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Tales of Darth Skuldren: Ch. 9-12

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Tales of Darth Skuldren: Ch. 9-12
 PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:45 pm Reply with quote  
  Darth Skuldren

Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 6953
Location: Missouri

Chapter 9 in the Tales of Darth Skuldren

"Deals a Dozen"

In a quant little office in the corporate sector, two beings discussed a business transaction. The office was well furnished and comfortable. It was located on the upscale side of the city. Its owner was a Dashade mercenary, a Shadow Killer. He had drab olive skin and stood at an even 2 meters. As of the moment he was sitting behind his marbled desk wearing a black nerf hide jacket. Cold, black eyes stood out among his bald, hairless head. Sitting across from him was a potential client. The client was dressed in black, from head to toe. His skin and hair were pale white, offset by his red eyes. He was an albino. He was also a Sith.

“I hear you specialize in hunting force users. Is it true?” Asked the albino.

“My people have an amazing resistance to the powers of the force. I have fought many Jedi, and on occasion I have hunted them down for a fee.” The Dashade’s devilish grin of fangs stretched across his face.

“What about a Sith Lord?” The albino held his gaze at those black, beady eyes.

“I usually find myself in their employment. I must say it would be a challenge.” He kicked his feet up on the desk and cocked his hands behind his head.

“I’m willing to pay the costs, plus this Lord is unique. He is weak in the force itself but is able to render others powerless to it. Your talents don’t reside upon such power do they?” Asked the shadowed ghoul of a man.

“No, they don’t. If this lord is weak in the force like you say, then we shouldn’t have a problem. I’ll need time to prepare and stalk the subject, say six months. In that time I guarantee the destruction of the target. The price will be 200,000 credits, one-fourth up front, the rest upon completion. You do want him taken out, correct?” The Dashade looked at the Sith earnestly.

“Yes, I want him taken out. The price is fine and so is the timetable. Shall we conclude our deal?” Asked the albino.

And so the two finished the deal. The Sith returned to his masters and the Shadow Killer began his preparations. In time he would add a new lightsaber to his collection. Until then, he would study his prey. One could never be too careful when dealing with Jedi. Sith were even worse. Across the galaxy someone else was also concluding business…

Walking briskly down the street, a young man eagerly strolled along, blending in with the passing pedestrians. He wore a royal blue jacket laden with pockets. A data screen covered his left eye and allowed him to watch the local news as he walked. Looking around on the first day of his arrival he had noticed that they were quite popular. Zagduhl was a booming little colony founded by prosperous Feeorin trade moguls. Everyone in the colony was in one way or another involved in the entertainment business. Most were involved in film but some were in the music and theater industry as well. The location was conveniently located and the planet was very scenic. Only the fabulously wealthy and well to do could obtain an estate on Zagduhl. Darth Xenon had spent three days looking for his target. His efforts were met with success. It seemed that the Anzati collector, B.B. Sholmz, was a bit of a playboy. He socialized with only the highest circles and was invited to all of the top-notch events. Unfortunately Darth Xenon was unable to secure passes to any of these events. Nevertheless this was only a minor setback. Xenon had hoped to befriend the Anzati and drug him. Now it would seem a more direct approach would have to be taken. Thus he found himself walking towards the nearest speeder rental. He planned to pay a little visit to the man’s estate.

Meanwhile, on the boggy surface of Nal Hutta, stood a tall man lost in thought. A small Hutt was beside him waiting for their escort to arrive. For as far as the eye could see was a green pond of stagnant water. Nal Hutta, “O’ glorious jewel,” at least it seemed fitting for its masters. Amid the bog Ziam stood on a small landing platform whose only structure was a small maintenance garage. Two Rodians were mulling around with a dilapidated speeder bike. The Hutt’s tail twitched impatiently. His diminutive size showed that he was low in rank. Darth Ziam had managed to gain counsel with a Hutt lord named Corda. She was not the most powerful of Hutts, but she was influential. The small Hutt before him was one of her minions.

“Ah, there is our transport. We will arrive at the Mistress’ domain very soon now.” Boomed the scrawny Hutt.

After an hour’s drive across the bog, the speeder arrived at its destination. Ziam noted the remoteness of the swamp fortress. It was very well guarded. Either the Hutt was paranoid or she had dangerous enemies. He would keep that in mind. His escorts led him past several security checkpoints and blast doors. Through a long, dimly lit corridor he entered a lavishly decorated audience chamber. Yet the Hutt was nowhere to be seen.

A heavy set Rodian spoke to him, “the mistress will be with you shortly, please sit and wait.” To emphasize his point he patted his sidearm. Oh how little he realized just how dangerous this visitor was. Darth Ziam could have killed the man with no more than a thought.

After two hours of waiting, his boredom finally ended. The pompous Hutt entered the chamber on a large repulsorlift. The unit was an older model and it swayed up and down as it scooted along. Physically the Hutt looked like any other. Her chest sagged a bit more and perhaps she wore just the hint of make up, but beyond that she was indistinguishable. Along each side of her repulsorlift strolled four Ubese bodyguards. Each was extensively outfitted in high-tech body armor bristling with weaponry. As the repulsorlift came to a rest, the guards positioned themselves around the four corners of the lift.

“Soooo, you are the Siiith. Yoou ask for a strange gift. What do yoou offer in return.” Her speech drew out the syllables like a sloth sipping molasses. Now that she was close, Darth Ziam could see that the Hutt had thick black lashes around her massive eyes.

“My lady, I offer compensation now and a huge return in the future. For finding and delivering the child I am willing to pay you 35,000 credits. After its education is complete, it will be returned to your service as a full fledged force user capable of seeing the future and bending the minds of anyone who stands in its way. Plus they will have the skills to defend themselves against any would be attackers. I assure you the Jedi would not teach a student the skills necessary to become a true leader, one capable of creating an empire unequaled in Hutt history.” Ziam’s voice was smooth and fluent. He did not bother using the force. It would have been wasted on a Hutt. Instead he did his best to actually sell the deal fair and square.

The Hutt squirmed on her mobile dias, shifting her weight into a new position. “Money is gooood. A Hutt skilled in uuseful force powers is better. Jedi always ruin a perfectly gooood Hutt. They give them ideas like sharing and charity. You teach him to take and forge powwer.” Her eyes widened on that last word. Her mind was suddenly dreaming of an empire with her behind the thrown. “But yoou make him listen to me when he return or else. Yoou promise by your gods and the force.” She stopped and waited.

“I promise.” Said Darth Ziam, though he wasn’t sure if he meant it or if it even mattered.

The Hutt seemed pleased either way. “Goood, now the matter of acquiring. There is a Hutt child like whom yoou looook for. He very closely guarded secret. He also member of family. I can tell you where, but yoou must get him. Yoou must take him.” She bobbed her massive head to emphasize her point. He would have to kidnap this child.

“Very well.”

Corda told Darth Ziam where the child was kept. In return Ziam paid the Hutt and went on his way. Using a scout speeder bike he cruised through the night fog of the swamp. The moon cast eerie shadows through the gnarled trees. In the distance he could see the mouth of a cave. This was the place. The Hutt said the child was kept down in the tunnels. Interestingly guards were not kept here at night. Supposedly the cave was haunted and no one dared to approach the place at dark. Ziam was tempted to simply ignore the statements as silly superstition, but there had to be something to the stories.
His master had once told him a tale about ghosts.

Master Skuldren once visited a planet in search of an ancient force relic. When he finally found the item it was night and darkness blanketed the plains like a shroud. As he approached it strange voices began to speak. Out of the darkness ethereal shapes emerged in the forms of people. Ghostly images. Three specters revealed themselves as long dead warriors, selected to guard the relic even from the realms of the afterlife. Master Skuldren took advantage of their plight by making them pledge to do battle in the ways of old. Each would fight in turn, and the victor would get the spoils. Easily enough, Skuldren defeated the first two, but the third was another matter. In life he was a force user, yet in death he could still weld its powers. His abilities were unlike any Skuldren had ever encountered. Worse yet, the thing was immune to Skuldren’s force sever. And so they battled in the ghostly night of darkness. Skuldren’s red blade burned through the night’s curtain and the specter met his blows with a phantasmal sword. The poltergeist battered Skuldren relentlessly with blows from the force. Bloodied and dying Skuldren was running out of options, so with one final blow he struck out and severed the ancient force relic. With a howling wind the ghost was swept back into the nether worlds and Skuldren was left alone in the darkness. The lesson of the story was that powerful ghosts could only maintain their existence in the physical world through an object. Eliminate the object and you eliminate their tie. Thus if there were truly ghosts guarding the cave, then there must also be an object tying them there.

Ziam was now at the mouth of the cave. There were no signs of ghosts. He entered the cave and noted the echoes of the solid surface. The cave was a natural formation formed in solid rock. Moss hung from the ceiling in heavy strands. Cobwebs crisscrossed through the tunnel. Carefully he journey down into the darkness. Using the force he could amplify the ambient light and thus see through the blackness. In the depths of the cave he could hear something, a low, rough growl. On and off the sound faded. The further he ventured, the louder it grew. Finally he found the source of the noise, it was the snores of a small Hutt. It moved slightly in the dark, its large eyes opened and small reflections of light twinkled in them.

In Huttese it spoke, “who is there.”

“I was sent by Corda, but I’ve come of my own accord. You have an ability in the force and I can teach you how to use it. Come with me and you can learn what it has to offer.” The Hutt was young, so he tried using the force to lace his words with its power.

“I would like that, but the Hutts would not be pleased. I have been promised to the Hutt elder council and I am afraid they would go to great extents to prevent my departure.” This time the Hutt spoke in basic.

“I think we can leave without their knowing, at least long enough to get off world. I have a ship, however it some ways from here. I would have to leave and come back for you…” Darth Ziam was cut off in mid sentence.

“You obviously have never seen a Hutt swim. My people are notoriously lazy. I on the other hand, am in excellent shape. I could easily keep up with you on your speeder bike, as long as you don’t go too fast.” Replied the Hutt.

“How did you know I came on a speeder bike?” Asked Darth Ziam.

“I saw it in your mind, can you not see such things in the force?” Even in the darkness Ziam could see the curiosity in its eyes.

“The force lends some talents more naturally to some than others. It would seem that such perception is one of your strong points.” Ziam smiled warmly at the Hutt. “Shall we go then?”

“First my name is Moto, what is yours, I cannot quite see it in your mind.”

“I am Darth Ziam. I’m glad to have made your acquaintance Moto.” Ziam bowed very slightly.

The two of them made there way back out of the cave. All was well until they left the mouth of the cave. Amongst the trees something moved. No, that wasn’t it, the trees moved, one in particularly. Slowly it approached them. The treelike thing was nearly five meters tall. Its eyes glowed dimly in the dark. Then it spoke.

“You are touched by the force, both of you. Ahh but you are so much stronger than the little one. I was hoping he would attract someone like you. Now you must die.” The thing rasped.

It lunged its massive form towards them and Ziam was quick to react. In an instance he ignited his lightsaber and struck out at the tree monster. To his surprise the blade stopped short inside the things armored hide. It laughed in a booming echo and smacked him with a hard, lanky appendage. Ziam was knocked back, but he managed to keep his balance. Carefully he measured his opponent. Master Skuldren always emphasized strategy in combat. A warrior who acted without a plan was unprepared for battle. Ziam noticed that the thing was covered head to toe with a coarse hide. The only vulnerable spot was its face. Its long arms gave it a good reach, so he would have to get in close. He double-checked to make sure that Moto was out of danger then force sprinted toward the tree beast. The branchlike arms lashed out at him again but this time he ducked and jumped around their attacks. Now that he was close he lunged forward with his golden blade and pierced the thing in its face. This time the blade went deep and a purple sap seeped from the gaping wound. The creature screamed in agony, thrashing wildly with its limbs. Without pity, Darth Ziam finished the miserable beast with one last thrust. Now the creature was still. Ziam looked back to make sure Motto was all right.

“Well I hope that will be the last of our surprises, now I know why the place was considered haunted. Did you know about that thing?” Asked Darth Ziam.

“If I did I wouldn’t have stayed in that cave, nor do I think I would have gotten much sleep.” Replied Moto.

Thankfully they experienced no more surprises. The trip to Ziam’s ship was uneventful and true to his word Moto kept pace. In no time they were traveling through the realms of hyperspace. Master Skuldren would be pleased.

Back on Zagduhl, Darth Xenon was spying on Mr. Sholmz. Things were getting very interesting. First off Mr. Sholmz had a very attractive guest. The lights were dim and things looked to get intimate, but Xenon detected something odd about the Anzat. Of course, the Anzat was only seducing her so he could feed. Anzats were very good at hiding their features and most people never realized what they were until it was too late. As Xenon watched he debated whether he should intervene. The lady was visually stunning. Surely she didn’t deserve to have her brain matter sucked out of her head by the Anzat’s proboscis. So Xenon made up his mind and decided to act. He quickly ignited his lightsaber and cut a hole through the window. Leaping through the hole he landed on his feet and immediately blasted the Anzat with a blow from the force. The female guest was shocked and merely sat frozen on the couch. The Anzat got back to his feet, but now his proboscis were unfurled and wisping around his enflamed cheeks. In his hand was a long, thin vibroblade, humming in the silence. The girl saw the thing that almost got her amd quickly scrabbled towards the door. Foolishly the Anzat’s eyes followed the girl. Xenon used the distraction to throw a small, sticky pellet at Sholmz’s face. It hit him right between the eyes and stuck there. On contact the substance emitted a small cloud of vapor. Initially it blinded the victim. Then upon entering the nasal cavity it infected the blood stream causing the victim to fall asleep. The effects were near instantaneous. To Xenon’s surprise the woman hadn’t yet left. Perhaps he could mix a little business with pleasure on this mission.

On Kajji XII Darth Ziam returned with Moto. They were greeted by Master Skuldren and Darth Iconoclast. Master Skuldren was adorned in his typical black cloaks, while Iconoclast was brightly lit by an orange utility shirt crossed with a black X. They strolled over to the ship’s boarding ramp.

“So you have succeeded? I didn’t expect you back so soon, it’s only been four weeks since you left.” Master Skuldren’s face beamed with pride. Ziam would make a fine Sith leader one day. This was but the first in many steps towards that goal.

“Master Skuldren, Iconoclast, this is Moto…the Hutt.” Ziam smiled back at Moto who seemed pleased with the title.

“I am honored to meet you Masters Skuldren and…Iconoclast.” Moto was careful to pronounce the names correctly in basic.

“Welcome to my academy Moto. Here you will find a wealth of information on the force. More than what the Jedi and the Sith have at their disposal. We also have numerous people who can offer you instruction. I will grant you my insight on the workings of the force but Darth Ziam will be your personal teacher. Come, we will show you around.” Together they walked and squirmed across the stone pathways of the landing field. Moto would fit in perfectly among Skuldren’s Sith. And Ziam was already realizing that now he had an apprentice.

Luckily for Darth Xenon he made the neutralizing spore to be nearly permanent. In order to end its affects you had to administer an antiserum. Xenon had all the time he needed. Later that evening he parted company with his newfound friend and returned to Sholmz’s estate. He had carefully stored the body out of sight in case anyone came by while he was gone. That brought up an intriguing question, what should he do with Sholmz. The man was obviously a murderer, but Xenon’s real concern was the book. According to Master Skuldren it was an old book actually written on pages made from animal skins and bound in black leather. He looked through the Anzat’s library but had no luck. Then he rummaged through all of the Anzat’s rooms and belongings. Still no book. After several hours of searching he began to worry. Well, when everything goes wrong or nothing presents itself, turn to the force. Times like this made the living force a lifesaver. With just a few moments of relaxation and focus the problem revealed itself. Just like a holodrama, there was a secret doorway hidden behind the bookcase. Xenon went over to the bookcase, hit the secret button, and revealed the hidden doorway, which seemed to lead to a basement.

Xenon crept through the narrow passageway and was immediately assaulted by the nauseating stench of lime, acid, and decay. At the end of the passage was a large open area but it was hard to make anything out in the darkness. Looking around he managed to find a primitive light switch. Now what he saw was grisly. In the middle of the room were two large vats. Upon closer inspection Xenon realized that one was filled with acid and the other with lime. Off to the side were several operating tables. Each was appropriately adorned with an array of medical instruments. In one corner was a large industrial oven. In the ceiling were several chutes, probably connected to more hidden passages in the house. But the most shocking thing of all was the walls. There were shelves, probably over fifty of them, all of them full of ghastly trophies and parts. Xenon was no stranger to science labs or even dissection, but this was too much. Then, off to right, on one of the grim shelves was a book, the book. Quickly Xenon went over to the shelf, flipped through the book to make sure it was the one, and just as swiftly left the dungeon.

Now that he was in a much comfortable atmosphere he could think. He had the book, mission accomplished. And there was Mr. Sholmz, sleeping soundly in the closet. Before Xenon left, he made sure Mr. Sholmz would never wake up again.

As busy as Darth Skuldren’s apprentices were, Truger Paego was even busier. He was a Dashade mercenary and not just any Dashade, but a true Shadow Killer. It felt good to him to once again be in the thick of things. He was getting bored hunting down the usual scum, now he would get to go after the Jedi again. No, he had to stop himself. This time he was after a Sith. He had to take a moment and reflect, had he ever gone after a Sith? There was that one time a Sith tried to double-cross him and he handled that situation easy enough. Yet he wasn’t hired for that, it just happened. Even then, that Sith was not a Sith Lord. Over the years he had met and worked with quite a few Sith Lords. The war was keeping them busy with the Jedi. Lately, however, things were slowing down. Paego thought to himself, maybe I should contact my old buddy, nahh, best not to get him involved. And so he went back to shifting amongst his arsenal of equipment. He would need all the dirty tricks he could carry to take down a Sith Lord. Sure he was suppose to be weak in the force, but since when were Sith Lords weak in the force. Better to be safe than sorry he thought. First he inspected his rifle, Telesta. It was only fitting for a warrior to name his weapons. Telesta was a handcrafted beauty. Two side-by-side barrels backed by a superheated plasma charger, encased in black thermal pored durasteel synthex. The rifle fired two simultaneous projectiles, which forced a force user to block one and dodge the other. Several volleys were often enough to overwhelm any opponent. On top of that, the plasma projectiles had a splash effect when they hit a lightsaber. A careless opponent who tried to deflect the plasma bolt would quickly realize that they had merely split the bullet rather than deflect it. Of course one weapon was never enough. For back up he carried a stubby little blaster. Unlike most, this one was forged by a skilled Baragwin gunsmith. The original owner was a Gamorrean and the weapon resembled the species. The barrel end of the blaster looked like a snout with two tusks flanking the barrel. Along the exterior of the weapon were warts, which added to the grip. As repulsive as the weapon looked, the result was startling. Like Telesta, this blaster had two barrels, an over-under combination. When fired simultaneously the blast could cut a Hutt in half. In fact, he had actually seen it happen. The owner had a grudge against a Hutt, pulled the blaster, and blew him into two slimy pieces. Afterwards Paego killed the Gamorrean and took the blaster. Now it was his and it had a name, Chopper. Already he could feel the thrill of battle coursing through his veins. A Sith Lord, this would be exhilarating.

Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1783-MZK of the Jedi Archives,
Personal Memoirs of Darth Skuldren.

Personal Note: Well I managed to get Skuldren’s holocron to begin cooperating again. I must admit I am beginning to really enjoy these stories, thus I must also be careful not to loose sight of the objective, the Krudesh rituals. Regardless I’m pretty sure the tree creature that Darth Ziam encountered was a Neti, though I’ve never heard of a violent one. It is also interesting to note that Ziam is also the first of Skuldren’s apprentices to receive an apprentice. So far everyone has been “blooded” in the warrior tradition except Darth Bacillus, the holocron specifically said it was leaving that story for tomorrow. I’m reluctant to tell anyone, but I think I have befriended the holocron. We seem to share an interest in wisdom. I don’t think the council would be pleased with this. Nevertheless I seem to be making better progress this way. One final note, it may be possible that this Truger Paego acquired the Krudesh scrolls, that is if he was successful.

Chapter 10 in the Tales of Darth Skuldren

Droids: Enemies and Allies

When I started out in the Katarii Sector I was just a simple mercenary looking for the Krudesh scrolls. Pretty soon I formed a small squad of mercenaries and we ravaged the battlefields mercilessly. When I became an Admiral my squad became an elite special forces unit. My special forces unit.
Admiral Panzer Dokken

Katarii Sector, Muulag Battlefront:

“Admiral, your latest intel has arrived, I believe they’ve found a lead.” Said one of the Admiral’s aides.

Admiral Dokken walked across the ship’s deck and received the datapad. He dismissed the aide and carried on. Scrolling across the datapad’s screen he saw what he had been looking for. A connection between the Muulag and an unknown robot within the Muulag hierarchy. It seemed that the Muulag were brokering a deal with the Feranzati, a mercantile group who lived in the Katarii Sector. So far they had stayed neutral in the war effort. Now it looked like they might ally with the Muulag. The details of the report specified a droid like entity making contact with high level Feranzati and promising large appropriations of territory after the war is settled. Most importantly it gave names and specific locations. A Localon Dellone, the executive of the Feranzati Mercantile Federation, was contacted on Porus Monar, the appointed capital of the FMF.

At first the information seemed meaningless. Dellone certainly wouldn’t know the location of the droid leader. Nor would it be likely that the droid would personally meet with Dellone. As of the moment Dokken’s Fleets were poised around the Void, but it was merely a holding action. His forces were far too out numbered to engage, so they waited. If the Muulag moved first, his forces would have an opening and could attack. At the very least he held them in check. The key was eliminating this droid leader. To do that he needed to know where to go and what to expect. Who would know these things? He had tried the force, but finding a droid proved infuriatingly difficult. Thus he needed a physical being. Most likely the droid used Muulag underlings. They would have useful information. Perhaps one of them would be sent to meet with Dellone. Of course, only they could be entrusted with the details of an alliance accord.

With the help of the force, the details fell into place. Dokken would assemble his squad in Feranzati space and wait for the Muulag emissary to meet with Dellone. Then they would take them both and hopefully get the intel they needed to take down the droid leader. Immediately Admiral Dokken went to work on putting the mission together.

Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:

Darth Bacillus sat comfortably in his workshop tinkering on one of his many projects. This one happened to be an agility matrix capacitor for his new droid Cadius.
Oddly enough, Master Skuldren had specifically asked Bacillus to design and build this particular droid, yet he didn’t say why. According to Skuldren’s specifications, Cadius was capable of stealth insertions and open combat. He could pilot a ship, slice into a mainframe, or interrogate captives in various languages. He was also hard coded to protect Bacillus and obey the commands of Master Skuldren. That meant that the droid answered directly to Skuldren and not to Bacillus, which was odd. What did Master Skuldren need a droid for, especially one as designated for combat as Cadius.

“Darth Bacillus, I see Cadius has been completed, is he fully operational yet?” Asked Master Skuldren as he silently entered the room. Today he was wearing a white tunic shirt and tan cargo pants.

Bacillus took the capacitor and placed it back in Cadius’ modulator. “He’s all finished now and ready for combat. At least that’s what he’s best suited for.” A slight frown crossed Bacillus’ face.

“Good, now you are ready for your first mission.” Skuldren noted the change in expression on Bacillus’ face. Now he looked excited. “This one is rather personal. In fact it is almost a favor to me.” Skuldren walked over to Bacillus and pulled up a chair. “You see back when I was Ocaron tending the library I found myself lacking funds. Well I traveled off world and ran into a Ryn by the name of Captain Siyal. Siyal happened to make a living robbing galactic banks. Interestingly enough we became friends and he talked me in to being his partner. So over the years we worked together robbing banks from time to time. The money was good and it was insured so no one really suffered, but Siyal had a better idea. After splitting the loot we would go to a major casino and place a large bet. Since we had the force on our side we never lost and we ended tripling or quadrupling our money. However, there was a pod racer league run by a little petty crime lord who didn’t take kindly to our winning bet. In fact he went out of his way to let us know. Just to show him his place we returned two more times and nearly wiped him out of business. After that he put a bounty on our heads, but we never ran into any trouble. At least until now. My friend sent word that the petty crime lord is now a full-fledged kingpin and he’s after my blood. Spending a small fortune he’s hired a mercenary fleet that he plans to send after me. I want you to stop him before this goes any further. Seek him out and kill him, there is no other way. I asked you to build Cadius, so you wouldn’t have to do it alone. I’m confident the two of you can get the job done.” Skuldren reached within his tunic and pulled out an odd looking lightsaber. “I know you’re a find craftsman but I’m not too shabby myself. This design is a bit of a hybrid. I think you’ll find it very useful. It combines the reach of a blaster with the close up power of a lightsaber. In the old days they called it a Sith mauler sword and they were quite popular in times of war. The blaster if adjustable, as well as the blade, that way you can fully customize your weapon to the situation at hand. You better get used to it before you leave. Until then I’ll tell Ziam to get the Ryn Token prepped for your journey.”

“Master, did you name your ship after your friend Siyal?” Asked Bacillus.

“Actual he named it, it was a gift. You’ll meet with him soon enough. He’ll tell you where to find Rotul’la, that’s the crime lord your after. By the way, he’s a Snivvian. Small little species, not much to worry about. Problem will be his bodyguards, smaller beings tend to compensate for their size by hiring small armies to defend them. So good luck in your travels.”

Katarii Sector, Porus Monar:

Two weeks had passed since Admiral Dokken formed his plan to capture the Muulag emissary. Now he and his squad were dirtside and waiting under the cover of darkness. They were just outside the perimeter of Localon Dellone’s personal residence. Lying on their bellies and camouflaged in local vegetation were eight heavily armed commandos. They called themselves Clan Dokken and they stylized themselves in the traditions of the Mandolorians. In fact two of them were Mandolorians. Admiral Dokken held the macrobinoculars up to his face. He was following the movements out of the nearby shuttle.

“That’s our slug. Alright everybody, looks like plan viper.” Dokken glanced back at Zephr. “When your ready.”

Zephr Sul was a human mercenary who had served as a sniper in the Bortran Army for six years. He came to the Katarii Sector looking for work and ended joining Dokken’s band of mercenaries. Since then he had proven himself countless times under fire. All of the men knew that if Zephr couldn’t shoot it, then it couldn’t be done. Carefully he looked through the scope of his Verpine pneumatic sniper rifle. At this range he could see the beads of sweat pouring off of the Muulag emissary. He had to be precise with the shot. The soft-round was suppose to be non-lethal, but a hit to areas like the throat, heart, or temple could kill. With a lover’s patience he nudged the crosshairs over the Muulag’s stomach. The trigger eased its way back until a satisfying click unleashed a pressurized blast of air that propelled the bullet across the battlefield and into the target’s abdomen. Through sound pick-up gear they could hear the smack of the bullet and the screaming of the Muulag.

Coolly Dokken spoke over his head mike, “Gold team open up.”

From the other side of the tree line, two long-range heavy repeaters opened fire on the Muulag soldiers who were escorting the emissary. The powerful bolts ripped through the Muulags, cutting them into pieces.

Dokken spoke into the transmitter, “Silver team you are go.”

A deafening explosion erupted from the side of Dellone’s estate. Through the smoke and dust two small figures darted into the building’s new door. The sound of blaster fire echoed inside.

Over the mike a deep voice boomed, “Dok coast is clear, you want me and Cas to move in and cover Silver team.”

“Confirmed, we’ll cover the escape vector from here.” Replied Dokken.

“Dok, think Otto and Trigger are alright. They’re awfully quiet in there.” Asked Zephr.

Inside the building the hallways were flooded with smoke, dust, and debris. Two armored mercenaries were crowded around a corner.

“Hey Trigger quit crowd’n me. Why doncha ya go over there and take some cover.” Otto flashed a huge grin over at Trigger.

“Me. You got more seniority. I think you should roll over there while they take pop shots.” He leaned around the corner and sprayed a burst at an overturned piece of metal furniture. Four Feranzati guards returned fire, splintering away chunks of the stone wall and floor. “Don’t worry buddy, I’ll cover ya.”

Out of sheer craziness Otto sprinted around the corner and a short ways into the room. He dove behind a solid looking bar counter while a barrage of blaster bolts pelted his new cover. He looked back and smiled.

“That crazy son of a…” Blaster fire blurred out his words as he knelt in shock. Otto was nuts. “Hey Otto, cover your ears.” He had to scream across the room in order to be heard over the gunfire. Trigger reached into his satchel and pulled out a tiny plastic sphere. Clicking a small switch he counted to two and rolled it over towards the metal couch. A sudden, sharp crack was followed by the droning sound of silence merged with a persistent ringing sound. Though Trigger couldn’t hear Otto’s response he could lip-read well enough, you firefecking-nerf-muncher.

They both slowly walked over to the remains of the metal couch. A third of it was fused to the floor. One chunk had flown across the room and was now lodged in the wall. Bits and pieces of the guards’ charred remains indicated that the explosive was successful.

“SEE, NO PROBLEM!” Yelled Trigger.

“I CAN”T HEAR YOU, YOU IDIOT!” Screamed Otto right back.

They snapped around sharply and knelt to the ground, guns at the ready. At seeing who had snuck up on them they relaxed.

“I see you guys took care of things on your own. Sure you didn’t go a little overboard?” Replied Lok.

“WE CAN’T HEAR YOU, THAT BLOCK-HEADED NEK BRAIN TRIGGER USED TOO MUCH BANG!” Cried Otto. Lok and Cas flinched at how loud Otto had yelled, then both broke into a burst of laughter.

Over the mike Dokken broke in, “Gold team, Silver team report.”

“This is Silver team, Gold team’s fine. Trigger nearly blew the ceiling off but everyone’s okay.” Replied Cas. “Come on guys let’s get out of here.” And with that both teams hustled out of the remains of the building.

“See Zephr, nothing to worry about. Except I think were going to have to cut back on Trigger’s explosives stash.” Dokken rose to his feet. “Let’s go over there and grab that slug, then get the hell out of here.”

Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:

Back on Kajji, Master Skuldren had gathered his apprentices in an open courtyard. The sun was out today and the yellow stone walls gleamed in the sunlight. All of his apprentices were there except Bacillus and Xenon. Skuldren stood before his students in dull gray fatigues. His polished silver lightsaber hung from his belt.

“Today I’m going to introduce you to some of the basics of Krudesh. So far I’ve made some pretty good progress and I’d like to share it with you.” His words were crisp and clear. They cut across the courtyard so that everyone could hear. Everyone was spread out and standing roughly four meters apart. They were all excited to finally be able to begin to study the Krudesh rituals. “The first concept is the four elements: fire, wind, water, and earth. From them the elements of life itself can be manipulated and altered. Let us begin with fire.”

Master Skuldren demonstrated the technique. He brought his arms in close to his body and inhaled a deep breath. As he stretched his arms out and forward he closed his eyes and exhaled. A burning ball of flame appeared in front of his open palms and soared across the courtyard. The projectile crashed into the stonewall, shattering and searing the bricks. “That is the goal. You must concentrate on a small section of air. Picture the molecules floating there, bouncing off each other. Feel them in the force. Now slowly, speed them up, increase their collisions, cause them to vibrate. They do not need to travel far, just fast. Now channel the energies in your body and feel it flow through. Release it into that air and push it along. Now as you begin to stretch out your arms release the energy and blast it out.” He went through the gestures to guide his students along.

With glee Darth Ziam and Iconoclast were successful on the first try, each unleashing a small fireball out into the air. Lotus got it on the third try, as well as Praxus. Even Moto managed to unfurl a small ball of flame. Yet there stood Adder, repeating the motions over and over again with no luck. Lotus began to giggle and Master Skuldren quickly shot her a look which said now is not the time. On his twelfth try Adder was successful. To everyone’s surprise instead of a fireball, a blast of cold blue ice erupted in front of his palms and shattered against the wall. He stood smiling with pride. It wasn’t enough for him to simply copy everyone else. He wanted to be himself; unique.

“Very good Darth Adder, I see you understand the concept. The element of fire is a misnomer. In reality it is a matter of heat or temperature that can represent either extreme. Fire and ice can be very useful tools and weapons as you can imagine. Through this exercise you also utilized the element of wind, which propelled your projectile across the courtyard. With practice you can increase the range, size, and speed of the projectiles.” Master Skuldren paced in front of his students regarding them as they listened. “The elements of water and earth, however, are very different. Whereas fire and wind focus on the movement of particles, water and earth rely on the transformation of them. Water can be found almost everywhere. Earth comes in many representations as various substances. The Katarii saw the two as the seeds of life. Together they can fertilize and create life. This is the ultimate goal of the Krudesh and it is not an easy one. I have made some progress in the transformations but it is difficult. Perhaps with your stronger bounds in the force you will have better success. Here is how it is suppose to work…”

Master Skuldren continued to work with and guide his students. All of them were enraptured with his demonstrations and instruction. The ways of Krudesh were finally being rediscovered. Meanwhile out in space two apprentices were making their journeys. Darth Xenon was returning from the successful completion of his mission and Bacillus was heading out to start his. Bacillus would not be alone, for he had his personal companion, Cadius. Though Cadius was a droid, he had an amazing ability to hold conversations with living beings. Thus Bacillus had someone to talk to on his long journey. Ahead lied a storm whose currents would carry Bacillus into the realms of blooding. It was the initiation rite of all warriors and he was ready.

Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1783-MZK of the Jedi Archives,
Personal Memoirs of Darth Skuldren.

Personal Note: At last I have finally found something definitive on the Krudesh rituals. The council will be very pleased to hear that the research has paid off. In fact this is enough to actually begin exploring the rituals and its concepts. It seems that by befriending the holocron it rewarded me for my patience. It’s almost as if Master Skuldren himself were here instructing me in the ancient ways of the force. It is truly marvelous!

Chapter 11 in the Tales of Darth Skuldren

Breaking Groundť
In the blackness of space a ship sat peacefully at rest. Inside, Darth Bacillus sat meditating in the force. Just beyond his viewport lied a planet where a Snivvian, named Rotul’la, sat in comfort. After snooping around, Bacillus found out that the Snivvian had hired an entire clan of Cragmoloids to defend his headquarters. Cragmoloids were huge beings around 3 meters in height. They looked like elephants with beady little red eyes. Such a being could easily crush a person in half with one hand. Thus, with around a hundred of these giants positioned around Rotul’la, Bacillus had to find another route of attack. So, peering through the force, he looked for his answer.

The currents swirled throughout out his body. Some caressed his skin, while others swept through his flesh. Finally he had fully attuned himself to its flow. His essence was at one with the force. He gazed upon the billions of life forms on the planet below. Directing his gaze at the mass of Cragmoloids, he narrowed down his focus. Now he searched for the Snivvian. First he looked among the Cragmoloids. They were a proud people who were bound to each other through their clan, so he eliminated the beings with that feeling within his force gaze. With the remaining beings he looked for one ridden by paranoia and revenge. That narrowed the search down to three. Looking at one, he could sense the need to hunt. Images came to his mind: sabaac, a Wookiee, and a very large debt. No, this was not Rotul’la. Of the two remaining, one was a Rodian, thus the other was Rotul’la. For several moments he concentrated on that force signature, remembering the feelings and aura. From now on Bacillus would be able to find this being without as much effort.

With his target located he looked to the force for direction. He posed his questions to the unifying force. Was there a weakness, was there a purpose, what was his destiny? In the silence of his ship’s quarters, he waited. The beating of his heart seemed to echo within the room. His breath rasped through like a sharp wind. Through the walls he could here Cadius moving about. And yet the force was there, waiting, thinking just beyond his perception. The answer came to him like a crisp revelation. Rotul’la would not move until Skuldren was dead. Rotul’la would die. In fact he could see his death, a bloodied body falling over his desk chair. But it would require a full-fledged assault through the installation and all of its security forces. There was no other way. Bacillus withdrew from the force with a heavy heart. The burden crashed down on him like a durasteel plate. Master Skuldren had said that the best way to accomplish an objective was indirectly. No one ever suspected the indirect approach and surprise would often determine a battle. But sometimes the only path was the direct one. So be it, his plan would be simple. Land on the building, cut a hole in the roof, and stop everyone in his way until he reached Rotul’la. Cadius would back him up.

Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:

Darth Xenon eased his ship down into the academy’s courtyard. He popped the hatch and jumped out onto the hard, stone floor. It was an overcast day, but the sky still caused his eyes to squint at the brightness. The blackness of space had dulled his senses. Strolling up to him was Master Skuldren and Darth Praxus. That was no surprise; they seemed to go everywhere together now. Xenon wasn’t jealous. Master Skuldren had spent a lot of time instructing him in the ways of Sith alchemy. As of now he was glad that he had succeeded on his mission and was back home. Yes the academy was definitely his home; here he would stay.

“Darth Xenon I can tell you are well, I assume you were successful.” Said Master Skuldren. His hand reached out and took Xenon by the shoulder. “Come, let us walk. We have much to talk about.” The three of them strolled along the sidewalks of the ancient city.

“Well the Anzat didn’t pose much of a problem master. Turned out that he was a serial killer. His basement was a dungeon of evil. Consequently that’s where I found the book.” Xenon reached into his satchel and pulled out an old-fashioned, leather-bound book and handed it to his master.

“Yes, this is the one. Do you know what knowledge this book contains?” He asked as he passed the book to Praxus.

“Well master I did glance through it. I noted that it gave very specific locations but it never said what was at the locations. The script is definitely that of the native Sith race. I would also venture to say that the book is over a thousand years old.” Xenon looked at his master as they began walking again. “The author wasn’t a Sith Lord either, but a scribe. That’s about all that I could make from it.” He shrugged his shoulders in defeat. Perhaps his answer was what Skuldren was looking for.

“Good, very good. You are perceptive Xenon. The book was indeed written by a true Sith scribe. The locations are of the resting places of ancient Sith holocrons, many of them were constructed by the ancient Rakata. I have one of their holocrons in my collection. My masters gave it to me because they did not know how to unlock it.” Skuldren nodded to Praxus who in turn pulled something out from within his cloak. “Take this credit marker and take some time off for yourself. You can stay at the academy awhile and catch up with the others in their explorations of the Krudesh. After that I want you to go off world and do some exploring. Mingle with the galaxy’s people. Make friends. Have fun. We need to make sure that we don’t become too detached from the galaxy at large.” Master Skuldren patted Xenon on the back and gave him a smile. “You’ve earned it. By the way, when you return, we’re going to be quite busy chasing down holocrons.” With that he left and Darth Praxus followed. Xenon began to think of all the possibilities. He’d always wanted to visit Coruscant and maybe he would make a stop on Alderaan too.

Blade of Eternity bridge, Muulag Front:

In a briefing room aboard Dokken’s flagship sat eight beings, one of which was tied to a chair. Admiral Dokken sat comfortably in a large, lavish chair at the end of a long conference table. His feet were kicked up on the table, his hands cocked behind his head. All attention was focused on the Muulag at the other end of the room. It was not so comfortably seated. Lumped into a chair and restrained by fibercord, it sat defeated and beaten, literally. Their guest was a very uncooperative one. Grullock, a Moldavian warrior taken in by Dokken’s squad, stood ominously over the prisoner.

Casually Dokken asked the Muulag emissary, “I’ll ask one more time, where is the droid overlord located in Muulag space. If you do not answer my question I will be forced to rip your mind apart in order to get the answer. Afterwards you’ll never be whole again.” To emphasize his threat he lifted the Muulag, in his chair, off of the ground using the force.

Fear settled into the creature. It was scared of this supernatural being. The overlord was capable of horrendous feats of power and it seemed that this admiral shared that power as well. In a rich, melodious voice the emissary spoke, “the overlord resides on Vlaktor. That is are home world. From time to time he inspects the fronts. But most of the time he stays hidden. Only the High Kahns have access to him. Everyone else must have special permission to be granted an audience, though I know of no one who would wish to seek his council. Usually his presence means pain.” The Muulag visibly shivered at the last statement. Perhaps he had experienced the overlord’s wrath.

Again Dokken addressed the captive. “This overlord, it is a droid isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is a metallic being of enormous power and knowledge. The oracles predicted its arrival and proclaimed it to be the savior of our people. Though they didn’t mention its brutality.” Replied the emissary.

Brutality. Coming from a Muulag, that was a bit of an overstatement. This time Admiral Dokken asked Otto a question. “Otto, you’ve served in this theater for a long time. Have the Muulag always been known to use people as power sources through pain?”

“No Admiral, it’s a relatively new tactic they’ve seemed to adopted.” Replied Otto.

“It is true. The overlord revealed this power to us. It is how we were able to increase the amount of firepower our ships now carry. The technology is very intricate and effective. The overlord himself is wired into several detention blocks where such prisoners are kept. Their pain fuels his powers and in turn he uses it to run the machinery of war.” The Muulag tried futilely to shift his position in his chair.

“If you wouldn’t have spat in my face I would have been easier on you. Now you’ll just have to deal with it.” Lok sat facing the Muulag. His grin was unnerving.

“Alright, question is how do we want to handle the situation. This overlord is locked down tight behind enemy lines and is the key to victory. We take it out and the Muulag loose their technological edge.” Dokken looked at everyone in the room, waiting for their feedback.

Saul was the first to speak. “Well we can ignore him and try to win the war the old fashion way. Or we could just go in, guns a blazing, and try and take him out. Of course there’s always the sneaky, well thought out method if anyone can think of it.”

“Problem with option A is that we’re insanely outnumbered. Problem with option B is getting back out. And I haven’t a clue as to option C.” Replied Lok.

Trigger chimed in, “hey I like option B. Its simple, effective, and the most fun. Of course I’m gonna need access to my explosives cache…”

Otto cut him off, “scratch option B. No way were letting dynamo anywhere near the explosives again.” Otto kicked Trigger’s wheeled chair and sent him scooting across the floor. He had to dig his heels in to stop himself.

“So it looks like option C, if we can figure out what C is.” Stated Dokken. He looked to Castulli and Zephr and gave them a look of any ideas. Zephr tried to avoid eye contact and glanced at the floor. Luckily for him Castulli had an idea.

“Admiral, perhaps we need to look at what motivates this droid overlord. It seems to use pain to refuel itself. It’s probably some long lost Sith war droid running off of darkside powers. It found its way here, set itself in a position of power and started making demands for living sacrifices. Therefore the Muulag went to war to get these sacrifices so they wouldn’t end up being the victims. Maybe we can negotiate with the Muulag to cut the droid off. They can tell it that they’ve run out of prisoners. Then we can come in an offer the droid Feranzati captives in return for some breathing space in the war.” Castulli looked pleased with himself. He had intelligently tackled the idea and found a solution. But was it the solution?

Quickly Zephr added his two cents. “I like it. Lets make that plan A.” His grin was put in check by Otto’s harsh glare.

Dokken just sat there staring into space. His gaze peered beyond the individuals in the room. Slowly he took his feet off the table and scooted himself in closer. Laying his hands down he finalized his thoughts.

“This can work. We’ll need to contact a high-ranking Muulag. Someone backed by his people and in a position of authority. We use him to gall the droid into the trap, then lure him out and destroy him. After that we’ll see where the Muulag truly stand.” The decision had been made. With a bit more interrogating they would find the Muulag they needed and a real solution to their problem.

Outside Rotul’la’s headquarters, nighttime:

Bacillus sat at an outside café table. Sitting across from him was Cadius. Beyond the street and an empty lot was the brooding mass of a fair sized building. Large figures patrolled this way and that in front of the complex, around it, and on top of it. The darkness was illuminated by the city lights, and Rotul’la’s HQ was lit up by roving spotlights. Oblivious to the difficulties of his task, Bacillus finished off his gordone steak, a local delicacy. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the waitress approaching.

“Can I get you anything hun? A refill maybe?” Asked the soft-spoken waitress.

To her surprise, Cadius spoke up. “Actually, could I get a nova spritzer? I’ve read they’re quite popular.” His metallic voice rolled sweetly.

“Well certainly. I’ll be right back.” She smiled and went back inside.

“Cadius what do you think, what’s the best way to take down Rotul’la?” Bacillus pushed aside his plate and sipped his Rodian ale. It was sour but that’s why he ordered it.

Cadius looked over and said, “well the target is heavily defended, so the use of heavy weapons becomes necessary. A light repeating cannon would make short work of the perimeter guards and the exterior of the building. Personally I would recommend entering the building by way of a rocket. Blow open a way inside then charge through. Inside you’ll need close proximity explosives and a blaster rifle with a lot of ammunition. Meanwhile I keep everyone’s attention busy outside.”

The waitress returned with Cadius’ drink. He nodded to the waitress and tipped her. As she left Bacillus spoke up. “That might work. We’ll need some pretty heavy artillery though. Let me take a look…” He pulled out a small, compact personal computer and started flipping through information sites. The screens were projected out into the air but appeared invisible to onlookers. It was specifically coded for his eyes only. After several minutes of surfing he looked back over at Cadius. “Well there are some suppliers who deal with merc organizations on planet. They should have the heavy artillery we’re looking for. With a little help from the force I think we can persuade them to deal with us.” His grin was matched by Cadius’ strange metallic lips, which curved sinisterly in their own smiling fashion.

The next day Bacillus and Cadius entered the Celtron Suppliers office and strolled up to the counter. With a little suggestion and wave of the hand they were given a guided tour of the company’s arsenals. The warehouse was filled with racks upon racks of duraplast crates. Their guide motioned them over to a display area. On the wall were about a hundred different rifles and pistols all arranged precisely in a mural of awe. Bacillus was beside himself, never had he seen so many weapons. It was splendid. There were heavy repeaters set up on tripods on the floor, plasma mortars placed in mock dugouts, and several armored personnel carriers sporting missile launchers. It was a gun lover’s paradise.

“Well sir, as you can see we have a lot to choose from. If there is any make or model in particular let us know. Chances are that if you don’t see it we have it in storage. Please look around and try them out. None of them are loaded but we do have a gun range if you wish to test fire any of them.” Their guide spoke in a smooth, salesman’s voice.

“We’re looking for some serious firepower. We need to put down an uprising on Falaris III. Miner’s union has declared civil war again on the Populis Front. Company wants a heavy weapons squad for back up.” Spoke Darth Bacillus. He carefully eyed a flashy Arkanian dual-purpose warhead projector. Walking over to it, he picked it up and was surprised at just how light the weapon was.

The guide spoke up, “light isn’t it. In fact it’s too light. Most operators complain that the recoil knocks them off target. Of course your droid companion could probably compensate for the kick back. For you I would recommend the Baragwin hive launcher. It’s heavier than the Verpine version but it packs twice the payload and twice the punch. Load it with smart-target cluster munitions and you can hold off a full company of soldiers.”

The salesman went over to the rack and pulled off a large, dark grey rocket launcher. It had ten barrels and was nearly half a meter long. Carefully the salesman handed over the weapon. It was heavy, but not burdensome. Obviously they had made extensive use of alloys. He raised it up and pointed it at a wall.

“Here, flick the switch along the right side there and…there you go, now you’ve got adjustable optics that allow you to zoom in, lock on, or adjust for visual extremes like darkness or blast illuminations. It loads from the side. Fully loaded it holds eighty rounds, but for that you’ll have to make use of the built in micro repulsor units. Without them you wouldn’t even be able to pick it up.” The salesman flicked a switch on the gun and several servos fired up. Now the weapon was weightless and hovered on Bacillus’ shoulder.

With a wary voice Bacillus asked, “how much?”

To which the salesman replied, “The rocket launcher, the warhead projector, and three hundred rounds for each will round you off at 20,000 credits. Pay today in cash and I’ll knock off 15 percent.”

“We’ll need that Verpine cannon over there as well with three hundred rounds.” Added Cadius.

“Well that there is a Slayer 4003, top of the line magnetic accelerator cannon. Standard ammunition is explosive pulse bursters. I couldn’t part with that one with anything less than 12,000 credits plus 5,000 for ammo…” and with a wave of the hand, “but I’m feeling generous. That beauty has just been sitting over there for so long, I could lend it out for 3,000 but you pay for ammo and any damages on its return.”
It was a deal. Money was exchanged and the guns were delivered to Bacillus’ ship at a local docking bay. After a thorough inspection, Bacillus and Cadius were ready for action. They rented a hover truck and under the cover of darkness they set up shop on a rooftop within firing range of Rotul’la’s compound. Cadius took the Arkanian projector and the Verpine cannon, while Bacillus armed himself with the rocket launcher and his ingenious lightsaber. Quickly Bacillus moved into position two buildings down the street, keeping his bulky weapon concealed under his cloak. To most it appeared that he either had a severe hunchback or another head concealed underneath. Hidden within the shadows of an alley, he waited for the fireworks to start.

Cadius reveled at his first chance to actually engage in combat. It was his purpose in life and it made him…happy. Yes, somehow his circuits conveyed a feeling of elation. Gingerly he hoisted the warhead projector to his shoulder, locking it in place. Peering through the scope, he zoomed in on a group of three Cragmoloids. They were clustered around the front door chatting senselessly about something. With care he infinitesimally pulled back the trigger, savoring the click of the firing mechanisms. A roaring sound thrashed out of the end of the barrel and flew across the distance. The gas trail from the rocket followed the projectile all the way to the target and with a tremendous shattering of silences, the three guards, the front doors, and a sizable chunk of the ground burst up into flames. Sirens went off, windows shattered, and it was followed by the sound of another roaring rocket.

Bacillus watched the first rocket race across the compound; that was the signal. Using the force he sprinted across a vacant lot and the open ground in front of the building. He was halfway there when he heard the thunderous explosion of the rocket. Continuing on, he got within twenty paces of the building. He reached into a satchel on his belt and pulled out a fist size adhesive detonator. Flinging his arm around, he slung the detonator at the wall and it stuck with a smacking sound. Bacillus dropped to the ground and shielded himself with the force. The explosion ripped a hole through the wall. Upon entering the building Bacillus looked for the Snivvian in the force. Turning left, he proceeded down a smoke filled hallway. Quickly he ran past doorways hoping to outrun anyone’s attention.

Rounding a corner he slammed into the bulk of a large Cragmaloid. While Bacillus fell to the floor, the hulking guard simply looked down at the puny thing that just ran into him. Slowly the guard brought his massive foot up, preparing to simply crush Bacillus like a small animal. Without hesitation, a red-orange beam sprung from the apprentice’s hands and cut through the Cragmaloid’s leg. A screeching yell erupted from the alien as it fell backward, loosing its balance. Bacillus slashed at his fallen foe as he continued down the hallway. Two doors burst open with a hail of blaster fire. Bacillus deflected the bolts back at the Cragmaloids, killing them were they stood. Leaping over the bodies, he rolled into the next room. There were several doors so, using the force, he chose one off on the left wall. A tingling sensation crept up his neck. Carefully he hugged the wall and peered through the doorway. Though a small passage he could see guards rushing by in a bisecting hallway. Bacillus took the rocket launcher off his back and hefted it on top of his shoulder. Pointing it down the passageway, he let off one shot and rolled back out of the doorway and against the wall. The explosion blasted smoke and debris through the doorway. He went through the passage this time and peered into this new hallway. Looking at all the bodies, he guessed the explosion took out about a half dozen Cragmaloids. Continuing to follow the force signature of Snivvian, he pushed on through compound’s interior.

Outside Cadius continued to pound the building and its guards. The giant cannon was making short work of anyone who made the mistake of leaving the building. In the distance, Cadius could hear the wails of police sirens. This was about to get messy. Using his enhanced strength, Cadius lifted the cannon and moved to a new position. Ten meters away he had setup an improvised bunker using an abandoned building and a partially enclosed back porch. The heavy stonewalls would provide descent cover. Now he would wait.

Bacillus was doggedly working his way closer to Rotul’la. He used the rocket launcher to clear rooms out at a distance. Running through doorways his lightsaber did the rest. Inside the building the place was setup like a maze. Large rooms were connected to long hallways and short passages. Cragmaloid guards were struggling to get organized and most were just running around trying to find the source of all the explosions. Bacillus used the chaos to make his work even easier. Eventually he made his way to the inner compound. It was a stark contrast to the rest of the building. This area had reinforced locking doors and green metal walls. There were also numerous security cameras positioned in the corners. Approaching a set of large blast doors, Bacillus stabbed them with his lightsaber. Slowly he cut out a large opening and kicked the chunk of door in. Cautiously he entered the massive room. The place was a couple hundred meters across and deep. Throughout the dimly lit interior were a lot of neatly place barriers.

Suddenly a thud fell behind him. He turned to see a new blast door shut in front of the old one. He was trapped. All around the room small groups of Cragmaloids stood from the protective barriers and opened fire. Slug rounds, blaster bolts, and plasma projectiles spattered all around him as Bacillus dove for cover. Through the force he could see all of enemies arranged around him. Scanning their positions he noted his targets. Like ethereal angel of destruction he rose from his cover and poured out a barrage of rockets. When he was planning the mission, he felt that loading the full eighty rockets would have been too much, so he brought half a magazine. In about seven seconds he unloaded the remaining twenty-nine projectiles. The rockets flew across the room like flaming meteorites. Each crashed into its target with a deafening explosion and a flowering of fragments. The battle was surreal. Bacillus fired so quickly that the Cragmaloids didn’t have a chance of returning fire. Instead they were blown to pieces by the blinding blasts. The shots seemed to be linked together like a fireworks show. When the echoes of the battle ended, an eerie calm settled over the smoke filled room. Sprinklers were kicked on and struggling to put out fires. Vents were slowly funneling the smoke out. Walking across the body-ridden floor, Bacillus made his way towards Rotul’la.

"I believe toys resonate with us as humans, we can hold them, it's tactile, real! They are totems for our extended beliefs and imaginations. A fetish for ideas that hold as much interest and passion as old religious relics for some. We display them in our homes. They show who we are. They are signals for similar thinking people. A way we connect with each other...and I guess thats why I do toys. That connection." -Ashley Wood

Last edited by Darth Skuldren on Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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  Darth Skuldren

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After taking out several more guard details, he finally made it to the Snivvian’s little office. Behind the locked doors fear and anger poured through the force. Using a hand gesture, Bacillus blew the doors in and ignited his lightsaber. Rotul’la pointed a large blaster rifle and at seeing his foe, he hesitated. This was not Skuldren. Who could it be?
Seeing the little being hesitate, Bacillus clarified his confusion “Skuldren sent me, this is over now.” This time Rotul’la didn’t even flinch. At hearing Skuldren’s name he erupted into a paranoid rage and ripped open a prolonged burst from his blaster rifle. Bacillus simply swiped away several bolts and shot the Snivvian with his lightsaber. The powerful orange bolt crumpled Rotul’la back over his desk and into his chair. Just like in his vision. Tendrils of smoke curled from the wound. Rotul’la was dead. Bacillus hopped on top of the desk and began cutting his way through the ceiling and the roof.

Cadius had his visual sensors locked on to the roof. As soon as he seen a lightsaber cutting through he opened fire. The cannon fire caught the police forces off guard. They had been prowling around the compound trying to determine what happened for the last ten minutes. All they found were craters and bodies. To them it looked like someone tried to take out Rotul’la with an aerial bombardment. Now with shells falling all around them, they ran away in fear. Luckily for them, Cadius was taking extra care not to actually hit any of them. It would not do well for him and Bacillus to massacre the local security forces.

Bacillus heard the gunfire and knew that now was the time for escape. Leaping from the roof, and sprinting across the battlefield, he made his way to Cadius. Together they ran back to their ship and managed to get into space before the authorities issued a lockdown. They were home free now. Mission accomplished.

The Void, Muulag Space, Kahn Kazen’s personal flagship:

A massive, blocky warship sat quietly in space. It was a huge metallic construction that took one hundred thousand Muulags to build. Though it was not the largest vessel in their fleet, it was still large enough to instill pride in Kahn Kazen. Upon his massive bridged he brooded upon elevated throne. It marked his place of rank. Below him squirmed a bridge crew numbering well over a thousand. All of them manning various posts and computer consoles. The ship was huge and required an enormous crew to coordinate all of the systems. The droid overlord’s new technology powered most of the ship, allowing the Muulag to increase the number of weapon emplacements. This ship alone could handle an entire enemy fleet. Yet Kazen thought to himself, the Jardroost was also a fleet killer and it fell in battle, along with its Kahn commander. The enemy is far more capable than we imagined. He sobered himself with such thoughts. He could not allow the propaganda to brainwash him. No matter how much the media told his people that they were an infinite empire that could not be stopped, he knew it was only moral boosting lies. The soldiers were green and had little experience, as did he. The only thing in their favor was numbers. They had more ships, more troops, and more determination to win this conflict than their enemies. The oracles had foreseen it. Just like they had foreseen the droid overlord. He would lead them to salvation and peace. Kazen was in no hurry for peace. War was his purpose in life. The eternal dusts of time forged him into a great strategist. He only needed the opportunity to use his skills. Of all the Kahns, he was the youngest and the only one who had yet to experience battle. One thing was for sure, he would not let this war end until he got a chance to prove himself. His plans would prevail.

Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1783-MZK of the Jedi Archives,
Personal Memoirs of Darth Skuldren.

Personal Note: Today Skuldren’s holocron told me of the adventure of his apprentice Darth Bacillus. I asked him what the importance of this story was and he told me that it was simple…Bacillus and Cadius formed a bond forged in battle. Together they would achieve many things. And that if I paid attention, I would notice that all of his apprentices were forming bonds. By working together they increased their capabilities. All of this would come together with the battles in the Katarii Sector. It would seem that everything plays a part. I cannot wait to hear what happens. As a side note the council was pleased with the information on the Krudesh rituals. Master Fulumn and Master Rayne have both petitioned to extend the timeline of the project. Thus the research continues.

Tales of Darth Skuldren: Story 12


The Muulag prepare their defenses, the apprentices prepare their vacations, and a shadow killer stalks his prey…

Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:

Among the ancient yellow brick of the academy’s walls, Skuldren’s apprentices were getting ready to take a much-needed vacation. Alone, Darth Skuldren sat upon a terraced wall overlooking the river plains. The sun glowed warmly on the green, grassy expanse in front of him. He noted the approach of his apprentice, Darth Praxus. Praxus was dressed in a white cape and hood. His eyes were shielded by silver framed protective goggles and a smile curled upon his gray skinned face.

“Master I am excited about visiting Mustafar. I hear it is a wonderful planet of beautiful lava falls and fire rivers. A true marvel of the galaxy!” Praxus’ voice was filled with excitement.

“Mustafar…yes, aren’t they some what of an insectile-like species, I know they have exoskeletons and that they use insects as beasts of burden…” Skuldren let the words trail off, waiting for a response.

Praxus caught his cue, “Yes master, but your teachings have widened my perspective on things. Perhaps some insects are worthy of sentient status. Though I do not think it is a stance my people will adopt anytime soon.” He went over to his master’s side and peered out at the grassy plains. “The green is quite pleasing to my eyes. Mustafar will be a bit of a test.” Skuldren could see the worry in his student’s expressions.

“Do not worry Praxus, the reds of Mustafar will not blind your eyes nor imprison you to the indoors. I have faith that Bacillus’ modifications to your goggles will hold up quite well.” He looked over at his apprentice, “Have they not already improved your vision?”

“That they have, master. I’m able to see things I didn’t know existed.” Somewhat bolstered by his master’s confidence, Praxus again looked cheerful. “Well master, I guess I’ll be leaving. I’ve left the academy’s financial and supply affairs in the hands of a competent man named Skrall. Ziam recommended him.”

“Yes, I know the man, he will do a fine job in your absence.” Skuldren turned back to the plains before him. “May the force be with you, young warrior.”

* * *

Elsewhere Darth Iconoclast was busy assembling his family. His wife Nora was finished packing and Icono was gathering his nine children. Some were playing upstairs, some were in the backyard, and some were feeding one of Xenon’s little creatures. Icono’s eldest son, Max, was following him around dutifully. Eventually the two of them managed to get all the children lined up and ready for inspection.

“Alright everyone, bags are packed and were ready to go. First things first, you carry your own luggage. You lose it, your fault, so everyone better keep an eye on their things. Second Max is in command when me and Nora are not around. Hal, you're second in command and I want you especially to keep an eye on Jollo. If he gets lost you're responsible.” Icono glanced at his wife who was carrying her bags down the stairs. “Everyone’s clear on procedure, good, now lets get to the ship.” Icono hurried over to help his wife with her luggage.

“Icono, you sure it’s a good idea to catch a lift with Xenon, he’s a little…restless.” Inquired Nora. She knew Xenon was a bit adventurous; his reputation with the female students at the academy had gotten around.

“Xenon is a good friend, he’s young still. Maybe one day he’ll settle down, but one thing is for sure, he’s trustworthy. If he says he’ll pick us up on such and such day he will.” Icono tried to comfort his wife and sooth her uneasiness. Nora’s brown eyes seemed to accept her husbands trust. She pulled her sandy brown hair back and took Icono by the hand. Yes, if Icono trusts Xenon, then I trust Xenon. So they made their way to the ship.

At the main courtyard/landing bay there were seven ships gleaming in the sunlight. Icono noted that five of those ships were being loaded up for their various journeys. Master Skuldren always kept two ships for himself, a fighter and a freighter. Xenon and Icono would be taking one of the luxury yachts. Xenon stood on the boarding ramp wearing a dull green military vest and beige shorts. He welcomed his passengers.

“Welcome to Xenon Air, all flights heading towards the core. Please stow luggage in rear and a flight attendant will help you find your seat.” A smile blossomed across Xenon’s face and his spiel managed to get a giggle out of Icono’s kids.

* * *

Meanwhile Darth Ziam was getting the other yacht prepped for departure. Moto was sliding up the boarding ramp. Lotus gave Ziam a sly look.

“Did you have something to do with this?” She asked somewhat flirtingly.

“Maybe.” Ziam smiled coyly. “But I hope you don’t mind Moto, he’s kind of on his own still and I thought I should stick with him until he makes some new friends.” Lotus didn’t seem to mind, she simply looked at Ziam’s glowing blue eyes. Persuasion, she thought to herself, to think he was only using his natural charms right now. God help me if he unleashed the force.

* * *

Darth Adder raised his head and watched Praxus take off. It was a sleek looking shuttle, too bad the heat on Mustafar would probably scorch off all the paint. Why in the stars would anybody want to go to a lava planet, he thought to himself. Personally, Adder was a fisherman. In the entire galaxy the best fishing spot was Mon Calamari. Yep, it was time for a little R’n’R.

* * *

Bacillus was also prepping a ship. He had returned just two days ago. His news brought a bit of relief to his master, but Master Skuldren was still worried about his old friend, Siyal. Siyal was a Ryn who used to rob banks with Skuldren. He was suppose to meet Bacillus and tell him about Rotul’la, but for some reason he didn’t. His absence was bothersome. Bacillus was concerned with his master and had offered to go look for Siyal. Master Skuldren accepted.

So while everyone was on vacation, Bacillus was heading out another mission. At least Cadius will be with me, he thought.

* * *

Vlakor, the Muulag homeworld:

The landscape was a twisted dreamscape of violets, blues, and blacks. Vivid blue trees with purple leaves stood magnificently over rolling hills. Black rivers flowed through the land dividing the numerous clans of Muulags.

Everywhere you looked there was a three or four story house. Each had multilevel basements and housed around fifty Muulags. Even though the Muulags were asexual, they still had very strong family ties. Most families were bounded to several others and formed a clan. The largest clans formed the ruling parties of government.

At the top was the High Kahn of the People, Mal Furthog. He was a benevolent leader and he went to great lengths to ensure the happiness of his people. Several massive orbital stations, used for expanded living space, were constructed under his initiative. In fact the war was his doing. His people needed living space, thus he used their army to take it. Initially they had great success. Several colonies were set up in the far lands and the enemy was reeling back before the might of the Muulag navies.

But then the Katarii allied with the Wallonians.

Those Wallonians were skilled adversaries. For several years they struggled against the Katarii Alliance. The oracles proclaimed that a metallic deity would come and spare them from their misery. It would bring them peace and victory.

Then the overlord arrived. He was nearly 3 meters tall and his eyes glowed a crimson red. His metallic skin was a dark grey, almost black, and it gleamed in the light. On its face was a sinister grin of polished metal fangs.

It had entered the system in a strange vessel; barely big enough for one passenger. The fleet picked it up for inspection. Upon opening the ship, the overlord woke and their misery began.

The overlord immediately seized one of the Muulag in a viselike grip. Painfully it extracted the contents of the creature’s feeble mind and excruciatingly assimilated its knowledge. It learned of the oracle’s prophecy and decided to proclaim himself the Savior of the Muulag.

For two weeks it demanded sacrifices. In order to please his people, Furthog sent the fleet out to go capture some prisoners. After that it became a necessity. The overlord had to be continuously supplied with prisoners. No one knew exactly why the prisoners were needed, but all understood what happened to them. They were tortured, perpetually.

And so Furthog, High Kahn of the People, sat in his office looking out at his beautiful, strange world. How he used to love to simply float down the black waterfalls in his youth. Now he had no time. The war and the overlord took it all.

If only he could rid himself of this nuisance. To the astral pits with the oracles, the overlord was a curse. Surely he would be the end of them all.

* * *

Xando II, abandoned warehouse:

Truger Paego was much more active in the resolution of his problem. In fact the key to his success stood before him. Across from him a wiry Ryn was restrained to an inverted table. Metal bands secured his wrists and ankles. A special hole allowed his tail to pop through the other side.

Captain Siyal was having a rough week.

Last thing he remembered was being in Galdon’s House of Delight. Three beautiful women were sitting at his private table and the drinks were on the house. Life was great.

Then some deviled-ray looking guy taped him on the shoulder and asked him if he wanted to accept a holonet transmission.

Messages like that cost a lot of dough.

So Siyal excused himself from the ladies and followed the guy to the back. Going through a door, he looked for the transceiver and whop! Everything went black. He was out before he hit the floor.

When he woke, the deviled-ray guy was still there but the ladies were gone. He wasn’t in Galdon’s anymore either. Probably not even the same planet, he thought.

The man never asked any questions. Never even raised a hand. He just sat there, waiting. Waiting for what?

Siyal tried one more time, “Hey friend, what is this about? You know if you told me, maybe I could help you?” Still nothing. It was always nothing.

Truger just sat there amused. Yes it was only a matter of time. Someone will come.

* * *

Praxus arrived on bubbling planet of red magma. His ship sat down in fairly new landing bay with top of the line air circulators and climate control. In fact, it was chilly.

To think, I’m on a burning ball of heat and its cold. That will change.

He made his way outside and was not surprised. The heat hit him like a speeder crashing into a wall. It nearly knocked him on to his knees. Sweat began to poor out of him. His clothes were soaked. Alright, time to find an environment suit.

After a short ride on the local transportation, an oversized bug carriage, he finally made his way to the local tourist center. Upon entering the facility, he was again blessed with a miraculous blanket of cold air. Looking around, he saw all kinds of services: speeder rentals, hotel accommodations, listings of amusement parks, and behold, climate control equipment.

Praxus stood in awe of all the various products. They had mobile climate systems designed to cool off 10 meter hemispheres so you and your family could enjoy the sights at leisure; smaller units could be worn by your pets. Special coolers that guaranteed to keep even ice cream fresh on the fiery tundra. And dozens of cooling suits in all shapes and sizes.

One of the employees approached Praxus, “Can I help you find a suit sir? I imagine the heat must be especially hard on you with that extra head gear.” The employee, Rez, seemed genuinely concerned. “Don’t worry, I can get you a suit that’ll accommodate your mask and species without any problem, just give me a second.” Going into a back room, Rez returned with a heavy looking space suit.

“Here sir, you can try it on in one of the dressing rooms and if it fits we can ring it up for you at the counter.” Rez gave a warm smile and went to go talk with another customer.

Luckily the suit fit Praxus fine, a little cumbersome, he thought, but if it kept him cool it wouldn’t matter. It was also a little pricey.

With his suit on, he again braved the raging heat of Mustafar. The door slid open, he stepped out, and the blast of heat…was not there. It actually worked. Time to go sight seeing.

Talking with the locals, Praxus learned where all the major tourist spots where. There was the Seven Falls, the Three Rivers, Danti’s Peak, and Devil’s Gorge. However, he came to learn that the real beauties of Mustafar lied elsewhere. So he noted the new locations on his datapad map and set out on his journey.

Now the hard part.

Mustafarians did not like speeders, instead they domesticated large insects to carry them around. Praxus debated renting a speeder but the prices were absurd. The bugs were cheap.

He managed to pack his supplies on Nessi, his insectoid beast of burden, and force jumped up into the saddle. It was a rough ride. Every step was a bounce and Praxus quickly learned how to lean and hop with the insects strides. But the scenery was magnificent.

In the distance black peaks erupted with brilliantly bright lava, splashing like a gigantic geyser. Glistening onyx decorated the landscape and a majestic red sky bloomed on the horizon.

Broiled. Salted. Filleted and buttered. Sautéed. Stop it, he told himself.

He couldn’t help it. The delicious insect beneath him made his taste buds drool. All that food on a giant, natural grill. Food. This wasn’t working.

* * *

Hyperspace, Correllian Run:

Space. Bacillus was still held in awe at it’s inifinteness. Endless. “Cadius, what do you think is beyond the stars?”

“Besides more stars and planets, plus other negligible debris…vacuum.” Replied the innocent looking robot.

Bacillus did not design Cadius to look sinister. Nor did he look human. Instead he was a droid with physical features capable of displaying emotion. Emotions that he actually felt, regardless of their origins.

“That’s rather gloomy. Come on Cadius, you can do better than that. Use your imagination, I did give you one you know.” Bacillus spun the pilot’s chair so that he was facing his copilot.

“Very well, I knew you would want something unrealistic.” Metal eyelids shut halfway giving the droid a mystic quality, as if he were really peering into the depths of space. “I see dragons. Angelic serpents flying through the ether. They have long, scaly tails and giant wings. They are also intelligent. They are the guardians of the void. No one leaves without the permission of the creator. Thus they guard his kingdom from his creation.” Cadius’ voice was rhythmic and enchanting, “beyond that no one can comprehend, not with our current state of existence. It is not yet time for that.”

Bacillus sat flabbergasted. “That was astral. You are really something else.” He reached over and patted Cadius on the back. “I never knew you had it in you. Put that in a poetry book and you could make some spare credits.”

Cadius did not look amused. His thin, metallic lips frowned. “I wasn’t spinning that for your amusement.” He sounded hurt. “I meant it. Its what I believe.”

This got Bacillus’ attention. “Why dragons?”

“It’s not a secret. Such creatures do exist, though they are rarely scene. The Jedi have met with such beings from time to time. Though no one knows much more than that, other than they are able to live in the vacuum of space.” Cadius’ glowing eyes stared at Bacillus.

“I didn’t know that.” Cadius’ glare eased a bit. Bacillus continued, “Maybe, after we find Siyal, we’ll go look for one of the dragons. The Force might be able to guide us to one.” Cadius looked pleased.

* * *

Mon Calamari:

Blue as far as the eye can see. An endless landscape of gently rolling blue, sparkling in the sunlight. Overhead a cloudless blue sky permitted maximum visibility. Darth Adder peered over the side of his midsized aquatic skimmer. He could see nearly fifty meters down. Beyond that, the dark depths of the ocean swallowed all visible light. To his delight, he could see six different types of top water fish. It was going to be a good day.

Adder baited up his hook and dropped the line straight down. It took nearly a minute for the sinker to hit bottom. At this spot the water was 200 meters deep, fairly shallow compared to most areas on the planet’s all encompassing ocean.

The tip of the pole tugged down twice, Adder gave it a modest yank, and the line took off. Adjusting his grip, Adder loosened the drag. The fish was zooming along the bottom but slowly coming up as torpedoed away from the skimmer. Slowly the fish lost momentum and Adder began reeling in. It was big and full of fight. He had to let it run two more times to let it tire out. Finally after eight minutes of reeling, he got his first glimpse of the fish. Ten meters out, the beautiful neon speckled marlander leapt out of the water. Two magnificent sails glowed in a multicolor spectrum of wonder. Adder continued to reel the fish in and it seemed to have lost its fight. With a quick heave and a bit of the Force, he pulled the fish into the skimmer. Its tail thrashed on the deck. Grabbing it by its long spear-like bill, Adder held the fish up. It was as tall as him and three times as heavy. And this was his first catch of the day.

The hours rolled by and Adder continued to pull up monster-sized fish. It had been a long time since he had done this. A long time. Back when his pal Milo was still alive. They use to go fishing all the time. That all ended when a Sith artillery barrage wiped out 98 percent of their battalion. Of course it also wiped out an entire Republic division. Their commanders thought it was worthwhile sacrifice. Darth Adder made sure it was their last mistake.

The ocean was soothing. He watched the sun set on the horizon. The red-golden glow beaming over the water. Water. So much water. Hmm. A thought occurred to him. Water was one of the fundamental aspects of the Krudesh rituals. From water and earth sprang life. So far none of Skuldren’s apprentices had been able to make the next step. Perhaps, with a little effort and patience, Darth Adder could make that leap.

* * *


Praxus had already gone through half his rations. So far it had worked. His hunger had been kept at bay. Besides, he was almost there.

With the unexpected difficulties of Nessi, he had to alter his plans. The Mustafarian locals had pointed out three major sites. He would have time for only one. Thus he picked the one that they said rivaled all the fountains of Aderaan and the rays of the Rainbow Drift. They called it the Red Maelstrom.

Checking with his datapad, he discovered that he was there. Off to the right were five small hills. Tendrils of smoke crept out of the top of each black mound. There were no lava seas, no lava rivers, not even a lava fountain. Only the rough, course rock and five puny hills.

“Mustafarians must not like tourists”, Praxus muttered to himself.

His steed neighed in return.

Praxus admonished the giant insect. “Ah, you’ll get yours too. When I get back will see about you.”

He had come all this way for nothing. Just looking at Nessi made his mouth water. One more meal might hold him over until he got back to town.

With a heavy heart, he sat down on the hard rock surface. His cumbersome suit kept him cool but provided little in the way of cushion. Pulling an instant meal packet out of his satchel, he removed his helmet and began to eat. Crunchy little morsels of candy covered bugs crunched in between his dull teeth. The juices poured out of their tiny carapaces. To Praxus, it was delicious.

Behind him he heard a low rumbling sound.

An earthquake? He thought.

Turning around, he noticed that the amount of smoke coming from the mounds had increased. The rumbling was increasing, slowly gaining momentum. Beneath him the ground shook. Steam was building up in the mounds. He could hear the screeching sound of the pressure wheezing out of the planet. Then the pressure climaxed, blasting out of the mounds, spewing lava in a massive 60-meter arc.

Praxus stood dumbstruck. Five giant fountains of lava crisscrossed before him. Each stream drizzled off as it reached its peak. All of the intersecting arches meshed together like branches on a tree. Where each one met, a tiny star burst of lava splashed out in all directions. It was like looking at liquid trees of fire, blowing in the wind. He had never seen anything as breathtaking as this in his entire life.

Gently the lava geysers subsided back into their rolling mounds. The lava disappeared into the crevasses in the ground. Just like that, it was all gone.

Praxus wanted to stay and watch it again but he knew he had limited supplies. He needed to head back.

The journey was long and tiring. Yet the beauty of the lava fountains managed to subdue his appetite. He couldn’t help but think of all that fire. Fire. The Krudesh.

Mustafar was a planet abundant in fire. This was an opportunity he should take advantage of. With this much raw energy to work with, he could surely make strides towards the fifth element of the Krudeshi rituals. The power of life could be just over the horizon. The key would be the fire oceans.

* * *

Xando II, Truger Paego’s Hideout:

Siyal lay restrained to the table, trying to put together the pieces. Why I am here? The answer was simple, he had been kidnapped. Now who would want to do that? Rotul’la. All right, the scumsucker finally tracked me down and now he's going to get his revenge. To think, he was supposed to meet with Skuldren’s apprentice. He was so close to wrapping up this whole ordeal. Now all hope was lost.

Siyal tried the Dashade again, “I know Rotul’la sent you, guess you're just waiting for him to show up so he can do this personally. Least you can do is let me know what I’m in for.”

Truger sat perfectly still in his chair. He eyed the Ryn from across the room. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Whose Rotul’la?”

He didn’t know. Siyal was taken back. “He’s a Snivvian gangster, lives on Ketel.”

“Does he work for the Sith?” Came Truger’s stern voice.

The Sith? Siyal’s thoughts began to race. Now I’m getting somewhere. This guy is awfully worried. He’s snooping around about his employer…a Sith. Why would a Sith hire someone to kidnap him? Skuldren.

“From time to time.” Siyal finally responded. “He had a big grudge against this guy called Skuldren.” It was a dangerous game, but he had to play his hunch.

Truger took his feet off his desk and sat up straight. So Rotul’la sent a Sith to hire him to take out this Skuldren. “What else do you know about this Skuldren?”

Siyal paused. Gathering his thoughts, he replied, “Well I only met him once. Rotul’la caught the guy trying to cheat in the casinos. We were all in Rotul’la’s office when this Skuldren guy snapped. Starting flinging stuff across the room with the Force, whipped out a lightsaber and cut the desk in half. Then to top it all off, he blasted with lightning! Stuff shot straight out of his fingers, just like some old spook tale. Never seen anything like it. I mean I heard stories about people doing such things but I didn’t think it was true.” Siyal’s facial expressions added to the story. He had a real gift for storytelling. Hopefully this paid off.

* * *

Kuat, KDY Theme Park:

Screaming by at subsonic speeds, Iconoclast’s face was being thrashed by the enormous g-forces. Gravity whipped him side-to-side, then the entire car inverted in a loop-to-loop. His stomach heaved as he was wrenched into a blistering corkscrew. His hands were tightly squeezing the handlebars on his restraints, his legs dangled freely. With the wind rushing past his face, he had to admit that this…was…astral!

Air rushed out of the cart above as the brakes slowed them down. The ride came to a smooth stop as eager kids waited in line for their chance to get on board. The harnesses lifted up and Icono and his family rose from their seats.

“Dad, dad, that was galactic. Let’s do it again!” Cried Jollo as he was jumping up and down in excitement.

Hal budged in front of Jollo, cutting off his pleas. “Hey Dad, why don’t we try the Nubula Spider next. We haven’t rode that one yet.” Hal used just enough Force persuasion that it managed to affect his little brother.

“Yeah! Let’s ride that one next!” Yelled Jollo, still brimming with enthusiasm.

Icono smiled at Hal. A Jedi might not like such manipulation, but when done with tact, Icono saw it as an art form.

“Alright kids, let’s head for the Nebula Spider next.” No sooner than the words left his mouth, all nine kids charged out of the exit line and sprawled toward the next ride.

“This is nice Icono, we should get out more often.” Nora’s words to her husband were sweet and comforting.

“You’re right Nora, we’ll have to start taking trips once a month. It’d be good to let the kid’s see what the galaxy has to offer.” Icono was happy.

In fact, he was jubilant. He was with his family and all of them were having fun. Still, he couldn’t quite shake the thrill of having the wind rush by him on the amusement rides. The Force was tingling. Something about the wind. Yes, that was it, the wind and Krudesh.

An idea popped into Icono’s mind. On this next ride he was going to try something. With any luck, he just might stumble upon the solution to the next step.

* * *


Dazzling light hummed and blinked all around the room. On the dance floor were species of all kinds. From Abyssins to Zeltrons, they all danced to the beat of the music pouring from the stage band. Tonight the band was Nek Lightning, Xenon didn’t recognize them but admitted that they were pretty good.

“So what do you think of the band?” The seductive voice belonged to a female S’kytri.

Xenon looked into her glowing eyes, “They’re good.” He eased his hand on to her thigh. She smiled. “You ever hear the Ryn Devils play, I saw them on Commenor couple years back.”

“Oh they’re my favorite!” She leaned in closer to Xenon. Her light green skin pressed up against him.

Xenon wasn’t for sure what he saw in her. Was it her shimmering yellow eyes, her green silky skin, or the wings. Come to think of it, he had never dated a girl with wings. This was the first.

She leaned over to Xenon’s ear, and in a husky whisper, “You know, we can leave anytime you want. My place or yours, it doesn’t matter.”

Xenon was game.

Three days later, he found himself wandering the shops of Coruscant with a beautiful woman by his side. The same women. Her name was Jina. She had gone to school here, furthering her education, and got a degree in business. She now owned several popular nightclubs on the upper levels of Coruscant. And for some odd, spontaneous reason, he was still with her. It wasn’t normal for him, then again, he had never been to Coruscant before. Maybe there was something in the water.

“Jina let’s go over to that plant store, I want to see what they’ve got.” Xenon was anxious to see what kind of selection they had here in the Galactic Core.

“Alright, I like looking at the flowers.” Jina was wearing a simple, full-length, white dress. Her wings slipped comfortable out of the back and were nestled in closely.

The store’s glass window displayed an array of colorful, exotic flowers. As Xenon approached, the glass door slid open. Inside the air was humid and damp. A Ho’Din stood behind the counter. Several legal notices were posted on the wall, advertising what plants were illegal on what planets and systems. Jina wandered off towards the flower section. Xenon noted that the store was rather spacious. The aisles stretched a good 30 meters towards the back of the store.

Xenon strolled over to the Ho’Din. “Do you happen to have any Nosaurian quick soil?” He asked.

“Nope, that stuff’s been hard to come by. Most people don’t know too much about dirt, they just take what they can get. The few people who do keep a small garden usually pump it full of chemicals.” The Ho’Din eyed Xenon with a look of interest. “You know much about sentalias?”

Xenon grinned, “I have three. One of them is a golden spackled dwarf breed nearly six meters high.”

The massive Ho’Din gave a deep laugh. “Ah, so you are a fellow botanist. Tell you what friend, I’ve got some genuine Coruscanti soil straight from ground zero. Don’t ask me how I got it, it wasn’t easy.” Xenon followed the storekeeper into a back room.

“I keep this stuff back here because it’s not exactly legal. Nutrients in the soil are radioactive. Causes the plants to mutate, however I’ve done some tests and none of it is toxic, at least in human standards.” The Ho’Din’s baritone voice rumbled in the little storage closet.

“How much?” Xenon’s voice was sharp and to the point.

“Technically I can’t sell it. Far as anyone’s concerned, I don’t even have it. That stuff in front of you doesn’t even exist.” He put his blue-green, webbed hand to his chin and paused. “Take it as a gift. In return you can look at a plant for me.” A curious smile swept his face. There was something mischievous about that twinkle in his eyes.

“Show me.” Xenon replied.

They both left the storage closet and headed for the back. Xenon gestured over at Jina and she came over to see.

“We’re going to look at a plant in back, I’ll be right back.” Xenon’s voice was caring, he stroked her hand in a gentle caress.

“Okay, but don’t be too long.” Her voice was music to Xenon’s ears.

The Ho’Din and Xenon made their way to the back. He noticed that there was several special sections back here. One door was labeled desert, another artic. The door they entered simply said private.

Inside was a small storage room lined with shelves. In the middle of the room sat a cluttered table. The Ho’Din approached it. Beneath a yellow cloth, the storekeeper revealed a small plant concealed under an overturned glass bowl.

“It is a frantul bolonda. This one is still an infant. I know you have a touch. If you could but spare a little magic for this one, I would give you the soil, free of charge.” The Ho’Din looked at Xenon, his face was stern.

Xenon wanted the soil and yet, “I’ll do it…but how did you know?”

“The sentalias, no one but a force-sensitive can get them to live for more than a month. You have three.” Another smile crossed the Ho’Din’s face.

“I’ll remember that.” Replied Xenon.

He knelt by the little plant and peered at it through the force. He could feels its cells pulsing within the green stalks. Something was causing them pain. Focusing in on the macroscopic cells, he visualized the intruders. Small purple bacteria were consuming the plants carbon and water. It was starving the plant. Xenon concentrated on the bacteria, analyzing its structure and composition. He could actually feel the bacteria’s fears and desires. It feared sodium.

“Do you have any salt?” He asked the Ho’Din.

The storekeeper left and returned shortly with a cute little bantha saltshaker. Xenon took the shaker and sprinkled some salt onto the plants leaves. He sent a mental image to the bacteria, this is better than water, sweeter than carbon, eat deeply.

Now the bacteria would eat the very poison it feared without ever realizing it.

“There, that ought to do it, if it persists try some sodium solution. The bacteria in the plant seems to dislike it.” Xenon returned a grin to the storekeeper.

The Ho’Din beamed in thanks, “Thank you, this has been most helpful. I thought I was going to loose this one.” He put his arm around Xenon and led him back out front and to the counter. “Now, lets see about that soil hmm.” He went into the storage closet and returned with a sealed metal box. “This should protect it from any sensors, wouldn’t want to damage it.” The Ho’Din winked.

“Yes, those sensors would be an unpleasant surprise.” Xenon caught the Ho’Din’s meaning. Travel authority sensors would normally pick up any radioactive materials. The box would prevent that.

Xenon looked over at Jina, “Come on Jina, let's go get something to eat.”

After a delicious meal and a full day of window shopping and exploring, the couple retired to Xenon’s upper level hotel room. Jina was taking a shower while Xenon sat in the small living room area of the hotel suite. He was staring at the shining metal box the Ho’Din gave him. Dirt. Soil. From the ground and the water springs life… The Krudesh. There was something special about this dirt. A secret that was begging to be unlocked.

Xenon opened the box and gazed at the brown soil within. It had a strong, musty aroma. Through the Force he felt something odd. A small infinitesimal will waiting to be heard. A tiny little voice whispering in a strange tongue. He could almost understand the words…life, life, life.

Without thinking, he did something in the force. A gentle nudge, with a slight projection of thought. To his surprise a green bud appeared in the course granules of dirt. The little speck of green grew to the size of his thumbnail.


The thought entered Xenon’s mind like a blaster bolt. He needed water. Quickly he went into the tiny kitchen and filled a caf cup with water. Returning to the table where the box sat, he poured the water onto the green bud.

As the water soaked into the tiny pod it split, revealing a thin, twisting stem.

Xenon sat back in silence. Thoughts racing through his head. Through the Force he had just created a plant. He had created life.

From the bathroom Jina’s voice called out, “Xenon, come join me, the water is just right.”

He hesitated. This was a momentous occasion. Then he thought to himself, what better way to celebrate! Thus he triumphantly went to go join Jina.

* * *

Xando II:

Bacillus and Cadius returned to the Ketel System searching for clues as to Captain Siyal’s whereabouts. Their investigations led them to Xando II, the third planet from the system’s sun. Whereas Xando I was a mountainous planet mined for its ore, Xando II was vibrant, lush green financial hub. Forest covered two thirds of the surface and played an integral part of the planet’s architecture. The primary business on the planet was investment firms and brokerages. Money was their main export.

The best information Bacillus and Cadius were able to find always seemed to come from the local bars and night spots. Siyal loved the night life. After visiting half a dozen bars and clubs they ended up in a place called Galdon’s House of Delight. Bacillus went over to the bartender.

Casually Bacillus asked the man, “You see any Ryn in here lately.” Nonchalantly, he slid a decricred across the bar.

The bartender, a rough looking Houk, palmed the chip. “Not too many of their kind around here. Most of’em don’t got much in the way of spending money. But I did see one in here awhile back. Real flashy dresser. Purple captains tunic with a bunch of medals on it. Probably got’em at a pawn shop.” He gave a slight chuckle that caused his big belly to shake grotesquely. “Can’t tell ya too much more than that, he got pretty plastered then disappeared without paying the rest of his tab. Say you friends of his, I still need someone to settle up the bill.” Despite the man’s portly stomach, he had two massive arms. He crossed them in an intimidating gesture.

“You tell me who he was with that night and how I might be able to get a hold of them and I’ll settle the bill.” Replied Bacillus.

The Houk looked up and stared at the ceiling. He seemed to be thinking. “Well he was with three women that night. All ugly too, heh.” His belly began shaking again and he chuckled. “One was Warta, a trashy Gamorrean madam. She had two of her girls with her…Trixi and Shuluu. Trixi’s been workin’ over at Bolo’s across the street. She’s a real big heavyset Twi’lek. Shuluu still hangs out here at night, she’s a Sanyassan, real brute. Come around after sunset and you’ll probably catch all three.” Reaching into his back pocket, the Houk produced a datapad. After typing a few buttons he replied, “Now that bill comes out to 236 credits, hard currency.”

“Very well.” Bacillus pulled out a cred marker, set the amount, and handed it over to the Houk. He gave it a quick scan to verify the amount, then put it into his pocket.

Later that evening, Bacillus and Cadius returned. They each took a different table and ordered drinks. Bacillus eyed the room and easily spotted the two women. Warta was sitting with a Whiphid, by the looks of things they were both dead drunk. The Whiphid was spilling his drink all over the place and Warta was struggling to order another round. The waitress was having trouble understanding the slurred basic.

He eliminated her for the time being. Even if he could get her away from the Whiphid, he probably wouldn’t be able to understand a word she said.

That left Shuluu. She was a well built Sanyassan. If you only looked from the shoulders down, she was quite attractive. Yet her face reminded one of a rotting corpse or some undead creature. It was a terrible combination. Right now she was by herself sitting at the bar.

Bacillus made his way over and sat in the barstool next to her. She took notice immediately and cracked an innocent smile.

Her heady voice spoke in a thick accent, “What can I do for you handsome.” Her hand placed itself on the inside of his upper thigh.

Bacillus was a bit startled. “Actually I was looking for some information.”

Shuluu continued to stroke his thigh, “Well what do you want to know sweetie.” She cast a lustful gaze at Bacillus’ innocent brown eyes.

“I have a friend, he’s a Ryn, fashions himself a captain. He was in here a while back with you and I was wondering what happened?” Bacillus’ blood was beginning to boil. The room was getting hot.

“Oh we never got anywhere, he left with a Dashade gentleman out the back door. Something about a holonet call.” She smiled, her ruby painted lips spread deviously across her face.

To himself, he couldn’t help but think that she was pretty when she smiled. Gathering his thoughts he managed to reply, “Dashade, um, that’s…interesting.” His words were choppy. Right now he couldn’t seem to think straight.

“If you want, we can go back to my place and talk some more about it…” The words purred out of her mouth. Her body poised itself at Bacillus, offering it like a gift.

He couldn’t help himself. “Alright…that sounds good.” The words came out fast.

On the way out, he gave Cadius the all clear sign and followed Shuluu back to her apartment.

Cadius watched him leave and felt humor. Hopefully he would have some fun. Cadius continued to drink his nova spritzer. Companionship. Most droids didn’t have such a desire, not in the way sentients do. Back on Kajji there were a couple dozen droids like him, capable of feeling emotion, and even love. Yet there wasn’t a special someone for him.

But daydreaming wasn’t getting him anywhere. In fact the sooner they found Siyal, the sooner he could leave this place and his disturbing thoughts behind. He scoped out the being known as Warta and concluded that she was in no shape for questioning. Maybe the Twi’lek across the street would be of some help.

Paying his tab, he walked out of Galdon’s and over to Bollo’s. Inside he scanned the crowd and saw the Twi’lek over in a corner booth. She was alone.

Cadius walked over, sat down and introduced himself, “My name is Cadius and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” His synthesized voice had a charming quality to it.

Trixi looked taken back, “That’s awfully sweet of you, uh is there something I can…do…for you.” She leaned forward exposing herself somewhat tactfully, just enough to see if it had an effect. She had never worked for a droid before.

Cadius’ optical sensors didn’t miss a thing. He noticeably looked. After a slight hesitation he replied, “Do you remember a Ryn a while back, over at Galdon’s.”

“Yes, he left with a Dashade and didn’t come back. It was rather odd, he seemed like he was interested.” She continued to study Cadius. Maybe this droid has something most don’t, she thought. Carefully she slid her purse to the edge of the table and accidentally bumped it off. “Oops…don’t worry, I’ll get it.” Leaning down to pick it up, she glanced over at Cadius. That compartment there could be hiding something. “Say dear, if you want, we could talk about this somewhere else. Somewhere intimate.” Her arm reached across the table to take Cadius by the hand.

“That would be…well…I’m not sure.” This was unexpected. Cadius had never thought about being with a flesh and blood before. In fact, he had never had any reason to try out his special features. Bacillus thought it would be interesting if droids could reproduce. Technically they could only do so successfully with the other droids he created. But Cadius might still be able to engage in such matters simply for the experience. “On second thought, I think I will take you up on your offer.”

Cadius held her hand and they both rose to leave when a burly human interrupted them.

“Hey robot, I seen her first.” The stubble faced human pushed Cadius back. “Just cus’ a guy goes to the fresher doesn’t mean ya’ can hone in on his girl.” He was obviously upset.

Calmy Cadius asked Trixi, “Do you want to go with this ruffian or with me?”

Trixi smiled at Cadius. That was all the reply he needed.

The human took a swing at Cadius. It was a wild powerhouse of a left hook. Cadius simply dodged it and using the man’s momentum, he turned the guy off balance and flung him to the floor. He took a step over to the fallen human and zapped him with a stun bolt. Putting the concealed blaster back in his wrist, he strolled over to Trixi, took her by the arm, and strolled out.

* * *


Praxus stood before a fiery ocean of lava. He sat cross-legged on the ground in deep meditation. A Sith would bask in his anger in order to manipulate the Force with ease. However, Master Skuldren did not approve of this method. Praxus agreed. Such techniques were sloppy and bred out of impatience. The key to power was time and it should not be rushed.

Thus Praxus absorbed the energy of the heat spewing from the molten fire. The energy in turn fueled the Force. The power coursed through Praxus’ veins. His muscles quivered in anticipation. But what next? A glancing thought passed through his mind and no sooner than it left, the power surging through his body disappeared. It was gone.

What went wrong? What happened? The thoughts raced through his mind, yet the answers did not appear.

Feeling defeated, once again, he got up and decided it was time to go. As he rose, he noticed something on his forearm. A bug. He took his gloved right hand and picked the insect off of his suit. Carefully examining it, he noted its metallic green carapace. It had two translucent wings speckled with violet dots. Six tiny legs jutted out from its abdomen. It was the exact image of the thought that interrupted his meditation. On the brink of discovery his mind though about food. And yet now he held the very thing he thought of.

Was it coincidence?

No. This insect was native only to his home planet, Kubindi. It was the Force. The Krudesh. It worked! He had done it! He had created life!

For the first time in his entire life, he was able to look at an insect out of admiration and fondness instead of hunger.

Now, full of vigor, Praxus went over and jumped on top of his insect steed. The journey back to town was not nearly as arduous as the journey out. In town, Praxus returned his beast of burden, Nessie, back to the Mustafarian trader, event though it was his to keep. As of the moment, a new perspective had washed over him. Everything appeared in a new light.

He managed to check out with the docking authorities without any problems. Firing up his engines, his sleek shuttle rose from the docking bay and slipped into the atmosphere above. Next stop, Kajji.

* * *

Mon Calamari:

Peacefully rocking back and forth amongst the giant sparkling ocean, Adder sat serenely. The moon was out and caused the water to glimmer like diamonds. The smacking of a fish, jumping out of the water and slapping it on the way down, was the only sound to punctuate the calm silence. Life was abundant in the water. Adder could feel the Force rolling out of the depths in abundance, a massive well of power, waiting to be tapped. It would allow him to create life, yet he knew it would not bring back what he wanted. His friend was dead. Not event the Force or the Krudesh could bring him back.

Alone on the sea, he swayed to and fro in his little skimmer. What should he create?

A rock guppy. They were Milo’s favorite.

You couldn’t eat them, they were barely big enough to swallow your bait, but they were pretty. All kinds of colors covered their little smooth skin bodies. And they made a grunting noise when you held them. As if they were trying to ask you to be put back in the water. Milo would collect them in a bucket as they were fishing and talk to them. They answered in their tiny grunts and both of them would bust out laughing. They were times of joy. Days long missed.


Adder looked over the side at the noise but he didn’t see anything. It was dark. The black water stared back. Adder sat back dismayed. He had heard it, he knew it wasn’t just in his head.


A small smack...this time in the boat. Adder looked down at his feet. It was a guppy. Gently he picked the tiny fish up and held it in his hands. It was wet and slimy. Red and purple spots covered its marbled brown skin. Bulgy eyes stared up at him.


“Yes, I know. The air world is harsh isn’t it? You want to go back in?” Asked Adder.


“Here…lets put some water in the bait basket.” Adder reached over and filled the plastform container with fresh saltwater. “That’ll do for now.”

The little fish swam in circles around the pail. Water splashed as his tail thrashed back and forth.

Old memories.

Too many, it was time to leave. He would have to see if the locals had any travel aquariums.

As the matter sunk in, it just didn’t seem to matter. He managed to create that little fish. There was no way it just swam to the top like that. Yet it wasn’t the miracle he wanted. Perchance in time it would suffice. Adder felt that it was time to head back to the academy. His vacation no longer held the thrill.

* * *

Kuat, KDY Theme Park:

The Nebula Spider was a central sphere that spun in a circle. As the ride progressed, the axis tilted. Out of the sphere four dozen outstretching arms held open seated passenger cars. Each seated four people. Icon sat with his wife and youngest son, Jollo. His other kids were spread out among the other cars.

At first the ride started out slowly, picking up speed as it went. After ten seconds Icono was firmly pasted to his seat, the wind washing his face. Now was his chance. Opening his mind, he channeled the motion of the wind through him, using it to push the Force from his toes out through his hands. He struggled to raise his left arm. Letting go of his safety harness, he gradually slithered his hand on to the car’s sideboard. The energy welled up in his fingertips, waiting to be released. In his mind’s eye, he pictured a beautiful dragon tailed robin, his wife’s favorite animal. The power rushed out of his hand and swirled through the air in front of his spinning car. It looked like a multihued fireball, soaring off to the left side of his car as the ride continued revolving around the central sphere. He jerked his head around, trying to follow it.

Nora and Jollo tugged at his shirt. They had to yell over the rush of the air, “Look, it’s in front of us!” They cried in unison.

Icono gazed out in front of the car. About twenty meters out, his fireball was metamorphosing. A shape was beginning to appear. At the same time, the ride was slowing down, coming to a stop.

Jollo yelled out to his brothers, “Hey guys, look over there!” He pointed out at the fluid object circling in the air.

Everyone looked up. The shape was growing wings and a long, forked tail. Myriad colors turned into vivid indigos.

Quietly Nora whispered to her husband, “Did you do that?”

Icono nodded his head in silence. A smug grin swallowing his face.

The object was now a bird flying through the air.

“It’s a dragon tailed robin. Oh honey, those are my favorite.” Nora leaned over and kissed her husband.

“Awh, come on dad, cut it out. I’m right here you know.” Whined Jollo.

The ride came to a stop and as everyone was getting off they were murmuring about the phantasmal bird. It just appeared out of a ball of plasma. No, I seen it fly in from over there. The sun was in your eyes. People were talking amongst themselves. Icono just smiled.

Finally, he and his family had walked away from the ride and not too many people were around. His children assaulted him with pleas.

“Come on dad.” “You gotta tell us.” “Yea dad, let us in.” “Ya how ja do it.” They all cried at once.

“Sshhhh.” He murmured. “I’ll tell you, now settle down.” He looked over at his wife, who stared in interest. She wanted to know too. “I used the Force.”

“You mean Krudesh. Yippee, dad’s the best!” “He did it, I knew he would!” “Yahoo!” His kids jumped up and down in celebration.

“Did you really do it sweetheart?” Asked Nora.

“Yes, I did it just like Skuldren said it would work. I took the energies around me and channeled them with an image in the mind. I though you would like the bird.” Added Icono.

“Oh Icono it was wonderful.” She gave her husband another long kiss, much to the dismay of his kids who blushed and turned away in disgust. All except his eldest, Max, he just turned and smiled.

“Alright kids, where to next?” Asked Icono.

“Thunder Ball!” Screamed Jollo. He lead the charge and everyone else followed. It was turning out to be a very productive vacation.

* * *
Xando II:

Early in the cool of the morning, Bacillus and Cadius walked happily along a nearly empty street. Both had exchanged stories on last night's adventures.

“Well I must say it was a rather interesting experience.” Remarked Cadius.

“I imagine so. Regardless, we better focus on the mission at hand. We both got the same information. A Dashade left with Siyal. Local mechanic said he’d delivered a special crate for the guy to this warehouse.” Bacillus pointed at the building across the street.

It was a large, rectangular, prefab building painted an off white. Similar buildings stood along each side. The number on the door matched the mechanic’s story. Now it was time to check it out.

“Bacillus, do we have a plan?” Asked Cadius, his metallic eyebrows raised in curiosity.

Bacillus paused in his footsteps. “Good point. If this guy nabbed Siyal, he could be a professional. Let me check it.” Bacillus closed his eyes and peered through the walls with the Force.

It was blurry.

“That’s odd, I can’t get a read on the place, it feels scrambled.” Replied Bacillus, a hint of worry in his voice.

Cadius scanned the building with his enhanced photoreceptors. “I cannot detect anything either. Someone has placed thermal shielding along the interior walls.”

Bacillus knew that this had to be the guy. “Alright, we go in like this guy’s a deadly threat. He obviously has prepared himself against Jedi and tech, lets show him what we can do.”

They crossed the street and went down the alley along side the warehouse. About ten meters back, Bacillus took out his lightsaber and ignited the blade. The red-orange beam sliced a neat hole in the cheap prefab wall. Using the Force, he gently guided the chunk of wall down to the ground.

Cadius went in first, Bacillus followed. Inside the building, they found themselves in a narrow corridor. Cadius nodded to the left. At the end of the hall they peered around a corner.

They saw a large open room, flooded with white overhead lights. One gray skinned man sat in a chair watching a Ryn who was restrained to a standing table. Cadius and Bacillus ducked back around the corner.

Barley whispering Bacilus muttered, “You take the Dashade, I’ll get Siyal.” Cadius nodded.

Charging around the corner, Cadius opened up with his wrist blasters. Rapid-fire bolts poured into the Dashade. Meanwhile Bacillus somersaulted through the air, landing next to Siyal. Using his lightsaber, he cut the restraints. Siyal fell off the table, his legs drained of all their strength, he crumpled onto the floor.

“Dikut! Help me up, my legs are asleep.” Cursed Siyal.

Bacillus picked him up and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. Holding Siyal up with his other arm, he replied, “Hold on, we’re get’n out of here.”

Bacillus turned only to see Caduis standing dumbfounded in front of the Dashade. “What are you doing Cadius, waste’em.”

Cadius looked over at Bacillus, “But it’s a hologram. It’s not real.”

“What?” Bacillus was shocked.

Siyal spoke up. “When you guys entered, you set off an alarm. He darted out the front in a hurry.” Siyal looked tired and sounded beat. “One more thing, this guy ain’t after me, he wants Skuldren. Some Sith hired’em. Don’t know why, but it ain’t good.”

“First things first, lets get out of here.” All of them went back to the hole in the wall and out into the alley.

“Should we split up? I could go after Dashade.” Offered Cadius.

Bacillus though about it. “Alright, but don’t go too far. Keep your distance. I’ll drop Siyal off at the ship and meet up with you.”

Cadius sprinted down the alley and out into the street. Bacillus and Siyal went down the alley and out the other way.

* * *

Two hours later, Bacillus caught up with Cadius. “So what happened?”

“Nothing. Not a trace. No residual heat traces, fluids, nothing. He got away clean.” Cadius’ voice was dejected.

“Firefek.” Bacillus continued, “Well lets get airborne. This guy has gone under. We won’t be finding him now.”

They headed back to the ship.

* * *

Bacillus went through the preflight sequence while Cadius checked out with the flight tower.

“Good to go Bacillus.”

“System green, taking off.”

Siyal sat back in a passenger seat. “Uh where might we be going off to?”
“Kajji, I think you and Master Skuldren need to talk.” Bacillus looked back at Siyal to see if that was okay.

“Sounds good. I haven’t seen by old buddy for almost ten years now. Like to see what he’s up to.” Siyal relaxed. He was free again and with friends. Nevertheless, this Dashade character needed to be dealt with. All in good time.

* * *

Muulag Battle Front, Space:

Kahn Kazen stood before a table of his peers inside the confines of his flagship. Around the table sat the other three Kahns of the Fleet. Kazen looked to his left. In a simple uniform adorned with only one medal was Kahn Shtohl. He was the oldest officer among the Muulag armed forces. He had fought in the old wars against the dark ones and a dozen wars afterwards. On his chest gleamed the highest commendation available, the Crux del’ Kron. When Kazen was in the academy, he heard someone say that old Shtohl had earned the Kron by single handedly killing the dark one’s commander in the Gloom Wars. But that was a long time ago.

Now Shtohl was aged. He struggled to stand and stubbornly insisted on moving under his own locomotion, refusing a repulsor chair. Yet his mind was still keen. Sharp enough to still outwit even the wiliest of opponents.

Looking to his right, Kazen gazed at Kahn Lol. Lol was a green commander. He was cautious but a wizard at logistics. His position was gained mostly by the feats of his older brother, Kahn Ohl. Sadly, Ohl was killed in the Battle of the Demon Sphere. The enemy overwhelmed Kahn Ohl with stunning new technology and a massive spherical ship covered in demonic faces. His death still caused pain among the commanders. It was felt that his absence had helped lead to the enemies success.

Kazen knew better. The enemy had a new leader; a very smart leader. He was uniting the entire system against the Muulag. Kazen would have liked to have Ohl still at his side, but his loss was not their doom. The brightest mind in the Muulag Fleet was poised to make his move. He needed only one more vote.

Across the table sat Kahn Tog. He was one of the old school commanders. In his day, he was the best. Whatever command he took, he brought with him a wealth of experience. But in his old age, he had become timid and traditional. His tactics became predictable. It was possible he still had a trick or two left, but the stream had run dry nonetheless. He was the only thing in Kazen’s way. Him and the overlord.

In a stern, resolute voice, Tog replied, “No.”

Kazen was not deterred. “Kahn Tog, you cannot allow yourself to be ruled by that robot. We are the commanders of the fleet. What we say goes. We are the only ones who realize the situation of the war. If we continue to wait, the enemy will outsmart us again and quite possibly defeat us. We cannot allow that to happen.”

“You use a lot of we’s Kazen.” The words rolled slowly out of Tog’s mouth. “I will not allow the enemy to take Vlakor. Nor will Shtohl and Lol. Nor will the overlord. He has our best wishes in mind. His wisdom should not be brought into question, it heresy. The priests have shown us the omens. The oracles have proclaimed it. What more do you need?”

Shtohl shuffled in his seat. In a rough voice he spoke up. “I do not agree Tog. I’ve been around longer than you. I’ve fought the dark ones. These new enemies are smarter. More crafty. We shouldn’t underestimate them. Just because the oracles predicted the coming of the overlord does not mean his judgment will save us. It could very well be enough that he has provided us with new technology.”

“I agree with Kahn Shtohl.” Replied Lol. “He is wise and correct. My brother would have agreed. New technology is the way to defeat our opponents. It gives us more options. Surprise. These are the ways to victory.”

Tog cut in, “I don’t need some young pup lecturing me on the ways of war. I know war boy. I’ve known it for a long time.” Tog was quiet. He looked at his comrades around him. “Your all set aren’t you…very well, I’ll give my consensus. You may initiate your plan. I hope for all of us that it works. Otherwise the overlord and the High Kahn will have our heads on a platter.”

Kazen smiled. He had done it. Now all the Muulag fleets were under his control. The enemy would get their first taste of Muulag ingenuity and Kazen would get his first taste of battle.

* * *

Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1783-MZK of the Jedi Archives,
Personal Memoirs of Darth Skuldren.

I’ve been making a lot of progress lately with the holocron. Now we have confirmation that the Krudeshi rituals actually worked. Yet the holocron doesn’t give the details on the procedures. The basics are almost enough to go on, but something solid would be preferred. So far the masters have turned down my requests to try and recreate the rituals. Regardless, I have taken it upon myself to look into the matter. Last night I made some major steps. With a little coaching from the holocron, I was able to create fire, wind and water. With this new knowledge I’m going to try the next step. The realms of creation are almost within my grasp!

"I believe toys resonate with us as humans, we can hold them, it's tactile, real! They are totems for our extended beliefs and imaginations. A fetish for ideas that hold as much interest and passion as old religious relics for some. We display them in our homes. They show who we are. They are signals for similar thinking people. A way we connect with each other...and I guess thats why I do toys. That connection." -Ashley Wood

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