled to herself keeping her head down. It was providence.
“Careful, Captain…YOUR Commander’s daughter is quite a handful.” Dremmess smiled wickedly as she unbuckled her belt in the jump seat and stood. RT jumped to attention, he knew Dremmess was Porchia’s mother, he had heard all about the stories long before she returned.
“Yes Ma’am…” he continued to stand at attention until Dremmess waved him off, “At ease, Captain…or should I say ‘Son’? There is talk that—“
RT turned a shade redder at the implication. “She said no Ma’am…and after our recent ‘altercation’ and her jail time I am not sure if she still feels—“
Dremmess shook her head, “She does. Trust me…I know love and I KNOW Porchia. That girl doesn’t love easily and if she does, it’s for life Soldier.” As the ramp lowered Dremmess smiled and waved for him to go first, “Go, go…go get your girl…”
Entering the cold air, Dremmess breathed deep. She always loved the air on that planet. Her eyes got wide however as she surveyed the scene. The makeshift outpost was placed right in the middle of the field RT proposed to her. For a moment she lost herself, glancing over at the ‘other’ RT as he hugged and picked up her daughter twirling her around. If she went through with her plan, none of that would ever be. There would be no love for Porchia, no new RT-946. None of this would ever be.
Her eyes drifted to the rather tall Mirialan standing and watching the two lovers dance with one another in an embrace. As Dremmess watched Samantha, their eyes met.
More than ever, her resolve to fix what had been taken from her strengthened. Her heart grew cold as she looked at the daughter of her most hated enemy; Samantha would be the path to that redemption.
Carrack Station, Republic Space; Main Republic Battle Fleet Station....
I swear by the Infinite Force, the Living breathing entity that heals, binds and surrounds us all; making it my witness, this I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and indenture....
To hold my instructors in my various arts equal to my own parents, to make them my partners in my livelihood, when they are in need of funds to share mine with those in need; to consider their family my own brothers and sisters and to share this art with all whom I encounter; if they wish to learn, without fee or indenture. To impart precept, oral instruction to mine own sons and daughters, the sons and daughters of mine own teachers and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to no one else....
I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability; both humanoid and xenomorphic life forms; but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to any lifeform when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course; always striving to preserve life at all costs. I will keep pure and holy in both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even verily on sufferers from mortal injury, but will place such to save life....
Into whatsoever galaxy I enter, I will enter to help the sick and I will abstain from all intentional wrong doing and harm. Both mine enemies and my allies. Even in death, I will treat those under my care with respect; bonded or freepersons. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession I will never divulge their inner most medical secrets, even under the pain of death. My word is my bond, my oath is my sacrament. Those under my charge should feel safe with me....
Carrying this oath true until death claims me and break it not, I gain a reputation among all beings for my life and for my art. If I transgress and forsake this sacred oath, may the opposite befall me....
In the name of the Galactic Republic, I swear FIRST and foremost… to do no harm…
-- Dr. Victoria Alpha, upon receiving her Doctorate in Internal Medicine -
Carrick Station was the last place she wanted to be; but when the attack came to Coruscant she was stuck there due to travel restrictions. All non-military personnel were the lowest priority for the use of the hyperlanes. Then the casualties started to pour in. It was conscious, long since the days of the Republic Medical Oath she swore and had broken many times since, it was the suffering of the beings fighting the war and the suffering of her fellow doctors that compelled her.
To more of the senior medical staff, she was known by reputation alone. That is to say, her ‘school’ reputation. After leaving school and taking the research job in genetics with Czerka, she dropped out of the literary and circular medical world. She didn’t publish much, give any more lectures or participate in the ongoing research crowds she was once in. Her genetic work was entirely secret. That stung a bit, since she made such advancement in the field and could not publish anything on it. Karolin was going to be that publication. It was her hope when she met Karolin so many years before that in curing her of her illness; the Force and Dark Side Corruption, the galaxy would see the fruits of her labor.
That was not to be, but her life was inexorably tied to the Alphas the moment she met Karolin and she never knew it. It was more than a love affair or mutual attraction. V’ictoria took the sniper’s bolt meant for Karolin. The research she used to make her advancements in a project she knew inside and out was suddenly used on her; to save her life.
V’ictoria became more, more than simply a Doctor in the fields of Genetics, Medicine and Astrophysics. V’ictoria became one of them, the ‘sixth’ to be exact. Not as strong, fast or as agile as the rest of them due to not being under the effects of the project for the length of time as the others; V’ictoria still became a force to be reckoned with. And again, she could tell no one of it. Another secret in a long line of secrets that marred what could have been a normal life. She had no regrets, even after losing the affections of Karolin. V’ictoria was no longer the shy, introverted Doctor who could barely keep her glasses on her face. V’ictoria was now part of the project, eventually to become HER project. Attrition and time wore the data down as well as those with full knowledge of what the Republic had been doing for over one-hundred years.
She was now sole custodian of all of that data, every facet, every part of the Project. But nothing more important than her own part, Genetics and Eugenics. The ‘cure’ was still out there, or rather in her photographic mind. She could still do it and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it would work. Only tempted to test it once, she was beaten to the punch in getting to her test subject; one of her own in Karolin’s sister Mrysti Alpha. At the time, the Great Galactic War was going on and Mrysti’s injuries at that time were tended to by an Imperial Surgeon. She knew the other doctor, he was the Imperial expert on Genetic anomalies. Called in because Mrysti needed genetic replacements in damaged organs. The other doctor did what V’ictoria would have done, even using some of her research stolen from the Republic to use Karolin in order to replicate what Mrysti needed. That would have been the first test: to Rid a Force User of the microscopic symbioses called Midichlorians, the plague that was ‘The Force’.
She buried that desire deep. The desire to rid the galaxy of The Force. Unlike her other colleagues who viewed the Force as some kind of religious cult or power granted by some special ‘galactic’ grant; V’ictoria knew it was real. She knew where it came from, but she also knew that nothing, not even the Force was beyond the reach of science. There was nothing that couldn’t be achieved with the right application of science. Since her ‘induction’ into the Project, she was now a walking, talking example of such. She had faced Sith herself on missions; and survived. Enhanced abilities, enhanced mind; all granted by science.
It was a long twenty four hour shift, the time just seemed to bleed away; quite literally. Eighteen hours of that time were spent in surgery. Before she knew it, she could finally feel the power of even her advanced mind wane a bit. Her colleagues had no idea how she could keep going, they didn’t know the limits of her capability as a genetic anomaly. The time passed so quickly she didn’t even realize until out of respect for her fellow doctors and to keep her secret hidden she allowed them to ‘kick’ her out of the medical area.
She wasn’t tired, having finished five surgeries almost singlehandedly with the assistance of a 21-B, she was committing her patients to Kolto when the ambush came. The medical staff thanking her profusely, but insisting she leave. A break would be welcome, she needed to power down. To allow her mind to once again start asking the questions and cataloguing the rest of the things she was interested in. Millions of thoughts and theories always seemed to roll around her mind at all hours of the day. It would be an excellent chance to get a drink and just ponder, there was only so many hours in a day and not nearly enough to think on or do the things she always wanted to be doing. One of the advantages of the project's effects on an already advanced mind. She processed information and postulated on it at a geometrically incalculable rate. Something even advanced AI could not do, a computer could process information, give you courses of action, but it couldn't dream. It couldn't theorize on a level that a humanoid braid could do. It couldn't imagine possibility.
As she walked the corridor toward the Carrack Station cantina, she didn’t notice how deserted it was; her face buried in her Datapad. Simultaneously she was carrying on a conversation with her love and new assistant, the Former Imperial Intelligence Operative only known as 'Amalgom'. She tried once to start calling him by his given Chiss name and decided it didn't fit with how she thought of him, going back to addressing him by his code name, just because. It was he that she was going to meet when she got trapped on Carrack.
<“If I may be so bold, ‘Doctor’…do you think it would be impossible for me to get you to look up and over at your transmission a second? I would really like to see those blue eyes, you know…I don’t have them.”>
Amalgom’s deep voice rang out as she continued to read, speaking about what she had been doing the past day and a half. She finally looked over and lowered her digital spectacles to allow him a glimpse of her eyes.
“Satisfied, Sir? There is no way to see the color over the holo-comm…one day I will invent one in full color so that won’t be a problem. You know I was thinking on that, we could—“ She began speaking excitedly as Amalgom interrupted, not prepared to allow her to begin rambling once again.
<”I’m sure it’s a brilliant idea, my love…you have never had an idea that is NOT brilliant. However degraded the Holo-comm transmission is, I can see your eyes. I have seen them in real time and though the field does them no justice, I still have my own thoughts.”>
She stopped and looked into the transmission at a smiling Amalgom; realizing she was doing it again. So wrapped up in her mind and research on any and everything that she was ignoring him. She smiled brightly and blushed; “You are right of course…I do miss you. Perhaps once I get this staff caught up and they allow more normal traffic out of the station for civilians I can depart…to join you.”
She added that last part with a smile, just for emphasis and just to let her Chiss love know; she wasn’t going anywhere without him. V’ictoria hadn’t known love since Karolin. Not entirely sure if she loved Amalgom, she was enamored with how enamored he was of her. There was the hidden fear that he may have only been using her because of her connection to the Alphas. After some digging, she found out so much about Amalgom, she thought to dismiss him out of hand. There were several factors that stopped her, the least one being that she was honestly attracted to him. In another time and another place, that would have been a problem. Not anymore, if Amalgom didn’t know he at least surmised that V’ictoria would kill him herself if he betrayed her. Even the suspicious part of V’ictoria had a hard time forgetting the fact that the Chiss was an Imperial Agent. She didn’t fear him, she honestly was just tired of being alone. Something new for her.
As she walked the concourse emerging on the promenade level of Carrack, she passed by several people who paid her little mind. She memorized their faces as she passed with a slight glance. Even as she walked down the staircase toward the bar, she filed those faces as ‘innocuous data’. Perhaps more tired than she let on, she didn’t survey the bar area like she normally did, instead going right to the server droid. The figure in the corner took note of her; dressed in her medical scrubs, long before she decided it was time to look around and see who was about.
Having only been looking for her the past week or so, Aldurion knew she was on Carrack once he paid a couple of informants for the information. V’ictoria and her new ‘accomplice’ Amalgom did everything they could to stay off all scanners. Going dark and staying dark after Mirial, Aldurion did not have a high opinion of V’ictoria after she saved his life from the plague he contracted while on Mirial with Karolin. His last images of V’ictoria before succumbing to the effects of the plague were an argument between herself and his now wife, Karolin. V’ictoria was going to experiment with something on Aldurion and Karolin wouldn’t have it, insisting that any injections be given to herself first. V’ictoria’s feelings for Karolin getting the better of her. It was then that Aldurion knew that V’ictoria was not a ‘normal’ Doctor, that she would bend or even break the rules if she needed to in the name of ‘her’ science.
He didn’t stop there, Karolin eventually telling him a lot about the Doctor. He also did some of his own research once he had access to the data on the Alpha Project. V’ictoria was a mad scientist and Aldurion had no use for any of that.
Until Karolin was injured…now all of a sudden he needed her.
He knew if anyone could help Karolin restore her sight it would be one with the genetic knowledge of the project which made all the Alphas who they were. With a bit of shock, he was surprised when V’ictoria very daintily picked up her glass of wine, smiling into it to address him as he walked up. It appeared she had seen him after all, “You appear much healthier than the last time I saw you Mr. Mordeth. Color in the skin suits you instead of that deathly pallor of white you once had…” Aldurion forced a smile at her words, looking off and around before placing himself at the bar and setting his own glass down next to her. Her had no time to mince words and didn’t like her very much to begin with.
“There has been an accident Doctor, I require your assistance…SHE requires your assistance. I need you to accompany me to—“
V’ictoria turned with a start and looked at Aldurion incredulously, “Excuse me? You need? I am not some Soldier to be ordered around at your whim. Now, slow down, get a hold of yourself and try again.”
Aldurion grit his teeth, steeling himself from anger as he looked at the small woman, who went back to her wine and her Datapad as Aldurion realized she was reading while talking to him. He wanted her full attention. “Karolin, has been injured. She has lost her sight and will require someone with expertise in her specific ‘condition’ to remedy it.”
Smiling to herself, V’ictoria thought back to the story of Mrysti’s injury. There was an eye replacement involved with that as well. She turned slowly and thumbed the pad behind her to deactivate it. “I assume you have spoken to Karolin about this? You know, her and I didn’t part on the best of terms…you were the reason actually.”
Aldurion waved a hand, “I care not about what the altercation was. The fact that I don’t like you has not changed. This is about my wife, this is about Karolin.”
“Yes” V’ictoria seemed to lose the smile for a moment, “…I heard that the two of you were married. Congratulations…” She said begrudgingly before continuing, “…Karolin will not allow me near her without consent, it is the extent of her anger toward me.” V’ictoria placed a hand to her chin considering, “I assume she has already seen a physician or Jedi healers. I would have to examine her myself.”
“I have not taken her to Tython yet, she is resting at our home on Coruscant, but we are to depart for Tython within the week. I can have the data on her condition sent to you.”
It was V’ictoria’s turn to wave her hand, she didn’t care about the opinions of second rate Doctors, “That’s fine…I will still have to see the extent of the damage and if it’s a full eye replacement, she will need genetically similar material.” V’ictoria smiled viciously, “I assume you are familiar with her sister, Darth Retuvisa.” V’ictoria purposefully used Mrysti's ‘Darth’ honorific watching for Aldurion’s reaction. He frowned and looked away.
“Yes, Mrysti and I are not on speaking terms at the moment. Truth be known, this entire act is due to her inaction…I am understandably upset and have communicated as much.”
As V’ictoria slowly drank from the glass she set it down with a slight sigh, “I leave that to you. Mrysti and I have never ‘gotten on’ so to speak. None of this means anything without her assistance.”
For a moment, Aldurion’s face brightened as he smiled at the woman, “Then you are willing to do it.”
“I didn’t say that, I said you needed to get all of the pieces together, that means Karolin’s consent and Mrysti's agreement to assist….but…” V’ictoria folded her arms on the bar counter and leaned forward, “…I also require your agreement on several things.” Aldurion crooked an eyebrow at that statement as V’ictoria took a moment before continuing, “I want you to consider something, you don’t have to agree now, but ask yourself.....Do you love Karolin?”
The question struck Aldurion as strange as he shook his head answering with a slight edge to his voice, “Yes, of course I do, we wouldn’t be speaking otherwise—“
“—You love her so much, you would be willing to do anything for her? Even to the extent of allowing me to cure her of the root cause of all this madness?”
Again Aldurion grit his teeth. He heard from Karolin about what transpired between them so many years ago. Karolin, the first test subject for V’ictoria’s mad plan to cure the galaxy of the Force. Even before he spoke he was already shaking his head, leaning in a bit toward her.
“I am talking about healing her sight, fixing her eyes so that she may see normally again. Without the use of cybernetics or appliances. You do ANYTHING…anything other than that and you will answer to me.”
There was a long pause as V’ictoria looked away, finally collecting her Datapad and draining the last of her glass.
“Fine. You have it your way; Mr. Mordeth. But consider this…she is a tormented soul, tormented from the first moment I walked into her life. I am, who I am because of her and I have no regrets. I do this, not for you…but for her and because of the debt I owe her and her brother for my own life.” V’ictoria started to walk away pushing away from the bar, “You need to understand something. What I offer is far greater than just her sight, it is the chance for her and even YOU to live a normal life. FREE of the Force. You can have children, grow old together and even die.” Victoria smiled wickedly, “She didn’t tell you that did she, that she is genetically engineered to never have children? It’s part of the Alpha protocol.”
“Two of her siblings have had children, I see no reason why she cannot—“
V’ictoria raised a finger taking a step back toward him, “Yes, but THEY are not her…both of them had their programming altered, Karolin has never been tampered with. You want a life with her, you want to feel normal with her as your wife? You need to consider what I offer. I will repair her sight regardless of your decision provided you get the right pieces in place.”
As she ascended the steps Aldurion squeezed his fists together. He didn’t like being beholden to anyone, much less someone he didn’t trust. V’ictoria reached the top of the stairs and looked back at him.
Anastasia carried herself with the respect of her former station. Already an eloquent and well mannered Sith, she was just as respectful; perhaps more demure, once applying for training within the Jedi Order. But no one would touch her. Not quite as heinous a War record as most Darths of the same station; formerly known as a Darth, and having the odd abilities she possessed which often caused her hair to grow in brilliance, she was a bit of an anomaly. No one in the Jedi Order or what was left of it knew what to do with her. They could not turn her away and the Republic did not have enough on her to charge her with any crimes against the Republic. So, she kept to herself, biding her time until the Force would call to her, which eventually it did. Leading her to Carrick Station to wait. What she waited for, she had no idea.
Until the moment she met Samantha Alpha, she was sure the Force was leading her on a wild Bantha chase. There was something about the girl, much younger than she was. So strong in the Living Force, Samantha saw instantly that there was something different about her. Without asking and surmising on her own that Anastasia was yet another refugee from the remnants of the Sith Empire.
The galaxy was in chaos, so it was not surprising that as they talked, Ana began to remind her of her own Mother. Perhaps not in age, definitely not in looks. But the attitude was the same. The same fire, the same disposition. The same will to learn about something that had been shut out for her for so long. Samantha saw it in an instant. Their destines would become intertwined. Anastasia would have some part to play in the greater goal of not only the Living Force, but the Alphas as well.
When Karolin met Ana, it was as if two opposing charged storms suddenly attracted one another. There was almost an instant connection, both women could feel it. Karolin could hear the Force whisper to her on the wind. It didn’t surprise anyone in the reconstituted Jedi Council that Karolin approached and offered to take Ana as her Padawan learner. An act that even as a Senior Master in the Order, she had never done. Ordinarily based on Karolin’s background, they would have flatly refused. In this case, they were almost relieved to be rid of Ana; the burden of finding her a suitable Master now off of their shoulders.
Karolin never intended for their relationship to be that of student and teacher. She chose to share their knowledge equally. Karolin wanted Ana to walk beside her and she started by sharing the intimate details of her own life to draw them closer. Perhaps it was a mistake, perhaps not. In Karolin, Anastasia saw more than a teacher, she saw a kindred spirit; someone who had gone through similar trials in their life as she went through. It had the desired effect, it brought them closer. Too close.
As Anastasia reached for Karolin, their lips touching Karolin wanted to say ‘no’. But she couldn’t, it was like a moth to a flame. The red color of Ana’s hair drawing Karolin so much closer than she needed to be. It glowed with a brilliance that seemed to radiate the intense passion she felt as they embraced. Karolin wanted it so badly, but she knew…doing this she would cross a threshold. They would no longer be teacher or student, but something else entirely. Resolve kicked in and Karolin stopped. She would give in, but only with the understanding that she could not show Ana the ways of the Force. There was no way Karolin could lead her to the light and remain objective about her. Already she was having feelings she held for two people and two people alone. The first her husband, Aldurion. The second, Dremmess. Love that would never die. Love that would burn her to the ground.
Karolin sent Anastasia away as she and Aldurion boarded the ship off the balcony that would take her to a fight she had foreseen. It was not Ana’s time, nor was it her fight.
“Wait for me on Tython…”
And the ship started off. At the time Karolin didn’t know what would happen or that Ana had also been drawn to Aldurion, but not for the reasons even she thought. It was the bond Karolin and Aldurion shared. Ana felt that bond too and in her spirit knew that at some point they had been in that bond together. The Force…is timeless after all.
Arriving on Tython, Karolin was greeted by Ana at the ramp. Her ‘Padawan’ was not prepared for what slowly descended down the ramp. Karolin was hunched slightly, her head low. She kept her shattered features covered, the bandage still firmly in place, but peeking out of the corners Ana could see the scars already forming, remnants of charred skin and attempts at repair or healing.
Ana had already heard what happened, no one who was associated with the War had already heard everything. It was with eagerness that Ana approached the Council in her Master's stead to demand the healers tend Karolin. Something they had already decided to do, what Ana didn't know is that Karolin would most likely decide against it. This would be a point of contention.
As Ana softly took Karolin's arm to help her the rest of the way off the ramp, the Mirialan smiled and pat Ana's hand turning her head slightly the other woman's direction.
"Your angst is appreciated, but unnecessary. I am fine...all is as it should be.."
Ana smiled at the comment, glancing back at Aldurion once again. Had he told her of their liason? She didn’t know, Karolin seemed to turn the warm smile into a vicious one at Ana’s thought; but said nothing. Aldurion remained silent as Karolin looped her arm through Ana’s to begin walking with her. The two chatted, both smiling as the sun on Tython cast their shadows back behind and over Aldurion.
“So, I trust you found Tython right where you left it? Everything in order to begin our training?” Ana stopped and looked at Karolin incredulously.
“Our training? But, Master I thought this was—“ Her comment was met with another warm smile.
“Please, don’t call me that. I am not a Master at the moment, merely a guide for you to find your way back to the light. It seems we both need that discovery.” She started walking again, this time leading Ana. “So, we will both help one another, shall we? You to find the power you have always known and ‘I’ to rediscover what the Force is like without sight.” Again Ana clammed up as Aldurion grimaced. Karolin could sense it and spoke offhandedly at what she was feeling. “Perhaps we should all sit first and have a chat. I sense some angst at what should be a routine matter.”
As they moved into one of the grand training halls, Karolin was already preparing to take up a defensive stance. She could sense from the both of them they opposed her decision to remain blind.
To Ana, she didn’t understand in the age of modern technology and the presence of healers in the Force why someone would subject themselves to remaining blind. For Aldurion, it was a matter of having Karolin back the way she was, to end her anguish. Karolin never saw it that way, not after meditating on it and speaking to her ancestors and the Force. She was ‘seeing’ everything in a new way and didn’t want to lose that.
As the argument ensued, Ana let her anger and part of that Sith side of her; the emotional side show.
“This makes no sense, you are doing this to yourself for no good reason. If the means are available why would you remain in darkness?” With all of her studying, training, data collection, and relics, she had never known of anything that could be helping her without her eye sight. The Force could be sensed in either sight, having even trained herself to be able to see the force as a Miralukan, though with great exertion.
For the most part, Aldurion remained quiet, Karolin could sense his unease on so many levels. He was on Tython again, a place that already made him uneasy. In the presence of the one, in Ana; that he had a tryst with. And his wife, standing before him completed the uneasiness. After a moment, he finally spoke, Ana stepping away to calm herself. Karolin turned her head away.
“Do you have something you wish to say?” Aldurion wished to say a lot of things, but he made his response direct and to the point.
“You will do what you have to, I understand that. But understand that I must also do what I must to ensure your safety; nothing is more important than that.” Karolin turned her head back toward him with a frown. Neither one of them had seen the visions she had seen. They didn’t know of the many things going on around them. The dark force that approached to consume Karolin. The machinations of Dremmess who was looking for payback, for a life taken from her. Aldurion may have suspected Karolin knew about Ana, but they still hadn’t spoken on it. As she was about to speak, Ana rejoined them. Always direct and unafraid, Ana attacked her new instructor with fervor.
“This has nothing to do with the Force, Karolin. This has to do with your misguided belief that somehow all of this, the accident; my coming into your life…everything is the ‘Will of the Force’! It’s not the Will of the Force, it was an accident! Get over it and get the help you need so that we may get on with our lives!”
Karolin was feeling double teamed by them, both of them siding with each other against her. Still, they did not know what she did. Clenching her fist, the light fixtures and loose objects around the room began to shake.
“IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT!!!” Karolin stopped herself before she lost total control, looking down and taking a calming breath. Her head went back and forth in the direction of both of them as if she could truly see them in her blindness, “All I ask is that the two of you trust me. There is more going on than we realize. I refuse to believe that the Force led me to this pass; told me to try and redeem Vaylin and allowed her to hurt me only to rob me of my ‘true’ sight. I have seen what will come and if I heal myself, if I restore my sight I may lose that vision.”
Aldurion turned to leave, he had places to be and a ‘sister’ to talk to. It was still his intention to speak to Mrysti about V’ictoria’s offer of help. But the time to confront Karolin about it had not come. “Well…” he sighed as he spoke, “…I think I have overstayed my welcome.” He looked at Ana, a weak smile telling her to take care of Karolin. Ana was not prepared to stay at that moment either, disregarding Aldurion’s smile still steeped in her own anger.
“You are a fool Karolin, I am done with this…” She needed a moment. As Karolin turned toward the door with the both of them preparing to leave, the emotional part; the part of her that was a woman, a wife and a lover took over. Again she clenched her fist.
“Leaving together are you? That’s fine, I expected as much…I realize I gave my permission, so go ahead. You have needs, my husband…” Her head turned towards Aldurion, “WEAK men…always have needs.” As Karolin stepped away, Aldurion took a step towards Karolin but then shook his head and turned away. Now was not the time for a confession as Ana looked at him in shock. She knew, somehow Karolin knew what had happened between them. She was about to say as much to Aldurion who only shook his head. As he left, Ana stayed behind watching Karolin for a moment.
“I am here, I will stay by your side no matter what; even if I disagree with this course.” She looked down and bit her lip, “I will give you a moment to collect yourself, it’s already been a long day…and you just got here.”
This was becoming more difficult than Aldurion anticipated. As he boarded the shuttle ramp, he turned to look back at Tython once again, breathing in the air, smelling the sweetness of it. It reminded him of her. It reminded him of what she was before all of this happened and he knew he had to get that back. This could not stand, even if he had to save Karolin from herself, that’s what he had to do.
Something pulled at him as he turned to leave. Something in the Force, a whisper, a pull trying to get him to turn once again. Perhaps Karolin was right, there was something coming for her. For a moment, he almost made himself stay. If there was something coming, his place would be by her side.
But now, she had Ana. A friend, a confidant someone to share her secrets of the Force with. He frowned at that thought. Though he had still not said anything, he knew Karolin knew about him and Ana. It made him turn and enter the shuttle even as the Force was telling him not to. He had a mission and that mission was Karolin…
Mom, Headed out on a mission. Got a call something was going on with Oricon again, need to check it out.Will let you know when I get there.
What Vander whispered to Mrysti in the foyer before Sam left for the city was, ‘She’s old enough to take care of herself; this one is NOT your baby.’, played in Mrysti’s mind. It made her smile a bit, she was being overprotective. That her youngest one was also an exact duplicate of her oldest one never even factored in, she saw them almost as one being. She loved each of them as much as the other. She didn’t worry, she knew Sam was more than capable, she had seen it first hand and if she was called by the Order it had to be important.
‘That went surprisingly well’, Mrysti thought as she left the Cantina and Aldurion behind. The fact that he even wanted to talk to her was a shocker; the last time they saw one another he tried to kill her. Vander called ahead and informed Mrysti he was looking for her. Vander was home, tending to the younger Samantha at the time. Aldurion did the proper thing, it WAS Mrysti Alpha he was dealing with after all. Better to not surprise her; not when she thought you wanted to kill her. She would strike first and ask questions later. He knew that.
They both agreed, a technological solution for Karolin was the best course. What Mrysti did not agree with was who he had chosen to perform this miracle of science. V’ictoria was the last person she would have called, even though the Mrysti knew V’ictoria was one of maybe two individuals capable of performing such an operation involving someone of Karolin’s genetic make-up. The Alpha Project Genome was bonded to all of the original five; of those five Karolin was the only one who had never been tampered with. Even when Mrysti required a similar surgery and Karolin was called in to assist her in providing genetic material; they didn’t call V’ictoria. Darth Isilith knew better when she took charge of Mrysti’s convalescence on Tatooine.
Not that things turned out well anyway. The Imperial Doctor had no direct knowledge of Project Alpha, he discovered the peculiar genetic strain after the fact, while assessing how much damage had been done to Mrysti. It was by pure happenstance that the man could even perform the surgery, Darth Isilith had truly chosen the absolute best surgeon in the Imperial Medical Corps to come to Tatooine. Not that she gave him any choice. Still, it wasn’t a one-hundred percent a success. Mrysti emerged with a blue eye, her hair had fallen out in places and several biological systems had to be completely replaced or repaired, one of them resulting in the unforeseen ability for Mrysti to have children. A secret both Karolin and Darth Isilith kept from Mrysti. It wasn’t until she was pregnant with Samantha that she discovered it. Darth Isilith’s plan to impregnate Mrysti and have her bear yet another apprentice foiled by the Zakuul invasion of the galaxy…and Vander.
There was no regret as Mrysti walked and thought on it. Samantha was a gift from the Force, both of them were. And Vander was absolutely the right person to have been the father. If she had a choice in the matter, she would have chosen him anyway. Not only was there attraction there dating back to the very beginning of the Galactic War, but he was and still is; A Hero. Something Mrysti desperately needed in times that she went off the rails. Someone who understood her, who could rein her in. Someone who’s very presence made the tall Mirialan weak in the knees. She was still powerless around him, just being in the same room seemed to suck the air out.
She began to hum a tune to herself. The events of the day turning things out better than she expected. Aldurion, Vander…Karolin, her family was coming back together. Aldurion did not apologize for his actions on board the Battleship while they spoke, Mrysti didn’t expect him to; Karolin was his wife after all. Though Mrysti did apologize twice. Still humming she wasn’t really paying attention, making her way to the maintenance level. She attached her ship to the underside of Carrack and entered through an airlock, the need to keep her movements hidden still necessary. The Republic had still not met to decide if she was to be granted citizenship or not.
As she thought about that part, leaving the Empire didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Darth Ascina had assumed control of the Sith Empire. She was not Mrysti’s Empress and never would be. But that was the least of the reasons why she was leaving, albeit one of them. Ascina had summoned Mrysti several times, but things got in the way; besides that Mrysti didn’t like the idea of being summoned by a lesser Darth. Someone who the former ‘Hammer of the Empire’ thought was beneath her. As she walked the corridor the droids activated behind her; so enamored by her thoughts she didn’t see or hear them.
<<TACTICAL = Activated>> <<ASSUME CONTROL = Droids 126, Assault Droid 87 – Vicinity; Maintenance Tunnels. ACTIVATING = Additional Droids>> <<Target LOCATED = Subdue and Capture – TERMINATION, NOT Authorized>>
The Virus moved on a path parallel to Mrysti, in a side tunnel that ran alongside. It was more vertical than the horizontal one Mrysti walked down. Climbing with ease, it took a perch above a hatch and transmitted its orders as it waited; assuming control of all defensive systems and Droids in the area.
As the defensive turrets came up Mrysti’s face twisted in a momentary flash of anger, her first thought; that the Republic had come to a decision in their ruling on granting Mrysti citizenship. But as she heard the clatter of metallic footsteps coming up quickly behind her she realized this was more than that. The Republic would not send so many to kill her. This ambush was a capture for reasons she couldn’t understand.
She launched one hand out blasting the turret in the force, activating her cross-guard saber in the other hand. The first droid attacked moving quickly to try and grab her, launching would could only be a blast from a stun pistol. Its blue beam sailed past as Mrysti launched herself backward almost hitting her head on the ceiling as she spun, thrusting the saber down through the backplate and out the front of the droid. It was an assault model, she noticed quickly as she landed among the other two droids. Something that shouldn’t have been in the tunnel.
Swinging her back leg in a round house she struck the next droid in her landing. Not out of place, the Maintenance droid flew backward. It wasn’t armed with a weapon, its arms flailing as it tried to grab her.
“Kriffin’ Droids!!” The other droid had her targeted as she came out of the spin. She reached for its pistol, the beam hitting her hand and deadening it almost immediately. Bringing the saber up and over her head she swiped down and spun into her slash cleaving the droid in two.
<<ASSESSING = Withdraw>> <<ATTACK = Failur—
-- She saw she was being observed. It wasn’t a feeling in the Force, she saw the glow of the red eyes. Mrysti launched upward sending her fist through the thin screen covering the maintenance hatch and grabbed what her hand landed on first. As it turned out it was a wrist, it felt warm, but hard as she landed jerking whatever was in there out at the same time.
Getting pulled down, ‘The Virus’ immediately went into offensive mode striking Mrysti three times before it flipped backward and blasted Mrysti with two hands extended. The pulse blast sending Mrysti flying the opposite way down the access tunnel
<<EVASIVE mode = Active>> <<Reassessing approach to Target>>
Mrysti landed hard after tumbling head over heels a couple of times, her chest armor seared by the blast from the ‘whatever’ it was. She got to a knee in time to see the red eyes. Her own eyes getting wide.
“What the kriff?!?!”
For a brief moment before the skin of the creature bristled and disappeared in a stealth field she saw what could not possibly be.
An image of her sister, Karolin Alpha….
He was a Merc, one of many who traveled the station. His story was sorted as so many of the others who also used the station as a stopping point from one job to another. And there were a lot of jobs open at the moment. The War back on, angers flared. One could get a job in doing anything from shipping materials to full on termination bounties. Not that Mar’cus was interested in any one more than another.
They met on one of Mrysti’s drunken tryst to the station. She was angry after the events on Odessen; Vander wasn’t being any help and she just needed to drink. Add in the fact the Republic was jerking her around about her citizenship, Mrysti was not the best company at the time.
Still, Mar’cus braved it. They became friends. On one occasion a little ‘more’ than friends. Though neither one of them ever mentioned that again, it was a silent smile between them when they saw one another.
Mar’cus had not talked to Mrysti in a few weeks. The last time he called her via Holo to let her know he had a strange run in on Nar Shaddaa with her sister, Karolin. Mrysti laughed it off. She knew it wasn’t possible, Karolin was on Tython. Still she traveled to Nar Shaddaa to speak with him. It was the beginning where Mrysti realized that something was masquerading as her sister and perhaps seeking if not just her, all of them out.
As he rounded the corner of one bar counter to another, he saw her. Standing a bit disheveled, Mrysti had her holo-comm plugged into a satellite port and was typing frantically in the holo-field. She didn’t notice him and continued to type as he smiled wickedly to himself. He was just going to say ‘Hi’, but as he got closer he saw that one of her hands had a nasty burn, she was covered in sweat and seemed to have just gotten done throttling someone.
“Well, I was going to say ‘Hi’, but you appear—“
Mrysti turned on him suddenly, grabbing his arm. “Mar’cus!!! You were right! I saw—kriff me! I kriffin’ saw it!! It sent droids, turrets…it tried to attack me, though I don’t think it was trying to kill me, it—“
“Whoa, whoa…slow down. You saw what?” He tried to slow the fast talking Mrysti down, who glanced back at her Holo-comm. Karolin was not responding and in frustration she shattered the device on the bar counter like it was a toy.
“The damn ‘thing’…THE THING…IT, I saw it…it attacked me after I pulled it out of a maintenance hatch! It’s somewhere here still, it has to be…” She looked around herself carefully and back to Mar’cus. He in turn did the same.
“Did it look like—“
“YES!! It was exactly like her, just like you described!!” Mrysti was still excited as she looked around again. Mar’cus not so much as he placed a hand on her arm looking up at her.
“Ok, we have to get you out of here. If it’s gunning for you, then we don’t want to give it what it wants.” Mrysti was still mumbling as he pulled her away from the counter, pieces of the holo-comm falling out of her hand as she still talked to herself.
“It had to be a shapeshifter, maybe a droid of some kind I—wait?!? What?!?” She jerked her arm out of his hand standing up to her full height to look down at him, “I am NOT running. I fear no man, no—“
“Yea, yea….I get it, ‘no man, nothing’. I heard it before Mryst’. You are not going to let this thing get whatever it’s after, right now that appears to be YOU.” She smiled wickedly still standing still as she looked down at him. “No, ‘I’m’ not…but you could.” Mar’cus gave her a strange look as she continued, “Wanna play a little hide and seek?”
As she entered the Hangar taking the long way around the station to ensure she was actually being followed if it indeed decided to follow her instead of Mar’cus; she was shocked to find he was already there. He nearly shot her as she entered, both weapons draw he was watching the door intently, cursing himself as he lowered the pistols, Mrysti ducking back realizing he was targeting her.
“Whoa, wait!!! It’s me…” She peered around the corner and stepped out, Mar’cus visibly sagged. “You saw it didn’t you!!?!?”
“Yes, I saw it…it did exactly like you thought took me for bait. I guess it surmised you were on to it now and decided on another target.” He holstered both pistols as Mrysti put her saber away. “It ‘acts’ like a droid, at least in reasoning, but I have never seen a droid like it. I attacked as soon as it entered the hangar area behind me and—“
“You shot at it?” Mrysti frowned, “That was stupid Mar’cus, you could have been killed. I told you that it—“
“Wait, wait, wait…I am not some helpless schoolboy here. And after trying to capture you I wasn’t taking any chances with that thing. Besides, it doesn’t matter. It had some kind of stealth field, something I haven’t seen before. It went evasive and disappeared before I could even get a secondary lock.” Mar’cus tapped one of his gauntlet weapons and began to check the systems on his armor. “One thing is for sure, it knows we are after it now and whatever its goal is, it has to be stopped.”
Looking around the hanger Mrysti finally rested her eyes back on Mar’cus. “Chances are it is still watching us somehow.” She leaned in close, kissing his cheek. “Thank you for being the bait, I owe you. If you’re up for it I say we go a bit further. Let’s take it to Coruscant and see what it does, it can’t hurt to lead it farther away from the rest of my family, too many of them are traveling through this station right now.”
He smiled wryly, “Great…only one question.” His smile got wicked as he looked back at his ship, “My ship or yours?”
Dremmess didn’t say much, her attention on the shuttle and piloting as they made their approach to the former Dread Master stronghold. The volcanic planet loomed in the viewport as both Samantha and Porchia leaned over the co-pilot seat to look out. Neither Porchia nor Dremmess explained to Sam what she was needed for, as they approached Oricon; she was beginning to get the picture. Not so long ago, Sam had been there herself. Sam stood up and looked down at the back of Dremmess’ head as she worked the controls.
“If you are planning to change the past, you will fail Master. I am living proof of that…”
Porchia grimaced, she had no idea what the plan was. Her Mother hadn’t shared this Oricon part with her. As they dropped RT off at the garrison Porchia was actually told to stay behind with RT. Something Porchia flatly refused to do. Though she had loyalty to her Mother, Porchia had love for Sam. She could sense something was off about all of it. And no way was Porchia going to let Dremmess hurt Sam.
As the shuttle landed and Dremmess began to unbuckle she stood and scooted around the other two women with only a slight ‘excuse me’ from her lips. Porchia had enough with all of the cloak and dagger, pursing her lips as she glared at her Mother.
“Mom!! What…are we doing here?!?!”
Already putting her equipment on, Dremmess ditched the uniform and began putting on her robes. She spoke while she put the equipment on, not looking at the other two. “We…are here to right the wrong done by HER Mother…” Dremmess pointed at Sam angrily, “…your father didn’t deserve to die. No one did…I am going to see it fixed.” She looked up and over at Sam again, “…and she is going to help US do it.”
Sam crossed her arms and stood defiantly, also shooting a glare at Porchia. She knew based on the way Porchia asked the initial question that Porchia was as much in the dark as she was. “And if I refuse? Master, you must understand, I am here only because my Aunt Karolin attempted something similar. It has taken nearly a year to right those wrongs. And much trial and error. What you are doing… it’s foolish, you are being guided by your emotions and that is nev—“
Dremmess grit her teeth, her head snapping up. “You have no idea WHAT I am being guided by, child!!”
Lowering the ramp, Dremmess departed the ship and onto the volcanic ground that surrounded the abandoned Republic Way station. The journey to the Dread Palace would be much easier taking the routes already carved out by the Republic and the Empire so many years before, during their engagement with the Dread Masters. Porchia and Sam exchanged glances as Porchia grabbed Sam’s hand and squeezed it gently for reassurance. Her way of saying, ‘I’ll handle this.’
“Mom…I think we should listen to Samantha. I’m not sure how she knows, but she’s right…whatever you’re up to it’s—“
Dremmess turned with a start and on reflex placed her hand on her lightsaber quickly taking it off at the glare she received from Porchia in doing so.
Pointing angrily, Dremmess scowled at Samantha, “Do you have any idea WHAT she is?!?!” Dremmess circled slowly, still looking the tall Mirialan up and down; she spoke still looking at Samantha. “An aberration, an anomaly in the Force!!” Dremmess shot a glare at Porchia, “Did she tell you?!?!” Dremmess laughed wickedly, “She’s right…she’s living proof of what happens when you change the past…” Dremmess moved toward Porchia clenching her fist in her daughter’s face, “LIVING…proof, Porchia. LIVING…”
Turning around Dremmess started for the launch and the speeders parked there, still murmuring to herself. Sam and Porchia exchanged glances once again. Both women now convinced Dremmess was quite mad. “Living proof. If she can be here…RT can be here. None of this…ANY OF THIS, will have ever happened. None, none of it…” Getting on the speeder she glanced at both girls, “I am not going to say it again. This is happening, you can either stay here and I will do it myself or come along.”
Whispering to Sam as she moved, Porchia once again grabbed the tall Mirialan’s hand, “We have to go Sam, if anyone can stop her we can…I am not going to let anythin’ happen to ya.”
The new doors looked out of place on the ancient looking structure; The Dread Palace. At some point in the conflict, the Republic and the Sith Empire knocking the doors down to get inside. Even replacing them must have been a feat. Samantha knew of only one who still dwelled in the massive Palace and even he couldn’t have done it alone.
Placing her hands on both doors, Dremmess pushed inward with what seemed like inhuman strength; in truth a seething rage. The doors slowly parted to the silence which engulfed them on the inside; the three women’s shadows casting a long line on the floor which seemed to go on forever. Dremmess whispered to herself as she crossed the threshold purposefully. “He’s hiding”. She could sense it and as Porchia gave her Mother another glance before looking at Samantha questioningly; Samantha parted her painted lips to speak the name.
Hastily he picked up holo-records, actual books, ancient parchments; moving from one room to the other, dropping most of it absently as he murmured. “No, no….it could be the time that she came back and made peace with them all…or, perhaps went back and stayed.” Another book dropped out of his arms and slammed loudly on the floor. He looked down at it with a worried look on his face. “Or, perhaps the time that she turned on the other one and shot he—“ His mindless rambling was interrupted by the scream that came from the front foyer. So angry, so loud that it echoed the entire confines of the Palace. As Calphayus bent down to retrieve the book at his feet, he slowly released his grip and sighed recognizing the words from one of many strands of time he’d seen before, “Oh…it’s that one…”
“CALPHAYUS!!! I know you’re here…evil little man…COME HERE TO ME, NOW!!!”
Standing up, he dropped all that he had in his arms. It clattered loudly to the floor. Straightening his tunic and robe he moved purposefully toward the door. He already knew how this was going to turn out, at least this first part. It all depended on the actions of the one calling his name, this was all about ‘her’ after all.
Walking out into the foyer, he already saw the shadows of the three women approaching the corner and he stopped, folding his arms behind his back to wait. Before they rounded the corner he spoke, an ominous warning. He had to see if this was the ‘one’ he thought it was.
“There is no need for violence Master Dremmess, I know why you’ve come and before you ask, I will tell you…no, I cannot assist you. If is for your own protection as well as…” As they rounded the corner, Calphayus smiled and gestured at Porchia and Samantha. “…their protection.” He smiled at Samantha, to him it was yesterday he seen her. Every day was yesterday to him, or tomorrow…there was no time for him. At least in his head. No one understood the Eternal Force like he did. It was a timeless entity. “Hello, Samantha…it is good to see you again.”
Moving faster at his words, Dremmess picked up speed as she moved toward Calphayus; pushing the old Dread Master toward the wall. Spittle leaked from her mouth as the two of them moved together. A look of fear coming over the Dread Master as he was pushed by an enraged Dremmess. Porchia and Sam practically running to catch her.
“I don’t want to hear that you miserable Kriffer!!!” She slung the hands and arms of Porchia and Sam away from her as she pressed her forearm into the Dread Master’s throat. “You assist my enemies…you assist me…”
He sputtered his reply as Dremmess released some of the pressure finally pushing him hard into the wall before letting him go to step back in a glare. “ Enemies…enemies?” As he spoke, turning the word into a question he looked away, “No, it’s not that one…the one where you—“ He looked at Dremmess with an absent expression, seeming to realize something, his eyes getting wide. “NO…nonononono, if you do this…there is no turning back.” He frowned, “I really wish you wouldn’t have said that last statement in quite that way…it means only one thing.”
All three exchanged looks again, only Dremmess going back to looking at Calphayus. “I don’t care WHAT you’ve seen or you think you’ve seen. You know what I’m here for!” Her hand darted behind her as she pointed a crooked finger at Sam, “SHE is the key. I know she is not supposed to be here, yet you allowed her to—“
“I allowed?!?” Calphayus laughed wickedly, “I allowed. Master, you seem to think I have some sway over the comings and goings of the Eternal Force. When I do not…I am merely it’s conduit, it’s messenger. I see things, yes…I facilitate travel from one line to another, most certainly….” Calphayus leaned forward to look deep into Dremmess’ blue eyes, “…BUT ‘I’ have nothing to do with what the Force decides. IT makes its own decisions…we all must live with the consequences of our OWN actions. And what you are planning to do will untether the very foundation of the galaxy.” He glanced over at Samantha, “Like ripples in a pond, do you remember me telling you about that Samantha?”
She nodded as the old man smiled at her, quickly cut short by Dremmess unhooking her dual-saber and igniting the blade. Both Porchia and Samantha jumped slightly at her quick motion. “Listen to me, old man…I don’t care WHAT all of this nonsense is about. Things…many things were taken from me. You can offer me choices in what I wish to get back, I want those choices and I want them now!” She raised the saber to emphasize her point, “Otherwise, you are no use to me…alive. GIVE. ME. WHAT. I. WANT….take me to it!!!”
“Mother please, listen to me…this has gone too far.” Porchia raised her hands up in a pleading motion as Sam stepped away from Porchia to place herself in a more advantageous position; her own saber dropping to her hand. “We can work this out…I thought you were working on something to take vengeance on them, I had no idea it was about ‘this’…” She gestured at her surroundings. “Lower the saber…let him go and we can—“
Before placing the saber at Calphayus throat, Dremmess spun the old Dread Master around, pointing her saber at a moving Samantha. “I’m going to kill you. Stop moving….” She quickly put one side of the crimson blade next to Calphayus’ neck, “You both stay right there…” Her eyes narrowed at Porchia, “I should have never brought you along….I was wrong about you. You don’t care anymore for this than any of them did about your Father.”
That angered Porchia, who visibly dropped one hand to her pistol, “You don’t know anything!!! I was there…I saw what happened!! He did what he had to for the rest of us, Mother!!! Where were you!?!”
Dremmess backed up moving away from them down the hall, still holding Calphayus as she whispered harshly. “Which way???” She jerked on him when he didn’t answer quick enough, “I know you know what I’m talking about, don’t make me ask again…” Her eyes darted up to look at the two girls as she quickly drug the Dread Master down the side passage he indicated. As they disappeared, Porchia gave Sam a sad look.
“Revenge?!? Revenge on all of us?!?! So that’s what this was about???” Sam pushed past Porchia and started the direction Dremmess and the Dread Master disappeared down.
“Would you wait?!!” Sam stopped and turned with a start placing one of her hands on her hips to glare at her one time guardian. “Ok…I admit, I was angry about the way Mrysti and Karolin left things and how they treated Uncle Marstel’s death like it didn’t mean anything.” Sam started to turn away, “I was in jail Sam!!! I was mad an’ pissed off…my Mom came and offered me a chance to get back at—“ Porchia stopped speaking, “Look, I’m sorry….I had no idea what she was up to.” Her face turned into a similar glare, “VOID, Sam…I didn’t even know what YOU were till a few days ago!!!”
Letting out a pained breath, Samantha sighed and shook her head. “Regardless, the die is cast Porchia. We have to stop whatever it is your Mother is up to…I can sense, this is going to end badly for everyone.” She gestured down the hall, “C’mon..."
Samantha was following as fast as she could, but Dremmess seemed to stay just a step ahead. At last she saw the door to one of the chambers in the winding hallway slam and she slowed, twirling her saber once before laying against the door. She heard murmuring and a thrashing from the other side.
“Don’t mince words with me Dread Master…”
There was another thrashing sound as Sam looked behind her, Porchia was coming but she would be a minute; Force Speed on both Dremmess and Sam’s part having outrun the gunslinger. She couldn’t wait, gritting her teeth she backed up and extended her hand. Light emanated from Samantha’s palm as she gathered the power to force the door open with one brave push in the Force; rushing in right behind the door as it flew open.
As she entered, Dremmess slung the old Dread Master aside and attacked almost instantly. Behind Dremmess the portal glistened and rippled like water; scenes of the Force and time flashed over the surface and lit the room as Dremmess slung the red blade of her saber toward Sam twirling on the back swing and coming up to her side. Sam rolled out of the way and came up next to the portal extending her hand in a calming motion.
“Master…listen to me. You don’t need to do this…Karolin was wrong, you are right. I shouldn’t be here. The Force cannot be played with this way.” Even as she said it, a thought flashed through her mind. Why was she there, Dremmess could have easily done all of this without her presence. Saying nothing Dremmess once again attacked, this time phasing out of the Force and appearing right at Sam’s side. Sam sensed the strike at the last moment, bringing her saber up vertically to block the slash; the force of it pushing her against the wall. Dremmess immediately counter struck with the other end. Sparks flew off the stone wall as Sam ducked and rolled past her to end up on her knee.
Giving no quarter, Dremmess was already on her; this time not phasing into the Force but attacking directly. “You sense it…don’t you young one?” Slashing twice with both ends, Samantha blocked with both ends of her own saber, but the strikes took her knees out from under her as she stretched out on one leg extending the saber out to defend herself. “You are here because I needed the Dread Master to see…” Dremmess sliced again, in a twirl of the dual saber she flourished in a half circle; Samantha’s saber flying from her hands as Dremmess leveled the blade at her chest. Samantha raised both hands in a surrendering posture, “…I needed him to see. That I will kill to get what I want. Your death is the beginning of vengeance against—“
“NO!!! Mother!!!” Porchia entered, blasters blazing as she fired at Dremmess. The Elder shadow blocked and moved to the side of the defenseless Samantha letting one hand go to swipe at Porchia. Both blasters flying from her hands to clatter against the wall. Grabbing the saber back in her other hand she looked down at Samantha, who bowed her head; lowering her hands.
“There is no death…there is only the—“
As Dremmess struck down, the angle of the lightsaber penetrated Samantha’s chest in the center of her heart through her back. Samantha jerked a second letting out a terrifying scream that quickly subsided as Porchia screamed in unison, rushing toward Dremmess.
Instead of attacking her Mother, Porchia grabbed the falling Samantha as Dremmess withdrew her blade. Porchia looked up at Dremmess with tear filled eyes as the Dread master joined Porchia to hold Samantha. Dremmess said nothing as she turned to the portal.
In a flash, she was gone.
“This is useless, I mean we don’t even know if ‘ITS’ here.” Mrysti picked up the glass and started to take a sip. The Cantina was much as Mrysti remembered it, though she never got used to the lighting on Republic worlds, even in what the Republic thought was a dark and dank cantina, it always seemed brighter to Mrysti.
Mar’cus smiled as he also picked up his glass gesturing with a mock toast, “Well…I could complain for worse company.” His face got stern, “We’ll find it…I tracked it along its last known traject—“ As he spoke Mrysti dropped her glass. It shattered loudly on the floor as she touched her head. A great pain, a dull sense in the Force struck her as an image blanketed itself in her mind. Growing paler, she looked over at Mar’cus. “—what’s wrong? You look—“
Mrysti’s mouth opened, but she couldn’t speak at first. The image far too real to just be a fleeting thought. After a moment she spoke in a far away tone.
“S-Samantha…something d-dreadful has happened….”
Time flew in tendrils and rainbows of color, Dremmess caught snippets of it as she passed through the Force. Images of a life she knew and life she didn’t. She seemed to be flying and walking at the same time, losing the sense of herself as she moved. It was a shame she didn’t ask the Dread master how to navigate it. After what she had done, Dremmess doubted the old man would have helped her anyway.
Righting herself so she could look deeper, Dremmess began to flow around the Force and feel the time as it passed through her. She was going back, passing through things she had not seen or been a part of. Interlacing her fingers, she bowed her head and placed them on her hands and began to commune with it. What would she do? Vengeance had been exacted on Mrysti, in a way. Though after she was done, none of it would matter. She was going to right the wrong that had been done, drag her husband back with her. She knew she could, Dremmess only had to pick the right moment.
As the flow of the Force and Dremmess became one, she seemed to merge into it becoming part of the time she was seeking. Smiling wickedly to herself she knew she was coming up on the right moment as a doorway opened. The top of a building, the wind already exiting the portal and blowing in her face. Dremmess didn’t know how it worked, she didn’t know if she would have to stay wherever she ended up or if she would have to seek out Calphayus again in the time she was arriving at. All she knew was she had to arrive.
In another flash, she landed hard on the surface of a building. The air was thin and she knew it wasn’t her journey in the Force that was making it that way. Quickly she looked over the side, clouds billowed below her and the picturesque view of a sun rise loomed in the distance; framing the tiny buildings in the distance. She sighed to herself, speaking in a whisper.
Rushing to the ship, Mrysti tripped and fell. She seemed to be in pain as Mar’cus reached down to help the larger woman up. She latched on him pulling herself the rest of the way to her feet.
“Tatooine…we h-have to get to Va-vander…” As she spoke it, she stopped at the ramp of the ship shaking her head. All thoughts of finding the unknown assailant gone from both their thoughts, “N-no…not Tatooine. N-no time. We must get to Oricon.” Mrysti seemed to get her strength back from the devastating image of seeing Samantha killed. She stood straighter looking down at Mar’cus. “We need to get there now.”
It was more than Samantha's death, something dreadful was happening in the Force. It was why initially she wanted to get to Vander, have Vander go with her to Oricon. Something was about to happen, she could feel life and everything she knew slipping away.
Coruscant…minutes before RT’s suicide…
Figuring the Force would deposit her in some familiar territory, Dremmess looked around curiously. This was not something she lived or had ever experienced. ‘Where am I?’, she thought as she took a step and considered. Realizing she was on Coruscant, but not knowing the time or the situation she moved slowly looking around the rooftop. This was the height of one of the tallest buildings in Coruscant, though she never remembered being up there in her life.
The door on the far corner slid open. A maintenance access, the only way up or down in the huge building. Dremmess looked on in shock as RT stepped out of the doorway, the door sliding closed loudly behind him. He seemed lost, his eyes glazed over as he made his way toward the edge of the building and stopping to look down at the clouds below.
“RT!!! RT!!!” Dremmess started to scream as she moved toward him, a huge smile blanketing her face. He didn’t hear her as he slowly turned to place his back toward the outside of the building and again slowly raising his arms up to his side. ‘What was he doing?’ she thought again as she quickened her pace toward him. “RT…stop! What are you doing here?!?!”
He seemed to break out of his trance and looked over at her with a jerk, lowering his arms quickly to look at her. He seemed dazed, surprised as his mouth dropped open. He tried to speak her name, but no sound came out at first.
She smiled and nodded, the smile still covering her entire face. At last...she had found what she was seeking....
Stumbling back, RT nearly tripped off the building ledge to stagger away, “W-who are you?!? It can’t be—“ He looked back at the ledge a moment, then back to Drem in disbelief. It struck her as odd that he was up on top of their apartment building, as Drem finally surmised that’s where they were. “YOU CAN’T BE HERE!!! THIS ISN’T REAL!?!?” Then it dawned on her as she watched him strangely, his behavior erratic. RT was about to jump to his death. She approached him cautiously, a sad look on her face. He continued to back away.
“Oh baby…no, no…you don’t have to do this. I came home.” She laid her hand on her chest gently. “It IS me.” Looking down at the ledge, she frowned again. “You don’t have to do this. I know it hurt and I’m sorry. I realize how wrong I was…I came back to—“ She stopped herself. How would she explain it? In his world, she was gone. Finally she realized where she must have dropped into; where the Force must have taken her. Dremmess never had all of the details. Porchia told her the full story; that RT at some point had thrown himself to his death over his grief at losing her. But he didn’t die. And the turmoil that ensued cost everyone, everything.
All at once her eyes widened and she smiled. She was going to get it all back, all of it. Even her Son. Raising her hand up to him she gestured for him to come to her. “Come here, baby…come with me. You don’t have to be alone anymore. You don’t have to do this for me. I will never leave you again…not ever.”
Looking down again, RT still couldn’t believe it. How was it possible. He sucked in a breath as his chest heaved, moving a step toward her. “They said…they said you were dead.” Without waiting Drem dropped the hand and ran to him, they tackled one another in a kiss as both of them hugged and kissed one another furiously. As they embraced, RT began to cry. Tears of joy from them both as once again he felt his life complete.
But Dremmess did not feel the same. Even as she kissed her husband, she began to feel the pull. Something in the Force, like a buzzing in her ear. It got louder as he took her hand and they both dropped down off the ledge. Things had shifted and the foreboding feeling got stronger as they walked hand in hand. The buzzing increasing intensity until Drem finally stopped and looked at the horizon.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you Drem, I knew it was a lie. I knew it—what’s wrong?” RT looked at her as Dremmess placed a hand to her forehead. She brushed off the warning, whatever the Force was telling her; she no longer cared. Forcing a smile she looked up at him and shook her head.
“Nothing. It’s nothing…don’t worry about it.” They started walking again as light began to get brighter, her movements and his movements seeming to get sluggish. “Now, let’s go see our Son…I am dying to--“
In a flash, they were gone. Or at least Dremmess was…
The ship looked brand new and General RT-946 as his rank insignia denoted moved swiftly through the passageway. Arriving on the bridge, he looked out of the forward viewport and gasped. There was no identification on the ships floating before them and they certainly weren’t Sith in origin. Where they came from no one knew, but this was not a fight he was looking forward to, if in fact they were hostile.
It had been several weeks since the last Battle of Denab. It should have been a nowhere battle in a nowhere system. The fact that it started as a small skirmish and grew into a full scale battle for galactic conquest struck him as strange. It wasn’t even a crossroads in the great hyperlane maze that criss-crossed the galaxy. Two Imperial Dreadnaughts and a Republic battleship; it began small. But seeing the Sith send reinforcements enraged the Chancellor as she committed the rest of the fleet; which the Sith did in turn.
RT had no regrets, his actions brought him to his current station. Elevated to General after ending the Sith scourge in that sector, RT had his doubts about why he was promoted. In a way it could have been viewed as compensation for killing his brother, Hamner. It was Hamner who was commanding the second wave of Sith reinforcements and it was fate that the two of them ended up entering the system at the same time.
But there was loss, so much loss. For the Republic, a full one-third of the fleet had been decimated. The Sith were in worse shape. Personally for him, the loss of his Son hit the hardest. Uniform led a boarding party on one of the main Sith Harrowers and was struck down by his sister, the Dark Lord; Mrysti Alpha.
As Drem appeared on the bridge, RT turned with a start and frowned sympathetically. Turning away from the massive fleet hovering outside the viewport he approached quickly and grabbed Drem’s arm. “You shouldn’t be up. You are in no condition mentally to be on the bridge.” Drem slowly jerked her arm out if his hand and smiled at him, touching his face lovingly.
“I’m fine my love…” She looked around realizing she had jumped to some other point in time. Looking RT over and then the ship again, she dropped the smile, but continued to watch. “What’s happened?”
RT shook his head again as he once again grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the lift, “I was afraid of this. The Doctors said you may have loss of memory or fall to the Dark again over this.” He smiled brushing her hair out of her eyes as he smiled down at her, “It’s ok to grieve, I miss him too. But I can’t deal with you and this…” he gestured at the viewport and the armada which still kept watch over the Republic fleet, “…at the same time.”
“Grieve? Over what?”
Looking down, RT leaned in close, “Drem, you are not well. I want you to go meditate with Karolin. You both can grieve together. Our Son would want you to keep up the fight, but not like thi—“
“Would want?!?! Our Son—“ It hit her like a speeder, Drem moving her hand to her mouth.’ It couldn’t be’, she thought, anger starting to build in her as she realized the Force had robbed her once again.
Nodding sympathetically, RT brushed her hair again stepping away, “I have to deal with this. I will find you once this is over…” RT walked back to the viewport gesturing to the communications officer to open frequencies on all channels. Drem still stunned, turned away and walked lazily toward the turbolift.
What had just happened? Had she not righted the wrongs she caused in the first place? Had she not set everything right? The Force was playing games and Drem was not going to be part of it. As the doors closed she realized she had no idea where she was going, but she needed answers.
“Deck 37, please…”
Sitting down at the terminal, Dremmess called up the data in the holo-field. As the images rezzed inot existence she realized how things had changed.
<<<….Victory, the Republic under the leadership of Supreme Commander, Jace Malcom scores a major victory for the Republic in the Denab system. Moving forward, the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic orders all forces to the Outer Rim to begin taking Imperial aligned worlds as fast as the republic can grab them. The Sith Empire in no shape to stop the advance of the Republic….>>>
Dremmess rubbed her hand over her hair and sighed, moving her other hand in the holo-field as she spoke to the computer. “Access Project Alpha Records…clearance code: Alpha, Alpha six, six one two…”
<<<Access Granted – Archive Data = Running>>>
As she watched the information scroll she could see the devastation the war had caused. All of the actions of the Alphas had been against one another.
<<<Jedi Knight Beta Alpha – Killed at the Battle of Balmorra; suspected termination by Darth Retuvisa>>> <<<Alpha Project – Codename: Marstel 003 – Killed in skirmish on Nar Shaddaa by Darth Retuvisa>>> <<<Alpha Project – Codename: Hamner 002 – Killed in Battle of Denab>>> <<<Jedi Knight Uniform Alpha – Prime 006 – Killed in Battle of Denab; terminated by Darth Retuvisa>>> <<<Porchia Alpha – Incarcerated for aiding and abetting a fugitive on Belsavis; escaped incarceration on 341.36; whereabouts unknown>>> <<<Dr. Victoria Alpha – Prime 007 – Wanted for perjury, murder and unlawful use of government assets; Whereabouts unknown>>>
It went on and on as Dremmess watched the information scroll by; slamming her fist down on the counter as she read. “What was I supposed to do?!?!” The buzzing in her mind increasing as she asked the question to herself, “All I wanted was my husband, my life back!!!” As she looked back at the screen an image of Mrysti Alpha finally scrolled and stopped in the ions overhead, her visage spinning in the blue haze.
<<<Alpha Project – Codename: Mrysti 004; Darth Retuvisa; Determined a liability to the project; terminate on sight>>>
Grimacing at the image, Drem swiped at the image of her long time nemesis, “I should have killed you first!!”
“I agree.” Dremmess turned in her seat to see Karolin standing behind her. The smaller woman wore a plain brown Jedi robe and smiled sympathetically. “I thought I would find you here.” Stepping forward, Karolin cut off the system, “Why are you torturing yourself this way, what’s done is done.” Sitting down next to Dremmess, Karolin hung her head low and sighed. “We did the right thing. YOU did the right thing; there is no telling what would have happened if we would have brought Mrysti back in after Hoth.” Looking up, Karolin smiled sympathetically. “We would most likely all be dead. Mrysti, is far too gone. She was that way when we found her and she is that way now.” Standing, Karolin offered Dremmess her hand. “RT would have folded, he always had a soft spot for her. You did the right thing talking him out of it.”
Retching back like she had been struck, Dremmess placed her hand on her chest and looked at Karolin, “Me?!? But Mrysti wasn’t always—I…” She stopped, Dremmess realized she was about to tell Karolin things she would never understand.
“C’mon…I will give you a hot bath and then some sleep. You need it.”
“No response to our hails, General” The communication officer turned back to his station as RT placed his hand on his chin.
“This is damn strange. Tactical raise our—“
Broadcast on all frequencies the massive fleet began transmitting in a robotic voice. It almost sounded melodic as it echoed all across the bridge and the rest of the ship. The message breaking through to all ship wide communications.
<”Republic Vessels…you will surrender your ships and stand down for boarding parties. The Eternal Empire now has dominion over this part of space. Any resistance will be treated as hostile and will be met accordingly. Prepare for Justice…>
“Raise shields” No sooner than RT had spoken it that entirety of the strange ship began firing. Their sensors far superior than expected; sensing an attack and reacting. The ship began to rock and shake from multiple turbolaser hits as RT screamed toward the bridge officers.
As Karolin and Dremmess walked along the corridor, Karolin was thrown into Dremmess as the ship listed from the first barrage from the strange alien fleet. Dremmess pushed off Karolin and got up preparing to run toward the bridge as another voice crackled over the ship-wide comm system. The evil glint of an Imperial accent making the words sound more menacing.
<“If you think I will allow some alien fleet to steal my victory, you are sadly mistaken. Prepare to meet your demise….brother.”>
“Imperial vessels dropping out of hyperspace behind our vector. Eight Marks and Two tens!!” The tactical officer looked at RT. He heard the voice of course and knew exactly who it was. He was not going to honor his sister with a response.
“Cut all comms…turn the ship about. Prepare to engage the Imperials…”
“You heard the order!!! Bring us about!!!”
Just as Dremmess made it to the bridge the buzzing in her mind started again, everything seeming to slow as their ship turned around to face the Imperial fleet. The Republic fleet was still taking a pounding from the strange vessels that called themselves the Eternal Empire, but RT knew the score. None of them were going to survive either way. He gave Dremmess a grave look and nodded at her as the ship turned to fully face the imperials.
“Open the channel…” RT placed his hands on his hips and gestured with his head at the helmsman before he spoke. “Mrysti…listen to me and listen good. This is your last day in the galaxy. Have a good one.” He made a slashing hand signal under his throat to cut the frequency before she could respond.
“Full power to the engines….sound the collision alarm.”
Dremmess couldn’t believe what she was seeing, “You are going to ram her?!!?” RT simply nodded. Grabbing up Dremmess he held her close. “This is it baby. Soon, we will both be seeing our Son again.”
Time slowed further. How could she have gotten it so wrong? Mrysti seemed to be the focus of it all in every timeline. Without her in the previous time, there would be no ‘Coalition’, no defense against the Zakuul. In this time, she was the destructor that brought all of them down. Light started to surround Dremmess as the ship began to fly apart around them, time came to a crawl as everything almost stopped.
If Mrysti was the focus then she must be eliminated, but how? Dremmess thought about that answer as she merged with the Force, it was taking her of its own accord and Dremmess could do nothing to stop it.
His thumb hovered over the firing toggle. Dremmess was supposed to be an ally; at least that’s what Vander had been told in everything he’d heard about her. He watched as the Jedi ran flat out, past the gated entrance and heading for the launch next to the Dread Palace. Sensors on the forward console lit up as he began picking up another ship coming in behind him. It identified as a YT class freighter, similar to the one Mrysti contacted him from. She didn’t say much; just for Vander to get to Oricon at best possible speed. And that it involved Samantha.
Passing quickly, Vander zipped past the Dread Palace doing a loop to make another pass. Vander had to blink twice at what he was seeing. The freighter coming in behind him didn’t even slow down as the exit ramp lowered and a lone figure dropped out. Falling at full speed, the figure hit the ground like a dart, the ground beneath the person dropping out shattering and creating a cloud of dust like someone dropped a smoke bomb in the area.
Emerging back in the portal room, Dremmess knew she had to get out. The room was empty, not even the Dread Master was waiting on her. Curiosity ate at her, but only for a second. An ambush could be waiting around any corner and she knew after her previous actions in the room with Samantha, both the Dread Master and Porchia would be wanting to get at her. Only one thing mattered: Get out and find Mrysti. It was the only way to save her future and rescue her past.
A summons in the Force hit her like a brick wall. Dremmess felt the presence even before she dismissed any ideas that Porchia or the Dread Master, Calphayus could be waiting on her. Her search for Mrysti wouldn’t take long. The Dark Lord had come to find her.
For a moment, Dremmess swallowed hard. Any plans to ambush or catch Mrysti by surprise had disappeared. No doubt the killing of her daughter, Samantha had brought Mrysti to Oricon. The Force having sent that loss directly to Mrysti as soon as it happened. What was strange, was that at the moment Dremmess could feel Samantha’s presence as well. Though there was no body in the room to look on, not even the signs of the struggle that took place before Dremmess’ previous departure.
Running flat out she ran toward the exit and emerged just as a ship zipped by overhead. Dremmess looked up, but only briefly as she ran toward the launch. Now, she didn’t want to face Mrysti, not in these circumstances. She needed time. Time to plan, time to reassess and perhaps make another attempt to reclaim her past at a later date.
As the dust cloud erupted in front her, accompanied by a loud sonic boom on the ground as the object hit; Dremmess stopped moving.
Walking out of the cloud, Dremmess saw the red/black of the saber activate before she saw the individual carrying it. Mrysti stalked slowly from the mist, her eyes burning into Dremmess. There was no where left to run.
The time for explanations were over, neither woman exchanged words as Mrysti hopped once and took up a run, launching herself in the air to bring the saber down on Dremmess. Mrysti screamed her battle cry, cutting through the din of the volcanic noise on Oricon as Dremmess activated her own dual saber, bringing it up to block the staggering blow. It put her on her knees, the power Mrysti brought to bare, Mrysti immediately swinging horizontally to cut Dremmess in half after having her smash blocked. Dremmess rolled out of the way and launched the Disruption out of her offhand to slow the pursuing juggernaut of the Sith. Mrysti swiped with her hand and brushed it away launching her own Disruption at Dremmess; knocking her backward toward the lava moat surrounding the Palace.
Staggering and nearly tripping on herself, Dremmess was now on the defensive. There was no where to run and nowhere to hide; her back now against the lava moat as she looked left and then right. Spinning, Dremmess tried to swing at Mrysti and then phase into the Force in order to get away. But the Force Cloak was not a defensive maneuver and as soon as she moved away it fizzled to reveal her movement, a movement which Mrysti was already anticipating. Spinning along with Dremmess’ movements, Mrysti released her off-hand from the saber hilt and backhanded the smaller woman with all of her might. Dremmess continued the spin, from the blow launching into the air and up toward the steps of the Dread Palace. Her saber falling from her hand as she landed hard, nearly losing consciousness.
There was a brief pause. Dremmess needed it as she sat up a moment to look at Mrysti as the large Mirialan picked up Dremmess’ saber, looking at it briefly before she tossed it into the lava. The two locked eyes as Mrysti twirled her own saber in her hand to begin walking up the steps.
“All I wanted was my life back!!! You stole that from me, you stole my child!!!”
The words made Mrysti pause as she glared at Dremmess impassively, “I took something from you…so you take from me, is that it?” Dremmess was already crawling backward to get up the steps as she finally got to her feet. Dremmess looked down briefly, her thoughts going back to killing Samantha in the portal room.
“Everything….is centered around you!!! Everything that’s happened to me is because of YOU!!!”
Mrysti stopped walking, she continued to glare; pursing her lips, “Is that so? So I MADE you leave my brother, betray all of us?!?! You got what was coming to you because ‘I’ was the only one who had the GUTS to do it!!!” Mrysti swiped with her hand as she spoke, again she began climbing the steps toward Dremmess. “You brought this on yourself. I should have killed you on that asteroid, but I didn’t…I removed you from our lives.” Mrysti twirled the saber again, “You should have stayed GONE.” Mrysti stopped again, the saber hilt groaned under the iron grip of its bearer as Mrysti grit her teeth. "Now...you have done something that can never be taken back...." Even as she said it, Mrysti reached out in the Force. For a moment her face flashed a look of curiosity. She could actually 'feel' Samantha. Going back to her target, Mrysti glared. It didn't matter, the fact that Dremmess would hurt Samantha meant she had to die. Mrysti would see to that.
Launching herself at Dremmess, the saber clutched high above her head and in both hands Mrysti again tried to smash Dremmess with the absolute power of the Force. Stepping back, Dremmess placed both hands in front of her and used all of her power to push back the descending Dark Lord. The Disruption hit Mrysti like a truck and launched her back down the stairs. Righting herself in the air, Mrysti landed on her knee, her head coming up immediately to see Dremmess run back into the Dread Palace and disappear past the entrance. Mrysti grimaced and took up the run again in pursuit. This was going to end today, one way or another.
“Why are you keeping us here?!?” Porchia tried the door again; Calphayus merely gesturing with his hand to keep the door sealed in the Force. He smiled at the purple haired girl, looking over at Samantha as both women glared at him.
“It’s for both your protection. This is not your fight, nor is it mine…” His eyes closed slowly as his head went up as if he was listening to something, “The Force has spoken…this is a fight a long time in the making. And we do as the Force commands. We cannot interfere…”
Samantha had an inkling of what he was talking about, she felt a pull in the Force as well. Also knowing her Mother was there reinforced what was taking place. Something shifted in the Force/ For the first time since being allowed to stay, Samantha felt misplaced; discarded in a way she never felt before. One moment she felt at one with the Force, in complete harmony and the next she found herself locked in the Dread Master’s chambers. Unlike Porchia, Samantha trusted him. She had every reason to. Not just because she had dealt with Calphayus before, but because he did not give the sense of lying to them both.
Something was indeed happening, but Samantha almost had the sense that it had happened already and that it was going to happen again and again until the Force got it right. They arrived with Dremmess and since Dremmess was no longer with them, Samantha surmised that whatever she had set out to do she had been successful, something had shifted in the Force; in their time. But now, with the arrival of her Mother another thing was about to be altered.
Looking over, Samantha caught Calphayus looking at her and smiling. It was almost as if he could read her thoughts. He nodded in agreement to whatever she was thinking. Something else had to be altered to set things right.
A knock at the door brought Calphayus’ head up and as he gestured with is hand to allow the door to open, Vander; who was in the middle of using his shoulder to force the door open, fell in and onto the floor. The door slowly giving way and swinging inward as all three of them looked down at him. He gave a sheepish smile and glanced at all of them before putting the pistol he had in his hand back in his holster.
“Hi, I am ‘ere ta ‘rescue’ all ‘a hugh…”
Force speed couldn’t keep Dremmess ahead of Mrysti who was using her pure emotional rage to fuel her power. As Mrysti caught up she slid under Dremmess’ feet knocking the woman down. Both women tumbled and rolled down the hall. Mrysti the first one up as she rolled to her knee and extended her other leg to skid to a stop. Continuing her roll, Dremmess rolled back to her feet to keep running. Mrysti extended her hand to try and pull the woman toward her, but it was swiped away as Dremmess rounded the corner and flung the door to the portal room back open.
Close behind and entering the room right after her, Mrysti launched her foot out and did a spin in the air, kicking Dremmess into the far wall. The saber in her other hand missing Dremmess by mere centimeters as she slashed down in the spin to try and kill her at the same time. Pointing at Dremmess, Mrysti sneered. Dremmess sliding up the wall to stand, both hands laying flat against the stone.
“There is nowhere else to run to, traitor!!! It’s time to accept the truth of it all…it was never going to end any other way!”
Looking at Mrysti and then quickly glancing at the Portal, Dremmess began slowly creeping toward it.
“So you think. I’ve changed the past before…I can change it again.” Mrysti watched her eyes, her face slowly turning back into the sneer as she realized what Dremmess was about to do.
All at once both women moved, Mrysti launching herself at Dremmess and slashing her along her back as Drem dove toward the edge of the Portal. She screamed in pain as she fell through, disappearing into the nether. Mrysti, already committed to the killing blow tried to stop herself as her saber came down, slashing Dremmess. She too, fell face first into the portal and disappeared.
The Events that occur during ‘Fall’ – Day Three….Korriban….
Mrysti landed in a heap, coming to a knee as the hot wind blew over and around her. The smell of smoke and battle washing over her. She stood and looked around, the area looked like an absolute disaster, smoking holes dotted the landscape as well as the bodies of the fallen; Sith and Zakuul alike. She shook her head as she realized where she was. There was no mistaking the sense of dread that crept over her, the scene of one of her greatest defeats.
The final stand on Korriban.
She looked around quickly to try and find Dremmess and seeing no sign of the woman, walked to the edge of the Cliffside. She knew this area like the back of her hand, the overlook which guarded the entrance to the Sith Academy. Placing her hand on her head she shook it again. The stories were true, everything Karolin and Samantha told her. They used the Force to go back and change the past. It was dangerous and something she never hoped or even wished to do. Now, she found herself in the middle of the same altercation.
Not having communed with the Force to allow herself to be transported or flow walk into the Living Force, she had no sense of why she was brought back there. Something in the Force was speaking, but it was elusive. Mrysti didn’t have the time to commune with it for clear answers and she didn’t want to. Dremmess had brought her back here and now she would have to relive the day that nearly destroyed her. This was all Dremmess' doing, as much as she didn’t want to be there, Mrysti realized that Dremmess needed to be stopped. It was no longer a matter of revenge for killing her daughter, now it was a matter of preserving time.
Looking down she saw the steps of the Academy and followed the line of Zakuul troops that were approaching. Her face lost all color, her eyes getting wide as she looked down and saw her sister and her brother embrace. RT moving off to go prepare something. They had defended against several waves of attacking Zakuul. Looking back the way the Zakuul came and following the trail of bodies she saw what during that actual event she was not present for. The massive army that was headed their way and at its head walked the White Prince, Arcann.
This was the time Mrysti and Marstel were running back to rejoin their siblings. And suddenly she knew what was about to happen. Her first instinct was to jump down from the cliff and attack Arcann while there was the element of surprise, to spare Karolin and RT from what RT was about to do. But something held her back. The feeling intensified as she saw Dremmess walk out from behind the cliff wall down below and approach RT as he knelt still preparing something.
Mrysti grit her teeth. Something was about to change again, only this time the Force was telling her loud and clear. There was no need to commune with it. When it spoke, it was in a commanding voice and nearly caused her to bow in response to its directive. As it spoke and Mrysti lowered her saber, the message was.....all too clear.
The events of 'Fall'....The final day...Korriban....
“RT!!! He’s coming….and I can’t hold like this forever, we have to do something….”
The whisper that had been cutting through the din of battle all day suddenly fell silent, like it had been ripped away from him. RT felt the loss, but only for a second as he once again pushed the toggle on his auto-cannon and began sending blaster bolts into the Zakuul line. The barrel spun, smoking like a volcano as the power cell ran out once again. He looked over at Karolin and yelled with a stern look on his face.
“Just hold them long enough for Mrysti and Marstel to get here….with the four of us we have a chance…”
In the distance Mrysti could see the smoke of the shuttle as it went down. She knew that in that moment ‘she’ and her brother, Marstel would be headed back toward the Sith Academy. But they would never make it in time. She bit her lip as the rest of the Zakuul army closed in, looking down at Karolin and RT as they fought off the beginning stage of Arcann’s final push.
Her mind screamed at her to do something. Still the Force steady in its command made her stay her hand. She shook her head, how could she just let this happen again? Every fiber of her being wanting to take action.
The tidal wave was not subsiding, no matter how many RT and Karolin cut down, more followed. The soldiers looked endless and both of the siblings were getting exhausted. Karolin sunk in closer to her brother’s back, he leaned against her in turn as they stepped forward together in defiance. A foreboding sense of doom came over Karolin, this was it. There was no going back now and neither her nor her brother were going to survive. She reached down with her other hand and clamped it tightly on RT’s arm, still throwing the Force with her other.
“I love you RT…”
RT glanced at his sister as the power she was controlling suddenly went from a yellowish hue to a deep purple, her face changed as something hit her in the Force. It was noticeable and though she didn’t say anything, RT could see the change in her demeanor. For the first time since it all started Karolin stepped in front of RT as he reloaded again, screaming at the continual waves coming at them. "Come on you Kriffers!!! Give it to me!!!". RT was shocked at her renewed resolve, but looking at her he could feel the evil radiate off of his sister. All of her balance gone. As Karolin stepped forward again she seemed to be drifting away both physically and in spirit. Karolin was about to go this alone as she was now in her own little world.
RT met Karolin’s gaze and smiled before turning his cannon back on the force to their front. She poured the last remaining power she had into the oncoming wave, so intent she did not see that Arcann was now at the head of the approaching force. As RT turned the cannon over one last time to reload another power cell, he did notice and realized that it might be his only chance to buy Karolin a little time.
He stepped back and dropped down in the ditch behind them grabbing a box of detonate bricks quickly placing a sonic detonator on it. As he was about to place the magnetic backing on the box to his chest armor he looked up and nearly died from fright. Standing above him and to the side, across from the corner of the cliff, was Dremmess.
“Hello RT…” She smiled as she approached and crouched down painfully. She seemed injured and RT quickly grabbed her up and pulled her into him tightly.
“Drem!!! I thought you were…” He pushed her away to look at her, “You’re hurt, how did you—“ RT looked back up at Karolin who was busy fighting off the horde that was closing in around them. There was so much to say, but so little time. “You picked a helluva time for a reunion Drem.” He smiled, “So it was you that had been speaking to me the past day. I got the message…I know what I have to do now. I’m just glad you are here with me at the end.”
Dremmess grimaced in pain and looked up out of the ditch as Karolin was now at close range with her attackers. The body of a Zakuul Knight landed next to Drem and RT as they looked at one another. This was how the Force was going to right itself. Dremmess smiled and looked down. Upon her return, Porchia told her how brave her father had been, how he sacrificed himself for all of them. To save his family. Slowly, she looked up with tears streaming down both cheeks and nodded in response to his words.
“Y-yes…my love. I’m glad too…”
RT didn’t quite understand it. He had no knowledge of the Force or how it worked, but somehow it had brought Dremmess back to him. He wasn’t sure if he was imagining it. Maybe it was fear that was causing him to see her. The fear of taking that bomb and strapping it to his chest to do one final act that would save his family. This was not a natural act and it went against all of his genetic programming to self-terminate. Perhaps this was the Force’s way of making the entire act easier on him.
He extended his hand to her, “C’mon…lets go. We have places to be…”
Slowly Dremmess took his hand and stood with him. Together they climbed out of the hole. Together they would take off at a run toward the head of the Zakuul army. Karolin felt a press on her arm, it was comforting as RT smiled and looked at his sister.
“RT what are yo—“ As he squeezed Karolin’s arm before he and Dremmess took off at a dead sprint toward Arcann finally replying to the words she spoke a little while before.
“I love you too….”
As they passed Karolin, who was busy fighting, she hesitated a moment to see two individuals running together toward the fray. It gave her pause, but they were so fast Karolin couldn’t make out who the other with RT was.
So badly, Mrysti wanted to turn away. To not watch what she was too late to see the last time. The air around her went silent as everything washed over her. She felt the heat of the blast, could feel the scream that came from Karolin. She didn’t have to see to know that it was over, not only for RT once again, but this time for Dremmess as well. This was how the Force righted itself. It gave Dremmess what she most wanted. The Force gave her the life she wanted back and took it from her at the very end.
As Karolin was so fond of saying, ‘All is as it should be…’ Mrysti never really believed that. Too many things had happened in her life that proved that wrong. She never really wanted to give herself over to the Force in its entirety. To believe that the all powerful entity controlled everyone’s destiny. For the first time ever, she did give herself over to it and she did believe. Perhaps her being there was more than just pursuing Dremmess to set things right. Perhaps it was also to show her something as well. That nothing happens, by chance.
There is no death...there is only...LOVE...
As the brilliant flash and heat gave way to a warmth neither one of them ever experienced in life. Dremmess looked over at her husband and took his hand.
Together, they walked into the light. For the final time….
‘It is done…’
The voice echoed in her mind as Mrysti finally turned back to look at what she had denied herself. The smoking hole, the Cliffside annihilated, the bodies of the Zakuul scattered among the ruins of a smoking hole that at the center lay Arcann.
Her first instinct was to jump down and finish him. She knew how this was going to turn out, the bomb didn’t kill him and he would go on to wreak havoc throughout the galaxy. She could end that now. A scream brought her back to reality as she heard her sister screech once again. Mrysti looked down at the Academy steps to see Karolin fall to her knees, devastated in despair. Smiling, Mrysti wiped her eyes and spoke silently to her sister, who could not hear her.
“All is…as it should be…it’s going to work out. I promise you....”
The light began to cascade around Mrysti as she felt the pull of the Living Force. Off in the distance, she saw herself running behind Marstel as they approached the Academy. Shaking her head, Mrysti smiled into the Force as it took her. This was another time and another place, it made them all who they were and would belong to the ages. No interference could ever change what had to be, as Mrysti realized that this had to happen the way it did. There is no action without consequence, no right that doesn’t have a wrong.
And that the Force always…balances itself….
“This is the part I most enjoy…” Calphayus led them all back to the portal room. The watery globe fluxed and cast the room in a pale blue light as all of them stood watching it. Porchia and Samantha watching the old Dread Master curiously.
“Why bring us back in ‘ere?” Vander asked questioningly. He placed his hand on his pistol just in case. The Dread Master looked at him and shook his head.
“There is no need for that Vander Kell…just wait and be mindful…”
As Mrysti emerged from the portal physically dropping down in a hop onto the stone floor, those watching gave a sigh of relief. Everyone except Porchia, who continued to watch to see if anyone else was coming with Mrysti. The Dread Master rubbed his hand along her shoulder as his eyes fell on Mrysti, the frown at seeing Porchia’s reaction turning to a smile. Mrysti placed her hands on her hips and looked at them all, echoing the words she was given in the Force.
“It is done…” She looked over at Porchia and gave a weak smile, “I’m sorry, sweetheart….” Porchia only nodded, looking down at the floor. Porchia knew in her heart that Mrysti was sincere in her apology. What was done had to be done, Porchia seen it first hand, the fanaticism that drove Dremmess and what might have happened had Dremmess been successful.
Dread Master Calphayus smiled wickedly, the only one in the room that seen all of the eventualities. He saw Samantha die and had knowledge of what had transpired on Dremmess’ first attempt at changing things. He saw a galaxy without the Alphas and the terror wrought by a ‘Mrysti’ that knew no love from her brothers or sister. He saw everything, even though those around him, save for Mrysti, had no knowledge of most of it. Stepping forward, he placed his hands behind his back and looked up at the huge Mirialan Dark Lord. “There is only one thing left to do…”
Mrysti looked down at him and raised a questioning eyebrow as Samanatha and Vander came up along side of her; Samantha having the urge to just hug her Mother around the waist. “What do you mean, Dread Master? What is done, has been done. Dremmess will not be coming back this time…”
Dread Master Calphayus gave Mrysti a knowing look as he dipped his head. It was one of the first things he had ever seen in his capacity as a Dread Master. The Master who controlled time among all of his brethren. Once things started happening in the galaxy, that vision became more real. There were different eventualities, different ways that it happened, but all of it always led to this moment. The moment when the portal would be closed, the moment that the globe would be shattered forever.
Mrysti looked back over her shoulder at the watery globe. Calphayus didn’t need it to walk through the Force personally. He possessed that ability, but to allow others to see what he saw, to be able to move through the Force an effect change; the portal was key. And finally the time had come to end it. He smiled keeping his head low. It was a wicked smile, as from behind his back he took the ‘Hammer’ and handed it to Mrysti.
“You know what must be done…”
There was a moment of silence as Calphayus handed the War Hammer to Mrysti, everyone looking a bit surprised to see the Dread Master hand the weapon to Mrysti, as he stepped back entering the shadows of the room. No one could be trusted to never use the portal again and Calphayus knew that. As everyone stepped away from Mrysti, she bowed her head in reverence to both the Dread Master and the Portal. Taking the War Hammer in two hands bringing it up and over her shoulder to swing behind her back.
Letting out a blistering battle cry, Mrysti swung the Hammer with all her might. The Hammer entering the watery visage that fluxed and shown the passage of time within the Force. It shattered into a billion tiny shards of light as the room lit up. The Hammer seeming to pass through as easily as any of them did. It almost seemed as if ‘IT’ too knew that its time had passed.
Tattoos mark the time for Mirialans. For the De’nabres there were many different formations of tattoos that they wore to mark achievement and honor their ancestors. Even after Karolin discovered the lineage of them all during her yearlong sojourn on Mirial, she chose not to take on the tattoos of her line. Never formally trained in the academies of Mirial, she was not authorized the tattoos associated with the trials of knowledge or strength. Karolin bore the tattoos of an ancient line of the De’nabre. The facial markings of wisdom, honoring the ancient scholars of her family line. But those were the only Mirialan tattoos she bore. Unlike her sister, who completely covered herself in a mixture of Mirialan and Sith markings. Karolin believed that was more for intimidation of Mrysti’s enemies than actually honoring where the markings came from. Mrysti....didn't believe.
All of it was not because she opposed marking her lovely skin. Karolin got more tattoos through the ages, a couple she had removed as well. During the ‘dark times’ she marked her arm with the name of a man she was enamored with, once she realized he wanted nothing to do with her; she removed it herself. With a knife. It was the only corrective surgery she ever received, repairing the skin from those cuts. Karolin continually used the Force to hide her darkness, but scars that deep could not be hidden.
There were the two stars on her collar bones, during a time of great revelry for her. Partying and clubbing constantly she became a ‘star’ of the dancing scene. Known for her power drinking and hard living, she was the star of her own show. Two snowflakes over her belly button, done because the one time she needed the belly button ring she often wore, she couldn’t find it; choosing instead to permanently mark her belly area with the snowflake shape that looked like the pendant she wore on her belly.
Finally, the ‘tramp stamp’ as it was so often referred to. A tribal marking she received while a priestess of the ‘Temple of Enlightenment’ on Malastare. It was actually a cultish symbol, so when she found out that she had actually marked her skin with a Sith Cult symbol rather than have it removed, she tried to cover it with Alderranian Butterflies. It failed however, the ‘stamp’ on her back still showing through it all.
After her ‘accident’ the Force fell silent for a time, but she never lost faith. Everyone around her beseeching her to have her eyesight repaired. Karolin knew it had to be a test or for some purpose that the Force allowed her to come to such a pass. There was reasoning behind it, there was always reasoning behind it. The Force did nothing without purpose and it was this thought in mind that made Karolin keep the faith. Even when her Husband turned against her and her new apprentice; Karolin refused to be move. It was with some sense of satisfaction that the Force began writing itself on her skin. She couldn’t see it, but others could and in her mind that was not only a message to her but also to all of the ‘non-believers’. This was a message to all of them as well. The Force was alive and it was still strong.
She couldn’t see them, but she could feel them. The Force literally writing itself on her once pristine skin. Not that Karolin cared, vanity was straight out for her at the moment. For the first time in her life, Karolin literally cared nothing for her appearance. Outwardly, she looked like a wretch. Inside, she felt at peace with what happened. Blindness suited her, no matter how badly Aldurion and her new Padawan learner opposed her.
As the days passed on Tython, she could feel the Force speaking to her, through the writing on her skin. The blindness WAS the Will of the Force; Karolin was convinced of that. So every day, she would have someone read the messages the Force was sending, by having them read the tattoos. Sometimes it was merely raised skin in areas, that were very hard to read. A sign, or an ancient rune that required research to fully understand. To most, it made no sense. The sign for ‘Light’ showing on her thigh on one particular occasion. Another time the ancient Jed’ii rune for ‘forgiveness’ appearing. It was happening more frequently and other tattoos were showing up. These meaning absolutely nothing, except to a Mirialan who spent their whole lives honoring the deeds of their ancestors while performing their own brave acts. Blue and glowing under certain light, her body was creating its own road map; the Mirialan tattoos all pointing to the runes in a certain order. An order that no one really understood and she could not see them to decipher their meaning.
Something was growing inside of her, she could feel it as her primary sense, being sight was ripped away from her; all of her other senses were strengthening. It could have been the Alpha Protocol; Karolin even considered that in trying to figure out the clues the Force was writing on her skin. But, Karolin dismissed it. There was something more to what the Force was doing.
The distance she walked increased daily. Those around her were worried at first, until one day she was gone and stayed gone a full day and a half. She was still a Jedi Master and though blind fully capable of taking care of herself. Her journey took her back to the cave she found behind the waterfall before she left so many years before to join her sister in the battle to save the galaxy from the Zakuul. She meditated in the circle and though she lacked the Holocrons of light and darkness she used before to achieve balance, she sat and meditated. The journey was short, but meaningful as she saw the past and the present. All the while, the Force emblazoning itself on her skin. When she emerged, she had the whole story written on herself. The entire puzzle was close to being finished.
It was with a level of sadness that she saw Dremmess’ end, but at the same time a sense of gladness. As she transported herself back through the Force to see her past. As Dremmess and RT joined hands and together ran toward the Zakuul Army. The explosion was blinding, but she turned away from it and slowly walked down the Cliffside even before the bloom of the cloud overtook her. It was not why she was there. Making her way to the Academy steps she looked at herself, so scared. So afraid of what was to come. There was so much loss that day, so much she felt she could have done. Even her best efforts were not enough.
“I was misguided about you as well”
Karolin looked up and saw Thexan standing over her with the saber raised, ready to end her life. As he lowered it and spoke to her she realized again the timelessness of the Force. He was there, but he was also with her in that moment. As he lowered the saber and smiled, speaking again.
“I thought I knew what I wanted…to serve my Father, to do what must be done for the good of the galaxy. By purging it of all the injustice, but it was the Force at work. A balance in all things, we were merely its instruments to have its will be done.”
Even as she watched herself kneeling and sobbing at the terrible loss, in her mind as she traveled she placed a comforting hand on Thexan’s shoulder and smiled, squeezing slightly.
“We are all instruments of its will Thexan. You know that now.”
He smiled in return as the two of them turned to look back at the smoking hole and the body of Arcann still smoldering in its ruin. They walked together, slowly; so slowly they seemed to float from one point to another, both appearing in and around the crater as they gazed down at Arcann.
“He too, will come to know redemption. He too will come to know that no matter the acts he committed, it was part of a greater plan.”, Thexan almost looked sad as he spoke, looking back over to Karolin and nodding slightly, “You were not wrong Karolin…to try and save her. It cost you your sight. But you still see. You did what you felt you had to and it is not too late. Vaylin can be saved, she is much deeper in the Darkness than Arcann was, but you can do it. You must do it. The Force is trying to pull her back. But she is going beyond its scope now, upsetting the balance.”
Karolin looked over questioningly, she knew what he meant and yet still looked at him curiously. “Her anger and her lust for vengeance…it is directed at me and her Mother. She will destroy the entire galaxy to get what she wants.”
“And so will your sister.” Thexan stated plainly, “She hates Vaylin now like no other…” Thexan backed up and looked at the sky as it changed colors rapidly, time flowing in and around them as they spoke, “Two polar opposites, both wanting the same thing. This is a perplexing problem in the Force, there are no easy answers. Vaylin is centered on you and will destroy everything to destroy you. Mrysti is centered on Vaylin and will destroy…even you to get to her.” He smiled kindly, “I did love you…Karolin. I didn’t understand what love was, but I wanted to learn. I knew you could teach me. Now in the Living Force embrace I understand all of that now…I wish I could go with you.”
As the images around her shifted, she saw Mrysti destroy the Dread Master’s portal, saw the time shift to lock many of the events of their lives in place finally. Though few possessed the ability to personally walk through the Force in it’s infinite possibility, Karolin knew she and the Dread Master would be fine, that there would be no further need to tinker with the Force. It would not allow for it, that time had passed.
Samantha, both Samantha’s, were fine and would be forever. At least as far as the Force was showing her. Her eyes went to her sister who was still in doubt, still enraged at what had happened to her both past and present. The guilt she carried for everything in her life and now what happened to her sister was almost too much for one person to bare. It would be her undoing, if Karolin did not intervene. This was her calling and she knew at some point the Force would call her out to go once again and do its work. But, there was a brief flash in the Force, Mrysti was beginning to believe. She could see Mrysti standing in the ancient temple of their ancestors, pouring over the writings of their ancestors. Karolin didn't know how far in the future that was going to be, but something had changed in her sister. There was one thing holding her back and Thexan had already told her what that one thing was.
Karolin moved past her beloved husband as he stood and conversed with V’ictoria. She knew what the two of them were planning, but the Force had not yet told her that was in her destiny. That V’ictoria was to help restore her sight by any means other than the Will of the Force. This was not about science, this was about what the Force wanted. She could not make Aldurion or Mrysti believe that, both of them mired so deep in their own self-loathing, riddled with guilt over things they done to both Karolin and to one another. Their own short-sightedness keeping them tethered to the smaller designs of the Force. Her eyebrow went up as she caught a glimpse as to what was coming, V’ictoria in her quest to not only use her power in science to rid the galaxy of the Force, but to also satiate her own guilt over what happened to Karolin so long ago. She felt the Force die inside of her as V’ictoria used her serum to kill the midichlorians that flowed through her. But the Force did not object, it simply showed her. For in Karolin, the Force could never be fully extinguished.
As she started to bring herself back to her mortal coil and reenter her current plane of existence, she saw the arrival of the one who sought to join her one again. Karolin said in her mind ‘the one’ because that’s what the ‘Virus’ had become, it had become an entity. It now had its own awareness, no matter how misguided it was. She could feel it getting close to finding her and the glimpse of its landing on Tython would be imminent. She could feel it, because a part of her was with the ‘Virus’; a part of Karolin still existed in there, the part it sought to rejoin and be at peace with. Karolin didn’t know how much of herself was left from the Virus’ first mergence since the whole affair started, all she knew was that the Virus was her….and she, was the Virus.
Making her way back down the mountainside, Karolin ran into several out of breath Padawans who seemed rather relieved to find her. “M-Master…we have been looking all over for you. Your Padawan—“
Karolin smiled, her head turning away from the Padawans as she ‘looked’ out past the waterfall and back the way they had come. “—Yes, I know. She sent you looking for me. I am well aware.” Her head finally turned toward the two boys, “You both should be getting back.” Her hand gripped the wooden staff tightly as she started down the narrow path, “I will be fine, I do not need your assistance, but thank you…”
There was much to do. As she allowed the Force to flow out and around her, giving her the sight she needed to make her way down the mountain, she also felt a peace of a sort. One part of the story was done. Soon she would see her sister again, she felt that coming. There was also many other parts of the story left to finish, as she smiled to herself.
One part of the vision she didn’t reveal to herself, a part she hid so that Aldurion could not see when they next met one another; she kept to herself. An excited smile threatened to break her concentration. Their bond was strong, Aldurion and Karolin were meant for one another and had always been. But should she allow herself to, he would see it almost as clearly as she did while in meditation. Karolin knew she had to keep it to herself, that the vision of their future would influence his actions. And that she could not have.
As she walked, she rubbed her hand gently over her abdomen. There was nothing there at the moment. But the time was almost upon her. If he found out what was to come, he would be in even worse shape than he already was.
Aldurion was not ready. Karolin didn’t know if he ever would be, not in the state he was in at the moment.
What she did know was she still had work to do before that subject could be broached with him. It was going to happen, but the Force was giving Karolin the control she desired.
Porchia staunched the blood flowing from her arm with her other hand, applying pressure to the wound. As they rode in the shuttle, it was one of the few times that she was not piloting; Samantha was at the helm as Mrysti leaned over and offered the sealing unit to close Porchia’s wound. She shook her head and said nothing as Mrysti slowly lowered the device; turning away.
“I wanted to kill her…I did, but believe me when I tell you that it ended the right way.” Mrysti began saying as she started to put the med-kit back together in its enclosure. She had no intention of trying to force the younger woman into medical aid. She had enough on her mind. “She got what she wanted. It’s what had to happen and as my sister is so fond of saying—“
“--It happen’ tha only way it coulda, yea I know…” Porchia glared, but only for a second before she softened her look. This, for once, was not Mrysti’s fault and Porchia knew it. For Porchia, this was the second time she had lost her Mother, believing her dead by Mrysti’s hand so long ago; only to have her return. Her return built on a madness that Porchia could not see until it was too late. Dremmess, bent on changing the past to rescue Porchia’s father and change the present. Porchia watched Dremmess descend into that madness and kill Samantha, only to see the time revert itself before her eyes. All of them protected from the effects of time inside the Dread Palace. Samantha and all of Dremmess' evil deeds reverted to a time before. Not even the Republic had record of her as far as Porchia could tell. By all accounts, she died on Korriban; though Porchia could not understand how.
Mrysti’s final act was to destroy the portal so that no one could ever use it again. Enough damage had been done and enough time had been altered, some of which none of them were privy to. As they departed, the Dread Master Calphayus issued an ominous warning that although things were as they should be for the moment; some things had shifted. Both for the good and the bad, depending on your point of view. His time having passed, Calphayus left the Dread Palace as well, as he told them ‘because the Force told him to’. It was time for him to cease being the Guardian of Time and pursue his own interest for a change. His penance served, it was his reward for having done as the Force asked him to do. It was as if he waited on the Alphas, did what the Force instructed him concerning them all and then disappeared.
They exchanged glances, but still talked very little; Samantha’s voice echoing over the shipboard speakers as they exited Oricon’s upper atmosphere.
<“Hyperlane in ten minutes…setting course for ‘Home’ unless any of you have any objections…”>
From where she sat in the jump seat, Mrysti could see the back of Vander and Samantha’s heads. She smiled to herself as she watched Vander looking over to watch their daughter work the controls, ‘When did she learn to fly?’ Mrysti wondered, but the things the elder Samantha could do were beyond measure. It was a testament to the future of the little girl that awaited them on Tatooine. Vander nodded to Sam as she touched the screen and set the course corrections into the Nav computer. As Mrysti looked back, she saw Porchia watching Sam also. A look of sadness on her face.
“I owe you two debts now Porchia…you saved my little girl when I went into hypersleep five years ago.” Mrysti swallowed hard and looked at the deck of the shuttle, “And you did it again in the Palace.” Porchia’s face twisted in anger as she looked to Mrysti taking her eyes off the cockpit.
“No I didn’! I shoulda…I shoulda seen this comin’ ‘fore my Mothe—Dremmess had a chance ta hurt ‘er.” Porchia bit her lip, “But I didn’, I was so blinded by—“ Porchia hit the seat with her injured hand and winced.
“You can’t blame yourself for the actions of others. Everyone makes their own decisions, Dremmess made hers. You are not responsible for—“
“Buh I am! I went ‘long with it. When she came fer me in detention, I went ‘long with it. When she offered me a chance ta git my Father back, I shoulda seen it then, but I didn’. I didn’ want to…” Porchia took on a very rare apologetic look, “Believe me when I tell ya, if I had an inklin’ tha she planned on hurtin’ Sam I woulda killed ‘er where she stood.” Porchia looked back to Samantha who was just lowering the lever to activate the hyperdrive. “I would die fer tha’ little girl—“ Porchia smiled sheepishly as Mrysti and her eyes met. “—well, ‘either’ little girl now. I’m noh sure how it happen’. Buh I know ‘she’ is real. She IS Samantha…” Porchia gestured at the pilot as she looked away again.
This was going to take time and Mrysti knew it. No one was more affected by all of what had taken place than Porchia. Mrysti always considered Porchia a casualty of their family and the War. The one who always had to clean up after everything they did. And Porchia always did, without reservation. It was the reason it was so easy to forgive Porchia’s actions in trying to draw Karolin out by framing her for a murder. Or going along with Dremmess on something she believed would grant her justice. Porchia deserved justice, more than anyone. The question Mrysti wondered, would Porchia ever accept justice if it was given to her.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry…” Mrysti uttered the words and Porchia looked up in stunned disbelief, “Don’t look so shocked Porchia, I am capable of saying those words.” They both smiled at one another, “You deserve more than you’ve gotten from all of us and for all that you’ve put up with over the years. Always having to clean up our mess. You never deserved any of it…” Mrysti wanted to say more but looked up to the cockpit instead, watching.
<”Tatooine Hyperlane in six minutes…we should be ‘home’ in time for dinner”>
Tatooine...Temporary Alpha Compound...
Sitting on the counter, Porchia took the surgical kit out of the decontaminator and laid them out precisely. The last thing she wanted was a scar, but she was determined to do this herself; without the aid of modern medicine or gadgets. In a way by doing it herself, Porchia ensured herself the scar given to her by her Mother. Porchia wanted the scar subconsciously; she needed the scar to remind her of the mistake she made. It was why she held the wound closed until she got home. Porchia had a need to mend. Only she didn’t know how to mend more than her arm at the moment.
Watching from the lab window RT stopped short of opening the sliding door and simply watched Porchia. His thoughts went back to the short conversation he had with Mrysti upon their arrival. ‘Be gentle’ she had said to him. ‘Gentle’, he echoed in his mind. Porchia was anything but gentle. Volatile, wild…RT likened Porchia to a wild Nexu. As he watched her run the curved needle through her skin like a tailor of old sewing a garment, he had to admire that she was willing to do it herself. No doubt a toughness gained from her time with her father. Porchia had a shield she kept up. The brave face that RT was never quite able to penetrate. She couldn’t let him in, she couldn’t let anyone in. She had been hurt and now was hurting more than she ever had. He let out a sigh as he reluctantly activated the pad to open the door, slowly walking inside.
She didn’t look up, keeping her eyes on her work; fresh blood now seeping from the reopening of the wound so she could mend it. He didn’t bother with the obvious, looking over at the sealing unit and medical kit hanging on a near-by wall. “Good clean stitches…” he remarked as he followed her eyes. She still said nothing as he watched. Porchia placed the thread in her teeth to pull it tighter as she winched, dipping the needle in a bottle of antiseptic as she placed it against her skin to start another stitch.
“Wuz there sumthin’ you needed?”
RT was a little taken aback by the remark. He nearly said no, but anger got hold of him as he pushed off the counter to look at her. “Yea, actually there is…” Finally she did glance at him, both hard stares meeting one another. “…I heard about what happened and I wanted to come check on you. Your Mother coming back, that’s…wow, I mean…I wanted to see if you wanted to talk about it.”
Porchia slapped the needle down and looked at him incredulously, she was about to bless him out for forgetting his Commander, the newly promoted High General Dremmess Alpha, but then remembered time had been reset. He would have no knowledge of it. All thoughts of trying to begin a conversation, even a small one going right out the window. She didn’t even know where to begin with him, not that she wanted to. Porchia could feel herself pulling away. “Yea…it’s a bitch righ’?”
But, RT wasn’t having it. The fact that he didn’t remember Dremmess was irrelevant to the conversation, as he stood watching the object of his desire sew herself up. She was hurt physically, but he could feel her pain mentally, even spiritually. He didn’t know how, but it hurt to look at her. He wanted to lash out at something, break something in half. The big man could do it, easily. As he clenched his fists in and out looking at her, he broke finally. “You don’t have to do this alone, not anymore. I told you, after I came back this last time tha—“
“DON’T PUT THA’ ON ME!!!” Porchia hopped off the counter and tied the last of the suture before cutting it and looking up at him. “I didn’ tell ya ta leave tha Army! I told ya I wasn’ gonna wait on ya…and I ain’t!!! Hugh goh yer life!!! Go live it!! I don’t need you, I don’t need anyb—“
“Oh you don’t?!?! You don’t get it do ya?!?!” RT glared hard as he looked down at the little purple haired girl, she seemed to shrink under his gaze, “You know what? Fine! You win Porchia, you win…you always GOTTA WIN!! Don’t ya!!?!” He started for the door and then turned back, pointing a deadly finger her direction, “You just remember one thing!! That durasteel wall you got built around yourself. The one you keep up so no one can get inside?!?! I been inside that wall, I been in there with you, I have seen YOU, the real you. Not this front you put up so no one will think you’re weak. I know who you are Porchia Alpha.”
“OH YEA!!?! You don’t know shit!!! I let you in so I could play you, that’s all I did.” Porchia gave a wicked smile, but RT wasn’t falling for it.
“That’s your Aunt Karolin talkin’ that ain’t you!” He stepped back in the room and Porchia seemed to shrink again, “I know YOU. You try to be this durasteel lady, this armored golem that is impenetrable. And you know, I never figured it out until right this moment. You have been living among these ‘creatures’ your whole life. These ‘gods’ that can do amazing and powerful things and you just never seemed to measure up did you???!?”
“Oh your Mother did, she married your Father, she entered the fold. I guess the Force helped her, she got right in with them walking in the clouds, walking among the gods!!!”
“But you, poor little Porchia, raised by her Aunt to think and walk and talk like an Alpha, because that’s what Alphas do. You had to do be a Grand Champion in the circuit and STILL that wasn’t enough was it?!?! NO, Porchia had to do more, she had to be JUST AS UNFEELING AND UNCARING AS THEY ARE!!”
“KRIFF YOU!!” Porchia reached over and took her blaster off the counter with a quickness pointing it at RT; who didn’t flinch. Instead, he opened his shirt up and gave her his heart.
“Go ahead…do it.” There was a long pause as Porchia let the tears flow down her cheek, breathing heavily as her trigger finger tensed on the trigger of the blaster. “I am NOT one of them. I am NOT a god…” He let his hands fall to his side as his voice grew low, “…and neither are you.”
Shoving his things in the bag so loudly, he didn’t hear the door slide open behind him. Still blind with rage at having to attack Porchia like that. RT knew it was a moment when she needed him most and he once again let her down. He stopped backing to consider it, consider going back down there and just grab her up and hug her until she loved him again.
As he turned about to go back to the lab he was stunned to see Porchia standing in the doorway. He backed up a step, thinking she may have come to kill him, but her head was down, the purple strands of hair cast down over her face as she looked at the floor. They didn’t speak, as RT moved to her and slowly placed his arms around her. Porchia let all of it go as her wall fell, the wall she put up so no one could get inside. RT was right, he had been inside that wall. He did know the real her and as RT felt her sag in his arms he hugged her tighter, her arms going around him to grasp him finally, just as tightly.
“Why? Why did she have to do that?!?! Why did she—“ The rest was muffled in his broad chest as he rocked her back and forth and just let her have the room; and him with it. He brushed one of his hands through her hair as they stood holding one another.
Porchia had reinvented herself a dozen times, for what reason she didn’t know. RT exploding on her in the lab was exactly what she needed; a reality check. He was right, Mrysti was right; her whole life she had been trying to measure up to impossibility. And had, in fact, done a pretty good job of it. But Porchia was only human, she was not a genetic experiment, capable of ignoring pain or feeling like they were. She hurt, she felt and when she did she buried it deep so no one would see. Just so she could measure up.
That time was over now.
As Porchia peeled herself off his chest and looked up at him she smiled, “Yes.”
RT gave her a questioning look, “Yes to what?”
“Yes…I will marry you. Or if that offer no longer stands then let me ask it.” Porchia backed off and laid her hand on her blaster as she smiled wickedly, playfully.
“Will you marry me…and I ain’t takin’ no fer an answer, Mister.”