With the Station saved and the danger past, Cortree Tincove took his time repairing the Jedi Training Ship, The Crucible. He felt an old love tingle through him as he reconfigured broken pieces into working order.
Digging up this old bird on Raxus Prime had changed the fringer’s life, taken Cortree out of the Outer Rim and into a wider galaxy. The ship continued to teach him how to build better machines and how to feel what they needed to work. But, most folks didn’t feel how something should work. Cortree’s Jedi allies called it, “Mechu-Deru.” Cortree called it, “Just fixin’ things.”
Regardless, the old bird would need Cortree to keep her tip top for what she was about to do.
As Cortree worked, Jaden Windu and Gisaku Saberota stood in the poured over the information they had on the planet, Durace. Over the course of several hours, Jaden managed to find a landing site on the planet and a possible route through the chaotic ion storms that plagued the world.
Saberota worked to follow his own investigation, but he continued to be distracted by the situation. The whole planet pulsed with the Dark Side of The Force and with his own memories of the lost world Cassandra’s Hope. His attempts to find paths through the storms and to safety met with failure. After a few hours, the conclusion of both Jedi was clear. They would have to fly directly though the storms to reach the surface.
“That should do it.” Cortree said, closing a hatch. He pressed a button to restart the engines. The engines let out a high-pitched putter and died a moment later. Cortree slammed his fist on the wall and the engines sprang to life again. He smiled and continued his check.
The ship’s systems restarted throughout the ship, brighting up the displays and the Jedi scrutinizing them. Cortree emerged from the engine room to see Saberota and Jaden still at their work.
Saberota looked to Cortree, “Good work. Are we online?”
“The ship’s as ready as she’ll ever be.” Cortree said.
“We should go now,” Jaden said, “According to the scans, the Storms will be at their lightest for the next few hours in ten minutes.“
“Alright then,” Cortree said as he sat in the captain’s chair, “Strap in Master Jedis, the Chronometer is tickin’.”
Within moments the Crucible left the station’s docks and flew towards the surface of Durace.
As they approached the outer atmosphere, Jaden manned the Systems console and Saberota sat in the Co-Pilot’s seat.
“Redirecting shields to counter the storms.” Jaden said, referring back to his previous calculations.
Cortree tightened his grip on the steering sticks. The displays indicated the danger to come and warned him to turn away. Cortree was a brave soul, but he had never stared down a Class IV Ion Storm before.
Cortree said, “Are you sure we can do this?”
Saberota placed a cold cyborg hand on the fringer’s shoulder. The Cyborg spoke calmly in his mechanically annunciated voice.
“Cortree Tincove, your piloting and Jaden’s intellect are amongst the galaxy’s greatest and in my experience there is no obstacle such a combination cannot over come. We can do this because we must do this. We must free ourselves of fear, doubt and disbelief for the good of the galaxy. The Force will guide us through this storm. The Force is with us.”
Cortree took a breath and his nervousness subsided.
“Okay then,“ Cortree said with new energy, “Atmo is gunna be bumpy. But I’ll just go with the flow…”
The ship angled down and began to shake as it entered the stratosphere. The motion of the storm forced the Crucible aside and Cortree moved the ship with the turbulence. He used it to gather momentum and burn it off.
The ship’s sensors flashed as Jaden gathered data on the Ion Storm.
Saberota looked over the scopes and plotted an updated course through the storm.
The pair of Jedi spoke rapidly to Cortree from two directions with course and data.
“45 Degrees to port!”
“Windshear increasing by 15% Bank Starboard, bank starboard!”
“MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!”
Cortree tried to use the conflicting data the best he could and just went with the flow…just in time for the ship to be hit by a bolt of lightning from the massive storms. The planet almost seemed like it was alive. And it did not want them to land.
“Ship’s takin’ damage!” Cortree shouted as alarms klaxoned and sparks sprang from the consoles.
“Ionizing our exhaust! That should attract the Lightning.” Jaden said, typing commands into the console.
The Ship moved past the clouds and the surface of Durace came into view. The planet had once had colonies, but the storms had destroyed those hopes. The surface structures ravaged by rogue energy. The geodesic domes shattered by winds and debris.
“General, there should be a landin’ beacon on the surface. You need to find it. ”
Saberota reached out for the Force to guide him, but all he felt was…chaos. The rage of an entire world trying to take the craft from the sky.
Static from the storm reached out and slammed into the ship. The Navigation console flickered before Saberota as the ion storm’s energy coursed through the ship.
The console sparked and static hit the general, coursing through his vulnerable Cyborg body. His respirator sped up his wheeze…and his anger.
This rage, this maw of a world would devour them. Like Cassandra’s Hope. Like the Clone Wars…
“Not again. Never Again!”
The old General clinched his fist tightly as he reached for something, anything beyond himself to aid them. He found something. Something old and powerful. Something easy.
His own darkness…
General Saberota punched the nav console and grunted in frustration. The console solidified into a new image.
“There it is, the beacon!” Saberota said, pointing a bunker below out to Cortree, “Rerouting unessential power to the engines!”
“Nice one, General.” Cortree said, “hang on!”
Cortree spotted the foundations blocked by a mountain range and moved the ship to use it as cover against the wind. The Ship was never meant to go that fast, but with Jaden newest course calculations not providing solutions, Cortree just went with it. He used the power to fly a steady course through the husks of the civilization and fly directly to the waiting bunker they sought.
Once inside the Bunker’s open doors, the winds and static disappeared. The mountain and the remaining systems shielded them. Cortree carefully reduced speed and smoothly brought them into a landing. As the ship touched down, the bunker’s automated systems revved up and the dock’s elevator began to lower.
According to Jaden’s research, the Bunker was an automated archaeological survey station. Originally dropped from orbit, construction droids had dug out a piece of the mountain and expanded the bunker into a wider area beneath the surface. But, the bunker was now abandoned. The facility’s droid caretakers were the only inhabitants, still dutifully carrying out their programming to maintain the station despite all life fleeing.
The hanger’s droids emerge from their charging stations and approach the waiting ship.
Inside the Crucible, Jaden carried a datapad into the main lounge where the others were gathered.
“I tried to plot a course through the mountains, but the storms are too heavy.” Jaden said.
“No matta,” Cortree said, forcing a boot into place, “Still a six hour drive in the hovertruck.”
Saberota stood up in the spacesuit he had been strapped into to protect his cyborg body from the ionization of the storms. He looked at Jaden through the domed transparisteel helmet.
“The Force is still with us.“
The ship’s cargo bay opened and a hovertruck emerged, Cortree hanging his head out the window momentarily.
Cortree drew the attention of all of the maintenance droids on instinct. They all looked to him as the hovertruck passed by slowly.
“Run a full repair sequence please, “ Cortree politely asked the droids with utter confidence, “Make her look good as new when we get back.”
“Dokey okey.” The foreman droids said in unison as they passed, impressed at the Fringer’s friendliness. That and for having their first task a long time.
The hovertruck accelerated and moved through the halls and onto the surface of Durace. They moved slowly in the hovertruck, hiding from the ion storms as best they could. They parked in alcoves that dotted the landscape, built by droids to protect inhabitants from the storms.
After six hours, the hovertruck came to a stop in an alcove sitting before the road to the ship.
The trio disembarked and stared at their destination. Rain poured down on the old ship. It was red, u-shaped and partially buried beneath the muddy surface.
Cortree examined the craft through macrobinoculars. “Old ship. Looks intact.”
“First we have to get to it.” Saberota said, walking forward in the spacesuit.
The trio trekked through the rocky expanse. The winds had stripped the soil and scourged the rocks of the adjacent cliffs. The rains poured down relentelessly.
Jaden looks down at his datapad, directing their path through the rocks toward the ship.
As a static cloud rolled towards them, Jaden motioned and the three took cover. The static passed by like a stalking presence guarding its nest.
The trio continued their journey, pushing themselves forwards as the winds picked up.
“What’s that?” Cortree said, looking up to the distance.
There was a cloud, not of wind or electricity, but of…things. They were flat and slimy and fluttered like strips of paper in the winds towards the Jedi.
As they came into sight, the creatures reminded Jaden of anti-bodies or more specifically T-Cells.
Jaden reached for his lightsaber for he new what T-Cells did to invaders.
“Heads up!” Jaden said as he ignited his purple blade of energy and started swatting the creatures away.
The creatures flew in at speed and latched on. Their digestive juices sizzled as they contacted clothing.
Cortree pulled out his Heavy Blaster and shot them out of the air like romp rats on Raxus Prime. Saberota was too slow to find his lightsaber, so he just punched the things as they tried to devour him. He pried off one that had latched on with brute strength and threw it into the wind. A large one approached and he headbutted it away, forcing others away in response.
The cloud passed and the trio continued.
They reached the ridge the Ship sat upon and finally got a good look at the craft.
Cortree gave the craft a good look.
“No doubt. Core Galaxy Systems Dynamic-Class Freighter Cortree said, amused with the find, “Classic.”
“Classic?” Jaden asked.
“Popular like…5000 years ago. Reliable. Fast. Good for gettin’ places and haulin’ goods. I think I might keep this one.“
“We’ll see.” Saberota said.
The trio made a circuit around the ship, looking over the exposed surface. Most of the ship lay buried in the mud and rock, water pounding all of over it.
Cortree pointed to advice on top of its exposed end, “Pump workin’ overtime. Looks to be taking on water. Original survey team must have set it up.”
The trio moved to the exposed starboard side of the ship. They climbed through the shattered cockpit window.
“Did it shatter on impact?” Saberota asked.
“Negative,“ Jaden said, picking up a piece of transparisteel with a burned edge, “Blown out by a blaster.”
Saberota hit a control nob and activated a lamp in the crown of the spacesuit’s helmet. The light immediately illuminated the skeleton in the pilot’s seat. Jaden motioned, carefully pointing out forensic details. The bones showed that the throat had been slashed by a blade both cauterizing and sharp. A Heavy Blaster lay in pieces near the body, cut by an identical weapon. A familiar weapon.
“An Assassin Droid killed the pilot in his seat. The struggle was probably what shot out the window…” Jaden concluded.
The trio moved through the ship cautiously, sweeping over the area with glowlamps. The ship’s communication consoles were all cut up. As they moved through the ship they found more cut up bones. In the Medical bay they found a cut up Medical droid as well as other dead crewmembers.
The trio moved through the water damaged common areas and towards the engine room. As they approached, Saberota sensed… dread. The door lay on its side, busted down with great force. His light passed over a familiar sight. His breathing slowed as he stood still.
It was a pod. A medical stasis pod.
“Hey, that looks like the kind of pod we found the General in.” Cortree said, looking closer.
“You’re right.” Jaden said, “Same design. Same model.”
The light passed over the front window and Saberota shuttered. He grabbed the wall and crushed the door frame with his colossal strength.
Inside the pod was a cyborg. The exact same cybernetic systems Saberota had.
“What… What is that?” Saberota asked, “It looks like…my body.”
Cortree gasped, “Infinite abyss. Same design and not as well put together, but it looks more advanced.”
“Is he still alive?” Saberota asked.
Jaden pointed to the unmistakable cut of a lightsaber blade in the side of the pod, “No. This one’s dead.”
“What’s that?” Cortree asked, indicating the back of the engine room.
Wires flowed from the life support computer to the engine. A power cable flowed from the engine. Saberota followed the cables out the door, around the corner and into the Cargo Hold.
His light found a skeleton against the wall. A lightsaber rested in its bony hand. Jaden pried bones away to pick up the lightsaber and examine it carefully.
“Design suggests this Jedi was from Dantooine.” Jaden said, placing the lightsaber into a pouch for safe keeping, “We should ask about this further back at the Temple.”
The headlamp moved to the power cord along the floor, which ended in the head of an ancient war droid lying against the wall. The droid appeared disabled and sat in a pool of water.
“It’s dead thankfully, “ Cortree said, examining the droid, “But that jury rig it did would preserve its memory banks.”
“After 5000 years?” Jaden asked.
“Maybe.” Cortree confirmed.
“Let’s check the rest of the ship.” Saberota said.
They passed the major water logged areas of the ship. A makeshift pump worked furiously on the water coming into the airlock. If they opened it, it would flood the ship.
The trio reached the Starboard dormitory and found another skeleton inside. Killed in bed. Saberota’s gaze founds itself drawn not to the skeleton, but to the trunk in front of it. The trunk was open and inside the headlamp illuminated a pair of objects. The first was a Medallion of Stone in the shaped of the Infinite Empire’s symbol. Jaden examined the object and put it into a protective pouch.
The second was what got Saberota’s attention. It was a metal case about two feet wide. From a few feet away it felt cold and dark and full of hate…
“Don’t touch the case!” Saberota warned, shining his light on it “I sense the Dark Side within it.”
Jaden examined the case and punched up some data from his datapad.
“This is a Jedi dangerous materials carrying case.” Jaden said, “For a holocron.”
“Holocron?” Cortree asked, “You mean a Holographic Chronicle? One of them memory devices?”
“Precisely,“ Jaden replied.
“Why’d they put it in a box like that?”
“Because this Holocron is of the Dark Side.” Saberota said, “We must not let it fall into the wrong hands.”
The two Jedi were about to keep talking when they stopped simultaneously.
“I sensed it too.” Jaden said.
“A Speederbike.” Saberota said.
Jaden grabbed the case and carefully put it into his pack. Cortree readied his blaster and Saberota readied his Lightsaber.
The trio cautiously moved back to the shattered cockpit. In the distance, they spotted a Republic Army Unit led by none other than Jedi Master Garek Malon.
“Jaden Windu, Gisaku Saberota, Cortree Tincove,” Master Malon boomed, “throw out your weapons and surrender.”
Jaden threw out his lightsaber and Cortree his blaster.
“We are salvaging artifacts from this craft,” Saberota said, projecting is augmented voice like a loudspeaker, “Leave us be and we’ll be on our way. There is no need for unnecessary violence.”
“Unnecessary violence? Do you have any idea what you have done?”
“We have stopped information about Dark Side artifacts from falling into the wrong hands.”
“An Imperial Star Destroyer entered Republic Space and assaulted a Republic Space Station! We are on the brink of war!” Master Malon said.
“We can settle this peacefully. We have only done what needs to be done.” Saberota said.
“We cannot do as we wish because we think it is right. We must do as the Council wills!”
Saberota clenched his fists as echoes from the rage before echoed inside of him along side memories of before.
“You mean have us be hermits? To live as monks in the highest peaks of the most remote worlds in the galaxy and pretend that the problems of the Republic will go away if we ignore them? To train in battles never to be fought, to construct lightsabers never to used for protection, to seek the secrets of the Force and never use them for the good of the people? To do nothing as the galaxy chokes itself death?”
“Jedi are not soldiers, General!”
Saberota controlled his breathing and with an act of will chose to not give into his anger.
“You are right, Master Malon. I can remember a time before… before all of this. In the Old Republic I remember, Jedi Knights were not hermits or monks on the fringes of society. We were more than the Guardians of Peace and Justice. We were leaders and teachers setting an example for the rest of the Galaxy… guided not by politics or personal agenda but by the power of The Force.” Gisaku Saberota said
“Strong words…But they will not stop my mission. You will…” Master Malon said only to be cut off by heaven-splitting BOOM. He looked to the ground in confusion as darkness seemed to spread across the land.
All of the people involved looked up to the largest Starship they had ever seen and it made their brains pause for a moment. It was massive. A Dreadnought. So big it was blotting out the sun. Bigger than the Empire’s infamous Super Star Destroyers. A Pyramid floating in space had appeared out of nowhere. Through macrobinoculars it looked to made of Light and Stone. In orbit, it made the Republic Star Cruiser look like a fly.
Master Galon’s comm activated for an emergency signal from Malon’s capital ship, the Emancipator.
“Master Malon, what the hell is that? It came out of nowhere! What…” The Captain of the Emancipator cut off at the same time as the sky was lit by an explosion far, far, far above the the atmosphere of Durace.
The parties on the ground stared in silence as a smaller craft descended from the pyramid. The ion storms subsided and just seemed to die off as the tine ship grew closer. When the ship was struck by the lightning it seemed to somehow absorb the energy. The winds stopped entirely. All was quiet.
“Lieutenant Katarn,“ Saberota broke the silence, shouting to the commander of the Republic troops, “I suggest you take cover and make ready for an assault.”
“You heard the general! Move! Move! Move!” Rast Katarn shouted to his troops, spurring them into motion.
Saberota turned to Cortree, “Get the Droid’s head!”
“Right!” Cortree said, running down the hall. He pulled out his tools with practiced motions, ready to remove the droid’s memory core in two minutes flat…
Except that he found the Droid where they had left it with its head already missing. Cut off with fresh marks like the ones all over the dead people and machines on the ship. The kind from razor… sharp… claws.
“Not good! Not good!” Cortree shouted, drawing his blaster.
The Jedi and Cortree rallied to Master Malon, taking cover as the craft descended. The shuttle-sized ship was unlike anything any of them had ever encountered. Like the Dreadnought above it looked of made not of metal or plastics, but of stone and white light.
The ship came to a stop on a ridge above the Jedi. There was no landing apparatus or anything conventional about the craft. A hole merely opened in the front of the craft.
Out of the the craft came the woman from before. Selan Mela’s attendant…Ecalia Rowan. Behind her, a mass of Cultists in robe-like garb pulled a stasis pod like the one in the ship below with them.
“Master Jedi, I come before you as an envoy for the Infinite Empire! “ Ecalia said in a sultry voice tinged with madness, “Surrender now and submit…”
Master Malon left his robe fall to the ground to ease his movement as he drew his lightsaber, “Jedi Knights do not submit.” He ignited his Blue blade alongside Jadens Purple and Saberota’s Green.
“Take them!” Ecalia said, lighting her own Red Lightsaber, “Release The Hound!”
She crouched and made Force-assisted leap towards them. Her saber met Master Malon’s and the pair clashed.
At the same time, Cultists appeared out of the shadows all around the Jedi and ran at them with Vibroblades in hand. The Cultists nearest to the Pod began to toggle controls on its side.
Saberota tried to aid Master Malon, but the Master was a WARRIOR BORN and refused to employ Saberota’s suggestions. Galek descended mentally into the primal fury of Vaapad and went after Ecalia with astounding speed. But Ecalia was just as fast and nimbly parried the blows of both Jedi.
Jaden used his Lightsaber to fend off the cultists as he ran towards the stasis pod. He could feel the dark side from within it, even from this far away. He knew that whatever was inside mustn’t be released.
Cortree barely dodged out of the way of the vibroblades as the cultists came for him. He tested to see if the Cultists were Jedi or Sith by blasting them with his Heavy Blaster. Their Vibroblades didn’t deflect the bolts and they fell.
Saberota broke off from Ecalia and faced a pair of Cultists. The General was more highly skilled in melee and physically stronger, but the cultists were much faster. His swings were met with dodges and rolls. Their stabs were met with armor and Saberota’s mighty fists and brute strength.
Jaden cut down the last cultist on him and force leaped up to the ridge.
Lieutenant Rast Katarn and his troops used their seasoned fire discipline to mow down the Cultists that came for them despite their acrobatic nonsense. When he down the ones coming for him, he set his men to the ones on Saberota.
“Protect the Jedi!” Katarn shouted, firing his blaster carbine at the cultists.
The cultists fell as the nearby battle between Ecalia and Master Malon intensified. The pair of master swordsmen cross blades and screamed furiously.
Jaden’s strikes cut down the cultists working on the pod just as the last command was punched in. The Pod hissed and steam released. The hatch opened and a giant emerged shrouded by the concealing fog…
He was seven feet tall, a cyborg of the same technology as Saberota, wore a black hood and reeked of the Dark Side of The Force. The only distinguishing mark upon him was the Aubresh letter Aurek above his right eye. He looked to his master, Ecalia .
Ecalia flipped up and kicked off of Master Malon, landing next to the cyborg.
“My Hound, show them the Power of the Dark Side!” Ecalia shouted.
Aurek raised a hand and the atmosphere around him coalesced in invisible Power. He grunted and a ball of pure force flew into the side of the mountain. The Ground shook as the avalanche of rock began. Boulders came down all around the Republic soldiers and the Jedi.
Garek Malon dropped his lightsaber and reached out with the Force, creating a bubble around himself and the soldiers and slowing the onslaught as best he could.
“Go!” He shouted to Saberota who moved as fast as his slow body could take him.
Ecalia attacked Jaden in a flurry of acrobatic Ataru strikes. Jaden only survived by using fundamental Saber Techniques. He leaped backwards, landing atop the stone craft.
Unseen by her, Cortree took aim at the Force Witch, waited for his moment and fired. His blaster bolt took her in the side, opening up her defense long enough for Jaden to leap over her and slash her across the belly. She grasped her wound, screeched and fell to one knee gasping for breath.
“Kill them, Hound!” Ecalia screeched.
Aurek ignited a Red Lightsaber, Stalking towards Jaden.
Saberota pressed a few buttons through the space suit, on the front of his Cyborg body. He overcharged his servos for a split second, his breath pausing as he leaped as far as he could, landing in a crash on the ridge before the Hound.
Aurek The Hound and the General clashed with equal strength and similar fighting style. But the hound seemed more at home with his body than the General. He stabbed Saberota in the belly, causing the body to spark.
Saberota, though was ready to go the distance and readied a swing.
Then a fleet of strange starships appeared in the skies above from Hyperspace.
Commlinks came to life for the emergency hail. The hologram of a blue-skinned, red-eyed humanoid alien addressed them.
“This is Captain Varm’nus’armu of the Chiss Ascendancy. Leave this area immediately.“
“Hound! Droid!” Ecalia shouted.
Aurek leapt over Saberota and grabbed his master. The Stone and Light Shuttle took off and the Hound leaped into its open hatch. Right behind him, came the Assassin Droid from Raxus Prime, carrying the head of its brethren. A massive energy blast came down from orbit completely obliterating the ancient crash site and the old ship.
The shuttle docked with the Pyramid and then, just as fast as it appeared…it vanished from space with a loud boom.