On the outer edge of the Coruscant star system there is a little known moon in orbit around a gas giant. On that moon, called Vitellius, lies a small and ancient temple built long ago by the Jedi. For centuries they used the moon as a sacred spot for meditation as the spectacle of its tidally locked orbit around the gas giant provided a magnificent and peaceful backdrop. This was especially important during the Clone Wars when so many Jedi found themselves faced with the impossible situation of holding to their Jedi values in the face of a brutal war. Jedi General Saberota himself had visited the moon on two occasions during that seemingly unending conflict and managed to find solace there after grueling campaigns against Seperatist forces on Telos and Lothal. After Palpatine's Empire rose from the ashes of the Old Republic the site had been converted to an early warning outpost because of it's location on the outer edge of the system. It also served as a training facility for the Emperor's most valued spies. Recently the ancient temple had been given back to the Jedi order by Senator Graal Sexton in exchange for the political support of Grand Master Veshraan.
After weeks of being grilled by the Galactic Senate General Saberota found his time spent there in deep meditation invaluable as he struggled to reach the inner peace that had eluded him since he had been revived from his long hibernation. The inquiries of the Senate Subcommittee on the Jedi Order, led by Senator Sexton, had left the cyborg with many questions. Questions that he did not have easy answers for. As he finally achieved his center despite the rasping hiss of his respirator he was interrupted by visitors.
"Galen Argyus, my friend. Welcome to Vitelius," Saberota said without opening his eyes or getting up. "Where is Jaden Windu?"
"Greetings, Master," Galen Argyus said bowing respectfully to the old General. "Jaden was asked to remain on Coruscant to consult with "Master T'ket in the Archives. It seems that there is much to learn from the Temples we found on Tython.
"I had heard you were successful in finding the birthplace of the Jedi. It is all anyone is talking about of late. It is a fine achievement for all Jedi and I want to hear all about it. But first I believe introductions are in order. Who is this at your side?"
"Master, may I present Leoni Venusia, my new padawan." The Jedi General got up from his crossed legged position at this and bowed to the young padawan. He held the bow, waiting for her to offer her respect in turn. But the young lady was gazing in wonder at the spectacle of the gas giant that the moon orbited through the window.
"Leoni," Galen, aghast, whispered, trying to catch his distracted student's attention.
"Wha…? Oh! Sorry, Masters. Puh…please," she stuttered hastily bowing deeply to the general, "I meant no offense, General."
"No offense was taken, young padawan," the General said with a gentle smile. "I recall having a similar reaction my first time here. Although I am sure your master would ask you to be more mindful of your surroundings," he added with a nod to Galen.
"Galen, I see you are carrying a second lightsaber. I hope the pointers I gave you were of service."
"They were indeed, Master. Without your advice I am not sure I ever would have mastered Jar'Kai," Galen said.
"You are an excellent swordsman, young Jedi," said the old general, "I am sure you would have managed just fine on your own. Captain Tincove, it is good to see you as well. I must admit that my cybernetic systems have suffered without your mechanical genius."
"Howdy, General," said the fringer clasping arms with the Jedi. "I reckon I could do some diagnostics for you when you have time."
"Excellent," said the old Jedi with a genuine smile. "And now, Galen, I sense you have some questions for me. Please, I will answer to the best of my ability."
"Yes, Master Saberota. We discovered much on Tython. I hope that you might have some insights," Galen said. The Jedi began explaining what they had found on Tython during it's liberation from Imperial forces with Cortree and Leoni chiming in frequently. They spoke of finding cloning and cybernetics facilities and the horrid experiments that had been committed by the Imperials on the Jedi there. They also revealed that the Empire had managed to successfully clone several Jedi and SIth using the ancient technologies of the Infinite Empire's Rakata. Something that had never been achieved before.
"So clearly, General, the connections between you and the labs on Tython seems likely. So I have to ask, do you remember how you obtained your cybernetics? Or how you ended up in that cryotube?"
"No. I am sorry, Galen," the general said after a moment searching his memory. "All I remember is…pain. And fragments of a conversation between my former padawan and…Master Yoda? I…they spoke of…saving me? From what I do not kn…"
"Aaaaaah!" Cortree Tincove cried out suddenly interrupting the General's train of thought. His hands went to his ears drawing everyone's attention.
"Captain? Are you well?" asked Leoni with concern. The captain of the Crucible hunched over distressed.
"Can't y'all hear that? It's like something is screaming out in pain."
"I don't hear anything," the young woman said uncertainly. "Masters?"
"If Cor is the only one who senses it then I suspect that it must be tech related. His mastery of Mecha-deru makes him more sensitive to tech than almost any Jedi," said Saberota.
"Ahhh. Guh….something is happening. I hear a ship…it…it's crying out in pain. Someone has disrupted its systems. It isn't far from us and it is in great danger." At that moment his comlink began beeping insistently.
"Come," Saberota urged, "We can take the call in the main comms room." The small group quickly made their way down the halls to the comm room and Cortree began working at the main console. Within moments the holographic image of a New Republic Admiral appeared to them.
"This is Admiral Rotramel to Captain Cortree of the Crucible. Please come in. I say again this is Admiral Rotramel to the Crucible…"
"Admiral, this is General Saberota. What can we do for you today?"
"Thank the Force," exclaimed the young Mon Calamari Admiral. Rotramel was Admiral Ackbar's prize student and had a reputation as a brilliant tactician and leader. He had risen through the ranks quickly and was currently the commander of the combined Republic military.
"General, we have an emergency and you are the only ones who are in position to help. There is a damaged Chiss star cruiser that is hurtling toward the sun transmitting intermittent emergency codes. We don't know what is wrong with the ship nor what you will face there but there is a Chiss ambassador on board and we need you to make sure he is saved. Along with his ship if at all possible."
"Understood, Admiral. We will launch the Crucible immediately."
"Well, General, I hope y'all are well rested. Cause it looks like your vacation is at an end," Cor said wryly.
"There it is!" Captain Tincove exclaimed. "I finally picked it up on sensors and am locking on now. General Saberota's course was spot on. Galen you need to adjust heading .25 to starboard."
"Roger that," Galen said calmly, "Vectoring in for intercept, Leoni, give me more power to the thrusters. Things are about to get tricky and we don't have much time before we reach the sun."
"Look of the size of that thing!" Cor blurted. "It's bigger than a Bellator Class Battle Cruiser! Galen, I am picking up multiple escape pods coming from the ship. One of them is broadcasting a signal but it is in Chiss."
"This the Crucible to Coruscant Control. I am sending coordinates and sensor data for multiple escape pods. Please send rescue crews to pick them up."
"Ack..ow…….. ucible…." came the nearly unintelligible static-filled reply.
"Coruscant Control, do you read me? Over," Galen said.
"We must be too close to the sun's corona. It is interfering with the signal," Cor said. "I am sending the coordinates to the nearest comm satellite. They shouldn't have any problem sending help."
"Do you think our VIP is onboard one of the escape pods?" Leoni asked.
"Unclear. I am running the translation protocols now on the signal from that pod," said Saberota. There was a pause as the General, who was plugged directly into the Crucible's computer through his cybernetic systems concentrated for a moment.
"If I am understanding this correctly then the ship is called the Dire Guardian and is a warship in the Chiss Ascendancy. It is carrying an ambassador and the crew was unable to get to him because of systems failures before they were forced to abandon ship."
"It looks like we are going to have to board that ship ourselves then. Why can't things ever be easy?" Cortree sighed.
"But we don't have enough time to search that whole cruiser," Saberota pointed out. "I think I may have a solution," Captain Cortree said his fingers flying across the sensor console as he concentrated for a moment. The crew was silent knowing that he needed to focus. "It looks like the Chiss ship is running without power and heading right for the sun. We won't have much time to do anything. Tractor beams are useless this close to the star's corona so we will have to alter the ship's course by nudging it. If we can get enough power we can slingshot the ship around the sun and back toward Coruscant which will make recovery efforts much more likely."
"That's not possible. The Dire Guardian is far too bi…" Leoni began before Cor cut her off.
"Normally you'd be right. But I think I can slice into the Dire's systems and use it's emergency thrusters to give us just enough power to pull it off. But we will only get one shot at it. If it don't work then we probably won't even have time to search the ship. Fact is we will probably just burn up in the sun if we don't time it right."
Leoni gulped but said nothing as she managed to keep her emotions in check. Galen put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "We can't just let those people die without trying to help," he said his voice steady.
"All right," General Saberota agreed in his deep, heavily modulated and commanding voice, "It looks like we have to take that risk. Cor send Galen the course we need. Galen get us close enough to mate the ships. Hopefully we can use the Dire Guardian's own hull to provide us the protection we will need from the sun. It's going to get hot out there."
"Yes, sir!" The old general continued giving orders and the crew responded immediately getting ready for the dangerous task ahead. Galen, with Leoni acting as co-pilot, managed to fly the Crucible ahead of the Chiss cruiser and then flipped it end over end so they were both facing the same vector. He then fired retro-thrusters decelerating so quickly that the inertial dampeners couldn't fully compensate. Galen then fired the ship's main drive attempting to precisely match the target's velocity further taxing the dampeners.
Everything on board that wasn't tied down or secured flew to the ground with loud crashes throughout the ship. The ancient Jedi cruiser shuddered and shook as the Chiss warship quickly caught up. It was a tricky maneuver. Galen fought the controls to get them into position as the ship bucked and shuddered in the turbulent space near the star.
As they reached the shelter of the Chiss ship's wake the shaking dropped to nearly nothing. Galen nested the Crucible up against the lee of the larger ship next to a maintenance hatch at Cor's direction. The Fringer mated the two ships and spotted something disturbing.
"That's not good," Cor said. "It looks like the damage to the ship's comms array was internal. It had to be sabotage."
"Sabotage!" Saberota exclaimed. "That certainly makes things more interesting. Cor, see if you can match the Crucible's computer with the Guardian's."
"On it! I have a link and with emergency access. That should be enough to get the thrusters online. Galen you will need to fire the engines on a maximum burn on my mark. Brace yourselves! This is going to be a rough ride!"
"Hit it!!!" Galen slammed the throttle to maximum as Cor did the same with the Dire's engines. The mated ships strained and shuddered against the sun's unrelenting gravity. The Crucible's engines howled as they struggled to alter the course of the massive starship. The whole ship convulsed as if alive and the crew was thrown violently against their restraints.
"She can't take much more of this!" Galen shouted over the noise as his panels lit up with red alarms. "The engines are going to blow!"
"Steady! Just a few more seconds! Now! Cut power!"
The silence was deafening. The crew sat quietly for a moment stunned at the sudden change.
"Did it work, master?" Leoni queried.
"Not sure. Cor? General? Did we do it?"
"Hold on. I am running calculations now….I….I think so. Yes. Yes, we did it! We are on course to sling shot around the sun and back toward Coruscant."
"I am almost in, general. Just a few more seconds," Cortree Tincove said as he worked furiously with a plasma torch on the sheltered maintenance access hatch.
The cyborg general stood over the Fringer shielding him from the sun's fury as much as he could with his massive, space suited form. They were still perilously close to the star and the radiation and heat would have been lethal without the Crucible's shields. Galen had extended them to cover the passage between the two ships. Galen and his apprentice were fitted out in EVA suits while waiting for the all clear to make their way across and into the Dire Guardian.
They all knew immediately that Cor had cut through the lock when the chamber on the other side decompressed suddenly venting atmosphere into space.
"Let's go!" Galen called out to his reluctant apprentice. The two made their way across and into the airlock chamber that Cor had just opened.
When all of them were aboard the General closed the hatch as best he could behind them with his cybernetic strength and Cor overrode the inner door's safety protocols so they could enter the ship. They all had to fight against the howling winds of decompression as atmosphere vented into space.
Again the General shielded them with his body, his feet magnetically attached to the floor, standing like an unbending Wroshyr tree in a storm providing shelter for the others to fight their way aboard. Once they were all inside Cor shut the hatch and the roaring winds died down. Pressure quickly equalized in the small maintenance access way.
"It's all clear," Cor said taking off his helmet. "The atmosphere has stabilized."
The others removed their helmets as well and they were assailed by wailing sirens and announcements in what could only be the Chiss language.
"Na wrewgh ankevi – hwi a yll hwath dos dhe'n Benn-seythen Gernewek, mars owgh hwi skav!" a calm female voice intoned urgently.
"Anybody know what the ship is saying?" Galen inquired. "If we can translate it might help us find our passengers."
"Not sure," Saberota replied, "we might be far enough out from the sun's interference for me to reach Coruscant Control. Maybe they can provide a translation. Transmitting now. I've got them! Here we go. I have got a translation."
Speakers on the general's cybernetic systems began to play the translation sent back from Coruscant Control:
“This is not a drill, all hands abandon ship. Please make your way to the nearest life pod. I repeat. Abandon ship!”
That was when something strange happened. A console near the crew beeped and suddenly the loudspeakers in their immediate area began transmitting the announcements in Galactic Standard.
"That's handy," Cor said. "Pretty sophisticated algorithm for a ship's computer to adapt to the situation like that."
They moved down a large corridor that branched off in many directions. The ship's architecture was alien and highly sophisticated leaving them all feeling vaguely disoriented. They all knew that the ship was deserted. That it had been abandoned. They noticed maintenance work left undone here or there or food left uneaten on a tray as it looked like whatever had happened had interrupted them in the middle of their daily work routines. It was vaguely unsettling to be the only ones on such a large ship.
"Attention. Unauthorized visitors. Please abandon ship. This is not a drill. If you would like I can direct you to the nearest life pod."
Suddenly a blue line lit up on the floor leading off toward a bank of life pods. As they continued deeper into the ship the blue line kept changing, pointing out the nearest pods and pod doors opened to let them in. This went on for quite a while until the line vanished abruptly. The intruders jumped when the pod doors slammed shut all at once.
"Attention. Attention. Please remain calm. Evacuation is no longer recommended. New sensor readings indicate that radiation from the nearby star is too high for safe evacuation. Please find the nearest shielded compartment and wait for rescue.
A red line leading to a room with heavy blast doors. Ignoring the red line Saberota approached Cortree and said, "Captain I believe you are the most qualified to handle this. Perhaps you can talk to the ship and get it to help us."
"Maybe. I have never encountered Chiss tech before," he said hesitantly.
"Computer? Query: please lead us to the bridge."
"Access denied. You do not possess the proper clearance."
"Right. Should have guessed that. Computer, can you please direct us to any survivors?"
"Access denied. You do not possess the proper clearance."
"Ummm. Well how about you tell us where security is so we can check in and gather the proper access?"
"Access denied. The security crew has abandoned ship. You will be unable to gather the proper clearance."
"This is getting us nowhere," Galen said after a moments concentration, "and I can't feel anyone through the Force either. Cor, you know ship design and engineering better than anyone. Which way should we go?"
"Well, I reckon a ship this size would have a main bridge and a flag bridge for a fleet admiral," the Captain said looking thoughtful as he reasoned it out. "A flag bridge would be found in the heart of a ship where the armor is heaviest. And any VIP would likely end up there during an emergency so he would be kept aware of the situation without interfering with the ship captain's operation."
"I say we should go that way," the Fringer said confidently pointing down the center corridor. The blast door ahead of them came crashing down.
"Access denied. For your own safety please take shelter in the indicated rooms."
"Well I reckon that was the right choice," Cor smiled as he pulled out a sophisticated decryption tool.
"I can slice the door and get us through." After a few long minutes of intense work from the Fringer the door slid up revealing a long corridor with an even more massive door at the end of it. Cor smiled triumphantly.
"See? I told you. No problem!" Red lights began flashing and alarms rang out. Cor's smile vanished and he looked around in surprise. Moving quickly he gathered his equipment as Galen and Leoni moved up to watch his back.
"Warning. Unauthorized maintenance activity. Systems compromised. Countermeasures initiated."
"I have a baaad feeling about this, Master," Leoni said her eyes wide.
"Remember to trust in the Force my young apprentice," Galen said calmly, reassuring his young charge."Let it flow through you."
Just then a half dozen panels opened up abruptly from the ceiling and articulated arms dropped down with ball turrents bristling with blasters on their ends. They began firing in an onslaught of blaster fire that lit up the entire corridor. Most intruders would have been slain in an instant unable to withstand the fury and speed of the assault. But Galen and his apprentice reacted with uncanny speed, their blue lightsabers igniting and dancing faster than the eye could follow. The two had been training hard in recent weeks and their graceful ballet of light was perfectly synchronized as they spun and twisted, blocking the barrage from the ship's security systems.
However, despite their astonishing display some blaster bolts got through. One in particular struck a control panel next to General Saberota and Cortree erupting in sparks with shrapnel peppering them both. General Saberota activated his own lightsaber and while his movements bore none of the grace of the other two Jedi he was just as effective. Blaster bolts reflected back at the turrets taking out several as the older Jedi stepped in front of the Crucible’s captain shielding him from harm. Cortree, fully covered by the cyborg’s flashing blade began to work furiously on the the now exposed wires of the control panel.
“Just keep them off of me for a few more seconds!” Cor screamed. The Jedi nodded gravely, set his shoulders in determination.
“Galen! I’ve got this! Take care of those turrets!” he screamed out over the blaster fire.
Galen and his padawan, seeing that the other two were holding their own, changed tactics. Without saying a word the pattern and flow of their blades became more aggressive. The two Jedi, padawan and master, sprung forward covering each other as they chopped down the turrets one by one destroying a dozen of them in mere moments. But more and more turrets dropped down and the two of them were beginning to tire. Ataru, characterized by breathtaking acrobatic movements, was a very effective lightsaber form but its one great flaw is that it is hard to maintain such a frantic pace. The two Jedi were staying ahead of the turrets. For now. But they would not be able to maintain such a pace indefinitely.
“Cortree,” Saberota called out as he desperately swatted blaster bolts away. “You must hurry. We cannot keep this up fo…”
“Got it!” Cor screamed. Sparks flew from the control panel and waves of energy cascaded from various conduits along the corridor that provided power to the turrets. The blasters erupted and sparked as their systems overloaded.
“Attention. Maintenance crew to corridor B7.”
“Whew,” panted Galen, “Thank you Captain. That was excellent timing…”
“Attention. Unauthorized access in Q12. Security systems activated.”
“What? Who could that be? I thought the computer said we were in B7,” asked Leoni with a puzzled expression.
“Deactivating security in Q12. Access granted.”
“Whoever it is they just sliced that computer faster than I ever could,” said Cortree. “And that is saying something.”
“Attention. Unauthorized access in P9. Security systems activated. Deactivating security in P9. Access granted.”
“I reckon it is our saboteurs,” the Captain said with some thought. “They must be makin’ their way to through the ship too.”
“Then we must find the ambassador before they do,” General Saberota said with conviction.
“I think I can disable all the blast guns from here,” Cor said looking into the diagnostic tool he had used to overload the turrets.
“Do it,” Saberota ordered. The young captain began typing codes furiously into the patched panel.
“Attention. Primary security systems deactivated.”
“Perfect,” Cor said with a triumphant grin.
“Attention. Activating secondary security measures. Closing all blast doors.”
They all jumped as blast doors throughout the ship came crashing down all at once.
“Oh, Uh, right,” Cor said sheepishly. “Secondary systems. Makes sense.”
“We will just have to slice each door as we go. Cor you unlock the doors and I will hold them open for everyone to get through,” the General said.
“We have to move quickly if we are to get to the ambassador in time,” Galen said.
“Then may the Force be with us.”
“This has to be it,” Cortree Tincove said as he used a plasma torch to cut into the access panel so he could slice the door. “The flag bridge is through this door.”
“That’s what you said last time,” Leoni complained before Galen silenced her with a glance. It had been tough, sweaty work making their way through the ship with all the blast doors locked down. They had made several wrong turns and had to retrace their steps more than once.
“Yeah, but see the maintenance logs I accessed showed that there was work on a primary feed to the ship’s computer core leading to this chamber. A flag bridge would need that kind of access so it has to be through there,” the captain said confidently.
“All right. We all know the drill,” the general said. “Everyone get ready.”
Cor entered in a code and they could all hear the loud metallic noise of the door unlocking. The powerful cyborg general braced himself wedging his fingers under the door and lifted, displaying strength that would make even a wookiee take notice. Galen and Leoni leaped through the door with their lightsabers ready placing themselves between their allies and any threats that may present itself from the chamber they had entered.
They looked upon a massive room with well over a dozen computer work stations all lit up with alarming red lights. The chamber ceiling was quite high with a massive open bridge hovering above with long stairs leading up to it on both sides of the chamber. Climbing those stairs to the main platform would leave them quite exposed making the bridge a very good defensive position.
From that bridge Galen heard the unmistakable sound of a voice. After their companions had made it onto the main chamber Galen pointed to the platform above indicating that he was going to check the voices out. Saberota nodded. Galen gathered himself with his apprentice at his side and they both made an impossible leap straight up to the main bridge with the aid of the Force.
The Jedi landed in the midst of two well dressed figures with the distinctive glowing red eyes and blue skin of the Chiss, an older male and a younger female.
“A Jedi!” the young lady exclaimed in surprise. The older Chiss, regal in his bearing and wearing an officer’s uniform, nodded.
“Of course they sent Jedi. I would expect no less under the circumstances,” he said. “Come. We must hurry. The saboteurs will be here any moment. I have been trying to hold them off with the ship’s systems but I only succeeded in delaying them slightly.”
“We are here to get you out of this situation safely. We have steered the ship away from its crash course with the star. So we are not in any immediate danger on that front.”
“You don’t understand. I have set the self destruct. We cannot have a Chiss warship fall into the hands of a foreign government,” the officer said quietly. “We must evacuate now.”
“I see,” said Galen bowing his head slightly. “Very well. If you would please follow me.”
The Jedi stopped and turned gazing hard at the door across the chamber. He stepped forward putting himself between the two Chiss and the door while pulling his lightsaber.
“Leoni,” he called out,“get behind me. Get behind me!”
When the door opened they were confronted by a small group of heavily armed assailants. A Chiss stood at the blast door’s console with a myriad of slicing tools that were almost identical to Cortree’s. A half dozen rough looking, heavily armed Trandoshan mercenaries charged into the room with ruthless efficiency led by a professional looking Rodian gunman. He was flanked by possibly the largest human being any of them had ever seen. The massive man radiated anger and violence and Galen could feel the Dark Side coming from him in waves, assailing his senses. As disturbing as that was it was the final figure that gave all the Jedi pause. The Ancient Wardroid that faced them looked exactly like the one they had last faced on Outpost 17 and Durace.
“Well, ambassador,” Galen said to the Chiss, “I see you are facing the Infinite Empire as well.”
Not waiting for an answer the overly confident Jedi leaped from the platform into the midst of the saboteurs both of his lightsabers flashing with his padawan right behind him. As fast as he was, though, the Rodian gunslinger was a fraction faster. He fired a volley of pinpoint accurate blaster bolts at the young Jedi while he was in mid-flight forcing him to twist and turn awkwardly in order to deflect the blasts.
Before Galen could even think about mounting a counterattack the large man reached out a massive hand and, screaming in rage, launched Force Lightning from his fingertips. The overconfident Jedi was barely able to shield himself and his padawan from the deadly assault, absorbing the rampant energies with his lightsaber and dissipating it through the Force.
“Galen!” General Saberota called out in concern, partially blinded by the flashing display. The massive cyborg activated his own green lightsaber and, with thunderous footsteps, charged the invaders hoping to distract them from his ally. The Ancient Wardroid faced the general eagerly and lunged at him with deadly vibroblades extending from its arms.
The Clone Wars veteran was almost cut in two by the sudden ferocity of the attack. He had gotten up a huge amount of momentum with his charge and had a hard time slowing enough to properly defend himself. In a brilliant display of swordsmanship he was able to deflect the deadly attack and, using his momentum, rocked the droid back on its heals with a powerful cybernetically enhanced kick.
“Warning. Unauthorized maintenance activity on deck A1.”
“Access granted. Primary security systems restored. Countermeasures initiated.”
Familiar ball turrets dropped down from the ceiling and began firing on the general stopping him from capitalizing on his advantage over his opponent. As he dodged and blocked the blaster bolts he realized that this Ancient Wardroid he faced was not the same one they had encountered on Durace. It had completely different blades and its battered and scarred outer armor was significantly different.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Cortree hissed under his breath as he took cover behind one of the bridge consoles. He rapidly accessed the ship security systems attempting to wrest control from the Chiss slicer.
“Warning. Unauthorized maintenance activity on deck A1.”
“Access denied. Countermeasures deactivated. Remote targeting disabled.”
The gun turrets clicked and whirled back and forth between targeting the saboteurs and the Jedi as the two battled for access. The captain of the Crucible could tell that the Chiss must have an access code for the ship because he kept using the system’s own intruder countermeasures to try and force him out of the system. Cor had lost full access to the turrets but had managed to isolate the targeting program and encrypt it heavily using a code he devised on the fly. He had no illusions that the Chiss slicer would be foiled by that for long but it bought him some time and forced the Chiss to target the turrets manually.
“Poodoo!” Cortree screamed slamming his fist on the console as he was locked out by the Chiss.
“Access granted. Primary security systems restored. Countermeasures initiated.”
The turrets turned on Cor blasting at him. But, unlike before, he was the only target. Without access to the auto-target program the Chiss had to mark targets and aim the turret himself instead of designating all the Jedi as intruders and letting the computer target them all. Cor was forced to duck back behind his console and he pulled his heavy pistol and snapped a shot at the Chiss Slicer forcing him to duck.
The Trandoshan mercenaries moved in surrounding Galen and his padawan. Galen recognized them as belonging to Clan Martel. A mercenary clan known throughout the galaxy for their ruthlessness and their ties to the slave trade of the Hutts. The Trandoshan’s leader smiled cruelly as he gave the order to open fire on the Jedi. Galen and his padawan deflected the blasts with ease. The Jedi, moving faster than the eye could follow, leaped up into the air spinning with his twin lightsabers twirling in a circle around him as his padawan ducked beneath them. For a moment the mercenaries stood frozen, transfixed as Galen landed in a crouch between them, grim smile on his face. Then as one their heads tumbled from their bodies as they collapsed to the floor. For a moment there was a pause in the battle as everyone marveled at the young Jedi’s skill. Slaying six foes with one blow was remarkable.
The Chiss slicer, obviously seeing Galen as the biggest threat turned the turrets on him sending a torrent of blaster bolts at the evasive Jedi. The Jedi Knight and his apprentice reflected the blasts back at the Slicer causing him to rethink his strategy as the energy beams impacted all around him burning his arm.
Meanwhile, Saberota slammed into the battle droid with his full strength hoping to bowl the evasive droid over with brute force. But the droid proved to be just as strong as the Jedi and sparks flew from its clawed feet as it dug them into the metal floor scoring it with long furrows. The droid twisted its upper torso at an impossible angle, trying to gain a wrestling hold on general. But Saberota was an experienced in-fighter and he managed to shove the droid off of him enough so that the droid couldn’t get a good hold on him.
Seeing that the general was occupied with fighting the droid the canny Rodian gunfighter moved in on his flank and opened fire, fully expecting to catch him off guard. But as cunning as he was the Rodian had never faced a more battle tested foe. General Saberota had survived countless battles during the Clone Wars and one of his greatest assets as a combatant was that he had the uncanny ability to keep track of his opponents during a firefight. He disengaged from the droid momentarily and casually batted the gunslinger’s blaster bolt right back at him scoring a hit knocking the green skinned mercenary to the floor. Luckily for the Rodian the bolt had been mostly deflected by his blast vest leaving him largely unharmed. He now had a much healthier respect for Jedi though and seemed almost hesitant to attack.
Galen, having downed the Trandoshan mercs, turned and faced the brutish warrior. A wave of Dark Side energy emanated from him as he smiled cruelly and for a moment a flicker of fear gripped the young Jedi’s heart. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear that none of his efforts mattered. As he struggled with his fear Galen saw the same struggle in his young apprentice’s face.
“Remember, Leoni,” he called out to her, finding his own strength in his need to protect her. “There is no emotion there is peace.”
“Center yourself my young padawan. Find harmony within and you shall be as one with the Force,” Leoni looked him in the eye as he spoke and Galen saw her swallow her fear and find her center.
“I am not afraid, Master,” she said with conviction. Galen smiled at the young woman with pride and nodded his head toward the warrior in a silent question.
As one the two turned on the brutish Dark Side warrior who seemed to sink into some kind of primal rage lashing out uncontrollably. Galen and his apprentice flipped and bounded around their foe, each staying just out of his reach. Galen would leap forward and attack and the brute would jump at him so the Jedi would bound away. As the warrior tried to follow Leoni would surge up behind him forcing him to abandon his pursuit of Galen to face the more immediate threat. When he turned on the padawan Galen would spin forward again to menace the increasingly frustrated and disoriented warrior.
Meanwhile, Cor and the Chiss continued their cyberwarfare with neither gaining the upper hand. Cor was, perhaps, the more gifted tech, but the Chiss had access codes that more than evened the playing field. Frustrated the Crucible’s captain drew his blaster and shot the Chiss in the shoulder eliciting a cry of pain from him. The Chiss took cover and began returning fire with his own gun pinning the captain down.
General Saberota still wrestled with the wardroid unable to fully defeat his canny foe. The two were of equal strength although the droid possessed far greater speed. However, the general was the superior warrior and was able to anticipate the droid’s attacks and counter them with his unparalleled strategic skills. Ultimately they were at a stalemate. Realizing this the general unexpectedly disengaged from the droid and sprang at the completely surprised Dark Sider. The warrior was unprepared for the attack and Saberota managed to slash him across the belly and spinning around ram his lightsaber through his back.
The general stood triumphantly over his fallen opponent thinking the battle was over. But the Wardroid leaped at him forcing his full attention back on it. The general had no idea the severely injured warrior would be capable of emitting a veritable storm of Force Lightning. But he did. The general caught the full furry of the blast while Galen and Leoni leaped away from it. Lightning cascaded over the general’s cybernetics cause them to spark and sputter. He screamed in agony as multiple systems were overloaded causing cascade failures throughout his body. The droid charged the general pinning his right cybernetic arm to the floor with its vibroblade mangling it severely.
The Dark Side warrior rose unsteadily to his feet as lightning poured out of his body uncontrolled.
“For the Empire!!!” the warrior screamed in rage and defiance as the energies increased to critical mass. He exploded messily his body no longer able to contain the power within him. Galen, his padawan and the general were covered in a strange goo.
“I don’t remember when the bad guys started exploding but I am not a fan,” Galen said wiping the foul smelling muck from his face.
Ignoring the grisly display the droid continued its assault on the crippled general. Galen somersaulted back down to stand over the fallen Jedi protectively. As the droid turned its attention to him Leoni came up behind it and slashed its neck jamming it in position, unable to turn. When the droid attempted to attack the padawan the Jedi Knight jabbed his lightsaber into its leg nearly taking it off at the knee. The droid rolled with the blow and spun back over the threshold of the door that the saboteurs had entered. The Rodian fired a volley of blaster bolts at the triumphant crew of the Crucible covering the droid as it made its limping retreat.
“Attention. Activating secondary security measures. Closing all blast doors.”
The blast door came slamming down again blocking the Jedi from pursuing their foes.
“Poodoo!” Cor cursed again as he slammed his fist against the console. “I have been locked out. Again!”
Cor ran over to the general and began checking his systems and trying to restart them. He glanced over at the sound of clapping from behind them.
“Most impressive,” the older Chiss in uniform said while clapping softly in approval. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Syndic Day. I am here to discuss our mutual enemies with the Republic.”
“You mean the Infinite Empire?” Galen asked.
“We have much to talk about but first we need to get off this ship before it self destructs,” he said calmly. He strode over to a console and entered a command code. Blast doors throughout the ship flew open and turbolifts activated. The crew of the Crucible was able to retreat quickly to their ship and board it minutes before the Chiss ship exploded.
Cor was the only one who noticed the sensor ghost of a cloaked ship in the explosion’s wake just before it jumped to hyperspace without a trace.