Jedi Master Sen Qorbin
The Jedi Temple
1 Month after the Umbara mission
Staring out a window at the Coruscant skyline, Qorbin's vision shifted to his own reflection on the surface of the glass. He saw himself as he had been for the last month, worn down by the stress of his Padawan's disappearance. He saw in his Arconian face no longer power, but weariness. His pink eyes had once been alight with a life he no longer saw. Though physically Qorbin was as powerful as ever, he felt his connection to the Force had waned since Ganner had gone to Umbara.
There had been, of course, the slightest bit of doubt in Qorbin's mind. Ganner and the others were Jedi Masters. Surely four of them could handle whatever was on that planet. Qorbin had voiced this doubt to Nyri Tycon, the Master of Yula Ardinn, who told him of a vision she had witnessed. In the vision, she saw a Nightsister laughing as darkness enveloped each of the four Jedi.
That vision had been the final push to lead them to their new mission. The Jedi Council was too preoccupied to help them, so Nyri and Qorbin would take it upon themselves to find the lost Jedi. Qorbin had wanted to travel together, but Nyri insisted upon going to Dathomir in search of an answer to her vision, while Qorbin wanted to first start the investigation on Umbara. Ultimately, Qorbin had given in, and it had not been an hour yet since Nyri had left.
Qorbin turned away from the window. Enough waiting. He was going to save Ganner Slarwalker or die trying.
Part 1: The SearchEdit
Making her landing approach, Nyri felt almost overwhelmed by the dark side merely by being on the planet. There was such power here, yet it was all used for evil. She couldn't help but entertain the thought that if these Nightsisters served the light side, the war would already be over. Perhaps it would never have started in the first place. Regardless, Nyri had to focus on the task at hand. She needed answers about her vision.
Nyri stepped out of her ship and directly into a puddle, dirtying the bottoms of her robes. Looking down, she saw her own reflection staring back. She looked, by all accounts, to be a normal human. Her age was beginning to line her once bright, youthful face and while most of her long hair was still the same black it had always been, it was beginning to gray at the edges. No doubt her concern about Yula was only accelerating the changes. The only true giveaway of her species was a green tattoo running down her left cheek-- the mark of a Kiffar.
Nyri stepped out of her ship into the nearly impermeable fog, relying mostly on the Force for guidance as she began to move into the dark, swampy forest. The forest was laden with plants growing in grotesque shapes and sizes, making navigating the area all the more difficult for her. The mists played games with her eyes, leaving her constantly uncertain if she was seeing figures in the distance moving about or merely being deceived. In the Force, she felt a calling, a presence reaching out towards her. She followed it, careful not to let it drag her in.
At last, the fog began to give way, revealing a large temple, dark in both color and presence. Lining the temple were various Nightsisters, wrapped up in their red robes and aiming their bows at Nyri. She drew her lightsaber but did not ignite it. For a moment, the two sides stood motionless, prepared for combat but not initiating it. At last, a large door began to open, slowly sliding upwards to reveal another witch. Unlike the others, her clothing resembled robes, and she was visibly much older than the other Nightsisters. "Drop your weapons," she calmly ordered. One by one, the Nightsisters lowered their bows and retreated, disappearing again into the shadows. "You too," the woman said to Nyri. She put her lightsaber back on her belt and approached the woman. "Nightsister," she began, "I come in request of an audience."
"Yes... I have foreseen this meeting. I am Talzin. Come." Talzin beckoned to Nyri, who followed her into the temple. As Nyri entered, she felt herself more and more encumbered by the weight of the darkness surrounding her. They walked down dimly torch-lit corridors as various Nightsisters watched, suspicious of the outsider.
"You knew I was coming?" Nyri finally asked.
"I have seen a storm gathering," Talzin replied, "and with your arrival we are both enveloped in it." Finally, they descended a flight of stairs before arriving in a wide chamber. "Why are we here?" Nyri asked. Talzin chuckled.
"I will show you the truth."
Standing at the door to the Supreme Chancellor's office, Cyana found herself observing her reflection in the stainless metal separating her from her fate. She had made sure to look as perfect as possible for this meeting--more than she even did for her husband, he jokingly told her--as she had never met the Chancellor in person before. Being a Republic spy (like her husband, Barak,) she had taken missions for him over the holo, but something was different this time. He had contacted her, telling her the information was too vital to risk being leaked even over their nigh-impenetrable encrypted frequency and to come alone. Now, here she was, checking her red hair for any imperfections and making sure her makeup blended right with her naturally tan skin. She couldn't help but briefly chuckle to herself at the pettiness of her situation as the door opened.
She walked in past the two red armored guards, towards Palpatine, who was facing her in his chair. "Mrs. Bastra," he greeted her. "We have much to discuss." He looked towards his guards. "Leave us." They walked past Cyana as she entered, the door closing behind them. Now that they were alone, Palpatine seemed to lighten up a bit. "Please, have a seat.," he told her. As she sat down, she decided to ditch the small talk. "Why the secrecy?" The Chancellor's face shifted to a much graver image; his voice made a similar change in sound. "This assignment must be the best kept secret in the history of our Galactic Republic."
The sudden shift in tone and the gravity of the situation actually startled Cyana, though she made every attempt not to show it. "What is it?" she asked.
"Do you remember the Cerrano case?"
To say yes, however, was quite the understatement. She'd followed the case closely as it developed. The story went as such: Hans Cerrano, a fresh recruit in the Coruscant Security Force and son of the Senator Berloc Serrano, had returned home one night to find his mother had been murdered. With the assistance of Captain Taran Ragnan, he managed to find the suspected killer (Dak, a friend of his father's) and exposed for the first time a criminal group that would later be known as the Brotherhood. Then, in a shocking development, it was discovered that Hans himself was the one who was behind the entire thing, but he vanished immediately after. Unusually, about a year after this incident, Taran was promoted to Rear Admiral in the Republic Navy, where he had been working since. "Then you may be familiar with this face." A holoprojector on the table between the two activated, creating a blue image of Taran Ragnan. "Yes," Cyana replied, "The ex-detective."
"We believe he is much more than that. For the last six months, I have been slowly placing spies into the Brotherhood, and they believe Ragnan is in fact a puppet for their leader."
"Ragnan is one of them? Does that mean..."
"Yes. Hans is innocent. That, however, is irrelevant. Your mission concerns Ragnan." Palpatine leaned on his desk, folding his fingers. "Cyana, I will not force you to take on this assignment, but should you accept it, there are sacrifices you must make. Crimes you will have to commit."
"What do you mean?"
"This mission will require possibly years to complete in its entirety, and you must have no contact with anyone other than me. Cyana Bastra must die."
Cyana's first thoughts went to her husband. "Even he cannot know." Palpatine had correctly guessed her next question.
Cyana weighed her options. The Republic knew little about the Brotherhood, only what they had learned from the Cerrano case. They knew the Brotherhood operated somewhere on Coruscant, and had operations on other planets. Additionally, judging from the new information, they had a strong influence in the Republic. What was Ragnan giving them? Who else did they have implanted behind the scenes? "What do you need me to do?" she asked.
Not far from the Umbaran Airfield, Qorbin stood in front of a vent. The vent had been cut open long ago, as it should have; it was the planned entry point for the mission. Qorbin had yet to see the airfield, but he decided sneaking in was preferable to being seen. Though he did not sense any danger in the path ahead, Qorbin held his lightsaber in his right hand as he jumped down. The vent grew darker as he descended for a brief moment before landing on the floor of a pitch-black room. He activated his lightsber, filling the room with a dark green and exposing the remains of battle droids and scorch marks on the walls. Qorbin quickly deduced the room had been in this state for some time through a combination of his senses and the Force: he could tell through the heat signatures of the objects in the room they had not been interacted with in weeks, and in the Force he could faintly sense an echo--the Jedi's presence. He began to follow the echo, illuminating more darkened hallways decorated with the scattered remains of droids the Jedi had no doubt taken out. Eventually, the stench of decay reached him, and he was briefly worried, but he could sense it was not the Jedi he was smelling. The smell came from a few dead Umbarans, standing outside what appeared to be some sort of hangar. Stepping over the bodies, Qorbin now found himself looking through a large, but empty room (save for some more destroyed droids) out at the rest of the airfield. The anti-air weaponry was definitely destroyed, along with a multitude of additional Umbaran ships and tanks. The vehicles were still outmatched by the number of battle droids and Umbarans littering the airfield, but Qorbin cared little for either detail. He was now following the echos away from the airfield and towards another source. In the distance, he saw four tanks on the outskirts of the base, damaged but not destroyed.
As he reached it, the echo became clearer, more resonant. He was on the right path. Though any sign of footprints or the like from the Jedi had since faded, he could tell from the heat patterns on the ground that someone had recently been through the area. He began following their footsteps, and upon feeling the trail in the Force become clearer, picked up his pace. Now, he could feel something else, a darker presence looming over everything, not acting but there all the same. As he ran, he began to enter a thicker part of the planet, with more grotesque plants and spikes growing in the area, but he followed along a narrow path that had been cleared out up a hill until he finally saw a figure in the distance. The dark presence felt much closer, but yet, Qorbin's instincts told him it was not the figure he sensed.
Now moving more stealthily (fortunately for Qorbin, the figure's focus was shifted elsewhere), Qorbin crept closer, seeing in better detail the man ahead of him. He was a human, with light skin and red hair. He was tall but slim, and he was hunched over looking at something on the ground. The man was dressed in red, white, and black robes, and a double-bladed lightsaber was clipped to his belt. A Sith, Qorbin realized. He continued his silent approach, but froze as he felt the man's presence reach out and feel his. The man looked up and at Qorbin, and Qorbin could now see his face was decorated with tattoos, and his eyes were a bright green. Seeing Qorbin, he turned the rest of his body to face him, revealing a small pyramid-shaped device levitating in his left hand-- a Sith holocron.
"Oh my," the Sith spoke. His voice was thickly Coruscanti accented, and he spoke with an almost gleeful tone. "This day just keeps getting better."
The leader of the Brotherhood sat in his chair on the bridge of the Brotherhood HQ space station. Few people ever joined him in this room; at the moment the only others were the dozen other crew members in charge of watching over the station. Each one of them had a specific job- navigation, maintenance, supervising entering and departing ships, and so on. Just as each of these twelve answered to him, each one of them had their own subordinates and so on, composing the power pyramid of the station, and to some extent, the Brotherhood.
The room was large and positioned on the very top of the station, and the room was adorned with multiple screens. Each screen streamed a camera facing that direction from the top of the station, and together they gave Dylan a panoramic view of the outside of the station. At the moment, the station was merely drifting through space, and Dylan was surrounded by stars in every direction. He looked out at the galaxy, towards trillions of beings impossible distances away. All those people couldn't know what they had coming.
The front screen (the one directly across from Dylan's chair) suddenly changed, displaying Moras Hedinin, Dylan's head of surveillance. Moras was a cyborg, and the majority of his face, as with the rest of his body, was covered in pieces of machinery. The top right corner of his face was still mostly untouched, save for a silver mechanical eye, gazing with a green iris. Even to Dylan, it was strange, but Moras got better results than anyone. "Boss," he spoke, through a deep synthesized voice, "There's been an alert on our Dantooine feed."
That couldn't possibly be good. "Show me."
The screen flashed, now showing an overhead perspective of ruins, presumably of a temple of some sort that had existed on the planet long ago. Dylan knew Galen Slarwalker visited this place from time to time, but this time, the screen showed four different individuals approaching the temple. "Who am I seeing here?" Dylan asked.
"Aside from Galen, we don't know." The screen split off into three different pictures, each displaying one of the three unknown persons- a Zabrak and two humans. "Who do we have available?" Dylan asked.
"The only assets we have in that sector are Taran Ragnan and the crew he just picked up off Coruscant."
"Get Ragnan on a comm line with me immediately."
Part 2: QuarryEdit
When Yula came to her senses, she looked up to see yet another duel about to commence. An unknown figure was standing near the entrance, wielding a blue lightsaber. Facing him was the strange Sith she had been fighting earlier, and behind him Ganner was lying on the ground, motionless. Yula could still feel his and Massikus' presence in the Force, but it was weak and only growing weaker. Her instincts told her she had to get out, and fast. She turned to the wall behind her, reaching out in the Force for a weakness she indeed found. She pushed with the Force at the wall, and it came away partially, enough for her to escape through. She quickly dashed to the other side, and did her best to put the section of the wall as it was prior before making her escape.
Yula knew where the ship was landed, and quickly began making her way to it. She ran through the green fields, leaving behind the presences she had felt before but still not truly shaking the feeling of powerlessness she had felt over the last month on the run. She had felt it when Tyrral died, when she couldn't stop Bail from sacrificing himself to save her, and when it seemed Massikus was going to kill her too. Ganner overpowering him had only instilled hope in her for the briefest of moments before it was struck down again, and even now that she seemed to have escaped the chaos, she could not truly find it in herself again.
At last, Yula could see the ship growing closer to her with every step she took. After what felt like an eternity, she took her first step onto the darkened vessel, which was currently powered down. Sitting alone in the pilot's seat, she activated the ship and began to prepare it for liftoff. The hums of the ship coming to life were music to Yula's ears, but the sound was quickly permeated by that of a shot that rang out towards her. Within a second of hitting the ship, everything went dark again--someone had hit her with an ion blast. Yula decided that whoever it was, she would face them instead of hiding. She exited the ship, and for the first time became aware of the fact that she had left her lightsaber in the ruins.
She stepped out again onto the surface to find herself surrounded by a variety of what she could only assume were mercenaries of some sort. There were about a dozen of them, mostly human with one Trandoshan, each armed to the teeth and wearing some sort of gray Mandalorian-styled armor. Yula would've initially believed they really were Mandalorians, but in the center of the group stood an entirely different figure. He stood tall in an gray admiral's uniform, gazing at her with dark brown eyes and hair.
"Greetings, Master Jedi. My name is Taran Ragnan. You'll be coming with me."
Yula sensed danger in the Force as he spoke, and sure enough, as he finished speaking he quickly leveled a blaster pistol at her in his right hand. Yula quickly sidestepped to the left as he fired off a shot, but the mercenaries standing behind him immediately opened fire on her too, and Yula was quickly overwhelmed by blue flashes before everything faded.
When Yula finally came to, she found herself in some sort of interrogation room. It was very plain, with nothing but stainless durasteel walls for decoration, along with the chair she was bound to, a small metal table in front of her, and another chair on the other side. Taran sat in that chair, flanked by two more mercenaries, a man and a woman. Yula pulled at her restraints to no avail, and Taran grinned at her efforts. She tried to reach out in the Force, but she felt nothing. She must have been sedated. "Ah," he started, "you're awake. Let's begin." He pulled out a datapad and began reading from it.
"What do you want?" Yula asked.
"Well, I'm sorry if I've made a poor impression, but I assure you, I merely seek information from you. So tell me, who are you?"
"My name is Yula Ardinn. I'm a Jedi Master." She watched him for any sort of reaction to her statements, but he wasn't fazed in the slightest. "You and three others all met at those ruins. Why?"
"I was running from one... A Sith. Another Sith attacked me, and as I escaped there was a man... he had a lightsaber."
Taran chuckled. "Two Sith attacked you and Galen Slarwalker came to save you? That's your story?"
"Don't play stupid with us, Jedi. Two Sith and two Jedi walk into a temple and each comes out alive?"
"You mean Ganner's alive?"
Yula regretted her words as soon as they had left her mouth, and they only served to further infuriate Taran for reasons unknown.
"Ganner Slarwalker? Are you hearing this, boss?"
At the word "boss", Yula sensed a slight, sudden pique of interest in the woman behind Taran. Her powers were still very nullified, meaning what Yula felt was likely only a fraction of what was really happening. In truth, Yula had felt the same curiosity--who was behind all this?
Suddenly, the ship began to rumble. The two guards flanking Ragnan both nearly stumbled, but just as unexpectedly as the motion had came, it ceased. "What was that?" Ragnan asked.
"Don't know." The woman nervously replied. She also had a thick Coruscanti accent. She began tapping on a comlink on her right arm as the rumbling started again. "I'm patching us into the bridge now."
"I-I can't tell what's happening!" a panicked voice yelled. "There was a ship--dropped out of hyperspace right in front of our hangars, and then we lost visuals. There's multiple explosions, but I can't see what..." Over the comm, Yula could hear a door slide open in the background. "What the-- HELP!!!"
The comm went silent, as the ship continued to shake. Yula's three captors exchanged glances, then each drew a DC-17 blaster pistol. "Cyana, sedate her again. We're going to the escape pods."
"Yes, sir," she replied. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the needle containing the sedative, then quickly inserted it into Yula's neck. Her eyes immediately closed as her head went limp. Cyana then unlocked the Jedi's restraints, and began to carry her along with the help of her partner, Carn. As they walked out into the corridor, the lights began to flicker. "What the hell happened?" Taran wondered. They began moving quickly through the ship as a woman's voice rang out on the intercom. She sounded old and sinister, and spoke slowly. "You have taken Yula Ardinn. You will surrender her to us and die quickly."
Taran chuckled. "That seems unlikely." They continued down the halls, getting closer and closer to the escape pods. They now passed bodies, many bloodied, their assailants still unknown. None of them were actually clone troopers--Taran somehow had the resources to man an entire Venator with Brotherhood forces. At last, they could see the escape pods down the hall, a long hall lined with more corpses. As they approached, Cyana heard the sound of a lightsaber activating behind them.
She turned to see a female Jedi, old and tattooed, wielding a blue blade. Flanking her were several pale women dressed in red robes, two wielding bows on either side and an unarmed one in the back. Nightsisters? "Stop!" the Jedi commanded. Cyana raised her blaster at one of the Nightsisters, as did Carn. "I will not allow you to take this woman."
Cyana looked back towards Taran, who responded by placing his blaster on the back of Yula's head. "You will."
For a moment, the two groups stood there at an impasse. Cyana had no idea what the capabilities of the Nightsisters was, but she was fairly certain they could easily slaughter her and the others given the slightest opening. Cyana didn't have any other real weapons on her at the time; she did have the sedative, but it seemed unlikely she would have an opportunity to use it on anyone present.
"Very well," the Nightsister in the back sighed. Cyana could tell by her voice that this was the person she had heard earlier over the intercom. "Kill them."
The two other Nightsisters both fired in unison as the world around Cyana slowed down. She fired a shot at the witch in front of her, and looked left to see Carn leaping in front of her, dropping Yula as he fired a shot towards the other one. He took the Nightsister's shot for her as the one meant for him flew past him, hitting the wall harmlessly. Both Nightsisters dropped to fhe floor, dead, as did Yula's unconscious body.
For another instant, everyone was surprised into stillness, before the Jedi raced towards Cyana. Within a split second, she had stopped, and she looked down in shock. Cyana did the same, seeing that in a moment of pure instinct, she had managed to shoot the Jedi. She raised her blaster once more to her head and finished the Jedi off.
As she did, Yula suddenly rose up from the ground, knocking Cyana and Taran back with the Force. Taran flew into the escape pod, and Cyana hit the wall, dropping her blaster. The fallen Jedi's lightsaber flew into Yula's hands, and she turned to face Cyana with a face emanating with rage. Cyana saw the blaster on the floor, out of her reach, and knew she had only on chance at escaping. "YOU KILLED HER!" Yula screamed, raising her lightsaber. Cyana leapt up as Yula brought the blade down. Though she had moved fast, Yula moved faster, slicing down over (but miraculously, not on) Cyana's right eye. Cyana had swiped at her with the sedative but missed as Yula jumped back, leaving her open for another strike. Yula attacked again, slashing across Cyanas' face, leaving a burning plus sign across her face as she fell down.
Given a momentary reprieve, Cyana slowly regained her vision to see that Yula was now deflecting shots fired by Taran. Knowing the mission had been lost, Cyana quickly jumped up, dodging shots and ricochets as she ran towards the escape pod. She slid into the pod next to Taran, who immediately closed the door and ejected the pod into space. Finally taking a moment to catch her breath, Cyana looked at Taran, who was sitting against the window, facing her. He let out a relieved, exasperated sigh. "What happens now?" Cyana asked.
"I'll send out a distress signal, get one of our men to pick us up--the Nightsisters won't follow us." Taran was looking peculiarly at her, and Cyana suddenly remembered what had happened to her as the pain came back to her face. "I'll see what we have in here to treat you. Between you and me, you deserve a promotion." As Taran grabbed a medkit off the wall of the pod, Cyana took a look out of the window, towards trillions of beings impossible distances away. All those people couldn't know what they had coming, and if Cyana could complete her mission, they never would need to.
Qorbin's lightsaber clashed with the Sith's as they both pushed against each other. He was staring him in the face now, and saw nothing but confidence and glee in the young man's eyes. Suddenly, the man reached out with his left hand, using the Force to throw Qorbin away into one of the plants, breaking it apart as he landed on his feet. "I've changed my mind," the man stated, "I don't need these people--I only need you." He effortlessly picked Qorbin up with the Force, despite his best efforts to break free of his grip. He dragged Qorbin closer and closer to him, until they were face to face again.The man then deactivated his lightsaber and clipped it to his belt.
"This will only hurt a bit," he said. He then raised his fist and thrust it into Qorbin's face, suddenly reducing the whole world to blackness.
Two weeks later Talzin and Darth Massikus, now inhabiting Yula Ardinn's body, stood in the hangar of the Sith Temple. Massikus had already donned the armor of one of the fallen Mandalorians Xux had faced, and was preparing to leave in a small shuttle when Talzin had arrived. "He spoke to me when I was gone," Massikus told her. "He showed me the future."
"What did you see?" she asked.
"I saw....a snowy world burning to the ground. I saw a boy. Slarwalker's brother. And I saw an army of Sith, but not ours."
"What does it mean?"
"I don't know. I'm going to find him, and then I will end Slarwalker once and for all. Goodbye, old friend."
Before Talzin could speak, Massikus had entered the shuttle and the door closed. The doors on the ceiling of the hangar opened, and his shuttle rose out of it. Talzin watched the ship fly away for a short while, but eventually Darth Massikus had disappeared into the night sky in search of his apprentice.
END OF ACT ONE.
TO BE CONTINUED IN ACT TWO: OUT OF THE SHADOWS.