Varnusan Productions Presents:

 

NI Runon 3: The Clandestine Conflict

 

(by Xar)

 

Kiz Thrakus nervously made his way inside the Grand Master's office, out of breath from his run across the palace, with only a five minute time limit to get there... The Grand Master was always so tight about puncuality...
Cautiously he moved up in front of the big desk, wringing his hands and shifting his weight from one foot to the other... The Grand Master didn't look up from what he was writing.
"I'm here, Grand Master, as you request... ORDERED, sir..." Thrakus murmured.
"You are late," was all Xar said.
"B... But sir... I was here in exactly five minutes! I checked my own chronometer sir!"
"My clock runs a little different," the Grand Master said, glancing over at the wall. Thrakus looked over, seeing a round dial clock hanging there. The clock read six-thirty! That was five whole minutes faster than his own watch!
"Grand Master, I..." he broke off. He didn't know what to say. Nico had told him stories of the Grand Masterís wrath when he was late... But he was never five whole minutes late...
"Thrakus..." Xar began, looking up at him. The man's eyes seemed to bore straight through Thrakus. "You have been a House leader for three weeks now. Your evaluation period is over."
A jolt of fear shot through Thrakus for a second. Over? What did that mean? Had he failed? It terrified him to think what the Grand Master would do then... He prepared his plead, prepared to drop on his knees and beg for mercy...
"As a result, I am promoting you to full Jedi Crusader, and making your placement on the Jedi Council permanent. Congratulations."
Thrakus let out a breath of shock and utter joy at the words. "Wha... Thank you! Thank you, Grand Master! Thank you thank you thank you..."
"All right, enough of that," the man said, waving a hand. "Your promotion is effective immediately. All the paperwork will be handled as soon as you leave." He started to turn away, the came back again. "Oh, I almost forgot. One more thing: As your final rite of passage, you must perform one duty for me. Something the other Council members had to do before their appointements."
Thrakus stepped forward eagerly. "Anything you ask, sir!"
Xar slid back in his chair, picked up the small white cat that had been sleeping in his lap and set it on the desktop. "Feed Mittens," he said.
Thrakus blinked, taken aback at the simple statement. He peered down at the small creature curled up on the desk. "Excuse me?" he asked blankly.
"Thrakus... Feed my cat," Xar said, more forcefully. Suddenly the door opened behind Thrakus and a servant moved up beside him. Thrakus looked over. The servant held up a bowl in his hands, with some mushy brown stuff sitting in it in a glob. With another glance at Xar, who sat arching an eyebrow quizically, Thrakus shrugged, reached over and grabbed a handful of the moist, cold cat food. As soon as he did, the servant turned and practically ran out the door. Thrakus frowned, worried for a moment at what was going on. Was this some kind of joke? Taking a deep breath, he moved forward to the small furry animal on the desk, which was now awake and moving to an upright sitting position.
Thrakus moved up to it cautiously, eyeing it more than a bit warily. Something was up here. Nico had never mentioned this particular rite... But Xar was looking more impatient by the second. He had to do it. As he reached over, holding the gooey mess in his outstretched palm, Mittens growled. Uh-oh, not good, Thrakus thought. Then a single claw extended from the cat's forward paw, colored different to give it it's namesake, and there was a flash of movement. Thrakus lurched backwards in shock, feeling the sting of the cut running straight down his face. He fought the urge to cry out, looked at Xar pleadingly. The Grand Master looked angry.
"FEED THE CAT!!!" the man screamed.
Giving a scream of his own, Thrakus moved forward again, thrusting his mush-filled hand forward at the creature...


The group of new Initiates sat gathered around the table, having lunch and discussing their latest training routines, when something caught one of their number's eye. He pointed; the other Initiates turned to look at the mummy who was walking down the hallway, wrapped in bandages from head to foot, one hand outstretched, palm up, as he went.
The mummy walked on past and out of sight. Eagerly one of the Initiates caught the arm of a passing Jedi. "Please," he asked curiously. "Who was that?"
The Jedi looked down at him, then back the way the mummy had gone. "Oh, him. That's the new Council member, the Crusader Kiz Thrakus. Guess he used the wrong cat food... They were pretty rough on this one... He's wearing twice the bandages the last one did..."


Thrakus lay down on his bed, resisting the urge to scream in pain as his backside hit the soft mattress. He reached over with his free hand and turned out the light, his right arm still sticking straight up toward the ceiling, the pile of cat food still wrapped up in his palm. He gave a whimper, tryed not to look at the message on his personal monitor screen on the other side of the room.
It read:

Congratulations, Quaestor Thrakus!

By the way, Mittens likes Meow Mix, NOT 9 Lives!

Good luck on the test!

Your buddy, Nico

 

Thrakus screamed in frustration and rage...

 

* * *

THE BEGINNING

 

(by Delta1)

 

Thrakus had been having trouble sleeping. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see only that beast lunging towards him ... rapier-like claws extended, needle-shaped fangs nestled in the cavernous, hissing mouth. That creature had to be the spawn of a Korriban guardian creature. Or ... a rancor. The thought hit Thrakus like a blaster shot and bolted upright. Mittens is a rancor larva.

"I see that you're awake," a voice said from one of the darker recesses of his chambers.

"Wha? Who?" Thrakus turned his head toward the source of the sound while tearing the bandages away from his eyes. Although he had trouble focussing on the speaker through his scratched corneas, he recognized the voice. "Delta1? Is that you?"

Vynd "Delta1" Acharon, Warden, Renaissance Man, Lover (though not of anyone in this story), stepped into the meager light afforded by the solitary small window. "I see Mittens was vicious today. Perhaps even more vicious than when I was given that treatment." Almost without thinking, he touched a faint scar on his cheek.

"You told me you got that in battle with Cxi Atino," Thrakus said.

Vynd shrugged. "Better to be injured by a woman than a cat, right?"

"I don't know. What do you want, Deewun?"

Vynd came closer, and even through his blurred vision, Thrakus could see the intensity in his eyes. It scared him.

"That animal is a menace. It has terrorized the Order for far too long. I would rather be locked in a small room with Justinian Khyron for a week than be alone with that creature for a minute."

"I know how you feel," Thrakus nodded, then stopped nodding when he heard the vertebrae snap. "It gave me a real working-over. But what can we do about it? The beast is far too powerful even for us. Even with our lightsabers, and our blaster, and stormtrooper armor, we'd have a tough time taking it down. And if Xar intervened ... "

Vynd grinned. "Our Grand Master won't intervene. He's received an invitation to a tea-party from his 'bestest buddy in the world.' That'd be me. While he's flying into the Deep Core coordinates I gave him, we'll storm his chambers, use some catnip to pacify Mittens, and be off."

"Wait a minute," Thrakus said. "I'm not sure Mittens is a cat. I think it may be a rancor larva."

The Warden digested this information. "Then we'll just have to be more careful. In any case, Trapper is standing by to prevent any of Xar's allies from hypering in and stopping us. She'll also provide us with an assault transport to get out of the system. Then, we dump the mangy creature off on some planet and we're done with it."

"Good plan," Thrakus nodded. He cursed himself as two more vertebrae grated together, and he felt all feeling below his neck vanish. "Could you do me a favor? Go down to the infirmary and steal some bacta."

"Steal?!?" Vynd almost shouted. "Stealing is wrong, Thrakus. Get it yourself." Then he was gone.



DATHOMIR, SIX DAYS LATER


The two stood atop a cliff overlooking one of Dathomir's ubiquitous jungles. Somewhere, in the distance, a rancor howled. Thrakus smiled. "Hear that, Mittens? That could be your mommy."

A fierce wind began blowing, catching on the trailing ends of the two Jedis' cloaks. "We should leave," Vynd said. "Mittens will be happy here on Dathomir, especially once he -- is Mittens a he?"

Thrakus shrugged. "I dunno."

"Anyways," Vynd continued, "Once he realizes he's a rancor and starts acting like one. Even if he doesn't really look like a rancor. We should leave, now."

Thrakus touched his lightsaber, reliving the fond memories he had of the Order. "You know, we can't go back. Xar would kill us. And we can't allow him to know where Mittens is, lest he retrieve the Devil-spawn and take it back to Varnus.

"Correction," Vynd said. "Xar will kill you. According to the sign-in sheet, I'm still in my office in the Palace. And since no one ever visits me in my office, they'll all believe that I've been there for the past week."

"What?!?" Thrakus couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I'm sorry, Thrakus," Vynd said as he fired a concealed hold-out blaster from within his cloak. The stun bolt hit Thrakus directly between the eyes and he collapsed perilously near the cliff. As he lost consciousness, he heard Vynd parting words. "But it was necessary to remove Mittens from the Palace. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made, and I consider a Jedi Crusader to be a fair trade for the removal of that cat."

 

(by Omega)

 

As Omega Kira walked down the palace hallway he called "Mittens.....Mittens". This was an unusual thing for Omega to do. Normally he hated that cat. Omega continued down the hall heading for Thrakus's office. He had to discuss a few things with him about the house's personal Holonet page. Finding it odd that Thrakus wouldn't acknoladge him access to his chambers, Omega bypassed the security clearance and entered. He found it empty. Nothing was as it should be, normally Thraky, as Omega so called him, had left his room messy. Quite odd for that neat freak Omega knew to be a House Quaestor. Omega searched the room, but to no avail did he find Mittens or Thraky. Omega locked the door behind him and moved down the hall to Billbobís Ė Deputy Grand Master Mathis Organaís - quarters. Suddenly Omega tripped fell to the floor without grace and ease. As Omega got up he heard laughing, and turned around to see whom it was. No one was in the corridor. Omega turned the other way, he heard footsteps running off in the opposite direction. Things of this nature happend to Omega all the time. Just then Organa came around the corner with a stern look on his face.
"Omega!" Mathis yelled
"What Sir" Omega replied as he saluted his friend.
"Have you seen Thrakus?"
"No Sir. That's why I was on my way to your quarters!"
"Hmm....." Mathis said with a confused look on his face. "Well, If you see him Omega tell him I am looking for him!" Mathis said as he stormed off. Omega decided to search the bathroom. Besides, I had to go, he thought. Omega was sitting on the toilet when he heard this strange meowing. Flushing the toilet and aranging things, Omega open the door. Omega was pulled by an invisable force, turned and face planted in another toilet with such a force he could not stop it. Then the toilet flushed, the laughing started again, and the door open and shut. Omega began to get pissed. This was the third time this month he had gotten a swirly.

(by Delta1)

 

Xar sat alone in his darkened quarters. He wore only his simple pants and shirt, having shed his Grand Masterís robes on the floor. He held in his quivering hand a small cube, projecting a holo of a white cat. "Mittens ... " he whispered, a tear running down his cheek.


Mathis pounded on the door again. "Xar! Grand Master! Can you hear me?"


"Why did you leave me?" Xar asked the holo, oblivious to the pounding on his door. "We had such good times together, Mittens. How can I ever go on without you?"


"Xar!" Mathis cried. "C'mon, mate, it's been a week! I'm sorry your cat ran away, but internal strife and forces from without are tearing us apart! C'mon, man, we need your leadership!"


Xar still didn't hear Mathis. "Oh, my precious kitty," he began sobbing. His entire body was wracked with the spasms of his grief. "Pwetty kitty-cat," he wept. "You'w daddy's good widduh cat. So sof' an' nice." *


"That's it!" Mathis roared. "First Thrakus disappears, now Xar loses it!" He knew he needed to find someone to snap Xar out of his fugue, but who? "I know!" he said to himself. "I'll go get Archaron! Seeing a new roster always puts a smile on Xar's face!"


(by Xar)

 

Abandoned on the jungle world Dathomir, Thrakus wandered aimlessly across the landscape, silently sulking to himself. Why had he ever trusted Deewun enough to accompany him on this crazy trip? Then the man had abandoned him here forever... Even if he did get off, he wasn't sure if it would be worth facing Xar's wrath. Sure, the Grand Master had plenty of cats, they ran all over the palace. But he'd seemed to like that one a whole lot...
Worse still, Mittens - the rancor larva, if that was what he really was - seemed to be following him around everywhere he ventured. Telling the creature firmly to get away from him didn't seem to help. Yes, poor Thrakus' life was about over. It hadn't been an easy one, but he really had liked it...

Suddenly movement in the nearby bushes caught his eye. He stopped, staring, as a woman emerged, dressed in what appeared to be rancor hide. He brown hair was long, and draped behind her head. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
The woman held a long rope, which she moved about like a whip. She said nothing; Thrakus just watched her in awe. Then, with a snap of the rope, she tossed it around him. Thrakus didn't make any move; this was no threat to him. The rope tightened into a knot, and suddenly he found himself being pulled along. Slightly amused, he followed, not even noticing Mittens padding close behind...

The next thing he knew, Thrakus was sitting on the floor in the women's tent, surrounded by a group of them. Mittens sat nearby, watching everyone with what seemed like interest. The women, who had apparently taken a liking to the creature, were rubbing it behind the ears and giving it scraps of meat. The Dathomirans seemed to be discussing something. He couldn't understand their language, but he was more than content to sit watching these beautiful women dressed in nothing but leather. He loved leather. Finally the one who'd captured him turned to him and spoke for the first time in Basic.
"I am Lorien Kal, a sister in the Singing Mountain Clan. You are my prize, and now you belong to me." Thrakus shrugged and offered her a smile. He'd heard the Dathomiran women took any men they found as love-slaves for life. This sounded like fun. It was certainly more desirable than facing Xar's wrath back at Varnus. In fact, he though to himself with a chuckle, be bet Xar would love to be in his position about now. Of course, he would have taken them all, and not left Thrakus any. This was much, much better...
That was the last thing on his mind as a club smashed into his head, enveloping him in darkness....


Xar stared balefully at the servent, the reciever in his hand replaying the conversation from the bug device that had been planted in Mitten's collar. The report had taken a while to reach him, but what he heard sent his blood boiling.
"Bring me Vynd and Thrakus," he snarled. "They will both pay dearly for this outrage..."

 

(by Delta1)

 

Mathis had just reached the door to Archaronís office when several of the Palace's guards rounded the opposite corner and came running towards the room. "Sir!" the lead guard saluted. "We are here on the orders of Grand Master Kerensky himself, to take Vynd Acharon into custody."


Well, that's interesting, Mathis thought. "How do you intend to do that? He is an Adept, after all. He'll put up a good fight."

Before the guard could answer, the answer presented itself. Another guard rounded the corner, carrying a small control pad of some kind. It appeared he was controlling the hovering, glowing blue sphere that followed him. "An energy cage," Mathis said. "Of course. If you can get him in that, his Force powers will do him no good."

The lead guard nodded. "Exactly. Xar had kept this one on hand for just such an event."

"What kind of event?" Mathis asked. He still didn't know what was going on.

"Betrayal," the guard said solemnly. "Acharon has attempted to upset the balance of power within the Division. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death."

Mathis frowned. He hated missing trials. "When did this happen?"

The guard shrugged. "Xar pronounced the sentence five minutes ago." He gestured towards the door. "Shall we enter?"

"Let's," Mathis said. He unclipped his lightsaber from its place on his belt and switched it on. Seconds later, the door lay on the ground. "Vynd!" Mathis yelled as he entered the office anteroom, flanked by palace guards and a Leth energy cage. "You're under arrest for treason! Show yourself, coward!"

Mathis cut down the door to the office proper, then stood in the doorway, just looking in. The office was typical D1 - desk, decorated with only several pictures of family and old friends, a model of his old Star Destroyer, his missile boat, and his Interdictor, a potted plant - and Archaron himself, sitting at his desk, making marks on a paper. Something's wrong, Mathis thought. Why isn't he defending himself?

"Vynd?" Mathis used Archaron's given name. The Warden didn't respond. He just kept making marks on the paper. Mathis got closer, and saw that it was a copy of the Society's roster. He also saw Vyndís arm was moving in a rhythmic, mechanical way. He reached out, and grabbed the arm. Pulled. Pulled it clean off the body.

"Gonk," Archaron said as the guards looked away in horror. But there was no spurt of blood, no trailing filigree of muscle, no scream of agony. Mathis pulled "Delta1" across the desk and ripped him open, revealing the Warden to be a mannequin, crudely animated by several droid parts.

Mathis activated his comlink and spoke into it: "Xar, this is Mathis. Delta1's a dummy."

"Of course he is," Xar replied. "Who but an idiot would steal my cat?"

"No, sir, a dummy. A mannequin. A fake. He put together this dummy to look like himself and animated it with droid parts. Looks like an EG-model motivator."

"Gonk," Delta2 agreed.

"Find him!" Xar screamed. "Seal the spaceports, triple patrols, and search every dog house and school house on the planet. Archaron must not escape!"

 

(by Amason)

 

"Amason! Help me!" Someone screamed as Amason left his quarters. It was Vynd Archaron.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked.

"Xar thinks I killed Mittens!" Vynd rasped, out of breath from running.

Walt erupted in laughter. Just then a shipwide com came on "This is Grand Master Kerensky to all Society of Shadows personel. Vynd Archaron has betrayed us, he must be found immediatelly!" His face went blank. "Oh boy, here we go again."

Amason motioned for Archaron to follow him. "I have a contingency plan for this sort of thing" He said reassuringly.

10 minutes later

"Xar, what the heck is going on here?" Amason shouted, trying his hardest to keep a serious expression on his face.

" Vynd killed Mittens!" Xar screamed, then slumped back into his chair sobbing.

Amason couldn't contain himself any longer. He began to laugh so hard he nearly fell to the ground.

Xar began to look puzzled.

"Delta1 didn't kill Mittens, I took him to the ship's vet remember?"

"Oh yea, but where is Mittens NOW?"

"Right here" Said Amason, holding out his hand, with a small, white kitten in his palm.

"Oh my Mittens" shouted Xar as he ran over and grabbed the kitten up and started showering it with love.

Time for me to get outta here... Thought Amason. Things were getting ugly.

"Welp, you're off the hook" Amason said.

"Whew, I sure owe you one man", Said Vynd.

"Don't thank me just yet. Let's just hope and pray that he doesn't discover that it's a small cat droid I put together a few weeks ago."

"Oh boy" sighed Vynd.

 

(by Dogar)

 

Arfan Dogar was determined not to answer the comlink, as urgently as it seemed to be beeping for him. He had better things on his mind... though mind really wasn't the best word to describe it. He'd picked up a sexy female Canoid in a bar on Erebria, and had invited her back to his quarters to show her what he called "the biggest bone in his collection." They'd gotten a little beyond sniffing one another's rear ends when the call came in...

But it really wouldn't do to have the Intruder Wing blown out from under him while he was enjoying himself. Giving Mimi a last lick and promising her he'd only be a minute, Dogar stumbled out of bed and over to the comlink. Geez, it's getting so a dog doesn't have time for doggin' anymore...

Dogar growled and hit the comm channel. "WHAT???"

Xar's face appeared on the screen. "Dogar, I need your help!!!"

"I told you Xar... just use Preparation H, it works wonders..."

"No, not that! My cat! Kiz Thrakus and Vynd Archaron stole my cat!"

"Mittens??" Dogar's jaw dropped as he saw Xar nod on screen. "Not Mittens! He was supposed to be mine! I dream about him every night, marinated in Caninean Wine and barbequed to perfection... mmn, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it..."

"Forget your stomach! Mittens managed to escape, and somehow made his way back to me... though his purring seems to have been replaced by an odd ticking sound... but Thrakus is still on the loose! You have got to go get him for me!!"

"He stole my supper?? This means war! Where'd that fink get to?"

"He is marooned on Dathomir. Bring him back, and you can dine on him rather than my poor Mittens..."

"Thrakus? Never! He can't possibly taste as good as roast cat. I'll bring him to you, but Mittens and I still have a dinner date!"

Xar sighed. "Oh, well... I tried. Good luck!"

Dogar nodded and cut the transmission. He quickly put on his uniform, and, giving Mimi a final, dissapointed lick, he turned to leave.

"Honey, wait," she cried. "The biggest bone in your collection... you promised!"

Dogar turned briefly and grinned. "Rain check!" he said as he ran out of the room.

---

Except for the bump on my head, this isn't bad at all, Thrakus thought. The sisters had originally tried to put him to work doing manual labour, but when they found out he was a Jedi, they had better uses for him. Apparently, Luke Skywalker had been to Dathomir a few years earlier, and had given the Jedi a reputation as being love machines... and the ability to use the force to maintain an erection certainly didn't dispel that reputation.

Lorien Kal wasn't a bad lover herself. There was something about a woman in Rancor hides that drove him crazy. And the way she handled a whip...

Thrakus' only real regret was that Lorien had decided not to share him with the other sisters. Many were good looking, and almost all of them were eager to get a piece of the handsome Jedi.

At that moment, a wolf whistle from the street below caught his attention. One of the sisters, a 60 year old woman who had 300 pounds and 3 teeth was trying to get his attention. Thrakus shuddered. Okay, maybe sharing wouldn't have been such a good idea.

Thrakus moved away from the window and sat down on the bed. He had felt a tingling through the Force that signaled Lorien's presence... and if he read her right, she was in a very good mood. His suspicions were confirmed when she came in carrying a whip, in one of her scantiest Rancor hides. AAh, this is the life, he thought. Why didn't I come here earlier??

 

(by Thrakus)

 

As he got up Thrakus pulled on his robe and quietly made his way to the window. As he stood there looking up at the stars, he wondered. He wondered what he was doing.

For the past 14 years of his life he had been a warrior fighting, But for what? Revenge, Love, Hope, Peace? All of these things but all it had brought him was more fighting. When would it ever end?

For the first time since Cordelia had been killed, he had found somebody he loved.. Somebody he truly cared for, And when he realized how much he loved her all the hate and anger that had built up over time had disappeared.. The first time in 14 years and he truly felt alive again..

When she had first captured him, she treated him as a slave, But over the course of time they had fallen in love with each other. The times they had spent together were some of the best in his life. It was as if their minds had become one, What one felt or saw the other felt and saw it too.. Their minds had opened up to each other and neither one of them had tried to stop it. When they made love the feelings and emotions flowed between them so strongly it felt like it would tear him apart..

As he looked over at her and saw the gentle curves of her body, Her long flowing hair, and the way the moon shown in on her lovely skin he instantly knew that he could never live without her.. That what they had together was too special to ever let go and he would fight to the death to protect it and her..

Even against the wishes of the Clan she took him hunting. And allowed him to carry his lightsaber that she took from him when she kidnapped him.. Something the Clan did not approve of. Especially after they had seen him use it on that rabid Rancor that had attacked the village. Even though he saved their lives they still did not trust him completely.

He had had many friends over the years and had lost many of them. Sean, Del, Seren, Grunt, and Nilats just to name a few.. But could I give up Xar and Mathis and all my other friends in the Jedi Order? Could he give up on the New Imperium and their dream?

Out of the corner of his eye he caught and shooting star and watched it burn for just a few seconds. And at that moment he made his decision. A choice that would utterly change him forever..

"What's wrong Sweetie?" Lorien said as she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him.

"Everything" Kiz said. As he turned around and gazed into her sparkling eyes
"I don't know what to do. I have my jobs and obligations to fulfill, But I don't know why I'm doing it anymore.. I want to be with you forever"

"Why don't you come back to bed and I'll sing you a song to help you get back to sleep?" She replied "And then we will decide what to do in the morning.. Ok? "

"Ok" he smiled at her wondering how he had lived without her all his life..

As they climbed into bed and wrapped their arms around each other she began to sing in the most beautiful voice.. And as he drifted off to sleep he thought to himself.. This is truly what I've been fighting for all these years.........

----------------------------


"OMEGA!!!!" Draken screamed into the comlink "Get into my office ASAP!!!!"

"What's the problem?" Omega asked..

"Just get up here NOW!!!!!" he yelled again...

Omega was very worried. Usually Draken never got this upset unless something was very wrong.. As he was quickly making his way to Draken's office a spit wad the size of a thermal detonator hit him in the back of the head with a loud THUD

"WHO KEEPS DOING THAT???" Omega yelled as he turned around only to find nobody..
"If I ever find out who's doing that I will personally rip their guts out" he mumbled to himself as he stepped up to the door..

As the door opened the noise hit him like a rock.. Papers were all over the place, the comlink was constantly ringing and in the middle of all this mess was Draken, Quaestor of House Ar'Kell looking like he was about to kill himself.. His hair was all messed up, it looked like he hadn't changed his robe in weeks.. And what was that strange odor? Was it coming from Draken or something dead in his office?

"OMEGA!!!" Draken shouted. "Get in here. We've got a major problem."

"What is it?" Omega asked curiously..

"The whole freaking Jedi Division is falling apart and nobody cares!!!" Draken said

"What?!??!" Omega asked with a very stunned look on his face..

"That's what I want to know!!" he answered "Xar is still upset over Mittens, Vynd is being hunt down for treason, Thrakus is supposedly stranded on Dathomir, And who knows what is up with Mathis?"

"And what do you want me to do about all this??" Omega asked

"Anything!" Draken answered "Find out what is going on and what's wrong with everybody!!!"

"Yes sir!" Omega said " I'll get started on it right away."

As he left Draken's office he mumbled to himself.. "This is going to be fun."

 

(by Mathis)


---

Mathis rushed into the room, his body and the Force both telling him one thing with equally undeniable insistence - gotta pee, gotta pee, gotta pee. He ran to the nearest wall-mounted liquid waste removal unit and undid the clasp on his pants. "Oh, thank goodness," he sighed as painful anticipation was replaced with sweet relief. When he was finished, he re-sealed his pants and used the Force to cleanse his hands. When he was just about to leave, he heard the quiet shuffling of feet from further within the restroom. Nothing back there but a bunch of old toilet stalls, Mathis thought. Still, it could be worth checking out. As stealthily as he could, Mathis crept across the tiled floor to the back of the Palaceís public restroom. The doors on these toilet stalls did not quite reach the floor, and by getting down on his hands and knees, Mathis could look under them. Under one, he saw a pair of shoes. A pair of very familiar shoes. Mathis leapt to his feet. "YOU!" he shouted as he flung the door open.


DATHOMIR


Lorien Kal giggled. "Do it again," she teased. "This time, with the cat."


"Okay," Thrakus said. He puffed out his chest and said, in his most regal voice, "I am Xar Kerensky, Grand Master of the Jedi Order. Any who oppose us will be destroyed. Oh! It's my pretty kitty cat!" He then picked up the cat and began stroking it. "Pretty-kitty, you're so nice! When I pet you, I get lice!"


Lorien laughed. "But rancor do not carry lice, not even in the larval stage!"

Thrakus shrugged. "What else rhymes with nice? Ice? Mice? Mittens eats mice?"

"This is all very amusing, my love," Lorien said. But lately, something has been bothering you. You are ... not the same as when I first took you as my slave."

As suddenly as that, Thrakus's countenance fell. He sat Mittens on the hut's dirt floor, then sat down on Lorien's and his sleeping pallet. "I made a decision. I know that it'll hurt both of us, and I don't want that. Believe me, I dont' want it. But right now, I don't see any way out of it." He took a breath. "I'm leaving Dathomir. I have to go back to Varnus and face Vynd Archaron again."

Lorien frowned slightly, then sat down beside Thrakus. "Your identities are conflicting. Kiz Thrakus the love-slave is doing battle with Kiz Thrakus the Jedi Crusader. And I do not know who will win. But I do know this: You must answer many questions that you are asking yourself, first. Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? Who do you trust?"

Thrakus shook his head. "No. There's no time for contemplation. Only time for action."

"But, Kiz, you are my slave. I command you to stay and contemplate these things."

"I'll run. If I run, how do I know you'll catch me?"

"I caught you before."

"Look, Lorien, the matter is settled. Please don't try to stop me. I promise I'll come back for you." Thrakus laughed bitterly. "Listen to me. I don't even know how I'm going to get off-world, yet."

"Before you go," Lorien said sadly. "We must go on a journey. This journey will accord us one more night together, and then we will meet someone."


VARNUS


"Crap," Vynd said.

"I knew it!" Mathis crowed. "You've hidden from our Force scans, somehow, but everyone has to heed the call of nature!" He grabbed Vynd by his shirt and pulled him off the toilet. (At this point, Delta1ís robes are positioned so that his dignity is not injured any further.) "You're going to wish you were never born, brother!"


A SHORT TIME LATER ...


Mathis took Vynd to his secret torture chamber, hidden so deep in the Palace that no one would ever find it. There, he strapped the traitorous warden to a simple metal chair and stared him in the eye. "Are you ready to talk, Acharon? Why'd you steal the Grand Masterís cat?"

"Would you believe I was possessed by the spirit of Erad Revbor?" Vynd asked hopefully.

"No, I wouldn't," Mathis said. "Care to try again?"

"One month ago, I encountered Gozer the Gozerian, also known as Gozer the Traveler or Gozer the Destructor. She commanded me to choose the form of the Destructor. I chose the most harmless thing I could think of; a small cat. So, Mittens is actually Gozer the Gozerian, and is attempting to destroy the universe. I'm only trying to stop her."

"Wrong!" Mathis said. He was so glad that Vynd was refusing to answer his questions truthfully; it had been so long since he'd tortured anyone. "This is your last chance, Archaron. Why'd you steal Mittens?"

Rather than answer, Vynd just closed his eyes.

"Trying to use the Force, are we, you little gundark? Remember, I'm a Master, and you're just an Adept!"

Mathis's taunting was cut short as a powerful wave of Force energy struck him, and sent him hurtling across the sparse room. He hit the far wall hard enough to daze him, and as he slid down, he watched Archaron easily remove the straps that held him to the torture chair. "How ... " he mumbled.

"Easily," Archaron said with a malicious grin. He walked over to the fallen Deputy Grand Master and kneeled mockingly before him. "How may I serve you, my lord?" he said with scorn.

Mathis began losing consciousness, so didn't fully comprehend what happened next. He saw Archaron remove a crystal from a pouch on his belt and wave it in front of Mathis. "You're not ... " Mathis said as the crystal began to glow. Archaron replaced the crystal, and laughed. His face began to change shape, until it wasnít Archaron looking at him at all. Then all went black ...


But not for long. Mathis awoke in an upright position. Because he still felt to weak to stand, he could tell he was restrained somehow. The echo of his breathing and the chill of the air told him that he was in a small, confined, metallic area. When he realized what it was, his pulse began beating in his ears and he came fully awake. "What are you doing?" he shouted. But there was no response. Just several seconds of silence. Then the icy-cold sting of liquid carbonite engulfing his body.


DATHOMIR


They were passing another rural city, Thrakus noticed, but this time, something was different. The hulking rancor he, Lorien, and Mittens were riding began to slow. Thrakus touched his sleeping mistress on her shoulder. As usual, the lightest of his touches brought her to full alertness. "I think we're here," he told her.


"Yes," she said. "This is the home of the Starsong Clan. It is the home of the man I want you to meet. He is like you. An offworlder, stranded here."


Thrakus's interest was piqued. "If he has a ship and needs a pilot ... "

The two of them dismounted the rancor, and, with Mittens following at their heels, walked through the city. Several of the women called out greetings to Lorien; she responded, and said that no, her slave wasn't for sale. After several minutes, they came to a small adobe hut resting in the shadow of a great tree. Lorien knocked on the door, and waited.

An wizened crone opened the door. "Yes ... ? Oh! Lorien Kal! Come in, come in. Bring your friend."

Thrakus was grateful that the woman had called him "friend" and not "slave," or "hunka-hunka-burnin-love."

"I brought him to meet your friend," Lorien explained as they entered the crone's home.

Then Thrakus saw the old woman's friend. He looked different. His eyes were more sunken, his hair tousseled, and the beard. But he recognized his newest mortal enemy, Vynd Acharon. With a roar, he reached out and grabbed the man's throat.


VARNUS


The man they called Vynd Archaron walked down the secret passage in the Varnus Palace. As he thought about all he'd accomplished over the past year, he laughed. First, Vynd Acharon. Then Thrakus. Now, even Mathis was out of the picture, his carbon-frozen form hidden where no one would ever find it. Of course he thought with glee, no one will ever think to look for it! He fingered the crystal he carried in his pouch, and concentrated. His hair grew longer. His facial appearance changed. Internal restructuring changed his voice and physical build.

The man they would soon be calling Mathis walked down the secret passage in the Varnusian Palace and laughed.


DATHOMIR


"Kiz, stop!" Lorien cried, reaching for his hands. The crone began singing a song, but it was unnecessary. Lorien's gentle touch was enough to assuage Thrakus's anger.

"That's him!" Thrakus said, pointing at Archaron. "This is the nerfherder who abandoned me here!"

"No, it's not," Lorien said. "When you described him to me, I could only think of Fenora's servant. But it could not have been him who abandoned you here; he has been here for over a year."

"Yeah," Archaron gagged, still reeling from the unexpected attack. "Who are you?"

"Who am I?" Thrakus growled. "Who are you?"

Delta1 tried to straighten into a parade-ground stance, but failed, and went back to coughing. After a minute, he said, "Vynd Acharon. Callsign Delta1. Rank of brigadier general in the Imperial Navy. Commander of Tornado Squadron aboard the ISD Challenge in Battlegroup Ten. Jedi Guardian in House Ar'Kell, of the Dark Brotherhood. Who are you?"

"Oh, boy," Thrakus said. "Listen, Deewun, how did you get here?"

Archaron frowned. "I was flying a Tyderian-config shuttle in the outer Phare system, when this weird thing came out of hyperspace. It was a ship, but not of any configuration I've ever seen. It attacked me, then a man who looked just like Mitt'hraw'nuruodo came aboard. He said something about his disguise getting old, then read my life Force with some kind of crystal. I passed out, but what I remember next ... "

"Go on," Thrakus said.

"I was here, on Dathomir. But I thought I saw myself, looking down at me with this most malicious grin. Whoever that was, that looked like me, he left in a hurry. Then Fenora found me and made me her servant." Fenora smiled. "Actually, it's not that bad. I could be a love-slave to one of those other Dathomirian women. Can you imagine how humiliating that would be?"

"Yes, well, um," Thrakus stammered. "If the man who sits on the Jedi Council using your name isn't really you, then it's doubly important that we get back to Varnus. Xar could be in danger."

"Xar?" Vynd said. The real Vynd, Thrakus hoped. "The Aedile of House Ar'Kell? He's my bestest buddy in the world!"

Thrakus sighed. "You've got a lot of catching up to do...Ē

 

(by Jinx)

 

Thrakus and Vynd were sitting in Fenora's hut, trying to figure out how they were going to get off of Dathomir. Lorien Kal was giving Thrakus a back-rub. By this point, Thrakus was feeling slightly tired and befuddled.

"Mmmm, maybe we should rethink this going to Varnus thing, and just stay here."
"No, Thrakus. You said yourself, we need to get to Varnus doubly quick. The only problem is, we need to requisition a ship from the New Republic without them knowing it." Delta1 was thinking as hard as he could. "The problem is, how?" Then, a voice from behind spoke.

" No need. We have a ship you can use. By the way, where is Mittens? And where can I get a women who looks like that?" Thrakus and Delta1 whirled. Behind them, four men stood. Thrakus didn't recognize the first two, a man in a brown Impeial Navy uniform with Commander's marks; and the man who spoke, someone whering a black flightsuit with red accenting and a Fleet Admiral's insignia whose nametag read 'Vonture'. Behind them, however, were two men who Thrakus instantly recognized, and Vynd recognized one vaguely. He knew the face, but couldn't remember the name. The one Thrakus knew, but Vynd didn't, was wearing a similar uniform to that Vonture weared, but his rank was General, and his name was Maarek Stele. The other was General Jacob 'Jinx' Skipper. Thrakus was the first to speak again.

" Jinx, Stele! How did you get here! And who are these two yazbos?" Jinx smiled.

" 'Lo, Kiz, Deewun. Long-time no see. Where have we been? Recon out in the Unknown Regions of Epsilon Sector. Who are these guys? Well, the good Commander is Aaron Melvar, son of the late General. We're taking him back to Xar. We think he'll be a good third officer for the Columbia. And the horny one is Fleet Admiral Vonture, late of Omega Squadron, Emperor's Royal Guard. He's getting a free ride out to the Rim with us, to rejoin his SpecOps group. Delta1, howís it going?"

"Umm, Jinx, this isn't the Delta1 you know from the New Imperium. He's been here for a year. The last posting he was at was Commander of Tornado Squadron, in the Remnant." Archaron cut him off.

" You're Jinx, former Typhoon Commander from the Challenge? About two years ago?"

" Yep, thats me. The good ole days, before the split."

" Yeah, I've heard about you. Got into a couple fights with the Command staff, got transfered to the Infiltrator Wing, and left with Dogar."

" Guilty. Hey, Kiz, where's Mittens?" Kiz shuddered. Lorien playfully slapped him.

" Umm, somewhere. We came to the conclusion that Mittens was a rancor larva." Jinx roared with laughter.

" Rancor Larva?! Hahahaha! No, Mittens was my birthday present to Xar last year. She's a Renatasian Fire Tiger Cub. They grow to about 9 meters, and can breathe fire when fully grown." Thrakus grew beet-red.

" YOU gave that demon to Xar! You [deleted by censors]! I'm going to kill you!" Thrakus got up and began to chase Jinx around the hut. Stele intercepted Thrakus and wrapped him into a bear-hug.

" If we want to get to Varnus, we need to go now. Say good-bye to your girl, Kiz, and get out to the ketch." Lorien stood up.

" Who said he's going anywhere without me?"

" Okay, you can go to. But we need to LEAVE. Get Mittens." The procession filed out of the hut, and got their first look at the Venture-class ketch. 40 meters in length, it was armed to the teeth, and carryed a container on it's back. Thrakus whistled at it's sleek lines.

" Where'd you steal this baby?" Melvar gave him a dirty look.

" It's not stolen, it's a prototype, you geek. It represents the epitome of Imperial engineering, as does what's inside."

" Then let's check it out. Shotgun!" Thrakus gave a whoop and ran toward the ship.

 

Hyperspace

 

Jinx was showing Thrakus around the cargo hold. It was packed with armor suits, droids, and fighters.

" Here we have three TIE Defender Mark Two's. Heavily modified for use by Omega Squad. Then we have a TIE Raptor. It was employed in limited numbers by Zsinj in his final days. We also have the two prototype TIE Avatars, the brand-new, ultra-secret NI fighter. She's a beauty, ain't she?"

" Umm, I hope you arenít planning to use this stuff..."

" Not immediately, no. Maybe later, when it's needed." As they headed back to the cockpit, Thrakus continued to pester Jinx with questions. Mittens followed at their heels.

" What's up with Maarek? He seems different than how I remember him."

" He ran into an old flame on our sojourn. I think he's still sad that her assignment was to some border outpost way out on the Rim. Something called Platform Omega-9. Supposedly they do some wild research out there." As they rounded the corner to the bridge, the ship jolted. Back in the engine room, the hyperdrive motivator fropped into the fusion engine with a sickening thud. Then, the ship was jolted forward by a spurt of speed as the extra fuel was used to propel the ship. Mittens yowled, and raked her claws down Thrakus's back. Thrakus cursed, and the bridge hatch opened. Stele came out, looked at the two of them, and said:

" We got some serious trouble. I've called in my personal squadron I've been building, elite Firehawk, to escort us to Varnus. I have a feeling we're going to need everything we've got. We don't know the true damage this false Archaron is capable of. And, if he has Xar on his side against us... He probably wants both of you. If they decide to take us out, we could have serious trouble fixing this mess... Yes, I think we will need Firehawk..."

 

(by Xar)

 

ĎMathisí, as he was now, walked into Xar's office feiging himself to be out of breath. "Grand Master! I'm so glad!" He collapsed onto the floor, heaving.

"Mathis!" Xar started forward. "What's wrong? You've been missing! Did you find the traitor?"

"Yes..." Mathis stood and addressed the dark-haired man in front of him. "But he's not here on Varnus, he's en route now! And he's gotten Thrakus with him too, and Stele and Jinx are on his side... They're all coming here to usurp you as Grand Master! We've got to stop them!"

"What? Maarek turned against me? It can't be!"

"Well he's on his way, sir!"

"Blast! Ready the defenses, get the Stormwatch onto position and raise our defenses! They won't get here without a fight! I'll see to that myself!" With that, he stormed past Mathis and out the door. Mathis could see his lightsaber dangling from his belt and his mass gun in its holster. He smiled. His sources had done well, telling him of the approaching Thrakus and the true Vynd Archaron. He'd been Archaron for over a year and a half, and he wasn't about to give that up now! Pulling out his commlink, he began making new orders...

* * *

"Here is a map of the palace," Jinx briefed Stele, Thrakus and Vynd. "If you can get us through any defenses, Stele, we can touch down outside and make our way inside through the underground labyrinth. I know a secret way in. I don't know nearly all those corridors, but I think I might be able to get us inside."

"Think you might be able to? Come on," Thrakus interjected.

"We must succeed, all depends on this," Jinx muttered. "With the three of us, Stele, my other two buddies, and the two Dathomiran women, we should be able to make it through and confront Xar directly. Once we explain things to him, we'll find this imposter and take him out once and for all!"

That elicited several cheers from the officers. "Yes," Delta 1 put in, "And hopefully my imposter won't have done too much damage here. You don't know what this guy is capable of... This isn't going to be easy, gentlemen. In fact, it could be the toughest thing we've ever faced..."

 

(by Delta1)

 

VARNUS, LOW ORBIT

Xar tried to rest in the passenger compartment of the orbital shuttle, but couldn't. Something wasn't right with this situation. How had Vynd gotten off-planet? Why had he returned, and how had he gotten Thrakus and Stele on his side? What was wrong with Mittens? Well, he could at least try to answer that question as he waited for his coach to complete its ascent to the ISD Stormwatch. "What's the matter, Mittens?" Xar asked the cat he cradled in his arms.

Instead of the cat's usual meow, it clicked several times and grated a harsh mwrrr.

Almost like a droid, Xar thought. But that's crazy! Who ever heard of a cat-droid? Still, maybe it would be a good idea to contact the Royal Vetrinarian and see if anything was found wrong during the cat's examination.

PUBLIC SPEEDER LOT, VARNUS

The rest had gone off to make preparations, leaving only Maarek Stele and Vynd Acharon to guard the speeders they would use to penetrate the outer ring of the palace's security. Hooded traveler's cloaks, popular among those who drifted from planet to planet like driftweed, hid their features from any passerby. Vynd held the true Mittens in his arms. He and the cat had gotten quite attached to each other during the long hyperspace trip from Dathomir to Varnus.

"Are you the Maarek Stele?" Vynd asked the other man. "The one who was awarded the Emperor's Will and all that?"

Stele nodded, but didn't volunteer any information.

"Aren't you dead?"

"Aren't you a traitor?"

"I see your point," Vynd said. "So, how long have you been with the Imperium?"

"Not long," Stele said.

Vynd laughed nervously. "This is all very ... sudden. Xar is this Grand Master and survivor of a royal lineage, Mathis is his Deputy. My doppelganger owes his allegiance to another fleet, and may have ruined my name among my old fleet and Order ... Sometimes, I wish I was back on Dathomir grinding ravka root for Fenora."

I hope the fake Delta1 isn't as annoying as the real one, Stele thought.

 

(by Jinx)

 

Maarek had just decided that he was going to kill Archaron if he said anymore, but was prevented from doing it by the timely arrival of Jinx and Thrakus. Jinx was garbed in a plain black jumpsuit with red and yellow striping, and Thrakus was in his black Jedi robe. With them was a group of Jedi. Jinx did the intros for Deewun.

"Deewun, this is Draken Ar'Kell and Omega. Their positions are Quaestor and Aedile, as you would have known them."

"Of Ar'Kell?"

"Right. These two yazbos are Neres Warjan and Val Ricaud, heads of a house that was formed while we were absent, House Castellan. And these two behind me are my Aedile, Roger McReed and Huan, also of House Vortigern. There are more we hope will join us, but they have evidently been called into a meeting at the palace. Any questions?"

There were none.

"Then let's go."

 

(by Xar)

 

"Wait a minute..." Stele interjected.
"What is it?" Jinx asked.
"How did you get these guys here to join us so fast?" He glanced at them suspiciously. "I don't buy that they just walked up, willing to mutiny like this..."
"Well I..." Jinx began.
Suddenly, as if on cue, Omega whirled to face Maarek, who took a step back in surprise.
"Sorry, Maarek," Omega said, "You're right. Xar sent us to take you back. You've got to come with us."
"No chance!" Thrakus countered.
Omega gave a laugh as he and his comrades ignited their lightsabers and moved in.
"Come on..." Jinx growled, pulling his own lightsaber out and igniting it. Moving forward, he met Omega head on, and the two fell into a fierce series or strikes and counter-strikes, neither getting the upper hand.
Draken spun towards Thrakus, only to be hit in the face by a blast of Force Lights from the Jedi Crusader. Draken screamed and dropped his saber, holding his eyes. Thrakus dived for the saber, came up, and sent a spinning back kick to Draken's stomach, sending him pitching forward.
Maarek Stele ducked Neres' wild saber swing and started running the other direction as fast as he could.
"Hey where are you going?!" Thrakus shouted over the din of battle.
"I don't do ground fights!" Stele shouted over his shoulder. "Besides, I need to get in the air and get us some air support... That distraction we need!"
Meanwhile, Roger MacReed and Haun dived for Vonture and Melvar, but were quickly stopped cold as the men drew their blasters and sent several stun blasts into each.
Val Ricaud moved to grab at the women, but quickly learned he'd greatly underestimated his foes. Fernora sent a kick into his groin that lurched him over in pain, then Lorien cracked out her whip and sent it around his neck, pulling him back. Lorien pulled relentlessly, arching Ricaud' back as he choked and sputtered, but Thrakus turned and cut through the whip with Draken's saber. "No!" he shouted. "We don't kill! They're friends!"
"THESE are your friends?!" Lorien asked incredulously.
"I'll explain later!" Thrakus shot back.
Meanwhile, Neres fell to another stun blast from Vonture, while Melvar pumped several shots into Draken's twitching form.
Thrakus looked around. All their assailants were down, save Omega, who was still dueling it out with Jinx. Suddenly Omega seemed to realize he was outnumbered, though, and moved back. With a graceful backflip, he launched himself up onto the wall above. "You'll never make it inside the palace!!" he screamed. Then he jumped down, out of sight.
"Well, that went well," Vynd noted from the base of the wall.
"Yeah, and where were you?" Thrakus inquired, staring the man down. Vynd shrugged, moved over and picked up Neres' saber, giving a slight grin.
"Hey are you qualified to use that thing?" Thrakus asked warily.
"Hey, I WAS Weapons Master of Ar'Kell. This is the Sith me, remember? I bet I could teach you a thing or two."
"Yeah, whatever," Thrakus answered. "Hey, Jinx! Found us that secret entrance yet?"
The man nodded as he came back up to the main group. "It's in the West section of Vectur, where the ruins are. That section still hasn't been rebuilt completely yet."
"I know that," Thrakus snapped. "So how about showing it to us? This is getting a bit out of hand, we've got to reach Xar fast and explain to him what's really going on!"
Vynd gave him a cynical look, and glanced at the forms scattered on the ground. "You know, at this point, I'm not sure he'll care..."


Xar watched the battle unfold on the holoscreen, as the hidden camera sent him the live feed from the skirmish between his Jedi and the rogues. As the last warrior fell, and Omega retreated, Xar didn't bother watching the rest. With a roar of rage, he ran over, lifting the entire holoprojector into the air with his Force-enhanced strength, and threw it across the room. Sparks and and lightning erupted from the machine as it crashed to the floor.
"AAAARRRRGHHH!!!! ICIS!!!"
Beside him, a tall, dark figure appeared out of nowhere, causing Xar to jump back in momentary surprise.
"Yes?"
"Never do that to me again!" Xar warned harshly. "Now, find Omega, wherever he ran off to. Make sure he pays for his failure. And increase the swirlies!!"
"As you wish, sir." T-Rex vanished again, leaving Xar alone to contemplate the situation. Bringing out his commlink, he sent a message to Mathis, explaining what had happened. They were going to need some more Jedi now... Phase two of Mathis's plan better work better than the first...

 


(by Mathis)

Nico was walking the deep, dank, dark tunnels of the Palace whistling a tuneless little ditty to himself. Quite suddenly he almost bumped into a large stone block sitting in the middle of the passage.
"I wonder who would put a block in the middle of a passage all the way down here?"he wondered outloud. He just loved to hear the sound of his own voice in the deep, dank, dark tunnels.
Stepping around the block he discovered that it was actually a stone statue that was carved into the other side. But then he noticed the flashing lights and he gasped,
"Oh my, now why would anyone want to incase Mathis in carbonite?" he said.
Flicking a switch he waited as the carbonite block began to glow a fiery red colour which became almost blinding. Suddenly a haggard looking Mathis fell before his feet. Coughing Mathis yelled,
"Whats happening? I can't see!!"
"It is okay Mathis. It's me, Nico. You were encased in carbonite and that is why you are blind. The effects will wear off. But please tell me what you remember."
"I don't have time Nico. You have to get me to the Stormwatch. It is a long story but suffice it to say we have an imposter in our midst! An imposter of me...."
Nico was stunned but he quickly got Mathis to his feet. Trying as best they could to move as quickly as possible was a hard task but eventually they got out of the basement and headed towards the turbolift. Nico guided Mathis to the turbolift that headed for the launchpad where they would board shuttle and head straight for the Stormwatch. It didn't take them long and quickly Nico requisitioned a shuttle. Mathis tried looking at Nico as he spoke,
"You know, I think my sight is coming back. Instead of a big dark blur I can see a big light blur."
Nico wondered where he had heard that before but it was soon out of his mind as he guided the shuttle out of atmosphere and in the direction of the Stormwatch. Everywhere ships were mobilized as if ready for battle and Nico was deeply curious. But he knew that all would be revealed eventually.
Coming towards the Hangar bay Nico gave his ship protocals and personal number.
"I am here to speak with the Grand Master about something of the utmost importance," he said.
"Clearance granted, Sir," was the reply.
Nico then landed the shuttle.
Quickly disembarking with the ragged looking Mathis Nico couldn't help but notice the strange looks the pair were recieving. Nico ushered Mathis to the nearest turbolift and pushed the bridge button. They both sat patiently as the turbolift played its interesting piece of elevator music. Suddenly the doors slid open to reveal the bridge. Xar looked at the turbolift entrance and stared in shock,
"Ahhh.... Mathis!?"
He turned to the other not so haggard looking Mathis,
"Ahhh.... Mathis!?
Suddenly the ragged Mathis lunged out of the turbolift and away from Nico's supporting shoulder. He pointed directly at Xar and shouted,
"There is your Imposter!!!"
Nico quietly stepped forward, grabbed Mathis by the waist and swiveled him around to face his twin.....

(by Jinx)

 

The two men faced each other across the bridge of the Star Destroyer. One was lean, and seamed full of a menacing power. The other was haggard, and moved like he was recovering from a sickness. The most amazing fact was that both were the same man. Or, at least, appeared to be.

 

Royal Varnusan Palace, Vectur

Rear Admiral Aaron D. Hurt was in a hurry, but no one seemed to appreciate that fact. he needed to get up to the Stormwatch to get a shuttle back to the Traktion, but the technicians kept saying something about a civil disturbance closing the launch pads. He was about to engage in another round of arguing when the door to the control room exploded. He felt stinging hot shards peppering his body, and he dived for the floor. His hand automatically reached for the blaster that was usually around his waist, but he had left it in his room. Wraith-like figures came darting through the door, and set about securing every nook and cranny. One pointed his lightsaber at Hurt and motioned for him to stand up. Hurt did so. And nearly fell over again in surprise.

"Long time no see, Hurt." Jinx was almost as surprised as Hurt. The two looked at each other. Then Jinx uttered the infamous words.
"The Master and the student meet again. Only this time, I am the Master." Hurt gave a nervous chuckle.

"Uhh, you aren't planning on fighting to the death with lightsabers, were you?" Jinx shook his head as a grin spread across his features. "So, how you been keeping busy since Ord Froyt?" The name of the battle that destroyed the Interdictor Dominant, Jinx's first command, caused a frown to crease Jinx's forehead.

"Hurt, it has ben a long time since then, and so few are left now. I'd rather concentrate on the events at hand. And they are rather large events indeed." The two kept talking, as Jinx outlined the situation to Hurt. Thirty minutes later, two assault shuttles lifted off for the ISD Stormwatch, loaded with Jedi loyal to Thrakusí cause.

 

(by Draken AríKell)

 

Aboard the
Assult Shuttle
Talon1

The Jedi felt a lurch as the shuttle speed slowed dramatically.
"Hey pilot, whatís the big idea ?" Jinx shouted.
"It's not me Sir, the speed just dropped for no reason." came a answer from the cockpit.
The hiss of a door came from the back of the shuttle that lead to the engine bay.
"Actually it was me, sorry but you are all under arrest again, but this time for treason and resisting arrest as well!" said a rather
bedragled looking Draken.
Draken stepped out from the door as it closed behind me, in his hands were a hypo spanner and thermal detonator.
Everyone was a little surprised to see Draken, last time they all saw him he was laying on the ground stunned.
A smile played across his lips as Draken noticed the looks of the group.
"Well I get this all the time, you all keep forgetting that in the Black Ops we have acess to some really crazy equipment!"Draken answered as he pulled his shirt across to reveal the MKI Stun Proof vest just come out from the NCSA.
"I would have been here early but Melvar got carried away with the stun shots and the capistors blew out!"Draken explain as he pulled out a tiny box that looked burnt, "Now we must'n talk too long as the detonator is on 20 second fuse and you guys only have 15 seconds left before we all go up!"
"Your mad Draken !"screamed Jinx as he pushed his way in front of the group.
"Yes, quite right there Jinx, ever since that reptile touched my mind (q.v.) I haven't been altogether if you know what I mean. 10 seconds!"
"Wait, Draken I can prove we are not traitors! Someone has been impersonating Delta 1! He has the Grand Master fooled, that's why we are heading to the Stormwatch to save him!"
Draken laughed. "Yes I see that I'm not the only one who the Grand Master should telling to lay of the drugs!" He replied, rolling his eyes.
"The time !" Everyone pointed at the detonator and shouted.
Draken pressed the pause button and calmly looked at the time left.
"Hey, three seconds left," with raised eyebrows Draken said aloud "well that's plenty of time, now quickly explain before... well, you know, 'Boom'!"
Jinx gulped "OK, well it all started when Thrakus got the promotion to Sith Praetor, the Grand Master called him to his office, well Mittens was also there, so the Grand Master wanted him ....."

 

ďAssault Shuttle Talon 1 is cleared for landing.Ē

Crew members aboard the StormWatch looked upon Jinx and his people with hostile intentions until Draken Ar`Kell came out behind them holding up a blaster.
"Where is the Grand Master ?" Draken asked the Duty Officer.
"In his office sir," he replied " would you like me to take the prisoners ?"
"No, that will be all," gestured to the turbo lift, Draken pointed at Jinx and the others "that way guys."

The turbo lift door opened to the office.
Xar looked up from his desk, his eyes narrowing. "So, more traitors..." He began to pull out his mass gun...

 

(by Xar)

 

Moments before...

Xar looked suspiciously at the two Mathises. One was standing at his side, wide eyed. The other was squinting, as if he could barely see them. Nico looked more surprised than either Mathis. Xar flipped his mass gun out and held it loosely in front of him.
"All right..." he began. "I do not know what is going on here, but I do not have the time to figure it out at the moment. We have a mutiny on our hands. Guards!"
At his words, the two Royal Guards that had been guarding the outside moved in and stood at the ready, not perturbed the slightest by the scene in the office.
"Guards, Nico, take both of these men to the brig." He said firmly.
"But wait!!" the tattered Mathis began.
"NOW!" Xar shouted.
Nico and the guards quickly rounded the two Mathises up in compliance and led them from the office. Xar shook his head and replaced his gun. What else was going to happen today?

The mysterious figure known as "Mathis" moved in compliance with the guards, ignoring the real Mathis' pleas to explain things. He should have killed the man when he had the chance. But he could rectify that, right now...
"I don't know what's going on here," Nico was saying, "But I have to do what the Grand Master says. I think you're the real Mathis, Mathis, but..."
"Mathis" was tired of all this talking. Abruptly he stopped walking. One of the guards pushed him to move him along, but the second his hand touched the captive he staggered back, grasping at his throat, gasping breath coming from his mask. He slumped back, wheezing.
The other guard turned toward him, but he moved forward and hit him with a rising palm strike, lifting the man into the air and crashing into the far bulkhead, eliciting the sound of cracking bones as he hit.
Mathis and Nico turned toward ĎMathisí, and he smiled. He extended his hands, open. The two men seemed to twist, contort, then were blown backwards down the hall as two blasts of pure energy erupted from ĎMathis'í hands.
Smiling as he admired his handiwork, ĎMathis'í countenance slowly changed, his height and build altering.
Vynd Archaron turned and headed back toward Xar's office.


"Hey, where'd Jinx get off to?!" Thrakus exclaimed suddenly as they walked through the catacombs beneath the city of Vectur.
The rest of the party, Vynd, Lorien Kal, Fenora, Maarek Stele, and Vonture, looked around to find him, but he was nowhere to be found. For that matter, Melvar seemed to have wandered off somewhere, as well.
"Probably went off to try and fix this thing on his own," Vonture muttered.
"What's going on here?" Thrakus asked aloud. "That double-crosser! He was the one who knew his way around this maze!"
"Well, I suppose we'll have to find our own way, then," Vynd said resignedly.
They continued on for some time, down the seemingly endless passageways under the city, not knowing where they were going, until the tunnel changed. The walls were of metal, not stone.
They continued on, finally emerging in a huge room, the ceiling extending up for at least a kilometer. In the center of the room was a massive cone several hundred meters wide, extending upwards and almost touching the ceiling. Several smaller cones encirled the main one, some a hundred meters tall, some barely as tall as a man. The entire room was of a strange metal, and smaller passageways around the room lead down shafts filled with strange circuitry that must lead to a computer-control center.
They stared as they looked at a place that they knew no one had been in for millenia, eyes wide and mouths open.
"I think we just hit the jackpot," Thrakus whispered, echoing throughout the chamber.

 

(by Delta1)

 

"No we haven't," Delta1 said. "This is just some old crap. We need to find Xar and convince him that I'm me."
"But this could be important," Vonture said. "You know. A whole paradigm-shifting experience."
"Right now, the only paradigm I want to shift is that of the Identity Thief," Vynd said hotly. "If we travel back another fifty meters, the caverns branch vertically. I think if we take the upper path we can get to the Krath chambers."
Thrakus looked at Fenora, who just shrugged. Evidently, she couldn't control her slave. Not like Lorien at all, Thrakus thought. I'd do anything for Lorien. I'd eat bugs. I'd crawl over broken transparisteel. I'd tatoo my - Thrakus mentally shook himself out of his reverie and led the way back through the caverns.


Bridge, ISD Stormwatch


Delta1 stumbled through the bridge doors, gasping for breath. "Xar! I made it ... "


"You!" Xar shouted, jumping to his feet. "You traitor! Where - is - my - cat?!?"

"You don't understand," Vynd said. "It was all Mathis' doing! He has this way to make duplicates of people! He made one of himself and it went bad, put the real one in carbonite. He duplicated me, Thrakus, and a few others, and has framed us!"

Xar sat back down in the command chair and massaged his temples. "This is getting confusing," he said. "Answer one question for me, and answer it truthfully. Are you lying?"

"No," Delta1 lied.

"Good," Xar said. "Now, where's the fake Vynd and his friends?"

"I'm not sure," Vynd said. "But I think they're on the planet below .... "


Vynd, Fenora, Lorien Kal, Kiz Thrakus, Maarek Stele, and Vonture had successfully navigated the subterrannean maze and made their way through the Krath chambers. On their way, they had exchanged their disguises for some robes "liberated" from several trainees. They were walking quickly through a corridor when Vynd stopped.

"What's behind this door?" he asked.

"Nothing," Thrakus said. "Brooms. Cleaning supplies. Mathis' Twinkie cache."

Ignoring Thrakus, Vynd opened the door and stepped inside. Though the room had once been a broom closet, someone had disingenously remodeled it as a prison cell. Crude iron bars blocked off the rear of the room. Within that cell, Delta1 saw himself. Or rather, a replica of himself, with one arm missing.

He cut the bars with Neres Warjan's lightsaber, and stepped inside. "Who are you?" he asked.

"Gonk," the replica said.

"I see," Vynd said.

"E chew to wah," the replica added.

"He says his name's Delta2," Vynd explained to his companions. "He was created with the butchered remains of an EV power droid, a 3PO endoskeleton, and a mannequin of me that had been built by ... " His voice trailed off as he shot a curious glance towards Thrakus.

"What else does it say?" Thrakus asked, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"It lacks purpose," Vynd said. "It's asking, is this all there is? Is this all I am? So sad ... " Vynd began typing commands into the closet's computer terminal. "This is only set up to access the Janitorial Server, but I should be able to interpret the entire Divisionís network."

"Yeah, we have pretty shoddy security around here," Stele said. "Someone wrote this virus called 'Lemissa,' which took advantage of the extremely weak security presented by the ubiquitous nature of - "

"I don't care," Vynd said. "Here we go! I keep main programming shadows of several illegal droid models in my personal records. It looks like the Identity Thief kept them when he betrayed and abandoned my rightful lords in the Dark Brotherhood."

"You have to stop talking like that," Thrakus advised.

"I'm uploading new programming for you," Delta1 told Delta2. "There! How do you feel?"

"Gonk!" D2 said. He reached into Vyndís pocket and withdrew a blaster and a pair of sunglasses. He put on the glasses and pushed his way past the Jedi. When he reached the doorway, he turned around and said, "Hasta la gonka, baby." Then he was gone.

"He should present a good distraction while we steal a shuttle," Vynd said. "I hope the others haven't gotten themselves into too much trouble...."

 

(by Vern Merlin)

 

Vern "MerlinĒ Maverick was walking along the corridor within the palace on Varnus to see the Grand Master Xar when he saw a strange droid that was created with the butchered remains of an EV power droid, a 3PO endoskeleton, and a mannequin of Delta 1. He halted in his tracks.

"Whoa!", Vern was surprised. "What was THAT all about?". A new initiate to the Division, Vern wasn't sure how to react to strange incidents like this. However, he sensed that there was something very interesting going on in the capital city of Varnus.

Now, should I follow that droid, or should I head towards where it was coming from? Vern mused. Come to think of it, I think I better let the Force guide me. Hope I'm doing the right choice by doing what I feel I should do...

 

(by Draken AríKell)

 

Draken stood and watched as the Royal Guard and Nico escorted the two Mathisí to the brig.
"Draken, I want you to go down to Varnus and find your Aedile and Icis Novitaar," Xar told him "well that is if Omega is still alive."
Draken thought to himself as he looked upon the Grand Master "And they think I'm mad!"
"Not as mad as I will be if you don't get on moving!" Xar said looking straight though Draken.
Draken snapped to attention "Yes Sir, I'm gone now Sir!"
Draken almost run into D1 as he came though the door into the room.

 

At the landing platform

Draken pulled out his little comm unit.
"Havoc, do read me; over"
"This is Havoc, boss." came a reply
"Status." Draken asked
"Well we are following Omega and it seems there is someone following him too."
"That's alright, it's Novitaar but don't get in his way unless he goes for Omega." Draken cautioned his man.
Draken followed the directions that Havoc had given him, "He said I would find him on this roof here."
"Pssst, over here!" came a whisper from behind a wall.
It was a old part of town near the Palace, many of the buildings here were not repaired yet. And it seemed that there were a few holes into the ground near the Palace.
"Hey boss, Omega's over there" Havoc pointed to a bearly visable figure standing in the shadows, "and he must of got that tag on D1 when he was fighting him, cause he has been checking his tracker every a few seconds. Which lead him to here, I think he's waiting for you."
"Well everything is moving like we thought it might, go and we'll join Omega" Draken mused aloud.
Both Havoc and Draken turned to Novitaar standing there. They both reeled in shock.

"Novitaar, the Grand Master ..." Draken started
"Yes I know, he told me that you were coming. Lucky too, I was about to finish Omega off when he called me." Novitaar tilled his head showing a tiny ear piece, "so I take it you have a tag on one of the traitors and that's what Omega has been following."
"Yes, we are going to down now to find out were their are." Draken mentioned as he stood up.

Omega was thinking to himself about what his next move will be when in his ear came a "Boo!"
"Ahhh!" Omega jumped and dropped his tracking device.
Omega placed his hand over his heart to feel if it was stilling beating.
"Don't you ever do that again!" Omega said while turning to see who was there.
Novitaar bent down and picked up the tracking device, while Havoc laughed at Omega.
Omega could almost see wet toilet paper in there hands, but he had a second look and saw nothing.
"Omega which way ?" Draken walked out of the shadows, "we need to find them soon before someone does something really dumb."
"Well, they when into that hole over there" Omega indicated a smallish hole that was cover with slimey tendrils and looked dank.
"Trust Thrakus to pick a hole like that one." Havoc mused to himself.
Novitaar started to walk to the hole, "We must hurry if we are to catch them!" he stood in front of the hole and checked the tracker,
"We will find them and bring them back to the Grand Master in pieces if we must."

 

(by Jinx)

 

Xar's office, ISD StormWatch

 

Xar had his gun out and pointed at Jinx, Hurt, and Melvar, who had accompanied them for the ride. Jinx, in turn had his lightsaber out, but unignited. Then, the door behind them slammed open, and Vynd walked through. Melvar had his gun out and against Vyndís neck before he could react.

"Freeze. And no Force tricks, else the guy with the sword is going to gut you right here and now." Vynd froze, but his eyes went blank for a moment, and then a colossal burst of Froce Energy lept from his body, tossing Hurt and Melvar against the wall, while Xar and Jinx were merely jostled a bit. Vynd, however, had fared worst of all. His skin now hung in splotches, and something was moving underneath of it. Xar and Jinx stared back, incredulously. Archaron began laughing, a maniacal sound, and Xar sighted his mass gun while Jinx ignited the lightsaber. Archaron turned to run, but was stopped by a fireball that impacted next to his head on the bulkhead. He turned around, all humor gone, and replaced with sheer malevolence. He spoke, and it was a deep, throaty roar, totally unlike that of Archaronís real voice.

"You FOOLS! Everything you may try to do to me will reflect back upon you with tenfold force, and you will be finished! FINISHED!" With that, the creature slammed through the bulkhead, and took off towards the shuttle bay. Jinx looked at Xar, and asked the question.

"Uhh, sir. Forgive my prying, but JUST WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!"

 

(by Vern Merlin)

 

Vern "Merlin Maverick was having trouble finding the Grand Master. When he burst into the room where they were, he was too late and they'd already gone. So he decided to try to find Xar in his chambers at the Palace. He was walking along the corridor and suddenly he found the Grand Master.
"Hail Grand Master! I got news for you", Merlin said. Surprised, the Grand Master turned around. "What is it?", Xar said.

"Well, I've been monitoring the Varnusan inter network, and apparently, someone had put a virus sequencer that repeats itself every 30 minutes", Vern said

"So, what about it?", the Grand Master said. "Make it snappy, I have got something to do". Vern was surprised. He never thought the Grand Master will be rude to him.

"Well, apparently, the sequence is getting shorter and shorter...I think itís a countdown...But that's not all, Someone...probably the same someone have also planted another more deadly virus into the network...I think I can get it out of the system, but I'll need all the help I can get..."

 

(by Jinx)

 

Shuttle Hyperion

" Hey, Nico. How's he doing?" Jinx was concentrating on flying the shuttle, while Nico attended to Mathis. Nico applied a stimpak to Mathis's neck, and Mathis groaned.

" I think I can hold him for the moment, but we need to get him to a real doctor, soon!" Jinx bit his lip and viewed the map.

" Alright, here's how it goes. I'm going to drop the two of you off at the Planetary Medical Center, and you get Mathis to a doctor. I'm going to head-on to the palace, and try and help Xar. Got it?"

"Got it!" The shuttle flared as it hit the street in front of the Med Center. Nico ran down the ramp, Force levitating Mathis with him. Jinx ran back to close the ramp, and something in the cargo bay caught his eye. It was a large crate that read To: Jedi Templar Jinx, Ravick, Moro System, New Imperium Territories.

Jinx paused, and hit the open button. One side fell off, and Jinx was stunned. In it was his At-Pt, Cayla, prepped and primed for instant action. Jinx ran back to the cockpit, and flew the shuttle the remaining 50 kilometers to the palace. He set it in the main hangar, and went back and marched the assault vehicle out of the bay and into the hangar.

"Thank goodness this place was built with large corridors..."

-----------
Caverns, Beneath the Palace

Thrakus and company were following behind D2, and he was having no problems opening doors with that blaster of his. They had made their way to Xar's office, but the Grand master wasn't there. Then, they heard a commotion outside, and headed out to check it. Waiting for them were Icis, Draken, Omega, and Havoc. With lightsaber's in hand. And ignited. Thrakus swallowed nervously.

" Uhh, take us to your leader?" Icis didn't seem to find it funny. He stepped forward and leveled his lightsaber at the group.

" Now, Thrakus, you and your kind will pay for what you have done." He drew his lightsaber back as to strike, when two voices yelled "STOP!" One was Draken, and he swiftly blocked off Icis' lightsaber with his own. The other voice came from a loudspeaker mounted on an extremely large machine, that Omega identified.

" Hey, that's an AT-PT, though it looks modified." The mini-walker leveled it's guns at the cluster of people.

" Freeze, scumbags. All of you. You guy's are seriously starting to piss me off with your infighting. Everyone drop their weapons, or I start shooting." Everyone dropped their sabers, except Icis, who disappeared. "Naughty, naughty, Icis. Let me show what a mistake that was." From the cockpit, Jinx made a throwing motion, and a wave of energy rippled out and blasted Icis against the wall, where he dropped, unconscious and visible. " Now, Omega, Draken. Round up all the Jedi you can find, and take them to the meeting chamber. Thrakus, Delta1, hop on. And bring Icis with you." Everyone did as they were told, and Jinx set off down the halls, toward the Treasury.

-----------
Palace Treasury

Icis had regained consciousness, and just in time, too. A strange scene confronted the trio. Two Xar's faced off against each other in the vast Treasury, with a vast open space between them. Jinx leveled his guns at the nearest Xar, while the three warriors slid off the AT-PT and formed a skirmish line, with lightsaber's blazing. Jinx spoke across the loudspeaker.

" You. Xar, or is it Malphunoc? I keep getting you two mixed up. Especially when you take the form of another, Malphunoc. Iíve heard of you and I know your name. Take off that guise. Let us see you as you were intended to be seen." The near Xar turned and exclaimed.

" But I'm the real Xar! He's Malphunoc, not me!"

" We have a way to determine that. Answer this question- What does the name Dasok Krun mean to you?" One Xar, the far one, gave hoarse cry. The other simply blinked, and replied.

" I know of no such being."

"Wrong!" Jinx cast through the force again, and the disguise fell to reveal Malphunoc, clad in a black robe, and absolutely hideous. He began cackling, and lightning began flickering around him. He threw his arm towards the AT-PT, and it slammed against a foundation wall, crumpling armor and systems, and starting a small fire. Thrakus ran over to try to get to Jinx before the fire did, and Icis and Archaron formed a wall behind Malphunoc, forcing him towards Xar. Xar advnced in turn, thumbing his lightsaber to life.

" And now, Malphunoc, we end this."

 

(by Xar)

 

Malphunoc turned to look at Xar, the real Xar. "FOOL!" he shouted. "Your power is nothing to me! Put down that toy before you get hurt!"
Xar half-grinned slyly. "I am sure. Raaagh!!" With a yell he rushed forward, bringing his saber down in a powerful strike toward the dark creature.
But Malphunoc extended his hand, and suddenly Xar flew backwards across the outer treasury room into a stack of crates. He hit so hard the crates split, spilling small objects and artifacts onto the floor.
Jinx pointed toward the creature. "Get him!" he shouted.
Thrakus and Archaron both backed away instead. "Heís too strong! Why are we taking orders from you, anyway?" Thrakus asked.
Jinx turned back, but Malphunoc was already moving past Xar and deeper into the chamber. "You morons! You let him get away!"
"This is getting out of hand," Thrakus interjected. "I'm calling the others from the meeting room."
"Wait!"
"What are you hiding?" Archaron asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Enough of this..." a new voice interrupted. Everyone looked to see Icis glide smoothly by. "I have had enough of pretending." He started after the creature. In the corner, Xar got to his feet and switched off his lightsaber. He smiled.
"Looks like this guy might be more of a challenge than I thought," he muttered, replacing his weapon. "Malphunoc!"
Xar moved through the passageway into the treasury proper, followed by Icis. A wary trio, Delta 1, Thrakus, and Jinx, followed behind.

Malphunoc spun around as he heard his name. He smiled. "You're too late, my friend," he said darkly. Turning, he reached brought his fist down, smashing through one of the glass displays full of artifacts. He selected one, an object that looked like a metal glove and forearm guard. A large red jewel sat on the back of it. He slipped it on, laughing. "You had no idea of the power of some of these trinkets strewn down here. Of course, this has nothing to do with the Force, so I couldn't blame you for that." As the device slipped into place Xar felt a tremendous upsurge of power in the creature. He moved forward, but Malphunoc was too fast.
"GET AWAY!!!" he screamed, throwing his hand in Xar's direction. A blast of force flew into him, causing the stone floor to crack and splinter along the line toward him. Xar flew back, followed by Icis, before the wind storm. Artifacts and splinters blew through the room, finding some of its occupants, eliciting shouts of pain.
"This is not possible!" Xar shouted, rising. "He lied," he told Icis. "I can sense the Force in that artifact. But it is not resonating with the Dark Side..."
Malphunoc was already moving through the crates stacked throughout the room, past the newly-returned Scepter of Karanisma. Xar sighed with relief when the man passed it by. "Call for reinforcements!" he shouted to Jinx.
"Right!"
"Icis! Help me!" Xar moved toward the creature, who was pulling another object out of a wooden crate. "See if you can get a Null Sphere!" A Null Sphere would negate the use of the Force througout the entire area, allowing the Jedi to bring their lightsabers into striking range, gaining the advantage. But Icis didn't have time. Malphunoc slid the second, matching glove and guard onto his other arm and smiled. Xar stopped in his tracks, staring at the creature in horror. "Impossible..." he muttered as Icis came to a stop beside him. "He's almost as strong as Turles was when enhanced."
"What?! No way!" Icis went wide-eyed, showing emotion that he rarely ever did.
Maphunoc laughed evilly, bringing his gloved hands up in front of him. "The power of the Ancients is mine now," he spoke in awe. "Long have we waited and searched... When I tap into the planet's power source nothing will be able to stop me."
"Come on," Jinx shouted from the side. "Together we can take him! We're Jedi! Our powers are greater than his!" Thrakus and Delta 1 nodded their assent, if tentively. As if to prove his point, another lightsaber on a display stand floated over to his hand, and he ignited both, crossing them in front of him.
"Heh. Don't count on it..." Icis muttered.
"You are finished!" Xar shouted. Whipping out his mass gun, he fired, sending round after round at the creature. But the shots struck an invisible shield in front of him and rebounded throughout the room.
"Nice try! Now it's my turn!" Malphunoc shouted. Bringing his hands up in front of him, he made fists with the gloves, drawing power from them. His whole body appeared to tighten, his neck veins throbbed, his eyes went wide. Small bolts of energy lanced between his hands, spreading out all over his body.
"Oh-oh, here we go again," Icis swallowed.
"Say goodbye!" Malphunoc shouted. Stepping forward, he extended his hands towards Xar, and a massive blast of energy erupted from them, burning through the air at lightning speed toward the Grand Master. The trio of onlookers yelled in shock and dismay.
But before the blast reached him, Xar dropped his weapon, brought his hands up, and pushed them forward, and a blast of energy shot from his, as well. The two beams met in midair, struck one another with a blast of thunder, filling the room with blinding light and forming a shining ball of energy in the center. The two beings pulled even more power together, putting everything they had into it. They were dead even.
"Icis!" Xar screamed above the roaring. Wind ripped throughout the room, whipping objects around everywhere, blowing Xar's hair back. "Help me!
Icis seemed to hesitate, then set his stance, extended his hands. The air rippled in front of him as the energy gathered, and a beam suddenly materialized from them as well, stretching out to join Xar's against the white beam shot by Malphunoc. The two beams joined, overwhelming the creature's, and pushed it back. Malphunoc growled as the beams grew closer, redoubling his efforts. Then its caster was enveloped in light and energy, and he screamed.

Xar and Icis let their blasts die, gasping from the effort of expending so much Force energy at once. Archaron, Jinx, and Thrakus looked on in utter shock and confusion.
Xar looked through the smoke and dust filling the room, searching for any sign of the enemy. As it slowly settled, he saw a lone form standing on the other side of the room. The smoke cleared around the tattered form of Malphunoc. His robes were mere bits of rag attached to his shoulders, his clothes underneath torn and tattered. His skin seemed scrapped and burned, his hair singed. But he was still alive. He smiled.
"You canít kill me!" He began cackling wildly.
"We can't fight here!" Xar shouted. "We need room!"
"Yes, let's take this outside!" Malphunoc shouted, leaping into the air. A wall of air enveloped him as he flew upwards, pushing up through the ceiling and into the palace above.
"Blast!" Xar shouted, looking after the retreating form. "What is he?"
"I finally remember," Icis spoke up softly. "The creature is a Morphionis, a group of techno-freak shapeshifters obsessed with ancient technologies and artifacts and the powers they possess. We ran into a group of them on Rykal Seven, during the Embrusis Conflict. They seek the power they can obtain through ancient technologies, and crave any information on that kind of thing."
"What?" Xar arched an eyebrow at the man, confused." Rykal Seven, Embrusis Conflict? What are you talking about?"
"Nevermind," Icis told him firmly. "We have to stop him before he reaches his full power. There is something else he wants here. Remember, he said 'when I tap into the planet's power source nothing will be able to stop me'."
Xar slowly nodded, remarking at how the man could remember so clearly what the creature had said.
"We have to stop him now before he becomes strong enough to kill us all," Icis sighed. "He wouldn't even be here, doing all this, if it wasn't worth every bit of it. Whatever it is, is big."
Xar nodded, glancing at the trio of onlookers. "Then let's move!"

 

(by Xar)

 

Meanwhile, in the meeting room, the numerous occupants, having been sent there to wait by Jinx, were growing impatient and agitated. They paced around, or sat fidgeting, debating on what to do next.
"What are we doing here?" Havoc demanded.
"Tell me about it," Draken put in. "Why are we taking orders from Jinx anyway? Who put him in charge? I'm a Lothair, same as him!"
"Well it beats running around the palace like a bird with its head cut off," Lordshaper countered. He leaned back in his chair and took another sip of his martini.
"We've got to do something!" Omega whined. "Hey, I know! Anybody wanna see my Jar Jar impression? Do ya? Do ya?"
"I would rather be stripped naked and dragged over broken transparisteel covered with salt," Draken muttered. But before Draken could tell him to sit down and shut up, Omega had already begun and was dancing on the floor in front of them, punctuating his words with the proper movements.
"Weesa die in here!" he shouted in a high pitched, whiny voice.
"Just relax, we're not in trouble yet," he said in a low voice.
Back to the high-pitched one. "Not yet! Monstairs out dere! Leakin in here. We sinkin with no power? Yous nuts! When yous thinkin weesa in trubble!?"
"Oh please."
"Somebody shut him up..."
"Someone call Novitaar for some swirlies..."

Then they were all silenced as the floor nearby exploded upwards and a dark, screaming form flew straight up, surrounded by an invisible field of air, and crashed into the ceiling, continuing upwards. Huge chunks of the ceiling peppered them as they dove for cover.
"Shards of Alderaan! What the heck was that?" Draken shouted over the uproar.
"It's headed for the roof," Omega put in. Everyone looked at him sardonically.
"Ya really think so?" Havoc asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Forget it," Draken interrupted. "We have to get up there. Let's move!"

 

(by Delta1)

 

SOMEWHERE IN THE PALACE

Vern Merlin swore as his almost-sentient foe outwitted him again, jumping from inode to inode and restructuring itself in what had so far been a series of successful attempts at eradication. Merlin turned to the only able partner he had been able to find - an Arakyd Viper probe droid named Probbie - and said, "It's moving across the network too fast. Can you slow it down somehow? Reroute all networking across the old optic channels, or implement a safety protocol it hasn't knocked out?"

"I'm sorry, Master Merlin, but the virus is eluding even my best efforts," Probbie complained in his prissy Cybot Galactica-supplied voice. One of his arms was plugged into the scomp link next to the terminal that Merlin was working on. "May I suggest the following command: Format C: - "

"No!" Merlin cried. "I told the Grand Master I could slice this virus out of his system, I'm not going to destroy it. Look, let's approach this thing as if it's a living animal, and not a program. What has it done so far?"

"Simple," Probbie said. "It has been wildly running about the intranet while mutating into forms that give it access to sensitive areas. It has knocked out much of the Palace's automated security, permitting nearly unimpeded access to the lower levels. Now, it is deactivating the planetary shield - "

"The shield?" Merlin moaned. "Stang. I'm never gonna' make Jedi Knight." He ate another one of the Twinkies he had found as he stared at the computer screen. "Got it!" he said. "It mutates with every cycle of the countdown sequencer, right? Can we intercept the signal from the sequencer, or supplement it with numerous identical sequences of our own?"

"Freeze its evolution or give it genetic damage," Probbie mused. "Good idea. Oh, and it has just shut down the planetary defense cannons."

 

PALACE ROOF

Thrakus had called the group in the meeting room, and that group and Xar's group met near a door that gave them access to the roof. As Xar briefed them about Malphunoc's power and the importance of preventing him from leaving the planet, Thrakus looked into the faces of each of the Jedi. He was proud, and honored, to see no fear. The droid Delta2 was missing, but who knew where it was? It's motivator had probably blown somewhere in the Palace.

"And finally," Xar said, his eyes brimming with tears and his voice cracking, "I want you guys to know ... that you're the best damned group of Jedi - of friends - a man could ever know. I love all of you. Now - Let's go get that thief!"

Although they were all shocked at their Master's display of emotion, the Jedi saw that he was expecting a cheer, so they raised their fists and gave a half-hearted "Hurrah." Then Jinx knocked down the door and rolled onto the roof, blaster raised and ready to lay down suppression fire. Malphunoc, however, was at the far end of the roof, standing completely still and seemingly ignorant of the fact that numerous angry Jedi were pouring onto the roof. His body was surrounded by an ethereal halo of yellow fire, and his eyes were directed skyward.

"He's becoming more powerful," Xar whispered to Mathis.

"Hey, buddy," Vynd said to Xar. "I just remembered something. The Morphioni said this had nothing to do with the Force, right? But then he stole that Sith amulet. Well, back when I was with the Brotherhood, I tried to recover one of those amulets myself, and I learned that those crystals set into them often contain the bioclorianic crystals used in Holocrons. That thing could be full of ancient Sith knowledge."

"Why didn't you tell me this before?"

Vynd slapped his forehead. "Because I haven't seen you for a year and a half!"

"Is there anything else you haven't told me?"

"Yeah, just one thing. When I was invading your palace I found huge planetary-scale repulsors buried underground. But they can't possibly be of any - "

"What?!?" Xar sputtered. "Repulsors? What are you? Some kind of idiot? Of course that's important! He's a Morphioni, they love ancient, powerful technology like that?"

"Sorry," Vynd said, feeling slightly hurt. "Look, here comes someone else to join the party!"

Vern Merlin was huffing through the doorway, apparently having run up from the basement and having gorged himself on Twinkies, followed by a Viper.

"Sir!" Merlin skidded to a stop and bowed. "We've stopped the virus, but it's already done its damage. The planetary shield is down, the defense batteries are inoperative, and the scanners are offline."

Vynd looked to Xar. "What do you think it means?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Xar pointed to the heavens, where one star was steadily growing brighter. "A ship. He's got a partner."

Just then, Malphunoc seemed to snap out of his reverie. The ephemeral flames that had surrounded him retreated into the foremost jewel on his stolen amulet, and he looked towards the group of Jedi. Several lightsabers were immediately activated. "Have no fear," Malphunoc said. He waved his hand and the lightsabers were extinguished. "The fighting is over. It is I who has won, and if I were you, I would try to get on the good side of your new master."


Out of the corner of his eye, Xar watched Fenora whisper something to Vynd and then to Lorien and disappear from view, but he kept his focus on Malphunoc. "You claim victory so soon, Morphioni? I think you are acting quite prematurely. My Jedi will destroy this world before we allow you to control even one square kilometer of its soil."


"Oh, I control far more than that, my friend. Do you know how old this amulet truly is? It has been destroyed and rebuilt over the years, but it had been sanctified by the blood of this world. It has taught me much about Varnus, about your place in the Galaxy. Did you think that you have a destiny to fulfill, Xar Kerensky? Yes, of course you think that. But that was mere egomania. I know the truth."


"Enough of your pedantic ramblings," Xar growled. He ignited his lightsaber and stepped towards the blabbermouth. "Let this end. I will kill you, and when your ship lands, I will kill whoever is onboard it."


"It will not land," Malphunoc said off-handedly, not changing his posture towards Xar. "Your Dathomirian friends will see to that. But any further action is meaningless. I do not need them. All the power I need is right here." He held up his right hand. The hand on which he wore the stolen amulet.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE PALACE

Vynd, Fenora, and Lorien formed a circle, far away from the confrontation above them. "Remember, this is the Song of Ultimate Destruction," Fenora said. "I sense a great imbalance in the Force, one which may ultimately end all life."

"The Gungans have returned to Z'Ha'Dum?" Delta1 asked.

"No, worse," Fenora said. "But I have no time to explain my suspicions to you. It must suffice to say that we cannot allow harm to befall this planet. Let us sing the Song of Ultimate Destruction, and bring death to the Morphioni ship descending towards us."

The group began slowly circling, raising and lowering their hands in ancient incantations of power, and singing terrifying, malevolent words.

Good morning starshine, Varnus says, "Hello,"
You twinkle above us, we twinkle below.

VARNUS PRIMARY

 

The Varnusan sun did indeed twinkle above them. A small patch of it began to twinkle more intensely than the others, then bulged out from the surface of the chromosphere. It elongated into a teardrop shape, then broke of completely from the star and began accelerating away from it. Towards Varnus. However, the fireball's acceleration did not follow the normal rules of physics. It approached the speed of light, then surpassed it. Doubled it. Trebled. And still, it accelerated. Until it entered the atmosphere of Varnus and struck a relatively small ship, shredding it to pieces. Two dozen Morphioni, united for years with one common goal, died. Kilometers below, an old Dathomirian woman nearly died as well.

 

VECTUR PALACE

Fenora dropped like a stone, apparently overcome by the energies she had summoned. Lorien and Delta1 caught her, gently lowering her to the ground. "Will she be alright?" Vynd asked, concern apparent in her voice.

"I don't know," Lorien said. "I will sing a song of discovery. But you must return to the roof. Dathomirian magic alone will not help in what is about to transpire, and you are trained many Force arts."

Vynd nodded and ran off.

 

ROOF, VECTUR PALACE

Xar and Malphunoc circled each other, Xar's lightsaber held ready and Malphunoc's gauntled fist clenched, glowing with power. They both glanced upwards as something above them flashed, and braced themselves for the coming concussion. "Looks as if your friends won't be arriving," Xar said.

Malphunoc said something, but it was obscured by the roar of the explosion. Xar, who could read lips, thought he said, "It doesn't matter. All I need is within me." When the wind had died down, Malphunoc continued. "Acharon told you of the repulsors, did he not? This gauntlet is the key. With it, I will be able to activate them, and move this planet about as if it were a ship."

"That would kill everyone living on it!" Xar exclaimed.

"I would protect those who serve me," Malphunoc said. "Can you say the same of your rule? How many have died under your protection?"

"I do not only protect," Xar said. "I lead." He swung his lightsaber at Malphunoc, who caught it in his gauntleted hand and pushed it away. "I lead a proud people, who will destroy this planet before it becomes your vessel!" He feinted towards Malphunoc's head, a traditional echani move, then brought his lightsaber straight down and delivered a blind side thrust kick. The lightsaber missed, but the kick didn't, and sent Malphunoc sprawling. "Get up!" Xar hissed.

"I would rather kill you from here," Malphunoc said. A blast of flame-like energy shot out of his amulet, knocking Xar back into the crowd of onlookers. They rushed towards him, but he waved them away. Malphunoc raised his fist again, his entire arm crackling with red energy, and simply said, "Goodbye."

Vynd reached the roof just in time to see Malphunoc pointing his fist at Xar and saying, "Goodbye." He wanted to rush to his new Master's aid, but found himself unable to do so. It was as if his mind was functioning without his body. Apparently, all the other Jedi were frozen, as well, for none of them were moving, either. But one man was moving. With implacable calmness, Delta2 marched towards Malphunoc. The Morphioni didn't notice him, not suspecting that there would be a droid among the group, and flexed his fingers, preparing for one final blast. Delta2 noticed this action, and his assassin droid programming kicked in. He threw himself at Malphunoc and caught the full brunt of the energy blast, throwing him back through the crowd. Startled, Malphunoc lost control of the other Jedi's bodies, and Xar threw his lightsaber like a javelin. It struck the amulet mounted on Malphunoc's gauntlet, slicing it in two. Malphunoc stood frozen for a second, shock registering on his face. Then the amulet exploded.


The Jedi, even Xar, were forced to cover their eyes as Malphunoc was consumed by the energies he had sought to control. He screamed, an odd, warbling scream, made even more frightening by the shrieks of liberated Dark Side energy, and perhaps of ancient Sith spirits suffering the annihilation they had avoided while preserved in the amulet.
When Xar sensed that the maelstrom had lessened enough, he opened his eyes. Malphunoc lay on the ground, in what was either his true form or merely evidence of his extreme injuries. He was still humanoid, but no longer bore even a passing resemblance to a human. Where there had once been skin, there was now merely charred muscle. Bones jutted out of his flattened, elongated skull. His fingers and toes had the appearance of claws. All of his clothing was gone; only the gauntlet remained, the largest of the amulets destroyed, the others chipped and dulled.
As the Jedi gathered around their fallen foe, Delta1 rushed to Delta2's still form. He cradled the droid in his arms, and wept. "He was programmed to kill ... but he saved us all!" Probbie put a sympathetic manipulator on Delta1's shoulder.
Xar continued looking at Malphunoc. Although he appeared to have mortal wounds, the Force was still very much active in him. Fulfilling Xar's expectations, Malphunoc's eyes opened with the sickening crunch of burned eyelids being forever opened. His eyes stared straight ahead, unseeing. "I'm dying, aren't I?" he asked in a guttural voice.
"Yes," Xar said. "Because you tried to hurt my people."
"You are a protector," Malphunoc said. "But you cannot protect your people forever." His eyes closed, and he exhaled, his chest visibly sinking. But then his eyes opened again. "You have destroyed the knowledge within this amulet. Now only the power remains. Power to activate the repulsor, but without the knowlege to control it. It will shake your planet to pieces. Your people will die."
"Why?" Xar asked.
"You shouldnít have angered me," Malphunoc said. "Do you feel that? Something that only a native of this world could feel. The slight disturbance in this world's gravitational embrace. That is the repulsors initiating phase. Soon, it will reach full power, and this world will be doomed."
"Not if I kill you now," Xar said. "As you said, goodbye." He brought his lightsaber down across Malphunoc's skull, hoping to give him what Malphunoc would've given no one - a merciful end. But Malphunoc just shimmered, and evaporated in a blue haze. "A doppelganger!" Xar roared. "When we were blinded by the amulet's destruction ... he must've slipped out and left the apparition!" The planet seemed to shake. " Vynd!" he turned to the sobbing Sith. "Take Merlin, Stele, and whoever else they might need down to the repulsor. Try to deactivate it! Everyone else, search the palace! This is our last chance to stop Malphunoc!"

 

(by Xar)

 

The rumbling faded and slowly stopped. Vynd turned his tear-filled eyes up at Xar. "We don't know how to shut down the repulsor..." he began.

He was interrupted as Icis moved up beside them. Vynd stood and both turned to face T-Rex.
"I don't think Malphunoc's going to try and destroy Varnus. He still wants to fulfill his original plan. He can control it with the gauntlets, and the other one still has an amulet, remember?"

Xar nodded gravely in realization. "So we have to stop him, then. Where is he?"

"Right behind you!Ē

Xar turned and dove to the side just in time, as a huge form landed right where he'd been standing. Vynd and Icis backed off from a considerably less-damaged Malphunoc than the Doppleganger had led them to believe. The alien creature turned his wrath-filled eyes on Xar.

"This ends, Malphunoc!" Xar yelled. "You have nothing to accomplish by this. What are you trying to do?"

"I will have this planet's energy as my own," the creature snarled. "But there's just one thing in my way. You and your petty group of Jedi! DIE!!"

Pushing his hands forward, palms outward, Malphunoc sent a blast of energy from them on top of the smaller man. But at the last second Xar drew the Force under him and leapt above the alien, flipping in the air and coming down behind him. Malphunoc turned just in time to catch Xar's foot against his jaw in a powerful round kick, sending him flying backwards.

"Enough of this!!" Malphunoc shouted, spitting out a tooth onto the rooftop. "I'll destroy you!!"

"Never! I won't let you leave Varnus until I make you pay for what you've done!!!"
Xar's voice rose in pitch and volume as he spoke, drawing up incredible energies from within the Force. His hair lifted and stood up, his clothes seemed energized, and broken bits of roof and Malphunoc's tooth rose into the air around his energy field.
"Incredible! How are you so stron...urk!" Malphunoc's words were cut short as Xar shot forward like lightning, his physical abilities quadrupled by his strength in the Force. He sent a left in as a feint, and Malphunoc brought his arm up slowly to block, then Xar sent a strong right into the creature's mid-section, cutting his words off in a grunt of pain. Then Xar bore into him at hyper speed, raining blow after blow on the alien, who struggled to block the strikes and succeeded less than half the time. Then Xar spun and sent a powerful side kick deep into his middle, reeling the creature back.

"Enough! Taaake thiiis!!!!" Xar screamed. Energy coursed through his hands as he extended them forward toghether, palms outward. A blast of energy lanced out from them and hit Malphunoc dead on. The creature was enveloped in energy as the force of the blast carried him along with it through the air, screaming as he went. The blast poured into a small domed building set on the other side of the roof, blasting into it and blowing Malphunoc inside, as well. Xar let his blast die, then watched, breathing heavily, as the whole structure caved in on the alien. A huge roar and explosion rumbled from the maelstrom of stone.

Hundreds of stone blocks fell inwards as the walls and ceiling of the structure collapsed, burying Malphunoc underneath tons of stone. A column of dust and smoke rose from the fallen structure from blazing fires ignited by the intense burst of energy Xar had loosed.

"Wow... I guess that's the end of Malphunoc," Vynd mused. "Why didn't you do that in the first place?"

"No. This is not over yet," Xar sighed, staring at the burning pyre on the other side of the roof. "I know he is still alive."
"Even after all that?"

As if cued on by Vynd's words, the entire roof began to shake. Then in an instant the burning ruin exploded outwards in every direction, propelled by a blast of energy that sent pieces raining down all over the palace. The air was filled with a scream of pure rage. And in the center, Malphunoc stood, arms held outstretched, an expression of pure hatred and rage on his face.
"This isn't good..." Vynd whispered.
A tattered Malphunoc stood, gashes across what tiny bits of clothing remained gushing green blood. His body was burnt, his face scraped and cut, but he stood there, unwavering, hands clentched, so intensely mad with rage his eyes had gone all-white.
"Enough of this!" he shouted to himself. "I don't need this planet! I'll just focus my energies, draw out the repulsor and blow the entire thing up!Ē He continued laughing madly.

He crouched down and leapt, flying upwards toward the cloudless sky. He paused, hovering several dozen meters above the palace, and glared down at the Jedi watching him from below. His white eyes were streaked with red arteries, and his veins were popping out all over his body. Insane with hate, he screamed down at his antagonist.
"Dodge this next attack if you can, Kerensky!! But even if you do, it won't matter because this whole planet is finished!Ē
With that he shot upwards, reaching hard for the upper atmosphere.
"This definately isn't good!" Vynd shouted.
"We only have one chance at this!" Xar yelled. "Icis?"

"The Focus Bomb?" Icis asked as if he already knew the answer.
Xar nodded. "You taught it to me, so I think if we combine our powers we can take him out. No way he could withstand two of them."
Icis hesitated for a minute, then finally nodded. "All right. Let's do it."

"Guys, Malphunoc's power's still increasing!" Vynd cut in.

"Right..." Xar turned to the rest of the Jedi. "Clear the area!" he warned them. "Leave the palace! Get as far away as you can!"

"Even if they do, it still won't matter if he destroys the planet," Icis pointed out calmly.

"Just go!" Xar yelled. With final bows and nods of respect, the Jedi cleared out, leaving Xar and Icis alone on the roof. "Spread out," Xar told him. "We will hit him from two sides."

"Right!"

"Okay, we only get one shot at this. Time to take this guy down!"

 

(by Xar)

 

The Royal Palace and the entire city of Vectur seemed frozen in a moment of time as the events transpired, the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. People were frantically clearing the roof and heading inside as a deep rumble began reverberating throughout the city.

A spot of a flat grassland about twenty kilometers east of Vectur lifted up and away, exploding outwards, leaving a large hole in the ground. Slowly, the massive silver cone rose from the opening, coming to daylight for the first time since the ancient days when humans had colonized the galaxies. Only a few people alive on the planet actually knew what the device was, and even then it wasn't their main focus at the moment.


Floating in the air a kilometer above Vectur, Malphunoc hovered, eyes closed, fists clenched as he drew upon the vast energies the repulsor was bringing online. Energies he intended to use to cause the planet itself to break apart from the repulsor's power. Rays of sunlight bathed his alien body in orange light, glinting off the golden gauntlets on his arms. The amulets in the gauntlets were glowing bright red as he drew the energies conjured up by the ancient machine. It wouldn't be long now.


On the roof of the Varnusan Palace, Xar and Icis stood, arms outstretched, the air completely silent except for the roar and rumbling. Xar wasn't holding his maximum power level; he didn't need to for this. Reaching out deeply through the Force, he concentrated, focusing on all the life on this planet. He stretched out, touching everything with his mind for a brief moment. The trees, the animals, the oceans, the sky... All the life on the planet... All things that have life, and have the Force... Slowly the power seemed into him as he used the power Draw Force, the prepretory step for the ultimate Force weapon thus discovered: the Focus Bomb. Icis had taught it to him, a power only available to those who used what they called the True Force, explained by the Elfodd Contingency that they had studied. Slowly the energy seeped into his body, filling him with life and energy he'd never before known. He stood with his arms outstretched to the sky, oblivious to the commotion going on around him. Then the air around him began to ripple and shimmer. "Yes..." he whispered. "The energy is gathering..." He glanced as Icis, who was gathering his own energy, as well.
Above, he could feel Malphunoc's power increasing, ready to turn the repulsor on itself and shake the planet to pieces. Xar wasn't going to let that happen.

"Wha... What's happening?" Malphunoc stuttered, audible to the two Jediís enhanced hearing.

Then, in an instant, Xar's body we enveloped in a white glow of Force energy. "Good. Now, for the Focus Bomb..." Drawing upon all his ability and knowledge in the Force, he focused the energy down into his right hand. Then the energy shot up from his palm, drawing and coalescing together into a ball of energy. And suddenly, with a snap like a miniature bolt of lightning, there it was. A ball of intense and focused energy hovering above his hand, brighter than the sun. He looked over across the roof at Icis. The man was concentrating. Then suddenly he too held a Focus Bomb, not quite as large as Xar's but strong enough nevertheless. The two Jedi exchanged nods.
"It's time..." Xar said, surprisingly calm.

And at that instant Malphunoc reached his full power. "Your struggle is pointless! Now you die!!" he shouted down at them.

"NOW!" Xar shouted. Rearing back, he threw the ball upwards, accelerating of its own accord. Across the roof Icis did the same, and the two bolts sped upwards towards their target, right on course.

"Never!!" Malphunoc screamed. "You think your puny attacks can harm me!?" Extending his arms downward toward the incoming bolts of energy, he opened his hands wide, the gauntlets pulsing with energy. Twin blasts of energy shot out of his hands, unmoving him, but coursing down to meet the balls in an instant. His blasts struck the Focus Bombs, enveloping them. But something went wrong. The blast were being pushed back! Malphunoc poured all his power into it, his body straining with effort. But his unfocused blasts could not hamper the intense balls of energy streaking towards him. Two explosions lit the air where his blasts met the Focus Bombs. Malphunoc smiled.
Then instantly his smile turned into a mask of horror as the two Focus Bombs emerged from the explosion, driving through the last of his energy blast, and stuck his hands. Instantly his arms were icinerated by their intense energies, the gauntlets simply exploding on contact. Then the blasts struck his body.

Xar and Icis turned away as Malphunoc was turned into a living star. A high-pitched, ear-shattering alien scream pierced the air. Malphnunoc's body was converted into a shadowy-thin black and white outline of himself, stretched severely out of proportion. The unbelievable energies must have caused him incredible agony for the moment more that he was alive. Malphunoc's meager Force powers, especially without the gauntlets, were no where near enough to absorb or deflect the energy of a Focus Bomb, much less two of them. Malphunoc disintegrated, the Force energies inside of him exploded outward in a blast that lit up the sky.
The twin Focus bombs, their power unspent, continued on through the explosion, passing one another and continuing on into the sky, where they finaly detonated in blasts of fire and light.

Xar and Icis finally looked back up, gazing at the giant X in the sky, the mid-point being the spot where Malphunoc had died.

"It's over..." Xar sighed. Abruptly his knees buckled underneath him, and he collapsed to the rooftop, barely holding himself on his hands and knees. Icis came over to his side to help him. Around them, Jedi were coming out of there hiding places, marveling at the sight in the sky of Varnus. They marveled, also, at the strange cone shape jutting a hundred meters into the sky eastward, visible even from here on this cloudless day. The rumbling had stopped, and the repulsor was once again at rest. But the device was now surfaced, destined to be a visible monument of Varnus' ancient origins.
"No more secrets now, Icis," Xar sighed. "Looks like everyone knows about the True Force now. The entire city just saw. And as for that thing..."

"Yes, but I wonder... Who else saw these events, and knows what transpired?" Icis mused to himself, the last bit too low for Xar to pick up.

Then suddenly cheers of joy and elation erupted from the Jedi, spreading out to encompass the Palace, and then the entire city. The crisis was over and Varnus was saved. A celebration was about to begin...

 

(by Xar)

 

Nearly the entire Jedi Division was present in the crowded Chapel for the wedding of Kiz Thrakus and Lorien Kal.
Dr. Jemas Fernel, Palace Chaplain, stood before the happy couple and held the proceedings. Thrakus had cleaned up pretty well, in his white tuxedo, and Lorien was resplendent in a gorgeous white dress embroidered in silver. The two looked happier than ever before to Xar, who stood at the side. Thrakus had asked him to be his best man, and Xar couldn't refuse his good friend. Still, he felt a pang of hurt as he watched the two, finding in himself a sense of loneliness, something he'd felt ever since losing his own betrothed, though the pain was harsher now.
Chaplain Fernel conducted a splendid ceremony, and shortly thereafter the I do's were exchanged as well as the rings. Finally he spoke the age-old words: "...I now pronounce you man and wife." A short but passionate kiss later and the happy couple were making their way back down the aisle.


Later on, at the ceremony, a sense of joy and happiness filled the Grand Hall, as hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the first wedding of one of the Council members since the rebuilding of the palace. It was a joyous occasion, and a first for Xar, really. Surprisingly, he caught the bouquet, and a jibe was made that he'd used the Force to retrieve it and be the next person to get married. The whole room erupted in laughter.

Xar exchanged a few words with the bride and groom, whispering something that made their eyes widen and elicit a gasp from both. Xar didn't want everyone to know about it, but he'd bought them a fabulous honeymoon cruise on the famous luxuryliner Galactica, which would carry them on a tour of the different wonders of the galaxy, including Maw Cluster and the Flamewind of Oseon, which was about to occur again. Thrakus' eyes also widened the more at the increase in commission Xar whispered to him.
They thanked him graciously, and he wished them a long, happy life together and a great honeymoon, then let them to the other guests. He made his way over to the entrance and stood out of the way, where he could watch people. He hadn't seen everyone gathered like this since the founding of the NI nearly two years before. Not surprisingly, Icis Novitaar was nowhere to be seen. But everyone else seemed to be present. Bren, the Jedi they'd recovered from stasis, had recovered from his injuries and was congratulating the happy couple very sincerely. Rynn Mariel, who'd proven herself in the last mission, was dressed in a gorgeous, low-cut green dress that matched her eyes, and accented the braided red hair that trailed down her back.
Astonishingly, a tuxedo had been found for the massive Attrid Xoan, even with the robotic right arm he now had. The impressive black man had apparently given up his serious attitude this evening, and was enjoying the festivities. Draken AríKell and Omega Kira were present as well, recently released from sickbay from injuries, and Alyx ďVampĒ Misnera didn't look nearly as irritated by the burns he'd recieved as he had two months before. Everything seemed to be going great, except... A part of him wished he could have what Thrakus and Lorien now shared.

"Your turn isn't far off," a strangely familiar voice sounded in his head. The voice of his father, a voice he hadn't heard in almost ten years. Xar spun around, looking for the source of the voice, but found nothing. "Father?" he asked aloud. No answer. As he turned, he came face to face with two Jedi in their robes, dressed and looking ready to leave. They had an important mission ahead.
Xar nodded to the two men, who pulled back their hoods. "Everything ready?"

The one on the right nodded his grey-haired head. "We are ready to depart," former Academy Dean Osiris said smoothly. Beside him, a younger man nodded, and it took a moment for Xar to recognize Vynd Archaron, the real Delta 1, without the wild, unkempt hair and stubble of a beard and mustache he'd had when returning from Dathomir, where he'd actually been the past year and a half. He looked frighteningly close to how Malphunoc, the Morphionis, had looked as the imposter.

"So," Xar sighed, "You are going to look for Kurt, then?"

Both men nodded again. "I think finding my successor is vitally important," Vynd responded. "As is bringing him back to our side, and finding who or what turned him from us." He glanced down uncertainly. "I'm no good to you here, anyway. I've been out of the loop for a year and a half. I need to check on some things, and Osiris has promised to help me out."

"I understand. Still, losing two Council members is going to make it tough."

"I'm sure you will find suitable replacements while we are away," Osiris said confidently. "There are many up to the task. And Marc Iver has returned to assist you as Keeper of Chronicles. I think you will do well in our absence. With luck, and the Force, we will be back within a few months, with some interesting findings, and answers to our many questions."

"Yes, and I still have a lot to catch up on," Archaron added with a smile as Fenora moved around from behind him to take his arm.

"Then may the Force be with you," Xar said solemnly. "My friends."

The three Jedi bowed, and Vynd, Fenora, and Osiris turned and made their way off down the hall, through the palace toward the landing fields. Xar turned back in silent contemplation, his mind traversing to a dozen different issues and possibilities. He barely noticed people calling his name at first, then looked up, realising with dread that it was speech time. Condescendingly he moved to the middle of the Grand Hall to make his address.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, brothers and sisters in the Force, I thank you for attending this most momentous and joyous occasion. Tonight we celebrate a great victory, a Varnus saved from complete destruction, and the birth of a new period for the Jedi and the New Imperium. My most sincere congratulations go the the bride and groom of tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Kiz Thrakus."

A round of applause took hold, and Xar waited for it to die before continuing.

"Also, for their great work and sacrifice in helping to save our planet, I would like to award all the following officers the Literary Scroll, a new medal, for their work during this crisis: Deputy Grand Master Mathis Organa, Walt Amason, Warden Vynd Archaron, Jacob ďJinxĒ Skipper, Vern Merlin, Omega Kira, Draken AríKell, and Quaestor Thrakus."
A round of raucous applause and laughter reverberated around the room. Xar joined in with the laughter, and applauded the fine Jedi who had made additions to the story. Then, when the room quieted again, he spoke.

"Ahead is a new and exciting time for us. I sense many great things ahead. I thank you all for you time and help in making this such a great organization, and I urge you to continue in your faithful service to the Jedi and to the New Imperium. Good night, all of you, and may the Force be with you!"

 

 

The End of

The SoH Runon: The Clandestine Conflict

 

But the story will continue soon...

Do not Miss "Glimpse of Shadows" the prequel to this story, and the sequel, ďThe ReturnĒ

Edited by Joshua Ausley

a.k.a. Xar ďSauronĒ Kerensky

Copyright New Imperium 2005