I could already tell that our arrival around Coruscant was going to cause chaos at the very least. The local Ben was widely known to have destroyed galactic civilization, we had a super weapon in our possession, and we were about to request that the Jedi join us. This could hardly look any worse for us unless we destroyed a moon by accident in the course of this.
Lazlo and Handell suddenly volunteered to head on ahead of us on the Asrai to scout a safe route for the Ratsoogomoz and drop beacons while also heading on to Coruscant and warning the locals of our arrival. I wasn’t sure I liked the way Lazlo said some of that, especially the bit about “warning” the locals, but I had to agree that we were less likely to be shot at if the locals were told to expect us.
After they left, it came time to tell Ben he needed to disguise himself or I would do it for him the hard way. After some complaining and arguing, Ben elected to hide himself in a full suit of armor designed to completely obscure his identity in lieu of plastic surgery. I had to sigh when said armor turned out to be rather similar to the classic Vader design in the holos, complete with distorting voice mask. I suppose it wouldn’t work to claim I don’t know these people when I am arriving with them and I am the unspoken leader of this ragtag bunch of misfits.
Kira hadn’t noticed yet, but Ben was finding the rumors that were spreading through the crew of the Ratsoogomoz quite amusing. The current gossip was that Kira was so powerful a dark lord that his mere voice could kill – as had been demonstrated by the disappearance of Darth Ben and all the collateral damage done to the bridge when their Lords had spoken to him on the intercom. He’d save that tidbit for sometime when they needed an emergency boost to orbit; Kira might just hit the roof hard enough to supply it.
Not much that could be done there except to respond to any questions as they occur. In the meantime, I decided I needed to make some upgrades to my equipment given amount of combat we are likely to face once we go after Zandaras. The blaster I have been using just didn’t have the punch I needed against armored opponents. Working with Ben and Alys, we were able to increase the power output of the blaster, but that put more stress on the crystal and it would burn out shortly. Ben started drawing up designs on a larger crystal like what rifles have, when I suddenly had a thought.
Lightsaber crystals were under a similar amount of stress and would quickly burn out. However, a Force user could repair flaws in the crystal as they formed so long as they formed a good link with the crystal itself. Maybe a similar thing could be done here?
It took some time, but we did find a lightsaber crystal furnace that the Sith left behind. I made two crystals of the shape and size needed for two blasters and made another for a lightsaber. I don’t plan on dual wielding lightsabers or blasters anytime soon, but it is nice to have spares made in case I need them. Valerie had tried out the dual lightsabers in practice once while I was still at the Academy, and even tried the shield style too, but seemed to prefer the two-handed style when she wasn’t using her bare hands and those shield generators. I favored the shield style myself.
With the crystals made, we then assembled a pair of blasters. The crystals worked well as I was able to repair the flaws that started to develop and the blaster was able to generate a significantly harder punch when fired. Only problem we found in response to this was the fact that this drained the power cell at a ridiculous pace, especially on auto-fire. One of the Sith-employee technicians that had come with the base then noted that lightsaber power cells had a much higher power density than normal power cells, and since we were already using some lightsaber parts it only made sense to use some more.
The suggestion made a certain amount of sense, although it took some fabricating to make the power cell fit in the socket. That neatly solved the power problem, and it also meant I only needed to carry a single set of spare power cells with me instead of the two I had been carrying. With the basic configuration now working and tested, I started to tinker with swapping out and altering the more minor components to make it a better fit for me. Surprisingly, this meant the casing materials and such started to resemble the materials used in my lightsaber. Master Soung had spoken about a resonance with a lightsaber, and I have tinkered with my lightsaber for the last two years now, but only now am I really beginning to understand what he meant by that.
With the finished blaster in hand, I set up some target dummies in one of the cargo bays and tested it out. The blaster worked well, although my aim was terrible. Alys provided some pointers, but it largely came down to practicing enough with it to become good. So I spent my time practicing and finishing assembling the spare lightsaber and blaster using the designs of the originals.
Meanwhile, Handell and Lazlo had laid a trail of beacons and had arrived at the outskirts of Coruscant. They were surprised to find that several trails of navigation beacons were already being put back into place. They were purely local given the scale of the galaxy – but they were marking out at least the beginnings of a network of paths linking Coruscant and some of it’s most vital sources of supply. That was obviously a crash construction program – but it should have taken a lot longer than this, considering the likely rate of losing ships trying to get the things placed… Ah; intuitive navigation. The Jedi had to be taking the ships out – probably loaded with beacons – and bringing them back with the most vitally needed cargos.
It obviously wouldn’t be enough, but it was surprisingly sensible of the Jadi. Had they foreseen that something was going to happen but had been unable to see clearly what since Ben and his superweapon had been so close to the galactic black hole?
Unfortunately, a lot of the in-system hazards and defenses were no longer marked either. Handell crept in very slowly…
The in-system traffic control and defenses picked them up almost immediately. Well, there couldn’t be more than a tiny fraction of the traffic they’d been designed to handle at the moment. The presumption was that they were either a risk-taking trader, piloted by a Jedi who’d been out in the galaxy and needed to get back, from a very nearby world – or (just possibly) a scout for an upcoming Sith invasion.
They – well, OK, mostly Lazlo – wound up having to explain a great deal about coming from another universe, about acquiring the superweapon, about the idea that it could be used to reverse it’s own effects, about the fact that THEIR Ben was NOT Darth Ben, and on and on. Several times over. To a variety of interviewers. What made it worse was that all the capable Jedi were out trying to rebuild the navigation grid – which meant that even getting one to come and listen to their story was quite a project. The fact that neither of them actually understood anything about how the weapon – or the trans-dimensional stuff – really worked didn’t help them explain.
They eventually got through simply because no one could see any possible benefit in providing such a warning if they were planning some sort of an attack or something – even if someone finally did turn up a Sith Lord dead ringer for Lazlo – albeit one that had been dead for 16,000 years.
Sigh. That was what he got for challenging them to run a search on the data banks. Handell wasn’t a lot of help either. He knew better than to be telling traffic control crazy stories – and habits that old and strong were pretty difficult for him to overcome.
Ben, meanwhile, was examining all his alternates selves data… So; you projected a hypertunnel – or hyperdimensional tunnel – into a black hole. As mass was drained from the black hole, it set up a hyperfield. That was normal enough; it was simply a variation on the basic principles of the hyperdrive on a massive scale.
The radius of the resulting hyperfield was apparently determined by how close to the center of the black hole the mass drain was set up. The strength was determined by how fast matter was being transferred – essentially by the energy input. The type of field – and it’s “aim” were determined by the tuning, modulation, and secondary characteristics of the projected portal.
It looked like the hyperportals tended to be anchored a bit by mass – which might help explain why they usually wound up inside the galaxy…
He also wrote a speech to address Coruscant with, but Kira burned it and made sure that he got nowhere near the communications gear.
He put most of the details in his current “burn before reading” notebook, which Jacob – having heard about Ben (and feeling himself safe in his illiteracy) promptly got into and covered over with crayon drawings of forest monsters. Knowing Ben, if he ever did go back and check his notes, he’d presume that those were part of the inspiration and try to incorporate them into his designs…
Jacob also spent a lot of time – with Wilhem’s help – trying to figure out just what had made Killer Jacob different from himself. Had it been something genetic, or was it just what Sith training from youth did to Atavist talents?
Alys spent most of her time thinking. She was actually pretty likely to see her parents again – and she hadn’t really been expecting that to ever happen again. What to tell them? How much to tell them? Was there something she ought to try to do for them?
At least Coruscant produced a very large proportion of the raw calories that it needed via forced-growth algae farming. There really wasn’t any choice about that; otherwise they’d soon no longer have a breathable atmosphere. That sort of thing was so important that they covered it in the required basic schooling…
Telera and Shipwreck busied themselves with practice, re-equipping, and exploring the oddities of their second base – finding quite a number of interesting things. Khadim and 10CH mostly spent their time in studying – and in installing even more equipment in themselves. No reason not too when there was plenty of manufacturing capacity going unused.
We arrived on the edge of the Coruscant system days later. The Republic fleet in orbit around the planet was expecting us and wanted a debriefing to confirm what Lazlo and Handell had told them. Unfortunately, the Republic seemed to be of the opinion that it was too dangerous to strip the planet of most of the Jedi just because we thought that we could reverse the damage that had been done. It was far “safer” to stay here and reestablish what routes they could while letting the Jedi intuitively navigate vital supplies into the system.
We finally did get to the Jedi Council – or at least the people who were currently holding down those seats; three geriatric cases, a couple of weakly force-sensitive bureaucrats, and a bunch of half-trained children.
They turned out to be a lot easier to convince than the military. It also turned out that there were a lot of ships available. Coruscant did lie on a hyperpath nexus; lost ships often turned up there – and the galaxy was full of those these days.
Unfortunately, Coruscant was also full of rioting, rebellion, and small civil wars. A total breakdown was a lot closer than anyone else they’d talked to so far had been willing to admit.
The Jedi were willing to take the chance if the cooperation of the civilian authorities and the military could be obtained. They didn’t see many other chances.
This began a colossal governmental and military argument regarding what was the safer route to take. Some of the strategic analysts and I were of the opinion that the Sith were winning given the current circumstances. Some of the others in the discussions felt that the risk of losing the Jedi in some hyperspace accident gambling on an insane plan was unacceptable; even taking them away for more than a few weeks was likely to lead to a Republic collapse anyway – and their loss would certainly kill the recovery project. Yet another group was advocating a gracious surrender to the Sith. Then there were the bunch advocating that the Republic be taken over by the military and the Jedi and Sith eliminated. There were religious kooks, insisting that the disaster was a judgement on the galaxy for allowing the use of the force; they wanted to have a private apocalypse and return Coruscant – and the rest of the galaxy – to a primitive life. Some fanatic loonies wanted to blow up Coruscant rather than submit to the inevitable Sith triumph.
There were even a subversive bunch who wanted to steal the superweapon and blackmail the government with the threat of wiping out the new beacon network, as limited as it was.
Alright, taking a note of those names as they may become important back home.
Fortunately, the lunatic fringe groups advocating completely unworkable or suicidal plans were a minority for now, but they were likely to pick up momentum as the situation became more desperate. Sadly, things were getting more desperate with our arrival and the leaking of the news we had a superweapon in orbit. This development at least gave credence to the idea that the Republic was on the verge of collapse as things currently stood, ergo something drastic had to happen if the Republic was to have any hope of surviving this at all.
The officials and strategists weren’t happy at all when I suggested having Sith help me save the galaxy instead of the Jedi if they were going to be this obstinate. That – and the repeated pointing out that the Sith Empire still had its navigation grid – finally got everyone to quiet down and agree to the idea of rescuing the grid in principle. The Jedi had already given their own consent to the idea and so the collection of Jedi began. It took several days for the recall to complete, but soon the base was filled with just about every Jedi in the system and nearby with a shred of power.
And most of them were giving me dirty looks.
The Republic had been allowed to poke around the Ratsoogomoz – and they had soon started wanting to arrest and execute the crew of the Ratsoogomoz for their part in destroying civilization. I had to admit getting annoyed at this and asked the Republic officials who they were willing to replace the crew with that had qualifications in running the system. I also told them that the Sith who used the weapon was killed as far as it mattered, and the remaining two Sith were “forced” to leave the sector. Ergo, the ones most responsible were either dead or run for the rim. The crew couldn’t be held accountable when the Sith were known to execute anyone not following orders.
Alys, meanwhile, had been trying to explain matters to her parents – who had been delighted to see her. They’d thought she was dead – or at least lost for good. They were worried that Corwin might be involved with the military junta movement.
Alys was also most upset to find that her father was injured; he’d ben caught in a building collapse and had suffered a broken arm, ribs, and a crushed foot – and was getting along on old-style splints due to the bacta shortage.
That was too much to bear. They had plenty of bacta aboard the Ratsoogomoz – and so she took them up for treatment.
The timing turned out to be either very good of very bad, depending on how you looked at it. The Ratsoogomoz broke orbit while her father was still in treatment… It looked like her parents were along for a trip to another universe. Shipwreck had finally managed to derive a set of coordinates from Alys to Alys – and Ben had turned them into settings – and they were getting underway with no further delays. There were too many rumors spreading across Coruscant already.
Ben’s announcement of how good it was to have a second super weapon in our possession was not helping my mood either. Nor was my finding Jacob snorting our bacta supplies. The discovery of more bioweapons deep in the bio labs aboard the Ratsoogomoz was just the icing on the cake. We knew about Jacob (who was dumped out the airlock earlier) and Xiang, but we also found local versions of De’arc (apparently turned into a living drug factory) and Dr Orin (turned into some sort of living bomb).
Alright, why is it that no matter what universe I go to, I am in the midst of copies of the insane nutjobs in my life? At least Valerie wasn’t a bio weapon or an insane Sith unlike the rest of these nuts. Something is wrong when the Sith that regularly beat the snot out of me is beginning to look good in comparison. We handed the bio weapons over to Republic custody. Not that Coruscant needed bioweapons right now, but I was also fairly certain there was only so much damage those people could get up to by themselves.
I was also getting rather annoyed with the questions, koans, advice, chastising, lectures, and all from the Jedi when Ben announced the modifications to the Ratsoogomoz were complete. After I walked the Jedi through how to work the dimensional navigation technique, we fired up the hyperdrive and headed off. I will admit, this time I had a lot more backing power wise than any other time I’ve tried this trick as all the Jedi on board assisted in the dimensional steering.
We then arrived in a heavily irradiated zone, and Shipwreck quickly confirmed that this looked to be the galaxy we were looking for. We picked up the communications and navigation grid quickly enough. With some use of our Republic codes, we sent out a general broadcast to everyone in range of the grid to contact us. Unfortunately this resulted in us getting bombarded with over 80,000 collect calls (since they didn’t have override codes or access to their bank accounts) from people stranded in this galaxy. It took some time sorting through that mess until we eventually decided to send out another broadcast telling everyone to engage their hyperdrives when they detect the beacons vanishing. We at least located Alys though.
The communications system can try it’s luck at billing me for all those collect calls though.
With that sorted out, we made a course for the galactic black hole…. again. Handell, again, was not happy to be asked to do this. At least this time we had a functional, if inaccurate, grid to use as a navigational aid. He finally relented and laid in a course to the black hole.
After we arrived, Ben and Shipwreck started talking excitedly about something. From what I could gather, the black hole was emitting radiation and wasn’t in the center of the galaxy. It was also nearly 26,000,000,000 standard stellar masses. Not really understanding why this was unusual, all I got was that this couldn’t be natural for the black hole to be doing this the way it was. Ok, fine, I still didn’t quite understand why a black hole spewing radiation unnaturally in a dead galaxy was our problem. At that point I was told it was also emitting a weak hyperspace field across the galaxy and that this would interfere with our return trip if we attempted it – or some such thing. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Well damn it.
It was decided to send a probe into the black hole to determine what was going on. How they still managed to talk to it as it dipped past the event horizon was beyond me. There was more fooling around with sensors and Ben and Shipwreck talking excitedly while I looked on wondering what all the fuss was about. Eventually I was told they had detected a ship in there that had been running a hyperdrive tunnel system for three-quarters of a billion years. Somehow this tunnel was responsible for irradiating much of the galaxy and sending it off-center.
Ben found it fascinating – and several things fell into place… The inside of the black hole was in stasis-level time. That explained a lot of things – and meant that waiting an hour or so and a lot of tinkering with his hyperwave receiver could get him a trickle of data from his probe, at least until the incredibly blue-shifted incoming radiation destroyed it. So the black hole was not being dragged along with the rest of the galaxies time… It had to be something to do with the intense gravity. The “Event Horizon” was just where the time-shift occurred.
The hole itself was in an ecliptic orbit, oscillating back and forth through the galactic core. According to what information Handell could pull out of the navigation grid with their military codes, there was a trail of sorts – the disturbances it had left as it passed through the starfield – and his computations gave him a (very rough) estimate of some three-quarters of a billion years of such passes. At a guess, at that point, SOMETHING had moved the black hole out of place, to somewhere between five and ten thousand light years from it’s position at the core.
The radiation field was tuned to particle-annihilation frequencies and came out of hyperspace. It looked like it was the result of particles being scattered out of the black hole though that weak hyperfield.
Wait; if someone had taken a tunnel-drive equipped ship into the black hole – whether or not they meant too – it would have generated an intense transport field just outside the event horizon as it entered. The Black Hole would have… suddenly been under hyperdrive. It would have moved a long ways. As the ship went deeper, it would have generated a far larger and more diffuse field. Only enough to transport particles, and destroying most of those. Creating a radiation field tuned to particle-annihilation frequencies which would gradually expand across the galaxy.
Such a ship might only survive for a few minutes or hours – but in the near-timelessness of the black hole, that might be several billion years. Someone – perhaps an early civilization with an experimental hyperdrive that they didn’t fully understand – had accidentally killed their entire galaxy. Inside the hole, that ship was still detectable – but was there any way to reach it through the stasis effect?
I was all for firing a torpedo at the damned thing, but I was told this wouldn’t work due to time distortions. Jacob then volunteered to go in and use his atavism ability to hold his timerate constant before shooting down the problem ship. I felt this plan was beyond suicidal but I wasn’t about to stop him if he wanted to suicide spectacularly.
Jacob, in fact, had given in to the Light Side on that one; it would be insanely risky – but he couldn’t leave the rest of this galaxy to die as the radiation field continued to expand. He spent a good deal of time attuning himself to the Force in this universe, and linked himself to the timefield generated by the stars of the galaxy (who actively helped; they didn’t like having the black hole wandering around) – which would also serve to anchor his links against the pull of the black hole – and headed in.
Everyone else went to great extremes (spending force points) to give him as much protection as they could, the best ship possible, and every other advantage they could cobble together.
Jacob took a ship the others jury-rigged together and plunged into the black hole. At which point I felt the local time rate shift by a nearly 10% loss. At first I tried to compensate until I saw that no one else had perceived this change. Interesting, it seems Codex powers will enable me to feel when the local time rate changes on me.
Reports came in from Jacob regarding what he saw. It looked like the intense radiation inside the black hole was slowly evaporating the skin of the ship. The pilot and crew were almost certainly dead. I had to admit the images we got back had a haunted quality to them and I felt an odd fascination to learn more about who they were, where they had come from, and what had happened to them. A ship over three-quarters of a billion years old was a discovery way beyond anything the galaxy had known.
Jacob felt much the same way… A relic of one of the earliest civilizations in the galaxy. The first ever hyperdrive. It was a pity to destroy it – but he couldn’t sense anyone still alive to rescue. It looked like the radiation storm had been lethal in moments.
Sadly with no easy way to retrieve it, and our ability to leave hampered by its existence, it was necessary for us to destroy it. Jacob fired his torpedo and destroyed the ship before leaving the black hole via hyperdrive. Jacob was put into medical care once we retrieved him and then we set about putting the grid back to its original galaxy. That proved easy enough given our resources. Ben and Handell did something with the hyperdrive before apparently moving the black hole back to the center of the galaxy.
That was easy actually; they simply projected a properly-tuned tunnel into the black hole – and let Handell steer it by manipulating the field they were projecting. Once the Black Hole was back where it belonged, they used it – and the massed efforts of their Jedi – to return the navigation grid.
Alys had done some soul-searching about abandoning her new friends – but had eventually decided to leave them her hyperdrive information and backups and return home. It had been an interesting vacation, but it really wasn’t her world – and she was somewhat flattered that the others had come across the dimensions to find her.
With that all sorted out and the grid returned to its rightful place, we made our return there to drop off the Jedi. While the others were joyous of our success, I was brooding. We had found out how to build to functional superweapons: one that could destroy civilization, and another that could destroy most life in the galaxy. The common thread between these weapons was the fact that both required a black hole to operate. Apparently the only way to build one that works was to use it inside someplace the Force cannot reach: inside a black hole.
That worried me more than anything. More than one of these guys had expressed entertaining the idea of joining the Sith. The Jedi have also spawned more Sith than any other organization out there. This new knowledge was far more dangerous than anything we’ve learned thus far and I can’t say I trust these people with this information. Problem gets to be, I don’t have the skill to mindwipe everyone and killing them all is beyond my means too. But that would mean returning home with a base full of people more than willing to tell all their secrets and the operating instructions on how to truly destroy the galaxy and/or civilization.
I wasn’t happy to say the least. Plus I was concerned what sort of mischief that Holosith could get into with knowledge of how the Codex works. The Jedi were more than willing to dump the Codex techniques into the pile marked “Too dangerous to use” and end it there. That meant if I was to leave anyone with the knowledge to counter Sith-Faded, then I had to find someone outside the Jedi.
I knew of only two people who were proven to be able to handle both the Force and the Codex, and I knew where one was, and had a sneaking suspicion I knew where the other one was too.
Time to make some calls I think.