Once we finished “interrogating” Olivia Sandis, we took our leave, issuing an assortment of vague “threats” about what would happen to her should she not report any contact with Kira Keldav to me immediately. She knowingly smiled at us as she promised to do exactly that. I sense having her as an ally in this is going to become quite valuable. She certainly has a decent head on her shoulders and appears to have connections.
At this point I remembered I had left my speeder bike at the apartments the day before. We stopped by there on the way back to the hotel so that I could pick it up. Climbing aboard, I did a quick check for anything suspicious like a new attachment or something ticking. Satisfied that there was not, I powered it on and followed the others back to the hotel.
Soon enough we approached the main plaza directly outside the hotel. The place was full of tourists and shoppers doing their thing. They did stop to watch us pass with concerned expressions and I could sense the fear on their minds. One of the nearby restaurants even was putting out an most alluring aroma as they were cooking something good. Maybe after we park and decide on our next step then.
I was about to make the turn to enter the garage when a blaster bolt struck me in the chest. I immediately lost control of the bike as it toppled over on top of me and I proceeded to skid across the ground for several meters. Luckily the armor took the brunt of the blaster bolt, the bike falling on top of me, and sliding along the pavement. I was still stunned by the whole ordeal and it took me several precious moments to regain my bearings.
Master Soung had warned me about snipers.
Once I finally reoriented myself, I tried to extricate myself from the speeder bike only to find that my hands were stuck to the handles. Pulling on them was fruitless as I didn’t have the strength to overcome the glue. The sound of explosions and blaster fire going on around me told me the others were now busily fighting our ambushers and the screams of panic told of the people now caught in the crossfire. I needed to get out from under this so that I could minimize casualties.
Besides it is hard to look like an intimidating Sith Lord when you’re glued under a bike.
Enhancing my strength and trying to break the glue was likely to cause some damage to the bike I really wanted to avoid, at least in this position. My personal strength wasn’t enough to overcome the glue either. Drat, I really was stuck here. Then I remembered I was wearing gloves. Sliding my hands out of the gloves, I then worked at getting my foot out from under the bike. Thankfully the metal plating in the boot had prevented my ankle from being crushed by the weight of the thing.
Meanwhile, the other’s hadn’t been sitting still – except for Ben, who was busy running a shield around himself, Alys, and Kira while Alys sniped back. It was pretty awkward though; their blasted sniper had been competent about choosing cover.
That did make the sniper keep his head down long enough for Jacob to try and surprise the sniper with a four-story repulsorlift-and-force powered leap to the top of the building he was on. They’d never expect that!
The roof was occupied by one sniper, a guy guarding the stairwell – and a pair who were busily trying to target the group in the street with some sort of homemade bomb-launcher. Not so good; Jacob wrenched at it with the force – and toppled it over, leaving it pointed more-or-less at himself and the sniper.
Blast it! He wanted to interrogate that sniper! And, for that matter, to not be blown up!
Jacob deflected the bomb into a side street as the crude mortar went off, dodged the sniper’s and the stairwell-guards attempts to shoot him, and disarmed the sniper – only to have the stair guard and one of the bomb-lobbers escape into the elevator while he was busy knocking out the other two. The sniper had guts though! He’d tried to stab him even after he’d taken his gun away!
Meanwhile, Lazlo had headed into the first floor – and found a clothing store with a couple of gunmen guarding the elevator and holding the customer’s hostage. The fact that the shopkeeper seemed to be a Kredath Berserker was just icing on the cake…
The two hostage-takers proved impervious to reason – no surprise there, they thought that they were ambushing a Sith Lord and his retinue, and yet also thought that taking hostages would somehow be of help – and promptly started shooting. They actually managed to knock him back into the racks of clothing. They made great cover to ambush the first one which came over to check on him – and when Lazlo popped up and tried to restrain and reason with the man up close, the shopkeeper promptly used the entire counter as a bludgeon on the other “guard”, rendering him throughly unconscious and in need of immediate hospitalization – and allowing the hostages to rush outside.
When the elevator opened and two more resistance fighters ran out (whether they were trying to escape or trying to reach the street and get to Kira) one wound up getting smacked into instant unconsciousness and the other wound up being batted out into the street at high speed.
It was about that time that – outside the side-windows – Lazlo saw a smouldering explosive device drop into the street, and promptly swept as many of the people around him to the floor as possible.
Meanwhile, back with Kira…
Getting to my feet, I was just in time to see a man flung out a shop window on a collision course with myself. I barely managed to grab him telekinetically before he collided with me and set him down next to me. Verifying that he was unconscious but not dying, I honed in on the sounds of battle coming from the building he was just thrown from. The crowds in the plaza had already hidden themselves save for the wounded that Alys was tending to. Striding forth with all the bravado I muster, I entered the building.
Outside, down the side street, injured shoppers were fleeing the explosion – and neatly diverting Ban and Alys into tending to the injuries. Fortunately, no one seemed to have been killed; apparently this particular resistance group wasn’t any better at building explosive devices than they were at setting ambushes.
Inside I saw an elevator with a broken shopping counter next to it, Lazlo smacking someone into unconsciousness, another man unconscious on the floor, someone looking like a Kredath admiring Lazlo’s handiwork, and a child announcing how cool this was. Leaving Lazlo to do his thing, I found another person badly crushed and dying by the elevator. Taking out a spare stasis belt, I wrapped it around him and turned it on. That would at least allow him to survive until medical assistance arrived.
Meanwhile the group was now collecting the “prisoners” and gathering them together in the middle of the plaza. Jacob jumped down off the roof carrying a couple, and I dumped the crushed fellow there as well. The authorities were going to arrive shortly, so we decided to ask our questions quickly. We started with the basic “Where is Kira Keldav” routine and then let Alys run the interrogations while I look annoyed and menacing. Initial information that Kira was located at some address across town I declared “obviously” a lie, and then Alys hammered him verbally some more.
Eventually she was able to pry out that one of the government officials on our watch list was apparently recruiting resistance members, organizing them, and then sending them out on missions. Strange, that didn’t feel like he was lying, but from what we understood that man was one of the ones that got Zandaras’s special treatment. Could he be resisting the control, or is he deliberately undermining the resistance by sending them out on botched missions like this one? And did this guy have some idea that Zandaras’s mole wasn’t really on their side? He didn’t seem to feel that he was actually betraying the resistance by leaking the information.
A quick look around the plaza showed me the resistance hadn’t earned a lot of respect today due to the number of injuries to noncombatants. The authorities had finally arrived and were wanting an explanation from us as to what happened. I told the truth about the ambush and the damage, which the bystanders largely confirmed. I could see the look of confusion on the captain’s face as it became apparent that we did not start the fight, kill anyone, or cause most of the damage either.
I deflected the suspicion as best I could with the story that I am here to hunt down Kira Keldav, not to stir up a revolt. Killing these men would only make them martyrs and while I was uninjured, the bystanders caught in the crossfire were not. I could sense several of them begin to wonder if we were Baramour out to preserve test subjects or some such nonsense. It was time to demonstrate some telepathy in an intimidating matter while also putting that rumor to rest as quickly as possible.
Lazlo wasn’t helping either. He’d first tried to explain to a kid that “being killed” meant more than changing clothes and appearing in another role – and then had headed off for lunch with the blasted Kredath Berserker!
(Kira) Baramour? Hardly! I am of the Varen Sith!
We then handed over the captives to the authorities to deal with. I could tell Ben was unhappy with the idea, but we didn’t argue in front of the authorities. I got my bike right side up again, and then went to work peeling the gloves off the handles. One of the officers noticed me doing that and brought over a spray of some sort of solvent. I watched wordlessly as he removed the glue while telling me about how the kids were endlessly pulling pranks with the stuff. When asked if I was wishing the kid responsible be hunted down and punished, I reminded him that had one goal in this whole affair and ruthlessly punishing kids was counterproductive to that mission.
Sigh, the gloves are going to be slick until I can get them cleaned and my robes were now torn and frayed from sliding across the pavement. Only the topmost layer was damaged though as the armor held up nicely. Luckily I had brought some more of that color changing fabric with me for this kind of problem. Trouble is I can’t readily sew. Drat, that meant finding a tailor on this world to make the repairs.
Maybe this is why the Jedi always wear such simple clothing, it’s easier to maintain.
Alys traced the first address the rebel gave us as a industrial waste disposal site. While I had to admit no one was likely to go searching there, I also felt that any resistance hiding there had to be unbelievably stupid. We elected to send a droid to investigate anyway. That turned up nothing we were interested in. Debate then turned to the government official the rebel had told us about: Bernard Gnoush. We had a hard time believing he was resisting the control mechanism given how thorough the lesser version had been. Ergo, Gnoush had to be deliberately setting up the resistance to fail – which was probably why our captive hadn’t been too resistant to giving him up after the attempt to drown us in toxic waste failed; after this foul-up he was probably having second thoughts about the guy.
Now the question became whether we keep the original plan to go after Frank Sandis or did we change our plans to go after Bernard Gnoush. Debate wandered back and forth for a bit until I announced that we could simply follow up on our “lead” from the rebel, follow our investigation to him, and demand an audience. The others quickly agreed with that idea and we called ahead to make an appointment to speak with him. After some arguing with and “threatening” the personal assistant, we were squeezed into Gnoush’s schedule.
Fortunately for them, thanks to the communications disruptions of the war – and the fact that the relevant records were on the other side of the galaxy (and a REALLY poor roll) the security staff failed to crack the parties paper-thin phony ID’s on a routine check.
Arriving at his residence at the appropriate time, a number of security droids and professional body guards were there to meet us. It was requested that we disarm before we would be allowed to meet with Gnoush. Then started the comical routine of all of us unloading a veritable arsenal onto the tables in front of guards. We were permitted to carry lightsabers into the office as a courtesy though. I elected to hand mine over anyway since I doubted there was much a politician could do to threaten me and the action had a certain intimidation value to it.
We were finally led in to speak with Gnoush. It was an opulent office one would expect of a government official this high up the food chain. We took seats opposite of him at his desk. When asked our business, I explained my “mission” here to capture Kira Keldav, how we suspected he had joined the rebels, and how one of the rebels named him as a ringleader. He immediately denied leading any sort a actual resistance and insisted that all he was doing was to herd those that would resist into ineffectual efforts. A few more questions regarding the nature of these operations, his rationals and the fruitlessness of resisting the occupation definitely made him seem like one of the converted agents of Zandaras. The others began to ask questions of their own as I fell silent and began to sense with the Force.
Alys didn’t need the force; either this guy had the best body-language control of any politician she’d ever seen, or he was a droid… And she doubted that a small-time politico on a backwater world could beat out the best politicians to be found on Coruscant.
Gnoush was not dead, that much was obvious. His Force ghost still seemed to be present which surprised me though. It was almost like he was in some sort of a coma or something similar given how suppressed his Force presence was. I briefly began to wonder if it was possible to insert a stasis device into a skull, but that was beyond my knowledge to even guess at. On the plus side, Gnoush still having a Force ghost meant we could rescue him. On the negative side, that meant it was not as clear cut on the ethics of assassinating these people.
Refreshements came while the others tried to do intellectual debates with whatever was running Gnoush’s body. The others immediately were suspicious of the food and wouldn’t touch it. Unfortunately the paranoia was going to draw undo suspicion against us if something didn’t change. Well, the guards and droids outside are rather tough, but I suspect the rest of the party should be able to get me out of here if something incapacitates me. And with the stasis belt the worst that could happen would be losing some of my personal time until I could be treated. So I grabbed one of the chocolates and tried it.
I was prepared for poisons, drugs, as well as the expected taste, but none of that prepared me for the excessive burning taste that I felt the moment it touched my tongue. It took everything I had to avoid retching right there. Finally my own inner control kicked in and I was better able to suppress the sensation and the reflexive actions my body wanted to take. I definitely wanted to drink several liters of water but didn’t dare try the water for fear of how it might have been tampered with.
Then I watched as Gnoush popped several into his mouth smoothly and didn’t even flinch. I don’t care how much self-control you have, my abilities with the Force barely let me handle that with only a cough or two and yet he is eating them like they are just candy. Right, someone on the cooking staff is at least vaguely aware of what is going on here. Someone like that would be conducive to sharing information if approached properly. I could certainly make the excuse of wanting the recipe for the chocolates.
As we made to end the interview, Gnoush asked for a means to contact us should he need to contact us. I wasn’t about to give him a direct line to my commlink, but I did give him an electronic message box to send things to with the promise that I would check it regularly. After all, I can’t have Kira Keldav tracking my movements by tracking my communications now can I? Not that I was going to mention at all how this would also prevent the government from tracking me readily.
We took our leave and asked to meet with the cooking staff. The cooking staff immediately tried to run from us upon seeing us, but it was a simple (if somewhat depressing) matter to corner them. The head chef, Justine Corrin, was more than a bit shocked to hear we wanted the recipe for the chocolates. I aborted attempts at innuendo quickly and just decided to announce I was taking her to work for me now in my authority as a Sith. The other members of the kitchen staff looked horrified at the prospect, as did Justine, but there wasn’t anything I could do to reassure them that wouldn’t blow our cover.
Once we loaded her and ourselves into the vehicle, Handell took us off through the country side. I then began to explain to Justine (after calming her down with the Force) that I was Kira Keldav, an agent of the Republic, here to work at breaking the Sith occupation and hindering Zandaras’s war effort. We then also told her that we believed her former employer to be controlled by Zandaras via some unknown means that was probably related to the suicidal campaigns damaging the Republic war effort so badly.
When she asked why we were telling her all of this, I simply said that we needed her trust a lot more than she needed ours at the moment. To that end, being up-front and honest was about the only way we could really do that.
Eventually we got her to believe our story and she began to give details on what was going on back at the residence. It looked like she hadn’t approved of her boss’s new behavior patterns, and had let the food quality run downhill a bit – and it hadn’t been noticed. She’d been making progressively worse food – with no reaction – until she’d started really working on coming up with horrible recipes.
Outside of that, there were forty security droids at the residence and several security guards – although all the veterans had been dismissed shortly after the occupation began. That made sense; getting rid of anyone who was likely to see he changes. We got a layout of the residence and the surrounding grounds as well as a list of noncombatants present. We also got a vivid description of Gnoush’s poor attempts at masking his backing of the faux resistance.
We finally returned to the warehouse the resistance has been using after Handell felt satisfied about smuggling us back here. The resistance was now pleased to have a real chef instead of constant fast food. While they got themselves situated, I looked over the information we had been provided. We could probably handle that many droids and security officers, but it was going to be costly and time consuming. Plus there were going to be the inevitable casualties of non-combatants. As bad a reputation as the resistance was earning already, we didn’t need to add a lot of casualties to the mix. And the information we got Olivia Sandis regarding her ex-husband suggested a similar level of security.
Drat, there didn’t seem to be any way to do this without making a massive mess of things. It looked like the only way we could hope to accomplish this was the basic distraction and infiltration setup again. Unfortunately that would mean showing off a great deal more power and techniques than I wanted to do at this point.
Plus we weren’t sure how well a stasis field would work on Gnoush once we caught him. Shipwreck’s scans of the official we already caught, Jun Hammon, suggested it would work, but I was concerned. Well we knew that it was possible to generate a full stasis effect as we saw with the Shard of Devastation, so I asked Ben how small he could make one of those. The answer came back a a good portion of a kilometer across was the smallest he could make the field.
Alys then suggested that we didn’t need one too small, just one that could be loaded into a van since Jacob and Khadim weren’t effected by such a field. We could drive up, activate the field across the neighborhood, Khadim and Jacob would kidnap Gnoush, and then we could drive off again. Now that idea had merit, although I didn’t fully trust Khadim and Jacob by themselves like that. That blasted anti-stasis hamster ball Ben made last time wasn’t going to be much use in allowing me to supervise either.
Wait, what exactly were the limitations on how that thing operated?
Asking Ben again, he determined that the cage system could be made significantly smaller now that he understood the basic operating principles. Possibly even small enough to build as a garment layer that could fit underneath heavy clothing. He thought at least. He immediately began working on building that and the control circuitry for the full stasis device while Alys built the power system for the device over the course of several days. I amused myself teaching the resistance basic tactics and running a faux investigation of Kira’s operations on the planet while they did that.
Finally Ben and Alys announced the suit and the stasis system were ready for testing. We found an empty warehouse large enough to test the field in without being visible from outside. The power on test worked well as an impossibly black wall appeared ahead of us. Tests with clocks thrown into the field and then pulled back using rope showed them to lose all time spent in the field. Next came the test to see if the anti-stasis suit worked as expected. Jacob and Khadim were ready to drag me out should I get stuck or something untoward happen. Once everything was in place, I entered hypertime and entered the stasis field. For a moment everything seemed to be working fine until I was suddenly engulfed in nothingness.
As sensation returned suddenly, I found myself along a familiar street in my hometown. Except for the craters, the soldiers and the sound of fighting as house to house fighting was going on. Several friends I remembered from the Naichron were with me as we were apparently waiting to ambush a Sith assault team. The moment I reached out to my powers to see if I could still access them, I suddenly found myself back in the warehouse with the rest of the group looking at me. I explained what I saw regarding Alderaan, but the others insisted that I didn’t appear to have swapped with a counterpart of myself.
Was it possible that I had swapped only my mind this time? Or did I just imagine that? I had to admit the urge to rush off to Alderaan and ready the defences was strong, but the best way for me to help Alderaan was to impair Zandaras’s war efforts here.
After smacking Ben and getting him to double check the construction of the anti-stasis suit, we ran some more tests and then loaded up the stasis generator into a van. Then one of the resistance members came rushing into the lab with news of several ships had arrived in orbit. Checking the news and what intel we could get, it looked like one of the ships was the Baramour ship Night Plague that we ran into earlier. There was one of Zandaras’s ships, the Vordai, escorting it too. Then on the other side of the planet was another ship called the Nectar of Scythos from another Sith coalition in orbit with it’s own escort named the Kiorsen.
Jacob was familiar with those: A Scythos Nectar-Vine grew pretty, wonderful-smelling flowers – but if you let a piece stay on you too long, it would secrete narcotics, root itself into you, and kill you very gradually – while making you very happy to be dying. Not one of the nicer plants! Hopefully there wasn’t really any aboard! Were these Sith Lords pleasant but deadly?
Well this was just great. We are on the planet only a week or so and we managed to draw four capital ships upon us. And here I thought we were being rather restrained in all this. The bounty hunters that had begun arriving were just icing on the cake. The planetary shields and our asteroids might be able to fight off that kind of firepower, but more would surely come quickly given how fast these arrived.
The Barmour were probably here after me, and Zandaras probably trusted them no further than he could keep major guns pointed at them. That dynamic could have presented opportunities if that fourth ship wasn’t such an unknown. We didn’t even know which Sith faction it was from save that it was likely from the main coalition. At a guess I would have hazarded they were here to prevent the Baramour from joining Zandaras, but they might also be here after me or something else entirely.
Blast, I really didn’t need this complication right now. I hadn’t even consolidated a small fraction of the resistance under my control yet. This also meant we needed to be a lot more discreet when using our real names and our stolen identities. Since a giant black dome over a neighborhood was going to draw a lot of attention, we decided to plan our raid at night when none of the capital ships were in the sky above us.
Once night approached, we loaded into the van and drove to Gnoush’s neighborhood. I was checking the windows to verify that nothing was out of the ordinary when suddenly Jacob and Khadim shifted places and we gained an extra passenger. I could hear sirens in the distance too.
Oh god damn it.
I can only imagine Jacob jumped the gun again with pressing buttons. We’ve already had to set up weapon systems so that they disable whenever Shipwreck tries to use them, do we really need something like that for Jacob for everything? Handell immediately started leading the authorities on a wild chase trying to avoid the roadblocks. Unfortunately, the authorities had plenty of time to block all the roads while the stasis unit was turned on and Handell was quickly trapped. As he tried to swerve around the latest hover car, all the police vehicles suddenly were no longer in the way with the engine hoods opened up.
Jacob and Khadim had been having fun with the big “Stop!” button. It had made it so easy to simply walk in and take the guy – even taking the time to leave a note carved into the wall! And to move cars out of the way! It was like having one of those legendary artifacts that stopped time or something!
Oh, wait; it was exactly like that because it WAS like that.
Jacob resolved to get one – OK, got get SEVERAL – of his very own! Oh yes! In the meantime, they had their target, and had stuffed him into his own private stasis unit, and it was time to unpress the button!
What the hell?
Wait, Jacob pressed the button again! Now the patrol vehicles were out of the way and Handell made a break for the opening created. I watched the button like a hawk this time instead of the road so that I could enter hypertime appropriately. As Handell started complaining about fighter craft, I saw Khadim press the button this time. The world around us took on a bluish color and everything around me stopped except for Khadim and Jacob. We unloaded from the van and I could see the fighters above us clear as day. I was about to work on evacuating the van when I saw Khadim fire a grapnel at one of the fighters.
Now why didn’t I think of that?
Giggling to myself, I fired one of the variable stars at the other fighter. Climbing on top, I could see the pilot aiming his sights on the van below through the cockpit window. Khadim was busily tearing the engines and weapons of the first fighter so I took out my marker and wrote “Thanks for the equipment” on the window for the pilot to read. I can just imagine the reports and consternation this will generate. Khadim then proceeded to strip the second fighter of equipment as I wrote messages on the first and Jacob left strange pictograms all over everything.
With the van loaded with even more stuff now, we deactivated the stasis field and drove off again. One last roadblock we bypassed as Khadim moved our van to the other side of the blockade during stasis. Handell took us into town and quickly lost all attempts at pursuit. Back at the warehouse, the news was filled with reports of the black dome that wandered through the neighborhood. I imagine the stasis fields are not going to be secret for much longer at this rate. There was also a watch out for the van we used since it was seen at the center of the effect several times during the event.
Well it was a simple matter to strip out the stasis system and have one of the resistance members dump it outside the residence of another converted government official secretly cultivating the “resistance”.
Shipwreck, Lazlo and the doctors began running tests on Gnoush while we waited for the uproar to quiet down. it did look like a good portion of his brain was missing, with the empty space filled with more of the silicon goo stuff. His Force ghost was still present, and it was felt that with some bacta he could make a full recovery. Well drat, that meant that killing these guys wasn’t entirely cut and dried. We also got information that we had overlooked another government official that had gotten this same treatment, bringing the total to 11 treated with one dead, one captured and the remaining nine remaining at large. Plus the ones that had bombs in their chests.
Well that certainly was valuable information, and would be of use to the Republic, but I wanted to try to disrupt the war effort. We might be able to get Telera and Handell off the planet to tell the Republic what we’ve learned and to summon the asteroids, but anything beyond that was going to be up to us to make happen. We had enough technological tricks and unusual techniques at our disposal that we might be able to incapacitate one capital or maybe two. But four was going to be impossible with our resources.
We needed to whittle the number of enemy ships down some, but first I need to fake a plague outbreak.
Plus I need a tailor.
Jacob, meanwhile, was getting to work on becoming his own clone…
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 37 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 35 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 32 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 31 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 33 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)