Chapter One - Accessing The Lower City. A dream... A vision of the events that have passed, and perhaps of events that are yet to come. My vision blurs and an image of a woman comes into focus, obscuring my view of everything else. She's beautiful, but so upset, as if her anger can barely be contained. Bastila... She's the Jedi I swore to protect. I only met her briefly, but she had a certain...aura about her that made me want to get to know her more. When the Jedi commandeered the Endar Spire, they did a lot of security checks. One such check involved Bastila meeting all of the soldiers protecting her so she could familiarize herself with our faces. We all stood in a line, and she walked past us, looking at each of us in turn for only a moment. Until she reached me. When she finally stood in front of me she stopped and her gaze held my own. It was intense, the way she looked at me, as if she was trying to gather all of my secrets with only a look. I held her gaze, more out of fascination than defiance. How can a Jedi, any Jedi, be gifted with such eyes? How can any Jedi break through my defenses so easily with a look, and peer into my soul at a whim? I sought the answers to those questions with a look of my own, but after a few minutes Bastila finally broke away from me and continued on. I didn't see her again at any time on the Spire. My thoughts are interupted when the vision shifts and a Dark Jedi attacks Bastila. She instantly fends him off and kills him, then sweeps her blade behind her and faces a dark figure. My vision shifts and he turns around, looking at Bastila, but also seeming to look right at me. My vision gets cloudy, and the more he looks at me the worse it becomes. He makes me nervous, extremely nervous, and the need to flee starts to dominate my senses. But I can't. He just stares, and the vision shakes, and finally fades away. Suddenly, the desire to sleep overtakes me, and as my eyes close I fall back into the darkness. ******************************* Once again, I awake with a start. My body is dry, but for some reason I still feel like I'm bathed in sweat. Not far from me, a figure stands up and walks over to me. “Whoa, slow down.”
A stabbing pain in my...well everywhere, convinces me that might be a good idea. I focus on the figure and see Carth Onasi. “How are you feeling?”
I rub my face with my hands and groan.
“Uhn...did anyone get the license of that planet?”
Carth chuckles and I slowly stand up. The more I move the more my senses clear and I look around at my surroundings. It looks like we're in some low rent apartment. There are a couple beds and a workbench, but nothing more. I've spent a lot of time in places like this. It's easy to disappear here. “When the escape pod crashed, you got banged up pretty good but I managed to escape without injury. I pulled you out of the wreckage and by the time the Sith got there we were already long gone.”
Carth hands me a bottle of water and I drink it down, the pain finally starting to lessen down to just a dull throb. “Thanks for the save. I've never had too much luck with escape pods. They always seem to injure me.”
Carth just smiles and waves his hand dismissively. “There's no need to thank me. I've never left a man behind and I'm not about to start now. Besides, I'm going to need your help.”
I look at him for a few moments and then sigh. I know where this is going. “You didn't manage to find Bastila did you?” “Unfortunately no. The Sith have declared martial law and have also imposed a planet-wide quarintine. Moving around has been difficult, but I heard a rumor that more escape pods crashed down into the Undercity. It's a very dangerous place and I need all the help I can get.” “Can we expect any backup?” “No. There's no way the Republic can sneek anyone past the Sith blockade. If we're going to get out of this then we'll need to depend on ourselves.” Well this sounds like it's going to be fun.
I stand up and stretch my limbs, finally finding that the pain has almost entirely disappeared. I spot my blaster and vibroblade resting on the workbench. I holster my blaster and strap the vibroblade across my back. I turn back and look at Carth. “Well, sitting around here isn't going to accomplish anything. It looks like we have a small adventure ahead of us.”
Carth smirks at his enthusiasm and grabs his own blaster. “Sure does. But we'll need to keep a low profile. I've heard of some colorful stories about the Sith
interrogation techniques and I'm not in any hurry to experience them firsthand. They say that the force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away memories and change your very identity.”
Carth had turned toward the door, otherwise he might have been concerned when a flash of pain shot through my mind and I rub my forehead to dull the pain and follow him. When he opens the door he suddenly stops and turns to look at me. “Oh, I haven't asked your name yet.”
I smile and hold out my hand. “My name is Isárion L'belryn.”
Carth takes my hand and gives it a firm shake. “I'm Carth Onasi. It's a pleasure to be serving with you. Alright, soldier, let's move out.”
******************************* Black Vulkar Base “Are you deaf? I said let go of me!”
The Jedi motions sharply with her hand and suddenly the Black Vulkar gang member flies across the room and impacts hard against the wall, falling to the floor unconscious. Brejik strides into the room where some of his gang members are trying to restrain the Jedi enough to place a neural restraint on her. “She's being feisty is she?” Brejik asks with an amused chuckle and one of the gang members nods his way, only to get laid flat when the Jedi uses the distraction to introduce his face to her foot. Brejik sighs and approaches the Jedi. She looks at him with contempt. He decides to try and reason with her. “Look, Jedi, you're causing way too much trouble. If you don't calm down then I'll let my gang members do what they wanted to do before, and take you to their quarters until the Swoop Race begins. They have some very inventive ways of dealing with impulsive women. I would rather sell you unspoiled, but if it doesn't look worth the effort...”
He doesn't need to go into detail about what they would do. Despite having no experience of the sexual nature herself, Bastila is still aware that there are a lot of people out there who take great joy in breaking a Jedi that way. Deciding to take the lesser of two evils, she finally stops struggling. “Good girl. Now, we're going to keep you inhibited for a while so you won't try to escape. Don't cause anymore problems.” Deciding to do it quickly, one gang member approaches her and straps the collar around her neck. He grabs the remote from the table and activates it. Bastila's glare remains until her mind
goes blank and she slumps forward. As the others lift her up, Brejik gives his instructions. “Put her somewhere safe, away from the Vulkar base just in case someone tries to obtain her. And don't do anything to her. If it looks like the Jedi has been spoiled then I'll kill all of you myself. Now go!” All of the Vulkars leave the room, carrying the Jedi with them. ******************************* Isárion & Carth “Ok you alien scum, everyone against the wall! This is a raid!” Oh you got to be shitting me! We just took two steps out of our apartment!
A Sith, backed up by two battle droigs, stood in front of two Duros, but his back is to us. Maybe we can sneak away. One of the Duros cautiously approaches the Sith. “There was a patrol here just yesterday and they found nothing. Why do you keep bothering us?”
The Sith then replies by raising his weapon and firing a couple shots through the Duros chest. “That's how Sith deal with smart-mouth aliens! Now everyone against the wall before I lose my temper again!”
The Sith turns to make sure his order is being followed and notices us. Two humans living amongst a place reserved for aliens. One would generally call his forthcoming response as being presumptous. “They're Republic fugitives! Attack!”
But then again he's not wrong. Carth and I open fire on the two battle droigs before they have a choice to turn around and shoot back, destroying them instantly. Being better with a gun, I fire at the Sith even as the droid I destroyed tumbles to the ground, and instantly kill him as well with a shot through the head. All the aliens in the hallway return to their rooms as if they didn't see anything, and if another Sith patrol happens to ask them about it, that'll likely be their response. The other Duros kneels beside his friend. “Poor Ixgil. He really shouldn't have talked back to the Sith. Nonetheless, thank you for your help human.”
I shrug and both Carth and I holster our blasters and I respond.
“I'm glad I could help. Does this happen often?”
The Duros finally stands up and replies. “They come almost daily for surprise raids and inspections, but all they're really doing is taking anything they deem as contraband for themselves. It's the Sith's own brand of thievery and there is nothing that can be done about it.”
I look down at the bodies, wondering how I'm going to get rid of them. Carth speaks up. “This entire area will be in trouble if these bodies are found. I'd much rather not have Sith knocking on our door.”
The Durops waves his hand dismissively and says. “I'll hide the bodies far from here so the Sith won't know they were killed here. Just go about your business.”
After purchasing two energy shields from a Twi'lek merchant named Larrim, inspect the area. The alient housing really isn't much more than a large metal circle in the ground with crappy rooms. It's the perfect place for an someone to disappear. Aliens are considered to be at the bottom of the barrel on Taris. The planet hates any non-humans, with Twi'leks being tolerated in upper Taris only because they are hired for the eyecandy. Humans have always done this, and even after all of these years it still disgusts me how closed minded they can be. The Upper Taris area, which is a huge platform outside that overlooks hundreds of kilometer high buildings, is frequently patrolled by Sith. But with us just being a couple grunts, the Sith barely notice our presence, and we're able to walk right past them, and other Taris citizens on the street without gaining attention. One tough looking alien has an old man by the throat. Another one stands as backup by his side. “You keep missing your payments to Davik. He really doesn't like it when people don't pay their debts.”
The old man pleads while also trying to breathe around the hand constricting his throat. “P-please! I have fifty credits! Consider it a down payment! Th-that should buy me some time right?”
The alien who is just standing there responds. “That's not going to cut it this time. It's all or nothing.”
The old man looks back and forth between them with fear in his eyes. He's heard of what Davik does to people who can't pay up.
“B-but I don't have that many credits. How can I give you something I don't have?”
I hear Carth whispering beside me. “I know we shouldn't draw attention to ourselves but we shouldn't let this man get hurt right before our eyes.”
The hand tightens around the old man's throat to the point where it looks like he's going to pass out from lack of oxygen. “That just means we're going to have to make an example out of you. Ok, that's enough of that. “I suggest you take your hand off his throat before you lose it.”
Both thugs turn ttheir heads at once to look at us, before dropping the man, choking and gasping for breath, to the ground. “There seems to be witnesses.” “Davik doesn't like witnesses.” “Looks like we have to teach you to mind your own business.”
A few blaster shots and about six seconds later, both aliens take a nosedive off the platform. I pat my hands together and turn my attention to the old man. “Are you ok?”
I offer my hand to him and he takes it and raises back onto his feet, patting his neck as if making sure all of it is still attached. “Y-yes. Thank you for your help. But I fear that this has only delayed my death, not prevented it. With my debt, more bounty hunters will arrive to collect.”
I look at the old man for several seconds then ask. “How much is your debt?” “One hundred Credits. My wife told me not to borrow from a loan shark like him, but I had no choice.” That's all?
I think for a few more moments and then smile. I found around that amount on the Sith I killed in the alien quarters. I pull out the right amount of credits and hand it to him. Carth whistles in surprise.
“You're just giving him a hundred credits? Generous of you.”
The old man looks down at the credits in surprise. His eyes almost seem to mist over with tears. “You're just going to give me a hundred credits? Why?” “Because everyone makes mistakes and you shouldn't have to live, and die, with yours.”
The old man clutches the credits securely in his hand. “Thank you for your kindness. I'm going to go pay off the debt right away! Thank you!”
The old man ran off, looking like a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Carth pats me on the back and smirks. “Made your fair shares of mistakes I take it?”
I just smile at him and shrug. “More then I'd like to admit. Come on, we still need to gather information.”
The Upper City is split into two platforms, the north and south. The south holds the lift to the alien's apartments, a general supply store, and a Cantina which also supports dancing Twi'leks, a Pazaak den, and a combat arena owned by a Hutt. The north platform holds the lift to the Lower City, some more apartments, and a doid supply shop owned by a Twi'lek. A cantina is always a good source of information. That's right; I went there for information gathering. I just happened to end up in the arena area. Pure coincidence. “This is so not a coincidence.”
Carth grumbles as he finds me watching one of the monitors. A man and a woman are watching the monitor beside me, the woman talking very excitedly. “I can't believe we couldn't get tickets! Now we have to watch the match on the monitors.” “What's the big deal? It's only Gerlon Two-Fingers.” “Just stop complaining and watch the match.”
The man just sights, seeming to only be there to humor her and make sure she doesn't bet all of her credits in one day. The announcer's voice suddenly bursts from the monitor. And Carth watches along with myself as two men step into the arena. “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Watch as these two men
fight for your gambling enjoyment! In one corner-”
The camera zooms up to one of the men, almost pointedly aiming at the guy's left hand, which only consists of two fingers. “Gerlon Two-Fingers! And in the other corner-”
The camera zooms up to an old man who is way past his prime, and his receding hairline shows that it had sounded the retreat years ago. “The ever persisent Deadeye Duncan! Let the match...begin!”
Both men unholster their weapons at the same time, but Duncan somehow manages to drop his gun to the ground, giving Gerlon more then enough time to shoot Duncan. It only took one shot. The announcer instantly announced the end. “Well...that was rather quick wasn't it? And it comes as no surprise, Deadeye Duncan is down! But don't worry ladies and gentlemen, he's only unconscious. Our medics will arrive shortly to revive him.”
The monitor went dead, signaling the end of the match. I stand there for several moments, just staring at the monitor. Then I come to a decision. “My turn!”
Like an excited child about to get a gift, I make a made dash for the Hutt. Only to be abruptly stopped by Carth's hand grabbing hold of my clothes. “Nu-uh. We have more important things to do right now. You can come back and play later.”
I turn toward him and give my best sorrowful look. “But...but adventure and...and battle arena. It's like every little boy's dream.”
Carth crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow. The puppy dog gaze crashes and burns. I cave in to his demands. “Fine, we'll continue the search for Bastila. I only met the woman once and she's already ruining all my fun...”
I try not to pout as we leave the Cantina behind and move on to the North platform. As we walk I start to become a little curious about the man I'm travelling with. “Won't don't you tell me a little about yourself. I'd like to know the person I'm travelling with.”
Carth points at himself in surprise. “Me? Well I've been a Republic pilot for years and I've
seen my fair share of wars. I even participated in the Mandalorian Wars before this Sith problem began.” “Really? I was a sharpshooter during that war. But I'm not too sure how I feel about us having an event that slaughtered countless people in common.”
Carth nods in understanding and continues. “But even after that war, I've never encountered the kind of ruthless slaughter these Sith are capable of. Hell, even the Mandalorians weren't as senseless in their conquest.”
A flood of emotions crosses Carth's face as he struggles to recall painful memories. I kind of regret asking him. “My planet was one of the first to fall under Malak's control. He bombed the planet into submission and there wasn't a single damn thing the Republic could do about it.”
Making an observation of his emotions I reply. “You're making it sound like it was your fault. Like you were responsible somehow.”
Carth almost yells out his next response to that. “I didn't fail. I couldn't have! I did everything I could...I followed orders and did my duty. That doesn't mean I failed them!” Them?
I voice that thought aloud. “Them? Do you mean the people of your planet?”
Carth seems to mentally kick himself for the word slip. “That's...that is not what I meant. I'm sorry, I know I'm not making much sense right now but I'm a man of action and I would prefer we get back to the mission at hand.”
I decide then to honor his request for a change of subject and for the next several minutes we walk quietly until... “What is thish planet coming to!”
Three drunken men stumble toward us. The one in front continues. “Shlummies walking the streets of Upper Tarish!”
That's one of his buddies chimed in. “Yeah! Shouldn't you returnsh to the Lower City, shlummie?”
Carth groans and slaps his hand against his forehead. “Oh this is rich.”
I try to hold back a laugh, because I know I'm a much worse drunk. “Come on guys, we can all be friends here. How about I buy you a drink?”
The man gasps in surprise, wobbles uncertainly for a moment, and then finally seems to catch his balance again. “'Eeeeeey for a shlummie you ain't so bad! 'ey guys, the next drink is on the shlummie.” “No. No more drinksh! We're already late enough as it is.” “Awww I guesh you're right. See you later shlummie.”
The three men stumble away and Carth shakes his head. “I don't know how you ended that without a fight fight, but good job I guess.” “Although I love a good fight, I don't think it can solve everything. Those men just needed someone to speak their language.” “I didn't know you could speak drunken moron.” “Many nights in a Cantina made me a bit of a linguist in all forms of stupidity.”
We both get a good laugh out of the strange turn our conversation has taken, but we're also glad for a break in the tension that formed after I pried into his past. After a little more searching, we come across a door with a single Sith guard standing in front of it. Hmm...this must be the way down to the Lower City.
When we try to pass the Sith guard moves in front of us to block our way. “Due the gang war, only those with permission may enter the Lower City.” “How do I get permission?” “If you need to ask that then you won't get the permission.
Carth lets out a very annoyed sigh as we walk away. “Why are there so many annoying obstacles standing in our way?”
I smile and respond. “It's more fun this way. Think of what kind of tale this will make for the little recruits. They'll worship us!”
******************************* Later That Night...
After spending the day gathering information, we retreated back to our apartment for a good night's rest. It almost three hours before Carth fell asleep and I could sneak out. I have my own way of gathering information that he might not approve of. That's why I'm currently hear, talking to a somewhat cute off duty Sith named Sarna who became real talkative after just a few rounds. She mentioned how the Sith guard at the gate to the Under City doesn't even check for papers anymore. With a uniform you can walk right in. “You know, most others would be depressed after getting assigned to this backwaters shithole, but not me.”
Good, she's starting to talk about her life as a Sith. Maybe if I just prod a little more... “It's good you're keeping a positive attitude.” She smiles at my compliment. “That's exactly it! It's all about attitude! Even us Sith have to kick back every once in a while. Most people don't even talk to us. We could have imposed a planetwide curfew but we didn't!” She's almost making this too easy. I prod her ego a little more. “The people of this planet clearly don't know how good you are to them.” Her smile widens, and in her drunken state of mind, I suddenly become way more trustworthy. “Hey, you're a pretty nice guy. You know...” Here it comes. A combination of alcohol, affection, and the illusion of companionship will do it every single time. “Some of the other Sith and I throw a party once a week to blow off some steam. You're welcome to join us.” Hmm. I was kind of hoping to enter her apartment, drink her under the table, and then steal her Sith armor to get past the guard. Maybe I can work with this.
“Most of the others don't even take off their armor before coming to the party.” Oh yeah, I can definitely work with this. “Oh really? When does the party start?” She smiles and looks at the clock. “Pretty much right now. I was going to leave the Cantina after a few games of Pazaak but then you-” She points at me, the gesture accusatory but her eyes amused. “Entered the Cantina and became a distraction.” There is a lot you can tell about a woman by how she flirts with you. The giggles, the gestures, the chaste smiles when they're not necessary, to name a few. They're useful tools to have when when you're trying to manipulate a woman to either share secrets with you, or her body. Although I'm a proud flirt and I've had some experiences, I'm not particularly fond of using it to my advantage. People have teased me in the past for being a hopeless romantic. I love to wine and dine and have romantic walks. It may be corny but it's just the kind of guy I am. However, for a mission like this, I'm more then willing to push aside the romantic in me to get the job done. Sensing that she's not someone who likes to dance around a subject, I reach forward and tightly grasp her hand. “My apologies. To make up for being such a distraction, I'll walk you to the party. And later...” Anyone sober would be able to see right through my words, honeyed as they are. “You can tell me how I might be able to make up the time for you.” She giggles in response and looks at me with eyes that long to just skip the party entirely and get straight to the “apology”. I do feel kind of bad for manipulating her like this. She may be a Sith, but she's also a very lonely person living on a planet where people hate her. But it's for the mission... We leave the Cantina shortly after, and the entire way to the party she's practically hanging off my arm. The walk takes a lot longer then it should, mostly because she's not exactly sober enough to walk in a straight line. When we finally get there, the party is in full swing and with over a dozen Sith, all of whom have taken themselves out of their Sith armor and placed them against the wall. I only need two of them. But how am I going to sneak out of here with two very shiny, and heavy, suits of Sith armor? I guess I'll just play it by ear.
One of the Sith walk up to us as we enter the room. “Hey Sarna! The Tarisian Ale you ordered for the party arrived just in time. I'd be careful though, it has quite a kick.” Maybe I can make this work afterall...
******************************* Four Hours Later... “Why won't you pash out!?” After four hours of drinking, every Sith fell asleep. Save one. Sarna grins at my very loud, and highly inebriated voice. She chugs down another glass of the ale, forcing me to take another drink as well. This bitch ish a monshter! She's not human!” “Hah! Like thish ish going to shtop me! I've never losht a drinking contesht!” I stare at the woman in disbelief. “You have more conshtitushin then a Mandalorian! Ish on, woman!”
******************************* Two Hours Later... I slowly, unsteadily, and with great effort drag my sorry carcass through the door, with the Sith armors held tightly under my arms. Even in my current state of mind I don't forget them. They're my spoils of war. The hardest war I've ever fought, to be certain. She was a worthy foe, but in the end I came out as the victor. I'm sure I'll argue the validity of my triumph when the hangover hits me later, but at the moment I place the armors silently on the floor and collapse on my bed, sleep taking me almost instantly.
******************************* The Mandalorian Wars Dxun “Get your ass up, soldier!” My Commanding Officer's booming voice shakes me awake and I instantly jump out of bed and stand at attention. I swear, he does that for his own amusement. “Both you and Amelia have a new mission!” Amelia is a Jedi and a frequent teammate. During the war, Revan started to assign two man sniper squads, one being a soldier and the other a Jedi. The reasoning behind this was that the Jedi could help avoid detection behind enemy lines, and assist should any unforeseen problems arise.
It's not a frequent partnership for most, but all of my targets have been priority kills so a Jedi has been necessary. In every outing, my partner has been the beautiful and exceptionally talented Amelia. I just call her Ames, and it annoys her to no end. During our outings we've grown quite close and we often spend time together when we're off duty. I thought such...attachments were taboo for the Jedi but she doesn't seem to mind. My commanding officer hands me a folder and I open it up. Within is several papers with the necessary information on the target and a somewhat blurry picture. The target is heavily armored, with the most notable feature being a face mask with long, thick tubes protuding from it. I know who this is. “My target is Mandalore, sir?” He nods stiffly. “Once he's dead it won't take long for a new Mandalorian to gain the position, but we're hoping it will delay the Mandalorian fleets long enough for Revan to send reinforcements. If we can get those reinforcements then we can push even farther into enemy lines. If for some reason you miss, or are complication arises that prevents you from taking the shot, then the Jedi will finish the job.” He reaches forward and firmly shakes my hand. “Good luck, soldier. Make us proud.”