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  1. #11
    Siralai Mahr and Visper Averrod

    "That was a Force ghost," Visper said. "You must be gifted in some way, to have seen him. Force ghosts are people who were strong in the Force when they were alive, who manifest to the living for a purpose. Most people other than Jedi and Sith can't see them."

    "I couldn't see him," Trystan agreed, and Felix shook his head to indicate the same.

    "It was the ghost of Master Orgus," Siralai said. "My teacher - the one who was spoken of in the message. Now that we know the truth about the holocron, I don't think Orgus had anything to do with it. I think whoever set this up simply used his name to bait the trap, since we happen to be on his planet of origin. So his Force ghost manifested to set it right. And... you're right, Neva. It was a trap. Though by whom, or for which of us, or what their end goal was I have no idea. Though I intend to find out. Somehow."

    Exactly how remained to be seen. The message hadn't been traceable to a sender. Unfortunately, it seemed they would have to wait for the person to make another move.

    She glanced over at Visper and Felix... and couldn't help noticing again that they were in rough shape. Visper might not be physically injured as her husband was, but she looked exhausted.

    "Do you two have a place to stay?" Siralai asked gently, shifting gears a bit to a topic of what she could control in the present.

    "We really just landed," Visper said carefully, "And we're still trying to figure out..."

    Which Siralai could tell was just a roundabout way of saying no. The pair didn't look like they were necessarily short on credits, but under the circumstances it would be hard to find a place that felt safe.

    "You can stay with us if you want," Siralai said. "We have the extra room. You'd be surrounded by allies." Hoping it wasn't too pointed, she added, "You'd be able to rest easier."

    Visper nodded ruefully. "I haven't been sleeping well," she acknowledged. "I'm afraid if I do more than doze, I'll wake up and... well." The unvoiced thought hung in the air: she was afraid she would wake up to find he had been taken again. "Anyway. Thank you for your generous offer. It will be good to be among friends again."

    "Of course," Siralai replied. "There's something you should know, though..."

    She briefly filled Visper and Felix in on the situation with her sister and her claims about Ebben. That was a risk, Siralai understood. They didn't yet know each other well. But the risk was greater for them not to be in the loop. For one thing, they deserved to know the truth of what they were getting into... but more than that, they needed to know what to be on their guard for, if Ebben was to be protected. They needed to know that someone showing too much interest in the little boy might not just be innocently taken with a cute kid. It might be a threat.

    Visper and Felix both looked sympathetic.

    "We'll do our best to help you protect your son," Felix promised. "Friendship goes both ways. If you've got our back, then we've got yours."
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #12
    Gaius was starting to feel like his luck just couldn't run out. All the bouts he'd fought in the ring so far, he'd triumphed - and he had the credits to prove it.

    He had to admit, when the shady peddler on Mek-Sha had made him the offer, he had been skeptical. Cybernetics were one thing. Those were practically commonplace these days for anyone who wanted to be enhanced... or found themselves in need of emergency repairs. They were old news.

    But this...

    This was something else.

    Now he was finally able to wield the Force, almost as if he was born to it. And he did so with glee. Sneakily, of course - he didn't want to be accused of cheating. When he saw his openings, he took them.

    The peddler had warned him there was a price, but Gaius shrugged it off. He wasn't the one paying it, after all. He would just keep enjoying his wins... and his winnings.


    ***


    Despite the circumstances, Rossi was making the best of her vacation. Yes, she was worried about her little brother. But digging her toes in the wet sand, feeling the rush of water around her ankles, resting in the shade of the palm trees - the danger seemed far away.

    She was walking along the beach with Shalmus collecting shells - careful to stay within sight of Jasper and the others, in case help was needed while their parents were gone - when Rossi sensed something.

    It started out as a faint glimpse, a small tingle. As she opened her mind to it, it grew.

    "Shalmus!" she said gleefully. "There are other Sith Purebloods here. I think they're kids too! I hope we get to meet them."

    Making some new friends - especially ones who shared her background and didn't look at her like she was strange - would make this vacation even better.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-07-2020 at 01:56 PM.

  3. #13
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    She took the newfound information in stride - at least externally. Inside, she was rattled and questions immediately sprang to mind. How could the ghost be an actual ghost? Why did she have this ability? Why was she only finding this out now? And if he was Siralai's teacher, surely he could have gotten straight to the point and saved them all a lot of trouble? Neva held her tongue, though, and silently vowed to do some searching through the datapads on her ship for more information. She didn't want to a baseling on the topic, particularly if this sort of 'gifting' was going to stick around.

    Not adding much more to the conversation, she took up a wing position out of habit instead of walking single file or directly with the rest of the group. Leg not completely forgotten, she excused herself as they neared the beach to abruptly lose herself in thought even as she climbed into her vessel and began attending to her wounds. A good many surprises today. And she should have fielded them better. Clearly she'd been neglecting her training. Her years piloting alone had made her soft. Her mouth hardened into a firm line, her face taking a savage hue. Now thus acknowledged, what was she going to do about it?

    Hours later, she found herself under the shade of a primitive awning, watching people of various ages, races and abilities spar with appliances and each other. The man next to her continued to explain, "So you see, all participants gain access to the gymnasium to train as much as they wish and with whomever they wish. In a way, it is a payment for these services that the matches are held. That's not to say that you won't benefit financially from any victory won, but it is part of what makes the agreement mutually beneficial. It guarantees our audience higher quality matches, while allowing each member to come and go as they like - after their first five matches are complete, of course."

    It was a rather elaborate scheme, she admitted, but a good one. If she enrolled in a local dojo, she would be forced to put up with poor fighters for some time before she saw personal benefit to herself. Besides, not all dojos would take other species, as she'd found out earlier in the day. Disgusting that even on a planet such at this, people could hold on to their petty prejudices. She puffed out a breath in disdain for those places of training even as she signed the documents for this far more dubious one. The papers were typical - not responsible for death or permanent injury - blah blah. Neva wasn't concerned. They asked for a blood sample to ensure health and lack of excessive stimulant use and she obliged without a second thought.

    Minutes later, she was sweating it out in the dirt with two dozen others - all striving for the same thing - excellence. It felt amazing.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #14
    “I just need to ask you one more thing,” Siralai said. “The people who did this to Felix – are they still going to be a problem?”

    A shadow crossed Visper’s face, and she looked away.

    Flashes of vision came to Siralai. Robes, hair, hands stained with blood. Face illuminated by a lightsaber in the gloom. Eyes dark with rage.

    Siralai hastily added, “Look, I’m not going to judge. I promise. Whatever you did – I consider it more than justified. All I need to know is whether we need to be concerned about someone coming after Felix the moment our backs are turned.”

    “No,” Visper said softly. “They won’t be a problem anymore.”

    “Good,” Siralai replied. And whatever it might say about her own moral compass, she meant it.

    ***

    Visper had sensed no deception from Siralai, Trystan, and Neva. Even so, being brought home to meet the family was reassuring. No one in their right mind would pleasantly introduce someone to their own children before trying to torture a holocron out of their brain. The normalcy and ease with which they became welcomed guests of all six of the Mahrs made Visper even more confident that no double-cross was imminent.

    It had been a long time since Visper and Felix been around a family. Around children. Out on the terrace, she watched with a smile as Felix played and laughed with the Mahr kids. He seemed so relaxed. And he was so good with them…

    “Hey,” she said when they were alone for a moment. “Remember before – before all this happened - when we talked about children?” Of course he’d remember, but she couldn’t think of a less awkward way to reintroduce the subject. “I was just wondering… if that was something you’d still want?”

    “Yeah,” he said. “I still do, if you do.”

    “Me too,” Visper replied.

    ***

    Visper fell asleep on the lounger on the terrace, her head resting on Felix’s lap, his hand running gently through her hair. The presence of allies – and the warm sunlight – allowed her guard to slip enough that her exhaustion got the better of her. They were safe. Felix was with her. She could finally rest.

    Trystan happened to be passing by. Quietly, careful not to wake his wife, Felix said, “Hey, I just want to thank you again. I really appreciate this.”

    “Of course,” Trystan replied. “We’re happy to help. It must feel good to be with her again. You two seem really good together, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

    “We are,” Felix said with a smile. “I… I missed her. And that’s an understatement. Honestly, the thought of seeing her face again was what kept me going. And then when she found me, when she told me that she’d waited for me… that things could be like they were before… that made dealing with all of it bearable.”

    “You two reunited – that’s the way it should be,” Trystan agreed. “We’ll do our best to make sure it stays that way.”

  5. #15
    Rossi Mahr

    Once her parents had returned and there was no immediate danger, Rossi asked for - and received - permission to go try to meet the other Sith kids. She was almost an adult, more than capable of defending herself against garden variety threats, and had her holocom. It seemed safe enough for her to do some exploring on her own.

    Her search took her further down the beach, to a section of short-term cottage rentals in a more seedy area than the one where she was staying with her parents. She asked around about who might know the temporary residents, and was directed to the cantina proprietor, who wore 'petty landlord' as one of his many hats.

    Normally, the proprietor was tight-lipped about his customers. Loose talk was bad for repeat business. But the presence of a Sith Pureblood - even a skinny adolescent one who had to work very hard to be at all commanding in her bearing - made him rethink his position a bit.

    "Yeah, I rented to the guy," he said when Rossi inquired about the particular cottage she thought she had pinpointed. "He's in the matches down at the fighting ring. Winning a good many of them, last I heard."

    "He's a Sith?" Rossi asked, assuming the answer was obvious - but to her surprise, the proprietor shook his head.

    "Nah. Human."

    "And the kids he has with him?"

    The proprietor's confusion appeared to be genuine. "There weren't no kids with him. There wasn't no one with him. He's staying in that cottage alone."

    Well, back to the drawing board. Rossi thanked the man for his help - he seemed more than anxious to have the Pureblood safely out of his establishment with no one having been Force choked - and started back toward home, wondering about her next move. As she passed near that cottage, though, she was more sure than ever that it was the right place. She believed the proprietor truly hadn't seen the kids in question... but that didn't mean they weren't there. The fact that they were hidden wasn't damning - there could be a number of reasons for it, including fear of the prejudices she herself had faced in human society - but it made her concerned.

    As she strolled up to knock on the door, Rossi sensed something else. Dark side energy. Deep, profound. Instead of a direct approach, she took an arcing path around the rear of the cottage - but she quickly realized the renter wasn't home. He must be at the arena. Convenient.

    Rossi wriggled her thin, gangly body through a back window. She didn't see anyone, Sith or human. But the source of the energy was obvious. Two shipping crates rested in an otherwise empty spare room. The crates were an odd size, narrow but long. The errant thought struck Rossi that she could have fit in one if she were a little shorter. Not that she planned to get into a crate - but she did intend to see what was inside, what was pulsing with Dark side energy.

    She hefted the lid off the nearer crate... and gasped as a wave of Darkness hit her almost like a physical force. She shook it off, and looked inside the crate. Once again her breath caught.

    It was a Sith girl, maybe a few years younger than Rossi. She appeared to be unconscious. Her body was damaged and marred, a patchwork of scars and implants. She was the source of the Dark energy... well, half of the source. Rossi pushed open the other crate - and found what appeared to the the girl's twin, in similar condition.

    Rossi was taken aback. This was not at all what she was expecting when she set out to make some new friends. But she had to act... and quickly, before the human responsible came home.

    "I'm getting you out of here!" she promised the motionless Sith girls.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-13-2020 at 05:52 PM.

  6. #16
    Rossi wasn't the only Sith asking questions in the beachside village, as it turned out. A tall, pale, blonde human woman with distinctive golden Sith eyes approached the cantina owner a short time later. He did fairly well at concealing his reaction - but not well enough. The corner of the woman's mouth turned up faintly in amusement as she approached the bar.

    "Can I get you a drink, my lord? My... my lady? Uh... ma'am?" the proprietor stammered. This Sith was much more intimidating than the skinny teenager - and he wasn't delighted to host Sith in his establishment under any circumstances. He just hoped Force lightning didn't start getting thrown around. That would get both dangerous and messy quickly.

    "No thank you," the Sith woman replied. There was no deliberate menace in her tone - only the assumed menace of her presence in general. "I'm only in search of information. I understand that two crates arrived here from Mek-Sha recently. I need to find out where they are."

    The proprietor was torn. The owner of the boxes had made it clear that his business was private - and had paid more than it was worth to keep it that way. On the other hand, one did not say no to a Sith. He wanted to keep a customer... but more than that, he needed to keep his life. He split the difference.

    "I think I heard something about that. The boys delivered them to one of the cottages on the far side of the cove."

    "Thank you," the Sith woman replied. "That will do."

    She placed a credit chip down on the counter and passed back through the double doors into the bright sunlight. The proprietor realized he was shaking and drenched with sweat.

    ***

    Gaius was having a good day in the ring, as usual - at least at first. He won his first match handily, scarcely scratching his armor. He smiled modestly to the audience, gave them a wave, then took a water break before his second bout.

    The second match, though, Gaius' luck started to fail him. His powers were there, but they were weaker and slower. The usual buzz in the cybernetic implant on his hand was just a faint, puttering hum. He could scarcely feel the Force flowing through him.

    He won, but only barely. What was going on?

    He hoped his purchase wasn't failing already. He had been warned that could happen if he drained them too much, but he hadn't taken the warning much to heart. Maybe they just needed to be taught a lesson in cooperation, he thought. They had been expensive, after all...
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-20-2020 at 03:53 PM.

  7. #17
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    Her body remembered the movements, though she was aware it'd be complaining about it later tonight. It felt so good - so freeing - to let loose and bring all her energy to bear. She had started by warming up on the target dummies, though quickly tired of them and moved to live practice. The reaction of the other participants set the bar in many ways. One, for how good she'd need to be to win - and two, what she could get away with to do it. There seemed to be very few rules, which brought a savage grin to Neva's already fierce face. By the end of the day, as the sky slipped to twilight, she signed up for her first match - the next afternoon. Bold, certainly, but she also felt like she had little time to waste. She was all too aware of having signed her life away for 5 matches and was determined to eat through those opponents as quickly as possible. That way, her life would be her own again as quickly as possible - and she'd be ready to leave if the Mahr's enemies drew nigh.

    On her way back to the beach, Neva stretched out her arms and looked wistfully in the direction of the water. A good soak would probably do her some good.

  8. #18
    Even with the Force, it took a lot of effort to lift the two girls from the crates, maneuver them out the window, and float them back toward the cottage - particularly since Rossi had to keep them out of sight of the path. If anyone saw what she was doing, it would draw an incredible amount of attention, and she had no real way to explain her actions without making onlookers even more suspicious. She couldn't figure out how to get them to her family's cottage without being seen, so she left them tucked away in a small cave and ran the rest of the way back. By the time she got to the cottage, she was panting and out of breath.

    "Mom!" Rossi called. "Please, I need help! Right away."

    Siralai emerged from the terrace immediately. "Rossi, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"

    "No. It's not me. I... I need you to come. I need Jedi help. And... please. I need you to be... merciful."

    "Merciful?" Siralai repeated, confused. Seeing the panic on her daughter's face, though, she decided not to press for further explanation. "I promise I will not harm anyone if I can help it. Just show me what's going on."

    At the phrase 'Jedi help,' Visper made a motion inquiring if Siralai wanted her to come too. Siralai nodded. Whatever they were about to face, a second Jedi could surely only help. Well - she hoped so.

    As they approached the cave, Siralai sensed the darkness. It made her skin crawl. But she also sensed incredible pain. It was the pain that kept her moving forward.

    When she saw the two girls, she was speechless. Siralai didn't know quite what to do - or whether she should have brought Visper after all. She understood now why Rossi had spoken of mercy... and wondered if another Jedi, still of the Order, would see things the same way. The two Sith Purebloods, and the overwhelming darkness that pulsed from them...

    There was a fraught moment of silence. Then Visper said, "If I may, I know a shielding technique that will help. It will not cause the children any pain, and it should sever their ties to their master. If you would allow me...?"

    Siralai and Rossi both nodded. Visper's measure had been taken - and she had passed.

    Visper knelt in front of the nearer girl. Gold light emanated from her hands, as she held them a few inches above the child and let the Force surround and shield her.

    Meanwhile, the other girl's breathing began to weaken. Without hesitation, Siralai began to heal her, drawing on her own energy with the Force to keep the girl alive.

    "Thank you..." Rossi whispered to them both. She trusted her mother - but even so, the sight of Sith being saved and healed would never fail to engage her emotionally. She had been so afraid that it was too late. That there was no hope. But now, it seemed there was a chance.

    Once both twins had been stabilized and shielded, Siralai said, "We should get them back to the house quickly, before anyone else notices and starts asking questions."

    A short time later, Trystan went out to the beach to locate Neva. "Sorry to disturb you," he said. "But dinner is ready, and... erm... there have been some additional developments, also..."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-20-2020 at 05:45 PM.

  9. #19
    As she had suspected, it didn't take the Sith woman long to locate the cottage in question, once she had a general location. The residue of Dark energy was so palpable, she could almost imagine she could still see it hanging like a cloud. She could taste it in the air, harsh and metallic on the tongue.

    Unlike Rossi, she didn't bother sneaking into the house. Whatever lurked inside, she was confident of her odds in a straight confrontation. It was not to be, though - when she forced open the front door and strode inside, she found two empty crates in a similarly empty house.

    It was unlikely the occupants of the crates could have escaped on their own. Someone had almost certainly intervened. That was... interesting. She wasn't sure if that would prove to be a benefit to her own objectives, or an obstacle. It would have to remain to be seen. Either way, her search wasn't over.

    She didn't bother trying to hide the evidence of her break-in. If the man was foolish enough to confront a Sith, let him do so on his own terms. If not, the confrontation was inevitable anyway. She had no reason to hesitate.

    It wasn't difficult to follow the trail. The Dark energy left the same almost-physical mark - at least for a Force-sensitive. She suspected that even someone who couldn't sense the Force directly would have felt unsettled by it, vaguely ill at ease but unsure why.

    The Sith followed the energy traces to another rented cottage. This one was larger, in a more pleasant area. What you would choose for a family.

    Belatedly, she realized which family, puffed out a tiny chuckle to herself. The Force truly did work in interesting ways sometimes...

  10. #20
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    Soaking up the remaining warmth from the sand, Neva realized she had been asleep the moment Trystan spoke. She didn't bother to cover for the gross negligence of awareness, but stood and stretched with a yawn. A half-smile turned her lips up on the left side, but despite their quirk, it was obvious she was pleased.

    "I didn't expect you to hold dinner on my account - but I certainly appreciate it." She hoped she could rein herself in and not eat them out of a table like her stomach suggested it could. Falling in alongside Trystan, she couldn't help but chuckle. "There's always something. Who knew that joining up with you folks would be such an adventure." There was an enthusiasm in the statement that ensured it was meant as a compliment. As they approached the stairs, Neva could feel a sort of heaviness - like a bank of fog or the pressure of deep space on a walk-suit. But, much like the latter two things, it served to propel her, rather than repel and she soon found herself standing in a room looking at two very sick girls. Blinking, as much to ensure that what she was seeing was real as to attempt to remember how she got from the front door to the room, it was only now she hesitated before gently kneeling down beside the nearest girl. She looked her up and down, could see the red swirls of a light under the golden shield but her eyes focused on the body. The scars. The cybernetics. Her eyes grew misty as she took in the pain the girl must have been dealt to be in this state. And she felt herself grow angry.

    She knelt there a moment, then abruptly pushed herself up, out of the room, and back to the front door where she stood leaning on the lintel looking out at the placid waters. Neva never liked feeling a emotion such as that grip her and she knew it wouldn't do anyone any good to have her caught up - of course, that might not have been the message she sent to the house occupants by her actions. But it gutted her - absolutely gutted her - to see those girls that way. That there were still people in this universe capable of such horror...she shouldn't be surprised. But just because she knew that such people existed didn't mean that she couldn't be disappointed.

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