Valerie Soung, Trayus Academy, Malachor V
We finally got all the wounded back to the Varen Compound the next morning. Once there, we found out that the Baramour fleet had arrived and was now in a staring match with the Varen fleet also in orbit. At least all fighting on the ground had ended.
With no more Baramour alive on Malachor V to rescue now that my mission was successful, this left the Baramour fleet in a curious position. They could either take vengeance on us for the elimination of their allies and risk open war, or they could swallow their pride and neglect to bother raising a fuss.
Normally Sith like them would never back down on matters of pride, but we now held the research data they wanted and we also had evidence on their breach of several treaties and agreements. Father was heading up those discussions now in orbit. He insisted on calling it negotiations, although I called it for what it was: blackmail. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Personally, I think Father is trying to use the crisis to leverage himself a seat on the Varen Council. Grandfather is getting old, and someone needed to take the position at some point.
The wounded were being treated by Varen medics, although there weren’t enough to treat everyone simultaneously. Priorities were made and some had to wait after receiving first aid to get extensive treatment. From what I heard casualties were light save for a raid on a medical facility out on one of the islands offshore. Two Varen from the Maha Vailo family and another from the Vascud family were caught in the self-destruct explosion that obliterated the island.
I took this as proof that cooperation and teamwork triumphs over backstabbing and grandstanding. The Baramour could probably have inflicted many more casualties or even managed to escape had they not been so willing to backstab each other, invoke horrific rituals, and unleashe abominations that did more damage to them than to us in the end. Well, they paid the ultimate price for their foolishness and pride.
With so many of the Varen injured or exhausted, that left security of the compound and parts of the Academy up to the soldiers Virstris had brought. Virstris insisted on commanding them herself despite her injuries even when Mother offered to take over for her. I figured it a reflex to cling to whatever power and responsibilities she had for fear of losing them.
In the meantime, Virstris has moved back into the family residence and into her old room across the hall from me. I wouldn’t have minded so much if she hadn’t insisted on spending time together “to catch up” that evening. I tried to claim I had training with Kira to work on, but Kira announced he had some reading exercises he needed to do for Father and that I didn’t need to supervise him for that. Most insufferable about it all was that damnable grin of his while he said it.
Apparently “catch up time” meant sitting in my room and telling me all about her time at the military academy back in the Varen system. She tried to braid my hair near the beginning of the whole process, but I put a stop to that quickly. It was also quickly evident that the military academy was a much less violent place than Trayus was. I suppose that was to be expected, the Dark Side tends to make those lacking control violent.
Suddenly the conversation took an unexpected turn.
(Virstris) So what do you think of Kira?
(Valerie) He has potential despite the handicap of being a latent only a couple of months ago.
(Virstris) That wasn’t what I meant. I wanted to know what you think of him.
(Valerie) I don’t understand what you mean.
(Virstris) Well he is rather cute, in an exotic sort of way without being one of those weird subspecies.
That completely caught me off guard. I wasn’t used to talking so frankly about something like this. Usually it was overhearing the other students at the academy whispering or picking up poorly shielded thoughts as people leered.
(Valerie) He… his power is rather wanting.
(Virstris) You just said he had potential. Besides, he certainly seems to know where to push for maximum effect. Or do you still have that crush on Faer like when you were little?
Virstris suddenly learned to not mention Faer again when she saw the murderous look in my eyes. I could feel Mother becoming concerned as she felt that wave of emotion, but I kept it under control.
(Virstris) Forget Faer then and back to Kira. Surely you have some thoughts on the matter.
(Valerie) Kira is hardly a major prize in a mate. The handicap he is dealing with is going to hold him back for years if not decades.
(Virstris) Suit yourself, although he might do well to get with a talented commander of soldiers.
That caught my attention and I must have been staring in shock.
(Virstris) What? It isn’t uncommon for Force sensitive Varen and nonsensitive children of Varen to pair up. Happens rather frequently these days.
(Valerie) And what makes you think he would have any interest in you?
(Virstris) I am the granddaughter of one of the Council members, same as you. Wait, you’re upset over the idea that Kira might go for it aren’t you?
I could feel the heat in my cheeks rising as emotions ran high. That damnable grin on her face as she smugly thought she had caught me had to be answered. I grabbed a pillow and smacked her on the side of the head with it.
Virstris flung one back at me that I easily dodged. Landing on top of her I tried to bury her face in the pillow only to find out Virstris was a lot stronger than I was when I wasn’t using my talents. Things started escalating quickly when Mother suddenly barged in the door.
(Mother) Alright that’s enough. I won’t have either of you killing the other by accident. You two are too willful and strong to horseplay like this.
(Valerie) I wasn’t going to kill…
(Mother) I know you two well enough to realize you were both beginning to escalate things and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Mother must have caught me pondering how in the galaxy Virstris could have kept escalating things from there as she wagged a finger in front of my face.
(Mother) Don’t underestimate your sister. She has mastered the Vailo Arts after all. She will be taking over your martial arts training from Master Luarn once the crisis has passed.
The Vailo Arts? Weren’t those combat arts designed to give a non-sensitive a chance in hand to hand against a Force sensitive? I had serious doubts how effective such a style would be in practice. Mother then left after giving another stern warning about fighting each other.
(Valerie) So when were you planning on telling me that you were going to be teaching me?
(Virstris) First I have heard of it actually. So be honest, between sisters, you like him don’t you?
(Valerie) There’s…. something different about him. I don’t really understand what, but it intriques me. It also bothers me that Father has been struggling with him.
(Valerie) Kira hasn’t fallen yet.
We bathed and went to bed shortly thereafter. Gab took it upon herself to tend to Virstris’s needs as well as my own. I thought about mentioning that Virstris needed to get her own servants but decided to drop it. I’ll give her a few more days to get situated before making an issue of the matter. There should be plenty of servants available for her to buy with the recent purge and all.
That night I dreamed of storming a fortress. There was only a single ground route via a single bridge. We rammed the front gate using the repulsor train engine while the rest of the train cars unfolded into a giant covered walkway across the bridge to the gate for our soldiers to march through. The battle was turning towards trying to protect the bridge from destruction when I awoke.
Morning was bright and cheery outside. It didn’t help matters that I could hear Virstris singing a cheery tune softly down the hall. The bath and clothes were already waiting for me when I crawled out of bed and into the bath. Thelos said that the scented oils mixed into the bathwater were especially formulated to elicit feelings of alertness and focus. Personally, I wondered how a house computer system could claim to know such matters.
Nonetheless, I was feeling more alert and awake when the bath was finished. Breakfast was an elaborate affair going on downstairs. Meat, eggs, fruit, and pastries were all in abundance as the cooks worked hard to make up for the lack of an elaborate dinner last night. I got the feeling my sister’s welcome home dinner tonight was going to be insufferable. I grabbed a few things, preferring to eat light rather than stuff myself like some common soldier.
Kira was grazing as well at the back of the dining room. He was grinning from ear to ear as he saw me approach.
(Kira) Enjoy quality time with your sister last night?
(Valerie) A real blast that one. Did you really have a reading assignment from Father?
(Kira) Nope, but I felt it best to not get in the way of family fun time.
(Valerie) I’ll get you back for that, I swear it.
(Kira) Most likely during the next practice I imagine.
(Valerie) You’ve got that right. We’ll practice later, I’ve got to run a few errands in the meantime.
(Kira) Let me guess, picking up the winnings from the bets you placed in orbit?
Well he doesn’t miss much. So much for acting all mysterious around him.
(Valerie) It was a sizable sum of money.
(Kira) As I seem to recall, however do note that right now is not the safest time to be going into orbit.
(Valerie) Trying to be my mother?
(Kira) Not at all, just wondering if you were aware before leaping head first into a major mess.
(Valerie) Aww, the young man is trying to show he cares.
(Kira) Well I doubt your sister is much for lightsaber practice. And I doubt your father would be pleased if I spent my time learning how to fight hand to hand in powered combat armor.
I had to laugh at that image. I could just see Father pulling his hair out over Kira and more “inappropriate” combat techniques. I finished eating and grabbed my gear from my room. Bracers and the lightsaber again, not that I expected to face actual Sith in combat. I climbed onto my bike where it still was out in the courtyard and left the residence.
At the Varen compound exit, I had to pass a checkpoint of Varen soldiers wanting to confirm who I was, where I was going, and when I expected to be back. Telling them what they needed to know, I continued on through the city towards the spaceport.
Cleanup and repairs of the city were well underway. Droids and servants were busily sweeping up the remains of battles while more droids and technicians rebuilt damaged sections. Another couple of days and it would look like nothing had actually happened save for the now empty plot of land the Baramour compound used to occupy. I was tempted to see what I could find to plant there that would be considered highly offensive to the Baramour, but that would probably make Father’s job harder.
The spaceport was much more orderly than my last visit. I saw a poor free family trying to book passage offworld in the face of the current tensions. I suppose it was even possible that they were former Baramour servants now masterless. If they were smart, they’d head to Republic space or deeper into Varen space. Hell, staying here wouldn’t be too bad an option provided you could get away from the Academy.
There was still a Varen checking ID’s before letting people on the shuttle. The droids assisting him the other day were now all replaced with soldiers. I was waved through quickly, but the family I had noticed earlier was stopped. I couldn’t hear all the details over the crying, but it sounded like the children were suspected to be carrying some tailored disease made by the Baramour and would need to be quarantined until they could be checked over.
If they were really lucky, nothing would be found. If they were simply lucky, the doctors could treat them. If not, then they could expect to live the rest of their lives – until whatever-it-was took them out – in study under quarantine. Soldiers in full armor were now hauling the family off. The despair was so thick I could almost taste it. Maybe they really thought they were going to be executed or some such nonsense. Wonder what other lies the Baramour told them.
What information I had on what the Baramour had been working on before the purge was pretty nasty: Force user killing chimeras, shapeshifters, sabotaged bacta strains, and lethal plagues. Never mind the fact that they had the gall to experiment on this stuff in Varen space near an Academy of all places. A certain amount of backstabbing from the other factions was to be expected, but this level of treachery bordered on idiocy. Father was probably having a field day gathering concessions to keep from going public over the full extent of the transgressions. The Baramour would pay dearly for their mistakes.
That led to the entire shuttle and all the passengers undergoing a bioscreening. I came out negative of course, as did the rest of the passengers. Soon enough we were on our way to orbit.
I could see the two fleets in a standoff in orbit around the planet near Headstone station. I imagine the station crew would have much preferred to have been somewhere else besides in the middle of two hostile fleets. The Varen Command Ship was prominent in the formation as it busily tried to eclipse the sun when possible. The Baramour fleet looked to be made of a larger number of smaller ships.
We docked with Headstone Station moments later. Station security gave us a big lecture on how any fighting will be dealt with extreme prejudice under the current circumstances. All Force sensitives had to declare affiliations before being allowed onboard. Looked like they even had the scanners and people to back that up.
I identified myself, showed what weapons I had on myself and stated I was here to pick up my earnings from some bets I had placed. The security guard looked over his datapad before sighing and hanging his head.
(Guard) Lady Soung, would it be alright if I had someone deliver the winnings to you instead? There will be no fee, I assure you.
(Valerie) Is there a problem?
(Guard) Well… there have been problems with members of the other factions gloating while picking up their winnings. That has led to numerous minor infractions already. Not that I am saying you would behave in such an uncouth manner….
(Valerie) You would just rather not have a Varen pick up winnings on a Baramour loss in front of everyone.
(Guard) Plus you are the daughter of Master Soung. Some elements might take great offense over the matter.
(Valerie) Sigh, very well then. May I at least visit the station, or am I to turn right back around and head back to the planet?
(Guard) Oh please do, feel free to spend as much time as you like here. Should you need anything, please feel free to ask any of the personnel for assistance. And thank you Lady Soung for your gracious cooperation.
Looks like the surest way to get healthy respect on this station was having a fleet parked outside. I am sure the Baramour representatives were getting similar treatment. It did surprise me though that members of other factions were antagonizing the Baramour. I would have thought they’d have enough sense to keep their heads down while a fleet was outside. Well, it’s easy to teach a Sith to posture, the real trick is getting him to stop.
The main terminal on the station was subdued. Station security was omnipresent and armed well enough to take down major opposition. Betting was going on for the peace talks, but Varen and Baramour were banned from participating. Looked like the bookies favored a return to the status quo, with some concessions on both sides slightly favoring the Varen. Since I couldn’t participate in the betting, I went to one of the cantina’s and sat down at the bar.
The drink list was uninspiring and the fellow sitting next to me sleeping was obviously heavily polluted. Not wanting to make much of a scene myself, I ordered one of the non-alcoholic fruit drinks from some world out on the rim somewhere. As I waited for my drink to be delivered, a messenger showed up with a datapad and a credit chip. I formalized the exchange of funds to my account and dismissed him.
Looking over the account balance, it seems like my winnings were rather substantial. My faith in my family and fellow Varen was well placed. While it was tempting to use my good fortune to splurge on something for myself, I decided to let the funds sit and earn interest for a while. Never know when a healthy supply of cash will become useful.
The drink arrived while I was idling browsing my accounts and I sipped it quietly. It was surprisingly good, I could detect a hint of fermentation but it wasn’t nearly enough to impair me in the slightest. I shall have to see where this place is procuring this stuff and see about either having some sent planetside for sale, or just buying a stash myself.
I really wanted to eat some pub food while I was up here, but I would be expected to eat at Virstris’s welcome home dinner tonight. Thelos and the cooks tended to lean a bit too heavily towards the gourmet meals back home and sometimes a bit of greasy pub food was needed. Mother looked down upon the stuff, but Father would sometimes sneak off to grab some while on missions.
Finishing my drink I decided to wander around the station some more. Lot’s of traders were operating out of the station. Some were permanent residents, others commuted from the surface, and the rest flew in from time to time in whatever tramp freighter they owned or stole. Food, animals, slaves, weapons, ships, drugs, sex, mercenaries, and counterfeiting services were all in abundance. The station crew always took a cut of the profits though.
I made a note to tell Virstris there were plenty of slaves up here for her to purchase. She would need to demand a full medical checkup before purchasing of course. Never know what sort of surprises you might find in someone bad enough off to end up in a slave market in Sith space.
Stuff like finding a child has been made into a disease carrier by the Baramour. Best to keep an eye out for that sort of thing.
With slaves being a matter of personal choice as much as anything, I decided not to purchase a slave for Virstris. I was heading back to the shuttle dock when the entire station rocked violently. The lights went out before emergency lighting came on moments later. Loss of hull integrity klaxons were blaring loudly.
Trails in the flooring immediately lit up highlighting the way to shelters as the klaxons switched to a countdown until the bulkhead doors closed. Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled to be on the proper side of the bulkheads before they closed. At first I thought the screaming was dying down until I realized that everything was getting quieter. That could only mean the air was getting thinner and fast.
I was making a force-enhanced dash across the terminal towards one of the shelters when I nearly tripped over a small child crying in the middle of the plaza. Stupid parents… It was more a reflex than anything else, but it didn’t slow me up anyway; I added a telekinetic aura to my speed-boost and towed the stragglers along behind me. I skidded through the door and added some good PR – or just gave into impulse, it was hard to say which – by twisting to catch the kid; the adults could take care of themselves… No sooner than we were through than the bulkhead doors slammed shut with that speed and forcefulness that only machines can manage. I could hear air hissing as pressure was brought back to normal.
Letting go of the child, I stood up and took stock of the situation. Looked like I was in one of the docking arms off the main terminal. From what I could see out the window, it looked like there was a significant amount of debris floating from the far side of the terminal. The shuttle dock was over there as I recalled. Had I gone straight from the bar to the shuttle dock as opposed to wandering around a bit, I might be floating out there now. I was concerned for Father as well.
Currently in this docking arm with me was a bunch of Mandalorians, traders, security, technicians, a slaver, the girl I’d saved, and a random selection of other people. I could see the security officer talking into his radio and went to speak with him.
(Valerie) Any idea what is going on? Is the station under attack or is this an accident of some sort?
(Officer) Hard to say ma’am, the channels are a mess right now. All I can get is other teams asking the same things we are.
(Mandalorian) Probably means the central command station and those that saw what happened are dead.
(Young Trader) What are we going to do?
The disaster drills Mother taught me when I was a small child were coming back to me. First I needed to prevent a leadership vacuum from causing panic. Second I needed to assess the situation and verify means of escape. Third, I needed to await rescue if possible or escape if not.
Technically the security officer was in charge here since this wasn’t a Varen station. However I could feel he was at a loss and his training hadn’t been nearly adequent enough. Only one choice then.
(Valerie) Alright we need to assess our situation. Let’s check for any more survivors in this section of the station. After that, we check for operational ships or escape pods. Then, we await rescue here unless the situation dictates otherwise.
I started pointing to people and assigning tasks. Almost all of them obeyed quickly, especially when the security officer and the Mandalorian chief refused to challenge me. The slaver started questioning my authority, but a little crackling of Force lightning along my arms and a hard stare saw his courage wilt to nothing.
The Mandalorian chief informed me that another sixteen people were found, bringing the total number of survivors we had to thirty seven. The technicians reported enough escape pods for twenty people and one shuttle in need of repairs. I directed the technicians to work on getting the shuttle repaired enough to either land on the planet below or to dock with the Varen fleet.
Security in the meantime looked for more damage to the section we were in. I feared that some debris might have collided with our section and we might be losing air slowly. The traders were busy trying to gather what supplies could be found. Food was scarce, but water and power cells were abundant. We also had enough of an air supply to keep us going for weeks if need be. Not that I figured it would come to that.
I kept people busy as best I could doing seemingly meaningful tasks. Sometimes it was far more important for people to believe there is a plan than for there to actually be one. In this case, it was more important keeping them occupied here instead of having them run to the escape pods and scatter themselves across the planet below. That sort of thing was only helpful when fleeing something.
Soon enough a shuttle arrived at one of the airlocks and docked. Once the airlock finished cycling, a search and rescue team came charging through. After confirming there were no major injuries, we were quickly loaded onto the shuttle and flown to the Varen command ship for questioning.
Onboard the command ship, I could see a large number of other survivors arriving from other sections of the station. Armed Varen soldiers were maintaining a visible presence throughout it all while the crew sent people to temporary quarters or medical as needed. One of the officers saw me and pushed his way through the crowds.
(Officer) Lady Soung! So glad you are unhurt. I am First Officer Kol Igan.
(Valerie) Is my father alright?
(Igan) Yes, as is Mistress Admiral Vera Morrowain.
(Valerie) Any idea what happened?
(Igan) Unfortunately no, all we’ve been able to determine is that a freighter exploded shortly after docking. Spectral signatures indicate the explosive was hafnium based. Unfortunately we have confirmed the death of the Arbiter. Looks like she arrived around the same time the freighter did and was caught in the blast.
So this was either a stupid accident or a terrorist attack trying to disrupt the settlement talks. What perfect timing.