Star Wars – The Final Empire
Further analysis of the galaxy they’d found themselves in revealed more…
Ben was considering the hyperspace fields. They were complex beyond anything he’d ever imagined – far beyond his ability to analyze directly, even if he’d HAD instruments designed for that kind of thing. It looked like they had… call them resonance modes… which would interact with circuitry in normal space.
At least one of those dumped power into a properly-tuned hypercoil, allowing it to draw energy from the field. Batteries? Generators? Hah! These people’s technology just drew power from the black holes (that had to be powering those fields) directly.
Another resonated with a normal hyperdrive field. All you needed here was a catalyst-coil. You could build a hyperdive unit small enough… small enough for a scooter. A slightly larger system could out-perform anything in their galaxy.
It was pretty obvious that another resonated with transmitter-circuits. You could build a subspace transceiver here small enough to wear as a badge.
There were dozens of other modes as well. Doubtless empowering systems he couldn’t even imagine. The trouble was… There was no way he could calculate what attempting a dimensional transition would do when their field started to interact with those fields.
Besides… the energy expended on blanketing the galaxy with those fields… Even an order-of-magnitude calculation was full of guesswork – but perhaps 100,000 standard stellar masses per day?
Wait. That meant that they had to be… stealing entire galaxies worth of mass from other universes and shunting the black holes to where they needed them. Was this what his dimensional hypertunnel system led to in Sith hands? A cannibal galaxy that ate other universes?
Shipwreck was looking at the scans… OK, even with all the hyperspace activity, there were transitions that you could detect many hundreds of light years away. Even with the amplification effects, and the power of the Ratsoogomoz’s main drives, they shouldn’t be detectable more than a light-month or two away – and… it looked like they weren’t that near to any traffic lanes (which were detectable even further away due to sheer concentration).
That meant that – out there – people were ROUTINELY using superweapon-scale devices to shunt stars and/or black holes around. Still, that also meant that – if they were quiet about it – they ought to be able to remain undetected for some time. On the scale of THIS universe, they were very small fry indeed.
Even the local stars seemed fuzzy… Their light was oddly diffused, and shifted towards heat, and there were an AWFUL lot of life-signatures. Enough to suggest… some of the multiple-orbiting-ring variants on Dyson spheres. This was a big and populous civilization. Perhaps thousands or tens of thousands of times as many people as their galaxy supported.
What little he could pick up from outside the galaxy suggested… the heat death. A cosmos dead of old age. He had to give them kudos for sheer nerve and guts – they’d found a way to defy the end of time itself and had apparently managed to hold their civilization together for billions of years in the face of that challenge – but what had they sacrificed to make that possible?
Lazlo… Lazlo was falling back on his shamanic talents – and this galaxy was… an island in a night that went on virtually forever, and an island founded on history – and legions of the dead – that went back and back beyond anything he’d ever felt. The dead here were a mighty throng, and there were a lot of people dying – somewhere – to support this place. He had not felt such a throng of the dead – or such evil – even when he was in mental contact with the Sith archives. This universe – or at least this civilization – really needed to be destroyed, and it’s peoples dispersed into other realms. If that would metastasize this… this CANCER… than it all needed to be destroyed.
Jacob agreed with Lazlo to some extent – but found less “evil”, and more “predator”. This realm was like… a mighty hunter. Not a passive forest, feeding on the energies of the local star, but a deadly force-beast that hunted and killed to live. It was the nature of life to seek to survive at all costs. He could not blame the locals for that – but, equally, the prey had every right to strike back! He started attuning himself to this universe. Who knew what he might learn? The locals weren’t too friendly – but the stars were mostly young and naive!
Alys was looking at the communications. Casual gossip, programming, all kinds of navigational channels – it looked like the people here thought nothing of commuting to another star system if a job called for it. Obviously a tiered society, probably with the most powerful force-users (or force- codex hybrids) on top – since they alone could navigate the universes to bring back the vital supplies. It was… pretty obvious that the imported (or perhaps rescued – if they were from dying universes) species formed the lower class. Still, being lower-class in a galaxy this rich was likely to be a big improvement on being upper class in a dying cosmos. A lot would depend on how things were being administered – and she didn’t have enough information to even guess at that yet.
Kira – Kira was concerned both over the local ethics, over the fact that this entire realm HAD to be founded on the dimension-hopping superweapon, and – especially – over what the local hyperfield might do to his control over his powers.
One thing was obvious to everyone; the local timerate had to be very, VERY fast by their standards. Otherwise this universe couldn’t possibly be so old…
They held a discussion as to what to do.
It was decided that for the time being we would stay well away from any of the nearby star systems. Hopefully our entrance wasn’t detected by the local authorities and we didn’t have a massive fleet heading our way. Now it came time for proposals to get us out of here, even if Telera and Wilhem were doing their best to make sure that he wasn’t actually injured.
Proposals pretty much came in two flavors: run tests quietly to determine the structure of the hyperfield, and send a ship and try to retrieve the information we needed from the locals directly. Lazlo proceeded to knock Ben unconscious at the mention of running more experiments, at least regarding experiments in miniature hyperdrive systems. It took some time to get that quarrel to stop but finally we got Ben to agree to not build any miniature hyperdrive systems. Nor was I very happy about Lazlo repeatedly knocking out the only person in our group that could probably get us out of here in a controlled fashion.
None of us were keen on trying to blend in with the local culture given our group and so we ended up voting for letting Ben experiment with little tabletop hyperdrive circuits to determine how these hyperfields worked. While Ben busily experimented in more ways to destroy tables by accident, the rest of us started looking over the broadcasts going out. There were 17,462 holo channels being broadcast and there was no way we would be able to monitor all of them given the people we had.
Remembering a sketch from a comedy series I liked, I asked if it was possible to build droids that could channel-surf for us. At least the droids could monitor the channels looking for anything of interest to us. Alys gave me a dirty look at that suggestion, but finally got to work assembling droids with the technicians. I ignored the vague comments about dooming civilization as being facetious.
The first droid quickly announced that only fifty or so of the channels were worth watching since they were in binary and dealt with droids. Apparently, the droid was able to readily interpret frustrated glares as it quickly began surfing the other channels and generating notes. Soon the first one was joined by more droids as the manufacturing bays ramped up production. I am not sure the couches, buckets of computer chips, and flasks of oil were really necessary to the whole process, but I chalked it up to some of the techs having a sense of humor.
Slowly but surely, a coherent picture of the galaxy outside began to come together. The galaxy was approximately 240 billion years old and started as a hypermassive galaxy much larger than our own galaxy. In response to the eventual Heat Death of the Galaxy (I had to have Alys explain that one to me), they had started to import galaxies from other dimensions to replenish their own. It was a stratified galaxy with the most powerful Force users and Hybrids at the top, with Codex users underneath them, then the general populace, and then the enslaved peoples of the imported galaxies.
Some species were even listed as “Exterminate on Sight”. Looking over that list, I could understand why as Kredath were on the list along with a few other insane species. Not that I advocate exterminating their species. I just get tired of the vast majority of bounty hunters willing to use massive explosives near me being largely from the species on that list.
Alys sighed. It was understandable – given the forces this galaxy depended on throwing around for sheer survival, allowing a full-scale war to break out would be suicidal. Ergo, species that could not or would not play nicely with others could not be allowed to exist outside of zoos – but there really OUGHT to be a better way!
It looked like they preferred to import galaxies with a functional civilization. Apparently they felt that having a communications and navigational grid in place meant a lot more than the rights of the people that lived there. Since our galaxy hadn’t finished mapping out the place and setting relays up in every corner of the galaxy, it was a bit young by local tastes.
Lazlo immediately began to advocate destroying their civilization. I had to agree that I did not like what I was seeing in this bunch, but I also wasn’t keen on the idea of destroying it all either. I mean, for the most part they are trying to survive the death of their universe, and while I can’t say I approve of the method, I can’t fault them for trying. I would just prefer they used younger uninhabited galaxies or just import mass from before galaxies formed. On the other hand, they are a far sight better than the Faded are for sure. Perhaps this is the end result of a Sith Empire?
I argued that it wasn’t our business to interfere with this place, and that destroying a civilization purely because I didn’t like it was wrong. Most of the others came around to my viewpoint on the matter, although Lazlo still wanted to destroy them all if possible. Regardless, our ability to destroy civilization is not something I am keen on testing.
One of the droids did find a documentary on our group. Apparently we were credited with the discovery of controllable dimensional travel and the knowledge of the Codex that made this whole mess possible – even if they did think we were possibly legendary and were portrayed as having built the prototypes out of rocks and leather strips. Great, now I find out that I am more or less responsible for billions of years of enslavement and extermination. Is the cosmos trying to make me think staying at the Academy was a better idea?
And why does it seem like no matter where I go, the same loser from Alderaan is at the center of galactic affairs?
At which point Alys came over the intercom requesting that we tune to a specific channel. She had apparently found a program discussing common signs of Codex powers. Looked like the typical Codex user had difficulty in school and/or socialization. Most likely from difficulty in adapting their powers to fit in a society built upon the Force. Frequently such individuals would also qualify as trouble-magnets later in life, especially if Codex potential was strong. Superweapon designers almost always had some Codex potential to stop the Galactic Censor from erasing their thoughts on the matter.
Wait… The force itself suppressed thought on certain topics? How did… OH. In the galaxy I’d accidently sent Alys to, a hyperdrive experiment had destroyed most of the living creatures of the galaxy – and no one could even THINK seriously about a hyperdrive any more – unless they had Codex potential, and could resist the Force. Of course, that would also resist… the force-instincts that made it possible for a normal person to study “languages” in general, rather than learning particular languages. Hence, misfits who had trouble in school. A survival mechanism. One that wasn’t too bright of course – a hyperdrive had been needed to fix things as well – but effective enough.
The others began to talk excitedly over what we were learning, but I found myself thinking back to my days in school again. Just how much of my life and personality was damaged by the time I graduated from high school? What if the key to my sanity and living a normal life was not discovering the Codex so much as having that breakthrough with the Force? I know I’ve become calmer and more deliberate in my actions over the last two years, but always assumed that was a response to the insanity in my life. Even the Dark Side traces I picked up from Dkira are now almost completely gone.
Then there is the fact that my abilities are developing at such an astounding rate that even I have a hard time believing it. I’ve watched Ben and Lazlo grow with the Force and know they’ve been growing in response to the constant chaos we’ve been in, but I’ve been outpacing both of them substantially.
Just to test something I grabbed a spare metal rod laying in the room from the assembly of the droids. There was no way I would be able to bend it without using my powers. Tapping into the Force as if I had done this hundreds of times, I enhanced my strength and bent the piece of metal into a pretzel without straining myself at all. Thinking back to the other students at the Academy, what I just did should have been flat-out impossible. Thankfully none of the others had seen me do it and asked awkward questions.
The others were now discussing the implications of the Galactic Censor. I had to admit it explained a lot of what we had seen going on, but it was also responsible for the continuing Sith wars in my opinion. Just because it made stable galaxies did not mean that they were places worth living in. The Sith were better than the Faded, but so was that planet of vampiric plants. Ben started brainstorming ideas on how to make the Galactic Censor smart, and Alys smacked him.
As much as I wanted to stay and learn more about being a Hybrid, I also knew that the longer we stayed here, the more likely we would be discovered. We started making preparations to leave via as controllable a dimensional jump as we could manage using the data Ben had gathered. Suddenly I felt something very weird happen with the Force as Ben and Lazlo came over the intercom announcing they felt it as well. Handell heard us all yelling at each other confusedly and took his cue to initiate a dimensional hyperspace jump.
Jacob had decided that – if this universe needed to be influenced – the only possible way to do it was to become one with the force. Similarly, that would give him all the knowledge that he could possibly require. He’d reached out, and tried to become one with the galaxy.
Fortunately, he’d been reaching for knowledge, not power – but Lazlo still felt the pyramid-scheme effect begin to turn Jacob into a force-nexus. They had to get out of here before that took effect!
Lazlo sounded the alarm – and Handell, used to emergency escapes, promptly fired up the dimensional transition effect and fled, despite the way that Jacob’s tinkering was anchoring them to the local universe.
The strain pulled Jacob’s force-pattern right out of his body – leaving him as a sort of powered-up force ghost in need of a body. Fortunately, his armor was still handy…
I went sliding down the corridor as the asteroid lurched into hyperspace. Luckily I didn’t collide with anything, but that groaning sound that reverberated across the entire asteroid was not reassuring. We dropped out of hyperspace moments later and the yelling across the intercom resumed as we tried to figure out what had happened. Damage was minimal, although some of the structural components were going to need to be checked for stress fractures. The hyperdrive coils had apparently taken the entire power output of the neutronium systems trying to move us into hyperspace for some reason.
Alys then demanded that we come to medical and check on Jacob as he apparently was no longer showing most life signs. Heading into the medical bay found Jacob’s empty armor sitting on the table with the helmet lying next to it. Jacob was nowhere to be found and I asked Alys where he was. She quickly gestured to the helmet which began speaking via the speaker with Jacob’s voice.
Oh bloody hell.
I immediately gained one hell of a headache. Really not wanting to be part of this babysitting nightmare, I left the room and found Handell on the bridge. Handell was drowning his stresses in another bottle of liquor and I asked him to pass one to me. After the third bottle I heard the Medical Purge alarm go off and was so glad I had left the mess for the others to figure out.
Without his brain, Jacob retained his memories – and a lot of extra skills and information that he’d picked up – but had lost his filing system. He’d been wandering about pushing buttons at random, and had started the entire medical system venting to space. Fortunately, the others had managed to stop it. Jacob would be a long time fully recovering, even if they did manage to get him back into a human body.
When I finally returned to being sober, I was told Jacob had managed to turn himself into something like Khadim and no one was really sure how to undo this save, perhaps, by trying to put him into a clone. On the upside, we had apparently jumped into a galaxy of about the same age as the one we had just left – except that no one and nothing was left alive in this one as it had died from Heat Death. Ben immediately went to work reconfiguring the hyperdrive yet again, while Shipwreck divined a course for us to follow. At least this time there were no distractions as we systematically took our time and prepared for the jump as best as we could manage. We made the jump to hyperspace again once we were ready.
At least we have millions of hours of holos and untold amounts of data to look through for interesting stuff for all this effort this time around. And that is above and beyond all the equipment we’ve managed to acquire from the Sith on this trip.
We dropped out of hyperspace and Handell immediately began swearing. Looking out the viewport, I could see the Jedi Temple of Coruscant in the distance. Realizing what that meant, I suddenly saw that we were floating in the streets of Coruscant in our asteroid…. and it was rush hour. Handell was busily trying to get the asteroid out from under the overpass it was now wedged under as the police were demanding we extricate ourselves from traffic. Shipwreck pointed out that the building to our right was the building Alys’s family was in and I could have sworn she was going to die of embarrassment. Ben announced that maybe he shouldn’t calculate coordinates based on Coruscant anymore.
(As game master, I must admit that I have never rolled that many ones in a row in Star Wars… OK, it still wasn’t as unlikely as having them arrive on Coruscant proper – but when your die-roll odds are up to eight ones and then a six in a row, I think something pretty unlikely ought to happen – so they had an incredible fluke).
Handell finally managed to get us out of the jam, although a few inattentive repulsor vehicles rammed the asteroid as they talked on their commlinks. The Republic and the Jedi were quietly demanding explanations over this latest fiasco and I got the impression that their patience was wearing thin. They especially were not happy at our announcement of two functional superweapon designs and the threat of a galaxy consuming civilization existing out there. The news that all of that could be stopped with the diligent guarding of the galactic black hole was only slightly better received by the authorities. They’d always kind of thought that – if there was one single thing in the cosmos that did not NEED guarding – it was the galactic black hole.
Handell had to laugh to himself! If he ever got back into the smuggling business, having smuggled an asteroid into the streets of Coruscant should definitely get him some street cred!
Alys had to spend some time trying to explain this disaster to her parents – on top of all the others.
We took the Ratsoogomoz, the Shard of Devastation, and the asteroid from Alderaan to meet up with the Zomogoostar. A horde of Sith techs, Republic techs, and furipedes went to work on purging computer systems, doing repair work, integrating neutronium systems, and converting the life support systems. This is going to be four capital class ships in our possession now. Not to mention to twenty some odd bounty hunter ships, the fighters, and associated droids at our disposal.
Amazingly enough, the Zomogoostar was not crawling with Sith and Bounty Hunters when we found it. Repair work on the manufacturing bay was still ongoing, but the Ratsoogomoz would be able to help with that. Apparently that Jedi manager we hired was doing a better job than I had anticipated. This still was the most eccentric collection of people and equipment in the galaxy though.
We updated the kids with copies of our adventures to this point. I restocked on supplies and made a few additions to my equipment during the stop over. The others pursued or funded projects of their own as well. Then it was decided that it was time to go after Zandaras now that we had everyone back in the proper galaxy. Jacob’s current problem of being unable to remove his armor notwithstanding.
It was decided that we would head to one of the worlds we knew to be under Zandaras’s control and also far from the war zone itself. We would then proceed to disrupt his war effort as much as we could while tracking him down as best we could. To that end, taking the capital ships was going to be detrimental to our efforts, at least at first. Ben was saddened to not be using superweapons against the mighty Sith Lord, but I really didn’t want to escalate this war.
Handell, Khadim, Lazlo (with his figher), Ben and I went aboard the Asrai. Alys and 10CH went aboard the Night Gryphon and Jacob and Telera went aboard one of the bounty hunter ships we captured. That split up some of the more obvious party members across multiple ships so that anyone recognizing the group as a whole was less likely. I took the time during the trip modifying my clothing and hair to look like one of the Varen I had met while running around with Valerie and had paperwork forged to match. The ID wasn’t going to hold against anyone who knew him or against intense scrutiny, but it just had to last long enough to get me to the surface.
I also took the time to review information the staff of the Zomogoostar had dug up regarding Zandaras. Of the brain samples that we believe to have become Zandaras, two came from high-powered Sith that lost political battles, a dozen came from captured Jedi, and aother dozen came from people with unusual physical monotalents. At least from what we knew of those people, none of them were major strategic and tactical geniuses or so powerful as to overwhelm the committee of Force ghosts. That was good, it meant all the major rational decision making was being done by the computer, and computers are readily manipulated.
After much roundabout routing to avoid the war zones, we eventually arrived in the Gruenn System. There was a small Sith occupation force in orbit, but not nearly as much as I would have expected. The orbital facility was screening all traffic before allowing it past a minefield in orbit around the planet. At a guess, I would say the Sith were keeping the planet pacified with the minefield as opposed to any sort of a fleet or army presence. That also meant the reason Zandaras was doing so well was because he was able to better focus his fleet and army assets on the front than the others were.
A viable strategy, so long as nothing disrupted things behind his lines. If something did start causing problems behind his lines, then the whole front could quickly collapse in on itself. And here I am, behind his lines.
I grinned to myself at the thought.
Customs was a straightforward affair as none of them seemed to be checking the identities very thoroughly. The story that we were Sith and Bounty Hunters sent by Valerie Soung to chase after Kira did raise some eyebrows, but they did eventually buy it. Especially when I started relating stories of some of “Kira’s” escapades and how it infuriated Valerie. The story of the alleged boarding of a superweapon with an office building certainly got discussion going and deflected suspicion from me.
Jacob on the other hand, was attracting attention. The drooling clone of Jacob in the armor wasn’t helping matters either. I did what I could to deflect attention on the matter by claiming that the medical staff told me it was all very complicated and above my head. Finally we got past that as customs labeled Jacob as “special” and we moved on with matters.
We were told that if we got into trouble on the surface to not expect rescue from the occupiers. There was also the general listing of places to avoid, places that were considered safer, and places that were in between. That told me there weren’t enough Sith to be performing rescues even if they wanted to, and that it was likely the population was being kept under control with the threat of the mines. Our ships we had to leave with the port station as we and all our stuff was shuttled down to the surface. I took my speeder bike and most of my equipment with me as we boarded the shuttle and went to the surface.
The surface of Gruenn was a melancholy place. There were no soldiers running around doing patrols or anything, but the constant bombardment of public officials urging cooperation with the occupiers was more than enough to sour the mood. Most everyone was avoiding us like we were plagued or something. It was hard to blame them, considering they thought us to be Sith.
The amount of political cooperation with the Sith was concerning though. I suspected it to be related to Zandaras’s ability to turn people traitor. Only way to know for sure was to get a chance to examine one of the officials and they were well bodyguarded. But setting up such a scenario was going to take time. Moreso if we wanted to do it in a fashion that didn’t provoke the locals or the Sith.
Alys found us a cheap hotel to stay at for the moment. The place appeared to be operated completely by droids from what I could tell. The droid manning the counter was unbelievably pushy with the sales nonsense. I eventually got tired of it and decided to act the part by offering the droid the chance to see tomorrow. That shut it up for the time being, which perplexed Ben. I figured it to be a basic protection subroutine droids had when dealing with Sith, but he didn’t seem to think so.
Nonetheless, the entire place smelled of a setup to me. I figured the owners were likely to take advantage of any sleeping Sith in their hotel to arrange accidents. Turning the ambush on the ambushers would give us the means to contact the resistance if it truly existed. But it was too early to pretend to go to sleep now with it being early evening. To that end, with time to kill and rumors to collect, it was time to go to the bars.
I never was very good at collecting information in bars. Some people just know who to talk to and what to say to get secrets rolling, but I never had that knack. I just could get drunk, tell outrageous stories, play games, and get others to do the same with me. And for what I was aiming for, that was enough for me.
I told the barkeep I was looking for Kira Keldav, also known as Kira the Kat from the cartoon. Bartender didn’t recognize the name, but did recognize the cartoon. When he asked what Kira liked to drink, I told him the Lithesian Malt and ordered one for myself. After all, if he remembers mxing one for me, he is likely to remember the next time he mixes one for Kira.
I then proceeded to blow credits on buying drinks for everyone there as I started telling everyone about how I was hunting for Kira Keldav. This proceeded to grow into a bunch of drunken stories about “Kira’s” deeds, how much it pissed the Sith off, rumors of him coming here to fight Zandaras, and how the poor bastard that was me was asked to capture him. That got the rumors flowing along with the drunken revelry. At the very least this should get the idea of Kira associated with me in the minds of the locals.
I was busily trying to keep the alcohol from overwhelming my Force ability to suppress it when a brawl broke out. Habit really wanted me to take the stool I was sitting on and participate in the melee, but that thought was tempered by the fact that I was a Sith in the local eyes. Cursing how mature I’ve become, I sat there at the bar as chaos broke loose around me. I quietly sipped my drink with an amused expression as people beat each other senseless all around me. Strangely, I saw Ben in the middle of the chaos.
Alys came over the private commlink and told me about a man with a blaster pistol eyeing me from the corner of the room. I figured it was only a matter of time before someone tried something stupid with this much chaos and alcohol, and so I told Alys I was aware of it. She just alerted me to the particulars of this situation. I could clearly see through the Force the fact that a major blast was about to rip through the area I was sitting. It was also likely that someone was going to lose a hand in a few moments too, but I didn’t see any patrons nearby that were going to get caught in the blast.
It was a simple matter to slide off the stool, kick it to the side, and then flip backwards as the blast ripped through the area I had been standing in a moment earlier. For a split second every eye in the room was on me before everyone panicked and ran for the exits. I finally caught a glimpse of the man Alys had spoken of in the corner nursing a bleeding charred stump where his hand had been.
Ah, the shooter lost his hand when the blaster blew up. Well crap, I would have liked to have avoided that, but precognition is notoriously difficult to interpret at times. Oh well, after making sure he wasn’t going to bleed to death immediately, I proceeded to drag him out to get medical attention when I was intercepted by the authorities.
At first they thought I took the guy’s hand, but I told them he lost it firing a modified blaster at me. When asked why this man felt the need to shoot at me, I motioned to the robes and lightsaber and they drew the obvious conclusion. I refused to press charges as I didn’t want trouble, instead I wanted to question the man regarding some matters after he received medical attention. The police were willing to let me follow him to the hospital as he was treated. I made the down payment on the medical expenses after telling the staff to make sure this man was aware that I expected compensation for my generous nature.
When the man finally awoke, I proceeded to ask him assorted questions regarding Kira Keldav as Ben asked him some regarding the nature of the blaster modifications he had acquired. It was becoming obvious that someone was modifying droids and blasters in response to the occupation and this guy was trying to keep his mouth shut about it. Ah well, at least I am putting on the appearance of a Sith hunting Kira and doing favors in hopes of leads. Anyone not looking too closely is likely to see exactly what I want them to see. And anyone looking closely enough is likely to recognize who really I am.
Hopefully someone in this resistance has enough brains to see beyond the end of their noses.
In the meantime, I need to determine if I can make twenty to thirty mines disappear.