Kira Keldav Background – Dark Princess

   And for another bit from Kira’s player…

   Trayus Academy, Malachor V

   So I apparently have someone looking to kill me. That much I learned from my Master. Judging from the lesson he gave, I would also say that, whoever it is, he or she is probably one of the more powerful students running around. Not a lot to go on considering the sheer number of candidates here at the Academy.

   Attempting to sense who was harboring malevolent thoughts towards me was going to be a useless headache. The whole place reeked of sheer malevolence. With my underdeveloped skills and general lack of talent, trying to pick out the signal from the noise is going to be impossible. Unfortunately, the best bet was going to be asking around and see if someone was willing to part with some helpful information.

   Leaving my quarters, I saw Valerie Soung leaning against the opposite wall obviously waiting for me. She certainly had been watching me during my training with her father for the last several weeks now. She pretty much has been since the day I found out her lightsaber was pink during our first sparring session. Laughing at that was probably not the smartest of moves I will admit. The sheer beating I received was not pleasant either. Is she here now to kill me? I seriously doubt my Master is the type to tell me to kill his own daughter, even if they are both Sith.

(Kira) What, so are you the one out to get me? Is this really part of your training and not mine?

(Valerie) Shut up, your skill is not at a level to be worth being a training exercise for me.

(Kira) Then why are you here? I seriously doubt you want to help me with this task.

(Valerie) Consider me intrigued after what my father said to you. I’m going to watch from a distance and see what you do.

(Kira) Fine then, have it your way.

(Valerie) I don’t need your permission to do what I want.

(Kira) Yes, I believe you proved that.

   A rather blatant way to trail me, but it wasn’t like I could do anything to her given the difference in power between us. She proved that some time ago and my right arm is still sore from that experience. At least she was going to stay far enough back that she shouldn’t draw attention.

   The commons area seemed like the reasonable place to start. Quite a portion of the Academy was already here eating whatever meal of the day it was now. Almost all the “students” here formed little groups around the major personalities. The hanger-ons were usually there for one of two reasons: either they didn’t have enough power to take care of themselves and hoped to prove themselves useful to someone who had, or they were waiting for the main guy to make a mistake and kill him for his place. Occasionally one group would attack another group for some silly reason.

   Then there were the students that had been picked up by one of the masters for personal training. Usually the brightest or most talented students that got that dubious honor. For reasons I didn’t understand, Master Soung had chosen me. It was clear I didn’t have the raw talent or decades of training most everyone else here had. Those few with similar levels of ability as I went through the most rudimentary courses in large groups. Most of them didn’t make it very far.

   There were quite a few here that were upset over my being chosen to apprentice. Some of them would probably even try something about it if they felt that Master Soung wouldn’t be upset with them. Apparently what happened to the last usurper was affording me some protection.

   I didn’t ask for this.

   Over in the back corner I could see the servants huddled together. It was easy to pick them out, besides the difference in clothing, they were all in more tightly packed seating arrangements. Since sitting by myself was asking for trouble, I usually sat with them. One of them asked once why I sat with them instead of the other Sith. I did get a chuckle out of him when I said he was better company than the Sith were.

(Bleus) Back again are you?

(Kira) Well, I have to eat sometime don’t I? I really don’t think there is a Force ability to keep me from having to eat.

(Cav) You’d think one of them would figure it out, given the amount of poisonings going on.

(Kira) Oh? Anyone I know this time?

(Cav) Might, let’s see I think this week we’ve had Yeltus and Grent killed by poisoning. Merco did himself in taking on Hetz. And Draver hasn’t been seen in some time.

(Kira) Hmm, can’t say any of those really shock me. Thankfully I been sailing under the radar of the competition thus far.

(Bleus) Not a bad approach, don’t hear nearly as many grumblings about you as we hear about the others. None of them would do anything to displease Master Soung either.

(Kira) So I am told.

(Arc) Best to watch yourself though. Master Soung has apparently been asking around about the other talented students lately. He may be looking for a replacement in the near future.

(Kira) Damned if I stand out and damned if I don’t. Anyone in particular he seems to have his eye on?

(Cav) Well he has been asking about Jurin for some time.

(Kira) That degenerate? He makes your average Sith look like a Jedi.

(Cav) Aye, but he does have some talent, plus he has all those years of Jedi training on you.

   Jurin was another one of the Sith-wannabe Jedi running around. A true sociopath, he delighted in violence and asserting his dominance over others. You could usually tell which servants were his from the scars and bruises. The female ones didn’t usually last long either.

   Sadly Cav was right, Jurin had years of experience and some talent. If Master Soung was dropping hints at being interested in apprenticing him, then Jurin would have no problem killing me for my position. Well now I had someone with a potential motive for wanting to kill me while still avoiding pissing off my Master. I just needed to confirm it. I saw my chance walk up to another table.

(Kira) Hey isn’t that girl over there one of Jurin’s new servants?

(Bleus) Aye, she is. Poor lass won’t last a month I wager.

(Kira) Want to make a wager of it?

(Cav) What you going to off Jurin? We should be taking bets on you surviving, not her in that case.

(Arc) Five meal tickets says Kira and the girl are dead inside of a week.

(Cav) I say one month at most.

(Kira) Here are five meal tickets saying the girl and I are still alive in two months.

(Bleus) Alright, Kira still alive after one month, but the girl dead before the month is out.

   Meal tickets were about the only currency to be had at the Academy. There were other more specialized “currencies” running around, but nothing that had the sanctioned value the yellow slips of paper had. That was one thing I had to give to Master Soung, I never wanted for meal tickets. I made certain not to abuse the priviledge, although today seemed like a prime time to.

   I got up and put away my tray and grabbed something that looked like a dessert. A quick glance around the room confirmed Jurin and his cronies weren’t currently around – although I could see Valerie watching me from across the commons. I resisted the urge to wave and draw attention to her. Satisfied, I grabbed a second dessert and went to see the new girl.

(Kira) Mind if I sit here Ms….

(Girl) Kilnes, Gab Kilnes, and I am not sure Master Jurin would like this.

   I went ahead and had a seat, she didn’t exactly say no. I pushed a dessert towards her. Up close she seemed to remind me of someone, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The name certainly didn’t ring a bell.

(Kira) Well Gab, I can say that Jurin does not appear to be here right now. Nor any of his cronies that I know of. From the Republic are you?

(Gab) Yes, from Maples out on the midrim. Sith invaded, killed my parents and took me as a slave.

(Kira) Sad, it’s a story happening rather frequently around here right now. I’m from Alderaan myself. Was captured 3 months ago during the war.

(Gab) You were a Jedi?

(Kira) No, nothing like that. I just happened to have my Force powers awaken as the ship I was on started to break up. It caught the eye of the Sith commander, and I got sent here.

(Gab) You’re lucky.

(Kira) Normally I would say not, that you don’t have to deal with the harsh training, constant backstabbing, and general unpleasantness that comes with being a Sith, but I think you may well have a harder time ahead of you than I do.

(Gab) So you’re here to take pity on me then?

(Kira) Maybe, although I would be lying if I didn’t say I had an ulterior motive in all this. I just want information that I hope you can provide is all. Hey, I will even throw this in as an added bonus.

   I threw a bottle of tablets on the table that I gotten from Bleus some time ago. Apparently the servants in the kitchen had a chemist among them that was willing to make poisons on the side. The most abusive masters tended to end up dead after eating the wrong meal, although some servant or another ended up taking the blame. Most of the Sith wisely learned to not abuse the servants as much, or learned to have their meals cooked by someone else.

(Gab) I can’t poison his food. He has a trusted family member cook and taste it all before he even eats it.

   Drat, there went that option. Oh well, time for the backup.

(Kira) Well, he isn’t the only one you might want to poison. From what I understand of what he does to young girls you might want to partake yourself before long.

   I could see realization of what lay before her dawn on her face. For the briefest of moments it looked like she was about to cry. Amazingly she held her composure.

(Gab) Thank you but I don’t think I can do that.

(Kira) No matter, although I will point out that a half of a pill should put you into a sleepy state which you won’t remember anything for about twelve hours. Again, your choice.

(Gab) You said you wanted information?

(Kira) Yes, it has recently come to my attention that your Master may be fishing for my position. I would like to verify this before trying to do something about it.

(Gab) So you’re like the rest of them then? Out to kill those in your way and sweet talk or bribe those that might help you do it?

(Kira) Perhaps, I just view it as protecting my own hide long enough to figure a way out of here. Have to cling onto something.

   My answer seemed to quiet her for a bit. Maybe mentioning hope of escape was a bad idea. She knew how hopeless her situation was and yet I was rubbing it in her face in the hopes of saving my own hide. Damn it all.

(Gab) He certainly thinks he has approval from your Master to kill you if he can. I think he is waiting for something else before he does it though.

(Kira) Oh? Any idea what that might be?

   At which point the girl became sheepish and reluctant to answer anymore questions. Well, I at least confirmed Jurin was the one most likely to make an attempt. Odd though that he hadn’t already tried if he felt he already had approval from Master Soung.

   I bid the girl farewell and left the commons room. I needed more information though before all the pieces fit. I got the odd feeling Master Soung wouldn’t appreciate it if I killed Jurin on a probably. I needed proof of intent to satisfy myself as well. Facing Jurin directly was a good way for me to end up dead. Oh well, this was two problems that could be worked on in parallel: how to kill Jurin, and how to get the information I needed.

   The latter was the easier one. I met with Bleus later in the droid maintenance room.

(Kira) Hey Bleus I need to ask a favor.

(Bleus) No, I am not sending a droid with a bomb to solve your problem for you.

(Kira) What about a droid with a camera?

(Bleus) A camera? What, are you planning to explore the countryside from your quarters or are you hoping to get interesting vids of Valerie before you die?

(Kira) Not particularly, but I was wanting to see if I could get a good view of whatever it is Jurin gets up during his personal time.

(Bleus) Well that’s sick, I thought you were above that sort of thing being from Alderaan and all.

(Kira) It’s not like that. The guy has a clear motive and the means to kill me. Apparently in his eye Master Soung has given approval to off me. I want to know why he hasn’t already, and I have a sneaking suspicion it relates to these sick activities of his.

(Bleus) What you think he wants to have you in those things?

(Kira) I doubt it, he certainly doesn’t seem to lean that way according to all evidence.

(Bleus) Well, I can certainly see no reason to say no, especially if I say you made me do it. Sicko would probably want a copy of the video himself.

(Kira) I don’t doubt it.

   Bleus quickly rigged on of the maintenance droids to pause at a certain spot in the ventilation ducts near Jurin’s quarters and record what it saw into memory. He promised to get me a copy of whatever it found in the morning. Wasn’t much more to do on that end other than to leave and wait.

   Now that led to how in the galaxy did I kill a Force user with my meager skills? It wasn’t like I even had a lightsaber of my own to fight back with. Poisoning him wasn’t an option, he was too paranoid for that. Giving Gab a dagger or a knife wasn’t going to work either. I certainly didn’t have the skills to rig an explosive and take him out at range. This was going to be humiliating: I could find out who was going to kill me, how he was going to do it and still not be able to do a thing about it. I just didn’t have the skill or power.

   Hmm, if I didn’t have the skill or power, what if I could get someone who did to kill Jurin for me? Alright, that would work, but how do I get someone to want to kill Jurin? And want to do it badly enough to risk annoying Master Soung? Sith were gullible and prideful, but not that stupid. I found myself brooding as I headed back to the commons.

   I got back just in time to witness Valerie kill another Sith right in the middle of the room. Apparently the idiot had tried to sneak a feel, or so she was claiming. Her word against his, and he was a greasy smear on the floor. What really scared me about her is it wasn’t like she flew into a rage during this sort of thing. She just sort of loses all emotions as she decides it is your time to die now. Despite the fact you would expect her to be furious, she approaches the kill with a calm not unlike an assassin droid. I couldn’t even recognize who the victim was this time.

   She certainly could kill Jurin, but manipulating her to do anything I want was going to be nigh impossible. Wishful thinking anyway. Was there anyone else I could manipulate into doing it? The servants I could probably talk into trying something, but were the least likely to succeed. The instructors were as likely to kill me as to inform Jurin of my request for help. The other students would see it as a sign of weakness if I asked for help and would try to kill me instead.

   No, best bet was to make someone think it was their idea to kill Jurin and for reasons completely unrelated to me.

   Valerie was standing over her fresh kill and was giving me a wicked grin. I don’t know if she was trying to display that she could take care of her own problems to me, or was implying I was next or what. I really didn’t feel like asking. I left the commotion that was brewing as an instructor found his star pupil a stain on the floor and headed back to the room Master Soung trained me in.

   Master Soung was gone, probably off doing something or other that didn’t concern me in the slightest. That left me in the training room alone then. I went into my regular exercises of Force acrobatics, telekinetics, and meditations. It was about the time I was trying the one hand stand that a voice called out and I lost my concentration.

(Valerie) Practicing in the vain hope you would improve enough to kill your target in time?

(Kira) Well I got a pretty good idea who it might be. I should be certain come morning. Still working on the method though.

(Valerie) Aww, don’t have the power to do it yourself then? Trying to think of some clever way to off him?

(Kira) Perhaps, I am open to any brilliant suggestions you might have though. I will compare it against what I have and decide how to proceed.

(Valerie) Well if you tell me who it is you need killed, I might do it for you then.

   Nothing Valerie did was for free. Some price was expected for such a large favor and I had little to offer. Well, might as well get her to state what she wants in exchange for it.

(Kira) And why would you waste your time on such a small fry?

(Valerie) Who? You or him?

(Kira) Does it really matter? You clearly want something in exchange for it and I would like to know what.

(Valerie) Heh, not one to beat about the bush are you? At least you didn’t immediately start begging me.

(Kira) I reserve the option for that towards the end of the week.

   That at least made her laugh. That usually was a good sign.

(Valerie) Cute. Alright, I think my father made a mistake in choosing you as his apprentice. He has begun to regret it and is now looking into getting another.

(Kira) Tell me something half the school doesn’t already believe.

(Valerie) Watch it Keldav, I may not be as strong as my father yet, but I am plenty strong enough to kill you.

(Kira) You already proved that and I have acknowledged it repeatedly since then. Doesn’t mean I am going to start kissing your feet if that is what you want of me.

(Valerie) Well you have spirit , I give you that. I want you to quietly step down as apprentice and allow someone else to take the position. I am even willing to push to have you enrolled in one of the advanced classes.

   Ah, she was wanting to avoid the scandel of having it look like her father chose poorly. If I stepped down, that placed the failure on my head and not his. The ruse to put me into an advanced class was likely to last until everyone forgot about me and I could be made to quietly disappear. It would delay my death sentence for a few months that way. Sadly my best bet of surviving the next six months meant sticking with Master Soung and passing this test. Actually having a lightsaber of my own would do immense things for my social status and chances of survival.

(Kira) Hmm, thanks but no thanks. While I appreciate the offer, I do believe I have more I could learn here with your father than with one of the common instructors.

   Counterbalance one rejection with a backhanded praise of her father, check.

(Valerie) So you still think you can win this one then? Well, you aren’t the only one to think so. I have my doubts however. I would recommend you spend more time planning or training than wasting your time sympathizing with servant girls.

   With that she turned and left. So she thought that was purely about sympathy? Valerie could stand to spend a year in high school to learn proper politics. Although I doubt she could last a day without killing someone. It was an amusing thought that brought a smile to my face.

   Valerie said someone else thought I could win this. Who in the Academy would think that? I was fairly certain I was going to die soon and I had insider knowledge on the whole affair. Who would be so naive to believe I could pull such a thing off? It had to be someone fairly important for Valerie to even bother mentioning it.

   Wait, Valerie didn’t know it was Jurin wanting to kill me. Maybe it really was possible to get her to kill Jurin. All it was going to take was for a couple of assumptions to prove true come morning and I might be able to get Valerie to do all my work for me without even realizing it. It would be worth the beating just to see the realization dawn on her face at what happened.

   I went back to my training regimen for rest of the evening before calling it a night and heading back to my quarters.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 10

   Having avoided being killed on the ritual hunting trip, having successfully brought back some Rastin carcasses, and having survived the after-the-hunt party, the local kids and the characters who’d participated in the hunt were now considered adult members of the local tribe – not that such a thing really did the characters all that much good.

   Well, the ritual of adulthood was now completed. We were now part of the tribe. This wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted in life, but considering the circumstances, I suppose it could be much worse. At least we should be able to pass the time waiting for Handell or the Republic Military to respond to our message in tolerable comfort.

   Alys went looking into the local legends and history. Jarik messed around with plants and fungi looking for new medical drugs – apparently with some success. Of course, any planets list of herbal remedies would contain medically-active compounds, but was it really likely that they’d be more useful than the galaxy full of stuff which was already known? Oh well, everyone needed a hobby. Ben was busily designing primitive weapons to destroy war droids; some sort of lever-and-counterweight rock thrower apparently… Considering this bunch, they seemed just as likely to turn any such innovations against the neighbors and start a wave of global conquest as to start building a civilization. After all, they did see every other tribe as hostile rivals. Lazlo spent a lot of time talking to the village shaman, and learning what being a shaman entailed… He was pretty pleased to find that he might be eligible; apparently the shamans were the local force-sensitives, no big surprise there.

   Meanwhile I was trying to burn out all the impurities in my lightsaber crystal. Repairing the crystal was slow going, especially considering how much my mind was wandering. The thought of Valerie getting here first was not a pleasant one. I couldn’t see much chance of fighting her off or even of keeping her at bay given our current state and resources. I didn’t like having my fate outside my control, although that has been an experience far too common for my tastes.

   Then there is this world to consider. There is something down here at the edge of my awareness and I can’t put my finger on it. A lot about this world does not make sense and it is giving me a distinct sense of unease. I want off this world soon and be able to think about this without being in the middle of it.

   Alys was able to get surprisingly detailed information on the events immediately prior to the bombardment of the planet. In fact, rather astoundingly detailed information; the local tribes were the descendants of the people who’d fled the cities – mostly via subsurface fast transport systems – in the time between the collapse of the planetary shields and the collapse of the city shields. There had been centuries of struggle for survival, when the ecosphere was so badly damaged that everyone was always desperate for food… No wonder they were so competitive and viewed all the neighbors as enemies. Worse. apparently the Sith had been trying to create some way to pass along the training necessary to become a Sith automatically. Yet another bit in the greater mess of Sith experiments to grow the ranks without actually having a systematic training program. Trayus actually did try to teach new students, but the failure rate was atrocious. I dare say most of the successes there were more on the lines of managing to beats the odds and surviving.

   Besides things like genetic memories don’t work. If they did, the galaxy would have been overrun by the first sapient species to make it work. The accumulated experience of all of your ancestors is a major survival advantage. So there is no way the Sith could have succeeded at such an insane goal. Oh well, chalk it up to surprisingly good memories or some such. Maybe the lizard people here are not as “creative” as other species and so lost the ability to distort their oral traditions?

   Still… the local “educational system” seemed to consist of casual instruction by the shamans and loose apprenticeships to the adults. Admittedly, a stone age society didn’t have all that much in the way of technical information to pass along, but how did they keep their stories so undistorted? Had they actually managed to engineer inherited Sith instincts or tendencies or some sort of a force monotalent that could transfer memories? The projects here would be only two thousand years old – rathr than the four-thousand-plus of the facility on Archegeph. Even the Sith might stumble across something that worked in two thousand years…

   Ben was still working hard on his plan to shove the entire planet through the whole technological development process. I didn’t have much faith in a plan to take a very Sith like culture and thrust them upon the galaxy. Besides, instead of reinventing the wheel, it would be far more efficient to just import the technology they needed from the galaxy. Colonized worlds don’t start off with stone tools after all. I encouraged Ben to put his plans to uplift the locals on hold – or at least to wait until we could get the access codes to the damned droids and shut them down in a reasonable fashion – but I wasn’t sure if he would do it or not.

   Come to think of it, was the place being left alone? The old droids were easy enough to fool – so were visitors dropping by occasionally? Picking up the occasional new Sith trainee?

   I was eventually – after Alys and Lazlo spent a good deal more time talking to the Shaman – informed that Lazlo wanted to undergo some sort of shamanic initiation ritual. The tribe’s shaman told him that this way he might be able to learn from the the dead gods. It really sounded like the shaman was talking about Force ghosts to me. Strangely I felt no such spirits running around which surprised me. Maybe I should have talked to the shaman – but neither I nor Ben needed to gratuitously risk more Sith ideas getting into our heads!

   I tried explaining the concept of Force ghosts to Lazlo once it became clear he had never heard of the idea. Just how uneducated was this guy? When Lazlo told us he thought the idea of coming back after you die to kill more people sounded cool, I ended the conversation as unproductive. Best not to give him ideas when he wants to undergo a ritual to become a Sith shaman. I did sit in on the ritual to awaken Lazlo’s powers in the Force to compare it with what I saw at the academy. It couldn’t be any more dangerous than letting the super-soldier turn into a crazed Sith destroyer with no one around to stop him…

   Alys wisely went and got Jarik for this as it became clear the ritual involved painting Lazlo with paralytic venom and then dosing him with a potentially very lethal dose of toxins and venoms. Ah, it looked like the shaman believes Lazlo is a latent and is trying to force a breakthrough similar to my own nearly a year ago. It never even occurred to me to try and force a breakthrough like this. A brief check with the shaman told me the success rate (terrible) and explained why there were so few initiated shamans compared to the naturals. Looks like we are going to have to bury the cat here soon.

   Wait, according to the shaman the Dead Gods never came out, many of them would not get along if they were alive, and you had to sort through what they remembered? That didn’t sound like force ghosts; those were pretty bloody active and told you what THEY wanted you to know. It didn’t even sound like a holochron…

   Still, what is it with these nuts and thrusting themselves headfirst into the most dangerous thing they can find? I do it because I have no choice in the matter. The rest of them don’t seem to have that excuse half the time. Lazlo was either very determined or didn’t understand what was happening as he allowed the shaman to methodically poison him.

   I could sense that Lazlo was now struggling against the poisons as his body went completely lax on the ground. Whatever latent power he had was trying to keep the poisons from killing him. Amazingly [using a force point to get a 40 result on his check] his control of the power awakened and increased. His body adapted to prevent the poisons from killing him. Impressive, although this still left him on the ground paralyzed and full of toxins. Jarik got to work trying to clean him system out.

   Jarik was rather pleased at getting to test his venom antidote – and with his other tinkering. The venom was potentially quite useful, one of the plants produced a series of enzymes that bound heavy metals. While they could lead to anemia, that had uses in cases of heavy metal poisoning. Another compound boosted the ability of the blood to carry oxygen – but it would need a lot more work to turn an incidental side effect into anything useful. Unfortunately, while the shaman had a lot of interesting medical lore to share, there really wasn’t ANYTHING in the way of gambling action in the entire village.

   Well I guess as far as shamans went, Lazlo was now a full force sensitive like me, the Sith, and the Jedi. I am not sure I like the idea of a Force sensitive programmed to protect someone at all costs. I can just see his emotions going out of control the moment Handell gets into the slightest bit of danger and bringing out the Dark Side. At least the homicidal nuts I’ve dealt with in the past hadn’t awakened their powers or learned to control them. Someone with Lazlo’s abilities going on a Dark Side fueled binge of violence is going to be very difficult to stop. Not much I can do about it now though.

   At least the local shaman hasn’t blown himself up yet. A bit odd now that I think about it. It’s probably best that Lazlo get his training from the shaman until we get back with Telera again. My own experiences with teaching people even minor tricks hasn’t gone well, what with people exploding rather quickly. That part of why I don’t train the kids in anything beyond techniques.

   Shipwreck was getting agitated about something or other by this point. I really don’t know what or why. Jarik finally paralyzed him with more of the lizard venom to keep him out of trouble and from tearing open his stitches. I am not sure what someone as badly injured as he is wants to be doing running around anyway.

   About that time Handell finally showed up. I was quite relieved that he made it first as opposed to Valerie. We loaded everyone up, ate real food, and took turns in medical. I directed Handell to take us back to Alderaan as quickly as possible and to bring me up to date on events from his perspective.

   Looks like when he made it back to the asteroid with the superweapon, he found us missing, the tunnel collapsed, and another team trying to dig their way in. Apparently a female of some sort was in charge of the diggers, and was most annoyed that we weren’t in the asteroid as expected. I can only assume her to be Valerie, and I would have loved to have seen her face the moment she found out we were no longer there. Handell assumed them to be hostile, if only because he felt that no one else would be willing to try and dig us out.

   I am not sure I appreciate what he was insinuating there. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t.

   Handell determined that he couldn’t incapacitate their ship without significant risk to the Asrai in the process unless he was bloody lucky with his first shot (we really must get the main weapons fixed). So instead he waited and watched as they worked, got in, and determined that no one was down there – which apparently annoyed the person in charge. With something going on at the shaft, he – and apparently the Republic – got our message roughly simultaneously. The Republic sent ships to the asteroid to investigate while Handell sent another message and waited for them to arrive.

   Right about the time the Republic ships became detectable, Handell detected an explosion within the shaft sealing it off again. Republic ships arrived, confiscated Valerie’s (presumed) ship, and queried the Asrai about things before scanning the asteroid. Handell took the opportunity to come rescue us – apparently managing to beat out the military pilots with hot hyperdrives with his old clunker do to his incredible piloting skills (and this man was bumming around as a tramp freighter pilot? Is his drinking problem THAT bad?). Having rescued us, Handell headed back to Alderaan where we could get medical treatment.

   The Republic was generous enough to give us free medical treatment in exchange for questioning and a stern lecture. Considering some of the estimates I had heard from Jarik on the way, that was quite the bargain. No that I liked getting lectured. How was I supposed to know they would find a mostly operational superweapon in Alderaan space? I thought they were on a wild bantha chase.

   Having all the heavy metals and elements in my body sucked out chemically was not pleasant. There were quite a few treatments and drugs during and afterwards to help with anemia and bone loss. My own inner control helped me recover faster than the others, but it still was an exhausting experience. Most of the others recovered in due time, although Shipwreck needed cybernetics installed to replace the arm and the leg he’d blown off.

   While we all healed, most of us took the chance to catch up on some work we’ve been neglecting. Most of them got to work on getting the asteroid base set up and ready to use while Handell did transport duty. I reviewed the recordings Handell had of Valerie and the explosion in the shaft.

   The timing was too coincedental, too deliberate to have been an accident. The fact that no one had come out also indicated that she was likely inside or had used the device herself. She probably had a better air supply than we had, plus we had gotten the system operational again relatively recently. She could easily have used it herself given time. If she had a semi-respectable technician, then retargeting it wouldn’t have been too difficult either I imagine.

   So was the explosion merely to seal the asteroid away until she could retrieve it? Possible, although thinking of the best possible outcome from her perspective, taking the superweapon back with her would be a decent consolation prize to losing me again. That is what she would have gone for. How could she have gotten the ship out of the asteroid though?

   The same way it got in there you dumb ass.

   You would only need to take the drive system with you. Making that section airtight enough to handle space would be relatively easy. Plus I imagine the power supply suddenly being directly coupled to hyperspace like that would neatly cause the explosion witnessed and destroy all evidence. She would be subjected to the same silting we experienced – unless she’d come up with a solution for that too – but then we more than proved it was survivable. Not that she would have known that. On the other hand, her precognition skills are good. Not as good as Ben’s but then it doesn’t have to be to answer such a simple binary question.

   So she has probably managed to steal our prize right out from under us by pulling an even more elaborate version of the stunt we did. She would also have the coordinates of where we gated ourselves as well. So then she can track us again. Clever girl.

   Of course, this is all speculation. She could have blown herself up down there when something failed, but I doubt that. I sense she is probably still out there and that we will meet again. Hopefully the current generation of Sith wouldn’t be able to make the weapon work right anyway – although Ben promptly came up with several alternative destructive uses for it even as it was. Had the Sith been breeding his people as weapons designers too?

   Back near Archegeph, the base was finally completed, although the hyperdrive system was still going to need to be found. The one we were going to use was either blown up or stolen. General agreement was made to go back to that ruined Sith world Chyran. The Republic fleet gave us the ward off code for the droids circling the planet. In orbit, Shipwreck began his scan of the rock below us looking for anything unusual. He claimed to find signs of active power systems underneath 14 cities, of which 9 were somewhat habitable. It looked like so much noise to me, but the question came up again as to why the Republic felt the need to bombard this place so thoroughly.

   Something scared the Republic pretty good and they didn’t want the Sith to ever regain the planet. The locals meanwhile have highly accurate legends and stories of how the events immediately prior the bombardment took place. Plus a very good understanding of Sith culture and techniques. All of this on a world where the Sith supposedly experimented in creating people born Sith who required no training or lessons.

   Wait a minute…

   Oh damn, the Sith actually did it. Every Force sensitive born on this world apparently does acquire the necessary knowledge to be a Sith without any training. No wonder the Republic blasted the place back into the stone age. I am halfway tempted to glass the planet now. It would probably put me in with the Dark Side, but a planet’s worth of Sith loosed upon the galaxy? It might well be worth it.

   I was all for abandoning the place and telling the Republic to reinforce the droids watching the place. The others thought that was a bit overboard. We at least managed to agree to not uplift the locals until we had a better grasp of the situation. Still… leaving them the way they were wasn’t ideal either. Leave more and more generations of children to be eaten by lizards and slowly digested alive?

   Shipwreck had meanwhile identified a life form weighing in at over 60,000 tons. If that was a lizard, I wanted to be no where near it. Further scans revealed that whatever it was either had a slow metabolism like a plant or was in some sort of hibernation. Given the sheer size, I was of the opinion it was either a plant or coral like creature. Suddenly everyone got an interest to see what it was except me, and I got outvoted.

   As Handell landed near the edge of the life signs, we found ourselves at the edge of a forest. Interesting, nothing here looked odd to me but the sense of apprehension was strong – although part of that may just be my apprehension about the whole blasted world. Turns out on closer examination that the forest was really a single tree similar to a banyan tree I’ve seen before. Well that was certainly interesting but not worth investigating in my opinion. Leave it for some botanist. It was Alys who noticed the lack of any small animals whatsoever.

   Uh-oh.

   Well that explained why I was feeling apprehension, I could feel the imbalance in nature. Having learned to pay attention to these nagging feelings of unease and doubt, I elected to stay in the ship for the time being. Most everyone else did the same except Ben who wanted to get samples for some reason. He suited up in that ridiculous sealed gold armor of his and stomped outside. I watched the drama unfold from a viewscreen.

   It wasn’t long after he started gathering samples before a problem occurred. Looked like the sap was effectively glue of some sort. So when Ben had broken a branch and taken samples, he had covered himself in sap and was now glued in place with his hands glued to the jar in his hands.

   Well this was an interesting adaption. I would have thought something would have evolved a defense by now if the species is at all common. Is it artificially engineered then? I could certainly see some of the Sith back at the Academy using this on their properties to keep intruders out. Certainly not a plant I want anywhere near a world I plan to spend time on.

   Meanwhile Ben was stuck. I stood in the doorway out and pondered how I might levitate myself and cut him out with a lightsaber. If that glue was weird enough to stick lightsabers in place, we were going to have problems. Problem got to be, while I could probably cut Ben out, I couldn’t get him back to the ship without getting stuck myself. My telekinetics was just not that good to levitate someone of his size. I struggled enough with myself.

   Jarik had been experimenting with different solvents and figured out that some of the light oils seemed to work reasonably well on the glue sap. Jarik wasn’t too sure how to get the oil to Ben without getting stuck himself, but I was able to handle that with telekinesis. I took my time to better exert fine control, as our supply of oil was limited (although there were jokes – at least I hope they were jokes – from Shipwreck about using antimatter as a solvent). It took considerable time, effort, and oil, but we were able to get Ben back to the ship. Handell refused to let him board though while he was still sticky. The others cleaned Ben off after he refused my offer to cut him out of that suit of his and we were back in the air shortly thereafter.

   Jarik was studying the glue for some obscure medical benefit while the rest of us debated what to do next. Lazlo wanted to visit the shaman again and complete his training and I had no better ideas with the equipment we had. So it was back to the tribe we befriended earlier and meet with their shaman.

   Lazlo and I learned to communicate with the spirits the shaman spoke of. Whatever these things were, they were not Force ghosts. These were much more passive and felt more like a memory bank of people’s lives than anything. It took some searching to find the exact memories I was looking for: it would seem the Sith would put some of their own in stasis at or near the moment of death and then plug the stasis unit into some sort of broadcast system. Force sensitives could then tap into this broadcast to extract knowledge from those stored in it.

   Well this was interesting. It also looked like most of those shoved into the system were defeated rivals and challengers with a minority of volunteers. That certainly explains where the locals were getting their information from. It also explained the shields around the cities, apparently whatever the broadcasting medium was, shields blocked it. Since the Force could read it as well, that implied interesting things about the Force too.

   It also explained why the shamans had been running their tribes and sniping at each other for millennia – and why they were unfamiliar with the development of technology but had kept trying to reclaim the cities and their power supplies.

   Problem was, this thing was stuffed full of Sith lore, and most of it from people who did not volunteer for this. About the only thing that kept these things from becoming like the Jedi brain samples was that these were already mostly dead from what I could tell. Great, mostly dead Sith should be stuffed into stasis archives, all dead Sith I just need to look for loose change in their pockets. Some of the “archives” were badly damaged for various reasons. Others seem to be relatively intact. I could even determine the locations of some of them given time.

   Most of the others voted to dig down, investigate the technology – and get rid of this version of the Sith archives. Maybe then something could be done for the locals without unleashing a Sith Horde on the galaxy.

   It still posed a disturbing dilemma.

   I could chose to use this system and learn what I can and thereby be on more of an even footing with Valerie. By doing that though I am probably doing something vaguely immoral. Plus there is the fact that Sith lore tends to be very corrupting, at least according to the tales of Jedi fallen to the Sith I’ve heard.

   I could also chose to ignore the potential of this system and dismantle it. That would be the moral high road to this all, but I lose access to all that knowledge and lore.

   Sigh, what seems like a choice isn’t really one when I look at it. Valerie is after me and probably knows where I am now. Without something to even the odds, I am going to get caught sooner or later. Access to all this knowledge and lore is about the only way I could hope to gain the upper hand. At least these things aren’t nearly as pushy as Master Soung is.

   Let’s see what surprises I can have in store for Valerie when she inevitably arrives.