Recordings from the Holocron of Valerie Soung – Contingency Operations

   Here we have another slightly-edited item from Kira’s player – the ongoing backstory of the Varen Sith and Valerie Soung, his primary enemy/rival.

   Valerie Soung, Trayus Academy, Malachor V

   I got dressed as soon as clothes were brought for me. The doctor was saying something about trying to take it easy, but I ignored him. I knew my limits and also knew that I could enhance my strength and durability accordingly in an emergency. After all, when faced with a behemoth that threatened to crush me, I retreated instead of standing and fighting stupidly.

   Not that I wouldn’t have won of course. The threat of reinforcements though made any such victory rather pyrrhic.

   Luckily I felt no dizziness or loss of motor control like I felt when I got back home. Brain treatments are always a bit of hit or miss when it comes to repairing damage. Surest thing was giving the Force pattern time to reassert itself over the neural tissue. In this case, it seems like everything snapped into place without too much issue.

   The bright sunlight out in the garden was not pleasant. Shielding my eyes I could see Mother, Father, Faer and Kira discussing something.

(Faer) So nice that you could join us Val. Maybe you could be of some assistance with this hornet’s nest you’ve stirred up?

(Kira) I would like to see you standing after taking similar blows to the head.

(Faer) Are you saying you could follow through with that idea?

(Kira) Nah, I am just saying that I wouldn’t mind watching. Or charging admission…

(Faer) Why you little…

(Father) Enough. I will not tolerate fighting at this time.

   As much as I wanted to support Kira in taking shots at Faer, this was neither the time nor the place as Father said. Father led us into the gardens before stopping at the flower bed that served as the entrance to the Varen bunker. With a wave of his hand, he tilted the flower pot and opened the entrance down.

   The elevator ride to the bunker was quiet despite their being five of us. A thought occurred to me.

(Valerie) Did you add Kira to the roster for the bunker?

(Father) Yes I did some time ago.

(Mother) I have foreseen that Kira will never enter this place as an enemy to us.

(Kira) Let me guess, if I wasn’t on the roster, then automated defense systems would be shooting at me right now?

(Faer) You got it. Doesn’t it make you special that you are allowed in?

(Kira) Yeah, it means I don’t have to use you as a shield against the weapons fire.

   I couldn’t help but chuckle at that one. Faer showed a slight flicker of annoyance but kept it to himself. Mother seemed to approve slightly. Father was shaking his head in frustration again. Kira would fit in better than I thought at this rate.

   At the bunker level, I saw that quite a few of the weapons storage lockers had been accessed already. Faer began to retrieve some items from one of the open lockers. Mother just seemed to be taking a quiet inventory of the stocks. Father walked over to a table with a map projection of the Academy and surrounding region and beckoned us over.

(Father) The fighting has been rather intense while you’ve been asleep Valerie.

(Valerie) So I’ve heard.

(Father) I don’t have time to go into a lot of detail right now. You and Keldav are to take a platoon of soldiers into the mountains and eliminate a Baramour bunker as cleanly as you can.

(Valerie) I take it an orbital bombardment is out of the question?

(Father) Correct, the bunker is too close to a major population center to risk using heavy weapons against.

(Kira) Any idea what’s in this bunker? Hopefully not more of these damned chimeras.

(Father) Unfortunately no, the records Valerie retrieved were not very detailed about the contents or the layout of the place.

(Kira) Just great.

(Valerie) Any other support?

(Father) Unfortunately no, the other Varen here at the academy are busy hunting down the Baramour that have survived thus far or are busily destroying lab experiments. But don’t worry, I have a lot of faith in the platoon leader that will be assisting you. They will meet you in orbit.

(Valerie) What about Baramour reinforcements arriving in the system?

(Father) If we can swiftly eliminate all the Baramour on Malachor V before any reinforcements arrive, then certain…. political considerations will keep them from launching a counter attack.

   Things must be difficult if they were sending just Kira and I on a mission of this scope and magnitude. This was going to be my first mission leading soldiers into battle and so a lot of responsibility was being placed on me.

   I didn’t intend to fail.

(Kira) Right, so off to attack the base full of Sith that want to kill us, am I right?

(Valerie) I wouldn’t have said it quite as such, but yes.

(Kira) So what now? Head into the mountains to face them in dramatic fashion?

(Valerie) No, we are going to go into orbit and meet with the platoon leader assigned to us before dropping on the installation.

   Back on the surface, I proceeded to gather my things. I grabbed my bracers, my lightsaber, and a disk containing what data we had on the Baramour’s mountain installation. It looked like Kira had taken the time to get his lightsaber, shield, and that blaster of his. I really don’t know what he thinks he is going to do with that, but might as well let him carry it.

   I climbed aboard my hover bike to head to the spaceport. I could see Kira looking at me and the bike for several moments before he climbed aboard behind me as well. I started up the bike and headed towards the space port.

(Valerie) Watch the hands.

(Kira) Trust me, the last thing I want is to have my skull smashed in.

(Valerie) Good, keep that healthy respect and you might just live through this after all.

(Kira) Not much difference in your mind between respect and intimidation is there?

(Valerie) You’ll find that a lot of things depend more on your point of view than on any absolute set of beliefs.

(Kira) Right, as long as it’s my point of view and it benefits me, then it’s ok?

(Valerie) That’s the Sith perspective alright. See, you are learning.

   That sarcasm shut him up. He understood so little, those very same words he spoke had been used to justify the actions that led many Sith to their downfalls. Looking out only for yourself tended to end with you dead from someone looking to benefit themselves before long. The true answer was to make sure it was in other’s best interest for you to remain alive and well. Never trust anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your own success.

   I could hear the sounds of fighting around the city as Sith fought Sith. I heard an explosion in the distance but was unable to place where it might have come from. We also passed the smoking ruin of a group of battle droids in the middle of one intersection. Probably testimony to someones desperate attempt to buy time. Battledroids NEVER worked out in the long run.

   We arrived at the spaceport minutes later. There were always plenty of ferries heading to and from the orbital station ferrying workers, recruits, and cargo. Traffic down was heavily screened, but traffic up was not. There wasn’t much of any contraband to ship offworld, but the threat of the more volatile students getting their hands on serious weaponry was a constant danger.

   The scene at the spaceport was utterly chaotic. People were trying to flee the fighting going on around the city by heading into orbit. Some of them probably thought that warships were likely on the way and that bombardments would probably soon be underway. Well, that was a very real possibility if we didn’t regain control of the place soon.

   Shuttle service to the station in orbit was regular if not all that frequent. A shuttle was landing and throngs of people were crowding the lines to get a chance to board. I could see a Varen and a host of droids screening people before letting them – looking for Baramour most likely.

   If it was just me, I would have just shutdown the port to civilian traffic until fighting had ended but Father apparently let politics sway his position on the matter. The crowd did notice Kira and my presence and suddenly stopped crowding to let us pass. I will admit a certain amount of telepathic persuasion also helped matters. The Varen agent screening the boarders took a quick look at us, checked something off on his datapad and waved us through to the shuttle.

   We reached Headstone Station in orbit around Malachor V shortly thereafter. The place was a cesspool of bounty hunters, criminals, Sith wannabes, Dark Jedi, smugglers, and slavers. Lots of species represented here, from planets and colonies all over the galaxy. The local holos were covering the battles taking place down below and I could see betting pools starting on various outcomes. I was placing a sizeable bet on a Varen victory – even if I did have to put the money down in advance – when I spotted a woman waving at me from across the terminal.

   Nonsensitive children born to Force sensitive Varen didn’t have as many privileges as full Varen, but had better access to money, education and minor privileges than normal people. It used to be common for those children to be sent back to Varen space where they would stay out of trouble. Increasingly though, more and more are taking up roles with the families as support staff. The roles of accountants, doctors, engineers, chefs and more were being filled with the vast number of siblings and cousins who had no Force potential at all. I’d never really thought about that before – but were we slowly drifting towards becoming an ordinary ruling class? An aristocracy founded on talent might become self-sustaining even if the talent petered out.

   The woman across the terminal waving at me was my older sister Virstris. Four years older than I was, but without any detectable Force talent whatsoever. She was sent to one of the military academies when I was still a small child. I had never really paid much of any attention to her since she left. Not that I did when she was still here, she just kinda was there. Last I saw her was when we went to see her graduation from officer training however long ago that was. Wait was she the platoon leader that Father spoke of?

(Virstris) And how is my favorite sibling?

(Valerie) I’m your only sibling.

(Virstris) Which makes it easy to pick! Is this that new apprentice of Father’s I’ve been hearing about?

(Kira) Yep, that’s me, Kira Keldav.

(Virstris) And I’m Virstris Soung, Valerie’s older sister, although she probably doesn’t like to talk about me much.

(Valerie) Right, can we skip the pleasantries and move to somewhere a bit more discreet?

(Virstris) Aww, getting all serious already? Now where’s the fun in that? And here I thought we would have the chance to catch up and reminisce a bit before getting to business.

   I had forgotten what a cheery and bubbly person my sister could be. Mother thought it was a defense mechanism against the self-perceived failure of not developing Force talents. I figured it was an artifact of growing up in a privileged family without having the responsibilities of being Force sensitive. Father was hard to read on the matter other than that he made note of her accomplishments from time to time.

   Virstris led us back to the troop carrier. Once we were onboard and the door closed behind us, the gravity disengaged. My sister took to it like it was the most natural thing in the world. Kira seemed to adjust quickly enough as well. He probably had training while with the Republic in zero gravity operations. Good, that could prove useful at some point. I wasn’t very experienced at it, but even a touch of telekinesis helps a lot when it comes to maneuvering in zero gravity.

(Virstris) Sorry for the null-g, but we’ve begun staging some heavy equipment and it makes it a lot easier to handle.

(Valerie) So what have you been told?

(Virstris) Not much, Father had apparently requested our unit to come here a week ago. When we arrived, we were to await a Varen representative and assist as required. I was to evaluate combat performance and then deliver a report on my observations when done to Father.

   A week ago? Father must have been planning something like this for some time then. Did I just accelerate the schedule or did I provide the evidence to justify what he had already decided to do? Or was there something else going on here?

   We floated over to a briefing room and “sat down” while I floated the data card over to the computer. Four other officers apparently lower in rank than my sister were also in attendance. Once the data was transferred I called up a map of the mountains where the installation lay.

(Valerie) Our target is a Baramour bunker installation hidden deep within the mountains. Based on what data we’ve been able to obtain, there is only the main entrance in the mountain side. We suspect it is a bomb shelter or something similar.

(Virstris) Baramour huh? Well if Father wants us to knock off one of their bunkers, no skin off my back. Those guys creep me out.

(Valerie) One other thing, besides the traps, droids and regular guards, we are likely to encounter chimeras as well as actual Baramour.

(Virstris) Chimeras? You mean like hybrid animal experiments?

(Kira) Yep.

(Valerie) Yes, the one I encountered was exceptionally strong and fast for a nonsensitive creature.

   More details followed regarding what other chimeras have been found – quite a lot of which was new to me; a lot more information had come in while I was asleep; it looked like the Baramour had been preparing creatures designed to kill other Sith – Baramour unaccounted for, and likely types of droids might be found. Virstris assigned the various squads under her command different objectives and told everyone to suit up and prepare for a combat drop. The drop ship undocked from the station and entered it’s own lower orbit around Malachor V.

   Next time I saw my sister, she was suited up in powered armor that must have doubled her weight easily. She was busily checking the seals and fittings on another soldier’s armor. After they were all done checking each other, Virstris handed me a pair of vests and masks.

(Virstris) Those are for you and Kira. It’s an air mask and a rebreather system in case we lose atmosphere during the descent.

(Kira) Oh joy.

   We loaded up into the armored drop pods after donning our equipment. I will admit this was the first time I had ever done a combat drop. Gravity returned hard as the pods dropped and we hit the atmosphere. I could feel the excitement and anxiety of the soldiers around me through the Force. Virstris, strapped in across from me, gave me a thumbs up with a big mechanical hand before switching her attention to a display on her visor.

   I shifted my focus to sensing the planet below as we approached. I could the very planet turning beneath us and looming larger in my senses with every passing moment. I couldn’t pick up any Force signatures of any sensitives save for Kira though. We were still too far away.

   Soon the shaking stopped and the engines kicked in to guide us to our landing point. With a rather rough jolt we hit the ground and the soldiers began pouring out of the pods. I activated my bracers and strode into the sunlight without a care, scanning the area as I went.

   I could see the other drop pods around us with the Varen soldiers forming a defense perimeter. Support droids were floating everywhere now as they too unloaded from the drop pods. My sister quickly took command of the situation and sent one squad on scouting, two on securing nearby mountain tops, and the other two on setting up a perimeter around the bunker entrance. I was pleased with the efficiency of her command.

   Scouts reported back on several probe and sensor droids in the surrounding area and were working on systematically destroying them. No sign of any other entrances besides the one we knew of. We also got comfirmation that the two squads had secured the overlooking mountain tops nearby and were busily setting up firing positions.

   The two remaining squads, Virstris, Kira and I then began our push towards the bunker entrance. Sensor droids didn’t detect any mines or other major defenses, nor did my senses pick up anything unusual. we came within sight of the entrance before stopping at the edge of the treeline.

(Virstris) Very lightly defended place you’ve got here.

(Kira) Something’s wrong, I don’t like it.

(Valerie) I don’t sense anything, why do you?

(Kira) It’s not the Force I am talking about, something’s not adding up.

(Virstris) Nothing is showing up on scanners either. If it is a trap, then there is no way to proceed without springing it or laying siege to the place.

(Valerie) We are not laying siege, Father wanted this done as quickly and cleanly as possible.

(Kira) Besides, which is worse, purposefully springing a trap or laying siege to an empty bunker?

   I must admit, the prospect of laying siege for months on end only to find out that the bunker was empty was more than enough motivation to proceed. Virstris sent a team forward towards the door itself. I knew that whoever was here had to know we were here as well, but I still would have liked these soldiers to move a little more quietly. Those large armored feet stomp more than step.

   Once the soldiers and droids were about halfway between the treeline and the door, three turrets popped out of the ground and opened fire on them. The armor and shields gave them enough protection to fall back under heavy fire while the rest of the two squads returned fire. The turrets themselves looked to be of the light repeating type meant to overwhelm a Sith or Jedi and were not meant to take out heavily armored opponents.

   The exchange of fire continued until our fire support started firing missiles at the turrets and destroyed them. Casualties were very light, only minor damage to the armor and a few droids will be needing repairs. Spare droids were brought up to replace the fallen. The same team as before then pushed ahead again towards the door. Once they reached the door safely, Virstris led another team in while Kira and I followed.

   Up close the door was thick and obviously set into a framwork hidden within the surrounding stone. There was no obvious panel or keypad to open it with. Our intel made no mention on how to open it either.

   One of the soldiers took out a cutting tool and poked a hole through the door. Once completed, he then threaded a small snake droid through the hole and routed the visual to the rest of us. Other side of the door was showing signs of an obvious struggle with blaster burns on the walls and the remains of several battledroids lying on the floor. No lights were on and no sign of any power sources still operational.

(Kira) Not good.

(Virstris) Think one of their experiments escaped?

(Valerie) Probably, open the door and let’s see what else we find.

(Virstris) Yeah, let’s get this door open. I want one full squad up here when it’s open and the other making defensive lines to fall back to. Nothing comes out of this bunker.

   Kira could have probably gotten the door open faster than the soldier with the cutting tool, but it gave time for the soldiers to get into position first. Large powered gauntlets grasped the now disconnected door and moved it out of the way while the soldiers trained heavy blaster rifles on the entrance. It was obvious from the smoldering scene of the battle that it had occurred recently, but any survivors were no longer present.

   Heading in, we found a security station that used to house a number of droids, all missing or destroyed. Nothing else was on this floor save an elevator down into the mountain. The doors to the elevator were torn off by something and lying on the floor. The elevator car itself was missing leaving us with a straight shaft going down for an indeterminate distance.

   A soldier scanned the shaft before giving the thumbs up. Another pair quickly set up a cable and anchored it to the floor with a pin. Once the rope was secured, a pair of soldiers began descending into the shaft. Soon the report came back that the elevator car was found smashed at the bottom along with the elevator door on that level too. Sensor scans showed another two floors beneath the debris of the elevator car.

   As several more soldiers descended down the shaft, I stepped off the ledge and levitated down. Kira didn’t have enough skill to manage that and so used his ability to help him climb down the rope quickly. At the bottom I saw the car had been smashed from above like it had taken a heavy impact of something falling from above. It was pitch black down here save for the lights of the soldiers.

   I still felt no life signs save for our own. Going through the ruined door and into the hallway showed more destroyed droids and signs of battle. I also became aware of the smell of blood. Virstris and Kira smelled it too as they readied weapons and signaled to the others to do the same. Taking a flashlight from one of the soldiers, we started a room by room search.

   We found offices, supply, and utility rooms. All empty of life, but with obvious signs of a recent struggle. The very air felt like it was filled with a feeling of panic and dread. At the end of the hallway in a room labelled as “Medical Testing” we found the source of the smell of blood.

   The walls and floor were caked with dried blood. There was no bodily remains though. The smell in here was overpowering enough that one of the soldiers began to retch. I thought I spotted something and went to have a look.

(Kira) Oh, now this is just perfect. Just how many people do you have to kill to make this big a mess?

(Virstris) You don’t want to know.

(Valerie) This is not good, whoever or whatever did this was superhuman.

(Virstris) Why do you say that?

(Valerie) There are the broken remains of at least six lightsabers in here.

(Kira) Wait, whatever did this killed six full Sith at once? And then fought it’s way past all those droids and security systems?

(Virstris) Oh hell, I’m bringing another full squad down here now.

(Valerie) Good idea.

   We spent our time fortifying the hallway leading back to the elevator while we waited for the other squad to come down and join us. Desks, tables, and other furniture was thrown into the hallway to form barricades and covered firing positions. Meanwhile some of the other soldiers started welding the twisted mass of metal that was the elevator car in place to prevent anything coming up the shaft from below. A few structural beams procured from empty offices helped reinforce the whole thing. Soon the other squad was down on our level, doubling our firepower.

   With the reinforcements in tow, we began to push forward again. The hallway beyond Medical Testing carried that same smell of blood. A thick trail of blood at least half a meter wide like someone had drug a wet mop across the floor leaving a wet trail of red down the hallway. The darkness was really not helping the mood down here either.

   I was most pleased with the level of professionalism my sister’s soldiers displayed. I could tell many of them were fearful of what they might find down here, but they all continued to systematically search the floor. Perhaps nonsensitive siblings can prove to be an asset after all. I also see that Father’s trust was well placed.

   More laboratories, offices, and supplies down here. We found the stairs down to the next level at the end of the corridor. The trail of blood continued downwards as well. I was about to climb down when I felt a hand grab my shoulder. Whirling around I barely caught myself from smashing my fist into Virstris’s face. That brief look of fear in her eyes turned to a stammered apology before she leaned in and whispered to me.

(Virstris) Do you hear that?

(Valerie) Hear what? I don’t hear a thing.

(Virstris) Listen carefully, something’s breathing.

   At first I couldn’t hear a thing, but focusing my talents on my hearing I noticed that what I had assumed to be the ventilation system was pulsing slowly. Something down here was moving a lot of air rhythmically and it sounded alive. But I still couldn’t sense anything alive down here at all besides us.

   A chill ran down my spine as I considered the possibilities. Evidence suggested the Baramour had attempted to perform a blood ritual in their desperation to survive the purge. That would certainly explain all the blood and lack of other remains. It was also evident they lost control completely and let the abomination loose upon themselves.

   Luckily the main entrance had been thick enough to prevent it from escaping outside. Doors which we had recently torn open. Peering over the edge of the stairwell, I tried to decide whether to pull back and barricade the entrance while calling for help or to continue on and try to slay the abomination. Right when I was about to order a retreat back to the entrance, I noticed something moving in the stairwell below me.

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