Being Trodden On

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:59 pm

Kemen smiled. "I suppose I do," he replied. He let a few moments pass as he looked out the window of the landspeeder. He felt like she was looking at him, and when he turned back to face her, his eyes met her suspicious gaze. "I ask," he explained, "because the wealthy do not trust the poor. No more than the poor trust the wealthy. Those men in that bar... they are not wealthy. And so you do not trust them, nor their plights. Many of the wealthy are self-made, and those that are not cannot understand why so many seem willing to have so little. The wealthy believe that the poor are so because they choose to be."

He shrugged a little. "And in most cases, I'll grant that. But there are other factors, other reasons people choose to be poor. Reasons like the abandonment of a family, or feelings of personal failure, or cases of depression and chemical imbalances. And it's true," he said, "that even if we eliminated all of those reasons, some men would still choose to be poor." He smiled again. "But is that any reason not to try to improve their lives?"

He looked out the window again. "I'm not looking for a handout, Miss Sierra," he said. He looked to her once again, a far-off look in his eyes. "I only want the opportunity for my people to save themselves."

* * * * *

She was suspicious. Sithspawn. Radek knew that he was walking on the edge with these suggestions, these requests - these lies. But he thought he was more careful than that. Still, she had acquiesced.

He bowed his head. "Of course, miz... Darth... Consecrai," he said, smiling a little awkwardly. He backed out of the room, then increased his pace to a rapid walk, just shy of running. The maître d' eyed him again as he left, but Radek ignored the man. As soon as he was out of the hotel, he took to his heels toward the spaceport, checking his chrono as he did. He had twenty-nine minutes.

The run got him there in plenty of time. He had twenty-two minutes left. He found the spot and began to dig, soon uncovering the small case that held his lightsaber and other personal effects. He opened it, retrieved his lightsaber, then closed it again and put it back in the hole. He shoved the dirt back on top of it, then patted it down as quickly as he could, striving to make it look as normal as the ground around it. Then he tucked the lightsaber under his shirt into a fold of his pants at the waist.

Then he checked his chrono again. Six minutes left. He cursed. Digging and refilling the hole had taken him longer than he had expected. He called on the Force to give him speed and regulate his breathing as he sprinted back toward the hotel. He would need to be there in enough time to wipe away his sweat and look as though he had never left. He cursed again as he ran.

He checked his chrono as he saw that he was nearing the hotel. He had about a minute and a half until their appointed meeting time. He swallowed, hoping she was not early, as he rounded the street corner and slowed his pace.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:03 am

Honestly, she doubted she could get the coverup on in half an hour - not and have it look good. She'd accelerated the timetable by instinct, not judgment. Fortunately, she had a backup.

Ald had tattoos far more obvious than even hers, and from time to time - often, in fact - he preferred to be just another man, albeit with ridiculously long hair as per his culture. But he usually braided that. To cover his facial tattoos, then, he'd invested in a half-millimetre-thin breathable synthskin mask that matched his natural skin tone. To be more precise, he'd invested in several hundred of them: fragile things, good for a handful of uses only. He bought in bulk. He'd given a set of them to Skavi not long ago, matched to her face. It was, perhaps, the most thoughtful gift she'd ever been given. Naturally he had no idea what it meant to her. In his way, Ald Sorosel was stupid.

She dug one out of her bag and molded it to her face, let her hair down, changed into a knee-length black dress, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Well, that was quick."

The sense of anticlimax made her chuckle. She now had, oh, twenty minutes or so to kill. But what to do? With a shrug, she pulled out a handheld HoloNet transciever connected to a secure relay elsewhere on the planet.

"Consecrai here. I've met with another representative of the movement, a Zachary Freeman. He's told me about..."


Twenty minutes later, she put on heels, slipped her lightsabre into a handbag, and descended the elevator. If necessary she could kick the heels off quickly; they had no backs, and weren't especially high anyways. If there was such a thing as a 'combat high heel,' these were it. She exited the hotel and found him standing there as expected.

"Hello again, Mr. Freeman. Shall we?"

Something seemed...slightly different. More colour in his cheeks, perhaps. More...dirt under his fingernails? No - just the tiniest little bit more confidence. Well hidden, oh yes, but a hard thing to hide. That could mean a few things, none of them good.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:13 am

"Pryde," Sierra corrected him almost as a reflex. From the moment they met he had been addressing her by her first name and for awhile Sierra allowed it. That didn't mean it still didn't bother her, of course.

"Excuse me," Kemen asked, he seemed a bit surprised.

Sierra closed her eyes and held up a finger, speaking patiently as though she were scolding a small child. "It is disrespectful, Mr. Kemen, for one of your station to refer to me by my first name."

That more or less confirmed his suspicions about her mannerisms and her holier-than-thou attitude. "Forgive me, Ms. Pryde, but I thought the Imperial Knights were a military organization."

"The Knights are, but I am awarded special--concessions," she said, fixing him with a side-long glance. "My recruitment into the Knights was politically motivated, but that's not to say I wasn't honored by the invitation. My father's support of the organization lent credence to its establishment."

"And your father is," Kemen asked though he was beginning to suspect he already knew the answer.

"Moff Seneschal Pryde," she told him, turning her gaze to the window and the burnt out husks of old buildings that passed them by. "When I was little he told me once that the Empire exists to serve the people. I was too young then to know what he meant but I still believe in what he said."

When she turned to look at him again her expression had softened considerably. "I will do everything I can to get your people the help they deserve, Mr. Kemen. You don't have to try so hard to convince me."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:36 pm

Kemen bowed his head slightly. "I apologize, Miss Pryde. You did not introduce yourself properly when you revealed that you were no daughter of Bescane, and Zachary never gave me any name but Sierra. I erroneously assumed it was the name I was to use," he explained. Any hopes he had that this woman would help him were dwindling quickly. She was arrogant, and she was deluded. The Empire did not serve. It demanded service. At times, that was beneficial for its supporters. But mostly, that meant taking more from its citizens than it gave back. Sierra Pryde foolishly believed that the Empire was some benevolent bureaucracy that sought to protect and feed its citizens. But when the Senate was disbanded and Moffs like her father were put in full charge under the direction of the Emperor... any remnant of a government for the people had fallen away.

And yet she believed that she could influence the governors and military commanders in charge of this region of space to support the poverty-stricken masses of Bescane, at the expense of the arms and equipment that the Bescaneans slaved away to create?

Kemen almost shook his head at her naïveté, but he caught himself.

They had passed out of the ruined part of the city that stood between the warehouse district and the central district. A few blocks away, the towering headquarters of Galentro Heavy Works stood as a monument to that corporation's dominant influence on the wealth and production of the planet; across the airway, an identical tower housed the local courthouse and government offices, a disavowed and unacknowledged symbol of Bescane's solidarity with Galentro. The taxi came to a stop, and when the Imperial woman glanced out the window, she saw another bar.

"We're here," Kemen announced. When he followed her gaze, he smiled and said, "Not there, Miss Pryde." As they exited the landspeeder, Kemen gestured across the street. "There."

The building stood fifteen stories tall. Its walls, made of the same dull ferrocrete as every other building on Bescane, were crumbling from age. Durasteel rebar could be seen through some of the holes that littered the walls. Several of the missing chunks looked like they might have been caused by blaster scoring. The parking spaces around the building were packed, including some gaps that weren't technically intended for parking. People shoved in and out as if the doors revolved, most of them looking at least half as bad coming out as the others did going in. Above those doors, bold letters declared in glorious blood-red vibrancy, "Bescane State Hospital Emergency Room."

* * * * *

Radek bowed his head. "Of course." With a little help from the Force, he had managed to catch his breath just moments before Consecrai came down from the hotel. He was able to breathe easier now, too, that he had his lightsaber. Knowing that she was armed with a blade and he was not had made him noticeably queasy in their first meeting. Now he stood with more confidence, and he knew that, but he was not about to back down from this woman.

He led her to the warehouse. He knew that Swinth, Carlisle, and Kemen would all be disappointed in him for bringing so many people back to their headquarters. He honestly did not care. If it pushed them over the edge into full-fledged rebellion sooner, all the better. If it just exposed them to the Empire, he would start again somewhere else. All he wanted was to tear the Empire and their resources down enough for a powerful foe to destroy them. And he could do that on another planet just as easily as on Bescane. Bescane was a target of convenience. With enough time, he could turn anyone against the Empire - they had, he thought angrily, done most of that work themselves.

When they entered the warehouse, both moving silently, he glanced up at the office. Carlisle was there. He did not see Swinth. But reaching out with the Force for a moment, he did not feel the Imperial Knight - nor Kemen. They must have gone somewhere. Radek wondered if his whole plan had already come apart at the seams. For the moment, though, he could not be sure - so he gestured to the upper office. "It looks like she's not here right now," he said, "But we can wait for her there. She'll be back." He hoped his assurance sounded less hollow than it was.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:48 am

Sierra stared at the building in shock. The place wasn't even suited for living let alone a hospital yet there it was, proclaimed in bold red letters right before her eyes. "People come here for healing?' She asked Kemen in stunned horror, "Surely they must have other options."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:55 pm

She wondered, as they entered the warehouse, why he was moving so quietly; she was matching his silence, half by instinct and half because that was what she did, even in heels.

Looks like she's not here right now? After one glance around? She honestly wasn't sure whether to take that as suspicious or not. But then again, she was well past the point where she had to evaluate every action or implication. She was running on the assumption that he was playing her in some way.

Which meant, for starters, that going into the upper office might be a bad idea.

For a moment, she thought about asking for a drink.

If this girl was the Forcer, waiting would be appropriate. If Freeman was the Forcer, it would be better to act now while there weren't too many people around. She'd kept herself aware throughout the trip, and if he was a Forcer, he was pretty good at keeping his emotions from bleeding out. Even so, she thought she'd sensed anger, and the fact that it didn't show on his face told her volumes. She also thought of going to find the girl, making things run on her timeline - to see what she could shake loose. But on the outside and chilling chance that both of them were Forcers, that would put her squarely between them.

She decided to incite him...provoke him. The Force flared around her as she gathered her power for something nasty. She had no intention of actually attacking, she made no gesture, there was no visible efflux of energy or distortion of light or smell of ozone, and in fact no non-Forcer would see or perceive anything different. To a Forcer on the edge, though, it was as if she was winding up for a serious punch.

Just to see if he flinched.

And if he did...well, she'd have to back off, unless he decided to respond in kind.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:58 pm

Kemen nodded grimly. "Healing, and more." He led the way into the hospital. The staff were busy; the few who did notice Kemen and Pryde either ignored them or let them pass. Kemen let Sierra see the suffering in the emergency ward, but they did not stay there long. He led her through the bowels of the ferrocrete monstrosity until they reached a turbolift. Kemen keyed the console. "We have just come from seeing the men in their sorry state," he explained, "Now let us see some of the women."

They entered the turbolift and Kemen keyed the floor labeled "Maternity."

* * * * *

Weariness plagued Radek's mind. It clouded his judgment. He was not just on edge - he was teetering over the precipice, glaring into an open maw of earth, daring it to swallow him whole. So when he felt that knowing twinge in the Force, signaling the power building up behind him, he didn't just flinch. He snapped.

He threw himself forward, spinning around as he did so that he was facing the Sith witch. He called on the Force and sent a burst of power toward her. The wave rippled the tiles on the floor and knocked a few crates flying, but Consecrai resisted its impulse. When he landed his hand flew to the fold in his belt, withdrawing his lightsaber. Its shimmering blue blade was activated and in an attack stance in only a moment.

Radek's expression, which had been so composed, now looked haggard. All of the effort he had put into maintaining appearances now went to studying his opponent, watching for attacks, trying to sense feints and warnings in the Force. His consciousness began to ebb, but he compelled himself to hold on. "Wait!" he managed to gasp, "I can explain."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:35 pm

Resisting the Force wave in heels was, perhaps, one of the finer and more subtle expressions of the Force she'd managed in recent months. She kicked them off as her hand snaked into the purse, which fell unnoticed to the warehouse floor as she got a grip on the lightsabre within. Grit and pebbles grated against her callused feet as she settled into a mobile, versatile but noncommittal stance. The lightsabre hilt, metal formed in the shape of undulating and dimpled bone, spun in her hands before activating with a snap-hiss that cast red light across the warehouse's jumbled nearer portions.

She analyzed his stance, his Force sense, and the lines of tension in his face and bearing. He knew what he was doing - no half-trained amateur, but not so ridiculously over-skilled that she didn't stand a chance, either. Unless his acting was so ingrained that it extended to his stance and Force use without affecting reaction time.

She sensed the Dark Side - not the black hatred and sadistic glee of the average career Sith or Cultist, but the Dark nonetheless. The kind of person she usually hunted to kill. Usually.

"Start talking, then."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:00 pm

Radek was standing in a Makashi stance, knowing he could not handle Ataru in his exhausted state. He took a few deep breaths before speaking. "My name is not Zachary Freeman," he explained, "I am Radek Vidar, formerly of the Jedi Order." He screwed his face up a little at that, knowing he should clarify what he meant by "formerly," but he knew that he had to be more succinct in this moment. "My concerns here are in assisting this revolution against the Empire, in the hopes that more lives will be saved as a result," he continued, knowing that that wasn't quite true. His concern lay more in harming the Empire than in helping the Bescaneans, but she did not have to know that right away.

He swallowed hard, knowing that she was more rested than he was, and, likely, she had at least as much training. If it came to a fight, he might hold his own for a time, but victory would inevitably fall to the combatant who was not close to collapse already. He took another deep breath, trying to calm himself and channel the Force, in case she decided to attack. "The Empire is my enemy. And what I have told you about the woman who infiltrated Kemen's group is true. Her name is Sierra Pryde, and she's an Imperial Knight. Her purpose here is to end the movement as swiftly as possible. Where she is now, I don't know." He glanced around again as Carlisle came down the stairs, his eyes wide and his blaster at the ready. Others began to form a circle around the two Forcers.

Radek was not sure he would make it out of this one alive.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:38 pm

The maternity ward was a mess, women lying in beds covered in dirty sheets, rows of newborn babies scattered haphazardly about waiting to be returned to their mothers and doctors and nurses that appeared more suited for janitorial work than medicine. They had walked through the length of the ward when Sierra had had enough.

Kemen could see that he had made his point but he carefully hid any celebration from appearing on his face. Sierra finally turned to him and urged him towards the exit, as sick of the poverty stricken scene before her as the thought that the Empire had let this progress so far. "I see your point, Mr. Kemen. Your medical facilities will get the improvements they need, I assure you. Now, unless you had some other place in mind, I would like to see how your people live."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:59 am

The black dress wasn't as tight as it looked - it afforded some mobility. As Skavi counted the blasters, she thought quite a lot about mobility. A three-way standoff could go bad in so many ways. If the dren hit the fan, she felt moderately sure she could carve a path out of the warehouse. She couldn't drive worth crap, couldn't fly a ship, could barely use technology - Velok had taught her to stay alive and to hunt Sith. Nothing else. The broader training went to people like Rach Kol-Rekali, who'd come to Velok just as specialized as Skavi found herself now.

"I represent an independent Sith Master whose main concern is hunting other Darksiders. My mission was to find out what Force-users have been improving this revolution's chances lately. If they turned out to be Sith Empire or Cult of Shadow, I was to kill them. If they turned out to be Jedi, I had the option of offering aid to the revolution at my discretion.

"Am I correct in thinking that your fellow revolutionaries don't know you used to be a Jedi, Darksider?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:38 pm

"Then our minds travel along similar lines, Miss Pryde," Kemen replied with a thin smile. "Our last stop will show you exactly that."

He led her back out of the hospital, avoiding the emergency ward this time, and onto the street. They walked this time, not hailing a taxi. A few blocks away, they reached their destination. It was a street, and a remarkable one at that. Not because the street was in any way unique, but because the structures around it were. On their left, a high-rise towered above them, its top reaching into the sky so that its sharp point could not be seen from where they stood. On their right, there was an empty lot - but it was not so empty. Though no design of an architect stood there, little lean-to's and shabby shacks littered the area like refuse in a dianoga's nest. Children scurried about at play, throwing mud in lieu of balls in a game of nega-ball.

Kemen explained, "Here you can see how Bescaneans live, Miss Pryde. On our left," he gestured to the high-rise, "executive officers and agents of Galentro live in apartments and penthouses, with a full janitorial, culinary, and security staff. On our right," he gestured to the slums, "the factory workers, dock-workers, janitors, and cooks live in squalor, and they children starve. Everyone on Bescane, except for those who can afford Imperial medical care, suffers some respiratory disease or another because of the toxins in our atmosphere."

He turned to the Imperial woman. "I'm not asking that executives and janitors be paid the same. Not even close. But there are slaves on other worlds who lead better lives than my people. I just want them to have a chance to make something of themselves. Especially the children, most of whom won't live past forty standard years with the toxins their bodies have metabolized by now."

* * * * *

Radek's eye twitched at his being called a Darksider. Part of him knew it was true, but he refused to accept it. Still, he was in no position to argue. "No," he answered, "They don't." He paused, trying to think of an explanation that didn't incriminate him further. "I knew that the Empire had spies in their operation, keeping tabs in case things got out of hand. I did not want to attract attention to myself. I can do no good if I'm dead."

Radek glanced to his right, where several of the revolutionaries in question were standing. Carlisle looked irate. He was fuming. But this explained a great deal about "Zachary" and his past and abilities, so the crime lord was willing to keep listening for now. He motioned for the other revolutionaries to relax their weapons a little. They were reluctant to obey someone so newly minted in the operation, but his sneers got them to acquiesce with some displeasure.

Radek looked back at Consecrai. "My only task was to help these people. I didn't realize that Imperial Knights and Sith assassins would be getting involved in a minor planetary dispute." That wasn't exactly true, either. Bescane was a pivotal world for the Empire. Galentro handled a lot of their industry. But, he supposed, he was aiming for the "stupidity" defense.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:54 pm

"Please," she said, voice just a little bit acid. "Acting dumb worked an hour ago - more or less. If you're clever enough to be accepted as one of their own, you can pick up on what the Empire's likely to do with a world as critical as Bescane. You think they'll ever let this planet go willingly - or even come close? And you should have known that...which speaks to either blinding naivete, or a degree of willing ignorance bordering on apathy. And I doubt the first one.

"For the record, I'm no assassin. I'm First Apprentice to the rightful Dark Lord of the Sith. He likes to broaden my education with assignments like this."

She was rather proud that she was holding it together, like there weren't big men with guns all around.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:08 pm

Radek's expression, which had been rather pained, faded to dull resolve. "I'm sure your master is very proud. You managed to ignore a Jedi pushing this planet closer to the brink for several days before you finally caught on. When you finally confronted him, of course, you did it in a warehouse far from the authorities, where the locals would kill you as soon as me." His upper lip began to curl in a sneer. He was angry, and getting angrier. This woman was going to ruin everything. He would probably be dead, in fact, within a few minutes. All because some stuck-up Sith couldn't leave well enough alone.

"But fine - you want the truth?" he continued, "I want the Empire gone. I can't do that on my own. The New Republic has foolishly decided that they're no longer a threat. I'll be damned if I stand by and watch Thrawn and his cronies do to more people what they did to me, and if I can't get the New Republic to attack them, then maybe I can pin one of the most pivotal planetary riots in Imperial history on New Republic intelligence, and the Empire will prove themselves a threat."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:41 pm

"We don't see the universe in the same way, Vidar. My master doesn't care all that much about this world, the balance of power, the big picture, and so forth, except as it entertains or amuses him. Me, I have a certain sympathy for the simplicity of his worldview. I like to hunt.

"Then again, I'm not necessarily here to kill you. You smell a bit like denial, and nothing about you screams hardened Sith. Disillusioned freedom fighter, sure. I think you're on the level. If your associates are fine with you having a second agenda, I see no reason to interfere. And rather than return with nothing, I think I'll give your revolution a hand."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:20 am

Sierra was going to be sick to her stomach. This was the difference between rich and poor on this planet? She couldn't believe the owners of Galentro Heavyworks and other industries would allow their employees to live like this. "I've seen enough, Mr. Kemen," she said finally and as she spoke Kemen noticed a slight tremble in her voice. "Take us back to the warehouse, I will contact my superiors and arrange a meeting."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:47 pm

Kemen gave a shallow bow. "Of course, Miss Pryde." He hailed a taxi. "I am glad that you have decided to work with us. I can see that you have a good heart and wish only to help people." He paused as a landspeeder cab stopped and he and the Imperial Knight entered. When they were settled, Kemen told the driver a street corner near the warehouse. Then he turned back to Sierra. "It makes me wonder, in fact, why you decided to work for the Empire. This may not be Palpatine's Empire any longer, but they are still not quite bastions of hope for the general populace."

* * * * *

Radek glanced at Carlisle, who had adopted innocent apathy. He, at least, did not seem to care. But this was not his revolution. It belonged to the people of Bescane. If Kemen would accept him... but would he? Knowing what Consecrai had unearthed? He did not know.

Radek's anger withered to doubt. He doubted himself, with his exhaustion overflowing from him. He doubted his cause and whether it could ever be completed. But perhaps with help... he took a deep breath and called on the Force, just a little, to calm his roiling emotions. He lowered his lightsaber and deactivated it. "I will accept your help, Darth Consecrai," he said, "Provided, of course, my associates will accept help from us both." He glanced again to Carlisle.

"Hey," he said, holding up his hands, "Don't look at me. I'm just a hired gun. But Kemen will probably be back soon." Taking another look at the Sith woman, Carlisle approached her and held out his hand. "Berk Carlisle," he introduced himself, "And you are?"

As soon as Carlisle finished his question, Radek crumpled like a rag doll, his consciousness fallen into swirling darkness.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:40 am

"It is because I want to help people that I decided to serve," Sierra replied firmly, "but I do not wish to talk about it right now. My purpose here is to resolve this situation not to justify myself to you."

She checked her chrono and noted how much time she had left to her next check in with her superiors. "Next, I think we should meet with your supporters. I want to hear what their concerns are so that I may be better able to draw up a list of resolutions to present to the Empire."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:17 pm

"Darth Consecrai," she said, shaking the proffered hand. She blinked, head snapping around, as Radek fell; she flicked her other hand and he stopped just before his head hit the ground. Out cold - she could sense it. What in the worlds...

"Does he often do this?" she said, voice dry.
Last edited by Beorht on Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:27 pm

Kemen smiled thinly at his fellow passenger. "I concur." The ride continued in silence. Kemen had nothing to add, and until she had a chance to meet more of the people involved in this situation, Sierra didn't, either.

As the taxi pulled up to the corner Kemen had indicated, the man stepped spryly from the car and hurried around to open Sierra's door for her. He bowed his head slightly as she stepped by him.

"Inside," he said, "You will find my associates and supporters." They walked almost casually to the warehouse door, as if they were out for a stroll and had no relation to either side of the growing tensions on Bescane. As Kemen opened the door, he again allowed Sierra through first. When he followed, he found himself at a loss for words - an uncommon occurrence for him.

There was Carlisle, standing next to a woman Kemen did not recognize. Nearby, Freeman was sprawled out on the floor, as if he had been decked, or maybe laid down by someone else.

At last, Kemen managed to ask, "What?"

* * * * *

Carlisle frowned. "Not that I've ever seen."

Suddenly, a side door opened and two people entered. Carlisle recognized Kemen and the Imperial witch. He gritted his teeth.

Kemen's expression was incredulous, dumbfounded. Finally, he asked, "What?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:56 pm

"Kemen? Short version. Your Freeman here is actually a rogue Jedi, but he's genuinely on your side and now so am I. My name is Darth Consecrai. Also, if I'm sensing the Force about this girl correctly, she may be who I'm here to hunt - the Forcer that's interfering with your revolution, either stopping it or using it. Of course, you might know that, in which case I'm making a fool of myself." She slipped her heels back on and straightened her hair.

"Bottom line, we're about to have either a firefight or a party, depending on whether this girl here is what you think she is."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:08 am

"I need to talk to you," Sierra said as she grabbed Kemen's arm and pulled him aside. "You must send that woman away," she whispered to him in hushed tones once they were some distance away. "I will do everything in my power to get your people the help they deserve but if my superiors learn that you have allied yourselves with a Sith...," she left the rest hanging in the air but Kemen could guess her meaning.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:17 am

"You realize I can still hear you, right?" Her voice was dry, unconcerned, amused even. Sensory amplification was, to Skavi, child's play. "That's a valid concern, though."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:15 am

Kemen was surprised, to say the least, but he recovered quickly. He looked at Sierra, then at Consecrai, and finally back to Sierra. He raised one eyebrow. "Your superiors, Miss Pryde," he said in his normal speaking voice, "cannot learn what they are not told. Your threats lack some strength at this juncture. After all, you entered this place, unprepared to find both a rogue Jedi and a Sith... who have, I might add, promised assistance to my cause in every respect." A thin, condescending smile creased his face. "Tell me... if your plan is to abrogate our agreement because of some ideological animosity toward several of my supporters, how exactly do you expect your escape and subsequent betrayal of my trust to proceed?" Kemen spoke slowly, emphasizing each word as if spelling out something obvious. His tone was almost amused by Sierra's presumption.

But he only allowed a moment for her to consider that option. "Of course," he continued, "if you keep faith in our agreement, and you help us accomplish our goals, then no one has to know that you worked with a rogue Jedi and a Sith. I will not tell anyone. I am sure Darth Consecrai, there, can keep a secret," he said, gesturing to the woman in the black dress. He added, his tone a little less genial, "And we all know that Mr. Freeman is an excellent liar. And you get to go home, telling everyone how you resolved a difficult situation with just a little social equality." He smiled again, wider this time. "What do you say?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:29 am

Interesting.

She and Velok simply might not have given enough credit to local leaders. Or - if she was to be honest with herself - enough credit to non-Forcers. So often it seemed as if the only people who accomplished anything were Force-users. But this Kemen might have just forged an alliance of a Sith, a Jedi and an Imperial Knight, for his own purposes.

"In fairness to the child," said Skavi, "some of your men now present have seen me use a lightsabre and heard my name. They are, however, the only ones on this world who know."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:49 pm

Sierra stared at the man in shock, then she looked at the woman and then back to Kemen. "I--I can't," she said quietly, her lightsaber somehow finding its way into her hand. She ignited the green blade and then gave Consecrai a sharp look. "She is Sith, it is my duty to put her down."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:35 am

"Loving the religious tolerance here," said Skavi, voice utterly flat. She made no obvious movement, but suddenly her own lightsabre was in her hand again, unignited. "I'll remind you that not only do you have no proof or implication that I've even committed a crime, you have no proof or implication that I'm even associated with anyone who has."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:22 am

"I need no proof, the Sith are the enemy and you've openly admitted to being one of them." She lowered herself into a Shien fighting stance, her lightsaber held behind her in a reverse grip in her right hand with her left hand she held out in front of her, palm out towards her enemy. "My orders are clear on the treatment of rogue Force users, Darth, and we're not as tolerant as the Jedi."

Skavi just scoffed at her. "You would fight me here? Surrounded by all these people?"

Sierra suddenly felt chagrined by that. The woman had a point, though she didn't like to admit it. "Kemen, I need you and your people to leave us... Now," she said, giving Skavi a purposeful look.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:05 am

"So because I was born with certain talents and chose to develop them, I'm the enemy. Wonderful. And fighting here is a very stupid idea, child. We'll leave, and fight elsewhere, so as not to bring the entire Empire down upon this place which is so critical to the rebellion you claim to support. Kemen, Carlisle. Excuse me. Apparently, one of us will be back to talk with you later."

Skavi headed for the door, then turned on her heel and folded her arms. She had probably ten or fifteen years on the kid...she sighed.

"You know what? I don't think you're acting from anything more than youthful conviction and a surfeit of believing everything you've been told. I know killers when I see them, and when I look at you all I see is an ideologue - good-hearted, naive, obedient. Maybe a little unwilling to listen to her own conscience. And I can prove this to you. I won't fight back." She tossed her lightsabre to a very surprised Kemen. "I certainly won't go with you, child, but cut me down if you wish. Right now. I'm sure Mr. Carlisle knows some people who know some people who know how to dispose of unwanted and unoccupied bodies."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:10 pm

Sierra hesitated, her mandate was clear but striking down an unarmed woman? That wasn't justice, that was murder. "Ladies, please, I'm sure we can work something out," Kemen said diplomatically.

Sierra disengaged her lightsaber and shook her head. "No, we can't," she replied and there was a look in her eyes that matched the remorse she felt in her heart. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kemen, but I cannot help you if you insist on consorting with enemies of the Empire."

She started walking towards the door and stopped only briefly to give Darth Consecrai a side-long glance. "I will remain on this planet awhile longer. Come talk to me again once you've said goodbye to these two." She indicated both Darth Consecrai and the unconscious form of the rogue Jedi, Radek. Then she cleared the rest of the distance to the door and left the warehouse before anyone could say anything more.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:40 am

"It's not too late to call her back," said Skavi. "She's the sort of person with the sort of connections you need, and she can probably keep the Empire off your backs. A rebellion with her at your side will take longer to get bloody. All I know how to do is fight - and, apparently, manipulate children. Pick one of us, and I won't be offended if you pick her. My mission, per se, is complete."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:42 pm

Kemen sighed. He knew what he could control, and what he could not. "No, my dear," he said gently, walking toward the Sith. "No, I believe your mission is only beginning." He extended his hand with a warm, welcoming smile on his face. "We have a lot of work to do if we are to gain our independence." He glanced at Radek with a pensive expression. "Starting with getting him well, I should think."

* * * * *

Three blocks away, on the very same street where Kemen and Sierra had left their taxi, where Radek had led Consecrai not long before, a small boy sat huddled over a puddle. He looked down the street to his left, then to his right, then back at his puddle. This was his puddle. He had stayed near that spot for almost two weeks, and the puddle had stayed with him. It had shrunk, and it had grown, and there were times he was not sure it would survive, but they had made it together.

He smiled at the reflection in the puddle. The boy there was dirty, grimy, and ill, but he was kind. With the right sort of squint, it was impossible to tell that he was missing his left eye. That had been the result of a squabble over food. One of the other street people had beaten him for the bag of nuts he had rescued. He had found the nuts scattered in a dumpster behind one of the planet's many alcohol establishments. Painstakingly, he had retrieved each nut and placed it in his bag. He had liked his bag. It didn't have any holes in it, so it kept all of the nuts securely. Then the other street person had beaten him for it. The boy had been so hungry, he bit the other person's arm, trying to save the nuts. The person had gotten a thumb in the boy's eye to pull him free.

Now his bag had a hole, no nuts, and he had only one eye.

But he still had his puddle. He smiled at the puddle again.

He looked down the street once more. There was a woman there. She looked angry, but the boy couldn't quite tell. She was extremely well dressed, in fancier clothes and finer linens than the boy had ever seen before - except maybe in the street ads that starred that owner of Galentro Heavy Works. She was walking down the road toward him, clearly trying to put space between herself and something else. But the boy couldn't recognize that. All he saw was her beauty and her finery. She seemed nice. Maybe she would be able to help him. Stretching out his grubby little hands, he offered her his best smile. His broken and yellowed teeth were dull with his recent lack of food and water.

"Pliz, mem," he managed to say, "Cud I haff sum foo'?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:52 am

Skavi shook the proffered hand and reclaimed her lightsabre, which vanished into her shoulder bag. She slipped on her heels again and spent a moment straightening her hair, trying not to look as if she'd just been in a fight. "I have no idea what's wrong with him," she said. "It's not exactly normal for a Forcer to faint in a fight, and I'm not a healer. I can get one, though, if he doesn't wake up. Interesting fellow, this Freeman. I suspect neither of us has seen past all his layers, but my gut tells me he hates the Empire enough to stick on your side - firmly.

"I'm rather unclear as to where you're at in terms of action. If you need targets hit, now or in the future, don't worry: I'm perfectly competent with everything from stilettos to plastique to rocket launchers. No need to draw more attention with lightsabres. That's if and when you're ready to shift in a violent direction."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:54 pm

Kemen nodded slowly. "Let us hope it does not come to that, Lady," he said. Turning to glare at Carlisle, he demanded, "Now when are you going to catch me up on everything that has happened in my absence?"

* * * * *

A day passed.

The rebels had moved Radek's limp form into the upper room, where he was sprawled out on a couch. Berk Carlisle, Alan Kemen, and Darth Consecrai sat alone in the room, discussing the situation. Kemen still hoped that it would not come to violence, that they would find a peaceful alternative. He hoped that Galentro would see things their way, that the Empire would give them more freedom, that things would resolve.

Carlisle swore it wouldn't happen. The Empire, he had said, was never very good at freedom. A man like Kemen should know that by now, he had said.

At the tail end of another of their arguments, Radek began to rouse.

* * * * *

"Radek?"

His eyes snapped open. "Sivassa?" he asked.

She was okay. She was smiling at him. "You need to wake up now, Radek. Things are getting worse. You need to wake up."

Radek frowned. "What are you talking about, Sivassa? Are the Stormtroopers coming again?"

She drew her lips into a tight line, furrowing her brow in worry. "Yes, my sweet," she said, "Quite a lot of them."


* * * * *

"Mister... Vidar, is it?"

Radek rubbed the sleep from his eyes. His gaze settled into focus on Kemen's stern face. He swallowed. His peripheral vision told him that he was in the upper room of the warehouse. Time had passed. He didn't know how much. They must have been comparing notes on their latest curiosity.

The Force returned to his conscious control, and he passively sensed the people around him. Consecrai, Carlisle, and Kemen. Swinth was still not here. Radek did not look away from Kemen. After a few long moments, he said, "Yes, sir. I am--" His voice cracked; his throat was dry with thirst.

To one side, Carlisle shoved a glass in his face. Radek took it hesitantly, then sipped at it. Relieved for the moment, he finished, "I am Radek Vidar."

Radek knew that he was backed into a corner. He had lost his grip on Bescane. The world was spinning freely, loose to create its own rebellion - or demolish it in the triumph of Imperial might. Tempers would flare, people would riot, and eventually, no one would be able to contain it... until the Empire "restored order."

They so loved their order.

To make matters worse, Radek had overextended himself severely. He had reached beyond his grasp, set powers into motion that he had no power to control. Looking back on his actions, he knew they were foolhardy at best. But that he had been an outright idiot seemed more appropriate to him. He was no sorcerer, no master of Force magics. Manipulating an entire population was no more within his capacity than was performing neural surgery on a Columi. Now he was spiraling with Bescane to whatever fate awaited it at the cold hands of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps, and he was still completely exhausted.

But he willed himself to stay awake.

"Tell me your tale, Radek Vidar," Alan Kemen commanded, his voice tightly controlled, serene by severe.

Radek frowned. "My tale?"

Kemen smiled condescendingly. "I am told that you hate the Empire." Kemen's eyes were honest, sincere. Radek lost himself in them. He could not fight everyone altogether any longer. He needed an ally. He needed... a friend.

The politician leaned a little closer. "Tell me why."

And Radek did.

* * * * *

Far above them, beyond the edges of every gasp of air - if, indeed, it could be called that - surrounding the yellowed brown world of Bescane, an Allegiance Star Destroyer, carrying a General and his five thousand, five hundred ruthless Stormtroopers, entered the system.

No sooner had it arrived than it sent a comm signal to the headquarters of Galentro Heavyworks. Comm officer wrangled with secretary for a few startled moments, and then a hologram of Leland Barnes appeared on the bridge of the menacing triangular vessel.

"This is Leland Barnes."

An exceptionally tall man with black hair and dark, dangerous eyes replied, "This is General Teron Helstone of the Pitiless."

Barnes swallowed visibly, even across the great expanse. "How can I help you, General?"

Helstone smiled. It was a cold expression, and Barnes suppressed a shiver. "You have that backwards, Mr. Barnes. You have a problem, and I am here to help you."

A few moments later, the transmission had ended. Helstone ordered the comm officer, "Contact Sierra Pryde. Let her know that her time is up."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:51 am

Sierra stood over the bed, her bed--or at least it was. Now it was occupied with the small form of a child. She had fed the boy as much as his little stomach could hold and then had given him a place to rest. She had been intent on contacting Kemen again that morning when she received an entirely different call. A sense of dread filled her core when the Force warned her that there was something seriously wrong. She activated the com device and tensed when Teron Helstone's image appeared in front of her...

**********

Sierra was practically racing through the streets, it was all she could do to refrain herself from using the Force to increase her speed. She raced down one alleyway and then another until she came upon a familiar warehouse. The door to the warehouse burst open with her excitement, startling those inside. Sierra leaned in the doorway, breathing heavily as blasters were drawn in her direction.

"Kemen," she panted, "Where is Kemen?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:39 pm

The curious thing about being amnesiac was this, Skavi had learned. (Well, amnesiac was not the correct term, but she didn't quite know the correct term and doubted it could be translated into Basic anyways.) After Velok had found her, years ago, memory blank, she'd found that she responded emotionally to various things without knowing why. Radek's story touched her, so much so that she drew on a very rare bit of Sith sorcery to re-absorb her tears before her ducts released them. She never cried, never sniffled - a Sith, sniffling? It wasn't done. The fluid re-entered her interstitial spaces and bloodstream.

And she didn't know why she was working so hard to keep from crying like a child at his story. She could only assume, clinically speaking, that at some point prior to her memory wipe she had experienced similar events.

As he wound down, something caught her mind's eye. She rose from the couch, more easily than if she'd still been wearing the heels and cocktail dress; she wore comfortable, nondescript clothing, lightsabre hidden inside a loose long sleeve. "The girl is back, Kemen. She's downstairs."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Thu May 03, 2012 9:32 pm

A couple of the rebels looked warily at Sierra as she entered, but said nothing. Sound from the upper room drew her attention as Kemen stepped out slowly, serenely, flanked by Consecrai on one side and Carlisle on the other. Radek peeked out from the window that overlooked the warehouse.

"Miss Pryde," Kemen called, "What brings you back to us today?"

Radek got a twisted feeling in his gut when he sensed the emotions rolling off the woman. She was frightened of something, but... it didn't seem to be fear for her own life. She was afraid on someone else's behalf. As the former Jedi glanced toward the door Kemen and the others had just used, he realized what Sivassa had meant in his dream: Stormtroopers were coming. Radek rolled off the couch and stumbled to his feet. Blood fell from his face, and he paled. He worried he would pass out, so he leaned against the couch he had been lying on for a few moments.

At last, he gained his footing. He had regained some strength while telling his tale to Kemen, but he was still not well. All the same, he knew that they would need him now, more than ever. He also suspected that Swinth knew more than she was letting on; he had sensed she was wiser than her appearance, but he didn't know how or why. With the Empire about to come knocking, they needed to know everything - which meant finding Swinth.

Wherever she was.

Radek slowly put one foot in front of the other until he was over by the door. He paused to hear what Sierra had to say.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Thu May 03, 2012 11:28 pm

"Teron Helstone is landing with his men right now," Sierra blurted out, "He's going to level this entire district if you don't surrender."

"Surrender," Kemen asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

Sierra nodded, "I can try and get amnesty for all of you and then see what I can do about fixing the problems here on Bescane, but you and your people are going to have to lay down your arms. If this rebellion breaks into violence then there's nothing I can do, that's why you have to surrender. It's the only way to buy me time to help you!"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Thu May 03, 2012 11:41 pm

Kemen looked at her for a few moments.

Then he shook his head. "No," he said, "I will not surrender."

Pryde retorted, "But you must--"

"No!" he interrupted. "I will not give up everything I have fought for by lying down to die now. If I give in, I will be hidden in a hole in the ground so deep that the spice mines of Kessel would seem a penthouse. My people will be imprisoned or executed. Worst of all, most of them will simply be sent home with hefty fines for their insubordination and be forced to work them off like slaves." He laughed once, humorlessly. "In fact, Bescane might altogether become the new spice mines of Kessel. And who will help us then? You?" He laughed again, in the same way. "You will probably return to your father's estate and lament your failure for a few months before returning to your vaunted duties as an Imperial Knight, protector of the Empire and rescuer of the Galaxy.

"So no," he declared, "I will not surrender. If you truly wish to help my people, Miss Pryde, you will do so now." His face hardened. "Or I shall consider you an enemy of Bescane and the good general will have just cause to start his war."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Thu May 03, 2012 11:51 pm

Sierra couldn't believe what she was hearing. What Kemen was talking about was tantamount to suicide. "Helstone is a butcher," she said quietly, her expression becoming distant, "If you fight him I can't protect you and you will all be destroyed. You're going to throw you're lives away for nothing," she practically screamed at him.

"I'm not asking you to surrender your ideals, I'm begging you to live! Surrender to me and I can protect all of you. I will do everything in my power to ensure that you are treated fairly and your families are taken care of, but you have to trust me. Please, Kemen, I'm begging you to trust me."

She looked directly at him now, her expression pleading and a hint of falling tears just beginning to form at the corner of her eyes. She didn't want to see this place turned into a warzone, there were too many innocent lives in Helstone's path and Kemen was on the verge of throwing them all away...

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