With the Sith now sure that the party had access to some new techniques and technologies – and therefore flooding the city with resources in an all-out attempt to locate them – and a horde of bounty hunters and local forces on their tail as well, there were few places left for the group to hide…
Jacob’s button-pushing frenzy with Smooche hadn’t achieved anything quite as spectacular as his first foray – but he had dumped a massive pulse of energy into subspace (somehow draining electrical power for a few seconds across much of the city), momentarily warped the city halfway into subspace – leaving all non-living systems (including thousands of Sith War Droids) in the place slightly scrambled – and disrupted gravity-lifts across the city for long enough to cause quite a few injuries. Fortunately, there weren’t that many hyperspace or subspace technologies in widespread use in the city.
Smooche was quite pleased; Jacob’s meddling hadn’t produced any other major revelations – but he had certainly produced some useful data! He never would have thought of some of those combinations… It would take him a couple of days to rebuild all the equipment that the boy had damaged in the process, but that was nothing.
Jacob was quite pleased as well. Smooche was MUCH more fun than Ben! He liked him to press buttons, and didn’t make any fake ones to mess with him! Still… He’d pressed all the buttons that seemed to be live at the moment, and most of the equipment was smoking now, so it was time to look for other places where he could improve things!
With all our party members and resources back together (well, except for Jacob…. partially), it was time to plan our next major step. Alys was busily trying to coordinate the resistance and droids to infiltrate the shield generators after we activated the stasis systems. Ben was finishing assembling the last stasis system too. Telera was still coordinating with the Security Forces. 10CH was standing guard and building a droid sensor perimeter. Khadim and Lazlo were standing watch in the meantime.
This unfortunately left me with a good deal of time on my hands and not a lot to do. Trying to take a more active role now was a nonstarter given the sheer number of people looking for me and my easily distinguished appearance. So I mostly spent my time filling my pockets with useful stuff to have. We had plenty of equipment from the Kredath we defeated for me to take some of it for my own use. After that, I played around with the various systems like the variable stars and the camouflage system. It certainly performed better than anything I had up until now, although most of that was crudely stitched together as we had gone along.
What happened after we raised the shields and gained control of the planet was an open question. Most any plan I could come up with was doom to almost immediate obsolescence since we knew so little about how the enemy was going to respond. Precognition and Probability Analysis were also giving very limited information beyond raising the shields too. That I could tell was the hallmark of a very powerful precognitive interfering with things. That implied Zandaras would be making an appearance, but in what capacity was impossible to determine. That could mean Zandaras himself was coming, or that he was sending more powerful minions and supervising from orbit.
I was really hoping that we could get several major ships on our side and possibly even a few more planets under our belt before a direct confrontation, but it looked increasingly like we were about to trade an occupation for a siege. It certainly didn’t help matters that I felt our ability to endure a siege was not indefinite. Maybe some combination of the Furipedes working faster than I expect and the Artificers producing a technical marvel may turn things in our favor.
All I can do is stall for time.
Ben, having completed his stasis system, was turning his attention to what Kira had told him about his interview with Smooche… It sounded like the man felt that he could somehow just summon him, like some sort of fantasy magician… Like anything like that would get around his ultimate dodge mechanism!
Wait a moment! Smooche was… monitoring hyperspace, ready to…
Good gods! Smooche could snatch him! All he had to do was wait until he was fiddling with a hypercoil and tune his engines to it! That would open a short-range hypertunnel and drag him through it! The only way out was not to fiddle with hypercoils or hyperfields while Smooche was alert!
That was going to be hard!
10CH suddenly announced that he detected Jacob approaching our position. It also looked like Jacob had acquired a shadow or two in the process and was inadvertently leading them to us. According to 10CH’s sensor net, it looked like a combination of Bounty Hunters and Sith Battle Droids swarming the lower levels in an attempt to entrap us. Everyone made preparations to evacuate the premises while Ben and 10CH established a discreet connection with Jacob and berated him for the idiocy.
10CH had put out a network of surveillance-droids. There were risks to that – but not having any idea what might be coming their way was, at least in his estimation, a lot riskier. It had been easy enough to spot that Jacob was coming in with pursuit, and to get a spider-droid aboard his armor to open communications – but it was already too late at that point; Jacob hadn’t led the pursuit to them yet – but he had inadvertently revealed the general area where they were hiding, and there were enough pursuers now that someone would find them soon enough.
Jacob had tried to evade pursuit, and rather thought that he’d succeeded – but, at that point, there were just too many units on his tail; he was, unfortunately, rather distinctive.
Gathering our things was easy given how little time we had been here, but we still had a problem: where to go and how to get there. Trying to break through the encircling snare was going to be dramatic and messy to say the least. There also wasn’t much deeper we could go since we were more or less standing next to the hypermatter reactor the entire city was built on. Nor did I enjoy the idea of trying to repel as assault while standing next to a regional hypermatter reactor. What we really needed was a way to just move through the walls like I could while phased. Problem with that idea though was the fact that I couldn’t drag that amount of equipment or Force users through walls for much of any distance. I had a hard enough time handling myself at times.
Through the walls….
Wait a minute, De’arc and the other bounty hunters had arrived through a boring machine in their attempt to capture us. That machine was still here too. A quick check showed it had enough space for twenty passengers and cargo. It would be a tight fit and a very slow means of escape, but it was also going to be a very difficult one to follow us through. De’arc seemed amused at the request that we borrow his boring machine and assented.
We then hurriedly loaded everything of value into the boring machine while Ben and 10CH gave Jacob some last minute suggestions to run somewhere else to hide instead of coming back here. Some of the party vaguely wondered if we should try to extract Jacob from this latest mess he’s managed to create, but I couldn’t see how to do it without heavy casualties. I’m sorry, but Jacob is on his own with this one. I’ve pulled his ass out of the fire enough times in the last few days.
With everyone loaded into the boring machine, we took off into the rock face and evaded pursuit… at 24 kph. Well at least it was a means of escape that our pursuit would have immense difficulties following. We decided to head for one of the caverns nearby that connected to the underground river system. De’arc piloted and I used my intuitive navigational ability and tell him which direction to go. It was several hours of cramped conditions and I think we were all beginning to get on edge towards the end there. It certainly didn’t help my mood when Ben started mumbling some nonsense regarding subspace refrigerators.
Ben was wondering about how the boring machine – which used the output of a fusion system to melt it’s way through the rock – was managing to keep it’s interior cool – and had been startled to find that the system was dumping waste heat into subspace. Why hadn’t he run across that… Ah, of course! If you tried to use that kinds of system on a starship, you’d lose the core of your cooling system as soon as you tried to jump to hyperspace – and it was a very expensive way to cool things on a planetary surface. It might be in fairly widespread use in places like Coruscant though… He’d have to check later.
Then right when I was getting really annoyed by the technical monologue, our boring machine broke through into open air. After verifying the air was good and pressure was normal, we stepped out of the hatch and into the chamber. This definitely appeared to be a limestone cave system like so many we had used to stash all the people in stasis.I could hear running water somewhere, but it wasn’t immediately clear as to where exactly. The only light available was the lights we had with us. The others proceeded to begin unpacking and stretching while I scouted the cave system a little.
There were lots of blind albino creatures inside this cave. What little I understood of such things implied that this cave system then was quite old. Indeed, it was a whole miniature ecology of sorts with fish, fungi, rodents, reptiles and amphibians. There didn’t seem to be any large predators though that we needed to worry about, and it was clear this cave system opened to the surface somewhere then if all these animals got trapped in here. Fortunately, my Force and Codex abilities made it quite difficult for me to get truly lost as I followed my instincts and climbed up on of the waterfalls using one of the variable stars.
Reaching the upper chamber revealed a good number of crates with the emblem of one of the farming companies on the side. It was a simple enough matter then to follow the crates to the entrance and see sunlight again. A quick check of the GPS confirmed our location as Ember Mill Cavern. That put us about eighty kilometers outside the city proper. Well, it would be a great hiding spot but the commute was going to be a pain.
It’s not like we could tunnel anywhere we wanted to.
Jacob, meanwhile, had been trying to lure the pursuit away from everyone else… He’d turned on his repulsor systems and started skimming wildly through the maintenance passages in the depths of the city, reversing – and, when the circle had started to tighten, shooting himself up a ventilation shaft into one of the taller buildings.
That had caused a bit of panic – but it was only when he looked down at the small horde of Sith combat droids closing in on his position – not to mention all the damage that his button-pushing seemed to have caused – that he really started to worry. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, or any of his usual evasive tactics, just was not going to cut it…
Random, high-speed, evasions had eventually let him break contact – even if it had involved making dangerous high-speed passes through industrial radioactive zones, through several other places that most creatures couldn’t follow, and then – finally – plunging into the sewer systems and propelling himself through them until he was totally lost (and nearly ran himself through a vaporization-crushing-recycling system).
He’d finally emerged in what seemed to be an abandoned sector, where a few run-down droids were maintaining an ancient apartment complex. It looked like… the entire area had been sealed up and abandoned centuries ago after some sort of legal dispute.
Huh. This might be a reasonably secure spot to hide for the moment! He’d have to try and call the rest of the group! Only they weren’t available!
And neither were most methods of making a connection out. Bother! Wait! He could try to use the force!
He settled down to meditate on making contact.
I returned to the group to see that they had set up a limited campsite of sorts. Suddenly, Ben started complaining about Jacob being stuck inside his head while thinking about the glue tree. At first I couldn’t believe I had heard that right, and kept trying to reinterpret it into something more sensible. Eventually as Ben went on speaking about Jacob, we were able to determine that Jacob was in telepathic contact with Ben. Fearing the mental disease Jacob has might be contagious, I shifted my presence towards the Codex end of things to prevent Jacob from contacting me directly. Jacob was wondering where we were and when we were going to pick him up.
My reply of “Never” got me a dirty look from Alys.
I saw that the group was now discussing relocating to whatever forsaken hole Jacob had hidden himself in. As best as I could understand from what they told me, Jacob had managed to find somewhere sealed off almost completely with concrete and full of a former residential, commercial, and industrial sector of the city. My question as to why such a valuable piece of real-estate would be sealed up and not used was hand-waved as something involving lawyers and property disputes.
Seriously, I’ve heard the jokes about lawyers being the most despicable and reviled Sith faction in the galaxy, but that still doesn’t explain WHY the place was sealed while lawyers argued in court about inheritance laws. Usually the property would go into decline as the lawyers argued and eventually squatters would settle in. Hmm, could this perhaps have been an attempt to keep squatters out? I would have thought to use law enforcement instead though.
Something about the whole situation reeked and I’ve learned to trust my senses on these matters, but I got overruled by the others looking to sleep in abandoned hotel rooms and not on cots in a cave. Jacob then proceeded to give incoherent directions on what sewage tunnels to crawl through to reach him (he thought) and I had to put my foot down on that one. I don’t mind roughing it, I don’t mind being crammed aboard a ship with too many people either, but I draw the line at crawling through sewage tunnels. Thankfully, the others were in agreement on the matter.
Ben eventually determined where on the map Jacob’s little kingdom lay and figured that there was sufficient clearance for the boring machine to pass without being obvious or damaging any infrastructure. I for one idly wondered how up to date those drawings were, but the others had their mind set on the matter. So we loaded up back into the boring machine and followed the course Ben gave us. After several more hours, we emerged into another open space. Outside we found Jacob grinning like an idiot, droids complaining about the hole in the wall, and a desolate piece of urban landscape.
Lazlo promptly settled down to working with Jacob and Ichara on getting Jacob into his cloned body. They, at least, had had experience with that particular problem – and the time margin was growing critically thin.
That took a great deal of work, and resulted in the loss of some chunks of memories – but it was mostly successful in the end. Jacob would be at an occasional disadvantage for a time when he ran into one of those memory-gaps – but he’d live.
Something still didn’t feel right about the whole place, although the other immediately started to make themselves at home. Most everyone moved into an abandoned hotel while Ben set up shop in one of the small maintenance shops. I did more scouting around and found stores, restaurants, part fabrication facilities, a waste processing plant that still hooked to the outside, and a fusion power system. It was also hard to shake the feeling that something was down here, something I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.
With everyone settled into place now, discussion turned back towards whether it was still a good idea to get the Artificers on our “side”. At least as much allied to us as hyper-obsessive nutjobs like them are capable of. As little as we could trust the Artificers, it was eventually decided that it was still preferable that they be working with us as opposed to Zandaras. And again, Smooche was probably our best bet for getting amicable discussions going given what we had and what he wanted.
After all, the Codifier Galaxy offered many opportunities to those interested in unusual technology and techniques. Reliable trans-temporal travel, the potential for more reliable automation, a need for megascale engineering, weapons for use against Faded would be in high demand, different shield technologies, different armor technologies, and a whole new suite of techniques not part of the Force surely would get some of them interested in talking.
That left how to get in touch with Smooche, considering most everything we had could probably be monitored readily by the enormous horde of Bounty Hunters and Sith running around. Well Ben had mentioned something earlier about the boring machine being rigged with a subspace transmitter or something like that and I asked why we couldn’t use that since few people look for it. Ben immediately dismissed it – and then grabbed some tools and spent a few hours fiddling with his “perfect dodge” gadgets before causing it to vanish with a message.
How was that supposed to… Smooche was monitoring to use the tunneling effect to snatch anything that went into hyperspace within the city? He’d been anticipating that Ben wouldn’t be able to resist meddling with hyperspace for long? Well, that was one way to communicate.
Shortly thereafter, Ben announced he had made contact with Smooche.
Smooche was pleased… The fact that Ben had deduced how he would have been snatched, and then had taken advantage of it, demonstrated his competence! The fact that Ben had been willing to sweeten the deal by sharing some information was also good! Ben recognized the vital importance of his research!
It took several minutes of interrupting before we finally got Smoche to stop to pay attention to us for a few minutes. We then made a proposal that he and most of the other Artificers assist us with a series of projects involving Trans-Temporal Hypertunnels and the Codifier Galaxy. The schematics Ben sent other on the tunnel system modifications seemed to wet his appetite enough to consent. Soon enough we had seven of the Artificers on conference call with us and Ichara was already with us. We left out the wannabe necromancer Lecrouss for obvious reasons.
Our claims of parallel universes, non-Force powers, steerable hypertunnels, and alternate versions of people came off as a bit much and the Artificers were demanding evidence to back up our claims. Since rigging a hypertunnel was going to take more time than I really felt prudent, I offered to demonstrate Codex abilities for them to study. As long as they didn’t get too invasive at least. That got Smoche rigging his own hypertunnel to reach us and allowing the others to reach us as well.
Soon enough we were swarmed with Artificers asking all sorts of questions, running tests on me, and pestering most everyone else in the party. Fortunately, Alys managed to get most of them under control somehow and Ben managed to impress them with the possibilities of cooperation… Before I even really realized Ben and Smoche were working on it, they had completed building a functional portal and wanted to run a demonstration. At first I considered letting the Artificers help with the process of targeting the tunnel, but quickly realized they were going to be more trouble than they were worth as their obsessions skewed the steering away from our target. Jacob was next to useless when it came to helping target the Codifier Galaxy as well. That pretty much left only Ben and I as the only ones that could work on steering. After Ben and Smoche built an isolation chamber around the tunnel portal, we fired up the system.
The now familiar feel of the gate opening came as I focused my senses on the portal. With fewer people helping me than usual, I was able to feel a good bit more detail as we attempted to establish a lock. I telepathically felt snippets of thoughts and feelings as I sought out the Codifier universe from the nigh infinite threads of the multiverse. Soon enough I felt a familiar pair of presences as I homed in on a particular thread. As I “grabbed” that particular thread, the machine cycled as the tunnel opened up.
I was unfortunately standing in front of the tunnel as it opened a short distance from a main phase star. Luckily the corona was too diffuse to vaporize me, but I still got a full blast of intense sunlight unfiltered be either distance or atmosphere. The robes thankfully took the brunt of the damaging UV radiation and only my face was exposed. None of this was immediately apparent to me as I was suddenly blinded by the intense light and felt my face get an instant sunburn.
(Kira) Son of a bitch!
I stumbled and felt someone direct me to a chair as my world was a mess of black spots. Someone splashed bacta on my face and I slowly became aware of someone examining my eyes with a flashlight and a medkit. I heard one of the bounty hunters speaking but couldn’t tell to whom they were speaking.
(Bounty Hunter) Looks like the optic nerve was temporarily overloaded, vision should return to normal in an hour. No permanent damage done.
Vision returned in spots as I listened to the others perform their tests. Ben quickly verified it was indeed the Codifier Galaxy on the other side of the gate and that we even managed to hit the right solar system on the first try. Frankly, I would have been a little happier with somewhere in deep space, but the Artificers all seemed to be impressed at least.
Ben was quite interested… It looked like the planetary gravitational field helped stabilize the portal – and tended to limit its destination to areas with similar gravitational pulls. It had to be related to the way gravity restricted hyperspace travel.
Ben sent a probe through the gateway and attempted to establish contact with the planet Homestead. Soon enough he got a response back wondering if his ship was in need of assistance being so close to the sun. Then started the arguing as Ben and Alys began to try to explain to the security forces and I listened off screen. Eventually that got through to someone who understood what was going on. After listening to the explanation, he put Ben and Alys through to Akira and A-Valerie.
I was glad I was off screen at the moment because I could tell A-Valerie was not taking the explanation very well that several Artificers were coming her direction. Attempts to explain that while these nutjobs were completely insane, they were harmless enough if properly supervised and focused also did not sit well. However, several Artificers managing to readily bypass Homestead’s defenses and storm the library did illustrate that we did have a point about their uses.
The topic then turned to the Force and how it seemed, in A-Valerie’s opinion to drive everyone insane (I think that was aimed at me). I tried to stay out of that argument as best I could, but I was really consternated when she began to agree with Valerie. I mean, I suppose it makes sense they would agree, but damn it, I thought…. well I wasn’t sure what I thought.
I really wanted to point out what wonders the Codex was doing for the integrity of their own galaxy but held my tongue. Regardless of which version it is, I’ve learned it’s best not to argue with that woman sometimes. Ben and Alys spent some more time arguing with A-Valerie with limited success. Eventually it was agreed that A-Valerie and Akira would handle the Artificers for us in exchange for more assistance with eliminating the Faded and having an observer sent to watch us. I wasn’t adverse to the idea of an observer, although knowing this party I imagine the observer is going to have some very warped reports to send home.
Ben, however, rejected just sending the Faded away as flatly impossible. I didn’t think that was an entirely fair appraisal of the problem and asked why we couldn’t use the technology we learned for teleporting massive objects from galaxy to galaxy to send the Faded away. That got Ben yelling at me over “spilling the beans” but I didn’t really think A-Valerie or Akira were ones to really worry about with that sort of technology. Then behind me I heard Smoche chime in an begin speculating on how such a technology might work and where you might find a suitable power supply.
I know I am still half blind from the solar stare, but I thought I would have sensed some of the Artificers were still here in the room with us. Maybe the gateway is disrupting my senses? Regardless, I had just serious stuck my foot in my mouth now and it was back to damage control yet again. Alys trying to divert or distract Smoche from this line of thought failed miserably when Jacob suddenly volunteered his story of being eaten by a black hole and getting back out again. That gave Smoche the last piece to the puzzle and gave Goyle ideas on how to use this for mega-scale construction projects.
Great, we had just told Smoche how to duplicate Ben’s method of destroying a galaxy’s infrastructure and gave him a good enough start on how to sterilize a galaxy, and told Goyle how to turn the Galaxy into the Final Empire. None of those possibilities were especially pleasant to consider. Ben and Alys switched to damage control regarding explaining to the Artificers why doing such things was a major disaster, and I ended up taking over the discussions with Akira and A-Valerie.
(A-Valerie) Well you look good.
(Kira) Standing in front of a gateway that close to a star hasn’t helped my eye sight either.
(Akira) I take it the damage isn’t permanent?
(Kira) Few things are, I should be seeing normally in a couple hours or so.
(Akira) How are things going otherwise?
(Kira) Well, stuck on an occupied world, surrounded by tens of thousands of bounty hunters, disrupting the plans of would be Emperors, and opening portals to other dimensions on the side.
(A-Valerie) Tens of thousands? Quit trying to exaggerate.
(De’arc) Actually, current estimates last I heard were 21,062 bounty hunters on planet and Sith war droids numbering in the quarter million easily.
(A-Valerie) And you are?
(De’arc) De’arc, why?
I had to quickly explain that De’Arc was one of the bounty hunters, but that he’d decided that it was safer and likely to be more profitable to work with me than to chase me.
I think I heard my alternate chuckle at that one.
(Kira) Enough of that, how are things on your end?
(A-Valerie) The marriage was successful, no hitches there. The war continues to go poorly as it usually does. Our Binding studies are progressing slowly, but steadily too.
(Kira) Listen, we’ll get supplies moving your way soon enough, unfortunately Sith occupations and secret Jedi orders are making life real difficult right now. Getting the Artificer Smoche and Ben working on a stable gateway should help matters immensely.
(A-Valerie) How is my counterpart?
(Kira) She’s been quiet, haven’t heard from her since we dropped her off for her people to pick up. Of course we are also on an occupied planet and that makes hearing the news difficult.
(A-Valerie) Probably bidding her time then.
(Kira) Well, she’s obviously planning something, but I’ll be damned if I can tell what she’s thinking.
I didn’t voice the suspicion that I had figured Valerie was already leading the Varen off into the Multiverse setting up colonies. In fact I was sort of surprised that she hadn’t already shown up in the Codifier Galaxy with a couple legions in tow. Since that didn’t seem to be the case, that meant an assumption I made somewhere was incorrect. I had no idea which assumption though. About the only thing for certain was that her path and my own were going to cross again.
Eventually the observer from the Codifiers arrived via shuttle to the gateway and came through to our universe. Shortly thereafter the gateway began manifesting instabilities and had to be shut down to prevent an uncontrolled disconnect. We bid our farewells to Akira and A-Valerie as the gateway closed.
(De’arc) That was the version of you that rescued the Jedi and the pilot from me, wasn’t it?
(Kira) So I am told, I was stuck in that galaxy when that event happened.
The surge of temper was almost enough to flatten me all by itself; thank goodness De’Arc wasn’t force-sensitive, he’d probably have had a dark side breakthrough on the spot. It was still worth an instant headache…
Soon my eyesight returned to normal. Final preparations for the attempt at breaking the occupation were underway, and it looked like we might actually be able to pull this all off. Rumors were now spreading across the planet to the effect that we had just defeated a number of Artificers by sending them to another universe. While technically true, that certainly misrepresented the whole affair. At least it seem to be discouraging the less determined bounty hunters from the pursuit. On the other hand, the would be necromancer, Lecrouss, was now redoubling his efforts to find us.
We also got word from Officer Olson and Telera that the occupation was readying to raise the shields. What little they were able to gather indicated that the occupation had detected intense radiation blasts on the edge of the system and they were getting progressively closer. This could only be Xiang with her payload of antimatter warheads. The fleet commander in orbit recognized this as a sign of antimatter weaponry and was busily trying to use fighters to get Xiang to expend her inventory of warheads before she got too close.
There was a commander that needed a promotion, he actually used his head. Now understandably, the fighter pilots were upset, but several fighters versus a single freighter shouldn’t pose that much of a problem, even if it is armed with anti-capital ship warheads. But all indications were that Xiang would be arriving within the next 24 hours.
Not much room left for brilliant plans or strategies, about all we can do is throw what we have at the enemy and see if any of it works. I suppose the worst case would be us forced to evacuate to another universe.
I really hope it doesn’t come to that.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 45 (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 44 (ruscumag.wordpress.com)