Recordings from the Holocron of Ben Therus – Session 68c, Heritage

An artist's conception of a supermassive black...

A bad time to not know where you're going...

Ben, meanwhile was confused. He’d arrived somewhere, but the place no sense! There was little or no gravity, there was an immense strip of intense blue light – call it “overhead” – that seemed to run into infinity, and there was some evidence that a powerful wind was carrying him along through an infinite blue sky! All he could see was a deeper blue away from the strip, with maybe a hint of red, and blueness which seemed to go on forever in all directions. This couldn’t possibly be a planet – there’d be SOME evidence of a surface, or cloud-layers, SOMEWHERE – and there were no landmarks save for the occasional… floating patch of vegetation. Wait, were those holding against a wind or somehow traveling upwind? What could be holding or driving them?

It wasn’t long before he smacked into one. At least it was something solid to sit on, even if it did mean putting up with a constant gale.

A good thing he had his pocket kits, since everything else had gone with the armor.

The tree-leaves and structure seemed to be biochemically simple and primitive (if extremely tough) – and he could eat the leaves and seed-structures – but the whole thing contained conductive filaments, on which there were… massive circulating currents, which powered much of the things bioprocesses. Photosynthesis was only a sideline, perhaps only really required while the things were small and not yet large ready to operate on electrical power. But where was the power coming from? Why was there so much hard radiation about?

Ah. A massive magnetic field. Enough to produce hysteresis currents in a long conductor, slowing it and counter-rotating it against a wind which seemed to vary somewhat with “altitude”.

That still didn’t make any sense – where was the wind COMING from? Why would it vary with the “altitude”? Why no gravity? There was no sign that they were freefalling TO anywhere. An immense space habitat rotating around a star? Why full of nothing but air, occasional moister patches, and dust?

Still, with a bit of improvisation with conductive wood and electrical power tapped off from the tree, he could improvise a spark-gap transmitter and a similar receiver.

Good gods, he’d been reduced to building his equipment out of wood, bark, leaves and parings from his own fingernails. Could this get much worse? Stone and hides would be a step UP.

That eventually got a response though – some birdlike people who lived in the trees.

Unfortunately, they weren’t much help. They’d never even heard of solid ground. They used tree-radios like his own to communicate. To them, the world was an infinite tunnel of wind… If you flew too far towards the light, it got too hot. If you flew too in any other direction, the air got too thin and hard to breathe. The world had been the same for many generations.

A telescope – assembled out of water and some bits he pulled in via the Codex – showed him much the same thing, although it did reveal a lot of turbulence in the blue light strip and lots of ultraviolet. There might be a few hints of other blue lights in the rest of the sky – but as far as you could peer out into it when there were clouds between you and the blue light, there was nothing much but a dim red glow. No stars… Shielding his pocket instruments showed that most of the radiation was coming from the strip of blue light.

Ben looked at the blue light overhead… and abruptly his perceptions shifted. He HAD seen that sort of thing before. Several times… NO. That COULDN’T be POSSIBLE.

But the turbulent fusion zone… the intense magnetic field… the freefall… the…

There was no other explanation that didn’t call for rewriting physics or crazed superadvanced aliens (and he’d always hated non-explanations like that!).

It wasn’t above him. It was below…

He was in an accretion disk around a rapidly-spinning galactic-scale black hole, floating above the tightly-compressed fusion plasma near the event horizon. The atmosphere was held together by tidal effects. Due to the oblate shape of the black hole, moving away from the equator was moving “uphill”. It was kept from dissipating into interstellar space “above” by the black holes immense gravity well, and it was fed and “supported” from the bottom by radiation pressure and by the waste products of high-order fusion reactions near the event horizon.

But… that would require an immense, ongoing, flow of hydrogen and helium into the black hole! An interstellar medium of unprecedented density!

Wait. Not… unprecedented…

A dim red glow, without stars save – perhaps – for their first sparks and the accretion disks of other black holes. Not the end of time, but the beginning. His telescope was looking at the afterglow of the Big Bang, still visible to the eye. Less than two hundred thousand years since the first light of creation… The gases of the ring-environment were cooled by expansion into areas around the edge swept clean of hotter gas and dust by the gravity of the black hole.

The presence of even a little life… would effectively accelerate the time in the environmental ring, allowing further cooling, reducing the turbulence of the fusion plasma to slow fluctuations and its radiation to more reasonable frequencies, and allowing still more life and still more time.

The trees might even be native, although it was almost certain that the bird-people were not. They must have arrived from an older universe – and had, with desperate courage, colonized the one location in the early universe where their descendants might survive for a time.

The ring-environment would eventually destabilize of course. The flow of hydrogen into the black hole would slow. The perilous dynamics of the extended accretion disk would tip beyond the point of stability – and the lower segments of the ring would fall into the fusion furnace. The rest would be blasted outward, into the forming galaxy around the great black hole – and would seed the galaxy with the genetic legacy of the first living things. Simple. Tough. Adaptable. It might take billions of years more before galaxies would bloom, but the legacy of the first life would continue, a heritage older than the stars themselves.

The bird-folk however… They were sapient, and fragile, and too complex a form of life to withstand such stresses. Barring outside intervention – in itself, calling for a miracle, given that they were likely the only advanced life forms in the universe – they were doomed. Without the resources to build a technology, and with nowhere else to go, the final collapse would be a funeral pyre for their race. Their legacy would be lost.

Well, when you lept across the dimensions unguided, didn’t you trust to the force to choose your destination? He always did seem to be arriving somewhere where things needed fixing….

He set to work.

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Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 68b

The Battle of Coruscant Issue two of the Tales...

I need a vacation!

Alys swore again as the radiation-flash blazed through the Jedi Temple. She’d been through THAT (and the blasted radiation treatment) enough times to recognize it instantly! From the way the lights flickered – and the fact that they WEREN’T all a drifting cloud of vapor – Ben must have vented part of the reactor reserve. Why was he blowing himself up? Just to get the Baramour? According to the surviving droids… He’d intentionally incinerated himself (unless he’d dropped out of the cosmos again, which was likely), and his armor, and probably some of the Baramour – and, almost certainly, most of the bioplagues (which was something). Oh well, she knew better than to ask why he was destroying his own equipment these days.

Still, if the radiation-flash had been that bad through the fortress-construction of the Jedi Temple, it must have been horrific outside. Thank goodness Ramith had been wrapping the place in warship shields.

Unfortunately, she had to relocate. Between Chan, Xiang, the radiation-flare, the pressure of the military shields outside, and the widespread use of explosives by the Sith, Kira, and large numbers of bounty hunters, the area she was in was no longer stable. It was time to run… Luckily, enormous reaches of the temple were still just fine. It looked a lot more fortress-like now that a lot of the decorations had peeled off.

Lazlo, meanwhile, was calling for information on the Baramour. They kept using precognition to dodge his bounty hunters – and he wanted some of the moss-panels to use to make Sith blinds.

Well, that was creative. Given the chaos in the temple it would be easy to overlook a few blank spots in the force – and the temple already had quite a few of them anyway. She sent them over.

Meanwhile, back with Kira…

Reaching out with the Force, I could sense the various Jedi and Sith running about the Temple. I noted the location and direction of travel for the Baramour moving along the West Wall and backtracked to find the various plague canisters they have been dropping behind them. Sadly, I was going to have to get closer to be able to pick up the clouds of plague the canisters have released already compared to just the canisters. With the location of the next canister noted, I sped off through the walls in Hypertime.

About halfway there, I was blinded by an intense flash of light that seemed to go through the walls themselves. I dropped out of Hypertime before I ran into something to give my eyes a chance to recover as I reached out with my senses to determine what had just happened. Suddenly it felt like the entire Temple dropped a few feet. I hit the floor in a tumble as gravity reasserted itself. Soon my eyes recovered to show me still in the corridor I had been running along. According to my Force senses, whatever had just happened had affected a significant area around the Temple and the space above it for a long ways out.

(Kira) Alys, what just happened?

(Alys) It looks like the main Hypermatter reactor for the Temple just initiated an Emergency Vent cycle. Those within the Temple were subjected to a burst of soft x-rays, while those outside got a hefty dose of hard gamma radiation. It looks like one of the Lunar colonies got a near miss from the blast. It is even possible that Coruscant’s orbit has been altered by that blast.

(Kira) Should I be concerned that we might be heading into a critical containment failure?

(Alys) Doesn’t look to be any danger of that. It looks like Ben purposefully triggered it somehow. Ben is currently missing but that did force the Baramour team at the reactor to go into retreat. Indications are also coming in that the blast of radiation killed the vast majority of the plagues they had been spreading too.

(Kira) Well that is good I suppose.

(Alys) Ben also gave confirmation that Jarik is here with the Baramour.

Damn it. Jarik was not who we needed on Coruscant right now. If I run into my Codifier Alternate again, I am going to be sure to smack him for putting Jarik into stasis instead of drugging him into a stupor like the Arethi suggested or handing him over to the Republic. I am not as naive when it comes to insane Sith with far more power than sense.

(Kira) Right, we continue as is, except I will go after Jarik once I am done with the team on the West Wall.

Someone of Jarik’s power in the Dark Side was going to have a hard time hiding, even on Coruscant. At least now that I knew to look for it. Still the focus was on the Baramour team on the West Wall doing who knows what. Once I dealt with them, I could focus on chasing down Jarik after that. I just hoped it wouldn’t become necessary to use that spacefield grenade.

Lazlo, meanwhile, had hooked up with one of the Jedi – and had laid a successful ambush. It had taken some bouncing around, running on the ceiling, droid shockmines, heavy blasters, net projectors, flamethrowers, gas grenades, rapidfire concussion grenade launchers, and rather a lot of heavy firepower from the bounty hunters – but he and the Jedi had managed to render the Sith leader (thanks to a headbutt from Lazlo, which had gotten him much applause) and his assistants unconscious and get them into stasis (or, in a regrettable instance or two, deceased).

Fortunately, the bounty hunters were well-supplied with restraint options. Still, had that bit about “Fools, you will find no victory here! It is already too late!” been mere bravado?

Jarik’s bioweapons were too hazardous to leave to guesswork.

A conscious or unconscious Sith – or even a minion (aSITHtant?) with Sith training – could actively resist a probe. Fortunately, Lazlo was a master of probing minds that were in stasis…

It looked like Jarik was in charge because of his incredible skills – he’d been astounding as a doctor before, and now could glance at a bottle of yeast and mutate it into a deadly plage. Jarik had planted a variety of bioweapon release systems around Coruscant before he’d ever headed for the Jedi temple. Fortunately, they’d been timed to supplement the release from the temple, and so were on timers set for – the next day or two.

Oh DAMN.

Sadly, his new Jedi friend kept getting fuzzy when told about things like the stasis belts. Blasted censor.

Lazlo fed that information to Alys, who got on the priority channels with Ramith again – with a confirmation from Chanoth (the Jedi he’d hooked up with).

Ramith hadn’t realized that there was anything out there that would make him LESS happy with this situation! Another eighty biocontainment setups and biohazard/demolitions teams to get to locations scattered around Coruscant… Still, at least he had firm information as to their exact locations. That was worth something!

There was a reason why he was the sector fleet admiral though. The orders were sorted out, and the operation was underway, within minutes.

Unfortunately for Alys, that burst of top-priority transmissions had been traced – and more of those blasted bounty hunters were on the way. She barely made it out ahead of them, and even that was only because of a desperate phasing attempt through the floor.

Wait, one had been carrying a pack with female evening dress in her size? What the… What kind of perverts had a bounty out on her this time?!?!?

That had been too close; she needed to work on her phasing! She’d better go find Kira… He was GOOD at the last-moment escape routines!

She headed for Kira’s current location – where he, of course, had problems of his own.

Luckily, I was running into fewer and fewer bounty hunters the closer I got to the Baramour team. Quickly enough I got ahead of them and around a corner out of line of sight. I was already suppressing my Force presence in order to maintain the element of surprise. Despite their attempts to move silently, I could still hear their approach as they came down the hall towards my ambush position. In less than a minute they would be at a section of hallway with no easy access out for some distance to dodge thermal detonators.

Then I felt a hand clasp my shoulder from behind.

It took everything I had to keep from crying out and stumbling out into the hallway. Turning to look behind me, I saw Alys standing there obviously startled from seeing me startled. I thought I was pretty good these days at detecting people stalking about, but obviously I was wrong. She then proceeded to start telling me how she was ambushed by bounty hunters and came running my direction since there were fewer bounty hunters this way. She wasn’t catching my gestures to be quiet though as any moment the Baramour would hear us.

(Baramour) You wouldn’t happen to be Kira Keldav would you?

Sigh, too late.

So much for the element of surprise. I turned to see an older man in the classic Baramour garb followed by a trio of normal looking assistants. I did reach out with the Force and confirmed that these four were the only ones in the vicinity and that none of the assistants were disguised Force users.

(Kira) I would, and you?

(Baramour) I am Sagramore Wulfes. I’ve heard quite a bit about you. Do you know that Jarik considers you to be his personal curse?

(Kira) It doesn’t surprise me considering the sheer amount of things I get blamed for. Although why some of the others aren’t included in that statement is a mild curiousity.

(Sagramore) Tell me, who brought Chan into this? I thought that sort of power was fictional.

The fact that Sagramore felt the urge to talk was setting off alarms in my head, but I wasn’t sensing any sort of an ambush around us nor was I sensing a plague or poison either. Is this a delaying tactic? If so, then what is he delaying for? To let Jarik get away?

(Kira) As did I to be honest. I thought it was all special effects and net hype. As for who brought him, I think he just sorta showed up and was drawn by the sheer amount of chaos going on.

(Sagramore) Bother. And tell me, is your bunch responsible for the defeat of all of my comrades here in this battle?

Well, I certainly had accounted for one team. Ben managed to drive away Jarik’s team with his stunt. It felt like Lazlo had brought down another, while the other group of bounty hunters and some Jedi were busily overwhelming the remaining team. It was probably a fair statement then.

(Kira) While we may not have been the direct opposition in all the cases, we certainly had a hand in it.

At which point Sagramore sighed.

(Sagramore) Very well then. I believe Jarik and this ill-conceived plan of his are both utterly insane.

(Kira) I can’t say that I disagree. Even if you had largely succeeded, the sheer reprisals the Republic would have inflicted back on the Sith and the Baramour in particular were not going to be pleasant.

(Sagramore) Indeed, and I would like to get myself out of this stupid mess. We believe that you have been receiving support from one of the Sith factions for some time now, and we know that you are working with the Artificers but I doubt it is them – it’s not like they have any kind of central organization. I would like to receive protection and shelter with whoever it is that is supporting you. In exchange, I would be able to offer antidotes, antibiotics, vaccines, a number of other valuable formulas, and my services.

I wasn’t detecting any hint of possible treachery in the near future, but then with all the chaos going on and all the precognitives that could be involved it was impossible to sort the noise from the signal. Through the Bond I could sense Valerie get a smug grin on her face. She either had inside information or made an incredibly good guess there as my own precognition hadn’t foreseen this scenario. And it wasn’t like the difference in power between us was that substantial these days either. When this is over I am going to pester her about it until she tells me how she did it.

I wasn’t about to admit having substantial contacts with Sith who weren’t Artificers in a location I could be overheard though. Reaching out with the Force and the Codex, I determined the only vector by which that information would be leaked would be via Alys right now. She almost certainly had to suspect I was working with the Varen to some extent given the fact that I had shown up in the Codifier Galaxy with the Varen, had been answering their questions fully, and been in Valerie’s presence ever since. Surely she had figured it out by now.

I glanced at her for confirmation that she wasn’t going to repeat what I was about to say. Then I saw that she wasn’t particularly happy with my reluctance to answer the question. She finally caught my intent though and nodded in assent, although I could tell she was going to demand explanations in the near future. Well, it wasn’t like the Bond with Valerie was going to be able to remain a secret forever.

Actually, Alys was more confused… Why would Kira need her confirmation? It wasn’t like they weren’t ALL entangled with the Sith. The actual galaxy had turned out to be a lot more complex than the Holo’s made it out to be… When all “Sith” meant was that you’d let out-of-control force powers burn an obsession into your brain, you wound up with everything from posturing super villains out to destroy civilization to… well, cooks, and doctors so pacifistic that they persuaded the germs to become symbionts instead of killing them, and martial artists obsessed with proving how tough they were, and more – all to some extent crazy, but some quite tolerably so – or even helpful!

And that wasn’t even to mention the various subgroups of Codifiers.

Oh, for some reason Kira was still waiting for HER approval? She gave it.

(Kira) I can work on arranging an audience. Sad to say, I don’t quite have the authority to make such decisions myself. In many ways I am still on probation.

(Sagramore) Then I would recommend vacating the premises. The window of opportunity for leaving is nearly closed.

(Kira) I have ways around such issues.

<Kira> Valerie, I’m going to be using the escape route and I’ll be bringing some guests that want to cut a deal. Can you discreetly find someplace quiet?

<Valerie> Me be discreet? You are the one with your name and face plastered all over the news. Half the Galaxy knows you are in the Jedi Temple right now.

<Kira> And exactly how much of that is my fault? I came in here under disguise and met with the Jedi Council about as quietly as be managed by anyone including yourself. What exactly would you have had me do differently?

<Valerie> Not gone in there with so many known faces.

Sigh.

<Valerie> You’re sighing at me again.

<Kira> And you’re being difficult.

<Valerie> I am not being difficult. Fine, I will discreetly find someplace quiet. Although I doubt it will remain too quiet with you around.

<Kira> Hey, one of us has to be discreet, and it obviously isn’t me.

<Valerie> True, maybe it will finally rub off on you if I keep it up.

<Kira> One can hope.

(Kira) Alright, Alys, it looks like Jarik has escaped for the moment. I am going to take Sagramore and his people outside the military blockade. After that I am probably going after Jarik. Do you want to come along?

(Alys) No, I think I am needed here more.

Much as she wanted to, she couldn’t run the Weaponized Jacob containment from outside the temple – and if those things got loose en mass they’d be an ongoing disaster for years to come. Besides… it looked like she would have to explain to the military. That would take caution; they already knew that Ramith knew more than most – and he was disconcertingly fast and direct in his thinking. Beyond that, she wanted to monitor Lazlo – after all, he’d been taking lessons from Sith Holocrons, and directly mind-probing Sith, again – and to try to find out where Ben had gotten to, and talk to this Vi person.

For that matter, the Military was still trying to keep the Jedi Council out of their own temple – on the not-entirely-unreasonable grounds of biohazards to Coruscant.

Hmm… Too fast? Come to think of it, Coruscant HAD taken very VERY little damage from a massed Yeveetha suicide-assault – and not a single Yeveetha ship seemed to have reached the surface – and he had been inside the temple, meeting with a couple of hybrids. Was there a special top-secret training program for the high command? Codifiers didn’t need to follow the Jedi Code to avoid “falling” after all…

(Kira) Very well, suit yourself.

She didn’t seem happy with what I was doing. But unfortunately I needed to get outside of the Temple and at the same assist my benefactors without actively defying the Republic Military. A precarious balancing act of conflicting responsibilities to be sure, but I know where my bread is buttered these days. And it isn’t like the Varen are the ones that kidnapped my family either. That distinction falls to the so-called good guys outside right now who have gotten here faster than the hostiles did, and have apparently been secretly manipulating the Jedi Council and their investigations.

The military can demand my arrest and interrogation all they want for all I care until they hand over my family. I’ve got things to do. Finally I got a message from Valerie that she was ready on her end.

(Kira) Alright Sagramore, I would recommend you and your assistants take my hand and focus your attention on me. This is going to be a bit disconcerting on your first trip.

With them all focused on me, it was a relatively simple matter to start disconnecting the threads that bound me to the universe while dragging them with me. Sagramore resisted at first, but quickly relented as I severed more threads. Soon there was just a few threads remaining, and finally just the thread to Valerie provided by the Bond. One quick tug on that resulted in the scene around us suddenly shifting to that of an underground warehouse. Valerie was still in her civilian disguise, but I could see the weapons were now out in easy reach in case she needed them. It didn’t look like we were going to be overheard here for the moment. I was pleased to see that Sagramore at the very least seemed to be shocked by the teleportation demonstration.

(Kira) Sagramore, meet Valerie Soung. She is my contact with the Varen Sith. Valerie, this is Sagramore Wulfes. He would like to discuss his defection from the Baramour.

Now to find Jarik and put an end to this nonsense.

Back at the temple, Alys was explaining to the Military – with fair accuracy, even if she was leaving out a few bits about Kira. Sadly, the military wanted to arrest Jacob, the Jacobs, and Ben – since importing bioweapons to Coruscant was a major offense.

Lazlo, on the other hand, was sent to medical for a checkup, along with everyone else who had been in close contact with a Baramour, and was in line for a medal and a stipend. At least in the eyes of the Republic he and Alys were once more major heroes!