There are a lot of variants on the standard hyperdrive. Most do nothing at all, except sometimes melt. Quite a few of them are known to be suicidal; some blow up, some emit hideous amounts of radiation, some tear the ship apart, and quite a few lead to ships simply vanishing – sometimes to reappear as a scattering of particles strewn across nearby space, often with even less trace than that.
One of them – long known for causing ships to simply vanish – the group now believes is actually transporting ships that use it into other dimensions at random, in a process that can be controlled via a combination of careful piloting and an assortment of force techniques. They don’t know for sure of course; it’s the first time they’ve tried it. Hopefully they don’t have it wrong enough to result in scattering their atoms across infinity.
With the modifications to the Asrai’s hyperdrive complete, discussion turned to where we leave from and how visibly do we make our departure. I was all for doing it quietly, but some of the others wanted to make it visible in an attempt to throw off the bounty hunters. At least they were willing to drop the idea of trying to make it look like we visibly suicided. I could just see us going into hyperspace pointed at a planet only to find that we collide with the planet in the destination universe.
Several of the others had objected – at length – to that idea as well. What if something failed? Worse, major gravity wells were known to disrupt hyperdrive fields; weren’t there enough unknown random elements in this trip already?
Ben really doubted the notion that they’d be likely to come out anywhere near an analogue of the planet they started from though; some of their initial tunnel-experiments had come out between galaxies. It didn’t look – at least to him – like any strong correspondence principle was in effect. There was something though; otherwise they’d have been far more likely to come out in deep intergalactic space. Still; jumping towards a nearby gravity well was a pretty obvious bad idea; even a weak correspondence principle could be expected to hold in the nearest universes – and those were the ones that you’d be jumping through first.
That left where did we start the jump from. I still had a sneaking suspicion that if we made the jump from one world, we would end up next to it in the destination universe, no matter what Ben said. Most of the rest thought that the more publicly they vanished, the more bounty hunters would be discouraged. Ergo, finding a world that was both in Codifier and Republic space would be best. Homestead either didn’t exist in this galaxy, was known under a different name, or was deep in Sith space. Most of the galactic core was deep in Faded territory in the destination galaxy. The one planet that we did know for sure was in both Codifier and Republic space was Alderaan though. While the base made its way to Alderaan, we sent one of the freighters we had lying around to go pick up some cuttings of the glue tree that we might plant in the Codifier galaxy.
That turned out to be complicated and expensive; that old Sith world was still being monitored by the military, especially since they’d recently drawn attention to the place. Fortunately, they now had plenty of cash on hand – and it was something they could easily pay someone else to do.
In the meantime, I took the time to prepare messages to family and friends. Mostly they took the form of wishing them well and that I was going on a long journey and would be out of communication for some time. I didn’t want to bother them with the details of where I was going or why, feeling that best left for the cartoon to reveal months after I got back. I did prepare a second message in case I didn’t come back. That one largely contained a simplified explanation of what was going on and why I felt the need to do something so suicidal. That message I gave to the Republic along with a request for the proceeds from my share of the cartoon go to my siblings Sabrina and Nichel with smaller shares going to Dorothy, Nathan and Barcos. At the very least that should help them with schooling and getting started in life. Who knows, Dorothy might even manage to get started on becoming the Senator of Alderaan with the boost that money would get her.
It’s certainly the least I could do for all the support and good times she and the others all gave me.
I did make inquiries into what it would take to will the base, or at least a portion of it to my family and friends. That led to quite a few issues regarding leaving military level of equipment and weaponry in the hands of civilians – especially given Alderaan’s weapons control laws – let along the fact that the others had at least equal claim to the base. I ended up with letting the Republic know my wishes and letting them sort out the issues should the matter ever come up. Not that I had any idea what my family and friends were going to do with a mobile manufacturing capital ship, but I figured the sale of my share at the very least had to be worth something.
The others made their last-minute preparations as we approached Alderaan. Once we dropped out of hyperspace around Alderaan, we were immediately hit with a deluge of inquiries from the media for interviews and questions regarding our “Living Asteroids of Death”. The Republic had questions of their own for us on the matter too. We answered the Republics questions truthfully, as we didn’t have anything to hide on the matter. The authorities were most pleased to hear that we were just screwing with the bounty hunters chasing us. As part of the whole discussion, we handed over the bounty hunters we had in stasis for the Republic to deal with as they saw fit. I seriously doubt any of those bounty hunters expected to wake up in Republic custody.
Alys – and most of the rest of them – left an assortment of messages to be delivered in case they did not return. Alys left explanations for her counterpart’s family, Ben left designs and notes to be archived – in multiple locations – and Lazlo addressed most of his to the universe at large (although he did send a complaint to his former “owner” about gambling him away to a lunatic). Little did he know that the Republic was already investigating that. Handell didn’t seem to have anyone who cared, which was sort of sad, and Shipwreck wouldn’t tell anyone WHAT messages he was leaving, which was sort of ominous.
As for the news media and their interviews, they were already running stories from Mrs Beasley saying I was making more of the things and soon I would bring an armada to destroy Alderaan since her cats lived there. I decided to have some fun with it and participated in several interviews. I completely overplayed the part of the evil Sith Lord and visibly enjoyed it. Hopefully that would leave just about anyone with a lick of common sense with the impression that it was all an act on my part. Surely the media has picked up on how much damage I am alleged to have caused the Sith and the rescues we’ve been a part of thus far. I did figure it was only a matter of time though before Sabrina saw those interviews and wanted my hide to display on her wall though.
While we waited for our last preparations to be completed, we started writing material for the cartoon to use in our absence. We decided to start different arcs covering the backstories of the various characters in the party after having the Sith War follow us into the multiverse. It was also decided to use my backstory last while hinting at it repeatedly throughout the remainder of the series. It was even decided to start including a viewer mail portion answered by the party personally at the end of each episode. Hopefully, at the very least, that will keep the show going long enough to give my friends and family a tidy sum of money if we don’t make it back.
The youngsters were relieved; Kira had seemed so upset about the cartoon at first… how were they to know that they’d brought up middle-school flashbacks in Kira’s head with it? It had seemed like such a great way to spread information their way and to make some money on the side!
Ben, meanwhile, was stuffing supplies and spare parts into every corner of the Asrai, adding in a small hypertunnel generator that should be good enough for escape-pod ejections, a small trans- dimensional hypertunnel generator, food, water, power cells, lightsaber parts, technical archives, hyperdrive coils, fusion generators and parts, raw materials… Triple spares for every important system and quadruple spares for vital elements. Enough to build a new ship or two if they could find a source for basic structural components – and enough so that there were boxes stacked in every room and corridor. Handell complained that the ship would be slow as molasses with all that extra weight, but had to admit that he’d never piloted a ship which actually had ENOUGH spares aboard though.
Alys noted that Shipwreck was staring off into neverland again, and quietly rerouted the missile control systems. He wouldn’t be launching any more missiles without someone else’s approval – at least not until they were actually in a battle and everything was unlocked.
With all our preparations complete, and an ominous failure for a hyperspace drone configured the same way as the Asrai to return, we cut down the crew to a minimum, pooled our Force talents, and made the jump. It was certainly becoming easier to sort through the various dimensions to find the one I was looking for. I still needed the assistance of the others to really have the power necessary to pull it off, but at least I was getting a handle of the skill portion of it all.
Ben made the final adjustments, and they launched – carefully making the Jump to Hyperspace along a vector that wouldn’t – normally – leave them with many possible exits. That might, at the least, confuse a few of the bounty hunters.
The dimensional jump was actually straightforward in some ways… The dimensions shifted all the time, and actually reaching a specific universe required more precision than any pilot – or technological system – could handle. But a good pilot with the right coordinates could bring you to the right general “area”, and the force could make the final adjustments if you were lucky, powerful, had some idea of what you were doing, and – preferably – has some link with the destination universe to follow. Given all of that however, it was little more difficult than any other hypespace jump – at least in theory.
Once in hyperspace, we all did things to keep ourselves busy for the duration of the journey and left things to Handell. Ben started complaining about not being sure how much time was passing by us. I pointed to the clock mounted on the wall and told him it had only been an hour or so into the journey. This proceeded to grow into an argument with Ben saying that wasn’t the point, and me getting increasingly confused by what he meant. It seemed obvious to me that the clock told us how long we’ve been on this journey thus far, since we know when we left. Handell piped up with the comment that he expected the trip to take about eight hours in total because that was what it felt like it should. Problem solved.
Ben felt that Kira just wasn’t getting it. He was wondering what defined the “passage of time” in hyperspace, where you were moving through time… Especially when you were moving between dimensions with varying timerates of their own, and presumably passing through other dimensions with variable timerates… If only there was a way to make a clock function reliably! At least then he could make some sure comparisons!
About four hours into the journey though, someone noticed the smell of something burning. Not a good sign by any means. We found the hyperdrive on fire and in the process of melting. I did what I could with the fire extinguisher to put out the flames and keep things cool while Ben tried to do something with the Force. It was quick to see that it was a lost cause though and the order went to Handell to bring us out of hyperspace in a controlled fashion.
Ben was swearing to himself… Untested, untested! The fluctuations of moving through alternate universes had thrown the hyperdrive coils out of balance, energy had built up in the oscillating field until the coils overheated, their resistance had shot up – and the metal was now liquefying. He tried to hold their structure together while adjusting on the fly for the resistance variations – but soon realized it was hopeless. The best he could hope for was a controlled shut down. He settled for that…
Just after we dropped out of hyperspace, we were all knocked off our feet as something collided with the shields. Running to the cockpit, we found that the Asrai was in the middle of an asteroid field. After Handell got us out of the asteroid field itself, we saw that either we weren’t in the Alderaan system, or it had been replaced with asteroids through some violent means. The large metallic moon out one of the viewports looked like proof of that assertion. It looked like we ended up in another timeline identical to the holos I watched as a kid growing up.
Here we were in a freighter heavily armed, with powerful Force users in a system we probably had no business being in. True to form, we were caught in a tractor beam and being pulled toward the presumed “Death Star” as swarms of fighters surrounded us. Someone came over the commlink and demanded we turn off our drive systems and surrender. I fell into the snarky rebellious ass role again as I felt the need to point out that either their space station could overwhelm our drives handily or they needed a better battlestation and that our surrender hasn’t helped anyone yet. Someone then decided to warn them not to trifle with Kira the Kat in jest.
Whoever was on the other end of the link didn’t respond well to that and promptly demanded confirmation that I was Kira and that Lazlo was someone named Lazar. Well, I don’t know about Lazar, but I certainly was Kira and I didn’t see what use that would be to some lapdog Sith if Darth Vader was onboard that battlestation. That got them reading off a list of war crimes against me and Lazlo that was rather extensive and horrific at the same time. With that we were brought aboard the station and forcibly docked.
We had Khadim and 10CH go into hiding aboard the ship while the rest of us disembarked the Asrai. We were promptly surrounded with hundreds of soldiers that seemed most terrified of us, especially Lazlo and I. The officer read off the list of charges against us again. It looked like my alternate had blown up several uninhabited star systems some years ago, and that the radiation blast fronts were laying waste to nearby worlds. He had also united several of the disparate Sith factions under his own banner and lead them into a war against the Republic that apparently was straining the Republic hard. Lazlo (Lazar?) had apparently been working with my alternate self to this end and had apparently used the Sith pyramid scheme technique to devastate large areas with Force Lightning. How he managed to do that without blowing up is beyond me. Let alone how my alternate had found a way to detonate stars.
The locals were also quite upset that Kira had apparently cloned their commander… Had this been some sort of misfired plot to take over the station? All of their tests indicated that these were the right people, even if they did seem a bit young… Still, at least Lazar’s ability to tap into the force potential of the people around him was fairly useless in deep space.
I was especially annoyed when I was told I had been doing this sort of thing for five years or so. I mean come on, I was captured by the Sith a year and a half ago now, and five years ago I was still in high school. How was a high schooler supposed to conquer the Sith and unite them under a single banner. Oh. It looked like this universe was a few years ahead of ours. Then proceeded much bickering between the various members of the party as some tried to explain, others obfuscated, and others just kept quiet. Valerie was looking smug about all the finger-pointing at me and I couldn’t resist throwing some her way.
(Kira) And my fiancée, which I don’t have, is not a Sith assassin!
(Valerie) Don’t drag me into this!
(Kira) Then quit standing there looking so smug!
(Valerie) You’re the one they think is a Sith!
The officer then demanded that we shut up or be shot there and then. As we all quieted up, we were led to a room were a lawyer would meet with us.
A military lawyer met us shortly and seemed most upset at having been assigned to our defense. Our attempts to explain didn’t get us anywhere either. Lazlo’s requests for bail, while funny, didn’t go over well either. Eventually they announced the commander of the station was coming down to interrogate us himself. As we waited and debated, it was clear to see that Ben was struggling with some issues. He complained of headaches and echoes in his head that were getting worse. I immediately recognized this in conjunction with the officer’s claims of us cloning the commander to mean that the alternate Ben was close and getting closer. It took several minutes to convince Ben to activate his stasis belt finally. Shortly after that was done, the Commander arrived to meet us.
(Ben) “I’m not a clone! I’m just a trans-temporal duplicate!…”
(Lazlo) “That’s beginning to sound a bit weird, even to us!”
The station Commander definitely looked like Ben, although I figured I saw a few more years in his face. He also looked different being dressed up as a Republic commander. Although given his presence aboard a Death Star scale superweapon, his habits can’t be all that different. In the conversation that followed, we learned more about the evil plot my alternate was busily enacting upon the galaxy. Apparently he was trying to hold the galaxy hostage with the use of the star destroying superweapon to keep the fleets occupied. I was disgusted by it all, and found the plan to be a little too… competent to really be me. Even if the superweapon was apparently having the malfunctions endemic to superweapons that had been used.
I mean seriously, me conquering all the Sith factions in the galaxy within the next few years?
Alternate-Ben was in command because the planetary transport system was of his design… The system was an immense adaption of the hypertunnel technology, which prevented the collapse of the transportation field as energy was drained from it by a balanced exchange of mass. It took immense amounts of power, and a matched pair of generator-stations – who’s crash construction had strained the resources of the republic – but you could trade a planet for a similar amount of mass (such as much of a large asteroid belt) elsewhere. The stations had been designed to save planets – but anything capable of moving matter and energy around on that scale was a potential superweapon. It just depended on how you used it.
We also learned that Alys in this universe was the Senator of Coruscant. That too was hard to believe. I’d almost buy it if the position was dangerously suicidal and she was the only one that would volunteer for it. The local Alys was definitely looking very haggard and I had to figure it was the disease at work.
After a great deal of explanation, sarcasm, and pointing to the hyperdrive on the Asrai, we finally convinced A-Ben that we could potentially be from an alternate universe. Our case was greatly enhanced when the local versions of Lazlo and me proceeded to make a public appearance like they were known to do while we were in Republic custody. Ben still felt it was possible that we were just clones involved in some highly arcane plot against the Republic, but he noticed that Lazlo and I were Force trained and came up with his own arcane plan.
I should have known.
Apparently Dkira (I suspect the others meant that as a clever and short version of Darth Kira), was known for making public speeches, confident that his powers would protect him from any assault. Either he was an idiot, or more powerful than I thought possible for someone who was a future me. Lazlo and I were to grapple with our alternates via the Force and foul up their powers while an assault team led by the Republic would bombard them with hundreds of thermal detonators. If Dkira could survive that then he was clearly not me.
Lazlo didn’t see it either. “Lazar” should have been doing irreparable damage to himself with each stunt, wasn’t showing any signs of Codifier talents which might help him resist that somehow, and really ought to be dead… Still, he could see how the “foul them up” plan might work. It wasn’t the power that was important, it was how much the mutual feedback and disruption disrupted their – and their alternates – control.
Lazlo and I would be put into stasis until we got to the planet for the assassination attempt. Our Ben and Alys would join the assassination team in getting us through customs and assisting with the assault. In exchange for this, the local Ben promised to help us get our hyperdrive repaired and not throw us into jail or have us executed. I suppose I should have been a little more disturbed with the idea of being asked to kill another version of myself, but in my mind whatever made up me was dead in Dkira anyway. I was just accelerating the inevitable defeat and death that came with this sort of personal failure.
(Valerie) “Billions of deaths, destroyed stars, holding the galaxy hostage… does this potential for madness exist in all Force users?”
(Kira) “To some extent yes. You either force yourself to be calm and emotionless like Telera does, drug yourself into a stupor like Handell or the Hedi, or fall like the Arethi or the Sith. The Arethi fall to the light and are fairly harmless, but few would say they are entirely sane. The Sith fall to the Dark Side and frequently try to go on galactic rampages like this or die before they get the chance.”
(Valerie) “So the Force is a source of madness then?”
(Kira) “To some extent, almost all the Sith come from the ranks of the Jedi, so that says the current system has serious flaws. On the other hand, as I understand it, almost all the Faded come from the ranks of the Codifiers.”
(Valerie) “I can see your point, but I still don’t like the implications of it all.”
(Kira) “Well, neither do I. This is why I’ve been researching the Codex. I am really hoping that the Force and the Codex together can be used to balance out the excesses of either and allow more normal behavior.”
(Valerie) “You hope? That doesn’t sound very convincing.”
(Kira) “Well, I am sorry, but I don’t have any sure answers on this. If I did, the Jedi would have stumbled upon it long ago and we wouldn’t be in the mess. However the fact that your fiancée and I came to the same conclusion from opposite directions is highly encouraging.”
(Valerie) “How can my fiancée possibly be working with the Sith princess?”
(Kira) “That is why we need to get to your home as quickly as we can.”
Their lawyer was overjoyed. He’d been burdened with an impossible job – defending two of the worst Sith in centuries, up against overwhelming proof of their guilt, and yet obligated to at least put up a good defense, and suddenly he was off the hook entirely. Case dismissed before it had even started!
With the plan more or less hammered out, Lazlo and I were put into stasis for the journey.
Alys and Ben found the trip relatively easy; the Republic had extensive connections, and quite a spy organization – and the Sith security arrangements were pretty bad. Apparently each individual Sith took it upon himself or herself to have whatever they wanted shipped in secretly – and a shipment of wine seemed pretty harmless anyway.
The system was massively fortified, although there were rumors that the engineers were on overtime because star destroyer systems wouldn’t work any longer. The world itself was a pretty miserable place; it was obvious that the Sith were running the place into the ground in the service of their war – and their attempt to hold the republic hostage, or to strike when it’s resources were tied up in rescue efforts. There were secret police all over the place, any dissension was being ruthlessly crushed, and random purges were decimating the population.
Alys thought about that… Ok, this Dkira was obviously a HoloSith or something similar – but what little she’d heard from Kira about the Varen worlds was nothing like this. What was it that was different?
Customs took some fast talking, and someone did notice that Alys “Looked a lot like that hatchet-faced old biddy who speaks for the Republic sometimes” – but she was obviously too young and healthy to be her. Apparently the fool woman had taken over after her brother was assassinated – and the customs officers considered it downright idiotic to paint a giant bullseye on your chest like that.
It actually helped that Handell had gotten into the wine and drunk a couple of cases on the QT. It added a certain verisimilitude to things.
Dkira and Lazar’s security was wanting too… apparently they simply relied on security sweeps, weapons scans, personal shields, and their own powers.
Sweeps and scans could be fooled – and were – but the stumbling point had been their own powers and the light screens and personal armor that backed them up. They never made personal appearances unless they were quite sure that they’d come out of it safely.
In fact, they were sure that they would this time.
The local agents had doubts – but their cover story was that General Ben Therus had pulled copies from another universe to help out, which the agents had to admit was not a strategy that they would ever have considered possible…
I awoke to find the group in a hotel room. Quickly confirming with the others that this was indeed the destination world, I suddenly became aware of a massive headache. I could hear what I could only suppose was Dkira on the holo broadcast and was not afraid to declare myself a horrible speaker. Stupid arrogant ass can come pick a fight with me regarding his speech writing skills if he wants. The headache was bad enough, but the echo of hearing him speak via the holo broadcast and him hearing himself speak was definitely going to drive me nuts if it didn’t end soon. Not to mention the horrible disruptions that force resonance was creating in my brain…
About that time he seemed to become aware of my presence as he lashed out with the Force at me. Had I not been trained in the Force, I might have succumbed instantly to his will. As it was, I was most definitely trained, and Dkira apparently never sparred with Valerie as I proceeded to hand him his ass in the opening moments of the battle of wills. You think that because you can lose your temper that you actually have control? Stupid arrogant ass, you’re no better than the common Sith no matter how much power you have. You’re fate was sealed the moment you gave in.
Lazlo started smoking next to me as he went through his own personal battle of wills. I can only assume his was not going nearly as well as mine. I felt sorry for the cat, seeing as he didn’t have nearly the training I did and it was catching up to him now. Recognizing the signs of an impending Force explosion, I asked him if he would kindly blow up somewhere else as some of us had battles of wills to fight. He didn’t seem to hear me – or was too far gone to do anything anyway as the energy ripped through him. He was standing right next to me when he literally did detonate. I hadn’t really thought that was truly possible… Or maybe it was spite, they never had gotten along… Regardless, burning chunks of meat, bone and hair went everywhere. The smell of burning hair was pretty bad, and ducking the worst of the blast took more of my concentration than I wanted, but I was unharmed. Right, literally blowing up from the Dark Side was not the way I wanted to go. At the very least, that had to be incredibly painful for a few moments. Luckily my early advantage in the battle of wills was still holding when I felt my entire skin burn as if on fire for a brief second.
Unfortunately, Lazlo and Lazar – who was, as usual, drawing on the force-potential of the planetary population – were handling far more raw power than Dkira and Kira. Enough raw power that the resonant disruption was doing more than neurological damage. It was enough to literally blow both of them into tiny bits in a detonation that eclipsed the Thermal Detonators, blew the shields protecting Dkira open from the inside, and shredded the buildings for blocks around them.
Dkira being hit with all those thermal detonators caught me off guard and knocked me off my feet. I could feel Dkira’s spirit brush against mine and attempt to cling to me as he died. While Dkira couldn’t pull off a possession, his attempts to cling to me definitely left bits of his memories and personality behind in my mind. As those pieces were burned into my mind, I suddenly had flashbacks to Dkira’s capture by the Sith, his torture at their hands, the brain graft surgeries, the forcible druggings, and his decent into madness. Those same memories were also dangerously resonating with my own memories of the Academy and I was nearly lost in the maze of memories and emotions.
Ben and Alys had been helping with the bombardment – but the room exploding was more than enough to draw their attention back to Kira and Lazlo; the blast was bad enough to reach them!
I was barely aware of the burning room around me or Ben and Alys shouting at me to escape from the hotel room. Leaping out the window and onto the ground below, I saw the nuclear holocaust to my side where Dkira apparently died. Fiery debris was still falling from the sky all around me as a steady stream of Thermal Detonaters fed the disaster. Thankfully none of it fell near me as my own powers were very erratic at the moment. I walked towards the spaceport in a daze, grateful that none of the Sith nearby were willing to confront Darth Kira walking out of a nuclear holocaust he had been standing in the middle of moments before with nothing worse than slightly scorched clothing.
Could the ancient stories of Sith surviving legendary attacks like this really have been alternates from other dimensions getting caught in the crossfire? Strange that this was suddenly more believable than anything other theory I’ve heard regarding those legends.
It was absurdly easy to pretend to be in a foul mood at customs, and none of them were willing to question my intent. The others met me at the ship as we all boarded and got out before any of the authorities could begin to question what had just happened. Taking some of the Force suppressant drugs, I retreated to my quarters, crawled into bed, and fell asleep.
I dreamed of the Academy.
I was in a dark room lit by a single light with three other people. I heard a voice from above that I can only assume came from a balcony I could not see.
(Voice) Congratulations, you four are here because we think you have some modicum of talent. Unfortunately, we are rather exclusive in terms of who we allow to join us so we are going to have to narrow down the selection a bit.
Several primitive weapons were thrown onto the floor in front of us. Garret, Khen, Tamara and I all looked at the pile of weapons and looked at each other. It was obvious what the Sith were planning to happen. We had all heard stories and seen it in the holos more than enough times to not have any delusions about what these damned Sith had planned.
(Voice) Now, we will only be accepting one candidate today. We will leave it up to you to figure out who it will be.
(Kira) I say we take the weapons and try to make an escape.
(Garret) Escape?! Do you really think there is any chance of any of us getting out of this alive without going along with them?
(Kira) Oh what, and kill each other like starving animals?
(Tamara) Well, I have yet to hear you propose a better solution.
(Kira) I did, make a run for it. If we die in the attempt, at least we won’t be forced to become more Sith.
(Khen) Always the one to do the opposite of what you’re told to do.
(Kira) What?! You’re actually going to go along with this? Kill the rest of us to ensure you survive a few more days?
(Khen) If it means the chance for a few more days of life and a possibility of power at the end of it, then yes.
(Kira) Screw the power, wanting to blow up Alderaan is not how I plan to spend my future.
(Voice) Better make your decision quickly if any of you want to take us up on our offer.
(Garret) Screw this!
Garret and Khen both lunged for weapons at the same time. My repeated pleas for them to stop fell on deaf ears as the urge to survive took over everyone. Tamara took up a spear that rolled her way while I grabbed a pick. Tamara and I both fell against the walls as we watched Garret and Khen go at it. Khen was faster, but Garret was much larger. It also didn’t help matters that Khen had grabbed the short sword while Garret had the big axe. It didn’t take long for one of them to make a mistake as Khen stepped the wrong direction and was cut badly on the shoulder as the axe sunk in. That wound was surely going to be fatal without urgent medical attention.
Sigh, one down.
Garret pulled the axe free and turned to look at Tamara and I. Tamara was holding out her spear trying to keep Garret and I at a distance. I held the pick to my side waiting for one of them to take action while trying to keep the two of them in my field of view.
(Garret) You missed your chance, you could have gotten me if you had attacked while my axe was wedged in place.
(Kira) You’re right, if I wanted to become a Sith that is. I generally take more pride in not acting like some feral dog.
Idiot, like I would have attacked you while Tamara was still standing there with a weapon. She’s just waiting for one of us to be left tired and wounded so she can pick them off. You’re just too stupid to see it. The one that is going to survive this is the one that isn’t attacked first. Sadly my odds of Garret attacking Tamara were slim at best. Looks like the best I can hope for out of this is to take them both down with me to deprive the Sith of any students this time. Not that they probably lack for recruits, but damn it, I am not going to play by their rules and let them win this time.
Predictably, Garret came for me first. He swung that axe of his in large, wide arcs that were easy to see coming and step aside. It would have been a simple matter to keep stepping aside save for the lack of room to dodge in this damned pit. Damn it, that meant I had to leave myself open to Tamara as I made an attack on Garret before he cornered me. That would make it very hard to kill Tamara before I died myself. Damn it all.
I saw the opening against Garret I needed as he came at me with a two-handed overhand swing. Twirling to the side, I let the pick entangle with his leg and pulled hard. Thankfully the basic combat skills I got from the Navy and brawling in college let me use his own momentum against him as he tripped and went head first into the wall. Not giving him the chance to get up, I swung the pick down into his chest near where I think the heart was.
Sigh, two down.
I don’t know if I was just good at predicting Tamara, or if it was that battle precognition that the Jedi and Sith use so much, but I got a good glimpse of the spear aimed at my heart from behind. Throwing myself to the side and into the wall hard, her spear tore a nice gouge into my right arm as it embedded in the wall beside me. Paying little heed to the wound on my arm, I grabbed the spear and spun the butt of it around into the side of her head. At first I thought I had broken the spear with that hit as I heard a loud crack, then I saw her fall to the floor with her neck badly twisted.
Four survivors of the Alderaan fleet, three of which were now dead. Two of those I had just killed with my own hands. I could have avoided this had I listened to my sister, studied harder and stayed out of trouble more. About the only thing I can do now to make up for all those past mistakes is to try to kill the stupid Sith that put us up to this nonsense in the first place. Admittedly, it was more than likely the bastard would just kill me on the spot, but at least I wouldn’t become one of them.
And that may be the only way I can fight back.
(Voice) Not bad, I didn’t think you’d survive. My bets were on the girl. You’re more ruthless than that first protest of escaping implied.
(Kira) Screw you.
(Voice) Yes, I can see that rebellious attitude mentioned in the report could pose of problem. You’re planning on attacking me aren’t you?
(Kira) The thought had crossed my mind.
A man old enough to be my father dropped from the balcony above. His hair was pitch black and his skin was pale, but not as pale as mine. He wore armor across the chest, shoulders, arms, and shins. I could see three lightsabers on his belt. His robe was more of a tattered cloak and a hood. What really disturbed me was the fact his eyes seemed to glow softly underneath that hood of his. At least that was a trick of the light and not some ominous sign of Force power.
(Soung) I am Master Soung, and I am Headmaster here at Trayus Academy. Maybe one day you will get your chance to attack me, but today is not that day. Pass one last little test and I will see to it that you get the training to possibly make good on that threat.
(Kira) Great, what next? Sterilize a planet?
(Soung) Not quite, I want to verify your survival just now was not a fluke. To that end, I want you to fight against one of the first year students. If you manage to survive for more than a few moments, then I will take you as an apprentice. Joshua if you please? Oh, and try not to kill him.
I can only presume it was Joshua who suddenly appeared from the shadows. The clawed bracers came out without a word as he lunged at me. Within moments I found myself gripping his wrists as he pinned me to the floor. My ability to keeping him from slashing my throat was fading along with the strength in my wounded arm.
(Valerie) “WAKE UP!”
Now the grip was on my shoulders as my assailant was shaking me roughly. That at least freed my hands enough to start hitting back as best I could. Managing to open my eyes, all I could see was red hair as my eyes were having trouble focusing. Oh no, Valerie was the assailant?! I had to fight her off now and get as much distance between us as I could if I was to have any chance of surviving this.
Pulling my legs underneath me, I kicked into her torso as hard as I could. Valerie went flying into the wall and smacked it hard. At that point I saw two more individuals wearing robes in the room. Great more damned Sith to deal with, as if Valerie wasn’t enough right now.
(Telera) “Kira, snap out of it!”
Valerie blurred faster than I could see and had grappled me from behind. One of the Sith was clearly using telekinetics to help restrain me as my arms and legs were pinned to my sides. The other one grabbed my face and I could feel some sort of emotional control technique overwhelm my defenses.
(Arethi Welhem) “Calm down. Your mind is having trouble integrating the memory fragments from your alternate self and it is causing you to relive some of your more traumatic memories.”
(Kira) “What? Where am I?”
(Telera) “You are on the Asrai in an alternate dimension. You were dreaming. We felt the Dark Side growing in your quarters and Valerie rushed in to see what was wrong.”
Valerie let go of me at that point and started gingerly rubbing the back of her head. Wait, this was Codifier Valerie and we were in the universe Dkira lived in. It was all coming back into focus now although I had a splitting headache.
(Valerie) “You were dreaming of the Academy weren’t you?”
(Kira) “I don’t want to talk about it.”
(Valerie) “Damn it Kira, you can’t just close yourself off from the rest of the galaxy. Do that too much and you will go Faded.”
(Kira) “And what do you want me to do? If I let my emotions run loose, I am going to become like that nutjob I just helped kill.”
(Valerie) “Well you were doing a fine job of that according to Telera and Welhem. Whatever nightmares you were having was making the ship foul with the Dark Side. You have to trust someone at some point.”
(Kira) “And what? Make friends? Lazlo just exploded today right in front of my eyes. Those robes the droids are cleaning are still covered in his charred blood. I can’t get attached to these people as I don’t know who will be the next one to die horribly. He isn’t even the first companion of mine to do that either.”
(Telera) “Well true…”
(Valerie) “Quiet! Confiding only in your siblings and those three friends of yours isn’t going to work well. Especially when you try to shelter them from what is happening to you. I know you have trouble trusting me because of the princess, but I have also noticed you get really evasive and quiet when I mention her going on an insane rampage.”
(Kira) “It’s complicated.”
(Welhem) “Talking about it should help you deal with the effects of Dkira’s death and the trauma it’s afflicted upon you.”
(Valerie) “Kira, talk to us.”
And I explained. I started with my capture during the Battle of Alderaan, slaying the other survivors, the constant in-fighting and jockeying for position, meeting Valerie and getting beaten within an inch of my life after laughing at her lightsaber, the fight with the Baramour, Vos Lamos, Glaives and all the other nonstop opponents that came day after day. I finally got to the point where I explained my final escape from the Sith and capture by De’arc after many hours. My throat was raw and the emotional mess dredged up by it all was burning. I was about to reach for another Force suppressant injection when Valerie hugged me.
(Valerie) “There now, that wasn’t so bad was it?”
Surprisingly enough, perhaps it wasn’t. Maybe all that touchy-feely routine the Codifiers trained in was actually good for something.
(Kira) “It’s clear that the princess and her family seem to be in better control of themselves than Dkira, the Glaives, or the Baramour were. It’s possible this may be true of the Varen faction as a whole even.”
(Telera) “That’s both reassuring and concerning.”
(Kira) “Agreed, which is why I’ve said getting to the princess quickly is our top priority. I am also concerned with how she may behave around Akira.”
(Valerie) “You think she would kill him?”
(Kira) “No, but it is entirely possible that she may lead him to falling. She may think it an easy way to accomplish her mission of bringing me back, or she might think it cheating to go after him. She’s really hard to predict at times.”
About that time we got a call from Lazlo asking us to meet him at Coruscant. Now, I am completely certain I saw him die. The assassination team was also fairly certain they vaporized Lazar. How in the galaxy could there possibly be a Lazlo left to contact us? Let alone one that knows who we are? I suspected a trap of some sort, but I had to admit, a Sith setting up a trap for us on an alternate Coruscant was highly unlikely by most measures. Although our Valerie proved that precognition can trump all sorts of odds when she managed to lead my alternate into meeting her at the Hohenheim Research Facility. We decided to meet with this Lazlo and headed to Coruscant.
It looked like the Republic fleet was waiting for us when we arrived. We were taken in, given a debriefing, and then told Lazlo and his alternate survived due to the use of clones. Now I thought that technique was another holo fantasy. Course, now that I think about it, we’ve seen a possessed bioweapon and a possessed chimera. So how unbelievable is it for a Sith to figure out how to possess a clone of themselves? Still I was rather surprised to find out that our Lazlo was still alive. Not many people can claim to have survived personally exploding.
Lazlo had been shocked himself… There had been moments of horrible, burning, pain – and then his alternate self’s spirit had slipped free – and drawn him after it, thanks to the link and to his shamanic training.
A few moments later, he’d become aware that he was soaking wet, and was falling out of some sort of tube which had just opened up around him – and right nearby, there was… another him? In almost the same situation, but stepping out rather than falling? And still with the horrible headache and confusion to boot…
Lazar, already near-berserk, had turned on this intruder in his private, well-hidden, deep-space, cloning facility. He scorched himself badly with his force lightning – the headache and resonance was NOT helping his control – but burned the intruder to a crisp.
Lazlo opened his eyes as the tube was opening this time. His attempt to reason with himself did not go well.
Clone body number three. Well, at least he knew how Lazar was surviving using the pyramid technique. He wasn’t; he was just coming back afterwards.
Lazar – by now frothing in an insane rage – managed to kill Lazlo quite a few more times (he wasn’t interested in counting up the pile of dead hims, either at the time or later), but, given the situation, as long as Lazlo stuck to trying to beat Lazar unconscious, while Lazar kept using lethal attacks, Lazlo could not lose!
At least not unless Lazar managed to run him through his entire stock of clone bodies.
It didn’t quite come to that. Still, he’d known that coming on this trip would get him killed!
He just hadn’t exactly expected that it would be QUITE so many times…
Searching around after getting Lazar restrained (and medicated into a near-coma) was profitable. Besides another 38 clones, there were several ships, plenty of lightsabers and top-quality gear, and enough extremely valuable trade goods to make any merchant faint on the spot. It looked like the entire station was automated, cloaked, and hidden.
Well, that was one way to try to guarantee immortality.
He grabbed one of the nicer ships, loaded it up with goodies – and with Lazar – and set off for Coruscant. He had no way of getting back in touch with everyone else without help.
Fortunately, he’d managed to explain at Coruscant, had provided directions back to the cloning facility (and arranged for the clones to get educated and compensated), and had gotten back in touch with everyone.
Wilhem had had quite a lecture for him when he got back. It seemed that the clone-transfer technique was slowly degrading to the force-pattern, especially if you did it voluntarily…
Alys got in touch with her Senator alternate (Salys?). She and the Arethi Welhem hurried off without much explanation, but I was more concerned with all the modifications the local Ben had made to our hyperdrive (after all, he seemed to be specializing in designing things that blew up really really well!). I had to insist that a team of experienced and knowledgeable hyperdrive specialists go over the designs, the system, and the coordinates before I was willing to use it again. I’ve seen enough of Ben’s designs blow up spectacularly and wasn’t about to let him fix the experimental hyperdrive again. Local Ben finally relented after I and the others raised a fuss. At least we could be pretty sure that the local hyperspace experts hadn’t been suborned…
Alys and Welhem both returned some time later. Apparently they had gone off to visit Salys and cure her version of the disease. Alys also returned with a more detailed history of some of the party members and in particular where my path differed from Dkira’s. What information she had matched fairly well with the memories I had picked up, but also provided some form of context to the whole issue. Best guess, it looked like the Baramour or someone similar had captured my alternate and done their training and experiments on him.
Lazlo was a bit startled to find out that – in this universe – he was indeed a Sith Bioweapon. Apparently the local Sith were kind of into those… perhaps it was because they were alive, and so were linked to the force, but giant monsters, and cyborg horrors, and deadly plagues, and all that kind of thing could actually be gotten to work. That was not good news – although the fact that such things tended to retreat when injured, could be scared off, and often went out of control might be considered god news. At least if you were as drunk as Handell was.
Sigh, this was throwing further contrast on the differences between the Varen and the other Sith we are so familiar with. We really need to have a frank conversation with Valerie once we find her.
With everyone’s local projects finished up, we double checked that we had the right version of everyone onboard then began the preparations to begin a trans-temporal jump. Once again I reached across the fabric of the cosmos and directed our jump through hyperspace. Handell then announced it would be about four hours until we arrived. The journey went relatively smoothly unlike the last trip. No fires or explosions this time, which was good.
We finally dropped out of hyperspace not all that far from Coruscant. Oddly there wasn’t that much in the way of ship or communication traffic. It took me a few moments to realize why: if this was the Codifier galaxy, then we were now deep in Faded territory.
Shipwreck ran more scans of the area while Handell tried to compute a course to take us to Homestead using the coordinates Valerie gave him. Ben hurried to swap the hyperdrive from a trans-temporal configuration to a classic configuration. In the interest of a timely departure, we opted to use the backup hyperdrive to get as far out of Faded territory as we could until Ben completed his conversion.
Ben was quite pleased… Even the breakdown had wound up contributing quite a lot of data – including more support for his “unconscious wish fulfillment” theory of interdimensional travel. It was pretty obvious that your unconscious desires had quite an impact on where you wound up; evidently the differences between thousands of possibilities were so small that even the desires of a non-sensitive had an impact on where you actually came out.
The other interesting note we got from the sensor scans was the fact that this galaxy was noticeably smaller than our own, although still with plenty of tiny red dwarfs. I was willing to chalk it up to the damage the Faded have caused. Valerie felt it unlikely that the Faded had torn entire stars out of the cosmos though. Had to agree that kind of power was highly unlikely in any sanity was left in the multiverse. Ben’s suggestion that this galaxy started with less mass had potential. It would also explain why the Republic here had a harder time fighting off one of the Sith wars and had to resort to more drastic measures like unleashing the Faded precursors.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the secondary effects of the Faded were slowly causing the galaxy to unravel and the lack of stars was evidence of this. I don’t like the implications of that.
Thankfully the journey to Homestead was quiet. No Faded intercepted us and no further disasters befell us. When we finally arrived in the Homestead system we were all shocked to see that the defenses of the planet were so pathetic. Three only seemed to be a few dozen ships around, and a handful of defense satellites to defend what I understood to be a tolerably important planet – and only two defense boats came out to meet us. While they could easily overwhelm the Asrai even after all the modifications, I alone had enough resources at my disposal back home to take a good shot at overwhelming the defenses. I think if we can establish regular contact and trade, then it would be best for us to start sending these guys ships and weapons for their war effort.
Hopefully the Furripedes can help me with that.
I also became aware of yet another headache and could see Valerie was suffering from them too. I did what I could to suppress my powers and use my limited Codex abilities to stop the resonance, but could see that Valerie was having more luck on that end. This feeling is highly annoying and I am not enjoying experiencing it again.
About that time the two defense boats saw us and were heading in our direction. They hailed us once they got in range and were most surprised to see Valerie and I out here. I let Valerie talk since she had the appropriate codes to prove her identity and I didn’t. She explained we (everyone but her) were duplicates from another dimension returning Valerie to her home dimension while also here to pick up our version of Valerie. This went over surprisingly better than I estimated, although the commander on the other end still seemed skeptical that we had managed to solve the steering problem. It was decided that they would bring the Valerie and Kira planetside into the conversation to help verify our claims.
With that a face I haven’t seen in a year except on dopplegangers appeared on screen.