Valerie Soung, Varen Shuttle Snow Stalker, Hyperspace
Kira and I entered the shuttle’s training room together. The place wasn’t as spacious as the one back at the residence, but it was quite luxurious aboard a shuttle of this size. This one even had options for gravity control. I made a note of that for later, but in the meantime it was time for lightsaber practice. We both swapped the power cells in our lightsabers.
I could feel Kira over the bond tapping into his power as we took our positions opposite each other. I did the same as I tapped into my power and readied the speed enhancement, the stamina boosts, and the precognition. Over the link, I could feel the resonance begin to build as power flowed from me to him and a trickle flowed back. That flow was stabilizing his own power and reinforcing it. Yes, now it was easy to see it happening now that I knew what was going on.
I began the attack as I charged forward and threw a blast of telekinetic energy at him to knock him off his feet. He saw it coming and dodged to the side. He barely managed to ready his own defense as my lightsaber collided with his shield. He then countered with a stabbing attack meant to skewer me. I decided to drop to the floor and made to kick his legs out from under him. Sensing my attack, he leapt back out of my reach.
I rolled back to my feet as Kira charged, this time shield first. I briefly considered meeting that shield with my fist, but decided that would be drawing upon my power too much. Instead I responded by hitting it to the side telekinetically. That neatly threw him off balance and I was easily able to knock the incoming lightsaber aside as well. That threw him even more off balance as he went falling to the ground and I slashed across his torso in a swipe that would have cut him in half if not for the current limiter on the power cell. Instead, all he got was a minor burn.
(Valerie) You need to work on maintaining your balance in response to sudden changes in movement.
(Kira) So now we’re throwing telekinetic blasts around too?
(Valerie) Well yes, we will also cover disarming techniques, basic hand-to-hand, and other techniques like blocking blasters. Besides, you also need to be able to use the basic enhancement techniques without even having to think of them.
(Kira) This is a lot to be trying to balance all at once.
(Valerie) You are going to have to learn how to do it. That is why we are practicing, so when you end up facing a Glaive, you can survive long enough to either win or be rescued.
(Kira) Glaives, yeah, I gather they are yet another Sith faction?
(Valerie) Surely you’ve heard of them even in the Republic. They are also known as Junkies or Toxi.
That saw his face light up with recognition and concern. Glaives were what happens when Hedi go bad. Hedi typically used some form of suppressant to keep their powers in check and do chemically what the Jedi do through meditations. Every once in a while, a Hedi would begin to build a tolerance to whatever they were using or start experimenting on others ways to get a buzz. Almost inevitably they would stumble across some sort of stimulant.
Stimulants were bad enough in normal people as they ate away at the mind and body, but were absolutely dangerous in Force users vulnerable to the Dark Side. As the stimulants made one susceptible to rash decision making and delusions of grandeur, the Dark Side would use that to start eating away at their minds even further. Supposedly the entire process was highly addictive and almost universally results in explosions. Sadly there are a few out there with just enough control or resistance to keep from exploding for some time and they can make a fight hell.
Those with enough control typically set themselves up as warlords over various systems looking for powerful opponents to battle and get the next higher buzz. Collectively they were known as the Glaives for obscure reasons from the depths of history. Rarely would more than a few work together on much of anything as they would quickly turn on each other. It was best to avoid them when possible or set them up against each other.
Send someone weak enough to not pose a challenge and they still might end up dead for the Glaive’s cruel sport. Send someone strong enough to pose a threat and you were pretty much asking for a fight. The whole mess becomes a no-win save by victory in combat scenario. Best chance I figured if I ran across one was to stall until the Glaive either self destructs or his chemicals run out.
(Kira) Junkies? Oh hell.
(Valerie) They are likely to focus on me if they find us. Besides, with any luck, they won’t know we are in their space before we’re gone again.
That was the plan anyway.
We continued practice for a couple more hours before I let him off. As he shuffled out of the training room and into the main sitting area I noticed Virstris was at the door watching us.
(Valerie) Taking lessons from Kira on how to be a voyeur?
(Virstris) Not at all, besides Kira wanting to watch our practice or me wanting to watch your practice isn’t voyuerism. You should be able to recognize intelligence gathering when you see it.
(Valerie) Doesn’t mean I am going to tolerate it.
(Virstris) Oh please, to hear Mother speak of it, you were watching Kira and Father practice every day.
(Valerie) That’s different.
(Virstris) How so?
(Valerie) Is this topic going anywhere or are you just trying to be annoying?
(Virstris) So I hear the two of you are bonding?
(Valerie) Who told you that?!
(Virstris) Mother did, said it was important that I understand the need to protect Kira if you can’t.
(Valerie) I don’t need to be dragging him along on my robes.
(Virstris) So it’s a burden to you? To hear Father talk, the possibility of getting another student of your caliber is extremely valuable to the family.
(Valerie) You are not the one he’s leeching off of.
(Virstris) No, but I’ve been told since I was a small child how important it is to work for the good of the family. I figured you were taught the same.
She was right of course. That was the reason I didn’t kill him now when the damage to me would be minor if any. Father and Mother would be upset, but I could survive their wrath. Not that I don’t enjoy the sparring matches of course and he can be funny, but I don’t like it when he points that sarcasm at me.
(Virstris) Enough of that, I figured now was as good a time as any to show you that ranged attack you should try.
(Valerie) Lightning or pushes?
She then proceeded to pull out a belt pouch and tossed it to me. Catching it, I opened it and found a set of thin plastic knives. Pulling one out, I could tell the balance was good and the edge was quite sharp. The reach wasn’t very good compared to a lightsaber and throwing it wasn’t going to do much against an armored opponent.
(Valerie) Nice, but throwing these doesn’t do much against armor.
(Virstris) True, I could never get one of those to punch through armor without serious powered assist likely to tear my arm off.
(Valerie) Then what is the point to these?
(Virstris) One of the reasons you can’t use telekinetic attacks in our practices is that you may face a Force immune. But being Force immune doesn’t protect you from being impacted by a high speed projectile.
(Valerie) Wait, throw the knife and then accelerate it towards the target?
(Virstris) Yep, put enough power behind it and armor will get holed. Of course, the knife won’t survive the impact to be used again, but at that point you shouldn’t need it again.
I had to admit it was a clever approach. Most of my ideas had focused on throwing large bulky objects at the opponent in order to crush. Piercing them was something I kept thinking of using lightsabers for. Of course I was going to have to be careful to let go of the knife before it hit the target, otherwise it might cause unpleasant Dark Side feedback that is better to avoid than have to suppress.
(Virstris) We can set up some targets for you to throw against for practice.
After she set some practice targets arranged, she had me start throwing knives at them while she watched. Hitting the bullseye each time was simple even on the furthest target. It mostly was me trying to learn the grab the knife in the air and then accelerate it towards the target at first, but then she stopped me. She grabbed one of the knives, tossed it into the air with one hand, and with a single motion grabbed it with her other hand and flung it into the furthest target.
(Virstris) Ah, thought so.
(Virstris) You’re correcting your aim in flight as well. I thought the gravity fields might have needed tuning. If you can aim better with your hands, then you can focus on accelerating the knife more with the Force. Try again, but without using your talents.
I did as instructed, throwing the knives while purposefully not using my power. This time the knives sunk into the target much further from the bullseye. It was startling to me, as I hadn’t ben aware I was doing it. The fact she was able to pick up on it was embarrassing too. Perhaps I have been letting the Force become too much second nature to me and how I do some tasks.
(Virstris) Not bad, better than I was expecting. I’d recommend practicing your aim first before we go into enhancing the throw any. Try a hundred throws and then we can go into the martial arts practice again.
I did start to enhance the muscles in my arm some towards the end to ward off fatigue from repetitive throws. My aim improved slightly but I could tell it was going to take some practice to routinely hit the target, especially a moving target while on the move myself.
We then moved into martial arts practice. I was definitely lasting longer than before, but most of that I was gaining by surrendering the initiative. Reacting as opposed to just acting felt wrong on a number of levels. It definitely was a whole different way of thinking while in combat. Precognition usually allowed me to plan out my moves and counters sequentially while having a good idea of what possible surprises might be coming my way. This was much more analyzing the situation moment to moment and picking a move or counter based on the current circumstances. The feeling that I was only treading water and not getting anywhere was strong.
Eventually we had to stop for a moment as Virstris tired.
(Valerie) What’s the point of this if I only keep you at bay the entire time?
(Virstris) Simple, once the style of thinking and moving becomes second nature to you, you can start to overpower your opponent with the strength and speed of yours.
(Valerie) In other words, learn to recognize openings when I see them and use my powers to go after openings others could not.
That was the theory anyway. I seemed to end up on the floor quite frequently and any openings I saw were quickly slammed into my face with a counter I didn’t foresee. I dare say Virstris was enjoying her time thrashing me around during practice, but she remained as difficult to read telepathically as ever. I think I am going to enjoy the first time I knock her flat on the mat.
We both finished up shortly thereafter. We needed to review the intel Lady Vera had given us before we arrived on Myce in a couple of days. Not wanting to read the briefing for the first time while I was going over it with Kira and Virstris, I retreated to my room and poured over the datapad Lady Vera had given me.
The planet Myce itself was a moderately industrialized world on the border to the mid-rim a good ways around the galaxy. That was far enough out to be outside the Republic’s zone. That put it squarely in the sights of many of the regional powers due to it’s local strategic value. It was currently in the hands of the Glaives, but it wasn’t like there was much organization to the Glaives themselves.
The Vos Lamos apparently were a collection of Mandalorians disgraced and stripped of their honor for one reason or another. Cast out of the clans, the only means for regaining their standing and reentering Mandalorian society was to undergo some sort of suicidal mission. Success or death trying would absolve them of the disgrace and restore their honor. The Vos Lamos more or less acted as a gathering point for these Mandalorians looking to redeem themselves.
Well that certainly explained why they were quite willing to engage me in combat with only four of them. Luckily for them, their deaths at Kira and my hands gave them the redemption they were looking for. Too bad it cost them their lives.
As for the remainder of the Vos Lamos, there were expected to be anywhere between fifty and two hundred at the enclave at anytime. They wouldn’t likely be expecting any sort of an infiltration, but it could pose a problem should they detect my presence inside the enclave. Still, I can work around that given time and focus.
The bigger problem was going to be the Glaives themselves. Currently it was believed that there were three Glaive Sith on the planet itself: Erik Mossa, Umal Soless, and Gan Regeard. Three on a single world was highly unusual. Two might work together to conquer a single world, but they would turn on each other as soon as the battle ended. For there to be three at once said something unusual was going on. It also implied the world was a powder keg waiting for a spark with the kind of tensions that entailed.
Right, best to avoid those three if possible if I didn’t want to get involved in a war between them.
Most of the rest of the notes was data on the planet itself and the local population. I thumbed through it all, but didn’t see anything surprising or that stood out much. It looked like a simple job of sneaking in quietly, stealing the information I needed and then sneaking back out again. My encounter with the Baramour taught me that nothing is ever that simple.
I summoned Kira and Virstris to my room and gave them the information I was given.
(Virstris) Sounds simple then, land, sneak into the enclave, and then escape before anyone notices we are there.
(Kira) How likely are the Glaives to sense our presence?
(Valerie) The longer we stay on the planet or nearby, the more likely they will become aware of us.
(Kira) Great, so speed is critical then. Going to have a hard time sneaking past two hundred Mandalorians quickly.
(Virstris) Oh come now, the report gave that as an upper limit, there could possibly be only fifty in there.
(Kira) Only fifty? Well then that should be a walk in the park.
(Virstris) Just being positive. Believing you can’t do something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
(Kira) I am not saying it can’t be done. What I am saying is that it can’t be done quickly without other factors.
(Valerie) A distraction then?
(Kira) Perhaps, or sneak into the service tunnels underneath and slice the network cables. We’ve got a computer tech aboard and I seriously doubt a bunch of Mandalorians are real big on network security.
(Valerie) It would take too long to figure out which cable to connect to. We’d have to do more research than we’ve really got time for.
(Kira) Pay the Mandalorians to go after the Glaives?
Now that I had to admit was clever, but not within our budget. We couldn’t afford to send a significant number of the Vos Lamos on a mission.
(Valerie) We don’t have enough funds at our disposal to do that.
(Kira) So we have to be clever with distracting the Mandalorians.
(Virstris) How do you distract Mandalorians?
(Kira) With a female Mandalorian?
I shot Kira a glare that told him I was not amused by the suggestion. Even now he didn’t seem to be taking this whole operation seriously.
(Virstris) Maybe we are approaching this whole situation backwards?
(Valerie) How so?
(Virstris) We’ve been focusing on how to distract the Vos Lamos to make it easier to sneak in. What if we approached it from the angle of getting someone to pay attention to the Vos Lamos instead?
That had potential, at the very least, it restated the problem in a very different way.
(Kira) Most obvious solution there would again be the Glaives.
(Virstris) How do we get the Glaives to go after the Vos Lamos?
(Valerie) Simulate the Mandalorians launching an attack against the Glaives. The Glaives will retaliate naturally enough without further prompting.
(Virstris) Straightforward, if a bit reckless. You suggest doing exactly the opposite of what we really want to do: fight the Glaives.
(Valerie) Not necessarily, stolen Vos Lamos equipment and liberal use of ranged area of effect attacks could enable us to attack the Glaives without them knowing it was us doing it.
With that I started outlining a plan. We would steal a suit of Mandalorian armor and give it to Virstris. We would then proceed to lay numerous traps with explosives and droids at a suitable ambush location where we might be able to catch one of the Glaives alone. Virstris would visibly lead the ambush with Kira and I doing what we could to foul up the Glaive’s precognition and attacks without showing ourselves. Objective was to kill the Glaive and leave evidence that the Vos Lamos were hired to do the job. Should the Glaive escape, try to leave him with the impression the Vos Lamos were behind it.
Once news got out about the attack, the Glaives would retaliate against the Vos Lamos without doing much fact checking if they behaved true to form. While they and the Vos Lamos fought it out, we would sneak in and procure the information we needed. That should be fairly easy as the Vos Lamos would be focused on defending against a heavy assault as opposed to a infiltration. With the information in hand, we would then get out of the system as quickly as possible to avoid pursuit.
That was the plan anyway.
I dismissed Kira and Virstris and turned to the suitcases stacked at the foot of the bed. As much as I wanted to have Gab along to unpack my stuff, it was protocol that only full masters could bring their servants with them. I unpacked the clothes into the closet in my quarters. I was probably going to be living out of this ship for quite a while.
That left the evening bath. Not wanting to wait or to bother with the scented oils, I stepped into the shower and cleaned off. Showers were never as relaxing though. Then I realized I had forgotten to lay out a night gown for myself and had to fetch one from the closet while still wrapped in the towel. At least there were droids that would handle cleaning the clothes and ship, along with the basic maintenance. I then crawled into bed and fell asleep.
My first dream of the night was of when I was a little girl. Mother and Father were taking Virstris and I to the Varen system for one of the Soung family meetings. Virstris and I were being presented to the family along with a great number of cousins and adopted cousins new to the family within the last ten years. Every time I managed to sneak off to play with the other children, there Mother would be to force me to sit through meeting yet another old family member.
My second dream was about the Varen replacing everyone in the Jedi temple on Coruscant while trying to keep all the tourists and officials from realizing it. Republic officials were beginning to get suspicious when they realized that people were actually enjoying the tours, well except the ones Kira was giving. Varen claims regarding the reduction in the number of Holo Sith went unheeded as the Supreme Chancellor revealed himself to secretly be a holo director in disguise.
I woke up to the hum of the hyperdrive engines. I could tell from the tone that we were in normal space again. Probably waiting for the engines to cycle again as we made a course correction on our way to Myce. I got out of bed, cleaned up and put on a fresh set of clothes. When I finished that I headed to the cockpit to speak with Augusta Stance. I found her there checking the readouts on one of the screens with her feet propped onto the console. She promptly dropped them when she saw me come in.
(Valerie) I take it we are waiting for the hyperdrive to finish the cooldown cycle?
(Augusta) Yes ma’am, the engines should be ready to make the jump to hyperspace again in about fifteen minutes.
(Valerie) Good, what is our ETA?
(Augusta) The course laid out should get us there tomorrow afternoon but I think I can shave some of that off and shift our arrival to tomorrow morning.
(Valerie) Carry on then.
That meant another twenty four hours aboard this ship. Not that I minded the accommodations, I just liked being able to go outside. Rather hard in a ship jumping in and out of hyperspace though.
Only way to burn off this excess energy is to do another high gravity exercise. It’s been a while since I last have done one of those and it would be a good workout. Virstris had been wanting a demonstration ever since I mentioned it during one of our practices.
I might as well check then to see if she is awake before I begin my practice. I could sense Kira was awake over the bond, probably eating breakfast. I should probably drag him along to watch too. He’s going to have to start the strength enhancement training soon enough.
Besides, Kira needs to learn just how far he has to go to truly master the Force.