Meanwhile, off in another universe, Lazlo was filling in the local Jedi on the likely history of the Republic after it was established – and warning them of a few things to watch out for. Who knew? It might help.
He also tried leaving a message for himself. Ben was sure that it wasn’t time travel, but he still had some doubts – and it was an easy way to test them.
Other than that… he needed a brilliant inventor who could help him out!
Wait. If he went looking for someone who’d apparently discovered how to make large amounts of very expensive equipment disappear forever with no other results, he’d have someone who was probably on the right track!
There was someone like that. Currently based in an abandoned orbital station around Tattooine (it had been cheap) which was… a lush, green, world. It even had a distant third in it’s star system, although the third star was three-quarters of a light year out and pretty small.
Oh dear! He hoped that he and this inventor wouldn’t be responsible for wrecking it!
The inventor turned out to be… Ben. Whaaaa? How could that be?
OK, it really must be an alternate dimension.
This one was tinkering with subspace tunnels. He was… “replacing one subspace coordinate system with another? He didn’t like hyperspce things, because things disappeared there so often? But his stuff disappeared ALL the time!
“At least it was reliable”?!?
OK, DEFINITELY another crazy Ben… Why were all the Ben’s out there so crazy?
Still, Lazlo was pretty desperate – and thought he knew what was going on with Ben’s droids not coming back; the droids would have circuit-problems after the trip! He should be able to get back safely enough – and he could hardly get more lost anyway.
That took him too… A dyson sphere made of trees, with apples the size of the death start. His ship wouldn’t work either – and he was falling slowly into the trees under microgravity. The force was VERY powerful here though, which made it easy to break his fall.
Fortunately, the natives weren’t too hard to find. Insectile, but friendly, folk who used some very odd powers indeed. They decided that he was seeking the Mad Wizard – but helpfully gave him some directions and supplies. They seemed to be used to this sort of thing.
The “quest” took him past giant wooden bees, past some weird thing that wanted him to use his “necromancy” to merge the souls of thousands into new “Nephwracks” and let them start to turn the universe into a horror show (fortunately, at his current power level, he managed to deal with it fairly readily), past some dragon of darkness which gave him a magic blade to throw Wizard-Ben out of the universe, and finally arrived at Ben’s Star Forge – where he was making new small-but-eternal stars to light up the dark levels of the universe (which was what the dragon objected to). Sadly, a small army of giant tree-golems wanted to keep anyone from interfering – already leaves had begun to grow, here in the darkness where leaves had never been – and they were too shortsighted and stupid to see that the Star Forge would unbalance their entire universe if it kept running…
Getting past THEM took a lot of dodging and acrobatics. Getting past their cloud of choking pollen meant using it as a fuel-air bomb – but at least that gave him enough of a boost to reach the Forge.
Sadly, yet ANOTHER crazy Ben was so invested in his pet project that he refused to believe that it might be dangerous!
Equally sadly, the “enchanted sword” that the dragon-thing had inflicted on him started to activate – and to try to push Ben out of his universe – when Lazlo got close enough. Wizard-Ben, recognizing what was going on, attempted to banish LAZLO back to wherever-it-was he came from – and they wound up dropping out of the universe together.
Meanwhile, back with Kira…
My suggestion was to due a scouting mission under various identities to find out what we could of the defenses and defenders of the place. With that information in hand we could better plan a takeover mission. That left what ID’s we should use for the scouting mission. With this many “talented” people in our group, it was going to need to be a very good reason for why we would all be showing up there. The obvious answer on that front was that we could be Sith, but why would Sith be showing up to such a world in the first place?
The answer occurred to me as I watched Smoche do some more arcane calculations on one of the big holographic displays regarding some esoteric idea of his. We could easily pose as Varen that have managed to capture a good deal of data from Kira Keldav and Ben Therus and are now looking for consultation regarding a number of the hyperspace technologies. Things like how to block trans-dimensional travel and what exactly those weird route coordinates meant would be valid questions for the Varen to have if they were still trying to chase me down. And since Ben Therus is supposedly at the root of those technological breakthroughs, it stood to reason that clones of Ben might have interesting insights into his research notes.
The proposal was agreed to by all, although Ben was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to go as Darth Therus to claim his clones for whatever supposed dark purpose he had dreamed up. Nimh added her own notes and questions needing answered from her studies into the Final Empire problem. If Ben’s clones were able to find answers to the problems, all the better, if not then we didn’t really lose anything in the process.
Obviously I would best go as Verun Navaro for this mission. Valerie and Virstris would go as themselves. Alys decided she would go as one of Valerie’s attendants. Ben elected to go as a merchant of some sort (uning a final-empire style remote body) separate from us. With that all decided, we began to pack up for th mission. I retreated to my quarters and loaded a bag with the various items that were part of the Verun Navaro ID. On a whim, I elected to grab a blaster rifle as part of the weapons package I would be carrying with me.
While retrieving that I noticed the subspace lance still leaning up against the wall. The thing was too unwieldy under most combat situations, but it still had it’s uses. Still, perhaps improvements could be made. With that in mind I called Ban Hughes to my quarters. When he arrived I gave him the lance and outlined the ideas I had: collapsible length, better strength for use as a staff weapon, and a power supply built into the hilt if possible. Ban sighed, told me he would work on it and then departed with the lance. If he made it work, so much the better, but I wasn’t going to be upset if it didn’t. After all, it was a niche weapon under most any circumstance I could think of. Maybe he’d have something to report when I get back.
With all of my stuff packed, I then went to the docking bay Valerie’s ship was docked in. There I found that the others were already ready and waiting for me. Apologizing for the delay, I boarded after the others. Once everyone was onboard, Alys took the ship out of the bay and into hyperspace. Valerie, Virstris and I spent most of the trip practicing the Verun Navaro ID and making sure that my appearance looked right. Valerie did get annoyed by the sheer pile of weaponry I had on me though.
We arrived in the target system some days later. We were about 200 light years from Republic space and still well within Sith space here, despite how much the lines had shifted with the defeat of Zandaras. The world itself looked to not be very hospitable to life and what life there was appeared to be confined to a variety of fortress like cities spread across the globe. Above them were a number of orbital installations with heavy defenses. Part of me wondered if those installations served a dual purpose of protecting the planet while keeping the inhabitants from escaping. On the plus side of things, it looked like taking out the orbital facilities would cripple the defenses significantly. That would still leave the planetary shields, but we knew how to bypass those these days.
The number of Sith in the system was harder to determine. The resonance of all the clones was making things difficult, but I figured there were probably between six and twelve in the whole system. At least four of them appeared to be concentrated on one of the larger stations in orbit around the planet. It was about that time that we were hailed by the local defenses and asked to identify ourselves. Valerie stepped in at that point and explained that we were Varen here to seek counsel on a number of technical questions we figured they might be able to give insight into. We were then given clearance to land at the larger station.
The landing went smooth enough and as we disembarked the ship, we found a bureaucrat with a datapad waiting for us. To say that this looked familiar was an understatement. At least we didn’t have a crazy Republic soldier waving weapons around in a threatening manner this time. I made sure to follow behind Valerie in the position of her apprentice as she walked up the bureaucrat. Again we were asked to explain our business and Valerie went described that we had recently acquired a lot of data regarding the hyperspace technologies and findings of Kira Keldav’s team and were hoping to get their clones of Ben to analyze the data for us. This led to a sales pitch as the bureaucrat tried to sell us clones of Ben and even Lazlo.
I had enough issues as it was without having to babysit clones of the party members. Although I must admit I was rather surprised regarding the clones of Lazlo, but it was explained that a recent Artificer arrival had brought samples while fleeing a number of legal troubles in Republic space. I vaguely recalled Lazlo and the Republic mentioning something along those lines, but I was still surprised to find out more members of the party were being cloned en masse. We now had clones of Jacob, Ben, and Lazlo running around in this galaxy. All we needed was clones of Shipwreck, Alys, Telera, Valerie and myself to really complete the set. There was probably someone out there crazy enough to try sadly.
A bit of conversational steering – and a bit of subtle force-pressure from Valerie – then led to the bureaucrat volunteering that they had recently received a large order for Kreedath clones. Why anyone would want to clone Kreedath was beyond me considering how readily they procreated in large numbers. And it wasn’t like they made especially great soldiers in disciplined armies either. So what was the purpose of…. wait a minute. Asking if the genetic samples for the Kreedath had any genetic anomalies got confirmation on a number of archaic and unusual sequences in the genome, including a general lack of force-sensitivity that avoided many of the resonance problems which commonly occurred in clones. Inquiries into who had placed the order where rebuffed on client privacy grounds.
Well great, I guess we now know where the Rakata had gone off to. And given the Rakata’s ability to operate superweapons and incredibly powerful hand weapons, this was yet another disaster in the making I am suddenly thrust into. And yet again this looks like yet another one instigated in some fashion by me. There are times like this when I wonder if it would have been smarter to have died aboard the Naichron and avoided unleashing this string of disasters upon the Galaxy. So far I may have doomed my friends and family to who knows what fate and I have been barely keeping ahead of the disasters I have inadvertently been causing.
Valerie then assured the bureaucrat that we only wanted to purchase consultation time and not actual ownership rights. That led to him to offer a list of prices for a holoconference run from orbit. When we insisted on actually having a face to face conference, we were refused. The best they were willing to offer was to let us to the surface in one of the sealed off sections of the city so that we might conference through transparent walls. When asked why this was the case, we were informed that it was protocol to prevent “genetic contamination” of the local population.
I decided now was the time to make a show of annoyance.
(Verun) Are you actually daring to insinuate that my mistress and I would debase ourselves with your creatures?
(Bureaucrat) Not at all, but these are the procedures we have in place and they apply to everyone.
(Verun) I have no time for such inane pleasantries you call procedures. I highly recommend that you reconsid….
(Valerie) Verun, enough.
Now for a calculated glance of annoyance back at Valerie.
(Verun) Yes, my mistress, as you command.
(Valerie) Kateryn, I want you to look over these so-called procedures and verify this man’s claims.
At which point Alys took the datapad from the bureaucrat and started pouring over it in detail looking for some sort of a loophole or technicality. I really wanted to see the surface just to get a better idea of surface based defenses and overall population density. What information Ben had and what we were able to pick up from orbit wasn’t as much as I would have liked to have had.
(Kateryn) My lady, it appears that this is the procedure as claimed.
(Valerie) Very well then, let us go to the surface for a conference through a window then. I prefer to speak to the people I am dealing with in person anyway. Holoprojections are so impersonal.
(Bureaucrat) Very well then.
With that we made a payment for several hours of consultations with their hyperspace specialists. Then we were loaded into a planetary shuttle and brought to the surface. From there we were escorted to a number of guest quarters and a conference room. We handed over the data we had brought with us and were told that a conference was scheduled later that day. Ben in his disguise showed up later that day in the same guest section we were in. Whether this was a coincidence or not I wasn’t about to ask.
Soon enough a chime sounded that it was time for our conference to begin. We gathered together at the designated table as a number of Ben clones and other people from similar stock seated on the other side of the transparent wall from us. Then began a long question and answer session between us and them regarding the information we had given them.
First off, it didn’t look like there was a way to outright prevent trans-dimensional travel per se. I didn’t really expect there to be, but that question served it’s purpose in misleading the locals as to what we were really after. Next up came the question of preventing something from coming in as opposed to leaving. That yielded better results with some sort of randomized hyperspace-noise inducing system or some such that would make it incredibly difficult to target a given universe without being shunted into a nearby neighboring one instead. This apparently would spread an invading fleet across multiple prepared dimensions whereby each ship could then be overwhelmed locally. However this would roughly double the incidence of hyperspace accidents, interfere with communications, and be significant drain on galactic resources. This was likely a temporary measure until a more permanent solution could be found.
Second proposal was to encrypt the navigational and communications grid traffic. This would apparently significantly impair the operations of both systems though and decrease galactic productivity accordingly. Again, this was a temporary measure until a more permanent solution was developed. Next up from them was a list of risk factors that might be mitigated to prevent an invasion in the first place. Simply not mapping the Galaxy or making it easy to loot would go a long ways towards that end. Major galactic engineering projects would likely be seen as a threat worth stamping out to prevent the rise of a rival civilization. Not annoying the Empress would help matters too, although apparently Kira Keldav’s group was really good at annoying her.
It was then that I realized that Shipwreck and Ben had likely stolen and then hidden the Empress’s grand prize trophy worldship. At least Ben had taken all the known precautions to make it incredibly difficult to trace the “thieves” back to here. It may still be prudent to take all that gold Shipwreck brought back and shunt it out into the multiverse. If he complains, tough.
To me it seemed prudent to have the Ratsoogomoz work on interdicting Yeveetha space while the Mrs Beasley upgrades the Zomogoostar’s hyperdrive to match the Ratsoogomoz’s design. With that done, we could then have the Zomogoostar work on interdicting extradimensional threats until a more workable long term solution could be found. And the existence of a better solution I was certain of. I just couldn’t reach far enough out there with my abilities to discern what shape it might take.
That led to the final set of questions regarding stabilization of hypertunnels. That led to a whole lot of theory about sending beams through and then back again between the ends of the tunnel and using some sort of randomized output closed loop control to make adjustments to the tuning settings. This would then enable the system to correct for alignment issues on the fly without any need for external support supposedly. All of this talk of randomized controls reminded me of those weird subspace drives Ben had found and apparently Alys had the same thought as she asked about subspace tunnels.
That led to exclamations that it would never work, that it was certainly possible, and other viewpoints as each of the consultants each voiced a completely different opinion on the matter. Then the argument sprang up with all of them competing against each other to see who could come up with the most impressive math on the subject to back up their claims. I was completely lost as they flung enormous piles of equations at each other like monkeys flinging something else. Eventually they settled down and announced together that it would conceivably work, although all the math broke down when trying to describe what the other end would be like. Apparently this meant that our laws of physics would not apply to the far end of the gate.
Whatever that means.
At about this point our purchased consultation time ran out. A quick and private debate broke out regarding whether there was anything else we wanted to talk with them about, but we finally agreed that we had most of the information we had come for. Any other questions we might have would end up revealing too much regarding what we know and why. Plus there were limits to the information we were willing to reveal in front of other Sith regarding advanced physics and engineering. It was annoying that we weren’t able to get a better picture of the ground defenses, but that was largely unavoidable considering the circumstances right now.
Valerie thanked them for their time as we boarded the shuttle back to the station. Once back at the station we boarded our own ship and plotted a course back to the Mrs Beasley. While we traveled through hyperspace, Valerie, Virstris and I sat in one of the quarters onboard and discussed what we had each seen. It was obvious that stopping the Rakata cloning project was now a higher priority than the rescue of Ben’s people. Ben was just going to have to live with that fact.
While I was sure that the Rakata could be invaluable in the war against the Yeveetha, I was concerned about what would happen after the war and what stockpiles of Infinite Empire weaponry they might know about that we and the Republic did not. The assertion that the Rakata would not have much empathy with anyone due to their relatively weak connection with the Force wasn’t reassuring either. While I was now certain that we would be able to steal the planet and eventually overwhelm the defenders, this had just reaffirmed the idea that we needed to find the Rakata we had set loose before they caused real damage. Hopefully they could be negotiated with since I wasn’t real keen on genocide. Perhaps send them to one of the timelines where the Infinite Empire was still in ascendence?
Amazingly Valerie thought that was a good proposal as opposed to genocide. She must be making more progress than I think I realized.
That still left the issue of how to steal the planet. Simply bringing the Mrs Beasley in and taking the planet with it would be dramatic, but it would also give plenty of warning as the news of the Mrs Beasley’s approach would arrive before it got there itself. No, best if we could somehow bring the planet to the Mrs Beasley and not the other way around. Hmm, I wonder if we could send an asteroid belt to it and use that to bring the planet to us? We would have to consult Ben on that one, but I suspect targeting a planet would be harder than targeting an asteroid belt. And I wasn’t keen on trying to use the link between Valerie and I for this operation either.
Hmm, perhaps this would be the time for Ben to make an appearance as a Dark Lord come to claim his clones? Except that he would also have a resonating circuit system similar to what Valerie used for her assassinations. Then we could use that to lock onto Ben and the planet with the hypertunnel. It was a thought worth proposing to Ben at least. The only other option I could think of would be to try and use the resonance between Ben and all his clones to make a connection.
Finally we arrived at the Mrs Beasley. Preparations for beginning the relocation of all the refugees to the Codifier Galaxy were almost ready. We were about to find Smoche to talk with him regarding upgrading the Zomogoostar and the relocation of Ben’s planet when Virstris elbowed me. I shoved my thoughts to the side and saw that Gab and Darius stood in our path. I sensed Valerie grab at her power as she prepared to act at a moments notice.
(Kira) Yes? What can we do for you?
(Gab) I wish to stay and work as Lady Soung’s assistant. We don’t have anywhere else to go now anyway.
(Darius) And I want you to train me. Whether or not I decide to trust everything you tell me is an open matter.
(Kira) Not a bad attitude with all things considered. Very well, I accept your request, Darius.
(Valerie) And I accept yours, Gabrielle Kilnes.
(Kira) Now, Darius, let’s see about getting you a shield.