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.
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.