We dropped out of hyperspace in yet another sparsely populated system. This one looked to be a small binary star system with a large belt of icy rocks in orbit around the pair of them. Not much to be had here that couldn’t be gotten elsewhere more easily. The only traffic likely to be here were smugglers looking for somewhere quiet to hide, and the occasional lost freighter.
Or a Republic probing mission.
That was the Varen Council’s theory anyway, but I had my doubts. While the various politicians were quick to read the polls and begin spouting off lines about “Finishing the Sith threat off once and for all”, the realities of the situation didn’t make such a push likely. After all, while the defeat of Zandaras had freed up a substantial amount of Republic naval resources, the Yevetha were quickly beginning to absorb that excess.
On the plus side of things, the Yevetha were stupid. On the down side of things, the Yevetha were stupid. Seriously, they made the Kreedath berserkers look like legendary strategic and tactical geniuses. This was useful because it made defeating them on an even standing ridiculously easy. Is was incredibly annoying because the damned things were too stupid to know when to back down. The few that probed into Sith space were quickly being met with swift extermination whenever the Sith found them.
And it wasn’t likely that any of them were going to show up here either.
(Virstris) Another dead, boring system.
(Vincent) I imagine some of those snowballs to be housing microbes, so I wouldn’t say they are dead.
(Kira) It doesn’t matter. We have a job to do. Augusta, can you detect the first sensor node?
(Augusta) Yep, about 20,000 kilometers out.
(Kira) Alright, close in and let’s get the telemetry data.
Supposedly these things were part of an early warning hyperspace sensor net the Varen had placed here some time ago. New agents also supposedly had to run errands out to check these from time to time to verify things were working properly. Personally I think this more of a “training” exercise designed to evaluate whether Varen could actually do what they were told.
We pulled along side the comet and began transmitting with the sensor system via a tightbeam. After a back and forth session of code requests and verifications, it sent the telemetry data to our computer and then went back to silent sentry mode.
(Ban) Two more to go in this system and then back to base.
(Augusta) Ugh, two more? Can’t we hurry this up? I’m sure I could cross the system to the next relay in a single jump.
(Ban) Yeah, but could you still pilot the ship after it pancakes against a random snowball that got in the way?
(Augusta) Oh please, the odds of that happening are about 1:30,000.
It was easy to tell now that Augusta was pulling on a Codex monotalent there to estimate those odds now that I knew what to look for. Not all of the aspects of how it worked were completely clear, but I could see how it probably got her into trouble on the racing circuits. The Force could tell you when the best course isn’t necessarily the right course, the Codex couldn’t tell you more than the chance of success. Still, it was an interesting counterpoint to how Handell did things.
(Ban) Quit pulling numbers out of thin air.
Ban’s monotalent was also clearer now that I knew of the Codex. He wasn’t enhancing things the way the Artificers did at all. It was more like he suppressed the “noise” around him that caused droids and computers to slowly fail. This enabled him to support a larger than average number of droids and get consistently superior performance out of his favorites.
It was interesting how much more these people made sense given what I know now.
(Kira) Enough. Augusta, try to keep it to two or three jumps and not try to do it in one go. We are going to complete this job in a timely fashion, but it is not a race.
(Kira) Ban, is there anything else out there that seems to have taken note of our presence?
(Ban) Nope, a couple of what look to be smuggler ships at the far end of the system, near one of the larger planetoids.
Precognition and probability analysis suggested that was probably a smugglers refuge carved into that iceball and nothing more. The telemetry data would give evidence either way, and our mission wasn’t to go sticking our nose into trouble. Besides, for all we knew it was Hutt smugglers shipping weapons to the Varen Commonwealth through this hyperspace route. The route certainly got close enough to their territory. In fact, I would wager there is an undocumented side route nearby that goes to Hutt space.
Ah well, it’s something to tell the Varen to check the telemetry for evidence of.
While Augusta completed the next few jumps, I took the time to reflect back on the Varen project and what I knew of it. It was obviously a variation of one of Ben’s designs if they felt I was the inspiration behind it. Plus the glimpse of a black hole I was able to get as the shuttle left the Winter Moon was more than enough indication of what they were trying. This one appeared to be yet another variation of the hypertunnel powered by a black hole.
Last time we had encountered Valerie, Ben’s theory was that Darth Ben had used the jets of the Galactic Black Hole to power the device. So it would have made sense if they were trying some variant on that technique, but all indications were that they were trying to project a tunnel into the black hole. We only learned about that trick after we lost contact with Valerie. So how did she learn of it? And do they really understand the dangers of using that technique improperly?
(Augusta) We’ve reached the second sensor node.
(Kira) I’m sure you know what to do.
(Ban) Bit of a waste of our time doing this sensor patrol.
(Kira) Probably, but I imagine you are here mainly to keep an eye on me as much as anything.
(Ban) But you’re no amateur like Gregory practically was.
(Virstris) Ah, but he’s not trusted, and has caused us a substantial amount of damage in the past. So we’re making sure he doesn’t get up to anything untoward.
(Kira) Like I could do much in a shuttle by myself.
(Virstris) You’ve proven surprisingly resourceful before. Like escaping us from the bottom of a mine shaft we collapsed on you.
(Ban) Alright, we got that set of telemetry too.
(Kira) Time for the last one Augusta, then back to the Winter Moon to hand in a report it took all of us to chase down.
(Virstris) Still got that issue with authority?
(Kira) Not at all, I will do exactly what is asked of me to the best of my ability. If all they want to ask of me is to gather reports from rocks in the middle of nowhere, then I shall do that with the best of them. It’s a far sight better than the Jedi guilting me into fighting one of the most powerful Sith in the Galaxy so they don’t have to.
(Virstris) I still want to know how they did that.
The third sensor node in the system was hidden in a long period comet outside the plane of the ecliptic and was a simple enough pair of jumps to make to reach it. With the final bit of hyperspace telemetry collected, it was time to head back to the Winter Moon. Once we reached Varen space proper and could drop the stealth mode, news started coming in over the network. The major bit to come in was of Gruenn’s destruction and then the apparent suicide of the Mrs Beasley as it plunged into the depths of a star.
(Augusta) My god.
(Virstris) They destroyed a planet?!
(Kira) I doubt that.
(Vincent) There’s nothing but a pile of rocks left, how did they not destroy it?
(Kira) Most likely they traded the planet for an asteroid belt in a nearby system.
(Ban) What in the hell makes you so convinced they did that? It seems the simplest explanation would be that they blew it up.
(Kira) Now watch the replay, see how you suddenly get a round and largely static asteroid belt almost immediately after that bright flash? That doesn’t look like a debris cloud from a planet that exploded a fraction of a second earlier. It’s too calm for that.
(Vincent) But the power and hyperdrive system you would need to swap a planet over those kinds of distances…. you would need an enormous ship, something on the scale of….
(Virstris) The Mrs Beasley?
(Kira) Well, that was the original purpose of the Life Star class ship we found in that universe another Ben had built them in. The local Ben has been obsessing with getting one of his own ever since then. The fact that it is called the Mrs Beasley says it was probably built to stop Darth Kira’s rampage of destruction.
(Virstris) Darth Kira?
(Kira) Apparently a version of me captured by the Baramour as opposed to the Varen. He hammered the other Sith factions together and then started detonating stars to sterilize several sectors of the galaxy, including Alderaan.
(Augusta) You’re joking right?
(Kira) Nope, I ended up fighting him in a Force battle of wills while the others nuked him with several hundred thermal detonators. I still have nightmares from time to time caused by some of the memories that got burned into my mind from him.
Everyone there went quiet at that. It took a couple of hours to navigate the hyperspace routes back to the center of the star cluster that made up the majority of Varen space. The news kept slowly coming in from the battle in the Gruenn system. It looked like the Yevetha fleet was getting thoroughly thrashed by the combined fleet of everyone else. More ships were continuing to join the fray every few minutes and the total number of ships involved was now over a hundred thousand.
Reports were also beginning to come in regarding the survival of the Mrs Beasley in the depths of the star. Speculation on how it was surviving in there and how to get at it were running rampant in the media. Also unsettling was the speculation that this was all part of an alliance between Kira and the Yevetha to destroy the Republic. We reached the Winter Moon right as the fear mongering in the media was hitting it’s crescendo.
Valerie, Morrowain, and several other council members were waiting for us in the bay once we docked. None of them looked particularly happy to be seeing me right now. Vistris and the others seemed keen on letting me step out of the ship first this time. So I grabbed a datapad with my report and the requested data and walked down the ramp and handed my report to Morrowain.
(Kira) Here is the report and telemetry data you requested. Hopefully everything is as you expected.
(Councilwoman Rote) Your bunch blew up a planet! Do you have any idea how up-in-arms the Republic will get over that?
(Kira) I wasn’t anywhere near the place. I was out collecting data like you asked. There are witnesses even.
(Councilman Soung) Young man, it’s all over the news. I am certain you haven’t missed it. It also appears to be your companions that were involved in the incident. It’s obvious that you know something of this.
(Kira, sighing) Expect the planet to be found in a system near the Gruenn system in place of an asteroid belt. The original purpose of the Life Star system was to move planets around by trading an equivalent mass from somewhere else.
(Valerie) So the planet will be found somewhere else then?
(Kira) It should, provided those nuts used the thing correctly. And while we are on the topic of superweapons, you do realize how badly this little science project of yours could misbehave?
(Valerie) It is not a superweapon!
(Kira) No, it isn’t if I understand what you are trying to do. But it shares enough design elements with functional superweapon designs to easily kill everyone in the sector if you don’t have everything tuned right.
(Councilwoman Rote) And what assurances do we have that you are speaking the truth? We are quite familiar with your ability to become very hard to read.
With that, I poked a finger at Valerie’s forehead and sent over a series of images and memories of the sterilized galaxy I had visited some time back. I focused especially hard on the image of the multibillion year old ship stuck in stasis in the galactic black hole slowly evaporating from the intense radiation. I could feel her waver for a moment as she realized the seriousness of the situation.
(Valerie) He’s telling the truth.
(Morrowain) And what do you suggest we do then?
(Kira) Run tests at very low power and slowly ramp things up before you just feed the entire power output of the system to it. I would also recommend you test to see that you can actually build the hypertunnel system correctly by attempting a trip to another galaxy first before attempting to move something with the black hole.
(Morrowain) And where do you suggest we go?
(Kira) Why not the Codifier Galaxy? Valerie knows of it, so she can verify that the locals are friendly enough. I’ve also been there a number of times now.
(Morrowain) Very well then, I’ll begin prepping the Ashen Lance for the journey.
Then an intercom beeped.
(Morrowain) Go ahead.
(Intercom) Admiral, you wished to be informed if there was any major changes in the battle at Gruenn. Reports have confirmed that Zandaras is now dead.
(Morrowain) Caught in the crossfire I imagine?
(Intercom) Not exactly no. It seems someone dropped the local star on top of him.
(Councilwoman Rote) What do you mean dropped a star on him?
(Intercom) Exactly as it sounds like my lady, someone took the local star through hyperspace and brought it out on top of him. Speculation is focusing on that enormous ship that dove in some hours ago.
All eyes in the area turned to focus on me with that.
(Morrowain) Well, congratulations, you went to Gruenn to lure Zandaras into a trap, and it looks like you were successful in killing him. Was the most massive battle in galactic history really necessary?
Like it was my battle. I’d gone there with two small ships! And sent them away!
Wait a moment… Coldly rational and evaluating… were these bastards just taking their chance to see if I could be pushed into losing my temper too easily? They certainly seemed like they were… just watching me to see what I’d do.
Considering the proportion of their recruits who lost it at some point, that was probably sensible of them.
Special Investigator Nimh Tahl’s Field Report – Session 52
With more ships arriving in orbit every minute to join the ever intensifying battle, making sure the planetary shields stay online is going to be our best hope of surviving this. To that end, I asked Alys to arrange rapid transport to the nearest captured shield generator and for the engineers to arrange for a shield systems droid and a power systems droid to be available for my use. A confiscated bounty hunter ship landed in the street outside shortly thereafter and I hurried aboard. Thankfully the droid pilot understood the urgency of the issue and made no effort to delay our arrival despite its blatant program conflicts..
Rising above the cloud cover gave me a better view of the battle raging overhead than I really wanted. The number of star destroyers currently engaged in battle was easily in the hundreds, with smaller capital ships probably numbering into the thousands. The fighters were more an enormous swarm of insects as opposed to something that could be counted with organic eyes. The only reason the shields hadn’t failed yet was because all that firepower wasn’t pointed at us yet. Thus far, only the Yevetha were bombarding the planet with any kind of effort. Hopefully it would stay that way for a while longer.
Soon enough the ship landed outside one of the shield generators recently liberated from the Sith occupation force. I could see Security and Resistance personnel setting up additional defensive perimeters and staging missiles at various locations to provide cover fire. I didn’t really have much hope for our chances of surviving if it came to that, but we really didn’t have much choice in the matter. A pair of engineers and some security officers were there to meet me as I stepped out of the ship.
(Engineer) I am Chief Engineer Pravat Kass, I take it you are Special Investigator Nimh Tahl?
(Nimh) I am, do you have the droids I requested?
(Pravat) Yes, but I am not sure I understand what you expect to accomplish. The shield generator is under our control now and all systems are operating as best as can be managed under the circumstances.
(Nimh) I have good reason to believe the Sith have installed a number of remote shutoffs in the shield generators in order to facilitate retaking the planet in case of revolt.
(Pravat) Yes, we’ve been informed of the possibility, but we haven’t had much luck finding anything like that. We’ve turned up a few interrupts and small charges, but given a facility of this size, a full search could take weeks.
(Nimh) Weeks are something we do not have, we probably have a few hours at best.
(Pravat) I understand, but I fail to see what you think you can do to speed the process up, after all, we are far more familiar with the equipment than you are.
(Nimh) That is why I asked for the droids.
With that I powered off the droids and removed their cores from the sockets. I ignored the protests of the engineers complaining about disabling valuable droids as I inserted the cores into the appropriate sockets in my lekku. As my mind slowly interfaced to the new cores, I could hear the others whispering amongst themselves.
(Pravat) A Syndat?
(Security Officer) Well, that explains the personality.
(Engineer) Don’t you mean the lack of one?
Minutes later I became aware of news skills and knowledge at my disposal as the integration finished. My assessment of the local programming looked to be accurate given the mess of…. thinking that began entering into my head. It was amazing that the local droids could even manage to walk straight given how jumbled the software appeared to be. About that time I became aware of two voices in my head.
<Power Droid> You ripped my brain out and ate it.
<Shield Droid> Mine too.
Sigh, this is why I typically get custom brains preloaded with the skills but no personalities. As awkward as my social skills are, running around arguing with myself only tended to make things worse. Usually I could slowly purge the bad elements out of the program given time, but time was not something I could afford right now.
<Nimh> I am not going to get into an argument with you right now. Right now this planet is under siege and is under threat of being turned to glass. I need your skills to ensure that does not happen. I will return you to your bodies once this job is complete, but until then your command routines are slave to mine. Understood?
<Power Droid> Fine.
<Shield Droid> As long as you promise.
Shifting my focus out of the internal dialogue and back to the matter at hand, I began reviewing from memory the basic design of the shield generator, it’s redundant systems, power feed, and system accessibility. It was obvious the Sith would want to put the shutoff somewhere easy for them to install. Minimizing the damage to the generator in the event of a shutdown would also be critical for them. It would also have to be a limited number of points of failure that wouldn’t instantly switch over to redundant systems too.
Alright, using that as a guide, I can readily eliminate 90% of the systems in the generator facility. That left only two real options that I saw looking at the schematics and prints: a software generated shutdown sequence, and an interrupt in the secondary power distribution network or beam generators. Given the state of the software around here, any additions to the code would either stand out almost immediately or would take weeks to find. Any additions to the secondary power distribution network would be easy to find, but difficult to remove without taking down the shield system.
I started giving orders to engineers to direct a search of the locations I outlined and what to look for, but unfortunately had to get Alys involved to get these people to take an interest in saving their own hides. I spent most of my time reviewing log files and maintenance records looking for any clues as to what the Sith occupation might have inserted. Eventually the techs were able to find many additional small explosive charges around the power feeds to the secondary distribution network – half of them on spider-droids that intentionally tried to avoid detection.
Blast. That many small charges meant several other systems could be involved without major damage, and the spider droids were capable of resisting attempts to disarm them. At least it should be possible to take out the fixed charges while the spider droids were evading searchers in the area, which made it a simple matter to direct the techs and security teams to begin disarming and disposing of the fixed charges.
The Techs even managed to get almost all of the spider-droids carrying charges to come out somehow. Was the whole dratted planet full of droid hackers? At least that solved a near-impossible problem.
Unfortunately, there turned out to be rather a lot of charges. In several secondary systems too. Not enough to do more than… ten or twelve hours worth of damage for a maintenance crew who knew where to go and what to fix, but at least three times over what was needed to take the shields down. Worse, setting off at least a few of them was unavoidable in taking out others.
Fortunately, and thanks to those hackers, it was almost guaranteed that the resulting damage would be well within the redundancy limits – and the chances that it wouldn’t were arguably well below the chances of the Sith Commander transmitting a shut-down code.
The software program took longer to find, and was only traceable at all due to the additional error messages it was inadvertently generating in the log files as it refused to play nicely with the other programs. In a perfectly documented system it would have been easy to find, and we were able to find it here only because of the poor shape the system here was in. Had this been a typical Core World system in decent but not perfect condition, it would have been next to impossible to find.
With those found, I relayed instructions to the other facilities of what to look for. That should give us a chance to maintain control of the ten shield generators we had under our control. At least if the locals haven’t been tampering too badly with their droids responsible to disarming explosives.
Stepping outside for a moment for air was a mistake though. In the skies above the planet I saw there were literally tens of thousands of ships battling up there. Actually, at a second glance, it looked like more than a hundred thousand ships engaged in a giant battle royale. At the center of it was that enormous spherical ship that reminded me way too much of a Death Star – even if the damned things were mythical.
And then there was a brilliant flash of light brighter than any dawn.
Conscious awareness returned with a number of diagnostic errors seeking my attention. Something had happened that triggered a fault reboot of my droid prosthetics and now I was receiving a seemingly endless list of faults, alarms, errors, and messages all seeking my attention as systems adjusted to whatever had happened. First I became aware of feeling slightly ill and of a faint taste of sand in my mouth.
As my eyesight returned, I could see that something weird had happened. Whereas a few moments before it was late afternoon, now it appeared to be early morning. Most of the fleet overhead was now gone, and the local sun had gone from a greenish-yellow to an orange color and was now in a very different angle in the sky.
Others moved to assist me, and asked if I was alright. Requests for explanations as to what happened got me shrugs, blank looks, and gestures at the sky. It was clear everyone else was also feeling a bit ill, although I was the only one that lost consciousness for any length of time. Interestingly though, all the droids in the area had rebooted at the same time and were reporting diagnostic faults that were unnervingly familiar to the ones pushing their way into my consciousness from my prosthetics.
If my prosthetics failed now, I was as good as dead.
Simplest explanation for what had just happened was that the planet had moved to a new location. How and why was impossible to fathom right now, let alone where. Hell, given some of the stories told by Alys, asking if this was the same universe or even moment in time was a perfectly valid question right now.
One of the bystanders nearby then pointed out a number of objects apparently falling from the sky. It was difficult to make them out against the morning light, but all indications were that the falling objects appeared to be undergoing an uncontrolled reentry. One of the larger ones detonated before hitting the ground off to the west and the shockwave could be felt from here. Wait, those must be malfunctioning ships that were in orbit around the planet and have been caught in the same disaster that has befallen us.
The ships closest to the planet before the incident were the Yevetha ships bombarding the planet. A quick glance behind me confirmed that the planetary shields were down as well. I got confirmation of my hypothesis before I even had a chance to radio out an alarm: it looked like Yevetha survivors were attacking the populace.
Alys almost immediately came over the commlink requesting tactical advice given the situation. I recommended gathering what people and defensive resources she could into the major population centers and trying to set up defensive perimeters there. Hopefully the defensive advantages would outweigh the offensive advantages that are built into the Yevetha. I also highly recommended that Alys call for help from anyone nearby the planet that wasn’t more Yevetha.
What followed was a mess of combat between armed irregulars and mostly unarmed bioweapons. Thankfully weapons, vastly superior numbers, and fighting from defensive positions was proving more effective than any of the inherent advantages the Yevetha had. It also helped give the irregulars experience in actual combat to help them learn fast. Assistance from a few ships in the system – evidently we’d moved better than fifty light years and into a lightly-colonized system on several major hyperspace routes (no habitable planets, but several asteroid and moon operations to support traders stopping in to exchange goods, get repairs, or pick up supplies) – also helped matters.
What was really worrying me was the thought of what might happen should the Yevetha manage to take root on this planet. The longer it took the adults to go sessile, the more time we had to fortify positions, practice the arts of war, and let more Republic help arrive.
It certainly helped matters that the Yevetha’s concept of tactics was “Charge anything in sight.” It still was a hard slog at times with the damned things attacking at all hours of the day and night. The things also proved really good at finding holes to hide and wait in.
Ships began arriving in the days that followed. It looked like the first to arrive besides some of the locals were a set of capital ships owned by Keldav’s group. With their arrival, air support, weapons, and supplies began to be shipped down from orbit. With any luck, the Yevetha would only be a minor nuisance needing to be slowly rooted out from the deepest dungeons of the planet.
I was taken to one of the asteroid ships and put into a medical bay. There a team began work on cleaning up the damage to my prosthetics caused by the “silting” process. Apparently the planet had been sent through some sort of hyperspace tunnel a distance of about 50 lightyears. How this was accomplished I really do not understand yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that massive ship – and one of the “hypertunnels” Alys kept talking about – was the cause of it.
Speaking of which, it seems that Jacob and Smoche were aboard that thing. Which was odd considering they were on the planet below only a few days ago. Even with the Force manipulating coincidences, finding a ship like that in the galaxy just in time for when you need it is a bit beyond the pale. I just found it hard to believe that someone could have built that in secret or just found it laying around in this galaxy.
There may be more to this multiverse deal than I had given them credit for.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 50b (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 50a (ruscumag.wordpress.com)