With the Faded fleet retreating for the time being, that left us outside the event horizon of the Galactic Black Hole. We still had six Faded still loose on the ship and a number of the systems were damaged. Biggest concern on that front was the breach in the main power core. Most of the rest of the damage to the ship was superficial surface damage to sensors, airlocks, shuttle bays, and such. As best as we could tell, the Faded had caused damage only by importing energy inside the shield systems.
The Faded flotilla had already taken some losses thanks to Jacob’s “Malfunction Blast” – but they were mostly falling back due to the fact that the Mrs Beasley was diving into the event horizon of a black hole – and, what was worse, an event horizon who’s gravity was so weak as to be hard to detect, with no accretion disk or jets, and with a radius so great as to fill half the sky… If they had an engine failure, or made a random jump to hyperspace (thanks to mysterious button pushing), or simply had a little bad luck, they could all-too-easily wind up falling in.
Jacob, Alys, and Smoche were busily organizing and effecting repairs to the various systems, with priority on the main power core. Smoche absently asked me to do something to consume a lot of power, but dismissed my idea of generating antimatter as inappropriate. What few other ideas I was able to come up with weren’t able to satisfy him either, so I eventually shrugged and let him worry about it for the time being. My talents lie elsewhere – and Alys had enough droids to do all the minor stuff.
How she managed to organize things on that scale so casually was something that I wasn’t sure that I WANTED to know.
Not able to assist with efforts at repairs or organizing work teams, I turned to the other remaining threat to our existence. I verified all my powercells were charged and headed to the elevator. Valerie caught my intention and followed me to the elevator. I directed the elevator to take us to near Virstris and the others busily fighting the remaining Faded boarders. Valerie was busily double-checking her own equipment as the elevator arrived on the appropriate deck.
The doors opened to reveal the deck filled with smoke, sounds of blaster fire, and the occassional explosion. I took a moment to reach out with the Force and I was quickly able to recognize the presences of Virstris, Ban, and Augusta nearby along with a number of security guards. Tapping into the Force to enhance our speed, we sprinted down the corridors towards the center of the defensive line.
Quickly enough we arrived and saw a makeshift defensive barricade set up with a number of defenders. Virstris was easy to pick out from among the many guards and droids given that bright red hair of hers.
(Virstris) We’ve managed to push back the assault on all fronts and split them into a number of smaller groups. Droid casualties are atrocious, but the casualties among the guards isn’t nearly as bad. We’ve managed to injure most of the presumed Faded.
(Valerie) Just how bad is the droid situation?
(Virstris) At the rate we are loosing them, and compared with available manufacturing capacity, I anticipate shortages in approximately 230 years.
(Valerie) In other words, you’re winning the war of attrition.
(Virstris) Well, I wouldn’t call it attrition considering we’ve also managed to round up all the enemy soldiers already. It’s just the Faded that haven’t caught on to the fact that they’ve lost already.
(Valerie) And how are their tactics?
(Virstris) We were having issues with the running through walls and such, but now that Handell is rotating the ship everytime they try that, they’ve stopped doing it. That combined with the lack of hypertime seems to really be hampering their effectiveness. We are still having an abnormally high rate of equipment failures, and droids are vanishing at an alarming rate too. The other big issue is the random explosions from nowhere.
(Valerie) How many in this particular batch?
(Virstris) Visual confirmation of two near humans.
(Valerie) Right, continue to hold the line, we’re going to try to flush them your direction.
With that, Valerie leapt over the barricade and ran down the corridor. I fell in behind her moments later. She was moving at full speed and turning down adjacent corridors rapidly without even pausing. She clearly had a destination in mind.
<Kira> Care to let me in on the plan? There is way too much volume to be searching by ourselves.
<Valerie> I am projecting a route that will result in Virstris entering a firefight. Best estimation in my opinion is that Virstris would be firing at a Faded in that case.
That was an obvious load of crap. There was no way she could project that far ahead accurately against multiple Faded on the move. She was obviously cheating somehow, but I was having a hard time reading how.
<Kira> That seems a bit too simple in my opinion. What are you really doing?
<Valerie> You are using your head. I’ve set up my contacts to patch into the ship’s internal security grid. It’s feeding me the direction and distance to the Faded. I am just projecting a route from here to there.
<Kira> Then why didn’t you just say that?
<Valerie> Because I wanted to see how much you were paying attention, and how much you are simply accepting as fact.
<Kira> Does everything have to be a condescending lecture?
<Valerie> Not if you perform well. Heads up.
We turned another corridor at high speed to find a pair of Faded busily tending injuries. Both reacted to our arrival by pulling blasters and firing our direction. Valerie knocked two bolts aside with her bracers while I deflected two with my lightsabers. Valerie closed the distance first as she ran forward and smashed her fist into the Faded’s face followed by a telekinetic blast to the chest. I heard the crack of bone and the associated spray of blood as that one was sent flying down the hall and into a blast door. I reached the other one a moment later and took off his hand with one swing while impaling him in the gut with the second swing of my lightsabers.
That neatly knocked the two of them out. I pulled out a stasis belt and snapped it into place around the one I had downed. I tossed another belt to Valerie to put on the one she defeated. She too snapped it into place around the Faded she defeated. Thinking for a moment, I put another belt around the Faded’s hand. Valerie saw me do that and seemed annoyed.
(Valerie) You’re going to reattach his hand?
(Kira) It seems like the right thing to do.
(Valerie) Considering the damage they have done to their galaxy and the potential deaths they could have caused had they blown up the power core, I think they deserve whatever injuries they’ve earned.
(Kira) Perhaps, but maybe this will become a useful bargaining chip later.
(Valerie) You aren’t considering recruiting more of them are you?
(Kira) I find allies where I can, and I have managed to survive this long because I am not picky. It doesn’t mean I trust them though.
(Valerie) Smart policy, as long as you maintain control that is.
(Kira) Well, supposedly I report to you, and you report to the Council. If you don’t like my methods, you are free to order me to do otherwise.
(Valerie) Somehow I suspect starting that will result in me having to micromanage every aspect of your life as you forfeit all initiative.
(Kira) A good guess.
Valerie then activated her commlink.
(Valerie) Virstris, we need pickup of two prisoners to be taken to medical and then confinement.
(Virstris) Understood, I am pleased to report that we’ve trapped another Faded into one of the stasis traps and defeated another. Both are being taken into custody now.
(Valerie) That’s four down, how many left?
(Virstris) Current reports indicate two left. Both are by themselves and injured. One of them appears to be willing to discuss surrender.
(Valerie) Good, keep him talking. Prepare to offer medical assistance and fair treatment if he does surrender. In the meantime, Kira and I will move to capture the other one.
Valerie shut off the commlink and we started for the elevators again. Apparently the one remaining Faded trying to hold out was a good ways around the ship.
(Kira) I thought you considered it counter-productive to offer medical treatment and such?
(Valerie) There’s a difference. That one might be enticed to surrender. The one you saved the hand of was already defeated and under our control. He needed no enticement to surrender.
The remaining holdout quickly surrendered once the guards, droids, Valerie and I encircled him. He was obviously nursing a badly injured leg that prevented him from avoiding the encirclement. He was put into stasis and sent to medical for treatment. At some point we were going to have to get Lazlo to probe at each of our new prisoners for intel and signs of which ones might be negotiated with. But for now we were going to have to keep them all in stasis confinement.
Meanwhile, Lazlo had taken out his fighter… That way he could get a direct look at the damage to the Mrs Beasley, and see what had gotten through their shields.
Mostly that wasn’t too much; the sensor systems were either out of action or in desperate need of recalibration. There was no trace of actual weapons hits or actual shield breaches – although some areas were down to tertiary shields thanks to the Faded importing energy into the generators. As far as landings went… there were six individual fighters, three militarized small freighters, and one… light auxiliary destroyer, the only purpose-built military ship in the bunch.
Just how far gone was this place?
Wait. They were hand-crafting speciality parts for fighters. Were they actually building anything bigger than light freighters any more?
Anyway… A couple of the freighters had crewmen who were trying to get aboard – presumably either faded who were too unskilled to phase through the hull – although that seemed unlikely – or normal crewmen.
He reported those to Alys. The security droids could handle normal crewmen, at least when Alys was running them. The military ship however… It had enough crewmen and weaponry to actually make some trouble and had crewmen out trying to force an entrance. Fortunately, the hull of the Mrs Beasley was nearly sixty feet thick…
Negotiations didn’t go well. They saw no reason to surrender to a single fighter – and they did have better shields and heavier weapons.
Jacob and Ben had other options however… Jacob used the force to stuff everyone back aboard while Ben was rigging up a stage-two stasis field a few decks under them. That would let him just send in Jacob and Khadim to haul them out.
It would be time-consuming, but safe and relatively easy.
We got reports that Lazlo, Jacob, and Ben had managed to pacify the only warship that had penetrated the shields, along with the crews of three converter freighters. They also managed to capture six fighter craft too. Those ships were all moved to one of the functional shuttle bays for technicians to go over thoroughly. I imagined the differing engineering standards were going to be a pain, but that was something for the techs to deal with, not me.
Getting all the prisoners, Faded, and ships sorted and processed took the better part of a day. Injuries were heavy, and we lost a lot of droids in the fighting, but fatalities were minimal on both sides luckily. Damage to the Mrs Beasley was largely superficial and repairs were well underway. A remarkably clean victory considering the lack of major weapons on our side.
That then gave us time to study the black hole in detail. The new data gave us a radius of 1,428.2 light years, a negligible gravity well, and very long wavelength radiation coming out. All signs pointed to this being a second stage stasis as opposed to a normal event horizon. After some debate, it was decided to send Jacob in on a small ship to check things out. A quick jump in and then back out of the black hole verified that he could traverse the event horizon without issue.
The recordings he brought back showed a very fuzzy background of stars inside the event horizon like we anticipated. Why the starry background was fuzzy was a puzzler though. I wondered if it was the internal timeline in the black hole beginning to fragment in extremely slow motion, but Ben insisted this wasn’t the case. Some more experiments involving things thrown from Jacob’s shuttle showed them to become blurry too, but then they would return to normal once retrieved.
That mystery was left for another time. It was decided that Jacob, Alys, and Ben would go in on a small ship outfitted with a large subspace communications system. Once inside they would then head to Coruscant and scout around the place to try and get an idea of the situation there. I asked Alys to only scout around and to avoid doing anything involved or extravagant. There would be time later to do stuff, this was mainly a fact finding mission right now. Alys acknowledged the request and they loaded into the ship and dove into the black hole.
Subspace transmissions were coming in clear, although again anything outside the ship was incredibly fuzzy. They then began to make their way towards Coruscant. After watching for a few minutes, I left the bridge to get some food. Virstris noticed me leaving and followed. Aboard the elevator she began chattering.
(Virstris) Aren’t you going to watch with the others?
(Kira) If I wanted to look at blurry stars, I would spend more time getting plastered with Handell in the cockpit.
(Virstris) A long dead civilization hidden within a black hole to be discovered and you don’t want to watch?
(Kira) I’ll watch, but I get the impression it is going to be several hours before we get to see anything of interest. In the meantime I am going to get something to eat.
(Virstris) I’ll join you then, I haven’t eaten since yesterday.
The elevator ride was filled with her humming some tune I couldn’t recognize. Whatever the the was, it was sounded disgustingly cheery. A few minutes later the elevator dropped us off at the only currently operating galley. The galley wasn’t exactly packed. It just seemed full given that everyone was sitting as close to the meal lines as possible. The food wasn’t anything special either, but at least it was filling. Hopefully as the crew gets trained, things will improve. I grabbed my own tray and sat down at an empty table, and Virstris sat across from me.
(Virstris) Your counterpart and my sister’s seem to get along quite well.
(Kira) That they do. You can’t imagine how awkward that is to watch.
(Virstris) Why is it awkward?
(Kira) Because it raises difficult questions of what the differences are between us. You don’t have that issue since you don’t have a counterpart here.
(Virstris) I don’t really see all that many differences. I mean, the local versions tend to be a little more upbeat and sociable, but that’s attitude and environment as much as anything.
(Kira) Except the local version of your sister isn’t relying on sheer willpower to keep from killing us both.
(Virstris) It bothers her that you think that.
(Kira) What do you mean?
(Virstris) She’ll never admit it out loud, but your opinion matters to her. The fact that you feel that way does bother her. She was ranting about the “brain damage” comment for much of the night.
(Kira) You heard about that?
(Virstris) Not your smartest move, but there is an element of truth to it. I just never really saw it having grown up around it. Meeting her alternate really made me aware of how much it’s affected my sister.
(Kira) Does it change your mind about wanting these powers for yourself?
Virstris went real quiet as she sunk deep into thought. That was odd to see in such a bubbly fountain of optimism. As best as I could tell, she still didn’t seem to have anymore Force potential than the average person on the street of Coruscant. Yet, there was the fact that when Jacob repaired the Censor that she and Telera both managed to resist it to some extent when everyone else who wasn’t a Codex user couldn’t. Should I mention this to her? Or would that potentially get her hopes up falsely? Besides, it wasn’t like use of the Codex wasn’t without it’s downsides too.
(Kira) You can see what these powers have done to my life. If I’m lucky, I’ll find some way to keep my sanity. Otherwise the best I can hope for is to become like your sister. Worst case I’ll end up doing something like Huriel, Lecrouss, or some versions of me elsewhere.
(Virstris) You’ve seen versions of yourself conquering Coruscant?
(Kira) Nope, I have seen a version of myself blowing up stars in an attempt to hold the Republic hostage. I ended up helping kill the bastard. This ship was built to save the galaxy from another version of myself that tried to destroy the galaxy instead of holding it for ransom.
She found that one hard to believe, but it proved an easy matter to simply grab a nearby datapad and pull up the appropriate news archives from the ship’s records for her to view. Again she went incredibly silent as she watched the recordings. That at least bought me a few minutes to actually eat my food instead of replying to more questioning. Finally she put the datapad down and stared at the table for a bit before speaking again.
(Virstris) Why are you telling me this? And why do you ask if I still want this power?
I wasn’t naive enough to believe the bubbly exterior was all there was to this one, but still her shrewdness caught me by surprise. I was struck by the realization that the two sisters were more alike than just being driven to excel.
(Kira) Well truth be told, I wanted you to understand why I am so against following your sister down her path, and I wanted to know if you still strongly wished for powers.
(Virstris) Do you think I am a Force latent like you were?
(Kira) No, there is no more evidence of that than I suspect there ever was. But the fact that you were able to resist the Censor suggests that you might be a Codex latent.
Her eyes lit up at that remark.
(Kira) Well, finding out is likely to be exceedingly dangerous, and it could also doom you to an eternity in an obscure timeline even if you do survive. I want you to think long and hard about whether you really want this power and why you want it. If you are still intent on going through with it and you can give me a good reason why you want it, then I will see what can be done to give you the best chance I can.
In the black hole the old maps were accurate enough – but the hyperspace beacons were in stasis too. Worse, something seemed to be warping every hyperspace trajectory towards the center, and that would be pretty bad – and their were some REALLY weird shear zones (in SPACE?!?!) around Coruscant. Fortunately, Alys was a pretty good pilot herself, even if Handell was absurdly better.
As she sunk into internal reflection, I left her to her thinking and returned to the bridge. It looked like Alys and the others had arrived in the target system. The subspace feed was now showing the Coruscant system as the ship approached the planet. Everything was still unbelievably blurry for whatever reason. All traffic around the planet was halted in time, and the planet itself was seemingly surrounded by a haze, but it was also easy to recognize the world as the capitol of the Republic. There was still the remnants of the Sith fleet in orbit around the place.
Next the feed showed them exploring the surface of the planet. The Jedi Temple was a ruined crater. Signs of the battle in orbit littered the landscape. Vehicles, people, armies, and droids all frozen in time. It was hard to think of the place as simply in stasis and not some blurry holo recording from ages past. Alys took the ship visiting a few more sights around the planet as they did their recon of the place. Finally they approached the Senate building given it was the most likely location for Huriel to be making his grand speech as he did whatever he thought he was doing.
I have never seen the Senate building before personally. The times I was on Coruscant were spent in a different part of the planet. But the building was still very familiar to me from all the holos that were staged in or around it. It was obvious that the building was in the process of taking an immense amount of damage. What exactly was causing the damage was difficult to see though. About all I could see from the displays was the presence of what I could only call filaments of distortion that spread everywhere like some sort of fractal pattern. Those filaments seemed vaguely centered on the middle of the Senate building.
Alys decided to fly closer to one of the filaments for a closer inspection. I was already leery of the things without some time to do some sensor analysis, but I recognized the real danger of it too late. Just as I was going to shout a warning, the transmissions from Alys and the others became extremely slowed. Smoche reported that the subspace transmission was dropping in frequency and fast. After several minutes of attempting to shout warnings through the commlink without success, there wasn’t much to do except to watch the subspace frequency continue to drop.
Nimh thought to broadcast music over the channel to the shuttle in hopes of providing them with some sort of indication that their timerate was dropping rapidly. I had no real good way to determine the chances of whether or not Alys and the others would actually be able to get out of that mess. Smoche started running some models on timerates, rates of change, and a whole bunch of other stuff I didn’t understand before announcing that he determined a point of no return for Alys and the others. If they didn’t stop their approach by a particular point, then the likelihood of them getting out of this anytime in the next few millennia was abyssmal.
A couple hours of watching the display that Smoche set up slowly creep along got old real fast. This was also bringing up the uncomfortable questions of what we should do if Alys, Jacob, and Ben were essentially lost to us. Retrieving them from slow time wasn’t viable in my opinion. I also had doubts that the plan to save the galaxy could be carried out without Jacob. I suppose it was possible that we could just pull Coruscant out of the black hole, but operations like that without Ben to keep an eye on Smoche were a serious risk.
I suppose we could look for another atavist or another Ben for assistance. That was going to take a lot of time though and time wasn’t exactly something we had a lot of right now. I suppose it was best to wait to see if they passed the point of no return before worrying about what to do next. People started filtering from the bridge pretty quickly once it was obvious that any change of status was hours, days, or even weeks away.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 59 (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 54 (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 52 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 58 (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 57 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- From the Holocron of Ben Therus – Session 51 (burntbones.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 50b (ruscumag.wordpress.com)