Valerie Soung, aboard the Varen Shuttle Snow Stalker, in Hyperspace
I found Kira chatting with Ban Hughes and Vincent Lowell around the table as they ate breakfast.
(Vincent) Whether they are using monotalents or not, there are species out there able to naturally perform at those speeds.
(Ban) Impossible, I don’t care how good at precognition you are, the reaction times needed are impossible for a sapient. It has to be droids doing the real piloting.
(Kira) And how reliable are droids at those speeds?
(Vincent) Not very.
(Ban) Oh come off it, it’s still a better explanation as to why anyone can pilot a podracer at all.
Not this tired argument again. There were those that claimed the absurd speed podracers raced at was evidence that the whole thing was faked. Father had actually been to a few races and could attest to the fact most of the pilots were using the Force or special talents to achieve their reaction times. There was however a pilot at one of the races he saw that had absolutely no Force talent that he could feel. That one was unnaturally calm during the whole race, evidence in Father’s opinion he was using a droid.
I still thought the whole disgusting mess was an exercise in the stupidity of the pilots and bloodlust of the masses. I prefered a good game of Makura myself, Force powers didn’t help much and it encouraged actual thinking to play well. Too bad so few play it.
(Valerie) Some are using the Force, others are using unique talents, and still a few use a droid. Most of them still perish though.
(Ban) Lady Soung, we didn’t realize you were listening in on us. Can we get you some food?
(Valerie) Not right now. Kira come along now.
(Kira) More practice?
(Valerie) Not quite, I am going to demonstrate the strength enhancement technique and you would do well to pay attention.
(Kira) I thought you said to stop watching your practices.
(Valerie) And I thought I taught you to stop questioning me. Is Virstris awake yet?
Her head popped out from behind a cabinet at the mention of her name.
(Virstris) Yes I am!
(Valerie) Then get out of there and come along, you’ve been wanting to see this.
Both she and Kira followed me to the training room. I put on a pulse monitor and connected it to the computer system. That way if something went wrong and I lost consciousness, I wouldn’t be squashed flat or left at the mercy of the others. I then told the computer which sections of the room to change gravity in and the computer responded by turning the appropriate floor tiles red. Then I placed various weights, poles, and bars around the practice area for me to use.
(Kira) Let me guess, red tiles are bad right?
(Valerie) You do learn it seems. Today will start the demonstration, you will practice the basics of the technique at a later point. This is just to show you what can be done.
With that, I indicated to the computer to raise it to two gravities. The sudden sensation of doubling my weight was quite familiar now, but still disorienting. Reflexes wanted to interpret the sensation as either falling or having something dropped on you. It was best to take it slow and be prepared for the changes instead of trying to do it all at once.
Sheer muscle could hold the upright position for quite some time in two gravities, but that wasn’t what this exercise was about. Reaching out with the Force, I started to pull myself upwards against the pull of gravity, quickly negating the extra gravity of pull. My body and head were easiest to focus on, with my arms and legs taking a moment longer for my power to spread out to them. After taking a few tentative steps to confirm I was holding the technique properly, I gestured to the computer to step it up to four gravities.
The transition from two gravities to four was easier than from one to two. I already had the technique running and so it became a matter of regulating the amount of power I let flow through. After reassuring myself that everything was working properly, I began some basic warm up exercises. I started with some acrobatic and martial arts moves as I moved myself around the high gravity zone like it was normal. I will admit to showing off a bit as I leapt into the air, grab one bar, swung around it, flipped several times and then landed on the floor with a heavy thud that could have broken bones had I not been reinforcing them.
(Valerie) Think you understand now Kira?
(Kira) Looks like you’re pushing yourself upwards while reinforcing yourself against the added stress.
(Virstris) That can’t be good for the heart.
(Valerie) If done incorrectly, you can give yourself a stroke, an aneurysm, or a heart attack doing this. This is why it’s important to practice at low levels and learn the fine art of inner control.
I then indicated to the computer to double it again and bring it to eight gravities. This began to noticably affect the air flow in the room as air would enter the high gravity zone, fall, then get pushed out the sides to the normal gravity zone where it would rise and repeat the cycle.
At this level it became a fine matter of control. Too much compensating and I would crash through the ceiling, too little compensation and I would fall flat on the floor. If it was a simple matter of power I could have gone much higher. Just like everything else with the Force and life, power meant nothing without control. There were not many who could balance things well enough to reach eight gravities, and I was aiming to one day manage sixteen.
Kira took out a coin and flipped it into the high gravity zone. It landed on the floor with a resounding thud. Virstris looked amused by the gesture, and Kira’s face looked paler than even he normally looked. I gave Kira a dirty look.
(Kira) Just making sure.
(Valerie) Maybe next time you can step into the zone and see for yourself.
After confirming I was still balancing things correctly, I began the exercises in earnest. First I started with the martial arts routines again. I threw punches and kicks that would have punched through metal, and then began to incorporate leaps, flips, and spins into my movements. Once I got into the swing of that, I began to incorporate the equipment into the mix. Telekinetically moving weights while holding the technique on myself, working the acrobatic techniques to alter the direction my body was being stressed on the fly, and then bring it all together with a one hand stand.
Finally I had to kill the high gravity and let myself fall gently to the ground as I sat there sweating and breathing hard.
Kira was visibly unnerved by the display. I could see memories of my beating him to a pulp after mocking my lightsaber flash through his mind. He was now beginning to realize just how much I held back then and it terrified him. Not exactly the response I was looking for, but it will do for the time being. If he had any actual ambition he would view this as a goal to reach towards and not some idle threat on my part.
(Virstris) I’m impressed.
(Valerie) Not something to use if you want to remain undetected, but it definitely has it’s uses in combat.
Next followed martial arts practice with Virstris as Kira went back to the galley to interact with the others. I was getting a better handle on what not to try with dueling Virstris, but actually making progress towards beating her was slow. It certainly didn’t help matters the number of times I had to swallow my pride. Soon enough I tired again and Virstris stopped the practice.
(Virstris) What do you think our chances are against three Glaives?
(Valerie) It won’t come to that.
(Virstris) I’ve been taught to prepare for the worst case scenario, and right now fighting all three Glaives at once ranks near the top.
(Valerie) I can certainly kill one and hold off two. Killing two is going to present difficulties.
(Virstris) Leaving Kira and I to keep one or two occupied while you start killing them one at a time.
(Valerie) Kira can take care of himself and knows how to keep his head down. Besides, the odds of us encountering all three of them at once and them cooperating long enough to fight us is miniscule.
Virstris didn’t seem convinced as she packed her equipment up and left the training room. I was exhausted from two major training sessions in a row without anything to eat today. Plus I smelled like some sort of manual laborer after a hard day out in the sun. Well I had a choice of eating immediately or showering immediately. The pragmatic approach would have been to eat and let the others suffer the smell for a bit, but that wasn’t what was expected of someone of my station. And since these weren’t Soung servants, but Lady Vera’s personal attendants, I was expected to act appropriately.
Sigh, there are days I really dislike having to keep up appearances like this.
I showered and changed clothes, while giving the dirty ones to a droid for cleaning. By that point it was well past lunch time. I entered the galley to find that Virstris had already laid out a couple of sandwiches for me. Grabbing them, I found the rest of the group in the commons section of the shuttle playing a game together.
(Valerie) I take it the equipment and medical supplies all check out since you seem to have so much free time?
(Vincent) Ran the checks twice now. All our supplies and equipment is inventoried and accounted for.
(Ban) We should be well stocked for everything short of a minor war.
(Valerie) I doubt that.
(Vincent) Lady Morrowain ensured that the best equipment and supplies were available for this mission. She chose us personally to accompany you as well. She believes us to be well prepared for what we are going to encounter and I trust her judgement on these matters.
I was about to punish Vincent for speaking to me in such a manner when I realized why he had: Vincent was a Syndat. I had heard of such thing before, but never had I seen one myself. Rarely a child is born with congenital brain defects so severe that most conventional treatment fails. In those cases, desperate doctors will resort to replacing the nonfunctional sections of the brain with droid counterparts. If the child was lucky and strong with the Force, the droid parts would take and the child will begin to develop in a “normal” fashion. If not, then the Force spirit would depart soon enough.
I’ve been told Syndat’s grow up…. different from normal people. The theory was that the dedication of the Force spirit towards interfacing with the droid components tended to leave the Syndat cold and with difficulties socializing normally. They did benefit from superior memory, calculation, speed and precision though. Expecting him to be able to properly address me was like expecting Virstris to move objects with the Force. He must be skilled indeed as a doctor for Lady Vera to not only tolerate his behavior, but to assign him to me for the duration of the mission.
(Valerie) Very well then. I expect you to stand by those words when the time comes.
Stopping their game when they had finished all their duties was only going to be bad for moral. I saw Kira watching their game, presumably because his Force abilities presented an unfair advantage against the others. The isolation will help him learn that he is no longer like normal people and that what is expected of him in the future will be unlike what he faced on Alderaan. His peer group has changed and he needs to understand that fact.
I took found a seat and grabbed a datapad while I ate the sandwiches. I called up the profiles on the crew Lady Vera had provided me to give them a thorough examination. After all, Vincent had caught me by surprise and I was beginning to suspect that all three of them were rather unique individuals as opposed to the standard rank and file I usually saw.
Vincent Lowell, as I sensed, was a Syndat. Apparently born without a right hemisphere to his brain, a droid brain was grafted into missing sections. This improved his motor skills, memory, vocabulary, mathematical and logical skills to substantially above normal, but hindered his ability to process emotions and social cues normally. His certifications and track record as a doctor were all top notch with the only substandard record being with regards to his bedside manner.
He joined the Morrowain family as an associate after leaving school. His skill and ability let him quickly rise through the ranks despite his abrasive personality. Vincent attracted the attention of Lady Vera during his treatment of one of her late husbands and has been part of her inner circle ever since.
Ban Hughes looked to be a typical technician at first glance. His family has served the Morrowain family for generations with Ban being the latest in his family to serve. Ban was skilled in a wide variety of technical disciplines and demolitions. Recorded as being cool under fire, Ban had apparently disarmed a torpedo that had impacted his shuttle and failed to detonate while it was wedged underneath his seat.
Psychologically, the man was a bit of a loner. More comfortable with droids than people, he usually had an entourage of various droids around him. Apparently they were all in storage in one of the cargo bays at the moment. His profile also made mention of his over-reliance on automation for some tasks that would be better done with a living sapient.
Associating with droids more than people isn’t exactly healthy in my opinion.
Augusta Stance was a bit of a mystery. What records there were stated she was found participating in various racing circuits for years before falling into massive debts from bad bets. She was then bought by the Morrowain family pretty much as a slave as they assumed her debt. She has since been working missions for them working to pay off the debt to the family. No records of a family or history before she started racing though.
Augusta was apparently skilled in most common vehicle designs and more than a few uncommon ones. A bit of an adrenaline addict, Augusta liked to push things as far as she could. This was useful in a combat pilot, but not as useful in a courier. Best to keep an eye on her when things get quiet as discretion is the key at the moment, not major theatrics.
All three of them came with high loyalty marks from Lady Vera herself as well as several notes on general competency. They have been working together for three years now and had excellent teamwork in her estimation. Previously she had been using them in conjunction with a Morrowain Varen that was killed in action on another covert mission. So Lady Vera had a spare team laying around needing a Varen to lead them. And I supposedly needed a team and field experience.
This reeks of Mother quietly arranging favors and circumstances from Lady Vera. Mother was also trying to stack the deck in my favor on this mission.
The rest of the profiles was largely a list of missions the three had been involved in over the years. I thumbed through those idly as I pondered the mission ahead of us. It was certain that we needed to infiltrate the Vos Lamos compound to get the information we needed. Provoking a shooting match between the Vos Lamos and the Glaives shouldn’t be hard given the types of personalities on both sides. The real problem was controlling the escalation of hostilities. Too fast and the Vos Lamos compound might end up rubble along with the evidence we needed. Too slow and the Vos Lamos might fortify the compound even further making sneaking in even more difficult.
The real vexing question was how three Glaives had managed to work together this long without killing each other over any little thing. It was usually one per planet as each set up their own minor fiefdom to rule over. Two might work together to conquer a planet, but then would begin the fight for dominance almost as soon as the surrender papers were signed. But there were three on this world and have been for months now. Something I didn’t understand was going on here.
And I don’t like things I don’t understand.
At the moment, such mysteries were not relevant to my mission. Unless there was some way to exploit whatever was going on to my advantage, there was no need to poke further at it. Besides, speed was critical to this mission and spending undue time investigating the Glaives would only delay me.
I finished reviewing the mission files Lady Vera had given me and then it was time for more practice with Virstris followed by practice with Kira. Practice with Virstris was yet another frustrating affair of being knocked around while being lectured in that obnoxiously cheery tone of hers. She was working hard to quietly insinuate that I was using the Force as a crutch in everything I did. While I did manage to catch her off guard once, the opening was too small for me to effectively exploit as I ended up on the floor once again seeing her smiling face looking over me.
(Virstris) You’re improving.
(Valerie) Well of course, I always strive to succeed at everything I do.
(Virstris) Keep this up and you might actually beat me one day.
(Valerie) What do you think is motivating me?
The adversarial sparring of words was rapidly becoming a central part of the practice exercises. There were clearly marked limits however, she wouldn’t speak of my lightsaber, and I wouldn’t speak of her lack of talent. As long those limits were respected, this wouldn’t get out of control. Virstris eventually tired and we had to stop as it was now time for Kira’s practice.
He was definitely a lot more wary of me now, as if believing I was suddenly not going to hold myself back. I really wanted to vent my frustrations over Virstris and Kira’s own hesitation and unload on him with everything I had. While there was only so much bodily damage I could do with a training power cell if I did that, the mental damage it would cause him held me back. Part of me was glad I might have a Glaive to pummel in my near future.
(Valerie) Hesitation is only going to get you killed in real battle. Come at me.
(Kira) Yeah, real smart idea charging the Rangkor head on.
(Valerie) Calling me a large stupid animal?
(Kira) No, I am calling you an immensely strong person that could easily crush my skull in your hand. It would be foolish to come after you.
(Valerie) Charging head on isn’t what I am telling you to do. I am telling you to attack.
He appeared to be steeling himself internally with that last retort. Then he came at me shield first in what I could only imagine was an attempt to knock me off my feet. Almost too late I realized that the shield was blocking too much of my field of view as I stepped to the side in time to avoid the stabbing thrust below the shield. It was a simple matter to turn the step into a twirl that sliced my lightsaber down his back.
He’s getting better and is beginning to use tactics I’ve been taught. He doesn’t realize it yet, but subconsciously he is integrating the combat skills I have into his own style with the shield. I have done that same tactic myself with cloaks. Cloaks do little to hide the intent to use it as a distraction, but that shield makes me want to brace against it and that could be deadly. I may have to try using a shield sometime.
As we finished practice some hours later, we found that Virstris had readied dinner for everyone. I quietly ate as Virstris made herself the center of attention talking to everyone. Soon enough dinner finished and we retreated to our indivdual quarters for the night. I sat in my bed and started reading the materials I had collected on Alderaan from the Trayus Archives. I was trying to deduce why the Holo-Sith fixated so much on the planet when I fell asleep.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Valerie Soung – Traveling Company from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Valerie Soung – Repressions from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Valerie Soung – Retributions from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 39 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 31 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)